Wednesday, October 30, 2013

I Spoke at Plainfield South High School Yesterday and Received This Feedback Last Night

Reposting with permission. See below:


It was so GREAT having you come into today for career week.  Your presentation was awesome.  I loved how open and honest you were with the kids and how many different options of career paths you discussed with them.  Amy Brown, the first classroom you spoke in each period, said both her classes wanted to talk about your presentation for the rest of the period after you left.

We would love to have you come in again. 

Thanks for taking time out to speak to our young people.  The need to hear these important life messages from other people besides the ones inside of the school.

You were really great, THANK YOU!

Kristi A. Boe
Counselor:  ORL-SKOR
So WHAT did I share? Well, considering that out of the four junior and senior English classes I visited, less than ten students enjoyed writing, talking up the benefits of freelance writing as the lifelong means to happiness and prosperity (definitely not prosperity) wasn't gonna wow them.
Talking about why I write, however, did. My path from high school student to writer was not a smooth, prosaic one. I didn't follow the established education to career path, so I neither encouraged nor discouraged the students to do the same.
I did, however, talk to them about what excited THEM and then encouraged them to go out and pursue it, but I didn't drudge up the well-worn saccharine "follow your dream" speech either.
Instead, I peppered my story with examples of what my children and I wanted to do with our lives, along with the unusual paths we traveled to get there.
I didn't need a PowerPoint. Heck, I didn't even need a podium. I did, however, bring plenty of writing samples.
And I definitely had their attention when I held up a health column sporting the photo of a male doctor of Asian descent and said, "I am he."
And I was, when I ghost wrote his column for him. ;)

Sunday, October 27, 2013

I Met the Most Amazing Man on Saturday: This is Why I'll Never Be (Money) Rich

So before you start reading anything more into this post than what it means, let me further say that I had coffee with two very nice men on Saturday morning, an interview for a feature story.

Yes, I tend to prefer telephone interviews, but one man was over eighty, and the other man was someone I'd interviewed many times for various stories and had never met in person.

Hence, the coffee meeting.

Near the end of the interview, I asked the elder gentleman how he ended up in Joliet, as he originally lived in another state. Well, that's where the story grew interesting.

What really could have been a two sentence answer evolved into a thirty minute expounding of the man's early years as one thought of his bumped into another thought and led to yet another.

Perhaps more efficient reporter types would have re-directed the conversation and quickly, but politely, concluded the meeting, but it seemed to me this man just wanted to talk about this portion of his life and tell this particular story.

Yes, I had a tight schedule for the day. Surprised?

And yet, that's not how I treat the people I interview. I earn my crust of bread by telling other people's stories. The key word here is "people." I respect their sharing, often deep sharing, of significant events in their lives to me and how those events make them feel. They laugh; they cry.

So I reciprocate by respecting their occasional need to talk.

When this man finished, I again thanked him for his time, as I rose, slid on my coat, and then extended my hand. The man, too, stood and firmly returned the greeting.

And then he said, "I like you. You're different from other people."

I wish I could remember more than soundbites. But as I sank, opened-mouthed, back in my chair, the man continued, eyes locked onto mine, for another five minutes or so in this vein:

   *  "I can tell you're deep, but you don't always let people see that, only when they should."

   *  "Women like to talk, but men sometimes have things to say, too. You listen to them. That's a highly unusual quality in a woman. Did you know that?"

   *  "You're a joyful person. Not too many people have joy in their lives. There's not much that upsets you."

   *  "You're all about love, and, love, is always victorious in the end."

I supposed if I didn't spend time with people, I could churn out more stories and make more money.

But then again, my stories wouldn't resonate with the humanness that makes people relate to them.

So, I'll continue on as a struggling freelancer.

Wondering, though, if this gentleman might not like to have coffee again.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

What Irish Authors Does Ed Calkins Read?

It just might be one of the twenty listed on this site. Which ones have you read?

Story Round Up Catchup

My last Story Round Up before major "well woes," homelessness, and the like was September 6. Below are links to stories that have run since. Browse, click on what catches your attention, and, hopefully, be informed and/or inspired!

Caring for caregivers: Leeza Gibbons walk set for Sept. 21

Channahon woman was said to be state's first female schoolbus driver

Nose work benefits dogs in many ways

Stay involved with your special needs child's IEP

Passion planted: Young Scientist program inspires Joliet teen

Joliet YMCA celebrates fitness fanatic's 90th birthday

Mom loved Shorewood and helping others

Horse-drawn caring: Channahon woman runs equine program

History and headstones mix in Plainfield

Lockport man rides to raise scholarship funds

Mooseheart memories prove poetic for Sir Jim of Joliet

Funeral home owner was artist by nature

Pet blessing

JJC hosts farm to fork market fundraiser dinner

Where hope meets action

Making darkness dwindle

Joliet library performance sets stage for young music students

Coat drive goal: provide warm fuzzy feeling

Stacy Peterson's former pastor to speak at Take Back the Night event

Philanthropist from Joliet had many sides

Sock hop benefits Will County Humane Society

New kid on the bike

Curtain call for Rialto: rescuer Mavrich to be honored

Fundraiser set for Manhattan teen battling cancer

A baby rescue and a reunion, 38 years later

Medical center to honor volunteer mother of 10

Joliet doctor: rescuing cats gives purpose to my life

Plainfield student an ambassador for Fuel Up to Play 60

Joliet duo hope to help others cope with death

Author comes back for visit

Tablescapes charity is served: Big Brothers Big Sisters benefits

Stellar athlete firefighter was humble family man

Coal City man sees nature as picture perfect

Ministry through media: Homer Glen woman produces CD, videos

Joliet man was in tune with music, family

Animals rescuers' goal: make a difference

Plainfield YMCA shows off new wellness center

Musical presentation a cultural lesson for Plainfield students

Hitting the wall with works of art

Friday, October 25, 2013

2013 Witches Night Out

This was a fabulous night to remember on so many levels. Here's why:

* I was part of the marketing team for this year's event. I wrote press releases specifically geared to five different publications, as well as a public service announcement for Next Media; I participated in two radio interviews, one in person and one via phone; I helped coordinate coverage for another newspaper; and I cross marketed WriteOn Joliet with the event, as four of us read supernatural stories throughout the evening to an often full little theater in the Joliet Historical Museum, which connected to the Joliet Junior College Renaissance Center, the even't location. Marketing on this level was very new to me, and I'm exceedingly thankful for the opportunity.

*  With the exception of WriteOn Joliet, this was the first public reading of Snowbell, and, despite its length (10,000 words), the story launched to a full house, with only one woman getting up and leaving before it was done--and one spellbound woman moving up to the front next to me.

*  I got to spend an evening with just Rebekah--opportunities that will soon become slim as she is now both a JJC student and employee--and heard the lovely comments of, "You two look just like sisters!"

*  We had the opportunity to sell and promote BryonySeries products. :)

*  There's nothing like dressing up all crone-ike and watching a thousand women in similiar dress wander about a gothic-like structure. I can't wait for next year!

I'll post the photo of Rebekah and me later. The computer I'm working on today won't let me upload it. :(

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Hear Ye, Hear Ye! WriteOn Joliet Members to Read for Witches Night Out!

Let your spirits and brooms fly Oct. 24th at the 4th Annual Witches Night Out.

Witching hours are from 4:30 to 9:30 p.m. at the historic Joliet Junior College Renaissance Center, 214 N. Ottawa Street, Joliet. Tickets are $15.

Magical features include over 40 vendors, Tarot card readings, ghost story readings by members of WriteOn Joliet, DJ, cash buffet prepared by Joliet Junior College culinary arts students and cash bar with a special "Witches Night Out" signature drink.

Proceeds benefit three United Way of Will County agencies: Lamb's Fold Women's Center, Stepping Stones Treatment and Recovery Center and Will County Children's Advocacy Center.

Valet parking is $5. For more information visit
Hope to see you there!



Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Guest Post by Sir Frederick Chook: "Dribble South of the River"

Dribble South of the River by Sir Frederick Chook
Penned upon the 28th of July, 2013
First appeared in FrillyShirt (

Superintendent Dribble was not well pleased. He’d been called out of the city on a promising report that a Woking woman had killed her brother and fed him to her pigs, and found on arriving that she had actually killed her pig and fed it to her brothers. The better part of the day had been lost in taking statements regarding apple and chestnut stuffing, and now the Yard were directing him – on the principle that, as his time was already being wasted, it might as well keep it up – to look into an industrial accident in Rotherhithe. He parked his car in a cobbled yard, surrounded on three sides by blind walls beneath a filmy, tea-stained sky, and was met by the officer on duty.

“I hope you have a good reason for calling me out here, Sergeant.”

The sergeant – a tall, well-built fellow with a cockney face and an earnest manner – cleared his throat apologetically. “Issue of collapsing machinery, sir. A literary device fell to the shop floor and one of the factory workers was emotionally crushed.” He winced, having spent the past forty minutes surveying the grisly scene. “I wouldn’t have bothered you with it, but the site owner’s making a fuss, and insisted CID be involved.”

Dribble sighed and pulled a notebook from one pocket. “What’s his idea – foul play of some sort?”

“Union gangs, he says. He’s got a bee in his bonnet about radicals among the staff. Thinks they’ve been sabotaging the works.”

The gentleman in question appeared at the factory door and, spotting Dribble’s arrival, began to hurry down the steps toward them, waving his hat in the air. “Oh, lord.” Dribble murmured. “Just who is he, sergeant?”

“August Salmon, sir. Owns this place – they make patented bunting-tossers for the Royal Navy – as well as the slum-block across the road. Says he knows the Chief Commissioner, but I doubt it.”

The industrialist – a shabby creature in a very old-fashioned day-coat – met them in a whirlwind of agitation and outrage. “You are the detective? I expected you much sooner – much sooner! The uninterrupted continuation of my work is vital to the commerce of this city, and I will not allow this mutinous fatuity to poison the minds of-”

“I quite understand, Mr Salmon,” Dribble broke in, in a practised tone. “So there’s been labour activity on the site before?”

There had, it seemed. It had begun with secret meetings in the commissary – clandestine whispering, money changing hands. When ordered to conduct a search, the foreman had located a cache of revolutionary pamphlets behind a bank of lockers. Then, a series of mechanical failures, culminating in this tragic incident. “Although,” Salmon confided, “the man struck was one of the worst of the plotters. They didn’t bank on that, eh – the biter bit, and he tastes of his own medicine! Let them stew on that for a while!”

Dribble privately wondered whether the effects of stewing on one’s own medicine would be quite what Salmon had in mind. Out loud, he agreed that an inspection of the scene would likely be advisable. The site of the collapse was re-examined, where the Four Pillars of Industrial Discipline that supported the overhead machinery – labelled, in turn, “DUTY,” “SERVILITY,” “PLACIDITY” and “PUNCTUALITY” – certainly showed signs of decay or damage. The pockets of the deceased were turned out, and the seditious pamphlets were produced from an impromptu evidence locker in the strong-room. Finally, they retired to confer in the foreman’s office, where a window littered with dead flies looked out upon the factory floor.

“Well, officer? Do you agree that this was the result of a campaign of sabotage?”

Dribble sucked thoughtfully at his lower lip. “On balance… yes, Mr Salmon; I do. Sergeant?”


“Take Mr Salmon into custody.”

The manufacturer was too shocked to move until after the sergeant had placed the handcuffs on his wrists. When he did speak, his voice shook and his face was white with uncontrolled fury.

“How dare you! I shall have your job for this, you impudent lout! Sir Melvin Prigge will be hearing about-” His protests faltered as the burly constable guarding the door took him by the shoulder, and led him down the narrow steps and before the sullen eyes watching the factory gates from the surrounding windows.

“But sir,” asked the sergeant as Dribble stared at the evidence laid out on the foreman’s desk, “what tipped you off that he was sabotaging his own business?”

The superintendent indicated the pamphlets stacked before them. “These, for a start. The unions usually get theirs done up by Butter, or Cump, or one of the other cheap printers. You can recognise their work anywhere – thin paper, bad ink, and full of second-hand punctuation bought from the booksellers. These were run up by a proper commercial place, or perhaps one of the small academic presses – probably run by a friend of his. Second-” he turned to the window and surveyed the rows of still machinery. “How could radicals weaken those supports without anyone noticing? Look how he runs this place. Eyes on everyone during the day, and after hours, those doors are locked up tighter than a train set in a nunnery.”

“A what, sir?”

“My auntie’s sister was a nun. Mad for trains, those ladies were. Now, third – he said the victim was one of the plotters, but the man had a chapbook from the Morgenthaum Trust in his coat pocket. They’re the last people to be breaking machines or throwing bombs at financiers – throwing confetti, more like. They’re about the ‘virtue of wealth’ and rewards in Heaven and all that. Meaning, Salmon was lying, or a fool, or both.”

“But what about the secret meetings?”

“I don’t think there’s a commissary in the world where you couldn’t find secret meetings, if you went looking for them. Say you went ’round to the Yard, right now, and saw the lads whispering and handing around money over their tea – what would they be doing?”

The sergeant considered this for a moment. “Having a bet, I reckon. Probably about whether Corporal Cabbage’s wife will come back when she finds out his dad left him that chip shop in his will.”

“Well, ten bob says that’s all that was happening here. No, the only person who could possibly have been undermining the ideological foundations of this place is August Salmon himself. I’d say he’s been shorting on materials for years, until you could knock this place over with any puff of hot air that wafts down from Westminster – and heaven help us if some Sturm und Drang blew over from the Continent. It’ll be fraud, manslaughter, both net and gross negligence – and the Nihilists could probably have him civilly for plagiarising their criminal mischief, too.”

“That all makes sense, sir,” the sergeant ruminated, as they strolled out to the yard, “but… if he did all that, why risk exposure by calling us in and demanding an investigation?”

“That, Sergeant, is exactly the sort of behaviour I’d expect of someone who’d been secretly undermining their own ideas for quite some time. At this point, I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s completely forgotten that he did it. The defence might make a case for ‘not guilty by reason of cumulative cant’… but you didn’t hear that from me.”

And with that, Dribble hoisted himself back into his car, pulled out of the grimy yard, and set off for a pork pie from the late Cabbage Senior’s chip shop.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Sir Frederick Chook is a foppish, transcendentalistic historian who lives variously by his wits, hand to mouth, la vie bohème, and in Melbourne with his wife, Lady Tanah Merah.

When not reading Milton and eating Stilton, he writes, ponders, models, delves into dusty archives, and gads about town. He has dabbled in student radio and in national politics, and is presently studying the ways of the shirt-sleeved archivist. He is a longhair, aspiring to one day be a greybeard. He has, once or twice, been described as “as mad as a bicycle.”

FrillyShirt is a compilation of articles, essays, reviews, photographs, artworks, question-and-answers, promotions, travelogues, diatribes, spirit journeys, cartoons, ululations and celebrations by Sir Frederick, his friends and contributing readers. Irregularly regular features include Teacup in a Storm, an etiquette column, and How to be Lovely, advanced speculations on the aesthetics of the self.

Other topics that pop up include fun things in and around Melbourne, art, nature, history, politics and schnauzers. Sir Frederick’s favorite color is all of them. Enjoy his writing? Drop him a telegram at
















Monday, October 21, 2013

Which "Viking Ship" Photo? Help Timothy Baran Decide

So on Saturday, Timothy and I played with props and photo aps to create art for Cornell Dyer and the Missing Tombstone and Bertrand and the Lucky Clover.

Timothy can't decide which version of the renegade Viking ship he prefers for the prologue chapter heading of the first book. Thoughts?

Thursday, October 17, 2013

WriteOn Joliet's "Practice" Open Mic Night

Six of us (okay, four of us, as two are regular hams) braved the front of the room, the microphone, and the handful of family and friends that gathered to hear us warble our written words in public. For many of us, that was the first time we'd ever read our original material in that arena.

The material--poems, short stories, essays, and several novel selections--made us laugh, cry, and pause. I was not nervous, and our emcee--one of the readers--felt I didn't do half bad, although he has a few tweaking tips for me. Excellent! The goal is always to improve.

I did read the first chapter of Cornell Dyer and the Missing Tombstone, but unless WriteOn Joliet schedules another open mic night before the book's release, I won't be sharing anything more from that book until after publication.

So sorry. ;)

The short story Snowbell also is unpublished, but if you'd like to hear it, wander by the storytellers room at this year's Witches Night Out fundraiser. For more information visit

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Tonight I Heard Phyllis Reynolds Naylor Speak

This was the first time I'd attended a presention by an author, and I wanted to see how a good writer, someone with one hundred and forty titles to her name, conducted an event.

I had interviewed Phyllis Reynolds Naylor several weeks ago to promote the event at the Joliet Public Library. I arrived a couple of minutes late and sat in the back. About thirty people were present and that included two (I think) libarary staff members, some fans, at least one groupie, and a teacher with some students.

Ms. Naylor was elegant, softspoken, and prepared. She used notecards to cover her points, read several selections from her "Alice" series, talked about the people and events in her life that served as inspiration for certain characters and scenes, and even read a few fan letters.

She then answered about ten questions from the audience, one about the movie Shiloh, one about a book she didn't write, one about the reason behind writing One of the Third Grade Thonkers, and several about the writing and publishing process.

She had asked me to introduce myself if I attended, which I did quickly at the beginning of the autograph portion of the event. Not only did I enjoy Ms. Nash's presentation, I learned the basics of what to expect from an author event (I'm not famous, so based on her turnout, I'd say three attendees would be good for me) and how to approach the speaking and reading portions.

All good things to know considering WriteOn Joliet has its first practice open mic night tomorrow night.

Monday, October 14, 2013


Crazy few days. Quick bullet points for catch-up, and then hopefully back to my regular blog posting.

Since Thursday, I've:

*  completed the editing and formatting for Staked!

*  sent an advance review copy to the man who will be (hopefully) writing its forward

*  swooned over Christopher Gleason's incredible interior art AND forwarded all pieces to Sarah Stegall for her opinion

*  participated in the 9th annual author fair at the Joliet Public Libary

*  caught up on deadlines, voice mail, scheduling, and email. Now to complete my backlog of feature stories and payroll

*  completed all but one chapter of Cornell Dyer and the Missing Tombstone

*  grocery shopped!!!

* interviewed one last press release for Witches Night Out

*  practiced for WriteOn Joliet's inaugural open mic night

*  appeared on 1340 AM WJOL's Friday Morning with Lynne, Mary & Natalie to discuss the author fair, WriteOn Joliet, and Witches Night Out.

*  and went to church

This weekend, I'll be shooting the art for Cornell Dyer and the Missing Tombstone and Bertrand and the Lucky Clover. Unless unforeseen tragedy strikes (HUSH!), BryonySeries will be releasing three new titles in time for Christmas.

Wondering if this November I can FINALLY write a working draft of Before the Blood for National Novel Writing Month.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Quick "Staked!" Update

Two-thirds of the final round of Staked! editing is complete. If all goes as planned, which it probably won't, I should wrap it up by Sunday evening. Next week, I'll give the manuscript one final read.

The formatting is also done. This means, by next weekend, we can finalize the cover, and Sarah can insert the interior images. And then, ta da!

We just may see a book by Thanksgiving. All things considered...all the challenges thus ironic we're on time. :)

On the other hand, we''re not there yet. Stay the course, Denise; stay the course.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Ten "Rules" for Writing

After reading Elmore Leonard's "10 Rules for Writing," some members of WriteOn Joliet accepted a challenge to write ten rules that work for them.

So without further ado, here are my ten:

1) Pick a topic that will excite you for the duration of the piece. In the case of a novel, you will be thinking about that topic for a very, very, very long time, so choose wisely.

2) Whether I'm writing features or fiction, a good plot is important, especially when rich characters drive it. With non fiction, I spend enough time with a person to ensure I represent them well. With fiction, I carefully build layers and nuances into characters so they "feel" real to the reader.

3)You'll never please everyone. Pick an audience of one (I'm the toughest sell, so I usually pick me) and write to please that person.

4) Respect your reader by crafting your very best story.

5) Respect yourself enough to craft YOUR very best story, not a cheap mirage of someone else's, no matter how much you admire another author's work.

6) Give your reader a reason to turn another page.

7) Banish your inner editors while writing the first draft.

8) Remember you can write that first draft hundreds of times.

9) Once you have a working draft, enjoy the rewriting (and rewriting and writing) stage. The hardest work is done; the story is on the page. Now's to prune and refine so your story shines.

10) Learn something new about writing or the publishing industry today that you didn't know yesterday.

As far as Staked! goes, I'm still playing catchup, but I hope to edit a couple more chapters tonight.

Monday, October 7, 2013

"Staked!" Update

I found my missing editorial notes. Somehow, they found their way in one of Rebekah's notebooks. Strange.

But I am happy to report that the final round of editing is almost to the halfway mark. This week is especially tight, workwise, and I lost most of today by attending doctor appointments with someone I'm advocating for medically (No immediate family member; everyone's relatively healthy, so far).

Still, despite out of office appointments tomorrow, an appearance on 1340 AM WJOL's "Friday Mornings with Lynne, Mary & Natalie" on, well, Friday, and Saturday's author fair at the Joliet Public Library, I'm hoping Staked! will be ready (or very nearly so) for Sarah to add the interior art.

Wish me luck!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Catching Up and Two New Reviews: "Bryony" and "Visage"

Sorry for my sporadic posting again. The transition from "homed" to "homeless" should be complete this week. It's been an interesting transition, and, like all transitions, not without a few bumps, curves, and twists in the road. The view ahead appears a bit smoother. Please be patient.

On the brighter side, I completed all initial formatting for Staked!. On the sadder side, I've lost some of my editorial notes, probably in the confusion of working from two offices and needing to pack up all my supplies and unpack them several times each day.

My plans for this week, from Sunday's view, is to blog each day about Staked!'s progress. Gazing up, I'm not seeing much sky left that can still fall, so I'm optimistic about returning to daily blogging as of today.

In the meantime, check two new amazon reviews for Bryony HERE and Visage HERE.

It's phenomenal reader reviews like these that make me long for a two month paid leave from my "regular" work just so I could bang out that prequel already, a chapter a day. It's outlined and partially written: forty chapters plus a prologue and epilogue. I hope Before the Blood doesn't stretch into a several decade, wishful thinking project as Bryony did.

So if any millionaires out there would like to sponsor my eight week, pretend stay in a pretend attic (because I no longer have a real attic office), message me at ;)