Tuesday, March 31, 2015
Monday, March 30, 2015
The Twilight craze has passed and so has the fervor for Old Curiosity Shop by Charles Dickens.
I can see you blink and say, "Huh?"
Not too many years ago in the eternal perspective, loyal fans of this latter serial waited with as much anticipation for the next installment as Edward/Jacob devotees yearned for the next movie. Victorians gathered at harbors to meet English ships for one reason, and it wasn't greeting family and friends. They just had to know: "Is Little Nell dead???"
Most of us will never be as famous as either Stephanie Meyers of Charles Dickens, and the memory of their accomplishments will fade, has faded, and is fading from the forefront of most people's consciousness. Think of all the schools that are named for esteemed educators and then ask schoolchildren (and their parents and teachers) to give a summary of that educator's life.
So what does that mean for the rest of us, who lead more ordinary lives between the here and then gone?
Two things happened to me on Saturday that inspired this post. One is a friend grappling with that question. The other is the former marketing director for the BryonySeries, who left a voice message for me while I was in a meeting.
Eight years ago I had interviewed her for a Herald-News story before and after she had brain surgery to remove a meningioma. The second interview was at her home, while she was recovering. Because this woman is creative and spiritual, I impulsively stopped at a religious goods store on the way to her house and purchased a lace banner for her, with the phrase: "Be still and know that I am God." Psalm 46:10.
The story was published, and in 2010 I hired her for marketing until the budget for marketing was gone. End of story.
She still has that lace banner. That banner still inspires her. On that particular day, she was writing a euology for a relative's memorial service. She called to let me know that she was using this banner as the foundation of her eulogy, and that it still meant something to her eight years later.
In the Eastern Orthodox church, we conclude our memorial services with the phrase, Eternal Memory.
I believe that as the sharp particulars of a person's life soften and fade from the mind of loved ones - because they will, as much as that might sting our pride - they increase in warm, strength, and value in the spiritual realm, much as a candle flame enlarges as it burns. In this case, it's a flame that eternally grows and burns, one that is never extinguished or forgotten.
Our names, the details of our works, these are not the important things and won't be much remembered except by God, but that's the remembrance that ultimately counts.
But the impressions of love and joy we make upon others, the example of our character and the way we choose to live, these DO affect others, who will take up the torch and light the way for generations to follow.
That's what it's alll about, Alfie.
Sunday, March 29, 2015
The little bit of fiction - still in chapter eight of Kellen's story in Before the Blood, that I squeezed in amongst the work this weekend reminded of Meliss'a exchange with Kellen at the Smythe's dinner party, which reminded me that I hadn't shared any BryonySeries recipes for a while. Here's one for roasted pig straight out of the nineteenth century and served at that infamous dinner party.
Friday, March 27, 2015
Thursday, March 26, 2015
Self-taught pianist and composer James Onohan produces music that sounds like John Simons played it, but his resemblance to Bryony’s fictional lead vampire doesn’t stop there.
Not only is Onohan close in age to Bryony’s main vampire, but he’s a perfectionist whose happiest moments are onstage performing and whose best creative moments are alone, in a nearly dark room.
“I just close my eyes and play what I’m feeling,” Onohan, 30, of Indiana, said. “That’s how the best pieces come out, from somewhere inside me. It’s something I have to do. It’s like I’m in a whole other world. I wait until everyone is sleeping, put down the lights really low, close my eyes and just play. When I listen to some of the recordings I’ve made, I don’t think I could ever duplicate them.”
Onohan is creating 10 new songs for a CD called The Best-Loved Compositions of John Simons. This CD is mentioned in Bryony when Melissa borrows it from the Munsonville Library.
Included on those tracks is, Bryony. the piece Simons created as wedding present for his young bride and played at the conclusion of every practice and concert. Onohan has already composed that piece and is working on the rest.
Bryony’s web administrator, Sarah Stegall, of North Carolina, found Onohan and his music on YouTube when she was seeking classical piano music for the Bryony website (http://www.bryonseries.com/).
Stegall felt the site needed “samples” of Simons’ work, but the only non-copyrighted music she found was organ music. She heard Onohan’s most popular selection, One Last Time, on YouTube and loved it, so she immediately located Onohan’s website and sent him a message.
“I had sat for hours on YouTube and various websites listening to out of copyright classical piano that we could use for Bryony. Nothing fit,” Stegall said. “I was listening to Debussy and I was clicking randomly on the side links. I almost clicked out when I heard James and realized, ‘Oh wow, he's what we are looking for!’
“The enchanting sounds he was plinking out were so captivating, I could see why Melissa played her music box over and over. I immediately found his website and listened over and over. He became my John Simons that night. However, I had quite a few problems. The biggest was that he wasn't out of copyright. I sent him a brief email wondering if maybe, just maybe, he would let us market his songs under the book.”
To her surprise, Onohan responded almost as quickly. Stegall explained her project and quickly summarized the novel for him. Her original request was permission to reproduce some of his musical clips on the website, but Onohan had a better idea. Why couldn’t he write the book’s theme song and create the CD Melissa checked out from the Munsonville Library?
“When Sarah called me about the book deal, I was very surprised, very flattered and very happy for the opportunity,” Onohan said. “I had been finding it hard to get the inspiration to write new music, so doing the songs for this book has gotten me past the writer’s block.”
Onohan and music go so far back in time, he can’t remember when his love for the medium began. His earliest musical memory was sitting near his father while he played organ and picking up one of the music books and flipping to the back. Depicted there was a keyboard marked with the notes. Intrigued, Onohan used that tool to teach himself how to read music.
“Reading music helped me in band and, when I was able to play the piano, in learning more complex pieces,” Onohan said. “When it comes to playing by ear, I’m not that good. I can’t hear something and reproduce it like some people can, except when I’m creating my own music. I just hear it in my head and play it from there.”
At age 8, Onohan learned clarinet for the school band. He later swapped instruments—flute for clarinet--with his best friend. “My voice has a nice vibrato, so it gives the flute a beautiful sound,” Onohan said. “I really liked the music I produced with it.
Each weekend, Onohan and his father traveled to Chicago for sheet music. During one of those times Onohan, now 12, picked up a book of Mozart selections and began learning them. He played one of those pieces to several thousand people as part of a city festival and liked it.
“It was the best day of my life,” Onohan said. “I was overwhelmed by that performance and have wanted to relive it ever since. Just to get onstage and play my music for an audience has been my dream.”
Onohan continued with the flute and band during high school, although he did play piano for the high school jazz band. He also participated in all-city competitions and talent shows.
Eventually, the piano became Onohan’s primary instrument, although he does still play flute. “I’m not a guy who works well with words; I don’t talk a lot,” he said. “The piano lets me express my feelings without speaking. The ideal is for me to feel what I’m playing, so I can pour out my emotions through my fingers.”
After high school, Onohan enrolled in general education courses at a local community college, but his heart gravitated toward a fulltime music career. Eventually, he convinced his parents to let him attend VanderCook Music College in Chicago. He lasted three months.
Once there, Onohan realized the program was slanted toward those that wanted to teach music, not perform it. “It was no the environment I wanted to be in,” Onohan said. “I didn’t want to play music anymore and when I don’t play music for awhile, I’m not at peace with myself. I’ve never regretted leaving.”
Instead, Onohan joined the police force and recently celebrated his ninth anniversary with it. Onohan then bought a fancy keyboard, continued to compose and play—he compares his style to Yanni—and began recording his music and creating sheet music, which helped him recreate his own music. Within eight years, Onohan wrote and recorded over 35 original compositions—many of which are found on his three CDs-- and recorded a Christmas CD.
Although his CDs and sheet music are now selling modestly well online—One Last Time and Only You are his top sellers—Onohan’s first audience was his family, friends, and fellow police officers.
“I sold CDs by hand and passed out CDs to everybody in my academy classes,” Onohan said. “Talk about a bunch of grown men getting copies of romantic piano music! But I got really great reviews from these men about how great my piano music was. That was really flattering.”
Although getting married and starting a family were personal high points in Onohan’s life, it was a dark time for his music, he said, due to lack of free time. “I didn’t even think about playing,” Onohan said, “and then one day, a couple of years ago, I met a producer who had her own little studio. That inspired me to build mine.”
In addition to composing music for Bryony, Onohan’s current projects including writing original music for vocalists and other new artists. He plays only his original music for weddings and other events. Onohan still dreams of the day he becomes a fulltime concert pianist. For now, he is content that others are enjoying his music.
“My biggest fulfillment is when people respond and I read how my music is affecting other people’s lives,” Onohan said. “I know it sounds corny, but that, to me, is priceless.”
For more information and to purchase Onohan’s music visit http://www.jamesonohan.com/. Onohan is also featured on the Bryony website at http://www.bryonyseries.com/.
Wednesday, March 25, 2015
Tuesday, March 24, 2015
His boss had paid cash, he told the clerk about the bill he had forged.
But as Patrianakos hurried through the parking lot to his car, he heard a voice calling after him, “I got you boy! I got you boy!” Terrified, Patrianakos sped home, chopped his printer into tiny bits and waited for the police to arrive. They didn’t, and Patrianakos continued using heroin.
“I thought I was the exception, not the rule,” Patrianakos said. “I was not the poor minority in the inner city. I was just a normal kid in the suburbs." Joliet local shares heroin recovery story, The Herald-News, Jan. 21, 2014
Monday, March 23, 2015
I also managed to squeeze in a bit of a weekend, yesterday afternoon into early evening, which meant time spent with Before the Blood.
And that's it, vampire fans.
First, the fundraiser...
This was our church's 50th annual dinner (St. Nicholoas Orthodox Church, Homewood), and if we never have another, this was a good way to end it. We have, at best, twenty active members at our church. With the exception of three adult children, there is only one member younger than I, and that is not by much, and his health is fragile. The rest are over sixty (including both priests, with our pastor being eight-two), and most are over seventy and eighty.
That was our work crew. Now, no one has said we will not have another dinner. But I am a realist. And next year's dinner is a year away.
Was it hard work? Of course, but there is a special sense of serene stillness and profound joy that happens when you can bless those that have first blessed you. Add to that mix the opportunity to watch the children you have raised do likewise, and the serenity becomes elevated to high praise to a God that allowed you to share in the building-up of such character. Acts that seems ordinary - kitchen prep work for four hours, running the raffle for five, and another two of tear-down, not to mention missing most of liturgy the next day to help in kitchen clean-up - take on a level of extraordinary when performed in that spirit.
Did I mention that most of our spaghetti dinner patrons were also elderly?
In short, we served - and we made people feel like a million bucks. It was a fantastic weekend.
Now for some self-ministry, which is important for we love others with the same measure that we love ourselves. Three weekends back, I was on call; two weekends back, we moved; and last weekend was a hybrid of various activities, which did include some writing. Next week, I am again on call. The following weekend is Pascha.
When life is busy, it's easy to cast aside one's personal needs in favor of more pressing duties. But never addressing yours can produce internal resentment and exhaust the spirit, never a good thing.
So yesterday afternoon, I claimed the room I share with Rebekah and tackled chapter seven of Kellen's story that has stubbornly refused my attemps at rapid completion and worked out the last couple of scenes, leaving only several miscellaneous paragraphs for short bursts of tackling, when time is brief. At that point, the muse had kicked in, so I proceeded to chapter eight, and wrote half. I saw the time, reluctantly shut off the flow, and made some notes of what to write when I return, whenever that is. Although actual minutes and hours were less than I would have liked, the production reflected the opposite and altered my perception of Monday morning.
This means that, instead of starting the new week a bit weary and frustrated with lack of "me" time, I'm actually rested, refreshed, rejuvenated, and renewed, ready to begin a round of work that won't really pause until the first weekend in April, and happy to be of service, wherever I am called.
And wherever I can squeeze in a bit of vampire fantasy, trust me. I'm gonna do it!
Friday, March 20, 2015
Thursday, March 19, 2015
Tuesday, January 31, 2012
As I sloooooowly work on Before the Blood, Bryony's prequel (Oh, for a nice-sized grant to sit in a wooded cabin for a couple of months), here are some of the items I'm investigating and/or refining in regards to any firsthand knowledge I might have (obviously, I have no firsthand knowledge of Victorian living):
* music schools, consevatories, and halls
* 19th century Massachusetts
* 19th century inns
* 19th century Roman Catholic churches, New York area
* 30 Years War
* herbal lore
* Victorian love letters
* 19th century home environments, all societal classes
* oil painting
* horses and not just Arabians
* 19th century medicine and diseases
* Scandanavian culture
* baby names of the various time periods
This is not to mention the wonderful fun of deepening the personalities of existing characters and expounding on their back stories, as well as introducing an entire new cast of secondary places.
Truly, this is a most delightful way to pass the time. :)
Wednesday, March 18, 2015
Tuesday, March 17, 2015
Monday, March 16, 2015
Friday, March 13, 2015
Thursday, March 12, 2015
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Every House Tells a Story.
Wednesday, March 11, 2015
Tuesday, March 10, 2015
If any words were so untrue, it's these. Munsonville, like any locale, DOES change.
By the time Melissa experiences it for the first time in Bryony, it's changed. The background chatter is all about how the village wants to restore parts of the Simons estate for tourism.
Of course, John Simons taking up residence in the village changes it, as we eventually learn in Before the Blood, but don't worry. You'll be able to see Munsonville even before John's appearance.
By the end of Bryony, the landscape has again changed and so has Melissa.
It's a different Munsonville in Visage. In Staked!, we find John-Peter and Karla naively unaware that the Munsonville they inhabit is not the same Munsonville the readers have previously experienced, and even that is changed by the end of the story.
Again, so is Melissa. And then it, and she, changes again.
Setting is not static, nor should we, as fiction writers, write it that way. Show the changes, subtle or not. Show how those changes affect your characters, subtle or not. Our suroundings shift and change. We cannot help but shift and change to accomodate them.
This past weekend, we moved, the fourth move in less than eighteen months.
We broke down our Channahon house, disposed of most of our belongings, stored the rest in a 10' by 10' foot storage unit - yes, the lifetime possessions of four people - and moved into a relative's home that we "affectionately" called Stalag 17.
Nine months later, the four of us moved into a four-room apartment we dubbed Ellis Island - the transition from one life to the next.
A month later, we broke down the storage unit and tossed away more stuff. The remaining items went to the apartment.
And here we are, seven months later, moving into a townhome across the street from the apartment. We have a nickname for this place, too.
We're calling it "home."
Never did the four of us think that we, together under one roof, would call a place "home" again. We're all adults now and moving at a steady pace into new lives. But God had one more transitional surprise for us. It feels good. We like it. We're happy.
Surprise your characters. Surprise your readers. Shake up your landscape.
Grow and change them all.
For more ideas: http://blog.nathanbransford.com/2015/03/the-importance-of-change-in-setting.html
Friday, March 6, 2015
Joliet surgeon strives to be capable, compassionate
By Sean Leary
Talk about cutting edge! This doctor is young and a powerhouse of skill and caring when it comes to plastic surgery, and no, I'm not talking body sculpting.
An Extraordinary Life: Homer Township's Larry Berg was quite the man
He beat the odds to success and built community wherever he went.
Joliet orthopaedic surgeon works to reduce pain, restore movement
He's second in the state for an unusual procedure.
Grace United Methodist hosts fresh telling of a familar gospel
Biblical storytelling group will present the entire book of Mark this Sunday.
Joliet Fransiscans will host art celebration on March 15
As part of its 150th anniverary year, the Sisters of St. Francis of Mary Immaculate will pay tribute to its art legacy through displays and musical performances. Be sure to click on this story. The attached video of the chime choir is just too cute.
Thursday, March 5, 2015
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
The story opens when the girl--I think her name was Gloria--stands outside a house rumored to be haunted and waits for the ghost of Miss Nancy Rose. This was a woman who was accidentally shot dead while carrying a bunch of lilacs and running outside to meet her lover. I don't even remember who shot her, but her ghost was supposed to appear around dusk.
Anyway, Gloria is half-hoping, half-not hoping to meet this ghost, either to prove or dispel the legend. Of course, no ghost appears, but as Gloria turns to leave, this white Persian cat emerges from the lilac bushes. In stunned disbelief, Gloria takes the cat home, wondering if it's a real cat of the ghost of Miss Nancy Rose.
This was the inspiration behind Brian's cat, Snowbell. The cat's exact role in Bryony is nearly as mysterious as her sudden appearance at the Marchellis' back door. To the people who have previewed Bryony, Snowbell has represented different things and all of them are different from my intention for the cat.
As I've moved through the editing process, I've considered strengthening my point of view regarding Snowbell, then discarded the idea. Hearing everyone else's take makes Snowbell a satisfying, shadowing character. I like her that way.
Denise M. Baran-Unland
Wednesday, March 4, 2015
Tuesday, March 3, 2015
A motif is a symbol or collection of symbols and ideas that are repeated throughout your novel that enhances your theme and conjure up your book(s) to readers long after the last page is read. In the BryonySeries, these include:
* The song, Bryony
* the music box that plays, Bryony
* purple roses
* a flock of crows (otherwise called "a murder")
* the exchange of blood in many forms AND
* the emphasis on food and eating (think about that)
* the mention of fairies and fairy tales
* bryony (vine and name), vines, and herbs
* Irish soda bread
* vanilla ice cream
* white cats
* writing, literature, especially Charles Dickens' Tale of Two Cities
* Henry's love of quotes
* predators of varying kinds
Even my repeated dedication: This book is lovingly dedicated to the reader, whoever you might be
An epigraph is a quote used at the beginning of your book or preceding each of your chapters that ties into its theme. Examples from my books include:
Bryony: Bryony is a rapidly growing invasive perennial vine, with dark green, palmate leaves and a thick, extensive rooting system. Its round berries are poisonous to humans and animals. (epigraphish)
Visage: There are a sort of men whose visages do cream and mantle like a standing pond, and do a willful stillness entertain, with purpose to be dress'd in opinion of wisdom, gravity, profound conceit, as who should say, "I am Sir Oracle, and when I open up my lips no dog bark!" William Shakespeare, Merchant of Venice
Staked!: Think now and then that there is a man who would give his life, to keep a life you love beside you!" Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities
Monday, March 2, 2015
It also meant I could make progress while not getting too drawn into the story, since I was the editor-on-call this past weekend.
What's now remaining in chapter seven is several scenes that go together (where inspiration is still slow to materialize), and several smaller exposition sections that I broke down into a couple paragraphs each, and then assigned each grouping to a night, Sunday through Wednesday.
And then I didn't get Sunday's section written, LOL.
However, I also sifted through nearly one thousand backed-up emails on my AOL account. including some very important ones that were overlooked amongst social media notifications, doubles I had ignored, items that needed to go into community calendars, etc.
While doing so, I'd handed off the fabrication of last night's dinner to Daniel, who didn't fabricate nearly as quickly as I could, so I wound up helping out, and suddenly, POOF! It got late.
Still, despite missing church again, it was a rather productive weekend, overall. I'm also getting a little more confident "minding the shop," as it were. Some things that would have rattled me just a few months ago, I now handled with ease.
Of course, I still have much to learn, and I'm eager to learn it. In addition, from a writer's block point of view, I learned several things.
One: It's okay to procrastinate in front of the computer if your brain is simmering at the same time.
Two: Just like insomniacs are told to get out of bed if they can't fall asleep, I now try to walk away from the computer if ideas are just not generating and find something else (i.e. a non-writing activity, and yes, they do exist) to do.
Three: Skipping over details that need research and coming back to them later serves two purposes. It doesn't stall the muse when it's working at warp speed, and it gives you something to do when the muse is taking an extended nap.
Four: Breaking up troublesome passages into smaller, easier-to-manage scenes helps to coax a reluctant muse into action.
So, overall, the view over the top of the coffee mug (a white one with blue letters saying "The Herald-News," a gift from our marketing manager) on this brisk and chilly Monday morning is a sunny one, and I'm joyfully anticipating a new week.
Hope you are, too. (Raising coffee mug). Happy Monday! :)