H. H. Holmes + Leonardo DiCaprio?

Martin_Scorsese_y_Leonardo_DiCaprio

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!

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!

 

 

Be Gentle to Yourself on New Year’s

pexels-photo-3401900.jpeg
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!

Unsolved Crimes: Richard Griener

Richard Griener Pekin Illinois

Dressed warmly for the winter weather in a gold-colored jacket, green rubber insulated boots, and a brown ski mask, 13 year old Richard William Griener left home for an afternoon of sledding on January 17, 1972. The boy headed toward a local park just four blocks from his house in Pekin, Illinois. He made it, for he joined some friends; however, the last time they saw him was around 5:30pm. Richard Griener was never seen again–alive or dead.

The entire area was searched multiple times, but zero evidence was found of Griener, not even the blue sled that he’d been carrying that day. At this point, experts believe he is dead, but the case is still considered active as they’re always looking for leads.

There was one lead–and only one lead–that was a plausible one. William “Freight Train” Guatney confessed to multiple murders of children during this time, including one that was kidnapped just 200 yards from where Griener was last seen. In the late 70s, fourteen children were found dead near various railroad switches and near towns with an ongoing or just-ended fair. Griener was never found, but he did have to cross a railroad switch to get back and forth from the sledding hill. Guatney, whose nickname came from his ability to mimic a train whistle, traveled by trains around the Midwest to make money helping out at state and county fairs. After his confession, he was found incompetent to stand trial and was committed to a mental institution, where he died.

Guatney may have been a lead, and Griener’s age was within Guatney’s preference, but there was one huge difference: the missing and murdered children attributed to Guatney all disappeared in the summer. Griener went missing in the winter.

If you have any information on this case, please contact the Pekin Police Department at 309-478-5300.

 

 

 

Unsolved Crime: Robert Bee

bee

When kids run away from home, they often return shortly after: they realize that it’s not as fun on their own. However, when a child has a great deal of freedom, few rules, and a questionable home life, returning may not be a huge deal.

Such was the case with 13 year old Robert Bee.

One warm November day in 2016, Bee ran away from home–allegedly to avoid a truancy officer. Running away was not unusual for him (nor was avoiding the truancy officer), but this time, Bee did not return home.

In fact, he didn’t return home a week later or a month later. Instead, his remains were found eight months later, already decomposed after a long winter, already disturbed by animals in the rural area his bones were found.

So what happened to Robert Bee? We still don’t know.

Bee, from the small town of Pekin in central Illinois, had some behavioral issues. His mom readily admitted that she may have been too lax with him, allowing him too much freedom for his age. Others in the community said that while he was high energy, he was a kind-hearted boy.

When he went missing, multiple stories cropped up. Did he spend the night at a friend’s house? If so, why didn’t he take his bike? Why didn’t he take his cell phone? Both were left at home, and it didn’t appear he took any clothing to run away for an extended amount of time, either.

Of course, the first place the police must look is within the home, and that’s where the case became muddied. Lisa Bee, Robert’s mother, was not exactly mother of the year. Her social media alone made that clear. She was also involved with a man who was violent–and against whom she took out an order of protection a month before Bee’s disappearance. Then, not even a month after her son went missing, she moved out of her home and to a town about an hour south.

While Bee’s extended family was prominent in the search for the boy, his mother was noticeably absent. Multiple state agencies searched for him as well as a missing-persons search group, but no one had any luck.

About eight months after Bee went missing, his remains were found two miles from his home. By remains, I mean just that. The elements had helped decomposition along as well as animals roaming the wooded area where he was found.

The remains elicited no further leads on the case, aside from this: the property on which his remains were found belonged to a woman who lives nearby. She is related to someone “who is involved in the investigation,” according to Pekin police detective Seth Ranney.

Over two years later, the case remains unsolved and no one has been charged with any crime.

Goals: Revised and Resubmitted

beach dawn dusk ocean
Photo by Sebastian Voortman on Pexels.com

Ah, what a couple of months will do to that pristine list of goals I created for 2019. I even blogged about the pride I had in myself for meeting my 2018 goals. I was so sure that 2019 would be the same.

In late 2018, I submitted my manuscript for The Devil Inside Me to a little under 20 agents and small press publishers–and received full requests from five of them. Five! Excited does not even begin to describe my feelings. I had done my research. I followed tips from top people in the industry. My hard work was paying off. My plan for 2019 was to get an agent or publish with a small press, and I could see it coming to fruition. While I waited to hear, I continued writing short stories, started The Devil Before Me, and began work on a short story chapbook.

Then, slowly, one rejection arrived, then another, and still another.

I was buoyed by the next two rejections–which were R&Rs (revise and resubmit). They both had the same suggestions for edits, and I learned through my participation in a bootcamp class that if more than one agent is telling you the same thing, they’re probably right. And they are.

Where does that leave my list of goals? That, too, needed a revise and resubmit–to myself. I wanted to start right away with the edits. I took care of the easy ones, but the rest will require some undivided time and attention from me. Right now, that is a virtual impossibility. I will be switching from teaching full-time English to full-time Spanish for the next school year, and with that comes brand-new lesson planning. I am also on our bargaining team for our school contract. Our next meeting is from 3:30pm to 8:30pm, if that gives you an indication of time commitment.

So what to do? The logical part of my brain says wait until summer. The perfectionist in me screams, “You must start now!”

My answer arrived when I was fishing for something on C. S. Lakin’s website, Live Write Thrive. I found this blog of hers: “A Time to Write and a Time to Not Write.”

In it, she explains that writers will go through seasons, a time of writing and a time of not writing–and that it is perfectly fine and even normal to do so. I felt as if she were speaking directly to me when she said that “writers, like all creatives, can be obsessive.” I was feeling that I was failing at my writing if I dared shelve edits until summer break. However, with all the extra responsibilities currently on my plate, I’m often mentally exhausted when I get home at the end of the day, and my creativity is sapped. Lakin went on to say that occasionally her “brain feels as if it is going to explode or implode from all the heavy thinking.”

Yes, yes, yes.

I was able to make a compromise with myself after reading her article. The heavy edits I’m saving until summer break, but I’ll continue my other weekly writing commitments, like blog work and short story work. An additional benefit to this is the fresh eyes I’ll bring to my manuscript.

We can’t be afraid to re-align our plans. Pressing pause does not equal stopping, and it certainly doesn’t equal failing. Revise and resubmit those goals–for yourself!

How to Set Goals–and Achieve Them

abstract art blur bokeh
Photo by freestocks.org on Pexels.com

Today is my one year blog-iversary! I feel like trumpets should be sounding, confetti should be flying, and someone should be pouring the champagne. Why?  Because I hit my writing goals last year. Every last one of them, including starting and maintaining this blog.

How? Great question since I procrastinate. I fear failure. I loathe imperfection. I spent a few months prepping my website (hellooooo learning curve) and preparing a few blog posts in order to go live January 1, 2018. On that date in my planner, I wrote, “Do not be afraid!” I knew I would chicken out if I didn’t have that reminder. Taking my writing public and opening myself for critique and criticism was a huge challenge and risk for me. But here I am–still alive.

If this sounds like you, trust me when I say if I could do it, you can too. Here is the short version of the steps I took. If you’d like a free goal-setting worksheet, click here!

Give yourself some quiet time and space to think.

Maybe the local coffee shop has enough background noise for you to concentrate. Maybe you send the kids to grandma’s for a few hours so you have silence in your own home. Whatever your brand of thinking space, make room for it. You need to genuinely consider your dreams here, and that won’t come easily if you’re trying to multitask. I set aside an hour but found I needed only about 20 minutes to be honest with myself.

What are your wants and dreams?

Don’t be bashful–be honest. If you could have/do/be anything, what would it be? Write it all down. Silence that inner critic that tells you it’s impossible or stupid or too far out of reach. Then, take each dream and ask yourself how you could make it happen. What are the baby steps you’d have to take to start down that path? Write it all down and create a timeline for yourself.

Then, be honest with yourself. One of my dreams is to get a literary agent. I have zero control over that in some ways, but I can write and edit and edit some more. I can polish my work and give it to beta readers and re-work it some more. I can research the industry and find out how to write a kick-butt query letter. I can do more research and find out which agents would be the best match for me and for my writing.

One of my dreams is also to win the lottery, but there’s not much I can do short of buying tickets. Which I never do. Assess your dreams and look for the kind of difference between my two examples here.

Put your list of dreams and goals where you’ll see them.

I printed mine out and put it in my planner. I also had a copy on my phone. I didn’t want it displayed on a wall at home or on my desk at work. This was a private challenge for me.

Some people will tell you to share your goals with someone else to better hold yourself accountable. This is a great idea, but I would like to add something: Only share them with someone who is in your corner, who supports you no matter what, and who knows the inner workings of your brain. I told my husband that I was really going to go for writing a book, but that was it. My intrinsic fear of failure coupled with perfectionism means I often freeze up and procrastinate. The thought alone of sharing my goals with the world started a deep freeze. As I began ticking off my goals, I shared them with more and more trusted people. At the end of December, I shared my completed novel with three co-workers who are reading it over our Christmas break. If that had been a goal of mine a year ago, I guarantee you I would have frozen at the thought. So be judicious. It’s ok to keep them private as long as you are honest with yourself.

Check in with your goals. Update your progress. Adjust as needed.

Again, be honest with yourself. Don’t self-sabotage. Don’t make excuses. Decide that you’re going to do it. If something takes you longer than you anticipated, that’s ok. Adjust your timeline. It took me longer to write my first draft because I edited a lot as I went (and I researched probably more than I needed to). BUT, that made my life easier during the editing rounds.

Ready to write down those dreams and goals? Click here for your free goal-setting worksheet!

H. H. Holmes Hits the Headlines

Holmes

Imagine my surprise when I saw a link pop up in my Facebook feed with this headline: River North hotel invites guests to spend a killer night in H.H. Holmes pop-up suite

Yep. You read that correctly.

If you’ve followed by blog for any length of time, you know that my novel is based on the murders of H.H. Holmes. He’s received some cult-level popularity via Erik Larsen’s book, The Devil in the White City, the recent History channel American Ripper docuseries, and even American Horror Story. And now, for a limited time, the Acme Hotel Company in River North is converting a hotel suite into a Holmes-lover’s dream. Or is that nightmare?

Decor included in your scare stay: old newspaper clippings, surgical tools, and Holmes’ mug staring at you. All. Night. Long.

Acme Hotel, this Holmes fanatic thinks you’ve landed on a spectacular idea.

Attached in the same Tribune article? A link to an interactive “walking tour” of the 1893 World’s Fair. Incredibly cool, and not just for a writer’s research either!