Monday, January 23, 2017

A Really Quick Post

Last week was an intense work week that led into a intense working weekend that's leading into a less intense but still intense and packed work week.

You got that?

Now it was a good weekend for it to be so work-heavy because I'm creating characters for this current chapter, which means mostly filling out character questionnaires, a task I'd rather reserve for my thirty-minute morning writings than on a Saturday when I'm free to write more globally.

That said, I've haven't so much as peeked at them since last Thursday morning. And I'd rather not lose this small burst of time in the quiet dark room with a hot mug of dark coffee beside me to keep me inspired to blogging.

To the writers out there, I know you understand.

To my handful of readers out there, this time spent on fiction is for you, ultimately.

Happy Monday, vampire fans! :)

Sunday, January 22, 2017

The Reason for the BryonySeries cookbook

   Introduction to Memories in the Kitchen: Bites and Nibbles from “Bryony.”


   Why a cookbook?

   Well, why NOT a cookbook?

   Even before I began submitting Bryony to agents and small presses, my kids and I talked about all the fun, additional products the novel might inspire.

   Although I’ll probably never see bendable dolls with their own line of clothing (too bad, since we could make a fortune on all those lost, little shoes) or a Simons Mansion dollhouse (I REALLY want one), the cookbook idea flourished inside me, especially after I wrote a story on what Kathy Carey did for March of Dimes..

   For two decades, this remarkable woman participated in Grundy County's March of Dimes walk. In 2000, after a friend gave birth to a premature baby, Carey increased her efforts. She assisted the district coordinator. She contacted companies for donations and sponsorships. She re-routed the local walk to increase its visibility.

   Three years ago, Carey read an advertisement for fundraising cookbooks. Although she owned no computer and had no previous cookbook experience, Carey sent for the information. She studied it closely and decided she could do it. She set a fundraising goal of $7,000 and calculated that she needed to sell 1,000 cookbooks to reach it. Carey peddled the books at local stores, craft shows and festivals until she sold them all.

   Inspired by Carey's story, I decided to create a Bryony themed cookbook and donate any profits it might make. Its recipient is Big Brothers Big Sisters of Will and Grundy Counties. In its 40-year history, the organization has matched over 15,000 at risk children from single-parent homes.

   Because Bryony's main character, Melissa Marchellis, spends part of her childhood in a single parent home, the group was a good match for the cookbook. I am humbled that Big Brothers Big Sisters of Will and Grundy Counties agreed.

   So, I scrolled through the manuscript, jotted all the food references, and began collecting recipes. I modified many of the Victorian dishes to ease preparation, but kept the original language intact. Some, such as boiled calves head, are included so readers can learn about the culinary delights of days long past.

   But enough talking. As Melissa’s younger brother Brian said during a holiday dinner, “We made all this food to eat, right?”

   Right, Brian. Happy reading and bon appétit!


Order the cookbook at www.bryonyseries.com.



Friday, January 20, 2017

Story Round-Up: Features in The Herald-News, Jan 22 through Jan. 27

Super tired and behind this morning, so a very quick recap of this week and a peek into the weekend.

A short week of sleep, a long week of extra work and activities, and a packed day: Phone interviews at 9:30 and 11, and in-person interviews at 1, 2 and 3 p.m. today. Plus Sunday pages to budget, etc. Fortunately, all deadline stories are filed.

All on minimal sleep the last couple of days. And teaching tonight and weekend editor this weekend. WHEW!

The sweetener: I love what I do. Still fiddling with fiction for thirty minutes each morning, thoroughly enjoyed WriteOn Joliet last night and am looking forward to tonight's fiction writing workshop.

First, the non-bylined work: the health, faith, and arts and entertainment calendars. Three of them can be found at the link below. http://www.theherald-news.com/lifestyle/ 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 of course, I post curated content relating to the BryonySeries at @BryonySeries.

Just an FYI: On free days, holidays, and Sundays I'm not on call, I only post the blog to my "real" Twitter account, as my company insists we do take time off. I'm less reasonable, so unless I'm on a real vacation, I still post to the BryonySeries accounts. I won't be posting to my personal Twitter account this weekend, only to BryonySeries.

FYI: videos have not been attaching to my Herald-News stories, although they do run for a time on the home page. You may also find them under the "videos" tab.

If you'd like to watch a video, and it's not showing up for you, message me, and I'll manually attach it. No worries for this week, though, although I will have videos for Sunday.

Thank you for reading The Herald-News.


Joliet pastor and former housing authority resident honored to give back   (VIDEO EXTRA)
Rev. Glenda McCullum appointed to housing authority’s board of commissioners

Mayor Bob O’Dekirk did it for two reasons: McCullum asked to be considered when a position opened, and O’Dekirk, who’s known McCullum for years, said he has much respect for her – as a leader and as a former resident of the authority’s recently demolished Des Plaines Garden Homes apartments.

http://www.theherald-news.com/2017/01/11/joliet-pastor-and-former-housing-authority-resident-honored-to-give-back/axzpb3k/


An Extraordinary Life: Mokena girl never let cystic fibrosis limit her

Rachel Sweet took her double lung transplant and ran with it

“I don’t know if I want to work for someone or have my own business,” Rachel had said, “but I don’t want to be low on the totem pole of accounting. I want to be up there, to be important.



Pets of the Week: Jan. 16

The Herald-News presents this week's Pets of the Week. Click on the caption of each photo to find out about that pet, including where he or she can be adopted.

Email "Pet of the Week" submissions to news@theheraldnews.com. Photos should be in jpg file format, 200 dpi and sent as email attachments. Submissions are subject to editing for length, style, grammar and run as space is available.

http://www.theherald-news.com/2017/01/08/pets-of-the-week-jan-16/ar9ukil/


Mystery Diner: Fox’s Restaurant and Pub in Plainfield hits the spot

For starters, however, I had to try the Reuben rolls, something the menu touts as a “Fox’s invention.” I only say it that way because I’ve seen them on other menus and have no way to confirm the originator. But they seem confident enough, putting it in print for all to see.



Lockport Sunday school teacher proves his faith by the way he lives (VIDEO EXTRA)
At 95, Donald Horschler teaches Sunday school, distributes Bibles at Stateville

“There’s no verse in the Bible that says I can retire,” Horschler said. “So I’m going to do this until I die. Who knows? That may be closer than I think.”



Joliet theater to present musical comedy with religious themes
Joliet resident to present play about five people locked in a church

“It is my heart’s great desire to touch the ears and tickle the funny bones of good people,” Kimberly D. Garrett said. “It is absolutely 100 percent possible to have a great time and still not be offended. It’s possible to have fun and still be saved.”

http://www.theherald-news.com/2017/01/17/joliet-theater-to-present-musical-comedy-with-religious-themes/a3573r4/


Three local members of the U.S. Navy to participate in the presidential inauguration

Jon Agazzi wanted to play the bassoon, but his father had a clarinet in the attic and told Agazzi, “If you’re going to play anything, it’s going to be the clarinet,” Agazzi said.

http://www.theherald-news.com/2017/01/18/three-local-members-of-the-u-s-navy-to-participate-in-the-presidential-inauguration/a2tll4i/

Thursday, January 19, 2017

BryonySeries Throwback Thursday: Vampires and Romance

Tuesday, February 14, 2012


Vampires and Romance

I read an interesting post yesterday with a good explanation regarding the roots of the vampire/romance connection.
http://romanceresearch.blogspot.com/2008/09/intertextuality-and-vampire-romance.html

On those terms, similar to ones I utilized in Bryony, I'll accept the vampire as romantic figure. Vampires as leading characters in romance novels, however, still leave me cold. There's something anemic about a vampire as a mournful, misconstrued, altruistic ex-human who really has its victim's best interests at heart.

Soulless, predatory creatures relentlessly in search of human blood for existence sake generally do not display self-effacing tendencies, although, I'll grant, from the vampire lore I added to Bryony, certain vampires do retain some human characteristics, but not enough that I'd call one my soul mate. Can such a creature really fall in love with something that, at its bare bones, its next meal? I appreciate a nice steak, but not that much.

It seems logical that, when seeing the moon of another day involves taking a person's life and not getting caught, a vampire's survival must surely depend upon sly, conniving, and manipulative tactics, behaviors such as I might witness in my cats.

Although my cats do occasionally initiate small tokens of affection, they are most apt to do so when I've brought a sandwich up to my office or I'm wrapped up in some project and have again forgotten dinnertime.

Nevertheless, after tummy full of kiblets, those same cats not purring in my lap while we enjoy the sunset together. They're curled up in the clean laundry basket taking a nap or prowling the yard in search of dessert.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The Promised "Art Gala" Recap (And Some Marketing Comments)

Okay, readers, this is a long post. So if you have something pressing to do, I advise returning later.


Last Thursday, BryonySeries illustrator Matt Coundiff and I participated in an art night/paint gala event.

http://bryonyseries.blogspot.com/2017/01/want-feedback-on-your-writing-this.html

http://bryonyseries.blogspot.com/2017/01/art-gala-paintt-night-and-writing.html

Through the years, I have participated in vendor events with mixed sales results. Overall, I have found them not to be very use for sales. So I stopped doing them for a few years.

But as I worked on my 2017 marketing plan, I revisited the idea and attended one on Thursday night. More on this in a minute.

Yes, vendor events often aren't terrific sales venues, but the right ones do play a role in marketing and keeping one's brand visible, which sets the foundation for future sales.

Why they suck for book sales (at least my book sales):

1) Vendor fees

Vendor fees make money for organizers, but they're one more hurdle for self-published fiction authors on a slim budget to scale. Meaning, in order to profit from the event, one must earn back the fee, too. Sometimes I did, sometimes I broke even. Mostly I didn't.

2) Unpredictable, broad spectrum of patrons

All one can do is hope some of the people strolling through the door will be intrigued with my books enough to buy. And that's even hoping some generally read the genre in which I write.

But don't pin hopes on that happening, at least not in any substantial way. Usually the organizers aren't doing any niche marketing for the vendors because

3) Organizers are hoping family and friends of vendors will be supportive

Meaning even if the general public doesn't attend in droves, family and friends will still buy stuff.

4) Finally, I always end up feeling I could be writing.

And when writing time is as scarce as gold on a sidewalk, a day standing behind my wares to sparse foot traffic underscores that sentiment as each minute ticks by.

Why I took another look at vendor events and when I feel authors should participate in one

1) Vendor fees

Unless we're talking a high-profile event related to your topic, an event tailored to your book topic, or an event where it's certain you'll generate great sales, pass on any event with a fee. They say a fool and his money are soon parted. Don't be that fool.

I'm not saying never spend money on marketing or vendor fees. But spend wisely. Be reasonably certain you'll either make that money back and then some or receive such great exposure the fees are well spent.

2) Unpredictable, broad spectrum of patrons

As I said, could be bad for sales, but great for meeting new people and promoting one's work. Consider the event an opportunity for  pleasant conversation and a chance to distribute book marks, business cards, or free samples of your writing. You never know who will leave with interest piqued or knows someone who might be.

Yes, you might sell. But consider the sales bonuses, not the main purpose.

3) Organizers are hoping family and friends of vendors will be supportive

That's awesome the first time around, but if you've been writing for five years, and this is your fiftieth event, odds are no one loves you that much.

But if organizers aren't making money from fees or your loved ones (and assuming you're not Stephen King or J.K. Rowling either), what benefit does your presence offer? I don't of anyone who sees my name attached to an event and starts thinking, "Oooooh, gotta make this one!" (Although it would be nice).

So the benefit?

Cross-marketing with other vendors and THEIR family and friends. The reach of ten or forty is greater than than the reach of one. Unless, again, you're Stephen King or J.K. Rowling.

4) I always end up feeling I could be writing.

That feeling might not go away. But here's what I used to tell my kids when we homeschooled and ran newspaper routes in the middle of the night.

Bring a book.

Yes, that's correct. Bring your laptop, Or a notebook. Or something. Plan ahead. If it's a dead day, write, visibly and in a way that may attract interest. Just don't become so immersed (as we writers do) that we miss opportunities to connect with passersby.

When my family ran those newspaper routes, nothing messed up our day more than late trucks. But if the kids brought books, they could jump-start their homework. I always brought my laptop and wrote stories for The Herald-News sitting cross-legged on work stations at 1:30 a.m. while waiting for trucks. It can be done.

Now the kids didn't always bring books. But when the trucks were late, they always wished they did.

Oh, and BTW, almost every time, someone was curious enough to ask what I was doing. And almost always, that person pitched a story. So I'd make my editorial deadlines AND had at least one new story idea. When one is paid by the piece, as I was back in the day, that's always a good deal.

As for the art gala.

Some might feel the night was not successful, especially since an ice storm equaled sparse attendance, but I felt otherwise, and here's why.

1) I didn't pay a vendor fee.

The event was invitation only. The request (not a mandate, a request) was to promote the event on social media. I did and blogged twice (but I would have done that anyway).

2) Matt Coundiff, the illustrator for Visage and Memories in the Kitchen: Bites and Nibbles from "Bryony" was participating. 

I have a great working relationship with Matt and love his other work. Plus we ended up being table mates. This was a draw for me.

3) The atmosphere rocked. 

It was in a furniture store. Matt had a long table. I had a coffee table and comfortable chairs, perfect for showing off the fun of reading and chatting informally with those that stopped by.

4) The organizer was super-friendly and upbeat, had promoted the event through the story with some lovely plastic-coated flyers, extremely apologetic about the turnout, and invited us to return in April.

What's there not to like? And if I'm invited again, I'll definitely return.

5) I sold one pastel BryonySeries candle to one very unlikely customer: a middle age Hispanic man.

He'd cruised by earlier in the night. Toward the end, he came back, smelled them all trying to make up his mind, and then decided to buy a pink "purple rose" scented candle. He left happy with his purchase.

I messaged Valerie the good news, and she was thrilled.

6) I left with a story idea

'Nuff said.

7) As I was packing up, one of the vendors approached me to ask if he could contact me about self-publishing. 

And he left with a BryonySeries card and a WriteOn Joliet flyer.

8) I had a good time. 


It was a relaxing, low-key night. And the coffee was good.















Monday, January 16, 2017

George the Cat Needs a Home: Can You Help?

Once upon a time my son Christopher's cat Alex lived with us. He was the nicest kitty that ever lived.

This is Alex. Isn't he sweet?



My cats bullied him so Alex retaliated in true cat form.

He marked. Everywhere.

When we lost our Channahon home, we could not take a marking cat into a rental situation. The Will County Humane Society accepted him. He was adopted in a week.

This past summer, the same shelter submitted an owner return named George to The Herald News' Pets of the Week. George looked like Alex's double.

So I went to meet George. If this was my cat, I felt responsible to help rehome him. George was not Alex, but he was equally friendly and sweet. So now I feel responsible for finding George a home. And until he's adopted, it's likely he'll reappear on this blog.

Meet George. Can you help find him an owner that will cherish him? Thank you.

http://www.theherald-news.com/2016/07/20/pets-of-the-week-july-25/a8llyp3/

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Four Winter Vegetables, Victorian-Style

All three appeared on the buffet table at John and Bryony Simons' Christmas Eve wedding reception.

Adapted from Miss Beecher’s domestic receiptbook: designed as a supplement to her Treatise on domestic economy


Boiled Cabbage

 Take off the outer leaves of a cabbage, cut the stalky part in quarters, down to the center, put it in boiling, salted water, and boil from half an hour to an hour. Cabbages, like turnips, must have a good deal of water, or they will taste strong.

Winter Squash

The neck part of the winter squash is best; cut it into slices, peel it, boil it in salted water till tender, then drain off the water, and serve it without mashing, or, if preferred, wring it and season it with butter and salt.

Boiled Parsnips and Carrots

Parsnips and carrots must be split or else the outside is done too much before the inside is cooked sufficiently. Salt the water, and boil them 30 minutes when young, and 2 hours when old. Boil enough to have some to slice and fry for the next day’s dinner or breakfast, as they are much the best cooked in this way.


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

All proceeds benefit Big Brothers Big Sisters of Will and Grundy Counties. Visit www.bbbswillgrundy.org.

Order the cookbook at www.bryonyseries.com.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Story Round-Up: Features in The Herald-News, Jan 8 through Jan. 13

I'm certain the burning question this morning is: How did art night go?

And the wishy washy answer is: I'll share on Tuesday.

For two reasons.

Today I'm off (mostly off as in not working - not my creative status - except for a couple of tasks, thanks to a company that gives its employees a vacation day in the anniversary month of the hire), so I want to immerse myself in Before the Blood for the next two day.

And I want time to elaborate without pulling myself away from the novel. And Monday's blog is dedication to George the Cat.

What?

Yep.

So onto the recap!

First, the non-bylined work: the health, faith, and arts and entertainment calendars. Three of them can be found at the link below. http://www.theherald-news.com/lifestyle/ 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 of course, I post curated content relating to the BryonySeries at @BryonySeries.

Just an FYI: On free days, holidays, and Sundays I'm not on call, I only post the blog to my "real" Twitter account, as my company insists we do take time off. I'm less reasonable, so unless I'm on a real vacation, I still post to the BryonySeries accounts. I won't be posting to my personal Twitter account this weekend, only to BryonySeries.

FYI: videos have not been attaching to my Herald-News stories, although they do run for a time on the home page. If you'd like to watch a video, and it's not showing up for you, message me, and I'll manually attach it. No worries for this week, though, although I will have videos for Sunday.

Thank you for reading The Herald-News.


Joliet woman recounts her childhood experiences in Germany during World War II  (VIDEO EXTRA)

Marianne Filisko shares her World War II childhood experiences

School attendance was sparse due to threats of bombings, another reason for fleeing into the woods, Filisko said. She never witnessed any destruction but that almost didn’t matter at the time.


“You knew the sound and you made sure you ran into the woods,” Filisko said. “You never knew if your house was next.”

http://www.theherald-news.com/2017/01/04/joliet-woman-recounts-her-childhood-experiences-in-germany-during-world-war-ii/aja71c/


Joliet woman had a caring heart, put others before herself  (VIDEO EXTRA)
Nicole Alaimo wanted to beat cancer for the sake of her daughter

“She was always the bridesmaid and never the bride,” said Greg Baez, Nicole’s father. “And she would do everything and anything for the bride.”

http://www.theherald-news.com/2017/01/05/joliet-woman-had-a-caring-heart-put-others-before-herself/alqqjta/



Mystery Diner: Jerrie’s Dogs & Fries sticks to the basics

Now, if you’re looking for an elaborate menu, you won’t find it inside this small venue, which sticks to the basics. Jerrie’s Dogs & Fries had just four entrées: hot dogs, tamales, Polish sausage and fried bologna sandwiches.

http://www.theherald-news.com/2016/12/21/mystery-diner-jerries-dogs-fries-sticks-to-the-basics/ahyot4j/


New Lenox chapel blesses Hickory Creek in honor of Jesus' baptism  (VIDEO EXTRA)
Eastern Orthodox chapel celebrates Epiphany with outdoor water blessing

“In Russia, they cut holes in the ice and people actually dive in,” Rev. Andrew Harrison said. “I don’t do that. Someone just retrieves it. I have a string tied to it anyway so I don’t lose it.”

http://www.theherald-news.com/2017/01/09/new-lenox-chapel-blesses-hickory-creek-in-honor-of-jesus-baptism/acgmfoq/


Hairball will 'rock' Joliet theater with '80s tribute on Jan. 20

Hairball’s ‘80s tribute band recreates the era’s musical performances

The next time I was onstage, I pulled off Freddie Mercury," Steve Reckinger said. "I pulled it off with confidence and comfortability and – as far as I could tell – with a complete lack of inhibition, which was exactly what I needed.”


Thursday, January 12, 2017

BryonySeries Throwback Thursday: "Dead Serious," by Kristina Skaggs

Friday, March 2, 2012

"Dead Serious," by Kristina Skaggs

For Michael Hudson, a routine doctor's appointment brings shocking news: he's not sick; he's dead.
But although being dead has some distinct advantages, before Michael will take the doctor's word, he needs confirmation. “You’re dead.”


This is the first story Kristina Skaggs, co-owner of Complete Chiropractic and Wellness Center in Joliet (www.completechiroandwellness.com), published  on Bryony's website.

She is also the founder of "Write On," the writer's group that meets every first and third Thursdays of the months at the Three Rivers Arts Council in Minooka (http://www.three-rivers-arts.org/index.htm). Read Kristina's blog at www.pokkadotdog.wordpress.com.
  

Michael Hudson glanced up at his doctor, suspecting there was more to what she’d just said. There wasn’t. He decided to ask her to elaborate. “Are you sure?”
    
“Yes.”
   
Doctor Michelle Hughes clicked her pen several times, as if spanking a bad child on its bottom, and continued to script and scroll through paperwork. A bad cold was one thing, but to be dead was a completely different scenario. Would family and friends need to be contacted? How much paperwork would this involve?
   
“You’ve been dead for a while. I’m surprised you were even able to make this appointment.”
His doctor clicked her pen once more and placed it into her lab coat pocket. Her lips, when she went over the charts, made lines, which he did not find charming. Mostly, they frowned.
    
“I should….”
    
“You should relax, Mr. Hudson. You are dead now. These things happen.”
   
The pat on the back she gave him was friendly, but nothing more than a pat on his back. She began to walk away, indicating the end of their appointment. But she paused and turned her head back to him, as if getting one last look at the dead guy. Whatever thought she had to say made a final attempt as her lips parted. He thought how the color of her lipstick made her look crass. Dr. Michelle Hudson closed her mouth, turned the knob on the door, and walked out, leaving Michael in nothing but a thin juniper-colored exam gown.
   
“Dead.”
   
Saying it aloud, the word was foreign coming out of his mouth. Here, he thought he was just sniffling too much. Snot had a way of annoying him, and it was never tolerated. He’d go around with Kleenex sticking out of both nostrils, if he had to get things done. But, no. Now, he was dead.
   
Michael got dressed in the khakis and polo he’d arrived in. They were comfortable, better than the gown. He looked as if he’d just come from a game of golf. But maybe it would have been better to have died in a suit? He looked better with a tie on. He assumed most dead people walked around in their last worn clothes. He would be the dead guy in a polo.
   
The receptionist at the office didn’t ask him to pay his bill; the taxi driver who took him home didn’t ask for his fare. As far as Michael knew, being dead was a free world. At his apartment, the clothes piled up in his laundry basket did not wash or dry themselves. Can’t have everything.
   
After a lunch, which he had to make himself, Michael decided to call his family and friends. They had to know about his predicament. They had to know he was dead.
   
“Hey, Dad.” Michael rubbed his head raw, trying to come up with the best way to tell his parents.
His father pitched him the perfect segue," Michael, how are you?”
   
“Turns out I’m dead.”
   
There was silence on the other line. A pregnant pause so long Michael thought the connection had been lost.
   
“Dad?”
   
“I’m here, Michael. Your mother and I knew that you’d figure this out, one way or the other. Truth is, you’ve been dead for awhile.”
   
This time, it was Michael’s turn to be pregnant.

“You still there, Michael?” His mother’s voice lit up the line, and Michael knew she’d have a better way to explain it.
   
"Mom, how could I have been dead without knowing it?
    
“Sweetie, it’s been going on for quite some time now, honestly. I thought you knew. We figured it out at your junior high school dance. You took that one impressionable young girl from church…Maggie…Marcia….”
    
His mother strained to make her memory recall this girl’s name.
   
“Mary,” his father threw in.
   
“No, she was blonde with those cute ring curls. I always wanted a daughter so I could curl her hair like that.”
   
“Mom,” Michael blushed on the other line.
    
“Anyway, that’s when we knew. You took Mary or Marcia to the dance, and the entire time that you wanted to hold her hand or kiss her, you never did. She sat with her group of friends and left with 
them afterward.”
    
He was dead because he hadn’t touched Mary/Maggie/Marcia? Michael needed to make some more calls.
    
The afternoon was spent dialing friends from the office, friends from college, friends from high school. His best friend Mike told him he’d been dead since the day he passed up a promotion at work. His high school friend, Mickey, told him he was dead when he refused to smoke pot after gym class. 

There was one more number he needed to call. It was Michaela Kerry’s number, which had been burned into his memory three years prior, when they’d been dating. First on, now they were officially off.
   
Michael had scrubbed his routine clean. He would ask if she remembered him. If she said yes, and he hoped she would, he would tell her that some startling news had come upon him. He was dead. That had gone so well with the others, they knew exactly what he was calling about before he even had to say it.
    
“Hello?” Her crisp voice answered on the third ring.
Michael stuttered.
    
“Hello?” she asked, this time with more urgency in her voice, but still blanketed with her sweet politeness.
    
“Michaela, this is Michael. Do you remember me?”
     
It sounded so silly, to be asking an ex-girlfriend that question. Of course, she did remember, but had she wanted to forget him.
   
“Michael?” The name rolled off her tongue as strangely as it rolled off his.
   
“Yes.” He paused for the powerful effect. “I’m dead.”
    
“Dead?” she asked.
   
“Dead,” he repeated.

“Well, I don’t know about dead,” she scoffed. A nervous laugh trickled down her through the phone wire. “You were very serious and uptight, but you weren’t dead.”
   
Michaela went into a few stories he would have liked to forget. The time at the movies when the popcorn was too salty; the sock drawer he meticulously organized; the kitten heel shoes of hers he’d tripped over. If she didn’t think he was dead after the assortment of occurrences leading up to their break-up, then why did everyone else think so?
   
Michael hung up, feeling better about death, knowing that maybe it wasn’t so bad, as long as your ex doesn’t think you’re dead, just serious.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Novelists: Don't Forget This Important Character

Who is this character?

Your setting.

We often view places, setting, scenery as static, unchanging locations, but when we stop to think about it, we know that's not true. Just compare photographs of your hometown today to those of fifty years ago. The changes will be obvious.

Settings may have personalities.

By turns, our hometown can feel friendly, hostile, vigorous, and tired.

In a social gathering, some guests might dub the atmosphere friendly, others intimidating.

Settings not only change over time, they change with the time of day. Our perception of them change with our moods and life experiences.

Give as much consideration to your settings as to the people you place in them. Don't stop at simple description. Give them unique character traits. Allow them to shift and develop with your protagonist and plot even as they influence both.

For readers of the BryonySeries, the Munsonville of the first book is not the Munsonville of the second and third books, although the village appears frozen in time. And as Melissa changes, so does her view of Munsonville, not always for the better.

Below is a link to adjectives that describe personalities. Which ones apply to your setting?

For instance, Melissa initially felt Munsonville was tedious and boring, while her younger brother Brian saw it as full of adventure. Their mother, one the other hand, liked the lack of stress and greater opportunities. Steve viewed it as friendly and affable.

Same village. Different viewpoints.

How about the setting in your novel?

http://learnersdictionary.com/3000-words/topic/personality-types

Monday, January 9, 2017

Want Feedback on Your Writing? This Event is for You

From 7 to 9 p.m. Jan. 12, I will be offering writing critiques for a donation $5 per fifteen minutes of time.

Bring any writing sample, and I'll assess its strengths and weaknesses. All writing assessment donations go to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Will and Grundy Counties. Yes, you may write a check to the organization.

The writing assessments are part of the Paint night and Art Gala at Nelson’s Furniture, 209 Bridge St. in Wilmington.

In addition to the paint session by The Acrylic Zebra (which is $30 per person and must be preregistered),other artists will be displaying talents and selling their art. One artist, Matt Coundiff, illustrated two of the BryonySeries books: Visage and Memories in the Kitchen: Bites and Nibbles from "Bryony," which is the official BryonySeries cookbook and a fundraiser for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Will and Grundy Counties.

I'll have all five published BryonySeries books for sale at the event. In addition to the two Matt illustrated, one may also purchase Bryony, Staked! Bertrand and the Lucky Clover and even flip through my marked-up proof copy of Cornell Dyer and the Missing Tombstone, which we hope to release soon.

And, yes, Bertrand the Mouse will be there, too. And you can get your picture taken with him. For free, LOL. Follow him on Instagram at bertrand_bryonyseries.

For more information on registering for the paint night, visit visit https://www.facebook.com/events/357742544583421/

No registration is necessary to attend and browse.

For more information on the BryonySeries, visit www.bryonyseries.com.

Happy Monday, vampire fans! :)

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Giblet Soup with Veal

The Munsonville Times was so impressed by the spread John Simons served for his wedding to Miss Bryony Marseilles that the newspaper listed each item, including this soup.

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

Giblet Soup with Veal

3 quarts cold water
Feet, neck, pinions, and giblets of two fouls
1½ pounds veal
1 slice lean ham
1 tablespoon flour
1 tablespoon butter
Sweet herbs tied in a bag
Salt, to taste


Gently boil meat until very soft. Strain off the liquor and, when cold, take off the fat. Cut the giblets and meat into ½ inch pieces; add flour and butter, then add some of the soup to thin it. Then put into the soup the butter and meat, with some sweet herbs tied in a bag, with some salt to taste. Boil it half an hour, and it is done.

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

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

Order the cookbook at www.bryonyseries.com

Friday, January 6, 2017

Story Round-Up: Features in The Herald-News, Jan 1 through Jan. 6

Today is the first day off since Dec. 26.

That said, I've grown to love working the Dec. 31/Jan. 1 (and this year, Jan. 2 as new year's observed) weekend/holiday editor shift. It inspires me to spend the last day of the retreating year and the first of a new one in the service of others, working so that my colleagues may not.

To sweeten the deal for me, I scheduled some long pushed aside projects, their accomplishment (finally) sweetened the deal for me.

Tomorrow my family will bid Christmas farewell with a family celebration. Today is busy (technically off, but have a video to shoot, three to upload, and a story to finish), so no more digressing.

First, the non-bylined work: the health, faith, and arts and entertainment calendars. Three of them can be found at the link below. http://www.theherald-news.com/lifestyle/ 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 of course, I post curated content relating to the BryonySeries at @BryonySeries.

Just an FYI: On free days, holidays, and Sundays I'm not on call, I only post the blog to my "real" Twitter account, as my company insists we do take time off. I'm less reasonable, so unless I'm on a real vacation, I still post to the BryonySeries accounts. I won't be posting to my personal Twitter account this weekend, only to BryonySeries.

FYI: videos have not been attaching to my Herald-News stories, although they do run for a time on the home page. If you'd like to watch a video, and it's not showing up for you, message me, and I'll manually attach it. No worries for this week, though, although I will have videos for Sunday.

Thank you for reading The Herald-News.


Former Joliet resident Janina Gavankar joins cast of 'Sleepy Hollow'

Gavankar recently took some time to answer questions from Herald-News Features Editor Denise M. Baran-Unland via email about her character, her years in Joliet and her current projects.



An Extraordinary Life: Joliet man fulfilled thousands of wishes for children with life-threatening illnesses
Don West never met a wish he couldn’t fulfill

“I’ve seen families empty their life savings and sell everything trying to give their dying child that one last wish,” Don West said in a 2011 Herald-News story, “but the cost for them is just too much.”



Joliet professor explains the psychology behind New Year's resolutions
Psychologist Margot Underwood shares strategies for making and keeping resolutions

“We don’t like to be incongruent,” Underwood said. “We like to be who we say we are.”



MysteryDiner: Plenty of choices, good prices at Diamand’s Family Restaurant
‘Serving families since 1989’

From healthy choices to comfort foods, Diamand’s offers it all.



Joliet cathedral to celebrate Epiphany with a concert of sacred choral music
Cathedral of St. Raymond's newest music director wants musical program to transform lives

"Oftentimes in our lives we question, 'What can we give?' Well, we can give the gift of self,'" James Grzadzinski said, adding, "How does the light of faith and the symbol of the star that guided the magi guide our lives and help us to give our lives to Christ? This will unfold throughout the program."



Veteran actors lend voices to former New Lenox man's animated web series  (VIDEO EXTRA)
Justin Marchert’s ‘Fantasy Hospital’ web series features veteran actors

Of course, fantasy beings staff “Fantasy Hospital,” the place where dwarfs, giants, fairies and wizard doctors cure magical maladies. But real veteran actors voice these creatures – actors such as Pete Holmes, Jonah Ray, Pauley Perrette, Wil Wheaton and Emma Caulfield – whom Marchert met through networking in Los Angeles.






Thursday, January 5, 2017

BryonySeries Throwback Thursday: Found: The 1975 Home Inspection for Simons Mansion

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Found: The 1975 Home Inspection for Simons Mansion

My father, who is designing a couple of Munsonville "surprises" for Vamp Fest, showed me the file yesterday. Here's what happened:

In the fall of 1975, shortly after Melissa Marchellis and her family moved into the servant's cottage on John Simons' estate, the Village of Munsonville contracted with Transaction Home Inspections to inspect the mansion, assess its damage, and offer suggestions for repair and updating.

As I turned the pages, the story sprang to life before my eyes: the actual signature of Joe Roberts, the restoration's project manager; written and visual documentation of the gas lighting, boiler heat, rudimentary wiring, fixtures used; and vivid descriptions of all structures, including the stables. It even referred to damage on the outdoor columns.

Also included in this report were some amazing discoveries: original photographs hidden beneath floorboards, a section on the roof where lightening had struck, and recent fireplace activity (although the house had been vacant for 82 years).

Now, one might suppose such a valuable treasure should be safely secured for future generations, but it will actually be a companion piece to a very cool silent auction item: a gift certificate toward an actual home inspection by Transaction Home Inspections, my father's company.

I guess the art of fiction writing runs deeply in my family. ;)

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Art Gala, Paint Night, and Writing Assessments

I was recently invited to join the following event:

"Join us for a Paint night and Art Gala at Nelson’s Furniture. This is a Free event to see local artists of all media outlets. Some artists will be offering art to purchase, others will be displaying their talents. We will also be offering a Painting session, that will be instructed by The Acrylic Zebra it will be $30.00 dollars per person. We do ask you pre-register with Nelson’s Furniture for the paint night."

The event will  be from 7 to 9 p.m. Jan. 12 at Nelson's furniture, 209 Bridge St. in Wilmington. Matt Coundiff, the illustrator for Visage and Memories in the Kitchen: Bites and Nibbles from "Bryony," will also be there selling his art.

At the event, I will have copies of all three books in the BryonySeries trilogy (Bryony, Visage, and Staked!), as well as the first book in the children's Bertrand the Mouse series. Alas, Cornell Dyer and Missing Tombstone won't be available for purchase, but I'll have the proof copy to flip through and, hopefully, an update on the release date,which should be this month.

Basically, I just need a few minutes to fix formatting errors, LOL.

Also for sale will be copies of Memories in the Kitchen: Bites and Nibbles from Bryony. All proceeds benefit Big Brothers Big Sisters of Will and Grundy Counties.

I will also be offering writing critiques at $5 per fifteen minutes of time. Bring any writing sample, and I'll assess its strengths and weaknesses. I don't keep any of the money, FYI; all is donated to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Will and Grundy Counties.

For more information on registering for the paint night, visit visit https://www.facebook.com/events/357742544583421/

No registration is necessary to attend and browse.

For more information on the BryonySeries, visit www.bryonyseries.com.

Thank you and have a fantastic day! :)

Monday, January 2, 2017

Just For Fun: BryonySeries Characters Make New Year's Resolutions

I don't make New Year's resolutions and neither do the BryonySeries characters in any of the novels.

However if they DID make resolutions, here's what some of them might say:


Melissa Marchellis: Make John Simons forget Bryony forever and love only me.

Brian Marchellis: Study harder and learn to make a smooth béchamel sauce

Frank Marchellis: Take sensible care of my health

Darlene Marchellis: Become more organized

Snowbell: Go back in time and stay at the slumber party

Steve Barnes: Find ways to be a better man

John Simons: Attain the international status of premiere piano player

Dr. Rothgard: Find a permanent cure for vampirism, no matter the cost to human life

Henry Matthews: Acquire enough wealth to pursue hedonism forever

Kellen Wechsler: Find and destroy the redheaded "angel"

Julie Drake: Get into Harvard University's psychology program

Jack Cooper: Catch a bigger walleye than my father

Ann Dalton: Catch Jack Cooper

Katie Miller: Go steady. Any boy will do

John-Peter Simotes: Rescue the princess

Karla Dyer: Master crystallomancy

Ed Calkins: Make Ed Calkins Day a national holiday

Clancy the Clurichaun: Expand my farm

Eicheard: Breed, wantonly

Marvin Simotes: Expand my tomato garden

Carol Simotes: Start a career in home decorating

Lisa Harding: Stay away from men wearing all black

Grandma Marchellis: Throw away the music box






Sunday, January 1, 2017

Support My Charities?

My approach to selling my works is so soft that many fellow writers don't even know I've self-published works.

Today, however, I'd like to be more bold.

Ish.

Over the past few years, I've created products that support two Joliet-area organizations. One is a cookbook that benefits Big Brothers Big Sisters of Will and Grundy Counties. The second one is a series of three art therapy books for clinical use by the bereavement counselors at Joliet Area Community Hospice.

Just so you know, I make no profit on either.


To purchase the cookbook, visit www.bryonyseries.com. To purchase a signed cookbook, message me at bryonyseries.com.

Now the art therapy books are not for sale, but I am raising money so JOHA can purchase them for their clients. I'm happy to report I have raised enough money so far for the purchase of a hundred of these little books. 

Donations can be sent directly to hospice (the preferable route). Just mention the donation is for the art therapy books. BTW, JOHA doesn't order the books from me, either, but directly from Lulu at cost through a special link not available to the public.


Feel free to share any of this information with anyone who might be interested.

And if supporting either of these projects isn't for you, then please do this in the new year: reach out and life someone up, be the means to someone else's end, be a helper.

Not a bad way to live 2017, methinks, no matter what else these next twelve months bring.


Friday, December 30, 2016

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

Bylined stories are scant this week. I opted to run a few wire stories as it's the only way to open my time to address projects I sidelined during the past few months, the busiest features time of the year.

That said, I'm really, really thankful for an upcoming long working weekend. I'm still not caught up, and I can use the time.

Today is super full. I have a story for Tuesday not yet written, a student job shadower hanging out today, and two in-person interviews (one is coming to me, and I am going to one). Wearing coffee and positive thoughts on my right and left respectively, for sure.

First, the non-bylined work: the health, faith, and arts and entertainment calendars. Three of them can be found at the link below. http://www.theherald-news.com/lifestyle/ 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 have a list of Santa Sightings in the Joliet area at https://goo.gl/Hq06Hr.

Also, a few weeks ago, The Herald-News began a weekly Mystery Diner feature, a goal of mine that was finally approved. I had promised to post those links this past Monday, which I didn't, so I promised to do so this past Monday,and the Monday after that. Sooooo...with being light on bylined stories this week, I posted them here.

You're welcome.:)

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 of course, I post curated content relating to the BryonySeries at @BryonySeries.

Just an FYI: On free days, holidays, and Sundays I'm not on call, I only post the blog to my "real" Twitter account, as my company insists we do take time off. I'm less reasonable, so unless I'm on a real vacation, I still post to the BryonySeries accounts. I won't be posting to my personal Twitter account this weekend, only to BryonySeries.

FYI: videos have not been attaching to my Herald-News stories, although they do run for a time on the home page. If you'd like to watch a video, and it's not showing up for you, message me, and I'll manually attach it. No worries for this week, though, although I will have videos for Sunday.

Thank you for reading The Herald-News.


Mr. and Mrs. Claus hop a fire truck to surprise a struggling Shorewood family  (VIDEO EXTRA)

Claus couple deliver Christmas magic to single father and his 7 children

This wasn’t a random visit. Jeff Otte’s oldest son, Brandon Otte, has Langerhans cell histiocytosis and Otte’s 2-year-old son, Noah Otte, has autism and is nonverbal.



An Extraordinary Life: Joliet contractor treated everyone with honesty and fairness
Richard ‘Dick’ Berti grew his contracting business in Joliet area

“We’re known for doing good-quality work and for being honest with people. He [Dick] definitely was that way,” Rich Berti, Dick's son, said. “He always went out of his way to do good work and do the right thing, even if it was harder for him.”



Mystery Diner: Morris Chop Shop seriously good food in downtown Morris

The candied bacon was the perfect sweet and tasty option, with its brown sugar and chipotle glaze, to set us up for the main course. It was crispy, sweet but not too sweet, and perfect to bring home some for another treat later.



Mystery Diner: Tom Kelly’s in New Lenox will make you want to stay awhile

I’ve had reubens. I’ve seen and eaten reuben rolls..
But I had never had a reuben burger. So I had to try that, with sweet potato fries.



Mystery Diner: Chicago Street Pub a festive place to eat, drink downtown

Now back to the tacos. I was pleased with my opening choice (two chicken, one pulled pork). For sure, they were a little messy. But I knew I was going all in on this. So I poured on a little hot sauce, ordered some wings for later and dove in.

When the wings arrived, it was immediately clear they don’t skimp on sauce.



Mystery Diner: Al's Steak House & Banquets in Joliet consistently delivers great food

I was so pleased with my first steak, I returned several more times and ordered the same entree.

The restaurant also hand cuts its chops, has fresh fish delivered daily, and offers a variety of specials, an elaborate salad bar, and Sunday brunch, the website states.



Mystery Diner: McBride's on 52 a blue-collar place to call home

As I drank my Oskar Blues Old Chub Scottish-style ale, I enjoyed the bacon-wrapped jalapeño appetizers and waited for the main course while watching hockey as the bar prepared for bingo night.



Mystery Diner: Arrowhead Ales in New Lenox much more than the beer

The soup was fulfilling and the combination of potatoes, beer, bacon, cheese and scallions was done just right to ensure a hearty enough soup that wasn’t just filled with chunks.

As for the IPA-marinated chicken, it was exactly what I was hoping for. And this time I chose right, enjoying it with Arrowhead Ales’ FMLR Triple IPA, which is mildly sweet with a 68 IBU in the International Bitterness scale.



Mystery Diner: Plainfield's Tap House Grill offers seriously good eats and variety of beers

I went after the Sprecher Root Beer-braised Beef & Gouda two-handed sandwich. The menu claims it was honored by another media outlet as being one of the best, so I figured this media outlet should try the sandwich for itself.



Mystery Diner: Chicken-N-Spice in Joliet is 'Home of the Breast Chunk'
Signature George and Eddy is restaurant’s most popular item

The chunks are amply cut and served up hot, tender, juicy and wrapped in a cliched “melt-in-your-mouth” batter. I passed on the sauces (the chunks don’t need ’em), so I didn’t catch the variety, but my companions swore by the ranch.



Mystery Diner: Moe Joe's offers Cajun escape in downtown Plainfield

I opted for the fried catfish, which was tender, flaky and well-seasoned. It was served with two sides of my choice, and I selected sweet potato fries, which came with a cinnamon coating, and Brussels sprouts with bacon, which added saltiness and crunch.



Mystery Diner: Syl's Restaurant & Lounge is Rockdale's 'hidden gem' of a steakhouse

Both entrees arrived precisely as we ordered them. The burger was served on a French roll. My friend proclaimed the burger as the best he’d had in the Joliet area and one of the best ever: tender, juicy, well-seasoned. The fries were crispy and golden on the outside and hot and fluffy on the inside. The coleslaw had the perfect meld of sweet, salty and acidic. It left my friend wanting more.



Mystery Diner: TRUTH, a cozy, yet elegant, Joliet restaurant

My salad arrived with my entree – a pleasant surprise, as I prefer it that way – and was a simple, but delicious mix of greens, diced cucumbers and grape tomatoes, artfully arranged on my plate. The steak was a perfect medium rare.



Mystery Diner: MORA brings urban sophistication, Asian flavors to Plainfield

The California roll was cool, clean and refreshing, with crab, masago, cucumber and sesame. The salmon roll, on the other hand, offered crispiness and a little heat with its house-made tempura crumbs and spicy mayo paired with Scottish salmon and avocado.



Mystery Diner: Fresh fare, funky atmosphere makes Tin Roof a winner for area diners

The salmon was cooked perfectly, a healthy portion of my favorite pink fish with the edges a little blackened. The basil sauce had an earthy aroma and hints of pepper and mint, and was a perfect complement to the fish.

http://www.theherald-news.com/2016/08/30/mystery-diner-fresh-fare-funky-atmosphere-makes-tin-roof-a-winner-for-area-diners/ai2ydjy/