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.

Memorial Day

Today I honor my father who was part of the D-Day invasion forces, my uncles, my cousins, and my friends who have served in the Armed Forces.

Also, I honor first responders and those serving at home and abroad in the Armed Forces.

Takeaway Truth

Thank you for your service.

Alexa Skill Review: Guided Meditation

Do you meditate? Despite my best intentions, I never make the time to do so.

My daughter does, and I often joke that I try, but I fall asleep every time.

I have as much stress, or maybe more, than most people so I decided to make an effort and try guided meditation. YouTube has some good ones, but I have to open the app, find the one I want to use on the playlist I set up, and...

By then, I've tuned in a movie. I saw this free Alexa Skill for Guided Meditation and enabled it to try.

Guided Meditation: Meditation of the Day for Calm

This skill is by Stop, Breathe & Think and it has 338 reviews averaging 4.3 out of 5 so I thought it was worth a try to see if it would help me relax at the end of a long day.

Enable the skill then simply say, “Alexa, open Guided Meditation,” to get started. You can also say, "Alexa, ask Guided Meditation to play the meditation of the day."

This meditation skill features over 70 guided meditations designed to reduce stress and anxiety. Every day the skill offers a new meditation of the day. They are between 1 and 9 minutes long. So every day you get a different one.

If you don't like the one that plays, just say, "Play next," to jump to a different meditation.

Guided Meditation Skill Details
  • If you have difficultires, email:
  • Contains dynamic content.
  • Invocation Name: guided meditation
  • Supported Languages: English (AU), English (CA), English (GB), English (IN), English (US), Spanish (ES), Spanish (MX), Spanish (US)
Takeaway Truth

If you're feeling tired, stressed, and sleep-deprived, give Guided Meditation on Alexa a try. You may be surprised by how well it works. I was.

Saturday Share: How to Repot a Houseplant

Since Spring seems to have finally come to most of the country, I thought I'd share some houseplant tips.

How do you repot a houseplant, and how do you know if you need to undertake this task?

Why Repot?

Some plants actually thrive when they become rootbound, but others do not.

The best thing to do is look up information for the specific plant you think needs to be repotted. It the best thing to do is leave it alone, then leave it alone. If your particular plan isn't one that grows well rootbound, then it's time to repot.

There are several reasons a plant might need to be repotted.
Photo by Huy Phan from Pexels

(1) If you bought a potplant in a small pot, and you find you're having to water it every day, that probably means the soil mixture is too porous to hold water. The answer is to repot it.

(2) You may have received a gift planter with several individual small plants in it. Those need to be repotted into their own pots while they're young and the roots haven't grown entangled.

(3) You see roots growing out of the drain hole of the pot. Time to repot.

(4) The plant is growing spindly or not at all. It needs a larger pot.

(5) Check any plant that's been in the same pot for 2 years or longer. It probably needs to be repotted.

How to Repot

(1) First, don't water the rootbound plant so the soil will dry out. You don't want it dripping wet.

(2) Select the right size of container. It should be no more than an inch larger in diameter than the previous pot. Some people think it's a good idea to put a plant in a large pot to begin with, but that's not true.

(3) Use a good-quality potting soil mixture that's designed to hold moisture without being soggy.

(4) Cover the pot's drain hole with broken clay pot fragments or a 1 inch thick layer of coarse gravel.

(5) Grasp the base of the stem with one hand, turn the pot upside down, and whack the bottom of the pot. The plant should come out with the root ball intact. (This is why you let the plant dry out a bit.)

(6) Place the plant in the center of the new pot and fill the space under and around the root ball with the potting soil mix. Press the soil down around the plant so that it fills in the air pockets. Add more soil if needed. The soil should be 1 inch below the lip of the container.

(7) Water well when finished. Set in a sunny spot, but not in direct sun. Keep it there for a couple of weeks  to avoid transplant shock.

Baby it a little and check to see when it needs watering.

Takeaway Truth

That's all there is to it so check your plants at least every year to see if they need more growing room.

7 Tips for Nonfiction Articles

I've been cleaning out the file cabinets in my office. I've shredded 2 trash bags full of old articles, manuscript drafts, and papers written years ago.

I saved a few to publish here on SlingWords like this one today. If you're interested in writing non-fiction articles, here are some tips for you from my days as a freelance writer.

7 Tips for Nonfiction Articles

1. All nonfiction writing can be developed in 1 of 4 ways.
  • Narrative: tells a true story about a person, place, or event
  • Expository: explains or informs the reader about something
  • Persuasive: presents a topic, takes a position for or against it, supporst the chosen position with carefully articulated points
  • Descriptive: uses the five senses to describe something—usually meant to be entertaining.
2. Begin with a strong hook. Just as fiction requires a writer to hook readers immediately, so does nonfiction. Avoid bland statements of fact, time, date, or other mundane means of telling a true story. Use fiction narrative techniques. That doesn't mean to "make it up," but to employ fiction techniques in order to create a riveting article.

3. Make sure your article has a beginning, middle, and end. From the beginning, you should have rising action just as fiction does.
Don't just lay out facts or wander all over the place.

Stick to the story you're telling with a beginning hook to set up the srticle, the middle with the meat of the article, and the ending that wraps up the story.

Include only scenes or incidents and facts that are germane to the topic.

4. Know your premise and stay on target. Example, in writing an inspirational article, your premise should be the insight you gained from an experience. You write to share with others or to show how a seemingly insignificant incident can change a person and a life. If a how-to article, you write to share knowledge you gained in order to help others do the same thing.

5. Always use good grammar. Take a class or get a good basic English grammar book to make your skills top notch.

6. Proofread carefully. Even better, get a friend with good grammar skills to to proofread for you.

7. Format for the desired manner of publication. You format differently for print than for online publishing.

Example, in print you always spell out numbers, i.e., four, but in online writing, you use the numerals, i.e. 4. That's just one of many differences.

Takeaway Truth

I hope this helps you in writing anything from blog posts to complex articles.

Top 10 Hated Videos on YouTube

YouTube has a Top 10 list of favorites in just about every category: Top 10 Movie Kisses, Top 10 Car Chases, etc.

Did you know they also have a Top 10 Most Hated Videos list?

Since I'm a total YouTube junkie, I had to check those out.

The list, derived from YouTube charts, is composed of the videos with the most dislikes of all time.

Wow! That's saying something since there are millions and millions of videos on YouTube.

In 2010, YouTube started displaying "like and dislike" buttons on a video's page. Previously, they used a star rating, but the powers that be thought this was ineffective because most ratings were either 1 star or 5 stars. The 2 to 4 star ratings were rarely given.

About This List

The most disliked rating is a result of the percentage of dislikes of the total views.

Some of these videos also appear on the most-viewed YouTube videos list, and some are on the most-liked YouTube videos list.

So it just goes to show that one viewer's trash is another viewer's treasure. Put another way, it's like a book review. What one reader hates; another adores.

The embedded links take you straight to the video on YouTube. Have fun!

1. YouTube Rewind 2018: Everyone Controls Rewind, uploaded by YouTube, over 200 million views

2. Baby, by Justin Bieber featuring Ludacris, uploaded by Justin Bieber account, over 2 billion views

The kid vids made me want to scream
3. YouTube Rewind 2019: For the Record, uploaded by YouTube, over 103 million views.

4. Baby Shark Dance, uploaded by Pinkfong Kids' Songs & Stories, over 5 billion views

5. Учим цвета Разноцветные яйца на ферме Развивающий мультик для детей, (translated from Russian: We teach colors. Colorful eggs on the farm. Educational cartoon for children.), uploaded by Мирошка ТВ (Russian for Miroška TV), over 3 billion views.

6. Johny Johny Yes Papa, uploaded by LooLoo Kids, over 3 billion views

7. It's Everyday Bro, by Jake Paul featuring Team, uploaded by Jake Paul, over 266 million views.

8. Can this video get 1 million dislikes?, uploaded by Pew Die Pie, over 20 million views.

9. Despacito, by Luis Fonsi featuring Daddy Yankee, uploaded by Luis Fonsi, over 6 million views.

10. Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare Reveal Trailer, uploaded by Call of Duty, over 43 million views.

In case these didn't make you scream—whether in delight, pain, or a need for more—you can find a curated list of 50 most disliked YouTube videos on Wikipedia.

Takeaway Truth

I use YouTube for research and to keep up with pop culture. You just never know what you may find on YouTube. Happy viewing!

New Release: Vanilla With A Twist by Peggy Jaeger

Let's celebrate the release of a new Contemporary Romance.

Vanilla With a Twist, a story of the Clean and Wholesome variety by Peggy Jaeger, published today.

"There's never a wrong time for ice cream." —Tandy Blakemore, owner VANILLA WITH A TWIST

Peggy Jaeger is one of the Romance Gems Authors. You can catch her blogging there on the 27th of each month.

Inspiration for Vanilla With a Twist

I'd had a small town romance running through my head for a few weeks about a single mother but I couldn't quite figure out where I wanted to put her geographically or what career to give her.

When The Wild Rose Press put out the submission call to its authors for their new summer series,  One Scoop or Two, about anything that involved ice cream as the theme, I knew the story I'd been thinking of would fit perfectly into this. I made my heroine, Tandy Blakemore, the owner of an ice cream shop in the Seacoast region on New Hampshire and ran with the story.

What Is Your "Brand" of Romance?

For the most part, I write full-length novels about strong women, the families who support them, and the men who can't live without them. I'm a big believer in the notion that laughter can make anything better, so most of my novels have an element of Romantic Comedy mixed into them.

Visit Peggy Online

Website/Blog | Facebook  | Instagram | LinkedIn | Pinterest | Tumblr | Twitter | YouTube

Vanilla With a Twist

Tandy Blakemore spends her days running her New England ice cream parlor, single-parenting her teenage son, and trying to keep her head above financial water. No easy feat when the shop's machinery is aging and her son is thinking about college.

Tandy hasn't had a day off in a decade and wonders if she'll ever be able to live a worry-free life.

Engineer Deacon Withers is on an enforced vacation in the tiny seaside town of Beacher's Cove.

Overworked, stressed, and lonely, he walks into Tandy's shop for a midday ice cream cone and gets embroiled in helping her fix a broken piece of equipment.

Can the budding friendship that follows lead to something everlasting?

Excerpt from Vanilla With a Twist

For a few moments, she regarded him with a look his mother would have called insightful. The corners of her eyes narrowed, she dipped her chin a hair, and she pulled her mouth into another appealing pout he was tempted to kiss.

“I bet,” she said after a long, drawn-out sigh, “you were the kind of kid who took apart clocks and fans and vacuum cleaners to see how they worked.”

“It was more washing machines and lawn mowers and anything with a motor, but yeah I was.”

She shook her head, her own lips forming a lopsided grin. “Your poor mother.”

“She survived.”

Tandy rolled her eyes and shot her hands to her hips. “So it’s working again?” She thrust her chin at the ice cream machine.

“For now.”

“Okay, well, I can live with for now. And you think you know the real reason it’s been acting up?”

“I definitely do. But like I said, the water to the machine needs to be shut off to fix it.”

“Okay. Well, we close at nine.”

“I’ll come back a little before then. Get things ready. Is that okay with you?”

“I guess it’ll have to be.” She bit down on the inside of her cheek as her brows pulled together “And you’re sure you want to do this?”

“If I weren’t, I wouldn’t offer, Tandy.”

Why her reluctance to have him help was such a turn-on was something he considered while he waited for his ice cream.

Takeaway Truth

Looking for a scrumptious read? Try Vanilla With a Twist by Peggy Jaeger.

Magic Trick: Simplify With 1-3-5 List

Then this Post if for YOU!
I've begun to believe that multi-tasking is the death of productivity.

I think we are so accustomed to over-scheduling that we've lost the ability to actually prioritize.

We try to do it all, making phone calls while reading email, writing an email while thinking about plot points, answering the phone while trying to draft a scene, etc.

The end result is the number 1 priority of our working life gets short shrift or may even fall by the wayside.

I decided to try the 1-3-5 List method a couple of weeks ago to see if I could make more effective use of my time and accomplish more.

The Rules of 1-3-5 List

Write down 1 big awesome task. This is your priority item. You know what it is even though you may think you have 5-10 priority items to accomplish today. Be honest. What's the most important thing you need to do? It's the one that will yield the greatest rewards when completed.

Write down 3 medium tasks that should be done before the day is over.

Write down 5 little things that should be done if you can get to them.

That's it! When you finish your workday, make tomorrow's 1-3-5 list. When you get to your desk tomorrow, you know exactly what needs to be done first.

So if I no longer answer emails first thing in the morning, just know that I'm not goofing off. I'm working on my 1 big awesome task of the day!

Takeaway Truth

Try this if you've had difficulty getting something important done. Let me know if it works for you.

Visit me online. — Joan Reeves

Sign up for my FREE Newsletter.

You'll receive a free ebook after you confirm your subscription.

Alexa Skill Review: Jeopardy

Answer: Joan's favorite TV game show.

Question: What is Jeopardy?

Judging by more than 52,000+ reviews of this Alexa Skill, I've got a a lot of company in my passion for Jeopardy.

I think I grew up watching Jeopardy which came on after school in our area.

With this Alexa Skill, I can play Jeopardy any time I want—which Darling Hubby thinks is pretty funny.

Jeopardy Skill Review

This free Alexa Skill is brought to you by Sony Pictures Television.

Did you know that every Jeopardy category has an “extra” 6th clue? With Alexa's Jeopardy Skill, you get to play those extra clues.

You can answer questions in the same categories you've seen on the TV show.

Categories include sports, pop culture, travel, world history, and more.

In the Alexa Skill, the Double Jeopardy round gives you 6 extra clues every weekday, plus Teen Jeopardy and Sports Jeopardy on Sundays.

Enable the skill then to start playing Jeopardy simply say, “Alexa, open Jeopardy.”

Skill Details
  • Rated: Guidance Suggested. (I don't know why this is recommended. It's easy.)
  • Invocation Name: jeopardy
  • Supported Languages: English (CA), English (GB), and English (US).
Takeaway Truth

If you're a Jeopardy fan, you'll really love this Alexa Skill.

Saturday Share: Magic Muffins Recipe

Everyone seems to be getting back to the basics during this COVID era.

There are more cooks in the kitchen, amateur gardeners planting seeds, and DIY wannabes tackling all kinds of home improvements.

Often, we want comfort food. I remembered the Magic Muffins my mom made when I was a child.

If you've never known the simple pleasure of hot cooked cereal in the morning, allow me to introduce you to Malt-O-Meal, a cook-on-the-stove wheat cereal that's easy to make and delicious to eat.

A Little Cereal History

Chances are your grandparents or great grandparents at this hot cereal because it's been around 101 years. Many people have never heard of it. It was invented by John Campbell, a miller in Owatonna, Minnesota. I guess Post, the company that now owns the brand, doesn't advertise it.

Campbell founded a company in 1919 to produce his combination of malted wheat and farina wheat with the intention of competing with a similar product Cream of Wheat.

Malt-O-Meal is more finely ground than cream of wheat, it cooks in about a minute, and has a smooth creamy texture.

After cooking, you let it set for about a minute which allows it to thicken. Serve with fresh fruit and nuts, a little honey or sugar—brown sugar is especially good with it.

I usually add chopped pecans, a scant spoonful of brown sugar or honey, and chopped banana or apple. It all depends on what fruit and nuts I have on hand. Add a little milk if it's too thick.

In recent years, I've found it hard to find this old-fashioned cereal in grocery stores. However, I did find it on Amazon.

For Prime subscribers, you can get a 3 box package (36 ounces in each box) for $19.89. It's worth ordering. Give a box to a friend and introduce her/him to Malt-O-Meal.

Magic Muffins

When Mom made Magic Muffins for breakfast, it was a special treat. In the winter, these hot out of the oven muffins seemed to warm us from the inside out.

The original recipe can be found on the box of Malt-O-Meal, but I've changed it up a little. I'll confess, if we come home late at night from an evening out, I'll sometimes make us a bowl of Malt-O-Meal if we're just a little hungry. It's easy to make, light, and easy on the digestive system too.

Magic Muffins My Way

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (*if you use self-rising flour, don't add the salt and baking powder)
  • 3/4 cup Original Malt-O-Meal hot wheat cereal, uncooked
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar (if you like it a little sweeter, make it 2/3 cup)
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder*
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt*
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  1. Preheat over to 400 F.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine all the dry ingredients and stir together.
  3. Beat the egg in a small bowl. Add the oil, milk, and vanilla and stir together.
  4. Add the wet mixture to the dry mixutre and stir together.
  5. Pour into the paper-lined cups of a muffin pan. This should fill each "cup" 3/4 full.
  6. Bake 18 to 20 minutes until golden on top or until the center is firm when touched.
  7. Serve hot with a dollop of butter.
  8. Makes 12 muffins.
  9. Store any leftover muffins in a closed container in the fridge.
Muffin Baking Tip

I use paper liners for a muffin tin or the silicone baking cups my daughter gave me from Amazon.

I place the silicone cups in the well of the muffin tin. You can just place them on a cookie sheet, but I think they work better in the muffin tin.

They're BPA free, and you can store the finished baked goods in them in the fridge, freeze them, and even microwave them to warm leftover muffins.

You can warm them in the oven by placing on a small cookie sheet, never directly on the rack. They're really versatile and can be washed in the dishwasher too!

Takeaway Truth

I hope you'll try these muffins. Let me know if you like them!

New Release: The Matchmaker and The Marine by Lucinda Race

It's New Release Day!

I'm shining the spotlight on The Matchmaker and The Marine: A Second Chance Small-Town Romance.

This romance is by one of my Romance Gems author friends, Lucinda Race.

About Lucinda Race

Lucinda blogs at Romance Gems on the 19th of every month. Drop by and join the conversation on her blog day. While visiting, enter the Monthly Giveaway on Romance Gems.

Lucinda's Inspiration for The Matchmaker and The Marine

I used a matchmaker, and I wanted to write a 'seasoned' romance where more people actually use a matchmaker.

So it just seemed to fit when I thought of writing a military romance, and my nephew had done 4 tours with a Marine battalion.

What Readers Can Expect from a Lucinda Race Story

What is your particular "brand" of romance?

I write from my heart, and I try to follow what my characters want me to do. It makes for a very interesting experience.

Visit Lucinda Race Online

Website * Facebook * Instagram * Twitter

The Matchmaker and The Marine: A Second Chance Small-Town Romance by Lucinda Race.

Endless possibilities for love over a cup of coffee.

Melinda prides herself on her matchmaking ability as evident by the number of couples getting hitched in the town of Chester.

She wants everyone to find the kind of love she shared with her late husband, and she's satisfied to remain the mysterious widowed matchmaker.

Facing her future alone is less painful than risking her heart again.

Adam is a retired Marine. He longs to have a partner but carries the physical and emotional scars from his last tour of duty.

He protects his heart as fiercely as he protects his scars. Until a chance meeting with the highly successful matchmaker, Melinda changes his ideas about his future.

Taking a leap of faith Adam signs up for her matchmaking services. In turn, Melinda hires Adam as a carpenter to fulfill her wish to have a pergola in her back yard.

As the structure is constructed piece by piece their friendship grows. Will Adam and Melinda's relationship develop into something deeper or will the scars from their past keep them from finding love?

Takeaway Truth

The weekend is just around the corner. Relax with a good book. Try The Matchmaker and The Marine by Lucinda Race.

10 Commandments for Being a Happy Writer

Hey, writers and wannabe writers, are you happy with your writing career?

I know a lot of writers, and many of them aren't really happy.

Some of them are successful in terms of writing, publishing, and selling, but they're overwhelmed by the cumbersome process of being successful in today's competitive marketplace.

So how do you make peace with the constant demands on an author in today's world? Try these simple rules for being a Happy Writer.

1. Don't let other people's ideas about what constitutes literature affect what you want to write.

2. To sell, you must offer the books readers want to buy. Research the top 10 or 20 books in every genre and see what's selling. Are the same kinds of books selling in indie self-publishing as in traditional publishing? If not, why not? Study the market constantly.

3. Learn to want what the market wants. My husband was an energy trader. One of the first things he said he learned is that you must want what the market wants.

If the markets are moving up then you must want to take a position that takes advantage of market movement.

If the reading market is moving toward a particular genre, find something about that genre that really appeals to you and try writing in that genre.

4. Create your own niche in a genre. The most successful authors are those who find a narrow niche within a genre and write to that market, i.e., Highland Romance, Urban Fantasy that creates a different take on reality, etc.

5. Remember, there is no one way to succeed. What works for Nora Roberts may not work for you so you must learn what works for you. Know yourself, your abilities, your aptitudes, your desires, your ability to create, and how long it takes you to create a story from beginning to end.

6. Avoid being a literary snob. Every genre exists because there's an audience for it. Respect what other people read whether you read it or not.

7. Never take a book review to heart. A review is just one person's opinion of a book. You'll get good ones, and you'll get bad ones.

If the bad ones destroy you, stop reading them.

If you want to know when you get good ones, ask a trusted friend or family member to read the reviews and copy and paste the good ones with all the details into a document for you.

Don't take the good ones to heart either lest you get an unrealistic view of your abilities. Good reviews are also just the readers' opinions.

8. Never think your words are carved in granite. Any agent, editor, or critique partner will tell you they're not. Learn to take editorial guidance without getting upset.

9.  When it comes to marketing and promotion, figure out a strategy that works for you without sacrificing your writing time.

Publishing frequently is a key to success in today's world.

It's far better to write for hours on end than to be on social media for even a fraction of that time.

10. Always remember the joy of writing—putting words together to show a reader the story you see in your imagination.

In the end, what Leo Rosten said is the truth: "The only reason for being a professional writer is that you can’t help it."

Takeaway Truth

Words sing. They hurt. They teach. They sanctify. They were man's first immeasurable feat of magic. —Leo Rosten

10 Chuckles for Today

If you're like me, you could probably use a chuckle or two.

I found a list of funny aphorisms I'd saved years ago. You know what an aphorism is, right?

A short, pointed sentence that expresses a wise or clever observation or general truth. These perfectly fit the definition. Enjoy!

1. The nicest thing about the future is that it always starts tomorrow.—Attributed to Bill Gates and others.

2. Money will buy a fine dog but only kindness will make him wag his tail.—Kinky Friedman

3. Seat belts are not as confining as wheelchairs.—Unknown

4. A good time to keep your mouth shut is when you're in deep water. —Sidney Goff

5. How come it takes so little time for a child who is afraid of the dark to become a teenager who wants to stay out all night? —Doug Larson

6. Why is it that at class reunions you feel younger than everyone else looks? —Unknown (probably every person who ever attended a reunion)

7. No one has more driving ambition than the boy who wants to buy a car.—Unknown

8. No one ever says "It's only a game" when their team is winning.—George Carlin

9. Be careful reading the fine print. There's no way you're going to like it.—Unknown

10. Money can't buy happiness, but somehow it's more comfortable to cry in a Corvette than in an old Corolla.

Takeaway Truth

Life's too short not to laugh. If you don't have a sense of humor, you probably don't have any sense at all.