Happy Independence Day, America!

Be beautiful, America. Be the land that we love.

I've traveled in a lot of countries and have learned that even with our challenges and failures, this is still the only place I want to call home.

Takeaway Truth

Happy Birthday, America.

Deceptive Art of Fiction Writing

If you've ever written, or tried to write, fiction, you've learned something very important.

Writing fiction is easy—until you try it.

Years ago, I read something Jack Bickham wrote in his book, The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes.

This pithy guide to better writing is an excellent resource that doesn't overwhelm someone trying to improve the narrative skills. The chapters are only 2 to 3 pages long.

I read that long ago in a chapter of this book.

"The writing of fiction is very deceptive—it looks easy until you try it."

As a writer with more than a few manuscripts, published and unpublished, behind me, I know this truth in every neuron of my brain. This is why I always encourage those who tell me they're going to write a book when they have the time. As if time is the only requirement for writing a book.

I tell them to go for it.

If they've been particularly condescending in their assumption that free time is all that is needed to write successfully, I stand a good chance of being greatly amused when I bump into them in the future.

I've yet to hear anything but hemming and hawing from those who've actually tried to turn their idea into a book and given up.

More is required than leisure time to successfully write. If you want to write, you must be willing to work hard. Writing is hard on the anatomy, the brain, and the emotions.

Takeaway Truth

I think it was Earl Nightingale who said: "There are no bargains at the counter of success. You must pay full price."


July Is...

"July is hot afternoons and sultry nights and mornings when its joy just to be alive.

"July is a picnic and a red canoe and a sunburned neck and a softball game and ice tinkling in a tall glass.

"July is a blind date with summer." —Hal Borland

Takeaway Truth

Have a wonderful July!

7 Fascinating Facts About Human Eyes

I have some significant vision problems.

Unfortunately, there's not much I can do about that.

However, in my research about sight, I found some interesting facts I thought I'd share.

First, I'd like to advise everyone to get an annual eye checkup.

Always have your eye pressure and your retinas checked. For the retina check, they will put drops in your eyes and wait until your pupils are hugely dilated. Then they can look through them to see the retinas.

Most insurance doesn't pay the extra for checking eye pressure and retina, but that's where the problems can sneak up on you that could eventually result in blindness.

7 Fascinating Facts About Eyes

1. The sense of sight is responsible for 90 to 95% of all or our sensory perception.

Think of the details you read from a character's viewpoint in a book. They're primarily about what the character  sees. A sky isn’t just blue; it’s robin's egg blue. Saying an ocean is stormy doesn't convey as much information as saying it's midnight blue with foaming white caps.

2. The human eye can perceive more than a million simultaneous visual impressions.

3. The human eye can detect the differences in almost 8 million gradations of color. My daughter the artist can do this. I look at something and say it's gray. She looks at it and says, "No, it's blue with an undertone of black and magenta."

4. The human eye is so sensitive that on a clear night when there is no moon, a person sitting on a mountain peak can see a match struck 50 miles away.

If you ever saw an old WW2 movie, where monitors checked to make sure no one had a light on that could be seen form outside.

If a light shone through an uncurtained window, the blackout monitor would yell for them to turn the light off  because bombers flying high in the sky could target a city using that light.

5. The human eye takes about an hour to completely adapt to seeing in the dark. If you have any kind of retina problem, you lose the ability to see in the dark.

6. When someone sees something pleasing, the pupil in the eye can dilate as much as 45%.

Remember all those passages in romance novels where you read, "His eyes darkened." That indicates he saw something very pleasing and the pupil of the eye enlarged to take in as much detail as possible.

7. Blue eyes are most sensitive to light with dark brown the least sensitive. Most snipers from Revolutionary times to modern day have been blue eyes.

My husband has brilliant blue eyes, and he could literally shoot a penny off a fence post.

Nature makes up for this physical difference, I guess, because people with brown eyes have an increased sense of smell. Most perfumers and others whose jobs involve the need for smell sensitivity are brown-eyed.

Protect your eyes when out in the sun. Wear good quality sunglasses. During this COVID era, it's safer to wear glasses than contact lenses when out and about.

Takeaway Truth

If you're a writer, make sure your words paint a picture that will come alive in the reader's imagination.

If you're a reader, think about those descriptions you read and the physical effects on the body. You may discover another layer of meaning.

3 Fun Ways to Beat the Heat

Summer here on the Third Coast means you go outside for fifteen minutes to work in the yard, and you come in wringing wet with perspiration.

We haven't hit triple digits yet this year, but it will in another couple of weeks.

The key to happiness in life is focusing on the positive and ignore the negative.

The same is true about enjoying the summer even in COVID. You can stay cool without cranking the air conditioning down to arctic zone and have fun too.

Pretend you're a kid again. Have you heard people say, "Hot enough for you?" Fairly often I imagine. Have you ever heard a kid say that? Probably not.

3 Easy Ways to Stay Cool & Have Fun Doing It

Whether you have kids or not, here are some fun ways to stay cool and have fun.

Popsicle Mold from Amazon
1. Get a popsicle maker.

Yes, even if you don't have kids. You can find those plastic popsicle makers just about everwhere from kitchen accessories stores to dollar stores. They come in all price points. The one shown from Amazon is less than $10.

Prepare your favorite beverage—Koolaid, juice, or rum punch. Pour your choice into each unit of the frozen pop maker, freeze, then enjoy whenever you feel overheated.

A frozen gin and tonic pop will keep you cool and smooth away the rough edges. Just don't take the forklift or the minivan out on the freeway if you make alcoholic pops.

2. If you've got kids, then have a daily water hose fight with them.

I did this when our kids were young, and I enjoyed getting soaked too. It's still something the kids fondly remember.

No kids? Wash your car and be careless with the hose. Put some great music on, and you'll feel like a kid again.

3. Get a kiddie pool.

That's right. Plop it down in the backyard, on the patio, or any shady place shady.

Blend up a big container of your favorite slushy like strawberries and ice and yogurt (or maybe rum or vodka).

Settle into the filled pool with your favorite libation and a good book. Kids and dogs are optional.

Takeaway Truth

Water + fun + games = good times your kids will remember.  Gotta go. My margarita frozen popsicles are almost ready.

3 Fast Tips About Blog Content

One day I'll finish my book on blogging
Many bloggers find it difficult to come up with new content on a daily basis. Here are 3 Fast Tips About Blog Content.

Ask yourself these 3 questions:

1. What are your abiding interests or passions?

2. Will readers find what interests you—your passions—interesting to them?

3. Do your interests and passions coincide with what you want to write about?

As an example, my blog has a lot of "civilians" who read it—civilians mean people who are NOT writers. They read SlingWords for a variety of reasons:
  • to be introduced to new authors
  • for the reviews I do for books, TV, tech, movies, etc.
  • for tips on how to be more efficient or productive
  • to find out interesting information from research I do for books
  • to be inspired and motivated
  • to read about my new books and box sets
  • to learn about giveaways
  • to occasionally find out something about my personal life.
Most of my blog content falls within the framework of the items above.

Takeaway Truth

If you can't find a niche for your blog content, then create one based on what interests you. Chances are it will interest others too.

Review, Reclaiming the Blade: History of the Sword

This may seem odd, but most authors who write romance LOVE action movies with a strong romantic theme.

The strong hero, fully committed to the woman and prepared to do everything possible to protect her, is a common theme in the movies we romance authors like.

Examples

From contemporary time, there's Speed starring Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock.

Most examples are movies set during historical times—movies like Braveheart and Rob Roy and all those pirate movies. All of those have swords.

But swords aren't necessary sometimes. Look at The Last of the Mohicans starring Daniel Day-Lewis and Madeleine Stowe.

But movies with swords really capture romance authors' attention.

Sword fighting in movies has been vastly popular since the 1930s.

Ever watch any of those old black and white pirate movies like Captain Blood starring Errol Flynn? After the 1950s, I don't think there were any sword fighting movies.

I'm not an expert, but the one that caught my fance was the 1981 epic medieval fantasy film, Excalibur. Wow!

The mythical sword, the best retelling of the Arthurian myth, the amazing cinematography, and Carmina Burana in the soundtrack.

That said epic in so many ways, and the film holds up today. When it premiered, audiences didn't get it. I guess it was ahead of its time.

Now, it's a cult film that fans and critics alike think is awesome. Sometimes, it's tough finding an audience for something totally different.

Highlander starring Christopher Lambert found an audience that embraced the film. Made in 1986, the film cost $19 million but only grossed $12 million.

However, as viewers found it, the film was embraced and became a cult classic that inspired more movies and a couple of TV series too.

Enter the Dragon

Not the Bruce Lee film, but the first installment of The Lord of the Rings trilogy that debuted in 2001. We were all hooked.

The other 2 films broke box office records, and the Pirate movies with Johnny Depp took full advantage of the thrill of sword fighting.

All of these movies from the last 2 decades had more than sword fighting going for them, but there was something thrilling and romantic about the ancient weapon, the sword.

Reclaiming the Blade

All of this is a long way of explaining why you should watch the documentary Reclaiming the Blade: History of the Sword a must-see for anyone interested in swords and European and Asian martial arts using swords.

If you're surprised by the reference to European martial arts, you're not alone. The history of European martial arts using swords has been mostly ignored.

However, those bewitched by the blade are shining a spotlight on archaic books and manuscripts that describe sword fighting from as done in Europe in from ancient times through the Renaissance to the era of gunpowder which made sword fighting obsolete.

Reclaiming the Blade, a documentary released in 2009, was written and directed by Daniel McNicoll and produced by Galatia Films. The film features interviews with Viggo Mortensen, Karl Urban, Richard Taylor, and famous Hollywood sword master Bob Anderson.

Mr. Anderson was actually the fencing instructor for Errol Flynn, Johnny Depp, Viggo, and many others. Paul Champagne, a swordsmith, is interviewed as an expert on swordmaking.

Narrated by John Rhys-Davies, the documentary was produced with the support of Peter Jackson, Weta Workshop, Skywalker Sound and the Royal Armouries. When released on iTunes, this film was the #1 rental.

Reclaiming the Blade just came to Amazon Prime so put it on your list. If you're not a subscriber, you can probably rent or buy it.

Takeaway Truth

Fascinating, compelling, and educational is what I call Reclaiming the Blade. Don't miss it.