Grace's Mosaic Moments

Saturday, December 25, 2021

Post-Holiday Comfort Food

Spider Webs - This amazing photo taken by Maggie Toussaint

What's kept me busy for the last few weeks.

Rehearsal photo (taken by our director, Tim Hanes) for Lessons & Carols, our big Christmas performance, for which we're joined by our Youth Choir, a Senior Chorus from Orlando, numerous singers of all ages, and an orchestra (beneath the windows). I'm happy to say it was a big success, particularly after being canceled last year. Everyone really sang from the heart, and it was a truly memorable event.





After a hiatus last year, The Citrus Singers once again performed the National Anthem at the start of the Cure Bowl here in Orlando. They have done it beautifully for years, but now that they're older - well, wow! Some of them even hit those special high notes at the end. To hear the Girl Scout rendition of "The Star-Spangled banner, click here. 


And now, one of those gems found on Facebook:

These  insults are from an era “before” the English language got boiled down to 4-letter words.

 1. "He had delusions of adequacy ” Walter Kerr

 2. "He has all the virtues I dislike and none of the vices I admire.”- Winston Churchill

3. "I have never killed a man, but I have read many obituaries with great pleasure. - Clarence Darrow

4. "He has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary.”-William Faulkner (about Ernest Hemingway)

5. "Poor Faulkner. Does he really think big emotions come from big words?"- Ernest Hemingway (about William Faulkner)

6. "Thank you for sending me a copy of your book; I'll waste no time reading it.” - Moses Hadas

7. "I didn't attend the funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying I approved of it.” - Mark Twain

8. "He has no enemies, but is intensely disliked by his friends.” - Oscar Wilde

9. "I am enclosing two tickets to the first night of my new play; bring a friend, if you have one.”   -George Bernard Shaw to Winston Churchill

10. "Cannot possibly attend first night, will attend second... if there is one.” - Winston Churchill, in response

11. "I feel so miserable without you; it's almost like having you here” - Stephen Bishop

12. "He is a self-made man and worships his creator.” - John Bright

13. "I've just learned about his illness. Let's hope it's nothing trivial.” - Irvin S. Cobb

14. "He is not only dull himself; he is the cause of dullness in others.” - Samuel Johnson

15. "He is simply a shiver looking for a spine to run up. -  Paul Keating

16. "He loves nature in spite of what it did to him.” - Forrest Tucker

17.  "Why do you sit there looking like an envelope without any address on it?” - Mark Twain

18. "His mother should have thrown him away and kept the stork.” - Mae West

19. "Some cause happiness wherever they go; others, whenever they go.” - Oscar Wilde

20. "He uses statistics as a drunken man uses lamp-posts... for support rather than illumination.” - Andrew Lang (1844-1912)

21. "He has Van Gogh's ear for music.” - Billy Wilder

22. "I've had a perfectly wonderful evening. But I'm afraid this wasn't it.” - Groucho Marx

23. The exchange between Winston Churchill & Lady Astor: She said, "If you were my husband I'd give you poison." He said, "If you were my wife, I'd drink it."

24. "He can compress the most words into the smallest idea of any man I know." - Abraham Lincoln

25. "There's nothing wrong with you that reincarnation won't cure." -- Jack E.  Leonard

26. "They never open their mouths without subtracting from the sum of human knowledge." --  Thomas Brackett Reed

27. "He inherited some good instincts from his Quaker forebears, but by diligent hard work, he overcame them." -- James Reston (about Richard Nixon)

~ * ~



(Excerpts from the Cookbook I prepared
for the Grandgirls this Christmas)



This really great-tasting meal freezes well. (Ingredients and Seasonings are flexible, depending on the amount of meat and your personal taste.)

Note: Although this is an easy recipe, there a lot of ingredients. Things will go more smoothly if you prepare all the additions ahead of time: chop the onion & garlic; lay out all the other ingredients like soldiers on parade.

olive oil or olive oil spray
1 - 1½ lbs. ground beef
1 onion, chopped or sliced into small bits
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1 can (14½ oz) diced tomatoes, undrained
¼ - ½ cup golden raisins*
¼ - ½ cup sliced green olives
¼ - ½ cups slivered almonds
capers, to taste (optional)
½ - 1 tablespoon chili powder
½ - 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes (or to taste)
c. ½ teaspoon salt - less if using capers
c. 3/4 cup beef broth - or heaping teaspoon of beef granules + 3/4 cup water
White rice

*Regular raisins can be substituted, but it’s just not the same.

Brown ground beef in small amount of hot olive oil in large nonstick skillet, adding onion & garlic when beef is nearly brown.Turn down heat to medium. Cook until onions are soft (translucent). Drain liquid.  Add tomatoes with juice, raisins, olives, almonds, capers & all seasonings. Add beef broth. Stir to mix well. Simmer c. 30 minutes for best mix of flavors.

While picadillo simmers, cook enough white rice to serve each person. Serve picadillo over rice, with added almonds, if desired.

Note: picadillo varies according to who makes it - some add apple, some use tomato sauce, some use tomato paste, etc.  Add the amounts of raisins, olives, almonds, & capers that suit your family’s taste.



This is one of those recipes that appears to be completely ordinary but has an extraordinary flavor. Well worth trying.

½ lb. bulk sausage*
1 small onion, sliced (½ cup)
1 clove garlic, minced
½ lb. (1½ cups) cubed cooked ham
2 tablespoons snipped parsley
1 bay leaf
2 15-oz. cans navy beans
¼ cup dry white wine
Dash, ground cloves

*I use Jimmy Dean.

In skillet, cook sausage, onion & garlic until meat is lightly browned and vegetables are tender; drain off excess fat. Add ham, parsley and bay leaf; mix well. Stir in undrained beans, wine & cloves. Pour into 1½-2 qt. casserole. Bake, covered, at 325° for 45 minutes. Uncover and bake 40-45 minutes more, stirring occasionally. Remove bay leaf. Serve in bowls. Serves 6.

 ~ * ~

In the midst of the latest Covid surge, may I recommend my Matthew Wolfe series (3 novellas), designed specifically as a Covid-Blues-chaser. Old-fashioned family entertainment—the tale of a young man's rise from rags to riches in Regency England. Humor, action, a dash of romance. No sex scenes. Try it. You just might like it. Below, the cover for Book 3.

Available at Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, 
and most online ebook vendors.

~ * ~


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

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


Thanks for stopping by,

Grace (Blair Bancroft)



Saturday, November 27, 2021

For Your Christmas Reading

 At Thanksgiving dinner we discovered that my middle granddaughter, Riley, has become an entrepreneur. At sixteen. She's been making necklaces of polished stone for sometime, but she has recently added necklaces featuring fossilized sharks' teeth she found herself while accompanying her mother on her fossil expeditions. Many are quite different colors from the black ones found along Venice beaches where we used to live. Those imbedded in INLAND sand (covered by water millennia ago) are varying shades of blue-gray and beige. 

And this week Riley fulfilled her first mass order for display at Colonial Room Country Store on Main Street in Sanford. Photo below. (And yes, the double entendre of her brand name is deliberate.)


 Over the years I've written three stories that feature Christmas:  two novellas for Christmas anthologies, and a traditional Regency in which Christmas plays a strong role. The novellas have many poignant moments on the way to Romance. The trad Regency is more of a tug of war between two strong personalities.


After suffering social disaster at her very first ball—severely aggravated by the horror of an unfeeling family—Miss Pamela Ashburton hides herself in the country, expecting to live out her life as a spinster. Major Will Forsythe, injured in body and spirit at Waterloo, comes to the country to escape the concern of well-meaning relatives. Privacy, peace and quiet—that's all he wants. Until he meets a holiday sprite in search of mistletoe. And the Christmas spirit, in the form of a cluster of white berries, gives them both a second chance.

 A Lady Learns to Love is the poignant tale of a family faced with tragedy, amplified by unforeseen circumstances, who still manage to survive, aided by the spirit of Christmas.

Marriage, yes. Love, no. Lady Christine Ashworth's glorious Season in London comes to an abrupt close with the death of her father. Her home now belongs to someone else; her fiancé is conspicuous by his absence; and her younger sister is as miserable in their new home as she is. What can Christine do but accept an offer from the despised heir, even if she now considers all men anathema, particularly the perfect stranger who has taken her father's place?

Miss Aurelia Trevor has a problem. Until she reaches the age of twenty-five, she will have no control over her beloved Pevensey Park, and by that time her unscrupulous uncle will have run it into the ground. Marriage to someone other than her uncle's leering son is her only way out, but, one by one, she rejects the men on her list of suitors. In desperation, Aurelia does the unthinkable. She hires a solicitor to find her a husband strong enough to stand up to both her uncle and her cousin. And soon learns the truth of that old adage: Be careful what you wish for.

Thomas Lanning is a man of the City. Unlike Aurelia, who stands to inherit vast land and wealth, he has made his own place in the world. He is not at all tempted by the suggestion of marriage to an heiress, but other considerations, such as a power base for a seat in Parliament, tweak his interest. Plus an unexpected twinge of chivalry when he hears the full extent of Miss Trevor's difficulties with her uncle and his family.

Aurelia, who only wants to live in peace on her acres, finds she has acquired a ready-made family in Thomas's younger sister and brother, as well as a head-strong husband whose campaign for MP fills her household with a shockingly odd assortment of characters. It seems her marriage of convenience is fast becoming a marriage of inconvenience. Just how far will this strong-willed pair bend to accommodate each other? And will they do it before it's too late?

~ * ~


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

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


Thanks for stopping by,

Grace (Blair Bancroft)


Saturday, November 20, 2021

The Witch and the Wolf

By Marie Hertzberg, November 2021, on Facebook

Perfect owl camouflage, found on Facebook

~ * ~


 As research for Crucible Kingdom, my current spin-off of the Blue Moon series (SciFi/Fantasy), I've been re-reading all four books of the series, and I've reached the point of the "Interim" between Books 3 and 4. It was a tricky moment—I never intended to write a story complete in one chapter, but I needed to wind up a bit of unfinished business from The Bastard Prince before I could get into the drama of Royal Rebellion. And somehow, the chapter I now call "The Witch and the Wolf" was born. And now that it's come to life again, I'd like to share it with those who have not read it in the past. If you like it, please consider taking a look at the four-book series:  Rebel Princess, Sorcerer's Bride, The Bastard Prince, & Royal Rebellion.

Grace note: From the standpoint of Writing & Editing tips, I like to think "Interim" is a good example of an opening chapter that reminds readers of characters from Books 1-3, as well as providing an intro to the characters for those who have not read the first three books. "Interim" also ties up a romantic loose end that simply didn't fit into the previous books but needed a Happily Ever After before Book 4 could get down to defeating the nasty old Empire!


The scene in the story below is the pacifist planet Psyclid, where four royal children have turned their backs on their upbringing and joined a rebellion against a classic aggressive Empire . . . and on the significant others who were supposedly destined to share their lives. B'aela is the eldest (natural) daughter of Psyclid's king; T'kal, a tough rebel leader, construction boss, and werewolf. K'kadi, the king's youngest child, whose psychic powers are "over the top," is also a bastard.


The ballroom, Crystalia, the Psyclid royal palace
Two Blue Moon cycles after the Battle of Psyclid
   The music flourished to a close, the women’s skirts flaring in a final kaleidoscope of color before settling to hug their bodies close as they dipped into curtsies. Their partners bowed, the men’s bright tunics competing with the women for which gender would add the most brilliance and sparkle to the evening.
   All but one, that is—a man slunk into the shadows behind a marble pillar, his back against the wall. Although he wore the required tight white hose, his tunic of black velvet fell well below his knees, his sole concession to fashion the intricate gold embroidery on his sleeves and on the bottom of the tunic. Embroidery he could not reject because his sister had created the garment with her very own hands, so what was a man to do?
   Except hide.
   He should not be here. This was a night for celebrating the completion of Psyclid’s ridó.
   A full two Blue Moon cycles after it was needed.
   He had failed. Men had died, ships were lost because there was a gap in the force field intended to protect Psyclid from the Regs. From the revenge of a mighty Emperor on a pacifist planet that asked only to be left alone.
   He, T’kal Killiri, had been tasked with getting the job done, and he’d fallen short. He was here tonight only because King Ryal had ordered it. And if there was one thing the Pysclid engineer was, it was loyal to the crown.
   A trumpet fanfare echoed through the vast ballroom. T’kal winced, recognizing the signal for what it was. The royal family was arriving and the ceremony was about to begin. The ceremony he wanted no part of.
   Fyddit! (Only the Regs had profanity strong enough for the occasion.)
   There was a great shuffling as the crowd parted, making a broad aisle from the ballroom’s double-doored entrance to the dais raised a good two meters off the floor, where a gilded throne with scarlet velvet seat and back, flanked by equally colorful sidechairs, awaited the Psyclid royal family.
   And there they were, emerging from the crowd, ascending the steps—King Ryal and his wife Jalaine. Six feet behind, the Princess M’lani, her red-gold hair gleaming in the light of the crystal chandeliers, her beauty unrivaled, even by the sister she had replaced as Heir Apparent. At her side, not accepting his proper place a few steps behind, was her husband Jagan, the Sorcerer Prime. The man who came late to the rebellion. T’kal’s lips curled in remembered derision. He and Jagan Mondragon were never going to be close. It had, in fact, taken considerable effort by the Princess M’lani to get them to work together to save Psyclid from the Regs.
   What . . . ?
   Shaken out of his stubborn indifference, T’kal stared as another couple mounted the steps.    Unexpected guests from Blue Moon. Not Tal and Kass, but the youngest royal and his Herc wife—K’kadi the bastard. K’kadi, whose powers seemed to expand from minute to minute. K’kadi the Strange turned K’kadi the Seer. The despair of the royal family become its most powerful weapon.
   T’Kal, who had witnessed one of K’kadi’s losses of concentration, still had his doubts.
   Among the missing royal children was King Ryal’s other bastard, his eldest child, B’aela Flammia, a witch best known as the Sorcerer Prime’s foremost assistant and long-time mistress. Before, that is, she transferred her favors to the acting Reg governor, Admiral Rand Kamal, nephew of Darroch, emperor of twelve star systems, the man who abhored the defiance of an obscure pacifist planet that refused to stay conquered. Unfortunately, Baela’s notoriety would never go away, even though her liaison with Kamal had been as a spy for her country. T’kal, knowing her as well as he did, suspected B’aela had likely refused to join the royal parade. She had not, after all, been raised a royal, as had Ryal’s other three children.
   She was here, though—somewhere in the crowded ballroom. T’kal always knew when she was near. Whether on a dark, dangerous night in Oban or in Crystalia’s crowded ballroom, her scent filled his head. A problem he had steadfastly ignored for many years.
   It was no surprise, however, that Tal and Kass weren’t here. Tal, leader of the rebellion, had sent a handwritten letter congratulating T’kal on the completion of the ridó. And confided that his wife, once Psyclid's Princess Royal, was suffering through a bad first trimester and would be unable to attend the festivities. As for his own absence, he hoped T’kal would understand. He still liked to think that keeping a low profile was protecting his parents and brother and sister who still lived on Regula Prime. Although, Tal added, it was more likely that by now half the Nebulon Sector must suspect that former Reg Captain Talryn Rigel and his huntership Orion had not been lost in a battle with the Nyx.
   T’kal ducked his head, glowering at the intricately patterned floor of green and white marble tiles. Tal’s note had suddenly become a stark reminder that the battle against the Regs was far from over. That celebration—even a small one like tonight—was premature.
   Another fanfare. The crowd surged forward, the gap filling in as all eyes turned toward the dais.
   Gap. T’kal winced.
   King Ryal, still a vital, fine-looking man though closer to sixty than fifty, stepped forward, his words smoothly amplified so they could be heard in the farthest corner of the ballroom. Even all the way to the wall stuck to T’kal Killiri’s back. “Friends, guests, welcome! You all know why we are here. Tonight we honor a man who has gone too long without recognition.”
   As he spoke, Ryal’s sharp eyes searched the crowd. Not a sign of tonight’s honoree. “When we were invaded by the Regulons . . .” Psyclid's king continued. “When we were shocked, confused, and in despair because we had no idea how to fight back, one person stepped forward. One person sought out other brave souls, found ways to make the Regs sorry they’d ever thought of invading Psyclid. Five years later when our Sorcerer Prime returned from exile, he found a large and effective resistance force already in place, considerably shortening our march toward Freedom Day.”
   Murmurs of agreement and approval swept through crowd. T’kal continued to study the colorful swirls in the marble tiles.
   “So naturally, when the Emperor threatened us once again, we turned to the same man, putting him in charge of building a ridó twenty times the size of the one protecting Blue Moon, a task which required re-discovering a technology long lost. And in spite of the near impossibility of what we asked of him, the ridó was built, only a tiny gap over open ocean unprotected by the time the Regs attacked.”
   King Ryal paused, dropping his gaze to his eldest daughter, who was standing in the front row just below the dais. “There are many other heroic acts I could name, but Killiri is a modest man. He will tell you that he failed because the ridó was not complete on the day the Regs struck. But where would we be now if it had not held over Crystal City? Over every city, town, and field on the planet? Where would we be without . . . T’KAL KILLIRI!?”
   T’kal wanted to turn tail and run, but he settled for pushing his back tighter against the wall as the roar of the crowd nearly deafened him. He didn’t stand a chance of remaining anonymous, of course, since his friends,  knowing how he felt about this event, had stacked the odds against him long before the evening began. His brother-in-law, Anton Stagg, descended on him from one side; Master Sergeant Joss Quint from the other. In front, two of the men who had been with T’kal that night in Oban opened a way through the crowd, both grinning from ear to ear.
   He’d known it would come to this. There was no way out of it. And now that the moment was here, he said all the right things, praised those who had done the actual engineering. Thanked those who labored so long and hard at a task whose completion seemed more a miracle than a technological triumph. He even thanked that constant source of annoyance, Jagan Mondragon, Sorcerer Prime. Looking back through the years, it was a wonder they hadn’t killed each other.
   Not that he said that, of course. T’kal’s lips twitched. No, he and B’aela’s long-time lover would never be friends.
   After granting a teeth-gritting half-minute to acknowledge the crowd’s shouts, howls, claps, and stamping feet, T’kal forced himself to descend the steps with dignity, his full attention on the goal of losing himself in the mass of people below. Except . . .
   B’aela was there. She seized his hand, the crowd melting away before them, with no more hindrance than calls of Well done! Thank you! and a fervent May the Goddess bless you! to mark their passage across the ballroom. The open doors to a balcony closed behind them, T’kal’s self-appointed bodyguards taking up a stance before them, barring any who might try to follow.
   “A well-executed maneuver, Highness,” T’kal drawled. “I suppose you planned the whole thing.”
   Dark eyes that had been sparkling with joy turned frigid. “Highness?” she asked. “Since when, T’kal?”
   “Since the day I learned the truth.”
   “Ancient history, Daman Killiri,” she returned with equally lethal formality. “You have had plenty of time to get over it.”
   “I have had time to face the reality of it.”
   “T’kal! We’ve spoken fifty, a hundred times since then, and never before—”
   “We were colleagues, working together against the Regs, working to restore the country—”
   “We were friends. Are friends!”
   T’kal looked out over the palace curtain wall to the shimmering beauty of Crystal City at night. At the crystalline buildings lit in a rainbow of colors topped by black sky, the infinite number of stars outshone by the light of Psyclid’s three moons—Blue at full, Red a mere crescent, and White down to a waning half low on the horizon. He was being stubborn. Again. The quality that made him so good at getting things done. And so poor at achieving any personal happiness.
   He suspected tonight was now or never. B’aela had played her part. It was his turn to be  braver than he’d ever had to be before. Even that time on Oban.
   “A fine setting for solving problems,” he offered.
   “Yes.” Her face softened ever so slightly. The militant look in her dark eyes faded to questioning.
   And there she was, the only woman with the capacity to make him forget N’tali. Even when he had not liked B’aela Flammia, she had stirred him out of the grief he had wrapped around himself for so long. T’kal took in the view that was far more fascinating than the beauty of Crystal City at night: a strong nose in a pale narrow face, huge brown eyes accustomed to hiding every emotion, the masses of dark brown hair as curly as his own, confined tonight in an intricate array of braids and studded with diamonds. If he didn’t unfreeze his tongue and say what needed to be said, he really was the greatest fool in the Nebulon Sec—
   “Sometimes,” B’aela said with care, “I miss the days of the resistance. There was a camaraderie, a special something impossible to recapture.”
   He knew exactly what she meant. He’d had thoughts, even back in the days when she was Jagan Mondragon’s discarded mistress. Thoughts that coalesced in Oban. And were shattered when she offered herself, willingly, to the enemy. Disintegrated completely when B’aela’s mother revealed she was born of the House of Orlondami, fathered by a king.
   Which, of course, reminded him of another problem—the once-favorite nephew of Emperor Darroch. “I heard that Kamal came back with you from Hercula,” T’kal said, tossing yet another obstacle into the mix. “That he fought the Regs. Evidently, your powers are even more wondrous than anticipated.”
   B’aela sucked in a sharp breath. “You cannot think—you who were my contact—” She broke off, gaping at him. “You know quite well I went to Kamal for revenge. And as a spy. You cannot believe that now we are free, I would—”
   But, agonizingly, she had to admit it was true. Regulon Admiral Rand Kamal, former acting governor of Psyclid, had been at the forefront of the Regulon attack on Hercula. He had lost his ship, been captured, and ended up commanding an armed merchant against the Reg’s latest attack on Psyclid. And she, B’aela Flammia, had shared a ship with her former lover all those long weeks home from Hercula to Blue Moon. T’kal had every right to wonder if she had played a role—perhaps an intimate role—in his defection from the Empire.
   “You will appreciate the irony, I'm sure,” she returned, her tone now cool and slightly caustic. “On our journey to Hercula, I shared a cabin with K’kadi’s mother, Anneli, and we have kept in touch. Which is how I know that Rand Kamal has a new interest in his life. And that it has become serious enough he may make the liaison permanent if his wife ever grants him a divorce.”
   T’kal rubbed at the frown lines on his forehead. Kamal and K’kadi’s mother? Then again, it was a pairing no stranger than the other convoluted romances that marked the rebel cause. Tal Rigel, once a Reg Fleet Captain, and Kass, former crown princess of Psyclid.  M’lani married to her sister’s former fiancé, Jagan Mondragon. K’kadi from Blue Moon and Alala, the Herculon warrior. T’kal’s own sister married to Anton Stagg, a Reg.
   Of all the royal children, only B’aela, the eldest, remained unmarried. And, to T'kal's gut-wrenching surprise, seemed to be hinting at an interest in the weirdest pairing yet.
   “There is a certain matter Ryal did not mention,” B’aela said. “He wished to spare me further humiliation, but we have not forgotten that among your many heroics, I owe you my life.”
   “I would have gone to Oban for anyone who needed rescuing.”
   “I know . . . but it wasn’t like that, was it?”
   T’kal drew a deep breath. “No.”
   “You were so angry when I went to Kamal. Every time I reported to you, you positively seethed.”
   “I know you loved your wife. A good woman. Pure." The words tumbled out. "It is the talk of Psyclid that you have never looked at another—”
   I looked. I did not act.”
   He knew what she was trying to say. An acknowledgment of something they’d each known for a long time, and for a myriad reasons refused to examine more closely.
   “B’aela,” he burst out, “you know what I am!”
   “As you know what I am.” A whore. Unworthy of the Hero of Psyclid. Most particularly,  the role of mother to his children.
   “Feelings aside,” T’kal said, ignoring the scarlet letter B’aela was certain must be flashing  on her forehead, “I fear the pairing of witch and wolf.”
   Dear goddess! She’d thought of all the other reasons he might object, but not that. Under the light of a full Blue Moon, B’aela studied the man she had admired for so long—the dark eyes, the square jaw, the sturdy body with shoulders broad enough to carry the whole of Psyclid on his back. “When I was very young,” she told the Alpha of his pack, “I thought I knew what love was. I wanted the Sorcerer Prime as a plant longs for the sun. But the sun burns, and in the wisdom of a more advanced age, another man caught my eye and my admiration. A man who flew half way round the world to save me from the most terrible degradation of my life. A man who single-handedly took down the Reg Governor-General—”
   “‘Handedly’ is perhaps not the most accurate word,” T’kal drawled.
   Distracted for a moment by his grim humor, B’aela pictured a shaggy gray wolf tearing out the throat of Governor-General Anton Grigorev. She had not been there, but she had savored the reality of it many times over.
   B’aela drew a shuddering breath and continued with the most difficult words she would ever have to say. The truly important ones she had to get out because it appeared T’kal never would. She was unworthy, she knew that, but she had crafted every second of these snatched minutes on the balcony, and she would not throw the opportunity away.
   “I wish to continue my list,” she said, meeting him eye to eye and emphasizing each word. “A man I have come to love, and whose children I would like to make my own.” Her chin jutted up.  “Even though I know I have fallen too far and have no right to ask for any man’s love—”
   “Hush!” At long last, T’kal did not hesitate. He folded her tight against his chest. “I would say madness has attacked us both, but since it’s been this way with us for some years now . . .” B’aela felt a chuckle ripple through his chest. “Whichever way I look at it, it’s wrong. Except you are the only woman who has ever tempted me into a second love. So I fear we may be stuck with each other.” His lips against her temple, T’kal added, “As part of your plans, you wouldn’t by any chance have a limm standing by?”
   “But of course. How else would I take home the man of the hour?”

   K’kadi, who had been released from the dais and was dancing with Talora Lassan, the woman some called his second wife, smiled and nodded his satisfaction. It was about time B’aela took his mother’s advice. Which, he realized, would likely make him related to four of the most powerful men in the Nebulon Sector: Tal Rigel, Jagan Mondragon, T’kal Killiri, and in the not-too-distant future, the Emperor's nephew, Rand Kamal.
   The end of the Empire was coming. It would take a while, but it would happen. That much he knew. Though who would sit on which throne—which thrones would even exist when all was said and done—was beyond even his powers of prognostication.

~ * ~

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

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


Thanks for stopping by,

Grace (Blair Bancroft)


Saturday, November 13, 2021

Know Your Genre

 My cat Squeak likes to sleep on tables, indoors and out. But she's never been destructive until the past week, when she sort of went nuts. At first, I attributed it to my inability to provide her with her favorite cat good (lost on one of those container ships, I suspect); but then I realized that I had added a third plant to a table she likes to sit on, leaving her very little space. Whatever the reason, on Night One of her rampage, she knocked over a plant, my lawn rake, a basket of garden gloves, and sent two garden hats from a chair onto the floor. On Night Two, she knocked over two plants, sending them crashing to the floor, the soil spilling out. She also decked the rake again. And it looks like she's tearing the rim off wastebasket/rain-catcher. Can't wait to see what she does for an encore. I've always said she's more like a spoiled child than a cat, and I guess she's out to prove it.

To end on a happier note, here's a fabulous sunset posted to Facebook by Martha Duke Anderson.

 ~ * ~

This week, a reprint from 2016 (copied from Making Magic With Words, a compilation of my blogs on Writing and Editing from 2011-2019). My advice has always been aimed at newbies, hoping to spare them some of the anguish I endured and offering wisdom I learned the hard way. After looking over the blog on understanding your genre, much of it still seems valid. Even indie authors will run up against readers balking at novels that don't "follow the rules." A concept to which I am diametrically opposed, but that doesn't keep it from being absolutely true.

January 23, 2016


I frequently find my blog topic in events that happened during the week, whether in my own writing or in my editing work. And this week, as I attempted to explain the nuances of Romantic Suspense to an author who thought that's what she was writing, I realized something I had forgotten since those first struggling years as an author:  sometimes it's really tough to know what the guidelines are for a certain sub-genre of romance, let alone follow them well enough to impress an editor or agent.

 Frankly, if you want to "write in the cracks"—skimming styles from multiple genres—indie publishing may be the only way to go. Editors who must adhere to the requirements of a "line" and agents who want to be sure they're going to make money with your book are going to be leery of any story that strays from the accepted norm, no matter how good it is. Certainly, I ran into this problem head-on when I started submitting back in the late '90s. I was writing what I wanted to write—and running head-on into the conventions of romance. Back then, it was pretty much "Start out writing for Harlequin/Silhouette, and if you're good enough, maybe you'll be able to break out into something longer and more serious (after a suitable number of years as an apprentice). My problem:  I started out writing "Mainstream," although at the time I had no idea that's what I was doing. (And yes, as I've said before, those first two books, Tartleton's Wife and The Sometime Bride, are still the best work I ever did. Because I wrote from the heart, paying no attention to rules I didn't know existed. As proof positive, I was just granted my rights to my books published by Ellora's Cave Blush—all but Tarleton's Wife, which in its fourth incarnation since it was first published in 1999, is still selling too many copies to qualify for rights reversion!)

So what's an author to do? In attempting to analyze only Romantic Suspense, I was forced to acknowledge three styles:

1.  Category Suspense - short, 60% romance, 40% suspense

2.  Middle-of-the-road - 80,000+ words, strong suspense plot, strong romance (sex scenes likely), plenty of action but not too bloody or hair-raising, minimal profanity

3. Mainstream - 90,000+ words, emphasis on complex plot and hard-hitting suspense, romance a factor but not predominant. Gritty details, blood & guts. Profanity likely. Skilled writing a must.

A good example of an author who writes all three is that most prolific and respected romance author, Nora Roberts.  Although she no longer writes category, that is how she got her start. And she seems to alternate her more recent books between series aimed at the "middle" romance market and the more hard-hitting single title mainstreams. And then there are her mysteries, written under the pseudonym, J. D. Robb!

So how does an author figure out the vagaries of Romantic Suspense, let alone all those other sub-genres of Romance? I have only one bit of advice. Explore book stores and online until you find the genre you like best. (You probably already know what that is. But maybe not. Until recently I avoided one of my true loves—Science Fiction— because I thought I didn't have the technical knowledge to write it.)

Do your homework. Find the genre you most want to write. Then read, read, read the best books you can find in that field. Don't even think of writing a single word until you've researched the parameters of your chosen genre.

Example:  If you want to write a cozy mystery, death is usually off-stage, even the action is not "strong stuff."  Include too much realistic drama and the editors of "cozy" lines will shudder and shy away. On the next level up, I would include the authors Rhys Bowen, Julie Hyzy, Tasha Alexander, and Catharine Lloyd, who hit a happy medium between "light" and "serious" mystery (and without a lot of blood & guts). In the more hard-hitting Mainstream mysteries, Robert Galbraith (J. K. Rowling), J. D. Robb and C. S. Harris shine (sticking to female authors only).

The same sub-genres apply to every other romance genre from Contemporary to Historical. There's the simple "category" story, the longer middle-of-the-road book designed to appeal to the majority of readers, and the harder-hitting Mainstream novels intended for those who want more "meat" in their fiction. 

And the problem is, unless you're going indie, you have to write what the marketing departments of New York publishers want. (With few exceptions, NY is where agents make their money. From what I've seen recently, even the e-market for erotica, which had been paying well, has slowed.) So it's basically, “conform or go indie.”

This does not mean you cannot have a unique idea. Lori Sjoberg sold to Kensington when she made a hero out of the Grim Reaper! It's how you approach your idea that matters. And exactly because there are so many ins and outs to each sub-genre of romance, you must do your homework. You must pay attention to what is selling in your chosen field and not stray too far from the fold until you've established enough of a reputation to branch out with a few new wrinkles to the genre.

Then again, I'm glad I didn't know any of this when I wrote Tarleton's Wife and The Sometime Bride. They might never have been born.

The big decision:  Write what you want to write or Write what editors and agents think readers want. (NY editors have a lot of statistics behind them, but the enormous success of indie publishing indicates they narrowed the market too far.)  So . . . your call. Just be aware that for all that editors tell you to write the "book of your heart," they really mean:  "Write the book of their heart" or "Write the book that meets the criteria of their company's executives."

Good luck! And do your homework.

~ * ~


 Below, my first two books, written without any concept of what the market wanted - and still my best books ever. And yes, they've withstood the test of time, but it was a struggle, and not what I can recommend to others.

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

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


Thanks for stopping by,

Grace (Blair Bancroft)