Tuesday, November 24, 2020

The (Overall) Good News in our Community: More Than 30 Pieces to Inspire You

With Thanksgiving Day just a couple days away, and looking very different for many people this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it's good to remember we can still give thanks.

For instance, good people are still doing good things on the local level. Here are some examples:

Joliet Catholic Academy hosted 'Meet the Angels and Hilltoppers' event for 7th and 8th-graders

Silver Cross Charity Golf (un) Outing Raises $116,550 for heart care @SilverCrossHosp 

PHSCC French Club encourages exercise via Tour de Plainfield

Terri King and Teena Mackey honored for their roles with NAMI Will-Grundy

Joliet resident sworn in as a midshipman at United States Merchant Marine Academy

Local churches donate to D. 86 in Joliet

Joliet Catholic Academy Habit for Humanity Club organizes Operation Takeout 

Plainfield special education students visit grocery store virtually 

Boy Scouts refresh veterans monument at Oakwood Cemetery in Joliet

Administrators from D. 86 in Joliet featured at IASB meeting 

Shorewood offers more assistance to small businesses: $350,000 grant pool now available

Kiwanis helped MorningStar Mission in Joliet prepare for winter

2 Troy 30-C school board members achieve 'Master Board Member' status

Joliet Public Library offering Veteran and Armed Forces library cards 

Food distribution held at Plainfield Church 

Girl Scouts open micro food pantry in Romeoville

Brian Bessler receives Allen Award for Service to the Community

Aldi opened #Shorewood location Thursday

Shorewood-Troy Public Library open by appointment only for lobby Grab-N-Go pick up

Minooka woman’s coyote photo captures October Forest Preserve photo contest win 

New commissioner appointed to Plainfield Park District board 

Troy 30-C schools pay tribute to veterans - even with no group activities 

Lockport installs electric vehicle charging station

Bolingbrook Historical Museum showcases city's diversity

Will County recycling specialist elected to state, national roles

Frankfort Arts Association hosting exhibit at Frankfort Village Hall

Plainfield High School-Central Campus archer earns spot national team

Retired Plainfield Park District commissioner recognized for service 

Plainfield North HS NHS's annual walk-a-thon raises $4K for Ronald McDonald House 

And some reminders that COVID-19 is still in our midst (and the response from local organizations):

IDNR closes CWD check stations for 2020 firearm deer season

Pace to temporarily close indoor spaces at Plainfield transportation center: Buses will continue to serve this location

I've been exposed to COVID-19, now what? Edward-Elmhurst Health answers that question - and more 

Troy 30-C school board pushes back full hybrid transition by 2 weeks

COVID hospitalizations up 400% at Morris Hospital: Morris Hospital has already canceled 3 surgeries necessitating overnight stays

Illustration by Christopher Gleason for "Staked!" Follow him at artworkbytopher.com.

Monday, November 23, 2020

To Pen Pal or Not Pen Pal: Thoughts?

I found this photo in my blog drafts from 2018. It's a piece of correspondence from my oldest grandson, who's now thirteen.

About five years ago, I started a monthly mailing with eight grandchildren, which I suspended in March when the pandemic began. At the time, people had some fears about getting COVID through the mail. Mostly, though, I was frustrated with the mail service.

For example, if I added extra postage to a card, one might come back still demanding more. So in a household of three children, one wouldn't get his or her card.

Sometimes, a card would simply never arrive at its destination. The affected grandchild would wail about why I forgot him or her. These examples happened more times than they should have happened.

So I'm on the fence about restarting it.

On the pro side, the kids loved "mail day," as one of my daughters-in-law told me.

As did I when a grandchild put in the effort to send something to me in return.

This is why I can't decide.

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Ed Calkins COVID Update

I received the following email from the real Ed Calkins this morning:

Back at work but still have a persistent cough that could be my bronchitis, at least that’s what my doctor thinks.

Still I am wearing a mask and social distancing, I haven’t been able to get a second test.

All good news for me, so please keep the prayers, good thoughts, and limericks coming.

Speaking of limericks, one reader/local author/BryonySeries editor did send this one for Ed:

A poet quite too old to lope

Wrote punishing lim'ricks to cope

He came down with the Covid

Quarantined and while all hid

This Irish Vampire held to hope.

Hope seems to be holding onto Ed, too.

May all who read this hold onto hope - and may hope be always with you.

Friday, November 20, 2020

Story Round-Up: Features in The Herald-News, Nov. 7 through Nov. 20

So I overslept this morning (kept hitting "snooze") because I dreamed I was visiting my daughter and her family in Raleigh and kept wanting to go back. "Snooze" got me there.

It also got me running late - so no editorializing from me: just eighteen features for you to peruse and read, along with some general, miscellaneous recommendations.

What's new this week: I've separate the non-COVID stories from the COVI stories. So if you'd like to stick with the "nons," I've listed those first. And if you want to go right to the virus features, keep scrolling.

Stay safe, stay healthy, be blessed.


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.


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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.


Growing luffa distracts Plainfield family from 'the weird times we live in' 'When we found out about luffa, it made sense with our lifestyle' 

Greater Joliet YMCA adapts longtime program to support families in remote learning 

Know someone who needs a Thanksgiving dinner? These 2 churches can help

LocalLit book preview: 'The Daraga's Children' by Colleen H. Robbins of Joliet

And read the review here.

COVID Coping: A keepsake from their felled apple tree - Homer Glen father tackles special woodworking project for his 3 daughters

Pets of the Week: Nov. 16

An Extraordinary Life: 'I want him to be a voice for other people' - Ashley Searing of Joliet keeps her brother's legacy alive with hand-painted potted plants

Covid_19 couldn't stop this event - Plainfield church decided 'Make a Difference Day' was really needed this year 

Channahon woman needs a liver transplant – can you help? - I’ve never been poked or prodded so much in my life'

Mystery Diner: Public Landing in #Lockport provides quality food and service – every time

Blood donations urgently needed – here’s how to donate in Will County


COVID-19 hospitalizations continue to rise at St. Joe's in Joliet 

COVID hospitalizations up 400% at Morris Hospital: Morris Hospital has already canceled 3 surgeries necessitating overnight stays

Another casualty of 2020: Crisis Line of Will and Grundy Counties is shutting down 

Here’s why adding more hospital beds doesn’t equal more patient care - and why you should be concerned 

COVID cases at Will County Hospitals continue to rise

COVID cases at Will County Hospitals still climbing

Illustration by Matt Coundiff for "Visage."

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Three Wishes for You Today

  Today is super busy, but...

...no day should be so busy as to forget the people who stop by this blog.

So while I was almost tempted to skip it, I'll share my three wishes for you today.

1) That you stay safe from anything that threatens to harm you.

2) That you receive a blessing, no matter how small some might perceive it, that makes you smile.

3) That you will always have someone to love.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Two New "Bertrand the Mouse Books" - and One More on its Way

For current or soon-to-be fans of Bertrand the Mouse, we're happy to bring you the first two books in a Bertrand the Mouse subseries of Bertrand's adventures.

All of the photos in these books originally appeared on Bertrand's Instagram page (yes, my crocheted mouse has his own Instagram page).

But young kids don't have Instagram accounts, and the account is several years old - few people dig that deeply into photos.

And yet the images are still fun, still showcase Bertrand, and give kids who like him an easy way to follow his antics.

Or as the book cover copy says, "What do adventures look like for a crocheted mouse? Take a pictorial journey with Bertrand in compilation of experiences and see."

Buy Bertrand's First Book of Adventures here and Bertrand's Second Book of Adventures here.

As I said, a third book will be available in a week or so - but it's NOT part of the "adventures" series.

Stay tuned! 

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Forget the COVID Gloom: Here Are Pictures of my Cats

At one point and not on purpose, we had six cats living with us at our house in Channahon.

I've always loved cats. But because of my asthma, doctors told my parents "no pets," not even stuffed animals.

I was quite little, probably not even five, when my stuffed white cat and three little stuffed kittens disappeared off my bed. My mother, adhering to the order, had thrown them away without telling me.

But then I developed chronic hives as an adult. With the amount of medicine I now take to suppress histamine, I can live with cats. I do have to change my shirt and wash my hands if I pet one. But that's just good hygiene anyway.

As a kid, I also loved stories with super natural premises, like this one this one by Helen Rushmore. But I was disappointed that the supernatural part in that book wasn't real.

So I incorporated that idea into my BryonySeries - and at the request of my publicist, I wrote this short story.

So with that introduction, meet my six.

Frances is our original cat. She was an (approximately) nine-month-old stray that had roamed Channahon for a few weeks (so the villagers told me) when she appeared at our back door one afternoon in late October.

I was in the attic on the phone interviewing someone for a Herald-News story when Rebekah burst in, telling me Daniel was feeding tuna to a cat.

It got cold that night, so we let her in, red jingle bell collar and all. Our terrier mix Scooter wasn't happy, but Frances, having lived by the canal, was nonplussed. She looked at him like, "Oh, does he stay?"

We asked around, and no one claimed her, so we spayed and kept someone's kitten. I don't know if she got separated from someone or if she was abandoned, but whoever you are, please know we love her, and she's had a great life.

This is our second stray - Midnight - who is reading a book by J.L. Callison to my crocheted mouse, Bertrand.

My oldest son had stumbled upon an abandoned litter; Midnight was one of them. He found a home for all of the kittens but her, saying she was too skittish to place. We kept saying, "no." He kept saying, "yes" and talked us into it.

That was 2006 or 2007.

She is still skittish - whether from bad early experiences or her personality, we don't know. But she was sick and full (and I mean FULL) of tapeworms and ear mites when we got her, so we didn't expect her to live.

But live she did, becoming our most affectionate and cuddly cat. You can pet her for a very long time and wind up in more fur than is on her.

The only bad part about all the tapeworms is that the veterinarian would not spay her until she was free of all segments, which took a long time.

So on the coldest night of the year (18 degrees below zero), our unpsayed Midnight ran out of the house at 1:30 in the morning as we were leaving for the Herald-News distribution center to deliver newspapers.

We could not find her but once we came back to Channahon to deliver, we kept zigzagging off our route to run around our yard in the dark, yelling "Midnight! Midnight!"


At 4:30 a.m., Midnight slunk out from beneath our front deck with three other cats, and she wasn't cold at all.

Soon, we noticed Midnight was putting on weight. You guessed it!

But my husband Ron wouldn't hear of us giving up the kittens. In fact, he named them Faith, Hope, and Charity. Here they are.

Faith is a calico who thinks my desk chair is hers, but she does let me perch on it to work. She was the most adventurous of the litter (the one who climbed over the old VCR tapes to discover the world before she'd even opened her eyes), and she is the most skittish of them all - as in skittish PLUS.

She has kitty Asperger's (if there's such a thing) because she freaks out at any disruption in her routine. 

She likes the same food at the same times three times a day in the same bowl laid out in the same place on the same spot on the carpet.

She wants to be petted the same way at the same time of the day everyday. This is no lie

She never used to be petted, but we trained her to accept them. She's still squirmy, but she likes pets.

It goes like this: pet some, writhe away and then come back for more. Repeat, repeat, repeat.

Side note: This is Midnight's brother - Faith's uncle. He was one of the cats in that abandoned litter. He is living on a farm in Elwood. I have never met him, and this was taken was an old cell phone back in the day.

It's interesting to see the family resemblance.

This is Hope, our torti. Like all torties, she is independent and with a torti attitude.

She was the most athletic pf all the cats and could scale trees and roofs with amazing speed and agility, even sliding down tree trunks as if they were firemen poles.

She is now living with a lovely family in Morris. She became separate from us during the whole "losing our home fiasco," and we thought she was gone forever after three months past.

Apparently, she had found herself a new home, just strolled right through the door as if she owned the place. The homeowner had just lost a cat and was delighted - until he discovered she was chipped and belonged to us.

Because we had lost the house in Channahon (long story) and were living in a rental situation, we couldn't keep another cat.

So Jim kept her temporarily. But that was in 2014 and there is no way we would remove her now (unless he told us to come and get her).

We keep in touch, and we may visit her anytime. But we have not seen her since COVID, and we miss her.

We wished we had better photos of Faith and Hope's brother Charity. He had a Mufasa look, and was sweet, affectionate curious, and mischievous.

He was the first to discover the invisible fence didn't stretch as high as the north garage and easily leaped over to the neighbor's garage and into freedom.

He had a wire fetish and chewed through anything that looked like a cord in our house. If you set your headphones on the table to tie your shoes, they'd be in two pieces when you stood up.

If you walked away from the laptop to drain the macaroni, you'd come back to the charger cord bit in half.

One day on deadline, my internet went down. Before I could message my oldest son, my son came charging up the ladder steps, yelling a variety of strong and colorful words I won't repeat here.

He marched straight to my window, looked up, and shouted more unmentionables.

Apparently Charity had chewed through the ethernet cable - and lived to tell about it. Smart cat: he hid from my son.

And yet this same cat, as a kitten, climbed up a tall tree in our yard and couldn't figure how to get down. After mewing very frightened mews for over an hour, we did what all the children's storybooks said to do: we called the Channahon Fire Department.

A truck and crew came out, parked the truck, and looked up the tree at our kitten. One fireman said he had no idea how to get him down and that the ladder wouldn't reach that far.

"He'll figure it out," he told me.

And then they left.

But Charity didn't figure it out. About thirty minutes later, my youngest son climbed up to get him.

Charity died in 2013 from an intestinal blockage, most likely from something this curious cat should not have eaten.

We like to say he used up his nine lives.

This is Alex, the sweetest of the bunch and really not ours.

He was a four-paw declaw and the sweetest, gentlest, most affectionate cat you'd ever want to meet.

He belonged to my oldest and came to live with us when my son and his family did, too.

Unfortunately, my other cats didn't accept him, so he marked his territory - EVERYWHERE!

We could not bring that into a rental situation, so when we lost the house, the Will County Humane Society rehomed him for us (oh, how he cried!) Ironically, he went to one of our veterinarian's clients.

We lost track of him after that. I hope that Alex, like Frances, is having a happy, wonderful life.

Monday, November 16, 2020

COVID Message from Ed Calkins, Steward of Tara, Etc.

 Since Ed Calkins doesn't have a social media presence except for the one I've given him, I passed along all the well wishes in an email.

Here is his response: "Thank to all. Avoid getting COVID-19. It's no fun."

Having worked through last weekend while fielding one emergency after another (and the unexpected death of a family friend), I spent a good chunk of the weekend working on other projects.

These projects included: editing for two clients, some editing on Ed's first BryonySeries novel Ruthless, a meeting with Timothy to work on the next book in The Adventures of Cornell Dyer series, and a little editing on the first book in the new BryonySeries trilogy Limbo: The Phoenix.

I missed this detail on the first pass of Ruthless but caught it this time.

Ed has written a character called Trudy, and Trudy (in her dream) is sitting in a decrepit bar talking to a character named Glorna, who will remind anyone who's read Staked! of John-Peter. 

Glorna says he will be eighteen in two days and is dressed like a cowboy (because he likes westerns) so Trudy dubs him "Clint" (for Clint Eastwood).

Trudy is tells Glorna she is supposed to hang him for his crimes (except they share the same crime), and she's sorry she has to hang a kid.

Now once upon a time, back in 1990 when I was writing notes on Bryony, I had John-Peter die by hanging.


Friday, November 13, 2020

Story Round-Up: Features in The Herald-News, Nov. 6 through Nov. 13


That's the best way to describe the past few weeks.

So thankful for interesting and meaningful work to keep me occupied. Not only are the COVID numbers rising, two people from WriteOn Joliet are battling it (one was hospitalized), Ed Calkins tested positive, a family member had all the symptoms but wound up testing negative, and a good family friend died suddenly early Sunday morning.

To say I'm ready to slip into writing some fiction tonight and tomorrow where I control the world is an understatement!

Below are my features stories (thirteen so far) that have posted this week. I have eight more completed (yes, eight!) but they have not posted online, so I will share them next week.

I hope everyone reading this has a safe and blessed Friday.


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.


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


Sign up for the Will County Go Guide


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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.

Catholic Charities of Joliet executive director resigns

LocalLit book spotlight: 'Growing Up In Kinmundy Junction' by Kenneth Lee McGee of Plainfield

And read the review HERE.

'Save Our Restaurants' is the goal for this Sunday's peaceful protest in Joliet, Shorewood

An Extraordinary Life: Dying Marine veteran receives surprise honor at daughter's wedding in Lockport

Organizers suspend free monthly veterans breakfasts for November 

Pets of the Week: Nov. 9

Will County Hospitals see increase in COVID cases — but feel prepared to meet them 

Shorewood honors WWII veteran with a 100th birthday celebration 

Morris Hospital seeing more covid-positive patients than last spring

COVID Coping: Joliet woman has assembled 29 puzzles since March: 'It’s more than a distraction. It’s a problem I can solve'

Joliet couple had dream wedding at Will County courthouse 

Shorewood honors WWII veteran with a 100th birthday celebration 

Illustration by Matt Coundiff for "Visage."

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Bored? Here Are Nine Potentially Fun Suggestions

I finally had some time Tuesday to fix the BryonySeries calendar, so I started sharing the activities for each day on social media yesterday

Here is a list for the first ten. Pick out the one (s) that capture your attention. Each activity has a BryonySeries rationale and a link to the book that inspired it.

And please check back each day. It was Timothy's idea to have a daily calendar of events. While it's time-consuming to assemble it (and I often screw up the size of the date boxes), it stretches my creativity to think outside the box - not a bad idea, right?

Hope some of these virtual events stretches your creativity, too - and bring joy to your life and the lives of those you.

And here you go!

Nov. 1: How much do you know about blood? Take the quiz.

Nov. 2: Check out some kid-friendly crafts for showing appreciation.

Nov. 3: Make a pumpkin volcano.

Nov. 4: Make and taste Thanksgiving recipes from the 1970s.

Nov. 5: Check out WriteOn Joliet. Our anthologies make great gifts.

Nov. 6: Make and taste authentic Thanksgiving recipes from the Victorian era.

Nov. 7: Plan a different Thanksgiving menu this year: go Irish.

Nov. 8: Ever make fake blood? Here's how.

Nov. 9: Make a paper bag turkey - and then "feed" it. Great counting activity for kids.

Nov. 10: Explore a pumpkin with this kid-friendly activity.

Illustration is from the official BryonySeries cookbook: "Memories in the Kitchen: Bites and Nibbles from "Bryony."

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

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

"I'm Feeling It, too"

As I'm reading through the final drafts of Ed Calkins' first novel (first novel ever and first novel for the BryonySeries), I'm struck by our development of works that are more than their individual parts.

Follow this a moment.

In 1985, I had an idea for a vampire novel: a 70s teen trades her blood with a Victorian vampire for a trip back into time as his wife.

At some point in time, Ed Calkins creates a fictional version of himself (a ruthless dictator who is the steward of Tara and censures those who displease him with limericks) as a way to cope with the life.

In September 2007, The Herald-News outsourced its newspaper distribution to the Chicago Tribune. Because of the sheer number of newspapers my family delivered in the middle of the night, I now had three supervisors. Ed was one of them.

Earlier that month, I finally decided to write said novel as a novella for Timothy's seventeenth birthday just to finally get the story out and done. As I wrote it, I realized it wasn't a novella, it really was still a novel, and suspended writing to learn new processes of delivering routes under new management.

Of course, Ed ran his area like a little kingdom.

Along the way, each of us learned we are both writers. Ed was impressed by my professional career and tried to persuade me to write a newsletter his kingdom. I declined, more than once.

On February 13, 2009 (Calkins Day), I missed the parade for the second year in a row and came to work with a used, red Christmas bow. As a compensatory birthday gift, I offered to write a one-page, monthly newsletter for his kingdom (figured it would hone my creative skills) or create a vampire for my novel (now two-thirds done) out of the fictional version of himself.

Ed's response: "Immortality, of course."

So Ed Calkins as ruthless dictator, Steward of Tara, and the world's first Irish vampire was born. He appeared in all three books of the "drop of blood" vampire trilogy, started blogging for me in 2010 (Saturday was dubbed Irish day), the same year I had an attorney draw up paperwork of the use of his name and person to make it legal, and wrote my Irish genealogy (which I published for Calkins Day 2018).

I should mention Ed dropped out of sight for five years. He sent an email saying he was "going through some things" and he'd reach out when they were resolved.

Finally I decided five years was too long, called one day, and he was delighted to hear from me. His enthusiasm for writing for this blog returned, even though the "things" were not resolved.

One staunch fan of the BryonySeries thought I should write Ed's back story. I felt only Ed could write it. Ed's main reason for not tackling it was his horrible dyslexia, a real handicap when one is a writer.

Then one day at work and out of seemingly nowhere, Ed sent two sample chapters with the message: "Should I keep going?"

I read them that night, laughing out loud, and sent back the enthusiastic: "YES!"

Ed has been consistently working on this project all year. We met once in January and virtually in July. He asked me to set deadlines for him, and I am. His wife Nancy (Colpa) is creating all the cover and interior art.


One night I'm reading through a scene Ed wrote, a conversation between Ed and one of my characters, Henry Matthews. The discussion fit into the plot of my current BryonySeries novel, The Phoenix.

And I realized that we were both playing with the same imaginary world.

That in itself is nothing new. Writers have collaborated on projects for ages.

But not to this length, width, breadth, and depth. The fictional Ed is as real to me as the real Ed - in fact, they overlap a bit.

Or as he said on Sunday night, "It's unprecedented."

We are accurately portraying the same characters in separate works in the same series, possibly because they have taken on their own identities separate from us.

For instance, one character I created is the creation of the fictional Ed Calkins. And yet the real Ed Calkins has developed this character is ways I never imagined and in ways that make complete sense to me and the stories.

The "world" now exists as its own entity. And as we add to it, we're really only unfolding it, in even more complex ways than The Adventures of Cornell Dyer series Timothy and I are writing for the BryonySeries.

So I tried to explain this to Ed when I called him after he sent the "covid" telegram. And he totally understood.

"I'm feeling it, too," he said.

And then he expounded on the topic.

As I hung up the phone, I realized one more thing.

Somewhere along the way of this last decade, Ed and I had become friends, too.

Monday, November 9, 2020

Even the Immortals Aren't Safe

This past weekend was one of my more dismal working weekends - although the work had nothing to do with it.

A series of family emergencies, starting Thursday and continuing through Sunday - along with a migraine Friday and Saturday and an annual physical during COVID with a migraine when I already have a phobia of medical stuff added to the challenge of the past few days.

As I was signing off at eight o'clock for a shower and a Korean drama with Rebekah, I received the following "telegram" from Ed Calkins, Steward of Tara, i.e. the world's first Irish vampire.

So I picked up the phone, and we talked for more than an hour, the first conversation since July. 

Well, wouldn't you?

The "telegram" is below my rambling, the second most serious piece of correspondence I've received from him in a decade. But it's not all gloom and doom - if you read to the end (Please do. I laughed out loud).

The "chapters" to which Ed's referring are his final drafts to Ruthless.

The Thanksgiving deadline is when he plans to send them all - because I plan to spend Thanksgiving weekend doing the final heavy edits.

An interesting point came up during the conversation. I'll share that tomorrow.

Dear Goddess,

I have been very sick the past week, and unable to get tested because of the surge and have been "sequestering" so I don't spread whatever I have. 

Nonetheless, I've committed to retiring from the news papers on...drum roll, please: Feb 13, 2021. Calkins Day will be my last day. Please do not lick the plastic bag your newspaper comes in. 
Anyway, the rereading of these chapters has encouraged me. My wife read the versions sent and thought the book was OK. This might not sound encouraging, but she's been warning me that she thought she would hate it. 

A brother is also reading the book...to hate it, of course, and he loves it. Even I am warming up to it! 

But, still, the self-sabotage that marks my long attempts is in full play. I can not find a complete version of the chapter "Kiss, Kill, or Marry." If you have a copy of what I sent you, could you please send it back? I do have the entire novel, unedited by me, in hard copy, so its not the end of the world, although in my sickened state, I feel like it is.

I will make that deadline of Thanksgiving, but if I don't, I'm hoping you could edit without my trying first. My wife was sick for a few days, without a fever. Now she's mostly healthy and has been working on the interior art which is all mirror-based (much to my delight).

We may not be able to have a signing on Calkins Day because of COVID-19. If it happens that way, I am positive that it will prove advantageous in ways only our Maker understands, but I'd like it to be His decision and not the decision of my fears.

Ruthlessly yours,

Ed Covid Calkins

Saturday, November 7, 2020

Excerpt from the Upcoming Novel "Ruthless"

Just a quick blog this morning, one I was writing before I had to run out to a physical and fasting bloodwork. 

Ed Calkins has been sending me finished drafts on Ruthless, which is a fictional account of the fictional Ed Calkins, otherwise known as the ruthless dictator and Steward of Tara -  mixed in with elements of the truth.

He appears in all three books of the BryonySeries "drop of blood trilogy" 

I've done some preliminary edits and readings as he's sent me chapters. I enjoyed them so much I even got a bit derailed on my second writing retreat because I found the chapters so funny and interesting.

The publication of Ruthless will mark the first book in the BryonySeries not authored by me. I am hoping it will not be the last one.

Here is the current table of contents with Ed's "code" for his progress. Below that, a short excerpt.

And with that, I'm off to work because it is a working weekend for me. Enjoy this beautiful day. :)

Table of content (outline)

Forward f

Chapter 1 Backward f

Chapter 2 Pigs don’t Plow f

Chapter 3 Mirror f

Chapter 4 Road trip bar f

Chapter 5 The Why chromosome f

Chapter 6 On being Ruthless f

Chapter 7 Suspect f

Chapter 8 The naughty list f

Chapter 9 Happy Hunting f

Chapter 10 A Government of, by, and for Ed Calkins f

Chapter 11 The divine refrigerator f

Chapter 12 Shoot out at the Not OK Coral f

Chapter 13 Much to do about Nothing or What to do about Glorna f

Chapter 14 Somebody else’s dirty secret f

Chapter 15 So a girl, a guy, and a brownie walk into a bar… f

Chapter 16 The game of my life f

Chapter 17 Mary Steward, I do not believe in you f

Chapter 18 The Kingdom of the Damned w

Chapter 19 The road trip continues. w

Chapter 20 Turning State’s evidence w

Chapter 21 Kiss, kill, or marry w

Chapter 22 Bathrobe w

Chapter 23 Folly of a Gun w

Chapter 24 Won the lottery, died the next day w

Chapter 25 A full confession w

Epilogue w

f- complete, done, finished

w- writing done but content needs adding and revision

My favorite poem is ‘Birches’ by Robert Frost and perhaps your time spying on me would be better spent looking that poem up on the internet. If you do so, you will find a masterpiece in three parts. The first is a tale of breathtaking beauty and natural tragedy. Next is resounding resourcefulness and skill. The last is a monument to reflective triumph and wisdom, which culminates in his last line “one could do worse than be a swinger of birches” but actually means “one could do worse than be a slinger of newspapers.”

Newspapers! Lest the pig eat the horse. I’m out the door and off to work.

Once in the van, I’m confronted with the angry faces of twenty-four brownies which should have been twenty-five. My earlier description of them might have left out too much detail. Brownies always seemed to me as if a child drew their features and though they are entirely brown, their lips, which now were formed into an angry frown, and eyebrows, which now seemed to narrow over their eyes, are a darker brown then the rest. Their tongues, which were now wagging recriminations, are much lighter, almost yellow.

Ramon, the leader, made the most words while pointing to an hourglass shrunk to scale in the ‘humans around’ size.

“Brownies wait for ride to Steward’s newspaper barn,” he proclaimed. “Brownies wait and wait and wait!”

By ‘Steward’, of course, he means me, Ed Calkins, the Steward of Tara and most ruthless dictator of all time, but now I feel like I’m being treated like a truant. I’m tempted to kick them out of the van and make the walk the whole way, which is ridiculous as it is ineffective. Brownies don’t know the way to the newspaper barn.

Who will blink first? I cross my arms eying the brownies, and they cross their arms eying me back. Well, this isn’t getting any work done.

Starting the van, I put the trans into reverse but look back at them before releasing the brake.

“Maybe, I’ll make it up to the brownies,” I muse aloud “Maybe I’ll give each of you one brownie point for being patience…”

The brownies uncross their arms; but remain suspicious.

“…to off-set the one brownie point each of you lost for yelling at me!”

I’m driving at this point, so they are too busy enjoying the ride to continue their protest of gestures. Some are even shouting and screaming as one might while riding a roller coaster. The roads to my work place look just as they always did, yet I know without evidence that  somewhere the time-scape has changed and am in a reality where some of the people I’ve known in life don’t exist as if they never existed. The same might be true of people that exist here, but not in my former life. There’s no way to tell, of course. The memory changes with the time-scape. I know for example, that the brownies now look healthier, handsomer, happier, more rested, then they did…when? I don’t know at this point.

The newspaper barn, or distribution center, is now in my headlights, and I can see that I’m again in trouble before I can park. I see the unhappy look in one of my wives’ eyes about having to wait for me to count the papers off the dock.

Worse than that happens when I do park. The brownies expect to go in with me. Policing carriers is hard enough; explaining brownies to those who believe and the brownies’ consequences of them trying to help to those that don’t is more than I can handle. Fortunately, brownies know they are in an undiscovered land of humans.

“Now is a special time for brownies here,” I tell them. “People work, but brownies nap now. Isn’t that nice?”

“Brownies nap in big white wheel box?” Ramon asked, referring to the van.

“That’s the custom,” I tell him. Before I can open my door, the brownies are cluster snoring. God, I hope no one hears them.

            “Good morning, wife number six,” I call to her cheerfully, hoping for forgiveness for being late. One of the trucks has already been there with papers; Millie could have been bagging. She notes the promotion from wife seven to wife six, but it doesn’t save me a lecture. 

Friday, November 6, 2020

Story Round-Up: Features in The Herald-News, Oct. 31 through Nov. 6

Well, no wonder I feel like I'm chasing myself this week.

I have fourteen stories to share this week - and that's with helping with election coverage on Tuesday and taking Wednesday off because I'm working this weekend.

Feel free to browse through the links and choose the stories that interest you. And although none of them are directly about the election and coronavirus, the last three spotlight ways people are "coping" through all the craziness that is 2020.

On the fiction side of things, I am working this weekend, but I hope to glance at The Phoenix this weekend, as well as Ed Calkins' Ruthless - although I have a non-fiction book (my first) that I'm finishing up, so that will take priority over these two.

Besides, if you're looking to read a BryonySeries book, you have plenty of choices.

And the last short story in The Herald-News' "COVID Chronicles" series goes out next week - and it's mine! Yes, a BryonySeries pandemic piece for The Herald-News - because, well, it's 2020.

The stories are free to read, but you must be a subscriber to The Herald-News' LocalLit short story newsletter. The story will come directly to your inbox. For details and to subscribe, go HERE.

Rebekah is finishing the last formatting touches on three new Bertrand the Mouse books - just in time for holiday gifts.

WriteOn Joliet's fourth anthology will soon be available. Rebekah did the last format tweaking yesterday, so we're waiting on KDP approval.

And I have manuscripts from two clients, which I'll also be tackling in the evenings this weekend.

Finally, I have my yearly physical on Saturday. So if I'm dying, all of this goes away.


Have a great Friday, readers, writers, and BryonySeries fans.


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.


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


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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.

Monster Motorcade brings Halloween wishes to Will County seniors

An Extraordinary Life: Will County executive was 'honest, true to his word, hardworking'

'Once you go to Kathi, you don’t have to go anywhere else' 

Currie Motors Frankfort distributes thousands of facemasks to residents in need

Pets of the Week: Nov. 2

Joliet woman discusses her breast cancer treatment in 1980

Non-profit counseling agency in Romeoville hosting online holiday fundraiser Thursday and Friday

AMITA Health Saint Joseph Medical Center in Joliet enacts visitor restriction

Baran-Unland: For outstanding carryout, try this Joliet school 

LocalLit book spotlight: 'The Society of the Living Dead' by Jim Ridings

And read the review HERE.

COVID Coping: Share your experiences, help your community

COVID Coping: 'I've probably got close to 100 of them in the basement on shelves'

COVID Coping: Plainfield crafters stitching up a comfortable fit for facemasks

Illustration by Matt Coundiff for "Visage."

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Five Quotes from the Declaration of Independence

 In my life, I've met few people who have actually read the United States' Declaration of Independence.

In my life, I've never witnessed an election year as volatile as this one. As a rule, I keep my religious and political opinions to myself, especially since most people prefer to talk about theirs and not ask and listen attentively to those of another.

And there's certainly been plenty of chatter this year.

For those voting this year in the U.S., here are five quotes from the declaration. These are not meant to sway your vote in one direction or the other.

But hopefully they encourage thoughtful (and not emotion-driven) choices. Voting is a hands-on way to state your preferences.

May reason, ethics, and common sense guide your hand today.

 “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness…”

“We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury.”

“But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”

“…whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

“…with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”

Photo by Timothy Baran