Writing & Publishing

Here’s to Lavinia!

I’ve been working for MONTHS on the research for my next novel. I have done everything from visit the scene of the crime (well, what is left of the site) to taking a ghost tour with my sweet friend, Beth (scroll back to previous posts where we visited Old City Jail in Charleston, SC.) I’ve read books, done online searches, and poured everything I have into the research…. I will be writing historical fiction about Lavinia Fisher (be sure to check some older posts for more on her! I’ll be writing more about the book later in the month.)

Well now it’s time to write. If you have never heard of NaNoWriMo, you need to check it out! National Novel Writing Month happens each November and it’s the perfect time to write a novel. Now keep in mind a few things….I have two kids, a husband with combat PTSD, six dogs, two FIV cats (thankfully both are otherwise healthy at the moment), a full time job, and teach yoga for 5-8 classes a week. I also have some freelance writing I do on the side. My friend Michele also is getting me into essential oils for the studio, so there is a lot of learning going on. As if this isn’t enough, I did just get a scholarship to do some training with Warriors at Ease, so I can work with veterans on Yoga for PTSD.

I have a full plate.

I also plan on writing the first 50,000 words of my novel this month. The goal of NaNoWriMo is to write 50,000 words in one month. A traditional novel is 80,000-100,000 words, so the entire thing won’t be finished, but it’s a great start!

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I need to write 1,667 words each day to stay on track. So far, I’ve written well over this….in the form of FaceBook posts, this post, text messages to my husband, and of course…….find me on Twitter @TinaRussoKinney or on Instagram @TinaRussoKinney because I like posting there. Sadly, those things do not equate a novel, so I will bid you adieu for now. Hopefully I will be better this month about keeping up with this blog! I also have a website for this (upcoming) book, and I hope to get some work done for you on the site this month too.

If you’re also writing this month, here’s to you!!!!! If not, I hope you will come along for the ride and HERE’S TO LAVINIA FISHER!

Writing & Publishing

Book Club: Six Miles to Charleston

Six Miles to Charleston: The True Story of John and Lavinia FisherSix Miles to Charleston: The True Story of John and Lavinia Fisher by Bruce Orr

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Have you ever read a book in one sitting? I did! It was this book. Granted, the book is not exceedingly long at 125 pages, but the content was so engaging.

When I first moved to Charleston, South Carolina six years ago, one of the first things I learned about was the legend of Lavinia Fisher. Some claim Lavinia Fisher and her husband John Fisher were convicted mass murderers, making Lavinia the first female serial killer in the United States.

Legend has it, John and Lavinia owned an inn just six miles north of Charleston. When someone would stop there on their way in or out of town, Lavinia would invite them to tea and ask questions to determine if the guest had anything of value on them and if they would be missed should they not turn up at the next destination. If the visitor fit the bill, Lavinia would poison them with tea. Once the guest was asleep in their hotel room, Lavinia would sneak into the room, pull a lever, and the unsuspecting guest would fall into the basement pit, allegedly full of spikes. John Fisher would then dismember the body while Lavinia robbed them of their belongings.

The legend goes on to say there was one man who escaped (he did not care for tea and poured it in a plant) and made it into Charleston where he alerted authorities to the gruesome crimes taking place just outside of Charleston. John and Lavinia Fisher were arrested and brought to the Old City Jail.

The couple was then sentenced to hang for their crimes. The beautiful Lavinia is rumored to have worn her wedding gown to the gallows where she hoped after her husband was hung, she would find a suitor to marry her and save her from death. When one such man did not appear, her final words were “If you have a message for the devil, give it to me and I shall take it to him.”
It’s quite the story, don’t you think? Since her hanging in 1820, locals and tourists alike, claim to see the ghost of Lavinia, roaming Charleston in her wedding gown.

So why does this book exist? Well, there is a lot wrong with the legend, and so Bruce Orr, a Charleston local, set out to find the truth on Lavinia Fisher. As exciting as the legend is, much of the story is not true. The facts however, are quite engaging and interesting; so much so, I could not put the book down. It involves a highway gang, a president of the United States, a drunken jailer, a disagreeable sheriff, corrupt local government, and some other unsavory characters from historic Charleston. As sad as it is to find out the legend told to thousands of tourists each year is not the exact truth, the discovery of the truth in this book is even more exciting than the legend.

I originally picked up this book as a point of research for a historical fiction project I am writing, only to discover a well written, engaging, true story anyone who has ever lived in or visited Charleston needs to read!

 

View all my reviews

Writing & Publishing

Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss!

I was off today, so with Bill on Spring Break, we took advantage of family time.

A few weeks ago, The Cat in the Hat came to visit our local Barnes & Noble. Here was Talia’s reaction (notice she was excited as long as he was at a distance!):

Then because my sweet friend Caroline was working and knew it was Talia’s birthday that weekend, she had them sing to her!

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The Cat gave her a cupcake, which she quickly took!

When we got close, she hung onto me for dear life (while I balanced Liam in the carrier!):

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Today the Cat wasn’t there for story time, but we did read Green Eggs and Ham. Talia loved it. She also enjoyed pinning the tail on Horton, and coloring after!

Do you have kids? What did you do for Dr. Seuss’ Birthday? What is your favorite Dr. Seuss book? I think mine has to be “Oh, The Places You’ll Go!”

The children are now in bed, so I’m off to work on my book proposal on the Old City Jail. Be sure to look back at the post from earlier this week for photographs!

 

Life · Writing & Publishing

I Went To Jail Today

I went to jail today….and it was on purpose! As I work on my book proposal, I took an opportunity to visit the scene of the crime so to speak, and have some girl time with my friend Beth!

Neither of us encountered the ghost of Lavinia Fisher, but we had fun and learned a lot! Here are some pictures from the evening!

Inside the jail, our tour guide showed us how prisoners were beaten and abused. There were no guidelines for punishment and in many instances if disease didn’t kill a prisoner, their punishment did.

Imagine one of these on each wrist, your feet secured in a box, then someone pulling the ropes so your arms are yanked in the air before being beaten.

These doors were no joke! Notice the diagram for hanging a person. When the weight was dropped in the hole, the condemned was flung up toward the sky m, breaking their neck. There were severe consequences if the weight wasn’t balanced based on the weight of the prisoner….but I’ll save that for the book!

This is the room where Lavinia Fisher was held.

My sweet friend, Beth!

We then had girls night while the husbands were home with kids!

Beth is actually very pretty, yet she insisted on sticking her tongue out in every damn photo!

As soon as I got home, I started working on my proposal. Sadly, I work in the morning and didn’t get very far! I’ll be sure to let you know when I send it in!

Life · Writing & Publishing

If I Won Powerball…

Apparently the Powerball payout is crazy high again. I remember last year in January it was ridiculously high, and we bought the employees Bill and I had working at the bakery a bunch of tickets just for fun. I never thought for a second any of us would win, and of course we didn’t. This morning on the way to work, the local radio station was talking about how virtually no one wins, but it is fun to think about what you would do with the money if you did.

Of course I would buy a house, pay off our debt, pay off our parents houses, put money in CD’s, etc, etc….but what about every day life?

I’m not huge on traveling. Sure, I would one day like to see other places around the world, but I don’t really LOVE living out of a suitcase, or having to leave my dogs at home. I’m all for SOME travel, but not a lot.

I would no longer go to either of my two jobs (no one punches a clock to make someone else rich because they WANT to!) but I would continue to write. I would write books upon books upon books….even while most people would probably be on a permanent vacation, I would need to write.

Here is the fun part: Thankfully I don’t need to win the lotto to write books. Sure, I would have more time, but I can still write.

So with this said, I’m starting a new project. It started about two weeks ago, but someone cracked the screen on my PC (probably me, but possibly a toddler), and it has been with the geeks at Best Buy. I just got it back a few hours ago.

I want to introduce you to the new project, starting with the historical fiction book, so here is the pitch:

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For almost 200 years, the story of Lavinia Fisher has been handed down from generation to generation. Now, in the new millennium, tour guides throughout Lavinia’s hometown of Charleston, SC tell her story to hundreds of tourists each day. Some claim she was Americas first female serial killer, others claim she never killed anyone at all, while still others believe she was a witch. Some people believe her ghost lives on and can be seen around Charleston after dark. Many secrets were taken with Lavinia to her grave when she was hung on February 18th, 1820. I will tell you the story, you decide for yourself who was the real Lavinia Fisher.

Intrigued? I hope this makes you interested. Of course I will share more as I work on the project. I keep referring to this as a project because it had more than one part to it.

My first goal is to write a non-fiction book about the jail where Lavinia and John Fisher were held and eventually hung.

I then want to write a historical fiction version of their story.

To start the project, I’ve been poking around the jail, and I will tour it inside next week with my friend Beth. I will leave you with some pictures I’ve taken!

No, I’m not usually a selfie person, but I accidently flipped the screen to me and went with it. Bill came with me to look around. When a wagon of tourists passed by, he told me I should jump the wall and onto the wagon yelling “Go! Go! Go!” as if I was escaping the jail. I’m pretty sure we don’t want to scare the tourists driving our economy away like that!

Given our move in 66 more days, I need to work as quickly as I can to get all my research in before we leave. Of course we plan on coming back (hello: book tour!) but the majority of the leg work must be done in the next two months. With this I must leave you to go schedule some research appointments!

Military Spouse Life

Happy Birthday, Talia

Today is our daughters 2nd birthday. I haven’t had time to do a true blog post, so I’ll post some pictures of the coolest kid ever….and a few celebrities. 




Brendon Ellis of the SC Stingrays during a benefit for Breast Cancer. 




Our favorite radio guy in Charleston, Mr. TJ Phillips. We were in line with my sweet friend Missy to meet…


Trisha Yearwood and her sweet sister!

Yes, it’s Paula Deen, her very lovely husband, and my sister from another mister, Beka! Paula Deen grabbed Talia right from my hands!

















The last three were today! Happy birthday, baby girl!

Life · Writing & Publishing

Novel or Pocket Pet?

What a week last week turned out to be! (It was so busy, Monday Book Review will be tomorrow, Tuesday. I just didn’t finish the book in time!)

I hit a big milestone last week and I can’t wait to share.

This is a picture of what 313 pages of a novel looks like for editing:

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I finished editing my novel and sent it to the printer (thank you to the really nice people at Staples in Danbury, CT). As exciting as this was for me, I still have not held the book. My mom is in CT and I am in SC (USA). We are about 1,000 miles apart. She picked up the book to edit for me. Here is what it looked like when she got to Staples….

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It looks more like she was taking home a pocket pet from the pet store than picking up a novel!

Her goal was to start editing right away, but my grandmother had to go to the hospital. She had been feeling ill for awhile, but she also lost my grandfather back in May. I believe in broken hearts, so I think everyone thought she was just not herself because of this. My mom finally took her to the ER only to find out she has three kidney stones. They were at the hospital all day yesterday and today it was off to the urologist. She has to have surgery later this week. I really want to just head home for a bit, but I can’t travel comfortably while pregnant.

So with this said, I told my mom NOT to worry about the novel right now. It’s true “Pitch Wars” opens up tomorrow, but I’m not worried. Pitch Wars is for aspiring novelists to enter for a chance to work with a mentor to get their manuscript perfect for submission to a literary agent. I’m still going to enter, but I’m not getting all worried and stressing about it!

With the book done and out of my hands for a few weeks, we decided to get some family time in!

Our local mall has a business called “Palmetto Clayground.” It’s a paint your own ceramics store. Talia was more about dipping the brush in the pain than actually painting, but we have a really cute keepsake and a great memory!

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Of course no day out is complete without a new book!

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I would be this happy too if they would let me on!

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We also had our first swimming lesson this week! Sadly, it only lasted five minutes.

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Another little boy with a SUPER dramatic mother, made himself get sick in the pool because he didn’t want to go in. The mother started crying hysterically and then we had the 3-year-old crying, and the mother crying. We felt bad making Talia get out of the pool because she was so excited to get in, but we will get to go back next week.

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We also hit up Fan Fest with the South Carolina Stingrays over the weekend. Talia was beside herself with excitement, even though there wasn’t a game going on. She scored herself a Trevor Gillies puck and some new clothes because they put everything up for sale at 75% off! We were able to find some stuff she and the baby will be able to wear!

How was your weekend? Did you do anything exciting? What did you read? Check back tomorrow for the weekly book review!

Military Spouse Life

Bonus Post: Salute to Small Business Single Moms

I happen to know first hand, running a small business is a lot of work! Running my bakery takes about 300% of me. I can’t wait until we move back home and reestablish the bakery in Harrisburg (PA), but before running home, I must salute the people of Charleston for getting me off the ground.

Today while looking over Fox News, I saw an interesting story about a single mom who also started her own business. The best part? She is from right here in Charleston, SC! She started out making soap for friends and family, and is now a proud business owner!

Here you can find out more about her and her company! As a small business owner, I salute you! Wishing you luck, strength, and hopefully some rest, in the new year! Please check out The Charleston Soap Chef!

Military Spouse Life

Well, Hello December

I don’t even know where to start!

Thanksgiving was awesome as I got to see my dads family AND my cousin Stephanie revealed some big news.

Actually my grandmother spilled the beans.

I was on the couch while grandma was at the other end talking to my cousin Shea. Technically, Shea is dating Stephanie, so he’s not blood related, but my family doesn’t care about that! Anyway, my grandmother asked Shea about the baby, and I overheard it….

“WHAT BABY, SHEA?” I wanted to know.

Shea hesitated. He can’t lie to me. It’s actually cute. He said he thought about telling me they got another dog (apparently it’s a family thing…not just Bill and I…..we ALL have rescues). As Shea stood there fidgeting, I took maters into my own hands and pushed passed him and my tiny grandmother (she’s MAYBE 80 pounds and 4’8″….she’s your quintessential Italian grandmother). I marched into the kitchen (which is a HUGE NO-NO when Aunt Lani is cooking) and demanded to know from Stephanie “what baby is Shea hiding?”

Sure enough, Stephanie is 10 weeks pregnant, which is so exciting for both of us since the kids will be close in age!

Bill and my dad came back in the house and in typical Tina fashion, I yelled out before anyone could say anything “STEPHANIE AND SHEA HAVE TO TELL YOU GUYS SOMETHING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

I can’t keep a secret. I just can’t. I give Christmas presents in November because I get so excited. I’m THAT person in the family.

Thankfully, my family gets me and Stephanie told my dad and Bill, who are both also excited. Grandma is 92 and has no idea she spilled the beans! It’s actually rather funny.

Back in Charleston the next day, Bill actually went with me to look at baby furniture on black Friday (this is HUGE for a combat vet with PTSD. In general, crowds are a BAD thing. Marines are trained to know where everyone is, what they are doing, and what they are about to do. Having so many people in an uncontrolled environment has to be complete chaos in their minds, and they tend to shy away from large groups.) It makes sense, but Bill wanted to look at baby furniture AND the recycle store for kids (think Goodwill for kids, but BETTER!) was having a 30% off the ENTIRE store sale. I’m so proud of Bill! He did great! We found a stroller for under $50.00, some clothes, and a sleeper, bouncer, thingy. I have no idea what it is, but she needed it!

Monday morning Bill woke me up at 0430 freaking out because at 0930 we were having an ultrasound and he couldn’t wait.

Both Bill and I were married before and he lost a son when his ex-wife was 7 months pregnant. She had preclampsia and did not know it (because she wasn’t going to the doctor like she should have been!) and so their son passed away. Bill was fighting in Iraq when it happened and had to fly home on emergency leave. They then returned him to Iraq (ugh) and when he returned to the states a few months later, his now-ex was sleeping with all of Camp Legeune. Bill is much more reserved about it than I am. I hate her for what she did to him. He didn’t deserve that in the least!

Anyway, I explained the situation to one of the midwives where we are having Talia (she also happens to be former military.) She decided to do another ultrasound for us since this is about the time in the pregnancy when Riley was lost, just to reassure Bill.

At 0730 Bill came in the bedroom and pounced on me to get up. Then he started texting me from throughout the house to get up so we could go see our baby girl. I watched him watch the ultrasound. You never saw a more proud daddy!

We went to breakfast after the ultrasound and got a call from his buddy Josh. I’ll make it short. Josh found out he was a baby daddy through a DNA test yesterday, and when he took a bunch of xanex and then came over and drank, he passed out on our couch. I called his parents so they knew he was safe. Turns out Josh is a recovering drug addict and we had NO idea. Some things did not add up, and we only knew him about a month, but I’m glad his parents came and got him and he is out of our lives now. Bill and I were all about helping him get set up with the VA and getting his benefits, only to find out he is not entitled to them because of a dishonerable discharge due to drug use. The whole thing came as a shock, and I’m really glad we found out now instead of later!

Lastly, IT’S DECEMBER!

I did not finish National Novel Writing Month. I am disappointed in myself, but I’m also trying not to be too hard on myself since I am pregnant, work full time, go to school full time, and have 5 dogs and a redneck to take care of. As it got closer to the deadline, I opted to not crank out words for the sake of a word count, but rather take my time and produce somewhat quality work.

I also did not get my book proposal finished and to my former professor on time. I did get him his pie for Thanksgiving though (priorities). So I’ll be working on the proposal more this week.

Phew!

It looks like December is going to be just as busy….oh, and Bill and I get married in 26 more days. Thank goodness it’s nothing big….but damn….this girl is BUSY!