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What's your Tom Jones I.Q?

Are you a fan of Tom Jones and his music? Why not try your hand at this Tom Jones trivia quiz?

Then you'll be almost totally ready for the Totally Groovy Book Launch of WHO KILLED 'TOM JONES'? on Tuesday, January 21. 

Want to win a free ebook of WHO KILLED 'TOM JONES'? Just leave your email address and quiz score in the comments section of this post.


Enough with the 'Daughter' novels already

Doesn't a wonderful work deserve a fresher title?I had just logged onto Goodreads to check my giveaway stats for WHO KILLED 'TOM JONES'?, and a certain novel title caught my attention: The Memory Keeper's Daughter.

Doesn't that title just make you sigh? Doesn't your heart feel all warm and fuzzy? I know mine does, or it used to before the 900,000th Daughter-Novel book became available.

Is anyone else besides me weary of this overuse? Apparently no one who matters in publishing is. A search of mere minutes revealed these published works with Daughter in the title:
  • The Hangman's Daughter
  • The Bonesetter's Daughter 
  • The General's Daughter 
  • The Heretic's Daughter 
  • The Apothecary's Daughter 
  • The Witch's Daughter 
  • The Kingmaker's Daughter
  • The Storyteller's Daughter 
  • The Madman's Daughter
  • The Hummingbird's Daughter
  • The Gravedigger's Daughter
  • The Baker's Daughter
  • The Captain's Daughter
  • The Virgin Queen's Daughter
  • The Optimist's Daughter 
  • The Preacher's Daughter
  • The Demon Trapper's Daughter
  • Galileo's Daughter (a write-in)

I'm sure they are all splendid books--each and every one a stellar read.  You've paid sufficient homage to the classics like "Rapuccini's Daughter." And yes, I get it. There's a certain timeless musicality in the whole formula:

The _______________________'s Daughter

But this over-reliance on one formula for book titles is more than a little cliched by now. It's getting annoying, isn't it? Isn't there another titular trope we can all bandwagon hop to, just for a change of pace?

No? Okay, then here are some future Daughter novels I can't wait to see published:

  • The Bum Wiper's Daughter
  • The iPad Charger's Daughter
  • The Porn Retail Worker's Daughter
  • The Garbage Collector's Daughter
  • The Telemarketer's Daughter
  • The Porta-potty Maker's Daughter
  • The Tummy Rubber's Daughter
  • The Erotic Book Blogger's Daughter
  • The Ass Kisser's Daughter
  • The Sex Change Surgeon's Daughter
  • The Bird Feeder Filler's Daughter
  • The Pole Dancer's Daughter
  • The Pothos Plant Waterer's Daughter
  • The Plate Licker's Daughter
  • The Dust Bunny Gatherer's Daughter
  • The Lipstick-on-her-teeth Wearer's Daughter
  • The Artisanal Goat Cheese Bread Kneader's Daughter

And what about you, dear reader? Any new Daughter Novel titles to add to my list?



Jillian Michaels & Curves: Savior or she-devil?

She may have a perfectly fit body. She may be the female Jack LaLanne of Gen X-ers.

In anyone's book, personal trainer and TV personality Jillian Michaels epitomizes success and the American dream, right? Fitness-crazed forty-something with great hair and an even greater bod takes American TV by storm.

She's the Don Draper of dumbbells. The Lord Grantham of glutes. The Honey Boo Boo of hamstring stretches. 

While I admire her unflagging discipline to fitness, I also find her to be a loathesome human being and a bully. She had to have been a mean girl in high school because she is a mean girl now--shredding vulnerable contestants just trying to preserve their self-esteem and their sanity while struggling to survive on The Biggest Loser.

Jillian Michaels is now part of the Curves fitness programSo, I was (more than a little) distressed to hear that Jillian Michaels was going to be Curves' new "It Girl." Yes, come the New Year, Curves members (perhaps worldwide) would be watching her videos on a large screen TV, with Michaels telling us what to do on the recovery board between using the hydraulic equipment, during every single blinking workout.

I have been a member of Curves since 2005, and that's longer than I've ever stuck with a single fitness program. I've experienced the Curves peaks and valleys. I've stayed mostly because of the great staff at our Ephrata Curves, and that's the truth. They are all good, hard-working women whom I admire. The way I feel about people greatly informs whether I want to spend my free time with them or not. 

Given the choice of exercising with Jillian Michaels at every workout or finding another salon, I figured the handwriting was on the wall. I am not a fitness nut. I don't even like exercising. I don't need an all-too-intense, humorless mean girl scowling at me during workouts I pay for with hard-earned money.

One year ago, the founders of Curves sold the company to some folks who proceeded to make a lot of changes. They wanted to strengthen the Curves brand. Walls were repainted the perfect brand purple. All the fun little extras that made my Curves unique and special were gone. No more running craft show where I bought lots of gifts year-round. No more hula hoops. While scrubbing up the brand, the new owners forgot to consult the customer in the process. It was clear what they wanted. Did they ever ask us what we want? Not that I was aware of.

I've been doing the SAME workout for nine years. The exact same machines, every single time because it is a circuit. Some of the little extras that the manager implemented helped relieved the sameness, the boredom that inevitably sets in. Now, new corporate management was eliminating the value add. What did they want us to do--jump up and down, waving and cheering, or fall prostrate in gratitude?

And they were going to shove Jillian Michaels down our throats in 2014, too? I know Curves memberships were not nearly as plentiful as they had been and that this whole push of integrating Jillian Michaels exercises was to spur more memberships. But that didn't mean that I liked her any better. Was it time to find out more about that Planet Fitness that went in a couple years ago, that I never paid mind to?

This morning marked my first Curves workout of the New Year. (I unofficially worked out yesterday shoveling snow for an hour and a half.)  After I signed in, I couldn't help but notice the women whose eyes were Superglued to the new TV screen mounted in the workout area featuring videos of Jillian Michaels, skating on the industrial grade Curves carpet, doing pushups, knee bends, twisting bendy things.

All the women in the salon, when not working a piece of equipment, were trying Michaels' moves, too, instead of marching or doing knee lifts on the recovery board.

Since I didn't have to listen to her, I tried the suggested exercises Michaels was demonstrating in place of using the recovery boards, too.

And her exercises were actually really great for me!  They made the workout more impactful and interesting. I was sweating and breathing heavier (but not panting) when I was done. I felt as though I got more out of my Curves workout than I had in a long time.

The Curves trainer asked whether we wanted to hear what Michaels was saying because the sound was muted. I could easily pick up the exercises we were supposed to do by just watching her. "Please, don't," I said. "I really don't like her."

"I would like to hear what she is saying," another lady said. 

And with the that, the trainer turned up the volume on the Jillian Michaels' video. Instead of pleasant pop music ramped up to 140 beats per minute, I heard Jillian pushing us, barking at us.

I almost walked out. 

I don't need to barked at by her during one of the few things I do for renewal.

After five minutes of this I said, "I hope she's not going to be talking the whole time we are working out." If that were to happen, I would definitely leave Curves. 

I put up with exercising to praise and worship music. And giving up browsing and shopping at the little craft display every week. Oh, and no more hula hoops. But having to listen to Jillian Michaels, clearly superior to me in every way that society valued, made me feel like a loser--a big loser--and not in a good way, and I drew a line in the sand. I would not subject myself to her on my nickel. 

"I'll turn it down now," the trainer said. "We won't have the sound on all the time."

I smiled weakly, grateful that she took my complaint seriously. I'm really not a big complainer. When it comes to complaining, I'm more like Mr. Ed and don't speak up unless it really matters to me.

I do like the essential Curves workout, or I wouldn't have stuck with it for the last nine years. I like my Curves fitness center. They offer an awesome yoga class several times a year that has really helped me recapture some flexibility. And I have to admit that I like the extra effort that I must make to do Jillian Michaels' exercises during my workout. I need and appreciated the increased cardio the Curves workout now offers.

But let me be clear. I'm not paying to listen to Jillian Michaels "coaching" me all during my 30-minute workout. I'll take my business elsewhere if that becomes de rigueur at my Ephrata Curves.



Booktrope author spotlight month on RW Connect

Tess Thompson. Jesse James Freeman. Toddie Downs. Elise Stephens. Sárka-Jonae Miller. Nicole Y. Walters. Jennifer Hotes.

These are just a few of the accomplished Booktrope authors whose published works will be featured on Author Spotlight Month at Readers & Writers Connect during January of 2014.

It's going to be great books and talented authors galore, people! 

D.E.L. Connor's new releaseRead profiles, reviews, and excerpts every day this month from D.E.L Connor, author of Spirit Warriors: The Concealing (Volume I) on January 1 to Jonathan Bruce's Project Norwoods on the 31st. 

And yours truly will be featured on her launch day--January 21-- of her third novel and first murder mystery WHO KILLED 'TOM JONES'?

Read about a different book and a different author each and every day, including one of my favorite Booktrope books Summer Melody by Toddie Downs, which will be featured tomorrow. Read my review on Goodreads.

I am so proud of all the work published by my Booktrope compadres, many of which I have read and enjoyed myself I just had to let you know about this spectacular month-long promotion.

Happy reading!


Downton Foodie (or my top blog posts in 2013)

Using Google Analytics, I discovered the most-read posts on this blog during the last year. I also discovered a theme, which can best be described in two words: "Downton Foodie."

Yes, more people stopped here to find recipes and/or read my reflections on the wildly popular BBC series Downton Abbey than for any other reason.

So here they are, in descending order, my top-visited posts in 2013.

10. Easy Breakfast Casserole - a holiday present for readers (so yummy, easy to make, and it never fails to impress the guests).

9. Wads versus dust ruffles or why men are still from Mars (a post inspired by a tactical shopping trip to Home Depot)

8. Seven lines from my new book for Lucky 7 (from my novel Grace Unexpected when she audits an anthropology class taught by a silver fox).

7. How Downton Abbey captured my imagination (all about binge watching Seasons 1 & 2--favorite characters, setting, conflicts, one-liners).

6. Poor Lady Edith - empathy for an ugly duckling (my attempt to process all the nasty things that befall Lady Edith, the middle sister on Downton Abbey).

This is opera fudge5. What's your opera fudge I.Q.? When I visited a local book club to critique my opera novel DON JUAN IN HANKEY, PA, they served a delicious candy called opera fudge, and I went on the hunt to learn more about it.

4. The hot dog? Proper dinner fare--yea or nay? (which includes a recipe for frankfurter crown casserole).

3. Six sentence Sunday -- the jaws of bosses (A fun excerpt from GRACE UNEXPECTED for a once-popular but now-defunct meme.)

Bunny's beautiful shortbread2. Somebunny loves my nana's. shortbread (A woman named Bunny from Oshawa, Canada, sent lovely photos after making my grandmother's shortbread recipe.)

1. Nana's authentic Scottish shortbread - an heirloom recipe (With a whopping 7,288 page views, this post featuring a simple but genuine recipe for shortbread had more views than all the others put together.)

No Sharknados, no singing foxes, no posts about Miley Cyrus and her twerking (nor will there ever be a post about her on this site.)

What will 2014 bring? Since next year marks Sir Tom Jones' 50th year in show business (and my new novel is about Tom Jones impersonators), I think I know what one or two popular posts might be about.

Here's to good health, prosperity, a new season of Downton Abbey, and lots of good food in 2014!