Monday, February 28, 2011

Meet James Onohan, The Musical Sound of John Simons

By Denise M. Baran-Unland

Self-taught pianist and composer James Onohan produces music that sounds like John Simons played it, but his resemblance to Bryony’s fictional lead vampire doesn’t stop there.

Not only is Onohan close in age to Bryony’s main vampire, but he’s a perfectionist whose happiest moments are onstage performing and whose best creative moments are alone, in a nearly dark room.

“I just close my eyes and play what I’m feeling,” Onohan, 30, of Indiana, said. “That’s how the best pieces come out, from somewhere inside me. It’s something I have to do. It’s like I’m in a whole other world. I wait until everyone is sleeping, put down the lights really low, close my eyes and just play. When I listen to some of the recordings I’ve made, I don’t think I could ever duplicate them.”

Onohan is creating 10 new songs for a CD called The Best-Loved Compositions of John Simons. This CD is mentioned in Bryony when Melissa borrows it from the Munsonville Library.

Included on those tracks is, Bryony. the piece Simons created as wedding present for his young bride and played at the conclusion of every practice and concert. Onohan has already composed that piece and is working on the rest.

Bryony’s web administrator, Sarah Stegall, of North Carolina, found Onohan and his music on YouTube when she was seeking classical piano music for the Bryony website (

Stegall felt the site needed “samples” of Simons’ work, but the only non-copyrighted music she found was organ music. She heard Onohan’s most popular selection, One Last Time, on YouTube and loved it, so she immediately located Onohan’s website and sent him a message.

“I had sat for hours on YouTube and various websites listening to out of copyright classical piano that we could use for Bryony. Nothing fit,” Stegall said. “I was listening to Debussy and I was clicking randomly on the side links. I almost clicked out when I heard James and realized, ‘Oh wow, he's what we are looking for!’

“The enchanting sounds he was plinking out were so captivating, I could see why Melissa played her music box over and over. I immediately found his website and listened over and over. He became my John Simons that night. However, I had quite a few problems. The biggest was that he wasn't out of copyright. I sent him a brief email wondering if maybe, just maybe, he would let us market his songs under the book.”

To her surprise, Onohan responded almost as quickly. Stegall explained her project and quickly summarized the novel for him. Her original request was permission to reproduce some of his musical clips on the website, but Onohan had a better idea. Why couldn’t he write the book’s theme song and create the CD Melissa checked out from the Munsonville Library?

“When Sarah called me about the book deal, I was very surprised, very flattered and very happy for the opportunity,” Onohan said. “I had been finding it hard to get the inspiration to write new music, so doing the songs for this book has gotten me past the writer’s block.”

Onohan and music go so far back in time, he can’t remember when his love for the medium began. His earliest musical memory was sitting near his father while he played organ and picking up one of the music books and flipping to the back. Depicted there was a keyboard marked with the notes. Intrigued, Onohan used that tool to teach himself how to read music.

“Reading music helped me in band and, when I was able to play the piano, in learning more complex pieces,” Onohan said. “When it comes to playing by ear, I’m not that good. I can’t hear something and reproduce it like some people can, except when I’m creating my own music. I just hear it in my head and play it from there.”

At age 8, Onohan learned clarinet for the school band. He later swapped instruments—flute for clarinet--with his best friend. “My voice has a nice vibrato, so it gives the flute a beautiful sound,” Onohan said. “I really liked the music I produced with it.

Each weekend, Onohan and his father traveled to Chicago for sheet music. During one of those times Onohan, now 12, picked up a book of Mozart selections and began learning them. He played one of those pieces to several thousand people as part of a city festival and liked it.

“It was the best day of my life,” Onohan said. “I was overwhelmed by that performance and have wanted to relive it ever since. Just to get onstage and play my music for an audience has been my dream.”

Onohan continued with the flute and band during high school, although he did play piano for the high school jazz band. He also participated in all-city competitions and talent shows.

Eventually, the piano became Onohan’s primary instrument, although he does still play flute. “I’m not a guy who works well with words; I don’t talk a lot,” he said. “The piano lets me express my feelings without speaking. The ideal is for me to feel what I’m playing, so I can pour out my emotions through my fingers.”

After high school, Onohan enrolled in general education courses at a local community college, but his heart gravitated toward a fulltime music career. Eventually, he convinced his parents to let him attend VanderCook Music College in Chicago. He lasted three months.

Once there, Onohan realized the program was slanted toward those that wanted to teach music, not perform it. “It was no the environment I wanted to be in,” Onohan said. “I didn’t want to play music anymore and when I don’t play music for awhile, I’m not at peace with myself. I’ve never regretted leaving.”

Instead, Onohan joined the police force and recently celebrated his ninth anniversary with it. Onohan then bought a fancy keyboard, continued to compose and play—he compares his style to Yanni—and began recording his music and creating sheet music, which helped him recreate his own music. Within eight years, Onohan wrote and recorded over 35 original compositions—many of which are found on his three CDs-- and recorded a Christmas CD.

Although his CDs and sheet music are now selling modestly well online—One Last Time and Only You are his top sellers—Onohan’s first audience was his family, friends, and fellow police officers.

“I sold CDs by hand and passed out CDs to everybody in my academy classes,” Onohan said. “Talk about a bunch of grown men getting copies of romantic piano music! But I got really great reviews from these men about how great my piano music was. That was really flattering.”

Although getting married and starting a family were personal high points in Onohan’s life, it was a dark time for his music, he said, due to lack of free time. “I didn’t even think about playing,” Onohan said, “and then one day, a couple of years ago, I met a producer who had her own little studio. That inspired me to build mine.”

In addition to composing music for Bryony, Onohan’s current projects including writing original music for vocalists and other new artists. He plays only his original music for weddings and other events. Onohan still dreams of the day he becomes a fulltime concert pianist. For now, he is content that others are enjoying his music.

“My biggest fulfillment is when people respond and I read how my music is affecting other people’s lives,” Onohan said. “I know it sounds corny, but that, to me, is priceless.”

For more information and to purchase Onohan’s music visit Onohan is also featured on the Bryony website at

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Tinkey's Goldfish

Tinkey’s Goldfish is the title of the first book in a series of positive children’s reading material a writer acquaintance of mine, Serena Diosa, is hoping to create (She self-published the first book in 2009).

Writing objectives aside, Diosa’s ultimate goal is to offer a website full of quality children’s reading material from a variety of authors, perhaps even posting short stories children can read for free.

I find her aspiration and her steps toward it intriguing because, as a homeschool mother of six, a former Sunday School director and youth leader, I gravitate toward projects that support and affirm young people.

So, I “fanned” the Tinkey’s Goldfish Facebook page at to keep up with Diosa’s progress.

That’s when I learned Serena just doesn’t merely encourage reading, but writing, too, by offering suggestions to start the words flowing.

Some of her ideas were though-provoking for me, too, so I clicked onto “New Document:” and began writing. I’ll share the results with you over the next few Sundays. Maybe, it will get someone else thinking (and typing), too.

Friday, February 25, 2011

The Man Without a Country by Everett Edward Hale

Written in the Victorian Era to inspire patriotism during the Civil War, Hale's piece is so convincingly written that people often believe the story is true.

I remember watching the 1973 movie with my parents and listening to, the following day, radio call-in comments about the cruelty of the punishment. I never read the actual story until years later when, as a homeschooler, Hale's story appeared in a high school literature textbook.

The story goes thus: During a trial for treason and in a fit of temper, U.S. Army lieutenant Philip Nolan renounces his country and is sentenced to life at sea with an added stipulation: He is forbidden future news about the United States.

The extreme measures to insure it, as well as Nolan's longing for homeland and developing patriotism is thought-provoking. Read it online.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Song # 9 Meditation Piano Solo - "After All" by James Onohan

Logo, Makeover, and First Appearances

Wow! Bryony is getting busy.

First, the official Bryony logo and tagline is complete, thanks to Bryony's illustrator, Kathleen Rose Van Pelt ( and CAL Graphisc, Inc (

To view, click onto Bryony's Facebook page:

My publicist, Dulcinea Hawksworth, has scheduled a makeover for this Friday afternoon and is coming with TWO cameras in tow--I don't own one :(--so she can take lots of pictures of the "new me" to post on the Bryony sites.

Now, this a little daunting for me because I don't wear makeup (I have chronic hives), but Dulcinea insists it's part of my packaging (see, and that the make-up is very hypo-allergenic.

I trust Dulcinea's judgment and, besides, it's should be a nice bonding time with my two daughters. Rebekah, seventeen, can heckle me in person, and my web administrator, Sarah Stegall, who lives out of state, can heckle me long-distance, via camera phones.

I have a dressmaker!!!

Last week she came to my house and measured me for my first, three Victorian outfits: two walking suits (spring and fall), and a ball gown. Yesterday, we purchased our first patterns and several yards of shimmering burgundy/black fabric, on sale.

Her future plans--sooner than later--is to kidnap me for a day (sans her children--two small boys who "helped" us yesterday look for patterns) and flee to a much larger, out-of-town fabric store.

Last, but certainly not least, Bryony has two upcoming events. Because any profits of the Bryony cookbook will be donated to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Will and Grundy Counties (, Bryony is supporting the 2011 Bowl for Kids' Sake in two ways, by helping to fund event costs and through pledge-sponsored bowling on March 25.

If you live in the area and want to become a sponsor, form a team, join an existing team, or pledge a bowler, visit for details. It takes $1000 to match one child with a positive adult mentor, so any help is welcomed, appreciated, and put to good use.

Bryony will also participate in an April 10 event at the Universalist Unitarian Church of Joliet ( I don't have details, but will share them when I do. Although WriteLife LLC does not yet have a release date for Bryony, the entire Bryony team is eager to start spreading the word.

To view sketches and biographies of the Bryony team, visit our website at or click here:

I wonder if the spring walking suit is appropriate for April 10. I certainly hope so!!!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Deep Dark Reason Why Friday’s Short Stories Have No Links

The answer is simple. Some sites that offer the free, copyright-expired stories don’t give permission to link to their sites.


I don’t understand why someone would create a site of stories to read for free, then not want people to link others to it. But I’ve read the terms of use on those sites, and it is right there, in the fine print.

However, finding the stories I succinctly summarize and review is simple. Just type the title and author into your browser and sites that offer it will pop up.

Not every story is a vampire story. Some are ghost stories or contain other aspects of the supernatural. Some are just stories I personally enjoy and/or find inspiring. Most are short and easily read in a short period of time.

FYI: I’m always looking for a good vampire story.
Feel free to send your ideas or links to

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Bryony's Three--Verse Scripture Playlist

Bryony is not a “Christian” vampire novel, nor did I write it specifically for a Christian audience.

And as a Christian, some—not all—of the songs on my inspirational playlist while I was writing Bryony are Christian. In fact, that playlist is very eclectic. I wrote about it here:

Yet, music was not the only tool I used to keep me focused on Bryony’s storyline during its roughtest drafts. Bryony contains thirty chapters, which I mentally divided into three parts of ten chapters each. Above each section was a virtual scripture-verse canopy that defined its theme. Here are the verses:

1 Peter 5:8. “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.”

Deuteronomy 30:19: “I set before you life and death, blessing and cursing. Therefore choose life.”

Isaiah 5:20: “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!”

Perhaps, if Fr. Alexis had been more discerning, he might have impressed these verses on Melissa and urged her to make different choices. But he didn’t and so….

Friday, February 18, 2011

A Madman's Manuscript by Charles Dickens

This is Chapter 11 of Dickens' The Pickwick Club, and, fictionally, it is exactly that.

A man who, unbeknowst to anyone, becomes convinced he is insane, relates how he goes about the business of life keeping his dark secret.

I found it more gripping than Edgar Allen Poe's The Tell-Tale Heart and really liked when the narrator screams: "'Damn you,' said I, starting up, and rushing upon him; 'I killed her. I am a madman. Down with you. Blood, blood! I will have it!'

You can read A Madman's Manuscript by Charles Dickens online.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Food Safety, Victorian-Style

In Part Four of The Supersizers Go Victorian, it is mentioned that half of all the period's street was contaminated.

Certainly, careful food storage was more challenging in the Victorian era than it is today. Perhaps, Melissa's aversion to many of the foodstuffs she encountered in 1890s Bryony kept her safe, a moot point when one is cavorting with vampires.

According to the 1850 version of Miss Beecher's domestic receiptbook: designed as a supplment to her Treatise on domestic economy, the following recommendations are given:

* After smoked beef or ham is cut, hang it in a coarse linen bag in the cellar and tie up to keep out flies.

* To restore rancid butter: Put fifteen drops of chloride of lime to a pint of water and and work the butter in it until every particle has come in contact with the water.

* Flour stored in barrels needs no other care other than putting it in a cool, dry place, where it is well-protected from rats and cockroaches.

* All salted provision must be watched and kept under the brine. When the brine looks bloody or smells badly, it must be scalded, and more salt put to it, and poured over the meat.

* Codfish is improved by changing it, once in awhile, back and forth from garret to cellar. Some dislike to have it in the house anywhere. Salt fish barrels must not be kept by other food, as they impart a fishy smell and taste to it.

* Cabbages and turnips in the cellar often impart a bad smell to the house. All decayed vegetable matter should be kept out of the cellar, as it creates a miasma, that sometimes causes the most fatal diseases.

Excuse me while I check the thermostat on my refrigerator.

The Supersizers Go Victorian 4

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Song # 8 Most relaxing music flute and orchestra - "Naruto Sadness and S...

Bryony and Bowl for Kids Sake

It's official! Bryony is now one of the sponsors of this year's Bowl for Kids' Sake for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Will and Grundy Counties (

My family has formed two teams that will be bowling at the March 25 Candlelight Bowl: Just Steve and Stake and Blade. If you would like to bowl with us that night or form your own Bryony team, message us at

Although team members have set modest goals, we are trying to raise as much money as possible. If you would like to sponsor me, click here:

Why should you get involved? According to BBBS, at-risk youth from single parent homes that have experienced their professionally supported, one-on-one mentoring have

* Higher graduation rates
* More positive relationships
* Increased levels of self-confidence

They are also

* 1/3 ess likely to become violent
* 46 percent less likely to use drugs
* 52 percent less likely to skip school

BBBS serves nearly 500 children annually in Will and Grundy Counties. Each $1,000 raised will allow one child to be safey and successfully matched to an adult volunteer for one year. This year's goal is to raise $100,000. Sponsorships fund event costs, so all of the money raised for Bowl for Kids' Sake goes directly to the children.

Why is Bryony getting involved? In my novel, the main character, Melissa, and her brother Brian, live, for a short time, in a single parent home, and are fortunate to have an adult mentor. This is our way of honoring and supporting the efforts of adults who consciously commit to influence children in positive, life-changing ways.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Case for Calkins Day

In Bryony, Melissa encounters an Irish vampire, Ed Calkins, the Steward of Tara, a ruthless dictator who relies on limericks to build up or tear down, depending if the limerick is about him or his enemy.

Ed is convinced that his February 13 birthday will one day be celebrated as a national holiday, initiating a three-day celebration, since it falls smack between Lincoln’s birthday and Valentine’s Day.

I think an official Calkins Day celebration is an excellent idea, and if Ed ever produces the mythical petition to suggest it, I’ll be one of the first to sign it. Here’s why: laughter, imagination and generosity.

Laughter: The benefits of a single smile last for an entire year, at least according to a paper published several years ago in the British Medical Journal. It said that happiness is contagious and that people pass on their good cheer even to total strangers. Such transferred happiness is good for up to a year.

Several years ago at Christmastime, the Herald News asked me to find and interview local people who illustrate that study. Naturally, Ed Calkins was one of them. He not only consistently hosts a Calkins Day Parade on his Feb. 13 birthday (where Ed rides a pallet jack and tosses candy to the bleary-eyed adults who are rolling newspapers), he organizes occasional pallet jack races and newspaper bagging contests.

“It’s true that I’m a ham,” Calkins had said. “But I also believe that good cheer is contagious. Delivering newspapers is a tough job and this helps keep morale up.”

Imagination: My four year old grandson believes he is a super hero, and prefers eating only green foods, so my daughter keeps a ready stock of green food coloring when he must eat foods (such as oatmeal) that lack that natural pigment. My three year old grandson, by turns, is a monster or a bear.

Somehow, as we grow past childhood, we stop allowing ourselves to dwell in a world of our own making, but where is the rule that says we must? If dubbing oneself a ruthless dictator, soliciting writers to create a newsletter, and spreading the spirit of Christmas makes another day bearable, why not?

Ah, yes, the Christmas season. Here’s how I led that laughter story.

Looking suspiciously like the jolly old elf himself, the grey-bearded, bespectacled Ed Calkins performs his managerial duties at a Rockdale early morning news agency while donned in a red Santa Claus cap.

But his resemblance to St. Nick doesn’t end there. Each morning, he distributes candy canes to the newspapers carriers and makes certain that his current “Queen of Christmas” (a female newspaper carrier who receives the title by popular vote) gets the age and sex of each of the carriers’ children under age 12 so Calkins can buy each an appropriate gift.

And that, dear reader, is the third reason why we should celebrate Calkins Day: Ed’s generosity. That doesn’t end with the packing away of the reindeer hats. Calkins annually cooks an entire steak dinner for his carriers (He bestows nicknames on them, too, such as “Viking Warrior” and “Goddess”). His wife makes the garlic bread for the annual steak dinner Ed grills, right in the parking lot of the distribution center. And, yes, Ed buys the steaks.

Would the fictional, ruthless Ed Calkins be dismayed at being remembered in such a positive way? Ed himself, in the earlier interview with him, Twenty Questions with Ed Calkins, said, “The ruthless dictator would say, ‘Look, there’s no such thing as bad publicity.’ King Midas is much better off than King Midas the Second, even though he was portrayed in a bad light, because nobody remembers King Midas the Second.”

Case rested.

Read more about Ed Calkins, including his interview, at Click on the link, The Steward of Tara.”

Monday, February 14, 2011

Who's Your Crush?

A couple of weeks ago at the distribution center, my teen daughter was playfully teasing another teen girl about someone she liked.

The latter, of courser, would not reveal his name, but I figured it out yesterday when the young man in question passed me in the aisle pushing a shopping cart full of newspapers. Of course, the girl was convinved I had noticed her staring at him or trying to hide a smile, but that wasn't the case, at all. It was simply intuition.

Then she surprised me by asking, "Who's your crush?"

Without hesitation, I answered, "He's imaginary."

The girl looked puzzled.

"He doesn't exist."

The confused look persisted.

"I write fiction," I said. "I have a book coming out this year."

Another carrier interrupted us at that point, and that was the end of it. This morning, being Valentine's Day, I'm recalling another conversation out on the route when, as we threw newspapers, my teens rattled off the names of the various couples featured in Bryony. Everyone, for their own reasons, had their favorite (Of course, we couldn't pair Henry with anbody, but that's another story).

I knew I had done an acceptable job with the story when I realized I was becoming jealous of Melissa. Despite my answer to the girl, in truth, I am "in love" with all of the characters, as well as the storyline and the ancillary details: the line drawings, the music, the recipes, and yes, even the editing, because it's through this last that I erase the subtle and not-so-subtle wrinkles from my prose, which then positively influences my other writing, too.

On Valentine's Day, many people will celebrate romance and still others will focus on the sacrificial love that is the hallmark of the Christian faith. I propose a third, which I hope all my readers will find, if they do not yet have it.

And that is a driving force, a passion for something that consumes you, shapes and spurs you forward--an art form, a cause, ministry--a reason for tumbling out of bed early, lighting the lamp late at night, and making the minutes between these poles, bearable, enjoyable, and filled with a satisfaction so tremendous it defies definition.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

My Calkins Day Address: An Open Letter to Egypt

In Bryony, Melissa meets Ireland's first official vampire, Ed Calkins. When he was alive, Ed had created an alter ego for himself, "The Steward of Tara," also known as a "ruthless dictator" who had conquered nations through insulting limericks.

Now that he is dead, Ed's imagination has no boundaries, so he freely pretends he is living the delusion. As a vampire, Ed is convinced intimidation comes not through threat of attack, but with insults. He also wholeheartedly believes true greatness rests in being Irish.

Throughout the books that comprise the Bryony series, Ed promotes that his birthday--today, February 13--should be celebrated as a national holiday with a parade, and in Bryony, Ed refers to a petition he is circulating to accomplish it.

In Bryony and in "real" life (for Ed Calkins is a real person, fictionlized twice over for Bryony), Ed works in a warehouse that distributes newspapers. In both cases, Ed accomplishes his dreams of Calkins Day glory by riding a pallet jack and tossing out handfuls of candy.

Tomorrow, I will give my reasons why I agree with Ed that Calkins Day should be a national holiday, and those reasons have nothing to do with ruthlessness, insulting verse, or honoring verbal bullies.

Here is Ed's "address," declining an "invitation" to rule Egypt. To learn more about Ed Calkins, visit Bryony's website at and click the link, "The Steward of Tara."

Dearest, Noble, and Grateful Egyptian Protesters,

Amidst the joyous celebrations commemorating Calkins Day, I must strike a note of regret, and decline your offer to become ruthless dictator of Egypt. Now, I wish in no way to imply that your country lacks greatness.

We of direct Irish descent have always felt a fondness for the inventors of beer. We further appreciated how your country embraced a religion that restricted its consumption to ensure a healthy supply for us true Irishmen around the world.

It was that respect, not any thought of reward or praise for myself, that prompted me to respond to your clandestine pleas for the composition of a limerick that would drive Mubarak from power. I was delighted that the objective was achieved so close to Calkins Day.

Still, I must decline your offer, as ruling Egypt would detract from my efforts towards stewardship of Tara, the striving for world peace, and my continued researching of world domination. A dictatorship such as mine might my last for fifty years or more, which could seriously limit my other efforts. Nor could I accept the billions of dollars you would be compelled to send me as compensation for my rule and wisdom.

I will always stand ready to assist Egypt or any other nation looking to replace their current dictator with a ruthless one. Together you and I (though mostly I), can show the world how powerful the threat of insults or poor opinion can work to right an undesirable situation and how war is best fought by people or nations who don't know how to compose insulting poetry.

Be not downcast on this day of victory for I will always lend my advice to your cause. Remember it shall always remain our secret that the greatest pharaohs in your country were actually Irish. In such a way we should always be as big brother to brother. On this Calkins Day, remember greatness comes not from money or weapons, but really great literature.

Ruthlessly yours,
Ed Calkins

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Calkins Day on a Budget

By Ed Calkins, the Steward of Tara

In this day and age, many of you, as you are getting ready for Calkins Day,( February, 13), may be finding a lack of resources in your budget. So, I have some suggestions on how you might celebrate the holiday without going too far into debt.

1) Pre-gift. Go out and buy yourself some thing you would like to receive on Valentine's Day. Give it to your spouse on Calkins day. Your spouse in turn will give it back to you on Valentine's Day.

2) Make up a country. Use your imagination to create a nation then ruthlessly take it over. You could do this as a family over Calkins Day dinner. Decide which of your children to appoint cabinet posts and how you would misappropriate public funds and abuse public power with the use of insults and limericks. Then make the least ruthless cabinet member do the dishes after meal.

3) Have your own parade. This is something you can also do with the family. Line up in a single file and walk around the house saying absurd or meaningless things in a voice twice as loud as conversational tone. It doesn't have to be a long parade. If you are the mayor of a large city you might copy what they were planning on in Chicago. Because of a lack of funds, the mayor was intending to have a parade a few days early, like the Monday or Tuesday after the Super Bowl. To spare the expense, he was going to invite the Chicago Bears to join the parade. By the way, the 'C' on the helmets stands for "Calkins". Unfortunately, Green Bay canceled these plans.

Friday, February 11, 2011

A Mystery of the Campagna by Anne Crawford

First published in 1887, making it perfectly plausible that any of Bryony’s Victorian characters might have read it.

The search for the perfect residence to write an opera physically separates a composer from his painter friend. Yet, as an unseen assailant grows stronger, the bond between the two friends grows strangely stronger. Who prevails?

Read it online.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

It's Not All Top Hats, Ball Gowns, and Carriages

Culinary arts student Timothy Baran speaks his mind on the latest Supersizer video.

When you think picnic lunch, do dead, baby squirrels and candied maggots come to mind?

No? Then the Victorian era is not for you. I always thought this elegant time in history would produce elegant food. Now it seems they often cooked with anything they found lying around their backyard or basement.

I'm fairly open about trying new foods, but I don’t know why people didn’t starve back then. Between this meal and the canned meat in the previous episode, I would have died long before the Victorian era ended.

The Supersizers Go Victorian 3

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Song # 7 Ambient Soothing Solo Piano-"Its Been A While" by James Onohan

The Business Brains Behind the Bryony Brand, Part 3

7) What might we find in your CD player?

“The music I like is very eclectic: At this moment - Veruca Salt, Aerosmith, Cole Porter, and meditation music are currently in the cd player- and when I’m undecided the shuffle function on my mp3 always serves me well. I appreciate and enjoy just about everything except hardcore country and rap.”

8) Why did you become involved with Bryony’s marketing?

“Because Denise always pushes back when I push further, and she answers all my questions. Denise is brilliant and makes magic on so many levels, while still managing to keep it together, but I don’t think she realizes that.”

9) What are your goals for the future? For Bryony?

“To move to a warmer climate.” (Giggles). “I want to grow the Bryony brand just to see where it goes. I can envision good things because Denise is such a huge fan of her work—she’s in tune with her inner three-year-old—and who doesn’t want to hang out with a three-year-old child spirit? Because of her crazy work schedule, Denise Unland keeps vampire hours, and when you get to work with vampires, you can stay up all night and watch the sun rise.”

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Businesss Brains Behind the Bryony Brand, Part 2

The second part of the interview with Dulcinea Hawksworth, Bryony's director of marketing.

4) In what types of outreach projects have you participated?

“I created and designed a CD of original music by local artists, Voices, to benefit victims of domestic violence and their children. I developed an outreach program for teens and went into the high schools and talked about the warning signs of domestic violence. A lot of teens start dating at fourteen and fifteen, so it’s too late if we wait until their twenties to start talking about things like dating/domestic violence; the cycle is already established. I’ve organized events and produced plays for V-day. I’ve also been involved with the Y-Me national breast cancer organization.”

5) How do you decide when to provide marketing services for an artist?

“Artists are typically not very good at marketing, but people who are willing to keep art alive hold a very special place in my heart. I like projects that have creative integrity, and I like working with open-minded individuals who are willing to think creatively when it comes to their business and are willing to actually pay attention when I answer their questions. Learning Marketing 101 the first time around is very cost effective. It only gets out of hand [for clients] when I have to repeat myself."

6) Please tell us about your own artistic ventures.

“I love anything tactile; I love the texture of art, which is why I like sculpting. I can sit down and watch a movie with a big glob of clay in front of me and when I’m done it’s a tree or something else I love. I make jewelry; I keep a journal and jot down things as they come; and I like to paint, although I don’t think I’m a very good painter- I get a lot in my hair and other random places.

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Business Brains Behind the Bryony Brand, Part 1

Meet Dulcinea Hawksworth, Bryony's director of marketing.
In this first of a three-part interview, Dulcinea discusses her love for public relations and her marketing style.

1) When did you realize public relations and marketing was the field for you?

“By accident, while working in non-profit. I really liked the fundraising aspect, of being able to help people and work with the community. Ever since I was a small child, my family has always given back. It makes me happy to make enough money to get the bills paid and be able to have that aspect in my life. I’m not a high roller—I don’t live the extreme life—but I get to do what I want to do, and I enjoy the clients I work with.”

2) What unique traits do you bring your clients?

“People have accused me of “Creative Activism”, stirring the pot and rainmaking. Growing a brand is like growing a plant or raising a child… It takes a village, (aka marketing team). You have a seed of an idea, and it’s my job to take that idea and run with it. All of my clients want the same thing: they want me to make them shine. I’ve worked in many facets of the community, which brings us to my little black book. If I can’t do something for a client, I know someone who can.”

3) Why did you gravitate toward community outreach and social justice?

“You’ve got to do what you love. Once I got a taste of it, I wanted to feel good about helping people in the community where I work and live. I’m also an artist, but it’s very, very hard to make a living sculpting in the desert.”

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Limerick Mission Aborted

By Ed Calkins, the Steward of Tara

I was tasked with the composition of a limerick about myself. I was given a deadline of Super Bowl Sunday. I could embellish that I was unable to find ghost writer who was up to such an important task.

The truth is my modesty prevented me from composing a Limerick about my own significance. Instead, I wrote one explaining the complexities of interpreting the encrypted social messages within this literary treasure about to be released to the public.

Like a treasure beneath a stormy dark sea
Are encrypted revelations in Bryony
but the truth at its core,
with his limericks and lore
is how ruthless Ed Calkins can be

Friday, February 4, 2011

The Vampire of Croglin Grange by Augustus Hare

Two brothers and a sister rent out the one-story, former Fisher residence known as Croglin Grange. During an especially hot summer, the siblings enjoy the shade of the veranda and the scenic view of the nearby churchyard. One night, the sister is awakened by a creature scratching at her window. Hint: It is not a squirrel.

Read it online.

An logical explanation for the attack is purported at

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Going Green, Cows Ears, and Heart Disease

By Timothy Baran, culinary arts student

I know it’s not Thanksgiving Day, but I am thankful for one thing… being born in the twentieth century. The food in the nineteenth century is very...unique.

The Victorians' perspective on not wasting is to be applauded. They were the very first “going green” people out there, but between eating a cow’s ear or sending it to some god-forsaken landfill, I’m casting it away to rot.

To try the food is to learn about the food, and for once I’m closing the door on learning, not just because of the “interesting food” but also the calories. One word: HEART DISEASE!!!!!!! The amount of meat and fat that was consumed makes me want to ***** up ***** in my *******!!!

Although gaining knowledge about this era and the food served is truly a very interesting history lesson. Maybe, in my classes, I ‘ll get a chance to experiment with this kind of food (but not eat it, hopefully).

The Supersizers go...(episode5, part2/6)

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Song # 6 Epic Piano Instrumental - "Escape" by James Onohan

What Do You Consider the Most Overrated Virtue?

For the first time in my newspaper delivery history, we carriers were told to stay home on account of Blizzard 2011. I suddenly went from cold dread at braving the brutal storm to giddy elation knowing I could spend the entire night working on Bryony's prequel. I've got this horrid cold, but my bed is but a few feet from the computer, very handy, in case I succomb.

Right now, I'm filling out character questionnaires. I originally intended to use them on the freshly introduced, minor players, but for warm-up practice, I decided to work up the familiar, main characters, too. I completed Bryony's then tackled John's.

Although the other books in the BryonySeries have already addressed some of the more obvious topics, such as, "Do you have a secret?" and "Have you ever been in love?" questions such as this blog's title made me pause and think.

So did, "Who is John Simons' favorite fictional character?" "What smells does John associate with his childhood kitchen?" and "Whom does he secretly admire?"

Certainly I could answer all of the above (Okay, I punted on John's favorite fictional character), yet typing out the responses solidified personality traits and moral worldviews, making me feel closer to the charcters and more confident to tell their story.

Of course, listening to the music James Onohan ( composed for Bryony through headphones (so as not to wake the sleeping household) definitely set the mood, too.

All in all, not a bad way to spend a snowed-in night.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

I Am a Commodity

I didn’t say it. My publicist, Dulcinea Hawksworth, did, about me.

I argue that my writing is a commodity, and she agrees with that, but also insists that I, too, as Bryony's author, am a commodity. Because I trust Dulcinea’s judgment, that’s why I’m at the mall with my mother and my daughter Rebekah, 17, when I should be huddled under the covers nursing my cold.

They have talked me into finally using the gift card one of my older sons gave to me four Christmases ago. My throat burns, my head hurts, and my body is really aching, but my mother, armed with credit cards and coupons, is definitely on a mission, since I only do this shopping thing about once every five years (No, seriously).

My oldest daughter, Sarah, who lives out of state, is serving as consultant via cell phone cameras. Rebekah has a supply of water bottles in her purse and feeds me an occasional cough drop. My mother buys me a coffee.

I am a commodity.

In JCPenney, the racks are full of jeans with pre-made holes. Before I decide I’m in style, after all, I catch a glimpse of my image, still dressed in route clothing, as I pass a mirror. I resemble a waif from an Oliver Twist orphanage. I decide to keep my mouth shut.

I am a commodity.

I stand in front of the mirror at Christopher & Banks with an armful of clothes my entourage selected for me and repeat those words. It’s not working. I'm still not believing it. The words of the White Queen from Through the Looking Glass echo in my head.

“Try again,” I hear the White Queen say. “Draw a long breath, and shut your eyes.”

Nope, I still don’t believe it, and it’s not because I haven’t had much practice, either. In a household as lively as ours, I have sometimes witnessed six impossible things before breakfast. I open the door, show off a very nice purple skirt and sweater combination and stare in horror at the khaki pants my mother is holding up.

“I can’t wear that color,” I protest. “I’ll look like I have yellow fever.”

But she pairs it with a navy blue sweater, which offsets the sallow color. The combination actually looks quite nice. It’s one of many clothing battles I will lose that day. The biggest conflict concerned the skinny-leg jeans at Carson Pirie Scott.

“My legs are too bony for these,” I said.

Rebekah and my mother look at each other and roll their eyes. “Some of us would love to have those legs,” my mother said.

“I can’t even move. I feel like I’m wrapped in cling plastic.”

“I’ll get a bigger size,” my mother said and returns with a 6.

I try them on, but they’re too baggy, so it’s back to the 4’s. Once the they’re are paired with a cream-colored turtle neck; a quilted, reversible vest; and a pair of nice, suede boots, I’m relaxed enough that I try on, for a lark, mind you, the size two leopard dress someone had abandoned in the dressing room.

My mother and Rebekah take bets on whether or not I’ll get into it. Ha! I do.
Triumphantly, I open the door. My mother looks pleased (she’s the one who found the dress), and an amazed Rebekah takes my picture with her cell phone and sends it to Sarah. Arghh! Too late!

“Did you include terms of use?”

Rebekah looks blank.

“Great. Knowing Sarah, she’ll probably post that as my new profile picture on Facebook.”

I check when I get home, to be sure, but the only thing Sarah has posted is a link to the music room on the Bryony website ( The page looks great, and Sarah is highly pleased with her efforts. She's also had a highly productive phone consult with Ed Calkins, the Steward of Tara, but that's for another post.

However, I've been out way too late when I have to get up at midnight and deliver newspapers. Rebekah has offered to put away the entire wardrobe, so I drag myself up the ladder stairs to my attic office to check mail. My oldest son is gone for the night, but offered his chauffeuring assistance for the following night, after the blizzard starts, if I’m still sick.

Oh, and did I mention my mother gave Bryony’s website to every salesperson we met? So, I guess, whether or not I’m a commodity at this point is irrelevant. Right now, I’m feeling pretty blessed with my very supportive family. Even though, my mother's parting remark was, "Next, we'll have to do something about your hair!"

Not the hair!!!