Grace's Mosaic Moments


Saturday, April 3, 2021

The Character Who Wouldn't Go Away

 PHOTO GALLERY

Found on Facebook

Also from Facebook, two spectacular photos from the far north and south of North America - Florida and the Canadian Yukon.

The Everglades

Sunset over the Yukon

And . . .

For a video of Hailey opening a fun 18th birthday gift - which obviously cost someone a lot of time to put together - click here.


THE CHARACTER WHO WOULDN'T GO AWAY

 Way, way back - somewhere in the late 90s - I wrote my second Regency historical, a gleam born of a dramatic scene in my first book, the 140,000-word The Sometime Bride.  The new book was easier to name. I called it Tarleton's Wife, as Julia Tarleton was very much the star of the show. Widowed before she had a chance to be a wife, Julia returns from the grand debacle at Coruña (a comparable event not seen again until the dark days of Dunkirk) and is faced with myriad problems at the estate she inherited from Major Nicholas Tarleton. High on the list, a rogue who is terrorizing the countryside as he leads a fight against the drastic changes of the Industrial Revolution. A criminal? Or a nineteenth century version of Robin Hood?

And thus was born Jack Harding, an adventurer, and perhaps, just perhaps, the right man for the widowed Julia Tarleton. Except nothing about Julia's life, or Jack's, has run smoothly, and both are destined for a major surprise. In the end, Jack is saved from likely hanging by a Deus ex machina in the form of another long-running character in my Regency Warrior series, Terence O'Rourke. And the two of them stride, side by side, into O'Rourke's Heiress

And then, out of the blue, I received an offer of New York publication in the Signet Regency line, and both Jack and Terence were left by the wayside. Until somewhere around twenty years after Jack first appeared - yes, twenty - I realized he was still an also-ran, never getting the girl. But who on earth would be good enough for Jack? What female would accept that he was a bastard, albeit the bastard of an earl? Who would be willing to deal with Jack's strong streak of adventure, rather than attempt to change him? 

A girl from the wilds of Canada, of course. And at long last, in Rogue's Destiny, Jack gets the girl. 

But what is this? Jack got his Happily Ever After, yet he's still poking his nose into my books, his Harding's Hellions coming to the rescue of members of the Royal 10th Hussars who have beaten their swords into plowshares and are attempting to becoming hops farmers in Kent (The Lady Takes a Risk). In the follow-up novel, The Abominable Major, Jack keeps a low profile, but his influence is there, as are some of his men from Harding's Hellions. And then, because you can't keep a good man down, Jack comes roaring back in the three books of the Matthew Wolfe series, becoming Matthew's mentor and partner, as he returns to the role of heroic do-gooder he filled in Tarleton's Wife

Tarleton's Wife, by the way, has gone through numerous incarnations, both print and e, since it first appeared in December 1999. Amazingly, it continues to sell even after all these years. And, as I've said before, I still consider those first two books the best of the forty-plus that were to come. (The ones I wrote before I learned all the "rules.") 

If you haven't yet met Jack Harding, I think you'll like him. (Obviously, he holds a very special place in my heart.)

~ * ~

 

 

 

 

 

The first Regency Warrior 

book – no Jack Harding,

but mention of Coruña

inspired the idea that

spawned Tarleton's Wife.



 

 

 

The book that introduced 

Jack Harding to the

Regency Warrior series

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

Terence gets the girl.

Jack doesn't.

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

At long last . . .

Jack gets the girl.

(And keeps on going

for five more books)

 

 

 

All books are available from a variety of online vendors, including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords. (20% free read available on Smashwords)

The Regency Warrior series (in order)

The Sometime Bride
Tarleton's Wife
O'Rourke's Heiress
Rogue's Destiny
The Lady Takes a Risk
The Abominable Major

The Matthew Wolfe series

The Making of Matthew Wolfe
Matthew Wolfe - The Adventures Begin
Matthew Wolfe - Revelations (June 2021)
 
~ * ~
 
Thanks for stopping by,
Grace (Blair Bancroft)  

Saturday, March 27, 2021

Recipes - Sausage with Fennel

But first a remarkable collection of pics for the  

PHOTO GALLERY

 





Ganesh, napping


A 2015 photo by NASA's Deep Space Climate Observatory, catching our Moon's far side silhouetted against the earth:


 

And for sheer beauty . . .


Credit - @dominiclian

 

RECIPES - SAUSAGE WITH FENNEL

Grace note:  I made both recipes below over the past month and absolutely loved the taste of fennel-seasoned pork. I hope you, too, enjoy these special treats.

 

From the Orlando Sentinel

  

Pork and Fennel Sausage Rolls

2 TBspn. extra-virgin olive oil
2 fat garlic cloves, minced
1 TBspn fennel seeds, plus more for finishing
3 thyme sprigs, leaves separated, chopped*
1 small onion (red, yellow or white)
½ cup diced celery
½ cup diced carrots**
1¼ teaspoons kosher salt, plus more as needed
1 lb. lean ground pork (or chicken or turkey)***
¼ cup breadcrumbs
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 (14-16 oz) package frozen puff pastry, thawed but still cold
1 egg, beaten, for egg wash****

1.  Heat oven to 375° and line rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
2.  In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium. Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Stir in 1 teaspoon fennel seeds and chopped thyme. Cook for another minute or until fragrant.
3. Add onion and celery and cook until onions soften, about 5 minutes. Add carrots and a pinch of salt. Cook until vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes (less if shredded). Transfer to a large mixing bowl and set aside to cool.
4. Once vegetables have cooled (it doesn't take long), add ground pork, breadcrumbs, 1¼ teaspoons salt and ½ teaspoon fresh ground pepper. Using your hands, mix thoroughly until well combined. [Suggestion: for ease of dividing into eight rolls, divide mix in half (each to be subdivided into four portions).]
5. Roll the chilled puff pastry dough to about 1/8-inch thick. Cut pastry into four equal rectangles. In the center of each pastry, place a dollop of the sausage mix, then form it into a long sausage running lengthwise on the pastry strip. Lightly brush one long edge of the pastry with egg wash. Starting with the side without the egg wash, firmly fold the pastry over the meat filling to form long rolls, pinching to seal. (Ends can be left open.) Place on prepared baking sheet, seam-sides down. Repeat process with second sheet of puff pastry.
6.  Lightly brush the top of each roll with egg wash and sprinkle with fennel seeds. Bake until sausage rolls are golden brown, about 35-40 minutes. Makes 8 rolls.

*In Florida our thyme has such small leaves no chopping is necessary.
** As I recall, I shredded the carrot I used.
***I always use Jimmy Dean sausage, as it does not contain chemical preservatives (to which I'm allergic).
****I add a bit of water to the egg when making egg wash.

Special Note: The sausage rolls freeze well. Suggest re-heat at 375° for c. 10 minutes. (Pastry will not stay crisp, if microwaved.)

Special Note 2:  Although I have not tried it, I suspect each roll could be sliced into 3-4 pieces before baking, making 24-32 hors d'oeuvres. Baked for less time, of course.

 *********

 

Snatched from the freezer for this photo

Sausage & Onion Muffins


2 pkg. Pillsbury “Grand” refrigerated biscuits (8 each, your choice of variety)
1 lb. Jimmy Dean sausage (Original or flavor of choice)
1 medium onion, chopped
1 pkg. cheese slices (meunster, swiss, or cheddar)
1 cooking apple, quartered & cut in horizontal slices
fennel seeds, to taste (c. 1 TBspn)
rosemary (preferably fresh, chopped), to taste
fresh ground pepper, black or mixed

Preheat oven to 350°. Spray skillet. Spray two muffin pans. (You will need 16 muffins holes.)

Sauté sausage on medium-high, breaking into small pieces with wooden or other large firm spoon. When almost brown, reduce heat to medium and add chopped onion. Continue to sauté until onion is translucent. Drain.* Stir in fennel, rosemary & pepper, to taste. Continue to sauté for a minute or two to develop the flavors. (The fennel is important to the taste, so don’t be stingy.) Remove from heat.

*I use tongs & paper towels to soak up the extra moisture.

Remove ONE pkg of biscuits from refrigerator. Slice horizontally into two equal halves. Place one half biscuit in bottom of 8 muffin cups. Top with sausage mix, one-quarter of a cheese slice & a slice of apple. Place second half of biscuit on top of each muffin, pressing sides down to meet the bottom half.

Repeat with second package of biscuits.**

Bake 13-15 minutes until golden brown. Cool on wire racks. Makes 16 fat muffins.
[Although I serve my ham & cheese muffins with a sauce made of honey mustard and Saucy Susan, these sausage biscuits are best served plain. (A sauce tends to overwhelm the fennel & rosemary.)]

The muffins freeze very well. To unfreeze two: 45 seconds on Thaw, 45 seconds High.


**Leftover sausage mix can be frozen for later use in a sandwich or scrambled eggs.

~ * ~

Please don't forget my Covid-blues-chaser series, a tale of friends, family, hard beginnings and hope of a Happily Ever After ending (though not until Book 3).

 








 

 

 

 

Thanks for stopping by,

Grace (Blair Bancroft)


Sunday, March 21, 2021

Rant Time

My daughter and family spent Spring Break in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, along with several other Florida families with school-age children. (The trip on hold for more than a year, they decided to "go for it.") Below are a few of the photos. Keep in mind that snow, let alone skiing, is a phenomenon to Floridians.

 

View from condo balcony (directly above the finish of the "easy" ski slope)

 

About as different from Florida as the desert in Dubai




 

Mike & Cassidy found a taco truck at 10,000 feet

For video of Cassidy and Mike wiping out on a ski slope, click here.

 

When the Florida contingent preferred something less strenuous...

 
Riley, Cassidy & Hailey - Floridians in need of warmth

Grace note:  On Friday afternoon I had the pleasure of living vicariously by watching numerous videos of the skiing at Steamboat Springs. I have to admit I was shocked to see Cassidy sailing along, not on the slopes, but through narrow paths between trees! But what beautiful trees—towering snow-dusted evergreens—I could certainly understand the temptation to get off the beaten path. Then again, when Mike was called upon to help a man who had plunged off the steep side of a trail, I had to admit Cassidy was probably safer wending her way through the relatively flat woods. All in all, the group from Seminole County numbered eighteen, and a great time was had by all.

 ~ * ~


RANTS

Rant 1.

Alas, I ran into two rant-worthy books this week. The first was a particular disappointment as I'm always delighted to find a new author, one whose book isn't abandoned after a chapter or two or added to the list of "forget the next one." I had, in fact, pre-ordered Book 2 of a new author and was delighted when it popped up on my Kindle. Except . . . 

Oops. I wasn't five pages in when I realized the author had committed the cardinal sin of a series, beginning Book 2 as if the reader had just put down Book 1, when, instead, many months had passed while Book 2 was being written. And besides, the average reader had likely read a dozen to a hundred books since reading Book 1 of this particular series. Yet the author said not Word One to remind readers of what happened in Book 1; not an iota of identification of the characters, where they were, why they were there, etc., etc.

Frankly, I was appalled. I read maybe ten pages, sent the book to Archives, and will buy nothing from this author again. Not worth my time. Talk about an author shooting himself/herself in the foot!

As anyone who is a regular reader of this blog knows, I have long emphasized that each new book in a series* must catch readers up with what went on in previous books. NEVER expect readers to remember. And besides, there may be readers who never saw Book 1. Among the authors who do a great job of tackling the Who, What, Where, When & Why of each new book in series are:  Janet Evanovich, Jayne Castle (Jayne Ann Krentz), Jack Higgins, C. S. Harris, Charles Todd, Linda Castillo. 

 *This applies to a series with continuing main characters; to a much lesser degree with a series featuring new main characters in each book, the series held together only by a continuing theme.

 Rant 2.

I was looking through my Kindle for a book to re-read and noticed one with a catchy title, though I couldn't recall the plot. So I hit: Search - Go To - Beginning, and soon discovered it was a well-written, well-researched Medieval. Hmm - odd that I never followed up by ordering a second book from this author. (This, by the way, proves the point made in Rant 1 - how easy it is to forget a book one has already read.)

I'm half-way through the book, three-quarters - still can't see why I never followed up on this author. And then . . . well, the sex scenes were a little more graphic than I liked - maybe that was it. Nine tenths - Final scene . . . well, huh, maybe I should check the author's name so I could order more. Except . . .

The book didn't end. It went on and on and on, bringing up a secondary plot that should have been finished off well BEFORE the final action scene. And even when that unfortunate sidetrip was concluded, the book wandered through a maze of inconsequential idiocy before finally coming to the ending that should have occurred thirty or forty pages earlier. DO NOT DO THIS! Again, as has been covered in past blogs, DO wind up your action scene, then wind up the book in timely fashion with one final chapter that answers any questions still hanging and provides the expected denouement, whether it's the solution of a mystery or Happily Ever After. NEVER, EVER spoil your good efforts by dragging out your book long after its expiration date.

It's possible this author did not make the same mistake again, but as far as I'm concerned, presenting this book without judicious editing was fatal.

Semi-Rant.

Later in the week, I ran across yet another series that began Book 2 with no hint of the theme of Book 1, no identification of characters, etc., yet I have to admit it was so well written I scarcely noticed it. A bit - a very little bit of the backstory - was revealed as the book progressed, but there's no doubt the beginning was too much of a mystery (saved only by the author's expertise with words). Nonetheless, it would have been a better book with a some effort at character identification and at least a hint of the theme of the continuing plot, particularly for people like me who never read Book 1. 

Moral of these Rants:

The same thing I've been saying for the last ten years: Do not hit the "Publish" button until you've taken a really good look at your manuscript. Edit, edit, edit. And if you can't do it yourself, hire an editor. Do not ruin your chances of capturing a faithful contingent of readers by feeding them an amateur effort. 

~ * ~

Previous Mosaic Moment rants, plus a lot of advice on Writing & Editing, can be found in Making Magic With Words, a 200,000-word compilation of all my blog posts on Writing & Editing from 2011 - 2019.

 


 And please don't forget Book 2 of my Matthew Wolfe series:

 

Thanks for stopping by,

Grace (Blair Bancroft) 

Saturday, March 13, 2021

Vaccine Diplomacy

 

Ganesh, posing (and growing)

 Below . . .

Wondershot - photo credit:  @nathan_watson_photography


 

~ * ~

 

My sole source for the following blog article - an unusual "mosaic" for Grace's Mosaic Moments - is an article in the Orlando Sentinel, Sunday, March 7, 2021. 

We are all so caught up in getting vaccine appointments, debating one shot or two, when can we hug the grandchildren, etc., that few of us have given a thought to what's going on outside the country - except, of course, to grumble about the variants from the UK, Africa, Brazil, etc. Therefore, this is a truly eye-opening article. I found it fascinating, and hope you will too.

 

Headline:  China's vaccine diplomacy sweeps the globe

Authors:  Huizhong Wu and Kristen Gelineau, distributed by the Associated Press 

The article begins with a quote by the president of Chile (late January 2021):  "Today is a day of joy, emotion and hope." The reason for this comment? A plane laden with vaccines had just rolled to a stop in the airport in Santiago. Vaccine from China, described as "a country Chile and dozens of other nations are depending on to help rescue them from the COVID-19 pandemic."

According to the article, China has pledged 500 million doses of its vaccine to more than 45 countries. I quote:  "With just four of China's many vaccine makers able to produce at least 2.6 billion doses this year, a large part of the world's population will end up inoculated not with the fancy Western vaccines boasting headline-grabbing efficacy rates, but with China's humble, traditionally made shots."

Although the article admits there is some skepticism about the efficacy and safety of the Chinese vaccines, as well as what China might want in return, most countries are welcoming this opportunity with open arms. And, let's face it, for China, offering the vaccine is a face-saving coup that will hopefully encourage forgiveness for its poor handling of the original outbreak of the virus.

The primary targets for the Chinese vaccine? "Low- and middle-income countries largely left behind as rich nations scooped up most of the pricey vaccines produced by the likes of Pfizer and Moderna." For example, "In Europe, China is providing the vaccine to countries such as Serbia and Hungary—a significant geopolitical victory in Central Europe and the Balkans, where the West, China and Russia are competing for political and economic influence."

The article goes on to say that China's vaccine diplomacy will only be as good as its vaccine, and that remains to be determined. But, I would suggest, China cannot help but score points for making such a grand gesture. The article ends with a quote from an Egyptian official: "Vaccines, particularly those made in the West, are reserved for rich countries. We had to guarantee a vaccine. Any vaccine."

...........................

What to make of all this? Not much doubt about it. The Chinese government is playing it smart, killing two birds with one stone. Making a grand apology for not nipping this virus in the bud and at the same time capturing the hearts and minds of a vast number of people by saving their lives. A coup that may turn out to be more far-reaching than any amount of saber-rattling.

~ * ~

Don't forget the serial tale of Matthew Wolfe, the boy who, though born in a London rookery, just might have royal blood in his veins. (Available from most online vendors.)



 

 



 Title "reveal" for Book 3:

Matthew Wolfe - Revelations

 

Thanks for stopping by,

Grace (Blair Bancroft)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Saturday, March 6, 2021

Matthew Wolfe - The Adventures Begin

This week's Mosaic Moments photo gallery can be found below the links to Matthew Wolfe - The Adventures Begin.

 

I'm delighted to announce that Book 2 of my Matthew Wolfe series is now available on Amazon and Smashwords.

 


At the risk of being taken up by Bow Street, Matthew Wolfe returns to London, hoping to discover some clue to his heritage, which just might be royal. But, of course, almost nothing goes as he hoped. Not even the role he had eagerly anticipated as one of Harding's Hellions. Yet becoming an adventurer has some unanticipated benefits, such as acquiring an elegant mistress a decade his senior. And discovering his former fishing companion, Jocelyn, has grown into a beauty old enough to make her come-out.

But even as a partner in a newly formed private investigations business, life does not run smoothly for Matthew. Vast sums of gold and gems are being lost to a clever gang of thieves operating on both sides of the Channel, yet Matthew and his partner are unable to capture the villains. A problem that is also keeping him too busy to explore that ever-tantalizing trail that might lead to royal relatives. And then, just as he is on the verge of combining his search for the thieves with the long-postponed search for his heritage, yet another dramatic problem crops up.

Warning:  The Matthew Wolfe series is a return to an old tradition—one long story told in installments, each with a cliff-hanger ending. So do not expect Happily Ever After until the final book.

~ * ~

For a link to Matthew Wolfe, Book 2 on Amazon, click here.

For a link to Matthew Wolfe, Book 2 on Smashwords, click here.

For a link to Blair's Facebook Author Page with background information on Matthew Wolfe - The Adventures Begin, click here.

 

 This Week's Photo Gallery


Hen, caring for kittens during a snowstorm


Ganesh, up to the ceiling again


Repeat of an Oldie but Goodie

And my favorite, this amazing bit of schoolwork by Emma Preach, in Grade 5. She is clearly destined for great things. 


 ~ * ~

Thanks for stopping by,

Grace (Blair Bancroft)