Beyond The Grave – Ten – Recap
I wanted to take this opportunity to explain a few things about this series and how I came about writing the characters’ backstories.
Last June, my husband and I traveled to Denver, Colorado, to pick up his autistic son to move him to the city where we’re living to keep a closer eye on him. I had just sent off the manuscript CB Hartwell, and I had finished writing to a publisher and was waiting to hear back whether it would be accepted or not.
As we traveled through Missouri on Interstate 70 west, we passed a few old farmhouses and a small town called Blue Springs. One farmhouse had several shipping containers in its yard. Another farmhouse had steel drums lining their property, sitting three high on their sides.
And suddenly, Old Hank appeared in my head. A middle-aged man who looked older than he was, long gray beard, not good on hygiene. I took out my notebook and started jotting down everything popping into my head, so I wouldn’t forget.
My protagonist, Daniella Keezar, is the homicide detective from The Purple Lily, the psychological crime thriller which will be released on July 22, 2021, the manuscript accepted by the publisher. In The Purple Lily, she is heading up the investigation into a serial killer. She has several cold cases she is trying to solve. Her goal is to become an FBI profiler. In my new series, she is now working in the FBI as a special agent, still trying to perfect her skills.
Both these novels are stand-alone and are not part of a series.
When we got home, I immediately started writing an outline for my new manuscript. I must say, outlining the story made me more excited to dig deeper into the life of a serial killer and his victims. I had no idea until I did some research how many highway serial killers were out there—scary stuff.
In that last link, I read about the I-70 killer (which is my antagonist), and the last line is what made my hair stand on end. The I-70 killer has never been caught! Hopefully, they won’t come after me for any answers; Old Hank is purely a figment of my imagination.
I write regularly for Coffee House Writers. I had an article due and was so engrossed in outlining the victims in this new manuscript. I decided to share it with my readers. There are several reasons for this madness: one, I wanted to see how readers would react to the story, and two, these victims started talking to me. Crazy right?
“Beyond The Grave” started when Old Hank was sitting on his porch one night and thought he saw the figure of his first victim, Katie, over by the oil drums. In the manuscript, he talks to her as he does his dead parents. The idea to give Katie a voice, rather than being just a victim of a serial killer, was appealing to me. And so started the 2,000-word articles of not just Old Hank’s victims but all the characters who will appear in the manuscript. When I need to add more content, I post the longer stories to my WordPress blog, and each article is added to the manuscript.
I called it “Beyond The Grave” because the victims are missing. At first, I was having Old Hank kill them off, but Pearl wanted a bigger role in the story than just the Filipino who had a shipping container yard. I told you my characters talk to me!
BTG #1. The first victim is Katie, a local girl getting away for the weekend with her friends camping at Blue Springs (a real place). Her clunker breaks down, and she calls AAA. Old Hank has a way of intercepting or listening in on the calls for a tow truck. He knows AAA can take hours to get to a person in need. Old Hank goes to Katie’s rescue to kidnap her and place her in a shipping container he has just acquired from Pearl.
BTG #2. Victim two is Naomi, another local woman who is a waitress at the café where Old Hank likes to eat. They also attended the local high school together. Naomi is unhappy in her marriage and is saving up for a divorce. She knew Old Hank’s parents, and her vehicle requires a mechanic. When Old Hank shows up for dinner that night, she asks him if he is still working on cars. Hank decides to take Naomi’s vehicle home with him to try to figure out what is causing her transmission to slip.
Because of the local police’s heat on everyone who may be suspect in these two women’s disappearances, Old Hank rethinks his kidnapping schemes. He decides it may be best to keep it to strangers passing through.
In BTG #3, we get a closer look at who Hank is and how he became a killer. Of course, this is only a small portion of Old Hank’s life; we’ll read more about him in the full manuscript.
BTG #4 tells the story of Jeff, who recently received his Master’s in Computer Science Engineering and has landed a job in Silicon Valley. He’s driving from Virginia to California when his vehicle breaks down in Old Hank’s territory. Not feeling too comfortable after meeting Old Hank, Jeff lies and tells him his girlfriend will be picking him up the next day if Hank can’t get his vehicle repaired. In Old Hank’s mind, he could kill Jeff, but due to the heat from the local police on the two missing women, he decides to let Jeff live. Years later, Jeff realizes how lucky he is when he gets a call from Special Agent Keezar.
BTG #5. Special Agent Daniella Keezar’s story is told. Again, this is only a brief rundown of what you will read in the final manuscript. She and her partner, Ramon Rodriquez, went to Quantico training together. However, she doesn’t care for him and his Latino macho ways.
They are discussing some of the cases of missing persons. Being new agents and assigned to finding or closing some of these cases up, Rodriquez briefly tells Keezar about one of the victims who had a dog with her, Frances Wilkins. Keezar is upset the dog was never found, let alone the owner. Number five briefly goes into Rodriquez and Keezar’s relationship as they eat takeout at her house. This also has more detail in the manuscript.
BTG #6 gives the backstory of Ramon Rodriquez, the only boy out of seven children by immigrant Puerto Rican parents. Settling in Brooklyn, NY, in an Italian neighborhood and opening a bakery, Ramon’s father has a sense of humor about his chosen career of rolling in dough.
BTG #7. Frances Wilkens and her dog never make it to South Carolina though she thinks she has taken all the precautions at the rest stop. This is when I introduce VICAP into the story. I’ve tried to capture the sense of helplessness in the victims as they await their demise.
BTG #8. Holly is the good Catholic college student who sneaks into the boy’s dorm to give a little head to a sleeping frat boy. While her sorority sisters go off to Miami for spring break, Holly drives to her parent’s farm in Kentucky for the week. On her way home, she runs into Old Hank while getting gas. Then Old Hank decides to run into her on the highway. The Coffee House Writers version ends with Daniella sitting in Old Hank’s office looking around, and she sees a pair of night vision goggles hanging from a hook by his office door. It ends here because I am only allowed 2,000-words for each article. However, I couldn’t stop there and put the longer version on my blog.
WordPress version: In summary, as Daniella is sitting in Hanks’s office, she notices the sun shining on scraps of metal and glass out in his driveway. She asks him if he has a crusher. He tells her about Pearl, the Filipino lady who has the shipping container yard and a crusher that can crush a car as small as a tuna can. He gives Daniella Pearl’s business card. Daniella, in turn, tells Rodriquez they need to make a road trip to Pearl’s yard.
While writing this series of characters, I have had to keep in mind the manuscript and its original story. In the last paragraph of each series, I have gone back to either Old Hank or Daniella Keezar. It’s a marriage, and they need to stay linked. I hope, while you have read each series, you have picked up on this.
In BTG #9, we read Pearl’s story. Pearl, in the manuscript, meets Hank when he wants to buy shipping containers from her but doesn’t have a credit card. He wants to pay cash. Pearl doesn’t trust her delivery driver to give her the money, so she does the delivery herself. When Hank gives her the proper amount in cash, they form a trusting business relationship. Pearl’s dealings with the Mexican Cartel and the business of ‘moving’ people (human trafficking) will help Pearl and Hank form an even closer bond. I will get into this in BTG #11.
As far as the manuscript, my goal is to have it completed by July 2021. I will then send it off to my editor, and fingers crossed, my publisher will like it enough to publish it.
I hope you are enjoying the series as much as I am. Don’t forget to share all of Coffee House Writers with your friends and family.