App Review: Typing Club

Do you know someone who is really slow at typing or keyboarding as many call it?

Is that person you?

If you want to increase your speed at typing, there's an easy—and free—way to do it online.

Join the Typing Club.

TypingClub is a very effective way to learn how to type. It's web-based and truly effective. Best of all, it's free for both individuals and schools.

(There is also an optional paid school edition if that's needed for curriculum.)

If you just want to test your typing speed, you can do that too.

If you write on a computer, whether blogs or writing the next bestselling novel, you're speed at being able to complete a project is directly based on your typing speed. If you can' only type 30 correct words a minute, it will take you twice as long as someone who can type 0 words a minute.

So if you need to improve your typing speed, join the Typing Club. The practice drills will really help.

Takeaway Truth

It's never too late to improve your typing skill.

Alexa Skill Review: Gibbs NCIS Rules

This Alexa Skill is for fans of NCIS. If you can recite some of Gibbs's Rules, you're a true fan.

If you don't remember them, no problem. Alexa to the rescue with this fun skill.

Disclaimer: This skill is unofficial, non authorized and not sponsored or endorsed by CBS Interactive.

Gibbs's NCIS Rules

This skill is free to enable and a lot of fun. With 79 reviews averaging 4.1 out of 5 stars, it's pretty popular. A disclaimer from me here. Sometimes this skill is glitchy. When it works, it's fun. When it's not, it's annoying.

Yep. I'm a fan and have been since episode 1.

I admit I've fallen away once Ziva David, a Mossad agent played by Cote de Pablo left the series. However, I still love The Rules as created by Mark Harmon's character, NCIS Agent Jethro Gibbs.

Gibbs's Rules are an extensive series of guidelines that NCIS Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs lives by and teaches to the people he works closely with.

This skill contains dynamic content.

The Invocation Name: marine rules.

Simply say, "Alexa, ask Marine Rules for rule number 1." Or, "Alexa, ask Marine Rules for rule number 40." Or, "Alexa, ask Marine Rules for the rule of the day."

Supported Languages are: English (AU), English (CA), English (GB), English (IN), English (US), German (DE).

The only annoying aspect of this skill is that it has to state the disclaimer before giving you the rule. I guess that was a requirement since it's not authorized by CBS. However, the rules are correct as spoken on the show, and the skill worked as expected.

Takeaway Truth

Even with the disclaimer, I found Gibbs NCIS Rules a fun way to get a chuckle each day.

Saturday Share: Writing For Money

My favorite quotation about writing for the intention of earning income is by Lewis Carroll.

"I don't want to take up literature in a money-making spirit, or be very anxious about making large profits, but selling it at a loss is another thing altogether, and an amusement I cannot well afford."

Yes, we write because we love the craft of putting words together to tell stories. However, if one must pay the mortgage and the electric bill and other assorted bills, one must make a living wage from the writing.

Takeaway Truth

I wish all those people who pirate books and post them free on servers in other countries would realize this simple truth.

Review: The Letter for the King

If you loved Lord of the Rings and, yes, even Stranger Things, The Letter for the King should be on your Netflix watch list.

A young messenger. A secret mission. A kingdom in peril.

Created by William Davies and FilmWave for Netflix Original programming, this fantasy series based on the Dutch novel De brief voor de Koning, translated as Letter for the King, by Tonke Dragt, is a 6 episode series that was released March 20, 2020.

Featuring a young ensemble cast, à la Stranger Things, as well as some paranormal magic, this coming of age adventure will remind you of the evocative voiceover opening scene from Fellowship of the Ring.

In the middle of the first episode, young Tiuri, the hero of The Letter for the King, hears whispers in the wheat field, which immediately made me think of Gladiator starring Russell Crowe.

Call it paying homage or using touchstones to which the audience responds, these scenes kept me watching. Of course, I'm a sucker for anything with sword fighting.

I blame those old pirate movies and Zorro for my fascination with men wielding swords. (Once, in my freelance writing days, I wrote an entire series of articles for a client about swords.)

The Cast
  • Amir Wilson as Tiuri
  • Ruby Ashbourne Serkis as Lavinia
  • Thaddea Graham as Iona
  • Islam Bouakkaz as Arman
  • Jonah Lees as Jussipo
  • Jack Barton as Foldo
  • Nathanael Saleh as Piak
  • Gijs Blom as Prince Viridian
  • Emilie Cocquerel as Queen Alianor
  • Peter Ferdinando as Jaro.
Filmed in New Zealand (Lord of the Rings type scenery) and the Czech Republic, the series has a bit of a pacing problem.

This could have been corrected in one of several ways: shorten the length of each episode, reduce the number of episodes, or include more plotlines which would have called for more action.

Of course, I haven't read the novel on which it's based so it's difficult to know whether there was actually more story than was presented.

I do believe it's difficult to adapt a novel to the screen, and, with most fantasy novels, it's even harder because they're usually sweeping epics of unfamiliar worlds and peoples.

Watch the YouTube trailer. Unfortunately, you can't watch this unless you subscribe to Netflix, but if the story interests you, read the book!

The English translation of The Letter for the King is available on Amazon in these editions: Kindle, Audio, Hardback, and Paperback.

Takeaway Truth

All in all, I think the series should be on your list. It would be perfect for some weekend viewing—or reading.

Contest With Awesome Grand Prize

Have I got a Great Contest for YOU!

The Authors’ Billboard’s 2020 Christmas Box Collection, “Dear Santa”, is going to be filled with stories about characters who all have special wishes for Christmas. 
On your entry, please send us a special wish you’ve made in the past. We will choose the same number of winners as the number of authors in the set (20) and we will pair you together.

The author you’re paired with will dedicate her new Christmas story to you… or whoever you choose. She will also send you a free e-copy of whichever Christmas collection you wish from our website page. 
Those of you who know our authors will understand us striving to be the best and reaching for the stars. We challenge ourselves with every book we write, giving you the best entertainment we can produce. Now it’s time for us to give you a treat.
All entries will have their name entered for a $50 Amazon Gift certificate prize. 

Handy Person Tool Kit

Image by OpenClipart-Vectors,
Graduation this year is a little odd. High school seniors don't know when college will start.

College graduates don't know when and where they can apply for jobs or when they can get their own place to live.

One thing that hasn't changed is that graduation gifts still need to be given.

One thing I've always given someone going into dorm life or into their first apartment is a Tool Kit. I've had more than one recipient tell me that it was the best gift they received!

Guys get things like this all the time at wedding showers and graduations, but girls need to learn how to deal with "guy stuff" too—like putting furniture together, repairing something, or simply hanging a poster.

You can buy tool kits alredy put together, but for girls, the color is usually pink which, believe it or not, most women don't like. Same for guys. They're blue when most men would prefer black or maybe red.

I like to find a tool box or caddy that the recipient likes as to color, where they can store it, and how large it should be to contain useful tools but not large enough to become a junk pit.

Handy Person Tool Kit

Assemble these tools in a roomy compartmented tool box or bucket caddy:
  • Lightweight claw hammer
  • insulated pair of regular pliers
  • insulated pair of needlke-nose pliers
  • insulated flat slot screw driver
  • insulated phillips-head screw driver
  • a staple gun, manual or electric
  • box of extra staples
  • a 25' retractable tape measure
  • plastic case of assorted picture hangers and nails
  • a pair of utility scissors.
If you've got the above tools, you can put together any kind of knockdown furniture, hang curtain rods, pictures, and do just about any craft or decorating project.

Useful gifts are often the best gifts.

Takeaway Truth

Hang in there, Graduates. Normalcy will return so you can get on with your lives.

Congratulations and good luck!

App Review: Answer the Public

If you've ever said, "I can't think of anything to blog about," then this post is for you.

Answer the Public

This website is a different kind of animal. To see how it works, go to Answer the Public.

On the free plan, you get a a limited number of searches per day, and the paid plan is pricy at $99.00/month. It's worth using a couple of times a day on the free plan.

You may be a little disconcerted by the man staring back at you. He really looks as if he's staring at you, waiting for you to speak. It is a bit unnerving.

You can speak, but he won't hear you. Instead, type at least 2 words into the search box and click Search. The app starts working. In a minute or less, you'll have your results. You can view the results in 2 ways: visualization or data.

Visualization is the default. I entered blog post in the search box, and this screenshot shows the 55 results for that phrase.

Unfortunately, you probably can't read the print on the image that looks like threads emanating from the center. Each "thread" is a suggestion from the words blog post. From the center, the threads are labeled how, which, where, why, will, who, when, wat, can, and are.

The threads start with one of those words and branch into questions. Some threads have only a couple of questions. Some have several. These are all thought-provokers you can use to find a subject about which to write.

Some of these topic suggestions are:
  • Can blog posts be republished?
  • Are blog post titles italicized?
  • What are blog post tags?
  • How long should a blog post be?
In all there are 55 suggestions. You can do this with any phrase.

Click on Data, and you can cycle through the myriad suggestions in a list format. Or, within that list, click on Style and see a graphical representation of the data.

But Wait There's More

Keep scrolling down the page, and you'll see the same phrase for which you searched with other "lead-in" words: Prepositions, Comparison, Alphabeticals, and Related.

If it's your first time visiting Answer the Public you'll be offered a tutorial to get the most from the website.

Takeaway Truth

Try it the next time you're stumped for a blog post topic. It's a great brainstorming tool.