Tuesday, August 4, 2020

The Bookcase Between Two Bedrooms

I grew up in a ranch house with a basement in Joliet - 2108 Belmont Avenue, to be exact.

The house, like many ranch-style homes, had a kitchen and living room on one side and a hallway that led to the bedrooms.

When you reached the end of the hallway, the bathroom was on the left and the spare bedroom was on the right. Next to the bathroom was the room my sister and I shared. And next to the spare bedroom was my parents' bedroom.

In between those bedrooms was a freestanding bookcase. On the bookcase were books my mother had read and shelved, along with books from her childhood. 

This included a lot of the books produced by the Stratemeyer Syndicate, including original (1904) copies of various titles in the The Bobbsey Twins, Camp Fire Girls (written when drivers had to wear goggles to protect their eyes), Honey Bunch: Just a Little Girl (1923), very old copies (with yellowed crumbling pages) of Little Women and An Old-Fashioned Girl.

It also included some of my father's books, including The Harvard Classics, Raggedy Ann Stories by Johnny Gruelle (1918), one of his school books (Elson-Gray Basic Readers Book Four) and Pictures Every Child Should Know).

Having really bad asthma, I stayed inside quite a bit. I could listen to music, if my mother stacked records on the stereo. I could watch TV (often whatever she was watching, which was game shows) or I could read.

I brought home stacks of books from the library each week. I read and re-read many of my own books (Who can't resist flipping back to the favorite parts?). I ordered boxes full of Scholastic books at school.

And when I ran out of books to read, I headed for the shelf in the hall.

Books from yesteryear don't come with slick back covey copy and blurbs from celebrities. The back cover is blank, the front cover has a title and author credits, and the book may have a frontispiece to give the reader a clue of the story.

Many also had chapter titles, which also hinted at the theme of those chapters.

Mostly, though, readers became introduced to the story by picking up the book, paging through it, reading a bit here or there, and then finally deciding to either sit down (or sprawl across the couch or bed, my favorite reading positions), and start reading from the beginning or placing the book back on the shelf.

This is my approach to marketing my own books, which some say is too soft.

But in the days of "in-your-face" marketing, I really like the "discoverability" of new books. Nothing beats the fun, for me, of the process I just described, the reason why used book stores are so much fun (found on gem at a Good Will store in North Carolina. Just saying).

Thanks to the internet, all six of my children now own a copy of Elson-Gray Basic Readers Book Four. Rebekah has a reprint of Raggedy Ann - from Cracker Barrel.

The stories in Elson-Gray are so engaging, I incorporated the book into my homeschooling curriculum. 

Not only did the kids expand their reading styles by reading an actual reader from a time period that is no more (and it's not easy reading), they read a piece of their personal history, since their grandfather also learned to improve his reading from the exact same book.

Now I had never picked up Pictures Every Child Should Know until I was homeschooling and my oldest son was seven. Turns out this book, published in 1908, had belonged to my paternal grandmother. She died at the age of fifty-five from uterine cancer (she did not make the five-year mark).

When I was younger, the title had led me to believe the book would be dry and boring. It was full of glossy black and white plates of famous artwork accompanied by biographies.

But I wanted my kids to have a broad liberal arts education, so I brought the book home and began reading it to Christopher, one chapter at a time.

As I did, I made two delightful discoveries.

One, I was the first to open the book, as many of the pages were still fused together, a flaw in the printing process.

Two, the book was full of surprisingly wry prose that Christopher and I enjoyed. 

For instance, in the second chapter  (about Michael Angelo), a paragraph describes how one prince had no use for the artist's genius but, according to rumor, the prince may have commissioned him to build a snowman.

The book says, "It was doubtless a very beautiful snow-man, but although it was Angelo's, it melted in the night, even as if it had been Johnny or Tommy's snow-man, and  left no trace behind."

I remember reading this aloud to Christopher and pausing, as he glanced up from the book at the same time and at each other, stunned to find phrasing like this in a textbook.

Another chapter, about Albrecht Durer, said, "If Durer's father and mother had eighteen children, Albrecht and Agnes struck a balance, for they had none."

And in the same paragraph: "It is said that he started for Italy in 1505 and that he went the whole of the way, over the Alps, through forests and streams, on horseback. Who knows but it was during that very journey, while traveling alone, often finding himself in lonely way and full of the speculative thoughts that were characteristic of him, that he did not first think of his subject, "Knight, Death, and the Devil," which helped him make his fame."

By the way, this copy of Elson-Gray is not my father's. My sister has this copy.

The copy I own has a great "discoverability" (and, frankly, quite unbelievable) story behind it.

But that's another story for another time.

Friday, July 31, 2020

Story Round-Up: Features in The Herald-News, July 25 through July 31

Good morning!

It has been a very, very very full week, and I'm running behind even this morning, so I'll make this brief.

Besides, I have eighteen pieces to share this morning (mostly stories, a mystery diner I edited, and two videos) - plenty of content to read without too much editorializing from me.

On my writing homefront: After I finish deadlines today, I hope to finish an editing project for a client and get half of the approximately 7,000 words left for my werewolf novel (Lycanthropic Summer) done this weekend.

I have a couple Cornell Dyer novels in progress, one of which I hope to nearly complete during the evenings next week.

If you wonder with all these updates if I do anything else but write, the short answer is, Yes, of course."

I'm a walker (eight to ten miles a day), and I lift light weights and do yoga. I engage with my family and friends (although my circle of close friends is extremely small because my family is so large - and family comes frist).

And I'm currently watching First Shop of Coffee Prince with Rebekah, one episode a night. It was one of her first K-Dramas over a decade ago when she first fell in love with Asian culture, and it's been on my wish list ever since she introduced me to Asian dramas a few years ago.

How's that?

Have a wonderful Friday: readers, writers, and BryonySeries fans.

Non-bylined features:

Search by topic (people, pets, A and E, faith, health, and food) at theherald-news.com.

Once a week, I do combine a week's worth into a single blog post.

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.

If you're a writer anywhere in the world, you're welcome to join WriteOn Joliet's Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/groups/writeonminooka/?ref=bookmarks. We'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 with each year. Check us out at writeonjoliet.com.

Upcoming BryonySeries events:

A full month of virtual events can be found at bryonyseries.com/fetes-and-feasts

Books and Such

Information on my books (including where to buy) along with upcoming events is at bryonyseries.com.


Sign up for the Will County Go Guide


Sign up for the LocalLit Short Story Newsletter


Sign up for The Munsonville Times



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.

Digital divide won't hinder blended learning at D. 204 in Joliet
Superintendent said 2020-2021 school year builds on existing programs


LocalLit book spotlight: A fun collection of tall tales by a Plainfield author


And the review:


He's 61 and biking 6,000 miles for breast cancer research
Alumnus from Lewis University in Romeoville hopes to raise $15,000


Pets of the Week: July 20


Why you should check out the Joliet ReStore online store (and learn about "Savory Saturdays)


Joliet single mom cut short COVID-19 hospital stay to care for kids
I said, ‘I can’t stay. I have four babies at home.' 


An Extraordinary Life: Minooka woman's faith spanned 2 countries


Pandemic PTSD is real and it can happen to you
Here are ways to protect yourself 


New Lenox native rides solo for veterans who feel alone
Former sailor now raising awareness for mental health, suicide prevention 


Free seeds in the mail? Don't open them, experts advise


New Lenox native bikes cross-country and across countries during coronavirus
Graduate from L-W Central in New Lenox offers tips for safe travels 


This program addresses health care disparity in 3 Will County zip codes and 1 school district 


Officials monitor COVID-19 data in #Frankfort after substitute prom in Indiana  


Mystery Diner TomKelly's offers great food, Irish pub experience


Plainfield firefighters rescue 9 #ducklings from storm drain


VIDEO: Plainfield firefighters rescue 9 ducklings from storm drain

I didn't take this video but watch it anyway. It's full of "awwww..."


VIDEO: Why was that helicopter hovering over St. Joe's in Joliet?


Illustration by Matt Coundiff for "Visage."

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Good News Happening in the Local Community

People often say the media only publishes negative news, but that's not true at all.

Even a pandemic can't stop good things from happening.

Here's a baker's dozen worth of examples.

I hope at least one of them gets you information you need or brightens your day.

Lockport publishes resident guide online


Hummingbirds, lizards and bats featured in Will County's forest  programs 


Health care workers received day of pampering, thanks to 2 L-W businesses 


Plainfield Park District named outdoor fitness grant recipient 


IDoA wants to protect seniors and adults with disabilities from abuse


Crest Hill cadet in a key leadership position at West Point


Joliet D. 86 technology coordinator writes chapter in IDEA book 


Joliet Central class of 1958 cancels 80th class reunion 


With COVID-19 safety measures, Edward Foundation golf outing set for Aug. 31 


Joliet Central class of 1958 cancels class reunion 


Forest Preserve of Will Country nature show debuts online and on TV 


Deadline approaching for Franciscan Sisters’ 3rd annual golf outing signup


Halestorm's Rialto concert rescheduled for 2021 


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

Tuesday, July 28, 2020


I remember sitting in Sister Laudiose's French class at Providence Catholic High School in the mid-1970s and noticing the sister's wrapped foot.

Sister Laudiose told the class she had foot surgery and was not allowed to walk on it for six weeks. I remember thinking how horrible it would be not to walk for six weeks. Even then, walking, as well as bike riding, was a tremendous stress reliever for me, a way to think, let my mind unravel.

And it still is.

When I became a "real" writer, walking also helped me mentally work out stories. I've written chapters and scenes on foot, and I've "written" many first drafts of stories for The Herald-News after I've moved away from the computer and walked a bit, sometimes even walking around the office building.

Now that electronic music is so handy, I sometimes walk to music, although not always.

Sometimes I catch up on personal phone calls, although not always.

Walking has been a part of prayer and meditation, but sometimes walking is just walking, so the rest of me can be still.

I enjoy walking outside, but I also enjoy walking indoors, where I have to be less aware of my surroundings and less mentally engaged.

I've walked outside in extreme heat and cold (temperatures over 100 degrees and below zero), but I'm a little smarter now and stick to inside walking during these times.

To lose the ability to walk would be a real loss on my levels.

I never take it for granted.

Monday, July 27, 2020

In Case You Missed Timothy's Cooking Demo...

...you can watch it right here.


Timothy shows how to make Sautéed Chicken Breast with Seasonal Vegetables and Herb Salad

He was invited to participate in this unique" Cooking with Love" benefit.

This is Facebook Live cooking series to support Ronald McDonald House Charities, Upper Midwest.

It's hosted by Celebrity Chef Daniel Green.

All the cooking demos are archived on the above link, too, so so can watch over chefs in action.

To donate and for more information, visit rmhtwincities.org/love.

For more Ronald McDonald House recipes, check out these dishes Timothy prepared for a Herald-News story I wrote back in December showcasing "Meals for the Heart" and "Culinary Hearts" programs.


And by the way, Timothy is also a graduate of Joliet Junior College's culinary arts program.

Friday, July 24, 2020

Story Round-Up: Features in The Herald-News, July 18 through July 24

Happy Friday!

I'm always surprised how quickly the week passes. 

At the top of week, the expanse between Monday and Friday looks hard and challenging. And then suddenly, we've navigated it and feel a tremendous sense of accomplishment.

I'm not sure if other people experience it, but in our family, we have the "Sunday Night Anxiety Syndrome." It's not that we don't want to return to work (we love our jobs), but our desire to perform at consistently high levels causes prickles of trepidation as the new and yet unexplored week draws near.

I'm not saying we consistently perform at high levels (we're not that good), but we desire it and strive toward it, and we are well aware of our shortcomings.

So we all feel this anxiety before the work week begins again, and we all typically like to get some work done on Sunday to soften it, to ease us back into the routine, and remind us that, yes, we can do this!

But on Friday? Well, I'm like a kid on Fridays, especially Friday nights.

As a young child, I had an early bedtime. But as I grew older, my parents upped that bedtime to nine o'clock on Friday nights (not Saturday nights because on Sundays we had to be up early for church).

I can still recall the elation the first time I was allowed to stay up past my bedtime, to the ungodly hour of nine o'clock.

And on Friday nights, I still feel some of that. That's why I like to stay up late writing fiction. It's great uncharted time, the perfect time to let the mind wander, imagine possibilities, to pretend.

Have a wonderful Friday: readers, writers, and BryonySeries fans.

Non-bylined features:

Search by topic (people, pets, A and E, faith, health, and food) at theherald-news.com.

Once a week, I do combine a week's worth into a single blog post.

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.

If you're a writer anywhere in the world, you're welcome to join WriteOn Joliet's Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/groups/writeonminooka/?ref=bookmarks. We'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 with each year. Check us out at writeonjoliet.com.

Upcoming BryonySeries events:

A full month of virtual events can be found at bryonyseries.com/fetes-and-feasts

Books and Such

Information on my books (including where to buy) along with upcoming events is at bryonyseries.com.


Sign up for the Will County Go Guide


Sign up for the LocalLit Short Story Newsletter


Sign up for The Munsonville Times



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.

Where have all the bikes and bike parts gone?
Good luck finding some in Will and Grundy counties


Oh, the places you'll go to find a bike in Will and Grundy counties!

Two of my sons, Timothy and Daniel, discovered the U.S. bike shortage firsthand last weekend. Here's how they found what they needed.


An Extraordinary Life: 'He figured studying the Bible was never a waste of time'
Christian faith the foundation of Mazon man's life


Pets of the Week: July 20


"Help! Is that a killer hornet in my yard?"


No coin shortage here
The COVID-19 pandemic has been good for ICoin, Inc. in Joliet


Halfway through summer and kids are bored? Try these 8 activities.


Mystery Diner: Mamma Onestas in Lockport serves honest-to-goodness Italian cuisine


Cat in Illinois tests positive for the coronavirus 


For a great dog on National Hot Dog Day, check out these 5 Joliet venues


LocalLit book spotlight and review: 'The Weekly Fruit And Vegetable Report'



Illustration by Matt Counfiff for "Visage."

Thursday, July 23, 2020

From Jasmine, With Love

The day AFTER my birthday, Timothy's girlfriend Jasmine stopped by my house and totally spoiled me with gifts.

The reason she came the following day is because she did the same for my granddaughter Riley Marie, who turned four the same day I, Denise Marie (Marie was my grandmother's name and my godmother's name) turned fifty-nine.

Riley lives in another town and county, probably the same distance away from Jasmine's apartment in the opposite direction. On Jasmine's way back, a bad storm blew up, and we advised her to wait a day with her gifts.

Because Jasmine is a cake decorator and works for Jewel, she's deemed an essential worker and worked all through this pandemic.

I also had four grandchildren with birthdays since this began. And Jasmine has been amazing at making sure they have balloons, cake and gifts, all of which can be purchased at Jewel.

Now here's what she brought for me:

Flowers that are still fresh and are gracing the center of my kitchen table - in a color and scent "Henry" would approve.

A BryonySeries cake (yes, Jasmine has read the entire trilogy. She just lent her copies to a friend and bought an entire new set for herself, in case they don't come back to her).

Here's a closeup of the "bryony" vines.

And here is a closeup of Henry's purple rose, which I saved for last and split with Rebekah.

A proclamation of the perfect day...

...which Faith approves.

Jasmine also brought "emergency coffee," but I will never need to break it because...

Jasmine also  brought these.

Yes, it was! 

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

A Bit of Inspiration, a Lot of Information

Today I have two sets of links.: one link to inspire, the rest to inform.

The first is the link to the poem by Henry Wadsworth Longellow recites in English class in Bryony.

The rest of the links are news releases I briefed for The Herald-News.

Today I'm editing for clients, working on fiction, working out, running one errand, popping into two meetings, drinking coffee, and taking time to breathe and enjoy the day.

I hope today brings you many blessings.  Here is the link to A Psalm of Life.


Parts of Ninth Street in Lockport closed Monday through Friday


When healthy eating becomes unhealthy


ExxonMobil Joliet Refinery donates 3,000 masks to hospitals in Joliet and New Lenox 


Plainfield police to hosted memorial service Wednesday for K-9 Kody


Romeoville to hold parade to honor essential workers


Concrete poured in new D. 202 school in Plainfield 


New Lenox Community Park District receives award to build fitness court


Forest Preserve District of Will County launches summer paddling program with ‘bring your own boat’ format


Romeoville Community Food Pantry receives $5,000 grant


Girl Scout Cookies back for a limited time


Joliet D. 86 principal receives award from University of St. Francis 


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

Monday, July 20, 2020

Small Things

It's easy to overlook the sublime when it doesn't appear in a dramatic way.

But any gift, any act of service, especially when given or performed in love, becomes greater than its individual parts.

Here are two examples.

When the kids were young, my approach to household chores was to divide and rotate, with me being part of the division and rotation. My rationale was that the kids would not feel I was pushing menial tasks onto them or that I was "teaching" them to be responsible, etc.

Rather, my philosophy was more of "We all live here together. Let's work together to make this a clean and welcoming home."

Now that I live in a house with two adults (my youngest two adult kids), that's the way we've continued.

Until Rebekah lost her job during the pandemic.

One day, she told me not to worry about the chores. She was out of work, and she wanted to feel "useful." Almost every day since that time, she has kept the house clean, from bathrooms to laundry, to kitchen floors.

It doesn't sound like a big deal. We don't have small children or an abundance of pets (just two senior cats), so the tasks are fairly straightforward and don't take hours (although it's amazing how quickly dishes and towels pile up).

And yet, Rebekah is still handling the basest of tasks that come with living in a house. She doesn't get a paycheck and any of the lauds that come with performing well in the workplace. No one gives her high fives for cleaning underneath the stove burners. 

But her service has allowed Daniel and me to focus more on work, which is especially important for Daniel, as he's in a new position with great responsibilities.

Rebekah also takes her role very seriously. With cleaning products in short supply, she searches online for alternatives. Three days ago she found some great cleaners at a most unlikely place in Joliet (not saying where). And, yes, she read the labels to ensure they will do what she they claim to do.

She's baked a lot of homemade bread. She's cooked most of the meals. She's handled all the medications for one senior cat. She's eliminated a slew of one-time, miscellaneous tasks the rest of us keep putting off for lack of time.

And she gave me the most lovely gift for my birthday, even though she is out of work and her personal finances are tight.

The first gift was a simple handmade card with a simple but heartfelt greeting inside.

The second was a handmade bookmark.

The bookmark's design is simple: some beads she had leftover from another craft. And two small charms.

I recognized one of the charms. She had worn often since childhood. The other I didn't recognize but it came from the same place - and same person.

You see, her stepfather, who now has dementia and is living in a nursing home (where there's been no covid, praise God), used to work in the maintenance department at the school across the street from our house.

Before that position, Ron worked for a blacktop company. But when his own mother became sick, he quit the job and moved back to his childhood home to take care of her. And then he applied for a job at the school across the street, where he himself had gone to school.

It was in this home I finished raising my kids. It was at this school where Ron often paused in his duties ("Smoke break!") to talk to one of my children if they had a problem or just wanted to share something with him.

And it was at this school where Ron brought home items that no one ever claimed from the school's "lost and found" box.

Those items included jewelry that little girls might wear. If he saw something Rebekah might like, he brought it home for her.

It wasn't just Rebekah he considered. He brought home discarded library books, notebooks with blank drawing paper, winter hats, and any unclaimed item he felt the kids might like and use.

But Rebekah treasured those simple jewelry pieces. And she fashioned two of them into something I could use and ponder and enjoy.

Think a moment. A simple child's charm.

Perhaps something a parent bought for a gift or a spur of the moment purchase. The child who originally wore it, and forgot about it, is now all grown up, perhaps with children of her own.

And yet, it gave Ron great pleasure to select it and bring it home to Rebekah.

It gave Rebekah great pleasure to accept it, wear it with just the right outfit, and to feel the love of the giver.

It gave Rebekah great pleasure to take those same treasured item and turn it into another item that I will treasure. And then she did the same with a second charm.

Amazing so much value can be had in such a simple, forsaken, little girl's charm.

Saturday, July 18, 2020

A Quick Note About "Fan Fiction"

I woke up early this morning and enjoyed the latest chapter of Ruthless by Ed Calkins over a cup of coffee.

I've not read much fan fiction, hardly at all, and never had any real reason to do so. Furthermore, I have no idea if Ed has ever read or written fan fiction. Nor did I ever consider what other authors think of it (I paused here to do some online searching on the topic). 

When Ed and I had our virtual meeting on July 11 (which was supposed to be a real lunch), Ed shared details of his progress, asked some questions, told me how he continuously refers to the "drop or blood" trilogy during his writings, and then spent a couple hours sending me updated writings, which, if we had met in person, he could have handed off to me in less than three seconds.

And then on my birthday, he sent one more chapter to me, the latest, which I had not yet read and which I I enjoyed to the point of laughing out loud.

This chapter, Much to do about nothing or What to do about Glorna ....the complete chap, so swiftly placed me right into Staked! I didn't immediately realize it. I was just "there."

Now if Ruthless is in the category of "fan fiction," it's controlled fan fiction at its best. Ed isn't wantonly writing this novel; he's writing it because a fan requested I write it, and I refused, saying only Ed could write this story.

Ed doesn't want to write anything I won't approve, even though I'v assured him the fictitious Ed Calkins is an unreliable narrator and can't be trusted. 

But it does show that, once an author breathes life into a realm and its inhabitants and then shares it with at least one other person, it ceases to be solely the author's realm.

Yes, the author owns the copyright (unless the author foolishly gives it away), and the author has a certain amount of legal protection against other writers making a profit from that realm.

However, when an author invites a reader into the story, the story takes on its own life in that reader for no reader can engage with a story without engaging with story's world and the story's people in a very personal way. 

Fan fiction, no matter where the fan writer takes the story, is a connection so strong to the initial story that the fan writer is compelled to write the parts the fan writer wishes the author had written.

Even if the author cringes at the result, fan fiction is really one of the highest compliments a reader can pay to an author.

And when the fan writer expounds on a story that's reads SO RIGHT to the author, the enjoyment is immense.

On a practical level, it's free marketing. Wherever fan writers share their works are readers waiting to read them. They, too, might want more - and find the original books.

OK, this note has turned into more than "quick." 

Maybe words simply aren't adequate to explain the feeling this author feels when she reads an expanded version of her story  by another writer, a story with characterizations and settings so true, it pulls me right back into my story.
A decade ago when Sarah first started the BryonySeries website, she wanted a separate author page, and I pushed back (and won).

I felt (and still do) that the BryonySeries is more than just a single book by a single writer. I envisioned other writers contributing to the series.

That model has begun with The Adventures of Cornell Dyer chapter book series.

It's expanding with Ruthless.

From there, who knows where this can lead?

Illustration by Kathleen Rose Van Pelt for "Bryony."

Friday, July 17, 2020

Story Round-Up: Features in The Herald-News, July 11 through July 17

So despite being off for two days this week, I still have fourteen pieces to share with you: feature stories, videos, and two "mystery diner" suggestions for your dining pleasure this weekend.

So I had great plans for those two days - and they all went south with a bout of insomnia on July 14 into July 15 (meaning I was still awake and not being productive when I turned 59 at 12:35 a.m.).

However, I was wide awake at normal time (before the birds) and dragged the next two days. But perhaps God wanted to give my aging brain a break!

Productivity went out of the window for the most part.  Although...

I did make some progress on editing work for one client.

I did fiddle a bit with The Phoenix on Wednesday.

And answered many birthday greetings on social media. And took phone calls and video chats and hung out with the family who lies with me. And more of the same on Thursday.

I made some decent progress on Lycanthropic Summer yesterday, even though I was still dragging. I did not open files for any clients because my brain was mush.

However, about halfway through WriteOn Joliet's meeting last night, I perked up (naturally). I give credit to the marvelous creativity that flowed from some phenomenal writers last night.

And then I slept well and am ready to work through the weekend.

Have a great day, readers, writers, and vampire fans

Non-bylined features:

Search by topic (people, pets, A and E, faith, health, and food) at theherald-news.com.

Once a week, I do combine a week's worth into a single blog post.

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.

If you're a writer anywhere in the world, you're welcome to join WriteOn Joliet's Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/groups/writeonminooka/?ref=bookmarks. We'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 with each year. Check us out at writeonjoliet.com.

Upcoming BryonySeries events:

A full month of virtual events can be found at bryonyseries.com/fetes-and-feasts

Books and Such

Information on my books (including where to buy) along with upcoming events is at bryonyseries.com.


Sign up for the Will County Go Guide


Sign up for the LocalLit Short Story Newsletter


Sign up for The Munsonville Times



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.

LocalLit book spotlight: 'The Honduran Opal' by Bill Telfer


And its review by LocalLit's first guest reviewer:


How fast is too fast for COVID-19 vaccine development?


Certain heartburn medicines may increase the risk of COVID-19


Pets of the Week: July 13


"An Extraordinary Life: Margie Gavin-Woods was a 'determined, very driven woman' when it came to her community"


'I am more than willing to go to jail for those little girls'
City of Joliet says 'no" to kids' snow-cone and more business


Glorified lemonade stand or violation of zoning ordinances?


"A 'thank you' party for the gift of an $83,000 adaptive van
Friends of Homer Glen man raised the funds to replace his old, unsafe van


Officials, businesses show support for youth venture Joliet wants shut down


VIDEO: Lemonade stand, yes; snack shop, no


VIDEO: Youth entrepreneurs serve patrons at Joliet cash mob


Mystery Diner: Moe Joe's serves up New Orleans experience in downtown Plainfield


Mystery Diner: Gatto’s serves good food to goodfellas and goodladies


Illustration by Matt Coundiff for "Visage."

Thursday, July 16, 2020

The Artwork in my Room

Ever since we moved again last October, I've had room to hang some of my artwork.

And during the last few weeks, Timothy has been gradually hanging it for me. Here's what's up so far.

Directly above my desk are all five frontispieces Christopher Gleason created for Before the Blood and the view of Main Street as one enters Munsonville, which was created by Jasmine's sister,w hom I only know as Jenni.

Lake Munson is a fictitious lake in Munsonville in the BryonySeries. it's show to the right of Main Street in the center photo.

This is my miscellaneous BryonySeries all to my left. At the top left is a promo print my mother framed for events after we released the first book in The Adventures of Cornell Dyer series.

Going clockwise, Sue Midlock, the artist for the Cornell Dyer series, gave me this found piece of art because she thought it looked very "Bryony."

Beneath that, is a concept piece for Visage that Christopher Gleason created as a gift. We actually used it as a cover for a special holiday edition of Visage when Matt Coundiff had back surgery and couldn't finish the artwork in time.

Finally, the last piece Cindy created "with" Bertrand the Mouse in honor of last year's birthday. Below this photo is a close-up of the note Cindy helped Bertrand to write.

This is a copy of "Lake Munson," which hangs directly over my large closet, which I can see to my left when lying in bed reading.

This painting and the one below this one were Christmas gifts from Timothy

This last copy of "Lake Munson" is very heavy and won't stay hung because it's heavy and because this wall actually has brick behind it. So for now, it's just sitting on my grandmother's old dresser.

The painting to the right is from my "paint afternoon" with Rebekah. The candle stand on the blue jar is from Lucas.

The photo bomb at the far left is Larry the Llama from the Adventures of Cornell Dyer series. Because that's, well, Larry, and he wants you to know it. Rebekah actually brought him home for me earlier this year.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

A Week of Positive News

This morning: sixteen pieces of positive news around the Joliet-area community.

And for those who enjoy my fiction, a quick round-up of my writing weekend.

I made some good progress on The Phoenix on Friday night and into Saturday morning: less than I'd hoped, but I think my hopes are too ambitious at times.

I didn't touch Lycanthropic Summer at all because I had some work for clients and because Timothy wound up scheduling a "Cornell" meeting.

For those who don't yet know, Timothy and I are collaborating on a series of BryonySeries chapter books: The Adventures of Cornell Dyer. The way Timothy described it on the website is:

Join the incredible, impossible, and marvelous Professor Cornell Dyer as he unravels mysteries, untangles myths, and decides what to have for lunch.

Timothy made a list of fifty titles he'd like to tackle (does he think I'll live to be 100?), which includes one book Rebekah started a few years ago (Cornell Dyer Meets a Vampire) and the book Timothy is writing - the last one: Cornell Dyer in the Shadow of the Mountain.

Our goal was to write a three years. We published the last one at Christmas. So we are definitely far behind! (OK, a pandemic did happen).

Thanks to Sue Midlock (our artist for the series), each book does have its own branding logo:

And I finally updated all of the BryonySeries calendar for July on Sunday. I also worked on Sunday.

So I think I can cut myself some slack for not tackling werewolves, too. Right? Right!

OK, onward to Tuesday - and some of the wonderful things happening in the community.

Grant project studies how food retailers work with food banks


Troy Craughwell students write “Poe-Tree” poems


July Is National Bison Month: here's how to celebrate 


The work never stops at D. 202 in Plainfield, not for summer, not for COVID-19 


Grace United Methodist Church in Joliet welcomes new pastor


Joliet native serves aboard USS Rafael Peralta


Students at Dirksen Junior High in Joliet receive scholarships 


Illinois DNR announces 5-year #waterfowl seasons plan for 2021-2025


Joliet Elks to offer free children’s orthopedic assessment clinic on Aug. 4


Take sidewalk art to a new level
Village of New Lenox to host 2nd annual Chalk the Walk event on July 18


NuMark Credit Union raises $2,500 for Northern Illinois Food Bank 


Silver Cross Urgent Care Center now open on hospital’s New Lenox campus 


Troy 30-C names new assistant principals
Matthew Stortz, Jessica Knobbe named to positions


Minooka Community High School held in-person graduation ceremonies this past weekend


Forest Preserve District of Will County offers range of July programs 


ATI Physical Therapy welcomes new vice president of supply chain and procurement


Illustration by Kathleen Rose Van Pelt for "Bryony."

Monday, July 13, 2020

When a Good Book Comes to You

From time to time, authors who are better at book marketing than I am point out I'm not assertive enough or that my marketing efforts are too soft.

That's probably true and also probably stems from two experiences: I myself tend to back off when I sense someone is trying to "sell" me something, and I really like the thrill of discovering a new book.

The first reason needs no explanation. I'll expound on the second in future posts.

But of the second, I will say that the "thrill" is not the thrill of the hunt but of the rainy afternoon, poking around in a dusty attic type of thrill, of finding a wonderful book that's just sitting off to the side, waiting to be found.

The joy of picking up such a book, of flipping through its pages, of becoming acquainted with the story and style, and then finally losing myself in someone else's words and hard work until I forget I'm reading is a joy that's unmatched.

With that in mind, I'd like to share one such book from my childhood. This post would not have happened with my WriteOn Joliet co-leader Tom Hernandez creating a special monthly blog for 2020: Writers are Readers.

In this blog, Tom Hernandez invites WriteOn Joliet to share a book they've enjoyed but also add how that book influenced their writing, too.

My turn is this month, July, which, ironically, is also the month of my birth. So I'm especially honored to share a book that brought me (and my sister and my children) many hours of re-reading happiness.

And it renews my goal to strive very hard to do the same for anyone who's reading, has read, or will read my words, too.

Here is the link: https://www.writeonjoliet.com/post/writers-are-readers-nanka-of-old-bohemia

Have a wonderful Monday!

Saturday, July 11, 2020

The Magic Apple

"Support indie" are buzzwords often heard today, and people live that out in ways ranging from not at all to promoting their friends' work or their favorite artists on social media.

But this isn't a post of how you should support indie, or how I support indie (except as an aside) or that you should support me (although I'd be thrilled if you did).

Instead, it is a story about Celtic mythology, my imagination, homemade tropes, and how I use those in a small way to promote indie artists I do not know, and how they're work has enriched my life, although they will never know it, either.

In concise terms, this means that, ever since I have figured out Twitter basics, few years ago (I've had the BryonySeries account over a decade; I just didn't know how to use it), I post a combination of my own content and curated content, all underscoring BryonySeries themes.

One of those posts is always for product on Etsy.

It's a fun, creative exercise of searching the platform by a BryonySeries theme (or item or trope) and then sharing a description and photo of the item on Twitter, along with a link, so anyone who is interested can buy it.

Has it led to sales? I have no idea because, with the except of Holly Coop's greeting cards, I don't know any of the vendors; I find them and their products through searching by topic.

But I stick with Etsy almost exclusively because most of the vendors are indie artists from all over the world.

Now recently, this has led to some gifts from my children to me.

The latest is this golden apple, which I am wearing for the first time. The reason why it's important is slightly because of Ed Calkins, whom I was supposed to meet for lunch today to discuss his progress on Ruthless (hoping "lunch" still happens via phone call).

Without going into too much backstory, I've legally fictionalized the "real" Ed Calkins, which led to the subtle incorporation of Celtic mythology into parts of the BryonySeries, especially in Staked!.

In this third book of the young adult "drop of blood" vampire trilogy are frequent allusions to a magic apple. These allusions refer back to a story Ed Calkins supposedly tell the protagonist, John-Peter, which John-Peter tells his young nieces one Thanksgiving Day as they prepare apples for a pie.

           “How come you like apples so much, John-Peter?”
            He reached for another. “Hoping for a magic one.”
            Deanna lifted her chin in disdain and shook her head. “There’s no such thing as magic, and you know it.”
            Fawn ran back into the room, waving her dripping hands. John-Peter handed her a napkin, tossed the cores into the garbage, and began working on another apple.
            “Surely you’ve heard what happened to Connla the Fair. Ellie, watch your nose.”
            Ellie moved her face away from the apple. “What 'fair?'”
             “'Fair' means he had a light complexion and was very handsome. He was the son of Conn, the Hundred-Fighter.”
             “He’s making it up,” Deanna said.
             Ellie stuck her tongue out at Deanna. “Well, I want to hear John-Peter’s story.”
            John-Peter handed Deanna the peeled apple.
            “One day, when Connla the Fair was sitting with his father on the Hill of Uisneach.”
            “A pretend place,” Deanna scooped the slices into her hands and set them before Ellie.
            “Tell that to the ancient Druids. They considered it to be the very center of Ireland, the ancient seat of the Kings of Meath.”
             “What’s a doo-rid?” Ellie said.
            “A very wise man.”
            “I still think you’re making it up,” Deanna said.
             “There is a huge limestone there that resembles a cat watching a mouse. Someday, I’ll show you the picture.”
            Fawn looked at John-Peter with large, round eyes. “Tell the story, John-Peter.”
            John-Peter watched as Fawn laid the slices onto the pie crust. She began to pop her fingers into her mouth, looked at Deanna, and grabbed a napkin instead.
            “While Connla the Fair was sitting with his father and his father’s druid, a beautiful woman appeared and said, "I belong to a race of people called the Sidhe…'"
             “What’s shee?”
            “Fairies, Ellie.”
            “Oh.” She stuck her face close to the paring knife.   
            “Sorry.” She edged away.
             “The woman said to Connla, ‘We dwell in a land of peace where death does not exist. Connla, if you follow me, you will always remain young and fair.’”
             Ellie scooted closer to John-Peter as he cored another apple, and he nudged her away with his elbow.
            “Now Conn could not hear the woman’s voice, but the druid did. He noticed how she bewitched Connla so he uttered magical words--yes, Deanna, real magical words-- against the power of her voice. She vanished, but not before tossing an apple to Connla.”
             “Where'd she get the apple?” Fawn asked.
            “Be quiet, Fawn,” Deanna said, curiosity overtaking her superiority, as she sliced her apple.
             John-Peter set down his knife, smiled, and continued.
            “For the next month, Connla refused all nourishment except the woman’s apple, yet the apple never diminished in size or in its ability to satisfy him. At the end of the month, the woman returned in a crystal boat and once again extended her invitation for him. Although Connla loved his people, he loved the enchanting woman more.
            “Did he go with her?” An apple slice slipped from Ellie’s hand and splashed lemon juice onto the table.

            “He did,” John-Peter said and bit into the last apple. “No one ever saw him again.”

Buy this golden apple HERE.

And then check out these stunning vintage earrings very "Bryony," which I will share on Twitter on Monday. These earrings are from the same vendor. They make me wish I wore earrings.

Timothy also bought me this wonderful piece of changeling art, which is almost exactly the way I picture the changeling in that trilogy. The post has a link where you can buy that one, too.

Of course, this all started because Timothy is helping with the BryonySeries website, and he had no idea all this was happening on Twitter. And he decided to gift me with some of these items.

Yet Rebekah really gets to claim "firstie" with this one. She bought me a great Nosferatu coffee mug a couple years ago, after I shared it on the BryonySeries Twitter account.

However, if this item is still available on Etsy (or anythere), I can't find it, not even with a deep search.

Nevertheless, I've gotten some great comments when I've shared it on Twitter.