Friday, October 21, 2016

Story Round-Up: Features in The Herald-News, Oct. 16 through Oct. 21

I'm already behind today, so no fiction-writing this morning, but I shall make up for it tonight.
The organizer for my monthly fiction workshop pushed it back to next Friday evening, giving me an unexpected night to spend transferring the images in my mind to the computer. ;)

It's been a transition week. The Herald-News now has a new managing editor ("Welcome, Jon Styf!") who we are all adjusting into the new routine. Also, as last week closed, I marched straight into a working weekend as the weekend editor, pausing only for Divine Liturgy on Sunday and a funeral that evening, and kept going into this week. The break tonight will be most welcome (once I do finally get home, that is).

Also, a quick reminder: Tomorrow from 2 to 4 p.m. at The Book Market on Plainfield Road, four WriteOn Joliet authors will be signing and selling books and chatting with customers. If you have time and inclination, come on out. Details are on my website

First, the non-bylined work: the health, faith, and arts and entertainment calendars. Three of them can be found at the link below. Gotta Do It, runs each Sunday and often stays on the home page throughout the week.

Feature briefs for Tuesday (health), Thursday (faith), Friday (Arts and Entertainment), and Sunday (People) are also edited (texted and photos) by the lady of this blog, but only the stories have bylines.

I also put together an extra calendar, a listing of area craft fairs for 2016:

Another option: I do post the briefs and calendars on Twitter during the week, so you're welcome to follow me at @Denise_Unland61.

"Thank you for reading The Herald-News." :)

Active and involved Joliet centenarian discusses her past, present and future

Margaret Lucas never thought she’d live to be 100

She’s the current treasurer for the Joliet chapter of the National Active and Retired Federal Employees – where Lucas is a lifetime member – and assistant accountant for the church she joined in 1961, First Presbyterian in Joliet.

Maybe it’s time to let others pick up those roles, Lucas reasoned. Lucas does, however, have one solid plan for her future, which she said she shared with her cardiologist.

An Extraordinary Life: Joliet native's faith, kindness to be remembered with upcoming fundraiser

The youngest of five children in a Catholic family that lived near St. Mary Nativity Church in Joliet, Richie always had “a special connection with Christ.”

Morris mom battling rare blood clotting disorder; struggling to keep her home

Three blood clots later, Morris woman hoping to return to work

“I’ve always worked in my adult life,” Minara said. “I took pride in working and not having to rely on people.”

Christian rapper will share stories of homelessness, faith Oct. 27 in New Lenox

Milton Calvin’s original music is praise and ministry

“My mother taught us how to pray,” Calvin said. “She taught us that Jesus was there no matter what, she taught us to keep the faith. These things stayed with me throughout the hardest time of my life.”

Rockdale man hand prints the products in his fitness apparel business

Jesus Reyes infuses his business with art and plenty of meaning

Each item must inspire the wearer in some way. The name of Reyes’ company is Corazón De Rey, or “heart of a king,” and it is this spirit Reyes wants to convey through each step of the production and marketing process.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

BryonySeries Throwback Thursday: Another Famous Tolstoy

Friday, October 15, 2010

Another Famous Tolstoy

Many people have heard of Leo Tolstoy (War and Peace), but not everyone knows that his cousin, Alexis Tolstoy, wrote vampires stories. I can’t find any of them online and his book,Vampires: Stories of the Supernatural, is out of print, but it is for sale on various sites that sell used books.

That book contains three stories: The VampireFamily of a Vourdalak (dramatized by Boris Karloff in the movie, Black Sabbath, 1963), The Reunion After Three Hundred Years, and Amena. No favorites for me here; all four are exceptionally well-written.

The novella Vampire (1841) opens with young man, Runevsky, attending a ball. One guest comments about the number oupyrs (vampires) present at the event and points them out to Runevsky. Of course, Runevsky falls in love with the granddaughter, Dasha, of one of the purported vampires and begins to court her. Strange things happen to him when he visits the family. When they tell fortunes by reading random passages from books, Dasha reads the chilling, “And the grandmother will suck her granddaughter’s blood.” Then Runevsky spends the night in a room that contains an old-fashioned portrait of a deceased relative, who naturally resembles Dasha. Known as the first modern Russian vampire story, The Vampire also weaves elements of Greek mythology and contains interesting dream states.

The short story Family of a Vourdalak is the story of a Russian patriarch that leaves home to fight a band of bandits. He tells his family if returns after sunset on a particular day not to let him inside, for he will be a vourdalak (vampire). Since he arrives immediately at sunset, the family is uncertain what to do and allow him entrance. Wrong decision.

In The Reunion After Three Hundred Years, a duchess, after a carriage accident, becomes the guest at a macabre reunion of guests. Amena is set during the Christian persecutions. A man, destined to be martyred for his faith with his companions, is sidetracked by a seductively mysterious woman.

I first read this book at my local library, so perhaps yours has it, too. Definitely worth the price if you buy.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Why You Should Never, Ever Be the Last Eyes on Your Writing

It was truly a "laugh out loud" moment. And I was in a meeting (oops).

While formatting my first "Bertrand" book for publication, a book I've edited and, yes, even run through spell check, Rebekah found this "oopsie" and texted it to me.

The story's premise, suggested to me by my grandson Lucas, is about Bertrand the Mouse finding a lucky clover. Because it worked with my plot in another story, I made it a six-leaf clover. 

Repeat: Bertrand finds a SIX-LEAF clover. 

Despite being dyslexic, Rebekah can catch an obvious typo, even when it looks correct to spell check. Mostly, she had what I had not: a fresh pair of eyes.

Oh, how a picture is worth a thousand right words.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Slacking and Four-Author Event Reminder

But only in fiction. But only because my features writing and editing consumed my time this weekend.

It felt satisfying to get so much accomplished, yet frustrating, too, because half the list remained. (My lists are rather ambitious).

However, before I left for a funeral last night, I did reread, aloud (because my WriteOn Joliet co-leader says I read too quickly) the selection I'm bringing to the meeting Thursday night. I also printed out copies and tucked them into my laptop bag. That probably counts as fiction, right/write?

A reminder for readers in the Joliet area: Four members of WriteOn Joliet will chat and sign books this Saturday from 2 to 4 p.m. at The Book Market at 2366 Plainfield Road in Crest Hill.

Sue Merrell writes crime fiction. The setting and incidents are based on similar ones in the Joliet area. For more information, visit

Allie Rios writes inspirational fiction on the theme of healing. She also has a collection of stories about brain cancer battles (including the story of her mother) that benefits the American Brain Foundation at Find her on Facebook at Allison Rios, Author.

Ralph Carey, a recovering alcoholic, has an inspirational book about the recovery journey. Find him on Facebook at Life's Wisdom Overcoming Addiction.

For people on a budget, I'm giving away fifteen copies of Snowbell that day.

For more information, visit

Have a great Monday, vampire fans! :)

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Cottage Cheese Balls

 As much as Melissa enjoyed playing Bryony, she found some of Munsonville’s Victorian foods difficult to stomach, especially when they appeared on her breakfast tray. Here is one that Melissa encountered during those initial breakfasts at Simons Mansion.

This recipe is from Miss Beecher’s domestic receiptbook: designed as a supplement to her Treatise on domestic economy.

Obviously, serving up cottage cheese in the nineteenth century was a little more complicated than it is today.

Cottage Cheese Balls

Let the milk be turned by rennet (see below) or by setting it in a warm place. It must not be heated, as the oily part will then pass off, and the richness is lost. When fully turned, put it in a coarse linen bag, and hang it to drain for several hours, till all the whey is out. Then mash it fine, salt it to the taste, and thin it with good cream, or add a little cream and roll it into balls. When thin, it is very fine with preserves or sugared fruit.

It also makes a fine pudding, by thinning it with milk, and adding eggs and sugar, and spice to the taste, and baking it. Many persons use milk when turned for a dessert, putting on sugar and spice. Children are fond of it.

To Prepare Rennet

1 stomach of a new-killed calf
1 teaspoon vinegar

Take the stomach of a new-killed calf, and do not wash it, as it weakens the gastric juice. Hang it in a cool and dry place 5 days or so, the turn the inside out and slip off the curds with the hand. The fill it with salt, with a little salt-petre mixed in, and lay it in a stone pot, pouring on vinegar, and sprinkling on a handful of salt. Cover it closely and keep for use.

From "Memories in the Kitchen: Bites and Nibbles From 'Bryony'"

All proceeds benefit Big Brothers Big Sisters of Will and Grundy Counties.

Order the cookbook at

Friday, October 14, 2016

Story Round-Up: Features in The Herald-News, Oct. 9 through Oct. 14

Very quick recap today, as it's been an extraordinarily busy wee, and I am far behind (as I go into a working weekend as the weekend editor for two newspapers).

Our managing editor announced on Monday that she has accepted a new job and is leaving today. Our new editor starts in three days.

I took on three extra cover stories this week, two for news and for that's supposed to be an anonymous byline, the third project in this series I've done so far (we're mixing them up among the editors).

And so huffing and puffing away, here's my weekly roundup of my writing work that pays my bills.

First, the non-bylined work: the health, faith, and arts and entertainment calendars. Three of them can be found at the link below. Gotta Do It, runs each Sunday and often stays on the home page throughout the week.

Feature briefs for Tuesday (health), Thursday (faith), Friday (Arts and Entertainment), and Sunday (People) are also edited (texted and photos) by the lady of this blog, but only the stories have bylines.

I also put together an extra calendar, a listing of area craft fairs for 2016:

Another option: I do post the briefs and calendars on Twitter during the week, so you're welcome to follow me at @Denise_Unland61.

And if you do peek at these stories, to quote our editor Kate Schott for the last time, "Thank you for reading The Herald-News." :)

Catholic university in Romeoville to host a secular exhibit exploring forgiveness

New exhibit at Lewis University shares personal accounts of forgiveness

The very word “forgiveness” calls up varied images for different people. Weakness. Heroism.

But forgiveness, Louise Hext, North America curator for the exhibit, said, does not mean condoning a horrific act.

“It’s a very brave thing to sit down in front of a person who murdered your only son and forgive him, but that’s what Mary Johnson did.”

An Extraordinary Life: Channahon music teacher encouraged excellence in her students

Claudia Krause made music special in her students’ lives

Kassy Krause also remembers being 8 or 9 and standing next to Claudia while her mother sang a descant version of “Silent Night.”

“That was the most beautiful thing I ever heard my mother sing,” Kassy said. “I remember thinking, ‘That’s what I want to be.’ ”

Belmont Little League's ballpark in Joliet in serious need of repair

The PA system doesn’t work on any of the three fields, Shannon Wolf said. Neither do the scoreboards. The dugouts on the older fields are so bad that if it rains, the players are “sitting ducks.”

And don’t get Wolf, second vice president of the league and former coach as well as player, started on the bleachers.

Will County Take Back the Night committee members recall 20 years of rallying against abuse

Annual grass-roots event affecting views on domestic violence

When Lora McGuire learned the student’s husband inflicted the injury, she told the student, “You have to go to the police.” The student’s reply stunned McGuire: “He is the police.”

Plainfield church to offer simulated tours of third world countries

Bleak lives of 3rd World children shown in ‘The Compassion Experience’

“I would encourage anyone to see it, especially if they don’t have the money to go to another country,” Steve Hinkle said. “People will walk away with a better understanding. I can’t think of another word other than ‘impactful.’ ”

New York Times bestselling author with Coal City, Plainfield ties coming to Joliet library

Essex resident Denise Swanson shares her publishing journey

In 2010, she made the New York Times bestselling list for the first time and then she made it five more times after that.

Swanson’s now delving into self-publishing with her romance stories. Having experienced both sides of the publishing fence, she sees pros and cons to each.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

BryonySeriesThrowback Thursday: Cat Mews (News)

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Cat Mews (News)

The cats received their first piece of official mail yesterday. The vet's yearly reminder notices for annual exams. bloodwork, and rabies injections don't count. It happened like this.

Last week, I interviewed a woman whose rescue dog is now a certified therapy dog. Afterwards, we chatted about struggling rescue groups in general, how the economy is forcing people to abandon their pets, and my family's own financial struggles, which includes how we care for the cats we previously rescued.

She was quite impressed that the children budget food, litter, collars, tags, toys etc. from their own pockets, while my husband and I pay for medical care. So, this very generous woman sent a $25 grocery store gift card, with the stipulation it be spent on the cats. The felines of the house were pretty nonchalant about their windfall, but the kids rejoiced.

In Bryony, Brian Marchellis keeps a stray cat over his mother's objections because someone nice fronts all the necessities, including the shots and the vet's bill, but especially the blue collar with the silver jingle bell Brian coveted.

Of course, we'll take our cats over Brian's Snowbell any day and not just because we're attached to them, but that's another story (in progress, too, mind you, but that's also another post).

At the same time, we're very grateful to all people, real and imaginary, who not only understand attachment between owners and their pets, but are kind enough to offer tangible relief. Thank you.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Famous Last Words? How About Famous First Lines

One of my mother's favorite comebacks to comments from either my sister or me was, "Famous last words."

I don't have any of those to offer today, but I do have a link to famous FIRST words.

Sometimes, the hardest part about beginning a story or novel are the initial words.

For me, I almost always can't write any type of story (fiction, nonfiction, or otherwise) unless I have the first lines and the last lines.

Here's how other authors have managed this:

Monday, October 10, 2016

There's Nothing Like...

...the sale of a few books to rekindle enthusiasm for the craft.

...mingling with other writers and readers to appreciate the common interest thread.

...crisp autumn mornings to reawaken fresh ideas.

...swapping ideas to open up possibilities

...a nice hot cup of dark roast to start the morning

...three extra cover stories to stretch the abilities

...a house full of family and pets to remind me of my blessings.

Happy Monday, vampire fans! :)

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Bulldog Sloppy Joe

 On Halloween, Steve thoughtfully prepared a large pot of his barbecue beef so Melissa and Brian could eat early and have plenty of time to get into their costumes. Dressing as Bryony could have been more fun, had Melissa realized at the time the irony of Brian’s vampire garb.

Bulldog Sloppy Joe
By Jeremiah Boerema

3 pounds ground beef
½ to 1 cup chopped onion
1 tablespoon vinegar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 cup ketchup
1 cup barbecue sauce, preferable Sweet Baby Rays

Brown ground beef and onions at the same time over medium to high heat. Mix the remaining ingredients for the sauce well. Drain off the extra fat from the meat and onion mixture. Add sauce, stir, and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. If extra sauce is desired, add equal parts of ketchup and barbecue sauce. To achieve the Bulldog effect, use green ketchup instead of red. Yield: 6 to 8 servings.

From "Memories in the Kitchen: Bites and Nibbles From 'Bryony'"

All proceeds benefit Big Brothers Big Sisters of Will and Grundy Counties.

Order the cookbook at

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Plainfield Indie Author Fair Recap

First of all, kudos to the Plainfield Public Library District for running a terrific event!

I've done a number of these since I first published Bryony in 2011, the approach worked well: one hour for an author panel, one hour for the fair, and done.

No standing around for hours with other authors waiting for people to come. I shared information writing and publishing information; sold five books; and gave gave away fifteen copies of Snowbell, Halloween stickers, promo cards Timothy made for me regarding the first books in the Adventure of Cornell Dyer and Bertrand the Mouse series; and fielded interest about WriteOn Joliet.

All in two amazing hours, giving me enough time to stop by the Book Market in Joliet (where four of us WriterOnes are having a signing on Oct. 22) to give the owner some copies of my books for her display.

Best of all, I still have time to write today. Have a fantastic weekend!

So Rebekah creates a beautiful display and then ducks out of the photo, sheesh. :(

Rebekah's display up close - which shows the art of Christopher Gleason (Snowbell) and Sue Midlock (Cornell Dyer), as well  the Bertrand and Cornell cards Timothy created for me.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Story Round-Up: Features in The Herald-News, Oct. 2 through Oct. 7

All righty, vampire fans: a quick recap. I'm running behind, and it's a long work day and a packed weekend.

YES, I'm still working on Before the Blood. Also this month, we've been working on releasing two books, the first in the Adventures of Cornell Dyer series for middle schoolers and the first book in the Bertrand the Mouse series for young children. We're eyeing an early November release and launching a Bertrand the Mouse Instagram page, too.

Also, if you're a fan of the BryonySeries or any of its elements, please follow the series at @BryonySeries. 

Why? Because I share posts related to writing and anything topical in the series, from history to literature to art to architecture to pop culture to recipes to cats.

What else?

I'm appearing on my very first author panel at 10 a.m. tomorrow morning at the Plainfield Public Library. That panel will be followed by an author fair at 11 a.m. You must register to attend the author panel. Details on that and upcoming events are Here:

Also tomorrow, I've giving away free copies of Snowbell while they last. So if you haven't sampled my "other" writing (not my official newspaper features writing), here's your chance.

And now, the weekly recap:

First, the non-bylined work: the health, faith, and arts and entertainment calendars. Three of them can be found at the link below. Gotta Do It, runs each Sunday and often stays on the home page throughout the week.

Feature briefs for Tuesday (health), Thursday (faith), Friday (Arts and Entertainment), and Sunday (People) are also edited (texted and photos) by the lady of this blog, but only the stories have bylines.

Another option: I do post the briefs and calendars on Twitter during the week, so you're welcome to follow me at @Denise_Unland61.

And if you do peek at these stories, to quote our editor Kate Schott, "Thank you for reading The Herald-News." :)

Mokena man found success in tile and grout

Dan Lundstedt owns the top-performing location for a national company

“The thing about Dan is he’s creative; he’s not afraid to take chances; he’s very trainable and very coachable; and he has a true entrepreneur spirit. It’s built into his DNA. I can see it,” Jeff Gill, co-owner of Sir Grout, said.

Crest Hill breast cancer survivor forms nonprofit, hosting Oct. 22 fundraiser (VIDEO EXTRA)

Castela McElrath is raising funds and awareness for breast cancer patients and their families

“The black community doesn’t speak to each other much about cancer,” McElrath said. “They don’t like to think about it. They think it will go away.”

Joliet man lived goodness and promoted togetherness

Jerry P’Pool gave, gave and then gave some more

Jerry lent money to those in need, never expecting to receive it back. In fact, people who couldn’t pay it back were those most likely to receive help from Jerry. Angela thinks Jerry still is keeping that tradition from heaven.

“I find pennies every week in the most random places,” Angela said. “I like to think they’re from my dad.”

The tale of the church sheep at St. Francis Xavier in Joliet

Imitation sheep at Joliet church are building real community

Positioning the sheep has strengthened the communal sense in the 560-family parish. It’s also been good for the sheep, who certainly aren’t lonely. Langsdorf surmises the church has 16 sheep, but he isn’t certain.

“During the summer, someone went out and bought more sheep,” Langsdorf said.

Joliet Junior College's film festival addresses elections, gender identity and the Plainfield tornado

Joliet Junior College’s 4th film festival to feature 3 different movies

“This is a time when we need empathy. There is a shortage of it in the world,” Gisele Atterberry, JJC fine arts professor, said. “Films help us understand people and their situations. I think there is something about being in an audience with other people, hearing when they laugh and sensing when they are silent.”

Thursday, October 6, 2016

BryonySeries Throwback Thursday: Pathetic First Attempts at Writing Dialogue

Monday, November 15, 2010

Pathetic First Attempts at Writing Dialogue

As a features writer, I love incorporating quotes from sources into my stories. I rarely ask people for a “quote,” because I think the best quotes come from spontaneous conversation during the course of the interview. People say the most amazing things when they aren’t paying strict attention to their words.

So how does this relate to Bryony?

Believe it or not, the fact that I would have to supply all that terrific dialogue didn’t immediately occur to me. When I began writing Bryony as a novella, I started the story on page one and kept going (and not very far, either). Once I realized I had a novel, I changed tactics and started composing scenes, not necessarily in order. I soon ran into trouble.

Speaking for Melissa and her family and friends was easy; the vampires were much harder, even though their lines had tumbled about my head for years. How exactly did John Simons, cold and reserved, sound on paper? How would the shrewd Kellen Wechsler choose his words?

I decided to practice on a conversation between Melissa and the ever so charming and charismatic Henry Matthews. I figured it would be easy because Henry was so outgoing. I wrote and rewrote their encounter until it sounded right to me and then, heart pounding, read it aloud.

Oh the horror of really bad dialogue!

Good thing I didn’t read it loud enough for anyone to hear. If it was twenty years earlier and I was less motivated, that moment would have buried any further fiction writing attempts. However, at nearly age fifty, time is not on my side, so a couple antacids later, I set my jaw and was back at it.

Eventually, I wrote something that resembled what I heard inside me. In fact, this particular scene is a favorite of those who have read the book. Buoyed by this initial success, I wrote all of Henry’s dialogue before moving onto another character. Of course, Henry would have preferred I eliminate John altogether, but that is a different story.

I still love great dialogue, and now I’m awed that, with plenty of hard work, I can sometimes write it, too.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

A Bit About My Other (Non-Writing) Project

In early 2013, I had a loss, one that was devastating to me.

Through the years, I've dealt with many blows: two divorces, two bankruptcies, loss of a home where I thought I'd live out my days, loss of my vehicle, homelessness, ill health, etc. But this loss struck hard.

At the time, Joliet Area Community Hospice had called and asked if I'd be interested in writing a story about its art therapy program for The Herald-News, as the bereavement department was finding it difficult to convince clients that this wasn't about crayons and craft time. And the clients that had used it really didn't want to talk about the programs advantages to them.

Well, I became that client.

The loss occurred when I had no way to pay for the services, but I couldn't function and keep what was left of home and hearth together without it. For anyone that knows JACH, services are free to anyone who cannot afford them, but I am not a person who takes and walks away.

One trait about me is that when I begin a project, I thoroughly delve into it. I've learned through the years not everyone is like this. It's hard to do the hard work when it comes to healing, but, unfortunately, the only way to light is a horrible journey through the dark passages.

So I did. The result, is some phenomenal art, not art in the sense of "artwork," but art that has significant clinical value. This is not my pronouncement, but that of the counselors in the department.

So after spending nearly a year in the program, I began working with the bereavement staff to take some of that art and turn it into a form useful for the JACH bereavement department. As we began the process, The Sun Times sold The Herald-News, Shaw Media purchased it, and I became the newspaper's features editor.

My family was still at a low financial point during this time and work on the project was slow and uneven. But we finally completed it this summer.

The result is three little purse-sized books that take clients on a visual journey from grief to hope. The images within are extremely raw and show a side of me no one has ever met. My name is not on them, as they are meant to be personal without being personalized. They are not available commercially, but only to JACH, although JACH has mentioned it might, perhaps, make them available to other hospice organizations, too. The bereavement department would like every client that walks through JACH's doors to receive copies.

At a time when I literally could not pay for my own help except through my own grief, I'm humbled beyond words.

So I am now actively raising funds to offset the purchase of these books. I make not profit on them and, again, they are not available for purchase. Yesterday, I received my first substantial donation for hospice, which makes the fruition of this long journey both surreal and satisfying on so many levels.

If you know anyone that would like to contribute to this, please message me at

Or people can send donations directly to Joliet Area Community Hospice and reference "art therapy books." Here's the link:

Monday, October 3, 2016

Munsonville Happenings

I've been busy, and here's a recap.

First, a couple of new books.

One: I've finally published "Snowbell." It's available at Amazon, but here's the thing. I'm mainly giving it away, to fans and anyone who wishes to reach a sample of my writing. I'll fifteen print copies to give away at each of these two events: Oct. 8 and Oct. 22. For event details, see

Two: The art is completed for my first book of the middle school series, The Adventures of Cornell Dyer. We're working on editing and formatting Cornell Dyer and the Missing Tombstone, and aiming for an early November release.

Three: The art of the first book for young children about Bertrand the Mouse is also shot. We're also working at formatting Bertrand and the Lucky Clover, and also aiming for an early November release. We're also planning an Instagram "Where's Bertrand" type of account, so stay tuned.\

Four: We've started a BryonySeries Pinterest page, but right now it's dormant. We'll be getting to that soon (I hope).

Five: BryonySeries Twitter is alive and well. This account is different from the blog and Facebook. On it are links to any topic pertaining to the BryonySeries, as well as links to the blog, the BryonySeries Facebook page, and this blog. Follow the page at @BryonySeries.

Six: Making slow, but very sure, progress on Before the Blood. I spend about half an hour each morning, some Friday evenings, and as much of a Saturday as I can spare.

Seven: I also have a side project I've completed and am now soliciting funds. More on this later, as it's a post of its own.

Gotta get some BTB work done before I switch to social media for The Herald-News. Happy Monday, vampire fans!

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Tea with Eggs

This is not a breakfast dish. The eggs are actually inside the tea, as part of the drink.

Waking in Henry’s study was annoying enough for Melissa, but trying to choke down Henry’s tea was worse. Melissa could not understand why Victorians couldn’t make normal food.

This recipe is a combination of two tea recipes from The Bohemian-American Cookbook by Marie Rosicky, published by the Automatic Printing Company ((  

Note: Henry preferred rum and lemon juice in his, but he prepared Melissa’s tea with sugar and cream.

Tea with Eggs

1 teaspoon tea leaves
3 cups boiling water
Sugar and cream OR rum and lemon juice
Several egg yolks
A bit of cold water

Pour boiling water on the tea leaves, let it steep a few moments, then strain. Add sugar and cream or rum and lemon juice. Beat several egg yolks with a bit of cold water, pour them into the tea, beating constantly. Beat over the fire until it foams (it must not boil) and serve.

From "Memories in the Kitchen: Bites and Nibbles From 'Bryony'"

All proceeds benefit Big Brothers Big Sisters of Will and Grundy Counties.

Order the cookbook at

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Steward Setback Saturday: How the Real Ed Calkins Became a Fictional Vampire

Saturday, October 16, 2010

How the Real Ed Calkins Became a Fictioinal Vampire

It was timing, actually.

Two years ago, Ed Calkins and I worked in the same distribution center. He was a supervisor, and I was a newspaper carrier. Ed was always planning something to make working a seven-day job in the middle of the night more lighthearted. One of those “things” was his annual Ed Calkins Day parade in honor of his birthday.

The parade was a simple one. Ed would ride a pallet jack and toss candy to the carriers. Each year Ed had the parade, I missed it by coming too late to see it (It’s a VERY short parade).

One year, Ed kept pestering me about starting a newsletter for his imaginary kingdom. He had assumed the persona of a “ruthless dictator” dubbed as the “Steward of Tara” and demanded some “media” coverage. So, after missing yet another parade, I presented him with a big red bow and a choice of birthday presents: a monthly one-page newsletter or a bit role as a vampire in Bryony. Ed laughed and said, “Immortality, of course.” Thus, I began rewriting parts of the novel to make room for his character.

Ed’s character grows in plot importance in the three books that currently comprise the Bryony Series, but the fictional Ed Calkins resembles the real Ed Calkins in many ways except one: as a vampire, he is free to fully live the stories he weaves.

Denise M. Baran-Unland

Friday, September 30, 2016

Story Round-Up: Features in The Herald-News, Sept.25 through Sept.30

Last week I had a job shadower hang out with me for the day, a woman in her late 20s who wishes she had studied journalism in college like she wanted to do (instead of listening to naysayers) and who has ideas for her first novel.

I showed her my routine and worked on briefs while we chatted about different aspects of my writing life, from childhood fiction to freelance features writing to fiction again to my current role as a features editor. I gave her copies of both my business cards (my work one and my BryonySeries one) and then she blew me away by saying she was already reading my first book.

Well. Ahem.

Took in dinner and a play with a WriteOn Joliet comrade and will be doing the same tonight (same play, different friend). Saturday (I hope) will be spent wandering around an imaginary nineteenth century, while Sunday is Divine Liturgy, work, and hanging out with family.

I have two appearances coming up for anyone in the Joliet area who might be interested. Details are at:

Here's the weekly recap:

First, the non-bylined work: the health, faith, and arts and entertainment calendars. Three of them can be found at the link below. Gotta Do It, runs each Sunday and often stays on the home page throughout the week.

Feature briefs for Tuesday (health), Thursday (faith), Friday (Arts and Entertainment), and Sunday (People) are also edited (texted and photos) by the lady of this blog, but only the stories have bylines.

Another option: I do post the briefs and calendars on Twitter during the week, so you're welcome to follow me at @Denise_Unland61.

And if you do peek at these stories, to quote our editor Kate Schott, "Thank you for reading The Herald-News." :)

Crest Hill business owner caters to Joliet area teachers
Jason Kuriger knows importance of giving back

To Kuriger, his Teacher Loyalty Program is really a teacher appreciation program. After his parents’ divorce, Kuriger said he attended 10 schools in Plainfield and Joliet during his school career and endured 13 moves. Kuriger credits teachers and school staff for his success today.

“The only people that made me feel part of something were teachers and faculty members,” Kuriger said.

An Extraordinary Life: Crest Hill beautician didn't let ALS stop her
Tana Anderson made everyone feel special

“God was a big part of her life,” Kara Anderson, Tana's daughter, said. “And she knew God wanted her to be nice and accepting of everyone.”

Joliet church hopes to inspire grassroots activism through monthly social justice documentaries (VIDEO EXTRA)
Monthly social justice films inform, promote thoughtful discussion 

“People can’t become activists in all the areas we cover,” Paul Brumbaugh, coordinator, said. “But they need to pick their own topic and get out there and be active and do something good for the world.”

Churches in Channahon and Minooka host 33rd CROP Hunger Walk (VIDEO EXTRA)

According to the CROP Hunger Walk website, CROP Hunger Walks support the grassroots efforts of Church World Service to combat hunger around the world. It provides water, seeds, tools, wells and water systems, technical training and micro-enterprise loans.

But groups that host a CROP Hunger Walk also have the option of keeping 25 percent of funds raised in their own communities. Harold Breen, one of the coordinator's of this year's walk, said last year’s walk raised a total of $5,425.

Stamp collecting alive and well in Joliet, annual stamp show is Oct. 8 (VIDEO EXTRA)

Club members say stamp collecting still is a ‘vibrant hobby’

In some ways, the technology age has made it easier to collect.

“It used to be if you wanted to buy new stamps, you had to go to a dealer," Juell said. “Now you can get some very elusive stamps right on the internet.”

Thursday, September 29, 2016

BryonySeries Throwback Thursday: Where Were You When you Wrote...?

Monday, January 31, 2011

Where Were You When you Wrote...?

Last week, on the twenty-fifth annivesary of The Challenger, I read and responded to several Facebook posts of, "What were doing when the space shuttle exploded?"

Certain memories for us are so vivid we can recall their ancillary details. With The Challenger, I remember hustling three kids under four through the grocery store (Eagle, in Crest Hill), so I could watch the take-off. I remember gaping in horror at what I was really watching and holding Joshua, who was four months old at the time and still dressed in a tan snowsuit my mother had bought him.

I have writing memories like that, too.

When you've pecked at your first novel as long I have, you'd think the particulars would be long buried under more important life moments, but some of them, for whatever reason, are as clear as they day I experienced them. For instance:

* One evening, near dusk, my oldest kids and their friends were modifying the backyard playhouse, so I threw some toys on the floor for my crawler (Timothy, now 20), shut the bedroom door, and wrote a scene where Melissa is alone at home (everyone else had gone to the movies) and searching near Simons Mansion for Snowbell (that scene never made it to the first draft).

* I was taking my daily power walk in Marcrest subdivision in Joliet (where we used to live) when I created a piece of dialogue for Henry that would be my unspoken tag line for many years. I also mentally wrote one of the scenes still featured in Bryony, although I later changed the location in the house. BTW, for anyone familiar with Marycrest, I was walking on St. Joseph, past Marmion and Madonna and around the bend to St. Francis. The sun was shining, too, and it was about 11:00 in the morning.

* The afternoon John Simons' hair lightened and came down, I was driving north on Infantry Lane in Joliet, past a paper carrier acquaintance's house, on my way to pick up a kid nicknamed "Doc." I was listening to Adia by Sarah McLachlan when the image popped into my head. I couldn't wait for a red light to mentally describe my vision of John playing a grand piano inside Simons Mansion, except it wasn't in the music room, but near the grand staircase. At the time, I was a new single parent and my teens had talked me into managing a crew of kids selling newspaper subscriptions. By then, I was writing for the paper and delivering it, too. Hardly the most opportune time in my life to work on a novel, but I always kept paper and pen in my van and jotted notes for Bryony whever I had a chance.

I was pacing the floor with colicky newborn (Timothy, again) when I created the very ill Frank Marchellis. Three years later, I was pacing the floor with a colickly newborn (Rebekah) when I created two characters for Staked!, the third novel in the BryonySeries, although at the time, it was only one, yet unamed, book.

* The inspiration for a confrontation between Melissa and Henry--actually the character of Henry himself--a favorite with those who have read a Bryony draft (including two of my editors) came from a dream I had regarding an argument with a Henry-like character.

Does anyone else have memories like that?

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Fake It...In a Believable Way, Of Course

Isn't that the essence of writing fiction? To craft a world so believeable your reader, well, believe it.

To build characters so lifelike your readers will cheer them on, mourn their losses, and rejoice in their triumphs.

To arranges syllables in such a way your reader can "hear" the various voices as they speak.

To flavor your descriptions with the right word condiments that your reader can hear the roar of the tides, see the love in a parent's eyes, feel the softness of plush toy, smell the alcohol before the IV pinch, and taste Grandma's flaky apple strudel.

And when you're missing a "factual" detail, to know your world so well, you can invent the deficiency, and your reader won't question it.

I did that on Saturday when working on Before the Blood and posted it yesterday. And no one questioned it.

            "Henry Matthews," Professor Clarke repeated, savoring the syllables as if he was tasting them. "It speaks of literary greatness, don't you agree?"

            Brumfeldt set his briefcase on the desk. "So I brought the con..."
            "Henry, do you write?"


            "Do you write, poetry, sonnets, and the like?"

            "Henry writes short stories." Brumfeldt brought forth a stack of paperwork. "Now if you'll just sign..."

            "Ah short stories! The marvel of the literary world!  Tell me, Henry: Do you plan to publish one day?"

            "I'm not certain if..."

            "Then come see. It will help you decide."

            Professor Clarke led Henry to a table near the window. He selected a volume, blew off the dust, and offered it to Henry. The worn olive cover had these embossed letters: Word Gems, by Astor G. Clarke.

            "My very first poetry collection,  published when I was only sixteen. Go on. Open it."

            Brumfeldt sighed in loud exasperation. "Astor. The contr..."


            Professor Clarke snatched back the book,  wet his thumb and leafed through the entries. "Where is...where is...ah, right here. Henry, read this one. Aloud."

            In defeat, a scowling Brumfeldt dropped into a chair and rubbed his forehead.

            "Go on, Henry," Professor Clarke urged.

           And Henry did.

When Day's Last Light Has Darkened

When last beheld the sunny skies
With fading mind and hazy eyes
A trembling spirit inside cried
"Let me see another day!"

As a boy I lov'd the morn
Newly born, alive and warm
Yet I cultivated years of thorns
And piss'd away the length of days

But dimming light forewarns of dusk
And approaching night, harsh and brusque
Whilst my soul, this leather husk
Shouts, "Please, another day!"

Oh Maria, my heart's delight
Good angel! Return and stay the night!"
Comfort me in this ghastly plight
And give new hope of brighter days.

Now in the dark, a shadow nears
Hovering 'round my outer spheres
And chills me with its final sneers,
"You've seen the last of all your days!"

            "Good diction, Henry. Do  you recite?"

Yes. I made it up. In ten minutes exactly while the cats paced for dinner. It's my first poem ever, and I'm a little annoyed it came together so well. I have one that speaks from my heart that I've messed with forever. But this one? Ten minutes.

I'm sure there's a lesson here somewhere.