Friday, January 31, 2014

Where in the Heck Did Story Round Up Go?

It will be back tonight (or tomorrow) as an extra blog post for the respective day.

Unlike The Herald-News under its previous owners, readers are unable to view entire stories simply by clicking on its link. I will check either tonight or tomorrow to see if one simply needs to sign up or if a paid subscription is necessary.

Now that I'm finally getting a handle on the new job, I had intended to do that this morning. Unfortunately, I had forgotten about a story due this morning, as one of the newspaper feature topics had been moved from Tuesday to Monday (and I can't seem to get that drilled through my head). Not the most pleasant way to wake up, although forgetting that until later would have been much, much worse.

So now that I'm (very nearly) properly caffeinated, there's a pet story calling my name. Toodles, till later!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Meet Snip

This is Snip.
Many years ago, my first features editor, Jan Larsen, gave me Snip for a Christmas present. Jan loved Siamese cats. I didn't have cats at the time, so Snip became my official newspaper cat.
Snip lives in my backpack. Whenever I had newspaper deadlines in the morning to meet (most of the time), and when the truck was late (back when I delivered newspapers), I would sit crosslegged on a work station, notes to one side, laptop in front of me, and Snip in plain view, a stern reminder of Jan's consternation in a few hours should I be late. I needed that reminder, because the combination of one o'clock in the morning and late trucks made me want to slink off to my van for a nap instead of settling into a plywood cubicle and compose.
Fast forward to the present.
During one of the first days on the new job, I suddenly noticed I was sitting on the very edge of my desk chair, my habit when I worked from home, since Faith (my calico) claimed the remaining surface. Since I'm missing my attic domain, and writing without cats scampering around is hard on the concentration, I decided to release Snip from her backpack prison for daytime hours only and give her an official presence in my office space.
   Most of the time, Snip sits on the back of my chair. However, when I'm rushed and deadlines are tight, I'm going to place her in bird's eye view (Snip will like that), to improve my focus (and fear).
Say, "Hi" to Snip.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Catching Up (Finally)

I'm starting to get a feel for this job. :)

I'm the supervisor to a lovely editorial assistant; our in-office relationship already feels similiar to working in my former attic attic with Rebekah studying and completing homework in the adjacent bedroom, all the while talking back and forth to each other as needed. ("Mom, can you look at my grammar?" "Rebekah, can you crop this photo?") The only real difference is that our conversation revolves more around AP style (hers) and needing help with basic--really basic-- technology (mine).

Yesterday, she was moved closer to the main entrance to give the equally lovely front desk woman some help, and THAT move felt similiar to when Rebekah spent six weeks in Raleigh with Sarah two summers ago. I reassured my assistant that we would still communicate often (because we need it to get the job done, even if she can no longer physically hear what stories I'm currently working on), listed the advantages of walking back and forth to each other's desks (more exercise, etc.), and confidingly shared how we will wear a hole in the carpet. She meekly submitted to the move, unconvinced, and I'm already missing her.

All my hard work starting in Thanksgiving through now with no break, except the day I worked on Cornell Dyer and the Missing Tombstone, finally halted me in my tracks on Saturday, and I finally spent half a day or so on fiction. Here's what happened.

I exchanged my four day "immerse myself in fiction and ignore the world" Thanksgiving weekend for story piling, so I could take off a block of time at the end of December. The idea was that I would enjoy the holidays with my family and hang out with my nineteenth century characters in the prequel that often feels decades away to completion, much as Bryony did for many, many, many years, after I had conceived the idea in January nineteen eighty-five.

Instead, on Christmas Eve, I learned The Herald-News, which received the bulk of my freelance features work, was sold, and that I had to submit all outstanding copy no later than the first week of January. I had nine stories in progress and three An Extraordinary Life interviews scheduled. At the time, I did not mourn the break, as as cloud of horribleness hung over me: I might very well get a very long break.

So I worked on those stories like crazy and submitted them. The deadline was a Thursday night. Friday morning, normally a wild "Don't speak to me until late afternoon" day, greeted me in a somber and disquietingly quiet. My inbox was empty. My appointment book for the next week was blank. I had no deadlines to meet. Nothing.


I realized the bulk of my job might have come to a dead stop. I worked on some other pushed to the back burner assignments and tried to ignore the hovering, sickening dread of permanently saying, "Farewell" to the only paid work I felt called to do: write about people.

Then a colleague noticed the job posting for features editor at The Herald-News; its description of duties read like the ones I'd been fulfilling, albeit on a independent contractor basis, for many years. So, I wrote my first resume, attended my first job interview, and, to my great surprise, received the job. I took a total of one day off--Cornell--and went to orientation sick, sick, sick, and worked that full week sick and too stressed, and sick, to sleep.

As I said at the top of this post, now that the virus has passed, and I'm getting (some) sleep, the job is (starting) to come together for me.

Hoping to get my story count built back up, I worked straight through last weekend and kept going. My goal was to do the same THIS weekend (and I did work most of it), but after I returned from a several hour fiction writing workshop type meeting (On Saturdays, I'm mentoring two fiction writers that asked for classes and coaching), I felt too fired up with my own fiction to send that unfulfilled muse back to its lonely cage.

Instead, I took a walk in the bitter cold, which had slightly warmed up from the brutal cold (only my phone felt the brunt, as the battery kept going to sleep, leaving my headphones annoyingly silent) and then headed to my computer for an evening in Munsonville and to re-read Staked! one last time to check for typos. Thus refreshed, I spent Sunday composing newspaper assignments (in the cold, because my mother's furnace had temporarily

 gone out) and praying that NEXT Sunday's weather would not prevent a forty mile trip to our church.

I'm still feeling productive (and a little tired this morning, SIGH!).

Moving forward: my story count is slowly building up; I should have a budget for freelancers very soon; I'm supposed to be trained today on how to plan the remaining features pages; and I'm interviewing Tommy James this afternoon, as he will be appearing at the historic Rialto Square Theatre in Joliet on Valentine's Day.

Saturday daytime is full, but I'm planning on spending Friday night, early Saturday morning, Saturday night, early Sunday morning, and Sunday afternoon in Munsonville, switching off from the prequel to the final reading of Book Three, as Sarah has been hard at work finishing the cover.

Caaaaaan't wait! :)


Thursday, January 23, 2014



(stumblin' off to bed, hopin' to write sometin brilliant tomorro...


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Nothing Says "Cozy" in Cold Weather Than...

...head cheese, Victorian-style.

This recipe is from the Fetes and Feasts chapter of Memories in the Kitchen: Bites and Nibbles from "Bryony," the official companion cookbook to Bryony, the first book in the BryonySeries.

First published in 1850 in Miss Beecher’s domestic receiptbook: designed as a supplement to her Treatise on domestic economy.

All proceeds of the cookbook benefit Big Brothers Big Sisters of Will and Grundy Counties ( Order a copy at

Head Cheese

Ears, skin, and feet of pigs
Seasoning (two options):
Sweet herbs

In salted water, boil the ears, skin, and feet of pigs till the meat drops from the bones; chop it like sausage meat. Season the liquor with pepper, salt, cloves, nutmeg, and cinnamon, or pepper, salt, and sweet herbs. Mix the meat with it, and while hot, tie it in a strong cloth bag and keep a heavy stone upon it until quite cold.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Learning New Software Like a Boss

Well, kinda.

As a brand new features editor at The Herald-News, I AM a boss (I'm responsible for an editorial assistant, not sure of all the duties yet, so it's a vague hat), and the fact I am even (sort of) learning new computer systems and software at all (with no one screaming at me--yet--in total frustration), I think me deserves the moniker.

I even had my first lesson in Photoshop. :)

Furthermore, I still have my former offspring assistants for awhile yet. Rebekah had no work or school today (in honor of Martin Luther King), so since the spirit of the day calls for service of some kind, I gave her a thick booklet and the totally awesome task of learning my new email system.

She said it was easy. Good. She can help me set up folders and add a signature.

Don't laugh.


Sunday, January 19, 2014

And the Cavalry Showed Up

For readers following my posts the last few months, you know the interesting challenges I've battled. Recently, the newspaper that accepts most of my freelance features articles was sold, and I prepared to say "good-bye" to a satisfying portion of my career.

I was hasty.

The new company hired me as the features editor for The Herald-News. I've been told about eighty percent of my job will focus on what I've already been doing, albeit no longer from an attic office with a cat sitting behind mind me (along with one sitting on my lap, another perched on my tower, and a fourth resting on top of my printer.

The other twenty percent involves learning new equipment and software (Remember, I need directions to operate a can opener) and negotiating what it means to be a salaried employee with an assistant (other than a minor child) that reports to me.

While the "congratulations" from family, friends, co-workers, and fans is much appreciated, I'm honestly feeling more stretched than exhilarated, at least right now, as I struggle to learn much unfamiliar material in a short period of time, so I can quickly regain efficiency.

However, I'd be lying if I didn't say I'm very excited about this new trail of the journey. I love my job, and I'm thrilled that I can continue the old ways while expanding on them by learning new methods to get the task done while acquiring new skills.

Becoming an employee happened at the ideal time. I graduated from my homeschool teacher status in November when my youngest turned eighteen and earned his G.E.D.

Each of my children simultaneously began new adventures in their lives, too. Truly gives new meaning to the phrase "no child left behind."

Apparently, that must mean moms, too.


Thursday, January 16, 2014

Yep, Definitely Sick

Took a pass on WriteOn Joliet in favor of extra rest.

Am I the only person in the world that CAN'T sleep when sick? Lying down feels good, but sleep always eludes me.

Oh, well, there's always reading...

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Exhausted. Overwhelmed. Hopeful. Exhilarated...

...and maybe sick. :(

New job duties.

New technology and software to learn (GULP!)

Excitedly looking forward to the future! :)

Monday, January 13, 2014

Guess What I'm Reading Tonight?

Yeah, my last copy is from 2002. This new one just arrived today. Decided it was time to stop looking up questions online. This one is twice the size of my last edition (GULP!)

Got some catching up to do, or what? This will be my bedtime reading for a few nights, at least. (Wonder if there's a section on vampires? Flipping to "v"...).




Thursday, January 9, 2014

2014 Old Calendar Christmas: A Pictorial Recap

My intentions were good.

But when we returned home late the night of the January seventh, I watched episode three of Wives and Daughters with Rebekah and then fell asleep, totally forgetting to post the blog.

I'll do better today, I promised myself yesterday.

But after last night's final episode, I repeated the behavior of the previous night. Tonight, I'm making it all good.

Yes, we had a WONDERFUL time. The proof is in the photos below.

Ronnie and his cousin Ezekiel work off some pre-dinner, "super power" energy in Christopher's living room
Caleb (right) and his soon to be stepbrother Micah (left) "troubleshoot" a computer screen for Christopher.
Ronnie demonstrates to his father Christopher and his soon to be stepmother Jennifer the proper way to pray .
"Uncle" Daniel remonstrates Caleb for some overly rambunctious behavior.
In the meantime, "Chef" Timothy prepares dinner.
Cousins Caleb and Ezekiel share an affectionate moment while Caleb's big brother Ronnie looks on.
Dinner is served: honey ham, homemade bread, mashed sweet potatoes, and homemade pirohi with caramelized onions.
Which everyone enjoyed. :)

Rebekah turned twenty. Our family isn't crazy about cake, so we feted her with ice cream pie in graham cracker crusts: vanilla on the right and caramel apple on the left.

Singing "Happy Birthday" and "God grant you many years," while I record a video that didn't save. Luckily, Timothy's video did. Left is Joshua and my daughter-in-law Amber. They are expecting a baby girl in May. Ezekiel will turn two and become a big brother at nearly the same time.

Rebekah didn't even come close to blowing out all the candles. :(
Time to open presents.
No objections from Ronnie!
Perfect fit! :)
(Do you see the kitty?)
Midnight chilling behind Timothy.
Faith doesn't look too sure of Hope as Frances "taps" Faith from her perch.
Ezekiel, tuckered out, is ready to go home.
Yours truly cuddling with Midnight (left) and Hope (right).

Friday, January 3, 2014

'TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS (Facebook Edition)" by Tom Hernandez and No Story Round Up :(

By Tom Hernandez
Another T'was the Night Before Christmas spoof from WriteOn Joliet. Check us out at
'Twas the night before Christmas,
And while the family slept.
I tossed; so I put on my slippers and
down to the computer I quielty crept.
My eyes wired open from too much late night caffeine
I hit the Internet to see what I could gleen,
At what news of the world I could quickly look
I clicked on to the world's biggest mouth - Facebook.
Round and round my mouse did run,
me thinking, "This might be fun.
"And if not fun, well then at least
It will help me sleep like a beast."
When what to my incredulous eyes should appear,
But a misplace apostrophe - sad, but true, dear.
And then even more grammer errors did make
My poor, old editor's brain hurt, and heart ache.
Of course, there were the "To's" "Two's" and "Too's"
So mixed they should have cried "We're abused!"
Not to mention the "Theirs," "There's" and They're's"
Oh, the shame danced like snow in the air.
Contractions, misspellings, and bad usage abounded
For such bad grammer all English students are hounded.
"Who's to blame?" I pondered, "for this verbal travesty?"
Then came the answer, bright as the moon -- technology.
Computers and smart phones aand tablets and texts,
And how do kids use such power? To send sexts.
Who needs spelling when you can just "LOL"
If there's real justice, they'll go to English Hell.
And not just kinds -- to make matters even madder;
Many of the adults' posts were just as badder.
They, too couldn't properly combine "can" and "not"
Their wrong possessives and plurals gave me the trots.
Then a solution to this conundrum to me did appear
Like a sleigh in the night , led by eight - well, nine -- tiny reindeer.
I need to find Mark, of the Berg of Zucker
And solicit his help with these language suckers.
To him I would say, "Mark, you have billions to spare
"Let's make some new rules to ensure English, fair.
" Insist that Facebook users must complete and pass
" A grammer exam after taking a short class.
"And is they fail, they will not get a new passwords
"And won't be able to tell the world about their turds.
"This should be threat great enough to curb the abuse
"Of the English language and ensure proper use."
I reached Zuckerberg - he was in the (online) phone book.
He said he liked my plan, and that he felt like a schnook
For helping to unleash bad grammar on the world
When he merely wanted to embarrass a girl.
As visions of "Affect" and "Effect" rightly used danced in my head,
I smiled joyously for a good deed well done, and went back to  bed.
I dreamt of a new day when word choice would again matter
Then awoke to my kinds' cries, creating such a clatter.
As the Holy morning broke, the kids tried to post their status
They tried to hit Facebook -- but found out that they had no access.
They glared at me, mouths agape with horror as I shared my tale of Christmas Eve night,
"This is my greatest gift," said I. "Merry Christmas to all, and to all, a good write."

Thursday, January 2, 2014

"A Voorlock Christmas" by Colleen H. Robbins

A Voorlock Christmas
By Colleen H. Robbins

Another T'was the Night Before Christmas spoof from WriteOn Joliet. Check us out at

Twas the Night Before Christmas
December Twenty-Fourth
and all the video feeds
were focusd on the North.

The Voorlocks all gathered
with computers and screens
hoping this "Santa Claus"
would slip and be seen.

To all indications
this Santa was fast
and had mastered stealth flying
while boxes he cast.

"He's been spoted by NORAD!"
M3 piped with delight.
"They're tracking his rounds
of the planet tonight.

A4 punched in numbers
then chirped twice and gasped.
"He's exceeded lightspeed,
but he's already past."

Six hours later
the aliens were fighting.
"Santa must be a ruse
we still have no sighting."

"Let's check in thier homes
using satellite tech."
Presents filled the rooms,
children running neck and neck

Completely undetected
this Santa had come,
yet the Voorlock instruments
continued to hum.

"Halt the attackFleet!"
M3said with a shout.
"We'd better retreat
while we still can get out."

"Earth tech is outrageous:
FTL, stealth, and such.
I"m sure they've detected us
with things we can't tounch."

The Voorlocks retreated
to re-plan their attack.
It woould be several years
Before they could come back.

When they examined recordings
they discovered the ruse:
while foucsed on Santa,
they missed the good news.

The Christ-child was born,
Savior of Earth
The people below
celebrated his birth.

An undying Savior
keeps his faithful alive.
The Voorlocks went home,
quite relieved to survive.


Wednesday, January 1, 2014

New Year Resolutions: 1895 and 1976

New Year Resolutions, January 1, 1895


John Simons: Become the world's most renowned musician

Bryony Simons: Have a baby

Henry Matthews: Spend more time abroad

Reverend Galien Marseilles: Learn Aramaic

Kellen Weschler: Turn President Grover Cleveland

Bertha Parks: See a real, live play in Chicago

Susan Betts: Get married

Bryga Czarnecki: Accompany John out of the country

Anna Czarnecki: Travel by boat to the other side of Simons Woods and have a picnic

Ed Calkins: Make February thirteenth a national holiday

Bertrand the Mouse: Live


New Year Resolutions, January 1, 1976


Steve Barnes: Be the best husband and father possible

Darlene Marchellis: Work less and enjoy life more

Brian Marchellis: Become a better swimmer

Shelly Gallagher: Move out

Laura Jones: Go steady with Jason Frye

Jason Frye: Buy a Pontiac Trans Am 455 Super Duty

Ann Dalton: Make Jack Cooper fall in love with me

Julie Drake: Graduate with top honors, find a summer job, and buy a car

Katie Miller: Lose weight

Jack Cooper: Buy a Shakespeare Super Reel 1975 Stainless Steel HC reel

Dan Harper: Bed Julie Drake

Bobby Brown: Date Katie Miller

Mrs. Clements: Read War and Peace

Mrs. Joyce: Visit my sister in Maryland

Dr. Abner Rothgard: Create a vampire antitoxin

Cornell Dyer: Find, and slay, Bigfoot