Thursday3Some: 3 Awesome Free Apps

I've got some amazing free apps to share with you today.

(1) JustinGuitar

Have you ever wanted to learn how to play the guitar? This is your chance.

JustinGuitar offers 1,297 free lessons with 3 levels that begin with beginners. Totally free! You don't have to enter a credit card or anything. There's a phone app you can download too.

(2) DuoLingo

Learn a second language free. That's right, it's free. Use on a computer or download the app to your phone. They give bit-sized phrases and sentences in a proven method that makes learning easier.

(3) Release Countdown Widget

Want to set up a cool countdown widget on your blog or website? Just fill in the information, and this will generate the code for you to copy. I made one just to see if it worked. You can see it right below. I pasted the code into the HTML of this blog post. If you do it like that, be sure you leave a double space before and after the code.

Takeaway Truth

Free apps that actually work well and help you? Priceless.

Free Spy Mystery by James Moushon

Many authors will be giving away free ebooks so readers will have lots of holiday entertainment if they want to stay indoors where it's cool on the 4th of July.

My friend James Moushon , an Author Advocate, Blog Industry Blogger, and Mystery Author, is giving away free Amazon copies of a spy mystery.

James's gift to readers is Operation Key Witness, A Jonathon Stone Mystery Short Story, free from now until July 1, 2022.

About Operation Key Witness by James Moushon

Stone is a CIA agent who works domestically. He's assigned to the CLASSIFIED CIA DOT Division. His ops involve terrorism and espionage.

In Operation Key WitnessStone and Chuck Chun are assigned to escort a witness from the Philippines to Los Angeles to testify against her terrorist husband.

After an air marshal is killed in flight, Jonathon and Chuck go on high alert.

The CIA team discover there is a professional hit contract on the witness, and it is non-exclusive. The twists and turns of the op leads the two into the Islamic World of terror.

Takeaway Truth

Grab your free copy today for some reading fun on the 4th.

Flowering Shrub for Narrow Spaces

We actually had a rain today. I think that's the first one in almost 3 weeks. Yes, most of Texas is in a drought.

Three weeks ago is when I transplanted my Purple Showers (the flowering shrubs for narrow spaces that I have had in pots for nearly a year.

Then came the dry HOT weather. Even with sprinklers, growing things do better with Mother Nature's moisture.

When we sold our previous home, I potted some of the Purple Showers and moved them to my new yard. I can hardly believe they survived in pots through the heat of last summer and the freezing nights of this past winter.

Purple Showers is what we call them these tall flowering shrubs here in Houston. According to whichever website you visit, you'll find other names for them like Rose of Sharon or Paraplu Violet Hibisicus. (The Amazon link is embedded in case you can't find these wonderful shrubs in your area.)

In my previous home's yard, there was a narrow strip of dirt between patio pavers and a brick wall. This was outside my kitchen window. I searched for a couple of years before finding something that would grow in a bed only 15 inches wide and wouldn't be bushy. 

Purple Showers, aptly named because of their abundant blooms, were perfect for that 5 foot long growing bed. They grow up, not out, and they have pretty green foliage and beautiful blossoms. 

They've been in the ground for 3 weeks. I cut them down to about 6 inches when I transplanted them. They've grown a foot since then, and they've already started blooming.

Takeaway Truth 

If you have a similar narrow area of dirt you'd like to grow something beautiful, try these flowering shrubs. You'll love them as much as I do.

Sunday Thoughts On Summer

Summer is here, and it's glorious even though it's really, really hot in Texas. Hotter than usual.

I don't care. I'll always take summer over winter.

Summer is the season for gardening, beaches, vacations, family gatherings, fun, beach books, and relaxation.

Here are some favorite quotes about these summer activities.

Sunday Thoughts on Summer

Gardening: To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow. —Audrey Hepburn

Beaches: Soak up the sun. Ride the waves. Breathe the salty air. Feel the breeze. Build sandcastles. Rest, relax, reflect. Collect seashells. Bare-feet required. —Unknown

Vacations: "A vacation is having nothing to do and all day to do it in." – Robert Orben

Family Gatherings: "You go through life wondering what it’s all about. But at the end of the day it’s all about family." – Rod Stewart

Fun: "It's a smile, it's a kiss, it's a sip of wine it's summertime!" —Kenny Chesney

Beach Books: "What I want in a good beach read is sunshine, drama, easy-reading and transportation to another world and other people’s problems." – Jane Green

Relaxation: "Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time." — John Lubbock

Takeaway Truth

I rhink the perfect description of summer is what Ada Louise Huxtable said:

"Summer is the time when one sheds one's tensions with one's clothes, and the right kind of day is jeweled balm for the battered spirit. A few of those days and you can become drunk with the belief that all's right with the world."

Saturday Share Recipe: Wilted Spinach Salad

When I was growing up, my Mom fixed a salad that she called "wilted" not especially an appetizing name, but it was so good.

That's what I'm sharing today, the recipe for  Wilted Spinach Salad. 

Now, my mom fried bacon and used the fat rendered from that to make the dressing for this salad. 

Apparently, lard has become a trendy thing of late so if you want to try it that way, go ahead.

(Amazon sells lard, and you'll be shocked at how expensive it is.)


  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1/3 cup olive oil (if using rendered bacon fat, use an equal measure)
  • 1/4 cup wine vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 3 cups fresh spinach leaves (if large, tear them in half)
  • 2 hard boiled eggs, chopped
  • 2-4 slices fried bacon, drained and crumbled (men like more)
  • Smash the garlic clove just enough to release the aromatics and drop into the olive oil
  • Let the garlic marinate in the olive oil at least an hour then discard the garlic, leaving the flavored oil
  • Place the spinach leaves in a heat-proof dish.
  • In the skillet where you fried the bacon, heat over low heat the measured amount of oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper. Whisk together until hot. Be careful!
  • Pour the hot dressing over the spinach leaves and toss.
  • Serve immediately.
  • If you made croutons from my recipe last week, throw a handful of those on top.
Takeaway Truth

If you get tired of salads, try this one for a change of pace.

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Friday Facts About Mushrooms

Do you like mushrooms? We do. We've watched several documentaries like Fantastic Fungi on Netflix.

There are several YouTube channels devoted to mushrooms which are extremely healthy for the human body.

Mushrooms belong to the kingdom fungi—as do yeasts, mildews, molds, rusts and smuts.

1. Believe it or not, fungi are more closely related to animals than to plants because they absorb nutrients from organic matter whereas plants produce their food through photosynthesis.

2. LIke animals, fungi need food, water, and oxygen to survive. They have hyphae, branching filaments that make up the mycelium of a fungus, that absorbs nutrients, water, and oxygen from their surroundings and expel waste products and carbon dioxide just as people do.

3. Fungi have chitin, a fibrous substance in their cell walls, the same as animals.

4. Fungi are the largest life forms on the planet because their mycellium under ground can extend for miles underground in search of food.

5. The role of mycelium, the underground network composed of millions of thread-like hyphae, is to reproduce and ensure the survival of its species.

Takeaway Truth

Never eat a wild mushroom unless you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that it is safe to eat because many poisonous mushrooms look like edible mushrooms.

Review: Night Sky, Amazon Original Series

 First, let me say I'll watch anything with J. K. Simmons. He's simply phenomenal in the way Gene Hackman was phenomenal in his movie roles.

Mr. Simmons is believable in whatever role he undertakes whether it was the psychologist on the original Law and Order, the dual role in Counterpart—in which he portrayed 2 distinct personalities—and in any of the many character roles in movies and television.

I've given much thought to why Night Sky, created by Holden Miller and Daniel C. Connolly for Amazon Studios and Legendary Television, didn't hold much appeal for me.

I thought it had a compelling premise—a married couple discovered several years ago that they have a portal, a wormhole, in their basement that leads to another planet—but that wasn't enough in the end for me to give it 5 stars.

I think the series suffers from two things: slow pace where the viewer keeps waiting for something ominous to happen and inconsistent characterization.

Make no mistake, Night Sky has superb acting by Mr. Simmons and Sissy Spacek in her role as his wife. So let me explain the two faults I think it has—strictly my own opinion. Watch it, and let me know what you think because an opinion about any form of the arts is strictly subjective.

Waiting for Something to Happen

Building tension is the goal of any suspense, mystery, science fiction, and even romance stories.

However, when you go for episode after episode with no payoff for that tension, it becomes exasperating.

Since I've been spending a lot of time in PT and sitting with ice packs, I've watched a bunch of movies and TV shows with compelling premises that start slow and creep forward.

Building tension is well and good but don't aggravate the reader or viewer. Give a series of small payoffs to keep the viewer expecting the big, worst one of all. We know it's going to happen in science fiction. It's a given so give it to us! 

Inconsistent Characterization

To me, this is more grievous than the overbuilt tension. In Night Sky, you have 2 elderly people whose only child is dead leaving a daughter who is mostly a long distance relationship. Basically they have only each other. They are each other's constant companion, best friend, confidante, longtime spouse, lover, and they apparently love each other deeply.

With that kind of setup for these two characters, why don't they tell each other the odd things each experiences instead of keeping it to themselves? Why does the wife tell a lie to protect an intruder that reflects badly on the husband? These character inconsistencies exist throughout.

In watching that, I have to ask myself: "Would a woman portrayed that way tell a lie that would injure her beloved husband's reputation and possibly endanger him?" When he discoveredd it, wouldn't he be horribly hurt since she is his whole world?

My 2¢ Review

Watch it for the acting of Mr. Simmons and Ms. Spacek and don't expect the two characters they portray to stay within the established bounds of their characterization.

Takeaway Truth

For the acting and premise, I give Night Sky 5 stars. Because of the missteps I mentioned, I'll give it 3.75. I guess that averages to 4.375. If you watch it, let me know what you think in a comment.

Top 20 Upbeat Classic Songs

I love music in every genre and every generation. Some songs just never die. They're "singable" and "danceable" too.

Giveaway: Details at end of post.

Today's list probably has a few songs you hear on movies, TV shows, and commercials.

Some you may never have heard before and probably wouldn't make a point to listen to them because they're from the early days of rock and roll, but, give them a try. They were all radio hits, Hot Billboard hits, and appeared on every jukebox.  

I tried not to include songs that are regularly heard today, but some l had to list because I personally love them. Choosing a top 20 was like choosing which child you love the most. It's an impossible task.

All on this list have a beat that will make you dance in your chair seat and probably hum or sing along if you know the words.

Plus, they are feel good songs that will make you smile. You can find them all on YouTube sung by the original artist and by others who recorded them.

Some videos are original because it's a kick to see the hair styles and clothes of that era. Others have been remastered and may show only the lyrics. Have fun!

1. The Loco-Motion by Little Eva

2. Pretty Woman by Roy Orbison

3. This Guy's in Love With You by Herb Alpert

4. Blue Moon by The Marcels or anyone who covered it

5. Runaway by Del Shannon

6. Bad Moon Rising by Credence Clearwater Revival

7. Hey, Baby by Bruce Channel

8. Runaround Sue by Dion

9. Stuck on You by Elvis

10. Honky Tonk Woman by The Rolling Stones 

11. Ticket to Ride by The Beatles

12. Hit the Road Jack by Ray Charles

13. Mony Mony by Tommy James & The Shondells

14. Save the Last Dance for Me by The Drifters

15. California Dreamin' by The Mamas & The Papas 

16. Time of the Season by The Zombies

17. These Boots are Made for Walking by Nancy Sinatra

18. The Letter by The Boxtops

19. House of the Rising Sun by The Animals

20. Daydream Believer by The Monkees

Takeaway Truth

If you listened to any of these, tell me what you think about these classic rock and roll songs. 

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7 Ways Men Can Show Love

Okay, women, let's get real. In this moment, what would you rather your partner do: give you a bouquet of flowers or cook dinner and clean up afterwards?

Yes, flowers are lovely, and we women adore getting them, but wouldn't it be nice if your hubby or man about the house chose to do 1 of these 7 things instead? At least once in a while?

1. Clean all the floors by Swifter and/or vacuum as needed.

2. Cook dinner every other night and clean the kitchen afterwards.

3. Wash and dry the dirty laundry including folding it all and putting it away.

4. Dust! OMG, I hate dusting.

5. Rub your feet at the end of a long day.

6. Massage your neck, shoulders, and back after a day at the computer.

7. Run a bath for you, hand you a romance novel, and say: "Go soak for a while and read. I'll take care of the kids and dinner."

I'm SO lucky. My Darling Hubby frequently does these things without my prompting, asking, begging, or badgering. According to what I hear from many women, that's rare. So, men, if you love your woman, take this list to heart.

Takeaway Truth

How amorous would that kind of regular attention make you feel at bedtime?

Women, leave a comment with your answer and your email, I'll pick 1 qualified entry by random draw to receive a free romance ebook. 

Men, leave a comment and tell me whether you do any of these on a regular basis or plan to start. I'll pick 1 qualified entry (if I get any) by random draw to receive a free copy of Blog Ops, my new release on how to be a great blogger.

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5 Perfect Love Quotations

What a lovely day awaits us. Let's start the week with a reflection on Love. I guess I could say I celebrate Love with every romance I write.

Here are a few of my favorite quotations about the mystical, magical emotion of Love.

“If I had a flower for every time I thought of you… I could walk through my garden forever.” —Alfred, Lord Tennyson

”Love is composed of a single soul inhabiting two bodies.” — Aristotle

“I would rather spend one lifetime with you, than face all the ages of this world alone.” —J.K.K. Tolken

“I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.” —Song of Solomon 6:3

“Your hand touching mine. This is how galaxies collide.” ―Sanober Khan

Takeaway Truth

If you love, be sure and tell the object of your affection, and do it often.

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Happy Father's Day, Dads & Granddads

Let's wish our fathers and grandfathers a Happy Father's Day.

Extend that greeting to your hubby, brothers, and close friends because men have a tough road in today's world.

They must be sensitive yet manly; loving but stalwart; civilized but brave; sexually appealing but always faithful—the list goes on.

Fortunately, most of us women have men like that. So let's celebrate them in their paternal role.

My Father and Grandfather

My Father

His father died when my dad was too young to even remember him. Daddy was a farm boy of 24 when he hit the beaches of Normanday on D-Day. He and the others fought their way through France and into Germany. 

He was a remarkable man who loved his country, his family, farming, and music. I have his guitar on a stand in our media room. I can close my eyes and see him, playing and singing on a Saturday morning. I love you, Daddy. I wish I had told you that a million more times than I did.

My Grandfather

Like my father, my grandfather's father died about a year after he was born in 1882. Yes, that's true—1882. My mother was an only child born to her parents when they were past middle age. I believe my grandfather inspired me to be a storyteller. 

He was a master teller of tales of his adventures and the way the world was when he was a child. He whistled when he walked; he hummed hymns when he was doing anything that didn't require thinking. The spirit of optimism lived in him until his death at the age of 100. I love you, Papa. I miss you still.

Father's Day Tributes

"My father gave me the greatest gift anyone could give another person, he believed in me." — Jim Valvano"A father carries pictures where his money used to be." —Steve Martin

"No man stands taller than when he stoops to help a child." —Abraham Lincoln

"Daddies don't just love their children every now and then, it's a love without end." —George Strait

"Every son's first superhero is his father." —Tiger Schroff

"Every father should remember one day his son will follow his example, not his advice." —Charles Kettering

"If there is any immortality to be had among us human beings, it is certainly only in the love that we leave behind. Fathers like mine don't ever die." —Leo Buscaglia

“My father didn’t do anything unusual. He only did what dads are supposed to do: be there.” —Max Lucado

“Confident women are raised by loving dads.” —Nitya Prakash

Yes, men. Children don't expect you to be super heroes like the Avengers, millionaires, or anything remotely superficial. 

They just need you to be there, to listen, to talk to them, to understand as much as is possible, to help them to grow up safe, to teach them how to be strong and stand on their own feet, and to love them deeply.

Takeaway Truth

 Happy Father's Day!

Saturday Share: Best Croutons

I know many of you buy pre-packaged croutons for your salad, but it's easy to make your own. An added benefit is that making your own costs much less.

Best Croutons Come From Good Bread

In my opinion, the best croutons are chunky, not small skinny croutons like that come with salads at a fast food joint.

So use a good bread to begin with like thick-sliced or a loaf of French or Italian bread.

I make my own bread so I can slice it as thick as I wish. 

How to Make the Best Croutons

  • Sliced bread
  • Butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon of garlic powder (not garlic salt) for each slice of bread
  • Butter both sides of the bread
  • Sprinkle 1/4 teaspoon of garlic on each slice of bread (1/8 teaspoon on each side)
  • Cut slices into 1/2 inch cubes
  • Spread evenly on an ungreased cookie sheet
  • Bake at 400 degrees F. about 10 - 15 minutes until golden brown.
  • Stir and/or flip them over halfway through baking to toast evenly
Oh, here's a bonus tip. When they're warm from the oven, throw them in a bowl and toss them with some grated parmesan cheese. 

Delicious sprinkled on a good tomato soup as well as salad.

Takeaway Truth

To be honest, Darling Hubby likes eating these homemade croutons—with or without parmesan—for a snack instead of potato chips.

Friday Facts About Fear

Here are some random and intriguing facts about Fear, that powerful motivator of human actions and reactions.

1. Fear causes stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline to be  released. Blood pressure and heart rate increase so does respiration.

2. Blood flow changes with blood flowing away from the heart and into your limbs which readies the body to start fighting or running to escape.

3. What triggers fear in nearly everone is the threat—real or imagined—of harm—physical, emotional or psychological.

4. What's really interesting is that a person can learn to become afraid of just about anything.

5. Then there is Panphobia, the fear of everything. Can you imagine being that afraid of everything in the world? Those who suffer from panophobia say it's a "vague dread of some persistent unknown evil."

Takeaway Truth

Be calm. Don't be afraid. It's all good. Have a great weekend.

Thursday3Some: 3 New Words You Probably Don't Know

I was perusing the Urban Dictionary the other day and was, uh, surprised by some of the entries.

Surprising? Oh, yeah. I decided not to use the new words I learned that are—I'll be genteel—provocative?

Word 1: Requel

When a remake of a movie or TV show also doubles as a sequel, i.e., it contains a lot of new material, it can be called a requel rather than just a remake or just a sequel.

Example: Each of the remakes of Casino Royale.

Word 2: Free Boobing

Okay, not 1 word but a phrase that means when a woman does not wear a bra.

Example: Gwendolyn is free boobing because the temperature outside is 105 degrees.

Word 3: Minute

A way of saying a long time has passed, especially when you feel embarrassed that it’s been so long because you know you should have done it sooner.

Example: “When’s the last time you worked out?”

“It’s been a minute.”

Takeaway Truth

Sometimes I think the French have the right idea about protecting their language by not allowing made up words. *LOL*

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Open Range Based on Book by Real Cowboy

Darling Hubby and I had the pleasure of watching Open Range again this past weekend.

The movie Open Range is available free to Prime Video subscribers. You can even pick up the DVD of it for less than $5.00 if you're not a subscriber.

The movie, which we've seen maybe 3 times since it was released in 2003, was brought to mind when we watched an interview with Kevin Costner, the star of the modern western Yellowstone.

Yellowstone streams on Peacock Premium (with ads) and Peacock Premium Plus (no ads). If you have cable, you can watch on Paramount.

We like this classic western movie so much that we looked up the author and his book on which the movie is based, The Men of Open Range.

Lauran Paine, an author who wrote more than 1,000 books, was born in Duluth, Minnesota. He died in California in 2001, two years before the movie premiered.

Open Range wasn't the only book of his that was made into a movie. In 1957, The Quiet Gun, based on Mr. Paine's novel Law Man, was released.

Intrigued by the fact that only the Open Range book is listed on Amazon, a 2013 release by Dorchester with a scene from the movie on the cover and a title change to simply Open Range, I did a little research to learn more about Mr. Paine.

He was born Lawrence Kerfman Duby Jr. in 1916, but he changed his name to Lauran Bosworth Paine after he was grown. I'm guessing his parents' divorce in 1921 affected his feelings for his father. I assume he didn't want his father's name which is why he changed it to honor his unche.

In the 1930s, Lauran Paine was a real life cowboy who competed in rodeos and became a stuntman in Johnny Mack Brown's western movies.

Mr. Paine began writing in 1934 but didn't become successful until after World War II. By 1948, he was a full-time writer.

He wrote over 1,000 books, including hundreds of Westerns as well as romance, science fiction, and mystery novels.

He also wrote a number of non-fiction books on the Old West, military history, witchcraft, and other subjects.

In those days, publishers would only contract a limited number of books from an author. In order to make a living, most popular fiction authors took pseudonyms so they could publish enough books each year to make a living.

Mr. Paine had dozens of pseudonyms. Some of his pen names were: Mark Carrel, John Kilgore, Clay Allen, A. A. Andrews, Dennis Archer, John Armour, Carter Ashby, Harry Beck, Will Benton, Frank Bosworth, Concho Bradley, Claude Cassady, Clint Custer, James Glenn, Will Houston, Troy Howard, Cliff Ketchum, Clint O'Conner, Jim Slaughter and Buck Standish. 

He published many books with Robert Hale of London, and those were distributed only in the United Kingdom. In recent years, those books are making their way to the U.S. usually in large print editions.

If you'd like to see a list of some of Mr. Paine's books, please see the Wiki on Lauran Paine.

After reading about Lauran Paine, I gained a new appreciation for the movie Open Range which is rated as one of the best western movies ever made. How sad that Mr. Paine never had a chance to see the movie made from his book.

Takeaway Truth

If you haven't seen it before, it's got everything from beautiful cinematography to a wonderful cast made up of Robert Duvall, Kevin Costner, and Annette Bening and a  compelling story about a cattle driver and his men who run afoul of the richest rancher in the area. 

Throw in a former gun hand who's in desperate need of redemption and the love he finds when he doesn't even expect acceptance. Then there's the gunfight to end all gunfights!

If you haven't seen Open Range, which Mr. Costner directed, before, do yourself a favor and watch it.

Image Notes: Ghost Town, by nightowl  from Pixabay

Texas Road Trip Playlist

In case you decide to take a Road Trip Vacation in or to Texas, you'll find lots to see in every big and small town.

Maybe you want to explore NASA Space Center in Houston or have a few cold ones on the River Walk in San Antonio. Or check out the observatory in the Davis Mountains near El Paso.

Texas is a big place. You can drive from dawn to dark and not reach the other side of the state.

A road trip calls for music so I thought I'd share my favorite Texas songs that are perfect for driving and singing. You can listen to these songs on YouTube. Then add the titles of the ones you like to your favorite music app.


Takeaway Truth

Well, I had fun listening to all these as I gathered the YouTube Links. I hope you enjoy them too.

Origin of the Expression: Dead as a Doornail

Did you ever wonder how the phrase, "Dead as a doornail" came about?

I did. Of course, I often wonder about words and phrases in our English language.

Remember when you read in Christmas Carol by Dickens: "Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail."

(Double Doors, Image by  inkflo from Pixabay)

Dead as a doornail was a common expression from my grandfather. If he talked about someone who was killed in an accident, he'd often say, "Killed him dead as a doornail."

My brother used that expression a few months ago when I visited him, and I found myself wondering how that phrase came to mean really, really dead.

Origin of Dead as a Doornail

To my surprise, the phrase is quite old. A lot of people think it was a phrase created by Shakespeare, but that's not true. He merely popularized the expression by using it in Henry VI, Part 2 in which Jack Cade said: "Look on me well: I have eat no meat these five days; yet, come thou and thy five men, and if I do not leave you all as dead as a doornail, I pray God I may never eat grass more."

The phrase was translated into English by William Langford from a French poem. After the phrase appeared in Shakespeare's play, it became hugely popular.

What Is a Doornail and Why Does It Signify Profound Death?

Like so many expressions, there's no way to know why it was first used in this manner. Most educated guesses suggest that doornails, or door nails if you prefer, were used to strengthen doors back in the Dark Ages and probably before.

Big, long, heavy nails would be hammered all the way through the thick boards that made up a door. Then on the other side of the door, the nail that went through the boards would be hammered to make the end flat.

Bending it that way was called clenching, and it meant the nail couldn't be pulled out in an effort to take the door down and gain entry. The bent nail was called dead because clenching made it completely unusable since it couldn't be removed without ruining the nail.

Nails were clenched in other things made of wood, but I guess the phrase "dead as a table nail" didn't sound quite as good.

Takeaway Truth

There are a few other theories about the origin of the phrase, but this one seems to make the most sense to me.
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Review: Lincoln Lawyer, Netflix Original Series

To be honest, I have seen little of interest on Netflix lately. A few weeks back, I saw the Netflix original series based on Michael Connelly's Lincoln Lawyer books.

You may recall a movie of the same name in 2011 starring Matthew McConaughey as Mickey Haller, the Los Angeles lawyer who uses his Lincoln for an office. This series is completely different.

First, let me say the series is good, but you'll enjoy it more if you don't compare it to the books on which it is based.

The Lincoln Lawyer books were a spin-off from the Bosch books in which Mickey Haller is Bosch's younger half-brother.

Since the books were almost 20 years old, the story line was updated for today's world.

 Major Differences From Book to Series

Haller is now a recovering prescription pill addict after a surfing accident. (In the books, the surfing accident/addiction happened to another character.

In the series, Haller is portrayed as idealistic, but I never thought of him that way. I'll have to read the books again, I think.

Some characters were changed from men to women such as Haller's driver who was a guy in the books. Now's the driver is a woman who struggles with addiction.

Jobs changed with the client on trial changed from a video game designer to a movie moguls.

Harry Bosch will never be mentioned because he has his own series and never the twain shall meet so that relationship will not be explored. Instead, Haller will interact with a "substitute" for Bosch.

The Bosch role is split up between two characters: LAPD Detective Griggs, a character created for the show, portrayed by Ugandan-American actor, Ntare Mwine, and Cisco, a character who does appear in the books as Haller's investigator, but in the series he does some of the things Bosch would do.

Lincoln Lawyer, Original Netflix Series

As I said above, go into this with an open mind and forget trying to tie it to the books, and you'll find the series well-written, well-acted, and entertaining.

Produced by David E. KelleyTed Humphrey, author Michael Connelly, and Ross Fineman, the series was originally planned for CBS. Netflix grabbed it when CBS canned it. The first of ten episodes debuted on Netflix on May 13. It was #1 on Netflix and has a popularity rating with viewers of about 93%.

The Cast

Manuel Garcia-Rulfo as Mickey Haller

Neve Campbell as Maggie McPherson, deputy district attorney and Mickey’s first ex-wife and mother of his daughter, Haley

Krista Warner, cast because she's biracial and also speaks Spanish

Becki Newton as Lorna, Mickey's second ex-wife

Jazz Raycole as Izzy Letts, his driver

Angus Sampson as Cisco, Mickey's key investigator and Lorna’s fiancé

Christopher Gorham as Trevor Elliott, Mickey's client in this first season.

Jamie McShane as Detective Lee Lankford. (If you're a Bosch series fan, you'll recognize him as the disgraced cop in the Black Guardian incident.)

The cast is superb. They'll make you forget the way the books portrayed these characters. 

(No author wants to hear a comment like that. No offense, Mr. Connelly.) The series may make you want to read the books because books usually offer a richer experience.

The deft way in which a couple of the books were combined to make the series is remarkable. You'll like the characters as they struggle with their challenges, and you'll be guessing as to the guilt or innocence of Mickey's client.

Yes, this series has a compelling story, likable characters who are imperfect but who have a moral compass that is sometimes at odds with the realities of the world. 

If you're looking for something intelligent and well-written, definitely watch The Lincoln Lawyer on Netflix.

Takeaway Truth

If you're not a Netflix subscriber, you'll want to ask your friends who are if they'd like to have a watch party. *g* Otherwise, you'll miss an excellent series.

Saturday Share: Chocolate Substitutions

Let's talk chocolate. Specifically, chocolate used in baking.

Consumers are often confused about the many different names for chocolate products.

Let's take away the confusion and give some substitutions for the most common chocolates called for in recipes.

Cocoa Vs. Cacao

Cacao is raw cacao beans that have been ground. It's the unprocessed version of cocoa. It's sometimes packaged as vegan chocolate. The taste of raw cacao can take some getting used to due to its bitter taste.

Cocoa is cacao beans that have been roasted. So product labeled cacao is the raw bean and a product labeled cocoa is the roasted and ground bean.

In marketing, the names cacao and cocoa are used to mean the same product because cacao is Spanish and cocoa is English. 

That's why you now see Hershey's Cocoa Powder labeled Hershey's Cacao Powder.

This rebranding happened a few years ago to make the product appeal internationallly. So, unless the product specifies the ingredients as cacao, the product is probably cocoa.

Chocolate Vs. Dutch Chocolate Vs. German Chocolate

Hershey's unsweetened Cocoa Powder is 100% pure cocoa meaning it has not been treated with alkali.

Hershey's Special Dark Cocoa has been treated with alkali which is a process called Dutched-processed so it can be called Dutch Chocolate.

If you see anything labeled, Dutch Chocolate, that means it's been treated with an alkali to reduce bitterness and/or make it appear darker.

German Chocolate has nothing to do with Germany. It was created by Sam German in the 1850s in the United States. It's most similar to semi-sweet chocolate, but it's sweeter due to the added sugar that enhances the sweetness of baked items using it.

Of all of the above, I always keep a can of Hershey's Cocoa/Cacao Powder in my pantry all the time because:

(1) it's 100% cocoa which means it's the natural kind of dark choclate good for your health, rather than Dutched chocolate that uses alkali

(2) I use a rounded teaspoon of the powder to add to a packet of instant cocoa mix

(3) nothing makes chocolate frosting better than Hershey's Cocoa Power

(4) it's easy to use the cocoa powder to "make" the other chocolate products used in cooking and baking.

Substitutions for Chocolate

If you never have unsweetened baking chocolate on hand, you need to print this post so you'll know how easy it is to use cocoa powder for those recipes.

Substitutions for 1 ounce Unsweetened Baking Chocolate

(1) 3 tablespoons Hershey's Cocoa Powder + 1 tablespoon of butter. (You can also use 1 tablespoon or vegetable oil or 1 tablespoon shortening but those are not healthy ingredients.)  Melt the butter in a small bowl or glass measuring cup in the microwave. Stir in the cocoa powder until well blended.

If you like the taste of Dutch-processed cocoa powder, you can use it instead of the Hershey's Cocoa Powder.

(2) 1 ounce of Semi-Sweet or Bittersweet Chocolate. This adds the sweetness already in this kind of chocolate. To make up for the sugar in the chocolate, reduce the amount of sugar by 1 tablespoon for each ounce of this chocolate used in your recipe.

(3) 3 tablespoons of Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips for each 1 ounce of unsweetened chocolate. This too adds extra sugar, so reduce the sugar in your recipe by 1 tablespoon of sugar for each ounce. 

The chocolate chips take longer to melt because they're made to hold their shape so microwave a little at a time so they'll melt but not break or crystalize.

Substitututions for Cocoa Powder

(1) 1 ounce baking chocolate square = 3 tablespoons of cocoa powder.
Melt sweetened or unsweetened baking chocolate and add it to the wet ingredients. Squares of baking chocolate have more fat so you may need to reduce the fat in your recipe by 1 to 3 teaspoons less.

(2) 1 ounce of chocolate chips (unsweetened, semi-sweet, or sweet) = 3 tablespoons of cocoa powder. In this case, if you use sweetened chips, you must reduce the amount of sugar in your recipe by 1 tablespoon or more since chips are usually sweeter than the baking squares. You may have to experiment to see how much sugar to remove from the recipe.

(3) 3 tablespoons of Dutch Chocolate plus 1/8 teaspoon of an acid like cream of tartar, lemon juice, or white vinegar = 3 tablespoons of regular cocoa powder.

(4) If all you have is Instant Cocoa mix or Nequik, use it in a 1:1 ratio but reduce the amount of sugar in your recipe. Instant mixes contain many ingredients with some of them undesirable, but if you want some kind of baked chocolate goodie then experiment. 

Takeaway Truth

Pure cocoa has many health benefits. Make something today like my recipe for Chocolate Cake in a Cup which takes less than 10 minutes to mix it up and bake it. Have a wonderful weekend!

The Trouble With Love: Free This Weekend

My June Giveaway to my Newsletter Subscribers is THE TROUBLE WITH LOVE.

My monthly giveaways and bargains are sent to my fabulous  Newsletter Subscribers first.

A day later, I announce it on SlingWords. A few hours after that, I promote it in public. So there is a benefit to being a subscriber to my free newsletter first. Plus, I am posting content that only subscribers receive.

So, dear Readers, pick up your free copy of THE TROUBLE WITH LOVE, a hot romance that's perfect for the hot summer we're having. Free offer ends at 11:59pm PDT on Sunday, June 12.


Southern Yankee: "I enjoyed this book for quite a few reasons. First, I loved the characters and how there were multiple relationships showcased. Susannah and her mother Rory both have issues when it comes to love and they may both be wrong. Then there is that little almost one night stand Susannah had with the man standing in the little town's police station, where she just happens to work. Hogan is a hot as can be 'consultant' or is he? There is heat, passion, forgiveness, trust issues, and lots of fun."

Jan Taylor: "Loved the way she does sexual tension, especially loved the orange bikini! Characters had real problems to resolve.

"Reeves is really good with secondary characters and subplots. I've already downloaded several more of her ebooks, as she hooked me on this one. Of course, I adore Texas settings. Oh, the cover is awesome."

Joyce J. Ruskuski: "A thoroughly delightful romance. The story of not one but three separate and equally lovely couples."

Takeaway Truth

If you enjoy This sizzling romance, please leave a review! Have a wonderful weekend.

12 Things to Know About Kindle Vella

Here are 12 Things to Know About Kindle Vella. 

This is for Readers and Authors!

I've noticed more authors are publishing serialized stories so they're gaining in popularity. 

Readers seem to be embracing the format too so here are a dozen things Readers and Authors should know.

1. Kindle Vella, at this time, is open only to U.S. based, English language authors.

That means that Vella serials are in English. (That's probably going to change when Amazon decides the program is successful.)

2. A Kindle Vella story must be new and not previously published. Readers don't want books re-packaged for Vella.

3. A Kindle Vella's first 3 episodes are always free. Readers can get a taste of the story absolutely free.

4. Authors and Readers should know that Amazon gives each Amazon account 500 free tokens so you can try a Kindle Vellla. 

(I don't know how long this free offer lasts so do it now.) To claim your free tokens, click any Vella story, like mine, Stone Angel

When it opens, look at the white bar that goes across the top, below the main Amazon Menu Bar. You'll should see this—without the arrows I inserted.

Click on the Key icon as shown in the image above and a small window opens for you to accept the 500 free tokens. The token number will change as you use and add tokens. 

Use your 500 to read Vella episodes, but, remember, the first 3 episodes are always free. When you've used up your free tokens, you purchase more from Amazon.

5. Tokens are sold in bundles: 200 tokens cost $1.00 which is about a penny a token. Usually you can read about 20,000 words for that. The largest bundle is 1700 tokens for $14.99. That's about $.0088 per token which is your best bargain. That's enough tokens to read about 170,000 words.

6. Amazon sets the number of tokens each episode costs, not the author.

7. Authors get royalties based on a complicated formula which assigns a value to the price paid for tokens. The larger bundles of tokens a Reader buys, the more value assigned to that by the algorithm which results in a larger royalty for the Author. (I think I have that correct.)

8. Kindle Vella is read on iPhones, Android devices, tablets, and computers of any type. To begin reading, download the Kindle app for your phone or go to Amazon / Kindle Vella—see #3 above—or go directly to Kindle Vella section of Amazon

TechRadar has some in-depth articles about Kindle Vella. I encourage you to check out their website which offers excellent tech news.

9. Episodes should be at least 600 words and no longer than 5,000 words. The length is perfect for over-scheduled people who love to read. It's a bite-sized chunk that can be read during a lunch hour, commuting time, waiting to pick up kids, or just before bedtime. 

10. Each Vella has a URL just as an ebook does, but each episode also has a URL so readers can find a specific episode they love. Authors need to be sure they give the URL for the Vella, not an episode URL.

11. Authors will be excited by the fact that Amazon pays bonuses, for now, to authors who try Vella. The bonus is based on readership, month to month growth of the Vella's audience, and a few factors unknown to me.

12. Authors, I've used images for my Vella that I made using BookBrush

You'll find a template for making a Vella "cover" which you'll find under Cover Creator / Ebook / scroll down the samples until you see the one for Kindle Vella.

Serialized fiction has been popular for many years on Wattpad and similar websites. Kindle is the latest startup for this format, and I believe you'll see more programs like this on other websites—especially if Vella succeeds in a big way which I think it will.

Takeaway Truth

Readers, if you haven't tried reading a Kindle Vella yet, you're missing some great stories. Download the Kindle app to your phone and get started with free episodes plus 500 tokens to spend.

P. S. I'm giving away a $5.00 Amazon Gift Card to celebrate the release of my latest book, BLOG OPS, a guide for those who want to start a blog or improve the one they have. To enter, find the details in this post: Gift Card Giveaway Celebrates New Book. Good luck!
I'm sending my June Newsletter on Friday, June 10give away a free ebook romance each month. This time the free book sizzles with summer heat

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Have a wonderful week!