Grace's Mosaic Moments

Saturday, November 30, 2013


Backseat Beauties - Thanksgiving week 2013

Hint for your next Thanksgiving: Riley, the one in the middle above, cut fancy shapes in a variety of fruits and skewered them, along with red grapes, for a light & delicious holiday dessert.

The Thanksgiving Food-shopping Train

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Regular readers of Mosaic Moments will recall my rant from last year about Black Friday. This year it's worse, the only applicable term, Black Thursday. How certain members of the general public, as well as retailers, can so demean a holiday meant for remembering the founding of our nation and for giving thanks for the blessings in our lives is beyond my comprehension.

We sat down Thursday evening, fourteen at table, only three adults and three children with any measure of English ancestry (the place of origin of our Founding Fathers). But all gave thanks, and not one was planning on shopping in the next thirty-six hours. (And, no, I didn't bring up the subject - some of the men did.)

Having already expressed myself strongly on the subject of overeager shoppers and retailers encroaching on a precious national holiday for absolutely no reason as the goods will be there waiting at bargain rates just as well at 9:00 a.m. on Friday as they are at 8:00 p.m. on Thanksgiving. (Or 8:00 A.M. on Thanksgiving, as some stores offered this year!) The whole concept is absurd, a big put-on, mostly by big-box stores, designed by corporate executives with no soul, only greedy eyes on ways to tease the public away from family, friends, and tradition (whether turkey, football, or good old-fashioned conversation). It's wrong, it's mostly fake, and it appalls me to see people falling for the hype. But this morning's Orlando Sentinel featured an editorial more acerbic than anything I could come up with. The following excerpts are from a contribution by Jack A. Chambless, a professor of economics at Valencia College (Orlando) and a senior fellow with the James Madison Institute in Tallahassee. [I have put all direct quotes from the professor in blue.]

Prof. Chambless begins his article by detailing the leisurely and pleasant activities he enjoyed last year on the day after Thanksgiving. He goes on to say:

What I did not do was join the total insanity that is called "Black Friday." Let me be clear ...

Living in American where people would just as soon shoot a gun or their middle finger at you on a normal day, is just about the last place in the world you want to be when Wal-Mart is having a sale on DVD players.

I saw on the news last year where a parent got arrested for leaving his infant in the car while he joined in the trampling and steep discounts at an electronics store. I saw other broadcasts showing hundreds of people storming into stores like the running of the bulls. In this case, it was the running of the credit cards.

Assuming there were very few atheists, Muslims, or Jews mingled in with the herds of shoppers, it would be safe to assume most of these folks were stomping on each other, kicking and screaming in preparation for the celebration of Jesus' birth.

How painfully ironic, isn't it? The man who taught the world about modesty, giving, love and sacrifice now has to watch as Americans all over the place try to kill one another in order to save 22 percent on a doll dressed like a prostitute.

One horrible thing about Black Friday is that it gives people who hate capitalism (see Obama voters) some legitimacy to say, "See, these dirty, profit-grabbing, selfish, rich businesspeople are making their workers come into work on Thanksgiving and forcing people to leave their cranberry sauce early in order to fight like animals in the African plains to save money on Chinese pajamas."

Do they have a point?

 Prof. Chambless goes on to mention Say's Law – which states "supply creates demand." Which, in short, seems to put the blame on the "big box" executives whose attitude is:

So they open at 8 p.m., their $8-per hour workers leave their Thanksgiving dinner early, or eat it earlier, and customers (not me) prepare to stampede one another four hours earlier than last year. If it is a success, next year it will be 11 a.m. Twenty years from now, Black Friday will be a week before Halloween.  (Grace note: to me this would be a lot better than encroaching on Thanksgiving.)

The professor adds, clearly in an effort to be less biased, that certainly the stores have a right to open whenever they want, and workers don't have to stay with these stores - they could get a job elsewhere. (Grace note:  In this economy??) He also suggests customers have a responsibility to rise up and shout, "Enough!" But if they really love shopping more than eating, so be it. "Freedom, remember?" will never see me partake in this awful illustration of capitalism at its best/worst. I will be at home, relaxing and shaking my head at the maniac I saw on YouTube hitting someone with a chair in order to get the next kid's toy that he will give to celebrate Jesus' birthday.

And thank you, Professor Chambless, for joining my voice in the wilderness. What did I do on Black Friday? I wrote what I hope will be a zinger of a wedding scene for Sorcerer's Bride, Book 2 of my Futuristic Paranormal series, Blue Moon Rising. I filled one dishwasher load after pretty much totaling my pots and pans for my contribution to the previous day's Feast. I worked on this blog. I played a game and did some puzzles from the Jacquie Lawson Advent Calendar. It is now 4:30 p.m., and I'm still in my robe. In between chores I rested and read Death Comes to the Village by Catherine Lloyd. An absolutely lovely day. I hope your day went as well. My advice:  Shop online, shop catalogs, shop small boutique businesses. Ignore the soulless big boxes. That's the only way this madness is going to stop.
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Thanks for stopping by,


Next week: Spain & Portugal, Part 4

For Blair's website with book covers & blurbs, click here
For Grace's editing service, click here

Saturday, November 23, 2013

BELLE, a Regency Darkside

Troop 1668 performing at the Orlando Museum of Art

For a bit of holiday cheer and a very special moment (and no, that's not just Gramma talking), click on the video link below.

From YouTube - my grandgirls doing "The Cookie Song" with Girl Scout Troop 1668 (Junior Scouts & Brownies) at the Orlando Museum of Art on Sunday, November 17. The cookie parody to the tune of "The Twelve Days of Christmas" was written by my daughter Susie, who also directs.

For "The Cookie Song" click here 

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Special Note, added March 24, 2014: Belle has just become part of a Limited Special Edition, which features Book 2 in The Aphrodite Academy series, Cecilia. And "Rayne Lord" has been nixed in favor of Blair Bancroft. This special edition will be offered at a price reduction on Kindle Countdown.

I too have been busy this week, uploading a new genre under a new pseudonym. Belle is Book 1 in The Aphrodite Academy series. The new pseudonym is due to not wanting to shock any of my tried and true traditional Regency fans. For cover, blurb, and Author's Note, please see below.

While attempting to put on a good face for her first London Season, Lady Arabella Pierrepont goes home each night to endure the raucous attention of her father’s gaming partners. One evening, when Baron Pierrepont reaches a new low, offering his daughter’s virginity to the next winner, Gabriel, Viscount Ashford, helps Arabella escape. He takes her to The Aphrodite Academy, where she is given three choices: the respectable but dull life of a companion, a marriage well below her station in life, or training to become one of London’s finest courtesans. Since she has taken men in dislike and would like nothing better than to drain their purses dry, she chooses the scandalous life. But none of the armor she has thrown up can protect her when the highest bidder for her services is Lord Ashford, the one man she considers a hero. Both must grow wiser and listen to their hearts before Belle can put the abuse she suffered behind her and Gabriel can shed the casual sexual practices of the so-called Regency gentleman.

Author’s note: I think of The Aphrodite Academy series as “Regency Darkside,” stories that go beyond the usual Regency Historical to explore what might have happened to young women, from ladies to tavern wenches, for whom life was unkind—young women with no family or friends willing to help when their lives fall apart. In this series each girl will each find The Aphrodite Academy, or it will find them. The headmistress is a widowed baroness, left in charge of a remarkable fortune by a husband whose proclivities were as eclectic as they were enthusiastic. She has, perhaps not surprisingly, barred all males from the grounds of the Academy, where she offers academic classes, arranges suitable positions for some of her students, and offers training in the fine arts of the courtesan to those who wish it .

The language is saucy, the sex occasionally graphic. But the stories are driven by plot and character, not the sex scenes.

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Thanks for stopping by,

Grace, who now writes as Rayne Lord as well as Blair Bancroft

Rayne is sharing the BB website at:  click here

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Word Perfect to Indie Pub

This week's bit of color - this year it was Riley's turn to sing with the Deerwood Chorus at the Amway Arena. (Chorus in the red shirts & khaki pants)

The National Anthem before a Magic's game
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I may be the only romance writer in existence who writes in Word Perfect, but I've been typing professionally since Noah built the Ark (or at least it seems that long) and when I saw my first word processing machine in 1981 (IBM - $10,000), I went absolutely wild. I had to have one. I'd been typing my mother's manuscripts since I took typing my freshman year in high school, I'd studied advanced typing (oh, wow, electric typewriters!) and shorthand before going to New York to audition for Broadway, knowing I would need a good-paying part-time job until I got a singing job. And it paid off - got the first job I applied for - in a legal office. And yet, for all my skill in English and shorthand, I  had to retype something like twelve pages of my first effort because I spelled "judgment" one way and my boss spelled "judgement" the other way! (But, oh joy, I went on tour with The National Company of The Sound of Music within three months of moving to New York City.)

Later, after I was married I began my first attempts at writing novels and discovered my mother might make only minor corrections here and there when writing her children's books. Not so with me. I simply tore apart my first drafts, which meant multiple retyping of every single page of four or five hundred pages (because, yes, I was long-winded too).

So when I saw the IBM Displaywriter, I thought it was the most awesome thing I'd ever seen. It had all of 250K memory, and it wrote in umpteen languages. All I had to do was switch keyboards (and, no, I don't remember how I did it, but suddenly my QUERTY keyboard was typing in French or Italian or Spanish with all the right accents - all I had to do was look at the pretty pictures in the instruction manual to figure out which key typed what. I even got a job from Yale transcribing a series of lectures in French. Looking back, the whole thing astounds me. But one thing I learned from all this was that IBM knew how to word process.  So when PCs began to join the computer scene (with 8K memory which you could pay to enhance to 16K), it was pretty easy to sneer at Microsoft. And even when they developed a word processing program, it couldn't hold a candle to the one I was already using. When I was absolutely forced to use my husband's PC, I'd just about tore my hair out attempting to make early versions of MS Word behave.

And then a company in Canada (Lotus?) created a really good word processing system that actually worked on PCs - and allowed graphics!  It was a major breakthrough. And of course both Microsoft and Corel found a way to mimic it, leaving the poor Canadian company by the wayside. (Or maybe one of them bought it, I don't know.)

But in the long run, MS Word never did catch up, its only triumph over Corel, the Track Changes editing program, which has become the standard for the publishing industry. The graphics I can produce with Word Perfect for promo materials are unsurpassed. If I hit "print," I don't get the whole darn manuscript instead of just the page I wanted. It makes gorgeous columns, etc. But nonetheless Microsoft rules the industry, so if you want to indie pub from Word Perfect (or programs other than MS Word), you're going to have to bend a little, work longer and harder . . .

So  here's what you need to do for Word Perfect. Hopefully, my suggestions can be adapted to other word processing programs as well.

Note 1: You will need a copy of MS Word - a version with "doc" available as an alternative to "docx." (At least my older copy of MS Word - with "doc" only - is the version recommended by Smashwords' very knowledgeable Mark Coker.)

Note 2: if your manuscript is divided into several documents, arrange them into one. (When creating, never, repeat never, use separate documents for each chapter. It's unnecessary and makes it tedious to put the documents into one long doc.) I personally do 5 chapters per doc as I write, but whatever method you use, be sure each chapter is separated from the next by a Hard Page End - Control+Enter.]  And be sure you use Auto Tabs, not Manual Tabs.)  Link to Tab Conversion instructions

From Word Perfect to Indie Pub - Step by Step

1.  Turn on View - Reveal Codes.

2.  Delete all codes at the beginning of your manuscript. (Since Times New Roman is the default, this should not affect your font. Bascially, you're getting rid of headers, page numbers and double spacing. If your Auto Tabs disappear, put them back in. [Format - Paragraph - Format - First Line Indent - .5]

3.  Keeping your attention on the Codes at the bottom of the screen, go through your manuscript for "wonky" codes and extra spaces. This is not a "quickie." It's tedious and time-consuming but will pay for your effort by getting rid of codes that could put glitches in your ms when it's published. The two codes I most frequently need to get rid of:  italics where no italics should be and manual tabs that creep in, even though you'd swear you'd never touched the tab key. You will also find two spaces between words or sentences where there should only be one. Sometimes there's an extra space at the beginning or end of a paragraph. Just keep scrolling down. You'll be surprised at what you find. (But don't stay at it too long at any one sitting - the brain begins to go numb.)

4.  When finished, turn off Reveal Codes.

5.  Save the entire manuscript to Rich Text Format (which has a lovely "W" indicating it is compatible with MS Word). Say bye-bye to Word Perfect.

6. Open MS Word. Bring up the RTF copy of your manuscript which is in Word Perfect.

7.  Save the document as a Word doc. Be sure you save it into MS Word; otherwise it will save itself right back into Word Perfect!  That's two changes in one step - change from RTF to Word doc. Then Save into Microsoft Word.

8.  Click on the ¶ symbol in the Tool Bar. This will turn on what few codes you can reveal in MS Word:  hard returns at the end of a paragraph, manual tabs (which should not exist in your ms as online publishing won't recognize them), and the spaces between words and sentences.

9.  At the top of the Word document, Select All - choose Format - Paragraph. Change the standard .5 indent to .3. [No sense in doing it earlier as the Auto Tab can revert back to .5 during translation from Word Perfect to RTF to MS Word.]

10.  Do a final complete edit of your manuscript with codes on, fixing manuscript errors as necessary, in addition to eliminating codes you don't want (manual tabs, extra spaces, etc.) [And, yes, for all that work in Word Perfect's Reveal Codes, you'll still find some codes that need fixing.] See also #s 11-13 below.

11.  As you go along, change all Chapter headings to 14-font (or 16 if you prefer). [Not a necessity - it simply looks better.]

12. At the same time, highlight the chapter title and change the paragraph indent from .3 to 0, and center

13. Highlight any Location & Date lines and change the paragraph indent from .3 to 0. These lines should end up flush left.  Turn off ¶.

14.  Don't forget to run a final spell check.

15.  Use Alt+F9 to check for a sneaky "1" that likes to insert itself at the very beginning of any manuscript converted from Word Perfect to Word.  Delete it! Turn off Alt+F9.

16. Don't forget to add something about yourself at the end of the book, plus info on other books you may have available.

Congratulations - you should be ready to upload to the online site(s) of your choice.

Thanks for stopping by,


For Blair's website with book covers & blurbs, click here

For Grace's editing service, click here

Friday, November 8, 2013

Spain, Part 2

On to Madrid and the Palacio Reale. 

Below is a postcard, plus a personal photo, of the Royal Palace, where it's said guerrilla warfare was born when a thirteen-year-old prince refused to leave the palace when the French sent Mameluke guards to take him into exile—a move that incited ordinary citizens to revolt against their former allies. Although the revolt was swiftly put down, the spark lit in the Plaza de Oriente on May 2, 1808, would help turn the tide against Napoleon (and encourage Britain to send troops to the Peninsula), although it would be five long years before the French were finally driven back behind the Pyrenees into France.

Plaza de Oriente & Palacio Reale

Palacio Reale, Madrid - side view

The Prado, Madrid - one of the world's great art musuems

 Set on a mountaintop surrounded on three sides by the broad Tagus river, Toledo has remained almost unassailable through the centuries. It is the famed home of the Toledo blade and the Alcázar. The fortress was built in Roman times and nearly destroyed in a siege during the Spanish Civil War (1936). It has been rebuilt and is now a museum. And, yes, Toledo craftsmen still make swords and knives of every description.

Toledo - the Alcázar at the top
Ancient Bridge, Toledo

Below, the Venta Quixote, a 16th c. inn Cervantes used as a setting for Don Quixote. (Their pea soup was amazing!) And, yes, they still have windmills in the area, although they were too far away for a good photo. (And I do mean windmills, as in Don Quixote, not modern wind turbines, which we also saw all over Spain.)

Venta Quixote

Courtyard, Venta Quixote

The Alhambra, one of the great wonders of the world, is indescribable. I post here only a tantalizing bit of the whole, which includes many cats (our guide brought cat kibble to distribute to the grateful population). The only ugliness in the Alhambra are some great stone fortifications left from Medieval times when Crusaders occupied the Alhambra. (There was also some destruction when French soldiers in Napoleon's time attempted to blow up part of the sprawling palace.)

The palace fountains, pools and waterfalls are naturally fed from water on the hillside above. There are also extensive formal gardens on the hillside. (I did not attempt the climb.)

The harim, the Alhambra

One tiny portion of thousands of intricate details

The harim - inside

One of many garden & pool areas in the Alhambra


After leaving the Alhambra, we nagged our guide and driver to let us have a close-up of olives growing - olives are the main crop assigned to Spain by the European Union. And finally our bus sneaked off on a back road and we were given ten minutes to wander through the edge of someone's olive grove.

A carriage in Cordoba

 My favorite photo in Seville wasn't the cathedral or even the incredibly narrow cobbled streets and ancient houses. It was a garden I found by peeking through iron bars set in an open window - and discovering a fairyland, a private garden taking up all of a small courtyard in the center of a three-story residential building. It was exquisite - and carefully tended. I only wish I could have gotten a better angle through the bars to show more of it.

I even used this garden in a book (one not out yet).

And with a look inside Seville's great cathedral, we say goodbye to Spain - though not to the Iberian Peninsula.

The burial site of Christopher Columbus - inside Seville's cathedral

Thanks for stopping by,


Next week: probably Portugal 2 - the Mediterranean Coast

For Blair's website with book covers & blurbs, click here

For Grace's editing service, click here

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Spain, Part 1

Continuing our travels in Portugal and Spain:

We drove north from Oporto, Portugal, into Spain—first stop, Santiago de Compostela, a pilgrimage site for more than a thousand years. 

Gothicked-up Medieval Cathedral - Santiago de Compostela

Because several of us were interested in La Coruña (Corunna), our guide arranged a side trip there. Of course houses had filled in the space where the battle occurred, both flat ground and the hillside behind, but at least I could now picture it properly and discovered I hadn't mangled the facts too badly when writing Tarleton's Wife. The harbor, I assume, remains the same, except it's now filled with pleasure boats, as well as fishing boats. The town square was also intact and easy to visualize as it was back in January 1809. A bit of the ramparts also remain, now a park in tribute to General Sir John Moore, who died at Corunna. 

For those who don't know the story, in 1808 an army of 35,000 British and Spanish troops set out to defeat the French on the Iberian Peninsula. It ended with the British army making a nightmarish retreat through the mountains to the Spanish coast, with the French army on their heels. When they got to "Corunna," less than half the necessary ships (245 sent from England) had arrived, and they were forced to fight a battle just outside the town. The British won, holding the French off long enough for those still alive to escape in a mass military evacuation that wouldn't be seen again until Dunkirk in World War II. It was one of the British army's most dramatic moments, though far from its finest hour. [The number of troops involved varies with the telling. Some say 5000 died on the trek through the mountains; some say 10,000 were evacuated, some say more, nearly all of them listed as sick or wounded.]

Harbor at La Coruña

Remaining ramparts at La Coruña
Crèche in Léon cathedral, carved from a single tree trunk
Roman Wall still in use in Lugo
The walled city of Avila

If there are Peninsular War buffs who haven't seen The Pride and the Passion with Gary Cooper and Frank Sinatra - it's worth joining Netflix to see it. Although pure fiction, adapted from The Gun by C. S. Forester, I doubt there's a Regency fan whose heart won't thrill to this one. (Picture Gary Cooper in full Brit naval uniform and a gun as big as most people's houses.) [You don't even want to know how many photos I took of Avila! - while standing at a rest stop on a hill above the city]

Mile after mile of the "plains in Spain" - with what looks like a very modern irrigation sprayer (horizon left)

Part of the main square in Salamanca
Lunch in Salamanca

While we enjoyed lunch in the main square in Salamanca, I marveled that I was actually there - at the site of another famous name from the Peninsular War. Like La Coruña, Salamanca's central core seems little changed from the past - if you discount people in modern dress and a "cleaning zamboni" that rolled by while we ate!

Two weeks ago, I intended to end the photo essay on Portugal with a postcard I bought from a street vendor along the banks of the Douro River. But somehow after scanning it was downloaded into the wrong folder and forgotten. So I add it here - a little special color to end today's blog, even if it is a product of Portugal (or should I say, "they"?). [Clearly, Europeans don't have to answer to Puritan ancestors.] Note the artist signed each painting.

Thanks for stopping by,


For Blair's website with book covers & blurbs, click here

For Grace's editing service, click here