Thursday, September 30, 2010

Do You Have a Recipe to Share?

From Sarah Stegall, Bryony's web administrator:

As some of you might know, my mom's (Denise Unland) book got picked up by a cooperative company. I can't say much about it yet, but it is a teen novel. There is mention of food in two different time periods (mid 70's and late Victorian Era). She is putting out a cookbook around the time of the book release, this winter. I'm helping her look for original recipes, or permission granted recipes.

As most of you know, original recipes can be somebody else's as long as ingredients are switched or altered and the recipe still works. For anyone interested in helping, it is up to you to add your name to a recipe or not. We most certainly will accept anonymous recipes if you aren't comfortable having your name in print. We are donating the proceeds from the Bryony cookbook to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Will and Grundy Counties, so I'm hoping everyone will be able to submit something, even suggestions. Please send submission to or

Feel free to submit more than one recipe if you'd like! The book is still in the editing stages so things can be tweaked. Thank You so much in advance for taking the time to read this and be a part of something exciting.

Sarah Stegall

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Scooter, Part One

One of the oldest scenes in Bryony is when Melissa's younger brother, Brian, acquires a small tan and white dog. Three years ago, when I began writing Bryony as a novella birthday present for my son Timothy, then only seventeen, I impulsively named the dog, Scooter.

Scooter was the name of our terrier mix who, at the time, was battling kidney disease. Since I assumed Timothy was the only person who would read Bryony, I added the name to make him smile.

Less than eight weeks later, Scooter was dead. When I ripped the novella apart to create the novel, I had mixed feelings about keeping that name for Brian's dog--and so did my children.

Brian's Scooter was smaller than our Scooter, so, in my mind, I did not confuse the two dogs. Yet, in the end, I decided to keep the name, because it now also belonged to the little dog in the story and because I wanted to immortalize the dog that brought us years of joy.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Lure of the Nineteenth Century

Here is part three of a four-part interview on foppery and dandyism. Sir Frederick Chook, a romantic, transcendentalistic, overly brainful fop, the author of FrillyShirt ( and inventor of leopoard oil, explains his fondness for the nineteenth century.

7) So why does the 19th century attract you?

"For so much that defines modern life - mass production, urban industrial society, global electronic communications, capitalist class stratification, mass transit, the works - we can point to the 19th century and say "this is it. This is where it was born, or at least had its adolescence."

8) Why do you say that?

“The transition to a meritocratic, democratic, professional, educated, rational society - which we now take absolutely for granted - was so dramatic, written in such great letters across everyday life, that it produced some of the most wonderful, fascinating, sometimes genius, sometimes bizarre movements, practices and ideologies that have ever been seen."

9) Such as?

"Production and population rose, education and publication rose, world cultures blended, and more people were having more ideas than ever before. On the flipside, many of the efficiencies and simplifications of modern mass production hadn't caught on yet, so the new methods were being used to create richer or sturdier goods."

10) Like clothing?

"Clothing's a great example here - the modern suit is a loose, shapeless garment compared to its Victorian counterpart, being designed to fit as many potential customers with as little work as possible. Groups like the Arts & Crafts Movement sprung up, debating how to retain this quality of workmanship while cheap goods to those who needed them. That's a debate that's still going today, among - for instance - the steampunk community."

Monday, September 27, 2010

Writing's Greatest Award

Yesterday afternoon, I met with Bryony's publicist and Sarah Stegall, Bryony's web presence. Most the conversation revolved around Bryony's Facebook page, so they did the talking, and I did a lot of listening, since I have little to do with the Facebook page except enjoy the banter Sarah initiates.

The publicist had quite a number of posting ideas, which I was happy to hear. Sarah has been marvelously creative in both the number and variety of posts, and it was fun to hear the two of them brainstorming.

The best part for me, however, was a wonderfully joyful and upbeat afternoon, all because of Bryony. It was obvious from their comments how much they enjoyed story and loved talking about it. That, to me, is the greatest reward of writing.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Have You Seen Bryony's Website?

If not, take a peek at the creativity of Sarah Stegall, Bryony's web presence.

The pages Sarah's creating (more to come) and the information she's posting is interwoven with the book's themes, so you can get a feel of the story even before publication.

Check it out then email her through the website with your comments.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Denise Unland's Alternate Geneology Part 4

By now, a life of compulsion had taken its toll. Already very over weight, hopelessly in debt, over thirty, and unable to find any really good comic books; how much did Leo really have to lose? Nero had already died and with each new emperor, the Christian persecutions had expanded. Each day the coliseum’s scratch sheet listed the deaths of Christian inmates as a 'sure bet'. Why couldn't he get in on that?

The next day, Leo stood in the center of the town square and proclaimed himself a Christian. The towns folk, doubled over with laughter. Leo insisted, revealing the cross he wore under is tunic around his neck. They laughed even harder, tossed coins in his direction, and swore that this comic prop was even better then the donut stained scratch sheet he once produces when he did that bit about being 'addicted'. The more he insisted, the harder they laughed, catapulting his comedian career while doming his ambitions as a martyr.

In the days that followed, Leo's professing being Christian began to competing with coliseum attendance, creating an ancient version of late night TV wars. No matter what he tried, Leo's proclamations of Christianity were the most outrageous jokes to grace the streets. Not helpful was Leo's new addiction. No longer able to afford comic books, Leo discovered that the images in temples were far more entertaining and enjoyable than kneeing on rice. Perhaps the best joke passed around was him claiming he only went to temples for the art! Even his habit of wearing a white tunic with a red cross only got him the called "The Comic Crusader". (I wonder if Leo invited the T Shirt.) After years of this, Leo realized he would never make martyrdom.

Finally, Leo, now morbidly obese and spiritually devastated, gave in to the priest and converted to Hinduism which required a diet of only vegetable. Perhaps it was the change of diet, but Leo's addictive personality began to withdraw. Not only did he avoid bakeries, and kneeing on rice, but he stopped proclaiming, which destroyed his career as a comedian. In addition, he lost a lot of weight which didn't escape the local military. It occurred to the authorities that Leo was fasting, and probably kneeing on rice in secret. The authorities, who never really enjoyed humor, realized it first. Leo was a Christian!

Crowds gathered at his home when he was arrested, convinced that this was a comic stunt that the government was in on. They roared, rolled, and choked with laughter as Leo loudly protested that he was no longer Christian.

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Knights of the Silver Shield

A group of knights went out to battle the giants in the woods. One young knight, Sir Roland, couldn't wait to fight. Because of his age, the lord of the castle instead ordered Sir Roland to defend the castle and not let anyone inside it, no matter what. Sir Roland, of course, did as he was told, but he didn't like it. He felt it was a waste of his talents and enthusiasm.

Throughout the day, Sir Roland encounters several experiences that suggest to him he should ignore that command and take off for the woods. However, he remains at the castle as he was told. Was it the right decision?

Several sites offer the story online.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

A Drink of Water, Victorian-style

What did people do before taps and water bottles?

* They installed cisterns and spouts, since rainwater was considered to be purer than even spring water.

* Location was important. As early as 1860, health officials warned that cisterns and wells should be kept away from sink drains, barnyards, and decayed animals.

* Lead pipes, however, were considered dangerous only if the water was very pure. However, if water contained certain neutral salts, it barred lead's harmful effects. Lead poisoning could be detected by a characteristic blue line on the edge of the front teeth's gums.

* Drinking water with decaying vegetable matter was once assumed to be safe, due to the protective action of gastric juices.

* Many sewers at that time emptied into the local river, also the source for municipal drinking water.


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Playing God

“God said, 'Let there be light,' and there was light.” Genesis 1:3.

As a Christian, I mostly focus on “God is love.” Except for the joyful experience of carrying seven children (one at a time), I’ve only given “God as creator” a polite nod.

Then I wrote three novels.

With fiction-writing, I caught a glimpse of God’s joy to speak something into being. “Let there be Munsonville,” I cried, and lo! Munsonville was, including Simons Woods and Lake Munson. I breathed the breath of life into my characters, and they lived (and died) at my word.

Anyone who sweats long hours at the keyboard knows building an imaginary world is not that simple, nor is it done in seven days. There's writing, rewriting, editing, and more rewriting. Yet, even God’s creation is not static, but ever-transforming.

But glorious? Heck yeah!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Dandyism, Fashion, and Art

In this second of a four-part interview on foppery and dandyism, Sir Frederick Chook, a romantic, transcendentalistic, overly brainful fop, the author of FrillyShirt ( and inventor of leopoard oil, talks about the relationship among dandyism, fashion, and art.

4) Any particular fashion styles particularly associated with dandyism?

"Across foppishness as a whole, it matters less what is worn than that wearing it is considered a valuable pursuit - something artistic, something worth developing in their life. Dandyism in particular, well, I might call it "fashionable menswear, only more so" - their checks more checked, their ties more tied, their pressed lines more pressed. King Edward VII is a good example of this menswear-pushed-to-the-extreme - and speaking of extremism, he was a probable Nazi sympathiser to boot. Fascists' neckties aside, foppery covers many traditions - chaps in velvet and lace stand out, of course, but someone who really cultivated the cardigan could as well claim the name."

5) Why are dandyism, foppery and clothes-horsing around prickly subjects?

"Believe it or not, there are still dandies in the Brummellian tradition who get a bit narky about anyone else using the term. They're not all bad, but if you look, you'll find they're just some of many with very forthright opinions about the right way to dress up. Don't dress too ostentatiously, don't wear anything old-fashioned, don't wear dark colours, don't wear bright colours, don't wear this style of coat or that style of collar, don't answer back, respect your elders, God save the Queen, etc., etc. Folks to whom dressing is an act of social conservatism; a preservation of standards, in which fun and creativity play no part."

6) How do the arts fit into the dandy persona?

"It's true, the old chestnut, that to some, life itself is a work of art. Of course, given how difficult it is to find two people who would agree on a definition of 'art', that might not help us much. I have my own take, following my Transcendental leanings: that art is the creative process which brings together who we are and what we experience, "realism, spiritualism," and the "aesthetic or intellectual," as Walt Whitman put it. In other words, art is knowledge, art is thought, and nothing we do can but be artistic."

Monday, September 20, 2010

Cleaning up the Dirt

We have a very tiny mission church in our home. A couple of weeks ago, as our priest was packing up, he glanced toward the kitchen. “Did you get new cabinets?” he asked. “They look brighter.”

“No,” I said, handing him his first mug of coffee for the day. Our denomination has a tradition of fasting from midnight, so making coffee after services is considered a great work of mercy. “Rebekah (my sixteen-year-old daughter) polished them when I had surgery.”

I thought about those cabinets Saturday when I began tackling Bryony’s third round of edits. The story is structurally sound, but it does have some smudges and stains that dull its sheen. A good editor doesn’t mind looking over your shoulder to say, “Hey, you missed a spot here, here, and over there.”

Some of those in my closest circle—the ones that read Bryony's crudest drafts--worry that editing means content changing. I think they will be pleasantly surprised at the finished product. I doubt they will notice the changes. The inherent story is the same, but smoother and, like my cabinets, brighter.

Sunday, September 19, 2010


I never realized how much we laughed, until I had recently had hernia surgery.

My twenty-year-old son Timothy, especially, can find humor in everyday situations, to the extent that I often had to send him out of the room because laughing post-surgery really hurt.

I am convinced, though, that part of our family's ability to survive grim events is because we poke hilarious fun at our circumstances, whatever they may be. Some of our jokes are very strange, so I won't quote anything here, but...

Everyone finds something funny. If you haven't had a good laugh in awhile and life is looking a little gray, maybe you're long overdue. Resources abound, especially online, so give yourself permission for a hearty laugh today.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Denise Unland's Alternate Geneology Part 3

By Ed Calkins, the Steward of Tara

Leo the Comic lived somewhere in Greece during the first century and was likely the first Christian in Denise's blood line. However, he wasn't very successful as a Christian after being told many times that the only way he'd get to heaven was martyrdom. It seems that although Leo was kind hearted, he was very weak willed.

By the age of ten, he was begging in front of bakeries for the funds to eat the delicacies inside. People thought this hysterical and dropped coins in his cup to pay for the laugh. Later, comic book shops added to his obsessions, as did his value as comic relief. Worse for Leo, the Greco-Roman community was in denial about Leo's condition, believing, despite the evidence, that Leo was just acting out for a laugh.

By the age of twenty, Leo knew that his life was running afoul. The comic books and donuts were killing him. Worse of all, the city loved him, thinking his compulsive behavior made him the best humorist that Greece had ever known. Back then, there were no 12 step progams to help him, so Leo turned to the newly outlawed religion.

The small Christian community did their best to save poor Leo. In the Eastern early Church, it was well know not to be in line behind Leo at the confessional. Deeply worried for Leo's soul, the local priest decided to use tough love to purge the addictions. He commanded Leo to spend one day kneeing on rice in the underground church for every donut he ate and comic book he purchased.

After six years of kneeing, Leo's behavior started to change. When Leo failed to show up at any bakeries or comic book shops as the secret Christian spies had reported, the priest was ready to claim Leo sin free. Instead, it came out that Leo kicked the donut habit by stuffing himself with the rice, and that he could no longer afford rising cost of comic books. Defeated, the priest suggested Leo try a different religion. That's when Leo decided to take martyrdom seriously.

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Rat Trap

The Rat Trap by Selma Lagerlöf is the story of a ragged, emaciated vagabond who earns his crust of bread by selling homemade wire rat traps.

As he travels, he imagines the entire world is one large rat trap and is somewhat comforted by imagining the snares that entice the rich, that is, until he himself is caught.

Ending surprised us, and we all had an opinion of its meaning.

Available online.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Please Pass the Sugar

Do you indulge your sweet tooth despite medical warnings to the contrary? Then perhaps you were born in the wrong century.

The 1850 out of print, "Miss beecher's domestic receiptbook: designed as a supplement to her Treatise on domestic economy," refers to the experiments a certain Dr. Pereira performed on dietary health.

Dr. Pereira debunks the myth that sugar is unhealthy in moderation or even bad for one's teeth. Dr. Pereira claims this falsehood was begun by frugal housewives. Sugar was expensive, so these women didn't want their children craving it.

In reality, Dr. Pereira said, sugar is "readily digested by a healthy stomach." The fact that "mother's milk" contains an abundance of it is, for Dr. Pereira, proof enough that sugar was meant to be part of every child's basic diet.

Only when consumed in large quanties or mixed with artificial colorings, nuts, or "oily substances" was sugar harmful. "A stick or two of pure candy, eaten with crackers or bread, never would injure any healthy child," the book said.

Do you agree or disagree?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Brian's Toast

A minor "truth is stranger than fiction" element in Bryony is the way Melissa's younger brother makes toast. First, he methodically trims off the crusts around the perimeter of the bread, and then he carefully butters both sides. Brian, Melissa had said, could eat an entire loaf of bread this way, one piece at a time.

I remember the evening I wrote this passage, nearly two decades ago. My now twenty-year-old son was crawling around the floor; the three, older children were "remodeling" the backyard clubhouse with the kids across the street. An old, electric typewriter sat on a small, bedside table. I knelt before it and typed out this scene while trying to keep an eye on the baby.

Ten years and two children later, my then seven year old son began making toast in a similar fashion. No one had ever read this passge; indeed, no one in the family even knew the manuscript, in pieces and stages, existed. I had never met anyone who prepared toast this way.. As far as I knew, my mind invented it. Yet, like Brian, Daniel could eat an entire loaf of bread this way, one piece at a time.

Daniel, now fifteen, is less messy, but he still makes the best toast of anyone I know.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Dandy or Fop?

One of the vampires in Bryony describes himself as a dandy, although perhaps some might decide he’s a fop. How to know? Perhaps Sir Chook can help. In a series of posts over the next four weeks, Sir Chook offers some insight into both these lifestyles.

According to his website (, Sir Frederick Chook is a romantic, transcendentalistic, overly brainful fop, and the author of FrillyShirt. He lives variously by his wits, hand to mouth, la vie bohème, and in MELBOURNE with his wife, Lady Tanah Merah. When not reading Milton and eating stilton, he writes, philosophises, assembles, models and studies history. He spent several years on youth radio and once ran for federal parliament on the anarchist ticket. He is a longhair, aspiring to one day be a greybeard. He has, once or twice, been described as “as mad as a bicycle.”

1) What is the difference between a dandy and a fop? How do you define yourself?

"'Fop' has long been an insult, meaning someone showy and silly, but in that role, it's entirely archaic now, so I've picked it up as an umbrella term for anyone who likes dressing up. Besides, being showy and silly sometimes - and a little self-deprecating, too - is fun! Being stylish is out of style, so there's no harm in acknowledging one is a bit of an oddbod for doing it."

2) And dandy?

"The dandy is a particular breed of fop - the two terms might have been synonymous once, but dandyism has since been associated with Beau Brummell and his crowd, and its ethos laid down by Baudelaire. The dandy is a creature of society and status - he dresses conservatively, but with great care to detail, to position himself at the very forefront of fashion. Essentially, he seeks to embody the aristocratic man - to demonstrate that he has absolutely no concerns beyond his own leisure.I... am not a creature of society and status. Not that they'd have me, of course, but I'm a quiet, uncompetitive sort of fellow, with no interest in the caprice of the fashionable elite. No more can I claim the aristocratic aversion to trade, and all that's practical, in dress or in life. What I wear, I wear in the interest of self-expression, not status - a pursuit that anyone with an interest should be entitled to follow, I think, so if clothes should be hardwearing and economical as well as beautiful, all the better."

3) Why do some people equate the terms with effeminate personalities?

"That's a bucket and a half of cultural hangups right there! Men are spatial, women are verbal; men are practical, women are social; men are timeless, women are fashionable... better scholars than I have written books upon books trying to figure out where and when these ideas came from, but their net effect is the conviction that any man who dedicates himself entirely to feminine pursuits - to looking nice, showing off, and so climbing the social hierarchy - must at least be effete, if not somehow flawed as a human being. It's hardly the worst thing to come of ingrained cultural sexism, though, and if a foppish chap has no insecurities on his own part, it shouldn't really bother him."

Monday, September 13, 2010

Someone Finally Asked It

Bryony's basic storyline was outlined decades ago, so I find it interesting when certain elements mirror life today. For instance, from the very beginning, Melissa's mother, Darlene, was a single parent, who supported Melissa and her younger brother Brian through freelance writing assignments.

Someone asked me the other day if I modeled Darlene's character on me. I denied it, and that was the truth. At the time of the novel's conception, I was married with two small children and a third on the way. The possiblity of raising those children (and the three that followed them) as a single parent was the farthest thing from my mind. Heck, I had never given freelance writing a thought. I'm not sure I even knew thet option existed.

Besides, since I married my first husband rather young (two weeks after my twentieth birthday), my work history was slim: babysitting, office work, one fast food restaurant, and a summer internship at a newspaper. I was a happy stay-at-home mom and had no desire of ever being anything else.

However, since Darlene cared for her husband Frank before his death and later raised two children in the middle of Simons Woods, I wanted some lucrative work-at-home employment for her. At the time I began the story--1985--the only jobs I knew that could be performed at home were envelope stuffing and writing.

It seemed more likely that Frank, a former photojournalist, would fall love with Darlene the writer rather than Darlene the envelope stuffer. Also, having Munsonville's village board hire Darlene to create promotional literature for Simons Mansion gave her a good reason to relocate the family. I was well into the second round of edits before it occured to me that someone might think I modeled Darlene after myself.

Actually, I am none of the characters. All but one spring completely from my imagination. Only Ed Calkins is based on a real person and his imagination, brought to literary life, with his permission, by my imagination. I've heard sometimes authors base charcters on themselves, but for me, creating them only from the impressions that roll about my mind has been much more fun.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

My Family and Friends Loved It

Authors will often judge the saleability of a manuscript by this criteria. Valid? Not sure.

My friends have not read Bryony, but, little by little, my family--immediate and extended-- have asked to read it. For us, it's become a cult favorite. Supportive of my efforts? Well, maybe, but that's not historically typical of my family.

While I cannot predict future sales figures for the book post-publication, my fifteen year old son Daniel best summed it as, "The book has brought the family together." Certainly we are communicating more, and that's a good thing.

To us, Bryony is already successful. That does not mean we will rest on our laurels, and throw the book's future to fate. However, I'm thrilled that the most important people in my life are one hundred percent behind this book. To me, the rest is gravy.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Denise Unland's Alternate Geneology Part 2

Uly and his sixteen children continued their newspaper business for many years until one day when someone from the trailer court approached Uly and said, "Hey buddy, are you going to deliver in Troy next? Could ya do me a favor and take this wooden horse with you? I forgot the keypad code to do it myself."

Uly agreed. I think you know where this is going.

What you don't know is that the sounds of the sacking of Troy woke Uly up from his afternoon nap. He could hear the shouts and see the smoking towers. Grabbing a pad of paper, he rushed into the burning city to get the full story. Hoping to get some interviews for a human interest angle, he busted a burning door and ran up a flight of smoking stairs.

There in the doorway was the most beautiful woman in the world. So stunned by her grace, wit, and fashion forward sensibilities, he began to compose poetry. So seduced by his lyrical praise, she blushed, felt faint, and could produce not a word of protest.

Despite their awkward first meeting, Uly, who lost his route the very next day, took Helen of Troy back with him to Greece, along with her fourteen named children and his sixteen numbered. They had a child together on that journey home, thus naming him Homer. The other thirty children felt a little envious of the youngest child whom both parents called the some way.

As for the numbered children, whom Helen never numbered and the named children--Uly could never pronounce their names--they might be excused for occasionally misrepresenting themselves to parents, community, and history itself, and Homer himself. It therefore can not be ruled out that the Great Homer, author of those famous poems, was fathered by an Irishman.

Moreover, it must be said that the great Homer was not the only great man who bore the name. There was Homer, the Roman gladiator, who was handed only a club in his first bout. With one blow, he knocked off the head of his opponent, sent it soaring into the stands, and thus inventing a brand-new sport still played today.

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Horla

In diary format, Guy de Maupassant relates the tale of an upper class, single man tortured by an unseen, vampire-like being that watches him when he sleeps and drinks the water from his bedside.

At first, the man questions his sanity; later he debates whether to commit suicide to escape this entity. Interestingly, de Maupassant was suffering from syphillis when he wrote this story, with the disease possibly affecting his mental capabilities.

Several sites offer it online.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Strange Foods

After Melissa overcomes her initials trepidations about making a pact with a vampire, her biggest fear is not her health or safety, but the unfamiliar foodstuffs she encounters in the Victorian era.

Luckily, selections are lavish, so Melissa can avoid the unusual and stick to items she recognizes. Dealing with vampires is much easier, since she is convinced one has only good intentions at heart, while another is simply annoying, at best. A third leaves her uneasy, but Melissa deals with him as she does the food. She avoids him.

I say, she would have been smarter to sample the beef tongue and taken a deeper look at her fairytale surroundings.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Teen Vampire Readings

No, I'm not recommending any books, but rambling about the vampire material I read as a teen. As far as I know, unlike today, there was not a mass market of vampire stories directed at young readers. However, since I, mostly, preferred reading to movies, I sought out what was available.

Bram Stoker’s “Dracula,” held a permanent position on my lap during ho-hum eighth grade history and science classes. I read that book backwards and forwards, inside and out. The following year, I devoured nineteenth and early twentieth century vampire stories. At fifteen, my interested turned to the historical Count Dracula, Vlad Tepes, his reign of impaling terror, and how Stoker integrated the "real" count into his novel.

While my friends sighed over teen magazines, I spent sunny, summer afternoons laying on a blanket in the backyard and reading books such as Raymond T. McNally's and Radu Florescu's absorbing, now-classic, “The Search for Dracula." A showing of the orginal "Nosferatu" (in my mind, still the best vampire movie out there) on television was worth cancelling other plans for the night.

Less important to me than Top 40 radio was the knowledge that the castle people referred to as Castle Dracula was really Bran Castle, which Dracula did, in fact, use during his raid. I already knew I wanted to write a vampire story one day, but the idea, at this point, had not taken shape. I did, however, continue to read and research. When the time came, I wanted it to be right.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Vampire Bats Facts

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

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

Other vampire facts Peterson shared include:

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

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

Monday, September 6, 2010

Physical Editing

“You need a surgeon,” my doctor said. She handed the ultrasound report to me.

I didn’t need to look it at. For years I’d told doctors I had a hernia. After a cursory exam, I always heard, “You don’t have a hernia.” The denial part of me readily accepted it. I hate surgery, but still managed to rack up seven abdominal ones, anyway.

Yet, in reality, each of the procedures was a true blessing. The six Caesareans presented me with six, wonderful children. The adrenalectomy saved my life. My doctor reviewed my surgical history, smiled, and said, “And you wonder why you have a hernia.”

“I know why I have a hernia,” I said. “I still don’t like surgery.”

The hernia was large enough to cause problems. Skipping the surgery would be foolish and, eventually, dangerous. So, I redefined the terms. Surgery was just another word for physical editing. I make cuts and additions to my work to improve it. In this case, the cuts--another incision-- and additions—a large piece of mesh—would result in a new, improved me.

For me, as a writer, editing is a love/hate relationship. Sometimes refining a story, press release, or manuscript is pure joy. Other times it’s drudgery. Often, it’s plain, hard work to keep the facts, but tell the story in a different way. It challenges me; it stretches my mind, and I don’t always relish it. Yet, I am nearly always pleased with the end results. Why should this time be any different?

I take a deep breath and accept the surgeon’s business card from my doctor’s outstretched hand.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

De-Romanticizing Vampires

As I created a romantic, century old, Victorian world as part of Bryony’s backdrop, certain scripture verses kept me anchored to the soulless, predatory nature of the vampires that inhabit it.

Despite the current craze for interpreting vampires as good-at-heart, misunderstood creatures against whom all discrimination should cease, I decided sticking to traditional vampire lore was the best way to tell the story.

Perhaps Fr. Alexis should have taken this approach. Perhaps, he would have listened more carefully to Melissa when she approached him and then offered her this warning. “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” 1 Peter 5:8.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Denise Unland's Alternate Geneology Part 1

In Bryony, Melissa meets one vampire who stands apart from the Victorian society in which she travels with composer and pianist John Simons. That vampire is Ed Calkins, who calls himself, "The Steward of Tara."

Ed believes that it is the right of every Irishman to create myth. Under this premise, Ed penned my "Irish" geneology. The first part is posted today.

Although Denise's Irish ancestry can not be directly proven, it’s quite apparent to any rational being that lacks prejudices to the contrary.

Denise’s first known ancestor is a man named “Uly of too many children.” He was smallish man, studious, numerant, and if eye glasses had been invented before 1700 B.C. and available along the eastern Mediterranean coast, he would have worn very thin lenses.

Uly married a woman to whom he never paid much attention to, since he favored scrolls and theroms to her feminine charms. Nonetheless, she bore sixteen children, none of which were fathered by Uly. So Uly, after number 16, (which was actually the child's name because Uly was very good with numbers, but had trouble with names and complex sentence structures, although he was very good with complex equations) realized that his wife had been cheating! As he prepared to throw her out, it suddenly occurred to him that she had been gone for several months.

Anyway, poor Uly and his 16 unknown children were left to fend for themselves. What did Uly do? He took a paper route by ocean. Because this was three thousand years before the invention of the printing press, a carrier in Uly’s time had to compose the paper first, copy it as many times as he had customers, then deliver it. One could say that Uly was a publisher, reporter, and carrier. The route consisted of the ancient equivalent of a trailer court and gated community.

Each morning, Uly would compile his observations of the following day, write them on a scroll, and give it to the lowest numbered child to replicate. That child would give his copy to the child whose number was one less then his until all children were copying and all editions were written.

Uly had two publications to deliver: The Hellenic Times and the Trojan Inquirer. Each bore the same news, but the trailer court, which preferred the Hellion Times, and the gated community which received the Trojan Inquirer, were none the wiser.

In addition, it might be added that the children quickly grew bored of their coping tasks. Sometimes, bored with journalistic integrity and ready at any chance to rebel against parental authority, they wrote their own views instead of Uly's representations of the fact. Others drew comedic pictures. In this way, Uly's papers might have invented the editorial and the political cartoon.

Friday, September 3, 2010

The Lady or the Tiger?

Frank R. Stockton tells the story of a semi-barbaric king with an unusual means of delivering punishment. The offender stands before two doors. Behind one is a savage, hungry tiger. Behind another is a beautiful woman and the trappings for a lavish wedding celebration. All the offender must do is choose.

Now, it so happened that the king's daughter fell in love with someone who was not royalty. Of course, the pair was found out, and the date for retribution was appointed. The princess, also semi-barbaric, knew what was behind each door. She also knew that her lover expected her to indicate what door he should choose, which she does.

So, what comes out? Read online to find out.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Still Seeking These Recipes

Yes, I know I can find them online or in my personal store of recipes, but what I'd really like is other people's twists on familiar favorites.

Recipes I'm still seeking: a nice Thanksgiving turkey and dressing, a pumpkin pie and an apple pie, a spaghetti sauce, a recipe for green beans (no green bean casserole), a barbecue sauce for pork chops, borscht, and recipes for white fish.

Plus, I'd love submissions of anything YOU really enjoy preparing, especially if it came from--or could have come from--the 1970s. Send recipes to Thank you in advance for your support.

Remember, all proceeds from the Bryony cookbook will be donated to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Will and Grundy Counties.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Why Vampires?

I’m not sure why, but of all the supernatural creatures, witches and vampires have held their greatest appeal.

My fascination with witches stretches so far backward in time that it's almost subliminal. I have no idea where or how it began. I only remember wanting to dress up as a witch every Halloween, but my mother preferred less gory attire. I was a cowgirl in kindergarten and a drum majorette for the next couple years, followed by a cleaning lady.

My official introduction to vampires is easier to pinpoint. A neighbor boy was obsessed with monsters and knew all the old movies that had been made about them; he got us hooked. Each summer, one television stationed offered a morning movie series called, “Creature Features,” where, for a week or two, five days a week, it broadcasted those old favorites.

Somewhere, along the way, I decided vampires held an appeal mystique than werewolves (a close second), to Frankenstein, mummies, or Godzilla. I’ve not outgrown that attraction.