The Hello Girls

Returning guest blogger Sunny Frazier, whose first novel in the Christy Bristol Astrology Mysteries, Fools Rush In, received the Best Novel Award from Public Safety Writers Association, is here today to tell us the story of The Hello Girls, a critical yet forgotten piece of US military history.

The third Christy Bristol Astrology Mystery, A Snitch in Time, is in bookstores now.   //

I love it when world history intersects with my own personal history.

My Air Force vet friend, Patricia, turned me on to a discarded part of military history. It was vital to the war effort, forgotten by people and ignored by the Army. I’m talking about the “Hello Girls.” I found a book in the library by Elizabeth Cobbs which finally gives credit to these brave women.

In 1917, when America entered WWI, communication was vital for troop movement and battle plans. Portable switchboards were designed but the men assigned to use them were trained in Morse Code and telegraphs. General Pershing went in search of female telephone operators to send to Europe. Women willingly volunteered for the Army Signal Corps.


One of the reasons women made better operators were because they had smaller hands, more dexterity and could multi-task better than men. They also had cooler heads when dealing with overwrought officers.

Grace Banker. Leader of The Hello Girls

The women were expected to buy their own uniforms. They were also required to be bilingual in French since that’s where the war was. They signed a contract and took an oath. They were in their early 20’s. Pay was $60 a month.

Fast track to 1970. I was fresh out of high school and went to work for Bell Telephone in the Los Angeles area. Operators were respected and telling clerks you worked for Ma Bell got you instant credit in many stores. We even had male groupies who could recognize our voices. The bookies from the Santa Anita racetrack sent us boxes of candy at Christmas.

Vietnam was going on and ITT was looking for single operators with no children to send over to the military bases. I missed the interviews by a day. Instead, I joined the Navy.

I put the signal corps down on my “dream sheet” but the Navy decided I’d make a good dental tech. That’s what they needed at the time. I hated what I was doing but ended up being good at it. When I got out, I got all the benefits of the GI Bill.

After college and after the newspaper I worked on as a photojournalist folded, I found myself back at Ma Bell. AT&T has always been patriotic, and I was reinstated at the level I left four years ago. The pay was incredible. I went to Hawaii twice in one year.

Let’s go back prior to 1917. The Suffragette movement continually pushed to get voting rights for women. Other countries, such as France and Russia, had already allowed women to vote. One of the things the Hello Girls did was make the case that women could participate in war and deserved to be able to have a say in their government. But, in 1920, the Army refused to acknowledge they were really part of the military. The women were denied benefits and veterans bonuses as promised. It wasn’t until President Carter in 1977 gave them the rights they deserved. The woman who accepted the honor was 93. Most of the Hello Girls never lived to see their due justice.


Other Than That, Mrs. Lincoln… @JMmystery

Jeanne Matthews is happy to announce the arrival of a new mystery!  Devil By The Tail, scheduled for release in July 2021, pairs the audacious young widow of a Union soldier with an unvarnished ex-Confederate POW.  When they join forces and open their own detective agency, sparks fly – literally and figuratively.  A sensational arson and murder, a yellow press, corrupt politicians, and a bevy of notorious bawdyhouse madams make life in 1867 Chicago a dangerous affair. 

Originally from Georgia, Jeanne lives in Washington State with her husband, a law professor, and a Norwich terrier named Jack Reacher.  Information about her other books can be found on her website,  

While researching my new historical mystery, set in 1867 Chicago, I learned a number of long, fanciful words that were all the rage at the time.  Made up from prefixes and suffixes of complicated, Latin-sounding words, these comical creations had a faux-educated cachet and a delicious mouth-feel.  Absquatulate (to abscond).  Exfluncticate (to destroy).  Discombobulate (to confuse).  While they may sound quaint or corny today, they were in common parlance in the 1800s and some have endured.  We all know what hornswoggle and skedaddle mean.

Sockdolager is my personal favorite of these verbal inventions and the one with the most momentous history.  It can mean either a forceful blow, the point that settles a matter, or an exceptional person or thing.  Its etymology remains uncertain but it was probably cobbled together from sock, meaning to punch somebody, and doxology, the concluding hymn at the end of a church service.  The Chicago Daily Tribune defined sockdolager as “the term for anything that left nothing else to follow; an overwhelming finish to which no reply was possible.”

These splendiferous words, and especially the word “sockdolager,” fascinated the British playwright Tom Taylor.  He wrote a farce intended to poke fun at earnest, naïve Americans and their ridiculous Americanisms.  The plot featured an uncouth American bumpkin named Asa Trenchard who goes to England to claim an inheritance and meet his hoity-toity English cousins.  To Taylor’s surprise, Americans thought the joke was on the English aristocrats who were also skewered in the play.  Our American Cousin premiered in New York City in 1858 with great success and became hugely popular in the United States.  In 1865, the Ford Theater in Washington, D.C. scheduled a two-week run of the play, but it lasted 150 nights.  The finale on April 14th was a sold-out performance.

It was a laugh a minute.  Lord Dundreary blabbers his twisted aphorisms.  “Birds of a feather gather no moss” and “It’s a wise child that gets the worms.”  Servants anticipate the American’s arrival with great excitement.  All Americans are seventeen feet tall, aren’t they?  And what about the “wild helephants and buffaloes” that roam the wilds of Vermont?  When Asa shows up, he’s “bumfuzzled” and boorish, swilling liquor and taunting his snobbish cousins.  “Do they think I mean to absquatulate with the spoons?”  Believing Asa to be the heir to a large fortune, Mrs. Mountchessington overlooks his gaffes and tries to manipulate him into marrying her daughter.  Unbeknownst to her, he has fallen in love with a poor dairymaid.

In Act 3, Scene 2, he confronts Mrs. Mountchessington in a way he knows will stop her meddling.  He tells her there’s been a mistake.  He isn’t the heir after all, but stands ready to pour out his affections upon her daughter “like apple sass over roast pork.”  So, he asks, how does she feel about taking him on as a son-in-law now that he’s moneyless?  The lady is indignant.  “I am aware, Mr. Trenchard, you are not used to the manners of good society and that, alone, will excuse the impertinence of which you have been guilty.”  With that riposte, she flounces off the stage in a huff.

Here comes Trenchard’s chance to put this highfalutin biddy in her place.  The actors wait for it – the line that has brought down the house in every performance for the last 149 nights.  “Don’t know the manners of good society, eh?  Well, I guess I know enough to turn you inside out, old gal, you sockdolagizing old mantrap.”

The audience erupts in laughter.  John Wilkes Booth, an actor familiar with the play, has anticipated the predictable roar of hilarity.  He steals into the presidential box and fires a bullet into Abraham Lincoln’s brain.  The crack of Booth’s single-barrel derringer was drowned out.  Lincoln died in mid-guffaw. “Sockdolagizing old mantrap” were the last words he heard in his life.

Those words may have resonated with Lincoln in a more personal and emotional way than we can know.  Biographers report that Mary pursued Lincoln relentlessly, determined to marry him in spite of his unpolished manners and lack of money.  He confided his reluctance to marry her to several friends and broke off the engagement once, having fallen in love with an eighteen-year-old beauty named Matilda Edwards.  But Mary didn’t give up.  She got her man, most likely by seducing him.  He would no doubt have felt obligated to marry her immediately in order to preserve her honor.  Did that make her a sockdolagizing mantrap?

After a long, on-and-off courtship, the marriage was hastily arranged.  While dressing for the wedding ceremony, Lincoln remarked to his groomsman, “I guess I am going to hell.”

Sterling and Me: Tail of a Mystery Author and Her Dog #2 @TheMysteryLadie

Lauren Carr is the international best-selling author of the Mac Faraday, Lovers in Crime, Chris Matheson Cold Case, and Thorny Rose Mysteries—over twenty-five titles across three fast-paced mystery series filled with twists and turns!

Killer Deadline marks Lauren’s first venture into mystery’s purely cozy sub-genre with a female protagonist. 

Book reviewers and readers alike rave about how Lauren Carr seamlessly crosses genres to include mystery, suspense, crime fiction, police procedurals, romance, and humor.

A popular speaker, Lauren is also the owner of Acorn Book Service, the umbrella under which falls iRead Book Tours. She lives with her husband and two spoiled rotten German Shepherds on a mountain in Harpers Ferry, WV.

Connect with the author:  Website  ~  Twitter  ~  Facebook  ~  Instagram ~ Pinterest

Sterling and Me: Losing Battles:
Is It a Surrender or Declaration of Defeat?

This weekend was a rough one in Sterling and my war against the COVID-20 – by that I mean the 20 pounds Sterling and I have put on since the shut down a year ago.

It was my birthday weekend. Shout out of thanks to the many, many birthday wishes on Facebook and other social media platform.

Each birthday is now a horrible reminder that a little over ten years ago, I proudly wore skinny jeans to my birthday dinner of crab-legs and feasted on chocolate birthday cake—declaring that this middle-aged woman was HOT at 50.

My sister and niece came to visit for the weekend, and we spent it eating birthday cake, breakfast pastries, oriental take-out and brownies in between. Sterling’s diet also hit the skids as he feasted on chew bones (brought by my sister), last bites of breakfast pastries, dog biscuits, corners of grilled cheese sandwiches, and anything else he could extract from guests.

In resignation of losing this weekend’s battle, I recalled something my mother used to say, “I don’t drink to excess. I don’t smoke. I don’t cheat on my husband. So, why shouldn’t I get to eat cake?”

My niece said, “But I want to be healthy.”

Does that mean only un-healthy people eat cake?

This birthday, I am 61 years old and not hot anymore—unless you want to count hot flashes. I’m finding myself identifying with Valerie Bertinelli, author of Losing It—and Gaining My Life Back One Pound at a Time, which detailed her diet journey. I devoured it in one day. Written in plain language, I identified with much of what Valerie experienced and felt in her life—mainly because she and I are the same age.

Middle-aged really became a reality as Valerie’s life went sideways. I don’t know what it is that makes growing older more apparent than weight-gain. I mean, young people can be overweight—right?

So, Valerie Bertinelli became a spokesperson for Jenny Craig and worked months to lose 50 pounds. She celebrated turning 50 with those famous bikini pics splashed across People magazine.

She was 50 and hot—just like me.

Ten years later, Valerie Bertinelli, a Daytime Emmy Award Winning host on the Food Network, says ‘There’s a lot of pride and a lot of shame associated with that cover. I worked really, really, really hard. Physically definitely. I wish to God I had worked just as hard on my mental shape.’ ( )

Cute at 60, Valerie Bertinelli now introduces fans to delicious foods and looks like she truly enjoys what she is doing. She’s enjoying life and everything that it has to offer—like great tasty food. Who cares if it goes straight to the hips?

Maybe we should consider the source when talking about those pounds sitting on our hips. I mean, what kind of people rob lovely, happy, middle aged women of the joy of good food?

During this birthday weekend, I enjoyed the time with my sister and eating birthday cake. It would have been better if I didn’t have the guilt pangs with every brownie I ate.

I wish I could be more like Sterling. When Karen extracted the big shiny tasty chew bone from her purse, he didn’t groan with guilt.

A party-pooper, Guilt was not allowed to his party as Sterling enjoyed the company of good friends and family and embraced every bit of tasty goodness this weekend.

Of course, in our war against unwanted pounds, we haven’t declared defeat. But maybe there are times when we should think about calling a truce.


How Far Is the Past?

Returning guest blogger Sunny Frazier, whose first novel in the Christy Bristol Astrology Mysteries, Fools Rush In, received the Best Novel Award from Public Safety Writers Association, is here today to wonder if the past remembered by older folks means much to the younger generations.

The third Christy Bristol Astrology Mystery, A Snitch in Time, is in bookstores now.   //

Every year on Veterans Day, two dentists in my town (Lemoore, CA) give free check-ups and some procedures on veterans. I took advantage, so that’s why I found myself in the chair getting a tooth pulled. The assistant asked what I did in the military and I told her I’d been a dental tech like her. I also told her I’d been in during the Vietnam Era (when you say that, people always assume you were in-country. Except nurses, most military women stayed stateside. But, joining during any war action gave GI benefits).

The young assistant asked if it was like on TV where there were lots of dead bodies. I said no, it was more like M.A.S.H.

“Oh, I’ve heard of that program,” she said.

“I think I saw an episode once. It was sort of funny” said the dentist.

Conveniently, my mouth fell open. Which is when the dentist went to work.

I get it. The show has been off the air almost 40 years. These two weren’t even born. But still. Isn’t this piece of trivia important enough to have heard about or seen reruns? The last episode was the most watched show in TV history. It still pops up on Jeopardy and in crossword puzzles. Oh, that’s right. Only Boomers do crossword puzzles. Unless it’s an app, nobody younger than 50 bothers with them.

Sometimes my own grasp of the past amazes me. My recent crossword wanted the first lady of jazz: Ella Fitzgerald. What Gorbachev reorganized? The USSR. Summoned Jeeves (who’s Jeeves?): Rang.

It got me thinking. Why do my references span decades? Is knowing the past not important in an age where everything moves at supersonic speed? When 45 seconds seems forever when nuking something in the microwave?


And here comes the “Okay, Boomer” moment. Growing up, TV only had 3 stations. There weren’t many children’s programs, but that’s okay because we were in bed by 7:30. We listened to the music our parents had on the hi-fi: Frank Sinatra, Louie Prima, Dean Martin. Lawrence Welk played his accordion, Father Knew Best and we all loved Lucy. We listened to the conversations of adults because children were seen, not heard. We picked up their info.

Yes, some of us got stuck in our own era. I have friends who will only listen to the oldies station. Several years ago, a clerk at a music store dismissed me as being too old to bother with until I asked for Green Day’s “American Idiot.” An Uber driver asked if I wanted to listen to soft rock on the radio, but I requested Cold Play. I still love listening to the silky voice of Nat King Cole, but also enjoy Dave Grohl.


What I’m saying is, although the present is fast paced and hard to keep up with, it’s worth putting in an effort to know about Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendricks and Jim Morrison. To know the names Mae West, Joseph McCarthy and Josephine Baker. It’s important to expand horizons beyond the present.



Hawkeye and Radar O’Reilly would no doubt agree with me.


Frankly, My Dear…and Other Tweaks of Genius @JMmystery

Jeanne Matthews is the author of the Dinah Pelerin international mysteries published by Poisoned Pen Press. Like her amateur sleuth, Jeanne was born with a serious wanderlust. Originally from Georgia, she enjoys traveling the world and learning about other cultures and customs, which she incorporates into her novels. She currently lives in Renton, Washington with her husband who is a law professor. Where the Bones Are Buried, the fifth book in the series, is in bookstores now . You can learn more about Jeanne’s books at

“Frankly, my dear…”  Everyone knows the rest of that line, even if they’ve never seen the movie.  The American Film Institute rates Rhett Butler’s last words to Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With The Wind as the most memorable quote in the history of cinema.  It’s become part of the cultural lexicon.  The original line from the novel was “My dear, I don’t give a damn.”  Sidney Howard, the screenwriter, added “frankly” to give it a bit of zing.  Some writers believe that of all the parts of speech, the adverb is the banana peel that’s sure to trip us up.  But there are times when it’s the extra zing that makes a sentence unforgettable.

Jane Austen had a knack for the ironic adverb.  “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”  A truth universally acknowledged both elevates the tone and undermines the significance of the truism that follows.  That clause has become one of the most famous in the English language.  In the two hundred years since it was written, it’s been adapted and repurposed in thousands of ways.

Scott Fitzgerald decorated almost every page of The Great Gatsby with adverbs.  At Gatsby’s parties, the guests drank unsparingly, the girls laughed exhilaratingly, and an actress danced tipsily.  Nick Carraway is the first person narrator and the descriptions express his point of view and judgments.  Fitzgerald saves Nick’s best line – and most essential adverb – for the iconic last sentence.  “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

For those of us on a lesser literary plane than Austen and Fitzgerald, we are well advised to keep our adverbs to a minimum.  Too many “ly” words clutter the prose and annoy readers.  But however thick on the page they may be, adverbs don’t make a sentence grammatically wrong.  Chopping off the tail of an adverb now, that’s an abuse.

“Do not go gentle into that good night?”  Hold the phone!  Shouldn’t it be gently?  You can’t modify a verb with an adjective and get away with it, can you?  What was Dylan Thomas thinking?  Or Elvis, for that matter, when he crooned “Love me tender, love me true”?  Elvis probably didn’t give it much thought, but Dylan would have known he was committing an enallage (pronounced eh NAHL-uh-jee).  Enallage is a deliberate grammatical mistake that makes a sentence stand out.  Some of the most striking and memorable phrases in literature and music are grammatically wrong.  “I can’t get no satisfaction” wouldn’t stick in the mind without that arresting double negative.  And Joe Jacobs, the manager of a prizefighter who lost a match on points, achieved linguistic immortality when he grabbed the mic and shouted, “We was robbed!”

Playing with grammar isn’t the only way to create an indelible idiom.  In 1961, Joseph Heller submitted a manuscript titled Catch 18 to his editor Robert Gottlieb.  The number 18 didn’t work.  Leon Uris had just published Mila 18 and Gottlieb wanted to avoid any confusion.  He and Heller mulled a series of alternative possibilities.  Eleven was out because of the movie Oceans 11.  Back and forth in letters and phone calls, Heller and Gottlieb proposed and rejected a multitude of numbers.  27?  Nah.  539?  Too long.  26?  Didn’t feel right.  14?  Not funny.  And then inspiration struck.  “I’ve got it!” exclaimed Gottlieb.  “Catch 22.”  It’s hard to say why 22 is funnier than 18, but it is.  That plus 4 was a tweak of genius.

All writers aspire to pen something extraordinary, words that will live on after we’re gone.  To help us in that endeavor, computer scientists at Cornell University believe they’ve cracked the code of what makes a phrase “catch” and linger in the public imagination.  They researched dialogue from 1,000 films, analyzing pronouns, articles, verb tense, word choice, word sequence, and sound.  The sound of the language – the bang, the fizz, the snap – enhance memorability.  Brevity, simplicity, and originality of expression also help.  But it turns out that re-usability is the key factor.  If a catchy phrase can be applied in different contexts and situations, chances are it will be.

“Fasten your seatbelts.  It’s going to be a bumpy night.”  That line (delivered over the rim of a martini by Bette Davis in All About Eve) is both distinctive and general.  It’s the perfect warning to one’s friends or significant other should you find yourself in a turbulent mood.  That’s no doubt why it ranks ninth on the American Film Institutes most memorable quotes list.

As we writers strive to put captivating dialogue into the mouths of our characters, we can test our ability to recognize a line worth remembering by visiting the Cornell researchers’ website:  Sometimes all it takes is a tweak.

Sterling and Me: Tail of a Mystery Author and Her Dog #1 @TheMysteryLadie

Lauren Carr is the international best-selling author of the Mac Faraday, Lovers in Crime, Chris Matheson Cold Case, and Thorny Rose Mysteries—over twenty-five titles across three fast-paced mystery series filled with twists and turns!

Killer Deadline marks Lauren’s first venture into mystery’s purely cozy sub-genre with a female protagonist. 

Book reviewers and readers alike rave about how Lauren Carr seamlessly crosses genres to include mystery, suspense, crime fiction, police procedurals, romance, and humor.

A popular speaker, Lauren is also the owner of Acorn Book Service, the umbrella under which falls iRead Book Tours. She lives with her husband and two spoiled rotten German Shepherds on a mountain in Harpers Ferry, WV.

Connect with the author:  Website  ~  Twitter  ~  Facebook  ~  Instagram ~ Pinterest

Sterling and I Declare War on COVID-20

I still remember the day I turned 50. As I slipped on my size 8 jeans to go out with my family and stuff my face with lobster and crab-legs, I declared myself the victor over what is known as the middle-aged spread.

Not me! I hit 50 and I was still hot!

Then one morning, I don’t quite remember when, but I woke up and I was a size 12. I swear! Hand on the Bible swear, it happened OVERNIGHT!

For the last ten years, I have been struggling with getting back into those same jeans that I REFUSE to throw away. Periodically, I will shove my fist into the air not unlike Scarlett O’Hara, “Some day, I will be a size eight again!” just before unwrapping a milk chocolate truffle to soothe my battered ego.

Truthfully, my weight has never been an issue. I’ve been a size 8 most of my life. After having my son, I had no problem losing the baby weight that many women must deal with.

That post-menopausal weight gain knocked me for a loop!

Over the last ten years, I have tried many battle strategies against these unwanted pounds.

Vegan diet: How many days can you cook two meals, salad for yourself and steak for a carnivorous spouse before caving? I lasted six weeks. But the scale didn’t move. Deciding it was not worth torturing myself for nothing, I threw in the towel.

Weightwatchers: After weeks of cheating on my point counting and seeing the scale moving only a fraction of a pound a week, I bolted. This failure may have had something to do the ladies in my Weightwatchers group and I stopping at Panera bread for a carb-filled lunch and sugar-packed mocha latte after the weigh-in.

Dietitian: She admitted that after a lifetime of not having weight issues, I just needed to use the skills I already had to tackle this small problem. Stay away from the foods that were packing on the pounds: potatoes, bread, rice, pasta, beans, grains, fruit, and so on and so on.

For the next two months, I ate lettuce and grilled chicken breast. I lost several pounds—along with my mind.

Remember, I’m married to a carb-eating carnivore.

I think I did pretty good cooking carb-laden foods twice a day, seven days a week without eating one bite of it.

Then one day I stopped in at the drug store for some migraine medicine. The entire experience was just a blur. As a matter of fact, I don’t even remember being in the store. I only remember going in and coming out. Next thing I know, I had two big bags of Hershey’s milk chocolate nuggets hidden inside my purse. I finished one bag before my poached fish and lettuce dinner that night.

Then, I started thinking. Hey, I am almost sixty. I have a successful career doing what I love—writing murder mysteries. I work hard. I love my husband. I don’t drink. I don’t smoke. I don’t do drugs. I don’t cheat on my husband. Why should I not be allowed to eat a bowl of ice cream covered with Magic Shell in the evening.

I surrendered.

Then the pandemic hit along with the lockdowns.

Both my husband and I work at home. As a writer, my working hours are spent sitting with my laptop composing murderous scenes of literary delight. (Don’t tell me that my sedentary lifestyle is the reason for my problem. I know that already.) Jack and I would try to take the dogs for a walk a few times a week.

As March stretched into summer and then fall, I discovered more and more clothes that I could not fit into. No longer was it just my size 8 jeans. Many on social media had mentioned noticing what many referred to as the COVID-15—the fifteen pounds gained due to less active lifestyle that comes with a lockdown.

Okay, so I fell victim to the COVID-15. Never did I dream that dogs could suffer it as well.

I had occasionally noticed that my sidekick Sterling, my five-year-old German shepherd, sleeping in the loveseat across from me that he was starting to look sausage-shaped. Maybe it was just my imagination.

Then, last week, I took Sterling into the vet for his rabies shot and the vet announced that in the one year since Sterling’s last visit he had put on 20 pounds!

That’s right! My previously 90-pound German shepherd had gained 20 pounds in 12 months. He practically increased his body weight twenty percent.

Her prescription: diet dog food and replace twenty percent of his food with green beans and vegetables. Increase walks to two a day.

If Sterling has gained 20 pounds in one year during this pandemic, I can only imagine how much weight I have gained. He’s not downing bags of milk chocolate truffles.

Sterling and I sat down for a heart-to-heart talk. Our health is important to us. We used to have slender figures and active lives. We can do it again. It’s not going to be easy, but we are going to do it for each other. His ears perked up at the announcement of two walks a day.

“Twenty-percent of your meals will now be veggies,” I told him.

“Veggies?” he asked. “Are they edible?”

“Yes,” I said.

“No problem.”

Lesson Learned: Eating healthy is no problem for those who don’t taste their food.

If we gained this weight in one year, we can certainly take it off in one year.

Together, Sterling and I have joined forces in this war against the COVID-20, which is five pounds worse than COVID-15.

As with any war, we need to do our research, to determine the best plans for our battle to beat the enemy.

We hope you join us!


During Sterling and my journey, we will feature various resources that we have examined. Our reviews are based purely on our analysis of them as they pertain to our lifestyles. Are they a good fit for Sterling and me? As with any weight loss or lifestyle book, you need to determine what works for you. What doesn’t work for me, doesn’t mean it does not work for you.


REVIEW: EATLIVETHRIVE DIET: A Lifestyle Plan to Rev Up Your Midlife Metabolism by Danna DeMetre and Robyn Thomson
Purchase Links: Amazon // Barnes & Noble

It didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that my weight-gain was due to a drastic midlife shift in my metabolism. I mean, I’ve been a writer all of my life. Most of my life, I have had a generally sedentary lifestyle. So, when I saw the sub-title of this book, A Lifestyle Plan to Reve Up Your Midlife Metabolism, I was sold.

The authors work in the health field. A registered nurse, Danna Demetre is in her mid-sixties. Robyn Thomson is an advanced clinical weight-loss practitioner and in her fifties. The book includes their personal stories of dealing with their own weight-loss battles, which they have both won.

The book is written in plain language. I devoured most of it in a couple of days. Their weight-loss plan takes an individualized approach and makes complete sense.

In a nutshell, different foods impact each of us in a different way. For example, my son has discovered that he is lactose intolerant. Diary foods make him feel bloated. I have found that pasta causes me digestive issues.

EATLIVETHRIVE DIET has a three-phase plan. It’s goal is to identify those foods that cause you problems which keep the weight on. Then, you simply eliminate them from your diet.

In theory, their plan is excellent. It begins with a fourteen-day detox (called the Elimination Phase) in which you cut out many different food groups: carbs, sugars, caffeine, beans, plus much more.

Putting this into action means a great deal of commitment. I’m proud that I made it nine days.

After the Elimination Phase, you go on to the Discovery Phase where you introduce each food back into your diet and keep a log of how your body reacts to it. If it proves to be a problem food, then you eliminate it completely from your diet.

During the Lifestyle Phase, you put together your individualized diet based on the results that you have uncovered during the Discovery Phase.

The entire plan can potentially take months to complete, during which you personally transform yourself based on your own body.

I think the EATLIVETHRIVE DIET is a great diet plan that addresses not just weight, but your entire body as a whole—body, emotion, and spiritual health. I really like that it is not generalized, where the authors tell everyone to give up pasta. After all, we are all different. I applaud anyone willing to dive into this. It takes a lot of commitment and hard work, but I think if you can make it through the Elimination Phase, then you are home free.

Sterling’s thoughts: No way am I giving up dog biscuits for fourteen days!

Decluttering — and What Else? A Giveaway, Of Course! @JMmystery

Jeanne Matthews is the author of the Dinah Pelerin international mysteries published by Poisoned Pen Press. Like her amateur sleuth, Jeanne was born with a serious wanderlust. Originally from Georgia, she enjoys traveling the world and learning about other cultures and customs, which she incorporates into her novels. She currently lives in Renton, Washington with her husband who is a law professor. Where the Bones Are Buried, the fifth book in the series, is in bookstores now . You can learn more about Jeanne’s books at

The past year has narrowed the scope of what is and isn’t possible.  During the pandemic we’ve all had to cancel or postpone travel plans, convert social visits to a computer-generated version of reality, and learn to subsist on home cooking or take-out.  At midnight on December 31st, 2020 dissolved into 2021 without bringing much change.  Health experts urge us to remain cloistered in our own pods for the foreseeable future.  In the circumstances, it was hard for me to muster a list of healthy New Year’s resolutions.

Drinking less is out of the question.  Wine is one of the few things I look forward to at the end of the day.  The other two are pizza and chocolate, so screw any notion of dieting.  Having recently had knee replacement surgery, I can’t take up kickboxing or distance running.  The piano has been out of tune since God knows when and the only other “improving” sort of resolution that came to mind was decluttering.  People write about the joy of shedding unneeded possessions, how it boosts productivity, reduces stress, and lifts the spirits.

I started in the bedroom closet.  It’s been months since I needed anything that came off a hanger.  Near the back a sad little cluster of dresses surprised me.  I tried to recall the last time I’d had occasion to wear a dress.  I tried to imagine the next time.  If there were a next time, would any of these long disused outfits reach around my expanding middle?  The answer did not reduce stress or spark joy.

A better place to begin downsizing might be the library where books spill out of cases onto the floor and lay jumbled in teetering piles.  I surveyed the case with the shelf that collapsed last year under the weight of the People’s Almanac, a multi-volume compendium of little known and fascinating facts.  I browsed a few pages of Volume 1.  Mata Hari charged her lovers $7500 a night?  Wow.  And a whole section on the billions of dollars in lost and buried treasure right here in the U.S.A.  Set that one aside to read later.  Volume 2 contains accounts of several sensational murder cases.  Maybe some good plot ideas in there.  Better save that one, too.  William Roughhead’s The Murderer’s Companion is definitely a keeper.  Also, The Annotated Mother Goose and the 1959 edition of Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase & Fable.

Behind Birds Every Child Should Know, I found a dog-eared copy of Topper, the hilarious novel about a pair of madcap ghosts named George and Marion Kerby that gave rise to a movie and TV series.  Another keeper, definitely worth rereading.  My decluttering resolution, like so many resolutions of New Years Past, was going nowhere fast.  Then what to my wondering eye should appear but “Dr. Eliot’s Five-Foot Shelf of Books,” a/k/a The Harvard Classics.  Published in 1909 and 1910, these fifty-one volumes were intended to provide a liberal education to anyone who read them diligently for fifteen minutes every day.

Diligence has never been my strong suit.  Maybe if I’d begun in 1910, I’d be up to speed.  But after a certain age, the philosophy of Epictetus and the Confessions of St. Augustine can’t compete with a juicy murder mystery or Bill Buford’s fabulous new book (Dirt) about cooking and eating in France.  I should have sold Dr. Eliot’s classics on eBay back when so many TV talking heads were scrambling for impressive Zoom backgrounds.  Oh, well.  Into the box they go.  Two whole shelves empty.  I run a Swiffer across the dust left behind and feel the stress leaving my body.

I’m on a roll now, feeling ruthless and productive.  More boxes!  Project Gutenberg has no doubt made Mother Goose and Brewer’s Dictionary available free online.  Toss them.  And looky over there in the corner.  One, two, three, four pristine hardcover copies of my first novel – last seen at Left Coast Crime in Santa Fe ten years ago and lugged home in a suitcase full of free pre-release books and promotional swag from other authors.  Remembering how that initial story developed and came into being still elicits a frisson of pride and nostalgia.  But holding onto extra copies of one’s own books is a vanity best outgrown.  So.  If anyone would like a copy of Dinah’s debut in the wilds of Australia, leave a comment – and perhaps a bit of advice on the Zen of decluttering.  I’m afraid to discover what lurks in the attic.


Help Jeanne declutter!

To enter the drawing for a hardcover copy
of Bones of Contention, just leave your
decluttering comment/advice below. Four
winning names will be drawn on Monday
evening, January 11th.