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!

 

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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!