Thursday, April 30, 2015

BryonySeries Throwback Thursday: Welcome to the BryonySeries Blog


Sunday, August 1, 2010

Welcome to the Bryony Series Blog by Denise M. Baran-Unland

I love stories, and my entire life has revolved around that love.

An asthmatic childhood provided long, happy hours curled up with either a book or a pen and notebook. Doll play with my sister (and we had many dolls) consisted of layered characters and complicated storylines that occupied us for days. I composed when riding my bike. I mentally added "he said" or "she said" when people spoke to me. My fifth and sixth grade English teacher created themed, people-centered bulletin boards from magazine clippings, and I wrote short stories from those clippings. I write for a living. I write for fun.

The BryonySeries blog reflects that fun.

Whether you are curious about the Bryony book(s) or simply enjoy reading and/or writing, you will find the genesis of and the research behind the story, publication updates, writing ramblings, information on the Bryony fundraising cookbook, writing and publication experiences of other authors, bits of inspiration and links to my favorite stories.

You will also meet the real Ed Calkins, aka, the Steward of Tara. He is one of Bryony's minor characters and Ireland's first official vampire. This blog will also feature variety of guest experts, authors, readers and, perhaps, a surprise or two.

Google my byline to read published feature stories or visitwww.suburbanchicagonews.com/heraldnews.

Mostly, enjoy!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Do It Now

That is an oft-repeating sermon theme from our associate pastor.

It's also wise words for writers during those times when snippets of brilliance pops into our brains, btu we neglect to write them down, certain we will remember them.

Too many times, we do not, and they are gone forever.

It only takes a moment to pause and jot down those key words, phrases, ideas.

I walk with paper in my pockets. I sleep with paper by my sleeping bag. My home desk testifies to my voluminous and random note-taking.



I don't use every jot of information. Heck, I can't even READ every jot of information, although I can usually decipher enough to recall the rest.

No paper? I email thoughts to me. When I'm too occupied for even that, I'll ask someone nearby to send me an email, with the reminder in the subject line.

The inspiration for this blog post came from an incident Sunday night when I did not take my own advice. Luckily, through strong mental concentration, unpleasant when sleepiness is stronger, I did remember and sent myself a garbled email.

But one really good conversation between Steve and Brian when I was writing Staked! that I did NOT write down is known only to distant lobes and unidentified brain connections.

Write it down now.

 

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Calf's Foot Jelly


Just in case you have a taste for it...

Adapted from Miss Beecher’s domestic receiptbook: designed as a supplement to her Treatise on domestic economy

Calf’s Foot Jelly

4 nicely cleaned calf’s feet
4 quarts water
3 lemons, peel only
1 pint wine
4 egg whites
3 sticks cinnamon
Sugar, to taste

Put feet in water, then let it simmer gently until reduced to 2 quarts, then strain it, and let it stand all night. Then take off all the fat and sediment, melt it, add the juice, lemon peel, wine, eggs, cinnamon, and sugar to your taste. Boil 10 minutes, then skim out the spice and lemon peel, and strain it.


From "Memories in the Kitchen: Bites and Nibbles From 'Bryony'"

All proceeds benefit Big Brothers Big Sisters of Will and Grundy Counties. www.bbbswillgrundy.org


Friday, April 24, 2015

Story Round-Up: Features in The Herald-News, Week of April 19, 2015

Adding the "Pets of the Week" feature I assemble each week, for people in thet Will/Grundy areas that might  be seeking the right furry, four-footed addition to their family.

To scroll through the many, many briefs of community news I put together each week (all without a byline) visit www.theherald-news.com/lifestyle/


Joliet woman an asset on and off the court

The first video I shot of her was accidentally deleted from my phone, so I went back and did it again. I want to be her when I'm seventy-four.

http://www.theherald-news.com/2015/03/24/joliet-woman-an-asset-on-and-off-the-court/av4c2bh/


An Extraordinary Life: Former Joliet man and Chicago high school teacher strived for sanctity

This thirty-three-year-old man who died unexpectedly and far too soon. Yet, according to him (and expounded upon by his father in the video extra), Kevin Hansen would not have considered it a tragedy.

http://m.theherald-news.com/2015/04/14/an-extraordinary-life-former-joliet-man-and-chicago-high-school-teacher-strived-for-sanctity/adwzm7r/


Pets of the Week

http://www.theherald-news.com/2015/04/08/pets-of-the-week/a359t5f/


They want to get out of that chair
By Jeanne Millsap

My favorite story of any Jeanne has written for me. A profile of an area program that helps injured veterans become physically fit. Includes a video of one quadriplegic working out.

http://www.theherald-news.com/2015/04/16/they-want-to-get-out-of-that-chair/a9b8k6y/


Catholic youth choir raising funds to sing in Rome

If you want to hear angelic voices, listen to the video clip. Better yet, support the cause and attend the concert and hear them in person. Beautiful!

http://m.theherald-news.com/2015/04/22/joliet-catholic-youth-choir-raising-funds-to-sing-in-rome/a7llnzs/


JJC pastry chef says TV competition a whirlwind of go, go, go

Chef Andy Chlebana was chosen to be a part of a new Food Network show. He had back away from competition, but he agreed once his teacher's instincts kicked in. Check out the video of Chlebana keeping his students moving behind the scenes at last week's Spring Gala.

http://m.theherald-news.com/2015/03/24/jjc-pastry-chef-says-tv-competition-a-whirlwind-of-go-go-go/a3iw207/

Thursday, April 23, 2015

BryonySeriesThrowback Thursday: Pathetic First Attempts at Writing Dialogue


Monday, November 15, 2010

Pathetic First Attempts at Writing Dialogue

As a features writer, I love incorporating quotes from sources into my stories. I rarely ask people for a “quote,” because I think the best quotes come from spontaneous conversation during the course of the interview. People say the most amazing things when they aren’t paying strict attention to their words.

So how does this relate to Bryony?

Believe it or not, the fact that I would have to supply all that terrific dialogue didn’t immediately occur to me. When I began writing Bryony as a novella, I started the story on page one and kept going (and not very far, either). Once I realized I had a novel, I changed tactics and started composing scenes, not necessarily in order. I soon ran into trouble.

Speaking for Melissa and her family and friends was easy; the vampires were much harder, even though their lines had tumbled about my head for years. How exactly did John Simons, cold and reserved, sound on paper? How would the shrewd Kellen Wechsler choose his words?

I decided to practice on a conversation between Melissa and the ever so charming and charismatic Henry Matthews. I figured it would be easy because Henry was so outgoing. I wrote and rewrote their encounter until it sounded right to me and then, heart pounding, read it aloud.

Oh the horror of really bad dialogue!

Good thing I didn’t read it loud enough for anyone to hear. If it was twenty years earlier and I was less motivated, that moment would have buried any further fiction writing attempts. However, at nearly age fifty, time is not on my side, so a couple antacids later, I set my jaw and was back at it.

Eventually, I wrote something that resembled what I heard inside me. In fact, this particular scene is a favorite of those who have read the book. Buoyed by this initial success, I wrote all of Henry’s dialogue before moving onto another character. Of course, Henry would have preferred I eliminate John altogether, but that is a different story.

I still love great dialogue, and now I’m awed that, with plenty of hard work, I can sometimes write it, too.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Keep Descriptions Moving

Last week at WriteOn, one author shared a great scene he had written, but it needed a few strokes of scene description to orient the reader into the space. Another author spoke up and said, as a reader, he generally skipped over descriptions and moved straight to the action.

I definitely could see his point.

Action, not description, is what propels a story forward and keeps a reader reading. This is true in fast-paced genre thrillers as well as slower-paced literary fiction. But the lack of description can create a disconnect between the reader and the author's imaginary world, not the result an author wants when the goal is to immerse the reader into the story.

Verbs, not adjectives, make descriptions come alive. Some examples:

Tall, gothic, tower-like structures framed the street on both sides of Jenson’s college strip; the main building of the six-story school towered above them all. The complete campus spanned the entire street. Years ago, the townspeople had nicknamed this street His Majesty’s Row because the great castle-like structures once housed the area’s notable merchants, entrepreneurs, attorneys, and physicians. Most of those homes had long since been converted into businesses or apartments for upperclassmen and staff. Whenever the college needed more space, it simply bought another house. (Visage, Chapter 1: College Bound)

Melissa quickly asked Julie what piece she was learning and only half-listened to the answer as they crossed the street to Berkley’s. The classic look of the tall, narrow brown brick building with arched doorways and windows complemented the inside walls, which the Berkleys had plastered with testimonials and photographs of satisfied patrons through the years. Customers filled the counter stools, which stretched from one end of the spacious dining room to the other, and almost all the square oak tables and chairs. Julie found an empty spot in the back near the bathrooms. The menus rested between the salt and pepper shakers. Melissa smelled French fries and sauteeing onions. (Visage, Chapter 2: Vampire or Revamped?)

The library, a maze of rooms richly decorated in dark woods, oriental rugs, and lace curtains spanned three floors; it provided the perfect setting to fan her obsession. The second floor housed all non-fiction topics, and the third, at the top of the house, with its overstuffed couches and chairs under the slanted roofs for lazy weekend reading, lodged the finest literature. Not to be outdone, floor number two contained a coffee station featuring home-baked treats and small parlors in the turrets for browsing or studying. (Visage, Chapter 2: Vampire or Revamped?)

The words Starlight Bowl sat atop a bright yellow half-dome on the building’s roof. An asterisk replaced the “a” in “starlight,” and the entire sign flashed blue. Connected to the alley was Crossroad’s Tap, a favorite weekend hang-out for Julie and Tracy. Inside the bowling alley, gray stucco walls and brown paneling clashed with the plastic green seats and orange celestial patterns on the bright blue carpet. The girls pushed through the crowds. (Visage, Chapter 4: Outdated)

The Drakes’ square kitchen, scarcely big enough for its round table, nevertheless felt pleasantly homey, with its polished wood floors and white walls, cupboards, and counters. The blue and white striped glass plates neatly stacked in the drying rack matched the blue and white striped canisters on the cupboard shelves and the limp towel hanging from a handle drawer. A blue teapot, ready for duty, rested on a back burner. The air smelled of cinnamon and cloves. (Visage, Chapter 5: Under the Stars)

At the top of the stairs, Melissa saw a tiny bathroom directly in front of her with two small bedrooms on either side. The landing was so small, Melissa and Julie could not fit on it at the same time. Julie turned left, and Melissa followed her. Julie’s bedroom contained the simplest of furnishings: two twin brass beds with matching brown chenille bedspreads and one tall dresser between them. A desk stood opposite on the south wall; pleated curtains matched the single beige rag rug on the floor. The roof slanted and formed a peak. Three large hooks were screwed into the wall left to the door. The room had no closet. On one of the beds, a large striped cat was curled up and either purring or snoring, Melissa could not tell which. (Visage, Chapter 5: Under the Stars)



The next morning, immediately following the pancake and sausage breakfast Mrs. Dalton insisted on cooking, Melissa and Julie walked to Katie’s house, a tall boxy, slightly dilapidated three-story, with gray wood siding and green shutters, where shutters remained. Chipped concrete steps led up to the front door. The back yard stretched into the woods. (Visage, Chapter 5: Under the Stars)

Monday, April 20, 2015

Boring on Social Media, Not Boring to Me

Ove five years ago, when the small press that is no longer in business first accepted Bryony, and around the time the first edits came back in the mail, I turned my attention to marketing, because everything I read said marketing begins long before a book's release.

One of the strong recommendations was an author blog. Up until this point, I had no interest in blogging. Writing features is far more appealing, and my return to a childhood love of writing fiction was also appealing. Both took plenty of time, and, besides, I couldn't drum up anything I thought readers might want to read.

I shared that conundrum with Sarah, an avid reader, and asked what would appeal to her.

"Write about topics related to the book," Sarah had said. "Write about how you got the ideas. Write about what's happening in your life."

I insisted I wanted the blog to be entertaining and posts to be relatively short, something people could quickly read and go back to their day, not another leech on their time. Sarah insisted it would be.

So I did,  and still do, post about topics that have a connection to the BryonySeries. I repost interesting items from other writers. I share writing tips I have learned along the way. I repost the features I have written during the week, as well as the features other freelancers writer for me, now that I am an editor as well as a writer. I post recipes from Memories in the Kitchen: Bites and Nibbles from "Bryony," which is a fundraiser for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Will and Grundy Counties.

However, I stumble when it comes to posting about "what's happening in my life," and it less little to do with my shrinking away from self-promotion.

There is nothing happening that makes for good blogging. It's lean, routine, a bit monastic, and well-suited to me, but it's not the type of life that will send people flocking to a blog. Seriously, I can sum it up in a few sentences.

Mornings, seven days a week: I take a 24-hour Allegra (chronic hives), eat a banana (I'm hypoglycemic and bananas have no citric acid to block the Allegra), feed the cats, heat the coffee, post a Bible verse on Facebook because I'm a writer AND a Christian, so I want the first words I write each day to not be mine. I greet my "vampire fans" on my Facebook page (www.facebook.com/BryonySeries, there's my bit of self-promotion) and then set my posts and blog for the day, and check my email, all while waking up with a cup of coffee (and petting a cat, if one wanders in).

Oh, and BTW, I get up to an alarm at 4 a.m. on work days and whenever on weekends (although my idea of "sleeping in" is getting up a lot earlier than many people do on workdays).

I eat the same breakfast seven days a week and power walk before work, five days a week. I get ready for work, pack food, check email, and pray for family, friends, church members, and co-workers while walking to work because I don't own a car.

My day is focused on writing about the cool stuff other people do: cover stories, features briefs, and calendar items. I do not take a lunch break, but eat out of my lunch box all day long. Because I do not take an official lunch, if a family item arises, I address it. I have eaten out twice in the fifteen months I have worked for the newspaper - once with my former publicist and once with co-workers, not because I'm anti-social, more because the work so aborbs me, and I'd rather take that time and talk to one of my kids, should someone call.

I walk home, praying for the souls of people that have died (see above list). I may unwind with some music while reading over some of my notes for Before the Blood and then do yoga (three nights a week) or lift weights (three nights a week). Shower, count out the next day's medicine, and to bed with a book follows that.

Two nights a month I co-lead a writer's group. One Sunday afternoon a month, I teach a by-invitation-only fiction class for a donation to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Will and Grundy Counties, and the donation is the only reason why I have been persuaded to teach the class. Sunday I attend a little dying church of senior citizens, and the church is forty miles away. Friday nights is TV night with Daniel, and I watch the shows he has handpicked for me (because I scorn most TV). Repeat on Sunday nights with Rebekah, except we follow Once Upon A Time (which has gotten boring, the show, not Rebekah).

I spend Saturdays writing fiction, and I jealously guard that time because I enjoy it so much. Every four weekends, I am in charge of social media and breaking news for two newspapers, which cuts into my fiction time, LOL!

Any leftover time is reserved for my family and a few close friends. I don't go to the bar, read the latest books, or see the latest movies, although I might do the latter if it's an opportunity to connect with family or close friends.

This is my life. I love it.

And as you're working one last yawn in, I have to get ready for my walk.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Ham, Victorian-Style


How to cure, how to cook. For those who long for the good ol' days, this ought to make you happy for the twenty-first century.

Mr. H. H.’s Receipt for Curing Hams

For each ham to be cured:
1 ounce saltpetre
1 ounce molasses
2 tablespoons common salt
Salt pickle (most likely coarse, pickling salt)

Heat the mixture until it nearly boils, and smear the meat side of the ham with it, keeping the mixture hot and rubbing it in well, especially around the bones and recesses. Let the hams lie in it for 4 to 7 days, according to the size of the hams. Then place them in a salt pickle, strong enough to bear an egg, for 3 weeks. Then soak 8 hours in fresh water. Hang in the kitchen, or other more convenient place to dry, for a fortnight. Then smoke from 3 to 5 days or until well smoked. Then wrap up in strong tar paper, tying it close. Then tie them in bags of coarse unbleached cotton, stuffing in shavings so that no part of the paper touches the cotton. Hang them near a roof in a garret, and they will never give you any trouble.


To Cook a Ham (Very Fine)

1 common-sized ham
Rusk or bread crumbs

Boil a common-sized ham four or five hours, then skin. Bake for 30 minutes, then cover it thickly with pounded rusk or bread crumbs. Bake for 30 minutes or until much of the fat dries out. This tenderizes it. Save any remaining fat for frying meat.

From "Memories in the Kitchen: Bites and Nibbles From 'Bryony'"

All proceeds benefit Big Brothers Big Sisters of Will and Grundy Counties. www.bbbswillgrundy.org


Friday, April 17, 2015

Story Round-Up: Features in The Herald-News, Week of April 12, 2015

And without further ado...


Shorewood residwent turns family memories into an engaging children's book
By Mauverneen Blevins

Ann Rubino tells the story of World War II, as seen through the eyes of a young boy growing up in an Italian village, and she isn't stopping there.

http://www.theherald-news.com/2015/03/24/shorewood-resident-turns-family-memories-into-an-engaging-childrens-book/amfluoq/?page=1


An Extraordinary Life: Joliet man could fix and build anything

His dollhouse has to be seen to be believed.

http://www.theherald-news.com/2015/03/31/an-extraordinary-life-joliet-man-could-fix-and-build-anything-he-wished/awyi327/?page=1


Breast cancer often a surprise diagnosis for men

It's easier to diagnose and harder to treat, for the same reason. Read on...

http://seoplus.theherald-news.com/2015/01/28/breast-cancer-often-a-surprise-diagnosis-for-men/agzsx2w/


Minooka woman painted and distributed thousands of tiny glass angels

A TV show inspired her, and now that she has terminal colon cancer, another artist is carrying on the ministry.

http://ads.seoplus.theherald-news.com/2015/04/14/minooka-woman-painted-and-distributed-thousands-of-tiny-glass-angels/aoxcmc0/


Plainfield writing programs give writers a chance to connect
By Brittany Keeperman

The Plainfield Public Library initiated a series of many writing programs this year, all leading up to one important event.

http://www.theherald-news.com/2015/03/20/plainfield-writing-programs-give-writers-a-chance-to-connect/at2cj15/

Thursday, April 16, 2015

BryonySeries Throwback Thursday: Cemetery-Hopping and Other Fun Mother's Day Activities


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! :)


Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Guidelines for Story Length

Here's a couple good sites that give word counts for various works, from short stories to novellas to novels, by genre.

www.betterstorytelling.net/thebasics/storylength.html

And for works intended for children:

suite.io/susie-yakowicz/4z0m2y5

And, finally, the word counts for my books. These include total word count, including research, appenxdixes, and chapter listings.

Bryony: 104,148

Visage (special edition): 132,926

Visage: 130,995

Staked!: 149,167

Before the Blood (projected): 330,000 (current word count is around the 90,000 mark, and I am not yet a third of the way done).

Hope this helps! :)









Monday, April 13, 2015

Codfish for Breakfast?

Yes, codfish appeared on Bryony's breakfast tray, not a surprise for a nineteenth century fishing village. Melissa passed, but maybe a hearty serving of mashed fish and potatoes is just the thing you need to start your day.

On this particular morning, Melissa lifted the food trays and found potatoes mashed with fish, cottage cheese balls, rice pancakes, and sliced orange in syrup. It was not her typical breakfast back home, but it was surprisingly delicious, except for the potatoes, which she ignored. Bryony, Chapter15: Playing Bryony


Codfish

Boiled potatoes, mashed
Codfish, cooked and mashed
Cream or milk
Lard
Pepper

Mix potatoes and fish together, adding some cream or milk, and a little pepper, make them into round cakes an inch thick, and fry them in fresh lard.



From "Memories in the Kitchen: Bites and Nibbles From 'Bryony'"

All proceeds benefit Big Brothers Big Sisters of Will and Grundy Counties. www.bbbswillgrundy.org



Friday, April 10, 2015

Story Round-Up: Features in The Herald-News, Week of April 5, 2015

The first four stories have video "extras," and I must say, I'm enjoying shooting these.


Celebrating Two Easters: Joliet-area pastors discuss the reasons for date discrepancies

Ever wonder why your Eastern Orthodox friends honor Easter on another day? The reasons have to do with two calendars and an ancient council.

http://m.theherald-news.com/2015/03/24/celebrating-two-easters-joliet-area-pastors-discuss-the-reasons-for-date-discrepancies/a4d8bsp/


An Extraordinary Life: Channahon man was a master tinkerer

Brian Feiner could repair anything, his family said. In the end, it was his family relationships.

http://m.theherald-news.com/2015/03/30/an-extraordinary-life-channahon-man-a-master-tinkerer/ag34yip/


For Wilmington man, there aren't a lot of options left
By Jeanne Millsap

Brian Smith is barely past 30, but he has fought colon cancer and endured a first-of-its-kind surgery in Illinois, along with more medical procedures than seems possible. But he's still smiling, upbeat and full of hope.

http://www.theherald-news.com/2015/03/24/for-wilmington-man-there-arent-a-lot-of-options-left/a12enc3/


Overcoming pressures via relationship with relationship with Jesus

Joliet pastor with years of urban youth ministry wants parents to attend a rally targeted at kids. Here's why.

http://www.theherald-news.com/2015/04/07/overcoming-pressures-via-relationship-with-jesus/adks3e0/


Chicago choral group to present music from German Romantic age at Lewis University in Romeoville
By Brittany Keeperman

The whole point is to enjoy something new and different, according to Michael Cunningham, director of the university's arts and ideas program. The presentation is even a bit different for the choral group. Keep reading to learn why.

http://www.theherald-news.com/2015/03/24/chicago-choral-group-to-present-music-from-german-romantic-age-at-lewis-university-in-romeoville/au4bpfi/

Thursday, April 9, 2015

BryonySeries Throwback Thursday: Strange Foods


Thursday, September 9, 2010

Strange Foods

After Melissa overcomes her initials trepidations about making a pact with a vampire, her biggest fear is not her health or safety, but the unfamiliar foodstuffs she encounters in the Victorian era.

Luckily, selections are lavish, so Melissa can avoid the unusual and stick to items she recognizes. Dealing with vampires is much easier, since she is convinced one has only good intentions at heart, while another is simply annoying, at best. A third leaves her uneasy, but Melissa deals with him as she does the food. She avoids him.

I say, she would have been smarter to sample the beef tongue and taken a deeper look at her fairytale surroundings.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

CUT!

During the self-editing process, after you have eliminated wordiness and tightened prose, reversed passive verbs to active, trimmed adjectives and adverbs, and banished all unnecessary "wases and weres," fixed bad grammar and typos, and filled plot holes, you congratuluate yourself, thinking your work is now complete.

Well, not quite.

Set that manuscript aside for at least a week - maybe a month - and read it with fresh perspective. It's now time to cut and combine. What goes?

Any scene, exposition, or dialogue that does not fill at least one (and better if it's multiple) purpose or objective. Treat it like a lazy worker at a company. If it doesn't have a clear, defined job to do, give it one. If the scene still isn't working, send it packing.

Sample jobs: provide pertinent information, strengthen and/or move the plot, reveal character, build tension.

Just as filler words are a no-no, so are filler characters and scenes. 

Can't quite bear to part with some darlings? Try combining certain characters and scenes and see if that helps. If so, great. You win. 

If not, bring forth the editing knife and be ruthless.

Really ruthless.


Monday, April 6, 2015

Leftover Easter Ham?

Try this authentic Victorian recipe from the BryonySeries cookbook and one that often appeared on Bryony Simons' breakfast tray.


Ham Pieces

Flour
Water
Eggs
Salt
3 great spoonfuls butter or lard
Thin slices ham

Make quite a thin batter of flour, water, eggs, and a little salt. Pour the batter over the bottom of a Dutch oven or frying-pan, which has a very little hot butter, or lard in it; say 3 great spoonfuls. Let the batter be no thicker on the bottom than a straw; let it fry for a couple of minutes and then cover the batter with very thin slices of ham, and pour a thin layer of batter over them. Let it fry till the bottom looks a yellowish brown (have a hot fire), then cut it into squares, or into triangular quarters, or eighths, and turn it with a knife, and let it fry until the other side is browned.


From "Memories in the Kitchen: Bites and Nibbles From 'Bryony'"

All proceeds benefit Big Brothers Big Sisters of Will and Grundy Counties. www.bbbswillgrundy.org

 

Friday, April 3, 2015

Story Round-Up: Features in The Herald-News, Week of March 29 2015

This week was sooooo not about me, and I'm glad.

I really enjoy the privilege of refining another writer's works. I learn all the time from someone else's approach and continually learn something new from it.



Lewis students stand where history was made and participate in Selma anniversary
By Sean Leary

Let's just call this "a field trip extraordinaire."

http://www.theherald-news.com/2015/03/17/lewis-students-stand-where-history-was-made-participate-in-selma-anniversary-march/a19w4kj/


An Extraordinary Life: Joliet woman turned tragedies into opportunities

Life certainly didn't keep Margaret Duncan down, and she didn't fear challenges. Maybe a childhood trip to Starved Rock had something to do with it.

http://ads.seoplus.theherald-news.com/2015/03/27/an-extraordinary-life-joliet-woman-turned-tragedies-into-opportunities/a32y6a4/


Morris Hospital removes guesswork at its Dining with Diabetes Fair and Exhibit
By Jeanne Millsap

The event is past, but this story contains good tips for finding menu choices compatible with diabetic diets.

http://www.theherald-news.com/2015/03/24/morris-hospital-removes-guesswork-at-its-dining-with-diabetes-fair-and-exhibit/ay88mr4/


Plainfield church jazzes up Easter celebration
By Hannah Kohut

And the music will do the preaching...

http://www.theherald-news.com/2015/03/25/plainfield-church-jazzes-up-easter-celebration/ao5ulii/


Joliet artist displays three seasons of oil paintings, which she created outdoors at Hadley Valley
By Sean Leary

Maggie Capettini couldn't find her creative niche, until she took a landscape painting class and found a beautiful place to hang out with her kids. Now Capettini is displaying he first solo exhibit, and she couldn't be happier.

http://www.theherald-news.com/2015/03/17/joliet-artist-displays-three-seasons-of-oil-paintings-which-she-created-outdoors-at-hadley-valley/agmazpg/

Thursday, April 2, 2015

BryonySeries Throwback Thursday: De-Romanticizing Vampires


Sunday, September 5, 2010

De-Romanticizing Vampires

As I created a romantic, century old, Victorian world as part of Bryony’s backdrop, certain scripture verses kept me anchored to the soulless, predatory nature of the vampires that inhabit it.

Despite the current craze for interpreting vampires as good-at-heart, misunderstood creatures against whom all discrimination should cease, I decided sticking to traditional vampire lore was the best way to tell the story.

Perhaps Fr. Alexis should have taken this approach. Perhaps, he would have listened more carefully to Melissa when she approached him and then offered her this warning. “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” 1 Peter 5:8.