Grace's Mosaic Moments


Saturday, November 21, 2020

Writing Oops & Recipes

Below is a statue from Prestopans, East Lothian, UK - a commemoration of the large number of women who met their deaths in that area when accused of witchcraft. It is also an astonishing work of art. (Found on Facebook)



This week's Ganesh fix

Ganesh has a rival for cuteness - This is Emma

~ * ~

 

Writing Comments - Good & Bad

This week I read Fortune and Glory, Book 27 in Janet Evanovich's long-running Stephanie Plum series. For anyone who enjoys comedy with their mysteries, these books are not to be missed. They have also divided readers into two camps: Morelli fans and Ranger fans. I am happy to say that Ranger fans (as I am) will love this one. So, even if no one could work "twenty seven" into the title, this is vintage Evanovich. Don't miss it!

Alas, in my search for new authors, I chose a book that had all the hallmarks of a good Gothic and was horrified when I discovered:  a whole slew of misused words - bad enough to make me wonder if English was a second language for the author. On top of that, the heroine knew the names and background of people she'd never met. The writing was also marred by labored analogies and that old bugaboo, incorrect titles. And I'm only struggling through Chapter 3. Definitely a book I am now reading as a source of lessons about what not to do, although, admittedly, the plot that drew me to the book still shows promise. (To be continued - unless I toss the whole thing to Archives before finishing it.)

~ * ~

 

THANKSGIVING RECIPES

Below are two tried & true recipes for the holidays. I make the same stuffing year after year. And since no one in the family is a fan of pumpkin pie, we frequently have fruit pie in its place. So if you're looking for something different this year . . . even though the "crowd" will likely be smaller, here are a couple of possibilities:


Grace's Thanksgiving Turkey Stuffing

2 12-oz pkgs Pepperidge Farm stuffing mix in your choice of flavors
4 cups Swanson chicken broth
8 TBspns butter, melted (Have a second stick on hand.)
1 yellow onion, chopped
2-3 stalks of celery + leaves, chopped
8 oz. Jimmy Dean sausage - (with sage, if possible)
Pine nuts (to taste)
Fresh or dried cranberries (to taste) - NOT the ones with sugar!
Fresh rosemary, chopped
Other fresh herbs, chopped, if you have them, particularly parsley

Allow at least an hour to transform the above into Stuffing.

Prep:  Chop onion. Select inner & outer celery leaves (light & dark green); chop finely. Cut 2-3 inner stalks of celery into small slices. Cut sausage in half; freeze half for another time. Select 1/2 - 2/3 cup of cranberries - set aside with onion & celery. (If using dried cranberries, no prep necessary.) Strip leaves from rosemary; chop with other herbs (opt.). 

Cook:  Spray large skillet with cooking oil. Brown sausage, adding onion & celery when sausage is nearly brown. When onion is translucent, add pine nuts, cranberries & fresh herbs. Stir & set aside.

Prepare stuffing mix as directed on package, using more butter if necessary. Stir in all the additions from the frying pan.

And that's it. Your stuffing is ready for a 20+ lb. bird with enough left over for baking in a casserole dish. (The recipe is easily halved for a smaller bird.)


 MIXED BERRY PIE


1-2 packages of frozen mixed fruit* (raspberries, blackberries, blueberries) - enough to make c. 6 cups of berries (or fresh fruit, if available)
3/4 - 1 cup sugar (to taste)
1/4 - 1/3 cup tapioca
½ - 1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
flour
Betty Crocker refrigerated pie crusts (pkg. of 2)

*For fatter pie, use more berries.

Thaw and drain frozen fruit. This can take several hours - best thaw overnight in refrigerator, then drain in colander for at least 2 hours. Otherwise you will have an overly juicy pie. Follow package directions to allow 15 minutes for pie crusts to warm up. (If you're a "dab hand" at pastry, by all means make your own crust, but for most of us Betty Crocker will have to be good enough.)

Preheat oven to 400°.  In a large bowl, combine thawed fruit, sugar, tapioca & spices. Mix well, being careful not to crush berries.

Unroll one pie crust (preferably on a big pastry board, floured to keep crust from sticking). Place crust in bottom of 9-10" pie plate. Add a bit of flour to the bottom to absorb the berry juices. Add the fruit mix. Remaining crust may be placed on top or cut into strips for a latticed crust. Seal edges. (If using whole crust, make slices in top for venting.) Brush top with egg wash.* Bake 45-50 minutes or until juices form bubbles that burst slowly.

*Egg wash = 1 egg, whisked. Add ¼ cup of water, whisk again.

Grace note: I have always used the fruit mix above, but you might want to experiment with the other frozen fruits available. This recipe should also be adaptable to fresh fruit. 

~ * ~

I would like to recommend the following for your holiday reading: 

 


 Two wounded people find each other under the mistletoe.

 


A poignant tale of Happily Ever After rescued by the spirit of Christmas




Though not written specifically for Christmas, the holiday season plays a large role in this tale of a young woman who, in essence, hires a husband.

 


Again, though not written specifically for Christmas, a Christmas gift plays an important role in the story. (The Making of Matthew Wolfe should be available within the next ten days.)

 

Thanks for stopping by,

Grace (who writes as Blair Bancroft)

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Pics & Politics

 A true Mosaic Moments this week - a few photos to brighten your day, followed by pithy headlines from the Orlando Sentinel, November 8, 2020.

 

A belated wedding photo - Cassidy with her escort down the aisle.

 


 

Two more photos of Ganesh, the world's most photogenic kitten. What will we do when he grows up?  (Owner & photographer: Edith Maxwell)


 


 Below, a special treat for authors & all others who enjoy sinking their teeth into the heart of the English language. (Though I confess I've never before heard of a "whosemegadget.")


Below, the Citrus Singers (only 12 this year instead of 20+) are performing, as usual, at the Orland Museum of Art's Festival of the Trees. Except they will be singing outside instead of in the auditorium. Here are the masks I made from ONE old Girl Scout Cookie apron. (It was a full back AND front apron, the masks lined with matching green cotton from Jo-Ann's fabrics.)



 And now, the Serious Stuff -

POLITICS

I am not going to admit how many years I've been reading the newspaper, but I have never before seen a front page, let alone a Sunday front page, that looked like this—the entire top half devoted to a single photo. (Orlando Sentinel, November 8, 2020).

 


 

 

You heard Florida went for Trump? Well, let me tell you, Central Florida - the intellectual heart of the state - did not (as evidenced by the front page above). Alas, due to the Electoral College system - which definitely needs tweaking - Trump will get all of Florida's votes, but my county and others mid-State went solidly for Biden. 

Here are some Headlines from inside that same issue:

Trump defied gravity but hit reality.

Trump, GOP gaining Latino support (Grace note:  particularly in South Florida)

World leaders congratulate Biden and Harris on victory

From the editorial page: 

What American voters are trying to tell us

Trump's right:  Election about him

A national nightmare is almost over

And sadly, on a related topic:

Historic marker puts Ocoee Massacre in perspective*

     *To Florida's great shame, on Election Day,1920, blacks were not only prevented from voting, more than thirty were killed, their houses burned, businesses destroyed. Now, at long last, on the one hundredth anniversary of this atrocity, a memorial marker has been erected.

~ * ~

Special Note:  our first operational (not a test )manned flight to the International Space Station was scheduled for Saturday evening (Nov. 14), but due to continuing rough seas from Tropical Storm Eta, it has been postponed until Sunday. The reason for this: the need to recover the booster rocket which lands on a barge at sea.

~ * ~

THE MAKING OF MATTHEW WOLFE - available, hopefully, in less than 2 weeks

 

And please don't forget:


 

Or the compilation of all my articles on Writing & Editing since 2011:




The Vicar's Daughter is available from a variety of online vendors, including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords.

 

Making Magic with Words is available only on Amazon Kindle.


Thanks for stopping by,

Grace (w. a. Blair Bancroft)



 

 

Saturday, November 7, 2020

Blair's Newsletter

Sneak Peek - Draft of Wolfe 1 Cover

Yahoogroups went the way of the dodo bird last year while I was struggling with my broken foot, and when I recently got around to attempting to set up a new Newsletter, I ran into some road blocks, including one newsletter service that refused to answer a vital question until I had "opted in." Sigh. So until I find the right Newsletter Service, I've decided to post my newsletter here. Why not wait? Because the first book of my new - and different - series will be out before Christmas, and I'm anxious to tell everyone about it, and get your opinion. So here it is.

Something New out of the Blue

Well, at least I think it's new. After a string of Regency Gothics and Historicals and all the work that went into Making Magic With Words (the compilation of all my blogs on Writing and Editing since 2011), I was feeling the urge toward something lighter. And then came the pandemic and all the political brouhaha, and I knew the time had come to stick my neck out and write something different enough to offer a distraction from all our problems—an action tale but with strong elements of comedy, empathy, and triumph of the human spirit.

So I stole a character from The Abominable Major—Matthew Wolfe, the young man who nearly gave his life doing the major’s bidding and now, thanks to a whole slew of supporters on a hops farm in Kent, is setting his feet on a brand new path. To fame and fortune? Or renewed disaster? Only the Matthew Wolfe series of novellas can answer that.

The first book, The Making of Matthew Wolfe, has a familiar setting—Kirkwood Farm in Kent, the hops farm established by Colonel Marcus Trevor and Major Courtland Randolph to shelter the officers and troopers of the Royal 10th Hussars who needed a place to lick their wounds, both physical and mental, after long years of fighting Napoleon Bonaparte. Considering their own pain, giving shelter to a young man bruised and battered by life in London does not seem so far-fetched.

But Matthew, grateful as he is, knows he is not destined to be a hops farmer. And despite all his new friends in Kent, including a very young lady who teaches him to fish, at the end of Book 1, he will be off to London, hoping to learn more about his origins, and ready to begin a whole new set of adventures.
 

So what makes this series "different"? 

Most Regency series with a continuing central male character are mysteries. And seldom feature humor along with the action. Basically, the Matthew Wolfe series is a Rags to Riches tale, presented in classic serial-style, and with as many light touches as I could manage. How many books? I have no idea. I’m letting Matthew figure that out for himself. Hint: maybe until the 12-year-old girl in Book 1 grows up?

The final chapters of The Making of Matthew Wolfe occur at Christmas, and I expect to have the book available in time for a good Christmas read. I would be most grateful if you’d let me know what you think of this slightly off-beat approach to a Regency novel. (You don't have to wait to read it - just tell me whether or not you might be willing to give a book about the adventures of a seventeen-year-old from Seven Dials a try.) You are invited to email me at:

blairbancroft@aol.com


Other comments or complaints are also welcome. Do you have a favorite Blair Bancroft book? Maybe one that turns you off—information that’s always good to know. In the case of Matthew Wolfe, Book 1, how do you feel about a 12-year-old heroine? And after you've read The Making of Matthew Wolfe, I would be most grateful for a review on Amazon, B&N, Smashwords, or other online vendor.

Meanwhile, if you haven’t read The Lady Takes a Risk (the original tale set at Kirkwood Farm) or its sequel, The Abominable Major, you might consider them now. They are not necessary to an appreciation of the story of Matthew Wolfe, but they give more insight into the characters and events mentioned in The Making of Matthew Wolfe.

In case you missed some of my recent books, here’s a list:

Gothics
The Vicar’s Daughter
Shadows Over Greystoke Grange

 

Regency Warrior Series
The Abominable Major
The Lady Takes a Risk


Non-fiction
Making Magic With Words

 

Thanks so much for taking the time to read this first post in my new Newsletter.


All the best,
Blair




Saturday, October 31, 2020

Wedding 2020

 As you will recall from last week's post, there was a wedding in Orlando on Saturday. Here are a few photos to demonstrate that the gowns and matching masks were worth all that effort.

 



The grandgirls & mother w/Gramma Reale

The grandgirls with Daddy

Cassidy, Hailey, Riley

 ~ * ~

This was a great week for photos, and I am taking full advantage of it. Below is another "hawk" photo that qualifies as a Work of Art. Posted to Facebook by Ann Baldwin.






 Back to normal . . .


Hailey, Cassidy, Riley

Early Christmas photo, 2020:

 

Cassidy, Hailey, Riley

 For Old Times' Sake:

Same line-up, 2009

 

In the end, Cassidy got the photo op of the week at the Air Show in Sanford (10/31/20) - Evidently they approve her ambition of becoming a fighter pilot.

~ * ~

 


 ~ * ~

 

To find The Vicar's Daughter on Amazon, click here.

To find The Vicar's Daughter on Smashwords, click here.
    (Smashwords always offers a 20% free read.)

For "inside information" on The Vicar's Daughter, please check out my Facebook Author Page. Click here.

 

For a link to Florida Wild on Amazon, click here.

For a link to Florida Wild on Smashwords, click here.

   (20% free read available at Smashwords.com)

  
For Blair's website, click here.

 

Thanks for stopping by,
Grace (Blair Bancroft) 

Saturday, October 24, 2020

MAKING MAGIC WITH WORDS

Friday, October 23. Here's a peek at what I've been doing for the last ten days - doesn't look like much, but it forced all other creativity to a screeching halt. In fact, we almost didn't have a new blog this week. My daughter Susie and her three girls are part of a wedding taking place on Saturday, October 24. Although all four gowns are the same color, each is of a different design, about 6" too long, two in need of fiddling with the shoulder straps as well. And oh yes, not shown here: the eight mauve masks made from cutting up the gown on the left! Finished yesterday, I was finally able to get back to work this morning, writing a chapter on my current WIP, The Making of Matthew Wolfe (Book 1 in a somewhat new approach to a Regency series).

Update. And then the bride's prospective mother-in-law burned a hole - a large hole - in the wedding veil. Susie knew better than to ask me to fix that on top of everything else! So she borrowed my best scissors, bought tulle and fabric glue at Jo-Ann's and set about detaching the headdress and LONG, elaborate lace trim from the old veil and re-attaching it to the new veil. I am looking forward to photos of the wedding with bated breath. (The Kone/Reale families are certainly polishing their halos this time 'round.)

 

"Cut-up gown," Cassidy, Riley, Hailey, Susie

 
 
This week Susie posted to Facebook a couple of photos from out of the past:
 
Not really a teen rebel, but she sure looks it . . .

(1985?)

 
Not so many years later . . .
 
On stage at one of her many gigs

 
Our Ganesh fix for this week:
 

 

 

MAKING MAGIC WITH WORDS

 


This seems like a good time to remind everyone of the existence of my only work of Non-fiction:  the compilation of all my blog posts on Writing & Editing since I began my blog in January 2011. Hey, it's the best buy around - 771 pages, 200,000+ words FREE on Kindle Select and only $4.99 to download. Topics range from a 9-part Writing Workshop to Developing Characters, Adding Color, Writing No-no's, and that old bugaboo - Grammar. Also includes Writing a Series, World Building, Women's Fiction, and a 5-part Dictionary for Writers. And that's just in the WRITING section. There's also a lengthy section on the various aspects of EDITING, including a 7-part series entitled, Edit the Blasted Book and a 6-part series on Copyediting (which is a quite different kettle of fish). And if that isn't enough, there's a section called RANDOM THOUGHTS, which includes articles on many writing-related subjects, from "Why Read Romance" to "Writing Mistakes I Have Made."

If you're having as much trouble with the new Blogger as I am, MAKING MAGIC WITH WORDS is a much easier way to find the information you need. And yes, each item in the the Table of Contents is linked to the article for easy finding. 

 For a link to Making Magic, click here.

 ~ * ~

 

To find The Vicar's Daughter on Amazon, click here.

To find The Vicar's Daughter on Smashwords, click here.
    (Smashwords always offers a 20% free read.)

For "inside information" on The Vicar's Daughter, please check out my Facebook Author Page. Click here.

 

For a link to Florida Wild on Amazon, click here.

For a link to Florida Wild on Smashwords, click here.

   (20% free read available at Smashwords.com)

  
For Blair's website, click here.

 

Thanks for stopping by,
Grace (Blair Bancroft) 




Saturday, October 17, 2020

Gallery - a Bit of Everything

 VOTE!

If voting by mail, do not forget to sign & date your ballot.


This week's Mosaic Moments is gallery of photos ranging from "soup to nuts." Hopefully, everyone can find something that will offer a much-needed distraction from the sturm und drang of the moment. If you need a translation - well, let's just call it "from the high drama and dire events" we're all dealing with, world-wide.

So, let's start off with one for all the writers and editors:

 

I call this one "Writing 101"

Grace note:  You will note I have finally solved the mystery of adding captions in the new (and much hated ) Blogger.

 


 

The following photo was posted to our local "Neighborhood" email loop. I have seen both hawks and snakes in my yard, but never at the same time. I consider this a truly remarkable photo.

 

Longwood, Florida, October 2020

 Making the rounds of Facebook, a sentiment with which I heartily agree:


 

A few shots of the Christmas puppy that grew . . .

Kylo, September 2020

On Mommy's thigh, October 2020

Halloween Decoration, 2020


 And finally, a series of photos from the very first "event" I've attended (not counting family birthdays & a one-time hand-chime performance at church) since last March. On Saturday, October 10, Susie, Riley, and I attended a Fossil, Gem & Mineral show at the Sanford Civic Center. (Complete with temperature checks at the door and masks, though social distancing was on the honor system.) Frankly, if I had the money, I could have spent thousands of dollars in the 90 minutes I was there. A truly "Wow" experience. Below are a very few of the myriad items on display or for sale. 

 

Alligator w/Susie's arm to show size

 
Crystal, c. 12" wide


Our family lived in Venice, Florida, for 25 years. Venice boasts of being "the Shark's Tooth Capital of the World." Therefore, we were astonished to discover that the two tables of shark and megalodon teeth on display were from the Carolinas! 

Average length: 4-5"

 


 

Susie and I went "halves" on a piece of Coiled Ammonite from Madagascar that had—fortunately for us—been cut in half. Although only one tiny bit of red can be seen in the photo, when it is turned in your hand, a whole host of bright red streaks appear, a truly amazing phenomenon. The streaks are not just red, but "lit up" like a red light at a traffic stop.


 

And then, having spent all my cash on the Ammonite, I spotted a piece of driftwood. (Well, truthfully, I suspect it may have begun its life in the desert rather than near an ocean, but I fell in love. Fortunately, the vendor took credit cards.) It took me about eight tries to get a halfway decent photo of it.


 

 ~ * ~

 


 

To find The Vicar's Daughter on Amazon, click here.

To find The Vicar's Daughter on Smashwords, click here.
    (Smashwords always offers a 20% free read.)

For "inside information" on The Vicar's Daughter, please check out my Facebook Author Page. Click here.

For a link to Florida Wild on Amazon, click here.

For a link to Florida Wild on Smashwords, click here.

   (20% free read available at Smashwords.com)

  
For Blair's website, click here.

 

Thanks for stopping by,
Grace (Blair Bancroft) 




 



Saturday, October 10, 2020

Running off at the Keyboard

 My son sends me some of the political videos produced by the Lincoln Project, a group of REPUBLICANS opposed to Donald Trump. They are all brilliantly done, but below is a link to one of their very best—a devastating parody of "Don't Cry for Me, Argentina" from Evita. The gist:  Trump's self-centered recklessness that exposed so many non-medical personnel to Covid-19.

For "Don't Cry for Me, White House Staffers," click here.


RUNNING OFF AT THE KEYBOARD

 I am keeping my long-standing practice of not naming names when criticizing an author's work, but this one may be hard to disguise.

I am also aware of the absurdity of a "niche" author criticizing one of the most best-selling authors in the world, but having just suffered through his/her latest book, I couldn't let it go without comment.

 

Yes, details are what make a good author's work rise above the rest. The color, the descriptions, the "little things" that embellish the plot and characters and turn them into real people, people the reader cares about. But when those details run to 900+ pages and include minute details to the point of the nonsensical, repetitions galore, the plot nearly lost beneath a deluge of minutiae, I suffer. I can only assume the author's creative imagination soared to the ridiculous, including every possibility that flitted its way through his/her mind, and neither common sense nor editor said, Nay. 

At 400-500 pages (maybe even 600), this would have been another brilliant book by an undoubtedly brilliant author. As it is, trying to plow through all those details to find the "meat" of the story was agonizing. In spite of the fact that I love the main characters and solving the mystery was truly challenging, I had to force myself to finish the book, reading several "lighter" works to give me a change of pace during a waterfall of words that seemed to take forever to decode.

I suppose this particular author is so famous that his/her editor just rolls over and plays dead, but . . . ! I can only hope that if enough people complain, some attempt will be made to corral the next book in the series into a more readable form.

Or perhaps I'm merely one of lnly a few who is offended. Maybe I'm wrong. I welcome comments, both yay and nay. 

~ * ~

To lighten the world we've all been living in for the past six months, Edith Maxwell, a Facebook friend and author, has been posting photos of her kitten, Ganesh.This has to be the world's most photogenic kitten. Here are a few samples to make you smile:

Ganesh





 ~ * ~

To find The Vicar's Daughter on Amazon, click here.

To find The Vicar's Daughter on Smashwords, click here.
    (Smashwords always offers a 20% free read.)

For "inside information" on The Vicar's Daughter, please check out my Facebook Author Page. Click here.

For a link to Florida Wild on Amazon, click here.

For a link to Florida Wild on Smashwords, click here.

   (20% free read available at Smashwords.com)

Grace note:  The Vicar's Daughter and Florida Wild are both available on Smashwords affiliates, such as B&N, Apple, & Kobo. 

  
For Blair's website, click here.

 

Thanks for stopping by,
Grace (Blair Bancroft)