Grace's Mosaic Moments

Saturday, April 26, 2014

THE THREE BEARS - Florida Style

At the end of the fence on the left, down by the lake, is where the Mama Black Bear was sitting  later that day when we were ready to go home.

You have to look really closely - it was almost 10:00 p.m. when this photo was taken - but there are are two black bear cubs up in the tree eating fruit.

Background to our Easter Bear Tale:

The greater Orlando area, particularly to the north, has been experiencing a bear problem. At first, nothing new, just increased sightings, more garbage cans raided, etc. Then twice over the last few months women were attacked. Just last week, a bear took a woman's head in its mouth and was dragging her toward the woods before she managed to get away. Her skull required 30 staples and 10 stitches! Plus gashes on her face and arms, etc. Florida Fish and Wildlife put a 24-hour guard on her house and shot seven bears in less than 48 hours, alleging none of them showed any fear of humans. It is suspected that someone in the area was feeding them. So a bear in the yard is now considered far more hazardous than it was in the past. Also, the news media made sure we all knew bears could run up to 30 mph!

Bears in the land of Disney and long sandy beaches? Believe me, those are just the views the tourists see. The interior of Florida has vast tracts of woods and lakes, where humans have only intruded in the last decade or two. And there's no doubt we are the intruders, but "progress" seems inevitable. Sigh.

When we arrived in Altamonte Springs on Sunday, where a relative was hosting the annual family Easter dinner, she told us about the bears that had been coming to the condo complex for the past year or so, sometimes making her late for work when they spread out near both front and back doors. But, she told us, this was at 6:30 in the morning, so we were unlikely to see any. (Much to the disappointment of the grandgirls, ages 7, 9, and 11.)

We had an Easter egg hunt on the lawn that stretches in front of the first-floor condo all the way down to the lake. (See photo above.) Followed by a grand dinner for fourteen, combined with a birthday celebration for the son of the family. All in all, a delightful family event. But just as we began to pack up the Easter baskets and presents the girls received, a phone call came from the neighbor upstairs. Bears! Out front.

Naturally, we all rushed for the door, but were promptly ordered back inside by my son-in-law, who, with his cousin, ventured out to see what was going on. The neighbors, safe on their second floor balcony, pointed out two bear cubs in a large fruit tree. And then came word that there was a bear out back. Since the men were barring us from looking out front, we all charged to the back and, sure enough, there at the lakeside end of the fence (see top photo) was Mama Bear, just sitting on the ground. (When our male guardians deserted the front door for the back door, my daughter sneaked up the outside staircase and took the cubs' photo from the second floor balcony.)

But as for going home, we were trapped! Like our relative who had been late to work three times, we had baby bears in front and Mama Bear in back. And as everyone knows, there's no more dangerous animal than a Mama Bear protecting her cubs. Our car, in a parking lot at the top of a small hill, seemed very far away. By this time my son-in-law and his cousin had joined the crowd at the back door. Since Mama Bear was way down by the lake and not moving, I suggested my son-in-law bring the SUV to the back door, which would be much closer than all of us attempting the run for the parking lot. (This, of course, presumed that the baby bears would stick to their fruit, having sense enough not to be interested in a full-grown human male as a food source.)

My son-in-law made it to the SUV, retrieved his Glock 9, and returned to pick us up, standing guard while Mommy, the three little girls, and I, traveled the 10-12 feet from back porch to road at a fast pace! As we drove back along the side of the condo complex, we paused to watch the branches of the fruit tree sway as the cubs gorged themselves. There was no breeze, and the contrast with the completely still branches of the fruit tree next to it was apparent. So although only Mommy got to see the cubs, we all had an opportunity to see that they were truly there, only feet from that second-floor balcony. And the black hulk of Mama Bear calmly sitting at the bottom of the lawn will be with me for some time. It's definitely as close as I ever want to come to a bear.

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Thanks for stopping by.


For Grace's website, listing all books as Blair Bancroft, click here.

For a brochure for Grace's editing service, Best Foot Forward, click here.

Saturday, April 19, 2014


A Family Triumph - one First & two Seconds in the Girl Scout Derby

Rockin' Riley, Winner, Brownie Division
Hailey's Comet - Second, Junior Division

SeeSaw - Second, Brownie Division (Cassidy's car)

And a big "muchas gracias" to Daddy who oversaw design, cutting, sanding, painting, balancing, et al!


 I was reminded by an author friend on Florida's Gulf Coast about the little matter of those vital words, north, south, east, and west. So let's tackle that first, quickly adding the caveat that different publishers have different style sheets, and this one can vary. But in general . . .

Directions.  Ask yourself: Am I describing movement, giving driving directions? If so, then it's lower case. But if you're writing about a particular part of the country, then you use an initial cap.

There's a gas station just east of here. You can't miss it.

The ladies in the movie Steel Magnolias are examples of the strength of women from the South.
Canada is the country north of the United States.
I was born in the Mid-West but have lived most of my life in the East.
Here in Florida we see a lot of Snowbirds from Up North.  

Titles of Works 
 Books, Magazines & Newspapers. These items have initial caps and are italicized.
Her Royal Spyness by Rhys Bowen, Arabella by Georgette Heyer
I used to subscribe to Vogue. My son prefers to read Time magazine. 
I read the Orlando Sentinel every day.  BUT

The Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling
She reads only fashion magazines. Ed prefers getting the news from television rather than reading it in the newspaper.

Musical Compositions.  The names of musical compositions require initial caps for all words but minor articles and prepostions. If a long composition has a specific name attached, it is also italicized. Short pieces, however, such as a single song, are set off by quotation marks, no italics. If, however, you are simply referring to a piece of music, such as a sonata or symphony by its number or key, only initial caps are used.  (A bit tricky, I admit.)

Madame Butterfly, Jesus Christ Superstar 
Beethoven's Sonata op. 8 is more commonly known as the  Path├ętique
She belted out the high note in "O Holy Night." 
Sonata in D Minor   BUT

I attended the opera last night.  
The quartet played some sonata I never heard of. 
I could have done without the soprano's last song.

Note:  The Chicago Manual of Style uses lower case for both number and opus - no. & op. 

Plays, Movies, Television Programs. These titles also use initial caps and italics.
A Long Day's Journey Into Night, As You Like It, The Rocky Horror Picture Show
Avatar, The Princess Diaries,The Silence of the Lambs
NCIS, Scandal, Person of Interest

Note:  The characters in these dramas, however, must settle for initial caps only, both for their stage names and for the characters they are portraying.

Paintings & Sculpture. These too have initial caps, but only the name of the work is italicized.
Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa is the world's most famous painting, while Michelangelo's David is likely the most famous statue. A close second might  be Rodin's The Thinker.  

He gazed at the painting for a long time but couldn't figure out how anyone would pay a million dollars for it.
I couldn't believe how many sculptures there were in Lord Elgin's collection of "marbles" on display in the British Museum.

There are, of course, many other places where capital letters are used, but hopefully those in the two parts of "Using Capital Letters" cover most of information needed for authors of Fiction.

If you think of other uses of capital letters that are essential to fiction-writing, please use Comments (below) to let me know. (I keep promising myself I'm going to organize all these Writing & Editing blogs into a book someday.)

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SPECIAL NOTE:  My naughty novellas, Cecilia (with Belle) will be available as a "twofer" on Kindle Countdown, beginning Thursday, April 24.
For link to Amazon, click here.

Thanks for stopping by.


For Grace's website, listing all books as Blair Bancroft, click here.

For a brochure for Grace's editing service, Best Foot Forward, click here.


Saturday, April 12, 2014


Sandhill Cranes - parents & "preteens" - photographed at The Villages, Central Florida

The Sometimes Peculiar Use of Capital Letters

I never thought I'd see the day when I would sit down and actually remind my readers that the pronoun "I" is capitalized or that each sentence starts with a capital letter. But e-mails, and most particularly texting, seem determined to reduce our language to a mere semblance of its former self. For the purpose of this blog—aimed, as always, at authors writing fiction—let's pass over the most well-known uses of capital letters as quickly as possible and get down to the ones so many find tricky. 

Use initial caps for:

1. Names. (People, Places, Businesses, and Organizations) John Doe, Omaha, Nebraska, New York City, East Oshkosh, Brazil, Africa, the Pacific, Lake Baikal, General Motors, the Girl Scouts of America, the Blue Angels, etc.

2.  Titles. President, Chairman, Duke, Duchess . . . BUT only when they are combined with a person's name. Otherwise, they are lower case.

Example:   the President of the United States, President Obama  BUT
                The president sat at his desk. 
                The duke rode his horse each morning.

Grace note: Just to complicate things, the publishers' "bible", The Chicago Manual of Style, disagrees with the general publisher usage of English titles.  It states: "the duke of Marlborough" is correct when most publishers go with "the Duke of Marlborough." I personally recommend capitalizing the title (duke, earl, viscount, etc.) when it is directly associated with the proper name of the title  (William, Duke of Cambridge).

3. Personification. In writing Fiction, we sometimes give people names derived from their appearance. In one of my recent novellas, for example, I referred to two ladies of the evening as Shocking Pink and Scarlet. Basically, any time you take an ordinary word and personify it, use initial caps.

4.  Initials & Acronyms.  I often refer to myself as GAK. We hire a DJ to play at a party. But if you need a Medical Examiner, for some reason periods are usually inserted (M.E.) - probably because it comes out as ME and looks more than a little egotistical.  You can, of course, earn a PhD, and many of us couldn't do without a CPA to help with our taxes or our businesses. And then there are all those government and military alphabet soups, the FBI, CIA, DOD, DHS. In Florida we have the FDLE (Florida Department of Law Enforcement). And OCLS (Orange County Library System). Acronyms have become a way of life. And Heaven help any poor e-mailer or texter who can't read them. 

5.  Emphasis. Authors of Non-fiction or Literary Fiction (note the initial caps) will likely cringe at this one, but it's a legitimate use of caps for most Fiction authors. In a manner similar to the use of Shocking Pink and Scarlet mentioned above, a character might be described as "Hot" or a "Hottie." (Italics, of course, can also be used for emphasis, but somehow the effect is not quite the same.) This kind of capitalization should be used sparingly, but it is permissible in most Fiction, particularly Romance.

Elaboration on the above:

1. Titles used in place of names in Direct Address.   
          Aye, aye, Captain, I'll do that right away.
          Of course, Your Grace.
          Would you repeat that, Sergeant?
          BUT for some reason modern publishing makes an exception for:
          Are you sure you know where you're going, miss?
          I'm so sorry, sir.

Grace note:  No matter what approach you take, you'll probably run into a publisher with a different style sheet!

2.  Religious Titles work the same way as noble and military titles. 
           Pope John Paul II
           The pope delivered an Easter blessing.

3.  Epithets & Honorifics.  
         the Iron Duke
         His Eminence, Cardinal Richelieu
         Your Honor, Judge Perry   BUT
         The cardinal disagreed, to the bishop's dismay.
         The judge, looking down from the high bench, frowned.

4.  Nationalities, Tribes.  In a manner similar to that cited in #2 above, Scotland is capitalized, but scotch whiskey is not. Kentucky is capitalized but bourbon is not (unless you're referring to a specific named bourbon or it's part of a name on a label!) 
Basically, if you're talking about a specific name, it's capitalized. If you're using the word generically, it is not.

5.  Historical Periods. the Middle Ages, the Georgian Era, the Jazz Age, etc.  

6.  Events. Festival of Trees, Reign of Terror, the Kentucky Derby, The Florida State Fair

7.  Holidays. Christmas, Easter, Hanukkah, Yom Kippur, Ramadan, etc.

8.  Deities.  God, Yahweh, Allah, Holy Ghost, the Trinity, Prince of Peace, etc. Also ancient gods, such as Apollo, Venus, Zeus, etc.

9.  Religious Services.  Holy Communion, the Lord's Supper, High Mass (with generic exceptions).  There will be a high mass at one o'clock.  The cathedral offers four masses daily, six on Sunday.

Other exceptions:  generic terms such as morning prayer, bar mitzvah, sun dance, vespers, etc.  Also ark, mandala, rosary, shofar, stations of the cross, etc.

10.  Military.  The names of military forces are capitalized; for example, Army Corps of Engineers, Joint Chiefs of Staff, Royal Air Force.  Again, the exceptions are generic: Wellington's army besieged Badajoz.  A navy task force sailed for the South Pacific.

Battles, Campaigns, and Theaters of War are also capitalized, as are the names of medals.
Examples:  the Civil War, Battle of the Bulge, World War I, Purple Heart, Silver Star, etc.

11.  Transportation. The names of ships, trains, aircraft & spacecraft are capitalized. (They are also italicized.) Victory, Arizona, EnterpriseChallenger, etc. The different models are merely capitalized:  Nike, Camry, Concorde, Silver Meteor, etc.

12.  Astronomical Terms are capitalized: the Big Dipper, Andromeda, the North Star, Southern Cross, etc.

13.  Radiation. Although I'm a great believer in using a capital X in X-ray, The Chicago Manual of Style says it can be written with a lower case x as well (x-ray). Other rays, however, are all lower case, whether, beta, gamma, cosmic, or ultraviolet.

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The next section, Titles of Works, is such a biggie, I'm going to leave it for next week.  Don't forget to come back for Part 2 of "Using Capital Letters."

Grace note:  A huge thank you to The Chicago Manual of Style, 14th Edition, for providing the solid backup for this list. (I did my best, however, not to steal their examples!) 

Thanks for stopping by.


For Grace's website, listing all books as Blair Bancroft, click here.

For a brochure for Grace's editing service, Best Foot Forward, click here.