Pocket Curiosity: East LaPort Footbridge, Plymouth Indiana

Hidden amid the lush green on the banks of the Yellow River in Plymouth, Indiana is a footbridge. This bridge was constructed in 1898 by the Rochester Bridge Company, according to it’s Wikipedia page, and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1981. What qualifies this bridge was a pocket curiosity? It is a truss bridge that moves with you. I’ll confess I’m not sure if it is supposed to that, but in the spirit of what bends doesn’t break the bridge translates the energy of your steps into a bounce and a sway. Get twenty people walking across it at once and you have a balance and sobriety test. This bridge recently won a grant competition and will be getting a facelift.

Running Naked under the Buck Moon

Welcome to On the Prowl.

It’s summertime, summertime, sum-sum-summertine!

Sorry I missed you in May and June. Life was a little bit crazy here. Hope it was calmer for you. A simple newsletter this month. Next month, I’m going to change the format a little, hoping to get more done earlier in the month.



July’s full moon is the Buck Moon. According to our favorite source, The Farmer’s Almanac, this is the time when new antlers begin to grow. Being a city kid, I’ll take their word on it. Other names for this moon are Full Thunder (yep, that’s appropriate) and Hay (again, no opinion). If I were to name it, it would be the  NO, SUMMER CAN’T BE HALF OVER moon. Whatever you all it, the moon hits it’s peak at 10:37 pm eastern on Friday, July 23.


BREAKING NEWS!

The first of my Lost in Tennessee series has come to KISS! KISS is a new and exciting way to experience Romance stories of all genres. Enjoy serialized quality content from NYT and USA Today bestselling authors, available right from your phone. KISS has hundreds of titles and authors to choose from, including new and exclusive content from some of your favorite voices! Best of all, you can choose just how much to read with our pay-as-you-go format!

To Celebrate, I have 20 Coins to give away to only 4 readers. They belong to the first 4 people who email me at tina at tgwolff dot com.


Down the Rabbit Hole: Dr. Watson, I Presume

Ancient hospital for treatment soldiers on battlefield – 18th or 19th century. Forceps, syringe, scissors, scalpel and other medical instruments on the table. Medicine in a field military hospital.

This month’s trip down the rabbit hole lands…in the front door of 221B Baker Street. I have been working on adaptations for the 3rd season of Mysteries to Die For. This season is all about the first cases of some of the most celebrated detectives. Of course, Sherlock Holmes is featured in a version of A Study in Scarlet. Now, I have been a Holmes fan for years. I tried reading Holmes but unfortunately started with The Hounds of the Baskerville, which is written in my least favorite way (letters from Watson to Holmes) and I barely finished. Consequently, my fandom existed on the screen. I raise my hand as a fan of all the movie variations and most of the television.

One character I never have quite “gotten” was Dr. John Watson. I see why Holmes wants Watson around. He needs an audience, an entourage. What’s the point of being great if there isn’t anyone to celebrate it with?

But why does Watson stick with Holmes? In most adaptations, Watson is portrayed as a bright, competent man who is routinely tricked, out smarted, and used by Holmes. So why doesn’t he tell Holmes to shove off?

A Study in Scarlet, like all Holmes mysteries, is told by Watson. But in this first story, the entire first part is Watson’s backstory. I’m sure there are Watson fans out there who know what I’m going to tell you, just move along to the puzzle. For the rest of you, did you know…

  • After med school in London, John joined the army and was assigned to Fifth Northumberland Fusiliers. This infantry regiment has roots back to 1674! Check out the Unit History Here
  • John was later transferred to the Berkshire Regiment (another real regiment) and was at the Battle of Maiwand. According to Wikipedia, the Berkire Regiment took heavy loses on July 27, 1880 with 286 dead and 32 wounded. Learn more from Wikipedia Here:
  • Dr. John Watson was among the wounded. The bullet entered his shoulder and nicked an artery. A brave orderly put him on a pack horse and got him back behind British lines.
  • While recovering from the wound, Watson came down with Typhoid fever. It put him to bed for weeks. Learn more from the Mayo Clinic HERE
  • As soon as he could travel, the Army gave him a discharge and returned him to England with a pension of 11 shillings and sixpence a day.
  • Dr. John Watson lived in a hotel. He was pain riddled, slept little and irregularly, and spent all his money with nothing to show but a dog. He was near to broke when he decided he had to move to something more affordable than the hotel. That is when a friend of a friend introduced him to Holmes.
  • Watson describes himself as lazy, keeping odd hours, and unable to tolerate arguments, because of his nerves.
  • When he moves into 221B Baker Street, Watson doesn’t know what Holmes does for a living and he doesn’t care. It is only after a few months that he begins to get curious and tries to puzzle out for himself what the tall, lanky man does to earn his money.

I loved how Sir Arthur Conan Doyle missed reality in with his fiction. Totally fascinating and it all makes sense! Still recovering from being deathly ill, Watson’s brain becomes intrigued with Holmes and drags his body along. Whenever Watson was in pain or dragging from a lack of sleep, Holmes was the reason he left the house.

I found Watson to be a far, far more interesting character than he is portrayed as on the screen. I also found Holmes to be more human and less arrogant than most portrayals, especially when interacting with Watson.


Get Your Sherlock On

Mrs. O’Leary is found dead at her kitchen table. The poison was found in her glass of ice water. Complete the phrase ladder beginning with ICE WATER to reveal the poison and who Detective Ng should arrest. (Scroll to the bottom for answers)

ICE WATER

WATER _ _ _ _

_ _ _ _ & DIRTY

DIRTY _ _ _

_ _ _   _ _ _ _ _ _

_ _ _ _ _ _ PEN

PEN _ _ _


Mysteries to Die For. Season 2: The Originators

Mysteries to Die For combines storytelling and original music to put you in the heart of murder, mystery, and mayhem. This season features adaptations of some of the first stories to be considered mysteries. The season is complete! All 11 episodes can be found everywhere you get your podcasts.

New to podcasts? An easy way to start is through my website. Click PODCAST


Down & Out Books is the publisher of my mystery series and supports Mysteries to Die For. Check out these new releases on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, indiebound and ask for them at your favorite book store.


The Penns River Police Department has a new chief, deputy chief, and several new officers. Crime pays no attention.

A woman dies in a hit-and-run the night before the new chief takes over. The case demands more manpower than Penns River has, and the investigation loses steam as day-to-day events require immediate attention: domestic disputes, petty theft, not so petty theft, armed robbery, a visit from the Dixie mafia, and things police take care of because no one else will.

Sullivan doesn’t want the first homicide on his watch to be an open file and tasks Teresa Shimp to spend as much time as she can on it. It’s Teresa’s first gig as primary homicide investigator.  She sticks with it, going back over things to re-assemble her thoughts until she has a eureka moment.

Lead detective Ben “Doc” Dougherty has all this and some personal matters to contend with: his parents’ failing health, a dramatic change in the domestic situation of two young men he is close to, and finding an old friend has colored outside the lines.

Penns River’s cast changes, as do the roles they play. The job is still the job.

sk for Leaving the Scene from your favorite bookseller. Amazon Link is HERE


 Life is a constant party for restaurant manager, Finn Roose. When he seduces an underage woman on one of his booze cruises and loses her—literally, it sets off a massive search involving the police, her parents, and a private investigator. Finn is an expert manipulator but his endless lies only tighten the screws on himself and his unsuspecting best friend. Finn scrambles to make things right which may be too much to ask from a guy who can’t resist a hot babe and a stiff drink.

Ask for Cleaning Up Finn from your favorite bookseller. Amazon Link is HERE


Frank Zafiro writes gritty crime fiction from both sides of the badge. His River City series is a police procedural that follows an ensemble cast of police officers, while his SpoCompton series focuses on a variety of criminals or people just down on their luck. He’s written over thirty novels, some on one side of the badge and some on the other. You can pick and choose which you prefer at his website:  frankzafiro.com.


Until August when we are swimming with the sturgeon once again. Stay cool.


Mrs. O’Leary is found dead at her kitchen table. The poison was found in her glass of ice water. Complete the phrase ladder beginning with ICE WATER to reveal the poison and who Detective Ng should arrest.

ICE WATER

WATER DOWN

DOWN & DIRTY

DIRTY RAT

RAT POISON (The poison)

POISON PEN

PEN PAL (The Killer. She traveled.)

Blushing under the Pink Moon

Welcome to On the Prowl.

Wow, April has flown by. I hope it has been kind to you. A late snow made for some spectacular scenery here. This is a simple edition. We explore this month’s supermoon, dive down the rabbit hole of palmistry, and look at some new releases worthy of your attention.



April full moon peaks Monday, April 26 at 11:33pm EDT. According to our favorite source on full moons, The Farmer’s Almanac, this nickname came simple from the abundance of pink flowers that aggressively bloom this time of year. Other names include Breaking Ice Moon, Moon When the Streams Are Again Navigable, and the Frog Moon. We certainly are hearing a lot of frogs around my house.

This month’s moon is going to be especially big and bright. A “supermoon”, the moon will be literally closer to the earth than most full moons. According to NASA, Supermoon was termed by astrologer Richard Nolle in 1979 and refers to new or full moons in the part of their orbit that puts them closest to Earth. There will be two this year: April and May. Take the time to step outside and turned your eyes skyward. What do you see in the moon?


Down the Rabbit Hole: Palmistry

Palmistry. Open hand lines and symbols mystical reading

This month’s trip down the rabbit hole lands…in the palm of your hand. Lately, most of my recreational reading has been mysteries written in the 1800s and early 1900s as research for our podcast Mysteries to Die For. I just finished Raspberry Jam by Carolyn Wells. An excellent mystery with some very entertaining characters. Aunt Abbey is the mothering aunt who is fascinated with the occult including seances and palmistry…which started my trip down the rabbit hole.

Palmistry foretells the future based on the lines and bumps in your hands. Also called chiromancy, it was practiced in ancient India, Nepal, China, Persia, Roma, Babylonia—pretty much any place that was any place. Mainstream society’s relationship with the practice has ebbed and flowed over time. Alexander the Great used it as a tool to evaluate character of his officers. During the renaissance, palmistry was one of the seven “forbidden arts” for divination. The U.S. National Library of Medicine has two volumes on the subject. The first is a 1533 volume written by Bartolommeo della Rocca titled  Barptolomaei Coclitis Bononiensis, naturalis philosophiae ac medicinae doctoris Physiognomiae & chiromantiae compendium. Wow. The second title is a miniature book by Andre Corve published in 1578 in Lyons, France titled Excellente chiromancie monstrant par les lignes de la main les meurs & complexions des gens selon les figures qui y sont depeintes. The book couldn’t have been that small with a title that big!

The website China Highlights gives the uninformed beginner (i.e. me) at tutorial in the art. Your palm contains lines that connect to life as we know it. Marriage, love, career, health, wisdom are there for the reading. But which hand to read and how to interpret is where the magic it. Check out China Highlight’s Palm Line Calculator. For myself, I think I need a professional. My marriage line seems non-existent (don’t tell my husband) and my life line is disturbingly short. For the record, I plan to live to 95 and achieve the coveted status of ‘eccentric old woman’.

References:

US National Library of Medicine. https://circulatingnow.nlm.nih.gov/2016/10/31/palmistry-the-future-in-the-palm-of-your-hand/

Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palmistry

China Highlights https://www.chinahighlights.com/travelguide/article-palmistry.htm


Mysteries to Die For. Season 2: The Originators

Mysteries to Die For combines storytelling and original music to put you in the heart of murder, mystery, and mayhem. This season features adaptations of some of the first stories to be considered mysteries. Episodes drop every other Friday.

New to podcasts? An easy way to start is through my website. Click PODCAST

S2 E7 In Plain Sight drops Friday, April 30

A young seamstress disappears in the middle of the night. For a woman of no great importance, someone is going to extremes to hide her. The job of finding her falls to the esteemed Mr. Gryce and his young associate Thomas Quinn

An adaptation of A Strange Disappearance by Anna Katherine Greene

S2 E8 Poetic Dissonance drops Friday, May 14

The most famous goldsmith in Paris is dead. His apprentice is under arrest. He is guilty, but not of murder. It is up to Mademoiselle de Scuderi to save him from the guillotine

An adaptation of Mademoiselle de Scuderi by E.T.A. Hoffman


Down & Out Books is the publisher of my mystery series and supports Mysteries to Die For. Check out these new releases on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, indiebound and ask for them at your favorite book store.


Dick Moonlight is dead for real this time. Thanks to a trio of masked thugs in a dark downtown Albany alley, he’s purchased a one-way ticket to the Pearly Gates—that is, until he feels his floating spirit painfully pulled back into his bruised but breathing body. And that’s when the real trouble starts.

A private detective with a short-term memory problem due to a wayward self-inflicted slug, Moonlight knows he’s still in danger. Now he just needs to know why. And he’s got plenty of enemies to keep him guessing—the Albany police, the local mob, even the latest love of his life, Lola, can’t be trusted. Only his Vietnam-vet best friend, Georgie, is on the level. But it seems the goons who tried to take him out have bigger fish to fry—chiefly Moonlight’s latest client, Peter Czech, a handicapped nuclear engineer with a mysterious Russian heritage. Czech had something—a box—the gang believes is now in Moonlight’s possession, and they’re willing to get it any deadly way they can. Problem is, Moonlight doesn’t recall Czech giving him any box—of course, that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have it. He just better figure out where it is before he winds up dead for the last time.

Amazon link is here


It’s August 1986. The Cold War rages and Yuppies make all the money. Fresh off a three-year stretch at Starke for keeping Pearce family secrets, Scotland has a new place to call home on Fort Myers Beach. All should be perfect except Scotland’s wife is going to die unless he comes up with $100,000.

He enlists a trusted friend to help him rob a Tampa casino to pay for her unconventional treatment. While freely risking life in prison if he’s caught, he never thought his trusted accomplice could go rogue and turn against him. On top of that, his long-lost nieces come to him in need of help only he can provide, while a mysterious female former Marine has her own surprise plan for him.

Scotland hurtles through his new-found freedom right back into a storm of violence and pain with strong women and treacherous men gusting in all directions. Without him, the women would be doomed; without them, he would be. Yet, success and failure are put to the biggest challenge by an unsettled score from the past that threatens to bury them all in the surf.

Coming May 10 from Down & Out Books. Pre-Order Now. Amazon Link is here


See you in May to tiptoe through the petals under the Flower Moon

Traveling under the Worm(hole) Moon

Welcome to On the Prowl.

Spring has sprung! Okay, maybe it’s more like Spring is starting to spring. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking this month, but none of it’s about the stuff I’m supposed to think about. Now I’m pulling you into the fantastical madness of time travel, under the worm(hole) moon. Put on your imagination hats and hold on tight! TG



The worm moon is full at 2:50 P.M. EDT on Sunday, March 28, 2021. As you know, my dear readers, the full moons have many names, owning to many Native Nations. I wasn’t going to go with the worm moon, even though our favorite resource, the Farmer’s Almanac does, simply because worms are icky. They are. Yes, yes, they are the super stars of gardens and the earth, but they are still icky. You have to admit, Eagle Moon, Wind Strong Moon, Crow Comes Back Moon, and Sore Eyes Moon are much more appealing.

But I’m sticking with Worm Moon because of a conversation I had with my friend James that I can not get out of my head. It was about time travel and, well, wormholes.


Down the Rabbit WormHole: Time Travel, not just for physicists

Illustration of meshy wormhole model

As I said, earlier this month, a conversation over the best glass of fresh squeezed orange juice I have ever had (Nellies Restaurant) had me thinking about time travel day after day after day. If you really want to get into the nuts and bolts of time travel, you literally have to be a physicist.

The physicist everyone has heard of, Albert Einstein, was one of the many who have contemplated the concept of an unconventional vehicle to crossing time and space. In 1935, Einstein and Nathan Rosen used the theory of general relativity to build on an idea originally conceived in 1916 by Ludwig Flamm. The idea was a shortcut could connect two different points in space-time. The shortcut is called a wormhole. The image shows space-time bending over itself and a wormhole forming between the two planes. What goes in one end at a point and time, comes out at a different one. Here is some reading on wormholes for satisfying that curiosity I know you have.

Now, let’s leave the physics to the PhDs and talk about the kind of time-travel where all you need is an imagination. There are so, so, so many stories about time travel because it is just fascinating. Rules of time travel are bound only by imaginations and provide a near endless topic of conversation of the “cans & can’ts”, “what ifs”, and “but thens”.

In my mind, if you were to consider “real” time travel, I think the time traveler could only go forward. Picture two space-time lines, one moving three times as fast as the other. A person stepping from the slow line to the fast line, staying for 12 months, and then stepping back would appear to have been done for 4 months. Conversely, a person stepping from the fast line to the slow line, staying for 12 months, and then stepping back would have missed 36 months. Every step is lateral and moves forward from there. The rate at which time moves may vary from planet to planet, galaxy to galaxy, etc., but it always moves forward. Why? Because of nature tends to disorder. This rule, called entropy, says that without a sustained input of energy, things rot, decay, fall apart, stop. So once something dies, changes, ends-that’s it. Game over. Reversing time may be imaginable but buildings standing themselves back up and bodies un-decomposing are not.

The image at the top shows space-time folding over on itself, as though it were a fabric where every stitch, once made, stays forever.

I don’t buy that.

I picture it more as comets that exists in space-time for an instant and moves on to the next, new instant. You can’t go backwards because backwards doesn’t exist anymore. You can’t go forwards because it doesn’t exist yet. You can go between to lines, stepping from one reality to another reality

I can suspend my own rules long enough to enjoy a good story, so let’s talk about the good and the bad of time traveling movies. As my younger son and I are re-watching the Marvel Universe, End Game is on the top of my mind. I enjoyed the way the team went back to get the infinity stones and yes, in fact, changed time. I’m dying to know where Loki will pop back up. I’m a superfan of the troublemaker. I had issues with the “unsnap” logic, but was cool with the time travel.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban used the Time-Turner to get Hermione to class on time. The use of time travel there was fine. When they used it at the end (spoiler) with the patronus, there I had more issues. Harry claims to have gotten the confidence to do the advanced spell because he had, in fact, done it before, think it was his father. He did not, in fact, do it before because he wasn’t there before. It would have been a case of spontaneous patronus combustion the first time. Nope. A swing and a miss.

Back to the Future is now a classic and it’s hard to argue with time travel in a DeLorean. I like how this one didn’t attempt to not change the future, avoiding all the trickery of not being seen, etc. Marty meddling makes the future McFly’s life much better. (Yeah, happy ending.) It could have easily have gone the other way. I had no problem with the sequencing and logic of this one.

Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. Comedies seem to do the best of time travel. Maybe its because the story lines are fairly simple, which makes it less likely to violate the rules they create. Undoubtedly, the lives of Napoleon and Socrates would have forever been changed by their expedition to the future, but that’s not part of the story, so we can suspend disbelief and just have a good laugh.

The original Terminator is one that will keep you thinking for days. The terminator is sent back to kill the mother of the man who is a political enemy in the future. Simple enough. The man sent back to protect the woman from the terminator…is the one who fathers the boy. Issues! How did the boy exist the first time if the man-father wasn’t even a glimmer in his own daddy’s eye? If the terminators are so smart, why didn’t they figure out that the way to stop the boy from being born was TO STAY HOME? Obviously, I have issues with this one.

And, finally, Superman (the one with Christopher Reeves). Lois Lane dies and, in his grief, Superman flies around the earth, counter to our normal spin, to reverse the spin of the world, and thereby time. Events thereby undo themselves and, voila, Lois lives. WHAT!?!?! How about how everything comes to a cataclysmic end when the world stops f-ings spinning!!!!

Now it’s your turn. Tell me how time travel works in your universe and what you loved and hated about time travel movies. tina@tgwolff.com.


Wormhole, the word game

Use a wormhole (short cut) to drop letters into a word from Autumn to make a new a word from Spring. Keep the first and last letter, change the rest. For example: The best part of fall TO A first flower of spring. Answer ColorS to CrocuS

Answers are at the end

Cotton that keeps you comfy TO a pollinator’s weapon: ________ TO ___________

Jack-o-lanterns TO what seeds grow into: _______ TO _________

Overnight ice crystals TO where seeds are found: ______ TO __________


Mysteries to Die For. Season 2: The Originators

Mysteries to Die For combines storytelling and original music to put you in the heart of murder, mystery, and mayhem. This season features adaptations of some of the first stories to be considered mysteries. Episodes drop every other Friday.

New to podcasts? An easy way to start is through my website. Click PODCAST

S2 E5a Sergeant Cuff and the Moonstone Conspiracy Drops April 2

It was a thing of legends. Taken, then hidden. Given, then stolen. Suspicion reigns above and below the stairs. Sgt. Cuff steps into the chaos, charged with recovering the famed Moonstone Diamond.   

An adaptation of The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins. Part 1.

S2 E5b Franklin Blake Returns Drops Friday April 16

Franklin Blake left England because the woman he loved blamed him for the loss of the fabled Moonstone Diamond. He returned to finish the job Sgt. Cuff started and, more importantly, win back the girl.

An adaptation of The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins. Part 2.


Down & Out Books is the publisher of my mystery series and supports Mysteries to Die For. Check out these new releases on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, indiebound and ask for them at your favorite book store.


In the city of Carcasa, gunshots devastate the night as a patrol officer makes a traffic stop. The occupants—three dealers caught in the act of muling—set into motion a course of actions that can only end badly. Now, one is dead, another fleeing on foot and the third tearing through neighborhoods in a bumper car-style chase. Furious, grief-stricken officers on their heels with their brother fighting for his life on the side of a road.

The shooter escapes, and the PD begins their hunt to find the shooter before he lucks out, fades into memory. With what information they have, they dig; the dirt that is the shooter’s life getting thrown over their shoulders by the shovel-full. Family, friends, employment, any avenue of refuge for him begins to burn. Things get complicated along the way. The kind of complicated that goes into a body bag. The art of flushing out the enemy is a sacred practice, best done with smoldering rage.

But, after a man has nowhere to hide, having him out in the open might be worse.

Amazon link is here. Ryan’s Goodreads is here


From ALL DUE RESPECT, an imprint of Down & Out Books

Dominick Prince has been a magnet for trouble his entire life. A series of poor life choices and their violent consequences have crushed his spirit. Desperate to outrun this burgeoning rage before it fully consumes him, Dominick accepts an offer he doesn’t trust from an old high school classmate. Dutchy Kent says he wants to make one last-ditch effort to prove his acting chops by mounting the New York City debut of a play based on one of Dominick’s stories, but the true story involves the real estate empire of a notorious Queens drug dealer and $1.2 million in cash. Dutchy would love to find that cash, but he needs someone else to do the dirty work, someone who attracts trouble and is easily manipulated.

Unfortunately for Dutchy, the Dominick he knew in school is gone. The Dominick who shows up at his office is bitter, twitchy, and repulsed by the trash heaps and junk yards of Long Island City that don’t fit into his vision of a New York debut. None of that matters to Dutchy though who continues with his scheme, unaware that every insult, every passive aggressive comment, and every physical intimidation pushes Dominick one step further toward his rapidly approaching breaking point.

Bryon’s Amazon link is HERE


Wormhole Answers

Cotton that keeps you comfy TO a pollinator’s weapon Answer: sweater to stinger

Jack-o-Lanterns TO what seeds grow into Answer: pumpkins to plants

Overnight ice crystals TO where seeds are found Answer: frost to fruits

See you in April for a little fun under the Pink Moon

Cozy under the Snow Moon

Welcome to On the Prowl.

Feburrrary has certainly lived up to it’s name this year. To keep warm and cozy, I have a few things to charge your hibernating synapses. We’ll begin gazing at the moon, of course, then dive into a true story that is crazier than fiction. Grab a pencil for a quick little puzzle before you tap into a preview of the next Mysteries to Die For. We finish up with a couple new releases from Down and Out Books. Warm thoughts! TG



The Snow Moon has lived up to its name here in Northeast Indiana. While officially not arriving until 3:17am EST on Saturday, February 27, Cold temperatures have kept the snow around, giving us the perfect winter coat. According to my favorite source, The Farmer’s Almanac, February’s moon is also knowns as the Bald Eagle or Eagle Moon (Cree), Bear Moon (Ojibwe), the Black Bear Moon (Tlingit), Raccoon Moon (Dakota), and Groundhog Moon (Algonquin).

I thought it curious to see bears in the list. This city girl thought bears hibernated in winter. According to the Almanac, this is the time when cubs are born. If cub birth is anything like child birth, there ain’t no sleeping through that!


A few more days left on the Suicide Squeeze Promotion. Click on the image to register for your chance to win a $50 Amazon Gift Card!


Down the Rabbit Hole: The Affair of Poisons

This month, researching the background for one of the Mysteries to Die For stories took me down the rabbit hole of French history. Check out this crazy sh*t: the “affair of poisons” was a twist of murder, conspiracy, alchemy, and witchcraft. It started with the 1675 trial of Marie Madeleine Marguerite d’Aubray, Marquise of Brinvilliers, accused of conspiring with her lover in the poisoning of her father nine years prior and two of her brothers five years prior. She later confessed under torture and was sentenced to death. (Her lover had died of natural causes some years before her arrest.) The trial was sensational and had all of Paris’ aristocracy talking…talking about other mysterious deaths. People got nervous, even King Louis XIV. Paris Police Chief Gabriel Nicolas de la Reynie was given the job of getting to the bottom of things.

The unraveling began with the arrest of a woman, Magdelaine de la Grange, on charges of forgery and murder. La Grange cut a deal, not so different from today, and gave information on other high crimes in exchange for her life. In Paris, there was a black market for poisons, impossible to detect, to aid in securing early inheritances and cleaning up family matters. The fortune tellers and alchemists of Paris were rounded up by the chief of the Paris police. Several confessed under torture and gave up some very connected names in the highest circles.

The name most associated with the affair of poisons was midwife Catherine Deshayes Monvoisin, referred to as La Voisin. Incriminated by a poisoner, La Voisin herself implicated several courtiers- which is to say companions or advisors to a king or queen. Her declarations were especially noteworthy because they included King Louis XIV’s lover Madame de Montespan, mother of 7 of his 9 children.

The Paris Police Chief La Reynie established a special court, the Chamber Ardente (the burning court), to judge the cases. The king eventually disbanded the court reportedly to avoid the risk of scandal. A quote from Reynie showed what he thought of it all: the enormity of the crimes proved their safeguard. (The 17th Century equivalent of a bail out?)

Are you ready for the crazy? By the numbers, the Affair of the Poison implicated 442 suspects. A total of 367 arrests were issued and 218 carried out. Of those found guilty, 36 were executed, 23 exiled, and 5 sentenced to the galleys (rowing for the French navy). Some people were punished without a trial. A total of 65 men and women were imprisoned for life at different Chateaus and other places. Others died in police custody by torture or suicide. An unreported number were imprisoned or committed to mental institutions by their families disgraced by the offender. And we thought 2020 was nuts (ok, it was, even by 17th Century Parisian standards). Reference: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Affair_of_the_Poisons


SNOW BALL

Begin with the word SNOW, then roll it around by changing 1 letter and rearranging to create the defined word. Example: that thing two inches in front of you: NOSE (SNOW – W + R)

Answers are at the end

Let’s Start! SNOW

Change 1 letter and rearrange for a word meaning a graceful white bird: ________

Change 1 letter and rearrange for a word meaning to fade way: ________

Change 1 letter and rearrange for a word meaning Pig Pen’s antithesis: ________

Change 1 letter and rearrange for a word meaning a pleasant sound: _______

Change 1 letter and rearrange for a word meaning to go all in: ______

Change 1 letter and rearrange for a word meaning what we all hope to be at the end of 2021: _____


Mysteries to Die For. Season 2: The Originators

Mysteries to Die For combines storytelling and original music to put you in the heart of murder, mystery, and mayhem. This season features adaptations of some of the first stories to be considered mysteries. Episodes drop every other Friday.

New to podcasts? An easy way to start is through my website. Click PODCAST

S2 E3 The Human Affect Drops Friday March 5

Every man has a guilty pleasure, his was haunted houses. Our detective had seen through smoke and mirrors to the human hand before. Now he’s turning his talents on the home were the housekeeper died with her eyes open.

An adaptation of The House and The Haunters by Edward Bulwer-Lytton

S2E4 T. Sawyer, Esquire Drops Friday March 19

They say poor old Uncle Silas kilt that ornery Jubiter Dunlap, be we know he didn’t have nothing to do with it. Our lawyer ain’t worth nothin’. Not to worry. With Tom Sawyer on the case, the real killers ain’t getting away.

An adaptation of Tom Sawyer, Detective by Mark Twain


Down & Out Books is the publisher of my mystery series and supports Mysteries to Die For. Check out these new releases on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and ask for them at your favorite book store.


Midnight Lullaby by James D.F. Hannah

AVAILABLE NOW

A missing woman. A suitcase full of drug money. An ex-cop with nothing to lose.

A roadside shooting ended both his career and his marriage and sent ex-state trooper Henry Malone back to his childhood home in Serenity, West Virginia. A request to look into the disappearance of a young mother becomes a second chance, an opportunity to redeem himself.

But Malone finds the unexpected as he scratches beneath his hometown’s surface: Crooked lawyers. Meth cooks. A hair-triggered sheriff. A beautiful legal secretary. And a seductive yet deadly white supremacist. It is a dangerous mix that leads Henry and his well-armed AA sponsor, Woody, down onto a wild and deadly road. A missing-persons case becomes the struggle for both men just to stay alive.

D&O is reissuing James Hannah’s award winning Henry Malone Series over the course of a year. Jump in now to keep up with the twists and turns that keep Malone on his toes.

Amazon: www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08SMP3T1P


State of Shock by M. Todd Henderson

Available Now

When Jante Turner is murdered just days before she takes the mantle as new dean of Rockefeller University Law School in Chicago, Royce Johnson is approached to help solve the murder. Recently released from prison, the ex-FBI agent has his own problems. Still, he takes the job.

Soon, Johnson finds himself at the intersection of higher education, Chicago politics, big money, and murder. Johnson traces a river of corruption running from deep-pocket donors of the University to North Side developers and a South Side alderman who is heir to the throne in City Hall. In his desperation, he turns to the one lawyer who can help him—the former Rockefeller student whom Johnson mistakenly framed for murder on his last case.

Amazon: State of Shock


Look out for the Next Edition of
On the Prowl

March 28, at which point we should be into the “lamb” part of the month


Snowball Answers

A word meaning a graceful white bird: SWAN

A word meaning to fade way: WANE

A word meaning Pig Pen’s antithesis: NEAT

A word meaning a pleasant sound: TONE

A word meaning to go all in: ANTE

A word meaning what we all hope to be at the end of 2021: SANE


Howling under the Wolf Moon

Welcome to On the Prowl.

This wolf has a lot to howl about this month. A new book release. Season 2 of our podcast drops. And it’s not 2020 anymore. To entertain you, I have a deep dive into something you touch about 10 times a day, a little word play, and ways to keep your mind sharp.



The Full Wolf Moon rises on Thursday, January 28. According to our favorite source, The Farmers Almanac, January’s moon was named after the wolf because so many were heard on those crisp, cold nights. People used to think the wolves howled because they were hungry (said the hungry people trying not to think about food). Scientists now know that wolves howl for many reasons including communications, finding pack members, and marking territory. My wolffs howl whenever I sing “their music” or make really awesome mom jokes.


Silver Dagger is organizing a book tour for my new release, Suicide Squeeze. Bloggers interested in joining in, click on the image to go to the signup page or email me at tina at tgwolff dot com.


Old School Hardware

For The Thinking Man, the first story in this season of Mysteries to Die For, I went down the rabbit hole of 19th Century windows and doors. You would think I would need to study topics more in line with 19th Century medical practices or policing technologies, but no. One of the compelling things about mysteries is that they are set in ordinary places, in ordinary times. And, of course, times do change and so there are times, such as this one, where a little due diligence into our past is necessary.

The Thinking Man is an adaptation of the Poe classic The Murders in the Rue Morgue. At its essence, the story is one of dead body inside a room with the windows and doors locked from the inside. The mystery comes from the idea that the door couldn’t have been locked from the inside if said people inside were dead.

In our modern world, the fact of a body inside a locked room may not create a mystery. Now, many doors lock automatically when they close regardless of who went out it- killer, the mailman, a toddler. Our door at my office locks automatically and, yes, I’ve locked myself out a time or three. But, in the 1800s, this auto locking technology hadn’t been invented. Door latches ranged from simple levers to the first “rim lock” style. Architectural Observer has two blogs on the topic. Part 1 is 1800-1850. Part 2 is 1850-1900. Both have several pictures of different door latches from 1800s houses here in the States.  While the latches could be highly ornate and decorative, they were still simple. Doors locked with a key. If the people inside locked the door, they had to have had a hand on the key to do it. And so, were alive at the time the door was locked.

Window technology has changed, too, with the lifting and locking mechanisms advancing. In the 1800s, the frames windows sat in had pulley wheels at the top. On both side of the window, chain or rope was fastened that went over the pulley and was connected to a counterweight that was concealed within the frame. With weight of the window balanced, the counterweights made the windows easy to slide up and down. These window systems are still around in older homes. We had these in our old house in Cleveland, which was built in 1920. They were very easy to open, from the inside or the outside, and did little to keep out winter. To prevent people who were, literally, on the outside from opening them, thick pins slid into the frame and prevented the window from lifting. With the pins in place, the window would break or the frame shatter before that pin would give way. And so, again, we have the mystery of a pin having to be inserted by a living person on the inside of the window.

Now you are ready to dive into The Murders in the Rue Morgue or listen to my adaptation, The Thinking Man.


DEAD OF WINTER

Keep your mind warm and nimble
make up words short and simple
or long and hard if that’s your way
to add more fun into your day

If my rhyme didn’t do it for you, here it is in prose: make as many words as you can out of the letters in DEAD OF WINTER


Mysteries to Die For. Season 2: The Originators

Mysteries to Die For combines storytelling and original music to put you in the heart of murder, mystery, and mayhem. This season features adaptations of some of the first stories to be considered mysteries. Episodes begin dropping Friday, February 5.

S2 E1 The Thinking Man Drops Friday 2/5/2021

Two women living a peaceful life. Two women spending an evening in their third floor flat. Two women dead. The doors are locked from the inside, the windows are closed. One man knows who the killer is and how he got in. The thinking man.

An adaptation of The Murders in the Rue Morgue by Edgar Allan Poe

S2 E2 Desperate Times Drops Friday 2/19/21

Everyone liked George. So the story went. The evidence was to the contrary. The bank vault was open, the money was stolen, and George was dead. The authorities come up empty and a reward didn’t help. Those were desperate times.

An adaptation of The Somnambulist and the Detective by Allan Pinkerton


Down & Out Books is the publisher of my mystery series and supports Mysteries to Die For. Check out these new releases on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and ask for them at your favorite book store.


Releasing February 5

Diamond is back in her second
fast-paced
high octane
raven hunting
adventure mystery

Secrets are like dead men, best kept cold and buried

Diamond. One name for a woman with one purpose. Or she was, until she finished her to-do list. Now she’s just a woman ready to be over with it all.

Hanna Lang is the kind of woman men write bad checks for. She has a problem. Her man, Dr. Damon Marten, disappeared in the middle of an ordinary day. The police aren’t concerned but Hanna knows better. A clandestine meeting leaves her with an address, a sealed envelope, and one last hope. An hour later, she rings a doorbell.

Before Diamond was a widow, she was CIA agent with skills illegal in a dozen countries. When her marker is called in, she has no choice but to listen. It’s just like fate throw her a curve ball, sending her the one problem she can’t walk away from. Hanna’s situation is virtually identical to her own with one exception: Hanna’s man might still be alive.

Diamond reluctantly takes the case. She dives into the mystery, surfacing in the middle of a scavenger hunt for a secret known as Poe’s Raven. It takes Diamond’s flair for the impossible to capture this bird, only to discover what’s in her hand has the potential to take terrorism to a chilling new level. And fate isn’t done with Diamond, forcing her to put it all on the line or risk setting the caged bird free.


The Great Filling Station Hold Up Edited by Josh Pachter Available Feb 22

Jimmy Buffett is one of the great contemporary singer/songwriters, and it’s hard to imagine a citizen of Planet Earth unfamiliar with such classic hits as “Margaritaville.” Jimmy has also written novels, children’s books, memoirs, and a stage musical based on Herman Wouk’s Don’t Stop the Carnival, and his family-friendly concerts almost always sell out to audiences comprised of a mix of dedicated Parrotheads, casual fans, and newbies.

In The Great Filling Station Holdup, editor Josh Pachter presents sixteen short crime stories by sixteen popular and up-and-coming crime writers, each story based on a song from one of the twenty-eight studio albums Jimmy has released over the last half century, from Leigh Lundin’s take on “Truckstop Salvation” (which appeared on Jimmy’s first LP, 1970’s Down to Earth) to M.E. Browning’s interpretation of “Einstein Was a Surfer” (from Jimmy’s most recent recording, 2013’s Songs from St. Somewhere).

If you love Jimmy’s music or crime fiction or both, you’ll love The Great Filling Station Holdup. Mix yourself a boat drink, ask Alexa to put on a buffet of Buffett tunes, kick back, and enjoy!


Look out for the Next Edition of
On the Prowl

February 27 in the silence of a winter night, the Snow Moon will be high overhead.


Resting and Relaxing under the Cold Moon

Welcome to On the Prowl.

This Cold Moon edition wraps up this year musing about toe nails, tobacco roots, and my non-existent baking skills. This is a mellow edition. After the roller coaster that was 2020, I’m all in for some R&R.

December’s moon is the Cold Moon. For obvious reasons. The day here started out at 18 degrees. This year’s Cold Moon is in it’s full glory on December 29th at 10:30 pm EST. The Farmer’s Almanac provided a list of other names this moon was known by. Three of the more poetic are Long Night Moon, Winter Maker Moon, and Mid-Winter Moon. Under the category of “call them like you see them” are Moon When the Deer Shed Their Antlers and Snow Moon. By far, the more interesting are:

Drift Clearing Moon. Must come with a windy night, or a snow plow driver. That’s the only what I’ve seen the moon clear a drift.

Frost Exploding Trees Moon. OMG, the visual. Just reading it I hear a musical score and…then…the …cymbals….CRASH!

Hoar Frost Moon. Hoar? Ummm Miriram-Webster, a little help here. Whew, it means gray or white as with age. Like my hair. I have partially hoary hair. Oh, dear, no.

Little Spirit Moon. Aww, cute. It sounds like a Disney moon.

Moon of the Popping Trees. Again, the visual. Sounds like something that belongs in Alice’s wonderland, maybe a weapon of the Queen of Hearts.




My Dog’s Toes

Everyone, meet Lucy. Lucy is 2 ½ years old and is a mix of Great Dane, German Shephard, Black Lab, and Bull Mastiff. The runt of her litter, our Lucy Bear has enough personality for three dogs. She plays hide-and-seek, knee hockey, and is a killer trainer for puck (ball) handling. She has figured out how to open the bedroom doors, which open in, and the basement door, which opens out. She talks, sounding a lot like Scooby Doo, another Great Dane. Lucy’s most charming feature is her ears. One up, one down. Hard to stay mad at that. But her most curious feature is her toes.

Her front paws have black nails but her back paws have a mix of white clear and solid black. A moment of research shows this is hardly unique but still totally fascinating. Imagine how odd a thing it would be on a human to have some normal semi-transparent finger nails and some totally opaque, black nails. And then, what makes one toe different from the one next to it? You would think one foot would have nails of one color. Fascinating. Wrapping this section up. Lucy wants me to stop picking at her toes and just pet her.


An Americas Original

The leading man in Episode 5B of Mysteries to Die For is a smoker. As I started to write the adaptation, I had the Oh, sh*t moment that I didn’t know what he was smoking. I assumed it was tobacco but was it a pipe, a cigar, a cigarette? I had no idea what fashionable gentlemen smoked in the mid-1800s. So I asked Wikipedia.

It turns out, tobacco is an Americas original – as in North and South America. The plants were used throughout the continent for its medicinal and entertainment qualities. Natives from on end to the other chewed or smoked the leaves in a pipe. In the 1520s and 1530s, Europeans coming over took tobacco back along with maize, potato, and tomato. Tobacco was controversial for the “drunken effect” it produced. Needless to say, use of the leaf spread like wildfire.

In the 1850s, tobacco was broadly used in the US by men, women, and children. It was smoked, chewed, and dipped. Apparently, it created quite a nasty mess with people spitting. Finer establishments provided spittoons for use, although many missed. Even churches provided the amenity. (Disgusting. I gagged a little writing the section. The curse of an overactive imagination.)

Pipes have been around for more than a thousand years and people have tried to smoke everything that will burn in hopes of finding the good stuff. With the migration of tobacco, rolling leaves into cigars and cigarettes grew in popularity. In the late 1800s, commercially produced cigarettes came to market, lowering the price and increasing the fashion ability of the cigarette.

I ended up using cigars in my story. Using cigarettes felt too modern and a pipe too cumbersome. For myself, I tried smoking once, to see what the big deal was. My tongue felt like I licked a cat and everything I ate tasted like it was seasoned with mulch. So, yeah, once was enough.


It’s the Thought that Counts

I am a rotten baker. It’s true. I’m a decent cook, but utterly horrible at baking. So what was I thinking when I decided I was going to make fruit breads to give to a few neighbors and close friends? Like Clark W. Griswold Jr., I was thinking about having a fun, old-fashioned, family Christmas. Some lemon bread (made it before). Some apple fritter bread (made it once). A few each day and I would have gifts given with thought and time and attention. That was the idea.

The reality was I made garbage. About 4 pounds of it. But did I learn?

Nope. “Let’s make donuts!” See picture right. These donuts were so bad, they wouldn’t even fry! I know what I did wrong. I tried to make donuts! Ha! But seriously, I made a tiny mistake reading the recipe and…put 2x the butter. Ah well. Live and learn. Take 2 happens on Dec 31. Wish me luck!


Mysteries to Die For. Season 2: The Originators

I am pushing back the start of Season 2 to Friday, February 5th. I need a little more of a buffer after the holidays. Production of the podcasts is coming along. Episode 5a and 5b are in the works and Episode 6 is getting started. The deeper I get into these stories, the more I’m enjoying them. I know you are going to get a kick out of the stories that created the mystery genre.


Count Down to Suicide Squeeze

February 8th, book 2 in the Diamond series hits the streets. Pre-order available soon.

Diamond. One name for a woman with one purpose. Or she was, until she finished her to-do list. Now she’s just a woman ready to be over with it all.

Hanna Lang is the kind of woman men write bad checks for. She has a problem. Her man, Dr. Damon Marten, disappeared in the middle of an ordinary day. The police aren’t concerned but Hanna knows better. A clandestine meeting leaves her with an address, a sealed envelope, and one last hope. An hour later, she rings a doorbell.

Before Diamond was a widow, she was CIA agent with skills illegal in a dozen countries. When her marker is called in, she has no choice but to listen. It’s just like fate throw her a curve ball, sending her the one problem she can’t walk away from. Hanna’s situation is virtually identical to her own with one exception: Hanna’s man might still be alive.

Diamond reluctantly takes the case. She dives into the mystery, surfacing in the middle of a scavenger hunt for a secret known as Poe’s Raven. It takes Diamond’s flair for the impossible to capture this bird, only to discover what’s in her hand has the potential to take terrorism to a chilling new level. And fate isn’t done with Diamond, forcing her to put it all on the line or risk setting the caged bird free.




Look out for the Next Edition of
On the Prowl

January’s full moon was made for me. The Wolf Moon! Meet me on January 28th for e-zine packed full of fun. (Get it? Packed / pack. :))

Nothing to Buy Under the Beaver Moon

Welcome to this Beaver Moon Edition of On the Prowl.
If your inbox is like mine, it has been blown up with Black Friday ads. Each has a deal I need to act on now, right now. I need a break and I’m guessing you do, too.

This my gift to you, an edition filled with drunk squirrels, roll overs, gingerbread soldiers and a robin.

November’s full moon comes early on Monday the 30th, 4:30am. Also known as the Frost Moon, the Beaver Moon is the time of year beavers get busy preparing for winter. They reinforce their dens, getting ready for ice and snow. Not coincidentally, it’s the same time of year trappers stock up on their supply of furs for the winter. 

Here in Northern Indiana, we have 0% chance of seeing the moon. Forecast is for clouds leaking rain and then snow. It is officially the Holiday Season. Here in Northern Indiana, we have 0% chance of seeing the moon. Forecast is for clouds leaking rain and then snow. It is officially the Holiday Season.



It’s Not Just Your Uncle Who’s a Funny Drunk

Berries and fruits can ferment naturally. In the presence of yeast and bacteria, the sugar in the fruit juice can ferment into alcohol. Alcohol that some of our favorite critters love just as much as us two legged animals.  IFL Science has collected social media postings of zoned out chipmunks and uncoordinated squirrels. And it turns out trees and moose go together just as much as trees and cars. Gather the family around the screen for these videos. IFL Science Squirrel!

Some of our animal friends have harder tasted. Jaguars nibble on the hallucinogenic yage, regressing into stoned kittens doing impressions of rugs on the jungle floor. Parrots have been so aggressive in their pursuit of Poppies in India at this article called the attacks “raids”. The government has issued warnings about the addict birds, who have changing their habits, going into a stealth mode when attacking farms. IFL Science Polly Wanta Poppy


SPOT THE ROBIN

I am thrilled to reveal the cover for Diamond’s second mystery, Suicide Squeeze. Cover art is by the talented JT Lindroos, who has made the covers for Diamond’s 1st and both of Cruz’s covers. In the design of Widow’s Run, we featured a robin, Diamond’s arch enemy. JT incorporated this little nuisance into the new cover. Can you spot him? 


ROLL CAR ROLL


You know I love to share tidbits I pick up when I’m researching for my books or podcasts. This one, like so many, was totally unexpected. I needed a car crash for a scene I was working on. I didn’t particularly care about the crash so much as the result. I needed the driver to eventually die and the passenger to live. I called one of my favorite experts, my brother Vito, a Cleveland Fire Fighter. I explained what I needed and how I thought a roll over would make for a good dramatic scene but would it be too contrived to have a small SUV roll over on Cleveland’s city streets?

Short answer: No. Nope. Happens all time.

Really?!?!? Cause I’ve been driving for a lot of years, in a lot of weather conditions and never (knock on wood) did I feel in danger of rolling over.

And then began my list of questions. Were they on interstate on/off ramps? No. Normal streets. Did they hit some sort of ramp to make them flip? Nope. Just curbs.

BUT HOW???

His un-verified statistics indicated that speed is a key ingredient. It happens a decent amount of times with stolen cars. By the time Cleveland Fire arrives on the scene, the occupants have cut through the seat belts and fled the scene.

Here’s footage from a real roll over crash of an ordinary guy with a Go Pro mounted on his dashboard. Roll Over A vehicle stops unexpectedly in front of the driver, who takes evasive action that prevents a rear-end collision but results in a roll over. Start watching from the 2 minutes mark.

A 2011 report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration analyzed 328 roll over crashes. The study was part of an effort into increase protection during rollovers because, while they accounted for only 3% of crashes, they were 33% of fatalities. Because statistics are fun (shut up, yes they are) here are a few for you:

  • 68% involved only 1 vehicle.
  • 50% had only 1 person in the vehicle.
  • 69% had male drivers. Of those, 31% were age 21-30, 28% age 31-40.
  • About 60% of drivers and passengers wore seatbelts.
  • 31% involved alcohol, which means 69% were sober.
  • The percent of people ejected and percent of people without seatbelts were about the same.
  • No numbers with this, but it seemed to this reader the fatalities were associated with being ejected from the vehicle or head injuries due to striking the roof.

Soooo if you are male, between the ages of 21 and 40, are sober and driving alone, wear your seatbelt and work extra hard to keep them tires on the road.

And, no, I didn’t end up using a roll over in the scene. I went with a front end collision.


GINGERBREAD SOLDIERS TO ARMS!!!

Back in 2014, I began writing short stories revolving around Philip and Bridget and their not-so-picture perfect holiday adventures. Some were exaggerations of my own experiences. Some were pure fiction. This one is in the latter category (I can’t make a cookie to save my life!)

Bridget has a great idea. Instead of buying gifts for teachers, she is going to make beautiful, magazine worthy cookies, made even more special by doing them with her four (yes, four) children. Don’t laugh at Bridget, laugh with her.

Use this link: GSTA and the password Holiday20 to access a private page on my website. You can read story there or download the .pdf.



Look out for the Next Edition of
On the Prowl
December 30, the Cold Moon will be on the rise. I look forward to bringing tidbits to warm you and to kick 2020 out on its buttocks.

On the Prowl: Walking Softly under the Hunter’s Moon

Welcome to this Blue Moon edition of On the Prowl. We’re going to explore the origins of the name of a not-blue moon, solve a real mystery in my own back yard, and hunt for a ghost. This edition is a little shorter than others. Sadly, real life got in the way of my playing this month.

October 31st is a busy day night this year and not just for the little ghouls and goblins trying to have fun amid this COVID world we are living in. Saturday is a full moon, the second one this month. Making the Hunter’s Moon a calendar Blue Moon.

The Hunter’s Moon is a call-it-like-you-see it kind of name. The weather around here has been great for getting outside. The Hunter’s Moon will crest at 10:51 A.M. Eastern Time and will look perfectly brilliant at night (if you’re lucky enough to not have a cloudy night)

Blue moons have a more complicated name. According to one of my favorite resources, The Farmer’s Almanac, the original definition of a blue moon was related to four full moons in a season. Since the moon’s cycle is 29.5 days, a 3-month season occasionally has 4 full moons. The 3rd of these was called the Blue Moon. Why the 3rd and not the 4th? If you were going to give a special name to an extra something being in a set, wouldn’t you give it to the last? The caboose?

And down the rabbit hole we go. Allow me to introduce you to a 2012 article written by Philip Hiscock for Sky and Telescope. He went after this. (Thank you, Philip!) His article is “Where does the phrase ‘Once in a Blue Moon’ come from?” He traced the term to 1937 where it appeared in an edition of Maine’s Farmer Almanac to refer to certain full moons. He heard stories of earlier uses but was not able to substantiate the use of the term.

In the 1940s, the early use of the term was misinterpreted. Instead of a blue moon being the 3rd full moon with there are 4 in a season, it was associated with the 2nd full moon within the same month. The version was reprinted and retold until it is now the more accepted definition.

I wonder if the newer definition took root because it’s simpler for us non-astronomical types to manage. Knowing when a season starts and ends is tricky, let alone counting the full moons in it. Knowing when a month starts is much, much easier.


A Different Kind of Cruze1 Mystery (in 500 words)

“Really? A car alarm? Sooo wrong, this was my Sunday.” Putting the pillow over my head, I attempted to ignore the fact that daylight had seeped into the room. Damn that alarm was loud. It sounded like it was in the yard. Tossing aside the useless pillow, I dragged my reluctant bones out of bed and peeked out the window. “Huh. J— your car alarm is going off.”

Like any normal 17-year-old, he was dead asleep. His car fob was on his bedside table, squashing my idea that he rolled over on it or Lucy Bear (our dog) was using it as a chew toy. I took it to my bedroom and pointed it at the car. Noise stopped. Problem solved. Resumed daylight denial.

The alarm went off again. Fob on my beside table. No hand upon it. I got back up, went back to the window, pressed the magic button again. The noise stopped but this time, this time my friends, I watched.

The brake lights flashed. The backing lights went on. The trunk opened! That damn car did everything but turning itself around and shout “That’s what it’s all about!”

Enter the husband. He’d been downstairs with the dog. “What’s going on?”

“J—’s car alarm keeps turning on.”

“Well, get the keys and turn it off.”

That’s why I got married, for inspired words like those. “I did,” I said. “The lights keep turning on, by themselves. I think the car’s possessed.”

He snorted derisively, but it made complete sense! This close to Halloween, when the threshold between Here and There is thin, our car could be a portal to the other side. An odd choice, admittedly. If I were on the other side, I would not choose a 2011 Chevy Cruze for my cross-portal transportation, but that’s just me.

A third time the alarm went off! Proof something was amiss. I returned the key fob, letting J— know his car was likely possessed. “Should be fine to drive, just letting you know.”

He sat up, rubbed a dog belly. “Yeah, rriiiight. I gotta go to work, so I’m just gonna get my laundry.”

Downstairs, I shared my theory with anyone who would listen (Lucy Bear). “Spirits are manifest energy. If the energy came in proximity to the car’s electrical system, it stands to reason that things could go haywire. The surge could affect the lights, the horn, even release the trunk.”

Lucy supported my theory and further speculated I could reach the treat jar if I leaned a little to the right.

“So, I might know what happened,” J— said, amusement in his tone. “Remember the car keys I couldn’t find? Found them…in the washing machine. Dad ran a load for me.”

The Husband had put a load of J—‘s clothes in just some ten minutes before J—’s car channeled its inner Christine2. Thus, a potentially amazing solution was displaced by a cold, wet reality and a truth was revealed: car fobs and water don’t mix.

  1. It’s a play on words. The possessed car is a Chevy Cruze. The lead in my mystery series is Jesus De La Cruz. You should read him. You’d like him.
  2. Christine is a possessed 1958 Plymouth Fury. It’s classic Stephen King. You should read him. You’d like him.

Jack and I are continuing to work on Season 2 of Mysteries To Die For. Episode 3, Human Effect, is in the works. It’s a perfect story to record this time of year…

Our hero is a business man, a practical man, who can’t resist a good haunted house. Too bad every one he’s faced off with was a fraud. The “haunted” was nothing more than the effect of a human with some perverse motive.

But this house just may be different. A friend of his couldn’t stand being in the house more than two nights! And this delightful house was right in his own back yard. London.

Season 2 The Originators. Episode 3 Human Effect. Available 2021


While you’re waiting for us to release our next season, check out one of my favorite Podcasts Myths and Legends. Jason and Carissa do an amazing job telling stories from, well, myths and legend. I love hearing the stories I know, well, I thought I knew. Zeus and the Greek gods. 101 Arabian Knights. Robin Hood. Mulan. There is so much more to these stories then what you know from cartoons or children’s books.

Myths and Legends takes you to places you’ve never imagined. Ancient Japan with Princess Moonlight. Ireland and the tragic life of Etain. East to west, north to south, Myths and Legends is everywhere.

Check them out wherever you get your podcasts


Happy Haunting

I warned you this was going to be a short one. I’ll back on the prowl November 30 when we’ll be swimming under the Beaver Moon.

Peace.

On the Prowl: Staring at Colors under the Harvest Moon

Welcome to the Harvest Moon edition of On the Prowl.
I’ve been in a lot of rabbit holes since we were last together. We’ll get into equinoxes, world times zones, the prime meridian, and the beginning of the mystery genre. Hope you enjoy!

Picking up from last month, the full moon closest to the Autumnal Equinox is called the Harvest Moon. Most years, the title goes to September’s full moon, but not this year. Before we get into the Harvest Moon, follow me down the rabbit hole of the Equinox. Here’s the what-you-should-know-as-a-human-living-on-earth: an equinox is a day that is closest to 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of night. There are two: one in spring and one in fall. Here’s something to share when you’re in a gathering and need something to say: there is an exact time for each equinox. This is the time when the sun passes across the earth’s equator. This year, the autumnal equinox was September 22, with that magical crossing happening at 9:31 EDT. Check out this video from National Geographic. It does a nice job explaining equinox and shows how it was built into ancient structures like Machu Picchu.

October’s moon is the Harvest Moon. Well, October’s first moon. We have a treat this year with a second full moon on Halloween. But this first moon will rise on October 1 and be visible after sunset. According to The Farmer’s Almanac, the timing of the moon rise increases the amount of light down here, extending the time farmers could work in the fields.


It’s About the Who Dunnit

I’ve been curious about when “mystery” became a genre. Why? I have no idea. I get curious about a lot of things. This is just one. Being impatient, I did some quick internet searching and found the term seemed to come into use in the first part of the 1900s, reflecting a style of writing that began popping up about 50 years earlier. I have begun searching for these first stories, wanting to see how they are different than what we have today and how they were different than other stories at the time. Right now, I’ve completed 4 stories and DNF (Did not finish) 3 stories.

My working theory is that mysteries shifted storytelling from a something happening to a narrator to a narrator as a removed person. Many of these stories of murder and mayhem, the narrator is either the person who did it or the person who it was happening to, which puts the stories more in the horror genre. The stories themselves COULD BE mysteries if they were told with the narrator being the cop / coroner / neighbor who investigated.

Take Edgar Allan Poe’s Black Cat. The story is told by a man in prison the evening before he goes to the gallows. He tells of being tormented by a black cat, which (spoiler) leads to him killing his wife, hiding her body, and being caught. It is an engrossing story, a perfect pre-halloween read, but there is no “who dunnit”. It is a really good horror story. Here’s a link to it on Gutenburg

Poe’s The Murders in the Rue Morgue, for contrast, the murders of a woman and her daughter are read about by our hero C. August Dupin and his unnamed assistant/narrator. The victims lived on the 4th floor, the rest of the house was vacant. The murders happened at three in the morning. The equivalent of a year’s salary was left in the room as was jewelry and other valuables. All the doors were locked from the inside. This story is all about the “who dunnit”.

If the story of the Black Cat was told by the Police Officer who when looking for the missing (cause she’s dead) wife, the story would have been a mystery. They questioned the husband three times because they caught the break they needed. We would not have known the backstory, so it likely wouldn’t have been anywhere near as cool, but it would have been a mystery.

It was popular at the time to have continuing storylines that ran in magazines. In my mind, these were pre-television soap operas. It’s easy to see why mysteries would not fit this model. Once you know who dunnit, the story is over. It’s hard for a writer to make a living on it. Horror stories could run much longer, building the suspense and intrigue. Some of my DNF were in this category. The writing was fine, the premise caught my attention but stories were just coming in bits too small for me right now.

Below is a list of the stories I’ve been reading. These are all available for free. I’ve included the link to the documents through The Gutenberg Project.

Mysteries
Edgar Allan Poe, The Murders in the Rue Morgue
Allan Pinkerton, The Somnabulist and the Detective
The Lock and Key Library (short stories, mix mysteries and others)
Not Mysteries
Wilkie Collins, The Woman in White (A “who is she”, not who dunnit)
Thomas Hardy, Desperate Remedies (A tragedy, soap opera) 


Welcome to Mysteries To Die For

This is a podcast where my piano player/ producer/ son Jack and I combine storytelling with original music to put you at the heart of mystery, murder, and mayhem. Episode art is by Shannon. You can find Mysteries to Die For on Spotify, Apple Podcast, Google Podcast, and Stitcher.

We are busy working on Season 2, which will feature adaptations of the story that started the mystery genre. All of the stories were written in the 1800s, They give us a glimpse into everyday life and the hotbed topics of the day, along with murder, mystery, and mayhem. Episodes begin dropping in January.

Episode 1: The Thinking Man. Two women are brutally murdered. They were in a bedroom on the fourth floor with the windows and doors locked from the inside. No money or valuables are taken. After a clerk is arrested, August Dupin takes an interest is the “impossible crime.” This is adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe’s The Murders in the Rue Morgue.

Episode 2: Desperate Measures. Everyone liked George Gordon. He was a head teller at the bank who was murdered in cold blood for money in the vault. The heads of the Mississippi bank send for the famed Chicago detective, Allan Pinkerton. No costs are to be spared in the search for a killer. This is an adaptation of Allan Pinkerton’s The Somnambulist and The Detective.  


October Lady

Use the clues to find a word related to the harvest, then use the numbered positions to discover who our October Lady is. Answers are at the bottom. 

Time of year that begins with the equinox:  1 _ 2 _ _ _
Tool used to cut crops:  3 _ _ _ _ 4
When there are no crops to bring in:  5 _ 6 _ _ _
The kind of belt that carries crops:  _ _ _ 7 _ _ 8 _
Old school way of harvesting: by 9 _ _ 10
Cutting of grain: 11 _ _ _ _ _ 12

10 4 6 4 2 4 11,   12 8 10 10 4 3 3    8 5   2 9 4  9 1 11 7 4 3 2


WOLF CALLS

BOWED HEADS for Ben and Patrick. For the hundreds of words I’ve written in this newsletter, I can’t find any to write here. The end came far too soon.

WELCOME TO THE PACK Susie’s little pup.

A SCRATCH OF THE EAR for virtual conferences and all the creative ways people are finding to keep rooted in normal. 

It was a quiet month for wolf calls. If I missed celebrating your big moment, drop me a note. 


Look out for the Next Edition of
On the Prowl
October 31, 2020
Where we’ll be haunting the Hunter’s Moon


I hope you have a brilliant October. See you in 30 days.