Grace's Mosaic Moments

Saturday, July 27, 2019

The Abominable Major

Falcon 9 Update

Launches never get old. Here in Orlando we watch every one with bated breath, whispering, "Go, go!" (Especially those of us who remember the early days when they didn't!) But in recent years we've become more and more fascinated with Space X's ability to bring the booster rockets back, landing them dead center on their landing circles, to cheers from the control room and across Central Florida. On Thursday evening Space X allowed access to a camera on the booster itself, giving TV viewers an opportunity to see booster separation, deployment of the steering fins, and the "burns" necessary to guide the booster on its plunge back to earth. It was breathtaking—the earth coming closer and closer until we could see Florida, the Space Coast, the circular landing pad. And then the switch to a distance view of the booster settling dead center onto its pad. 

Rockets burn, go up, their payloads inevitably disappearing out over the Atlantic. But to watch the booster plummet back to earth only thirty miles away. Wow! If I'm recalling correctly, the announcer said this was the 49th time Space X had brought a booster back.

Not to be overshadowed—this Falcon 9 carried its payload to the International Space Station in a "Dragon capsule"—the capsule designed to put American astronauts back into space in a vehicle of our own making. We've got our fingers crossed.

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Alas, the hero of this tale is relegated to the staircase in the cover above, but since he's more than a bit sensitive about hobbling about with aid of a cane, that's probably just as well. (Though he may not be too happy about being overshadowed by the saucy countess who first called him, "The Abominable Major.")

I have to admit this was a hard book to write. How to do justice to a courageous cavalry officer who has been reduced to little more than a glorified bookkeeper? A man who never intends to return to the world he left behind when he and his best friend buy a hops farm in Kent. 

The challenge:  how to transform Major Courtland Randolph to . . . 
Sorry, I'm not going to make the mistake of putting a spoiler in this blog—suffice it to say, it takes a whole series of crises to make the Abominable Major realize he's still the man he once was.


Major Courtland Randolph, after losing a leg at Waterloo, abandons the world of his birth for a hops farm in Kent. He is not pleased when his former commanding officer maneuvers him into returning to society as protector of the lady who once termed him, "The Abominable Major." Yet in the course of dealing with a dashing Russian countess, political unrest, his ex-fiancée, an importunate prince, a mysterious young man from the London slums, a high-born runaway, and a dramatic change in his private life, Court finally accepts that he's still a man. Man enough to love and be loved.

Author's Note:  The Abominable Major has so many cross-over characters from The Lady Takes a Risk that you might want to read Lady first.

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

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

Background information on The Abominable Major can be found on my Facebook Author Page. To read it, click here.

For a link to Blair's website, click here.
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Thanks for stopping by,

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Up north - NYC & CT

A few weeks ago, the grandgirls asked their mother if they had any cousins "like Daddy has Lionel." Susie's answer was to add the girls and me to a business trip to NYC, which she, her husband Mike, and his cousin Lionel had to make last week. We arranged visits with cousins in NYC and attended a reunion of my husband's side of the family in New Haven - with cousins galore. We also got to see my son and his wife for the first time since their wedding three years ago. So today's Mosaic Moments features some of the highlights from that trip. Most photos are by Susie, but a few are mine. Nostalgia reigned. Except for a look-see at our old house - once an 1830 Federal, now subsumed into architectural madness, including one side turned Dutch colonial, the other architectural nothing, plus a five-car garage extending out into what we always called the back lot. Horrors!

Kone and Reale Travels - July 2019

Squeak, helping me pack
With a gang of seven, it was more economical to stay on the Jersey side of the harbor. As we were Ubering into the city the next day, I managed to capture the NYC skyline.

While Mike, Lionel, and Susie made a business presentation, the girls and I—plus a relative who lives on Central Park West and my daughter-in-law from New Haven—did my favorite spot, the Museum of Natural History. LOVE that place. I thought previous shows I'd seen at the Hayden Planetarium were great, but this one was mind-blowing. Even our three teens were impressed (well, Cassidy became a teenager a couple of days after we got back). FYI, this is the museum where Night at the Museum and subsequent sequels were filmed.


Animation at the T-Rex exhibit was "beyond Disney."

Grabbed the train out of Grand Central for the journey to New Haven and our first "airbnb experience," an old house across the street from the Pequonnock Yacht Club and directly on outer New Haven harbor. The next morning Susie and I went shell-hunting in Branford (our old home town) while everyone else slept in. Susie also takes great flower photos.


Number One on our "to do" list when everyone was finally up and fed was a visit to Stony Creek, the village next to where we used to live in Branford. Stony Creek, once a bustling resort community, is home to the Thimble Islands - 25 rocky outcroppings, many of which have cottages on them. Some only big enough for one, a few with as many as twenty. They are strictly "summer only." The Thimble Island Ferry began as a way for people to get to the cottages and back. Now there are three ferries doing a thriving tourist business, showing off the islands' unique landscape. Our old house looked out over the Thimble Islands.

Stony Creek, waiting for the ferry
The '38 hurricane (a totally unpredicted no-name storm) wiped out the trolley tracks that used to run from New Haven to Stony Creek, but when we lived in Pine Orchard, my three children (and friends) walked a trail through the salt marsh that followed the old tracks. This big adventure ended at the candy store in Stony Creek and was a very special childhood memory. When they did it way back when, the only way to reach the trolley bridge over the central tidal river was on wooden planks placed on either side. Now, sigh, it's a well-maintained bicycle as well as hiking path. Too tame for real adventure, but still a fine wilderness walk. Susie, Lionel, and the girls took the path, while Mike and I drove around to wait for them at the Trap Rock parking area (still carefully unmarked - you have to know where to find it).

Clearly the girls agreed that the bridge is now too tame!

From the salt marsh trail - a tiny Thimble with Rogers Island behind.

The following day we made a pilgrimage to Branford College at Yale, where Harkness Tower is. My husband was a Fellow of Branford College. While an undergraduate (WWII vet), he founded the Yale Guild of Carillonneurs, the Yale Calendar, and after graduation the Yale Audio-Visual Center, where he remained for 30 years. The original carillon in Harkness Tower had 10 bells, but during his time at Yale Elliott was asked to supervise the gift (and construction) of 44 more bells, made by the Taylor Company in England. Last Saturday morning we were privileged to have a special tour of the carillon and a delightful concert by Ms Sarah Luckart. Susie and the girls were even allowed to play the Westminster Chime sequence, with Sarah pointing out the correct handle to push.  If you would like to hear some of the bell concert and the Reale family's efforts at being carillonneurs, please see the links below.

To hear & SEE Yale's 54-bell carillon being played, click here.

For the grandgirls & Susie playing the Westminster chime sequence, click here.

Harkness Tower from the Branford quadrangle

Two of the original ten bells

After Yale, we drove up Prospect Street to the house that was used in the Addams Family TV series. The girls clowned around, and then climbed a tree in the front yard.

And on our last evening in New Haven, our relatives hosted a Kone family reunion, proving to the grandgirls how many cousins they actually have, even though some are in the "kissin' cousin" category; others cousins by marriage. Missing from the photo: 3 of the youngest generation who were already tucked up in bed.

And to cap a busy week . . .
We celebrated my __ birthday with lunch at Season's 52, with corn, bacon & sour cream flatbread and a dessert tray WAY better than birthday cake! (I had the "pecan pie.")

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on Amazon, Smashwords & affiliates


For background information on this tale of how a British cavalry officer who lost a leg at Waterloo finds his way back into the world—and the love of his life as well, check out my Facebook Author Page at: click here.
For a link to Blair's website, click here. 

Thanks for stopping by,


Saturday, July 6, 2019

Why Read Romance?

More fossil-hunting - on the gator-infested Wekiva. Hailey ready to defend Mom with a paddle!


I was re-reading one of Anne Cleeland's Doyle & Acton Mystery series this week when I ran across a passage I thought my readers would appreciate. For those unfamiliar with the series, Doyle, an Irish transplant, is a Detective Sergeant with Scotland Yard. Her intuition is over-the-top, her education scanty. She hates paperwork. From Murder in All Honour:
They never explained to you that police work was nine-tenths paperwork—were very wily that way, made it sound all glamorous, and cops-and-robbers, rather than a lot of pencil-chewing trying to decide how to spell "perpetrator" so that the spell-check could even recognize what you were trying to say.

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Grace note:
MANY years ago, when I first set up my website (, I wrote the very first article of many to come. For years it was featured on Page One of my website before being transferred to my blog. This week, as I was preparing it for inclusion in the Random Thoughts section of my blog-posts book, I decided it was a good article to bring back over my vacation period of the next couple of weeks (a trip to visit relatives in NYC & Connecticut). I have not updated it—just be aware it was written more than fifteen years ago when e-publishing was but a gleam in the eye.


Have you ever had someone glance at the paperback you were reading and declare scornfully, “I never read romance!” Or perhaps you’re an author sitting hopefully at a book-signing, eager to show off your baby, and someone says exactly the same thing.

Let me tell you, it’s worse than rude. It’s downright cutting.

But, Romance Lovers, don’t rush out to buy a book cover or turn to reading exclusively on electronic devices (to hide your habit). Hold your head high and know you are among the majority of readers and/or authors in the country. Romance is Big Business, outselling all other genres rolled into one.

My personal response to those who ask why I write Romance is that I have always liked Happily Ever After endings. There is so much angst in the world, including in my own life, that my inner self absolutely requires a pick-me-up, and that’s what Romance does. It plunges the characters into major conflicts then drags them out again, reassuring us that life can be beautiful—even if we are still struggling to get to that point.

More than a decade ago, I wrote my first version of  “Why Read Romance” (an article posted to my very first website). Through the years I’ve updated it a time or two, but very little of the article you see below has changed. The joys of Romance remain the same, whether we’re indulging in Contemporary Romance, Romantic Mystery/Suspense, Historical Romance, Fantasy, Paranormal, Futuristic (Romantic SciFi), or any of the other sub-genres of Romance. Whether you’re reading a 40,000-word novella or a 100,000-word “Mainstream.”

Men indulge in sports, tinkering with machines, and a variety of other hobbies, to get away from the stresses of daily life. I suggest that women read Romance for the same reason. We find pleasure in it, and it takes our minds off our personal problems. I’d go so far as to say, reading Romance is a prescription for improved mental health!

If you need an argument for the die-hard skeptics, however, let’s take a moment to analyze the situation. Here’s how I saw it long ago, and nothing since has changed my mind . . .                                                       

First of all, whoever said “Love makes the world go round” wasn’t lying. Real Women aren’t afraid to admit it, while so-called Real Men are generally terrified of it. Real Women read Romance because that prized quality called “Heart” lies at the basis of every relationship. We want it, we seek it, we grasp it. We hang on for dear life. For the world would be a cold, dark place with out Love.

Admittedly, women’s approach to Love could be likened to a rifle. Men . . . well, maybe a shotgun comes closer to the mark. Women like to read about Love. Men would rather do it, thank you very much. Nonetheless, the emotions on both sides of the gender gap are powerful. I would suggest, however, that gentlemen could learn a thing or two from reading Romance.

Big question: Does Love work for everyone? Does it stay new-minted, bright and shiny, dazzling in its intensity?

Probably not. But for many, new love settles into a stronger, more lasting emotion, into warmth, companionship, and respect that lasts a lifetime. Yet women fortunate enough to be part of that relationship still enjoy the nostalgia of reading about those precious first moments, those early days when love was uncertain, agonizing, or downright disastrous. Or when it was a sea of fresh discoveries, exquisite torture of the senses.

And then there are those who, for a variety of reasons, live without vivid memories of love’s halcyon days. For them reading Romance provides glimpses of the intense moments they missed  and inspires hope that those special moments are still to come.

For the rest—those who lost their beloved partners through death, divorce, or desertion. For them, reading Romance can bring back the beauty of when Love was new or, like those who never knew Love, inspire hope for the future. Failing all else, reading a book that ends with Happily Ever After can provide pleasure even for those who know Love will not come to them again.

Love—or reading about it—can perk up a day faster than a bowl of ice cream - with fudge topping.

For some reason—probably the eons-long domination of writing by Men, all the so-called Great Romances are tragedies. (As in Romeo & Juliet, Arthur & Guinevere, Tristan & Isolde, not to mention some contemporary novels, mislabeled “romance” and also written by men.) But finally, in the last two decades, women have begun to write the stories they want to read. And now there are thousands of books about women who learned to cope with conflict, come out on the other side of personal difficulties, and do what had to be done to find the right person to share their lives.

These are the people we should praise. Forget Romeo and Julie, who mismanaged things badly and never made it out of their teens. To me, that’s not Romance. I look to Jane and Joe Schmo who survived.  And raised their children to be able to love and be loved. Jane and Joe who paid the Mortgage and Dental Bills. Taxes. College. The next generation’s Weddings.

No wonder Jane wants to put her feet up and settle down with a good Romance! Yes, sometimes we all need reminding of those first bright days of love when Joe wasn’t quite so devoted to golfing, fishing, or couch-potatoing. We open a book . . . and there before us is that marvelous Regency gentleman with his impeccable manners . . . or the dashing and untamed Scottish chieftain. We sigh over that pillar of rugged individualism, the American cowboy. Hunky cops and daring men of the Special Forces. Lawyers, doctors, firemen, and businessmen as well. And we just might get an idea or three about putting Romance back in our lives.

As for the women who say they never read Romance—ah, ladies, you have no idea what you’re missing. Pull up a chair, sit down, relax, and try on a Romance. Who knows, a good Romance just might inspire Mellow where it would do the most good.

The many Romances available range from Short & Sweet to Sexy & Sassy. From Thrillers and Suspense to Vampires, Fairies, and Outer Space. From Comedy to Drama and every nuance in between. But they have one thing in common: a happy ending.

As I always tell people, “There are enough problems in this world. I don’t want to read about them when reading for pleasure. I write books with happy endings and I want to read books with happy endings. These books buoy up my day, my week, my year, my life. No matter how dark the world around me, they keep me going. My heart tells me it’s not all fiction. 

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A reminder: I expect to publish The Abominable Major shortly after my return from "up north." Hopefully, around my birthday (July 19). Admittedly, in the cover below the major is overshadowed by the lovely Russian countess, but ever since he lost a leg at Waterloo, he prefers to stay in the background. (That's a swordstick he's carrying, by the way, not just a simple cane.)


Background information on The Abominable Major has just been posted to my Facebook Author Page. To read it, click here.

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

Thanks for stopping by,