Top Three Thursday- True Colors Series

In honor of my debut novel, The Purple Nightgown, that is set to release March 1, 2021, I want to share my top three favorite books in the True Colors series so far. I haven’t read all of them yet, but I’m working on it. That being said, this list may change as time goes on. I’ll also drop a cover image for The Purple Nightgown at the bottom, so you can share in my excitement!

Stories in the True Colors series follow historical true crimes, so if history and killing is your thing, this series would be a perfect choice. I had the honor of writing a book based on a blog post I wrote in January. Here’s the web address in case you’re interested in a little research before diving in.

Deadly Resolutions

3. The Green Dress by Liz Tolsma

In Boston, 1886, Harriet Peters commissions Sarah Jane Robinson to make her a new dress. Both widows are struggling to make ends meet, and they strike up a quick friendship. Harriet feels sorry for Sarah Jane, who has suffered so much loss in her life. But Harriet’s friend, Dr. Michael Wheaton, has concerns that death seems to follow Sarah Jane in mysterious ways Still, Harriet can’t imagine any deceit in her friend, who she comforts through the deaths of her daughter and nephew.

Will Harriet’s trusting nature lead to her own demise as a persistent stomachache starts to plague her?

2. The White City by Grace Hitchcock

While attending the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893, Winnifred Wylde believes she witnessed a woman being kidnapped. She tries to convince her father, an inspector with the Chicago police, to look into reports of mysterious disappearances around the White City. Inspector Wylde tries to dismiss her claims as exaggeration of an overactive imagination, but he eventually concedes to letting her go undercover as secretary to the man in question—if she takes her pistol for protection and Jude Thorpe, a policeman, for bodyguard.

Will she be able to expose H. H. Holmes’s illicit activity, or will Winnifred become his next victim?

  1. The Gray Chamber by Grace Hitchcock

On Blackwell Island, New York, a hospital was built to keep its patients from ever leaving.
 
With her late father’s fortune under her uncle’s care until her twenty-fifth birthday in the year 1887, Edyth Foster does not feel pressured to marry or to bow to society’s demands. She freely indulges in eccentric hobbies like fencing and riding her velocipede in her cycling costume about the city for all to see. Finding a loophole in the will, though, her uncle whisks Edyth off to the women’s lunatic asylum just weeks before her birthday. Do any of Edyth’s friends care that she disappeared?
 
At the asylum she meets another inmate, who upon discovering Edyth’s plight, confesses that she is Nellie Bly, an undercover journalist for The World. Will either woman find a way to leave the terrifying island and reclaim her true self?

And here is the cover image for The Purple Nightgown. It was a blast to write, and I’m hoping you enjoy it. 🙂

Picture

Top Three Thursday- Serial Killers That Creep Me Out

Happy Thursday, friends! Hope you’re doing well despite the craziness going on in our world. It’s a comfort to know that no matter what happens, God is on the throne.

Still, it’s so easy to fall into the mindset that the evil permeating our society is a new thing. Well, it’s not. The Bible says there is nothing new under the sun, and those words are so true. To prove it, I’m going to share my list of the top three serial killers in history who creep me out to the point I could never write a full blog post about them for fear I wouldn’t sleep for weeks. Coming from me, that’s a big deal, since I typically go back to sleep hoping to finish scary dreams and see how they play out. You never know when you’ll stumble across a marketable plot for a thriller. *wink*

Without further ado, here are the psychos that keep me up at night.

3. Jeffrey Dahmer

Jeffrey Dahmer - Murders, Victims & Death - Biography
The Milwaukee Cannibal

Jeffrey Dahmer killed 17 young men between 1988 and 1991.

Though people close to his family described him as a happy child, Dahmer was never normal. One of his favorite pastimes as a pre-teen was collecting roadkill, cleaning it, and saving the bones. Somehow, I don’t think that’s anything well-adjusted happy children do. But I don’t have kids, so I could be wrong. Boy, I sure hope I’m not.

When he started killing, Dahmer lived in his grandmother’s basement, but killing people with her around got a little inconvenient, so he rented his own apartment with the money he earned working at the Ambrosia Chocolate Factory. (Talk about a twisted Willy Wonka.) With newfound privacy, his killing spree began in earnest. After each murder, he handled the bodies much like his had his childhood roadkill projects then stored their organs in the fridge for later. (I’ll leave it at that, since I’m sure his ‘Milwaukee Cannibal’ moniker spares me the need to go into detail.)

The aspect of his crime that gets me every time is a 14-year-old boy named Konerak Sinthasomphone. Dahmer had lured him and drugged him, and somehow the kid got away. He burst through the apartment door and onto the sidewalk. When he flagged down a pair of police officers and a group of people, he was too disoriented to make much sense. Dahmer came out after him, and assured the officers that he was caring for poor Konerak. A few bystanders urged the policemen to take the boy to safety. But they handed him back to Dahmer, and Konerak suffered the same fate as the others. So close. I can’t begin to imagine how those police officers felt after the truth came to light.

2. Albert Fish

When cannibal child killer Albert Fish killed a girl in Irvington
Werewolf of Wysteria

Albert Fish once boasted that he “had children in every state.” Now, when he said that, he meant it in the same way that Hannibal Lecter would ‘have someone for dinner.’ This guy died in 1936, but he still gives me the heebie-jeebies.

Since I don’t want to think too much about him, I’ll give you two of the many things that unsettle me about this man. First, after killing and consuming a little girl named Grace Budd, he wrote a letter to her mother describing everything. Second, when the time came to strap him into the electric chair, it took two jolts of the juice to kill him. It’s reported that he helped the executioner strap him in, because he was so excited to feel the electricity course through him. But due to the needles he’d buried beneath his skin, the first hit of Ben Franklin’s elixir didn’t get the job done.

Enough of him! Yikes!

  1. John Wayne Gacy
Timeline: Suburban serial killer John Wayne Gacy and the efforts ...
Pogo the Clown

Now, if you know me at all, it should come as no shock that a killer clown tops my list of nightmare-inducing maniacs. Since I first saw a clown at the green age of four, I’ve been terrified of the sadistic monsters. Truly, if you have to paint a smile on your face, something it wrong.

John Wayne Gacy posed as an upstanding member of the community by day and dressed as Pogo the Clown for children’s birthday parties. (Why do parents think clowns are a good idea? Never understood that one.) He killed 33 young men that police are aware of and buried them under his house. Gacy himself lost count when he ran out of room beneath the home place and started dumping bodies into the Des Plaines River.

All I can say to that is, “Typical clown behavior.”

I left most of the gory details out of these crimes. You’re welcome! I’m sure if you wanted to find out more, the internet would provide you plenty of reading material. But I can’t let my mind dwell on these guys for too long, because . . . nightmares.

There are plenty more psychopaths that make my skin crawl, but these three never fail to turn my stomach. Have you ever watched a documentary or read a book on a true crime that kept you up at night? Tell me about it below!

Stuff of Nightmares

Annie Andrews (middle) with her mother and younger sister, Jessica.

Some people enjoy watching horror movies. The sensation of a tingling spine and racing pulse gives them a little thrill. But when the credits roll, and the TV flickers off, it’s only stories. They can curl beneath the cool sheets, close their eyes, and know none of that can happen. It’s all make-believe. Right?

Well, sometimes the truth is scarier than fiction. Such was the case for Annie Andrews and her family.

The year was 1986. Annie and Jessica’s mother had passed away, leaving them grieving and often alone while their father worked to pay the bills. Their mother had been the glue that held the family together, and Annie wished she could talk to her one more time.

One day, the phone rang, and Annie answered. A neighborhood boy, Danny LaPlante, had begged her number from mutual friends. Without being a total skeez, he told her she was pretty and how much he’d like to get to know her. All the things girls want to hear. After several phone calls, he asked her out for ice cream. It sounded innocent enough, and Annie hoped to somehow fill the void her mother left behind. Maybe a boyfriend was the answer. She agreed, and they made a visit to the ice cream parlor together.

Like teenage girls–or any girl, for that matter–Annie’s mind built Danny into a dream boat he could never hope to be. When she met him face to face, disappointment soured the ice cream. As kindly as possible, she ended things with the anti-Prince Charming.

Needing her mother more than ever, Annie, along with Jessica, grabbed an Ouija board and candles. It was time for a seance. She had to talk with her mother. Tell her good-bye. Let her know how much she was missed. Candle flames bobbed, casting light against the grimy basement walls. Nothing. The planchette didn’t move. It was all just a bunch of baloney

Later that night, when Annie lay in bed, a knocking sound tapped the walls. When she searched the house, everything seemed normal. But the thumps persisted. Was it her mother? Had the seance actually worked?

As months progressed, the tapping continued intermittently. Probably just a friendly greeting from their dear departed. But when the girls started finding personal items and furniture moved around the house, a creepy crawly feeling settled it. Whatever was happening was more sinister than their mother’s presence.

After their father left for work one day, strange sounds filtered from the basement. Together the girls trekked the creaking steps. When they reached the concrete floor, words written in what appeared to be blood dripped from the walls. ‘I’m in your room come find me.’ This wasn’t Mother. The girls ran screaming from the house, looking for a neighbor to call their father and alert him.

The girls’ father, Brian Andrews, hadn’t heard the noises. He believed his daughters’ hysterics were their way of acting out after losing their mother. When he checked the writing on the basement wall, he found the cryptic message had been written in ketchup. Yep, nothing more than a cry for attention.

For the next few days, things in the Andrews’ home returned to a semblance of normal. No more noises, ketchup messages, or misplaced furniture. Annie breathed a relieved sigh. Fear’s clutches loosened their hold. But all good things must come to an end, and one night another message appeared on the wall. Again, the girls ran from the house in an attempt to escape the unknown menace within.

Seeing the girls’ terror, Brian Andrews entered the house with his daughters, planning to find another staged work of art from Annie and Jessica. But when he stood still in the foyer, sounds from upstairs snagged his attention. Slowly, he moved to the second floor. The noises grew louder with each step. Light seeped under a bedroom door, and a shadow played from somewhere inside the room.

Brian pushed open the door. Panic rippled as Danny LaPlante, dressed in the clothing of the deceased Mrs. Andrews turned to face him. The teenager carried a hatchet, poised to strike.

LaPlante chased the family through the house. Once he’d captured Brian, Annie, and Jessica and tied them up, he told them to start praying, because they were going to die. Their prayers were answered when one of the girls broke free of her ligatures and helped her sister and father escape through a bedroom window. They called the police. It was over. Or it should have been, anyway.

Police arrived at the scene, and what they found left them scratching their heads. Messages written on the walls and coins glued to the ceiling. Weird. But they didn’t find Danny LaPlante. Still, the Andrews family was understandably uncomfortable with the idea of returning home and stayed away for nearly two weeks. When they gathered the courage to go back, Danny LaPlate was standing in the window–waiting for them.

Again, the police stormed the Andrews home. They searched the place top to bottom, and in the basement, an officer found something odd behind the washing machine. When they moved it away from the wall, shock prevailed. A hole in the plaster led to a space between the inside and outside walls. Danny LaPlante crouched inside his hiding place, and he didn’t come out quietly.

Danny LaPlante

Eventually, they coaxed him out and arrested him. In the space behind the wall, lay a sleeping bag, beer, and food wrappers. He’d been living there a while. When the whole story came to light, it was discovered he broke into the Andrews’ home for the first time after Annie decided they weren’t a match. He’d watched the seance Annie and Jessica had performed nearly a year earlier. In that moment, he had seen the girls’ vulnerability and determined to terrify them. Annie would pay for spurning his advances. Turns out Annie Andrews’ radar was working. I’d like to say she dodged a bullet, but after the horror movie she and her family survived, that wouldn’t be a fair statement.

I’d also like to say that Danny LaPlate was sentenced to some serious hard time, and they all lived happily ever after, but the story doesn’t end here. Due to the fact Scary McCreeperson (a.k.a. Danny LaPlante) was a minor and no physical harm was done, Annie’s ex-boyfriend spent a few months in a youth detention facility. Then, before the trial, his mommy paid his bail.

Court was scheduled for December 1987, but before Danny could be tried for his crimes, the unthinkable happened. LaPlante disappeared.

Then one day, Andrew Gustofson returned home from work to find his pregnant wife had been shot in the head, and their two children drowned in separate bathtubs. The evidence pointed to Danny LaPlante. Police tracked down the seventeen-year-old triple murderer. It was still unclear whether the killings resulted from a robbery gone wrong or something more evil.

This time, justice was served and the judge sentenced LaPlante to three life sentences. Good call, Judge!

Despite the fact this seriously disturbed man will never breathe free air again, I can’t imagine Annie Andrews is able to crawl into bed at night, knowing the monsters on TV are little more than figments of a writer’s imagination. She knows monsters are real. And sometimes, they live in the walls of your home.