Grace's Mosaic Moments

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Florida Odd


  Coming soon. 
 Also, my latest Regency Gothic, Shadows Over Greystoke Grange.

~ * ~

Bulletin from the Space Coast:

To see a video of the Dragon Capsule launch on December 20, 2019, click here.

Although the launch of the Dragon Capsule, designed to take astronauts into space, was a success, the capsule failed to make it to the space station, due to what sounds like an avoidable error involving a clock! The astronauts destined to fly on her quickly announced that if they had been aboard, they could have easily corrected this minor error! Fortunately, capsule and cargo were recovered; the cargo will be sent to the space station via a more tested means.


I used to post oddities that happened here in Florida on a regular basis—until the really "bad stuff," like the Pulse nightclub massacre, began to overshadow our lighter moments. Happily, Sunday morning's Orlando Sentinel (12/29/19) provided me with a few bon mots that are more smile than gloom.

On the front page of the Local section:  our governor, Ron DeSantis, holding a football made of python skin! It seems that the fame of the Great Python Hunt* has now spilled over into a football bowl game called The Python Bowl.

*For newer readers, the Great Python Hunt is held each winter in the Everglades, which is being overrun (eaten out) by pythons which were dumped by their owners and bred like rabbits in the "foreign" setting of the Florida Glades. There are currently thousands of pythons in the Glades, with the State desperate to find ways to get rid of them.

The remainder of today's odd tales come from Disney's annual report of misadventures at their theme parks. Below, a brief summary of the more weird ones.

A woman from Peru was in line for Flight of Passage at Animal Kingdom (a notoriously long line) when she felt something wet on the back of her leg. She turned around to discover a man urinating. He was apologetic—he couldn't hold it any longer but didn't want to lose his place in line. Disney's action:  the man was banned from Animal Kingdom for the rest of the day, the woman given fresh clothing.

In an incident at the Magic Kingdom, a woman from New Jersey cut into the line for Space Mountain and ended up in an argument with a couple from Canada. The fight became physical—pushing and shoving. (Evidently, Security did not catch them & matters did not escalate at the time, as the Disney report skips to after they all rode Space Mountain.)  Unfortunately, the adversaries left the park at the same time. The woman told her husband (who was in a wheelchair) what happened, and he promptly began to chase the Canadian couple in his wheelchair, hitting the man in the chest with his cane. Disney's action:  the man in the wheelchair was banned from Disney World. The Canadian couple did not press charges.

Also at the Magic Kingdom, a woman eating a turkey leg was admonished by a stranger for allowing bits of meat to fall on the ground. This ended in a shoving match. (No disciplinary action recorded.)

From personal experience - at Animal Kingdom:

Having grown accustomed to people's kindness toward someone with a cane, I was astonished on my trip to Disney last spring when riding a "scooter" through Animal Kingdom to discover how many people seemed to have left their manners at the gate. NO attention was paid to the fact that someone was riding a scooter in their midst. Almost no one gave way or made any attempt to allow me through the throngs of people flooding the walkways. One mother even shoved her little boy straight in front of my oncoming scooter, evidently because she wanted him to see something on the other side of the sidewalk and I simply did not exist for her. Believe me, it's a good thing those vehicles stop on a dime! I had so many close calls that day I doubt I'll go back to Disney World, as much as I enjoy it.

So, Grace's Advice:  see the Parks while you're young and nimble!

~ * ~

For a link to Blair's website, click here.

For a link to The Abominable Major on Amazon,  click here.

For a link to The Abominable Major on Smashwords,  click here.   

Thanks for stopping by,


Saturday, December 14, 2019

Holiday Recipe x 3

A 2019 Holiday pic taken at our annual pilgrimage to the Singing Trees at First Baptist Church in Orlando.

Joys of the Season to You & Yours!

A HOLIDAY RECIPE - in 3 Versions

I tried this recipe at Thanksgiving, but in my own version, using Puff Pastry (Recipe 2); then ended up using the leftover ingredients in an entirely different way (Recipe 3). The photo below is of the original version, found in the King Arthur Flour catalog. Don't be fooled by the "pizza" label; it's more of a fancy appetizer or hors d'oeuvre. (I will be making Version 3 for our Christmas Eve party.)

Cranberry-Brie-Onion Pizza*

*I am skipping the part for making the pizza dough from scratch, as refrigerated pizza dough is readily available. (If you want to make it yourself, the recipe can be found at - "Caremelized Onion and Brie Pizza" (For my European readers, the "grams" are courtesy of King Arthur's original recipe.)

Recipe One

2 tspns vegetable oil or butter (28g)
4 large yellow onions, thinly sliced (2 lbs./910g)*
1 tablespoon (14g) red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons (25g) sugar, divided
¼ tspn salt
1 cup (99g) fresh or frozen cranberries
14-16 oz. (397-454g) Brie cheese, rind removed, cut into cubes
freshly ground black pepper
fresh rosemary, thyme, and/or sage, finely chopped**
½ cup (50g) sliced almonds (optional)

In a large skillet, heat the oil or butter over medium-high, then add the onions and cook, stirring often, until they're translucent and browning on the edges, about 20 minutes. 
(Grace note:  I keep the heat a bit lower than recommended.)
Add the vinegar, 1 tablespoon of the sugar and salt, and cook until evenly browned and the liquid is evaporated, another 10 minutes or so. Remove the onions from the heat and transfer them to a plate or shallow dish to cool. While waiting, toss the cranberries with the remaining tablespoon of sugar and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 425°F. 

Backing instructions adjusted for purchased dough:

Unroll pizza dough onto lightly oiled baking sheet. Roll or press out to desired size.
Cover the dough with the onions, then scatter with the Brie cubes and sugared cranberries. Grind a sprinkling of fresh black pepper over the top, then sprinkle with fresh herbs and sliced almonds.

Bake for 20-25 minutes (or time specified on refrigerated pizza dough can). Allow to cool for 5-10 minutes before cutting into serving pieces.

*I used a mandoline cutter to slice the onions very thin. For easier chewing, I would suggest slicing the rings into smaller pieces after cooking.)

**As you can see from the photo, the rosemary is pretty much whole, so don't get carried away with the chopping!

Recipe Two

Proceed as above, except use two sheets of Puff Pastry (I use Pepperidge Farm.)

Spray two muffin tins or use paper muffin cups. You will need 18 muffin holes.

Cut each sheet of puff pastry into 9 squares. Fit the squares into the muffin tins, pressing down to make room for the filling.

Layer filling as indicated above. Bake at 425° for c.15 minutes. WARNING: Start checking at 12 minutes!

Recipe Three

Proceed as in Recipe One, except use two sheets of Puff Pastry.

Spray two baking sheets or use parchment paper.

Unroll one sheet of puff pastry onto a lightly floured cutting board. Layer ingredients as indicated above. Roll up pastry jelly-roll style.* Cut into half-inch slices. Lay out on baking pan. Repeat process for second sheet of pastry. (It might be wise to have a third sheet handy for leftovers.)

*Grace note:  The larger cranberries may pop out when rolled. I just picked them up and shoved them into the cut dough!

Bake at 425° for c. 15 minutes. WARNING:  Start checking at 12 minutes.

Note:  Both Numbers Two and Three above worked very well for me and were a hit. (I have to admit the "pizza" one is easier, but I'm partial to puff pastry!)

~ * ~


No matter what your religion, please spread 
the message of Peace and Goodwill, 
not just to those who think as you do, but for ALL.
~ * ~

Special Note:  Making Magic With Words is complete, except for indexing, but the holidays aren't a great time to upload a work of Non-fiction, so the Pub Date will be early January, exactly nine years after Mosaic Moments was born.

For a link to Blair's website, click here.

Thanks for stopping by,


Saturday, December 7, 2019

Borders for Fleece

Singing at the Florida Mall

A subtle reminder - posted to Facebook by a clever friend from my choir

Falcon Heavy launch, 12/5/19 - photo by Susie

Below is an adapted version of the Borders Booklet I made for my Fleece Workshop. The finished results are warm, toasty, and lovely to look at. I hope some of you out there will take the plunge and try your hand at Working With Fleece.



ch - chain
sl st - slip stitch
sc - single crochet
sp = space
join - sl st in stitch cited
weave in ends - using a smaller crochet hook or a yarn needles, weave yarn ends under stitches on the wrong side (3/4 - 1"). Cut off excess.

IMPORTANT NOTE:  In addition to the photos in this booklet, how-to videos of crochet stitches of every variety can be found online. Just google the one you want. 


1.  Overcast Stitch

Knot thread. Using yarn needle, pass thread through holes (made by rotary cutter). This will make a slightly slanted border around. If no rotary cutter is available, it is also possible, with some effort, to pass a pointed steel needle with yarn through most fleece. 

2.  Blanket Stitch 

Please note the three stitches into one hole at each corner.  

How to do Blanket Stitch:

Special note:  If you do not have access to a rotary cutter, any border can be built on top of a layer of blanket stitch. Blanket stitch around first. Then begin with the single crochet row, using an I hook (5.50mm). If you are working with pre-cut holes, use an H hook (5.00mm).

3.  Chain 4 Border:

Row 1:  Single crochet around entire blanket, placing 3 sc in each corner hole. Join to first sc with slip stitch.

Row 2:  Single crochet in joining stitch. *Ch 4, skip 2 sc, single crochet in next stitch.*  Repeat around, skipping one to none sc at each corner. Fasten off. Weave in ends.

How to Chain & do Single Crochet & Slip Stitch (see also online videos).*

*Photos are from a Brit book. Note the bottom photo where it states that "double crochet" is the American "single crochet."

4.  Picot Border

Row 1:  Single crochet around the edge, 3 sc in each corner stitch. Join to first sc.

Row 2:  Sc in joining stitch.  Work picot (ch 3, sl st in 3rd ch from hook). Sc in next 2 sc. Work pattern of picot & sc around, placing picots closer together around corners.
Note:  You can also put 3-5 sc between each picot, if you wish.


1.  V-Stitch Border (3 rows)


 How to do Double Crochet:

Directions for V-Stitch Border:
(as seen in pink baby blanket above)
V-Stitch:  (dc, ch 2, dc) in specified stitch

Note:  for the pink border above, use Rows 1-3 only. The border also looks good with only Rows 1 & 2.

Row 1:  With right side facing, join yarn with slip stitch in center of any sc. Work a row of single crochet around, 3 sc in each corner. Join with slip stitch.

Row 2:  Ch 5 (counts as dc & ch-2 space), dc in same st. *Skip next 2 sc, V-stitch in next sc.* Repeat around, adjust space between V-stitches as necessary at each corner. Join to 3rd ch of beg ch 3. (Optional finish here)

Row 3:  Sl st into Ch 2 space; in same sp work (ch 3, dc, ch 2, 2 dc); *in next ch 2 sp work (2 dc, ch 2, 2 dc)*. Repeat around; join in 3rd ch of beg ch 3. (Optional finish here)

Row 4:  Sl st in next dc and into next ch-2 sp; in same sp work (ch 3, 2 dc, ch 3, 3 dc); *in next ch-2 sp work (3 dc, ch 3, 3 dc).* Repeat around, join. Finish off, weave in ends.

2.  V-Stitch Border, using all four rows:

3.  Ruffle Border (5 rows)

Row 1:  With right side facing, join Color A with slip stitch in any sc. Single Crochet around, working 3 sc in each corner. Join with sl st to first sc.

Row 2:  Sc in same stitch as join. *Ch 3, skip 2 sts, sc in next sc.* Repat around, ending last repeat:  ch 3, skip 2 sc, join with sc in beg sc.

Row 3:  Sl st in first ch 3 space; in same sp work (ch 3, 4dc); dc in next sc; *in next ch-3 sp, work shell of 5dc, sc in next sc.* Repeat around; join in 3rd ch of beg ch 3.

Row 4:  Ch 3 (counts as a dc); dc in next dc, 3 dc in next dc, dc in each of next 2 dc, sc in next sc; *dc in next 2 dc of next shell, sc in next sc.* Repeat around, ending last repeat with sl st in 3rd ch of beg ch-3. Finish off Color A.

Row 5:  With right side facing, join Color B with sl st in any sc. Ch 1, sc in same st; *sc in first 3 dc of next shell, ch 3, skip next dc, dc in nxt 3 dc of shell, sc in next sc.* Repeat around. Join with sl st in beg sc. Finish off. Weave in ends.

4.  Double Crochet Border (3 rows)

Row 1:  Right side facing, single crochet around, working 3 sc in each corner.

Row 2:  Ch 6 (counts as a dc & ch-3 sp), dc in same st; *ch 3, skip next sc, dc in next sc.* Repeat around, ending last repeat with ch 3, join in 3rd ch of beg ch-6.

Row 3:  In next ch-3 space, work (sc, ch 4, sc).  Repeat around. Join with sl st in beg sc. Finish off. Weave in ends.

* * * *

Special Note:  Since this is a hasty retype of the original, please use Comments to point out any errors. I will update immediately.

~ * ~

Blair's three tales of Christmas:

Thanks for stopping by,


Saturday, November 30, 2019

Fleece Workshop

Happy Thanksgiving from our house to yours!
Mike's mother (2nd from right) reminded me of the year they were all in Argentina for Thanksgiving and Susie cooked a Thanksgiving dinner for the relatives down there. She had me write up the story of the First Thanksgiving so she could explain it to those new to the concept of Pilgrims, Indians, and turkeys. [FYI, four of those above were born in Argentina. Six speak fluent Spanish, though the accent is different from Central American Spanish. (Susie speaks what she calls Spanglish.)]


Corner of 45 x 60" Cuddle Blanket

Considering the amount of time I spent creating "Working with Fleece," and recalling that the gift-giving season is upon us, I thought I would pass along some of what I offered in my workshop last Saturday. First of all, something I learned only after producing the booklets for my workshop; namely, that Fleece and Plush are NOT the same thing. I learned this the hard way when two of my three grandgirls chose Plush for their Christmas blankets and I discovered my clever hole-cutter did not cut holes in Plush; it shredded it! So before you run to the fabric store, PLEASE NOTE:


In the course of developing my “Working With Fleece” workshop, I discovered a fabric I didn’t know about: Plush.  So before I explain how to make soft, warm items for gifts or for yourself, it’s necessary for you to understand the difference so you won’t repeat my mistake and end up having to cut a half-inch off all four sides of the blanket I was working on!


Fleece is extraordinarily soft, warm, and almost as solid as a rock. It comes in an astonishing variety of plain colors and prints, the prints ranging from cats and koalas to footballs and airplanes. It has been around for some time—I have a jacket made from it that looks as good as the day I bought about 20 years ago. A small steel needle will penetrate fleece, but a yarn needle and yarn will only go through with a great deal of effort. (A blunt yarn needle, not at all.) But pre-cutting evenly spaced holes with a special rotary cutter makes it easy to add a border to the fleece.


Plush is even softer, fuzzier, just as warm, but NOT solid as a rock. It has not been around as long and does not come in as many different prints as fleece. I also have doubts that it will hold up to washing and general wear & tear as well as fleece. BUT—the most significant point—even a large yarn needle (steel, not plastic) can penetrate a double layer as easily as cutting through custard.

What does this mean?

Fleece - To add a yarn border, you will need a rotary cutter to make holes in the fleece. (Details below.) After that you make a foundation row around the item, using either blanket stitch or single crochet. (Crochet is faster.) Size H hook recommended. (5.00mm)

Plush - To add a yarn border, it will be necessary to make a single-fold hem around the blanket—turn under a half-inch on all four sides and use zigzag or other stitch that moves from side to side. Once hemmed, blanket stitch into (or over) the hem, using a steel yarn needle. The blanket stitch provides the foundation for the additional rows of the crocheted border. Size I hook recommended.  (5.50mm)

What happened when I used a hole-cutter on Plush?

It looked all right until I started to add the single crochets, at which point it simply shredded along the line of the holes. I had to cut the edges off past the hole line, hem the blanket on the sewing machine & begin again, with blanket stitch.


Why work with Fleece and/or Plush?

First of all, it's fun to give a gift you made by hand - something that cost you a bit of time and effort instead of simply money. Second, when we're all so busy, busy, busy, adding a pretty border to the warmest, softest fabrics in the world takes about one-tenth the time of crocheting or knitting an entire garment from scratch. For example, the pillowcase I made took a half hour. The border around the baby blanket, two evenings while watching TV, the Cuddle Blankets around 4 evenings watching TV. So take the plunge. Make a quickie gift or two. Or create something for yourself! Hopefully, you'll find one of the ideas below appealing.

* * * *
Note to my many foreign readers:  Please adapt instructions to your stores, your way of measuring yardages—if confused, the Internet should be able to translate. 

A.  Super Easy Projects

    1.  Blanket - from precut fabric at Jo-Ann Fabrics  (scissors* needed only to remove     manufacturer's logo)

    2.  Blanket - select your fabric from the bolt  (same note as #1 above)

    3.  Fringed Scarf  (scissors* needed)**

    4.  Decorative Pillow  (scissors* & sewing machine required)*

    5.  Pillowcase  (scissors* & sewing machine required)

    *Sewing scissors, not kitchen or paper scissors

**Fringed scarf—using a quarter yard of Fleece, not Plush, cut fringe 6"x½" in each end. (A quarter yard will make a scarf 9" x 60".)

B.  Easy Hand-Sew Projects

    Scarf, Shawl, Doll Blanket, Baby Blanket, Lapghan (approx. same size as baby blanket but for adults), Cuddle Blanket, Blanket. Or projects of your own imagination.

Needed: scissors*, # 4 yarn (worsted weight), yarn needle.

C.  Projects with Crocheted Borders (2-5 rows - basic stitches only)

    Scarf, Shawl, Doll Blanket, Baby Blanket, Lapghan (approx. same size as baby blanket but for adults), Cuddle Blanket, Blanket. Or projects of your own imagination.

Needed: scissors, #4 yarn (worsted weight), for Fleece Size H (5.00mm) crochet hook; for Plush with Blanket Stitch foundation, Size I (5.50mm).



The Fleece projects in B & C also require the use of a special rotary cutter which puts holes in the fabric (which is almost impenetrable otherwise). The rotary cutter & special hole attachment are expensive. Suggest arranging to share the expense with others of similar interests.


Fleece and yarn* can be purchased at Jo-Ann Fabrics, Michael’s, or Hobby Lobby. (Some Wal-Marts also carry both fleece and yarn.) You can use Google to find the craft store nearest you. All three craft stores offer 40%-off coupons on a regular basic. For coupons, just google their websites. Or, if you prefer, Jo-Ann’s has an App I keep on my phone, which reveals all their coupons & discounts for any given day.

FINDING BARGAINS. Ask a clerk to show you where the “Remnant” display is. Here, you can find pieces of fleece from a quarter yard in width up to about a yard and a quarter. At fifty percent off. A quarter yard (58-60" wide) is plenty to make a scarf. (I paid $5 for the remnant I used to make the all the samples used at the workshop.) A yard is enough for TWO baby blankets. A yard and a quarter adds up to a 45" x 60" Cuddle Blanket.

PRICES (U.S. dollars):

Fleece (before coupons, sales, remnant price)    $15-20.00/yd

Yarn (#4 worsted)    $4-8.00/hank

Yarn needles    $2.00/pkg of 2

Crochet Hooks    $4-6.00 & up

Note: if you become an enthusiast & want to do more projects, you might want to purchase your own hole-making equipment.

Rotary Cutter    $20-50.00*
    [*Mine was approx. $30.00]
Hole-cutting blade    $10.00
Cutting Mat (price depends on size)    $20-200.00*
    [*I get by with the $20 one!]   

YARDAGE NEEDED - Fleece or Plush

Note: most fleece is 60" wide, so a yard gives you a length 36" x 60".

Decorative Pillow*    ½ - 5/8 yard (makes 2 pillows 17 x 17 - 19" x 19")

Pillowcase (standard)    5/8 yard (with some left over)

Scarf    1/4 yard

Shawl    ½ - 5/8 yard

Doll Blanket    ½ - 5/8 yard (makes 3 blankets 20" long)

Baby Blanket/Lapghan    1 yard (makes 2 blankets 36 x 30") or 1 36 x 36"

Cuddle Blanket     1¼ yard (suitable for a single person)

Blanket     Precut bundle or yardage of your choice

*For pillows, stuffing is sold by the bag. Or polyester forms are available in a variety of sizes.

Yarn (#4 - worsted weight)

Smaller projects can be done with ”leftovers,” if you have any. The following are "guestimates" based on the blankets I've made so far:
A baby blanket/lapghan with 3 rows of edging:  3-4 ounces of yarn. Cuddle blanket:  2 rows - 5-6 oz.; 3-4 rows - 10-12 oz. Full blanket - 12-16 oz.

* * * *

IMPORTANT NOTE: Videos of how to crochet a chain, single crochet, double crochet, slip stitch, etc., are available on the Internet. Just google the stitch you want. From simplest to the most complicated, it’s all there. 

~ * ~

Next week: Easy borders you can add to your Fleece project 
FYI, my favorite "border" book:  50 Crocheted Afghan Borders by Jean Leinhauser 

~ * ~

Blair's three tales of Christmas:

Thanks for stopping by,


Saturday, November 23, 2019

Holiday Reading

The Citrus Singer Seniors
The Citrus Singers have just debuted another fabulous video, this one a Hymn to Girl Scouting (words & direction by daughter Susie) More than 21,000 views in less than a week.

Note:  The five featured singers debuted their harmonic finger-snapping opening for me several months ago. I was impressed then, even more so with the finished product.

For the Citrus Singer's latest video, click here.

~ * ~


Over the years I've written three Regencies featuring Christmas or a major Christmas scene—one full-length book & two novellas. As the holiday season seems to get more and more swamped each year by commercial hype, I suggest taking some time out to immerse yourself in the old traditions, the joy, and the highly poignant moments that embody the true meaning of Christmas.

The novellas, written expressly for Christmas:

After suffering social disaster at her very first ball—severely aggravated by the horror of an unfeeling family—Miss Pamela Ashburton hides herself in the country, expecting to live out her life as a spinster. Major Will Forsythe, injured in body and spirit at Waterloo, comes to the country to escape the concern of well-meaning relatives. Privacy, peace and quiet—that's all he wants. Until he meets a holiday sprite in search of mistletoe. And the Christmas spirit, in the form of a cluster of white berries, gives them both a second chance.

Lady Christine Ashworth is enjoying her second London Season and about to receive an offer of marriage, when the the sudden death of her father, the Earl of Bainbridge, results in Christine and her two younger sisters being exiled to relatives in Yorkshire, while awaiting the return of their father's successor from the wilds of western Canada. Christine is promptly deserted by the man who thought to become her fiancé and constantly importuned by her Yorkshire cousin who is eager to add her inheritance to his family's coffers. Her sisters are also miserably unhappy.

No wonder then, when Christine finally meets the new earl, she begs him to allow them to come home. But he is not married and the solution to this problem is painful—for Christine, who has become disillusioned with men, and for Harlan Ashworth, who never expected to inherit an earldom, the responsibility for three young females, nor find himself married to a woman he just met. Not surprisingly, the marriage does not get off to a good start and goes downhill from there. Only with the help of the youngest Ashworth and a hefty dose of the Christmas spirit is Christine able to lose her prickly edges and learn the meaning of love.

The novel with major Christmas moments:

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?

~ * ~ 

Blair's Other Traditional Regencies

The Courtesan's Letters
The Temporary Earl
A Season for Love
The Harem Bride
Lady Silence
Lady of the Lock 

~ * ~

For a link to Blair's website, click here.

Thanks for stopping by,

Saturday, November 9, 2019


A short hiatus for Mosaic Moments while I prepare a Workshop that has nothing to do with Writing & Editing. I'll be engaged in showing people how to make easy Christmas gifts with fleece:  scarves, shawls, doll blankets, baby blankets, lapghans, personal-size blankets, afghans, etc. A LOT of work to make a list of where to buy, yardages needed, and to gather photos of projects, individual stitches, crochet borders, etc. So please check out the most recent Index to find articles that might be helpful.

For a link to the Index, click here.

 ~ * ~

Susie took close to 100 flower photos while in Singapore. Here are a few - taken at what appears to be an arboretum.


I struggled with a title for this week's blogs. Definitely not "Story Arc," which has been done to death and which I also suspect leads authors into a frenzy of attempting to copy the recommended "step by step," to the detriment of creativity. So . . . Highs & Lows? Ups & Downs? Hills & Valleys? Better. For those names are vague enough to remind us of what we need to do without providing obstacles to the way we want to tell our story.

All this came up this week as I sat down to my keyboard  to write Chapter 27 of my latest Regency Gothic, Shadows Over Greystoke Grange. At the end of each day's work, I make a habit of typing notes (in all caps) about where I think the story is heading over the next few scenes. And at the top of my notes was:   APOTHECARY SPREAD OUT ON STONE CROSS. 

Except . . .

I'd just written about a fire, certainly a dramatic moment, and followed it with a scene in which the heroine barges into the hero's bedchamber to discover for herself how badly he is injured. So . .  I'd written Fire, Quieter Scene—and assumed I'd reached the moment of ratcheting up the plot with the apothecary's murder. Right?

Well, that's what my notes said, but my fingers refused to move. What was the reaction to the heroine's shocking invasion of a man's bedchamber? How was she holding up to all that had been happening around her? And wasn't it about time I revealed further unfortunate tendencies in the possible villains of the story?

And yes, these questions needed to be dealt with BEFORE the "big" moment when someone is murdered and the intensity of the tale explodes into the final series of dramatic events. (Although even these important scenes will have more impact if they have short "breathing spaces" in between.)

All this led to the birth of an "interim" chapter that extended the Contrast between the Fire and the Murder. And also moved the story forward. When writing these quieter scenes, it's all-important to remember that you do not create Contrast by plopping in a scene that is merely "words" with no relevance to your story. Use this "down" time to explain, emphasize, add color to what has gone before, or give hints of what's to come. 

Believe me, your "big" moments will be all the more dramatic for the "lulls" that come between:  the "planning" scenes, "discussing" scenes, the "conversations at table," etc.

Below is a the chapter I hadn't planned on writing, the one that insisted on inserting itself between Fire by Arson and Death by Stabbing. Please note the deliberate effort at the beginning to lighten up the angst the young heroine has been suffering ever since she arrived at Greystoke Grange.

Chapter 27 has had only one edit so far, but hopefully it will be enough to illustrate what I mean by "Interim" chapter. It provides a bit of relief from the dramatic events that have been plaguing the young heroine's life, but it also shows that those problems have not gone away. And at the end, the next "big" drama raises its head.  

Background for the scene:  Adria, the young heroine, is a guest in a house in Shropshire, where she is supposed to be teaching Daphne, the young lady of the house, the niceties of the London ton. Dudley is Daphne's twin brother. The twins are only a year older than Adria, but infinitely older in experience.

Shadows Over Greystoke Grange

Chapter 27

    “On dit,” I intoned. Daphne dutifully repeated the words. “Meaning?”
    “Gossip,” Daphne drawled.
    “Literally, ‘they say’,” I returned, “but yes, the term refers to gossip.” Daphne heaved a much-put-upon sigh at my quibbling.
    “Tout de suite.”
    Daphne repeated the phrase, her tone leaving no doubt she was eagerly listening for her release at the chiming of the hour. “Fast,” she said, her lips escaping their droop of ennui just enough to reveal that she was pleased with herself. I nodded my acceptance, not pressing for a literal translation.
    “Je ne sais quoi.”
    Daphne stumbled through the repetition, adding, “I will never say such a thing, so why should I bother to learn it?”
    “Because when some high-born lady is described as having ‘je-ne-sais-quoi’, you will not stand there, blank-faced, not knowing it means she has 'that certain something' that distinguishes her from others.”
    Daphne flounced back onto her favorite mound of pillows in the corner of the sofa, eyes closed, her lower lip jutted out in a pout.
    She peeked at me from beneath her long dark lashes. “My dear Adria, I am surprised you let the word pass your lips.”
    For several seconds I simmered, hanging onto my temper by a quivering thread. I would not bandy words with her. I would not! “It is true,” I said at last, “that ladies tend to be mealy-mouthed about certain topics. Which is why, I suppose, they fall back on French. But since you seem to be acquainted with the word, we may move on.
    “Comme il faut,” I pronounced.
    No response. “Daphne, please repeat the phrase, even if you cannot translate it.”
    She sat up abruptly, dark eyes gleaming. “Enceinte is what happens when young ladies ride off ventre √† terre and visit their beloved in his bedchamber.”
    I couldn’t think, couldn’t move. Couldn’t breathe. I was hearing things. She could not have said that.
    But she had. For she was sitting there, triumph radiating from her in waves. She had held back her knowledge, waiting for the right moment, and then struck to the heart. Whatever had made me believe word would not get out?
    At the time I had not cared.
    “Mr. Kincade was badly injured,” I managed at last. “Swathed in bandages and in a great deal of pain.”
    “But on dit, my dear Adria. On dit.” She smiled. The smile of a vindictive sans culottes as the guillotine crashed down.
    Once again, it was as if Daphne were a decade my senior instead of a mere fourteen months. Nor could I refute her words, for what she was saying was all too true. My fate lay before me:  the gossip about my visit to Kincade Park was about to be as vicious as the rumors about Drake and Rose Kincade.
    Perhaps Lady Greystoke would send me home. An empty Chillworth Manor was far preferable to life in Kirkby Cross. Except how could I abandon Drake? Who was suffering because he had refused to abandon m—
    “Aha!” Dudley rumbled from the doorway, interrupting my angst. “I was coming to impart the news, but it would appear it is already out. Our perfect young lady from Wiltshire has feet of clay.” He sauntered toward me, leering, his triumph matching his sister’s.
    My feet longed to run, but I stood my ground. “Mr. Kincade is a friend. He has done nothing wrong. Nor have I, except to express concern for his health. And well you know it!”
    “My dear girl,” Dudley purred, placing one long slim finger under my chin. Though tense as a bowstring, I did not flinch. I could not show fright, for Dudley Greystoke fed on fright, and I would not give him the satisfaction. “What will Mother say, I wonder?”
    “Your mother is female,” I told him. “She will understand it is our lot to care for others, that women do not turn their backs on the sick or injured.”
    “I do,” Daphne declared.
    I opened my mouth, closed it, knowing anything I might say would be futile. The long clock in the hall, echoed by the ormolu clock on the mantel in the Gold Salon, began their count toward twelve noon. I sidestepped and rushed, rather ignominiously, toward the door, leaving the twins to enjoy how thoroughly they had routed the little miss from the South.
    I hid in my room for the remainder of the day, expecting a summons from Lady Greystoke at any moment. It never came. Had this latest bit of gossip not yet reached her ear?
    Hardly a rumor. You did visit a gentleman in his bedchamber.
    Be quiet!

    And so it went, my conscience in agony, even as my heart insisted I had done the right thing.
    Pleading indisposition, I asked for dinner to be brought to my room. I ate in a silence so profound it was as if I were the only person in the house. Except for Bess, I did not hear so much as a footstep in the corridor, a creak of the stairs. So many thoughts chased through my mind I expected to toss and turn all night, but exhaustion caught up with me. I was in bed as darkness fell and slept the night through—for the space of a few hours, my cares obliterated.
    I dreamed of Drake, a Drake without bandages, and woke with a smile on my face.
    Silly me.
    It was a perfectly glorious day. Though I sensed it was a good deal earlier than I usually waked, bright sunlight peeked through a crack in the draperies and birds were singing with such glee that their chirps and trills, punctuated by an occasional squawk, easily penetrated the heavy fabric. Fresh air as well, drifted in, bringing the scent of flowers, greenery, and fresh-turned earth. At this moment, with Drake’s image still floating in my head, Shropshire seemed almost as pleasant as Wiltshire.
    If only . . .
    But why had I waked so early? Another smile—a trifle smug. Perhaps my dreams of Drake had waked me. Far better than a nightmare about—
    No! I would not spoil the moment. Dudley Greystoke did not exist. I had cast him out.
    If wishes were horses . . .
    Begone! I will not listen.
    Ah, that was but a phantom finger beneath your chin, phantom breath blowing in your face.

    Idiot child that I was, I squeezed my eyes shut, placed my hands over my ears.
    As if I could shut out my own common sense. Mocking laughter surrounded me, filling the room, drowning out the joyous birdsong. Taking my fleeting pleasure with it.
Something else . . . ?
    I forced myself back to reality. The atmosphere around me had changed, the house no longer caught in the deathly silence of the night before. There were footsteps on the stairs, in the corridor—more rushed and bustling than usual. The murmur of voices. I peered at my ladies’ watch on the small table beside the bed. Yes indeed, still too early for the household to be awake. I frowned, was reaching for my nightrobe, when Bess’s head peeked round the edge of the door. When she saw I was awake, she skittered across the floor, skidding to a halt beside the bed. She opened her mouth, wrung her hands. “Oh, miss, now I’m here, I scarcely know what to say.”
    “Is it Drake? Tell me this instant!”
    Bess blinked. “Oh no, miss. Not Mr. Kincade. ’Tis Mr. Talbert.”
Talbert? Not Drake. My whoosh of relief cut off as I realized only something dire could have set off a disturbance so early in the morning. “Then what has happened?”
    “The news came with the milkman, you see. And we all heard Carys shriek when she heard. ’Twas enough to set Mrs. Pettigrew and Cook running to the door, with half the staff on their heels.”
    “Bess! Without roundaboutation. Tell me now.”
    “He’s dead, miss. Spread out on that great stone in front of the church. Dead as a doornail. A dagger in his heart.”
    It was a good thing I was sitting on the edge of my bed. For great as the shock of George Talbert’s murder was, it took only seconds to see where it would lead. Straight back to Drake.
    I must ride there immediately, warn him . . .
    Milkman. They already know.
    I must be sure!
    Send John Jenks. You are already skating on ice too thin to bear your weight.

    I slipped out of bed, dashed off a quick note, which I entrusted to Bess. “Make sure Jenks gets this,” I said, wincing at the fear in my voice, the fear that betrayed how much I cared. “He must leave for Kincade Park immediately.” I rushed to my special hiding place, and drew out a golden guinea from my treasured stash of coins. “This should be more than enough.”
    Bess’s eyes met mine. ’Tis too much, miss. John’s a good man. He’d do this for you but for the asking.”
    My lips curled—how sad to discover I was rapidly becoming a cynic. “It will be something to go on with if he loses his position over this.”
    Bess’s brown eyes widened. “Ah, surely not, miss.”
    I heaved a long sigh. “Truth to tell, Bess, I am unsure what will happen from one moment to the next. Now go. The sooner this is done, the better.”
    As the door shut behind her, I said a prayer that my warning would be in time, that Drake was well enough to travel. For he must leave Shropshire this very day. Whoever the villains were, they were going to make certain everyone believed Drake Kincade had killed George Talbert. 

~ * ~

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