Ashes to Ashes

Photo by Engin Akyurt on Pexels.com

Here’s the latest in my short stories collection that re-imagines the childhood of Dr. H.H. Holmes–Chicago’s (allegedly) first serial killer. If you enjoy it, you may like the others! Click here to read them.

Henry Webster sat at the top of the steps, just outside his attic bedroom. He was supposed to be getting ready for bed, but he learned much from his nightly eavesdropping. The New York Tribune, filched from the kitchen table after breakfast, lay neatly folded next to him. The headline for September 30, 1874, screamed from the page: “Little Charley Ross still missing!”

“I agree, it is quite disturbing and unsettling for a small child to go missing.” The voice of Henry’s father floated up the stairs. Henry heard the familiar clink of a tea cup being set down.

“It is more than unsettling, Levi. It’s more than disturbing. Between this poor four year old–” That was his mother, before his father interrupted her.

“Charley Ross went missing from Philadelphia, Theodora. That’s quite different from our little Gilmanton.”

A tea cup–Henry presumed it was his mother’s, given the force with which it was put down–clattered against a saucer. “Our little Gilmanton doesn’t know who bludgeoned Nancy Robertson, and I don’t think Ellen should go to work any longer.”

“Mother,” Henry’s sister, Ellen, began. “I understand your concern, but that was months ago, and Nancy was only twelve. Nothing has happened since then. Besides, her body was found past the woods near the creek. I walk the main road from our home to Dr. White’s office. No one is going to crack me over the head–”

“Ellen, do not speak so flippantly of that poor girl’s demise,” her mother interjected with a tone familiar to all of the Webster children.

“No one is going to murder me–”

“Ellen,” her father said. “I think that’s enough talk of murder. Your mother and I will discuss this further.”

A chair scraped against the wood floor. Henry could picture Ellen standing up and placing a hand on their father’s shoulder. She always did when she wanted her way.

“Father, Mother, please just remember that working for Dr. White is the only way I’ll be able to go to Oberlin. I’m saving all of my money–all of it–to pay for my schooling.”

More tea cup clinking. A squeaking floorboard indicated Ellen was in front of her bedroom door. The door shut.

His parents resumed their conversation.

“She’s right, Theodora,” Henry’s father said. “We’ve had several bad years in a row on the farm now. Not that I thought my daughter would want to go to college and my youngest son would want to be a doctor. Thank the Lord Arthur wanted to follow in my footsteps.”

“Levi, a young girl was just…just murdered in our town. I don’t want Ellen anywhere alone. It’s not safe.”

“Thea.” 

Henry recognized the change of his father’s voice. The tone, coupled with his father using her name’s diminutive, meant Levi Mudgett was about to use his skills of persuasion. 

“Dr. White said that he would be willing to close up shop and take her with him if he were called out. That way she would never be alone.” Henry imagined his father taking a well-timed sip of tea. Clink. Henry smiled. He was right. “Our daughter is bright. And times are changing. If you’d had the opportunity to further your schooling…”

There it is, Henry thought, smirking. The last nail in the conversational coffin. His father was nothing if not persuasive, and appealing to his mother’s wistfulness about school, well, there was a reason Ellen and Henry usually got their way–at least outside of the house. Their father was a master of manipulation, and he taught them well.

Some people didn’t like the Websters because of that family trait. They thought them untrustworthy. Henry saw it differently: he felt most people in Gilmanton were easily led.

His sister was just as intelligent, but she was honest to a fault. She didn’t believe in convincing people cunningly; she just wanted to put it all out there and let people make their own decisions. Of course, if it meant getting a new hair ribbon or going to Philadelphia with her friend, Elizabeth Dean, when her family went there for a whole week, Ellen was not above using manipulation.

Henry thought that letting people make their own decisions was stupid. That was fine at the Webster dinner table. They were all smart, and for as long as Henry could remember, his parents engaged their children in philosophical debates daily. But not everyone was smart. School showed him that. And those people needed to be led to the right conclusions, not left to their own free will. 

Henry stood slowly and entered his room, carefully shutting the door behind him. The missing boy and dead girl didn’t cross his mind. Instead, his thoughts turned to college. He, too, would have to find a way to pay for it. He knew that once Ellen left for Oberlin, he’d be able to take her place at Dr. White’s office, but that was still a year away. He smiled at the thought. He was already at the physician’s office on a near-daily basis, gleaning whatever bits of information he could from the doctor. To get paid for something he enjoyed so much seemed too good to be true. But it was true. And Dr. White said he’d write him a reference for any medical school he wanted to go to. The challenge would be affording it.

Henry’s parents were comfortable, but not well off. Raising four children was not a cheap endeavor, and though Levi Webster inherited his farm and house from his own father, Henry noticed the pursestrings had closed tighter the past few years. Many nights he overheard his parents discussing the failed crops, the sale of more land, and the question of going to the bank. Inheriting the farmstead meant they lived in a large home, but not the largest home in Gilmanton. They had nice clothes, but not the nicest. They had one servant, but not four like the Dean family. They certainly didn’t take week-long trips to big cities.

Henry vowed his life would be different. He’d have the biggest home, the nicest clothes, and as many servants as he wanted. He’d remind Gilmanton who the Websters really were: one of the founding families of the town. Over time, they’d lost their power and clout to others, but Henry would get it back. Being a doctor was just the beginning of his plan to restore his family’s legacy. 

#

“That’s terrible about Marshall Oberhund.” Henry’s mother was serving oatmeal from the glowing wood-burning stove. 

“Miss Oberhund’s brother?” Henry asked. He took a seat next to his father, across from the window where the sun created its own stained glass in the mornings. Ellen was primping in her bedroom. Their brother Arthur was already in the field.

“Yes,” his father said. “He broke his back and won’t be able to help James Collins with his stove business.”

Henry’s eyes crinkled. 

His mother put a plate of warm bread on the table. “That’s going to put him in a bad spot.” 

“I imagine so. He does a fair turn of business here, but he also travels all the way up to Lake Winnipesaukee.”

“And with winter coming up,” Henry’s mother said, sitting down at the table with a sigh. 

Henry took a slice of the steaming bread. 

“Father, do you think I could help Mr. Collins? You’ve taught me all about our stove.” 

“I thought you were going to work for Dr. White, Henry?” his mother asked.

“I will take Ellen’s place, but that’s still a ways off.” Henry carefully let his spoon rest against his oatmeal bowl. “I think I need to start now to save for school.”

The unfamiliar spread of a smile crossed his father’s face. 

“I can’t say I’ve ever seen someone so young with such big plans for himself, Henry.” He sat back in his chair, looking over his youngest son. “On one condition. You’ll come back here to be the town’s doctor–and use that brain of yours to help your brother run this farm.”

Henry proudly returned the smile. “Yes, sir!”

“I’ll speak with Mr. Collins today, after I walk your sister to town.” 

#

Within three months, James Collins allowed Henry to answer calls on his own. He had an uncanny ability to remember facts and figures, so his knowledge of proper ash disposal and the various ignition temperatures of wood paralleled that of his employer. It was a dirty job, different from the type of dirty Henry got when dissecting or helping Dr. White put more samples in jars. But he was making nice deposits into his savings account each week, even now that school had started.

One day, Henry had a call to go to the Lintons’ house. The Lintons were becoming a near-weekly occurrence. Mrs. Linton didn’t want to have to empty ash and still, in spite of Henry’s attempts to educate her, had no concept of what the flue and dampers were for. As a result, there was often smoke billowing into her kitchen. 

Henry knocked on the door. 

“Oh, Henry. I’m so glad to see you. I just don’t know what the problem could be this time.” Mrs. Linton rubbed her hands on her blackened apron. Henry dutifully lugged in the ash bin and his brushes. A baby squalled from the upstairs. Mrs. Linton’s face pained.

“Little Malachi is awake. I’ll leave you to this, Henry, if you don’t mind I tend to the baby?”

“Of course, Mrs. Linton.” He smiled.

The kitchen was indeed smoky, and soot had settled on every still surface. Henry opened up the stove’s door. His eyes widened in disbelief. Shoving more fuel in is not going to make a fire, Mrs. Linton. He shook his head and put on the thick gloves Mr. Collins had given him. Placing the ash bin below the door, he pulled out pieces of wood. Then he turned his attention to the massive amount of ash. 

After a thorough cleaning, Henry added some small pieces of wood–chips, really–for tinder, and then added small logs on top of those. He lit it, waiting for it to catch. Staring into the dancing flames, Henry’s eyes snapped open. He looked down into the ash bin, recalling a conversation he’d had recently with Dr. White.

Fire destroys everything. It all turns to ash. Nothing left behind. An otherworldly smile crept onto Henry’s face. 

“Mrs. Linton,” he called out. “I’m all finished here.”

“Thank you, Henry. I don’t know where I’d be without you.” She tried to smile, but her eyes were rimmed with darkness, and not just from the soot that settled in the crevices of her face. “Here you are.”

Henry wrote her a receipt for the two dollars, thanked her, and left.

#

A gust of cold air ran its icy fingers through Henry’s hair. He crossed the yard of dormant grass and followed the creek to his father’s barn. As he poked past a mound of hay, his heart skipped a beat. He saw exactly what he’d hoped for: a dead mouse lying in the trap. 

Time to test his theory. 

It was unusual for Henry to have the house to himself, but today his parents were in town for a church meeting, and Ellen was working at Dr. White’s. He brought his barn-find into the kitchen and stoked the stove’s fire. Waiting until the flames licked the top of the stove’s firebox, Henry stared at the dead mouse. 

The fire burning at a rate sufficient to Henry, he quickly yet gently put the mouse on the grate and closed the small door. Fifteen minutes passed before he opened it again. The mouse was gone. He scooped the ash to be sure, sifting it side to side. Part of a minute skull, charred and misshapen, remained.

Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.

#

A week later, Henry sat in his usual chair in Dr. White’s private office, inspecting the articulated skeleton. Ellen was compounding the doctor’s “Soothing Syrup for Babies and Toddlers” at the apothecary counter.

The doctor’s voice shook Henry from his thoughts. “Hello, Henry. Interesting news from Philadelphia today.” 

Dr. White’s outstretched hand held the Philadelphia Inquirer. A small headline read, “Sir Henry Thompson and British Cremation Society Cremate First Body.” Henry’s eyes widened. He snatched the newspaper. 

“Sir Henry Thompson, backed by the British Cremation Society and Queen Victoria herself, cremated the first body in England on December 6. Citing cremation as a more hygienic and efficient option for dealing with remains than burial, the Cremation Society still has a large number of adversaries against this questionable treatment of the human body.”

Henry sat back. Silence permeated the small room. 

“Dr. White,” Henry began. “What is the ignition temperature of the human body?” 

Such a conversation was forbidden at home. The Methodists, which included Henry’s parents, still saw cremation as desecration of the human body, and thought it to be against God’s will. But Henry knew that he could talk about these things with Dr. White. The two of them understood that decaying, diseased bodies at funerals could cause illness for the mourners. British research also questioned what happened to the water supply when human remains were buried near streams, rivers, and lakes. 

“Roughly 700 degrees for ignition. Sir Thompson’s crematory registered over 1,000 degrees on his thermometer during the cremation.” 

Henry cocked his head, his brain calculating. “Depending on the type, it takes between 300 and 700 degrees for wood to burn completely.” 

“The crematory is specially built for the increased heat–and to maintain it within.”

Henry looked back at the newspaper and read.

“All that remains is ash and bits of bone.”

“Isn’t science incredible, Henry?” The doctor sat down at his desk. “I told you we were on the cusp of a new world.”

#

Henry didn’t eavesdrop from the top of the stairs that night. Instead, he shut himself in his room, continuing to marvel over Sir Thomas’ crematory. Pulling the small box from beneath his bed, he opened it and touched the marble and button. He stroked the white leather glove, the strip of leather from a toy, and the butter-yellow thread. Then, he caught sight of the mouse’s skull. Henry’s eyes narrowed. His mouth formed a sneer. Another piece of his plan fell in place.

Unsolved Crimes: Jelani Day

Jelani Day, photo from The Jelani Day Foundation

Jumping back into unsolved crimes this week on the blog. I’ve already shared several, such as the case of Robert Bee, Jr., a 13-year old who went missing in 2016 and was found dead months later; and Richard Griener, another 13-year old who went missing in 1972 and was never found, even 50 years later. Today, I’d like to share the tragedy of Jelani Day, a graduate student at Illinois State University, in Normal, Illinois. 

Day, originally from Danville, Illinois, had completed his undergraduate degree at Alabama A&M University before deciding upon ISU for his masters in speech pathology. On August 24, 2021, he inexplicably disappeared. 

On the day Jelani went missing, he arrived at the ISU campus, got coffee at the campus Starbucks, and then left. Police assume he went back to his apartment and changed clothes, because the next video sighting of him is at a marijuana dispensary in Normal. He can be seen on video inside the facility where he purchased one joint. He did not go to his classes that day and did not have any contact with anyone else beyond the dispensary, as far as the public knows. 

Just two days later on August 26, his car was found abandoned and somewhat obscured in a wooded area in the center of Peru, Illinois, just behind a YMCA. Day’s mother arranged a search party over the weekend as she felt the police were not doing enough (more on that later). Eleven days after he went missing, his lifeless body was discovered in the Illinois River near Peru, about 60 miles north-northwest from Normal. 

Day’s story is one in which his actions of the day do not match up with how others describe him. The day he went missing would have been his first day of clinicals in his first week of classes. It would be entirely out of character for him to skip class as he was an excellent student and had dreams of being a doctor. Everyone skips once in a while though, right? But this was the first week of class. He missed an important meeting with his adviser at the college. It was so unlike him that a professor reported him missing because that just wasn’t Jelani. Furthermore, he didn’t answer his cell phone when his mother called him. In fact, he didn’t answer his cell phone at all. 

Stranger still, Day’s car was found in the middle of Peru–over 60 miles from ISU. His family and friends know of no reason he’d be in that area: he had no family nor friends there. Peru is an easy drive up Route 39 from Normal, but there is no evidence that he stopped there to eat or for gas or anything else that would explain him being there. 

His family was hopeful that there would be some forensic evidence between the car and his body to explain what happened, but this has actually been a source of contention and confusion. If any type of forensics have been discovered, the police have kept them quiet. And while his death was ruled a drowning, it is still undetermined as far as accident, suicide, or homicide, allegedly due to the decomposition from being in the water.

After the body’s discovery, his wallet and clothes were found three miles from the location of the body, which was about 1.5 miles from his car. His ISU lanyard was found in a different location in Peru, and his phone was found on I-74, an interstate that runs from Bloomington-Normal to Peoria, with an off-ramp for I-39 towards Peru. Despite the fact that investigators now had a car and a body and other personal effects, they apparently have nothing–or at least they’ve released nothing. 

Was it a carjacking and murder? Was it a desperate and depressed college student who took his own life? Or was it a guy who needed to get away for a little bit, and met with an accident?

Let’s start with the latter. I was a college student once too, and I can completely understand as a good student saying the heck with it and skipping one day because you just needed it. I can also understand hopping on the interstate and going for a drive. I can even buy the accident idea if his car was near the river, but it wasn’t. Also, why was his phone tossed back near Normal? And his wallet by his car? That just doesn’t seem like someone who has met with an accident.

What about depression? One theory is that, despite his family’s protests of him being a happy, positive, energetic person who would never consider suicide, he was battling depression and took his life. After all, family members may think they know someone, but do we really? Perhaps they saw only what he wanted them to see. There was nothing anyone was aware of that occurred to trigger him being upset or angry. In fact, his professors, to a person, talked about his bright future. Again, perhaps he had them fooled too. But would he drive all the way to Peru, a place he was not familiar with, effectively hide his car, and then walk to the river to drown himself? That seems unlikely, especially since he was a good swimmer.

So that leaves us with murder. A carjacking certainly seems plausible, since there is video evidence of his vehicle leaving the parking lot of the dispensary, but you can’t see who is driving it. It also would make sense with a phone being chucked out a window on I-74, his car being hidden, his body found some distance away and in a river, and his wallet being tossed near the car. But where is the evidence? The coroner said his body didn’t have any trauma. I have a hard time believing that forensics couldn’t recover anything from the car, and yet, this seems like the only explanation.

That is also what Day’s family believes. They thought from day one that he met with foul play, because the person they knew would not just disappear. They do not feel that the police did enough, whether it was the Bloomington-Normal police or the Peru police. Day’s mother, Carmen Bolden-Day, pressured them to involve the state police and the FBI, and I truly believe that without her continual pressure, it would have taken even longer to find his car and remains. I can understand that the police may not consider a college kid a serious missing person case, at least at first, but when his professor reports him missing after one day–not just his mother–because he just wasn’t that kind of person, that seems like a different level. And, keep in mind, Jelani was not some sophomore in college. He was in grad school. That’s a person who has committed to his education. 

Day’s case brought a significant issue to light: how missing white people garner much more attention than missing black people. Around the same time that Day went missing, Gabby Petito also went missing. Her situation made international headlines. Day’s barely made it across Illinois’s state lines.

Another potential twist in the story is that Peru was (and still is, by some) considered a “sundown” town. A sundown town traditionally got its name from the expectation that black people would be out of town by sundown–or risk lynching. However, it would seem that Jelani was abducted/carjacked in Normal near ISU, since his phone was tossed on I-74. I don’t think that he met with foul play only upon his arrival to Peru; I think that started before he left his college town.

His mother has created the Jelani Day Foundation to help draw attention to the case as well as to provide funds to help others in their searches when they are not getting proper attention. She also fought for and got passed Senate Bill 3932, The Jelani Day Bill, which requires coroners to notify the FBI of any remains not identified within 72 hours. His mom sounds like a powerhouse to me. I just hope that she gets some answers eventually. Someone, somewhere, knows something.

If you have any information regarding the disappearance or death of Jelani Day, please contact the Jelani Day Joint Task Force at 1-800-CALL-FBI. They have a $10,000 reward for significant information.

H. H. Holmes & Keanu Reeves: Confirmed!

Getty Images photo of Keanu Reeves

It’s official! Several news outlets have confirmed that Hulu is producing a 2024 series based on Erik Larson’s novel, Devil in the White City, and said series will star Keanu Reeves as Daniel Burnham. Burnham was a well-known and legendary architect in Chicago who was also a force behind the World’s Fair there in 1893, and Larson’s book travels back and forth between a Burnham/World’s Fair storyline and an H. H. Holmes storyline. (Thus began my obsession with Holmes! I had never heard of him (or his exploits) prior to reading Larson.)

Variety’s August 4, 2022, article says that Rick Yorn, Jennifer Davisson, Stacey Sher, Sam Shaw, and Mark Lafferty are all serving as executive producers–alongside Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio. I am still holding out hope that DeCaprio will be cast as Holmes because I feel he could so capture the smooth-talking criminal that Holmes was.

As I’ve mentioned before (and before that), DiCaprio purchased the film rights to Larson’s bestseller back in 2010. Hulu announced in 2019 it was in talks with DiCaprio and Scorsese, but, like with so many other things, COVID probably got in the way and caused further delays. Regardless, this girl is BEYOND stoked to see this finally coming to fruition!

H. H. Holmes + Keanu Reeves?

The Legend of Keanu Reeves – GQ

The rumors behind a Martin Scorsese/Leonardo DiCaprio film adaptation of Erik Larson’s Devil in the White City have been around for literally years now. (Read more on my blog post about this very thing.) DiCaprio purchased the film rights back in 2010, and it sounds like it’ll be a Hulu mini-series instead of a full feature-length movie. The latest news/gossip is that Keanu Reeves is in talks to star in the movie. I’m not sure if I’d prefer Reeves or DiCaprio as the villain, personally. After years of watching DiCaprio in Romeo and Juliet thanks to teaching high school English, I couldn’t imagine him as Holmes, but when I saw him in Shutter Island, I changed my mind. However, Reeves definitely has the tall, dark, and handsome looks that H. H. Holmes is repeatedly described as having. What do you think? Who would be the better H. H. Holmes?

H. H. Holmes + Leonardo DiCaprio?

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Back in February of 2019, Hulu announced that it would be teaming up with Leonardo DiCaprio and Martin Scorsese to introduce the world to Erik Larson’s Devil in the White City, the book that brought H. H. Holmes back into the limelight, via a television series. Back in 2003, DiCaprio bought the rights to make it into a movie, and he and Scorsese had been at some level of the production since 2015. I have to admit, I’d rather have a television series that I can enjoy than one single movie, but then I’m a smidge obsessed with Holmes.

Apparently, Tom Cruise was originally the first Hollywood hot shot to be interest, but that fell through, and within a year, DiCaprio picked it up. When he and Scorsese were planning the film version, the plan was for DiCaprio to play Holmes–and wouldn’t he be amazing in that role? His gentlemanly manner and charming smile certainly remind me of Holmes. However, now that Hulu is involved, it’s likely that they’ll come up with a different lead, but Hulu is not releasing any details. (And I’d looooove some details!)

Don’t forget, Larson’s book was not solely about Holmes. It has a broad appeal to non-fiction lovers since Holmes’ story is spliced into that of the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago. If you’re a history buff, a lover of architecture, or enamored with life in the late 19th century, there will be something for you in the book and the television series.

Sign up for my email list today! I have the H. H. Holmes Handbook coming out soon, and my subscribers will not only get a first look but get it for free!

An H. H. Holmes Haunting?

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Though we don’t have H. H. Holmes’ “murder castle” to check out anymore (it sat where today’s Englewood post office sits), there are other locations that Holmes is connected to. Some are simply connections by way of the 1893 World’s Fair, like Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry, but some are more, well, gruesome. One of those locations is a house in Irvington, Indiana, featured on this season’s first episode of Ghost Hunters. For you paranormal lovers, you can watch that here!

On October 5, 1894, Holmes rented the cute little cottage from J.C. Wands. He was seen on the premises with Howard Pitezel, the son of his right-hand man, Benjamin–whom he had already killed. Eventually, once Holmes’ number was up, Detective Frank Geyer investigated the Irvington house and discovered bones belonging to Howard Pitezel. Howard was just a child, and Howard seems to be one of the spirits haunting the house.

Read a first-hand (and beautifully-written) account of what living in the house is like by former resident Pepper Partin. Here’s an excerpt: “When America’s first serial killer, Dr. H.H. Holmes, turned the key to the rental house nestled on the outskirts of a beautiful little town six miles east of Indianapolis, did the threshold buckle with the weight of what would happen here? The trees, it seems, aren’t talking. But the lingering spirits share evocative vignettes.”

What do you think? Does little Howard Pitezel pine for a transition to the other side? Or is he destined to haunt his last home?

Sign up for my email list today! I have the H. H. Holmes Handbook coming out soon, and my subscribers will not only get a first look but get it for free!

 

Who was H. H. Holmes?

HH-HolmesWho was H. H. Holmes? Many things. A physician. A brother. A master manipulator. Chicago’s first serial killer. The source of my unending curiosity for the past few years.

H. H. Holmes was born in Gilmanton, New Jersey, in 1861. Made infamous through Erik Larson’s non-fiction The Devil in the White City, Holmes has now been the feature of several documentaries and bus tours in Chicago that will take you by his killing grounds–including the former location of his Murder Castle.

Sound ominous? It should. The more I learn about him, the more intrigued/baffled I become. (So much so that I wrote a novel, published some short stories, and started this website and blog!)

Jeff Mudgett, Holmes’ great-great grandson and author of Bloodstains, was the driving force behind the History Channel’s American Ripper docuseries. One goal of the show was to determine if Holmes could have been London’s Jack the Ripper (there is documentation that he was in London at the time of the murders), and another was to determine if Holmes was actually the body in his grave. His really weird double-grave, encased in concrete. No, I’m not making this up.

In the end, the History Channel’s experts determined that the body in Holmes grave was a “conclusive link” to the real Holmes.

Jeff Mudgett disagrees, and I can’t say I blame him.

On a recent Facebook post, he outlines his reasons–based upon admissions of court-appointed anthropologists from the University of Pennsylvania:

  1. The physical injuries that should occur upon hanging, like a broken hyoid bone, were not there.
  2. The DNA did not match.
  3. The skeleton size itself did not fit the descriptions of Holmes.

Holmes was a mastermind when it came to life insurance scams, stealing bodies, killing people, forging dental records, etc. Let’s not forget he was a doctor who was intimately aware of the human body, as he often stole bodies and killed people to make articulated skeletons that he could then sell to universities. Is it such a leap to think he could have managed to fake his death?

If you too are morbidly interested in this man, check out the rest of my website and short stories. And  sign up for my email list. I have the H. H. Holmes Handbook coming out soon, and my subscribers will not only get a first look but get it for free!

 

 

The Case of Robert Bee

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As part of a mini-series of unsolved crime blogs, I wrote about Robert Bee, a 13 year old who went missing from very near where I live and work. Too near. Later on, his remains were discovered scattered mere miles from his home. Most of us here feel his case has not received the attention it–or he–deserved.

Enter Ashes To Ash TV. According to their Facebook page, they are “an episodic true crime series” in the form of a documentary and podcast. They chose the Robert Bee case as their first. Episode 5 was just released.

If you are a true crime/unsolved mystery kind of person, this is a must watch. Check them out on their Facebook page or on Youtube. Let me know what you think after you watch!

And if you are indeed a true crime/unsolved mystery kind of person, sign up for my email list. There will be special freebies along the way, like snippets of The Devil Inside Me, backstory on characters, and explorations of the serial killing mind.

Be Gentle to Yourself on New Year’s

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Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Ah, January 1. A fresh start no matter how you look at it. Even if you aren’t ambitiously making goals, it is still the first day of a brand new year, and there’s something to a brand new year.

If you are making goals, check out my last New Year’s post on how to take time for successful goal-setting.

But if you aren’t…read on.

Has life handed you challenges over the past few years? Is the thought of adding goals to your already-full plate enough to make you crawl back into bed?

Sometimes goals are overrated.

Yep. I said it.

Oh, I think they are important. To progress in life, we must aim for something. However, one thing we overlook is that word: progress.

Life happens. Illness happens. Job change happens.

When those things happen, our goals end up on the backburner, and we often say forget it. I can’t do it now. I don’t have enough time. I might as well just quit on it and try again next year. And then we quit. And we don’t progress.

Why don’t we cut ourselves slack and revisit and revise our goals instead of quitting on them–and on ourselves?

Last year, I wrote about my own need to revise my goals. I wasn’t sure how or when I would manage to revise my submitted manuscript, but I knew I would do it.

Then life happened.

I had an opportunity to shift from teaching English to Spanish, and, as something that has been in the back of my head since I began teaching (my Spanish texts have always sat alongside my English texts on my classroom bookshelves), I jumped.

People thought I was crazy. I have 13 years in as an English teacher. Why change now?

Why not?

It was one of the most freeing things I’ve done. Just making that choice, knowing that I could do it, created an epiphany for me: If you don’t grab those opportunities when they arise, will you ever see them again? (Cue Eminem’s “Lose Yourself.”)

I also knew making that choice would impact my revisions. The paying job has to come first. Instead of giving up, I revised my goals. AGAIN.

As the first semester came to a close, out came my manuscript. I was so stoked to be back at it that I worked at it every single day. Looking back, the wait was good for me–and for the manuscript. Fresh eyes and a revived passion made a world of difference, and I’ve already made the first round of revisions.

Heading into the new year, I’ll begin the more arduous round of revising, but still with the same fresh eyes and revived passion. My new goal is to have it ready for submission by the end of May.

So don’t quit–on those goals, those dreams, or yourself. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing right now. Keep progressing, for that’s what we should really measure ourselves by.

Happy New Year!

 

Please share your journey with me! I love to hear from other writers. Not a writer? You should still sign up for my email list! There will be special freebies along the way, like snippets of The Devil Inside Me, backstory on characters, and explorations of the serial killing mind.

I’m back!

branch cold freezing frost
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I planned to take a nice little sabbatical from social media and blogging over the summer to do a massive edit/re-write on The Devil Inside Me. Life, however, presented me with a wonderful opportunity: to teach Spanish instead of English. I love languages and their connections and differences, and a tiny voice has been in the back of my head for YEARS telling me to take this leap. Even better: it’s at the school I was teaching at anyway, which makes for a seamless transition with peers and administration.

Needless to say, I spent my summer prepping for Spanish I, II, III, and IV. I’m a department of one.

With the first semester finishing this week, the feeling that I’m subbing for someone else has subsided and my students are doing well. Time to get back to writing and blogging!

At first I was annoyed about putting my manuscript on the backburner, despite the advice of letting it sit and stew–but there’s a reason that’s repeated advice: it makes a huge difference. Finally, I was able to re-read it with fresh eyes and an equally fresh perspective, open to changes and suggestions from agents. Most importantly: I finished one round of massive editing. Winter break will herald the start of equally massive revisions.

I’ve got some short stories in the works, I’ve refreshed the website, and via the blog I’ll be sharing good things I discover along this new part of my path toward publication. Please share your journey with me as well! I love to hear from other writers. Don’t forget to sign up for my email list! There will be special freebies along the way, like snippets of The Devil Inside Me, backstory on characters, and helpful guides on writing!