Yay, Sweater Season!

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN:   Happy Saturday, Reds and readers! And are you doing fall things today?  Part of our farmshare was HoneyCrisp apples.  JACKPOT!  A neighboring town has prohibited pumpkins on doorsteps because they bring rats.  Our maple trees are going bright red, and the basil stems are woody. You can almost feel the plants sighing, and getting ready to give up. And the supply-chain problem hits the bulb place--our tulip bulbs will be delayed. But yay, sweater season!

The world is so insane. And that’s just one of the reasons I am so delighted to welcome our dear Carol Pouliot today! It’s always a special treat when a loyal reader and commenter gets to come to center stage--and today with her third mystery! And with such a lovely essay, too!

Stop the insanity for a few moments. Read this. And soak up the niceness.

An Ode to Autumn


CAROL POULIOT: I LOVE fall! I love the sights, sounds, and scents of this glorious season. As soon as I turn the calendar to September, I get excited about all my favorite fall activities—picking apples on a cool crisp sunny day, driving out to the country or up into the mountains to see the spectacular display of changing leaves, stopping at a roadside stand for pumpkins and buckets of jewel-toned mums.


Autumn also brings the excitement of learning and creating. I spent my entire life in school, first as a student, then as a language teacher, so September always feels like a new year to me. I’m inspired by the promise and possibilities of a clean slate. Even though I’ve retired from teaching, I still go out and buy new notebooks, folders, and pencils every year. Now, instead of class notes, they hold ideas for upcoming mysteries, plots, and characters. There’s nothing like opening a brand new notebook—those blank pages draw me in and my imagination soars.


My first real memory dates from when I was 5 years old and rode the school bus to kindergarten. I couldn’t wait to explore this new part of my world! I remember sitting on the hard vinyl seat looking up out of the window. I was so little that all I could see was the sky, treetops, and telephone wires strung like bunting from pole to pole. I was one of those kids who soaked up every second of learning, making new friends, and having adventures (One of my favorite words, by the way.) I remember not liking naptime. I wasn’t tired, and our classroom had lots of corners filled with exciting things to play with and books to look at. I would lie there silently bemoaning the waste of time napping when there was so much to explore. I haven’t changed much!


(See? I was buzzing with excitement on my 1st day of kindergarten, September 1955. )


In the fall, as temperatures drop, and nights become cool, the leaves on our trees here in the Northeast begin to change. The world transforms into a canvas of gold and scarlet, tangerine and chocolate. Like confetti, maple, oak, and hickory leaves dance in the breeze, floating down to cover the ground. They crunch and rustle under my feet as I take my daily walk. As we approach November, everywhere I go, people bundled up in flannel shirts and jeans are outside raking and burning piles of leaves by the road. The scent of burning leaves mixed with the crisp, chilled autumn air is a comforting smell. It signals longer nights, curled up with a book under a cozy throw. I dig out my collection of Edgar Allan Poe’s short stories and Agatha Christie’s Halloween Party. I read it, then watch the DVD with David Suchet as Hercule Poirot.


I can’t wait until Labor Day, when I unpack my fall treasures and decorate with fat orange pumpkins, black cats, witches, and plenty of candles. Years ago, at an auction, I bid on a “grab bag” of unseen items and hit the jackpot. The brown paper bag was filled with 1920s-1930s tin Halloween noisemakers. How much fun is that? I set them around the house, and I have to admit that whenever I walk past one, I usually pick it up and give it a whirl, a bang, or a blast—my own private affirmation of life.



What are your favorite fall memories, Jungle Reds and Readers?

HANK: Oh, those noisemakers are treasures!

And I just realized I get to go buy Twizzlers now, the test Twizzlers first, to make sure the ones we’ll eventually give out are good enough.

And I do wish I remembered kindergarten. It’s got to be in there somewhere. I kind of remember first grade. And I remember when I got toothpaste on my brand new and beloved first-day-of-school red sweater. I can honestly still picture that.

How about you all? 


In Death Rang the Bell, the 3rd installment in The Blackwell and Watson Time-Travel Mysteries, my protagonist, 21st-century journalist Olivia Watson, thinks traveling back in time to 1934 to attend a Halloween party with her friend Detective Steven Blackwell will be a lot of fun. And it is...until she witnesses the head of the Shipley Five-and-Dime empire murdered, and fears the killer saw her face.


The smart move is to return to the safety of the present, but Olivia possesses a secret and is about to defy the unwritten rules of time-travel. She convinces Steven to let her stay in his time and help unravel the motives behind the murder, even if it means risking her own life to save another.


When Steven delves into the investigation, he discovers how a bitter relationship, a chance encounter, and a fateful decision converged to set the stage for murder. In a maze full of unreliable clues and misdirection, dark secrets refuse to stay buried and forgotten ghosts won’t fade away. Steven is reminded that old sins cast long shadows.


Can Steven catch the killer before time runs out for Olivia?


About the author:

A Francophile at age 11, Carol Pouliot dreamed of going to Paris. After a Master’s at Stony Brook University, she headed to France for her first teaching job. She taught French and Spanish for over 30 years in Upstate New York, and founded an agency that provided translations in over 24 languages. Carol is the author of The Blackwell and Watson Time-Travel Mysteries, including the latest Death Rang the Bell. When not writing, Carol can be found reaching for her passport and packing a suitcase for her next adventure. Sign up for Carol’s newsletter and learn more at http://www.carolpouliot.com