Grace's Mosaic Moments

Saturday, February 29, 2020

Old-time Recipes

When I see photos like this (found on Facebook) I really miss New England. (Note to my foreign readers: tulips & daffodils do not grow in Florida.)

Below, a more thought-provoking (& wee bit funny) pic from Facebook:


In the course of checking the Cassoulet recipe, posted to Mosaic Moments in December 2019, I dug into the cookbook marked "Old Cookbook." This is the one I accumulated during my early years of marriage and while cooking for a family of five. It contains recipes my mother gave me, as well as recipes I carefully cut from magazines over the course of twenty-plus years before I put the best of them into a new cookbook - called THE Cookbook - which I gave to my daughter, daughter-in-law, daughter-in-law's sister, and prospective daughter-in-law. (The last one didn't work out—I hope, however, that she enjoyed the recipes!)

After the appearance of THE Cookbook, and as I accumulated an astonishing collection of printed cookbooks, augmented by folders full of clipped recipes, the Old Cookbook was neglected. It should not have been. There are some true treasures in there. Today I'm going to share two that are even older than those my mother gave me, as they were given to her by her best friend, whom I was allowed to call "Aunt Gertie." And since Aunt Gertie was somewhat older than my mother, she must have been born around the turn of the 20th century. At a guess, I would say my mother acquired these recipes in the late 1940s or early 1950s. Both have stood the test of time. 

For historical purposes, here is the original recipe for Aunt Gertie's Oven Beef Stew (as typed up by my mother). Below it, you will find the slightly different version I used when I made the stew in January 2020. Although this recipe predates the Crock Pot, I imagine it is easily adaptable - with the possible exception of allowing the peas to partially unfreeze before adding them to a Crock Pot.

(as given to me by my mother, author, Wilma Pitchford Hays)

2 lb. beef stew meat
3 tbsp. minute tapioca
½ c. fresh or frozen peas
1½-2 c. canned tomatoes
1 tspn. sugar
5 onions, sliced
6 carrots, diced
½ c. fresh bread crumbs
1 c. celery
1 tbsp. salt

Stir altogether in big bowl and put in iron kettle to cook. Bake 5 hrs. at 250, tightly covered.

(cut each beef cube in quarters and remove as much fat as possible)

* * *

(adapted by Grace)

1¼ - 2 lbs. beef stew meat, cut in bite-size pieces*
3 TBspn Minute Tapioca
1 can diced or crushed tomatoes (1½-2 cups)
1 small pkg frozen peas
3-5 onions, halved and sliced
Small pkg. of baby carrots, cut in half 
1 cup celery, sliced (c. 3 stalks)
Celery leaves, sliced (optional)
½ cup fresh bread crumbs (1 slice)
1 tspn. sugar
1-1½ tspn. salt **
Fresh ground black or mixed pepper

Stir together all ingredients in a large oven-resistant stock pot. Bake 5 hours, tightly covered, at 250°.

*In the old days the beef hunks were bigger and more fatty, requiring quite a bit of preparation (& inevitable poundage loss). The stew meat I get from Publix, however, is so well trimmed I need only cut the pieces in half. 

**I used far less salt than the original recipe and still wished I had used less. So take care - our taste for salt has changed dramatically in the last few decades.

Grace note:  Although I added black pepper to this recipe, it requires no seasonings beyond the basic, each ingredient adding its own flavor to combine in a scrumptious taste all its own.


20-22 Lorna Doone cookies*
4 TBspn butter
2 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1 lb. cream cheese, softened
1 tspn. vanilla
1 can cherry pie filling

Break (or roll) cookies into fine pieces. Melt butter & pour into crumbs. Spread mix on large pie plate or square glass baking dish.
Mix eggs, sugar, cream cheese & vanilla. Beat about 10 minutes. (Less with an electric beater.) Pour on top of cookie mix. Bake at 350° for 25 minutes. Cool on wire rack; top with cherry filling. 

Will keep for several days in the refrigerator.

*Amazingly, Lorna Doone cookies are still with us after lo, these many years.

~ * ~

Below, companion mysteries - both set in "Golden Beach," Florida,
the fictional name I chose for the Gulf Coast town where I lived for 25 years.

~ * ~

For a link to Making Magic With Wordsclick here. 

For a link to Shadows Over Greystoke Grange on Amazon, click here.

For a link to Shadows Over Greystoke Grange on Smashwords (20% free read), click here.

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

Thanks for stopping by,


Saturday, February 22, 2020

Choosing a Title - 2

A friend I've known since age 16 when her mother became my grandgirls' nanny, now has two children of her own and has recently gone into the party-planning business. Here are two of the 32 pics she recently posted to Facebook. What an incredible job she and her business partner have done. If you live in the Orlando area, here is Maria's information:

Email :
Facebook and Instagram @EncantosOrlando

A 3+ foot mandala by one of our Crochet Club members


I frequently look at other people's books and think, "Oh, wow, what a great title!" Frankly, I struggle with mine, and there's no doubt some are better than others. But since, for me, it's necessary to have a title at the top of the page when I type "Chapter 1," creating a title is part of the initial process of writing a book. I would love to be able to sit down and write at least several chapters, get to know my characters, get the feel of the plot before finding a title, but nope, my mind doesn't seem to work that way. 

Have I changed a title in the course of writing a book? Oddly enough, only two come to mind. Hidden Danger, Hidden Heart went through several titles from the time I wrote "Chapter 1" to the time it went online. (I would list them here, but frankly I can't remember what they were.) And Rebel Princess started out as Blue Moon Rising for the simple reason I expected it to be a one-off, a fun digression into SciFi. Instead, the story insisted on taking four books, and Blue Moon Rising became the name of the series, necessitating a new title for Book 1.

Other than that, I've followed pretty much the same process each time:

1. I ask myself what my book is about. How can I cram the essence of my tale into a few words? Who or what is the most important character? What is it I want to emphasize?

For example, I was searching for various adjectives to go with Countess to describe the heroine of my last Regency Warrior book when I realized that the most important character this time around was the hero, and the book became The Abominable Major.  In my Regency Gothics the emphasis more often goes to "things" instead of people. Examples:  Shadows Over Greystoke Grange, The Ghosts of Rushton Court, The Blackthorne Curse, Tangled Destinies, The Demons of Fenley Marsh, The Mists of Moorhead Manor.

Why? Because in Gothics developing a sense of menace is all-important. In 3-5 words I've indicated that these stories are more eerie/suspense than tales of romance.

2.  Trial & Error.  I then sit down with a legal pad & pen and scribble down all the titles I can think of, no matter how awful or absurd. I may do this just once; I may do it several times over a period of days. Sometimes the right title leaps out at me; sometimes I continue to suffer, forcing myself to approach the problem from a different angle (as I did when I changed the title from feminine to masculine in The Abominable Major). When I have pinned my choices down to one or two . . .

3.  I go to Amazon and check the titles. And frequently find myself groaning as there are already two or three books by the titles I spent so much time choosing. Well, @#$%!  It's not that you can't have the same title, but really, who wants to be one of a crowd?

Example:  This is how my Lady Knight (a title I loved) became Florida Knight. Too many others had the same bright idea. Sigh. The same for The Art of Murder. After checking Amazon, my mystery set at the Ringling Museum in Sarasota became The Art of Evil.

4.  So . . . back to the drawing board. More scribbles. Maybe if I reverse those two words . . . Maybe I should just start from scratch. Out comes the legal pad and pen again. And yes, it's tough. Most authors complain about writing a synopsis. Which then gets boiled down to a blurb. Which, in turn, gets scrunched down to a Log Line for instant promo purposes. But getting your book down to Title size? That really is tough.

Below, I'm going to list a few more of my books and see if I can remember how they got their titles:

The Sometime Bride.  My very first. (It came out after Tarleton's Wife but was written first.) No, I don't recall the process - way back in the mid 90s - but the title was extremely apt as over seven years of the war against Napoleon, the heroine sees her husband only on rare occasions, although it is years before she realizes just how rare! So somehow I managed to say the most important point of the book in just three words.

The books that are easiest to name are the ones that emphasize a specific person:  Lady of the Lock, Lady Silence, Rebel Princess, Sorcerer's Bride, The Bastard Prince; the ladies of the Aphrodite Academy - Belle, Cecilia, Holly & Juliana. The Lady of the Lock was a girl who had been raised "lockside" by a father who engineered locks for canals. Lady Silence was a girl who did not talk.

Books like Tarleton's Wife and O'Rourke's Heiress are almost self-explanatory. Few agonies there. Steeplechase and Orange Blossoms & Mayhem were more of a challenge. In Steeplechase a young bride leads her thoughtless husband on a bumpy ride that almost ends in tragedy. My mystery (OB&M) was anchored in a wedding planning business run by a family with a history of far more daring adventures. Shadowed Paradise is a serial-killer tale, set in Florida. Its sequel, Paradise Burning, features a massive forest fire. Limbo Man, an international thriller, features a hero who has amnesia.

And as for Making Magic With Words - Advice on Writing & Editing . . .
I ran through countless possible titles with that one. I really wanted to call it Slay the Dragon, as my cover artist had found a great dragon pic, but in the end I bid fond farewell to the dragon and settled for a title that told the clear facts:  this is a "how to" book on Writing & Editing.

SUMMARY.  How do you reduce your book to 3-5 words? How do you capture a reader's attention? How do you create a title that calls out, "Read me!"?  I repeat:  titles are not my area of expertise, but I hope I've given you some helpful ideas. And the wonderful thing about the Computer Age is that you can change that title in two seconds flat. For indie authors, that means right up to the time you send it to your cover artist. Or perhaps I should say right up to the time he/she sends you the final cover copy. 

Titles are important. Take your time and do it right.

~ * ~


For a link to Making Magic With Wordsclick here. 

For a link to Shadows Over Greystoke Grange on Amazon, click here.

For a link to Shadows Over Greystoke Grange on Smashwords (20% free read), click here.

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

Thanks for stopping by,



Saturday, February 15, 2020

Choosing a Title

NIGHT LAUNCH! It's been ages since I saw a night launch from the Kennedy Space Center. It's delayed, it's too cloudy, I'm watching TV and forget to look . . . But this week the launch came with the late news and was right on time:  11:03 PM. I watched the launch, ran outside, and there it was, a great red glow rising over my neighbor's house, clear as a bell, as the saying goes. I watched that big red splotch until it was the size of pinpoint. Wow! (FYI, the rocket was sending a probe to explore the sun.)

~ * ~

A ladies' group in my church held a Mother-Daughter Tea this week, and I was pleased to attend not only with Susie but with two of the grandgirls. (Hailey was off to Daytona with her church group, but not until after she posed with the rest of us for a "hatted" photo.) The hat I'm wearing, by the way, was purchased by my mother at Filene's in Boston somewhere around 1936-37, for attending Tea at the Harvard Faculty Club while my father was in Graduate School. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to wear it. (There are two blue velvet ribbons that trail all the way down to the waist in back.)

 ~ * ~


After looking at the Inventory I posted last week, a friend asked if I had ever blogged about Titles, and of course that instantly became the Topic of the Week.

Firstly, let me confess that I do not consider Titles one of my better skills, and yet after my experiences with some of my past publishers, I have come to the conclusion that I'm a lot better at it than some of the editors I've had. Also, after naming and re-naming forty-plus books, I'm getting better at it. So for what it's worth, here are some of my experiences with Titles.

HE SAID, SHE SAID. I absolutely hated the title for this book, but it was my first print book, and who was I to argue? Why did Kensington change my original title of Love At Your Own Risk? Because, I was told, the Marketing Department objected to the word "Risk." Happily, when indie-pubbed years later, it returned to its original title.

THE INDIFFERENT EARL. In a problem similar to my experiences with Kensington, my first book for Signet came out with a title that made me grind my teeth. Even one of the reviews mentioned that the hero was far from indifferent! My title, The Courtesan's Letters, was rejected because "it wouldn't play well in the Heartland." (Literal quote - that's what my editor said.) Needless to say, when I got my rights back, I indie-pubbed it under my title, not Signet's. Note:  Despite its indifferent title, this book was nominated for RWA's RITA award and was chosen Best Regency of the Year by Romance Readers Magazine.

THE MAJOR MEETS HIS MATCH. Now this one I confess to tossing out as a possibility and my editor seized it. It certainly fit the story, but when I indie-pubbed it, I changed it to The Temporary Earl. It's been a long time ago, but I suspect I was capitalizing on readers' love of titles. A major is a gentleman, but an earl - Wow!

THE LADY AND THE CIT.  I really liked this title, and I figured readers of Regency romance knew what a "Cit" was. But I later fielded enough questions about it that when I went indie with it, it became A Gamble on Love. A title that described this remarkable marriage of convenience without anyone having to ask what a "Cit" was. (FYI, Cit was a not-so-complimentary name for men who actually earned a living rather than lived on inherited money. Some say it comes from the French Revolutionary "citizen"; I tend to think of it as a term for men who worked in the City of London, what we'd call "the business district.")

ROSES IN THE MIST.  I chose this title for my only Young Adult book all by myself. And I loved it. But when I eventually indie-pubbed it, I chose The Captive Heiress instead. Why? Probably because it was more attention-grabbing. With all the books on Amazon, Smashwords, and other vendors of indie books, an author needs all the eye-catchers he/she can get.

THE LAST SURPRISE.  This Christmas novella was published as part of an anthology - that year "Surprises" was the theme. When I indie-pubbed it, I wanted a title that gave a better hint of the story, and The Lady Learns to Love was born.

Grace note:  I have decided to leave the subject of naming a book from scratch for next week.  Lessons to be learned from the above:  1) editors are subject to the dictates of Marketing Departments; 2) busy editors do not always come up with the best names for your precious baby. So, if you don't like the title given your book—and if you think you can do it without alienating your meal ticket!—object. But do not object unless you have a better title to offer and good reasons why your title is better. Let's face it:  "Don't bite the hand that feeds you" is an adage that still prevails. Remind yourself that when you go indie, you can do as you please!

~ * ~

A peek at the Social Media ad for Shadows Over Greystoke Grange:


For a link to Shadows Over Greystoke Grange on Amazon, click here.

For a link to Shadows Over Greystoke Grange on Smashwords (20% free read), click here.

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


For a link to Making Magic With Wordsclick here. 

Thanks for stopping by,



Saturday, February 8, 2020

Blair Inventory

I don't believe I have ever posted an inventory of all my books as Blair Bancroft, and the beginning of 2020 seems like a good time. So here they are, all forty-plus, illustrated with an occasional cover (beginning with my very first publication, Tarleton's Wife - although the cover above is #4 in its twenty-year history).

available online at Amazon, Barnes & Noble,
Smashwords & other online distributors

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

Traditional Regencies
Lady of the Lock
Lady Silence
The Harem Bride
A Season for Love
A Gamble on Love
The Temporary Earl
The Courtesan’s Letters
Mistletoe Moment
A Lady Learns to Love

Regency Gothics

Shadows Over Greystoke Grange
The Ghosts of Rushton Court
The Blackthorne Curse
Tangled Destinies
The Welshman’s Bride
The Demons of Fenley Marsh
The Mists of Moorhead Manor
Brides of Falconfell

The Aphrodite Academy series* (in order)
(Regency Darkside)

*Age 18+
Also available in a Boxed Set

The Captive Heiress (YA+)
(See also Florida Knight)

Steampunk/Alternative History
Airborne - The Hanover Restoration

Romantic Suspense, Thrillers & Mystery
Hidden Danger, Hidden Heart
Death by Marriage
Orange Blossoms & Mayhem
Shadowed Paradise
Paradise Burning
The Art of Evil (set in Sarasota)
Limbo Man
(international thriller)

*GB - Set in “Golden Beach” on Florida’s Gulf Coast.

Contemporary Romance
Florida Knight  (GB)
Love At Your Own Risk (Cape Cod)

SciFi Adventure/Romance**
Blue Moon Rising series (in order)
Rebel Princess
Sorcerer’s Bride
The Bastard Prince
Royal Rebellion

**Also available in a boxed set


Making Magic With Words - Advice on
   Writing & Editing

                   * * *

Note:  Sample free reads are available on Amazon Kindle & Smashwords.
~ * ~

For a link to Making Magic With Wordsclick here. 

For a link to Shadows Over Greystoke Grange on Amazon, click here.

For a link to Shadows Over Greystoke Grange on Smashwords, click here.

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

Thanks for stopping by,



Saturday, February 1, 2020

Killed by Pedanticism

Cassidy, Riley, Hailey at Aladdin at the Dr. Phillips Performing Arts Center. And no, that's not teenage indifference - Mommy mistook the performance time and they had to rush out of the house without time to change.

At the beach earlier this week, Cassidy proved that Riley isn't the only grandchild to inherit Grampa Elliott's gift for photography.

~ * ~

Now that Making Magic With Words is finally available on Amazon Kindle (link below), I'm free to continue with a few more comments on Writing and Editing. Today's subject:  how easy it is to shoot yourself in the foot by being too pedantic.


The first thing every author of Historical Romance learns is:  Do not alienate your readers by putting too much history in your Historical Romances. Now of course I had never heard of this rule when I wrote The Sometime Bride and Tarleton's Wife, but somehow I muddled through—they're both still selling after twenty years on the market.

BUT . . . over the past year I have seen what I can only call shocking examples of authors I wish had the benefit of the advice offered by the Romance Writers of America. There really are reasons for cautioning authors of fiction not to get so carried away by their research that they tell readers far more than they'd ever want to know about "facts," to the point of obscuring the emotions and personalities of their characters, as well as the unfolding of the plot.

1.  My first example has been mentioned on this blog before, but I felt it should be included here, as a pedantic, "non-fiction" mindset was the only excuse I could think of for the author who wrote an incredibly well-researched historical novel, but made it almost impossible to read as he/she used NO punctuation in the dialogue. As if the author had never read a work of fiction and had no idea how to express the spoken word. This is Pedanticism to the max. The Arrogance of Academia, if you will. 

The point:  Never, ever write anything without reading extensively the works already available in the genre of your choice. And never be so arrogant you think you know how to write a work of fiction when you have never read anything but text books and non-fiction!

2.  I recently bought a work of fiction by a new author. The blurb sounded intriguing, but when I turned to Page One, I was amazed to discover an "Introduction" that went on page after page in an academic style similar to a thesis or dissertation. In a work of Fiction?? I could not help but wonder how many would-be readers bothered to continue on to the actual story. I did not.

The point:  There is no place for "Introductions" in Fiction. In e-publishing, no place for anything at all upfront. Page One = Chapter 1. And I do wish print publishers would use a similar format for the e-versions of their books, relegating Reviews, Thank-you's, etc. to the back of the book, not the front. I grind my teeth every time I have to hit the Forward button multiple times to get to Chapter One.)

Repeat:  Author's Notes, historical background, thank-you's, etc., go at the back of the book. And absolutely NO information dumps that sound even remotely like a PhD. dissertation. This style of writing has no place in a work of Fiction. There are, of course, exceptions to every rule. I've been know to put a BRIEF Author's Note at the beginning of a book when necessary. My most recent, Shadows Over Greystoke Grange, is a good example. I felt an upfront warning of "Do not try these spells at home" added a certain something to a tale of amateur witchcraft!

3.  Sometimes an author can mess up, even in a work of Non-fiction.

I was thrilled to discover that at long last a book by an ancestor of mine had been translated into English. I immediately purchased it (in print) from Amazon. When I sat down to read it, I felt obligated to read the Introduction first. The author had, after all, gone to the trouble of translating a book from a rather obscure language and an age far in the past. But as I plowed my way through page after pedantic page, I ground my teeth over the pace, over details that seemed patently unnecessary. Finally, after several abortive tries to get through the Introduction, I started flipping pages until I got to the meat:  what my ancestor actually wrote, lo, so many hundreds of years ago.

And guess what? His writing was concise, every sentence crafted for easy understanding. Paragraph after paragraph of precise instruction for the young men of his day—the very first book on "how to be knight." A book that lays out all the duties and responsibilities of a knight and the importance of that position as defender of his people.

A true treasure, and I'd almost given up on it because the translator prefaced the book, not with a reasonable explanation of how his translation had come about, but an entire thesis which was almost as long as the manuscript itself. 

The point:  Even when writing non-fiction, do not put readers off by a lengthy pat on the back because you did so much research or because you have to explain why your work is better than someone else's. A brief, to-the-point Intro is enough, with the Bibliography and/or Thank-you's in the back. Do not put readers off by intruding too much of yourself into the mix. Allow your work to stand on its merit.

~ * ~

For a link to Making Magic With Wordsclick here. 

For a link to Shadows Over Greystoke Grange on Amazon, click here.

For a link to Shadows Over Greystoke Grange on Smashwords, click here.

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

Thanks for stopping by,