Grace's Mosaic Moments

Saturday, June 26, 2021

The Nitty Gritty of Names

 Next Mosaic Moments - July 12, 2021

The competition continues:

Ganesh enjoying the mail



~ * ~


Over the last few weeks, I've been struggling with names for my latest Gothic, The Secrets of Stonebridge Castle. Which reminded me that Names are near the top of the essential "Nuts & Bolts" it takes to create an intriguing novel. So, posted below is a copy of my blog from April 30, 2017, on the importance of naming your characters. (Copy is excerpted from Making Magic With Words, my 200,000-words of Writing & Editing advice.)



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.

 Another example of the dramatic use of place names, also from Martin's A Dance With Dragons:

When describing a battle at sea, Martin could have written in a single paragraph that a fleet of ninety-nine ships plus a large number of captured ships had been reduced to a mere fifty-four; instead, he spends nine Kindle pages giving details of what happened, including dreaming up some truly remarkable names for ships that are never mentioned again. For example: Noble Lady, Ravenfeeder, Iron Kiss, Headless Jeyne, Fear , Ralf the Limper, Lord Quellon, White Widow, Lamentation, Woe, Leviathan, Iron Lady, Reaper's Wind, and Warhammer.

 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 SciFi/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! Even specific ethnic names are available with a few strokes of the keyboard.

 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 online for different countries, as needed for whatever book I was writing. As of this moment, I have folders labeled:  Russian Names; Greek Names; Medieval Names; Welsh Names; Arab Names; Spanish Names; plus print-outs of Greek Gods and Egyptian Gods.

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 SciFi 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!



Names are vital—part of the characterization of hero, heroine, secondary characters, and bit parts. Compiling a compendium of names will save considerable time when you actually sit down to write.

~ * ~



For a link to all 200,000 words (indexed & linked)
of my blogs on Writing & Editing
from 2011 -2020, click here.

~ * ~

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

  For Blair's website, click here.


Thanks for stopping by,

Grace/Blair Bancroft

Saturday, June 19, 2021

Recipes - Something Different


Ganesh enjoying the great Outdoors


Ganesh now has two rivals for Most Photogenic Cat.




 As delicious as the two recipes below are, I fear they can't compete with this Regency dessert featured on the Facebook group, Lady Catherine's Salon.

How can one possibly cut into such perfection?

 and . . .

 There's actually a mold that turns out like that???

 ~ * ~


As regular readers of this blog know, I am a recipe addict, and even though I'd sworn never to buy another cookbook . . . I fell off the wagon with two new ones recently, both from Better Homes and Gardens:  Fast & Fresh and Veggie-Full. And, sure enough, the first two recipes I tried proved worthy of passing along, though I had to play with the chicken recipe a bit.

What makes these recipes special? The taste of each is unique enough to be called "gourmet," without the hours of work that usually go into that sort of thing. Give them a try - and enjoy!


 Grace note:  an online search told me that no grocery store in my area carried "button" mushrooms. When I did an in-store search, I discovered portabellas specfically marked "for stuffing" (6 to a package), even though they were not quite as large as I would have liked." A second store carried similar portabellas and what appeared to be even larger "stuffable" cremini mushrooms So it's safe to say you should be able to find mushrooms suitable for stuffing.


½ cup panko crumbs
2 oz. Manchego or Parmesan cheese, finely shredded
6 TBsp extra virgin olive oil
2 TBs chopped fresh leaf parsley
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ tspn smoked paprika
1 lb. 2 to 2½-inch button mushrooms, stemmed
¼ cup chopped pitted Castelvetrano olives*
3 thin slices Ibérico ham, cut into strips** 

* I used plain old sliced green olives

** I used packaged deli ham

1. Preheat oven to 400° F. Line a baking pan with parchment paper.

2. In a small bowl stir together panko, cheese, 2 TBsp olive oil, parsley, garlic, paprika, and ¼ tsp salt. Spoon filling into mushroom caps, pressing it in and mounding for very full caps. Arrange in prepared pan. Drizzle 4 TBsp oil over mushrooms. Bake 25 min. or until mushrooms are tender and filling is golden. Cool slightly.

3. To serve, top with olives and ham.



Grace Note:  The photo below is for the original recipe that used roast chicken from the Deli. Since I've found these usually contain preservatives to which I'm allergic, I adapted the recipe for uncooked chicken breasts. Oddly enough, the cooking instructions are nearly the same. The differences:  slicing the raw chicken before cooking and the very different look of the end result (in the photo, the slices are clearly made after cooking).

Special note:  the sauce can be prepared well ahead, the veggies cut up early as well, making this a meal assembled in minutes when it's time to eat. (I was still using the truly fabulous sauce four days after I made it.)


1 cup uncooked Israeli couscous*
6 green onions
¼ cup white wine vinegar or cider vinegar
1 TBsp honey
2 cloves garlic, peeled & halved
2 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves, cut in ½" slices
1 tsp Madras curry powder**
2 cups sliced fresh kohlrabi, carrots, and/or celery***
2 TBsp vegetable oil
Salt & fresh ground pepper 

*the larger-size couscous
**I used what I had on hand, which happened to be curry bought on a trip to Istanbul
***I used just the celery, very thinly sliced, plus chopped fresh herbs from my garden.
(FYI, kohlrabi is an odd-looking member of the cabbage family.) 

1. Cook couscous according to package directions.

2. For dressing, in a blender, place green onions, ¼ cup olive oil, vinegar, honey, garlic, ¼ tsp salt and ground black pepper, to taste. Cover and blend until smooth.

3. In a plastic baggie, toss chicken slices with curry powder.

4. Using a baking pan large enough to accommodate chicken slices in a single layer, line pan with foil, lay out chicken. Drizzle with 2 TBsp vegetable oil. Season with salt & pepper.

5. Place in a COLD oven. Set temperature to 450° and bake 25-30 minutes or until chicken reaches 165° F.

6. To serve, top couscous with chicken & veggies (& herbs, if available)


Leftovers. Slice chicken thin. Use with drizzled sauce & veggies in a sandwich. (Add a layer of mayo or Miracle Whip to the bread, if desired.)

~ * ~

Don't forget the final book of the Wolfe series:  Matthew Wolfe - Revelations


~ * ~

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

  For Blair's website, click here.


Thanks for stopping by,

Grace/Blair Bancroft

Saturday, June 12, 2021

Formatting Finishers



Our Ganesh fix for the week

Found on Facebook



"Wait, wait - you're not done yet!" 

After several years of not being particularly creative about the metadata in Amazon's Upload Form, such as Subtitles and Keywords, I ordered a hardcopy of the book titled, How to Sell Books by the Truckload on Amazon by Penny Sansevieri. Now, I quickly confess it would take someone far more tech savvy than I—and someone with far more time on their hands—to do the many things described in this book, but I have to admit that a couple of things really caught my fancy. And I do believe they have increased my sales, so . . .

Warning:  I purchased hardcopy as I like to highlight instructional books. But in the paperback version, the many screen shots are really hard to read. You need a magnifying glass.


Ms Sansevieri points out, and rightly so, that there are now so many books on Amazon that an author needs to do more than write a good blurb. You need something to grab readers' attention so they'll take the time to read the blurb. Hence, the SUBTITLE.

A subtitle is just another name for Log Line—those few words authors are encouraged to put at the top of a submission to an Editor or Agent to catch their attention. Short, well-crafted words that feature that special something that makes your book unique.

This made so much sense to me that I sat down and wrote subtitles for every one of c. 40 titles - a MAJOR chore, believe me, as capturing the essence of a book in less than a full sentence is a true challenge. Below are a few of the examples I came up with:

The Abominable Major:  a wounded veteran clashes with a scandalous countess

A Lady Learns to Love:  a poignant Christmas tale of love and loss

Tarleton's Wife:  a war widow, a second chance & a resounding surprise

The Ghosts of Rushton Court:  a bride's new home has a host of unexpected guests

Grace note: I strongly suggest you consider adding subtitles to your books on Amazon.



The idea behind using more complex Keywords than, say, "Regency Romance" or "Regency Historical" is that when searching those titles, 10-20,000+ entries may come up! Your goal—spelled out in detail in Ms Sansevieri's book—is that you should aim your Keywords at areas with lesser numbers, so your book has a better opportunity of being found. Warning:  the research for this is painstaking, but I'm inclined to think it well worth the effort. I spent hours testing various combinations, but in the end I had a group that worked well for my Gothics, a group for my Historicals, a group for the Matthew Wolfe series. 

Here are the Keywords I came up with for Brides of Falconfell, an older title that has definitely had a resurgence since changing the Keywords and adding a subtitle.

Clean Regency Romance Gothic, Clean Regency Romance Suspense, Clean Regency Romance Mystery Suspense, Gothic Regency Romance and Suspense, Gothic Historical Romance, Gothic Romance Marriage of Convenience, Gothic Romance Second Chance

For the Matthew Wolfe series:  

(Only Book 1 qualified as a Regency Comedy, so my examples are from Books 2 & 3.)

Regency Historical Serial, Regency Historical Mystery Suspense, Regency Historical Adventure, Regency Historical New Adult, Regency Historical Friends and Family, Regency Historical Lighthearted, Regency Historical Rags to Riches



I consider myself pretty good at writing blurbs - I should be, since I've been doing it for so long!  But Ms Sansevieri gives some very good advice for those struggling with this problem. (Frankly, if you could boil your story down to a Log Line/Subtitle, a blurb should be easy-peasy.) 

From my personal experience over the years, I know my blurbs have gotten shorter, for the same reason a Subtitle is recommended. There are so many books and people are so busy, readers need a blurb to be "fast and easy" - maybe a single paragraph when we used to write two or three. I would not, however, leave off an Author's Note about something you feel is important. Reaching out to a reader, person to person, is always a good touch.

Most important:  Start your blurb with a "grabber" sentence; i.e., something to catch and hold readers' attention, entice them to read the whole blurb.

Amazon Blurbs.

Amazon allows 4000 characters (including spaces), which can include Review Excerpts, if you have them.


Smashwords requires a 400-character blurb (including spaces), as well as a 4000-character blurb (max). You need to prepare both before attempting an upload to Smashwords.

Below please find examples of "old" and "new" blurbs I wrote for Amazon and Smashwords. Note not only the style but the difference in length. Warning:  length and content are up to you, but in the past few years it's become likely that "less" is better than "more." Make a real effort to find an opening "hook" and proceed from there with just enough snippets about main characters and plot to inspire people to read your book.

Blurb Examples:

Smashwords "400":  A Gamble on Love

To escape an unscrupulous uncle, Aurelia Trevor reluctantly accepts a marriage of convenience with a man outside her social circle. But in Thomas Lanning she gets a great deal more than she expected, discovering she must not only cope with the strong-willed stranger who is her husband, but with his unexpected young relatives and the dubious characters involved in his campaign for Parliament.

Amazon & Smashwords "4000": A Gamble on Love

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 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 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 shocking 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 is too late?


"Blair Bancroft's warm and tender [novel] boasts a great heroine in Aurelia: She's attractive, courageous, vulnerable and intelligent."
Robyn Taylor, Romantic Times

"Reading how they gradually learn to like and eventually love each other is wonderful. Blair Bancroft is now definitely one of my favorite traditional Regency authors and this book is a prime example of why."
Nicole Hurst, Romance Junkies

"Set against a backdrop of rural politics (and a fascinating look at the early world of "buying" votes) this is a story that entrances, enlightens and endears."
Celia at A Romance Review

Here is an updated version of the blurb for my very first book - The Sometime Bride:

A very young bride finds herself married to an enigmatic British spy "for her safety." And is plunged into a seven-year, highly personal view of the Peninsular War—ending, after years of blind devotion, in discovering a betrayal of her trust so immense she can only wonder: Is she the sometime bride of a man who never existed? A discarded mistress? Or a beloved wife whose only rival is her husband's expediency in a time of war?

Author's Note: In addition to being a saga of young lovers caught up in a war, The Sometime Bride is the history of the Peninsular War, Britain's fight against Napoleon in Portugal and Spain. The story moves from France's invasion of Portugal and British troops being driven into the sea at La Coruña to the return of British troops under General Sir Arthur Wellesley, the fortified lines at Torres Vedras, and the gradual push of French troops across Spain and back to France. Plus the chaotic times in Paris after Napoleon's surrender and the Emperor's triumph as he gathers up his old troops, only to be stopped in one of the most famous and bloody battles in history—Waterloo.


Reviewers Choice Award. "Sometimes a reviewer gets a book so powerful, it's hard to know where to begin to tell about it. The Sometime Bride is such a book. . . . Bride passes every criterion for a successful book that I was given as a reviewer. Ms Bancroft weaves a most unusual love story in among the threads of history that cover eight years. . . . I highly recommend both Tarleton's Wife and The Sometime Bride as companion books. They are totally independent, but together give a vastly enlightening and entertaining view of the period through use of wonderful characters and page-turner plots—definite keepers, both." Jane Bowers, Romance Communications

[Four other review snippets followed.]

Here is the blurb I used for The Courtesan's Letters when I uploaded my own version of my very first trad Regency for Signet:

Miss Abigail Todd, the very proper headmistress of an academy for young ladies in Boston, arrives in England to settle her grandmother’s estate, only to discover that her ancestor was la grande Clarisse, the most notorious courtesan of her day. And, to her even greater horror, she herself is the perfect image of her grandmother. Clarisse has left a series of letters detailing commissions Abby must carry out in order to obtain her inheritance (an amount far greater than anticipated). In order to do this, she must accept the assistance of Jared, Earl of Langley, grandson of the man who was Clarisse’s devoted lover for forty years. Has Clarisse created these letters because of love, nostalgia, mischief, vengeance . . . or is she perhaps more interested in matchmaking? The most likely answer: all of the above.

Author’s Note: “The Courtesan’s Letters” is suitable reading for Ages 14 & up. Under the Signet title of “The Indifferent Earl,” it was nominated for a RITA award by the Romance Writers of America and was awarded “Regency Romance of the Year” by Romantic Times magazine.


"This story flows like fine champagne, full of sparkle, zest and energy."
Teresa Roebuck, Romantic Times

"The dialogue sparkles, the plot evolves at a brisk pace, and a diverse cast of secondary characters adds depth and texture to this well-written tale."
Susan Lantz, Romance Reviews Today

"I was completely and utterly seduced by this book. . . . The plot is exquisite, a sparklingly innovative, perfectly executed piece of craftsmanship. . . . It is books like this that restore our faith in the Regency genre. . . ."
Celia Merenyi, A Romance Review

My blurb for the more recent The Ghosts of Rushton Court:

A Regency ghost tale inspired by the classic saying: "Marry in haste, repent at leisure."

The widowed Lady Marian Talbot is keeping a low profile as her exquisitely lovely sister, Vanessa, makes her come-out. Yet somehow it is Marian who attracts the attention of the most eligible bachelor London society has seen in a decade, a marquess who has spent the last dozen years in India. After a whirlwind courtship, Marian—now the Marchioness of Rushton—arrives at her new home, only to discover she is expected to solve the challenges of dealing with her husband's hostile brother and sister, his illegitimate young son, and a staff at war with itself. And, as if that weren't enough, Marian must also adjust to a panoply of ghosts, all supposedly benign, but that becomes doubtful as someone—or some thing—makes repeated attempts to kill both the marquess and his new bride.

And finally, my blurb for The Making of Matthew Wolfe:

AUTHOR'S NOTE. Welcome to a Regency series with a twist! Although the Matthew Wolfe books feature the adventures of a supposed nobody off the mean streets of London, they are designed for Covid relief—light, warm-hearted, even whimsical. Hopefully, by the time Matthew has found his Happily Ever After, our World will have righted itself and we will be well on our way back to normal. Meanwhile, here is the first in a series of novellas told as an old-fashioned "serial," each book with a cliff-hanger ending.

Matthew Wolfe, born and raised in the squalor of London's inner city, should be a nobody, forever destined to obscurity, or the hangman. But wait . . . he can read and write, is a whiz at math, can speak like a gentleman, even knows more than a bit of French. And when the boy from London ends up on a hops farm in Kent, surrounded by the remnants of the Royal 10th Hussars and a passel of children, what will this fish out of water do? Retired military and their ladies, children, dogs, a regal cat, neighbors in need, and a determined twelve-year-old—all assist Matthew on his journey toward the person he is meant to be. 

~ * ~ 

 My comments above barely scratch the surface of Ms Sansevieri's work, so if you'd like to learn more . . .

For a link to How to Sell Books by the Truckload on Amazonclick here.

 ~ * ~

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

  For Blair's website, click here.


Thanks for stopping by,

Grace/Blair Bancroft