Monday, May 22, 2017

Mystery Monday: Sierah Joughin

It's Monday, which means it's time for another...

On July 19, 2016, University of Toledo student Sierah Joughin decided to go for a bicycle ride with her boyfriend. It would be the last time she was seen alive.

During their bicycle ride, Sierah's boyfriend posted this haunting photo of the two of them on Snapchat.

Around 6:45 pm, the two separated. Sierah was supposed to go directly to her house, but she never showed up. During the search that followed, they discovered her bicycle in a cornfield close to the area where her boyfriend left her.

Three days later, police found Sierah's body in a cornfield. Her hands and feet were bound and the cause of death was determined to be asphyxiation.

James Worley was arrested for the crime. While Worley had no connection to Sierah, his home had evidence he may have killed others. There was a room designed for "holding humans against their will" and a bloody wall and freezer.

In 1990, Worley plead guilty for attacking and abducting a woman on a bicycle. He served time for that crime, but was released in 1993.

To learn more about this case, the media looked into the previous abduction, since it seems to have been similar in nature. According to the victim, Robin Gardner, Worley forced her off the road, then dragged her to his vehicle, where he handcuffed her. She managed to get away...Sierah Joughin wouldn't be so lucky.

Robin Gardner today Image credit: Toledo Blade
Currently, police are looking into other cases that might be linked to Worley.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Just Another Teen Reading Books

As someone who writes both middle grade and chapter books, I'm often asked what the difference is? They're two different age groups with some overlap, but there are many other things setting them apart.

Today, I'm participating in Just Another Teen Reading Books's annual event Yay for Middle Grade Books! Click here or on the banner below to read my post on Understanding Middle Grade.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The Power of 1980s-1990s TV

I cover a lot of mysteries on my blog. Missing people, unsolved murders, some more missing people... Some have been solved, but many more never will be.

The older a case is, the less likely it is to be solved. This is especially true if you didn't grab the world's attention like Madeleine McCann:

Or captivate the nation like Natalee Holloway

Over time, a missing persons case drops out of the news, sadly. New cases come along, grabbing media attention, and eventually people forget. Additionally, today's cases can't possibly get enough attention due to something called narrowcasting. Narrowcasting basically means this:

It was something we studied in broadcasting in 1990. Instead of three channels, like people had in the "old days," we'd already gone to more than 100. We knew even then that the future would bring even more channels. We discussed the possibility that someday people could just watch whatever they wanted, whenever we wanted. And no, we had NO idea something called the internet would bring that!

Today if someone disappears, the message can be distributed through a variety of sources. TV news, radio, newspapers, online publications, personal Facebook feeds, Facebook groups, online forums, podcasts, YouTube videos... The list goes on. Unfortunately, each of those methods only reaches a small segment of the market.

Nothing makes that clearer than watching old episodes of Unsolved Mysteries on Amazon Prime. Other than the bad 80s/90s hairstyles, the one thing that is most glaringly obvious is that when cases showed up on Unsolved Mysteries, chances were they were going to be solved.

If a missing person or criminal on the run was still alive, someone, somewhere was going to call that hotline and report the person. Why? Although Unsolved Mysteries was not the top-rated show of its time, it still had more viewers than today's number one shows. More people were watching...mostly because we didn't have that much else to do if we were home.

Today we have Amber Alerts, which let us know when a child is in immediate danger. But what about cold cases? Who's getting the word out about Bryce Laspisa, who disappeared from his overturned truck in 2013?

Or Leah Roberts, who disappeared while traveling in 2000?

There are so many cases like these. Too many to count. Thousands upon thousands of faces, leaving behind grieving family members. If we had a show with the reach Unsolved Mysteries or America's Most Wanted had back in the 80s, would we see more of this?

What cold case would you like to see solved?

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Introducing Twenty-Four Days by Jacqui Murray

Today we have a new book that's sure to fulfill your thirst for a fast-paced adventure. Jacqui Murray is a favorite author of mine, so I can't wait to dig into this one.


What sets this story apart from other thrillers is the edgy science used to build the drama, the creative thinking that unravels the deadly plot, and the sentient artificial intelligence who thinks he's human:

An unlikely team is America's only chance

World-renowned paleoanthropologist, Dr. Zeke Rowe is surprised when a friend from his SEAL past shows up in his Columbia lab and asks for help: Two submarines have been hijacked and Rowe might be the only man who can find them.

At first he refuses, fearing a return to his former life will end a sputtering romance with fellow scientist and love of his life, Kali Delamagente, but when one of his closest friends is killed by the hijackers, he changes his mind. He asks Delamagente for the use of her one-of-a-kind AI Otto who possesses the unique skill of being able to follow anything with a digital trail.

In a matter of hours, Otto finds one of the subs and it is neutralized.

But the second, Otto can’t locate.

Piece by piece, Rowe uncovers a bizarre nexus between Salah Al-Zahrawi--the world’s most dangerous terrorist and a man Rowe thought he had killed a year ago, a North Korean communications satellite America believes is a nuclear-tipped weapon, an ideologue that cares only about revenge, and the USS Bunker Hill (a Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser) tasked with supervising the satellite launch.

And a deadline that expires in twenty-four days.

As America teeters on the brink of destruction, Zeke finally realizes that Al-Zahrawi’s goal isn’t nuclear war, but payback against the country that cost him so much.

Buy Links:


Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy, and the thrillers, To Hunt a Sub and  Twenty-four Days. She is also the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer,  a columnist for TeachHUB, monthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. You can find her books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning.

Author Links:

Monday, May 15, 2017

Mystery Monday: Dog Suicide Bridge

It's Monday, which means it's time for another...

Every day, across the globe, owners walk their dogs. Usually they do so on a leash, especially if they're on vacation...

Yet there's a bridge in West Dunbartonshire, Scotland, where people throw caution to the wind. Despite seeing this warning, people still cross the bridge without putting their dogs on a leash.

This is especially surprising because the bridge has a pretty telling nickname: "The Dog Suicide Bridge."

Yes, you read that correctly. Since the 1950s, legend says that one dog each year has jumped from the bridge for reasons that are unknown to everyone. As you can imagine, the strange occurrence was a favorite of supernatural theorists. Could it be a demonic spirit, luring the dogs to their death?

Some sort of disruption in the time-space continuum? A doorway into another dimension? A disturbance in the magnetic field?

Naturally, experts want a more scientific explanation. An animal habitat expert named David Sexton set out to determine whether a scent was drawing the dogs toward something. He concluded that mink urine odor was luring dogs to leap to their deaths.

Another expert questions whether dogs have been committing suicide in large numbers at all. While he did find that some dogs have leaped since the 1950s, he believes the number is much smaller than "one per year."

Why do you think dogs jump from the bridge?

Monday, May 08, 2017

Mystery Monday: Emma Fillipoff

It's Monday, which means it's time for another...

Few mysteries haunt true crime fans like the disappearance of this beautiful young woman:

Emma Fillipoff was a free spirit, artistic in nature. She grew up in Perth, Ontario, Canada as one of four kids to a schoolteacher and a painter. Emma wrote and danced and was always looking for new adventures.

She was a very giving, open person, which made it easier for someone to attach to her. This is exactly what happened with a man named Julien, who befriended Emma and pursued her relentlessly. He repeatedly called her house and showed up places he knew she'd be. Emma was too nice to let him down roughly.

Image credit: Finding Emma, The Fifth Estate

Julian Huard was infatuated with Emma, but he claims it was nothing more than a crush. He also says it was sheer coincidence that when Emma chose to move to Victoria, British Columbia in 2011, he moved to the area, as well, only a few months later. He "happened to" run into her on the street soon after.

Emma worked briefly as a chef at a restaurant called Red Fish Blue Fish, but the work was seasonal. When the summer season ended at the end of October 2012, she told everyone she'd be back in the spring.

Image credit: Finding Emma, The Fifth Estate

However, things already weren't going well for Emma. Her family didn't realize she'd been living at a women's shelter since February and in November, she was seen on security footage at a YMCA. She entered and exited the building six times, behaving as though someone was outside.

Image credit: Finding Emma, The Fifth Estate

Her behavior during this time was reported as odd, both by her "admirer" Julien and workers at the women's shelter. The women's shelter workers said she moved a bunch of furniture from inside the shelter to the front lawn, complaining that the items were talking to her. 

Julien said the first time he ran into her, she seemed happy to see him but during subsequent run-ins, she was distant and cold. The final time he saw her, he claims to have made the decision to leave her alone because she seemed to not want anything to do with him.

On the day of her disappearance, November 28, 2012, Emma left the women's shelter early in the morning. Security footage captured her at 8:30 a.m. at a 7-Eleven, buying a $200 prepaid credit card.

Image credit: Finding Emma, The Fifth Estate

That evening, she returned to the same store to buy a prepaid cell phone. Emma had never owned a cell phone before, so it was odd for her to suddenly buy one. After buying it, she didn't leave, though. She stood at the door, looking out, pacing back and forth.

Image credit: Finding Emma, The Fifth Estate

In the days leading up to her disappearance, Emma had written in her journal that she felt like someone was following her. She finally left the store, but didn't get far. She got into a cab and asked to go to the airport, but said she didn't have the fare. (She did.) She had him drop her off near where he picked her up. She got out of the car. A man recognized her and saw her behavior as odd. She was standing at a crosswalk, refusing to cross, but looking around as though searching for someone.

After standing with her for a while, the man ducked into a nearby business and called the police. They showed up and interviewed her, but let her go when they saw no reason to detain her. Emma was never seen again.

Perhaps most haunting are the words Emma herself wrote soon before disappearing:

to everyone
from dead Emma
I figure someone will be on this computer at some point and will read this
okay, so I'm dead 
floating about on energy or not
watching dying stars, reviving stars
and dreaming milky dreams and shadow dancing on your timelines
or whatever
good luck everyheart
I love you

What do you think happened to Emma Fillipoff?

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

IWSG: Researching Can Be Fun

It's the first Wednesday of the month, which means hundreds of us will be posting about our insecurities. If you haven't yet, join in. You'll be glad you did!

Each month we have a question. This month's question is:

What is the weirdest/coolest thing you ever had to research for your story?

This is an easy one for me. I landed my agent with a series about tweens who ghost hunt for fun. It came close to being bought, spending eight months with one big publisher who finally passed because by then the ghost hunting craze was dead...but a movie with the same title as my series came out in 2016:

I've never done more "research" than I did while I was writing my Ghost Patrol books. We took a day trip to see this haunted place in Kentucky:

We stayed in this haunted hotel and even did a little amateur ghost hunting. But the only thing going on there was a cross-dressing beauty pageant.

Taking it a step farther, I actually took a ghost-hunting class at a local community college. I learned that I'm probably never going to see a ghost...not sure why. But that doesn't stop me from being fascinated by them.

Video clip credit: Ghost Hunters
Have you ever done something fun in the name of "research?"

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Open-Ended Stories: Guest Post by Olga Godim

Today is a very special day. Half the blogosphere has a new book out. To celebrate, the very talented Olga Godim is stopping by to discuss the challenges of writing a series. After reading his post, be sure to scroll down to read all about Hero Lost: Mysteries of Death and Life.

Open-Ended Stories
By Olda Godim

If you want to write a series of stories or make the world you created for one story fit for many others, you need to make that world open-ended. I don’t mean a cliff-hanger at the end of the current plot. No, I mean a potential for future conflict, consciously introduced by the writer. There are several ways to achieve such a goal. I’ll touch on the three that are used consistently in genre fiction.

1. A story set in a small business or a shop, with the proprietor as the protagonist. It could be a PI office, but it also could be a bakery or a book store or even a school. Every customer who comes through the door is a potential catalyst of a new story. Sometimes, the protagonist knows her visitors: neighbors, schoolmates, or friends. They have common interests and frequently swap gossips, and those gossip exchanges often set up story after story. Many mystery series follow this approach, while hardly any is set in Walmart or another retail or industrial giant. The corporate business model perceives all their employees and customers as faceless, uniform, and thus diminishes the open-ended potential of a small business. 

2. Protagonists with large families. Historical romance writers often adhere to this route. They concoct families with a plethora of brothers, sisters, and cousins and then proceed to write a separate novel for each sibling. A variation of this method is a group of buddies instead of a family: officers from the same unit or members of the some ladies’ club. In this case, each member carries his own story.     

3. Political instability. This is the domain of speculative fiction writers. They make up their own worlds and often draw maps of such worlds. Different countries on such maps have different rules and rulers, and the potential for conflict is bottomless. Racial discrimination – yes. Territorial aggression – yes. Treachery – yes. Religious persecution – yes. Succession squabbles – yes. Dragons vs. humans – sure. Magically animated cucumbers vs. kangaroos – why not. Inexperienced writers might want to cram all of the above into one story, but the more savvy wordsmiths reserve one conflict per one story and stretch a series into years and decades of writerly bliss. Going back in history in each of their imaginary countries on their imaginary maps provides them with even more material for new stories.

My short fantasy story Captain Bulat in the anthology Hero Lost combines a couple of the techniques mentioned above. My protagonist Altenay is a Finder. She uses her magic to find lost things and people. Small business approach qualifies, and every new client of hers might turn into a new story, if I wish it. 
The second potential for conflict is Altenay’s ethnicity. She is a Bessar, an ethnical minority in the kingdom where she lives. She is not worried. Young and optimistic, she thinks that every neighbor is a nice guy, and nobody would stir trouble over her hair color or her choice of headwear. She might be wrong. I, her writer, am much more attuned to the people’s moods. I’m sure some of Altenay’s neighbors dislike Bessars in general and resent Altenay’s success in her business in particular. There might be ugly tribulations ahead of my heroine. I don’t know if I ever write another story about her, but if I do, I have already created the framework for new stories and new conflicts. Just in case.


Olga is a writer and journalist from Vancouver, Canada. Both her children, a son and a daughter, have already flown the nest. To sustain her nurturing instincts, she now collects toy monkeys. She has over 300 monkey figurines in her collection. As a journalist, Olga writes personal profiles of the local artists, actors, and musicians. As a fiction writer, she prefers fantasy. In the past few years, her fantasy and magic realism short stories have been published in multiple internet and print magazines. Her book SQUIRREL OF MAGIC is a collection of urban fantasy short stories. Her novels EAGLE EN GARDE and ALMOST ADEPT are parts of her ongoing sword-and-sorcery fantasy series.  In 2015, EAGLE EN GARDE won EPIC eBook Award in the Fantasy category.

Author Links:


Can a lost hero find redemption?

What if Death himself wanted to die? Can deliverance be found on a bloody battlefield? Could the gift of silvering become a prison for those who possessed it? Will an ancient warrior be forever the caretaker of a house of mystery?

Delving into the depths of the tortured hero, twelve authors explore the realms of fantasy in this enthralling and thought-provoking collection. Featuring the talents of Jen Chandler, L. Nahay, Renee Cheung, Roland Yeomans, Elizabeth Seckman, Olga Godim, Yvonne Ventresca, Ellen Jacobson, Sean McLachlan, Erika Beebe, Tyrean Martinson, and Sarah Foster.

Hand-picked by a panel of agents and authors, these twelve tales will take you into the heart of heroes who have fallen from grace. Join the journey and discover a hero’s redemption!

Buy Links:

Amazon | B&N