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.


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.

Summer Officially Arrived

Hurray, Summer sneaked in this past Saturday.

Trio of Summer Delights

Here are 3 things I love about summer.

1. Visiting Neighbors.

We have a front courtyard patio beneath the shade of a giant live oak tree. We like to sit there in the gloaming—that's a great word my grandfather would use about the time right after sunset and before night falls.

Neighbors drop by and stay a while. We offer hospitality in a glass of wine or a tall iced tea. It's low-key, casual, and friendly—three things many people don't get enough of in today's rat race.

2. Summer rain.

Like the old song about summer rain tapping on my window, there's something intoxicating about lying in bed while a gentle rain lulls you and waters your yard. Rainwater always seems more nourishing to plants than the water from the sprinkers.

3. Flip flops, sundresses, and cork sandals.

I do love to wear breezy sundresses. They seem cooler in hot weather than shorts and tee shirts. I choose flip flops if I'm just hanging loose or cork sandals if I want to look a bit "dressier" and taller. Since I'm on the petite side, anything that adds a couple of inches to my heart—comfortably—have a home in my closeet.

Takeaway Truth

Why do you love summer?

Happy Father's Day

If you're lucky enough to still have your father, celebrate him today in every way. In fact, celebrate the fathers, grandfathers, brothers, and uncles.

They all have a place in your world.

Spend time with your dad, Dad, often the unsung hero of your world.

He loves you and wants the best for you even though he may not be able to express that with words. Most men do it with actions.

Maybe he isn't as vocal about his feelings as Mom—after all, he is a man—but that doesn't mean he doesn't love you.

Sit and talk to him as if he were the most important person in the world. Ask him about his life. Listen.

Fathers are precious. Don't wait until he's gone to wish you'd had a better relationship. Take a step toward that today.

Takeaway Truth

Happy Father's Day!

8 DIY Backyard Projects To Do Today

Today I have a treat for you.

Summer is the perfect time to turn your backyard into an oasis of tranquility.

Enjoy today's guest post sent to me by Anna Franco.

8 DIY Backyard Projects To Do Today

Once you have finished cutting the grass with your cordless lawn mower, you might look around and think there are a lot of opportunities to work on enhancing your backyard. The only thing holding you back is that you might not feel ready to tackle a large outdoor project. 
While the big projects can have a major impact, you could plan a variety of smaller projects that will do a lot to upgrade your backyard space. Read on if you are looking for quick DIYs that you can finish in less than a day. Many of these projects are so quick and simple, you could plan to do a few of them the same day.

Garden Bench

As long as you have the right tools and some wood, you can build a DIY garden bench in just a few hours. A good bench can enhance the décor in your backyard and it can offer a comfortable place to sit as you enjoy your garden.

Hummingbird Feeder

A DIY hummingbird feeder is a simple DIY project that almost any person can do. Once you have it finished, it is easy to make hummingbird nectar with a little bit of water and sugar.

Window Box

Window boxes are inexpensive and easy to build. Put one on any window and you can add space for growing flowers, herbs or vegetables.

Pallet Garden

Wood pallets can be repurposed for all sorts of projects. With a little bit of work, you can turn an old pallet into a vertical garden.

Bird Bath

A birdbath can be nice for attracting a wide range of birds to your backyard. Instead of buying one, you can find free birdbath plans online. Many of these plans are very simple for a project that can be completed in less than a day.

Rain Barrels

A rain collection barrel can be a nice functional feature to add to your yard. You can set them up to collect water right from the downspouts on your rain gutters, and then you can use the water for your garden. 

Potting Bench

A DIY potting bench can be a useful project for people who like to garden. It will make it easier when you are potting your plants, and this is a project that can easily be finished in one day.

Fire Pit

A DIY fire pit can provide a focal point in the backyard. Not only that, but it can also keep you warm if you want to spend time outside on colder evenings. With just some bricks or cinderblocks, you can have a DIY fire pit finished and ready for use by the end of the day.

3 Truths About Writing

I'm editing my manuscript with the hope of finishing next week so I can send it to the proofreader.

So how about a quote post today?

The general topic is what other authors have said about writing. For non-author readers, this may give you an idea of how we pursue this odd profession.

The writing of fiction is deceptive. It looks easy until you try it! —Jack Bickham

Totally true. If you don't believe me, sit down and try to write a scene about anything with a definite beginning and ending and what happened in between.

There are 3 rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are. —Somerset Maugham

You can laugh, but ask any writer how to write a novel, and you'll get some rambling words about how that particular writer goes about it. Every time I sit down to start a new book, I always wonder if I can write it. (I've written about 25 completes and many partials.)

Patience is the writer's ultimate virtue. Checks are always a month late, contracts take forever, and overnight success takes at least ten years. —Anonymous

In 2011, I went from selling a few copies the first month my first ebook was released to selling thousands every day of the month. I was proclaimed by many bloggers as an overnight success. In my case, overnight success took 18 years.

Takeaway Truth

In case you ever thought about becoming an author, arm yourself with patience and persistence and just write. Every day. If you're reader, not a writer, then give authors some understanding and support. Buy their books and leave reviews on the ones you love. Happy Over-the-Hump Day!

Green Thumb Secrets

I have a lot of pot plants indoors and out. I love my courtyard patio in front because it's so shady and that makes it perfect for several large pot plants including a key lime tree in a giant pot. We pick limes off that tree just about year round.

I've learned a few things about growing potplants from my mom. I thought I'd share a few tips, what I call...

Green Thumb Secrets

1. Most people either over water, or under water. The best way to check is to stick a finger into the soil about an inch down. If it's damp, it needs no water—unless the plant is outside.

2. When that summer heat kicks in, increase the watering for your outdoor pot plants. Even if they're shaded, they still need some extra water because in hot weather, plants give off a lot of moisture that must be replaced. If not, the plant will droop. At worst, it may wither and die.

Part of my front patio
3. When you buy new plants, wait 6 to 8 weeks before feeding them. This will give them a chance to adapt to their new environment.

If you intend for them to live outside under a shade tree, start them there from the get-go. If it's to live indoors, do the same.

Don't keep it in the house then suddenly decide to move it outdoors.

4. Plants breathe through their leaves. If the leaves or dusty, they can't breathe and won't flourish.

One way to quickly clean a plant's leaves is to put it under a shower of lukewarm water. Let it drip-dry thoroughly before putting it back in place.

5. Don't use those so-called leaf polishes because that will clog the pores of the leaves. If you want shiny leaves, rub them gently between your thumb and forefinger. You natural skin oil will polish them.

My next patio tree? Bay Laurel sicne I bay leaves in cooking 
6. Another solution to get shiny leaves is to apply skim milk to the upper surface then wipe it off with a cotton ball. You have to remove the milk before it dries.

7. Hairy-leaved plants can be dusted by rubbing gently with a cotton swab or pipe cleaner.

Takeaway Truth

Do all of this, and you'll have healthy, flourishing plants—able to pass a white-glove test for dust!

Word of the Day: Gloaming

I just finished reading Devoted by Dean Koontz. He's one of my favorite authors because of his use of language.

Although this post isn't precisely a review, I will say I enjoyed the book very much. It had that same touch of magic as Watchers which is a marvelous book.

Sometimes, Mr. Koontz uses descriptive words that aren't ordinarily seen in books or heard in conversation.

In reading Devoted, I thought of words my grandfather used that also aren't used very often in today's world.

One such word was gloaming. It's such a useful  word that perfectly describes that time of day immediately after the sun sets, but before deep darkness descends.

An online source defines gloaming this way:

A poetic word for "twilight," or the time of day immediately after the sun sets, is gloaming. This is a word with a strong Scottish heritage, adopted from Scottish dialect during the Middle Ages and rooted in the Old English word for "twilight," glōm.

My grandfather's ancestry was Scotch-Irish so I'm sure his speech was influenced by his parents and grandparents, etc.

Takeaway Truth

This evening when the sun sets and night is falling, look outside and say: "Let's sit outside in the gloaming and unwind."

Happy Flag Day: Display Days List

Today is Flag Day in the U. S. A., and here's the list of Flag Display Days I promised to post.

You may know someone who has an actual flagpole in their yard on which they raise and lower the flag each day.

If you have a smaller flag, you may wonder when it's correct to display your flag, other than on Flag Day.

These are the standard dates that the flag can be displayed. You can also display it on other days as proclaimed by the President of the United States, and on "birthdays" of states, that is, the date the state was admitted to the Union, and on state holidays.

Flag Display Days

New Year's Day — January 1
Inauguration Day —January 20
Martin Luther King, Jr. Day —3rd Monday in January
Lincoln's Birthday —February 1
Washington's Birthday (Presidents' Day) —3rd Monday in February
Easter Sunday —Date varies each year
National Vietnam War Veterans Day —March 29
Mother's Day —2nd Sunday in May
Peace Officers Memorial Day (fly at half-staff) —May 15
Armed Forces Day —3rd Saturday in May
Memorial Day (half-staff until noon) —last Monday in May
Flag Day —June 14
Father's Day —3rd Sunday in June
Independence Day —July 4
National Korean War Vetrans Armistice Day —July 27
Labor Day —1st Monday in September
Patriot Day and National Day of Service and Remembrance (half-staff) —September 11
POW/MIA Recognition Day —3rd Friday in September
Constitution and Citizenship Day —September 17
Columbus Day —2nd Monday in October
Navy Day — October 27
Veterans Day —November 11
Thanksgiving Day —4th Thursday in November
National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day (half-staff) —December 7
Christmas Day —December 25th

Takeaway Truth

I was surprised by some of these dates. For example, I never thought of flying the flag on Thanksgiving or Christmas Days.

How to Fly the U. S. A. Flag

Tomorrow, June 14, is Flag Day in the U. S. A., and I wonder if you know how to correctly display the U. S. A. flag?

The way you display the flag depends on the size of it.

Some of you—usually proud military veterans or their parents—may have an actual flag pole that, but most have smaller flags.

Whatever size of flag you may own, I hope you feel a surge of pride and patriotism when you display it.

How to Fly the U. S. A. Flag Correctly

1. Never let the flag touch the ground.

2. If you hang the flag horizontally from a pole attached to a building, the stars should always be away from the building.

3. If you fly more than one flag, for instance a state flag and a county flag, the U. S. A. flag should be in the center and higher than the others.

4. The flag should never be tied back or pinned in any way. It should always be allowed to fall free.

5. On Memorial Day, the flag should be displayed at half-staff until noon then raised to the top of the staff.

6. Never fly the flag upside down except as a signal of distress in times of extreme danger to life or property.

7. Never fly the flag in bad weather unless you own an all-weather flag.

8. The flag can be flown every day from sunrise to sunset.

9. The flag can be flown at night if illuminated properly.

Takeaway Truth

Tomorrow, I'll give you a list of Flag Display Days.

Deepfake: Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid

The day has finally arrived when you can't believe what you see on TV.

I read a rather frightening news article and wanted to tell you about it. Have you heard about Deepfakes?

I urge you to read the Deepfakes Are Going To Wreak Havoc On Society by Rob Toews, a Contributor to Forbes in the area of Artificial Intelligence.

As his tagline says, "I write about the big picture of artificial intelligence."

Briefly, the article begins with a description of a State Farm TV commercial that has since become one of the most widely discussed ads in recent memory.

The ad appeared to show footage from 1998 of an ESPN analyst making shockingly accurate predictions about the year 2020.

The truth is, the video clip was NOT genuine. It was generated using cutting-edge AI.

Toews says, "The commercial surprised, amused and delighted viewers. What viewers should have felt, though, was deep concern."

The State Farm ad was an example of a dangerous new phenomenon in Artificial Intelligence called deepfakes.

Deepfake technology can be used by anyone with a computer and an Internet connection to create realistic-looking photos and even videos of people saying and doing things that they did NOT actually say or do.

History of Deepfake

The word, deepfake, is a comibination of phrases, deep learning + fake = deepfake.

They first appeared on the Internet in late 2017 and were powered by an innovative new "deep learning method" called Generative Adversarial Networks (GANs).

Several deepfake videos have gone viral, and you may not even realize you were reacting with outrage at videos that were FAKES!

Examples: President Obama using an expletive to describe President Trump. Never happened.

Mark Zuckerberg admitting Facebook's true goal is to manipulate and exploit its users. Nope. Not real.

Bill Hader morphing into Al Pacino on a late-night talk show. Amusing, but you probably knew that was a result of video graphic technology.

Deepfake content online is growing exponentially. In 2019, there were almost 8,000 deepfake videos online. Nine months later, there were almost 15,000.

An interesting point is that deepfakes were first used in porn. So if you've ever seen a famous person in porn, think again if you believe they were really in a porn video!

How To Tell a Deepfake

Experts say is you look closely, you can tell, but I can't. Can you? Technology is advancing every day so pretty soon, no one will be able to tell.

Do you see the way Deepfakes can divide the country? They could change the outcome of an election. They could conceivably start a war!

The ramifications are frightening. They distort the truth, increase the divide between political groups, and undermine the safety and security of the people and the government.

In the article by Toews, he quotes Hani Farid, one of the world's leading experts on deepfakes: “If we can't believe the videos, the audios, the image, the information that is gleaned from around the world, that is a serious national security risk.”

Please read the article Deepfakes Are Going To Wreak Havoc On Society by Rob Toews.

Takeaway Truth

I can see why the late genius Stephen Hawking said in 2014, "The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race."

5 Summer Pleasures

June is one of my favorite months.

Yes, the temperature starts to climb here in Texas, but it's easy to cool off because everything is air-conditioned now.

When I grew up, hardly anyone had air conditioning. Our home at a huge attic fan.

Flip a switch and a big metal vent in the hall ceiling opened up, and this enormous fan turned on—pulling cool night air in through the opened windows. It worked on the simple principle of warm air rises and cool air descends.

Some of my favorite memories are of summer nights, reading in bed with the sound track of the attic fan, and the curtains at the windows blowing in the created breeze. It was cool, and the night was silent except for the sound of the fan and the buzz of crickets and other insects outside.

Many of my books are set in summer. Summer heat easily sets the scene for a passionate romance.

Other Pleasures of Summer

Image by Aline Ponce from Pixabay 
1. Homemade Ice Cream.

OMG. There is nothing better than the homemade vanilla ice cream I've been making since I was given the recipe by my ex's mom many years ago.

Her cousin Maybelle got the recipe from her mother. (Yes, her name really was Maybelle, and she was a lovely lady.)

The icy cold vanilla sweetness melts on your tongue. It's light, not heavy like commercial ice creams. I've never had better ice cream anywhere. It's so good that when I announce, "I'm making ice cream today," everyone grabs bowls and spoons and volunteers to help.

2. Blooming Flowers and Trees

Growing flowers creates a feast for the eyes. Here in Houston, the color parade starts in the spring when Mother Nature outdoes herself with wildflowers in the country and azaleas bursting into bloom in town. As the days heat up, the flowers begin blooming. How can anyone feel down when there's such beauty all around?

Image by Michelle Bryant from Pixabay 
3. Fragrant Flowers and Trees

Magnolia, honeysuckle, star jasmine, night blooming jasmine, gardenia, roses, butterfly ginger, and lemon and lime trees. Better than the most expensive perfume.

4. Porch Swings

I can't think of anything more relaxing than lazing away in a porch swing. This activity is even better at night.

If you don't have a porch swing, a hammock in a cool shady spot or even a chaise lounge will work almost as well. Bring a good book on your Kindle and you have everything needed for a fabulous summer day or evening.

5. Beach Books

What's a Beach Book? Any book you want to read! Summer's best leisure activity is reading.

Pack a book in your beach tote or, even easier, bring along your Kindle or plan to read on your cell phone.

Need a beach book? Try a romance that sizzles as hot as the summer day. Romeo and Judy Anne is a perfect choice.

High school principal Judy Anne Palmer was always a good girl who never did an impulsive, rebellious thing. Ever. And look where it got her! Stuck in a life she hates!

One night in Dallas, she decides to be a bad girl for one in her life. After all, she'll never see her one-night Romeo again.

Unfortunately, the night doesn't turn out exactly the way she planned.

Roman Carlisle, her one night Romeo, turns up in her hometown as a new teacher on her faculty.

What will she do?

Everything she can to keep her secret passion from turning into the biggest scandal little Clayton Bend, Texas, has ever seen.

Can she resist the desire that burns between them?

With eccentric small town characters, a bratty niece, an overbearing school board president, and the temptation of her secret lover, Judy Anne Palmer is in the middle of a situation no good girl ever wants to be in.

Takeaway Truth

Wishing you a summer of reading great books!

Review: Quote Maker by Qwops

Today, I'm reviewing another free website infographic designer.

Qwops offers a library of quotes and limited images. It's easy to create attractive quote images in a very short amount of time.

Just click a topic to find a quotation and then click one of the background images.

Another click to download, and your PNG graphic is ready to save to your computer.

Takeaway Truth

Have a great Monday!

Alexa Skill Review: Night Light

Do you roam the house at night? I do. I often go to my office because I can't sleep.

My Alexa Echo device is on a cabinet right next to the stairs.

With Alexa Skill, Night Light, free to enable, I can light my way up the stairs and have it turn itself off.

Since there are similar Night Light skills, make sure you don't have another one installed because of similar invocation commands.

In fact, on this skill's webpage, you are advised to read the FAQ's first. One of them addresses the problem of having a similar skill installed.

Night Light by labworks.io ltd

The 1,896 reviews show the popularity of this skill. Night Light lets your Alexa cast a cool, subdued glow that's enough to see your way without turning on lights or leaving a night light on in a room. It's a pulsing glow that provides just enough light.

Skill Details

Invocation Name: night light. Simply say, “Alexa, open Night Light.”

Contains Dynamic Content.

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

To close the skill, say "Alexa, stop."

To turn Night Light off after a specified amount of time, say "Alexa, open night light for X minutes.”

X can be anything you say, from 3 seconds to 3 minutes to 5 minutes and 15 seconds.

Takeaway Truth

I think you'll find this simple skill extremely useful. Try it.

Saturday Share: Tex-Mex Stuffed Peppers

My mom always made the most delicious stuffed bell peppers. Unfortunately, Darling Hubby has never been a fan of stuffed peppers.

Then I found a recipe that appealed to him so I thought other bell pepper haters might like this too.

You can bake these in the oven or use a pressure cooker like an Instant Pot or other brand. I like using my Instant Pot because I'm sometimes short of time to get dinner on the table and a pressure cooker makes it easy.

Tex-Mex Stuffed Bell Peppers

4 large red bell peppers, any color will do, but we like red best
1 1/2 pounds of ground beef
2 cups shredded cheddar or Pepper Jack cheese
1 can of Green Giant Mexicorn, drained
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 cup diced tomatoes, fresh or canned
1 10-ounce can of Hatches Enchilada Sauce
1 cup of white wine
1 taspooon cumin
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup sour cream

Tastes best. Hard to find

Cut off the tops of the peppers and remove all the seeds and membranes. Wash, pat dry, and set aside.

On your pressure cooker, use the Saute function. Add the oil and ground beef to the cooker. Brown the ground beef. When it's almost brown, toss in the onion to saute to the translucent state. Press Stop.

Drain the ground beef and and onion and place in a large bowl. Stir in the drained corn, cheese, tomatoes, enchilada sauce, cumin, garlic powder, and salt. Combine evenly. Stuff this mixture into each pepper.

Put the steaming rack in your pressure cooker and pour in the wine. Place the stuffed peppers on the rack. Place lid on and securely close. Use Beans/Chili setting with low pressure and set time for 15 minutes.

Always make sure the Steam Release Valve is in the Closed postion. Press Start.

When cooking has completed, and the pressure is release, transfer peppers to a serving platter and serve with a crock of sour cream.

If you have an stuffing mixture left, store in a container in the fridge and use in another recipe.

To Bake in Conventional Oven

Set oven for 350 degrees F. Place stuffed peppers on a rack in an oven-proof container. Pour wine into the bottom of the dish. Cover with foil. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake another 15 to 20 minutes until cheese melted and gooey and peppers are soft.

Serve to rave reviews. Oh, white corn tortillas heated on a griddle or in the microwave or delicious with this.

Takeaway Truth

Try these stuffed peppers for something a little different.

They just may become a new family favorite.

Win YA Paranormal by Weston Kincade

My friend Weston Kincade, an Author and a teacher, dropped by for a visit.

He's having audio editions of his novels made, and he wants to give away an audio copy of A Life of Death. It's easy to win.

Giveaway Details at Bottom of Post

A Life of Death is Book 1 in the A Life of Death young adult paranormal mystery trilogy.

If you like underdog heroes, heart-wrenching journeys, and unexpected twists, then you’ll love this unnerving coming-of-age tale.

Meet Weston Kincade

Weston Kincade, a member of Horror Writers Association, writes character-driven fantasy, paranormal, and horror novels that stretch the boundaries of imagination, and often genres.

His current series include the A Life of Death trilogy and The Priors. His short stories have been published in 50 Shades of Slay (Alucard Press), in Kevin J. Kennedy's bestselling Christmas Horror and Easter Horror, and in other suspenseful anthologies.

Weston helps invest in future writers while teaching. When he has any spare time, he devotes that to his wife and friends.

About A Life of Death

Dreams of death. Small-town secrets. High school is the least of his worries…

Virginia, 1995. Alex’s only comfort is at his father’s grave.

Battling school bullies and a dangerously abusive drunken stepdad, the troubled teen thinks life can’t get any worse. But when he casually drags his fingers across a wrought-iron fence, he’s overwhelmed by a terrifying image of murder…

Convinced he must act on his otherworldly knowledge, Alex searches his small town for proof of the violent crime. But as his visions grow stronger, the terrible truths he uncovers threaten the lives of his entire stepfamily.

Can Alex get justice for the dead before he ends up six feet under?

Read A Life of Death and dig up the homicidal truth today! 

In the UK? Use this direct link for A Life of Death.

Inspiration for A Life of Death
Image by Steve Buissinne, Pixabay

My inspiration came from my students while I was teaching high school English. Some would confide in me more like a therapist, and I often saw a need for something more—hope. As I wrote A Life of Death, that is what I kept in mind.

I wanted to help teens and adults when times are tough, to show that even in the darkest hour, there is more to strive for.

If Alex, the hero of A Life of Death can overcome the odds and bring justice to those who can no longer speak for themselves, then teens and others may be inspired to make it through whatever hardships they are going through.

They just need to learn from the book's hero to stay strong and do what's right in difficult decisions. Even when times are tough, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

When I finished this first novel, my beta readers included students who volunteered to read the book and provide feedback before its eventual publication.

Giveaway Details

Dates: Giveaway open from 1am CDT, June 5, 2020, to 6pm CDT, June 10, 2020

Prize: Audible Coupon for 1 copy of A Life of Death

Eligibility: Winner must have access to the U.S. or the UK Kindle shops.

How to Enter: Answer this question in comments: "What is or was your biggest challenge as a Young Adult?" Leave your comment with an email address written out, not as a hot link.

Selecting Winner: Name chosen by Joan Reeves, publisher of SlingWords, using Random Name Picker app on June 10, 2020. Name will be sent to Weston Kincade.

Notification: Winner will be notified by email from Weston Kincade on or before June 13.

Takeaway Truth

If you've not read Weston Kincade before, add him to your list of authors to try. In the meantime, good luck! You may win an audio copy of his book. If not, use the links in the post to buy it.

Review: County Line

This past Saturday night I was waiting for Darling Hubby to come home from our house in the country.

I'd finished my writing and was flipping through Netflix and Prime Video, looking for some mindless entertainment.

On Prime Video, I came across County Line, starring Tom Wopat, Jeff FaheyPatricia Richardson, Grant Goodeve, and Abbi Butler.

About County Line

When his best friend (Jeff Fahey) is brutally gunned down, a former sheriff (Tom Wopat) is left with many questions and no answers.

After the investigation stalls and his replacement turns a blind eye, he takes the case into his own hands.

Why I Watched

When our youngest daughter was in elementary school, The Dukes of Hazzard came on television every afternoon. She loved that show! I thought it was the most amazing thing that she loved it so much. To be honest, I'd listen as I prepared dinner, but I'd never actually watched an episode.

However, that hugely popular TV show is part of the cultural fabric of our country which is why there were reunion TV movies and 2 forgettable big screen versions which, I understand, all the fans hated.

So I was interested to see this production starring Tom Wopat. To my surprise, and I don't mean to sound elitist, the movie was quite entertaining.

Wopat and Fahey, two veterans who've toiled away in guest spots and B movies know their craft.

The movie reminded me of the TV series Justified, one of the best series ever, which starred Timothy Olyphant, Walton Goggins, and Nick Searcy.

It has that same "down home" feeling you'll recognize if you grew up in a small town.

Wopat and Fahey are perfect as the Sheriffs in adjoining southern counties. They know everyone and their families and take law enforcement seriously and professionally.

The best scenes for me were the ones with Wopat and Abbi Butler who played his daughter. They were emotionally convincing. Ms. Butler was perffect as the only child of a lawman who taught her everything she needed to know.

I watched the take-down scene a couple of times. That was where several men tried to intimidate her and her father, and it didn't turn out so well for the men.

Some enterprising television producer ought to fill the gap created by the cancellation of Longmire.

A series about Sheriff Alden (All Out) Rockwell, played by Wopat, and Sheriff Clint Thorne, played by Fahey would have a good chance of being a hit.

There's a market for that kind of small town, smart sheriff kind of show! Plus, there's the nostalgia factor. Maybe AARP should produce it since most TV and movie producers think a series and/or a movie should always appeal to the under 45 crowd.

Will they ever realize that the over-45 crowd has far more money to spend and will spend it for good products?

Takeaway Truth

All in all, I have to give this surprising film a thumbs up.

Authors: Monitor Books With Google Alerts

If you don't have a Google Alert set up with the title of your books, you really need to do that.

One of my friends received a Google Alert for a Tweet mentioning her pre-release book as free. The link in the Tweet directed people to a pirate site where her book was indeed offered for free.

She was racking her brain trying to find out who might have had access to her book file and uploaded it.

The outcome was that her book file probably was not on that file share server.

More than likely if someone  clicked the download link, the or she would get some insidious malware, worms, and viruses—which would serve them right for trying to get an author's hard work for free!

My goodness, most ebooks cost less than a Starbucks Venti Latte! No wonder it gets harder every day for an author to make a living!

My friend told everyone in our group about this situation, so several of us went to Twitter and marked the tweets as "suspicious, probably malicious spam" or words to that effect.

I'll post on a different day how to report Tweets like that.
Stealing an author's book content is a CRIME!

While we were reporting this user and blocking her, my friend received another Google Alert about another user account with the same Tweets.

So each of us reported that too and blocked the user.

These Twitter accounts usually have no followers, and they're not following anyone either plus the user name is a woman's first name followed by some numbers.

Be alert for this kind of thing. Better yet, set up Google Alerts to protect your name and your book titles.

Google Alerts? Easy to set up!
How to Set up Google Alerts

It’s simple to use. Just enter a word or phrase, like your name or title of your book,and you’ll be alerted by email whenever Google finds new mentions on the web. Set up one alert for your name and other alerts for each title of your books.

1. Go to Google Alerts.

2. Enter a search term to track. Make the alert specific by enclosing the search term in quotation marks, i.e., "Joan Reeves" or "Liam's Wild Irish Rose." Google Alerts will display a results preview as you type.

3. Select “Show options” (below the search box) and choose how often you want to receive alerts: once a day; as it happens; once a week.

4. Choose a source for your alerts: web; blogs; news; etc. If you’re unsure, leave the default setting  automatic.

5. Choose a language and region.

6. Choose how many results you want to see: “all results,” or “only the best results.”
Writers need all the TOOLS they can get.

7. Choose a delivery email address (this is where Google will send your alerts).

8. Select Create alert.

Takeaway Truth

Google has many free tools that authors can use so take advantage of them.