Monday, October 31, 2011

Bryony...the Audio Book?

A couple of weeks ago, I received the following message from a Facebook friend: "I wondered if you had considered making Bryony into an audiobook? It seems like the book would translate well to audio. We can chat if you'd like more information about the process."


So with Bryony still caught up in red tape, which I'm hearing should be resolved in a week or so (crossing my fingers and stepping over cracks, etc.), I agreed to meet with her this morning and listen to an interesting proposal.

Now, before she had sent that message, I had only vaguely and briefly considered an audio book format for Bryony, especially since, to be honest, I don't know many people who prefer an audio book to print. 'Course, I don't know too many people that are infatuated with eReaders, either, and I know I'll be makking Bryony available in electronic format.

So, I gathered a little background about the process of converting a book to audio and gathered a few
opinions. These ranged from disbelief that it could be complicated or timeconsuming ("What's the big deal about reading into a microphone?") to incredulity that audio books hadn't been on my agenda ("What do you think traveling sales reps read?")

This morning over coffee and hot chocolate, my friend and I discussed some initial details about the project. I, in turn, received some postive and valuable feedback about Bryony's marketing to this point and left the meeting feeling empowered that the Bryony team was on the right track.

Will there be an audio book? Well, she received my stock answer to anyone that's expressed a desire to get involved: "Read it first and then decide."

I'm sending her the release today.

Friday, October 28, 2011

"The Oval Portrait" by Edgar Allen Poe

Bryony echoes the main theme in Poe's 1850 short story: an artist in passionately in love with his work and the spouse who feels in competition with the art.

The chateau into which my valet had ventured to make forcible entrance, rather than permit me, in my desperately wounded condition, to pass a night in the open air, was one of those piles of commingled gloom and grandeur which have so long frowned among the Appennines, not less in fact than in the fancy of Mrs. Radcliffe. To all appearance it had been temporarily and very lately abandoned. We established ourselves in one of the smallest and least sumptuously furnished apartments. It lay in a remote turret of the building. Its decorations were rich, yet tattered and antique. Its walls were hung with tapestry and bedecked with manifold and multiform armorial trophies, together with an unusually great number of very spirited modern paintings in frames of rich golden arabesque. In these paintings, which depended from the walls not only in their main surfaces, but in very many nooks which the bizarre architecture of the chateau rendered necessary- in these paintings my incipient delirium, perhaps, had caused me to take deep interest; so that I bade Pedro to close the heavy shutters of the room- since it was already night- to light the tongues of a tall candelabrum which stood by the head of my bed- and to throw open far and wide the fringed curtains of black velvet which enveloped the bed itself. I wished all this done that I might resign myself, if not to sleep, at least alternately to the contemplation of these pictures, and the perusal of a small volume which had been found upon the pillow, and which purported to criticise and describe them.

Long- long I read- and devoutly, devotedly I gazed. Rapidly and gloriously the hours flew by and the deep midnight came. The position of the candelabrum displeased me, and outreaching my hand with difficulty, rather than disturb my slumbering valet, I placed it so as to throw its rays more fully upon the book.

But the action produced an effect altogether unanticipated. The rays of the numerous candles (for there were many) now fell within a niche of the room which had hitherto been thrown into deep shade by one of the bed-posts. I thus saw in vivid light a picture all unnoticed before. It was the portrait of a young girl just ripening into womanhood. I glanced at the painting hurriedly, and then closed my eyes. Why I did this was not at first apparent even to my own perception. But while my lids remained thus shut, I ran over in my mind my reason for so shutting them. It was an impulsive movement to gain time for thought- to make sure that my vision had not deceived me- to calm and subdue my fancy for a more sober and more certain gaze. In a very few moments I again looked fixedly at the painting.

That I now saw aright I could not and would not doubt; for the first flashing of the candles upon that canvas had seemed to dissipate the dreamy stupor which was stealing over my senses, and to startle me at once into waking life.

The portrait, I have already said, was that of a young girl. It was a mere head and shoulders, done in what is technically termed a vignette manner; much in the style of the favorite heads of Sully. The arms, the bosom, and even the ends of the radiant hair melted imperceptibly into the vague yet deep shadow which formed the back-ground of the whole. The frame was oval, richly gilded and filigreed in Moresque. As a thing of art nothing could be more admirable than the painting itself. But it could have been neither the execution of the work, nor the immortal beauty of the countenance, which had so suddenly and so vehemently moved me. Least of all, could it have been that my fancy, shaken from its half slumber, had mistaken the head for that of a living person. I saw at once that the peculiarities of the design, of the vignetting, and of the frame, must have instantly dispelled such idea- must have prevented even its momentary entertainment. Thinking earnestly upon these points, I remained, for an hour perhaps, half sitting, half reclining, with my vision riveted upon the portrait. At length, satisfied with the true secret of its effect, I fell back within the bed. I had found the spell of the picture in an absolute life-likeliness of expression, which, at first startling, finally confounded, subdued, and appalled me. With deep and reverent awe I replaced the candelabrum in its former position. The cause of my deep agitation being thus shut from view, I sought eagerly the volume which discussed the paintings and their histories. Turning to the number which designated the oval portrait, I there read the vague and quaint words which follow:

"She was a maiden of rarest beauty, and not more lovely than full of glee. And evil was the hour when she saw, and loved, and wedded the painter. He, passionate, studious, austere, and having already a bride in his Art; she a maiden of rarest beauty, and not more lovely than full of glee; all light and smiles, and frolicsome as the young fawn; loving and cherishing all things; hating only the Art which was her rival; dreading only the pallet and brushes and other untoward instruments which deprived her of the countenance of her lover. It was thus a terrible thing for this lady to hear the painter speak of his desire to pourtray even his young bride. But she was humble and obedient, and sat meekly for many weeks in the dark, high turret-chamber where the light dripped upon the pale canvas only from overhead. But he, the painter, took glory in his work, which went on from hour to hour, and from day to day. And be was a passionate, and wild, and moody man, who became lost in reveries; so that he would not see that the light which fell so ghastly in that lone turret withered the health and the spirits of his bride, who pined visibly to all but him. Yet she smiled on and still on, uncomplainingly, because she saw that the painter (who had high renown) took a fervid and burning pleasure in his task, and wrought day and night to depict her who so loved him, yet who grew daily more dispirited and weak. And in sooth some who beheld the portrait spoke of its resemblance in low words, as of a mighty marvel, and a proof not less of the power of the painter than of his deep love for her whom he depicted so surpassingly well. But at length, as the labor drew nearer to its conclusion, there were admitted none into the turret; for the painter had grown wild with the ardor of his work, and turned his eyes from canvas merely, even to regard the countenance of his wife. And he would not see that the tints which he spread upon the canvas were drawn from the cheeks of her who sate beside him. And when many weeks bad passed, and but little remained to do, save one brush upon the mouth and one tint upon the eye, the spirit of the lady again flickered up as the flame within the socket of the lamp. And then the brush was given, and then the tint was placed; and, for one moment, the painter stood entranced before the work which he had wrought; but in the next, while he yet gazed, he grew tremulous and very pallid, and aghast, and crying with a loud voice, 'This is indeed Life itself!' turned suddenly to regard his beloved:- She was dead!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Meet the Reverend Sandy D. Costa, author of Bryony's Forward

Rev. Sandra D. Costa is a founding member of Treibh na Tintean of Joliet, Illinois. She is a priestess, Reiki master teacher, minister, editor, artist, activist, writer, sometimes English teacher, and the author of the very awesome forward in Bryony.

1 ) You wear so many hats: Reiki master teacher, minister, artist, editor, activist, writer and sometime English teacher. Tell us a little about each one.

"Reiki is an ancient eastern form of energy healing. What I love about it is that you can only help people with Reiki—you cannot make a mistake! I love teaching people about Reiki and empowering them to heal themselves and others.
"My ministry is small—I give a little extra support to the people in my pagan circle. When they need a kind word, or encouragement, a reminder of the Goddess’ love for them, or a different perspective on a problem, I like to be there for them—as they have been there for me.
"My art consists mostly of making jewelry—because I cannot wear it all—I must attempt to sell it! I like working with healing stones and sterling wire. I take my idea, the materials and the process of creating a piece to see what actually comes out at the end.

"I feel the most important skill we can develop is that of articulating our most deeply held beliefs. To help OTHER people achieve that, I edit manuscripts. I attempt my own writing from time to time—mostly opinion work, or parts of a ritual. It is what I “preach” about in my activism, what I teach my students, and hopefully what I do myself.

2) When you heard about Bryony from Dulcinea Hawksworth, director of marketing, why were you eager read and review it?

"She was excited to be working with you on publicizing this book. I was intrigued and asked how I could get involved. After I met you, you offered to let me read the manuscript. I jumped at the chance—not only is that what I do, it was a privilege to be asked. When I realized you were not pandering to the faddish notion that vampires are angsty, misunderstood and noble, I was very pleased to write a review."

3) Why should teens read this book?

 "I was especially pleased that your young main character makes lots of mistakes. Better young people learn the consequences of “leaping before they look” in fiction than in real life. Melissa is a willful, smart, impulsive and fairly typical teenager. She sees what she wants to see in John, not what is readily apparent."\

4) What makes Bryony interesting to adults, too?

"As the mother of a young woman, it was interesting to see how little a parent can know about a child’s life. I thought I knew what was going on in my daughter’s life, but I only knew what she let me know. Parenting is an exercise in trust—in what one has taught one’s children, and the child herself. Melissa is a prime example of that partial knowledge.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Ireland, Legacy, and a Marriage Proposal

Immortality and noteriety are the two reasons why Ed Calkins, the Steward of Tara, agreed to become an Irish vampire in Bryony. This makes Ed the first "real" Irish vampire, since Ireland has no distinct vampire mythology (until now).

In the selection below, Tommy Connolly, a member of the Bryony team, shares the memorable trip to Ireland with his father. The trip had but one mission--to seek out and visit a town named Connolly--but for Tommy, it alsoincluded a spontaneous decision to begin building his own family legacy.

Tommy is a recovering alcoholic; he blogs about his experiences at He plans to release a collection of those blogs, Soul Parole: Making Peace with my Mind, God, and Myself, in December.

On February 21, 2002, my Father and I left for a seven day trip to Ireland. We arrived to cold and rain, mixed with colder, harder rain and accented with occasional stinging, frozen sleet. It rained everyday, but we had some sunny spots here and there.

We weren't in for the touristy side of the country, so we rented a car and started driving. We left Dublin with only one planned point on the trip and that was to visit the town of CONNOLLY in County Clare. One of the funniest things on our trip was my first dinner in Dublin. My dad suggested Indian food! Indian food? In Ireland? He didn't eat Indian food in America, but we flew three thousand miles to try the stuff! I hated it (and still do).

The "Ring of Kerry" winds and climbs along route N-70 on the southwest coast of the Emerald Isle. I loved everything about the awe-inspiring island. The coast was like heaven. Every fifty feet was a spectacular panorama of peat bogs, inlets, hills, fields, stone fences, and breathtaking flowers. The vast Atlantic lay beyond. God truly was inspired when He painted Ireland. Every scene is a giant green postcard, and I would recommend a visit to anyone, except those pesky terrorists.

Driving takes exceptional skill for visitors and townsfolk alike. Sheep run free on the roads in herds, color-coated so the owners can recognize their stock. When driving on the opposite side of the road, there are no railings or shoulders, but plenty of deep cutting cliffs and slopes. If you slide off the shoulder, eternity will greet you. There are also roadside chapels, painstakingly crafted, in the middle of nowhere, with amazingly ornate statues and seats for prayer. Those driving past can give praise for the beauty or, at least, thanks for making it around the sheep.
We moved through the last few days of our adventure and stopped in a tiny coastal town called Sneem, population six hundred. Here was Ireland complete. There was a church, a pub, a petrol station, a general store, a feed store, a couple quaint shops, and a few more pubs, and a few beds & breakfasts.
As we parked our "smart car" sized Renault in front of the pub of my father's choice, there wasn't a soul to be found. Nothing, nobody, zippo. It was like that ghost town in the Brady Bunch episode with Jim Backus (Mr. Magoo and Thurston Howell the Third) as the crazy miner. Thank God, Mr. Brady was able to knock the jail cell key down with that rope of belts. Ooh! I get the chills remembering the intrigue and ingenuity of Father Brady.

Anyway, there was no one around and we walked from colorful shop to colorful shop. All were trimmed in bright reds, brilliant greens, and other eye-catching hues…and all were locked. We returned to the car and sat perplexed at the silence. It was as if the whole town vanished. We were planning to move down the road when, at the end of the main street, we heard the gong of a church bell. Gong!......Gong!......Gong! The doors flung open, and the whole town spilled into the street right where we sat awestruck. Someone had died, and I think all six hundred townspeople attended the funeral. They scurried back to their shops and continued their business in the colorful town.

We asked for directions to the best bed and breakfast and drove back to check in. It was a quaint home with a spectacular view of a lake and the ocean beyond. I could have stayed there forever. We returned to the pub for dinner. I have mixed emotions by confessing I only had nonalcoholic beer in Ireland. The selections they had were quite good, and I managed to stay free from the attention of the Garda during our entire visit. The most memorable part of the night occurred when a homeless man with a puppy entered the pub. He placed the puppy on the floor, and the little nipper ran right to my father and leaped into his arms, licking and pawing at my dad.

Dad enjoyed a few beers, but the country, as a whole, intoxicated me. The people, sights, and charm of the Emerald Isle live up to the hype. Still very much sober and full of nonalcoholic beer, I told my dad I was going exploring. That expedition was a street of about a quarter mile. At the end of the way was a typical English phone booth, bright red and stark sitting on the edge of Sneem. I walked toward the booth and saw it butted against a tiny bridge with a bubbling creek snaking and crawling underneath and through the idyllic village.

As I followed the course of the river, it flowed gracefully into a lake, then into the ocean beyond. Even though it was ten o’clock, sunlight still cracked through the skies above. The vision magnificently burned in my mind. I thought of my roommate, partner in crime, and best friend sleeping soundly back in the states. She was everything I had ever pictured and my perfect foil. Where I was weak, she was strong. When I was miffed, she was relaxed. She was a great mother, and I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her. We had been living together longer than my three other marriages combined, and I was inspired by the moment’s beauty and grace.

I can be impulsive. It comes with my nature. It was four o’clock in the morning back at home, and I knew Squeaky wouldn't be waking for another hour, but I was consumed. I was driven! I felt my heart leap and sing that THIS was the moment, even though I was an ocean away from her. I dialed the states direct, and she answered the phone slightly startled, and a wee irritated, by the early morning call. She accepted the charges, and I rambled endlessly about the beauty of Sneem and the events of the day. After a few minutes of rambling like a kid who downed a bowl of sugar, my focus returned to my mission.

I started to sob as I confessed my unwavering love for her and the kids. I said the magic words: "Will you marry me?" She began sobbing too, the good sobbing of course. Her first response was, "Are you serious?" I gushed as tears spilled around me and shouted, "YES! I have never been more sure of anything!" She shot back excitedly, "You traveled to Ireland; you're standing in a phone booth at four o’clock in the morning; and you're asking me to marry you? I caught my breath, slowed my tone, and replied, "Yes, I am." She cried a sweet sigh and said with complete assurance, "I would be proud to be your wife..."

God I love Ireland!

Friday, October 21, 2011

"The Necklace," by Guy de Maupassant

First published in 1884, "The Necklace," by Guy de Maupassant has an O. Henry-type surprise ending that makes this a good read until the end.

A young woman, married to a poor clerk, dreams of living in high society. She gets her chance to live that fantasy when her husband, knowing her discontent, begs for two tickets to a posh event. She greatly overspends the budget to buy an expensive dress and borrows a necklace from a rich friend, since fake jewels would be most inappropriate at such a magnificent affair.

Unfortunately, the woman loses the necklace. Read it here:

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Victorian Cuisine on a Budget

Living during a recession isn't the first time people bemoaned their budget.

Despite the romance surrounding the Victorian era, not every meal served was attached to a lavish ball or formal dinner party. Here is a one-dish, budget-friendly dinner from the 1860,
Miss Beecher’s domestic receiptbook: designed as a supplement to her Treatise on domestic economy.

Stewed Beef:

Early in the morning, take a shank or hock of beef, with all the meat belonging to it, and put it, and a tablespoon of salt, in a pot full of boiling water. Let it simmer very slowly, until the beef is soft, and cleaves from the bone, and the water is reduced to two quarts. Then peel some potatoes, and cut them into quarters, and throw in with two teaspoons of black pepper, two of sweet marjoram, and two of thyme or summer savory. Add some celery flavor or sauce and more salt, if necessary. Stew until the potatoes are cooked enough, but not until they are mashed. Then take dry bread, and throw in, breaking it into small pieces, and when soaked, take up the whole and serve it, and everybody will say it is about the best dish they ever tasted. For those who love onions, slice three or four and put in with the potatoes. Rice can be used instead of bread.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

VampFest Revisted

Today, my son Christopher and I presented the proceeds of VampFest to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Will and Grundy Counties. I haven't yet received VampFest photos from Stephen Tuplin, director of Bryony media, as he left town soon after the event to tour with a local Christian music group, but he promised he would edit the video and send photos soon.

Highlights of the evening included the serving up of "bites and nibbles" from the upcoming Bryony cookbook:

   ·         Fried “O’Brien-style” potatoes

·         Mini corn dogs

·         Black Avocado Dip with Homemade Tortilla Chips

·         Corn Dip With Homemade Tortilla Chips

·         Cucumber and Tomato Salad

·         Marinated Onions, Mushrooms, and Peppers

·         Chicken Salad

·         Shepherd’s Pie

·         Stuffed Mini Peppers

·         Pork Tenderloins with Cabbage and Kraut

·         Vegetarian Chili

·         Pear Mascarpone French Toast

·         Toffee-Apple French Toast

·         Sweet Potato Pudding

Many characters from the book--in period dress--served and interacted with the guests.

Teen classic rock band, Street Worthy, represented the 1970s.

Romantic pianist/composer James Onohan symbolized the Victorian era by playing, for the first time, original songs from the brand-new Bryony CD, The Best-Loved Compositions of John Simons.

Alas, red tape meant we had no books to sell, but we raffled off one of two proof copies we received for $100, which we also donated to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Will and Grundy Counties. We hope to have copies of both the novel and the cookbook available SOON!

For those who missed the festivities (or are loath to see them end), Bryony will be at the HS Healing and Wellness Center's first Pumpkin Fest from 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. this Saturday, Oct. 22. The day features tarot readings, face painting, live music by James Onohan, pumpkin decorating, and storytelling. The center is located at 3117 W. Jefferson Street in Joliet. For more information call 815-741-4386.

The following week, I will be at the same Healing and Wellness Center from 4 to 5 p.m. reading Halloween stories.

Mostly, I'd like to thank everyone who contributed into the success of VampFest:

The Bryony Team: Dulcinea Hawksworth, director of marketing and event host/ coordinator; Tommy Connolly, media researcher and developer and emcee; Sarah Stegall, web administrator and silent auction co-coordinator; James Onohan, Bryony's pianist and composer; Virginia Schonbachler, silent auction and raffle co-coordinator; Stephen James Tuplin of Echo White Fox and Josh Siegers of JKS Productions for photography and videography; Heather Frelichowski of Crafty Moms Inc for costume design, Harwood Post and especially Mary Hischier, for supplying food, venue, and general guidance.

Vendors: Matt Coundiff of A Thin Line Tattoo, Vanna Fleetwood of Dimensions Barber and Salon, Sandy Costa of Foo Tribe Jewelry,  HS Healing and Wellness Center, Bryony cookbook contest winner  Kathryn Russ Dunlap and Rufio products, Andrea Rodriguez of Sugar Mama, Inc., and Valerie’s Heavenly Scents.

Volunteers: Christopher Baran, Daniel Baran, Rebekah Baran, Timothy Baran, Karen Bonarek, Rachel Bonarek, Rose Bonerk, Amber Cable,, Becky Colwell, Noah Curl, Donna Krofta, Justin Ongenae, Carolyn Sallade, Bryony cookbook contest winner Nola Sawyer, Rachel Schall

An especial thank you to Ed Calkins, Cal Graphics, Inc., Dawn Aulet, Fast Printing of Joliet, J and M Printing, John Heinz, and Street Worthy; the members of the Heavenly Sinners Writer’s Guild for their enthusiastic support and to Tommy Connolly and Virginia Schonbachler for supplying, out of pocket, all the last minute and much needed items; and also to Kosack’s Formalwear, Joliet Junior College theatre department, the P. Seth Magosky Museum of Victorian Life for supplying costumes, all of our silent auction donors, and those the generous supporters of the event.

If you'd like to be added to Bryony's virtual mailing list for updates, please contact me at


Monday, October 17, 2011

This and That

Yes, a VampFest update is coming soon--tomorrow, I promise--but it's been a little crazy and somewhat fun since the time I nodded off about two o'clock Saturday morning after VampFest, so without further ado, here's a quick recap of the author's life since the pre-book launch and fundraiser:

   *  Came home to an electrical issue that became an electrical problem by morning. Praise God an electrician lives next door and quickly fixed the problem.

   *  Two of my teens had warehouse work that afternoon, which was not done on Friday, because of the fundraiser. So they went in one direction with their stepfather, and I burned up the keyboard with stories due by Monday morning.

   *  Sunday morning we took a pass on church because we had to clean the warehouse. This is usually a several hour project that takes the majority of a Sunday afternoon, but because of an event, had to be done in the morning. Missing Divine Liturgy and its accompanying sacraments is always hugely disappointing to me; the fact I caught up on filing and bills while Rebekah ran around the house with her obligations only made me feel marginally better.

   *  Packed bags for sleepover and work the next morning. As usual, when I'm trying to transfer my village for the day, I forget stuff.

   *  Spent several hours cleaning, then over to my mother's house to clean up and change clothes for Big Finale, the annual chef-created, all-dessert fundraiser for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Will and Grundy Counties. Although I had written about the Big Finale in the past, because of church obligations and financial constraints, had never attended one. This year, however, Timothy was representing Joliet Junior College with a deep-fried, taffy apple cheesecake he created; his submission won Best Dessert. Unfortunately, we missed that part, since Sarah and I had to leave early for Bryony marketing meeting. Congratulations, Timothy and Joliet Junior College!

   *  After the meeting, I returned to my mother's, where Sarah and her four year old son Lucas were staying while they were in town, for a girls night in, the first time I had spent the night under one roof with both daughters in nine years. The girls watched the Chicago Bears game with my mother while Lucas shared popcorn with me. He counted out his kernels in English and Japanese; I caught up on mail and pretended to work while really scrolling through my News Feed on Facebook. I stayed up past midnight chatting to a friend on the phone; my daughters sat up watching Sixteen and Pregnant on Sarah's laptop.

   *  A couple of hours later, Rebekah's phone alarm blared Korean pop music, and I was awake. I stumbled down the stairs through a dark house to put on coffee, check mail, and get to work. Since I'm technically handicapped (I'm not disabled; just clueless when it comes to technology), and lost when it comes to simple laptop tasks, such as adjusting my volume control, "You got mail!" boomed through the quiet house, but Sarah and Lucas, sleeping above in the loft, did not stir.

   *  I put the finishing touches on a couple of stories, enjoyed breakfast with my father, and then realized I only had the cell phone and email of my first interview. I called Ron, who sent Daniel up to the attic for my appointment book. Ron could read every phone number clearly except for the home number I needed, but he guessed it was an eight. I figured if that was wrong, "three" would probably do it, but that was incorrect, too. "Nine" wasn't much help, so I called the gentleman in question's cell phone, left a message, and did the same via email. I sent the pet picture for Tuesday's story, and my cell phone rang. It was he, and the elusive number was "five!"

   * I quickly followed up that interview with my second, checked mail, and took a brief nap, then devoured an eclectic lunch with the girls and Lucas. When I came home, the cats were highly ecstatic to see me. That could only mean one thing.

   "Daniel," I called over the radio where he was folding Joshua's clothes in the laundry room. "Did you feed the cats at noon?"

   "No," Daniel said, "calmly shaking his head and folding a T-shirt. "We're out of cat food."

   Be it ever so humble....

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Ed Calkins on VampFest

Ed Calkins, the Steward of Tara, made an appearance--in a kilt--last night at VampFest, and it was fortunate for all that he was there.

Several times during the evening, whenever "Bryony" was mentioned, Ed was at hand to quickly interject how the story is really about him, although that fact may not be completely obvious at first glance.

"I'm not sure even the author is aware of it," Ed said.

Ed graciously posed for several photographs before the pictorial backdrop of a window inside Simons Mansion overlooking the vast estate. Although he originally planned to distribute limericks and samples of his "Bryony" game, Ed apolgized for having neither.

"I keep modifying the game," Ed said. "I'm having a hard time finishing it."

He thoroughly enjoyed the food, mingling with the guests, and swaying to the music, although none of the entertainment was Irish-themed. The Steward did, however, express great displeasure at yet another delay in "Bryony's" road to publication, since he had hoped to sign many copies that night.

"I'm telling you, the IVA is very displeased," Ed said.

I assured Ed we were doing everything humanly and subhumanly possible to get "Bryony" into readers' hands as quickly as possible. I certainly would never wish to raise the ire of the Irish Vampire Association.

Friday, October 14, 2011

"Adrift on an Ice Pan," by Wilfred T. Grenfell

"Adrift on an Ice Pan," by Wildred T. Grenfell is one of my most favorite short stories. Several sites offer it for free online reading.

On Easter Sunday in1908, Grenfell, a doctor, must see a patient near Newfoundland's Great Northern Peninsula. He cuts across a bay to shorten a few miles, but the ice breaks up beneath him and one of his dogs drowns. Grenfell and his remaining dogs climb onto an ice pan and drift out to sea. How he spends the next day and night is a testimony to man’s will to survive.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Tale of Hawksworth

At last month's Heavenly Sinnners Writer's Guild, Dulcinea Hawksworth, Bryony's director of marketing Dulcinea Hawkswoth and group founder and coordinator, asked members to interview someone and write about them.

Kristina Skaggs, author of "Dead Serious," which is available for reading on the "Harold Masters" link at, submitted the following last night after interviewing Dulcinea:

It takes a few tries to get into a head like Dulcinea Hawksworth.  Outwardly, she’s bubbly and talkative.  There are a few taps on her shoulder, a few mental hand-raises to grab her attention, finally she turns, and smiles, and then there she is—all yours.

On the path to becoming an author, there are many trails to get lost on.  For Ms. Hawksworth, journalism came first, then communications, then public relations, all inspired by wanting to write commercial jingles.  One can imagine young Dulci sitting fireside humming along to Oscar Myer with her brother, Doug.  The two create sing-song lyrics about marshmallows, popsicles, and cat litter.  They laugh, giggle and each creates a future based on how the word marshmallow rhymes with the words beef callow.

It wasn’t until college that Ms. Hawksworth came to her first conclusion.  Writing has a purpose.  And her second; free speech comes with a bad grade, if it’s not the kind of free speech your Writing 101 teacher expects.  Feminism, as it turns out, is not an option.  It is necessary.  It is a right.  It is every woman’s dream to be equally expressed as her male counterpart.  Her teacher explained against Hawksworth belief that it should be a blend of one’s personal choices.  Yes, feminism has a time and place, but does a woman need to stand on a soapbox each time a male opens the door for her?  Ms. Hawksworth bonded with her mother’s own experience dealing with biased professors.  She learned early that expressing a point of view is a privilege, not a right. 

After college, Hawksworth dabbled in advertising, media, and impressing the illusive target market.  Currently Duclinea Hawkswoth writes for the site and helps to realize the dreams of her fellow author friends as their public relations manager. 

What Dulcinea wants: a perfect blend of public relations, marketing, and journalism.  What about a published book?  Not necessary.  For Dulcinea and writing  the more the merrier. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Bryony-Piano Love Composition by James Onohan

The Whole Package Deal

For several weeks I have been talking back and forth with George Kosack of Kosacks Black Tie Formal Wear, in Joliet, IL. He was very knowledgeable in 19th century styles and willing to help Big Brothers Big Sisters of Will and Grundy County in any way.

"Anything in the store you need, let me know," George said last month. After a local college donated many costume items and The P. Seth Magosky Museum of Victorian Life donated canes, jackets, and top hats, we were almost set, just short a few jackets and vests.

I went into Kosacks last night and was pleasantly greeted by Andy. After explaining who I was and what I needed he was all business. He quickly paired items and brought out jackets. Timothy Baran, who is playing Henry, a 19th century dandy, was very excited to see his look come together. "I could just live here," he gushed. After another look he proclaimed, " I would dress like this every day if I could, even if I have nowhere to go!"

I feel like a little kid on Christmas morning because I'm the one picking up the items today that Andy stayed and pressed last night. I urge anyone reading this to check out Kosacks Black Tie Formal Wear online to view their selections. They rent for many occasions with several styles. Last night's experience was genuinely filled with more than I could have hoped for. If you pick Kosacks, you aren't just getting a tux, you are getting a whole experience. Look for Kosacks Banner at Vampfest!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Vampfest Costume Party

Last night we all gathered at Denise's mother's house to try on costumes for Vampfest. A local college donated over 60 costumes of various styles and sizes, for both men and women, to be used for all the volunteers playing characters in Bryony. Vampfest is a fundraiser by BryonySeries for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Will and Grundy County.
The event started off loud and disorganized, which moved to semi-organized and humorous, which then ended with everyone pitching in to help our seamstress tidy up. Everyone who came at various degrees of the night were fitted into a costume, sent over to Heather for alterations, then in turn, helped the next in line get fitted. The jokes throughout the evening kept the mood light and the atmosphere fun. Please enjoy a few of the pictures from the night!

Guest Blog By Sarah Stegall

Monday, October 10, 2011

VampFest is Approachin'...It's a Busy Week in Munsonville!

LOTS of interviews scheduled early this weeek, so I can loosen my deadline schedule a bit as the week progresses. Still, I have one I didn't finish over the weekend and two other stories to edit.

A galley of the the official "Bryony" cookbook, "Memories in the Kitchen: Bites and Nibbles from 'Bryony,'" was sitting inside my inbox this morning with a lovely note from Serena Diosa, author of the "Tinkey's Goldfish" series.

Serena did all the formatting for both "Bryony" and the cookbook. Since she did such a lovely job with the novel, I can't wait to peek at the cookbook.

We're still hoping to have "Bryony" for VampFest. Proof copies arrived Thursday, but there's an issue with the ISBN number, so it's back on the phone with Bowker this morning. Please pray for a speedy resolution.

I have two radio interviews this week, and two newspaper stories will be published this week, thanks to freelance writer Jeanne Millsap. Jeannne and I had lunch last week, bemoaning the fact that our busy schedules don't seem to allow more than one lunch together a year.

I'm blessed that a such a good friend handled my first interview (I hope I didn't botch it too much) and that she was sooo excited to hear about "Bryony" and the story behind the book.

Tonight, we're having a pre-VampFest costume party at my mother's house. Since she no longer has a house full of kids (and cats), she had graciously consented to the the keeper of the clothes until all our volunteers are properly garbed.

Sarah, Bryony's web administrator, who just flew in to help with the silent auction and final details, couldn't wait until tonight to select her costume and emailed me a photo of her dressed in her vamp outfit of choice. If she has a moment, I'll have her post a picture.

Heather Frelichowski, owner of Crafty Moms, Inc. and official "Bryony" seamstress, will be there, too, making temporary adjustments to costumes (they belong to a local college theatre) and (hoping with fingers crossed) fitting my daughter Rebekah (our Melissa for the night) and me with our ball dresses.

Rebekah wanted to wear the first dress Melissa found herself when she went back in time: yellow, trimmed in lace and pearls. Mine is deep purple with flecks of glitter. We can't wait!!!

Oh yes, and there's still a few last minute silent auctions to pick up.

Friday, October 7, 2011

"A Smile as Small as Mine," by Emily Dickinson

Emily Dickinson(1830-1886)is considered to be one of the greatest poets of the nineteenth century

I feel the senitment perfectly matches my feelings surrounding the release of "Bryony"--the novel; the music; the illlustrations; the cookbook; the candles; the videos; and yes even the blog, website, and Facebook page--all possible because of the collaboration of creativity behind them.

"A Smile as Small as Mine"
By Emily dickinson

They might not need me
but they might
I'll let my head be just
in sight;
A smile as small as mine might be
Precisely their necessity.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Instant Soup, Victorian-Style

I think Melissa would prepfer a can of Campbell's soup (which, incidentally, has been round since the late nineteenth century; just sayin'), but I bet the cooks at Simons Mansion occasionally cheated and reached for this convenience when time grew tight.

From "Miss Beecher’s domestic receiptbook: designed as a supplement to her Treatise on domestic economy."

Boil down the mean to a thick jelly; season it highly with salt, spices, wine, or brandy. When cold, cut them one-inch square and a fourth of an inch thick and dry them in the sun. Keep them in a tight vessel, and when you use them, put a quart of boiling water to one or two of the cakes. Vegetables can be added.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Bryony - Official Book Trailer

Stay Tuned! Bryony Official Book Trailer Goes Live Today

In January, Stephen Tuplin, Bryony's director of video media, Dulcinea Hawksworth, Bryony's director of marketing, and I discussed the vision for the trailer.

In February Stephen presented his script, and we casted the roles. In April, a dozen of us met on a chilly night to film the trailer and music video at the P. Seth Magosky Museum of Victorian Life and Joliet History.

By June we had a silent, rough cut, which, if I timed the mp3 right, I could watch the trailer with sound.

Since then, our media focus group has been reviewing rough cuts of both the Bryony book trailer and Brony music video.

We discussed the elements we liked and did not like, what worked and what did not, the smoothing of cuts, the brightening of darks, the elimination of sections and room noise, and the adding of credits and specialized sounds, until we reached a version that satisfied everyone.

The day of the trailer's release is here. Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

My First "Bryony" Photo Shoot!

Ah, children! Boy, do they keep you humble.

My seventeen-year-old daughter Rebekah accompanied me yesterday to the P. Seth Magosky Museum of Victorian Life in Joliet where a photographer from the Morris Daily Herald took pictures of me in Victorian dress and on the location where we shot the Bryony trailer and music video.

While I changed in a cold upstairs bedroom from my nice warm jeans into a cold satin gown and tied on my tulle-filled bustle, I graciously accepted Rebekah's well-meaning comments of, "You don't look bad for fifty," and "How could you do this without me?"

To prove her point, Rebekah clasped my borrowed jewelry around my neck and balanced my hat atop my head. Next came the hard part: descending the polished wood stairs in a pair of slippery-soled shoes. Pat Magosky, museum curator, stood at the bottom, shaking his head and laughing at my careful, halting steps.

"If I fall down and break my neck," I told him, "I promise to haunt your house forever."

Pat's wife Andrea Magosky entertained us with stories of Joliet's past until the photographer arrived. Then the real fun began. The photographer decided that, for the first picture, she would position me on a small couch near the grand piano. That's when I heard the soft giggle.

"Stop laughing," I warned Rebekah.

The photographer draped my skirts "just so," which elicited another muffled snicker from Rebekah and additional chastisement from me. We repeated that routine several times.

"My kids aren't used to seeing this side of me," I said.

The photographer smiled in understanding.

Next, the photographer snapped a few pictures of me standing between my "Bryony" displays. Rebekah chuckled, then clapped her hand over her mouth.

"Do I have something taped to my back?" the photographer said looking around her.

I glared at Rebekah.

"Since it's such a key part of the story, let's take a few at the piano," the photographer said.

I sat on the bench and placed curved finges over the keys (Note to self: Have James show me a real chord or two for future shoots). Rebekah fled from the room, laughing, laughing, laughing.

The photographer smiled too and good-naturedly finished up with some additional shots of me on the couch.

"I don't take very good pictures," I said.

"These are fine," she replied, still smiling and snapping away.

She selected two interior "Bryony" illustratons and asked me to email them to her, along with the cover and "Bryony" logo. I thanked the photographer for her time, as well as her patience with the peanut gallery. The photographer, who doesn't have children, graciously dismissed it.

Back upstairs, while I switched back into street clothes and Rebekah repacked my costume, we wondered how messy the warehouse might be on a Monday and whether or not any recycling boxes had arrived. I mentally reviewed the story I would finish writing while she worked and hoped I had brought the right notes.

"Did you pack my flash drive?" I asked.

Rebekah shook her head in mock exasperation. "What would you do without me?"

We had returned to common ground.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Cold or Allergies? Dulcinea Might Have Been Right.

Before dawn on Saturday, my publicist, Dulcinea Hawksworth, called me for an impromptu VampFest meeting. I had woken up congested, which, because I have asthma, food and seaonal allergies, and chronic hives, I attributed to something suspicious in the pizza I had eaten the previous night.

"Sounds like you've got a cold," Dulcinea said.

Forgetting also I have major throat and soft palate itching at a cold's onset, too, I insisted, "No, it's allergies."

I grew more tired as the day lengthened, and I muddled through just half of the work I had reserved for my Saturday. Far too soon, I weakly waved the white flag, showered, and went to bed, confident that an "early to bed" would mean an extra-early rising, which should be plenty of time to complete the tasks I had forsaken.

I awakened nine hours later to a sore throat and general body aches. I chastised my weakness as I fed the cats and made the coffee, and I find myself doing the same psyche-kicking this morning.

As usual, I have a full week planned, but less than a fraction of energy to accomplish it, although I'm cheering inside that my first deadline of the day has been successfully met. Well, it's early.

Today on the list: a church anniversary story to complete and follow-up phone calls for stories regarding a local sound artist, student ambassadors, parent coaching, and concussion treatment.

But first, I will pack up my "Bryony" displays, costume, makeup, and jewelry, then head over to the P. Seth Magosky Museum of Victorian Life in Joliet, where we shot the "Bryony" trailer and music video.

A digression: We are releasing the trailer on Wednesday, hurray!

At the mansion, a photographer from the Morris Herald will be taking a few pictures for an October 11 "Bryony" story. Then it's off to the warehouse, along with Rebekah and my backpack, for cleaning and writing.

Hoping the coffee kicks in soon!