Grace's Mosaic Moments

Saturday, January 26, 2019

More on Birth of a Book

A friend posted the photo below to Facebook. No source given, but it's surely one of those serendipitous moments. Love it.


On Thursday, I wrote the first chapter of the sixth book in my Regency Warrior series, the one that spawned my original "Birth of a Book" blog. So, time to catch up. What more did I have to do before I could sit down and write?

As mentioned in my blog of 12/8/18, I finally came up with a title: The Notorious Countess. I can, of course, change this at any time up to publication, but I've found that I rarely do.

After that, over the holidays and during the first weeks of January, there was a lot more "prep."

1.  More Names.  

All I had was a bare-bones Character List, with a Hero and Heroine, a bit on their extended families, plus characters from previous books in the Regency Warrior series. Which meant I had a long way to go. I needed to create and name at least two characters who would provide additional "color" to the plot. I needed to create and name a gaming house manager, a hardened gamester, a footman, my heroine's maid and housekeeper/cook. Only when my Character List popped over to a second page did I feel I had enough names to get started without having to resort to "blanks" here and there.

2.  Research. (More formidable than I'd anticipated since I've been studying the era for so long.)

     a.  The Year 1817.  I re-read the history of 1817, with particular emphasis on the first six months. (It was a more tumultuous time than I had recalled.)

     b.  I created a Timeline for the five previous Regency Warrior books, discovering that Jack Harding (Rogue's Destiny) had not yet met his significant other and Terence O'Rourke (O'Rourke's Heiress) was attempting to deal with the aftermath of murder and yet another estrangement from the love of his life; i.e., neither was married in the Winter of 1817.

    c.  I re-read all the Georgette Heyer books set in London (this would be the 4th or 5th time for most of them). There is nothing like Heyer for getting the Regency flavor, even if one is writing in a more serious genre than a Traditional Regency. 

   d.  And then the hardest research of all: I, who hate card games, had to learn the rules of piquet. Why?  Well, most authors, other than Heyer, do no more than mention that people are playing piquet. But I had a scene in which a hardened gamester was required to lose his temper, and I felt this required enough details to justify how this happened.  

3.  Character Problem to Solve.

Frankly, I did not realize I was attempting to drum up sympathy for the Countess, who was the "other woman" in The Lady Takes a Risk, until as I was beginning Chapter 2, I finally realized that sympathy was exactly what my "out of the mist" instincts told me Dasha needed to make her an acceptable heroine. Hopefully, Chapters 1 and 2 will do that. (Chapter 2 expands on who the countess is, what she's doing in England, etc.) Women of those days were at the mercy of the men in their lives, and any woman attempting to survive on her own needed all the help and sympathy she could get.

4.  Results.  I am copying below the first chapter of The Notorious Countess. It will undoubtedly undergo many more revisions, but here is how it stands during its first week of life. Comments are encouraged.

Grace note:  Previous posts on "Birth of a Book":  12/1/18 & 12/8/18

Chapter 1

London - Winter 1817
The flickering light of a branch of three candles, augmented by a similar branch standing on the mantelpiece, haloed the golden blonde hair of the woman seated at a gaming table for two, while at the same time casting shadows onto the saturnine features of the man seated opposite her. The lady, though no longer in the first blush of youth, glowed with the full bloom of womanhood; her figure, once merely promising, now as striking and elegant as the face that went with it. The gentleman was at least a decade her elder, his deft hands, shrewd dark eyes, and the barely restrained aura of a predator about to pounce proclaiming him a hardened gamester.

The lady’s remarkable violet eyes were cast down, seemingly fixed on the twelve cards in her hand; in actuality, making certain her opponent could catch no hint of her thoughts. They had just begun the fourth of six parties in a high-stakes game of piquet, the lady ahead two rounds to one, and with no intention of walking away the loser.

The two were the sole occupants of a small private parlor in a well-appointed house on Bennet Street, not far off St. James Square, an area known for discreet gaming clubs which allowed access only to “subscribers,” as many of the most intriguing games of chance were quite illegal. The police, in fact, not infrequently supplemented their salaries by raiding these “private” clubs and scooping up every coin in sight. (For to whom could club owners complain about the disappearance of their illegally-gotten gains?)
Carte blanche,” declared the Countess Dariya Alexandrova, indicating that she had no court cards in the hand just dealt, and thus gaining ten points before play even began.
Carte blanche indeed, the Honorable Bertram Lyttleton snarled to himself. He might be willing to offer carte blanche in its more salacious meaning to the elegant beauty with the oh-so-charming accent, but he’d be damned if he was going to let her beat him at a game he considered peculiarly his own. Devil a bit! His reputation was at stake.
The countess, with the casual elegance of an accomplished piquet player, discarded five of her twelve cards, choosing replacements from the eight-card talon, face down in the center of the table. After perusing her new array of cards, she raised her gaze to her opponent, and proffered a cat-that-ate-the-cream smile. The Honorable Mr. Lyttleton was startled by an inadvertent shiver that rippled his gamester’s calm façade.

Sixième,” declared the lady, indicating she now had six consecutive cards in one suit and gaining another sixteen points. The Honorable Bertram had not so much as a tierce to offer in response. The countess promptly followed with a declaration of a  quatorze of Aces, gaining another fourteen points, to which Mr. Lyttleton again had no response, giving the lady a repique and an additional sixty points. Mr. Lyttleton, although well aware that only cool heads prevailed in a tight situation, felt his temper flare. Clearly, Fate was against him. For it could not be possible that this female, this foreign female, was more skilled than he.
When the countess put the cap on her excellent start to the partie by winning all the subsequent tricks for a resounding capot, Lyttleton had to struggle to control his outrage. He sat down with her only to prove that the stories he’d heard of her skill at cards were patently false. Now here he was on the verge of defeat. He rang a handbell, conveniently situated on a side table, ordering Thomas, the bewigged footman stationed just outside the door, to produce a bottle of madeira and some biscuits. But when the footman returned, bearing the order on a silver tray, the Honorable Bertram barked, “What is that?”
“That,” said the Countess Alexandrova, “is my tea. The management here is kind enough to serve me in the Russian fashion.”
“Who ever heard of tea in a glass?” Mr. Lyttleton mocked.
“It is pretty, is it not, with the glass set in its silver holder? We Russians know how to drink tea—and not muddled about with milk, I might add.”
“Good God, that is barbaric!”
“To each his own,” the countess responded with a smile so charming, Mr. Lyttleton was forcefully reminded of his lascivious thoughts when the lady had declared “Carte blanche.”
Perhaps a flash of shame—he was raised a gentleman, after all—was enough to enable the Honorable Mr. Lyttleton to control his temper through the fifth partie, or mayhap it was merely the fact that his cards were heavily sprinkled with royalty, yet as they recorded their point totals, it became clear the lady was still ahead. Nonetheless, his luck had changed, he knew it.
Except, alas, the sixth partie was more like the fourth, the declarations a disaster, and if he heard that woman intone “Not good” and topping his card one more time, he was going to—
The Countess Alexandrova laid down her final card, taking the twelfth trick of the final hand. With her elegant features totally indifferent, as if she had not just won five hundred pounds, she declared, “I believe I have won, Mr. Lyttleton.”
That this foreign intruder could address him with all the sangfroid of a seasoned gamester was the final straw. The Honorable Bertram Lyttleton erupted from his chair with enough force that the games table overturned, scattering cards in every direction and catching the edge of the side table supporting the wine, tea, and plate of biscuits on the way down. The wine bottle remained intact but a river of red began to flow onto the Oriental carpet. The silver filigree tea holder, however, was insufficient protection for the glass and it shattered, the shards dotting the spreading stain on the carpet like glittering raindrops, while the biscuits seemed to be doing their best to soak up the wayward wine and tea.
The countess, though nimble, was unable to save her gown from the first splash of the wine and now stood, gazing in disgust at the ugly splotches on her rose silk gown—splotches that were promptly forgotten when she glanced up and saw the fury on her opponent’s face. Clearly, Mr. Lyttleton was well beyond acknowledging that his display of outrage was bad ton. His loss to a female, someone as outré as a Russian female, totally unacceptable.
“Cheat!” he hissed. “Doxy! You used your wiles to beguile me, turn my head. Those damned violet eyes—”   
“Mr. Lyttleton, you know that is not true. We have played a game of piquet, gamester to gamester, and tonight the cards were with me. I have won. That is the whole of it.”
She backed up hastily as he took a menacing step toward her, the menace in his dark eyes promising retribution.
“Mr. Lyttleton!” An authoritative voice, with only a hint of deference, came from a man who had just entered the room, closely followed by the footman, Thomas.
The countess’s breath whooshed out in a sigh of relief. The widow of a Russian diplomat, she had survived the siege of Moscow. She was an international traveler, an experienced gamester, and considered herself capable of dealing with most situations. But this was the first time she had come close to physical violence in a card room. Definitely an occasion when she was grateful for a man’s intervention.
Mr. James Wherry, manager of the discreet gaming establishment on Bennet Street, said in a softer tone and with all the aplomb of his trade, “Mr. Lyttleton, we have just made up a fine hot punch in the refreshment room, which you might care to try. A-ah, that’s the ticket,” Wherry breathed as Lyttleton’s shoulders slumped into a more natural position. “Thomas will escort you—as soon, that is, as you have given your note of hand to the countess. And then it’s a spot of punch, and we shall all forget what happened here.”
Now calm enough to realize he had committed a social solecism of the first order, the not-so-Honorable Mr. Lyttleton accepted the pen and paper handed to him by Mr. Wherry, scrawled his promissory note, and stalked out, the footman on his heels.
James Wherry promptly turned to the countess, who had just sunk into an upholstered chair in a corner of the room, her graceful fingers touching her brow. “Dasha,” he groaned, “I warned you not to play him. Lyttleton is known for a sore loser in every gaming club in town, and to lose to a female, a foreigner . . . My dear girl, you are mad, quite mad!”
“You see me chagrined.” Dasha Viktorovna, head in her hands, did not even look up.
Mr. Wherry heaved a sigh, strongly suspecting his words had fallen on deaf ears. “But five hundred pounds richer,” he noted. “I was reading over his shoulder.”
“And very helpful it will be.”
“Dasha . . . must I remind you I can protect you only so far. If Thomas had not brought me running at the first sign of trouble . . . If I had been even a moment later . . .”
The countess responded with nothing more than long moments of silence before asking, 
“James, would you be kind enough to see if my hack is waiting? Clearly, my evening is ended.”
Mr. Wherry shook his head but did as she asked, ascertaining that the countess’s faithful jarvey, who, five nights a week, waited for her between two and three in the morning, was indeed in place. Within ten minutes, the Countess Dariya Viktorovna Alexandrova, suitably cloaked and hooded, was on her way home. Though not as sanguine about her future in London as she had been at the start of the evening.

 ~ * ~

Please don't forget 

The Ghosts of Rushton Court

For a link to Blair Bancroft's web site, click here.

For Blair's Facebook Author Page, with background info on
the writing of Ghosts, click here. 

For a brochure for Grace's Editing Service, Best Foot Forward,


Thanks for stopping by,

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Authors at War

Riley at All-State Chorus in Tampa - January 2019

Photo & make-up by Mom

Riley & Cassidy - May 2013
 How swiftly they grow up!

~ * ~


With all the truly terrible things going on in the world, I was gravely disappointed this week to discover that polarization, even hate, seems to have affected the last place I would expect: Authors of Romance. (It may be true of other genres as well, but what I saw was on an email loop designed for Romance authors.) 

I admit I tend to live in my own little tunnel. I write my books, write my blog, sing in the choir, enjoy Crochet Club, my Author's group, and back to my computer, where I write, write, write. Yes, I recently raised my eyebrows when a romance author tried to copyright a particular word, making it impossible for other authors to use it in a Title. (You've got to be kidding!??) But mostly I stick to my well-trod tunnel, blissfully unaware of any controversies among the many sub-genres in the field of Romance.

Until this week, that is, when I was totally shocked to hear of the treatment one of my fellow Regency authors received on an email loop devoted to Romance in general. Evidently, the controversy began with two articles in our Romance authors' magazine which seemed to imply that authors who did not include "Diversity" in their books, were white supremacists.  This came as a particular shock to authors of so-called Regency Romance, as the theme and setting for that particular sub-genre of Romance is primarily the English nobility c. 1795-1820. When one of our Regency authors attempted to explain the confines of our characters and plots, she was attacked so viciously that she dropped that particular loop. 

As it happened, I was publishing The Ghosts of Rushton Court when I first heard about this controversy. And since my a novel includes Diversity, I found myself appalled that someone would think I did it because I thought I should, not because that was just how the plot was for this particular book. I love the freedom of indie publishing that allows me write what I want to write and I often exercise that right to the full, but just as I want to feel free to write about an East meets West conflict in GHOSTS, I also want to feel free to write a book that only reflects the culture of its time. If that is white Anglo-Saxon Protestants, then so be it. I should not be criticized for that any more than an author should be criticized for writing LBGTQ romance, Mixed-race romance, or Romance between people of color, whether of African, Asian, or Hispanic ancestry.

"Romance" is one of the wonders of the world. It's all about LOVE. Yes, we add Conflict, and oftentimes complex plots including Mystery, Suspense, Paranormal, and Science Fiction, but LOVE is still a basic ingredient and Happily Ever After a requirement of our genre. So how can we allow Hate to poison our world? Hatred to the point of spewing it at other authors just because they do not actively promote the same concepts?

As I wrote in my blogs on Civility, I fear overreacting, seeing things only in black and white,is a symptom of our times . . . but in Romance???  Please, please, people, don't taint our genre by warring with each other. Let each of us feel free to write about the world we know (or the world we've spent eons researching). If you think some of us need a nudge toward broader thinking, then by all means say so, but do not turn a simple discussion into World War III. Turning on each other is a shocking action and does none of us any good. Such an attitude also demeans the Romance genre as a whole.

A final admonition: if we accept Hate, it will continue. Its reach will grow broader, permeating every aspect of our lives. If we do nothing, the result may be the same, though a bit slower. But if we protest hate-mongering, if we become advocates for Civility, for a kinder, gentler world, hopefully the World of Authors will return to an even keel, and perhaps add its bit toward smoothing out and stabilizing the more serious issues of our day.

~ * ~

Please don't forget about my newest Regency Gothic, 
The Ghosts of Rushton Court

~ * ~

For a link to Blair Bancroft's web site, click here.

For Blair's Facebook Author Page, with background info on

the writing of Ghosts, click here. 

For a brochure for Grace's Editing Service, Best Foot Forward,


Thanks for stopping by,


Saturday, January 12, 2019

The Ghosts of Rushton Court

I played with the supernatural for my Gothic tale, The Blackthorne Curse, and now for my very first ghost story . . .

 A Regency ghost story inspired by the classic saying:
"Marry in haste, repent at leisure."

The widowed Lady Marian Talbot is keeping a low profile as her exquisitely lovely sister, Vanessa, makes her come-out. Yet somehow it is Marian who attracts the attention of the most eligible bachelor London society has seen in a decade, a marquess who has spent the last dozen years in India. After a whirlwind courtship, Marian—now the Marchioness of Rushton—arrives at her new home, only to discover she is expected to solve the challenges of dealing with her husband's hostile brother and sister, his illegitimate young son, and a staff at war with itself. And, as if that weren't enough, Marian must also adjust to a panoply of ghosts, all supposedly benign, but that becomes doubtful as someone—or some thing—makes repeated attempts to kill both the marquess and his new bride.

The Ghosts of Rushton Court is currently available on Amazon and Smashwords. (And on several other online vendors within the coming week.) Background information on the writing of Ghosts can be found on my Facebook Author Page.

 For a link to Ghosts on Smashwords - with a 20% free readclick here.

For a link to Ghosts on Amazon Kindle, click here.

For a link to Blair's Facebook Author Page, click here. 

~ * ~


The contest for the two bargello evening purses will be coming soon, but I want to allow enough time for Smashwords to make Ghosts available to its affiliated vendors, such as B&N's Nook, Kobo, etc.

~ * ~

For a link to Blair Bancroft's web site, click here.
For a brochure for Grace's Editing Service, Best Foot Forward,


Thanks for stopping by,

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Harrowing Tale 2 + Disney


If you clicked on the recording of the Lake Mary High School's Chamber Choir singing "The First Noel" (posted 12/15/18), you will understand why they were invited to sing at Disneyworld twice this year, resulting in enough passes to take my daughter, three grandgirls, and me to Animal Kingdom. We were accompanied by another member of the choir and friend, plus two Citrus Singers and their mother who have season passes to Disney. Which means I went to Animal Kingdom with two mothers and SEVEN teenagers!

Actually . . . the kids were great. With everyone making sure Gramma (on her rented scooter) was still tagging along. Yes, the holiday crowds were horrible—I was in constant terror of mowing down a small child or bumping a heedless adult, but somehow we made it through the day, not leaving until well after dark, so we could enjoy the magnificent lighting in Pandora, the area of Animal Kingdom based on the movie Avatar. The imagination that went into creating this "world" is absolutely astonishing. Also, the animation is "next generation." Highly recommended.

We could not get onto the Animal Safari until late afternoon, which turned out  to be good, as the animals were gathering to be fed, and we saw more than we ever had before. The lion even stood on his cliff and roared three times. Wow! I'd never before heard a lion roar "live." But one giraffe nuzzling another was the pic of the day. (For the Safari tour, people ride in open trucks - the animals are free to roam.)

So here's your vicarious trip to Disney's Animal Kingdom. Photos by Susie and Riley.

Outside the Dinosaur ride (which I do NOT recommend!)
 Those who watched the latest Citrus Singer video (the visit to Savannah) will recognize Abby (second from the right, between Cassidy & Riley).

I wanted to see dinosaurs, but this ride turned out to be a wildly jerky thrill ride where our jeep attempted to escape dinosaurs that popped up for about two seconds at a time. Ugh!

Pandora, however, was marvelous. This was our first time in this new part of Animal Kingdom.

One of Pandora's Hanging Mountains

Pandora as darkness approached

Tiger - NOT on the Safari tour but in a habitat all his own


Nuzzling giraffes
~ * ~

And here it is, Part 2 of last week's "Harrowing Tale." When I went to copy it, I discovered I had added a title. 

[Grace note: The story has been slightly revised at the end as I did not make the original as clear as I should have.]

How Not to Drive the Grandchildren Home
from the Singing Christmas Trees - Part 2

At the end of Part 1, you may recall, all seemed to be well.  The three little girls and I had finally arrived at my house (one hour after leaving the church).  We ate supper and were watching a movie when . . .

Mommy turned her phone back on and called to say that the concert was running longer than expected and could I please take the children home and put them to bed.  I was still nerve-wracked to the bone, but food had helped, so I only twinged slightly at the thought of putting the girls back in the car and driving three blocks.

I loaded everyone back into the SUV and arrived at their gated community a few minutes later.  I reached for the gate clicker I assumed was on the visor, and . . . oh-oh.   No, the girls didn’t know where mama stashed the clicker, but they assured me I could punch in a code.  Alas, I had to tell them that the code only worked until six p.m.  After that, you have to have a clicker or someone has to be at the house to buzz you in.  ( I recalled one memorable evening when my son-in-law climbed the gate, all eight feet of it, at 1:00 a.m.)

“We can go in your car, Gramma,” said the girls.  So we turned around and headed back to my house.  But as I drove toward my house, it occurred to me that if I drove my car, we wouldn’t have the built-in garage-door opener on the SUV.  Without which I’d need a key to my daughter’s house.  And it seems that I no sooner have a key made than my daughter sends someone to borrow it.  So if I drove the girls’ home in my car, we could get through the gate but might not be able to get into the house. 

Believe me, at this point if I hadn’t already decided I had a few thousands words to say to my daughter when she got home, this would have been the final straw.

Just as we pulled into my driveway, the 6-year-old said, “Gramma, why don’t you get the clicker from your car?”  I sat there behind the wheel and gaped.  Out of the mouths of babes!  I told the girls to stay put, went back into my house (which I could only access through the front door as my daughter's SUV had no way to open my garage). I pulled the gate clicker off my visor, and back we went to the eight-foot gate. And this time—Yay!—we made it through. We did not, however, use the garage door opener in the car as the 7-year-old was gung-ho to try every key on my ring to see if she could open the front door.  Which she did while the rest of us stayed in the car and watched.* 

She yelled for us to come in, and then proceeded to turn on the Christmas tree and the many other Christmas lights throughout the house so I could see them.  A special moment after all we’d been through.

When my daughter and her husband finally got home, the girls were in bed, their halos still shiny, and I laid out the whole tale, woe by woe.  My daughter looked at me and said, “Oh, I’ve been using the hand brake because the car keeps getting stuck in Park.”  Not that she’d told me that any more than she mentioned there was no gas.  I had, of course, been putting the car in Park all night. Sigh.   

I’m not sure I’m going to the Singing Trees next year.  The memories of 2010 may haunt me forever.

~ * ~

*This may be why the family changed to a coded lock and perhaps why, when we moved to Longwood, the house key my daughter gave me had a bright pink plastic cover around the top!

Grace note:  The 7-year-old in the story above is Hailey, whose choir singing got us the Disney passes. The 6-year-old is Riley, our budding photographer. Repeating last week's 2018 Reale Christmas photo with ID:

Mike, Cassidy, Hailey, Riley, Susie

 ~ * ~

Next week: the debut of The Ghosts of Rushton Court

Background on this latest Regency Gothic can be 
found on my Facebook Author Page.

~ * ~

For a link to Blair Bancroft's web site, click here.

For Blair's Facebook Author Page, updated 1/2/19, click here. 

For a brochure for Grace's Editing Service, Best Foot Forward,


Thanks for stopping by,