I used to hunt and peck out stories (and unsolicited school reports) on this clunky old 1940s Underwood typrewriter when I was in elementary school. Most of those creations have been lost to time, but I do still have one of the first “books” I ever wrote – The Mouse Who Didn’t Believe in Santa Clause. I was so proud of this book because I typed it (of course), I drew all the illustrations, and my 5th grade Reading teacher, Miss Will, gave me an A+ and said it should be in print. That sort of thing means a lot to a kid who wants to have a real book published one day. I was reminded of this because of this interview snippet I saw with Lin-Manuel Miranda and the 8th grade teacher who told him he should be writing musicals.


Anyway, click here – TheMouseWhoDidntBelieveInSantaClause – if you want to read it. And thanks for the encouragement, Miss Will, wherever you are!

Dig Deep My Grave Pre-Order Giveaway!

This contest is now closed. Congrats, Jolene R!

DIG DEEP MY GRAVE (Viv and Charlie Mystery #3) comes out less than a month (August 7, 2018 to be exact), so I’m giving away a fabulous lake-themed prize!

What could you win?

  1. You are my anchor – Satin finish lead-free pewter bracelet with anchor charm
  2. Lake Geneva in Vintage Postcards book
  3. Black Point Estate Greeting card –  featuring original artwork of the inspiration for DDMG’s Oakhaven
  4. Greetings from Wisconsin magnet – “The nation’s summer vacationland where friends and nature meet”
  5. THE DARKNESS KNOWS and HOMICIDE FOR THE HOLIDAYS audio CDs – The audio versions of books #1 and #2 in the Viv and Charlie Mystery Series (in case you need to catch up)

How can you enter?

Email the receipt or picture of the receipt proving you pre-ordered DIG DEEP MY GRAVE (paperback or ebook) to with the subject “DDMG Giveaway”. I’ll randomly pick one winner on August 7, 2018.

Where can you pre-order?

Indie Booksellers
Barnes & Noble
Books-A- Million

And anywhere else books are sold!

The contest is open now until August 7, 2018. Feel free to share on social media!

A Tick on the History Nerd Bucket List

Maybe it’s not fair to call it a bucket list – since I don’t have an actual list – but I know an opportunity when I see it. Old World Wisconsin is one of my all-time favorite places. I think this stems from my early (and often) exposure to Little House on the Prairie as a child – both the TV show and the books. It’s a living museum and it really is like walking into the books. If they offered overnight immersion experiences on one of the farms I’d jump on that in a second. Anyway, I happened to see that they were going to have tin type portraits available on Mother’s Day and how could I turn something like that down?

The day was overcast – perfect for taking photos outside. The session was with David Rambow from the H.H. Bennett Studio (in the Wisconsin Dells). He said he learned the craft in pre-internet days by going to the woods of New York and living with a hermit for a week. I think he was semi-serious (serious about how he learned the skill – not so serious about the hermit bit, but who knows). He built the camera using a lens from the 1850s and also a portable dark room for developing purposes. I didn’t know the process was so quick – a matter of 20 seconds to develop. Watch the magic below:

He said our pose (all Kate’s idea, by the way) reminded him this Civil War photo of a Southern spy and her daughter.

I can see why he’d say that – especially Kate’s hair and expression. Rose Greenhow’s (and daughter Rose Greenhow) photo was staged for the newspapers, but imagine wearing that dress in a prison! How uncomfortable. It hurts my ribs just to look at it.

It really was a magical experience. Next time maybe I’ll come in costume and then compare to this photo of my great-great grandparents who (I think) came to the US on their honeymoon (my great-grandmother, Anna, is the little blurry one).  My best guess at the date of this photo is 1871 or 72 since my great-great-grandmother was born in 1869 and she seems about 2 or 3 years old here (?). Not old enough to hold still anyway.

Oddly enough, there was a PBS segment about a tintype portraitist in Milwaukee very recently that also shows the process. I’m tempted to set up a session with her. The photos produced are lovely and imperfect – and there’s something gorgeous in that imperfection.

OTR Wednesday – The Rocket Ship

I am a child of the 80s, and like most children of that time one fear overrode all others for me – nuclear war. It probably sounds strange to anyone born after 1985 or so, but I assure you, the threat was very real during that days of the Cold War. I distinctly remember the Fallout Shelter signs on the walls of basement classrooms in elementary school – as if hiding under a little desk with my hands over my head would have helped at all if it had come to that…

One day I’ll do into just how deep this fear ran, but if you don’t know who Samantha Smith is – read up on her. She made a big impression on me. (Also The Day After and War Games – if those things don’t ring a bell and you have a few extra minutes)

I didn’t hear this episode of Lights Out until a few years ago (thank goodness). It aired on July 28, 1945 – only 12 days after the first atomic bomb was tested (near Alamogordo, New Mexico, on July 16, 1945, during the Manhattan Project) and a little over a week before those bombs were used on Hiroshima and Nagasaki (August 6 and 9, 1945).  I didn’t realize the significance of this until I looked up the dates just now.

Maybe leave the lights on for this one?



OTR Wednesday – Big Town (with an Edward G. Robinson tangent)

Today I’m sharing another old radio show that influenced my fictional detective serial “The Darkness Knows”. This is Big Town starring Edward G. Robinson (“See?”) and Claire Trevor. Robinson plays Steve Wilson, the crusading editor of the Illustrated Press. Trevor plays his sidekick who also happens to be the society editor of the paper. This episode is from 1937 right about the time Vivian was breaking into the radio biz.

Edward G. Robinson is probably one of the stars of the golden age of Hollywood that you recognize (even if you aren’t a fan) due to his reputation for playing gangsters and his distinctive tough guy way of speaking. He’s also parodied in a that Merrie Melodies cartoon that I’ve featured before on the blog called “Hollywood Steps Out” from 1941.

And as an added bonus I’m including this episode of Suspense called “The Man who Wanted to be Edward G. Robinson” from 1946. If you think the whole pop culture meta thing is a recent invention… you have to listen to this. It’s about a henpecked husband who meets the real Edward G. Robinson and wants him to help him kill his wife because he believes he is exactly like the heartless gangsters he plays on the screen.

OTR Wednesday – Dark Journey

I’m sharing another Suspense episode today – one I hadn’t heard before this week. But thanks to a new to me podcast (The Mysterious Old Radio Listening Society) I found this gem. And it is a gem. It was written by the master radio scribe, Lucille Fletcher who also wrote my favorite Suspense episode “Sorry, Wrong Number”.

What makes Dark Journey so special, you ask? Well, it’s an entire dramatic program that stars two women – just women. Which was rare in the 1940s – and rare still in 2018, unfortunately. It also goes in an unexpected direction that I should have seen coming, but didn’t. That’s how good Lucille Fletcher was. This episode of The Mysterious Old Radio Listening Society has a great discussion on it.

If you haven’t seen this chart about women’s speaking time in Oscar-winning films that’s been going around Twitter have a look.

Disheartening, isn’t it? It comes from a BBC article which also states women were better represented in films in the 1930s vs. today. As a classic film fan, I could have told you this, but it’s really starkly represented in this article. Give it a read after you listen to Dark Journey.

OTR Wednesday – “And the Moon be Still as Bright”

In honor of today’s #superbluebloodmoon (that I couldn’t see because of cloud cover… grr…) I’m sharing another unsettling adaptation of a Ray Bradbury short story. This one’s from the short-lived sci-fi program Dimension X (1950-51) and is adapted from one of the stories in Bradbury’s Martian Chronicles.

“And the Moon be Still as Bright” is about the 4th attempt at Mars colonization, and well, things don’t go great (with direct allusions to the European colonization of the US).

OTR Wednesday – The Mercury Theater’s A Christmas Carol

If you’ve read HOMICIDE FOR THE HOLIDAYS, then this is the rendition of A Christmas Carol that’s mentioned in the first chapter (although not by name). This version aired December 23, 1938 – the night of the Witchell’s Christmas party.

A movie version of A Christmas Carol had just come out starring Reginald Owen. That was a bit of casting blasphemy at the time since Lionel Barrymore was famous for his portrayal of Scrooge on the radio. He’d reprise the leading role (on radio at least) in 1939.

By the way, if Lionel Barrymore sounds familiar to you it’s probably because you know him as nasty old Mr. Potter in It’s a Wonderful Life. (That character isn’t far off Ebenezer Scrooge – except that Mr. Potter never has an epiphany and never becomes a better person…)

OTR Wednesday – The Pepsodent Show Starring Bob Hope

I grew up with Bob Hope Christmas shows on TV, so just hearing his voice is nostalgic for me. His show biz career spanned almost 80 years.

The Pepsodent Show Starring Bob Hope debuted in September 1938. On this episode, aired December 20, 1938, he welcomes Blondie and Dagwood Bumstead (which I also grew up with in the Sunday comics – do they even have those anymore?).  The first movie based on the comic strip had just come out in November 1938.

And of course, the episode ends with Bob’s rendition of “Thanks for the Memory” – his trademark.