Spring Comes to the Farm

I'm staying at the family farm until April so I can be of assistance—hopefully not a nuisance—to my sister-in-law who recently had another major surgery.

(The nuisance part is constantly asking, "Can I get you anything? Are you okay? How's your pain level?" If it were only me who asked, it would be okay, but everyone who visits and calls asks!) 

As I washed dishes this morning, I looked out the kitchen window at the ancient elms that once marched along a fence line. These giant, vine-covered trees are probably far older than I.

They are a testament to endurance, withstanding dry seasons and rainy ones, scorching summer heat and bitter winter ice storms. Still they live, leafing out again when spring comes.

I guess they're a good example of hanging in there during the good seasons and the bad—something we mere humans should emulate.

Rainy Season Over

From October to the first of March, this region of Louisiana had more than the usual amount of rainfall.

Farmers anxiously scanned the skies and listened to weather forecasts because planting of just about everything should already have already been done.

The soil has been too wet to drop seed into the wet earth. The seed would just rot.

This week, all the farmers broke ground. Yesterday, the 500 acres across the road from my brother's home had one of the big John Deere tractors plowing and planting from morning until late last night.

These monster tractors have lights that could illuminate a runway so modern farmers often work until 10 or 11 at night if they're behind on getting the crops into the ground.

Small section of the planted field.
Aviation Agriculture

A few days ago, the ag planes started flying promptly at 7:30 every morning. They sprayed fields near here all day long.

If one wants to sleep past 7:30, there better be noise-cancelling headphones on hand.

The ag planes were flying even after dark which surprised me because I thought they were all VFR rated only. (visual flight)

When grasslands grow back, farmers stop buying hay
I could be wrong. Maybe they have instrument-rating for night flying.

Bulls and Heifers

For those who don't know much about livestock, a heifer is a female.

They come into "season" in the spring and send out oceans of female pheromones that wafts their way into the noses of bulls (males).

These cow pheromones send the bulls into a mating frenzy.

Old magnolia setting blooms

On the farm there are a couple of bulls. One that is already penned with 4 or 5 heifers has taken a fancy to a heifer in a different pasture.

That bull bellows through most of the day, sending a call to the heifer with whom he's infatuated. About every couple of hours, he starts the mournful bellowing and doesn't stop until about 8 in the evening. He starts again about 8 the next morning.

I guess in cattle language, he's saying, "I love you. I want you. I need you. Come to me."

Obviously, the heifer in question couldn't care less because she's contentedly munching on hay rather than stampeding to the cattle pen where he's already surrounded by admiring females. (I'll try to get some pictures of the lovesick bull when the barnyard dries out a little.)

Takeaway Truth

What does all this mean? Spring has come to the farm.

Review: FlexClip Video Maker

Candy, Partnership Manager from Pearl Mountain, asked me several weeks ago to take a look at FlexClip, their new video product.

I'm always interested in video apps because video is a great way to bring exposure to an author, book, or other product.

Since I've been out of the office a lot this year, it's taken me a while to follow through on her request.

Today, I finally tested FlexClip and decided it's definitely a website I want to review and share with SlingWords Readers.

Getting Started

For most websites I'm asked to review, I check to see if there are tutorials. FlexClip has a very clear presentation for their tutorial.

Subscribe to Joan's YouTube Channel
The next thing I do is try to use the product without going through the tutorial. I want to know if the way it works is intuitive to a user, or is it so complicated one must go through the lessons first.

I do this because I know most people go straight to the app rather than read instructions.

It's just human nature that everyone wants to dive in and get started rather than "waste" time reading instructions.

I'm happy to say FlexClip is fairly intuitive. I created a 21 second video just by clicking on the storyboard image, mousing over options, etc. When I completed this short promotion video for SlingWords, I exported it.

Rather than exporting it to YouTube, which would have been very convenient, export actually means "download it to the user's computer." Not really a problem, just an extra step. I did export in 480, 720, and 1080 formats.


Key Features (Check Out All Features)
  • Completely free.
  • Easy to use and clean storyboard.
  • Support many photo and video formats.
  • Flexible editing features like trim, split, add text (animations), music, watermark, etc.
  • Export videos with high resolutions.
Drawbacks
  • Works only in Google Chrome.
  • Text can be placed only in predetermined grids.
  • Text can be resized proportionally only.
  • Text limited to the template of 1 or 2 lines.
  • No music library available. You must provide your own music.
Takeaway Truth

FlexClip is very user-friendly yet still a powerful video maker, and, best of all, it's free.

*********************************

VISIT JOAN—FOLLOW HER ONLINE

Joan ReevesKeeping Romance Alive...One Sexy Book at a Time—is a NY Times and USA Today bestselling author of Contemporary Romance. All of her books have the same underlying theme that it’s never too late to live happily ever after.

Joan lives her Happily Ever After with her hero, her husband. They divide their time between a book-cluttered home in Houston and a small house at the foot of the Texas Hill Country where they sit on the porch at night, gaze at the star-studded sky, and listen to the coyotes howl.

Short & Sweet: Make a Plan

Here's a short post for today disguised as advice.

How to Make a Plan for Achievement

If you want to achieve something special—your goal—you need a plan.

Here's how to do that.

1. Start by writing down your goal.

2. Then write down everything that is needed from start to finish to reach the goal.

3. Design a strategy to carve out the time to take action every day to achieve your goal.

4. Break the action down into what must be done this year, then this month, then this week, then this day.

5. Review your plan and to make sure on track. If you're not, revise.

Takeaway Truth

Set goals, follow through, stay focused, and you'll find achieving a goal may be easier than you thought.

Another Way To Get Better Sleep: Pillows

Pexels: White-bed-comforter-212269 by JayMantri
I'm always looking for ways to get better sleep. I've been an insomniac for years so I try every tip I find.

Today's tip is about your sleep environment, specifically, about your pillows.

I’ve always used cotton slipcovers on my pillows. That goes on first, then the pillow case.(If you're not doing this, you should.)

The pillow slipcover can be laundered with bleach to make sure they're clean and germ-free. (Your guests will appreciate this.)

However, I had never washed pillows before. (I'm talking about fiber-filled pillows, not down.) I just replace the pillows after a certain period of time.

Recently, I read that many pillows are labeled washable. Who knew? I never read the label before. I checked, and most of the pillows in my linen closet are washable.

How To Wash Washable Pillows

To make enough to wash 2 pillows, you'll need these ingredients:
  • Liquid laundry detergent
  • 1/2 cup Washing Soda (Arm & Hammer Washing Soda is only $4.12 on Amazon. Many organic and back to nature fans make their own laundry detergent using washing soda.)
  • 5 drops of mint or lavender essential oil (a 50 ml bottle of Lavender is only $7.39 on Amazon and will go a long way. Lavender is recommended for its calming effect.)
Directions
  1. Add enough detergent for a full load of clothes.
  2. Set your washing machine to warm or hot.
  3. Add the washing soda as the water fills then the lavender oil. (Most newer models of washer have lids that lock. If yours does, mix the washing soda and essential oil into 2 quarts of warm water and pour that into your washer first.
  4. Put 2 pillows in the machine.
  5. Select Gentle Cycle and start the machine.
  6. When the wash cycle finishes, place the pillows into the dryer on low heat for a full cycle. (I put 2 tennis balls in a pair of old white socks and tie each closed. The balls bouncing around fluff the pillows.
Takeaway Truth

I hope this gives you a fresh clean set of pillows that will help you get better sleep too.

Random Car Facts

Pexels.com Photo Red-coupe...1280553/ by Jose Mueses
I've been toying with an idea for a mystery series that revolves around cars.

Darling Hubby is a car guy so he's always happy to test drive cars, look at cars, read about cars, talk about cars, wish for a 30-car garage so he could buy all the ones he's ever wanted, etc. *LOL

Together we looked up some random facts about cars to give me an idea of what I might do with my premise.

I was surprised by some of the information I found from car experts of every persuasion. Here's some fun facts I discovered.

The Top 5 Greatest Cars Ever Made

1. 1932 Ford V8 was the first performance car a working man could afford. this classic supposedly defined American automotive culture for almost 80 years.

2. 1959 Austin Mini built by Sir Alec Issigonis with a transverse engine and front-wheel drive. (Hubby explained what transverse engine meant. His runabout is said to have been created by a  design that nearly all mainstream modern cars follow.

3. 1955 Chevrolet is the one my Darling Hubby would love to have although he'd take a 57 Chevy in a heartbeat. This pivotal auto had a brand new 265-cubic-inch small-block V8. According to Edmunds, the automotive experts, it looked "like an upright Ferrari...a stunner in every way. The greatest Chevy ever."

4. 1938 Volkswagen Beetle which was manufactured around the world for 65 years. The air-cooled original Beetle was the first car for generations of drivers. (I never cared for it except for playing the Slug Bug game.)

5. 1964 Porsche 911, oh, yeah! An everyday sports car with a classic silhouette. (My younger brother had one.)

In case you're curious, here's a worst car list.

Public Domain, All Rights Released
The Top 5 Worst Cars Ever Made

1. 2001 Pontiac Aztek, oh, no! The description was extremely uncomplimentary so I won't even tell you what it said.

I will tell you my daughter bought a black on black Aztek new and loved it. Totally loaded with everything, great gas mileage, drove great, rode great, and it looked great too. She named it Coco Chanel because it looked so classically elegant—like a little black dress.

2. 1974 Ford Mustang II which was built on the car bomb known as the Pinto.

3. 1955 BMW Isetta, described as "The whole car was a crumple zone."

4. 1987 Yugo, *giggle* I still remember some of the many Yugo jokes about this Serbian-made version of the Fiat 127.

5. 1971 Chevrolet Vega. Yep. This was my younger brother's first car. A gorgeous lemon yellow that should have been an omen for the disaster this car was.

Takeaway Truth

Hope you enjoyed this little trip down Automotive History.

Review: When Reality Bites

This rather plain cover conceals some helpful information for those dealing with uncomfortable—if not downright tragic—situations in life.

Holly Parker, PhD, asserts that sometimes, denial is a good thing. In fact, it can actually help you get through difficult times.

When Reality Bites is designed to help you when you're facing tragedy and also help you get past denial if it's keeping you from moving on.

The Truth

Sure, denial can hurt you if you get stuck in a cycle of destructive behavior, but denial is also a way you can keep going when faced with loss and emotional pain.

I've always thought of myself as someone who could face life head-on and keep moving ahead. However, I've been struggling lately. The emotional blows that have come these last few years made me pull this book from the shelf.

I've found myself in the unique position of refusing to think about the possible losses that may lie ahead. I refuse to admit it's possible. I deny the reality of the situation because that's the only way I can get through some days and maintain an encouraging, optimistic attitude that is so desperately needed for me and for those I love.

Denial isn't just a river in Egypt. I found it was a way to get through the days until one is emotionally strong enough to think about what the future may hold when a loved one is gone.

I bought the book because I thought I was wrong to think, act, and feel this way. It was comforting to read that denial can be a much-needed buffer against tragedy. Reality will come all too soon, but in the meantime, I'll use whatever buffer I can find to keep going.

Takeaway Truth

If you're struggling with pain and loss, I do recommend When Reality Bites. If nothing else, it'll make you feel better about denying painful reality and maybe help you get through it.

Uber: Start to Finish

Try something NEW!
For many, Uber, a company that allows you to reserve a personal driver in any of the cities where Uber operates, has become an indispensable part of their transportation plan.

Senior citizens love it as do those who find it too expensive to keep a car in the city, and, for those who like to party, Uber is a way to get home without endangering yourself or others.

If you've never used Uber, here's how to do it from setting up an account to taking your first Uber ride.

From Start to Finish—Using Uber

1. You can sign up 2 ways. Download the Uber app on your mobile device or visit the Uber website. Either way you choose, you must create an account, and you'll need a valid credit card or PayPal account.

On the app, click the Sign Up link underneath "Ride with Uber" and create an account. On the website, follow the directions.

2. Enter your first and last name. Your first name will be provided to the drivers when they leave to pick you up and is used to confirm the driver has the right person. Your last name remains private.

3. Enter your phone number. Drivers will use the number to contact you when they're near your
pickup location. You may also use your phone number to log into your account.

4. Enter your email address. You'll need a valid email address to create your Uber account and to receive Uber receipts.

5. Create a strong password that you'll be able to remember. You'll be asked for your password when you sign into the Uber app.

6. If you have a promotion code, use it. Guess what? You can use a promotion code from a friend who is already an Uber user, and you'll both get a credit. If your friends don't use Uber, you can get one by visiting the Uber website.

7. Remember to read Terms of Service. Be certain you're comfortable with Uber’s TofS and their privacy policy before continuing.

8. If everything is a go, click "Sign Up" button. Your account will be created. You will receive an email confirming your account. Now you can start using Uber.

9. To set up a Ride, tap the Uber app on your phone and sign in if you aren't already signed in.

10. Tap "Where to?" on the app and enter your destination. (If you've synced your contacts with the Uber app, you can set a person as your destination. Your contact will be sent an approval request for them to confirm this.)

11. Choose your vehicle type. Different cities have different services available. You'll usually be able to pick between uberX, XL, uberPOOL, Select, and accessibility options. Swipe left and right to view your available options, wait time for pickup, and the upfront pricing. (To see descriptions of these vehicle types, visit the Use Uber Wiki.)

12. Confirm the number of seats you need. (If you chose uberPOOL as your ride type, you can reserve 1 or 2 seats. If there are more than 2 people in your party, select uberX.)

13. How much? There is a base rate minimum with the rest of the fare based on several factors. Fares are different in every city. Check the Uber website for a fare estimator. The price for each vehicle type is displayed underneath "Upfront Pricing," and the fare is based on current traffic and surge pricing. (For more information about pricing, visit the Use Uber Wiki or the Uber website.)

14. If you're ready to proceed, tap "Request Uber" to order the ride. You'll be asked to confirm your pickup location. If you're using your computer, take a screenshot of the vehicle ID and driver info and print it.

15. Confirm your pickup location by tapping "Confirm Pickup" to set your location and order the ride. Uber will use your device's location to set your pickup location. You might be given a suggested pickup spot that will make it easier for your driver to find you. (Btw, you can drag the map to move the pin and set a different pickup location if you'd like.)

16. You will be given an estimation on how long your car will take to show up. If there is no car available, try again in a few minutes, as a driver may have dropped off passengers off and now be available. The Uber app will give you a filtered phone number for your driver. You can use this to contact the driver if you have any special considerations.

17. Wait in front of the exact street address you gave. Don't walk away because your driver may miss you. You'll be charged for any time the driver waits after 2 minutes.

18. When the car arrives, always confirm your Uber ride and driver is the correct one. When the driver arrives, look at your app (or the computer screenshot you took if you booked that way. Confirm the Uber's make/model, color, and license plate number before getting into the vehicle.

You can also ask for your driver's first name OR ask them to tell you your first name. The real driver will know your first name through the app. Never get into the car if you cannot confirm the above information.

19. You pay through the medium you set up on your Uber app. You do not need to tip unless you used Uber Taxi, but, as always, tips are appreciated. You can also set up the tip in advance through the Uber website. The default tip for taxi service set at 20%.

20. The last thing is to rate your ride after you reach your destination. You may also add a tip then—$1 on up. Not required, but appreciated. (Uber recognizes only a 5-star rating as positive. Any number less than 5 may harm your driver's service. If you have a serious problem with your driver, you can file a complaint using your Uber app or website.)

21. The last thing you should know is that if you need to cancel your reservation, you will be charged a $5-$10 fee if you cancel after five minutes.

If you're still a little uncertain, watch this YouTube video.

Takeaway Truth

New ways of doing things can be intimidating, but you may find that the "new thing" is a good resource. The first time you use Uber, if you're nervous about it, use the buddy system and ride with a friend to try it out.

Online Community With Neighbors

Is your community online with Nextdoor or another similar website?

Ours is and so are dozens of communities around us.

As a Lead for our online community, I've found it an invaluable resource for receiving and sharing information.

Networking with people I know in my neighborhood and with others in all the subdivisions around us offers the chance to stay up on community concerns, know about possible security problems, and separate the gossip from the real facts.

If you're already online with Nextdoor or something similar, or you're thinking about joining your online community, here are a few tips to keep in mind.

8 Rules for Online Communities

1. As with any online website, make sure your password is strong and don't divulge it to anyone. Just as with credit card companies and banks, no official with your online community will ever ask you for confidential information like your password or financial information. If anyone does, report them to the online manager for your communtiy.

2. Most online communities have specific categories set up for posting about a suspicious person in the area, a referral for your favorite contractor, selling or giving away items, etc. Always make sure your post is slotted in the correct category.

3. If you want to communicate privately with someone selling something or just have a concern you don't want made public, send a private message to the person you wish to contact. It's just like Facebook which is the online community with whom you may be most familiar. PM's work the same.

4. If someone asks you to email them or phone them, decline unless you actually know them. To me, a request for my email address or my phone number is a red flag.

5. If you are selling or buying something, use discretion in where you meet and who you invite into your home and into whose home you may be asked to enter. If it's someone within your neighborhood, that's different than someone you do not know in an adjoining community. Use the buddy system if going to someone's house or inviting someone to yours.

6. If buying something, always check it out in person. Photographs can be misleading. Also, make sure the item is actually available and not something that must be mailed to the buyer.

7. Always pay cash and ask for cash if selling something. Politely refuse to take checks, PayPal, or gift cards. I do giveaways online, and there has been an increase in gift card scams especially when using social media to run giveaways.

8. The rule to remember when money is involved in a transaction is always: "If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is."

Takeaway Truth

Online communities with your actual neighbors can be a great way to network, meet your neighbors face to face, and share concerns and information about your community.

Master Your Time

Time is measured by the clock and by the calendar.

Many of us who bemoan the lack of time do so because we're not effectively using the time at our disposal.

I fear I often fall into that category because I bemoan the lack of hours to work on a book  rather than effectively using the 5 minutes here and the 10 minutes a couple of hours later.

Inspiration to Use Time Effectively

Maybe some quotations from those who made the most of their time will inspire you—and me too.

"Make use of time, let not advantage slip." ~ William Shakespeare

"Time = life; therefore, waste your time and waste of your life, or master your time and master your life." ~ Alan Lakein

"Don’t be fooled by the calendar. There are only as many days in the year as you make use of. One
man gets only a week’s value out of a year while another man gets a full year’s value out of a week." ~ Charles Richards

"The key is in not spending time, but in investing it." ~ Stephen R. Covey

"Determine never to be idle. No person will have occasion to complain of the want of time who never loses any. It is wonderful how much can be done if we are always doing." ~ Thomas Jefferson

"This time, like all times, is a very good one, if we but know what to do with it." ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Takeaway Truth

Yes, this is a good time, and I know what to do with it so I'll get back to writing.

Thinking About Video Cams?

We've been thinking about installing video cams at our house in the country.

Not because it's a security issue involving 2-legged animals, but because of the 4-legged animals.

We'd like to see what's prowling around the house when we're not there.

Video cams are sold everywhere. In researching this subject, I realized there are several decisions to make before shopping for a system or buying the first one you see when you walk into Costco or a similar store.

With prices on security surveillance equipment always falling, it's getting cheaper and easier to set up a system. Most can be done by the average homeowner who can read and follow directions.  If in doubt, call an electrician.

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions


Do you want a wired system (expensive since that usually requires an electrician but dependable) or a wireless system (uses your WiFi but that means it's dependent on the signal being strong and always available)?

What about the cameras? How many do you actually need? Do you want one monitoring every access point?

Is a stationary cam okay or do you need it to move back and forth or zoom in and out?

Do you want cameras indoors or outdoors?

Do you want a system/cams that are night vision enabled?

Do you want the system to be expandable so you can add more cameras at some point?

How do you want to view or access the data from the system? Phone app or a monitor or both? If you want to be able to see what's going on when you're away, you definitely want to view what's happening via a phone or tablet app.

What recording options do you want?  DVR? Hard drive? SD cards?

How do you want to back up the system?

How do you want to be alerted to something your cams are seeing? Most internet-enabled systems have the ability to set up a sound alert when motion is detected. Some systems may charge you a monthly fee. If you plan on using your WiFi, look for a system that has no monthly fee.

Takeaway Truth

If we get beyond the research stage and set up a system, I'll take pictures and give a report.

Fitness While Flying

Spring Break has arrived over much of the nation. Families are packing up their kids for trips to Disney World or Harry Potter World or just to see the grandparents.

If you're flying, here are a few tips on feeling good when you arrive--a feat that is often not easy given the stale air and restricted movements.

I've flown a lot commercially and also in the plane my hubby and I once owned. Traveling in our own plane was the best. No ticket counters, no huge long lines, no waiting for the baggage carousel, and all the other inconveniences.

One thing however was the same. Sitting in a relatively small seat for a long flight.

At least in a commercial airliner one can walk up and down the aisle even though the flight attendants look kind of nervous when you do it in today’s world.

6 Fitness While Flying Tips

1. Foot pump. That’s what I call this. With your feet flat on the floor, keep your heel on the floor and lift your feet up and down. This keeps the blood pumping in your leg veins and helps avoid a dangerous DVT that might result from long air flights. Pump your feet about 30 times. Do this at least every hour.

2. Torso Twist. Tell your seat mate you’re going to stretch. Slide forward in your seat, put your hands on your stomach and twist to the left as far as you can go and hold for a count of 30. Then repeat on the right side. Do this every couple of hours.

3. Shoulder Stretch. Reach your left arm over your shoulder, with your elbow bent. Touch your left shoulder blade. Point your elbow to the ceiling and lean to the left to increase the stretch. Hold for 30 econds then repeat on the right side.
You can't do Yoga, but you can still STRETCH!

4. Hamstring Stretch. Extend your left leg and put your heel on the floor. Keeping your back straight and lean forward. Hold for 30 seconds then repeat on the right side.

5. Lean your left ear to your left shoulder just till you get a nice stretch. Don’t overstretch. Hold for 30 seconds then repeat on the right side.

6. Lean your head down, chin to stretch, hold for a count of 20. Remember to stretch gently.

Takeaway Truth

These should help you arrive at your destination feeling flexible and energized rather than stiff and exhausted. Happy landings!

Will Spring Ever Come?

My plaintive question is being asked by everyone I know.

My husband left this past Saturday to go to our house in the country.

He took an armload of king-sized sheets we bought at the nearest Goodwill store and a bag of zip ties.

With the wind gusting up to 30 mph, he covered all of the peach, plum, and pear trees which had bloomed out the previous week. He zip-tied the sheets around the trunks.

These are young trees so we're babying them, hoping they'll survive and be stronger next year.

Last night it was 24 degrees F. there, and 30 here in Houston with the wind straight out of the north making the night even colder.

I know many of you think this kind of weather is nothing, but here in south Texas, it's extremely unusual. In fact, this winter even though we have had no ice and snow, has seemed colder, grayer, and longer than any in memory.

The snowbirds come from up north to spend winters in south Texas because usually the days are in the 50's and 60's with the nights sometimes dipping into the 30-40's. Best of all, we have sunshine, and a lot of it. Not this year though.

Takeaway Truth

Spring is supposed to make it's entrance in about 15 days. I hope she brings sunshine and warmer temperatures with her.

Celebrate Read An Ebook Week With FREE Ebook

The 10th annual Smashwords Read an Ebook Week started March 3 and runs through Saturday March 9.

Thousands of Smashwords authors, publishers and readers are participating in what has become an international ebook celebration.

Thousands of exclusive deals on great ebooks are offered at Smashwords this week.

Drop by and take advantage of the free and sale ebooks from now to the close of business on March 9, Saturday.

Free Ebook From Me

You don't have to wait for a special week to read one of my ebooks free. My short story romance, LuvU4Ever, is always free at most ebook sellers including Smashwords.

Just check to make sure it shows as free if you live outside the U.S.

Pick up your Kindle copy today.

Takeaway Truth

Did you know studies have shown that reading keeps the brain healthy as you age?

Why not resolve to read more books. It's about the cheapest entertainment one can get in today's world, plus, it's good for you!

Did You Miss These Posts?

February went by in a blur, but I made a good effort to read some of the many articles from the internet.

Some were stacks of printed articles I've saved. Plowing through all of those and cleaning out the clutter is one of my resolutions this year.

Another resolution is to make time every day to read some of the amazing posts my fellow bloggers publish that I've bookmarked.

The flood of information keeps coming, and I often find it overwhelming.

There just isn't enough hours in the day to keep up with all of it. I have a feeling the same is true for you. That's why I like to do a round-up of posts from the previous month that you may have missed.

February Posts: 2nd Chance Reads

For Writers

List of American Novelists

Authors, Take Advantage of the New Tax Deduction
I believe this can be read by anyone. I received the link because I'm a member of Authors Guild. I apologize if it won't work for you.

MS Word Tips, an amazing resource

How to Write a Book by Jerry Jenkins of Left Behind Series

Blurb, for Beautiful Books Without the POD Feel 

Book Research

The Top 10 Guns Women Are Buying
Women are the fastest growing segment of gun owners

Mars: What We Know About the Red Planet

16 Strangest Unsolved Mysteries of All Time 

Marketing

The Power of Infographics
Older post but still relevant with good design tips

13 Ways to Get More Email Subscribers

Curated List of Promotion Sites, 01/31/2019

Clever Ways Authors Use BookBub Ads

For DIY Designers

CafePress, the original DIY product creation site

Spreadshirt for T-shirts and more.

Zazzle, similar to CafePress

CD Baby, Sell & Stream Your Own Music

Spoonflower, Design Fabric, Paper, Etc. (my daughter has a shop here)

Game Crafter, Design & Create Your Own Board Game

Miscellaneous

How to Get Free Stuff

Walmart's Most Bizarre Sellers by State

How to Convert a Song to a Different File Format with iTunes

Get Started With Pocket, Utility More Useful Than Bookmarking

Great Blogs to Read


Authors Billboard

Romance Gems

Smart Girls Read Romance

Notes from a Romantic's Heart

Uvi Poznansky

Takeaway Truth

With all of these links, I know you'll find something informative and entertaining to read.

***

Joan ReevesKeeping Romance Alive…One Sexy Book at a Time—is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of Contemporary Romance. All of her stories have the underlying premise that it's never too late to live happily ever after.

Sign up for her Mailing List/Newsletter and be the first to know about new books and giveaways.

Happy Texas Independence Day

Today is Texas Independence Day which all Texans at least acknowledge if not celebrate.

Some of us take any occasion to celebrate if you know what I mean.

On this day in 1836—183 years ago—59 settlers in Mexican Texas signed the Texas Declaration of Independence.

With that document, the settlers in the territory officially declared their independence from Mexico, creating the Republic of Texas.

Our state is the only one that was an independent sovereign nation before agreeing to join the United States in 1845.

March 2 is also denoted as Texas Flag Day and Sam Houston Day. These two aren't legal holidays but special observances.

How Big Is It?

Everyone describes something large as Texas-sized. So how big is Texas? Well you can start driving at dawn and by sunset, you still won't reach the other side of the state.

Alaska is the largest state in terms of total area. Texas with its 268,000 square miles is less than half that size. However, Texas is the big boy on the block when it comes to the lower 48.

The state is so big you fit the 10 smallest states plus California within our borders with room left over.

Texas Facts

State Flower: Bluebonnet
State Tree: Pecan
State Small Mammal: Armadillo
State Large Mammal: Longhorn
State Flying Mammal: Mexican Free-tailed Bat
State Inset: Monarch Butterfly
State Snack: Chips & Salsa
State Vegetable: Texas Sweet Onion
State Song: Texas, Our Texas
State Motto: Friendship
State Nickname: Lone Star State

Takeaway Truth

My Darling Hubby can sing every word of the state song. I can't. I wasn't born here. But, like Davy Crockett, I got here as fast as I could.

Pop Sockets Rock

Do you use Pop Sockets?

I've got one of these useful little gadgets on my cell phone that is invaluable.

A couple of nights ago when I was reading my Kindle Voyager in bed—and constantly shifting to get comfortable and push the "turn-page" buttons—I had a genius idea.

Why not stick a Pop Socket on it?

You see, the problem is that the Kindle Voyager isn't nearly as easy to hold and read than my old Kindle which had a larger margin around the reading screen.

I could grip my old Kindle easily without touching the reading screen and inadvertently advancing the pages.

The Kindle Voyager's reading screen is just a tiny bit larger than the older Kindle readers, but there's no easy way to hold it except by your fingertips. If you have big hands, that's okay, but I don't have big hands.

My hands get tired of holding it for hours on end. It's just an awkward strain.

Enter the genius device PopSocket. The packaging shown here indicates how your fingers slip around it to hold the item.

Pop Sockets come in dozens of different designs so you can get one to express your personality or to coordinate with the color of the device to which you'll attach it.

It's simple, easy to attach with the adhesive it comes with, and is even repositionable up to 3 times. Clean the spot with alcohol where you plan to attach the adhesive.

It folds flat, pulls out a little or a lot, and even works as a stand for the cell phone or tablet to which you attach it.

Attach the Pop Socket and leave it alone for about an hour before using it. The first time you pull the socket out, do it gingerly just to make sure it's attached well. After that it should be fine and work with no problems.

At right, you'll see a picture of it attached to my Kindle Voyager. Hurray. It works perfectly. Wish I'd thought of it sooner.

Moving on, let me tell you about the BIG March giveaway on my other blog, Romance Gems.

LUCK O' THE IRISH March Giveaway

This Giveaway is sponsored by these participating authors: Bonnie Edwards * Cheryl Bolen * Connie Vines * Elsa Kurt * Jan Scarbrough * Joan Reeves * Karen Kelley * Kathleen Lawless * Lucinda Race * Nancy Fraser * Nora LeDuc * Peggy Jaeger * Satin Russell.

A Rafflecopter on RomanceGems starts March 4 so visit Romance Gems then and enter the Rafflecopter for a chance to win the Honor of Naming a Character if you are a Grand Prize Winner plus Amazon Gift Cards, autographed books, and more.

For March, there are 3 ways to win awesome prizes: a Rafflecopter, the Comment & Win weekly giveaway, and a brand-new giveaway named Friends Tell Friends.

RomanceGems is giving away so many prizes that a Monthly Giveaway page has been set up. Pop over and check out the prizes shown there.

The Rafflecopter opens March 4, Monday, but Comment & Win and Friends Invite Friends are open now.

Let me tell you about everything.

Comment & Win

Leave a Comment + Your Email Addy (written out, i.e. Mary at yahoo dot com, not as a "hot link") on any RomanceGems post in March to be entered.

Prizes: $5.00 Amazon Gift Card at the end of each week beginning March 8 for a total of 4 Amazon Gift Cards.

Friends Tell Friends About RomanceGems

This new giveaway celebrates our Readers. To enter, send your friends to visit RomanceGems. When a friend visits RomanceGems and reads a post, she should (1) leave a comment with her email addy written out (2) leave the name and email of the friend who referred her.

(Readers, get together on this so you coordinate your efforts.)

Both names/emails will be entered in the Friends Tell Friends Giveaway. (Your emails must be entered so we can verify you are who you say you are.)

The more friends you bring; the greater your chances of winning. Winner selected by random draw from eligible entries.

Prizes: 1 Romance Reader's T-shirt from Joan's CafePress Shop, WriteWay. Style may vary slightly. Also an Audio Edition of Time and Again by Nancy Fraser.

All details on the Monthly Giveaway page of RomanceGems Blog.

Takeaway Truth

As I write this, we're expecting a weekend with temperatures in the 30's. This has been the longest, grayest winter we've had in years. I'm longing for spring. How about you?