Grace's Mosaic Moments

Monday, January 28, 2013


With visitors from "up north" in town, we're doing the tourist routes this week, illustrating the truth of the following post, which was found on Facebook & shared by my daughter. Believe me, about the only points I'd quibble with are the rain being over in five minutes and wearing flip-flops to church. 

Referring to the map below:

On a visit to Legoland on Sunday, eight members of our extended family journeyed into the yellow area south of I-4, driving through miles of citrus groves along the way. (Legoland is well out in the boonies on the site of the former Cypress Gardens.) Orlando, naturally, is smack in the middle of the pink zone

About the following - all I can say is, some people are really clever. A big thank-you to whoever created this Florida gem! (You'll find a dictionary for non-Floridians at the end of the post.)

~ * ~

  • You know you're a Floridian if....

    Socks are only for bowling.

    You never use an umbrella because the rain will be over in five minutes.

    A good parking place has nothing to do with distance from the store, but everything to do with shade.

    Your winter coat is made of denim.

    You can tell the difference between fire ant bites and mosquito bites.

    You're younger than thirty but some of your friends are over 65.

    Anything under 70 degrees is chilly.

    You've driven through Yeehaw Junction.

    You know that no other grocery store can compare to Publix.

    You know that anything under a Category 3 just isn't worth waking up for.

    You dread love bug season.

    You are on a first name basis with the hurricane list. They aren't Hurricane Charley or Hurricane Frances. You know them as Andrew, Charley, Frances, Ivan, Jeanne, Wilma, Irene, Cheryl, Rita, Mary, Alison

    You know what a snowbird is and when they'll leave.

    You think a six-foot alligator is actually pretty average.

    'Down South' means Key West.

    Flip-flops are everyday wear. Shoes are for business meetings and church, but you HAVE worn flip flops to church before.

    You have a drawer full of bathing suits, and one sweatshirt.

    You get annoyed at the tourists who feed seagulls.

    A mountain is any hill 100 feet above sea level.

    You know the four seasons really are: hurricane season, love bug season, tourist season and summer.

    You've hosted a hurricane party.

    You can pronounce Okeechobee, Kissimmee , Withlacoochee , Thonotosassa and Micanopy.

    You understand why it's better to have a friend with a boat, than have a boat yourself.

    You were 25 when you first met someone who couldn't swim.

    You've worn shorts and used the A/C on Christmas and New Years.

    You recognize Miami-Dade as 'Northern Cuba.'

    You not only forward this but you understand it.

    ~ * ~

    Translation for non-Floridians:

    Rednecks - native Floridians of the gun-totin', fishin', huntin', tobacco-chewin' workin' class

    Fire ants - nasty, aggressive little red ants whose bites bring up blisters. Enough bites & you're dead.

    Cateogry 3 - refers to hurricane strength

    Love bugs - bugs that swarm Florida in May and September, always in pairs (presumably mating). They cover windshields, corrode car paint, and gum up radiators.

    Snowbirds - Non-Floridians who own a second home (or rent) in Florida. They flock south for one to six months any time from October to April.

    Visiting Miami is the equivalent of visiting a Spanish-speaking foreign country. 

    ~ * ~

    NOTE:  The snake count in the Python Challenge is being updated once or twice a week on "Florida Tidbits." (See Archives.) To read more details on "the challenge":  Python Challenge Website

    NOTE:  Free days for Blair's books will be posted to "Branding - bah, humbug!"

    ADDED Tuesday, Jan. 29 - a bit of Florida Bright:  

    My granddaughter with the 4th & 5th grade chorus, singing the National Anthem at the Amway Arena before a Magic's basketball game

      Coming soon (hopefully):  photos from Legoland & the Brevard Zoo

    Thanks for stopping by.


Monday, January 21, 2013

Branding - Bah, humbug!

When I started writing about twenty years ago, "branding" was something done to cattle with a hot iron. I wasn't all that comfortable when the word began to be applied to authors. Branding? You've got to be kidding. Its new meaning, in case you haven't heard:  an author is "branded" as a person who writes one kind of book. The purpose? A reader, when buying a particular author's book can be confident of getting the same kind of book over and over again. This is supposed to be a good thing, mind you. Well, I could give you a few thousand words on why that raised my hackles, but, suffice it to say, I'm a person who doesn't want to do anything twice. I sew, knit, crochet - I don't want to use any pattern more than once. The very thought of making a quilt, with the same pattern repeated over and over again, fairly freezes my blood. And as for sentencing myself to writing the same kind of book for the rest of my life . . .  [Expletives deleted]

And yet, in spite of my lips curling every time I see or hear the word "branding" . . . I ended up "branded." And without the slightest bit of effort on my part. (I'm told most authors work very hard to be branded, for the same reason editors and publishers love branding. It sells books. Ah, well . . .) 

About a year ago, when I discovered the hard way that I'd been branded, I could only groan and wonder what I could do to coax readers minds away from thinking of me as a "Regency" author and realize they just might like the other things I write, like Romantic Suspense, Mystery, Alternative History/Steampunk. So . . .

Just after Christmas 2012, I took down five books that have been selling only fitfully, leaving them only on Amazon, so I could take advantage of KDP Select's rental program and its free-day promotions. I am starting the Free Promotions this week with Airborne - The Hanover Restoration, admittedly easing branding-conscious readers into my "other" books with a story that reads a lot like a Regency, except the date is 1840, there are a number of odd machines, and a young Princess Victoria has been displaced from the throne by the Duke of Wellington.

The other books listed below will also be having "free days" in the near future.

Miss Araminta Galsworthy travels to the home of her new guardian, only to be plunged into marriage, arson, assassination attempts, murder, and treason - all centered around her husband's invention, the first navigable airship. Minta acquires new friends, new enemies, a new husband, and becomes an important part of a revolution: the restoration of the British monarchy. Will she manage, or will her head be piked on the Tower?

Airborne will have its "free" day on Amazon Kindle on Tuesday, January 22, 2013.

A Florida Highway Patrol officer investigates his brother's injury in a Medieval Fair tournament and discovers an astounding sub-culture in today's Florida - the Medieval re-enactment group, the Lords & Ladies of Chivalry*. He also finds a Lady Knight, fighting her way out of years of abuse. Michael Turco and Kate Knight both have a great deal to learn before they can solve a crime and lay each other's ghosts and preconceptions. [A Golden Beach book]
      *based on the internationally known re-enactment group, The Society for Creative Anachronisms

[Apologies to all who saw the update saying, Florida Knight would be free on Amazon Kindle on "Friday, Jan. 26." That's a major "oops" for me. Florida Knight will be free on SATURDAY, Jan. 26.]

Death by accident, old age, and strangulation. An elderly senior about to marry a con artist. A rash of burglaries. Only an artistic imagination could conjure these disasters into connected events. But costume designer Gwyn Halliday manages it, as she flees trauma in the big city only to discover that bad things can also happen in a sleepy Florida retirement community. [A Golden Beach/DreamWear book]

Death by Marriage will be free on Amazon Kindle on Saturday, February 2, 2013.

Want to get married in a hot air balloon? Have the bride step out of a Fabergé egg? Just call Fantascapes, the Halliday family business. Trouble in paradise? Call Laine Halliday, who travels the world smoothing out bumps encountered by high-end clients. But when Fantascapes is used as a front by the Russian mob, in action ranging from Florida to Peru to France, Laine steps into a whole new world of Serve and Protect.
[A Golden Beach/Fantascapes book]

Orange Blossoms & Mayhem will be free on Saturday, February 9, 2013.

FBI Special Agent Valentina Frost and a mysterious Russian arms dealer become strangely matched partners in a search for two nuclear bombs missing from the old Soviet arsenal. As they criss-cross the world in an attempt to prevent a terrorist attack more deadly than 9/11, they form a strong bond. But can it outlast the mission? Will they live that long? [Settings vary from New York, Connecticut, Colorado, New Jersey, & Florida, to Siberia and Iran.]

Limbo Man will be free on Amazon Kindle on Tuesday, February 19, 2013.

As always, thanks for stopping by. Please scroll on down for Updates to last week's Florida Tidbits, which include the latest statistics on the Python Challenge, an incredible video of one man doing acrobatics with three huge kites, and a scary tale about sharks.

A list of all Blair's available books

Monday, January 14, 2013


 A change from the promised topic, but the January 7, 2013, issue of The Orlando Sentinel provided me with enough material for a complete blog in one thin edition. Florida is truly unique, a long, skinny peninsula which seems to be trying to detach itself from the rest of the country. And frequently acts that way.

* * *

Many people come to Florida as retirees. I came here thirty years ago while my children were still in school. So I've had plenty of time to learn that Florida can be a very strange place. Overbuilt coastlines with hundreds of miles of wilderness in between. Beaches, theme parks, car racing, horse racing, more golf courses than anyone can count. Cracker shacks, mansions, acres of cattle ranches. Orange groves, watermelons, tomatoes, strawberries, to name but a few of our crops. Enough guns to arm every last one of us right down to the babies . . .

But no more rants for a while. Here are excerpts from The Orlando Sentinal, January 7, 2013:

"Hunt will put a squeeze on Everglades pythons
   Nearly 400* people have signed up to enter the Everglades and do battle with Burmese pythons, the giant constrictors that have emerged as the latest and weirdest threat to South Florida's wildlife. The 2013 Python Challenge, which begins Saturday, has attracted participants and media interest from across the United States for a month-long event that will feature prizes of $1000 for catching the longest snakes, and $1500 for catching the most.
   Participants do not need hunting licenses unless they're younger than 18. The only required training can be done online. Given those slender requirements, some have questioned the wisdom of encouraging amateurs with firearms, particularly nonhunters, to take on pythons in the wild."

*On the day the hunt started, the actual number of hunters was close to 800!

The article continues with comments about the dangers to be found in the Everglades, including rattlesnakes and cottonmouths (not to mention other eager hunters), and shows a picture of a python that had been found and killed after it ate an entire deer and was too sluggish to move.

Tried to find color original - but b&w from newspaper will have to do.

For those unfamiliar with the rationale behind this hunt - over the years python owners, when they discovered their "pet" has grown to a dangerous size, abandoned them in the Everglades. The snakes thrived and multiplied to the point where they are endangering the ecological balance by eating every native species in sight. The Python Challenge is merely an attempt to modify a problem with no real solution in sight. Website for Python Challenge

Summarized from The Orlando Sentinel, Sunday, Jan.13, 2012:

On the day the hunt began, arms varied. One landscaper carried only a six-shooter and a 28-inch machete. But another man and his friend from Naples brought a .380-caliber pistol, a .40-caliber pistol, a 12-gauge pump shotgun, a .22-caliber rifle, a 20-inch machete, a hunting knife, fish grabbers, a fish spear, & bicycles "to cover as much ground" as possible. 

On the first three days of the hunt - not a single python. From TV video Sunday night, however, it looked liked the hunt was picking up.

Update:   As of Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2013, the python count was 50.  
The number of hunters who submitted applications is c. 1000, including Florida Senator Bill Nelson.

"Wintering vultures have appetite for cars, trucks
   During the past few years, staff members at Everglades National Park have experimented with ways to scare off flocks of vandals that lurk in parking lots every winter, sporadically defacing cars, trucks and boat trailers. They've tried yelling at them, squirting them with water, even dangling dead ones upside down in trees.
  But nothing has curbed the curious appetite that migrating vultures have developed for windshield wipers, sunroof seals and other rubber and vinyl vehicle parts. So this winter, the park . . . [is providing] at the most trouble-prone sites loaner "anti-vulture kits" consisting of blue plastic tarps and bungee cords."

The article goes on to say that no one understands why the vultures have taken to this pastime, for they are eating very little of what they rip off the vehicles.

But, of course, the above headlines are out of South Florida, probably produced with glee by local news writers here in Central Florida. As if to prove our superiority, the same edition of the paper also heralded:

"Orlando expects to remain No. 1 in travel destination
  Orlando's primary tourism rival in the U.S. - New York City - said last week it attracted a record 52 million visitors in 2012, falling short of Orlando's expected tally for last year."

The article goes on to say that the Orlando visitor count is expected to be 56.4 million, although the official number won't come out until later in the year. The two cities have been "tourist" rivals for years, with Orlando coming out on top for several years now. Hm-mm, so I'm not exaggerating when I tell people, "Orlando is the resort capital of the world." At least I don't think we have any international rivals, as yet. 

A few years ago, when a fellow author was coming to Orlando for a Romance Writers convention, she asked if taxis would be available at the airport at midnight. I told her, quite truthfully, that the only problem getting a taxi at OIA in the wee hours of the morning would be the length of the line.

Added: Jan. 15, 2013, 12:20 p.m.

Knowing I am a kite-lover, both my son and daughter sent me this YouTube video, which my son believes was shot on Treasure Island, near Tampa, right here in Florida. A lovely way to show that at times Florida can truly shine.
Astonishing Kite Acrobatics  

Added: Jan. 20, 2013, 9:50 a.m.

 From today's Orlando Sentinel:
A Florida Atlantic professor has been studying the migratory habits of black-tip sharks. It seems they follow schools of mullet from the Carolinas to Florida every winter, with the most sharks off Florida during December, January, and February. This year he video-taped the sharks from an airplane, and reports that on the strip of ocean he studies - running from shore to about two football fields out - he counted 15,000 sharks on a single trip. Black-tip sharks can reach 6 feet and account for 20 percent of the unprovoked shark attacks in Florida. It's believed most attacks are the result of a shark mistaking a hand or foot for a fish. To quote Prof. Kajiura:

"They are very close to shore. They're sometimes 30 feet from shore. . . . If you're sitting in the water, you have an average of one shark within 60 feet of you."

Anybody for a day at the beach?
~ * ~

 That's all, folks. Just a few more tidbits from one of the strangest places on earth. No wonder people want to visit here. Anyone for joining the great Python hunt?

Thanks for stopping by. I expect we'll get to "Branding - bah, humbug" one of these days.

Click here for Grace's books as Blair Bancroft 

Grace Note: This blog almost didn't make it. The all-powerful gods at AT&T decided to fiddle with my area's Broadband, leaving me with no Internet for a full 48 hours. When that blinking red light turned green this morning, I practically kissed my modem. I suppose there's no hope we get a rebate on our bills??



Monday, January 7, 2013


Idiocy upsets me. Yes, it's with us every day - an Argentine tango done by the Three Kings in a holiday pageant at a local megachurch comes to mind - but this year far greater rampant idiocy haunted the holiday season. I imagine you've already guessed I'm talking about the so-called Fiscal Cliff and talk of armed guards in every school. Something, by the way, that is happening in every elementary school right here in Orange County, Florida, this very morning, Monday, January 7, 2013. IF the Sheriff can find enough deputies.

Not that I blame the Orange County Commissioners for ordering police into the schools - my three beautiful grandchildren are in elementary school here. But, dear God, what have we come to? Will our schools soon resemble the ones in Northern Ireland - surrounded by three stories of chainlink, topped with barbed wire? I remember how appalled I was when I saw those schools and realized that human beings had fallen so low they could harm children in the name of religion.

Yet look what's happened since. And not just in the name of religion. With no excuse except insanity. And, really, who can guard against that? Do we forget civil rights, rounding up potential shooters, shutting them away? With perhaps one in a thousand likely to go beserk, and nine hundred and ninety-nine deprived of a relatively normal life?

But armed guards? Armed TEACHERS? 

Have we truly become a war zone? 'Cuz that's what it sounds like. We can't blame the Middle East. We can't blame Al-Quaeda. We can't blame the Russians (except possibly for the invention of the AK-47). We've done this to ourselves. With serious assistance from the NRA, whose members seem to live in a bubble completely unrelated to reality. (Compare the number of unarmed Europe's shooting dead to our own.)

The truth is, we're a nation born in violence, and there are those among us who still believe carrying a gun is synonymous with freedom. The more guns the merrier. And, I admit, with so many guns already out there, stricter regulation is not going to keep either a criminal or a kook from getting his/her hands on one. But assault weapons? Assault weapons are for just one thing. Killing people and killing them as rapidly as possible. There is no excuse for an assault weapon in the hands of anyone but the military or the police. 

As for the "Fiscal Cliff" . . .

We elect men and women to Congress, expecting them to act for us. If our candidate didn't win, we pray the majority was right, and the people we sent to Washington are honest, intelligent, forthright, tuned to the people back home. Not to giant corporations, not to lobbyists, not swayed by their percs and privileges. Not so dazzled by power they forget about the people who put them where they are. Not become rabid dogs more willing to tear each other apart than find common ground.

Oh, sorry, I forgot. They do recall their special cronies back home, the ones who get those "earmarked" projects, the pork barrel rolling in for a privileged few, not only stuck into every bill presented to Congress, but even inserted in that last-minute "do or die" Fiscal Cliff bill. 

And although I understand John Boehner's reluctance to vote on spending $9.7 billion for Hurricane Sandy relief on the same night he's twisting Republican arms to increase taxes on the wealthy, the House should have dealt with Sandy relief much sooner. Was it politics that decreed the Sandy vote was a good way to kick off the new Congress, making everyone, including the newbies, feel they were starting off the year right? Too bad our Congressmen and women weren't forced to spend a week or so in houses bereft of electricity, water, sewer, shored up with plywood and tarps, and smelling of mold. Or crowded in with relatives or camping out in a single hotel/motel room, all waiting for the insurance to come through - the insurance Congress voted on Friday a mere "lick and a promise" of what is actually needed. 

I give the Senate credit, however. It passed the Fiscal Cliff bill almost unanimously. But the House? They had to take it to the wire, just so they could say to the people who seem to want to see the government come tumbling down, "Look, look, we fought the good fight." And then there were the die-hards who never gave in, compromise simply not part of their vocabulary, most of them from the South, I'm ashamed to say. I wanted to scream: "Hey, guys & gals in the House - did you notice who won the election? The People have spoken and it's time to give a little." [Oddly enough, the Orlando Sentinel on Sunday, January 6, had a front-page headline which read: State GOP vows to soften its image. And goes ahead to quote Adam Putnam, the agricultural commissioner, saying, "It's not just that we lost, but that nobody saw it coming." Ah, if the national GOP would only acknowledge the truth of that remark.]

What is the point of allegedly having a Democracy if its citizens - local, state, or national - refuse to compromise? This leads to nothing but "stand-off" and "no progress" - something Americans have become all too familiar with these last few years. It's time for all of us to tell our elected officials, "We're mad as hell, and we're not going to take it any more. Get off your duffs and accomplish something." 

Question: How can so many intelligent people arrive in Washington, starry-eyed and eager to change the status quo, yet find themselves reduced to idiocy by the intransigence of the Powers That Be? By their political parties? By the major corporations who are sure the government is intended only for them? By lobbyists who never met a Senator or Congressman they couldn't dazzle with money and special treatment? By . . .? You name it, they're all there in Washington, looking out for Number One, while the rest of us shrug and say, "That's politics." "I voted, what else can I do?"

There's enough shame to go around, but right now I place it squarely in Washington, where the outgoing Congress has brought government to a standstill. Any hope for those shiny new faces sworn in on January 3? Prayers, anyone? One ray of hope—I saw an interview with the new female members of Congress, who suggested women had learned the art of compromise long ago, and were more inclined to talk things over than butt heads like a couple of billygoats, neither budging an inch.

Keep your fingers crossed. I am. We have only one way to go from here. (At least I hope we've just experienced rock bottom. Anyone want to bet?)

~ * ~

 Next blog: "Branding - bah, humbug!"  [A topic which may change - who knows what will happen between now and then?]

Thanks for stopping by.

Grace's books as Blair Bancroft