Thursday, July 27, 2017

BryonySeries Throwback Thursday: Vampire Bat Facts

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Vampire Bats Facts

The vampires Melissa Marchellis encounters in Bryony have much in common with vampire bats. Both flee when the victim awakens, and both contain saliva with particular properties: a numbing agent and an anticoagulant to allow the blood to freely flow. The similarities, however, end there.

Unlike the vampires in Bryony, vampire bats never attack and, when they do regurgitate a meal, it’s to share their food with a vampire bat that didn’t get one that night. Vampire bats, said Sharon Peterson, elementary school teacher, librarian, and bat expert trained by Bats Conservation International, roost in very tight colonies and display caring behavior toward each other. Adult bats, for instance, will groom other bats.

Other vampire facts Peterson shared include:

· There are three species of vampire bats: common vampire bat, hairy-legged vampire bat, and the white-winged vampire bat. All three live in Latin America ranging from Mexico to the southern areas of South America. They do not live in Europe.
· Two species of vampire bats drink mainly from the blood of birds. The other drinks the blood of mammals.
· Vampire bats can run short distances before leaping into flight.
· Vampire bats ignore the fatty areas of their victims. Instead, they settle on areas where blood vessels are close to the surface. That would be the feet in birds, on the hooves or near the tails for cows, and the fingertips for humans.
· Scientists are experimenting on ways to use the anticoagulating properties in vampire bat’s saliva as an alternative to traditional blood thinners. Unlike these medicines, the anticoagulant in bat saliva targets only clots.
· Vampire bats are very shy. They will not come near a victim that is awake.
· Vampire bats are not carnivorous. Other bats might scoop up a lizard or mouse and fly away with it, but not vampire bats.

For over ten years Sharon Peterson, along with her husband Dan Peterson and their two Egyptian fruit bats, has been giving presentations on bats. Sharon and Dan are both licensed through the USDA as Class C exhibitors. To schedule a presentation or for more information on bats in general visit

Wednesday, July 26, 2017


This was the unwelcome side effect of last week's art camp.

Since I'm much smarter than I used to be back in the day, I came prepared: one cooler full of frozen water bottles. I figured this would be enough, since we were stopping for lunch and would spend most of our time inside.

I was wrong on two counts. Most of the places Rebekah wanted to see were closed on Mondays, so spent the heat of the day in the, well, heat.

We walked and talked and saw parks. And honestly, we had a great time. I didn't feel "off" until the last hour.

But I know how to rehydrate: water, salt, Gatorade. And I did when I got home.

And woke up in the middle of the night more parched than I've ever been in my life. That was Monday night. By Wednesday night, it was no better. I decided if I wasn't better by morning, tight deadlines or no tight deadlines (although I was tempted to wait until Saturday), I would go to quick care.

I wasn't, and I did. Wound up needing two bags of fluid, of which poured into my withered frame in forty-five minutes. And I lost half a day of work. It's been a struggle to catch up. Sigh.

I didn't immediately feel better  but was instructed to keep on drinking LOTS of water and Gatorade all day (even more than the "lots" I already drink). The parch-ness began dissipating by evening.

I knew I was prone to dehydration, but never realized it could still happen with precautions. I'll be taking more of them in the future.

So all's well that ends well.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Bertrand (and I) Go to Art Camp

On July 17, Bertrand the Mouse and I were the special guests at an art camp offered by Dottie's Art Studios in Plainfield.

Bertrand visited one class; I visited three, with students ranging from the very young to teens, depending on the class.

At each class, I read for fifteen to twenty minutes from one of my books (Bertrand and the Lucky Clover, Cornell Dyer and the Missing Tombstone, and Staked!) and then gave the books away.

This was a terrific idea (not mine). As an author, I can't express how gratifying it was to see the resulting artwork, all based on scenes from the books.

And, of course, Bertrand had a great time being passed around, checking out the kids' drawings, and meeting everyone.

Here is a brief pictorial recap, compliments of the art studio.

Monday, July 24, 2017

July 15: Sharing a Birthday with a Granddaughter

When I was a child, I used to check the list of "famous birthdays" in a magazine that came inside The Herald-News, but (at least back in the day), no one of importance was ever listed for July 15.

That changed last year with the birth of my second granddaughter, partly by God's design, partly by my daughter-in-law Amber's decision. You see, when Amber learned her due date was near my birth date, she let her doctor know her goal was to schedule her third C-section on that day.

Everything worked out according to plan. One year later, family and friends gathered at a Morris park to commemorate the two "Maries:" Riley Marie, named after her grandmother; and Denise Marie, named after her grandmother.

It was a great day.

The birthday girl Riley Marie telling the world she's No.1!

(Top and below): Riley's big brother Ezekiel and her big sister Jessica enjoy the balloons.

Riley's cousin and my grandson Micah.

Another cousin and grandson: Micah's little brother Zechariah.

My youngest son "Uncle Daniel" pushes Ezekiel on the merry-go-round.

Soon the others want to ride, too. My oldest son Christopher does the honors. In the background is Riley's dad (my son Joshua) and my sister and only sibling Karen.

Ezekiel "helps" Riley blow out her candle.

Jessica patiently waits for more cake.

Riley thoroughly enjoys her birthday cake.

Riley opens her presents with the help of her sister Jessica and her mother Amber.

Riley's dad tries out one of her new toys.

Riley has fun with her Aunt Rebekah (my youngest daughter).

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Sue's Diner: Ham Pieces

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. Ham pieces is one dish that appeared on her breakfast tray during one of those first mornings inside Simons Mansion.

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

Try this recipe on the Sue's Diner page HERE.

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, July 22, 2017

A Writing Writing Day: The Steward Would Be Proud

Never in a millions years did I think I'd return to work exhausted and dehydrated.

But I did.

No, this blog won't expound on it (that's for another post).

But last night was the first good sleep I had in a long time. I slept in until almost six o'clock, wrote fiction until five (and hated to cut it off) and then finished spent about three hours with featurey things for work.

Too hot and humid for much power walking, although I'll get some steps in when the sun goes down.

In the meantime: housework!

Why would the Steward be proud? Because he's all about writing.

And today was productive on both sides of my writing coin.

And I feel rested. For the first time over a week.

It was a good day.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Story Round-Up: Features in The Herald-News, July 9 through July 21

Last Friday I as off in fiction land, so this is a two-week recap of stories only for two reasons.

I'm gradually recapping the time off in future posts.

And I'm recovering from dehydration on a busy Friday, which I'll explain in another post.

So here's what ran:

Local events: Health, faith, and arts and entertainment calendars: where to find them? Under the sections tab on the left hand side of Click on "features" and the topics drop down. Assembled by moi.

More local events: Gotta Do It, also by me, runs each Sunday in the People section.

Community news: Again, under the sections tab, under features, and by topic. Updates are posted on these days in print and web and in web on other days as I have the time: Monday (pets), Tuesday (health), Thursday (faith), Friday (arts and entertainment), and Sunday (people).

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

BryonySeries stuff: I post curated content relating to the BryonySeries at @BryonySeries. And assorted related content at

Thank you for reading The Herald-News. And for reading this blog. Your support is greatly appreciated.

New mentor program in Will County changes young adult lives
By Megan Schuller

Vanessa Manriques, 33, is a special education teacher for District 202 in Plainfield by day and a mentor by night. She mentors one young woman who had low self esteem.

“I tell them to live outside their comfort zone. I grew up in that comfort zone, so I tell them to live their dreams, educate themselves and don’t stay in that box,” Manriques said.

An Extraordinary Life: Peter McBride graduated from JTHS and became a prominent architect
Submitted report

McBride managed many projects costing over $100 million, secured additional commissions from most clients, and managed projects in such countries as Iran, Saudi Arabia and Singapore.

Pets of the Week: July 10

Read the caption of each photo to find out about that pet, including where he or she can be adopted.

Ready Set Ride faces uncertain future: 80 families depend on its therapeutic horseback riding program
By Megan Schuller

In addition to riding, the children play games and do exercises on the horses. Lisa Afshari, director of Ready Set Ride, said the children smile as they ride, and they have a good time.

Mystery Diner: Capri Sogno brings old-world flavors in contemporary dishes

We had plenty of time to scan the menu, which had more selections than the online version. The online version also didn't list prices for any food items. This added to the intrigue and culinary adventure awaiting us.

Fellowship, fun and faith
Joliet Christian Women’s Club provides all three

The Joliet Christian Women’s Club ministers to the entire woman.

“It really shows me women of faith coming together – of all different denominations – and what their lives are really about,” Marilyn Garapolo said.

Joliet Public Library breathes new life into summer reading program

Reading is as relevant as ever – yes, even in the 21st century. Except now one can read, and participate in the Joliet Public Library's summer reading program, without ever picking up a physical book, Mallory Hewlett said.

Artworks: Joliet Star Wars fan using his creative force for upcoming trading card set

He's an official artist on Topps' upcoming Star Wars Masterwork card set. Contractually, King can't speak to "what kind" and "quantity" until after Topps releases the set. But King could say he has an August deadline."

Morris woman runs her own fundraising to help March of Dimes

Kathy Carey has walked miles, created and sold cookbooks, and solicited items to sell at her annual garage sales. Every dime Carey gets goes to March of Dimes.

Pets of the Week: July 17

Read the caption of each photo to find out about that pet, including where he or she can be adopted.

The ride of their lives: Ride to Cure FA raises money for rare genetic disease
By Jessica Spanger

One of the first things someone with Friedreich’s ataxia notices when they start to show symptoms is trouble walking, or difficulty with coordination and balance.

Mystery Diner: Habanero's has a full menu of spicy and fun options

With an eight-page menu, there's plenty to choose from. There's an entire column, each, for chimichangas, burritos, enchiladas, vegetarian options, seafood, dinner plates, house specials and lunch specials or breakfast.

Mystery Diner: Big servings for big appetites at Joliet's Wild Horse

This is a story about how I ended up with four plates in front of me at the bar of a local restaurant.

And, before you get ahead of yourself, I directly asked for it.

Eastern Orthodox Chapel honors patron saint with grave blessings
By Jessica Spangler

July 13 was the saint's birthday, and in honor of him, Rev. Andrew Harrison and other members of the newly named St. John's Chapel performed a grave blessing on Sunday in Streator. St. John Kochurov helped establish Three Saints Orthodox Church in Streator, Harrison said.

Slammers hold first faith night
By Megan Schuller

The Aug. 26 game between the Joliet Slammers and the Traverse City Beach Bums will kick off the night, with performances from The Center band at the start of the game and Joliet Christian rap artist Milton Calvin near the seventh-inning stretch.

New Lenox studio shares love of art, teaches adults with disabilities life skills
By Megan Schuller

Whatever differences they may have, they come together as one team in the workshop, focused and enthusiastic about doing their part.

“To them it’s a job,” Program Coordinator Lindsey Santo said.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

BryonySeries Throwback Thursday-Ish: A Tale of Four Cats

Because who doesn't love pictures of cats?

So the "throwback" in today's post isn't a previous post, but the opportunity to see all four cats on the same why not take photos?

One of the greatest heartbreaks for any pet owner when losing a home through foreclosure (as if that isn't bad enough) is relinquishing ownership of pets when the "new" home doesn't allow for them.

We were fortunate that, during the eleven-thirtieth mark, an opportunity arose to keep most of the cats. We hadn't started out as pet owners, and how we did is a story unto itself. But we always strove to be responsible pet owners. With many rescues and shelters overflowing with more cats than they could place, the situation was bleak.

In the meantime, one cat died and one (my son's) was successfully rehomed, due to his marking issue (My cats didn't accept outsiders, sheesh. As if they didn't all start out that).

Two cats "found" their own foster homes in Morris, and how that happened is also a story unto itself. But with a family birthday celebration on July 15 (Fifty-six for me and a year for my granddaughter), I realized I could visit my other two cats.

As a little birthday present to myself, I took pictures with all four cats. Not because I'm a crazy cat lady. But to remind me how good God is, how he always provides, how he allowed me to continuing being a responsible pet owner to the same set of pets, and to stand in awe of his crazy ability to constantly widen our borders.

And now, the cats!

Frances, our original rescue kitty, who now lives at Gypsy Soul in Morris.

Hope, who now lives with a really nice family in Morris.

Faith, Hope's sister.

Midnight, mother of Faith, Hope and Charity (deceased).

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Photos of Chef-Prepared Birthday Dinner

The chefs, of course, being my son Timothy Baran and his girlfriend Kristyn Granahn, served up to Rebekah on July 14, the eve of my 56th birthday.

The dinner was special not simply because the food was fantastic or prepared with love but because it was the first time (barring their practical finals as students) I'd ever eaten the type of food they've learned to prepare as culinary professionals.

Here's the recap of that wonderful meal. First, of course, is the menu.

On an elegantly set table with Daniel's rose napkins (My youngest son has adopted napkin-folding as a hobby. Don't ask).

Next, the appetizer: creamy summer squash with vine-ripened tomatoes (a play on ratatouille) served with homemade cracker bread.

Followed by slow-roasted onion soup with rosemary oil and whole wheat croutons. The flavor, for some reason, reminded me of Christmas.

Next, the salad: butter bib and red oak, charred summer corn, pickled watermelon, grapefruit yogurt, toasted almonds, herb vinaigrette. Timothy forgot that "grapefruit" and "yogurt" were no-nos for me, so he quickly whipped up a substitute: an apple cream cheese something that tasted delicious.

The "center of the plate" entree was a rare twice-cooked beef tenderloin, home-style mashed potatoes, salt-roasted beets, bacon-braised greens, natural au jus, mushrooms. By now, I was extremely full (My fault for making a small meal of the appetizer), but the leftovers heated up very nicely two days later (and the tenderloin was still rare)

Lastly, chocolate lava cake for dessert. This included a chocolate ganache, vanilla-orange ice cream, and marinated strawberries, kiwis, and blackberries. I made it last over a couple days, mmm...

And lest he feel left out, a portion for Bertrand, who also joined us at the table (to my right).

And we had two other guests, although they merely hung out. Photo bombs courtesy of Midnight and Faith.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Where Did I Go?

Nowhere, really. But I had my first real time off all year and actually accomplished (most) of what I wished to accomplish.

Quick recap, expounding in posts over the next few days.

Wednesday: A funeral. A somber way to start the week, but the looking back and connecting was good. Plus, I went with my oldest son Christopher, so we spent the day hanging out. He introduced me to the Brewed Awakenings in Morris, which has awesome coffee (dark roast and darker roast), and we had lunch at the Morris in Aurelios, which my second oldest son Joshua manages. I got a bit of novel-writing done later in the day. So it was, overall, a good day.

Thursday: Spent the entire day working on Before the Blood. This is where social media fell off for me, and I let it fall. My birthday present to myself was extended uninterrupted time working on this prequel to the BryonySeries, so I went for extended AND uninterrupted. It was a great day.

Friday: Hung out with a friend for a couple hours in the morning who's tried (unsuccessfully) for a year to hang out, one of those necessary things when one wants to have and keep friends. Then it was back to the novel until dinner: a gourmet feast prepared by another son Timothy and his girlfriend Kristyn (more of this - with photos - in another post).

Saturday: My actual birthday and a total family day. It was also the first day my body adjusted to the whole "Hey, let's sleep in!" Joshua's third child Riley Marie shares my birthday and my middle name, so we celebrated her first birthday with siblings, offspring, and cousins picnic-style at a Morris park (more on this in a later post, with photos). On the way in, I bought a darker roast from Brewed Awakenings, and on the way out, Christopher told me to stop in at Verizon (next door), where he works as tech supports so he could buy me another. I also visited Frances at Gypsy Soul and Hope at her current Morris residence, so I decided to take photos with all my cats as a fun birthday twist (more on this in a later post, with photos). Later that night, back to the novel!

Sunday: We overslept for church, so I worked on the novel in the morning, worked a bit in the afternoon (email is out of control), ran a couple of errands, and got to bed early, for I had to be up early for...

Monday: Art camp! Dottie's Art Studio in Plainfield invited me to read from my books at all three age groups of her art camps while the kids and teens drew what I read. Then they shared what they drew and why. Then I gave the books away. For me as an author, it was an extremely gratifying twist to ordinary "reading" events, and it helped raise some money for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Will and Grundy Counties. (It was a paying gig, but I defer all payments to BBBS). More of this later (with tons of photos).

Quick mention about my "writing retreat;" I spent less time writing than I anticipated, but write the amount I wanted to write. How's that for a plot twist?

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Quick Fix For Writer Discouragement

Is the next chapter jelling well?

Have you run out of ideas?

Does the prose sound stilted and boring?

Or is it simply TAKING TOO LONG?

Although all of the above is part of the process, sometimes a tired brain needs a pick-me-up and an encouraging pat.

So while you're brewing another cup of dark roast, open up a previous chapter (or essay, poem, etc.) and not a recent chapter either. Pick one that felt laborious to write at the time, one you meticulously self-edited.

Read how nicely the words flow. Feel the joy in reading it. Remember the long journey to get there.

See? You can do it. You can really, really do it. 

You just need time.

And patience.

And more hard work.

The Holy Trinity of good writing. Amen?

Monday, July 10, 2017

He Wanted To Go Out As A Hero...And He Did

During my weekend editor shift, one of my reporters filed this story.

Not gonna lie, the jolt was huge.

Not because I've never read about tragedy...because I have.

Not because I don't love hero stories...because I do.

But because this was someone I had once seriously dated when he was a Joliet police officer and the news hit me in a profound way.

There are many reasons why people don't stay together, and this isn't the place to list them. Probably the biggest for us is because I was eighteen, and he was ready to get married and start a family, and I was not.

But I can tell you three things about this man.

One: He loved kids. And I'm happy to know he spent his life working with them.

Two: He was adventurous. Who spends their life fencing and teaching others to fence? He was also a scuba diver when I met him. Very cool stuff.

Three: He wanted to "go out" as a hero. That's why he became a U.S. Marine. That's why he became a Joliet police officer. And while some of the scenarios he spun about the way he hoped to be a hero sometimes brought an eye roll or two from me, the sincerity was undeniable.

So while I'm still having a hard time digesting the news, and although the way it happened was one scenario he never imagined, I can't deny he died the way he wanted to go. As a hero helping someone in need.

And, for this former U.S. Marine, on the Fourth of July no less.

Looks like God heard, and honored, the deepest wish of his heart.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Sue's Diner: Fried Potatoes By Tiffany Thompson Unland

As much as Melissa enjoyed playing Bryony, this 1970's teen found some of Munsonville’s Victorian foods difficult to stomach, especially when they appeared on her breakfast tray. Below is a recipe for one of them, fried potatoes.

Try this recipe on the Sue's Diner page HERE.

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, July 8, 2017

Steward Setback Saturday: Ed Calkins on Pope Benedict's XVI's Resignation, Lent and Calkins Day, "Visage," and Revisiting the Marriage Proposal

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Ed Calkins on Pope Benedict's XVI's Resignation, Lent and Calkins Day, "Visage," and Revisiting the Marriage Proposal

Dear Momi (Mistress of My Immortality):

Surely, you jest as to why I haven't been able to drop you a line. My internal investigation into the IVA's involvement with Pope Benedict’s resignation is quite difficult as you can imagine any internal investigation would be when you don't know who the members are.

As the only public member and spokesman, I can assure you that allegations of strong arming the Pope, intimidating him, or scribbling on him with colored markers, are being investigated. In case you haven't drawn any parallels into the Pope's resigning I should point out that Calkins Day fell on Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent for Catholics.

For members of faith, Lent is supposed to be a long period of fasting, somber refection, and self-denial, making it difficult for the joyful indulgence of Ireland’s most ruthless dictator, paper boy, and vampire extraorindaire. Of course this limitation only applies to Catholics; do you think there are any of those in Ireland?

I personally have argued against dispensation the way the Vatican treats St Paddy (who wants to piss off a saint), but I’m sure the Bishop of Rome was warned what might happen if Lent wasn't pushed back a month. (The season of Lent is determined by a lunar calendar, so the actual day moves; I think it’s the same in your Eastern Orthodox faith.)

Anyway, my reading of Visage has until now been delayed because I gave any too many copies, leaving me to share with my wife, granddaughter, and son. I've just started reading it... or will by the week’s end so NO SPOILERS, please.

Already my granddaughter, who was really too young to attempt the book—she’s nine-- is asking for her leprechaun and giggling. My wife groaned about newspapers and muttered that I'm going to need larger pants for my ego after this.

Once again, Momi, you must not feel guilty about turning down my proposal of marriage. The hurt inside will heal and make me a stronger, more ruthless vampire for the wear if it. I'll update you latter on the Pope thing.

Yours (not your husband, of course, but yours), truly,

Ed Calkins, Steward of Tara

Friday, July 7, 2017

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

So with one editor on vacation and a second out on a family emergency, it's been an interesting week indeed.

One of our reporters, a former news editor, took on the bulk of extra duties, while I took on some I could handle and worked the holiday. I've also been working with two interns; it's nice having other bylines in the features section, at least until mid-August,

This weekend is also my regularly scheduled weekend editor shift, but I do have a couple days off next week, the first real time off I'm taking in 2017. Mini writing getaway, here I come!

For this week and the two that follow it, you'll see less stories penned by me for these very reasons. However, I've also done plenty of briefs and calendar items to keep the local content coming, and these you'll find on the website.

So here we go!

The health, faith, and arts and entertainment calendars: where to find them? Under the sections tab on the left hand side of Click on "features" and the topics drop down. Assembled by moi.

Gotta Do It, also by me, runs each Sunday in the People section.

Feature briefs for Monday (pets), 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 do try to post new content daily.

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.

Thank you for reading The Herald-News.

Veteran Center gives couple their dream wedding
By Megan Schuller

 Catherine Beavers, who runs the center, said she wants to continue to give back to veterans and rent out the space to the community to fundraise for the veterans she houses.

Army buddies unite after 52 years

Note: A former Herald-News freelance writer submitted this story. Because I don't have a  freelance budget, I couldn't pay her or give her a byline. But she thought it was a good story to tell and wanted to submit it anyway. I agree. It's not very long, so please give it a read.

During a recent visit. the veterans had an opportunity to catch up on old times and their past escapades.

There wasn't a person this Joliet woman wouldn't help

Life was not always kind to Twila Shafer, although most people didn't know it. A single mother of two girls – now adults – Twila simultaneously worked two and three jobs most of her life to support them and was known by her characteristic laugh.

Tips for a healthy and happy Fourth of July

The holiday is past, but the food tips apply to any outdoor gathering with food. Read on!

Mystery Diner: Thayer Bros. Deli serves homemade food for the whole family

Annie Thayer,  owner and mother of former Chicago Bears player Tom Thayer, greeted us with a low-key, neighborly type of friendless. While a server seated us, took our drink orders and brought menus, Annie chatted to us as if we'd known her our entire lives.

Armed with faith, Joliet man holding Mass in honor of first responders

"I've seen so much negativity and hate across our country directed at people, especially law enforcement officers," James Sefcik said. "But they are human beings with immortal souls like we have."

Artworks: Jazz band to perform at Joliet church
By Megan Schuller

The Matthew Miller Group will preform interpretations of jazz, modern combinations and spirituals at 7 p.m. July 12.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

BryonySeries Throwback Thursday:"Momentous" by Jennifer Russ

Thursday, July 12, 2012

"Momentous" by Jennifer Russ

At the beginning of the year, I joined and wrote about an online writing group called 50 Items or Less (, where members submit complete propsitions using no more than fifty words. The goal is tighter, more precise and concise writing.

One of the posts, by Jennifer Russ, author of Whitewallsville(, posted a piece that really resonated with me, and my mind often replays it. It's a stark reminder that tomorrow is not promised, and that life and people offer no solid guarantees, which is not necessarily bad.

Our life, and the individuals we permit to enter it, really can comprise one extraodinary moment after another, if we relax our grasping fists and be open to the gifts of today. With Jennifer's permission, I've reprinted her piece below.


He turns his head to the side and glimpses her through incandescent windows. Two strides behind with toes planted firmly on stability, she considers her dangling inquisition.

Could this be forever?
He shrugs and smiles his fondness for her existence.

Forever is monotonous. You and me, we’re an extraordinary moment.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Waving Hi...

Just a quick "hello" as I rush off to my day.

Hope everyone enjoyed their celebration of America's freedoms.

Yesterday was a busy on-call editor day. I passed on a family get together in another town because of it, but I did make the fireworks with Rebekah. She stayed home, too, and made a wonderful dinner, and we spent a couple hours finishing a project.

I hope July 5 and onward brings even greater blessings.

Have a wonderful Wednesday! :)

Monday, July 3, 2017

Did I Get It All Done?

On Friday, these were the weekend goals, now with Monday morning commentaries:

Goals for this weekend?

Probably sleep in until six a.m. or so since tonight will be late (Actually 6:20 a.m.)

Work on Before the Blood until early afternoon. (Check!)

Upload Cornell. (Nope. A second person did a copy edit, too, and want to double-check with her book).

Put together the second Bertrand book. (Half-check, half-done)

Make some yarn dolls for the third Bertrand book. (Whoops! Forgot about this one. Will try to do tomorrow).

Finally write a chapter in the second Cornell book: Cornell Dyer and the Necklace of Forgetfulness. (Got quite a bit of global progress done, as well as global work on the next two books and overall direction of the series, yay, me!)

MAYBE do a little work with the bryonyseries website. (Rebekah and I made a list). (Nope. Rebekah had an extremely stressful week.Not the Saturday for a project). 

Upload a new recipe to Sue's Diner. Haven't checked out this week's recipe? Please do so before it goes away.  (Old recipe gone, new recipe uploaded. Please check it out. It's extremely simple to make and refreshing on a hot day).

Attend a work-related event in the evening. (Check. And even made it downtown for a fireworks show. And I got some errands done).

Sunday was church, work, and walking.

How about you? How was your weekend?

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Sue's Diner: Apple Ice

In Bryony, Chapter 21: Fetes and Feasts, John apologized to Melissa for his coldness by scheduling a large garden party where she could play gracious hostess. 

With delight, Melissa surveyed the picnic lunch and tasted something called sarsaparilla mead, which reminded her of the bottled root beer she had often shared with her father. 

While we did not list a recipe in the cookbook for every item served, we did include the ice Henry brought Melissa.

Try this recipe on the Sue's Diner page HERE

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

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

Order the cookbook at

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Steward Setback Saturday: Three Rivers Arts and Jams Fest: A Day Ed Calkins Would Have Enjoyed

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Three Rivers Arts and Jams Fest: A Day Ed Calkins Would Have Enjoyed

Ed Calkins, Steward of Tara, has two goals in life: to be known and to have his birthday (February 13) celebrated with a national parade.

He would have enjoyed today.

Two years of premarketing and eight months post the release of Bryony, and our efforts are paying off. Here's why:

At the Three Rivers Arts and Jams Fest today, I talked to people who had purchased Bryony at a previous event, others who had heard about it, and one of my consignments (whom I had never met) who happily shared how my books had sold long ago. Even better, the venue wants me back for an event. A Barnes and Noble employee took some cards to give to that stores community relations coordinator. 

That's in addition to some book and candle sales.

All in all, a highly satisfying day. So if you're in the area of the Three Rivers Arts Council tomorrow, 413 Mondamin Road (the old firehouse), Minooka, Illinois, stop in and see us for round two. We have a bandstand, booths with local artists, and concessions.

No, Ed Calkins, Steward of Tara won't be there, but that's because he'll be busy planning the parade.

Friday, June 30, 2017

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

Today is pressed at the beginning and the end: Friday deadlines and teaching tonight, so here goes.

I didn't write (or edit) too much fiction this week as it seemed I kept chasing myself all over the place and needed the time to catch up a bit ("a bit" is an understatement. Don't feel caught up at all).

I did, however, finally add make the copy edit changes in Cornell Dyer and the Missing Tombstone and outline a new book for Bertrand. I also rewrote and did some minor editing on last Saturday's fiction-writing marathon.

Goals for this weekend?

Probably sleep in until six a.m. or so since tonight will be late.

Work on Before the Blood until early afternoon.

Upload Cornell.

Put together the second Bertrand book.

Make some yarn dolls for the third Bertrand book.

Finally write a chapter in the second Cornell book: Cornell Dyer and the Necklace of Forgetfulness.

MAYBE do a little work with the bryonyseries website. (Rebekah and I made a list).

Upload a new recipe to Sue's Diner. Haven't checked out this week's recipe? Please do so before it goes away. 

Attend a work-related event in the evening.

This all feels do-able to me, but it's Friday morning, so we shall see.

Onward to the real work!

The health, faith, and arts and entertainment calendars: where to find them? Under the sections tab on the left hand side of Click on "features" and the topics drop down. Assembled by moi.

Gotta Do It, also by me, runs each Sunday in the People section.

Feature briefs for Monday (pets), 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 do try to post new content daily.

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.

Thank you for reading The Herald-News.

Longtime board member for Joliet high schools shares the heart of her service
Arlene Albert cares about District 204 and her Joliet community

Albert said: "We were cutting classes. We were cutting teachers. Of course we were reducing opportunities for kids. That’s hard if you care about kids and you care about your community. It’s a really hard thing to do.”

An Extraordinary Life: Joliet ophthalmologist was generous and unselfish
Dr. Paul Morimoto left a legacy of caring for patients

“I think his legacy is one of caring for his patients: his generosity and unselfish nature,” Pauls' son, Dr. David Morimoto said. “He never wanted any accolades, he never really thought about anything in return.”

Pets of the Week: June 26

Read the caption of each photo to find out about that pet, including where he or she can be adopted.

Joliet woman will run 150 miles in 6 days to help people with MS

“She has so elegantly faced the disease; she’s my best friend; she’s my hero; she’s the strongest person I know,” Kelli McDonald, 42, of Joliet, said about her mother who has multiple sclerosis. “Every day she takes one more step because she does not want this disease to take her.”

Mystery Diner: McWethy's Tavern in Romeoville offers unique Scottish and American dishes

We split an order of warm pretzel nuggets with ale butter glaze and bourbon horseradish dip for $8. The portion was generous and so good. The ale and bourbon didn’t overwhelm the dish, and the horseradish gave it the right bite.

Joliet area faith leaders define and discuss 'religious freedom'

Here's one view. Read on for more.

Rev. Edward L. Winfrey Jr., pastor, The Way Church of Joliet: "When I hear 'religious freedom,' to me, it means the ability for people to practice their personal religious beliefs in our country and to do so without discrimination."

Five ways to celebrate a fun Fourth of July

5K? Car show to benefit veterans? A children's parade? Meeting up with Captain America and Wonder Woman? 

Artworks: Romeoville Art Society brings community artists together

Founder Heather Jelic on "why make art:" "It's nourishing to the soul and brings people together.