Sunday, May 31, 2015

Live Life Instead of Writing About It?

That was a line fired off to the author in Once Upon a Time, the episode Rebekah and I watched last night (We are behind).

It went off like a gong in my head. Whoever wrote it must be jealous of writers, LOL! Then again, maybe not, because the author has plenty of power in this series.

Okay, enough spoilers for fans of the show who are also behind in the episodes.

As a writer, I have never felt as if I was living life on the outside looking in. Rather, I feel humbled and blessed that thousands, yes thousands, of people have shared their grief, hopes, dreams, wishes, challanges and triumphs with me, and then allowed me to immortalize those experiences so the world can know, too.

Diversion: There was no way I could have known, that morning in my junior year of high school, when I woke up with the brand-new Styx song The Grand Illusion still playing in my head, that Dennis DeYoung would ask me, during the course of a converational interview, what my favorite Styx album was. And I could list a hundred more such anecdotes.

Now to those on the periphery of my life looking in, I may appear boring and staid. I write, spend time with family mostly, keep up with a few close friends, occasionally hang out with other writers, and write some more. I write features at work and fiction at home. When I'm done telling the stories of real people, I go home and invent people, and then tell their stories, too.

I cuddle a few cats, too.

Boring? Have you ever constructed realms from words and then peopled those realms with living, breathing people, and then shared THEIR grief, hopes, dreams, wishes, challanges and triumphs? I can assure you, it is far from boring.

There is nothing quite so hopping-up-and-down-on-my-chair exciting as reading feedback from another reader who laughed and cried with characters and booed and cheered them on.

Excuse me, but I have to get ready for church, a real church, with real people. 

But on the way up, I'll be working on the first draft for Tuesday's health story in The Herald-Ne3ws.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Story Round-Up: Features in The Herald-News, Week of May 24, 2015

Whew! What a week!

Even with being on call this past weekend and working most of Saturday, losing Monday made the week seem both long and short. (Know what I mean?)

Can't believe it's Friday already. Below are links to this week's features. Scroll through, pick what appeals to you. Mostly, enjoy! The people in my community are up to some great things. :)

I also put together four event calendars each week. Three of them can be found at the link below. Check back with each day for new event listings.

Family of terminally ill Romeoville man runs foundation in man's name
By Dawn Aulet

When I first wrote about Brandon Regan in 2011, his family was hoping to raise enough money to take Brandon to see Garth Brooks in concert and pay for Brandon's funeral. Brandon, although still in hospice, has beaten the odds, so his family has planned one heck of a birthday celebration for him.

In the video extra, Brandon has just one thing on his mind.

An Extraordinary Life: Joliet woman fought inspiring cancer battle

The battle was over two decades long, but Diane Merriman didn't give up on liviing life.

In the video extra, Diane's husband Dave Merriman shares the special gift he bought Diane after beating cancer for the third time.

Doctor at Joliet hospice catered to the needs of dying patients
By Mauverneen Blevins

A glimpse into how Joliet Area Community Hospice has evolved from the eyes of a doctor who served it since the 1990s.

Joliet man inspires many to support an orphanage

Mike Tackebury is one of those people you have to meet to believe. What started as a simple, one-time garage sale has grown into a multi-event ministry of many volunteers.

In the video extras, travel with Tackebury as he makes a house call.

Six fiber and textile artists showcase their work at Gallery Seven in Joliet

Don't think quilt fabric. Think gut. And tree wrap. And inflatable couches and balls. Huh? Read on!

The video extra showcases the largest item in the exhibit.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

BryonySeries Throwback Thursday: Making Toast

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Making Toast

In "Bryony," eleven-year-old Brian Marchellis, the younger brother of Bryony's main character, seventeen-year-old Melissa Marchellis, has a unique way of making toast: crusts trimmed and both sides buttered.

I wonder what Brian would have thought of this Victorian method of toast preparation. This recipe first appeard in the 1860's "Miss Beecher’s domestic receiptbook: designed as a supplement to her Treatise on domestic economy."

To prepare Good Toast:

Toast the bread very quick, dip each slice in boiling water as soon as you have toasted it, and then lay thin bits of butter over. Cover and keep hot as you proceed. A tin bonnet is very useful for this. Make milk toast in the same way, keeping the milk at nearly boiling heart. It is better to spread the butter thin on to the toast after it is dipped in hot milk, than to melt it in it.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Shorten Your Research: Ask An "Expert"

Is your novel stuck because you need time to research a particular topic, era, item, etc.?

Shorten the info-gathering time by asking a friend, colleague, acquaintance, or even posting your request on social media.

For instance:

About half of Ed Calkins' dialogue in the BryonySeries came from Ed Calkins himself: bits of conversation I noted or actual question and answer interviews with the sole purpose of developing his character, adding to the plot, and making his dialogue sound like Ed. I mean, who better to consult regarding a certain character than the real character himself?

The police questioning of the girls in Bryony following Kimberly's disappearance came from interviewing a relative who liked police dramas.

When I couldn't drum up a basic plot for the first book in my Cornell Dyer series, I asked my younger sons to do it, as they had grown up reading similiar books.

I can't envision battle scenes, especially battle scenes from another era, but I need them for chapter two in Kellen's Story. So I asked a friend, who wrote a great fight scene in his novel-in-progress, to do it for me. I left that part blank in the novel until he could get to it and kept moving.

My writer's block for the last chapter in Kellen's section of Before the Blood became unblocked when I realized the reason for the blocking (My mind couldn't invent a sci-fi-ish 19th century-ish medical machine), stopped looking online for ideas, and simply asked Timothy to invent one. It took ten minutes while driving to church last Sunday, with Timothy talking off the top of his head and me taking notes. And thus ended weeks of frustration.

Sometimes, a book or the internet is the best place to get the data you need. At other times, one need look nno further than the guy playing video games in the next room.

It can be that simple.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Tis Better to Give Than to Receive

So said our associate pastor this morning in church. He said there are two kinds of people, givers and takers, and that it is better to be a giver. He then moved onto the next topic.

I disagree.

It is most certainly better to be a giver than a taker, but receiving is not passive, it's active. To whom would the givers give if there was no one to receive?

It is not always easy to receive, especially when one is a giver.

It's hard to be in need to the point of needing someone to give to you.

But it's also difficult to be open and detached enough to receive what someone wishes to give to you.

Think about it.

I send one of my kids for coffee, and he returns with the wrong kind.

Someone prepares a meal for me using ingredients I don't like (I'm not talking the strong, "I'm gonna throw up if I eat eggs" dislike or "I'm allergic to peanuts; it's an ER trip if I eat this). I'm talking subtleties, like a dish containing canned mushrooms, when I prefer fresh.

I receive a gift of a coveted clothing item - except the giver bought the wrong color.

I'm eagerly presented with a hat that someone feels screamns, "Me," and it's not my taste.

And so on.

Actually, if it's not something that hurts me (see food allergy - or eggs ) i;m usually so touched to be considered that I'm thrilled with the gift. But that's me.

Because I have heard people bitch about the really nice things people do for them because it wasn't up to their standards. Often, they are the same people that complains no one will do anything for them.

So if that's the midset, it truly is better to give than to receive. Because it's easier to give and walk away. It's harder, muich harder, to humbly receive, keep, and treasure.

But when giving and receiving is done with pure intentions, both actions are honorable and full of blessing.

Think about it.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Story Round-Up: Features in The Herald-News, Week of May 17, 2015

With a holiday weekend looming, it's been a busy and compact week!

To see what people in the Joliet community have been doing, visit here:

At the bottom of this page are various events in and around the area. Below, are this week's feature stories. Enjoy!

Retiring University of St,. Francis served like no other
By Sean Leary

An Extraordinary Life: Joliet man valued integrity and honesty

Jerry Herbst valued these two traits, in himself and in others. Receiving a second chance on life with a liver donation gave Jerry the opportunity to promote the cause so others could live, too. Video "extra."

Pets of the Week

Seeking the purr-fect cat or dog? We've got them right here.

New Lenox woman received donor kidney from a stranger

Meet the amazing Michelle Doyle, who's experience with polycystic kidney disease showed the world her fortitude and strength. Meet also Kellie Lonchar from Ohio, Doyle's white knightress who galloped into town and gallantly saved Doye's live. Video "extra."

Pastor of Homer Glen church looks back on 15 productive years

Few people have vision and even fewer see visions realized. Here's what the vision of one man looks like fifteen years later. With three video "extras."

Author Bob Brink bases fiction on fact

Even when writing fiction, this retired journlist and former reporter for The Herald-News still needs a fact-based story.

And finally, the calendars:

Local health events May 19 through May 26

Local faith events May 21 through May 28

Local arts and entertainment for May 22 through May 28

Thursday, May 21, 2015

BryonySeries Throwback Thursday: Kidnapped

Thursday, July 5, 2012


It was a balmy, one hundred degrees in my attic yesterday, where I working on several feature stories and looking forward to fireworks later that night.

Despite the heat, the day was far from unpleasant. Too hot even at five-thirty in the morning for power walking, Timothy and I hit the trails with our bikes a little later that morning to enjoy the cooler temperatures of the shade and the "canal effect," one of the advantages of living nearly across the street from the I & M Canal.

Then, in the early afternoon, I interviewed legendary record producter Phil Ramone, who is mentoring a local girl, Molly McKenna Batozech (listen to her original song she recorded here: for a newspaper feature story.

But the day got even better. My oldest son Christopher and his best friend swooped into my attic and informed me I was shutting down my computer and going to Michigan for the night, compliments of them. I argued about morning deadlines, but my mind was already planning which stories needed to go into my backpack for late night writing. I hadn't been to Warren Dunes since I was sixteen.

We were ready to go in about ninety minutes. The drive up was entertaining enough, between chatting with Christopher and texting a friend. Once we arrived, Christopher created fictional Facebook check-ins for our motel (Munsonville Inn) and Redamaks (, where they serve the best hamburgers in the world (Sue's Diner), and I even passed along the BryonySeries website to our waitress.

After dinner, we hung at New Buffalo City Beach, which was evacuted at nearly closing time due to a quickly spreading grass fire near the sand, presumably from fireworks gone bad. We didn't wait that long. We were in Christopher's truck by the time the emergency vehicles were arriving.

Tomorrow: writing, editing, and off to Warren Dunes before it's home again, home again.

Good night, and good morning!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Defining Genre

Defining your book's genre gives it boundary for both the writing and the marketing. Here is a comprehensive list:

Defining the genre for the BryonySeries has been difficult as it does not neatly fit into any couple of categories. It has elements of literary, gothic, fantasy, psychological suspense, historical romance, and magical realism. I've also pegged it and intended it as young adult, although I have several very happy adult readers (and it's main audience has been adult) who would argue with that classification.

I'm thinking I might have to invent my own genre for the series.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Having That Morning Cup of Coffee Inside Simons Mansion

Melissa’s first casual glimpse of John happened during her first day at Simons Mansion, in the morning room, where John sipped his coffee. Back home, Melissa’s mother plugged an electric percolator into the wall, but making fresh coffee in nineteenth century Munsonville was a little more complicated.

John’s Coffee

Dry coffee beans a long time before roasting. Roast it quickly, stirring constantly, or it will taste bitter. Add a chestnut-sized piece of butter and close tightly. Grind beans only when ready to use.

2 great spoonfuls coffee
1 pint hot water
1 egg OR 1 square fish skin (see below), to clarify coffee
½ teacup cold water

Mix coffee with the egg, pour on water, and boil for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and pour on cold water. Let sit for 5 minutes, then strain through cheesecloth and serve.

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

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

Trudi led Melissa to the morning room. At once, Melissa recognized it as the parlor where Kimberly spilt tea on her, the night she woke to find a sneering John Simons braced over her chest. However this morning John, dressed in grey striped pants and black vest, sitting at the small table by the large west window, sipping coffee and reading the newspaper, looked anything but vicious. "Bryony," Chapter 15: Playing Bryony

I dunno, the thought of my coffee touching either eggs or fish skins...BLECH!

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Confessions of a Shapeshifter

I'm forever shaping and shifting my plans.

And I don't always like it. In fact, most of the time I don't like, but with all the practice I get, one day, I'm certain to master it.

It's no surprise that my to-do lists are waaaaay bigger than my ta-da lists, for several reasons.

One: I have a lot of responsiblities in all areas of my life.

Two: My drive for detail and thoroughness means I tend to do things the long and hard way.

Three: I like to get ahead (Ha!).

Four: I have this theory that I play after the work is ALL done, so, of course, the goal is to get it all done (Ha! Ha!).

Five: I have way more confidence at the amount of tasks I can accomplish at the beginning of the day than at the end of it and plan accordingly.

Six: I'm a perfectionist. I like to get everything right all the time, the first time. (Ha! Ha! Ha!)

Of course, circumstances change all day long, necessitating the shifting and shaping.

So I'm looking at the list I had planned for this weekend and early into the coming week and comparing it to the weekend I had (and am having). They are only remotely close.

This means, I am stressing at how to make List A fit into Reality B. And it's not going to fit.

But while I tried configuring the list into today's already full schedule, a monkey wrench leaped into the mix and changed said list from barely plausible into ludicrous. And who knows if that monkey wrench has friends happy to crash my semi-organized party?

You see what I mean.

So I'm shfiting and shaping today's plans into another form.

Which means shifting and shaping tomorrow's plans into another form. Cue hyperventilation.

Neither look like they did at the beginning of the weekend, BUT...

If I had stuck to the list, I would have had a miserable weekend, considering all the variations that popped up like a bad case of hives.

Instead, I had a semi-stressed weekend, enjoyable because of the enjoyable things that I did and stressed because I veered from the list. And I'm stressing about how to cram in all the things I need to do by tomorrow.


And yet, each time this has happened, it has worked out.

So feeling a bit like Gumby on Play-Doh, I'm stretching and pulling and shifting and shaping once more. Bet it's not the last time today.

Take a breath, Denise.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

If You Wished John-Peter Would Have Expounded...

Then wish no more.

Below are two sites on Irish mythology with concise information.

The first has the story of Nuada of the Silver Hand, which John-Peter told his nieces. It also tells the story of Lugh, the name the Steward of Tara had considered for his rebellious creation.

The second tells the story of Connla the Fair, the magic apple, and the fairy that came to claim him. John-Peter also told this story to his nieces, but, deeper than that, it was the metaphor the boy used to describe the true love he knew was waiting for him.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Story Round-Up: Features in The Herald-News, Week of May 10, 2015

A challenging week, health-wise, but as I look back at the cover stories - all mine - not to mention the pages and pages of features briefs and calendar items, I'm amazed at what I accomplished.

To scroll through features briefs, click here:

Frankfort mom of nine offers advice - let the little things slide

I wanted to write a story on this amazing mother of miracle babies several years ago before her adopted special needs son from the Ukraine had died, but a sister newspaper wrote about her first. Patience worked out in this case, because she has since added three more children to her family.

An Extraordinary Life: Everything he did, he was king

Talk about living a full life, less about the accomplishments and more about how Zeke Russ accomplished them.

Pets of the Week

For those of you seeking that purr-fect dog or cat for your home.

Allergies: More than a simple atchoo

Read how seasonal allergies can cause lifestyle disruption and what to do about it.

Joliet ex-addict won't let cancer stop him from helping others

Michael Pinnick of Joliet has realized that his lung cancer and lymphoma may be here to stay. But Pinnick doesn't believe that means he should quit moving forward, either.

Bringing the U.S. Air Force to communities for a song

Lockport Township High School alum has a rockin' career in the military, and she'll be sharing that career at her alma mater on Sunday, thanks to her LTHS bus driving mother who is retiring at the end of the school year.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

BryonySeries Throwback Thursday: Vampires and Romance

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Vampires and Romance

I read an interesting post yesterday with a good explanation regarding the roots of the vampire/romance connection.

On those terms, similiar to ones I utilized in Bryony, I'll accept the vampire as romantic figure. Vampires as leading characters in romance novels, however, still leave me cold. There's something anemic about a vampire as a mournful, miscontrued, altrustic ex-human who really has its victim's best interests at heart.

Souless, predatory creatures relentlessly in search of human blood for existance's sake generally do not display self-effacing tendencies, although, I'll grant, from the vampire lore I added to Bryony, certain vampires do retain some human characteristics, but not enough that I'd call one my soul mate. Can such a creature really fall in love with something that, at its bare bones, its next meal? I appreciate a nice steak, but not that much.

It seems logical that, when seeing the moon of another day involves taking a person's life and not getting caught, a vampire's survival must surely depend upon sly, conniving, and manipulative tactics, behaviors such as I might witness in my cats.

Although my cats do occasionally initiate small tokens of affection, they are most apt to do so when I've brought a sandwich up to my office or I'm wrapped up in some project and have again forgotten dinnertime.

Nevertheless, after tummy full of kiblets, those same cats not purring in my lap while we enjoy the sunset together. They're curled up in the clean laundry basket taking a nap or prowing the yard in search of dessert.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015


I've loved stories for so long, I have no recollection when that love began.

My favorite early childhood memories were snuggling close to my father while he read to my sister and me, and playing doll (regular-sized dolls, miniature dolls, paper dolls) games with my sister because of the elaborate storylines we created for them, elaborate in terms of back stories, plot lines, families (most of them large) and volume (we had so many dolls, we peopled entire towns).

Nothing beats burying myself into a couch or bed with a good book.

As a family, we retell events in storytelling fashion. I've had friends whose tale of themselves are a bit tall, but they are such engaging storytellers, I don't mind being a rapt audience.

That love for reading stories and hearing stories spilled into writing them. I don't recall when I started writing short stories and sharing them with friends, but definitely by mid-childhood.

People never shared back. That's when I learned not everyone writes for fun.

I was thirteen when I wrote my first novella, all one hundred and forty-three pages of it, longhand, in a notebood, while lying across my bedroom floor, cheek propped in one hand. I left it out for someone to find. A family member tore into it in the very worst way. I threw it away and didn't write anything again for a very long time.

I've come a bit down the road since then.

I can't imagine not writing and sharing stories.

I see feature stories everywhere. Everyone has an interesting story, and I can usually find the write way to relate it. The only challenge is figuring out where to put all those stories and when to write them all. There's only so many pages in the features section; there's only so many hours in a day.

I'm so engrossed in the story in my mind, the one I wanted to write so I could read it. I want to write it at the speed I read it. When I feel progress is too slow, I go back and reread. I'm amazed at the progression: of ideas, abilities, and production.

There is nothing like approaching a computer with a handful of notes from interviews or jumbled ideas in my mind and create order from chaos.

So although my talents are few, I feel that when God gifted me with three purposes in life, He compensated for their small number by making them elastic.

The adventures I have experienced and the knowledge I have gained, these would not have been possible without motherhood. I have crossed a bend in the journey, but I am by no means off the road yet.

The volume of people I have met (real and imaginary) who have shared initimate details of their lives, this would not have been possible without writing. This is a continual winding road.

I'm up for the next purpose, the next adventure.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Post-Mother's Day Reflections

People talk about their bucket lists and things they'd like to do before they die.

Every day, I meet people with amazing talents and abilities.

I smile during the reading of the parable of the talents. I totally relate to the dude with the lone talent that he buried in the ground.

Whereas others have many abilities, I have few. My deficiences are many, and, often, overshadow the abilities. I've quipped that when God was distributing talents, I was probably in the bathroom.

From my earliest recollection, I have known God me made for three purposes in life. My fear from my earliest recollection is that I will get to the end of my life with those purposes undone, that I will be the dude burying his talents in the ground.

And yet, the exercising of those talents are often so dependent on working cooperatively with another.

So my bucket list is small: just three items. One is to raise a large family, another is to write for a living. I'll write about the second tomorrow.

When I was a little girl, I always said I would have ten children. When I was expecting my oldest, I had a dream where I saw all six of my children: their looks, their personalities. Now this being a dream, some of the details were off, but most of the particulars were exact and have come true.

It took a lot of courage and determination and overcoming of challenges to realize this dream. I have six biological children, three stepchildren, and one child in heaven. I suck at math, but I can add.

My view looking backward is a tremendous sense of accomplishment.

Each one is someone I am proud to know.

Can I take credit for it? Well, no, not until God obliterates free will.

But I can take, and do, take tremendous satisfaction in choosing, moment by moment, to pray and to labor and to grow and to try again, to be an example of what (and to what not ) imitate, to not falter, to set the environment, the big decisions and the many little decisions to do and be something positive that, somehow, the children could assimilate into their own to becomes the adults they are today.

Everything I did, somehow, fed back into the family, and I was always conscious of it.

Empty-nest blues? Not I.

I love watching my children working hard at shaping their lives, talents, families, all of which takes time. I love observing the spin they put on carrying their own torches.

For me, every day has been a Mother's Day.

And I am so thankful for the opportunity.

Thankful, thankful, thankful.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Pear-Mascarpone French Toast

When Melissa dined with John, she tried very hard to adapt to meals he enjoyed. However, once he left town, Melissa tossed aside formality and savored childish repasts with Anna, like this one.

Pear-Mascarpone French Toast
By Sarah Stegall

2 medium pears
5 tablespoons butter
8 ounces Mascarpone cheese
3 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons fresh minced gingerroot
1 teaspoon cinnamon
8 slices French bread, two inches thick
6 eggs
1 cup milk
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract

Peel and dice pears. In a saucepan, melt 1 tablespoon butter. Cook pears over medium heat until tender, just a few minutes is needed. Cool completely. In a bowl, beat cheese, then add ginger, sugar, ½ teaspoon of cinnamon, and pears. Cut a pocket into the bread slices and fill with ¼ cup of pear-cheese mixture. In a bowl, whisk eggs, milk, vanilla, and the remaining cinnamon. Carefully dip the bread so you don’t squeeze out the filling. Melt the remaining butter over medium heat. Cook stuffed bread until golden brown on both sides. Yield: 4 servings.

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

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

Friday, May 8, 2015

Story Round-Up: Features in The Herald-News, Week of May 3, 2015

Another busy week flown past - a busy weekend looms!

On the horizon is a huge family party on Saturday, Mother's Day celebration on Sunday, some work, some unpacking and as much fiction as I can squeeze in amongst all the rest.

In addition to the stories below, I also assemble the event calendars and all the briefs that run in features. To check them out, click "features" at The Herald-News site:

Below is this week's features round-up:

Joliet grieving support group's founders say, 'you need not walk alone.'
By Andrew Hanton

Three high school friends all lost their sons when the sons were in their 20s. The story's writer and photographer were both in their mid-20s. If you've lost a child or know someone who has, this story is for you.

An Extraordinary Life: Joliet woman had a lot of compassion

Sarah Ellen Taylor advocated for a special group of women, and she advocated with passion and conviction.

Pets of the Week

Search no more for that perfect four-footed addition to your family!

Morris survivor of mystery ailment helps raise awareness and funds
By Sean Leary

Researchers could never find enough survivors to study. Social media changed that.

Kathryn White's road to priesthood nt the customary path

She's had multiple careers, blends art and ministry, isn't daunted by menial labor, and is just overall energetic and adventurous. At 64, this woman isn't slowing down.

Greg's Fender Benders plays 60s rock in the Joliet area
By Sean Leary

They play for fun and they play for benefits. Be certain to check out the band's "mascot."

Thursday, May 7, 2015

BryonySeries Throwback Thursday: "Momentous" By Jennifer Russ

Thursday, July 12, 2012

"Momentous" by Jennifer Russ

At the beginning of the year, I joined and wrote about an online writing group called 50 Items or Less (, where members submit complete propsitions using no more than fifty words. The goal is tighter, more precise and concise writing.

One of the posts, by Jennifer Russ, author of Whitewallsville(, posted a piece that really resonated with me, and my mind often replays it. It's a stark reminder that tomorrow is not promised, and that life and people offer no solid guarantees, which is not necessarily bad.

Our life, and the individuals we permit to enter it, really can comprise one extraodinary moment after another, if we relax our grasping fists and be open to the gifts of today. With Jennifer's permission, I've reprinted her piece below.


He turns his head to the side and glimpses her through incandescent windows. Two strides behind with toes planted firmly on stability, she considers her dangling inquisition.

Could this be forever?
He shrugs and smiles his fondness for her existence.

Forever is monotonous. You and me, we’re an extraordinary moment.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Just an Excerpt, Just Because

So this is a small portion of what I do on weekends, from Before the Blood, Kellen's Story, Chapter Nine: The Sweet Life.

But Kellen also had a mischievous side, and he allowed it to play when John was occupied playing piano. He crawled through the sewers of Paris until he reached the neighborhood known as Montmartre on the Seine's right bank, seeped through a crack in the road, and stepped through the front door of le Café de l’Enfer (shaped like the hungry mouth of an angry demon) and bumped into Satan.
"Welcome to damnation!" the man in the devil's suit shrieked.
Before Kellen could reply, the man shrank back, eyeing Kellen's soiled clothes and holding his nose.
"I'll drink to that," Kellen agreed.
Still holding his nose, the devil led Kellen past rows of Paris underbellies occupying wood tables in the long, cavernous cafe. Stone gargoyles spread their wings and emerged from the rock ceiling, their clawed hands hovering above the clueless and innocent.
The devilish host and Kellen passed into a second, darker cave and to an empty table near the back, where the other patrons could not smell him.
"Coffee?" the devil asked in a nasal voice through tightly clamped fingers.
"Coffee...and cognac."
Twirling his tail, the devil scampered to the kitchen screaming, "One vessel of mortal sins, with a squirt of molten brimstone!"
Cackles replied from the back of the house.
The patrons seemed unaffected by the bizarre atmosphere, and they were too far away for Kellen's stench to bother them. They talked and smiled to their companions  or read the day's news. Most wore black. None of the women had red hair.
But everyone smelled good enough to eat.
Another devil pranced to Kellen's table with the bubbling brew.
"Choke and die!" The devil slammed the mug before Kellen and then just as quickly pranced away.
Kellen sipped, relishing the coffee, drawing out the moment. Should he start with the customers or the wait staff? He pondered as he sipped and sipped. Decisions, decisions, decisions...
 He picked up the mug for another sip, and his hand froze in mid-air. Horrified, Kellen lowered the mug and peeked inside.
It was empty.
He tossed a bag of francs on the table and fled. 

Monday, May 4, 2015

Beautiful Space

They say everything happens for a reason.

It was not quite the weekend I thought I would have, which is good. It was better.

The original plan: write fiction some, work some, go into work Monday early (losing my morning walk, grumble) and leave mid-morning to take Joshua to Northwestern.

Saturday morning early, I had to shoot a video for Sunday's story. As I don't have a car, my first ex-husband gave me a ride (and brought a coffee and a doughnut, too). On the way, a  panicked Joshua called me. Northwestern left a message late Friday with a list of things he must bring to Monday's appointment. Long story, short, that wasn't going to happen over the weekend.

Video done, and waiting to hear back on three more (two in Joliet and one in upper Plainfield), I headed off with Timothy to the bank and mall (for Gloria Jean coffee, of course). That's when the day changed.

We got to the bank, and Timothy could not shut his door. Last year, he had to fix the weld on the passenger side, and he knew it was a matter of time for the driver door. The day had arrived.

He fiddled and fiddled and finally got it to close. He locked the door and knew that his only free day (Monday) would be spent in a body shop.

Let me back up.

So most of Timothy's free days have been gobbled up with stuff, very frustrating for him as everyone needs down time. On Thursday night, while trying to finally mount the TV, he injured his hand with the drill. Yes, at 10 p.m., he and Daniel were off to the ER. Tetnus shot, antibiotics, and no work until Tuesday. So Timothy got an unexpected weekend off, which also didn't make him happy, at first, anyway.

Chores down, coffee acquired, I settled in for a Saturday of fiction-writing. Timothy called me downstairs, very unhappy. The lock hadn't held hold the door in place. His father, who had stayed to help Daniel with the garden, worked with Timothy to make it so. We decided not to go to Homewood for church tomorrow, but to stay in town. Daniel played with the garden and then he and Timothy left to buy a kitchen table, which Daniel assembled.

Back to fiction...

The next day, just as we were about to leave for church, Timothy noticed the left front tire bowed out. Something had broken (a bearing, maybe) and the suspension was shot. There was a real danger, he said, of the tire coming off, especially if he hit a bump at high speeds, meaning highway driving. We realized how fortunate it was that he had hurt his hand and was off work. These car issues would have otherwise happened on the highway.

So church was out altogether, a real bummer since the boys are working next weekend, and we will not only miss church, but a brunch at our church, but I now had extra time to get some work done. 

So, I headed upstairs to the computer and work, just in case Northwestern was a possiblity (We were still trying at this point).

My 2 p.m. interview was only a couple miles away, so Timothy and I walked to it. We were almost home two hours later (with another video accomplished) when one of my video shoots called. She was ready, so we headed back out another couple miles away.

It was a beautiful day for walking and talking, the type of talking we used to have while throwing newspapers. Even though we got caught in the rain on the way back, we had left with an umbrella, and the rain was not bad. 

And for me, a disliker of forms and the filling out of them, I had just completed two videos and an interview with three people, had some unexpected and very pleasant walks, and I didn't have to claim any expenses! :)

Then video fartheset away cancelled, which was good because I would have needed to have found a ride for that one. The other one, in upper Plainfield, called well into the evening and tentatively scheduled for later today, for when the car is fixed, as earlier didn't work for her.

We opened all the windows, and the house was light and breezy and cool. After yoga, I watched an episode ofr Futurama with Daniel and Once Upon a Time with Rebekah. I feel asleep quickly while texting a friend and slept well.

Generally, I get tense on Sunday evenings, in anticipation of the work week. This was not the case last night and into this morning. I'm serene, at ease, and looking forward to the day, which will include my morning walk.

Daniel has a "gloom and doom" mindset. His feeling is that, because I'm mellow and happy, something horrible will happen on Monday and spoil it all. Now I don't have a Cornell Dyer crystal ball, but I do know this.

Anything bad that happens today cannnot erase the wonderful weekend.

And as a sidebar: for those that have followed our tough last couple of years, I really, really, really like this townhome we are currently renting. It's "beautiful space," and living here fills me with joy, peace.

So quick recap: Timothy got a weekend off; I shot three videos and did one long interview, went through a ton of email, did so much on Kellen's chapter nine that I should be able to complete the chapter next weekend; I had two long walks on a beautiful Sunday afternoon; my new home is becoming a real new home with TV hung, garden begun and kitchen table acquired and assembled; I'm ahead for the coming week.

God is good.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Apple Ice: (This Sounds Good Right Now)

Several older ladies from church were discussing the latest corsets, so Melissa decided to join them. Henry Matthews, plate in hand, followed like an obedient puppy. He placed her food before her, sat beside her, and offered a glass. “I brought you an ice.” Bryony, Chapter 21: Fetes And Feasts

And here's the ice Henry brought.

Apple Ice

Finely flavored apples, grated
Sugar, to make them very sweet

Freeze and serve.

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

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

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Steward Setback Saturday: Ed Calkins Wants to Know...

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Ed Calkins Wants to Know: How Does Barry Bonds' Behavior Influence Newspaper Carriers?

Dear MOMI (Mistress of My Immortality)

So how about the controversy about Bonds' induction to the hall of fame? Does he deserve it, considering he took performance enhancing drugs? Does his drug provider deserve it? Perhaps without him, Bonds would have play his career in the minors.

Who cares?

What I really want to talk about is this: Should news carriers take performace enhancing substances?

We've all done it. Most of us wouldn't think of delivering a route without a jumbo size shot of expresso or the like. I've witnessed married couples that do routes together devople horrible Tylenol addictions. Why, one ruthless guy used to pass out sugarfied peppermint to all his drivers as an energy suplement, despite the risk to the carriers of weight gain, sugar dependancy, and rotting teeth.

What's worse are the energy drinks that are popular with younger carriers. With them, running out of Red Bull  has the same effect as running out of gas on a route and has caused the term MPED (miles per energy drink) as a consideration to any destination.
What do you think?
Yours ruthlessly,
Ed Calkins,
Steward of Tara

Friday, May 1, 2015

Story Round-Up: Features in The Herald-News, Week of April 26, 2015

For all the non-bylined community news and different calendars, visit and click the "features" tab.

Cover stories are below. And in the words of our editor, Kate Schott, "Thank you for reading The Hearld-News."

Frankfort distillery aims to present a bit of Kentucky charm
By Sean Leary

Derby-themed events have become quite popular. Here's one at a local distillery that will also introduce a brand-new bourban at the event.

An Extraordinary Life: Music was Lockport music director's heart and soul

Tom Secor was known for his quality concert series. He died while one was in the planning. His brother Mark picked up the torch to bring a Russian choral group to the church on May 3.

Pets of the Week

Seeking that purr-fect, four-footed addition of the family? Well, look no further.

Pregnancy Resource Center of Will Counter specializes in unexpected pregnancies

Services go beyond pregnancy tests and pamphlets to include parenting classes, mentorship, and post-abortion care.

Fairy festivals: a little bit of magic, a whole lot of fun
By Sean Leary

Two upcoming events for kids of all ages