Monday, May 17, 2021

Sue's Diner: Cinnamon Lozenges

 The following recipe appears in the cookbook Memories in the Kitchen: Bites and Nibbles from "Bryony."

Background on where this week's recipe falls in the BryonySeries novel Bryony:

 When Melissa develops a crush on Henry, she boldly approaches him for a date. Henry seizes his chance to enlarge Melissa’s world and gives her a kaleidoscope evening of theatre, historical landmarks, and peasant food. 

This recipe is modified from the Bohemian-American Cookbook by Marie Rosicky, published by the Automatic Printing Company (www.autoprintomaha.com). 

The version of the cookbook I had was published more than one hundred years ago. The Automatic Publishing Company is still publishing it today.

Try this recipe on the Sue's Diner page on the BryonySeries website.

But try the fish salad recipe this week. It will be gone next week. A new recipe will take it's place. 

By the way, Sue's Diner is only real in the BryonySeries world. But didn't Timothy do a great job making the page look like a real menu at a vintage diner?


All proceeds from Memories in the Kitchen: Bites and Nibbles From "Bryony" benefit Big Brothers Big Sisters of Will and Grundy Counties at bbbswillgrundy.org.

Order the cookbook at bryonyseries.com.





Saturday, May 15, 2021

Steward Setback Saturday: On Becoming an Ed Calkins Wife, Part One

While Ed Calkins and his real wife Nancy Calkins are catching up on real socialization, I decided to run one of Ed's old blog posts.

For people new to the blog, Ed Calkins is a former supervisor of mine whom I legally fictionalized in the BryonySeries, which was easy to do because he had already fictionalized himself at work.

He called himself a "ruthless dictator" and the "Steward of Tara" - with a goal of having more wives than King Solomon (except Ed's harem is a verbal harem only).

"You only verbally agree to join my harem," Ed tells Melissa in "Bryony." "This way, I make wives left and right.”

I added the undead part, making Ed the first and only official Irish vampire in th world, since Ireland does not have any official vampire lore of its own.

Ed recently published Ruthless, which is the first novel in the BryonySeries that was not written by me. 

Because Ed the character and Ed the person is considered an unreliable narrator (as this post will show), he has boundless freedom to bend the characters and plots in the BryonySeries to create his own stories. 

He also wrote my Irish back story (I am not Irish), a collection of humorous essays about my ancestry.

Needless to say, I have a lot of respect for Nancy. As she's told me many times, she has to live with him!

Enjoy!

 

Saturday, May 5, 2012

On Becoming an Ed Calkins Wife, Part 1

By Ed Calkins, the Steward of Tara

 

On this topic of qualifications for wives of Ed Calkins, understand that one must actually meet Ed Calkins in person (unless, of course, you're holding one of my famous dollar bills; more on this later. Or maybe you'd consider sending it back as a gift to your new hubby? If one percent responds to that favorably, I'm buying a new car (matchbox)).

 

Meeting me in person is actually quite a task because I'm quite reclusive. This may surprise anyone that has actually seen me in person, but it's true. You see, I enjoy my little delusions very much and find the easiest way to confirm them is to avoid any evidence to the contrary. This means avoiding people.

 

Yes, I know there's always simple denial, but that takes out all the energy for ruling my fantastical realm. In fact, it's because I'm so much of a hermit that normally, when I do get out, I have a lot of pent up socialization to unleash.

 

Still, it’s actually quite difficult to get me out of my little man cave. I have a standing date with wives one, two, and four every Friday at five o'clock, but it usually takes three or four phone calls to get me there by six (true story, all of it).

 

Another qualification is age. A prospective wife must be reasonably mature. Now, I know you Tilted Kilt girls are going to claim being "mature for your age," but that isn't helpful at all. The legal age for drinking and adulthood might be twenty-one, but if you're only thirty-one and trying to marry Ed Calkins, you better look awfully old for your age. Even those women under forty-one might get adopted instead of married.


What's the difference? The later might get a rose the day after Calkins Day, the former gets a Barbie doll around Christmas (if you're good).

 

More later.

 

Ruthlessly yours,

Ed Calkins, Steward of Tara




Friday, May 14, 2021

Story Round-Up: Features in The Herald-News, May 8 through May 14

Good morning!

I have fourteen stories to share with you this morning - with a whopping eighteen that haven't posted to The Herald-News website yet.

Here's a quick summary of where I'm at, fiction-wise.

Rebekah is finishing up a Kindle for a client and then she will format the next book in The Adventures of Cornell Dyer series (Cornell Dyer and the Whispering Wardrobe). Because, yes, I did finish it last weekend, hurray.

This means Timothy and I just might be starting the next book in the series: Cornell Dyer and the Calcium-Deficient Bones

A new proof copy of the first book in the new BryonySeries Limbo trilogy (The Phoenix) is on its way. If I don't to make any substantial changes to it, we could have a release by June.

Last night, I did spend some time on the second book if the Limbo trilogy - Call of the Siren - but I am far, far, far away from having more than a very loose-ish outline done. I don't even have a good working draft.

Now, I'm not unmotivated and my muse has not dried up. But the book is a substantial change from the other books in the series, so I have a lot of back end work to get done.

Now back to the fourteen feature stories. Simply click on the link of the story that looks interesting to you. Happy scrolling!

But before the stories, I have a list of additional resources and information. Please check them out, too -

Finally, if you'd like to find more kindness in your life, consider this book.

And have a great Friday!

RECIPE OF THE WEEK

Sue's Diner is a fictional restaurant in the fictional Munsonville that only exists in the BryonySeries.

Each Sunday, we post a new recipe. The recipe is either featured in one of our cookbooks or will be featured in an upcoming cookbook.

Check out the recipe here.

WRITERS

If you're a writer anywhere in the world, you're welcome to join WriteOn Joliet's Facebook pageWe're based in Joliet, Illinois, but we love to meet and interact with writers outside our area, too.

If you'd like to officially join WriteOn Joliet, we have two tiers of dues. We also have a marketing arm that's getting longer every year, well, except this year. Check us out at writeonjoliet.com.

I also suggest this book: Little Book of Revision: A Checklist for Fiction Writers. It's exactly as it says. Each page some with one suggestion for revision. The rest of the page is blank, so you can add your own notes. All proceeds benefit WriteOn Joliet.

If you need support in your writing, I highly recommend this Twitter group: #5amwritersclub. I  joined it last year. Writers support each other on Twitter and meet every three weeks at 5 a.m. (4 a.m. CST - needless to say, I am often late!) on Zoom.

If you need editing or help with self-publishing, check out dmbaranunland.com.

ARTISTS

If you need an artist for a project, I offer these recommendations.

NEWSLETTERS

Sign up for the Will County Go Guide and Sign up for the LocalLit Short Story and Book Review Newsletter at https://www.theherald-news.com/newsletter/

Sign up for The Munsonville Times by emailing us at bryonyseries@gmail.com. The newsletter still isn't official yet, so we don't have an actual link on the website - but we are working on it! 

SOCIAL MEDIA

Daily updates: I do post the briefs 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 www.facebook.com/BryonySeries.

And of course, please follow the adventures of Bertrand the Mouse on Instagram at bertrand_bryonyseries.

BRYONYSERIES BOOKS

For books and more information about the series, visit bryonyseries.com.

BRYONYSERIES EVENTS

A full month of virtual events can be found at bryonyseries.com/calendar-of-events-1.

QUESTIONS

Email me at bryonyseries@gmail.com.

Thank you for reading The Herald-News. And for reading this blog. And if you've read (or plan to read) any of my books. Your support is greatly appreciated.

FEATURES

‘Behind those walls of the NICU lies the tiniest fighters’: Joliet Junior College student finishes nursing degree after crisis pregnancy, aspires to work in labor or delivery or a NICU 

'A life is given in the midst of tragic deaths in COVID’: Silver Cross health care experts discuss labor, delivery in COVID-19-positive mothers

LocalLit book preview: #Minooka author works through the death of her youngest son: ‘If I have learned anything, it’s to trust my instincts’

'My worst fear was coming true: labor and the virus’: New mom learned she had #COVID-19 right before labor, honors nurse at Silver Cross Hospital who supported her 

Pets of the Week: May 10: Will County rescues have dogs and cats for adoption

United Way of Will County names new president & CEO: Kamala Martinez ‘will step into the role’ on May 17 

An Extraordinary Life: 'He lived the life most people don’t get to live’: Retired music director from #Joliet Central was a friend and mentor to many

Ashley Pilon of Minooka served as guest weather forecaster on WGN TV: This 4th-grader at Trinity Christian School in Shorewood was chosen due to her exemplary effort in the classroom 

New hearing clinic comes to Will County 

Nursing students from Lewis University in Romeoville help vaccinate people with special needs: Students worked in conjunction with the Will County Health Department 

Music, theater and outside fun - if the rain holds offWill County Inside/Outside Guide offers suggestions for enjoying your weekend 

Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie celebrates 25 years with time capsule: Endangered prairie clover seeds and call-to-action letter just 2 of the items Midewin preserved

Northern Illinois Food Bank honors 2 Channahon volunteers: Carol Ferguson and Amy Winters both serve at the Joliet site 

Frankfort students raise more than $35,900 for American Heart Association



Illustration by Matt Coundiff for "Visage."


Thursday, May 13, 2021

“[For I will consider my Cat Jeoffry],” by Christopher Smart

For people who love cats.

For people who love poetry.

For people who love to discover the gems in the obscure.

A truly delightful poem, Enjoy!

For more about the author, who lived in the 18th century, visit poetryfoundation.org/poets/christopher-smart.


For I will consider my Cat Jeoffry.

For he is the servant of the Living God duly and daily serving him.

For at the first glance of the glory of God in the East he worships in his way.

For this is done by wreathing his body seven times round with elegant quickness.

For then he leaps up to catch the musk, which is the blessing of God upon his prayer.

For he rolls upon prank to work it in.

For having done duty and received blessing he begins to consider himself.

For this he performs in ten degrees.

For first he looks upon his forepaws to see if they are clean.

For secondly he kicks up behind to clear away there.

For thirdly he works it upon stretch with the forepaws extended.

For fourthly he sharpens his paws by wood.

For fifthly he washes himself.

For sixthly he rolls upon wash.

For seventhly he fleas himself, that he may not be interrupted upon the beat.

For eighthly he rubs himself against a post.

For ninthly he looks up for his instructions.

For tenthly he goes in quest of food.

For having consider'd God and himself he will consider his neighbour.

For if he meets another cat he will kiss her in kindness.

For when he takes his prey he plays with it to give it a chance.

For one mouse in seven escapes by his dallying.

For when his day's work is done his business more properly begins.

For he keeps the Lord's watch in the night against the adversary.

For he counteracts the powers of darkness by his electrical skin and glaring eyes.

For he counteracts the Devil, who is death, by brisking about the life.

For in his morning orisons he loves the sun and the sun loves him.

For he is of the tribe of Tiger.

For the Cherub Cat is a term of the Angel Tiger.

For he has the subtlety and hissing of a serpent, which in goodness he suppresses.

For he will not do destruction, if he is well-fed, neither will he spit without provocation.

For he purrs in thankfulness, when God tells him he's a good Cat.

For he is an instrument for the children to learn benevolence upon.

For every house is incomplete without him and a blessing is lacking in the spirit.

For the Lord commanded Moses concerning the cats at the departure of the Children of Israel from Egypt.

For every family had one cat at least in the bag.

For the English Cats are the best in Europe.

For he is the cleanest in the use of his forepaws of any quadruped.

For the dexterity of his defence is an instance of the love of God to him exceedingly.

For he is the quickest to his mark of any creature.

For he is tenacious of his point.

For he is a mixture of gravity and waggery.

For he knows that God is his Saviour.

For there is nothing sweeter than his peace when at rest.

For there is nothing brisker than his life when in motion.

For he is of the Lord's poor and so indeed is he called by benevolence perpetually—Poor Jeoffry! poor Jeoffry! the rat has bit thy throat.

For I bless the name of the Lord Jesus that Jeoffry is better.

For the divine spirit comes about his body to sustain it in complete cat.

For his tongue is exceeding pure so that it has in purity what it wants in music.

For he is docile and can learn certain things.

For he can set up with gravity which is patience upon approbation.

For he can fetch and carry, which is patience in employment.

For he can jump over a stick which is patience upon proof positive.

For he can spraggle upon waggle at the word of command.

For he can jump from an eminence into his master's bosom.

For he can catch the cork and toss it again.

For he is hated by the hypocrite and miser.

For the former is afraid of detection.

For the latter refuses the charge.

For he camels his back to bear the first notion of business.

For he is good to think on, if a man would express himself neatly.

For he made a great figure in Egypt for his signal services.

For he killed the Ichneumon-rat very pernicious by land.

For his ears are so acute that they sting again.

For from this proceeds the passing quickness of his attention.

For by stroking of him I have found out electricity.

For I perceived God's light about him both wax and fire.

For the Electrical fire is the spiritual substance, which God sends from heaven to sustain the bodies both of man and beast.

For God has blessed him in the variety of his movements.

For, tho he cannot fly, he is an excellent clamberer.

For his motions upon the face of the earth are more than any other quadruped.

For he can tread to all the measures upon the music.

For he can swim for life.

For he can creep.


For my cat Frances, who gladly lent her image to this blog.

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Dark Chocolate, Dark Roast Coffee, Purple Roses, and Patio Furniture

I woke up on Mother's Day realizing that, for the first time in a very long time, I had absolutely no plans.

I had nothing I had to do. I had nowhere I had to be.

I'm pretty sure I would get tired of nothing as a regular non-activity diet. 

But most days I'm already giving myself a mental run-down of the priorities of the day, so as to keep me from repeatedly hitting "snooze."

So on Mother's Day, with background of falling rain, it was a most delicious feeling to know I had absolutely no obligations in the moment.

I did eat way too much chocolate and drink a fair amount of dark roast coffee (incuding an Americano when Timothy surprised the whole family with their favorite beverages from Dunkin).

Here is a quick pictorial glance of the rest of the gifts. All have a BryonySeries theme, except for the chocolate from Rebekah. I didn't even know you could get Kit Kats in dark chocolate, mmm.

First up, two views of the bouquet of purple flowers (including purple roses) from Timothy:





And then two views of the real purple rose in water under the globe and pation furniture from Jasmine:




And finally an assortment of dark chocolate from Rebekah:



I'm sure you're wondering how Bertrand the Mouse feted me.

Well, that is a sad tale.

Bertrand is missing.

Yes, he is missing.

Four of us spent some very long hours searching the neighborhoods for him on Sunday. Even Jasmine offered to drive up from Morris to help.

When three adult children give up a chunk of their Sunday to look for a crocheted mouse on Mother's Day, you realize what kind of children you've raised.

When a fourth adult offers to travel more than half an hour one way to help look for a crocheted mouse, you'll understand the impact Bertrand has on people - and why he is more than just a crocheted mouse.

As of this writing (Tuesday morning), Bertrand is still gone.


Monday, May 10, 2021

Sue's Diner: Fish Salad

The following recipe appears in the cooknbook Memories in the Kitchen: Bites and Nibbles from "Bryony."

Background on where this week's recipe falls in the BryonySeries novel Bryony:

Although Simons Mansion hosted most of Munsonville’s festivities, the villagers reciprocated one summer with a celebration in honor of John and Bryony Simons, with John providing the entertainment. A torn dress kept Melissa away from the refreshment table, but, except for the cake, we doubt she would have eaten anything from it, anyway.

This fish salad recipe is modified from the Bohemian-American Cookbook by Marie Rosicky, published by the Automatic Printing Company (www.autoprintomaha.com). 

The version of the cookbook I had was published more than one hundred years ago. The Automatic Publishing Company is still publishing it today.

Try this recipe on the Sue's Diner page on the BryonySeries website.

But try the fish salad recipe this week. It will be gone next week. A new recipe will take it's place. 

By the way, Sue's Diner is only real in the BryonySeries world. But didn't Timothy do a great job making the page look like a real menu at a vintage diner?


All proceeds from Memories in the Kitchen: Bites and Nibbles From "Bryony" benefit Big Brothers Big Sisters of Will and Grundy Counties at bbbswillgrundy.org.

Order the cookbook at bryonyseries.com.




Saturday, May 8, 2021

Steward Setback Saturday: How to Talk Like Ed Calkins on Mother's Day

Here's a fun post from 2012 that links to another site with fun Gaelic phrases you can use for Mother's Day.

And Happy Mother's Day in advance to any moms reading this post - and to the moms of the rest of you reading this post.


Saturday, May 12, 2012

How to Talk Like Ed Calkins on Mother's Day

Although one may find it difficult to imagine, even Ed Calkins, the Steward of Tara, has a mother, and he remembers her on Mother's Day.

Now, Ed has never shared whether he brings her flowers or chocolates, but if you want to honor YOUR mother on Mother's Day with a Gaelic expression or two, check out this site.

http://www.irishcultureandcustoms.com/3Focloir/Lessons8.html#Gael32




Friday, May 7, 2021

Story Round-Up: Features in The Herald-News, May 1 through May 7

 Good morning!

I have sixten stories to share with you this morning - with just three that haven't posted to The Herald-News website yet.

But I'm working tomorrow, so that will quick change, I'm certain.

Here's a quick summary of where I'm at, fiction-wise.

I'm still wrapping up the next book in The Adventures of Cornell Dyer series (Cornell Dyer and the Whispering Wardrobe), but that should be ready for formatting within a week.

I'm finished editing the first proof copy of the first book in the new BryonySeries Limbo trilogy (The Phoenix). But I made so many changes that I'm sending for a second proof copy. Hopefully it's good to go this time.

I've done nothing substantial in the second book if the Limbo trilogy - Call of the Siren - but I'm planning to work on that book tonight and tomorrow night.

Now back to the fifteen feature (and one news) stories. Simply click on the link of the story that looks interesting to you. Happy scrolling!

But before the stories, I have a list of additional resources and information. Please check them out, too -

Finally, if you'd like to find more kindness in your life, consider this book.

And have a great Friday!

RECIPE OF THE WEEK

Sue's Diner is a fictional restaurant in the fictional Munsonville that only exists in the BryonySeries.

Each Sunday, we post a new recipe. The recipe is either featured in one of our cookbooks or will be featured in an upcoming cookbook.

Check out the recipe here.

WRITERS

If you're a writer anywhere in the world, you're welcome to join WriteOn Joliet's Facebook pageWe're based in Joliet, Illinois, but we love to meet and interact with writers outside our area, too.

If you'd like to officially join WriteOn Joliet, we have two tiers of dues. We also have a marketing arm that's getting longer every year, well, except this year. Check us out at writeonjoliet.com.

I also suggest this book: Little Book of Revision: A Checklist for Fiction Writers. It's exactly as it says. Each page some with one suggestion for revision. The rest of the page is blank, so you can add your own notes. All proceeds benefit WriteOn Joliet.

If you need support in your writing, I highly recommend this Twitter group: #5amwritersclub. I  joined it last year. Writers support each other on Twitter and meet every three weeks at 5 a.m. (4 a.m. CST - needless to say, I am often late!) on Zoom.

If you need editing or help with self-publishing, check out dmbaranunland.com.

ARTISTS

If you need an artist for a project, I offer these recommendations.

NEWSLETTERS

Sign up for the Will County Go Guide and Sign up for the LocalLit Short Story and Book Review Newsletter at https://www.theherald-news.com/newsletter/

Sign up for The Munsonville Times by emailing us at bryonyseries@gmail.com. The newsletter still isn't official yet, so we don't have an actual link on the website - but we are working on it! 

SOCIAL MEDIA

Daily updates: I do post the briefs 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 www.facebook.com/BryonySeries.

And of course, please follow the adventures of Bertrand the Mouse on Instagram at bertrand_bryonyseries.

BRYONYSERIES BOOKS

For books and more information about the series, visit bryonyseries.com.

BRYONYSERIES EVENTS

A full month of virtual events can be found at bryonyseries.com/calendar-of-events-1.

QUESTIONS

Email me at bryonyseries@gmail.com.

Thank you for reading The Herald-News. And for reading this blog. And if you've read (or plan to read) any of my books. Your support is greatly appreciated.


FEATURES

No injuries in fire at commercial building in Plainfield: Plainfield Fire Protection District dispatched to 2-alarm fire Sunday night

An Extraordinary Life : ‘She knew how to light up a room’: HomerGlen woman exhibited great strength and love, in sickness and in health

Shorewood Lions honor Troy students for effort and attitude: Troy Community School District 30-C school board recognized the students at board meetings in February and March

Joliet, Plainfield students celebrate Arbor Day, Earth Day: Students planted, cleaned, and spread mulch and messages 

An outdoor, user-friendly, digitally-connected gym is coming to New Lenox: Park District hopes the Fitness Court will be ready for use by end of May

Joliet Central announces runners-up, finalists for its 2021 Mr. J and Miss J: 2 seniors selected to represent high school each year since 1958 

Pets of the Week: May 3: Will County rescues have dogs and cats for adoption

Lewis University in #Romeoville is offering a community conversation with students of color today

LocalLit preview: ‘Come to the well like the Samaritan woman and encounter Jesus’: Channahon woman writes book to help readers grow closer to God

And the actual review:

'If Dr. Fauci is getting it, then I’m getting it, too’: Plainfield woman said she had reaction to Pfizer shot - and encourages people to get vaccinated 

Disabled Joliet woman with breast cancer needs help with transportation expenses

Lockport Township HS Junior ROTC cadets clean debris from Fairmont senior’s yard: 'She would not have been able to clean this property without the support of these cadets’

Trinity Services, Valley View are offering mental health resources: Register now for a virtual tour of a virtual living room on Tuesday

'I am grateful for the opportunity to be serving’: Silver Cross, St. Joe’s chaplains discuss their ministry during COVID-19

When the weather fails, let music speak: Will County Inside/Outside Guide offers suggestions for enjoying your rainy weekend





Illustration by Matt Coundiff for "Visage."

Thursday, May 6, 2021

Writing Retreat Recap: Unforgettable Journey with Incredible Characters

A few weekends ago, I actually took a "real" writers retreat.

By this, I mean a retreat that I did not structure and one that included other writers - as opposed to my one-person, at-home writing retreats that I have taken in the past.

This was also a retreat that I paid to attend. When I participate in a "just me" at-home writing retreat, I don't charge myself - although I do draw up goals and task myself with attaining them. I just don't plunk down any cash. I don't even treat myself to coffee that's not already in the cabinet.

Anyway, I wanted to take a week or so to distance myself from the retreat, reflect on the experiences, and then share my thoughts in this blog.

For background on the retreat and why I signed up, read this post.

Note: Ralph Walker, our retreat master, is hoping to offer this retreat to other grouips. For that reason, I will be vague on the particulars.

But I will say we worked on characterization and plotting. 

Also, ee all had to be currently working on a novel. For me, that was Call of the Siren, the second novel in the new BryonySeries trilogy Limbo.

OK, here are my thoughts.


1) The retreat master was highly organized and invested into making this a fun and informative experience.

The weeks leading up to the retreat consisted of prompts and a few pieces of "homework" that needed to be completed in advance. This wasn't drudgery. It was more like passing the appetizer tray in the waiting room.

Ralph also asked us for our goals, so he could build the retreat around us being able to meet them. 

And he did not bite off more than he could manage. He capped the retreat at twenty or so and left it there. So if you wanted in, you had to commit in advance.

The price was reasonable for two days (Friday night into late Sunday afternon): around the $120 mark.

A week or so before the rereat, we received a box with the a large binder with all the Zoom links, topics, discussion questions, additional resources for characterization and plotting, index cards, graph paper, and quite a few DO NOT OPEN envelopes.

The box also contained a variety of swag: stickers, beads, candy, coffee, tea, coffee mug, all of which delighted Rebekah, who likes suprise boxes.

But even Rebekah respected the sanctity of the marked envelopes.

2) It was fun.

By "fun," I mean Ralph had the event so well-structiured I forgot I was on Zoom.

On Friday night, we met as one large group - and we did the same on Saturday night and at the closing. It was a mixture of information, sharing, and very casual networking. 

Alcohol was allowed Saturday night.

Except for me. Because I can't drink alcohol with the medication I take.

But I had so much fun, the dark roast coffee sufficed.

This sounds bland on paper (computer), ugh.

But we joked, laughed, did silly exercises to break the weird ice of  introverted writing strangers meeting other introverted writing strangers on Zoom.

It worked.

We got loud. We got animated.

We really, really, really had lots of fun.

3) I met some really awesome writers.

On Saturday and Sunday morning and afternoon, we'd meet in "homeroom" and then Ralph broke us into small groups.

We worked on exercises and applied various techniques to our writing.

We opened the mysterious envelopes and answered questions and pop prompts that put us on the spot and challenged us and stretched out abilities - and we did all this together.

We shared elements of our work and gave feedback on the work of others.

We exchanged emails and Twitter handles. (Note to self: I now need to be better at being more present on social media. So - I have some work to do).

4) I relearned some things.

I don't know everything there is to know about writing. But I do know a lot because I have studied craft and dilligently worked on my craft.

But before I sound like a Miss Smartypants, I also must stress that no writer can call up every technique at every time and apply it at the right time to every writing situation.

Also, hearing a certain tip in a new way forces writers to look at their work with fresh perspectives.

And this is what happened to me.

In random bursts, we were instructed to do "this" or "that" to our writing in terms of characters or plots. 

Now sometimes I had just written a scene that accomplished the goal.

But most of the time, I could apply the instruction somewhere else.

So before I "wrote off" the prompt, I examined my outline to see where the current instruction might fit.

This resulted in the creation of new scenes and the shifting of others as a result of Ralph's prompting. 

And it gets better than that.

Since the retreat, some of these prompts will pop up in my head. My mind then immediately asks, "Where can I apply this?" 

As a result, I've added even more new scenes and expanded still others in ways that really impact the structure of Call of the Siren in very satisying ways.

Side note: As Ralph walked us through one very simple plotting technique, I kept thinking, "I wish other members of WriteOn Joliet were here." No lie. 

Perhaps it's because I have read an impossible number of fiction in my life, I have an almost instinctive feel for structure. But "instinct" doens't go very far when a writer is looking for concrete direction.

I now know one way.

5) The Finale

Just before the retreat ended, we had one last DO NOT OPEN envelope to open. I won't tell you what it was.

But I will tell you, it was anything but random. And that was the one moment where I nearly cried.


Now any writer reading this blog post that attended this retreat might think that I blundered on the name of the retreat when I titled this recap blog post.

The name of the retreat was "Unforgettable Characters and Incredible Journeys." And the retreat delivered it.

But, for me, the retreat itself really was an "unforgettable journey with incredible characters."

Because I really did embark upon an unforgettable journey with some incredible characters - Ralph and the other writers who shared their works, their thoughts, their very valuable time, and some honest vulerability in order to perfect the common thread that tied us all together.

The telling of really good stories.





Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Preparing for Pascha

Marrying into the Byzantine Orthodox Church - and then later joining an Eastern Orthodox Church with Ukranian roots - changed the way I celebrate Easter forever, especially in regards to the food we prepare and eat.

Many of these foods are rich in milk, butter, cheese, eggs, and smoked meat, all foods given up in a traditional Lenten fast.

I learned these traditions and ways to prepare these foods forty years ago, so they would become the fabric of my six children's lives - and then they prepared them with me as they were growing up.

Now that half of them are workign or have worked in food service, they are more skilled in the kitchen than I am. So now I'm the one who assists them.

And someday, God willing, they will assist their children.


Rebekah squeezes out a ball of Easter cheese before she allows it to drip dry the rest of the way.




A quart of milk and a dozen eggs heats over a makeshift double boiler for another batch of Easter cheese.





A ball of Easter cheese drips dry.





Rebekah kneads a batch of Pascha or Easter bread. She made eleven loaves in all.





Rebekah cuts up butter for the Easter bread.


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Rebekah braids bread dough for the Pascha.





Rebekah adds braids to the Pascha.





A batch of Pascha that we didn't braid cools on racks.





In thet meantime, Timothy made homemade ricotta and pierogies.





This is the potato filling Timothy made for his pierogies,





Timothy shows me how his pictures of pierogies are better than mine.





Rebekah's ham comes out of the oven.





Timothy cooked the sausages.





The sausages are now cooling.





And, of course, Bertrand joined in.





Did you find Bertrand in this pictcure?




Rebekah also made three kinds of candy. We posted the recipe for chocolate truffles on the BryonySeries Sue's Diner page yesterday.

She also bought Easter candy on sale and made individual bags for all of us, including the grandchildren.


Because everyone's work and homework schedules didn't line up, we didn't have the backyard gathering at Joshua's house we had originally planned.

But a spoiling of plans cannot dampen the joy of the resurrection or cut the common thread of tradition that runs through all of us.

We all partook of the same food and rejoiced, even if that partaking and rejoicing didn't happen in the same physical space.