Getting Cozy with Books & Moussaka

Last book I cozied up with.

Last book I cozied up with.

I read year-round, but this time of year I read more than usual. One reason is what happened today by me (I’m writing this on the 8th) – blowing snow and single digit temperatures. Schools are closing because of snow. During this season, I watch more TV than usual, too. But even with a few hundred TV channels, I would still rather get cozy with a good book than a TV show.

I’m not the only one. As is usual this time of year, I’ve noticed a jump in the sales of my books. For the last few years, people have said that this is because of the e-readers that were Christmas presents, but I think that a lot of people have reading devices already – even if it’s their phone or their tablets. My guess is that the weather is a big contributor.

Another book I read recently.

Another book I read recently.

I’m also trying to eat healthier. Last summer, I thought I had symptoms of hypothyroidism – tiredness and brain fog being the scariest. I had a blood test, and my numbers were solidly in the normal range. But something was wrong, and I wondered if I had food allergies. Instead of getting more tests, I cut down on gluten and dairy. Almost immediately, I noticed a change for the better. And today I caught a Dr. Oz show. He named the symptoms of gluten intolerance, and they are similar to the symptoms of hypothyroidism. I still eat cheese (I love cheese!) and some dairy, and I seem to be okay there. Though I do eat some gluten, I don’t make a habit of it. I even drink gluten-free beer.

So for my blog today, I’ll share a gluten-free, healthy recipe. It’s from Entrees – Food Writers’ Favorites: Quick & Easy Recipes, edited by Barbara Gibbes Ostmann and Jane Baker. This recipe is from Carla H. Eschmann:

Moussaka with Zucchini or Eggplant

2 tablespoons olive oil
3 small zucchini, unpeeled and cut into 1/4 inch slices (or 1 medium eggplant, unpeeled and cut into 1/4 inch slices)
1 large onion, sliced
1 lb. lean ground lamb*
1 8-oz can tomato sauce
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon*
3/4 teaspoon salt*
1 cup diced feta cheese
1/4 to 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Heat oil in large skillet. Add zucchini (or eggplant) and onion; cook until tender-crisp. Remove from skillet and put in a 2-quart baking dish. Set aside.

In the same skillet, brown lamb, stirring with a spoon to break up meat. Drain fat. In a small bowl, combine tomato sauce, garlic, salt and cinnamon. Pour over lamb; mix well. Simmer 10 to 15 minutes.

Spread lamb mixture evenly over zucchini mixture in baking dish. Sprinkle feta cheese and Parmesan cheese over top, covering completely. Bake in preheated 350-degree over 30 minutes.

Note: I haven’t used ground lamb (because of the price), but we’ve used ground turkey, ground chuck, and ground beef, and they’ve all been good. We like cinnamon and garlic, so I use about 1 teaspoon of cinnamon and a big garlic clove or 2 small cloves. And if you have salt already in the tomato sauce, you probably don’t need to add any.

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Farewell 2014 – say hello to 2015

Maybe…  Anyone else still feel like they are stuck in 2014? Anyone else still clearing off their desk and taking care of tasks that should have been done in 2014? Anyone else not even had a chance to consider New Year’s resolutions.

I set myself goals to clear off the old year – and I made those goals. Yes, in a panic, and likely more of a mess than I’d have liked but I made them. Then the new year started and the couple of days to rest and recuperate never happened. And I haven’t slowed down since. Starting the new year at top speed is NOT how I want to start the year, but there were a few mitigating circumstances. As long as I slow down when these issues are done with.

Except that is not likely with the release of Eyes to the Soul (Psychic Visions #7) on the 20th of January Eyes to the soul R1.3

and the release of

Scars (book 2 of Broken but… Mending) in February.

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Thankfully, March has no new releases booked but I have back to back releases in April then May. Not to mention my daughter is graduating and my son is getting married, my house is for sale and I’ll need to buy a place and move.

Before then I have to have Vampire in Chaos done and Chilled by Death done. Sigh.

Do you know what my biggest problem is? Me! And that’s the real new year’s resolution I need to focus on – me – learning, accepting and following through on when I’m tired. When I need a break from writing. When I need to get back writing. When my muse needs to be locked up. When I need to turn my back on the stack of To Do lists. When I need to forgive myself for not managing to complete all I’d set out to do. When I need a kick in the butt – either to sit in the darn chair and work  or to get out of the house or a walk.

VID7R0.2Chilled By Death R0.3

I’m more determined than ever to honor the writer within, honor my process – whatever that may mean at the moment, and to allow my muse to take me where she wants to go. Of course while honoring all my current and future commitments. lol.

So what about you? Do you take care of yourself? Should you take better care? 

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Guest Bonnie Dodge: Success Through Common Sense

I’m so pleased to have my longtime online friend, Bonnie Dodge, as my first guest of the year. I admire her writing and her philosophy below, too. Enjoy!

Resolve to employ more common sense

BonnieDThis week social media sites are rife with advice. I will lose weight. I will eat more vegetables. I will exercise every day. Everywhere I look someone is posting goals or resolutions. As for me, I gave up goals and resolutions. Now I rely on common sense.

Because I’m lucky enough to do something I love, I rarely need to be motivated to work. Yes, there are days I’d rather clean the toilet than face a blank page. But a writer’s work is always there, waiting to be finished, edited, and published. It never goes away; it never ends. I learned years ago that setting goals like, I’m going to publish my novel this year, or I’m going to sell four articles this month is unrealistic. In this business there are no guarantees. There’s only the work and the necessity to keep going. I can’t tell you how many writers threatened to stop writing only to find their book published or their articles sold and their career launched the very next day. It’s almost as if there’s this precarious balance. You’ve worked as hard as you can and you seem to be getting nowhere, then suddenly a balloon pops, your work is accepted, and you’re on the other side. I’ve seen it happen so many times that I’m a firm believer persistence pays off.

So I’ve come to believe in common sense and hard work. No matter how I plan, something is bound to go wrong. Yes, I would like to lose weight, and I give it my best shot, but I also know I can gain five pounds over a holiday weekend. Yes, I will eat more vegetables, until I get so sick of lettuce I can’t look at a salad. I will walk ever day, unless it rains or the wind rattles the window. Everything in moderation. The key is to keep going.

As you contemplate the New Year and the things you want to achieve, toss in a large dose of common sense. Believe in yourself; believe in the process. Then give yourself a pat on the back for a job well done.

Best wishes for a successful and prosperous New Year, no matter what your heart desires.

Here’s info about my book Waiting:

waitingThree generations of Foster women–senior citizen Maxine, attention seeker Grace, and aspiring artist Abbie–think they are nothing alike. But they all share a secret. They wait. For love, for attention, for life, for death, for Idaho’s warm, but promising summer to return. In their journeys between despair and happiness, they learn there are worse things than being alone, like waiting for the wrong person’s love. With sensitivity and humor, Waiting carries readers into the hearts of three women who learn that happiness comes from within.

Amazon | Barnes&Noble | Apple/itunes

BONNIE DODGE is co-author of the anthologies Hauntings from the Snake River Plain and Voices from the Snake River Plain and author of Miracles in the Desert, a book of essays about Twin Falls, Idaho. She is an award-winning writer and has won honors for her short stories and novels.  You can find her at her website, Facebook and Twitter.

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It’s Gotta Have Heart

photo credit: Edgar Barany via photopin cc

My husband and I were having a discussion the other day about couples. We’ve gotten to the stage in our lives when we’ve rubbed a lot of the painful edges off each other–not quite to where we look alike but I can see the day looming coming.

You can find a recap of the couples discussion on my personal blog, but the point I’m exploring today is a bit different.

Couples in books.

photo credit: cdrummbks via photopin cc

photo credit: cdrummbks via photopin cc

Growing up I read a lot of science fiction (Isaac Asimov, the Danny Dunn series (which just came out on Kindle in November!!)), fantasy (C.S. Lewis, Five Children and It), magical reality (Zilpha Keatley Snyder, the Freddy the Pig series), historical fiction, and mysteries (Agatha Christie, Sherlock Holmes, Nero Wolfe).

About my late teens I found the romance section. Remember your first introduction to romance? Me, it was a Harlequin I can’t find again (darn it!), Kathleen Woodiwiss, and Johanna Lindsey.

I was hooked. I thought I’d be reading only romance for the rest of my life…

Well, no. Eventually I found traditional romance didn’t give me all the things I looked for in reading. Action, adventure, mystery, wonder…these things are subgenres now but then I had to widen my search.

Who did I find? Janet Evanovich (Stephanie Plum, mystery/humor). Jim Butcher (Dresden Files, SF/fantasy). Elizabeth Peters (Amelia Peabody, mystery). Just recently I started on James Rollins (Map of Bones, Sigma Force series–thriller?), and I’m enjoying the stories immensely, but I’m not totally convinced I’ll read the whole series.

Why?

Because strangely, the rest all have romance somewhere in their makeup. HFN or HEA; it may not be more than a small part of the story, but there’s attraction somewhere in there that has the potential for committed love and is not just James Bond hitting on the Girl of the Week. (Revolving-door romance does not qualify for me. I’m not sure Rollins will give me that. I’m not sure he’ll give his heroes their one-and-only, or if he’ll give them a revolving door.)

Point being, when I looked at the books I read, I discovered that small or large, I need romance!

What about you? What was your stepping stone into Romance? Does a story have to have romance for you to read it?

Let’s get to know each other! In my first year as a Magical Musings blogger, I’m exploring my 10 favorite things. This is number three.

 

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New Year, New Goals, New Point of View—Guest Roxy Mews

photo credit: moonhatta via photopin cc

photo credit: moonhatta via photopin cc

This is the time of year when I usually dust off my treadmill and try to remember that yoga pants are actually supposed to be used in a yoga class. I’ve started calling mine YouTube pants, because that’s what I do when I wear them. The endless videos don’t judge me.

I’m switching gears this year.

Literally.

I’m writing about gears.

Next month I’ve got a new novella out with Samhain Publishing called Coral-600. If you’ve read my books, you’re familiar with my sense of humor. So you might be able to understand why I couldn’t resist writing from the point-of-view of a 90-year-old virgin robot. She’s discovering what all her genetically modified tissue can do, and I had to hang on for the ride with her.

I sent this little nugget onto my editor and neither one of us really knew what to do with it, but we knew it was too much fun to let sit in my computer. It’s a sexy love story that just happens to involve a robot. Coral, our robo-main character, is determined to get what she needs out of life and can’t understand why others would want to deny her things that just plain feel good.

In 2015, I want to be more like the strong female characters I write about. I want to figure out what I want and go for it. I’m trying to get organized, but for now, I’m filling my writing space with beautiful quotes. I’m journaling every day, and I’m writing down more of the stories inside my head.

If you’re looking for a book to make you smile while you’re keeping up with your resolutions, I hope you’ll give mine a try. Happy New Year!

Roxy Mews Professional PicRoxy wrote her first story at age six on an electric typewriter. It was about a cat and a haunted house. Thankfully, her stories and technology have matured since then. Now Roxy spends her days fighting the evil day job in hopes of conquering the stories that run rampant in her head when she comes home at night. When she discovered Erotic Romance, Roxy fell in love. She can’t wait to share all her fun and sexy stories with everyone.

To connect with Roxy Mews find her babbling on Twitter, friend her on Facebook, visit her Blog, or find all these links on RoxyRocksMe.com

 

 

 

Coral-600 Cover FINALPleasure is not a malfunction.

Coral-600 is the first and only one of her kind. An artificial intelligence prototype with realistic skin over her metal frame, she was deemed too expensive for mass production and gifted to the royal family.

She cannot legally have a relationship with a human, and it never entered her electronic brain to want more—to break the law. Until she meets Quinn, and her DNA-enhanced skin tingles with a completely new sensation. Desire.

His body damaged beyond repair in the war, Quinn survived—barely—by agreeing to have much of it rebuilt. His royal relatives have taken him in, but it’s tough adjusting to a body that doesn’t come with instructions.

As Coral helps Quinn cope with his new body, the connection between them reaches the melt-down point. But unless she can convince the authorities that humanity runs deeper than flesh and bone, she’ll have her CPU wiped clean—permanently.

Warning: This book contains artificial and natural flavors, lubricant (lots and lots of lubricant), and fun with oh-so-hard drives.

AmazonB&N

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Postcard from the edge

imageI am writing this in a mountain cottage literally on the edge of a steep cliff with the most amazing view of a mountain called the Amphitheatre.

This was the stomping ground of my childhood. Many, many holidays were spent here as a child and that is part of why I’m here now. I wanted to show my own children this wonderful place as we now live a whole ocean away.

Being here has reminded me of so many things, chiefly that I am very fortunate and that there are truly amazing places in this world.

I’ve never been one for new year’s resolutions. I like to reflect and adjust continuously through the year. 2014 passed by in a blur for me. I simply can’t believe it is over at midnight tonight, but if I have any reflection today, it is that I should seize the day, don’t let time pass me by because I’m concentrating on things that don’t matter, and do what makes me happy. Life is too short for anything else.

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Is Looking Back a Waste of Time? What Do You Really Need From the Past?

I’m not really one to wax philosophical just because because it’s the end of another year.  I think we all have points in time in which we stop to reflect and take measure of how far we’ve come and where we want to be.  The end of the year, the beginning of a new one, both often call upon us for reflection and measure.

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My question though is, “Why?”

What are we doing when we reflect? Are we looking to better ourselves or berate ourselves?  Are we looking to compare or celebrate?

When I look back I often think of friends lost, milestones, celebrations and those events that took my life on a path I may not have imagined.  I do not, however, spend time wishing things were different.  Do you know why? Because they can’t be and to waste precious time imagining them so steals from the future and changes nothing.

The only time worth visiting in the past, in my opinion, are times in which you learn from and times that give you joy.  Everything is else is a waste of time to visit.  Again, just my opinion.

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Education and joy.  Those are the only reason to look back.  The same could be said about books.  Why do we keep going back to the same books?  Because we learn from them and want to keep learning or stay reminded of those lessons, or because the story brings us joy.

Now, what if we apply this “Education and Joy” theory to other parts of our life?  Do you have a cluttered closet? A “junk drawer”?  Do you have hundreds of books lining shelves in several rooms?  Do you wish things were less cluttered in your life? No matter what it is, books, clothes, shoes, tools, if you want to simplify your life look at each thing and ask yourself, “Does this educate me in a way in which keeping it is beneficial to my life?” or ask “Does this thing give me joy?”  Don’t keep something because it is sentimental, keep it because you get great joy from it or learn from it. Otherwise, it’s just taking up space, causing you guilt when you look at it because you keep it out of obligation not joy and you know it.

I’ve slowly but surely started de-cluttering my life.  Not because it’s the end of the year.  Not because it’s some New Year’s resolution.  I am doing it because I don’t need things to inspire my memories.  I don’t need things to remind me I am loved or that I love others.  If my house burned to the ground and all my dogs and family were okay I would miss a few things, but I would not be devastated by the loss of any one material item.  I’ve actually lost everything I owned once and though I miss a few things, I hardly recall what the other things were.  Mostly, I just want a simpler life filled only with things that help me grow and educate me, or give me joy.

Let me ask you something?  If you could only save three things from your home, given that all the people and animals are already safe, what three items would you take?  Why?

Do you look back and hold on or do you find little time for reflection because you’re time is spent on today and the future?

 

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Gratitude

The year 2014 started off well for me. I published one new book and two novellas. I had stories in four new bundles – and was even in charge of one. This brought me to the beginning of fall where I had an exciting idea for my next book. I’d barely started it when my husband and I went on a two-week tour of the UK.

We had a great time, but after I got home from the tour, I had a bad case of jet lag. It took another two weeks before I felt like myself again. And just as I did, my friend of many years was slowly dying – then more quickly dying.

Have you heard the phrase, “It knocked the stuffing out of me”? That’s how I felt. This didn’t affect just my emotions; it affected my writing, too. But even before this, I’d been putting the act of writing in second, third or last place. Recently, I decided that I needed to get back my joy of writing. My love of writing.

On a Yahoo writing group that I belong to, an author recently recommended THE HAPPINESS ADVANTAGE by Shawn Achor. The subtitle is: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work

The+Happiness+AdvantageI did watch a few of his YouTube videos (the one above is great), and now I’ve read the book. Very big in all these principles is gratitude and noticing the good things in your life. In this article and in the book, Achor says to write down three new things you are grateful for each day. If you do this every day, looking for the positive in your life will soon become a habit. He also advises you to send a email to “someone on your team” every day, thanking or praising them. Doing this increases our feelings of social support.

Magical Musings is the closest I have to a team, and I’m so grateful to be part of this group with no many talented women. I admire all of them for so many reasons: their writing talent, their enthusiasm, their support, their wisdom, and so much more. There isn’t room in this post for all that I admire and thank them for.

I’m also grateful to all of the readers who read our blogs. Whether you comment or not, you’re the reason we do this. I hope 2014 was a good year for all of you. And I hope 2015 will be even more amazing. :)

Who are you grateful for – and why?

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Boxing Day

It’s odd that this year the one Canadian in the group has her blog days on the two holiday Fridays – Black Friday and Boxing Day. You, or most of you, are familiar with Black Friday but in Canada, traditionally our big shopping day is the day AFTER Christmas and it’s called Boxing Day. It’s also a statutory holiday! Yay me! :)

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According to Wikipedia, Boxing Day is:

In Scotland, Boxing Day has been specified as an additional bank holiday since 1974, by Royal Proclamation under the Banking and Financial Dealings Act, 1971.

In Ireland – when the island as a whole was part of the UK – the Bank Holiday’s Act established the feast day of St. Stephen as a non-movable public holiday on 26 December. Since the creation of the Republic of Ireland following partition in 1920, Northern Ireland – being part of the United Kingdom – officially reverted to use of the British name ‘Boxing Day’.

In Australia, Boxing Day is a federal public holiday. In the Australian state of South Australia, 28 December is a public holiday known as Proclamation Day and Boxing Day is not normally a public holiday. The holiday for Proclamation Day is observed on the first weekday after Christmas Day or the Christmas Day holiday. Nowadays Boxing Day is popular in Australia as the first day of a Test cricket match held at the MCG. A Test match is also often held in South Africa starting on Boxing Day.

In New Zealand Boxing Day is a statutory holiday; penalty rates and lieu time are provided to employees who work on the day.

In Canada, Boxing Day is a federal statutory holiday. Government offices, banks and post offices/delivery are closed. In some Canadian provinces, Boxing Day is a statutory holiday that is always celebrated on 26 December. In Canadian provinces where Boxing Day was a statutory holiday, and it falls on a Saturday or Sunday, compensation days are given in the following week.

In the US, Boxing Day is celebrated as a public holiday in a few states – Kansas, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and Texas.Although referred to informally as Boxing Day, officially it is called “Day After Christmas Day”.

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Although it has become a ferocious shopping day in many places, there are others in Canada that are equally strong against shopping on this day of rest and shops are not allowed by law to open on that day. Many use this day to recuperate from Christmas.

Personally I think that’s the best use of a holiday, too! Guess how I plan to spend the day… :)

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Magical Holidays!

From all of us at Magical Musings, we wish you magical holidays, just like in the video below – only better!

 

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