Grace's Mosaic Moments

Sunday, April 30, 2017

The Nitty Gritty of Names

Can't remember where I found this, but I love it!

Florida Update:

A few weeks ago, the sheriff of Lake County, which is adjacent to Seminole County, where I live, decided to make a drug prevention video. His undercover officers wanted to be included. The video they made has been criticized by some for his men looking too "ISIS." Most of us think it's great. Certainly, the sheriff and his men never thought to go viral. The video has, however, been viewed more than 700,000 times on You Tube. If you'd like to see it, click here.

The Nitty Gritty of Names

Since I first blogged about the importance of names, I've been working my way through all five books of The Song of Ice and Fire (Game of Thrones) by George R. R. Martin. Believe me, here is the ultimate user of names as a writing technique. The names of Martin's literally thousands of characters sing. They evoke the person behind the name.They scream, they shout, they cry, they suffer. They love, they die. You have only to look at the list of characters at the back of his books to know Martin is a master of the Art of Names. As an example, here is the opening line of the chapter, "The Wayward Bride" from Book 5, A Dance With Dragons:

Asha Greyjoy was seated in Galbart Glover's longhall drinking Galbart Glover's wine when Galbart Glover's maester brought the letter to her.

I ask you, would this line have had the same ring if Martin wrote:

Asha Greyjoy was seated in Glover's longhall drinking his wine when Glover's maester brought the letter to her.

The answer is, Of course not. Full names have a ring to them nothing else can match. 

Here is an example of the dramatic use of place names, also from Martin's A Dance With Dragons

But the day before that, three ships had come out of the south together—his captive Noble Lady, lumbering along between Ravenfeeder and Iron Kiss. But the day before and the day before there had been nothing and only Headless Jeyne and Fear before that, then two more days of empty seas and cloudless skies after Ralf the Limper appeared with the remnants of his squadron. Lord Quellon, White Widow, Lamentation, Woe, Leviathan, Iron Lady, Reaper's Wind, and Warhammer, with six more ships behind, two of them storm-wracked and under tow.

Martin could have settled for saying a fleet of ninety-nine ships plus a large number of captured ships had been reduced to a mere fifty-four, but he spends nine Kindle pages giving details of what happened before he gets to the paragraph above and a good many more afterward. These details, in addition to using names to add dramatic effect, are what it takes to turn an author's efforts from satisfactory to great.

Do you and I have Martin's incredible imagination for creating names? Well, I know I certainly don't, so below are the ways I've coped with this problem over the years.

As my regular readers know, I've spent a lot of time talking about the importance of names—full names and titles, not just first names. But perhaps more advice is needed on how to get past Dick, Jane, David, and Mary. Past wasting time puzzling over last names that have some "zing" to them. Or maybe you need a wimpy name . . . Which is why I always put naming my characters way up at the top of my book preparation list, right after the Title . . . hmm, maybe even before the Title. Where on earth do all these names come from?

Way back when I first began to write, computers had small memories. Hardcopy research was necessary, so that's the way I still do it. In a 4" 3-ring notebook. In those little pocket folders featured every fall in the school supply section. In baby books and place name books, and in scribbles on legal pads. Any way I can to keep those precious names from slipping away.

So how did I compile all these lists over the course of the last 25 years? Let's see if I can reconstruct it for you . . .

1.  Fortunately, I kept the books of names I bought to search out names for my children. One book included the meanings of each name, the country of origin, and the many variations of the name. Another book listed the names by Traditional, Strong, Ultra-Feminine, Cross-Gender, Biblical, Exotic/Ethnic, Unusual, Very Unusual, etc. Thus,in two small paperbacks, a treasure trove of first names.

2.  For last names, there's nothing like a genuine phone book. While still living on Florida's Gulf Coast, I used both the Venice and Sarasota phone books. After moving to Orlando, I made an even more sweeping commitment of time to find the English names I needed for my books set in Regency, England. I sat down with the huge Orlando phone book (c. 2008) and copied all the English-looking names by hand onto a legal pad. I used up almost the entire pad, but it has been a boundless source of names ever since. It was that search that turned up the name "Mondragon," which I promptly took for the sorcerer in my SyFy/Adventure, the Blue Moon Rising series.  Nowadays , of course, all you have to do is google any city's phone book, and there it is. Wow! But if you want specific ethnic names, you're still going to have to buckle down and make your own list.

3. In a 4" 3-ring notebook, I have typed lists of many aspects of the Regency, including the following sections on names (mostly compiled from the Regency books of Jane Austen, Georgette Heyer, and Clare Darcy: 
First Names, Female
First Names, Male
Last Names
Servants, Female
Servants, Male
Servants, Last Names
Last Names, General*

*Last Names, General, has mostly been replaced by the "Orlando" list mentioned above.

4. I also have pocket folders with names I researched for different countries, as needed for whatever book I was writing. As of this moment, they are: Russian Names; Greek Names; Medieval Names; Welsh Names; Arab Names; Spanish Names; plus print-outs on Greek Gods and Egyptian Gods. (To find lists of foreign names, just ask Google.)

5.  I have a separate 4" 3-ring binder with the endless details of the world I made up for my Blue Moon Rising series, including pages of astronomical references for place names and the names of space ships. I also created several pages of male and female first and last names for several different races, most based on tweaked versions of standard Earth names, as almost all my characters are descended from Old Earth. (Some really strange ones came directly out of the Orlando phone book!)

 6. Cities, Towns, & Titles. When I was in England, I bought a book called, Dictionary of English Place-Names, a compendium of every last village, town, and city in the country. It has been an immense help in my work. I strongly advise searching the Net for similar books for whatever country is of interest to you.

This mountain of reference materials sits on the first two shelves of a bookcase in my bedroom, the phone books nearer to my bed where I can guard them from people who say, "You don't need those any more. Why don't you throw them out?"! The SyFy notebook rates a place on a desk in my office—close at hand, always ready for me to make sure that I'm spelling a newly created word the same way in Book 3 as I did in Book 1!

~ * ~
Are names important? Yes, yes, yes, and yes! Full names and titles. Glorious names, wonderful names. Terrible names, scary names. Names that purr, names that scratch. Names that say, "This is who I am." 
"I'm proud. I conquer."
"I'm small and weak and frightened."
"I'm a survivor."
(Or whatever you want them to say)

And keep in mind that after all those amazing names George R. R. Martin created for so many incredibly divergent characters, male and female, his primary hero is a simple Jon Snow.

~ * ~

Thanks for stopping by,

For Grace's website, listing all books as Blair Bancroft, click here.

For a brochure for Grace's editing service, Best Foot Forward, click here.  


Saturday, April 22, 2017

Recipe Encore

Beauty & the Beast. 2
Note license plate - BYBY FLU
Goldenrod is near where we used to live in East Orlando - not far from Florida Hospital East and UCF. I presume this germy VW is associated with one or the other.

Cassidy, awake, posing with a posy
Photos by Susie

WILDFIRE UPDATE: As of Saturday night, April 22, there are 115 wildfires burning in the state. Enough that the governor postponed a scheduled 5-day trip to Argentina. Many displaced families. One of last week's fires (about 20 miles north of here) has gone underground, creating what they call a "mud fire." Newscasters keep assuring homeowners that it's really rare for such a fire to spread to "under houses." Yikes!

~ * ~

I've been saving the above photos for a "Mosaic Moments" occasion, and this week seemed to be it. Our extended-family Easter dinner last week (27 strong), plus another "empanada" session with Cassidy prompted this second round of recipes in a such a short time. So many people asked for my cornbread recipe that this seemed the easiest way to get it to those who wanted it. 

The cornbread recipe below is the result of taking a standard cornbread recipe, found on the Internet, and adding quite a lot! Here it is. 


Grace note: I added the chilies, corn, bacon, cheddar, and sour cream to a basic cornbread recipe.  

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup yellow cornmeal
1/4 cup sugar*
1½ teaspoons salt **
1½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1-2 jalapeño chilies, finely diced***
3/4 - 1 cup corn kernels
¼ lb. bacon, crisped & crumbled
c. ½ cup shredded cheddar
Fresh herbs, chopped (optional)
1¼ cups buttermilk****
2 large eggs
1 large dollop sour cream*****
¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter, melted, cooled

* I used “Sugar in the Raw.”
** I used c. 1 teaspoon kosher salt
*** I used 1½ chilies, finely diced
**** It’s possible to substitute milk, but it just won’t taste as good. 
***** I used a serving spoon, not the “measuring” tablespoon, & dipped out a heaping scoop of sour cream (my mother added sour cream to as many recipes as possible, saying it made everything taste better).

Before you begin to assemble your cornbread, cook & crumble the bacon, dice the chilies, shred the cheddar, & melt the butter, giving it time to cool.

Preheat oven to 350°. Use solid shortening, such as butter or Crisco to grease a 13x9x2 baking pan. Whisk flour, cornmeal, sugar, salt, baking powder, and baking soda in large bowl to blend. Stir in diced jalapeños, corn, bacon, cheddar, and fresh herbs.

Whisk buttermilk and eggs in medium bowl; add sour cream, whisk until blended. Add buttermilk mixture to dry ingredients and stir just until blended.  (Do not overmix.) Transfer batter to prepared pan.

Bake until lightly browned on top & toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about 25 minutes. (If making ahead, cover & store in refrigerator; reheat in oven or microwave.) 

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with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce
Grace note: This is a recipe found on the Internet. The Roasted Red Pepper sauce looked good, but Cassidy and I were swamped with making 20 empanadas for six people, so I I bought a different salsa from my usual (Three Pepper) and a package each of fresh pico de gallo and chopped creole-style vegies from my local Winn Dixie. Used together, or just one alone, they provided a refreshing topping for the empanadas.

To make 10 empanadas, using frozen “Discos Grandes” from the supermarket:

1 lb. lean ground beef
½ cup onion, chopped
1/3 cup tomato sauce
¼ teaspoons salt & pepper (preferably kosher salt & ground fresh pepper)
⅛ teaspoon red pepper flakes (or to taste)
¼ teaspoon smoked paprika
½ teaspoon minced garlic
½ cup roasted red peppers, chopped
½ cup sliced green olives, pimiento stuffed


In a large skillet over medium heat, sauté beef and onions until beef is browned and onions are translucent. Drain excess liquid.  Add tomato sauce, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, paprika, garlic, roasted red peppers and olives. Cook, stirring, about 5 minutes.

Assemble & Bake:

Preheat oven to 425°. On a floured board, stuff the wrappers one at a time, using about 2-3 rounded tablespoons each. Brush water on the edge of one side of each disk; pinch closed, finish by “forking” the edge. Place on baking pans lined with parchment paper. For egg wash, whisk together one egg & up to ½ cup water. Brush the top of each empanada with egg wash. Bake for 17-20 minutes or until golden brown.

Roasted Red Pepper Sauce (if desired):

8 oz. cream cheese
1 cup roasted red peppers, chopped
½ teaspoon minced garlic
⅛ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon smoked paprika

In food processor combine cream cheese and roasted red peppers. Pulse until combined. Add garlic, salt & paprika. Process until smooth. Serve cool or at room temperature with empanadas. Store leftovers in refrigerator.

~ * ~

Thanks for stopping by. Next week: More on the importance of names.

Thanks for stopping by,

For Grace's website, listing all books as Blair Bancroft, click here.

For a brochure for Grace's editing service, Best Foot Forward, click here.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

United we fall!

 Above is a photo of MaryAnn Barry, CEO of the Citrus Council Girl Scouts speaking on Wednesday afternoon to the Women's Executive Council of Orlando.

Last Saturday afternoon, April 8, a wildfire only about four miles from my house burned eight buildings in a beloved Girl Scout Camp. Around 100 Girl Scouts had to be evacuated, as well as an entire subdivision of homes - though none were lost. (The thanks to the fire department were profuse!) My daughter, Susie, attended the event where Ms. Barry described the tense moments as the drama unfolded and provided the photo above. Even the dock burned! The Scouts are determined that the camp will continue to function, although it may be 18 months before the buildings can be replaced, and half the woods on site are nothing more than charred ashes. My eyes are still suffering from the smoke, which has lingered for days, somehow insinuating itself into my windowless office and refusing to leave. The drought here is extreme at the moment. Last night's TV news reported that there are currently 104 wildfires in the state of Florida, 24 of them more than 10 acres.

Grace Note to my foreign readers: I keep telling you that Florida is a great deal more than beaches, Disney, Universal, Sea World, and the Kennedy Space Center. We haven't paved the state over yet - we have a LOT of trees. 

Saturday, April 15:  two more wildfires in our area tonight, 500-900 acres, only partially contained - roads closed & smoke spreading. Though they're 10-15 miles away, I can feel the grit in my eyes. We need rain!


Or should I say, "United, you failed"?

Grace note (Saturday, April 15, 2017): this blog was written several days ago. Since then, United Airlines has opted for raising the "bribe" to get customers to give up their seats. This is such a patently obvious move that it is shocking that no one had the sense to do this before the appalling incident that prompted the following rant. 

It takes very little thought to realize that something stinks to high heaven about the way Airlines treat their passengers. The extreme example seen on video around the world this week is only the tip of the iceberg. I’m not sure what has makes Airlines think they don’t have to follow rules known by every business since the first caveman decided to make an arrow for some guy who was all thumbs. What about that classic, "the customer always right"? And those known business generators and gatherers of repeat customers: courtesy and a smile?

It’s been just under a year since I was nearly bumped from a Southwest flight at a changeover in Charlotte when I was on the way to my son’s wedding. Fortunately, someone was “bought off” by the airline and I made it to the wedding. This, when we’d had our tickets for months! And one time when I was changing from an international flight from London to Continental in Atlanta, the timing was tight. My daughter-in-law and her sister ran ahead to tell them I was coming. I was about two-thirds of the way there, when one of them came running back to tell me I had to get there on time or else. The officials at the gate were adamant - and nasty about it. And when I arrived, huffing & puffing, I was yelled at by a security agent. When, totally shocked, I spoke back to him, he threatened to throw me off the flight. Needless to say, I had never been treated like that by anybody in my entire life. When I got home, I wrote to the President of Continental, detailing my experience. I received a phone call from one of the presidential assistants, assuring me that my letter did make it all the way to the top and the matter was being dealt with. Good PR, but I couldn’t help wonder if any actual changes were made.

That was not my last encounter with airport arrogance. One evening a few years ago I was attempting to pick up my son and his girlfriend from Orlando International Airport. Each pass around “Arrivals” was met with irate shouts by security to “go round, even though there were many open spaces along the sidewalk at airlines where no planes were expected. On my third or fourth time around, I spotted my son and his friend; they saw me and headed toward an open space fifty feet down the sidewalk. This time I was screamed at. The guard, arms flailing, insisted I go around again!

I wrote a letter, detailing the incident, to the Chairman of the Board of Orlando International, with a copy to the TSA. I heard from TSA immediately, stating that they regretted the incident but the outside security guards were not part of their agency. Shortly after, I received a call from a woman in the Airport Chairman’s office. She was the perfect person for her job, adept at PR, and highly apologetic. But when she asked permission to use my letter for training purposes, I decided that I just might have made a dent in the system.

Alas, however, I never again picked up anyone at the airport. I made my daughter take over that task.

So naturally the sight of someone being dragged down the aisle of a United Airlines jet just so an EMPLOYEE of United could have a seat set my brain to humming. They had to be kidding! I can only hope United stock keeps on plunging, all the way to the bottom of the Marianas Trench. Could anything have pointed more clearly to the fact that it’s time to change the way Airlines do business?. I’m no PR expert, but it doesn’t take much to figure out possible alternatives to this heinous situation. Here are a few suggestions:

1.  Stop bumping passengers. Better to fly a few seats short of full, depending on Stand-bys to fill the gaps than risk your company’s stock plunging into the toilet due a repeat of the nightmare scene we witnessed this week.

2.  If your CFO whines & says that just isn’t economically feasible (which I don’t believe for a second), and if no passenger rises to the bait (money) being offered when a flight is overbooked, then up the ante ’til they do. Again, it’s way cheaper than the resulting bad publicity.

3.  NEVER bump a paying passenger for EMPLOYEES. Fix up space in the baggage hold, if necessary.

4.  NEVER bump a paying passenger for EMPLOYEES.  Charter a Lear Jet. Pay for passage on another airline.

Why? Because it’s wrong, wrong, wrong. Airlines, you are treating your life’s blood like dirt. You are insulting the people who keep you in business. You are playing arrogant monarch of all you survey, forgetting that the people squeezed into those seats are paying your salary, your mortgage, your kids’ college tuition, your country club fees, your health insurance.

5. No matter which approach you use to the problem, treat passengers with the respect they deserve. They have paid you money to take them where they need to go. They are trusting you with their lives. They deserve respect, courtesy. And a safe journey.

They do not deserve to be yelled at, denigrated, manhandled, punched, or dragged down an aisle. Yes, unruly passengers happen, but too many times perfectly innocent people have been ejected from airplanes by those who have let a little power go to their heads.

We deserve better. Much better.

To United, and all the other airlines out there . . .

Kindly remember it’s ordinary people like me who keep you in the air. If you don’t shape up, some airline is going to come along that remembers that Rule One of every business is: The customer is always right. And that’s the airline all of us will be flocking to, for good Customer Service is what makes businesses grow and thrive. They certainly don’t do it by dragging 69-year-old passengers down the aisle, dripping blood!

I had already vowed never to fly Southwest again. I now add United to my blacklist.

I debated with myself whether or not to add the following, but I think it has to be said. This is too serious a matter to gloss over. The ultimate end of tolerating petty dictatorship is loss of individuality, loss of freedom. Loss of respect, honor, and our personal responsibility for the fate of others. It is Tyranny, plain and simple.

 There are certain people to whom a whiff of authority goes to their head. It’s that old, “Give ’em an inch, they’ll take a mile” philosophy. We see instances of it almost every day on the evening news. At its most foolish, it’s the guard who screamed at me at the airport. At its worse, it’s the guards who shoved people into the “showers” at Dachau and Buchenwald.

'Ware tyrants, in whatever form! Our ancestors came to this country to escape tyranny, and look what’s happened. Don’t accept it. Do not roll over and play dead. Protest! Write a letter, an e-mail. Make a phone call. Or shout,  “I’ve had enough. I’m not going to take it anymore!” Never forget: Not protesting is what gives tyrants power.

~ * ~

Thanks for stopping by,

For Grace's website, listing all books as Blair Bancroft, click here.

For a brochure for Grace's editing service, Best Foot Forward, click here.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Fairy Tales, BACA, & 99¢ Mysteries


On Friday night we had another Girls' Night Out, attending an absolutely stunning performance of Stephen Sondheim's Into the Woods by Lake Brantley High School. Both Susie and I are professional musicians, and believe me, if we say we were impressed, it means something! This is the musical, along with the Harry Potter books, that revived fairy tales in our modern age. Like its offspring, the TV show Once Upon a Time, Into the Woods demonstrates what happens after "Happily Ever After"—from infidelity to retribution for Jack stealing the Goose That Laid a Golden Egg. [My favorite line, delivered by one of two princes: "I was brought up to be charming, not sincere!"] Amazingly, the show's powerful, not-so happy message was beautifully enacted by a cast of 16- to19-year-olds. (Though on the way out I heard two teen girls say of a moment in the second act, "I didn't think they'd go that far!") Kiddies can watch this musical (it's PG, sort of), but basically this is a fairy tale for adults - intended for viewing by a tough Broadway audience. 

I was fascinated enough by the imaginative tale that I've ordered from Netflix both the 1991 version with the original cast and the 2014 version with Chris Pine (Captain Kirk). I can hardly wait. [Although no performance can be as thrilling (or hysterically funny) as watching high schoolers do such a outstanding job, from music to scenery and costumes, in front of an audience primarily composed of peers and parents.] Take a peek. Into the Woods may shock you, but you'll love the beauty of it and appreciate the genius behind it.


On Sunday, April 2, I went to Crane's Roost Park in Altamonte Springs, Florida, to hear the grandgirls perform with The Citrus Singers. (With "Mommy/Susie" directing.) Frankly, I had no idea what the occasion was. So I was surprised to find myself parking only feet away from an array of motorcycles. And to hear an impassioned story from a young lady who had endured years of childhood abuse before being helped by a group called BACA. She is now in college and planning to be a social worker. BACA is Bikers Against Child Abuse, an organization with chapters not only all over the U. S. but around the world. They are frank about being willing to use their "tough guy" image to protect children who need it, particularly when it comes to escorting them to testify against their abusers. 

The message was inspiring, the Girl Scouts (age 7-16) sang magnificently, as always, even being asked to perform an additional two numbers. And afterwards, they had their pictures taken with some of the many bikers there.
All in all, an inspirational event.

Citrus Singers with Seminole County Sheriff on the left

The Citrus Singers & bikers at Crane's Roost Park

Grace's Mysteries - 99¢ Sale
(writing as Blair Bancroft)

Two of the mysteries below are set in my favorite Gulf Coast mini-city, Venice, FL; the third, in Sarasota, FL, at a thinly disguised John & Mable Ringling Museum for the Arts, the creation of famed circus entrepreneur John Ringling, who is undoubtedly rolling in his grave at the announcement that the circus is closing at the end of this season. (The Venice Sarasota area is the permanent home for a great many circus families involved in several well-known traveling circuses.)

Death by accident, old age, strangulation. An elderly senior about to marry a con artist. A rash of burglaries. Only an artistic imagination could conjure these disasters into connected events. But costume designer Gwyn Halliday manages it, as she flees trauma in the big city, only to discover that bad things can also happen in a sleepy Florida retirement community.

 For a link to Amazon, click here.

 For a link to Smashwords, click here.

Want to get married in a hot air balloon? Have the bride step out of a Fabergé egg? Just call Fantascapes, the Halliday family business. Trouble in paradise? Call Laine Halliday, who travels the world smoothing out bumps encountered by high-end clients. But when Fantascapes is used as a front by the Russian mob, in action ranging from Florida to Peru to France, Laine steps into a whole new world of Serve and Protect.

For a link to Amazon, click here.

For a link to Smashwords, click here.

Someone is killing people at the Bellman Museum, staging the deaths as bizarre works of art. Though struggling to recover from a severe injury and the death of her lover, FBI Special Agent Rory Travers can't resist the challenge of tackling this mystery, which brings two new men into her life. But in the end she stands alone, facing evil one-on-one.

For a link to Amazon, click here.

For a link to Smashwords, click here.

~ * ~

Thanks for stopping by,

For Grace's website, listing all books as Blair Bancroft, click here.

For a brochure for Grace's editing service, Best Foot Forward, click here.  

Saturday, April 1, 2017

What's the Fascination with Fairy Tales?

Girls night out (Mommy took the photo.)

Grace note: Any post last week would have been more like Shattered Mosaics - nothing awful happened, just too much going on - so let's hope this promised post on Bacon Bread & Beauty and the Beast doesn't turn out to be an April's Fool's prank!


Attending Disney's latest version of Beauty and the Beast set off today's blog topic, although I didn't realize how rich a topic it was until I started scribbling notes. Wow! No wonder fairy tales have survived the years, in the last couple of decades becoming even more popular with the overwhelming success of Harry Potter and the TV series, Once Upon a Time. I can't help but wonder if this revival of the fanstastical has come about because our world needs magic so badly. Because we look around, and what we see screams for heroics in the grand manner. For Faith, Love, Loyalty, Honesty, Caring, Leadership, Friendship, Integrity, Helpfulness, Humor, and perhaps above all, Redemption. We need these stories to tell us Happily Ever After has not completely fallen by the wayside. And on the reverse side, fairy tales make us all aware of the sins of Greed, Selfishness, Heedlessness, Power-grabbing, Marchivellian scheming, and flat-out Evil.

Yes, some of the original fairy tales were pretty grim (pardon the pun), but most of us remember with vivid fondness the exotic settings and amazing people, the happy endings, even if only one of the Three Little Pigs survived! We're quite sure the wolf didn't really eat Red Riding Hood - hey, it's just a long-ago tale to warn kids of Stranger-Danger, right? And Greed's bad - the story of Rumplestiltskin tells us so. Except Rumple didn't get the baby after all, so . . .

Okay, so fairy tales offer mixed messages, but they make us think. They not only provide lessons in good and evil for everyone, they offer challenges. For those whose lives are less than ideal, the tales provide a dream, a look at a world beyond poverty, violence, and despair. They say, Okay, this too can be yours. For the more privileged among us, fairy tales offer an opportunity to see evil not created by Marvel comics and learn to be wary. They prod the privileged and protected to be morally stronger than many of them have been challenged to be. Basically, fairy tales are lessons in right vs. wrong, heroism vs. cowardice, responsibility vs. leaving duty to someone else. And also lessons about evil lurking in the happiest of times.

The TV series, Once Upon a Time, takes bits and pieces from just about any fantasy you can name. From your favorite fairy tales to medieval classics, such as King Arthur (even a brief appearance by Beowulf!). And then there are the characters who never lived anywhere but in a Disney animated film. Plots, Characters, and Settings are juxtaposed, twisted, tumbled into nearly unrecognizable forms, and yet the classic "moral of the story" remains: Good versus Evil. Honor vs. Bad Deeds. And the ever-present hope of Redemption. A happy ending, even for the Bad Guys.

Powerful Stuff.

I don't want to leave out my favorite among the modern fairy-tale re-tellings, Snow White and the Huntsman. If you haven't seen it, make an effort to do so. It's a gem. Which, alas, was spoiled by a sequel that completely ruined the "up in the air" ending of "Oh wow, maybe she's going to marry the Huntsman instead of Prince Charming." Snow White and the Huntsman goes one-up on Once Upon a Time in providing a magnificent depiction of a twist to the classic tale. But through it all the "morals" are there. Love prevails, the good guys triumph, even when the road to success is long, harsh, and nearly lost to the machinations of the evil witch.

So don't be a cynic about fairy tales. (I exclude the modern versions created for the sole purpose of being horror stories.) We can learn a lot from these stories, including elements we need to include in our own books. No book is so "modern" or action-filled that it isn't enhanced by a bit of magical love, a goodly dollop of friendship, and the triumph of honor over temptation. And don't forget that soupçon of evil. 

Above all, fairy tales add Wonder to our lives, whether they're dealing with magic or only showing us a precious family moment. They show us the best and the worst of ourselves and show us, no matter how stupid or downright bad we are, redemption is possible. Though sometimes the price is high. 

Are there bad people who triumph in real life? Of course there are. But fairy tales keep hope alive. Consider the possibility that adding a bit of fairy tale magic to the next book you write just might give it that extra sparkle, that tug at the heart we all want our books to have. 

~ * ~


My bacon bread, derived from a long-ago recipe found on the Internet, is always in demand, but on the Saturday before St. Patrick's Day I was invited to two parties on the same night. I told my daughter I had pledged my bacon bread to the choir party, but she informed me, "It's bacon bread or nothing." In other words, "Don't show up to my party without it." So after school on Friday, I solicited Cassidy's help, and together we made a bacon bread she could take home for her mother to reheat for her brother-in-law's birthday party. And on Saturday afternoon I made the one for the choir, resulting in back-to-back bacon breads. Whew! (At least I was able to have a few bites of the one at the choir's St. Pat's party. There wasn't a smidgin left by the time I arrived at the birthday party.)

The recipe below has been adapted from the original, which was created before Pillsbury began to produce only the larger "Grand" biscuits.

Pull-apart Bacon Bread made in a Bundt pan


Since it is almost impossible to buy the 7.5 oz. Pillsbury Buttermilk Biscuits any more, I have attempted to revise the original recipe, using “Grands.” Two “Grands” make quite a bit more dough than three of the smaller biscuit packages, so I have adjusted the other ingredients accordingly. Needless to say, there is quite a bit of leeway for you to adjust the recipe to your taste, including increasing the amount of bacon, which remains the same in this recipe as in the original.

Grace Note: This recipe is much easier if you do the preparations ahead of time - several hours up to a whole day. Cook the bacon to crisp. Cool & crumble. (I cut the strips into quarters before frying.) Shred the cheese; sauté the onion & pepper. Refrigerate until an hour or two before putting the bread ring together. Just prior to opening the biscuit packages, melt the butter.

Prepare a Bundt pan with a generous coating of solid shortening (such as Crisco), plus a dusting of flour. (Do not use a spray. The bread will not unmold correctly.)

c. 1 cup finely chopped onion
c. 3/4 - 1 cup finely chopped green pepper (optional)
1½ teaspoons vegetable or olive oil*
1 lb. bacon, cooked & crumbled
3/4 c. butter, melted
3/4 - 1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
Fresh herbs, chopped (if available)
2 pkgs. (16.3 oz. ea.) Pillsbury “Grand” buttermilk biscuits

Grace note: No need to preheat the oven until you start cutting the biscuits.

Sauté onion & green pepper in oil until tender. Cut each biscuit into six sections. In a large bowl, gently toss onion & pepper mix, biscuits, bacon, butter, cheese & herbs, until combined.** Transfer to Bundt pan. Bake at 350° for c. 30 minutes, or until golden brown. Let stand for 10 minutes. Carefully run table knife around the outer & inner edges of the bread before inverting onto a serving plate. Serve warm. Refrigerate leftovers. Reheat in microwave before serving leftovers.

*I sauté the onion & green pepper in the bacon fat (pouring off all but what I need). But sautéing in olive oil would likely be considered more healthy.

**This is a hands-on process. You need to separate each hunk of dough and make sure it is coated with the butter mixture.

Please remember this is "finger food." Pull apart - do not slice!

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