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.

Ingredients

  • 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.)
Instructions
  • 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.

Quickie Review: Duchess In Love by Eloisa James

I think I'm still tired from yesterday. I'd love a few more hours of sleep.

Of course, this foggy gray day enhances the feeling of tiredness.

I must leave in a few minutes for another day away from the office so this will be a short post.

Like the old TV show Laugh In that's shown in syndication on one of the local HD channels, it's time for a quickie—review that is.

Quickie Review: Duchess In Love by Eloisa James

I find when I'm tired and feeling a little down that I turn to Regency romance novels. There's something comforting about reading stories with genteel characters seeking love that's calming and pleasant. Despite whatever drama lies within the pages, the well-mannered characters muddle through to their happily ever after.

Duchess In Love is a perfect example of this kind of book. It's as pleasant and soothing as watching the Netflix series Escape to the Country in which couples throng to the lovely English countryside where one hardly sees a weed obstructing the pastoral view.

I love the novels by Eloisa James, and Duchess In Love is no exception. Ms. James has well-drawn, witty  characters who find themselves in absurd situations, and the secondary characters add just the right amount of humor to make the reader smile—knowing full well that these second bananas will have their day in the spotlight as the heroine of another of the books in her series.

In Duchess In Love the heroine was forced into marriage with a Duke at a very young age. He left the country immediately without consummating the marriage of course. Years pass and Gina, our virgin heroine who is sorely put out by her lot in life, wants an annulment so she can get on with her life.

When Camden, the Duke of Girton, returns home, with that very intention on his mind, he finds Gina has become a woman—a very desirable woman. How can he give her the annulment she demands when he realizes he's fallen in love with her?

Takeaway Truth

If you're looking for a novel to brighten a gray day, try Duchess In Love, only $1.99 at Amazon Kindle.

Promise of Spring

Here in Houston we've had a long cold winter. I know many of you have that every year where you live, but we don't!

One thing I've always loved about this part of Texas is that our winters are wonderful. Just enough cold days to wear sweaters and even a coat sometimes.

This year, we've had snow, ice, nearly two weeks of freezing and below freezing temperatures, snow again, ice again, and, frankly, we're all tired of it!

Seed Catalogs

Last week in the mail came a seed catalog. Eagerly I grabbed it, sat down with a cup of coffee, and browsed the pages of flowers, vegetables, shrubbery, and trees just waiting for the home gardener. I can hardly wait to cut back the winter kill that dots my yard and get the flower beds ready for spring planting.

Along with herbs and flowers, I'll plant tomatoes, okra, and squash. I can hardly wait. In the meantime, I'm doing the next best thing which is shopping via the seed catalog. I want to try a couple of the new thornless blackberry plants and Darling Hubby wants a Gala apple tree to replace the one that died last year.

Takeaway Truth

Nothing says "Spring is coming" like a seed catalog.

Superbowl In Quotations

I imagine hardly anyone reads blogs today. Most of the populace are glued to the TV sets for all the pre-Superbowl hoopla followed by the game followed by post-Superbowl hoopla.

So I won't keep you. I'll just give you a few quotations about the Superbowl greats that I particularly like.

One is from the coaching viewpoint, another is from a player's viewpoint, and the last is from the spectator's viewpoint.

3 Great Quotes About the Superbowl

Coach John Madden said, "If you win a Super Bowl before you're fired, you're a genius, and everyone listens to you. But a coach is just a guy whose best class in grammar school was recess and whose best class in high school was P.E. I never thought I was anything but a guy whose best class was P.E."

Recently named NFL Man of the Year, J.J. Watt said, "Obviously, you get to do a lot of great things and cool opportunities at the Super Bowl. But at the end of the day, we all want to be here as a player. That's the goal, and that's why I work so dang hard."

Comedian Ron White said, "I believe that a bad Super Bowl halftime show is still better than a soccer game."

Takeaway Truth

Enjoy the hoopla!

Romance Through the Ages Contest Opens

If you're a historical romance author, you'll be glad to know that the 16th Annual Romance through the Ages Contest, sponsored by Hearts Through History Romance Writers is now open.

What a great opportunity for feedback on your future masterpieces from writing peers.

Plus, you don't want to miss a chance for great prizes and to have your manuscript seen by industry professionals!

Dates

Entries accepted Feb 1st – March 31st, 2018

Deadline: entry fee, manuscript file, and payment must be received by midnight March 31, 2018.

Finalists announced on or about May 31, 2018.

Winners announced during the Hearts Through History annual meeting at the RWA national conference in Denver, CO, on July 18, 2018.

Prizes

1st place winners in each category + Legends award: $50

1st, 2nd, and 3rd place winners in each category: printed certificate and social media badge (worth $50)

All winners will be announced in the Romance Writers Report.

Entry Fee

$20 for Hearts Through History Romance Writers members / $25 for non-members. Both entry form, manuscript file, and payment must be received by midnight March 31, 2018.

Eligibility

Unpublished authors may enter any category.

Published authors may enter any category in which they’re not published, or in which they’ve not been contracted for publication within the past five years. Self-published work will be considered contracted for the purposes of this contest.

Open to RWA and non-RWA members. HHRW membership is not required.

Entries that have previously won 1st place in any RTTA category or that have won the Legends Award are not eligible. All other previous finalist entries are eligible.

All entries must be the author’s original work.

Any work of historical romance that has not been contracted for publication by March 31, 2018, may be entered.

Categories

The 2018 Romance Through The Ages contest offers the following categories:

Ancient/Medieval/Renaissance
Setting: worldwide, Time period: prehistory through the 17th century

Ancient/Medieval/Renaissance – Celtic
Setting: British Isles, Time period: prehistory through the 17th century

Georgian/Regency/Victorian
Setting: England and its colonies/territories, Time period: late 18th through 19th centuries

Colonial/Western/Civil War
Setting: United States, Time period: 17th through 19th centuries

Post-Victorian/World War II
Setting: worldwide, Time period:1901 through 1945

Modern History 1950s – 1980s
Setting: worldwide, Time period:1950s through 1980s

Time Travel/Historical Paranormal
Setting: worldwide, Time period: prehistory through 1945, Note: more than 50% of the entry must take place in the historical period

Legend Award: A Man for All Reasons
All entries are automatically entered in this special cross-category award. The Legend Award celebrates the most memorable hero out of all entries.

To date, 2018 Romance through the Ages Final Judges are:
Ancient/Medieval/Renaissance – Celtic: Erin Molta, Entangled Publishing

Ancient/Medieval/Renaissance: Kathryn LeVeque, Dragonblade Publishing

Georgian/Regency/Victorian: Elle Keck, Avon Books/HarperCollins

Colonial/Western/Civil War: Laura Bradford, Bradford Literary Agency

Post Victorian/World War II: Jill Marsal, Marsal Lyon Literary Agency

Time Travel/Historical Paranormal: Danielle Egan-Miller Brown, and Miller Literary Associates

Modern History 1950s – 1980s: TBA

Legend Award: A Man for All Reasons: Jennie Conway, St. Martin’s Press/Macmillan

Contact For More Information

If you have any questions, please e-mail RTTA @ heartsthroughhistory.com and contact the contest chair.

For more info and to enter, visit the Contest Page. https://www.heartsthroughhistory.com/rtta-contest/

Takeaway Truth

The clock is ticking. This is a great contest for historical authors. Enter today.

Someone will win. Maybe it will be you!

Review: DesignEvo Free Online Logo Maker

Image created in 5 minutes as 1st time user
Even authors sometimes have the need for a logo. I have a few I've designed for myself and for this blog.

Recently, I received an email from Sophia, a Partnership Manager of PearlMountain, to inform me about one of their free online tools, DesignEvo.

I was asked to review their software for inclusion on my blog since it's advertised as an "easy to use online logo maker."

Even though most readers of SlingWords aren't looking for logo making software, many are looking for free, easy to use graphic design apps to help them create infographics to promote their books and other products.

Testing DesignEvo

So I decided I'd test DesignEvo, which has more than 3000 templates, and see what I could do with it. As the partnership representative said in her email, the software has some excellent features:
  • 3000+ fully customizable logo templates
  • Over one million icons available to search through
  • Hundreds of text fonts and shapes to choose from
  • Freely customize a logo with powerful editing tools.
There are 3 membership levels offered:

Free which allows you to download what you create as a 500px x 500px, low resolution file,
JPG/PNG with background. This image is okay for using online as you can tell from the image above. It is not suitable for printing on a tee shirt and not sharp enough for printing.

Basic costs a one-time fee of $19.99. This level allows you to create images with a maximum resolution of 5000px x 5000px PNG with transparent background, and the images are print-ready. You also receive Lifetime support for the product.

Plus costs a one-time fee of $39.99. This level gives you all of the above plus the ability to edit and re-download and also download in Vector, PDF, and SVG files. Additionally, you also have the right to trademark the customized and purchased logo design.

Creating Infographics or Teasers

Can this be used as a substitute for digital illustration software like Gimp, Canva, or FotoJet? No.

You can't upload images like book cover art, but I can see that it would be great to design a logo to brand a group of authors who band together for a common goal or a writing club membership or a logo for a special box set.

Why not register an account? There's no downside. (1) It's free. (2) It's very easy to use. (3) There's a wide range of categories, templates, icons, shapes, and fonts. (4) Customizing what you create from standard elements is easy.

Takeaway Truth

If you don't have your own logo, go to DesignEvo and you can whip one in a very short time. Use your logo for branding your social media sites, websites, blogs, guest blogs, etc. You're limited only by your imagination.

Language Trends: Old Words & New Words

Most of us recognize that English is always growing and changing. When I went to school--admittedly many years ago--there was no such topic as "language trends."

Now new words are added to the dictionary each year. Merriam-Webster added more than 1,000 new words in 2017.

M-W received a lot of criticism for some of the words which sound a bit, well, made up. For example, listicle: an article consisting of a series of items presented as a list.

I'd never heard of listicle before. Have you? All dictionaries add new words even the good old OED (Oxford English Dictionary).

Old Words

I was looking through a vintage book of facts published by Readers Digest in 1937 and had to laugh at some of the tests and teasers. I wonder how many people in today's world could answer this question: What is the origin of these 5 words?
  • Bloomers
  • Sandwich
  • Guillotine
  • Vandyke
  • gerrymander 
I know the answer, do you?

Bloomers are, of course, what underpants for women were called in the 19th century. They usually were baggy, gathered at the waist, and reached to the knee of below. They were named after Mrs. Amelia Jenks Bloomer of New York who was billed as a dress reformer.

Thanks to TV commercials, just about everyone knows that the Sandwich was named after the 4th Earl of Sandwich who is credited for slapping meat on bread and serving it to his fellow card players. (His servant probably did this.)

Guillotine was named after Dr. J. I. Guillotin who invented this tool the French executioners popularized.

Vandyke is a pointed beard and was named after the 17th century Flemish artist. Just look at any of his paintings, and you'll see that style of facial hair.

Gerrymander is a political term which means to divide an electoral area into districts so that one political party has an advantage in representation. This action was named after Elbridge Gerry who was Governor of Massachusetts in 1812. There are now laws which prevent this from occurring.

Of these 5 words, only sandwich is still in daily use. Sometimes you might hear a stylist refer to a Vandyke beard, but it's not very common.

New Words

You already know listicle so here are 5 more new words for you to add to your vocabulary.

Conlang, a noun meaning an invented language.

Face-palm, a verb meaning to cover one's face with the hand as an expression of embarrassment.

Humblebrag, a verb meaning to make a seemingly modest, self-critical, or casual statement or reference that is meant to draw attention to one's admirable or impressive qualities or achievements.

Mumblecore, a noun meaning a genre of narrative film focusing primarily on the intimate lives of young characters and featuring scenes of ample dialogue and minimal action.

Truther, a noun meaning one who believes that the truth about an important subject or event is being concealed from the public by a powerful conspiracy.

Takeaway Truth

I wonder how many of today's common words will fall out of common usage in the next decade or two, replaced by some words derived from pop culture as are the 5 new words.