Prancing Around With Sleeping Beauty by @StacyJuba

I'm excited to have my friend Stacy Juba visiting today. Stacy writes delightful romances, and I'm pleased to say she has just released a new book in her Storybook Valley series.

About Stacy Juba

Stacy Juba got engaged at Epcot Theme Park and spent part of her honeymoon at Disneyland Paris, where she ate a burger, went on fast rides, and threw up on the train ride to the hotel.

In addition to working on her new Storybook Valley chick lit/sweet romance series, Stacy has written books about ice hockey, teen psychics, U.S. flag etiquette for kids, and determined women sleuths.

She has had a novel ranked as #5 in the Nook Store and #30 on the Amazon Kindle Paid List.

Stacy is also the founder of the Glass Slipper Sisters, a group of authors with fairy tale-themed romance novels. When she’s not visiting theme parks with her family, (avoiding rides that spin and exotic hamburgers) or writing about them, Stacy helps authors to strengthen their manuscripts through her Crossroads Editing Service. She is currently writing the next book in the Storybook Valley Series.

Visit Stacy Juba Online: Blog * Facebook * Twitter * Amazon Author Page *  Sign Up for Stacy's Newsletter

Stacy's Imagination At Work
What a theme park princess thinks

I asked Stacy that question readers always ask.

Where do you get your ideas?

I always seem to get ideas for my Storybook Valley novels when I’m on vacation.

The first book, Fooling Around With Cinderella, occurred to me when I was visiting a fairy tale theme park with my family.

We had just taken pictures at Cinderella’s castle, where the cheerful princess posed with my daughters. As we were leaving the castle, an idea popped into my head.

What if there was a reluctant theme park Cinderella? And what if she fell for her boss?

(I later named the boss Dylan.)

For the second book, Prancing Around With Sleeping Beauty, I knew it would be about Rory Callahan, Dylan’s younger sister. Since she made an appearance in the first book, I already knew that she was a dance teacher named after Aurora from Sleeping Beauty.

What I didn’t know was how the book would begin.

One afternoon, while visiting my in-laws at their beachfront condo, I happened to glance out the window and see an airplane flying over the beach with a banner streaming in its path.

Usually these airplane banners advertised restaurant specials like pizza deals, or events such as a wet T-shirt contest. However, this time it had a more unusual saying: Will you marry me?

Instantly, I knew that was how I had to open the book. Except with this being a romantic comedy, I had to make it humorous. Plus, I couldn’t have Rory engaged to her soulmate on page one. What fun is that? I decided to make the scene a comedy of errors. Since the banner would say, “Will you marry me, Rory?” naturally she would assume the proposal was for her. But what if it wasn’t? And what if her boyfriend wasn’t her prince, anyway?

You can read some of the scene below. I hope you enjoy this peek in Storybook Valley, my fictional family-owned theme park in the Catskills of New York.

Sneak Peek: Prancing Around With Sleeping Beauty
by Stacy Juba © 2018

High above the crowded beach, an airplane skimmed the cloudless blue sky, its hum a distant whine over the thunderous surf. Behind it trailed a banner with red block letters. Cupping her hand over her brow, Rory Callahan squinted in the glaring sunlight.


She gasped, and her bare feet pressed into the gritty sand. Rory gripped the sides of her sunken beach chair. Her boyfriend, Dr. Brad Walker, a general surgery medical resident at Mountain View Medical Center, occupied the second chair, engrossed in a sports magazine, oblivious to the romantic gesture—or pretending he was oblivious.

Rory had accompanied him to the Jersey Shore for his parents’ thirtieth anniversary party. When Brad suggested a morning at the beach before driving back to the Catskills, she never expected a marriage proposal. Her stomach clenched, the semi-queasy reaction surprising her.

After all, she had wanted this—well, maybe not this, not yet—but Rory had wanted a declaration of love from the guy her mother worshipped and that her annoying big brother insisted “wasn’t that into her.”

 Obviously Brad was into her. This proved his willingness to make their relationship work. She would show her brother, and her friends, too. Rory knew her roommates worried that Brad didn’t carve out enough time for her, but unlike Dylan, the girls minded their own business.

All brides-to-be probably felt jittery during the proposal. She choked down the very normal mound in her throat, reached over, and touched Brad’s hand. “I had no idea you were planning this. Yes. I’ll . . . I’ll marry you.”

Brad dropped the magazine onto his nearby flip-flops as if sand fleas had nested inside the pages. His chiseled face had blanched whiter than his pale chest, arms, and legs. Summer was almost over, and Rory would bet this was the first time he’d worn the charcoal print swim trunks she bought him.

“What? What the hell are you talking about?”

This Sleeping Beauty isn’t sure she wants to wake up…

Dance instructor Rory Callahan likes to play it safe. When she meets Kyle, he’s impulsive, persistent, and her exact opposite. He’s pushing her to tango way past her comfort zone and keeping Rory on her toes more than twenty years of dance teachers ever had.

Unfortunately, he’s the grandson of her family’s arch rival and she doesn’t want to disappoint them. After all, her parents imagine her as a proper princess - hence her namesake Aurora, AKA Sleeping Beauty. Complicating matters, Rory’s also dealing with a surgeon boyfriend who’s perfect for her (sort of), an obnoxious boss, and desperate dance moms. Kyle wants to change her whole life, but Rory doesn’t like the stakes. After all, princesses are the ones who get the happy endings. . .aren’t they?

Add Prancing Around With Sleeping Beauty to Your Library

You'll find this chick lit romantic comedy at: Amazon * Barnes & Noble * iBooks * Kobo.

Takeaway Truth

Do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of Prancing Around With Sleeping Beauty. You'll be glad you did.

Authors RIP

In reading the Winter 2017 issue of Authors Guild Bulletin, I reached the end and the In Memoriam column. I'd like to note some of these authors who provided much reading pleasure for me beginning in childhood and carrying into adulthood.

Richard Adams, author of Watership Down, passed at the age of 96.

Natalie Babbit, author of Tuck Everlasting and other popular children's novels, passed at age 84.

E. R. Braithwaite, born in Guyana and Oxford-educated, passed at the age of 104. He was the author of the memoir To Sir, With Love. When I was a young teen, that movie starring Sidney Poitier with the theme song sung by Lulu, was powerful. I canstill sing every word of the song. I didn't know it was the memoir of an amazing and accomplished man until I was an adult.

Lois Duncan, now called a pioneer in teen suspense, was the author of more than 50 books for children and young adults. She was "discovered" by more than readers when her novel I Know What You Did Last Summer hit the big screen. She was 82.

Carrie Fisher. Yes, everyone in the world knows this actress most famous for her Star Wars role. I remember her though for the novels she wrote. Novels? Well, most were thinly-disguised memoirs. My favorite was Postcards from the Edge and Surrender the Pink. She wrote screen plays and also served as a script doctor on many movies. She was only 60.

W. P. Kinsella, the author of Shoeless Joe, one of my favorite books ever which was the basis for Field of Dreams, one of my favorite movies, passed at the age of 81.

Elie Wiesel, died at the age or 87 at his home in Manhattan. In addition to being a lifelong activist and lecturer on the Holocaust, he was the author of 60 books and the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986. His books were based on his experiences in Auschwitz and Buchenwald. To me, Mr. Wiesel was a hero who had the courage to talk about the worst time of his life. He always spoke out against crimes against humanity.

Remember The Lessons of History

When I was a child, we had neighbors who had survived the death camps. I remember the first time I saw the numbers tattooed on Mr. Keller's arm. I grew older and heard their stories along with the story told by one of my mother's friends who was Belgian and whose parents tried to flee when the Germans rolled in.

I guess knowing these people who shared their memories sparked the interest I've always had for the history of WWII, a war in which my dad fought but who hated to talk about it. I've always believed history should never be whitewashed and markers obliterated. The only good that can come of horrible events is to learn from them and vow that they will never be repeated.

Takeaway Truth

Perhaps you notice something these authors have in common, with the exception of Ms. Fisher. They were all long-lived. For some reason, authors seem to live longer than the norm.


This is kind of old news. I was looking through the last few issues of Authors Guild Bulletin, the official magazine of Authors Guild, and saw a piece about the rise of short-form books.

The article mentioned the launch of James Patterson's new book line called BookShots.

Patterson's line is from Little, Brown which is an imprint of Hachette Book Group. They started out with 21 short books to be published from June through December 2016.

Like much of Patterson's work now, his name is in the big font, and there's a co-writer on each of these short books--small font of course.

Each of these books range between 140 and 160 pages it seems. I checked a few of them out, and they appear quite popular. On Amazon, they're also labeled Kindle Singles of course.

A typical example is The House Husband, cover shown at left.

Question for Readers

Do you like these short books? If you do, why? Is it because you can have a satisfying read in an evening rather than spreading a book over a week or two?

If you don't like them, why not?

Takeaway Truth

Readers, I really want to hear from you. Comment any time or use the Contact Form on the blog to email me your opinion.

Health Tip: When & How To Eat

I've been going through old magazines to see if I want to keep them.

In one, I read a little health tip I thought I'd pass on--especially if you're dieting.

When To Eat

According to research, it does matter what time you eat.

If you eat nutritionally sound, modest-sized meals and snacks spaced throughout the day, it helps keep your blood sugar stable.

A lot of people eat most of their calories at night. That's not smart because dumping what amounts to a day's worth of calories in all at one time makes it more difficult for your body to assimilate or manage that large amount of food without secreting extra insulin.

Other research indicates that people are more insulin resistant at night so you get a double whammy.

Perhaps we should take to heart some ancient wisdom. The Greek poet Hesiod, circa 700BC said: "Observe due measure; moderation is best in all things." The Roman Plautus, circa 250–184 BC, said it again, "Moderation in all things is the best policy."

Takeaway Truth

Even Benjamin Franklin said it, with a twist: "Moderation in all things--including moderation." Of course, he had a sly sense of humor.

Review: Wind River

Wind River, a gem of a movie, was recently added to Netflix.


A veteran tracker with the Fish and Wildlife Service helps investigate the murder of a young Native American woman, using the case as a means of seeking redemption for an earlier act of irresponsibility which ended in tragedy.

Superb Cast

Starring Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen, along with the always-excellent Graham Greene, I was surprised by how moving the movie was even as it ratcheted up the tension from opening scene to The End.

The other nice surprise is how Renner, who plays tracker Cory Lambert, nailed the accent and attitude of a native son of Wyoming. I've been to Wyoming. It takes a survival mentality to endure the winters not to mention the other challenges in a state with a population slightly more than 585,000 inhabitants and an economy driven by mineral extraction (oil, gas, coal, mainly) and tourism.

Renner as Lambert, estranged from his Arapaho wife due to the tragic death of their daughter, is compelling and believable. Yes, he's seeking redemption, but it's more of an unconscious part of his makeup than an overt goal.

In fact, I think he's driven more by a need for justice. Forget law and trials and appeals. Lambert is a hard man, living in a hard world. As he tells rookie FBI Agent Jane Banner, played by Elizabeth Olsen, when Banner says she survived because she was lucky: "Luck lives in the city. Luck doesn't live here."

Lambert is not a vigilante, but, in his world, he knows that sometimes you get justice only when you make it happen--that would be Old Testament type justice.

Olsen is excellent in her role as the newbie FBI agent Jane Banner, who's smart enough to know she's out of her element with not only the case but also the unforgiving landscape and weather of the state of Wyoming.

There are some errors and/or goofs in the movie, but don't let that detract from the excellence of this film.

Takeaway Truth

If you're looking for a riveting story, emotional resonance, and superb acting, choose Wind River.

Make Your Social Media Stand Out

This is so cool. Motion Elements has 10 new amazing vertical templates for social media.

I clicked the link in my daily email from them and just had to preview all of them. They're all awesome. I especially liked Fast Stomp Opener and Short Vertical Magazine.

If you're looking for something to make your social media site stand out, look no further.

Just choose one of these templates to create an exciting vertical video for your social media. They're  inexpensively priced from $5.00 to $20.00.

Takeaway Truth
Motion Elements

Standing out is difficult when there are millions of sites competing for attention. If you try one of these templates, let me know how easy it was to use.

Saturday Share: Paleo Orange Ice Cream

My daughter has changed the way she eats and cooks. She's completely Paleo now in her battle against chronic pain. Diet is one of the tools she uses to manage pain.

Some of you may say, "It couldn't possibly make that big a difference." Perhaps, the difference in pain level isn't that large, but when you have a condition where you're always pinging 9 and 10 on the pain scale, any improvement in managing that pain is significant.

She and her husband are coming for dinner tonight so I made a dessert that fits her Paleo lifestyle. It was easy and tastes really good.

Paleo Orange Ice Cream


3 large navel or blood oranges
5 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1- 13.5 ounce can of Native Forest Organic Classic Coconut Milk
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla


Peel and section the oranges. Place slices on a cookie sheet and freeze.

Open the can of coconut milk and stir gently. Dump the contents into a blender container and blend well.

Add the frozen orange slices in batches, blending well after each addition until all have been blended up.

Add the maple syrup and blend well.

Add the vanilla and blend well.

Pour into a freezer safe container and freeze until solid.

To serve, remove from freezer about 10 minutes ahead of time to make it easier to scoop. Serve with sliced strawberries, blueberries, and other fresh fruit of your choice with each scoop.

Takeaway Truth

Healthy foods can also be delicious foods.

Start A Herb Garden

Image Credits at End of Post
Whether you say "a herb" or an herb (with the h silent), now is the time to start your herb garden.

I thought while I wait for my son and one of his daughters to arrive for a visit, I'd tell you how easy it is to grow your own herbs.

I'm in Zone 8 so growing herbs year-round is usually not a problem here. This winter was most unusual. We had 2 snows, an ice storm, and several days of freezing and below temperatures.

Despite all that, my rosemary continued thriving. It's well established. My rosemary started as a tiny plant much smaller than the image at left. Now it's a bush 2 feet tall and wide.

The other herbs froze back, but they're already coming out. I love using fresh herbs in cooking so growing my own is worth the tiny bit of trouble.

How My Herb Garden Grows

My herb garden is in giant flower pots on my back deck.

If you're still expecting more below freezing days/nights, you can start your herb garden in flower pots in a window that gets a lot of light.

Once the fear of frost passes, transplant them to bigger pots outside or into the ground when the ground temperature is warm enough.

Herbs love lots of sun. Plant the ones you use most in cooking. When they are thriving and you need some, just nip what you need. If you need a bunch, harvest from a fourth of your growing plant by cutting a couple of inches above the dirt.

Then next time you harvest, select a different portion of your growing plant. This way, part of the plant is always replenishing.

Herbs are natural pesticides. Use compost to add to your soil. Don't use chemical fertilizers and pesticides. This keeps your herb garden organic and natural. Plant a mixed grouping in a pot for a visual and aromatic disply.

Takeaway Truth

It's fun to grow your own herbs. Kids can do it. The herbs are fragrant, and there's something immensely satisfying about growing your own herbs.

Image Credits

Rosemary, Photo by monicore from Pexels

Kindle Fire TV Stick Rocks

This is another late night post. Darling Hubby and I seem to be keeping late hours, mainly because I'm not getting my work done in the daytime.

When Darling Hubby and I moved into our home in Houston, we bought Smart TVs because we planned to cut the satellite TV service. For 2 older TVs, we bought a Sony Blu-Ray DVD Player that had smart apps.

This worked well. Hubby installed an antenna in the attic, and we reduced our monthly TV expense from over $100.00 to around $20. for Netflix and Amazon Prime.

Life rocked along just fine until a couple of our Smart TVs lost their app license I presume because YouTube disappeared from 2 of the TVs. Then 1 of the Sony Blu-Ray players bit the dust.

Even though we watch the HD broadcast channels from NBC, ABC, CBS, FOX, etc. we really love Netflix and Amazon.

When I saw that Amazon had reduced the cost of their Fire TV Stick with Voice Remote to $29.99, we decided to order one and see if it would be a good source for the online streaming we love.

It came today. Tonight, Hubby plugged it into the HDMI port on the TV, and that was all that was needed to make it operational. We just selected the online apps we wanted--PGA Tour Golf, BBC, Smithsonian, Netflix, YouTube, Pandora, and a few others, all of which were free with no fee or subscription required--and entered our passwords where necessary. That was it!

As I was adding apps, I had a genius idea. First, let me tell you it's the easiest thing to add apps to your TV. Use your PC. Go to the Fire TV Stick page, cruise the various categories, select your app, click to download it to your TV, and that's all you have to do.

There are TV stations from everywhere. My genius idea was to use a TV app to do research for locations. Want to set a book in Hawaii? Just download some of the TV station apps from Hawaii. You get to see what's making the local news there, the weather, etc.

Takeaway Truth

Truly the first plug and play device I've ever experienced! I highly recommend this Fire TV Stick with Voice Remote. We've ordered another for our house in the country.

Saying Goodnight On Optimistic Note

I've over-scheduled myself for the first 6 months of this year so I'm kind of behind the 8-ball.

Once I blogged every day, but that ended a couple of years ago when life got really complicated.

So for today, I have only a quote for you, but it's a humdinger!

Nathaniel Rateliff said: "I'm pretty easily overwhelmed and pretty tough as well. I think I'm tougher than I used to be. There's been a lot of hardship along the way. But that's what life is. And it's how you deal with those things, and how you let them shape you that makes you a better person and defines what sort of person you're going to be."

Actually, I never used to be overwhelmed. I handled everything well. Life got tougher so I've been forced to get tougher as well so that part of the quote and what follows is spot on.

Takeaway Truth

A strong positive thought can start your day well--or end it on an optimistic note which is what I'm doing tonight.

Tips on Changing Newsletter Providers

Like most authors, I maintain a subscriber newsletter/mailing list.

(If you haven't joined my mailing list, click here to join now. You'll receive a free ebook and also be first to hear about new books and giveaways.)

Also like most authors, I'm always trying to figure out how to get the most mileage from my marketing budget.

I've used a popular newsletter email service for many years, but they grew too expensive for me. One of my goals this year was to switch newsletter providers. Ugh! I had no idea so much work was involved.

Here are a few things I learned that might help you if you decide to do the same.

12 Tips on How to Change NL Providers

1. Set up your new newsletter provider account as soon as possible.

2. Download your existing subscribers into a CSV file.

3. Clean the CSV file. I noticed my old NL provider had unsubscribes in the CSV. So edit it as needed.

4. Upload the cleaned CSV file to your new provider.

5. Design your new sign-up forms. (If you click here to join now you can see the forms I created.)

6. If you have a "subscribe to my mailing list" in your existing books--and you should--change all those links to the new provider immediately.

7. Change the link on your website, blog, and in your author bios on ebook sites as needed.

8. By now, your new signup form should be getting subscribers.

9. If you have received notifications of new subscribers at you old NL provider, transfer them to your new NL provider.

10. Before deleting your complete mailing list at your old NL provider, wait a month in case you're getting signups from the old link at a place you didn't think of. If you don't want to be charged at the old place, delete your list (after all, you've already transferred them) until it is below the threshold and into the free zone.

11. Of course, do NOT send your NL to the remaining names at the old provider because you've transferred them to the new one. You don't want to make subscribers angry by sending multiple copies of a newsletter. Besides, that's just not kosher.

12. Finally, close the old account unless you want to use it for something else entirely.

Takeaway Truth

It's cumbersome and time-consuming, but saving on expenses is smart.

Review: The 15:17 to Paris

Last week Darling Hubby and I went to see Clint Eastwood's movie, The 15:17 to Paris.

Of course, we knew it was based on the real-life event in which 3 ordinary men thwarted a terrorist attach on a high-speed rail trip to Paris.

We wanted to see the movie because we both love stories of ordinary people who do extraordinary things.

I also wanted to see this film to see how Mr. Eastwood brought this story to the big screen--especially when he actually used the 3 heroic young men at the center of the action.

The movie is based on the autobiography The 15:17 to Paris: The True Story of a Terrorist, a Train, and Three American Soldiers by Jeffrey E. Stern, Spencer Stone, Anthony Sadler and Alek Skarlatos.

How The Movie Unfolds

The movie started when the danger on the train started. Then the story went back to each man's childhood. Present day was intercut with the past to show why those 3 men became the men they are. From difficult childhood to sometimes struggling adulthood, the story unfolds.

By structuring the movie that way, the viewer gets to see these guys are just ordinary people--struggling to make something of themselves and find their way in a challenging world. They worked hard from childhood on and held fast to their friendship, their mothers who believed in them, strong faith in God, and sheer determination to never give up.

August 21, 2015

The 3 young men--Anthony Sadler, Oregon National Guardsman Alek Skarlatos, and U.S. Air Force Airman First Class Spencer Stone--took the Thalys train #9364 to Paris.

The Book on Which the Movie is based.
On the train, everything is fine it seems. Passengers waiting for one of the restrooms knock on the door, and a terrorist comes out with an automatic rifle. Chaos and panic ensue. A passenger actually seizes the gun from him, but the terrorist pulls another gun and shoots him and retrieves his AR.

Passengers flee and try to get away. The terrorist pursues, moving into the car where Spencer and his friends are seated. In a split second, Spencer decides their only chance for survival is to seize the gun.

I won't tell you the rest of the action, but the fight is brutal--a true life and death struggle. The terrorist had over 300 rounds of ammunition. There wouldn't have been anyone left alive if he hadn't been stopped.

In a formal ceremony, Spencer and his friends were recognized as heroes of the French Republic for their gallantry and bravery. Spencer received the French Legion of Honour.

Takeaway Truth

To sum up the premise of this movie, I'll quote Edmund Burke who said: "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." I think all people should heed those words.

Long Weekends: Love 'Em or Hate 'Em?

I have a love-hate relationship with long weekends. You know, those that start on Friday and carry over to Monday, which is a legal holiday.

Last week, we left on Friday for a long weekend in Corpus Christi, Texas, with our older son and his kids.

I always enjoy visiting Corpus Christi. The only real drawback to the city is the traffic. The population keeps growing, but the freeway and surface roads haven't been able to keep up so you spend a lot of time in slo-mo traffic.

It was a fun weekend, but getting back into the groove when you blew off Monday's work is difficult. I was thinking about how behind I am on everything, and I realized that I haven't truly been caught up on everything in the last two years.

Ouch. Ugly truth.

Takeaway Truth

I think I need another cup of coffee to choke down that realization. Y'all have a great week!

Beyond Murphy's Law

Everyone's heard of Murphy's Law, but not many know the other so-called laws as identified and defined by other experts in various fields.

Here are a few other "laws" you might find amusing if not interesting. Sprinkle a few into the conversation at your next party.

First, let me officially define Murphy's Law.

If anything can go wrong, it will.

That's Murphy's Law, named after Capt. Edward A. Murphy, an engineer working on Air Force Project MX981 at Edwards Air Force Base in 1949. The project was to see how much sudden deceleration a person can stand in a crash. *shudder* I can imagine how that project gave birth to Capt. Murphy's Law.

Dunbar's Number

The size of the human brain limits the number of stable relationships that one human being can maintain to about 150.

Created by English anthropologist Robin Dunbar in 1992, this means you can have about 150 good friends. This is roughly the average size of tribes, villages, and even military units in every country.

The Ben Franklin Effect

He that has once done you a kindness will be more ready to do you another than he whom you yourself have obliged. 

From 1791, The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin. This says that it's easier to make a friend by asking for a favor than by giving a favor. (This seems odd to me. I would think if you'd done a favor for someone, that person would be more likely to help you than someone who has done a favor for you without reciprocation.)

Dunning-Kruger Effect

If you're incompetent, you can't know you're incompetent. 

Defined by American social psychologists David Dunning and Justin Kruger, this means that incompetent people overestimate their skills.

Humphrey's Law

Paying too close attention to a normally automatic or unconscious activity hampers your ability to do it well.

Named for English psychologist George Humphrey, this means don't overthink something.

Takeaway Truth

Don't break Humphrey's Law; just enjoy this post!

Saturday Recipe Share: Cheesy Zucchini Casserole

Do you love potatoes au gratin, but you don't eat this tasty dish because you're avoiding potatoes, you'll love this alternative.

A lot of people avoid "white" potatoes because they're high in starchy carbs. Others avoid potatoes because they're trying to eliminate nightshade plants from their diet.

The creamy baked goodness of Cheesy Zucchini Casserole is a nice substitute for scalloped potatoes, but it can also stand up as a meatless entree for a simple supper.

This dish serves 6 to 8 and is so easy to throw together at the end of a busy day. It's delicious and easy. With a salad and some French or Italian bread, it's all you need for a family-friendly meal.


  • 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil (I always use olive oil)
  • 3/4 cup chopped onion
  • 3 large zucchini (or yellow squash), washed, stemmed, and cubed to a 1 inch size (If you're in a big hurry, slice the zucchini uniformly and it will cook faster than the cubes.)
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup milk, warmed
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise (get the regular stuff, not fat-free)
  • 1/2 cup crushed Ritz Crackers
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup grated Gruyere cheese (That's the best kind for au gratin of any variety, but you can use cheddar if you're economizing or don't have the Gruyere. My husband's grandmother used Parmesan sometimes. My husband always thinks the cheesier, the merrier so I use a little more than 1/3 cup.)
  • Preheat over to 350 degrees.
  • Heat vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and saute until lightly brown--don't burn it!
  • Add cubed zucchini, salt, and pepper and saute until the squash is browned. Don't overcook it. You want it just barely soft, not mushy. Takes about 5 to 8 minutes.
  • Sprinkle in the flour and stir constantly until the vegetables are coated. Pour in the warmed milk and keep stirring until the mixture thickens. (Congrats! You just used the flour, fat, and warmed milk to make a Bechamel Sauce. Common name is white sauce.)
  • Remove from heat, stir in the mayo.
  • Spray a large baking dish with Pam or something similar and pour the mixture in it.
  • In a Ziplok bag, combine the crackers and Gruyere. Crush with a a rolling pin or flat bottom of a sauce pan or your hands. Shake bag to mix well.
  • Sprinkled the cracker crumb mixture over the casserole.
  • Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until browned and bubbly.
Takeaway Truth

I really think you'll like this. Let me know if you do. Have a great Saturday.

7 Good Health Tips Within Your Power

Everyone always wants to know simple things one can do for good health. The only problem is that simple often doesn't mean easy.

Here are 7 things that are simple and easy. Best of all these 7 things are totally within your power to do every single day. They pay big benefits for your short term and long term health.

No pills, potions, or injections needed.

No supplements--weird or common--no gym memberships, or money needed.

7 Good Health Tips

1. When you get up each morning, drink a glass of water. That's so easy. That gets your digestive system primed and ready to go. Plus, it hydrates you and gets you ready for the day.

2. While you're drinking that water, take a few minutes to think about your day. Focus on what's important to do and what you can do for fun or to please yourself.

3. While you shower, take a couple of minutes to visualize yourself being happy, healthy, and successful. Create a mental image that reflects that. Do this visualization often during the day. This will grow an optimistic attitude within you.

4. All day long if you see people you know, smile. If you see people you don't know, smile. Smiles are contagious plus the act of smiling releases endorphins in your brain that lift your mood. That will increase your optimism and diminish pessimism.

5. All day long, wherever you walk, walk briskly, standing straight, and breathing deeply.

6. Remember to say thank you with a smile. Do an experiment. When a cashier asks the required: "How are you today?" Smile and reply: "I'm good. How are you?" Often, they'll look surprised. Sometimes, your answer and attitude will make them pause and perk up. Optimism begets optimism.

Writer's Journal Design by Joan Reeves
7. Get a jump on tomorrow by planning tomorrow. Use a calendar, a Day Planner, or a blank book. Make a list of what you want to do so you'll be on track as soon as you get up.

Shown at left is my journal design available on my CafePress shop.

Bonus Tip

Write in a journal about an hour before bedtime. Dump all your worries, cares, anxieties, and fears onto paper. Get all that black bile negativity our of your head and onto paper then forget about it.

Some do this on looseleaf paper then shred the page full of crap. Others put it in a journal. Writing down all the woes of life can have a cathartic effect. Once you've dumped it on paper, it actually frees your mind from thinking of them all the time.

Takeaway Truth

These are all really simple and easy to do each day, but if you're the type that's overwhelmed by change, just take it one tip per day at a time. Seven tips; seven days. Build up to doing all these. I think you'll find that your day runs smoother and you work more effectively.

Happy Valentine's Day

I'm traveling, but I wanted to wish everyone a Happy Valentine's Day.

Be sure and take advantage of the many Valentine Romance box sets.

There are posts scheduled until I return to the office.

Takeaway Truth

See you next Monday.

High Cost of Home Repair

Today is one of those days you don't want. The furnace and air conditioning system were replaced in our house in Houston. What a way to blow major bucks.

I guess it's not really blown since we do need heat in the winter. Not to mention air conditioning in the long hot summers.  Even though I grew up without air conditioning, I'm used to it so it seems a necessity.

Two crews showed up bright and early. The plumber first at 7:30. The old heating system was electric. The new one is gas so we had to have a plumber run the gas line and install a vent in the roof. That translated into more expense.

The air conditioning/heating installers arrived at 9:30. They left at 8:30 tonight. We spent the day without heat and listening to all kinds of banging around from the attic. The noise alone was disconcerting. There's a lot of technical stuff that goes into modern heating and air conditioning systems including an electronic brain.

The temperature outside was 39 when they started. We spent the day spent trying to stay warm. I worked on the laptop and tried to focus on my manuscript.

By the time the crew started testing the new furnace, the temperature in the house had dropped to 60. Bearable, yes. But I was glad when the new furnace quickly raised the temp to 70.

The difference between heat produced by a gas furnace and that produced by an electric furnace is truly amazing. For the first time, the house feels uniformly warm. How wonderful.

The good news is that we have a brand new heat/AC system. The bad news is that the plumber identified problems with the water heater and some of the connectors to the copper pipes. So he'll be visiting us again in about a month. *groan*

The other bad news is that the AC installer head honcho identified a problem in the electrical panel box. Our electrician will be visiting up in a couple of weeks. *another loud groan*

Takeaway Truth

I hope I sell a boatload of books. That will help pay for today and the upcoming visits from the plumber and electrician. Seriously, I'm in the wrong business. I should have been either a plumber or electrician. I could already be retired to a hilltop villa in Tuscany! *g*

Review: Quest Multicast TV Network

In my local area, Quest, a new TV network, debuted on January 28, 2018.

This American network is described as a digital multicast television network, and it's owned by Cooper Media which also owns the Justice Network.

Quest, self-described as entertaining "viewers with exhilarating adventure programming, is broadcast nationwide via OTA digital television. In other words, you can watch it via an HD antenna, no cable or satellite required. I must say it lives up to its programming description.

The target audience? Adults between the ages of 25 and 54.

Love Documentaries?

If you're a documentary fan, you'll love Quest because it specializes in travel, historical, science and adventure-focused documentary. They also show some of the more interesting reality series like Modern Marvels, Storm Chasers, IRT Deadliest Roads, and Auction Kings.

They also shows like Life After People which is an interesting blend of imagination and science with a heavy dose of post-apocalyptic solemnity. 

If you're an armchair military historian, you'll really like all the shows about the various wars.

According to Wikipedia, Quest has "pending affiliation agreements with television stations in 36 media markets (including 24 of the top 30) encompassing 24 states..."

I do love good documentaries so I've been watching the ones of WWII battles using computer graphics to "reenact" the battles which really gives an interesting perspective to these historical events.

Takeaway Truth

Documentaries not only entertain, but they are a rich source of ideas for authors. Two of my books were inspired by documentaries. So if you're in need of inspiration, watch a few documentaries.

Get Busy

All I have for you today is a quotation because I'm busy writing.

Just typing the words, "busy writing," made me think about the quote I'm sharing because professional authors are always busy writing. I think it's because we know if we stop, the doubt and fear about the story we're pulling word by word from our brains will overwhelm us.

"If you want to conquer fear, don't sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy." ~ Dale Carnegie

Takeaway Truth

Oh my goodness! Those two sentences hold so much truth.

Public Voting on Book Covers Now Open

The Judges of JUDGE A BOOK BY ITS COVER Contest have had their say. Now it's time for the Readers Choice Voting to take place.

Fire up your laptop, tablet, or phone and go to JABBIC Readers Choice Page and start voting. It's really easy. Click on the Category name, scroll through the book covers posted there, and select the number of stars for each cover. (The stars are below each cover, and they're gray until you vote for the cover by clicking the number of stars you wish.)

Get DEAD HEAT from Your Amazon Kindle Shop.
By the way, my cover for DEAD HEAT is in the Romantic Suspense Category. I'd love a vote if you like the cover art.

Take note of the artist's name listed below each book cover if you're in need of cover art. If you reach out to a designer, be sure to let them know you spotted them in the JABBIC!

Readers' Choice voting ends at midnight, February 15, 2018.

Takeaway Truth

Scroll, browse, and vote now!

Bulletproof Your Title

If you are an author, or you want to be an author, you need to learn about the business side of writing. You need to know there are legal implications of publishing your work.

Do you know about "fair use" and about words or phrases that may be trademarked?

Fair Use

In U.S. Copyright Law, the doctrine of Fair Use means brief excerpts of copyright material may, under certain circumstances, be quoted verbatim for purposes such as criticism, news reporting, teaching, and research, without the need for permission from or payment to the copyright holder.

Under U.S. Copyright Law, a song title cannot be copyrighted. That's why you see so many book titles that bear the title of very popular songs.

Copyright Vs. Trademark

There's another kind of registration that companies depend on to protect their intellectual property, and it's Trademark Registration.

How does Copyright Registration and Trademark Registration differ? In essence, each protects different types of assets.

Copyright is for literary and artistic work, such as books and videos. Trademark protects items that help define a company brand, such as its logo, or the goods (and sometimes services) that company makes.

Because companies want to protect their products and their economic livelihood, they are fierce in registering and protecting trademarks. To that end, there are certain words or phrases you can NOT use in book titles without incurring corporate wrath.

I learned from the late Kate Duffy, one of my first editors, that I couldn't use the title, "What's up, Doc?" on my romantic comedy they'd contracted.

Why? What'S Up, Doc?® is a registered trademark used for Printed Matter and Paper Goods, Namely, Books ... and owned by Time Warner Entertainment Company.

Kate explained the matter to me, and we agreed to change the title to Just One Look , and the comedy of errors courtship romance has been a huge seller for me ever since it was first published.

Bulletproof Your Title

You don't want to use a title that is already used by more publishers than you can count. You also don't want to use a title that is a registered trademark without permission of the trademark owner. If you do, they may unleash their big dog lawyers on you.

If you're thinking you're just some small fry, unknown by one and all, so you're safe, allow me to correct you. They will take you to the cleaners. (By the way, I use Google alerts to keep track of where my name and book titles pop up so you know trademark owners do this too, and they have a whole lot more people guarding their names and trademarks.)

Before you carve your title in stone, here's what you need to do.

3 Ways To Research Your Title

1. Plug the proposed title into an Amazon Search. I'll admit that it's getting harder and harder to find a title that hasn't been used. Do you honestly want a title that's got dozens of books with the same one? When you have a list of 5 or 6 titles, move to the second step.

2. Plug the proposed title into a search engine like Google and check the first 2-3 SERP to see what pops up. Take what's left of your title list and move to step 3.

3. Search the United States Trademark Database for those title phrases. That's the main page which explains the various options. Scroll down until you find Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS) and you'll see a big button that says Search Trademarks. Click it and get started.

A Few Tips To Get Started

There are HELP tips on the webpage so just read if you don't know what to do.

When you do a search, don't use quote marks around the title the way you do in most searches because one or more of the words in the title might be trademarked but not the entire phrase you want to use.

On the Trademark website, you'll see in the middle of the page, Basic Word Mark Search which allows searching of the most commonly searched fields: word marks, serial or registration numbers, and owners and is designated New User.

Type in your tentative title, and you'll discover if the phrase is, or has been, trademarked. Personally, even if it comes up "dead," meaning not currently registered, I'd play it safe and still not use it because it has once been registered and that may create legal problems for you.

For more information, specifically about movie titles and trademark, read this article by Jonathan L. Handel. Yes, it was published 10 years ago, but I believe the information is still valid.

Takeaway Truth

It's easier and cheaper to prevent an infringement problem than to fix one.