Tuesday, May 29, 2012

If You Haven't Purchased a Copy Of "Bryony" Yet....

....here's how you can get one.

The website:




Barnes and Noble:


And the following stores:

Anderson’s Bookshop
123 West Jefferson
Naperville, IL 60540

Aunt Nina's Sweets N Treats
21121 Division Street
Crest Hill, Illinois.

Book Market Sales & Trading
2368 Plainfield Road, Crest Hill, IL 60403


Falls River Bookstore
1141 Falls River Avenue, #124
Raleigh, NC. 27614

Frugal Muse Books
7511 Lemont Road
Darien, IL, 60561

T's N Taps Smiley Dyes
15 W. St. Charles Road
Lombard, IL, 60148

Three Rivers Arts Council
413 Mondamin
Minooka, IL, 60441

Quail Ridge Books & Music
3522 Wade Avenue
Raleigh, NC 27607

P. Seth Magosky Museum of Victorian Life and Joliet History.
206 N. Broadway Street, Joliet, IL, 60436

Monday, May 28, 2012

The Latest from Munsonville

We're still trying to schedule a release date for the official Bryony cookbook, Memories in the Kitchen: Bites and Nibbles from "Bryony," from Tinkey's Goldfish author, Serena Diosa, who is doing the formatting, but she's still having trouble with shifting images and can only promise "very soon."

If you remember, the cookbook is a fundraiser for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Will and Grundy Counties (www.bbbswillgrundy.org), in honor of the mentoring relationship between Melissa's younger brother Brian and the village maintenance man, Steve Barnes, who teaches Brian to cook.

Serena is also formatting Bryony for Kindle, but again, the graphics are misbehaving. Thank you, dear readers, for all your patience. In the meantime, I am busy working on the editing for Visage, and we hope to have a few sneak previews of its art on the Bryony Facebook page (www.facebook.com/BryonySeries).

On Thursday, we are back in the studio to begin recording the last third of Bryony, the audio book. We're hoping three long sessions will complete the project. We've had a month's break due to finals at the University of Francis, which houses the Digital Arts Recording Studio (DARA), and remodeling in the studio itself.

Recording the book are Heather King and Alby Odum of the Christian rock band Daniel's Window (www.danielswindow.com); however, the audio version will contains music clips from James Onohan's offical Bryony CD, The Best-Loved Compositions of John Simons, a unique feature that will truly bring the book alive. Stay tuned!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Be Still

Crazy, awful, busy day, especially with a holiday weekend (and early deadlines) along with an editor going on vacation (so more early deadlines), and a heavy sprinkling of life drama to make executing those deadlines a daunting challenge.

In the midst of the above activity, I've had some interesting things happen over the last twenty-four hours that has surprisingly dispelled the tension, renewed cautious hope, and breathed fresh life into some rather grim circumstances.

So as I struggle to meet the expectations of the day, and failing in the attempt, I suddenly remembered I had not posted a blog yet today. As I contemplated all the things I wished to communicated, I found myself basking instead in a rather delightful serenity, and that, to me, seems the best message today.

Go ahead. Take five. Chill. Breathe. Count your blessings. Life is sweet. Enjoy a moment of it before returning to whatever duties you must face today. Still is good. Cherish a moment of it.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Ever Have One of Those Days....

....where the list of "to do's" is much larger than the list of "ta da's?"

Today's recording session for Bryony, the audio book, was cancelled due to construction work in the studios, which was fine with me. I'm sitting on a ton (a bit of an exaggeration) of assignments, and I'm behind on Visage and home projects, as well (My filing tray will testify to the veracity of that statement).

Add to the list a number of unrelated and ongoing incident of crisis proportions, and well....

So as I'm sitting here in my attic office, summoning the muse of great and sublime words to fill my blog, I suddenly realize I'm enjoying the pause instead of despairing my lack of lofty inspiration. The breeze coming through the window is just cool enough, and only a distant hum of a lawnmower is breaking the otherwise silence and stillness of a house devoid of most of its inhabitants, at least for the next few weeks.

It's a lovely sunny day. I'm grabbing my headphones and heading outside for a walk. Good-bye, for now, oh work. You and I will catch up in about ninety minutes. Have a good rest.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Full Monday!

Early morning walk today, followed by five interviews (including one "in person"), then it was off to Morris to visit my new baby grandson and his parents.

On the way home, we stopped to grab a few extra items for dinner. Next, Daniel and I will be finishing up his homework, but while he washed a few frying pans he left soaking in the kitchen sink, I ran upstairs for a quick mail check and blog posting.

Later, I have four stories to edit and send (If I can track Rebekah down to help with photos, harder to do now that she's in North Carolina), plus three additional stories I haven't even yet begun to write, which I'll be shelving until later this week.

And Visage, well I haven't even looked at Visage in a week (at least), so I know what I'll be doing this holiday weekend.

Tomorrow, I'll be spending a good chunk of the day at the University of St. Francis in Joliet working on Bryony the audio book. Accompanying me will be the list of phone calls I neglected today.

So what's on a writer's desk this week?

   *  a Memorial Day piece about a local woman who was a welding foreman working on navy contracts during World War II.

   * a stand-up comedian who wrote a novel semi-based on his experiences

   *  two teen rappers that have been touring colleges. They have a decent YouTube following, too.

   *  a master pastry chef who will be competing at the World Pastry Cup in France this January

   *  a 12 year girl who is running her own cupcake business

   *  a local church who scrapped worshipp services one Sunday in favor of community service

   *  a fatherhood conference

   *  a happy adoptee from a local rescue who is returning the favor by hosting a benefit

   *  a man who wrote a book documenting his multiple sclerosis experiences

   *  two Extraordinary Life interviews (my regular feature about recently deceased people who have lived interesting and/or inspiring lives)

   *  a couple who is carrying twins conjoined at the spine

   *  childhood sleep apnea

   * a hospital press release about a lab accreditation

A bonus: the house is super-quiet . Not only is Rebekah out of town, but Christopher is in Florida for a couple of weeks, so consequently, his boys won't be here, either. Even the cats are taking advantage of the stillness by "catnapping" quite a bit.

And did I mention Timothy received all "A's" (four in all) for spring semester? Way to go, little chef!

Friday, May 18, 2012

"The Vampire" by Charles Baudelaire

The Vampire by Charles Baudelaire (1857)
Translated by (and this is important) Arthur Symons
Wonder if it was any distant relation to John simons? (Just sayin')

Thou who, like death’s deceiving stroke,
Knocks at my heart’s deep melancholy;
Thou who, like a troupe of hideous folk
Of demons, wines and maddened Folly,

Of mine own my Spirit humiliated
Makes thine own bed and thy domain,
Infamous, by whom I am vitiated
Like the convict fastened to his chain.

Like to the Gambler with his game reversed,
Like to the drunkard with his wine-bottle,
Like to the vermin that the carrion throttle,
Be thou for ever and ever accursed!

I have said to the sword perfidious
To lavish on me Liberty,
I have said to the poison insidious
To shake me from my lethargy.

Alas! The poison and the sword that crave thee
Said in disdainful knavery:
“Thou are not worthy that we should save thee
From thine accursed slavery.

Fool! From his empire base and bloody,
If we deliver thee by our hate,
Thy kisses shall resuscitate
Thy Vampire and his buried Body!”

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Vampire Suckers, Literally

If you're looking for an undead way to temper that sweet tooth, Amazon has three lollipop flavors certain to please even the most diehard vampire fans.

Personally, I prefer chocolate, so message me at bryonyseries@gmail.com if you find any Dracula-shaped assortments.


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

My Favorite Writing Sites

I use odd moments of time to update my education in the writing and publising industry. Although I randomly search for related information, my favorite places, noted for reliability and timeliness, are these:

Writer Beware: http://www.sfwa.org/for-authors/writer-beware/

Writer Beware blog: http://accrispin.blogspot.com/

Absolute Write Water Cooler: http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/

Nathan Bransford (former literary agent). His current stuff is not as interesting as his archives, which are overflowing with everything writers need to know: http://blog.nathanbransford.com/

April L. Hamilton (outspoken and infomed indie author and publisher): http://www.aprillhamilton.com/

J.A. Konrath (even more outspoken and informed indie author and publisher/former traditionally published author): http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/

Miss Snark (anonymous literary agent. column is inactive, but still valid): http://misssnark.blogspot.com/

Monday, May 14, 2012

Cemetery Hopping and Other Fun Mother's Day Activities

On Saturday, my oldest daughter, Sarah Stegall, Bryony's online administrator, her five year old son Lucas, and I visited three cemeteries and paid homage to several grandmothers and great-grandmothers, the perfect Mother's Day activity for people caught up in vampire stories.

While Sarah was inside a memorial shop trying to replace a stolen, graveside vase, Lucas, who obviously had one or two things on his mind, said to me, "Will we see ghosts?"

I assured him otherwise.

Then Lucas said, "My mother is afraid of ghosts."

Considering Sarah was nearly drooling over the notion of spending the night in the reputedly haunted P. Seth Magosky Museum of Victorian Life and Joliet History (where we filmed Bryony's book trailer and music video), I doubted it.

"She's not afraid of ghosts, Lucas."

Lucas considered this. "Well, she is afraid of werewolves."

Next, we discussed our two dogs that had gone to heaven: Peenut (his) and Scooter (mine) until Sarah returned. Among our various stops, we had lunch courtesy of McDonald's dollar menu (Sarah's treat) and a post-festivities coffee (Sarah's act of mercy), since I had a writer's workshop to attend that evening.

Of course, I thanked her for treating me to a very nice Mother's Day dinner, and no, I wasn't being snarky. We had a wonderful time, but anyone who knows me is no stranger to the fact that, when I'm not writing, I'd rather spend time with family and a few good friends; the activity is unimportant. But then, I have a REALLY fun family.

Other Mother's Day doings:

   * I talked to Joshua Baran (my number three child) off and on through the night (Saturday into Sunday) because his newborn son was having nursing difficulties and kept his mommy and daddy up with his crying.

   *  I attended brunch at my church, St. Nicholas Orthodox in Homewood, with Rebekah Baran, my youngest daughter and assistant to Sarah.

   *  I covered a really awesome Mother's Day event and brought Rebekah with me. A local stylist, in honor of her deceased mother, hosted a spa day for women living in homeless shelters and halfway houses. I can't give details now, but when that story runs, I'll post a link.

  *  Afterwards, Rebekah and I bought cat food and a potted, miniature pink rose plant for the newest mother. Rebekah then treated me to ice cream.

 *  Daniel cleaned the entire house and pushed laundry.

 *  Timothy came home tired from working a Mother's Day buffet at the Renaissance Center in Joliet, but he still wanted to meet Joshua's new baby. While there, Rebekah moved several loads of laundry, Timothy and Daniel took Amber grocery shopping, and Joshua (who is battling bronchitis) settled down for a much-needed nap.

 *  When they returned, Rebekah put away groceries; Timothy cooked them Amber and Joshua and a couple of "instant" meals (including soup) for tomorrow; and Daniel washed dishes. I fed the baby, kept him quiet, and flipped through some magazines (something I hadn't done in years, literally).

 *  We returned home about ten-thirty. Rebekah and Daniel headed straight for bed, and I cooked a quick dinner for Timothy. As he ate, we talked about his day.

All in all, a perfect Mother's Day! :)

Saturday, May 12, 2012

How to Talk Like Ed Calkins on Mother's Day

Although one may find it difficult to imagine, even Ed Calkins, the Steward of Tara, has a mother, and he remembers her on Mother's Day.

Now, Ed has never shared whether he brings her flowers or chocolates, but if you want to honor YOUR mother on Mother's Day with a Gaelic expression or two, check out this site.


Friday, May 11, 2012

"The Gift and the Giver"

Today's story link is a departure from thet traditional literature I usually post, but equally as good.

It's an African-American folk tale about a man who finds an apple so extraordinary, he feels unworthy to keep it, and so, presents it to the king. Another man, upwon witnessing the king's reaction, decides to present a gift of his own.

All in all, a delightful metaphor of how the value of a gift truly lies less in an object's value and more within the attitudes of the giver and the receiver.


Thursday, May 10, 2012

Career Day at Brooks Middle School

About ten of us, including the FBI and the Bolingbrook library, post office, and police and fire departments, gathered in a large multipurpose area and talked to literally hundreds of kids over a six-hour period.

I had set up a display of recent Herald News clippings with my byline (I figured kds would think that cool), stories I had written for Patch.com, a few samples of press releases, ghost-written and other non-credited work for hire, and, of course, Bryony, so the students could see the wide range of writing one can accomplish as a freelancer.

My daughter, Rebekah Baran, Bryony's assistant online administrator, and I distributed nearly five hundred Bryony cards and answered questions about my at-home writing career, since the children had to fill in a booklet with key facts for at least three career contacts.

So what did they ask, and what did I answer?

1) Name three interesting facts about your job.

I get to play on Facebook all day (it's a great place to network and get story ideas); I can stay in pajamas as long as I want; and I write a weekly column (An Extraordinary Life) about people I find in the obituaries. Oh yes, and I get to write about vampires, too.

2) Name three negative things about your job.

 I only get paid if I work (because I'm paid by the piece, not the hour), so I work every day; I'm always on deadline; and I'm never done.

3) What has this job taught you?

Time management. Because I don't punch a time clock, and I have no boss standing over my shoulder, it's up to me to decide which projects to accept, when to schedule interviewing and actual writing time, when to answer the phone, when to check e and voice mail; and when to send payroll. Oh yeah, I also have to decide when to check the kids' homework and when to take a break and move the laundry, etc.

4) When do you want to stop this job and find another?

Never. I want to write until the day I die. Retirement is not in my vocabulary.

5) When can you start being a writer?

Now! Start composing those stories into your computer or notebook. That's what I did as a kid. You may only want to write for fun, or you may want to later expand it into a career, and both are fine. Writers are people who write, so WRITE!

Because  I really like interacting with kids, the day was an especially enjoyable one for me; plus, I was able to be with just Rebekah all day long. As a bonus, I walked away with two story ideas. I LOVE this job! :)

Monday, May 7, 2012

Green Spaghetti, Bacon Dust, and Pie on the Floor

Yesterday, we feted my oldest daughter, Sarah Stegall, Bryony's online administrator, at fellowship hour at St. Nicholas Orthodox Church in Homewood.

For many years and during more prosperous times, we as a family, would cook a buffet lunch on the average of once a month and always near one of the children's birthdays (I have six children and three stepchildren, so you can easily see how quickly this works out to a monthly deal).

Once, an enaged couple asked us to prepare a wedding brunch for their out-of-town guests; this would serve as our wedding present to the couple. We did, after spending all night running papers, changing clothes, and attending a funeral, then racing home in the pouring rain to again change clothes, and begin advance food preparations, then (again) changing clothes to drive an hour away for the wedding, skippping the reception in favor of sleep since we had newspapers to run that night, coming home, changing back into good clothes, and packing up the food for the breakfast.


Somewhere, in those preparations, an entire chocolate pie had landed on the floor, but we had brought so much food, no one, but us, noticed the lack thereof. You know the food is good (or your pastor is starving), when he picks up entire wedges of your cheese ball and eats it by hand.

So, with Sarah celebrating her May 4th birthday with us this year, my oldest son Christopher Baran of Channahon Computer Repair (www.channahonpcrepair.com) sold a laptop and proferred the cash for the festivities. Rebekah Baran, Bryony's online assistant, contacted Sarah for her menu requests, which were thus:

   *  imitation crab dip and Ritz crackers
   * broccoli salad
   * a fresh fruit tray
   * garlic bread
   * green spaghetti

I protested this last item, a family favorite since my children's toddlerhood. It's spinach pureed with cream, parmesan cheese, and broth, then served over whole wheat pasta. It's not the typical post-Sunday services potlock item.

"No one at church will eat it," I insisted.

Sarah didn't care. She'd happily claim any leftovers.

"The blender's broken, and I don't have money for a new one," I added.

Well, Sarah shipped her old one for a one-time use (part of the lid was missing, and the pitcher leaked). Besides, Christopher had been pestering me to make green spaghetti, so on the list it went. I added the following:

   *  juice (two kinds, kid-friendly)
   * our famous sausage, potatoes and kraut

Sarah's dessert requests were these:

   *  cheesecake bars
   * lemon bars
   * caramel brownies (We reserved these for another time since Rebekah had just made Sarah a brownie pie. The leftovers became "brownie bites," which we served on the buffet with the remaining frosting, recycled as "chocolate gravy").

Saturday, of course, turned upside down on us, so we never began food prep for Sarah's big day until seven o'clock that night. Luckily, we no longer run papers. Rebekah, our pastry chef in training, and her best friend, were "manning" the desserts. My youngest son, Daniel Baran, sixteen, and I would do the rest.

Daniel cooked all the meats, guarded the sauteeing onions, and kept up with the mounting stacks of dishes. Now Daniel cooks some pretty decent bacon, but never to the point where it could be crumbled, and we needed that for the broccoli salad. So how could he know one couldn't dump it in the frying pan and leave the kitchen to swap movies for my four year old grandson?

"We can't use this," I said, surveying the black mess on the paper towel.

"Why not?" Daniel said, crumbling it to prove his point.

"Because it will make the entire salad taste scorched."

We alternated a few "will nots" and "wills," before Rebekah offered to run to the general store near the house for more bacon. She soon returned with half of the amount, all the store sold, and had paid a small fortune to secure it.

After carefully instructing Daniel on proper bacon cooking technqiues, I moved to another room to assemble the garlic bread. A burnt smell soon reached my nose, and I ran to the kitchen. Daniel was nowhere to be seen.


He flew up the stairs. My grandson had needed another movie. Daniel looked at the black mess in the frying pan and said, "I failed."

I tried to sound encouraging by saying, "We can fix it," and began separating the black pieces from the usable ones. "It's mainly for flavor, so let's crumble it really fine. Instead of bacon bits, we'll have bacon dust."

Daniel found the term "bacon dust" somewhat amusing, so that was that. Again, the next day, no one noticed, and no one cared. As for the burnt bacon? It gradually "disappeared" while we finished the cooking. Why waste perfectly good bacon?

Saturday, May 5, 2012

On Becoming an Ed Calkins Wife, Part 1

By Ed Calkins, the Steward of Tara

On this topic of qualifications for wives of Ed Calkins, understand that one must actually meet Ed Calkins in person (unless, of course, you're holding one of my famous dollar bills; more on this later. Or maybe you'd consider sending it back as a gift to your new hubby? If one percent responds to that favoribly, I'm buying a new car (matchbox)).

Meeting me in person is actually quite a task because I'm quite reclusive. This may surprise anyone that has actually seen me in person, but it's true. You see, I enjoy my little delusions very much and find the easiest way to confirm them is to avoid any evidence to the contrary. This means avoiding people.

Yes, I know there's alway simple denial, but that takes out all the energy for ruling my fantastical realm. In fact, it's because I'm so much of a hermit that normally, when I do get out, I have a lot of pent up socialization to unleash.

Still, its actually quite difficult to get me out of my little man cave. I have a standing date with wives one, two, and four every Friday at five o'clock, but it usually takes three or four phone calls to get me there by six (true story, all of it).

Another qualification is age. A prospective wife must be reasonably mature. Now, I know you Tilted Kilt girls are going to claim being "mature for your age," but that isn't helpfull at all. The legal age for drinking and adulthood might be twenty-one, but if you're only thirty-one and trying to marry Ed Calkins, you better look awfully old for your age. Even those women under forty-one might get adopted instead of married.
What's the difference? The later might get a rose the day after Calkins Day, the former gets a Barbie doll around Christmas (if you're good).

More later
Yours ruthlessly,
Ed Calkins, the Steward of Tara

Friday, May 4, 2012

"Lucy's Birthday," by William Makepeace Thackery

Lucy's Birthday
By nineteenth century poet William Makepeace Thackery

Seventeen rosebuds in a ring,
Thick with sister flowers beset,
In a fragrant coronet,
Lucy's servants this day bring.
Be it the birthday wreath she wears
Fresh and fair, and symbolling
The young number of her years,
The sweet blushes of her spring.

Types of youth and love and hope!
Friendly hearts your mistress greet,
Be you ever fair and sweet,
And grow lovelier as you ope!
Gentle nursling, fenced about
With fond care, and guarded so,
Scarce you've heard of storms without,
Frosts that bite or winds that blow!

Kindly has your life begun,
And we pray that heaven may send
To our floweret a warm sun,
A calm summer, a sweet end.
And where'er shall be her home,
May she decorate the place;
Still expanding into bloom,
And developing in grace.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Even "Visage" Requires Some Research

For obvious reasons (well, obvious to me, not obvious to you, yet), Visage does not reguire the vast amount of research I put into Bryony. Still, for the story to feel absolutely authentic to me, and because it's so much fun, I have delved into the background of a number of topics. These are

   *  History of labor induction

   *  1970’s Pregnancy management and childcare advice

   *  Celtic mythology, especially.... (Oh, wait, can’t tell you that one. Spoiler!)

   *  1970 calendars and moon phases (for a seamless storyline)

   *  Clothing, hair styles (You’d think I’d retain that all from memory), wedding rings, and motor homes

   *  Nineteenth century architecture

   *  Vampire slaying, techniques (with fictional embellishments)

   I'm also more than halfway through the first official round of editing (not the self-editing I performed when writing its original draft), so we are moving right along. In the weeks that follow, the Facebook page (www.facebook.com/BryonySeries) will offer some sneak previews on the second book's artwork.

   And remember, release of the official Bryony cookbook, Memories in the Kitchen: Bites and Nibbles from "Bryony" is rapidly approaching.