Grace's Mosaic Moments

Friday, December 30, 2016

Editing & Holiday Musing

 My daughter didn't re-post this video from 2012 (in Gatlinburg, Tennessee) until after my last Mosaic Moments. So please enjoy a holiday treat, which is just as pretty after Christmas as before. For Susie Reale singing "Have a Merry Little Christmas" against a backdrop of the mountains of Tennessee,  click here.

On a more somber note, somewhere over the last few decades we seem to have lost the concept of honor - particularly in this year of 2016. So when I saw the word "honor" in the Orlando Sentinel (12/29/16), I felt these few sentences were worth passing on. [Every Thursday the Sentinel publishes a Spotlight featuring "Champ" and "Chump." I read it faithfully, as it's good to know who's doing good deeds in the state and who's being an idiot. This was today's "Champ." (We won't bother with the Chump.)]

Bob Hansell:  Next week's retirement for Osceola County's three-term sheriff will cap his 40-year career with the agency. He joined at 18, rose through the ranks to captain, and commanded the agency's SWAT team. Along the way, he earned a reputation for leadership and integrity. In 2004, amid discontent in the agency's ranks, Hansell took a risk and quit so he could challenge then-Sheriff Charlie Aycock. Voters rewarded Hansell with a 12-point victory. In 2008 and again in 2012, he easily won re-election over write-in candidates. [Grace note: this indicates that no one would run against him, knowing he was unbeatable.] He'll be especially missed among his peers in law enforcement. One told the Sentinel, "He is one of the most honorable men that I have ever worked with in my career."

Grace note:  Clearly, our world needs a great many more honorable men. And women.

The "cartoon" below was also in Thursday's Orlando Sentinel. No explanation needed, except perhaps to say that it was drawn before Carrie Fisher's death was compounded by that of her mother, Debbie Reynolds.

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 I've harped on this theme before, but whether you're swamped with distractions or suffering from classic writer's block, you should just keep writing. That's what I did the week before Christmas. Yes, I probably should have given up any attempt at creativity during that period, but I'd just started a new book, and it was ringing in my head, so . . .

All went well until that final ten days, which saw not only holiday preparations but a massive amount of musical events. If I wasn't singing myself, I was watching the grandchildren follow in the family musical footsteps. So no wonder when I sat down on December 26 to look at Chapter 5 (which for me is hardcopy with a legal pad, pen, and pencil at the ready) I found it appalling. As you've heard me say, my first drafts can be little more than shorthand for what I had in mind, but this

There's no way to present the deletions and keep the chapter legible, so I'll just put the editing additions in red, so you can see what I did to salvage my Christmas disaster. (At least I hope I did.) The point, as always, is to emphasize that you, too, can do this. You can read over what you wrote and make it better, even if the first time was but a gleam in the eye of what you intended. Self-editing is all important. READ WHAT YOU WROTE, THEN MAKE IT BETTER.

Excerpts from The Lady Takes a Risk, Chapter 5: 

Marcus blew out his candle but left the one on the small bedside table still alight. He wanted to see his wife, though he suspected she would soon cut short his enjoyment of the vision before him (as a properly brought up virgin should.) The bed was broad, and she had thoughtfully positioned herself on the side away from the door that connected their rooms . . .

The side as far away from him as possible . . . ? 

Inwardly, Marcus mocked himself. Did she think him a reluctant lover, doing his duty? Fulfilling the agreement they'd made? Did she have no idea how intriguing he found her? How long it had been since he'd held a woman in his arms?
Despite knowing he'd been married, she probably thought him a Don Juan who had left behind a string of women panting for him on the continent, when, in fact, he'd put all that behind him when Susan and little Julian died. He hadn't so much as looked longingly at a woman until nigh onto a fortnight after coming to Kirkwood Farm. In the midst of struggling to replace a broken hops pole, he'd paused to wipe sweat from his eyes, and there she was: this magnificent creature in a green velvet habit slowing her black gelding to a leisurely walk, making no effort to hide her interest in what he and his men were doing.

And, incredibly, by some miracle here he was, sitting on the edge of the lady's bed in his nightshirt, his manhood a half-mast because he had so many doubts. Doubts about himself after that fatal charge at Waterloo, doubts about plunging a duke's daughter into the maelstrom of Kirkwood Farm. Doubts about betraying his beloved Susan by taking a second wife. 

Susan, forgive me!

She would be happy for him, he knew she would, and yet . . .

Why had he survived the war when she and their child had not? When so very many had not. Why should he be gifted with a duke's daughter when he had so frequently come close to being the toy soldier she had accused him of? Marcus Trevor, commanding officer of "The Prince's Dolls"—now there was a name to make a proper soldier blush!
Colonel Marcus Granville Sherbrooke, commander of a regiment of sons of England's most noble houses, mucking about in a hops field. He was sorry his father hadn't passed by that day. Or any of the many days afterward as he and his "pretty boys" learned how to grow hops. Not grapes to be fermented for the superior palettes of noblemen, but hops for beer for the masses.

The irony was topped only by his marrying exactly the woman he would have been expected to marry in his former life. 

If he were particularly fortunate. 

Idly, an action rearing its head from his past, he wound a strand of her hair around his finger. Lifting his gaze,he studied her face—the face struggling so hard not to show anxiety. "Well, my lady, it seems you have joined me in taking a plunge down in the world. Frankly, I could use your support. Tell me, Amelie, can we be friends?" Dear Lord, even in the flicker of the one rapidly guttering candle, he could see her soften, feel her silent inner sigh. He'd done it. He'd said the right thing. And suddenly he could see her through the eyes of a lover. Radiantly beautiful. 

Grace Note: the remainder of the chapter is almost as heavily revised as the above.  So no matter how hectic, depressing, or utterly impossible the circumstances, hang in there. Keep writing. Fix it later when the bright sunshine of another day shows you the way.

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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, December 17, 2016

Peace on Earth

Last year I did not put up my Christmas tree - it remained bagged-up in my garage as my treasured box of ornaments could not be found in my son-in-law's warehouse, where we store our Christmas stuff. But, fortunately, he moved the contents of his warehouse to Longwood this year, and lo & behold, my lifetime collection of  ornaments turned up. The night before this photo was taken, the pieces of the tree had just come out of two years of being bagged—the lights not connected, the branches all askew. But while I was reading the morning paper, it acquired its first ornament. (I have grave doubts about some of fragile ornaments when the tree is finally decorated. And yes, this is Squeak's first Christmas. She is snoozing in my lap as I type this.)

Over the past two weeks, our family has been swamped by Christmas musical performances—and all the rehearsals that go with them. Last Sunday three generations of the family sang at the Christmas program presented by Church of the Redeemer. Cassidy also sang with her outstanding chorus at Woodlands Elementary, and we managed to find Seminole High School in Sanford, where Hailey and Riley were singing in two of the three choruses from Markham Middle School. (Even the change of venue to a high school auditorium wasn't enough. Latecomers had to stand. We were fortunate enough to have Cassidy make a run for seats way down front.) 

Meanwhile, during the same weeks, Susie and her Citrus Singers have been singing everywhere from the Orlando Art Museum to shopping malls, and of course last week's concert at Church of the Redeemer. Tonight (Saturday, the 17th) they will be repeating what they did last year - singing the National Anthem at the Cure Bowl here in Orlando before what will likely be a sold-out crowd as our own UCF (University of Central Florida) team will be playing. (1015 p.m. - just watched the video on Facebook - the girls were great!)

The primary point of this week's Mosaic Moments is that every performance, directed by a variety of musicians, has featured the themes of Peace of Earth, Diversity, and Tolerance. How could it not, after what Orlando has been through this year? (I should note that last Monday marked the six-month anniversary of the massacre at Pulse nightclub. There were some very moving memorial services at the site and at the historical building which now archives most of the Pulse memorials contributed by so many mourners. The Orlando Gay Chorus performed and did an outstanding job, as usual.)

Cassidy's elementary school chorus - c. 60 strong - took the stage in rainbow T-shirts (one group wearing purple, one red, etc.) They sang songs of peace and good will, including that great African-American spiritual, "Follow the Drinking Gourd," a song telling slaves to follow the Big Dipper where it points to the north star.

Markham Middle School (performing at Seminole High) did a beautiful variety of songs, ending with the director emphasizing the importance of their final number, "Let There Be Peace of Earth."

And the Citrus Singers have been doing the same at their concerts. One of the four songs they performed at Church of the Resurrection was also "Let There Be Peace of Earth." Cassidy and Riley are the featured soloists, and their father got a good recording. (Warning: if the video goes into family stuff at the end, just hit the back arrow.) 

For the video made at Church of the Resurrection in Longwood, Florida, Sunday evening, December 11, click here.

As for my literary contributions to Christmas, I featured Mistletoe Moment in my last blog, but I'd like to note that there's a lot of Christmas in my traditional Regency, A Gamble on Love (cover & blurb below).

Miss Aurelia Trevor has a problem. Until she reaches the age of twenty-five, she will have no control over her beloved Pevensey Park, and by that time her unscrupulous uncle will have run it into the ground. Marriage to someone other than her uncle's leering son is her only way out, but, one by one, she rejects the men on her list of suitors. In desperation, Aurelia does the unthinkable. She hires a solicitor to find her a husband strong enough to stand up to both her uncle and her cousin. And soon learns the truth of that old adage: Be careful what you wish for.

Thomas Lanning is a man of the City. Unlike Aurelia, who stands to inherit vast land and wealth, he has made his own place in the world. He is not at all tempted by the suggestion of marriage to an heiress, but other considerations, such as a power base for a seat in Parliament, tweak his interest. Plus an unexpected twinge of chivalry when he hears the full extent of Miss Trevor's difficulties with her uncle and his family.

Aurelia, who only wants to live in peace on her acres, finds she has acquired a ready-made family in Thomas's younger sister and brother, as well as a head-strong husband whose campaign for MP fills her household with a shockingly odd assortment of characters. It seems her marriage of convenience is fast becoming a marriage of inconvenience. Just how far will this strong-willed pair bend to accommodate each other? And will they do it before it's too late?

May your holidays, whichever ones you celebrate, be bright, and may 2017 prove to be more peaceful than the sad and awful moments that overshadowed 2016.

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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, December 3, 2016


For many years I used a Florida Gulf Coast town as the setting for many of my Romantic Suspense novels and Mysteries. And I've always said I wanted to keep the location a secret, as the population triples each winter, and we really didn't want it to become known to any more people! 

It's been nine and a half years since I moved to the Orlando area, but my daughter and I still make a pilgrimage back at least once a year, usually in October. This year, however, we couldn't go until Thanksgiving weekend, and, lo and behold, we discovered the secret is out. The hidden beach where we've always gone to swim, fly kites, and find shells looked like Coney Island! We couldn't believe it. So I've decided to come clean and admit that this very special retirement/resort/Florida native community is Venice, Florida, which is about 20 miles south of Sarasota. It has the only direct beachfront for something like a hundred miles in each direction; i.e., no barrier island in front of the downtown portion of Venice. A canal had to be dug behind downtown to accommodate the Intracoastal Waterway. The high school is right on the canal, and woe to any football kicker with a heavy foot. (The eastern goalposts back up to the canal.)

The main street of Venice extends ten miles from the Gulf of Mexico, becoming a dirt road shortly before it ends on the Myakka River in a jungle that always reminds me of photos I've seen of Vietnam. Yet not far beyond that jungle is cattle country (as you'll discover in Shadowed Paradise and Paradise Burning). 

As for our time on the beach this year, we found heavy erosion from hurricane Matthew (which entered the Gulf before turning back over Central Florida and traveling up the east coast, doing heavy damage from Daytona north). There was an upper "cliff" and a "lower" cliff of sand each beach-goer had to negotiate. The wooden walk-over ramps were left dangling 12-18" above the sand, so not very usable. Nonetheless, we had a grand time, spending most of our two days just enjoying the salt air, waves, and the greatest beach for sharks' teeth in the world.

For this week's Mosaic Moments I'm including a few Venice photos, then displaying cover & blurbs for my books using Venice as a setting. I hope you enjoy both the photos and the book info. If you're ever near Florida's Gulf Coast, don't miss Venice. It's one of those very special places. The boutiques on Main Street and those unique stores, Venice Stationers and Sea Pleasures and Treasures, make the trip worthwhile, even without Caspersen Beach, Airport Beach, Venice Beach, Nokomis Beach, the jetties (entrance/exit from Waterway to Gulf), waterfront restaurants, a fishing pier . . . 

The lower "cliff" on Caspersen Beach

Sitting on a bench in the shade, with nothing but the Gulf between me and Mexico

Lunch at a sidewalk café on Venice Avenue
Second day - Susie shelling right down to the last minute

Blair's Books Set in Venice

Romantic Suspense

A killer gloats as he stalks Realtors in the Gulf Coast resort community of Golden Beach, Florida, where Claire Langdon, a sophisticated but vulnerable New England widow with a young son, now works in real estate. When she acquires a self-proclaimed protector, a half-Russian, half-Florida cracker ex-fed, overcoming the cultural shock is almost as difficult as catching the killer.

Amanda Armitage has a problem. A highly skilled researcher, she has been assigned the job of assisting Peter Pennington, world-famous newsman turned author, with his latest book. (A glorious vacation, she is assured. The whole winter Season in Florida.) Peter's book topic:  international sexual slavery. Mandy's problem: Peter is the husband she hasn't seen in seven years.

Grace note:  Paradise Burning contains some crossover characters from Shadowed Paradise.

A Florida Highway Patrol officer investigates his brother's serious injury in a Medieval Fair tournament and discovers an astounding sub-culture in today's Florida - the Medieval Reenactment 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.

Grace note:  Florida Knight is based on my years as a member of the Society for Creative Anachronisms in Florida. And also on my experiences as a volunteer at Medieval Fairs held at The John & Mable Ringling Museum in Sarasota, Florida.


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 Protect and Serve.

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.

 Someone is killing people at the Bellman Museum, staging the deaths as bizarre works of art. Though struggling to recover from a severe injury and the death of her lover, FBI Special Agent Rory Travis can't resist the challenge of tackling this mystery, which brings two new men into her life. But in the end she stands alone, facing evil one-on-one.

Grace Note:  The Art of Evil is set twenty miles north of Venice in Sarasota, Florida. More specifically, almost all of it at The John & Mable Ringling Museum, where I was a volunteer tram driver once a week for a number of years. (As well as volunteering each year for the Medieval Fair when it was held at the Ringling (& which accounts for my living the background for the opening of Florida Knight).

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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.