Monday, January 31, 2011

Where Were You When you Wrote...?

Last week, on the twenty-fifth annivesary of The Challenger, I read and responded to several Facebook posts of, "What were doing when the space shuttle exploded?"

Certain memories for us are so vivid we can recall their ancillary details. With The Challenger, I remember hustling three kids under four through the grocery store (Eagle, in Crest Hill), so I could watch the take-off. I remember gaping in horror at what I was really watching and holding Joshua, who was four months old at the time and still dressed in a tan snowsuit my mother had bought him.

I have writing memories like that, too.

When you've pecked at your first novel as long I have, you'd think the particulars would be long buried under more important life moments, but some of them, for whatever reason, are as clear as they day I experienced them. For instance:

* One evening, near dusk, my oldest kids and their friends were modifying the backyard playhouse, so I threw some toys on the floor for my crawler (Timothy, now 20), shut the bedroom door, and wrote a scene where Melissa is alone at home (everyone else had gone to the movies) and searching near Simons Mansion for Snowbell (that scene never made it to the first draft).

* I was taking my daily power walk in Marcrest subdivision in Joliet (where we used to live) when I created a piece of dialogue for Henry that would be my unspoken tag line for many years. I also mentally wrote one of the scenes still featured in Bryony, although I later changed the location in the house. BTW, for anyone familiar with Marycrest, I was walking on St. Joseph, past Marmion and Madonna and around the bend to St. Francis. The sun was shining, too, and it was about 11:00 in the morning.

* The afternoon John Simons' hair lightened and came down, I was driving north on Infantry Lane in Joliet, past a paper carrier acquaintance's house, on my way to pick up a kid nicknamed "Doc." I was listening to Adia by Sarah McLachlan when the image popped into my head. I couldn't wait for a red light to mentally describe my vision of John playing a grand piano inside Simons Mansion, except it wasn't in the music room, but near the grand staircase. At the time, I was a new single parent and my teens had talked me into managing a crew of kids selling newspaper subscriptions. By then, I was writing for the paper and delivering it, too. Hardly the most opportune time in my life to work on a novel, but I always kept paper and pen in my van and jotted notes for Bryony whever I had a chance.

* I was pacing the floor with colicky newborn (Timothy, again) when I created the very ill Frank Marchellis. Three years later, I was pacing the floor with a colickly newborn (Rebekah) when I created two characters for Staked!, the third novel in the BryonySeries, although at the time, it was only one, yet unamed, book.

* The inspiration for a confrontation between Melissa and Henry--actually the character of Henry himself--a favorite with those who have read a Bryony draft (including two of my editors) came from a dream I had regarding an argument with a Henry-like character.

Does anyone else have memories like that?

Sunday, January 30, 2011

eHow Limerick Lesson Applied

Comedian, actor, and Bryony fan Tommy Connolly (, studied yesterday's post, discarded his standard limerick opening line of, "There once was a man from Nantucket...," and penned quite the limerick in honor of Bryony's author.

There once was a writer, Denise,
Who wrote with a faith-driven ease
She delivered a message
Of hope not opression,
And our father in heaven is pleased.

Of course, Ed Calkins, the Steward of Tara, would disapprove, since he believes limericks should insult, not praise, but Bryony's author, feeling thoroughly humbled, graciously accepts it, and will try to live up to it, for today, at least.

Happy Sunday, everyone!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Wake Not The Dead by Johann Ludwig Tieck

Before Stephen King’s Pet Semetery, there was Johann Ludwig Tieck’s 1820 Wake Not the Dead. The story centers around a count who marries for passion and is despondent when his bride dies. He soon marries another woman, has two children with her, and finds this gentle wife inspires a joy and serenity in his household that was not there when his first wife lived.

But as the years pass, the count misses the fervor of his earlier marriage and entreats a sorcerer to restore her to life. After three nights and three warnings of, “Wake not the dead,” the sorcerer complies with the count’s request. The count sends away his second wife and the evil begins in earnest. Read it online.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

If I was Melissa, I Would Have Starved

A picture is definitely worth a thousand groans.

Watching the Supersizers Go Victorian series is really bringing Melissa's culinary experiences to life for me. It's one thing to imagine a calves head sitting on your table, but seeing it makes me want to flee back to the twentieth century, at least until after mealtime.

Another surprise was the tinned meat. Some appeared on Bryony's breakfast tray, but I had envisioned it looking more like Spam (yuck), not the jellied mass in the video. However, had it been true Spam, Melissa, being a child of the '70s, probably would have recognized it and not been so revolted.

I used to be open-minded about trying new recipes (barring allergies), but now, I'm not sure. How adventurous are you with unusual foodstuffs?

The Supersizers Go Victorian 1

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Song # 5 Beautiful Soothing Relaxing Piano Music - "That Someone is You"...

It's An Exciting Week in Bryony World

So pumped! The Bryony trailer team met this week to review a script and discuss details of its upcoming filming. So far, we have planned an official book trailer, a music video for the Bryony theme song, and individual interviews with members of the Bryony team. We even have a mansion for on-location shots. How cool is that? Also, CAL Graphics, Inc. ( sent two sample logo designs for me, the director of marketing and our web administrator to review, and it was unanimous. Everyone loved option #1, so it now goes to our illustrator, Kathleen Rose Van Pelt( for a sprig of vines. We also have an opportunity to help sponsor Bowl for Kids Sake, a fundraiser for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Will and Grundy Counties (, which is the recipient of profits from the Bryony cookbook. We are forming a couple of teams to bowl, too, and crossing our fingers we'll be able to create some Bryony T-shirts by then. Also, please check out the survey Sarah Stegall, Bryony's web administrator, posted yesterday. It's just five, short questions, but it will give her insight for future Bryony posts. Later today, I'll post another song by James Onohan (, Bryony's pianist and composer, the musical "voice" of John Simons, the nineteenth century pianist and composer in Bryony. Have a great day!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

I want to know...

if you would take this very short Bryony survey.

Surveys are very important to any research; a very useful tool in further exploring a subject. Recently I had the chance to participate in a Mock Trial. Throughout the day we answered questions, both written and multiple choice. One of the directors of the research survey for the Mock Trial referred to our opinions as gold. It was up to us, as individuals and then groups, if we bought what the plaintiff and the defendant were trying to sell us in their time on the stand. I have created a five question survey for viewers so we can collect your "gold."

Sarah C Stegall, Web Administrator

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Jon Burge and a True Stoic

I took a break from rolling newspapers this morning when an acquaintance in the single copy area stopped to show me his quote in a Chicago newspaper story regarding the Jon Burge conviction.

On Friday, former Chicago officer Burge was sentenced to four and a half years in a federal prison. For years, Burge had been torturing black men to obtain confessions to an assortment of crimes, including robbery and murder. This acquaintance had been suffocted and electrocuted by Burge and subsequently spent decades in prison. He had testified at Burge's trial.

However, he wasn't sharing the gruesome details this morning. Rather, he talked about his lack of bitterness about his experiences, despite the fact his wife had died while he was serving time, and his children had grown up without their father. He quoted from the poem, "Footprints," thankful that God had carried him through his troubles and brought him home.

I was quietly impressed by what he wanted to tell me. You know, it doesn't take much stamina to inflict; just ask any bully. But to withstand and exit whole and unscathed...that's real strength.

Saturday, January 22, 2011


By Ed Calkins, the Steward of Tara

In Bryony, when Melissa first meets Ed, he shares with her the secret to his ruthless reputation: enemy conquest through limericks. Below, the steward offers an example of his approach.

While doing his route in a van, a newspaper carrier, Howard, was attacked with a baseball bat. Although the van was filled with newspapers, it's believed the thief's intentions was to steal the vehicle. Howard was completely unarmed; he knew that he had a route to complete.

Although much older than the delinquent assaulting him, Howard resisted and was able to maintain possession of his van, even after taking a hit to his sternum and ribs. Though the strike of the bat probably broke some ribs (Howard doesn't know for sure, because he doesn't have medical insurance) he finished the route without a single complaint.

This cowardly act should not go unpunished!

I call upon all who read this to think badly about the thief with a baseball bat. Don't hold back in your negative thoughts towards this truant. As for the heroics Howard, now known as Howard the Brave, I have composed this limerick.

You and I would've probably just ran
Told the thief "take the papers and van."
But Howard our hero,
Whose complaints number zero
Faced the thung with the bat like a man.

I invite all of you to let justice be done. Send this would be robber down through timeless infamy for this cowardly act. If you are so outraged as I am, compose a limerick immortalizing this delinquent's cowardice. Posted on the it on the Internet or write it on the bathroom walls, but let the rhyming and meter become immortal.

One hundred years from now, an ancestor Howard the Brave need only mention that he is such in any bar and he will be rendered free beer. All descendents of the other one will have to bear the shame.

Friday, January 21, 2011

A Real Victorian Vampire Story

In 1909, Victorian occultist Dr. Franz Hartmann published An Authenticated Vampire story in The Occult Review. In it, Hartmann relates how villagers in a remote part of the Carpathian Mountains burned down a certain castle after they suspected a recent wave if a fatal illness was due to vampirism.

That led to a friend sharing his knowledge and personal experiences of that castle, which included the death of a certain countess during a riding accident, a mysterious painting, and a ghost.

True? Read An Authenticated Vampire Story by Dr. Franz Hartmann online and decide for yourself.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Song # 4 Close Your Eyes and relax Romantic Piano - "Daydreaming" by Ja...

I Think It's Time to Go Shopping

Oh, did I say that out loud?

Right now, I am in the midst of a big project, deadline looming. Because I'm a seasoned writer, I know the importance of taking the occasional break, if only to clear the mind. (Don't give me too much credit; newly acquired knowledge).

So, I run down the ladder for more coffee and to get dressed. Now, in the wintertime especially, we paper carriers dress for comfort and warmth. This means, it doesn't really matter if clothes are worn in spots or contain a few holes, since the various layers, strategically placed, cover those parts. It just means I can't wear any long underwear with blown-out knees with a pair of jeans in similar shape.

This morning, however, the only jeans I'm finding are in pretty sorry condition, so I need a decent set of long underwear to go with them. Unfortunately, it's a fairly heavy-duty pair, which means it's a real struggle to get my jeans over them. As I'm tugging the legs of those underwear past the holes in my jeans, I decide it's time to buy some new clothes.

The cheering you hear in the background is my family.

Besides, my publicist keeps reminding me that, with Bryony being released this year, I, as author, am commodity, too, and not just an eccentric homeschooling mother who freelances in her attic office, so she is insisting I dress the part. You know you're overdue for a trip to the mall when your mother rejoices at the fact you finally need bifocals. That, of course, meant I had to get rid of the crummy glasses I've been wearing for years because I'm too cheap to buy more. My mother's crossing her fingers that my long, straight hair goes next.

Sorry, mom. I'll admit, a new wardrobe MIGHT be in order, if only to go with all those cool hats I own. The hair, however, is sacred. It stays. Anyway if I'm going to dress Victorian, I'll need something to put up. Artificial tresses are just not in the budget.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Stephen Tuplin, Close Up. Part Two

The second and final part of the interview with Stephen Tuplin, the film student creating the Bryony trailer, the James Onohan Bryony music video, and interviews with members of the Bryony team. Connect with Stephen on the following sites:,, and!/echowhitefox. See also his videos on YouTube. 6) Where do you hope to use your skills after you graduate? "I hope to either work for a production company, or do PA work on shoots happening around Chicago. I’m really open to whatever opens up. God’s brought me this far; I don’t worry about tomorrow." 7) It's ten years from today. What are you doing? "I hope to be directing at an independent film company, perhaps my own." 8) Is creating a compelling book trailer more difficult than creating a movie trailer? Can you elaborate? "Well, a trailer consists of footage from a movie that has already been shot. Since this is a book, it’s more about making it into a movie and then making a trailer. Since I don’t have the means to do this, it’ll be more about thinking up specific shots and sequences to film. So, this is going to be more difficult than a movie trailer; but it’ll still be a blast." 9) After agreeing to create the Bryony trailer, you offered to film interviews with members of the Bryony team? Why are these extras important to have? "I proposed this because it sounds like your website for the book is in need of content. Since you’ll have a video for the book, it only seems more convenient to have face-to-face interviews with those responsible for the book. Knowing the faces of the people behind a novel causes a connection for the reader. I find I respect a film more after watching behind the scenes footage of the filming; a book is no different." 10) What feeling will people have after viewing the Bryony trailer? "My goal is to tease the audience with ambiguity and wonder; but also some surrealism. If the footage is the book's cover, it’s my goal to make them want to open it."

Monday, January 17, 2011

Naming a Baby is Easier than Naming a Song

Not that I took naming any of my children lightly.

Each time, I put much thought and prayer about the perfect name for this particular child. I said it aloud. I printed it on block paper. I wrote it in cursive with sidewalk chalk on the front porch. The name had to fit my children’s looks, personalities, and even destinies. I wanted them to like their name, to be proud of it. They would wear those names for the rest of their lives.

On Saturday, James Onohan (, who composes and plays original piano music, sent me two, newly recorded songs for my review. He’s creating a ten-song Bryony CD and has already written its theme song (It’s beautiful). The songs (I love them!!!) were accompanied by a request to collaborate with him in their naming.

So, early Sunday morning, in the morning’s wee hours, while I rolled and delivered Sunday newspapers, I played and replayed those two songs and jotted down notes as I listened to them. What was James trying to communicate? What might he have felt as he wrote and played them? What was I feeling? What Byrony images did the music conjure up for me?

Later that day, I emailed my impressions to James, and he sent me his ideas. He’s pleased with the exchange because he really wants his music to reflect my book. We haven’t named the songs yet, but we’re closer to it today than yesterday. My seventeen-year-old daughter shook her head at me during the umpteenth listen and said, "Well, whatever you're into.'"

Oh, I am so into this!

So, why is this harder than naming my children? With my children, I had certain first and middle names assembled that I already liked and a goal for bestowing them. Heck, I even had a formula: one Old Testament name, one New Testament or saint name, and a combined meaning of the two.

I think it’s trickier to simultaneously and accurately sum up James intention behind a song while correlating it to Bryony, but I’m finding it no less sublime than naming a child. As my publicist would say, ‘We’re making history,” so the titles have to be right.

James’ songs are going to wear those names for a very, long time.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Tommy Connolly, Addiction, and Vampires

Author's note: Thank you, Tommy Connolly, for approving the following blog post, anf for giving others a glimpse at the reality of those drowning in addicition.

If you’d like to understand a vampire’s insatiable thirst for blood and the lengths he goes to get it, read Tommy Connolly’s blog at

No, Connolly is not a vampire. He’s a Chicago-area stand-up comedian turned actor with two, non-speaking, on camera roles in the upcoming Fox police drama, “The Chicago Code,” and the upcoming movie, “Contagion.” Connolly has also done a commercial for Firestone.

However, Connolly’s career is not the main topic of his blog. There, Connolly speaks bluntly and freely about his decades-long life as a functional alcoholic, the exultation in recovery, and his new-found freedom in Jesus Christ.

After re-reading a Herald News story I had written about him, I realized the patterns, excuses and compulsions Connolly fought perfectly described the attitudes and behaviors of some of the vampires featured in Bryony, as well as their co-dependent significant others.

John Simons, a nineteenth century pianist and composer, loathes his vampire state and proposes a trade to Bryony’s main character, Melissa Marchellis, a 1970s fourteen year old girl who has become obsessed with John’s young bride, Bryony, after she writes a report on her.

Wishing to test an ancient remedy for vampirism, John proposes a trade: regular, minute amounts of Melissa’s blood, immunotherapy-style, for a hoped-for return to human life in exchange for a trip back to the Victorian era to live as Bryony. For Melissa, despite her mistrust of John and his vampire state, the terms are irresistible. She accepts.

As she moves through a surreal, other-worldly existence, Melissa meets other vampires who don’t necessarily share John’s abhorrence for bloodsucking. This further encourages her to defend his actions and support his desire to rejoin humanity. One vampire, once he gets his fill of blood for the night, simply returns to his normal activities. Another sees being a vampire as an advantage and uses his vampirism to manipulate those around him.

Both Connolly and John Simons wanted out of their crummy existence. The difference is that Connolly eventually did it the right way. John, too, wants deliverance, but unfortunately, only on his terms.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Denise Unland's Alternative Geneology Part 13

By Ed Calkins, The Steward of Tara

For fear of lawsuit, 0007 would never identify the boy. In any case, the boy proved completely inept at poetry of any kind, let alone defensive poetry. Giving up, 0007 taught him how to box.

The tragedy was that the boy never did give up on poetry, with the belief that defensive poems would help him defeat his boxing opponents. Time and time again ,the young man would win a championship, only to lose it to some unworthy boxer, because he would spout the poem out before the bout and believe the result was already decided.

Often, agent 0007 would meet her protege in some remote, secret gym and give him another lesson in humility and boxing. Still, the young man would not relent with his pre-boxing match poetry. Soon, 0007 learned a sad side effect of defensive poetry, if it’s not used correctly. The boy became delusional and continued to compose poetry and box well into old age.

How do we know 0007 was Irish? Firstly, with her CIA ties, and zeal against communists, my sources suggest that her true last name was McCarty. More than that is the style of boxing her boy showed. Though he never called it that, he used footwork known as the “Irish shuffle”.

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Transfer By Algernon Blackwood

A governess witnesses a battle of wits between a philanthropist who thrives on the energy of others and a bare, lifeless patch in the yard. Did she imagine the scene, or had the intense June heat and her overactive imagination created it in her mind?

Several sites offer this story for free online reading.

We'll Be Skipping the Boiled Calves Head

My publicist, Dulcinea Hawksworth, assured me yesterday that any Bryony events that include food will only feature eye and palate-pleasing food, so boiled calves head probably will not make the menu.

The challenge will be making the dishes appear authentically Victorian without duplicating the less appealing meals served up at Simons Mansion, post-concert receptions, and balls. I think that's where we will have to rely on Melissa's judgment here, for who better to evaluate an item's appropriateness than Bryony's main character, since she's known both the nineteenth and twentieth centuries?

Considering Melissa's imaginary, Dulcinea might have trouble reaching our heroine for comment. Anyone out there volunteering to be taste-testers?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

It's Dog!

When my twenty-year-old son Timothy, now studying culinary arts, was a baby, he hated meat. However, he did like dogs--as pets--so we could induce him to eat a slice of chicken or a small, toddler-sized hamburger, if we told him it was dog.

When Melissa, Bryony's main character, travels back to the Victorian age, she is less dismayed by the vampires she encounters than the unfamilar food that appears on her plate: pickled beef tongue, turtle, boiled calves head, mashed turnips, goose giblet soup, and tea with egg in it.

Perhaps she should might have been more open-minded if she hadn't known what she was eating, if John had, perhaps, renamed certain foods to make them more palatable to modern, adolescent tastes. Then again, it was probably impossible to fool her into believing that mushroom ketchup was exactly the same as tomato ketchup.

Are you adventurous about eating? How do you react to new and strange foods?

'The Supersizers Go Victorian' - Victorian Dinner (Boiled Calf's Head)

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Song # 3 Fall In Love Piano Music - "Only You" by James Onohan

I Got an "A," Hurray!!!

Yesterday morning, Bryony's publicist, Dulcinea Hawksworth, and I reviewed a video she had sent me on branding and marketing. Dulcinea had urged me to watch it because she felt it contained some future networking opportunities for us, and we once again discussed goals for Bryony.

Two parts in that video really leaped out at me. One compared effective and ineffective logos and taglines, which reinforced my confidence that what we were designing was spot on. The other was a section about "giving back," which has been part of my marketing goal for Bryony since the beginning, and I triumphantly reminded Dulcinea of it.

"Congratulations," she said. "You have passed Marketing 101 with an 'A'."

Needless to say, I felt pretty good about that, considering my head is spinning with press kits, period costumes, strategy briefs, creating a music box for the trailer and CD cover, checking out locations for the trailer and music video, completing the cookbook, and CD cover art, including locating a model for John Simons, etc.

I'm not sure what's involved in the next marketing class, but with such an enthusiastic professor leading it, I'm definitely looking forward to it.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Stephen Tuplin, Close-Up. Part One

Stephen Tuplin is working on his last semester at Tribeca Flashpoint Media Arts Academy, a digital media arts school located in Chicago, Illinois. He has agreed to film the Bryony trailer; a music video for James Onohan (, the composer/pianist for Bryony; and a series of interviews with the Bryony team. Last summer, I had asked Stephen if he'd like to jump on board because his passion for movies was just the vision I needed for the Bryony trailer. Stephen also regularly posts in-depth movie reviews on his Facebook page. Below is the first of a two-part interview with Stephen. Connect with Stephen at echowhitefox@yahoo.comecho!/echowhitefox 1) Have you always been a movie buff? Why? "Movies have always been in my life. Some of my best childhood memories involved watching movies with my family with a roaring fire in the fireplace. Every time I would watch a movie, I would always get something from it. I don’t do my homework with the TV on cause I need to watch what’s on. The way I see it, movies are about entering the world of another person’s personal vision. Whether it’s a good experience or a bad one, I still respect all film; someone had the guts to pull it off. 2) When did you first try your hand at filmmaking? What did you film? "In the summer of 2003, my friend Luke and I started production on a film called, “the Squirrel”. It took us about four months to do. The production had no script; just a handicam and some terrible actors: Us. Needless to say, this film doesn’t get shown often. Good times though. 3) What made you pursue a filmmaking degree? "I knew I wanted to go into filmmaking in high school. People regarded me as the “movie guy” so I knew it was just in my blood. To be honest, I consider this question done; I was always going to make movies no matter what. 4) Why did you choose Flashpoint Academy? "In my senior year of high school, my dad told me about a new school in Chicago that was all about media arts and filmmaking. He sent me the link to the website and I signed up for my newsletter. The next day, after coming home from JJC doing my annoying Gen. Eds, Flashpoint personally called me. Their policy is to contact everyone who joins their site; this was encouraging for me.After going on their tour, there really wasn’t any other school that could satisfy me. Tribeca Flashpoint Academy is an all hands on school that doesn’t waste my time. Students from Columbia room with students from Tribeca, and they are always surprised at all the things we get to do. Word of mouth can contain exaggerations; Tribeca doesn’t need to." 5) Which do you enjoy more, filming or editing? Why? "The highlight of my year last year was directing. I get no greater pleasure than working with actors and collaborating with fellow filmmakers.Editing is just one of the many facets that Tribeca was able to teach me. Editing is something I enjoy thoroughly, but it’s not something I would call myself a pro at. The film is crafted, and sometimes saved in the editing room, but the actual shoot is where my adrenaline is."

Monday, January 10, 2011

We Have a Tagline!!!

It's just that I can't share it yet. I can, however, tell you how we created it.

At Bryony's first "Meet and Greet" last month, my publicist, Dulcinea Hawksworth, passed around a list of twelve possibilities she had written. One of them generated the most interest; a second one had modest support.

Through much debate and a insights from a small, focus group, we tweaked the language until it concisely represented the overall plot of the entire series. Then we sent the tagline to our graphic designer, CAL Graphics Inc (, who is creating our logo. Once the Bryony team approves the final design, I'll share the results.

In the meantime, we'll keep posting the "rejected" taglines on Bryony's Facebook page.

Some of them are really awful, too, but that's the fun of brainstorming. Happy groaning!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Maybe I Should Have Written a Poem Instead

A university English professor contacted my publicist with a request to review Bryony. My publicist hesitated because this professor has an editing background, and the manuscript is still going through the editing process.

So they made deal. My publicist would give her the most recent draft if the professor agreed to stop reading if she found more than three mistakes. You guessed it. She has stopped reading.


Copy editing is not my best talent. In fact, it's safe to say it doesn't even rank as a talent. In college, the teacher would distribute these handouts with copy mistakes for us to correct. I'd read through those assignments until I was half-blind, but it would always come back with all the ones I'd skipped circled in red ink. I seriously think I'm missing the part of the brain that sees punctuation glitches.

With Bryony, although I conscientiously fix each error, I consistently introduce new ones whenever I make a content change. It's a 525 page + manuscript. I figure by the time it's mistake-free, my grandchildren will be the ones signing copies. In the meantime, I'm practicing more patience and persistence. At some point, the only changing left will be "copy and fix." Boy, am I looking forward to that day.

"For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do--this I keep on doing." Romans 7:19.

I figured Paul wrote this while he was copyediting Romans.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Denise Unland's Alternative Geneology Part 12

By Ed Calkins, Steward of Tara

Agent 0007 spent the best part of the cold war with an assumed name, with an assumed husband, giving assumed birth to normal children, which included Denise’s mother. She used her spare time in secrete CIA underground libraries working on her theory of defensive poetry against the communist threat.

The limericks that she constructed were so powerful that she earned her place as among the three greatest writers of Denise’s gene pool. (Remember, that includes Homer and Denise herself.) Unfortunately, it would be years before the CIA’s Russian network could get these poems written on the men’s rooms of the Kremlin. But when they did, the effect were sudden and complete, forcing, for fear of further insult, the communist party to lay down its stronghold on power and democratic election to be held. Fear of the same in China caused it to embrace a capitalist model for its future.

I wish I could include some of the limericks for this web site but I could not break into the cyber vault that contains them along with the floor plans for nuclear missiles, the landing sites of UFO’s, and the location of Hoffa’s body. Moreover, these limericks are in Russian. I’m afraid we will know extraterrestrial poems before we can utter the first line of 0007’s poetry.

Sadly, Denise’s grandmother did not live long enough to see her victory over communism bear fruit. Instead, she lived and wrote the journal of her own heartbreaking defeat. You see, during her limerick writing for the CIA, she chanced upon a youth who was being badly bullied. Concerned for his welfare, she attempted to teach him defensive poetry and documented his progress.

Friday, January 7, 2011

A Child's Dream of a Star by Charles Dickens

Someone gave me a copy of The Complete Ghost Stories of Charles Dickens (and you thought his only specters were Jacob Marley and the trio of Christmases of Past, Present, and Future), but last night I read a story in that book that didn’t seem to quite fit the collection.

As I was reading, A Child’s Dream of a Star, I kept waiting for the story to turn delightfully ugly, but it was a simple, innocent, and enjoyable read to the expected end, although it does deal with death.

A much more appropriate reading for Julian Calendar Christmas than a vampire saga.

Many sources offer this story online.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Handprints and Mice Creams

It can be tricky being a grandparent in a large family, especially at Christmastime (we celebrate our “family Christmas” on January 7), especially when you want to give the right gift, but are afraid you might duplicate someone else’s.

So, this year, for my two grandsons—ages nearly three and nearly four—I presented baking experiences.

On Friday, I will show the grandson currently living with me how to make handprint cookies (with premade dough and freshly washed hands—his and mine). Then he can have fun decorating and serving the cookies after dinner.

My twenty-year-old son Timothy turned a little green at the thought of eating cookies a preschooler literally made with his hands, so I showed a picture of cookie option #2.

“Would you rather we did footprints?” I asked.

The look on his face was irrelevant. Either way, I don’t think Timothy we’ll be eating cookies with us on Friday.

Yesterday, I sent a package to my out-of-state grandson. It contained a picture, a recipe, and a check (to buy ingredients) for “Mice Creams.”

Basically, he will place a scoop of ice cream into a mini graham cracker shell and decorate the ice cream so it looks like a mouse’s head: round cookies for ears, chocolate chips for eyes and nose, and licorice pieces for whiskers.

Neither recipe will be featured inside the Bryony cookbook, but I figure the boys will have so much fun baking that, once the cookbook is released, they’ll beg their mothers to try some of really kid-friendly recipes, like molasses candy or boiled pudding.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Song # 2 Romantic Piano Music - One Last Time by James Onohan

An Unusual Source for Inspiration

Yesterday, a friend posted a great idea for 2011: offer a free service or handmade item to the first five people who comment on the post. I condered what I might present in return (my talents are slim) and posted the following:

Pay it forward 2011: I promise to write an original, short story (fiction or non-fiction, your choice, your topic) to the first 5 people who leave a comment here. However, to be eligible, you must repost this status, offering something to 5 other people. The rules are that it must be handmade (or a service) by you and it must be sent to your 5 people sometime in 2011.

What's neat about this Pay it forward suggestion is that, hopefully, I can write something entertaining, inspirational, etc. to those who commented while, at the same time, stretching my brain to write about topics that might not have otherwise occured to me. Also, friends can experience and appreciate the gifts of others. What a beautiful way to celebrate the new year.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Po’Boy and the Arcane Practices of History

By Sir Frederick Chook

Part Two, of a sort, of last week's post, So You've Travelled Back in Time. First published at Used with the author's permission.

My old chum Andrew has a new project which you really should see – a marvellous mag which goes by the name of Po’Boy! You can already read my debut article there – So You’ve Travelled Back In Time, a string of antique conchiolin deposits of wisdom for the cautious Connecticut Yankee. I thought I might expand on some of the topics I raise there, with particular reference to the esoteric study known to certain scientists and mystic thinkers as Retroprophecy.

I first discovered this discipline in my researches with the Antipodean League of Temporal Voyagers, assisting with their chronocartographical projections. The classic problems of time travel, well-known to physicists and logicians, remained stumpers – if it is possible to change the past, can one then paradoxically prevent one’s present actions? And why is there no evidence of any future travellers having passed by? If time travel were impossible, neither would be an issue – but the League’s experiments had demonstrated that time travel certainly was possible, and made for a charming Saturday outing at that.

With time, contemplation, and an endless parade of cheese sandwiches, I had a startling realisation – that the mystery suffered for being attempted by such strict rationalists as it had. Its framing assumed that all the variables were known, that motives and actions and consequences were perceptible and measurable – but this is history we’re talking about! If a historian says they’ve measured a motivation, you know it’s time for Nursie to come wheel them off to bed. History, like its practitioners, is vague, grimy and shrouded in mystery and inaccurate lecture timetables.

Another staple of history, like much of cautious academia, is the ornamentation of established ideas with small but striking adornments of revision – the buttonholes of progress, we might say. With this in mind, I recalled a popular theory: if we can travel to the past and still retain the present, then what has already happened – including what has happened to time travellers – is set, fixed, unchangeable. The present we now enjoy relies on time travellers having done their work, and could never have been otherwise! Our records show no evidence of time travellers, exactly… which proves that what time travellers there have been have avoided being recorded! What alterations they have made to the timeline (in order to keep it exactly the same) have been masterfully subtle, possibly by chance, or out of fear of discovery… or of those damnable time-moths!

*ahem* Sorry, became incautiously academic there. To return to my sound, valid, and extremely persuasive reasoning… the “closed loop” theory, as it’s titled by people a good deal clever than me, allows for time travel by predestining the actions of time travellers. In such a system, you can’t go back and prevent, say, World War II – and it’s entirely possible that your meddling in the affairs of the Weimar Republic actually contributed to causing it all along. Do you really want something like that on your conscience? Better to stay out of mid-twentieth-century politics altogether.

Now, you may well ask: does this mean I have no control over my own fate? If I would be powerless to act on past events, would it not be foolish to assume I had free will in the present? Perhaps, but, again, we must consider the possibility from a historic viewpoint. The closest we can come to knowing to determining for certain what may have happened to any given temporal voyager – barring chancing it ourselves – is through examining accounts and records the same as we would any other event. The future might be predetermined, but we cannot know it with certainty – and what difference is there between an uncertain future, and a certain future that is not known? Thus, Retroprophecy; the finding of future-knowledge in the study of the past, endowing visions and predictions with all the glorious uncertainty of historical fact.

The waters of this practice run deep, but I can think of an immediate application: the vetting of any potential time traveller against records of individuals of similar appearance, who have seemingly appeared from nowhere and who either disappeared just as mysteriously, or met nasty (possibly moth-related) ends. With the identification of these cases, and the blacklisting of any who may have been time travellers one doesn’t wish to become, I imagine the rates of death by Bronze Age-weaponry, matchlock pistol-fire and Borgia-related dismemberment could be reduced significantly. What do you think? If you have some ideas for Retroprophetic methods – or are even an established practitioner! – write to FrillyShirt here or at the address below, and share your views!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Quelling the Inner Editor

After having a blast writing the initial drafts for the first, three books in the Bryony series, I was thrilled to have finally outlined the prequel and corralled some increments of time to begin writing it.

I hadn’t gone far when the unthinkable happened. I stopped having fun. I wasn’t tired of the story or lacking in ideas. Rather, I two invisible intruders had taken up residence in my teeny tiny attic office: my internal copy editor and my internal line editor. They were perched on either side of my desk chair, monitoring every word.

Don’t get me wrong. All writers should self-edit their work and, as one quickly finds out, the rewriting and revision process is far more time-consuming and intense than laying out the original story. Obviously, when you’re writing that first draft, if some element is not working, you should listen to your editing self when it whispers that helpful advice in your ear.

Nevertheless, when my inner editors continously harp about this detail or that detail or, worse, scoop up the manuscript before it’s scarcely begun and start prematurely tearing apart my story, they kill my creative flow.

When I wrote Bryony, Visage and Staked! the words spilled out of me almost faster than I could type them. I was already two-thirds done with Staked! when Bryony’s first round of edits arrived in the mail. Moving through an additional two rounds has taught me a lot about writing and developed my editing skills. For that, I’m profoundly thankful.

It’s just now that I’m writing the first draft of a new book, I must remember to hang my editor’s hat at the door before I sit down to type. There will be plenty of opportunity to retrieve it later.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Woman Paints Expressions of the Unconscious Mind

That's the title of a beautiful story I read in this morning's newspaper.

As much I try to maintain a "chin up" positive attitude, the constant battle with chronic illnesses often attacks my spirit and blunts the creative process. Yesterday, after a flare-up intensified symptoms, I prayed for inspiration and solace. I received both in this story.

You really must read it to get the full scope. It's about a woman that survived a car accident, but now has frequent seizures, despite three trips to Mayo Clinic for answers and medication to control the seizures. Her prognosis is poor--the seizures may eventually kill her--but she's turned her dreadful experiences into a unique opportunity: she's painting what she sees in the midst of them.

By doing so, she hopes to better understand her medical condition, but also to appreciate the beauty she views while caught in its throes. Her story left me speechless and, yes, very much inspired.