Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Cat Pause

Instead of writerly jabbering this morning, just had to show off the great care Frances is receiving at Gypsy Soul in Morris and Hope is getting a couple blocks away at the family she picked out.

While I miss them terribly, it's great to know some wonderful people are taking care of them until we're in spot to have them back. First Frances and then Hope.


Monday, September 28, 2015

Oh, When the Muse Cooperates!

The muse behaved nicely this weekend.

I wrote chapter for Before the Blood and did some fiddling with parts of chapter five, which is still missing scenes. The biggest challenge is the introduction of many new and significant characters. One person in WriteOn Joliet suggested more description each time they appear, but too much of that seems clumsy. I'm working instead on strengthening their voices so the reader can do his own visulatization. Wish me luck!

Even though I worked part of Saturday and most of Sunday, and am coming into Monday already behind (sigh!), the productive time alone on Saturday gave me a serene satisfaction that is hard to describe. By the time I went to my interview Sunday afternoon, I was raring to go.

BTW, the supermoon eclipse of blood and light was wondrous to behold. Hope everyone saw it!

May each and everyone of you have a most blessed week.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Fish Chowder

The fish chowder below first appeared in the Ford Motor Company’s, The Ford Treasury of Favorite Recipes from Famous Eating Places. From the collection of The Henry Ford.

Fish Chowder
By the former Green Shutters Inn, Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia

2 ½ pounds fish (halibut, cod, or haddock)
2 ounces salt fat pork
1 large onion
2 medium-size potatoes
1 quart milk or cream
6 crackers
Salt and pepper

Dice pork, onions, and potatoes. Boil fish in small amount of water until nearly separated from the bones. Remove skin and bones; break up any large pieces of fish. Save water. Fry pork in soup pot until cubes are a delicate brown. Add onion, potatoes, and fish water. When the potatoes are soft, add fish, milk, or cream. Heat, but do not boil! Roll crackers and add to chowder. Season to taste and serve.

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.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Steward Setback Saturday: Irish Vampire Facts

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Irish Vampire Facts

There really aren't any.

True, Sheridan Le Fanu (Carmilla) and Bram Stoker (Dracula) were both Irish. There is also the Gaelic Dearg-Due, always female, that rises from the grave at night to drain the blood (some say life force) of men, but to kill them, not for a meal.

That's about it.

Ed Calkins, the Steward of Tara, is not only creating legend for himself, he is establishing Ireland's first vampire lore.

Is this worthy of a national parade? You decide.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Story Round-Up: Features in The Herald-News, Sept. 20 through Sept. 25

Running a bit behind today. I've had an incredibly busy few weeks an decided to read through a scene I wrote last Saturday to steer my mind in that direction before I set out for the morning power walk.

Below are cover stories and the link to the feature briefs and event calendars, which I write/edit. The fourth calendar, Gotta Do It, runs each Sunday and often stays on the home page through the week.

The link to features briefs and calendars: http://www.theherald-news.com/lifestyle/

Below, the main fruit of this week's labors:

Fifty years later, Shorewood woman is still a bus driver

Barb Gray still drives for the same school. Gray discuesses how driving became a family business, the difference in training between then and now, and why she still does what she does.


An Extraordinary Life: Crest Hill nurse leaves legacy of caring

Surviving a tornado as a young girl, this woman followed in her stepmother's footsteps and created a legacy worth following.


Pets of the Week

Check out these adoptable pets. Perhaps you can open your home to one of them.


Orthopedic group in Japan tours Advanced Physicians in Crest Hill

One of the group's athletic trainers did her clinicals with Advanced Physicians. She returned with her boss, so he could compare the American method of offering care.


Joliet man writes about the Christian experience (VIDEO EXTRA)

In The God Experience, Ricky Tutor documents three decades of personal research and shares experiences that make those precepts come alive.


St. Joseph Medical Center among 2 venues hosting Joliet man's work (VIDEO EXTRA)

Doctors predicted Pedro Palacios would die in childhood. But he overcame the odds to flourish as an outstanding artist and human being.


Thursday, September 24, 2015

BryonySeries Throwback Thursday: A Christmas Memory Worse Than Head of Cod

Thursday, March 3, 2011

A Christmas Memory Worse Than Head of Cod

For old-timers like me, remember when your favorite television show would be interrupted by squiggly lines and a voice that said, "This is a test of the emergency broadcast system. For the next sixty seconds...."

Well, this is a test of the BryonySeries blog system. I'm about to find out if my parents read the blog.

As children, my sister and I enjoyed coloring, and so we owned voluminous amounts of coloring books. Our favorites--and we had many--were Christmas-themed coloring books.

I can't remember just how young my sister and I were the December we were seized with a sudden inspiration, but certainly young enough to not consider the consequences. We decided to fill several of these books and hang our masterpieces on the paneled walls of the finished basement as a Christmas surprise to our parents.

For weeks, we sat at the round play table in that basement, listening to old Christmas records and coloring, coloring, coloring. We carefully pulled the completed pictures from the binding and tucked them away for Christmas morning.

My sister and I had our own tradition of "playing Santa." We would rise in the middle of the night, gather our presents, sneak through the house to the basement, and descend the dark stairs to the tree.

One year, we actually tumbled down the stairs and, surprisingly, woke no one (which could have been bad if we had broken a leg or our necks). An even earlier year, Santa had brought us makeup and tiny transistor radios, which DID wake up our parents. I can still see my father's furious face, scrubbing makeup off my baby sister at 1 a.m.

This Christmas was no different. After we placed our presents around the tree, we began taping our pictures to the wall. We hadn't gone for before we ran out of tape. No matter. We had plenty of Elmer's School Glue.

The next morning, we thought better of it. While my mother cooked breakfast, we dashed downstairs to remove the zillions of pictures and clear all traces of glue from the paneled walls. No one ever knew...until now.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

One Certain Way to Fix Writer's Block

I actually posted this quote above my computer at work.

“Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.” ― Louis L'Amour

Monday, September 21, 2015

Finally Figured Out Why Progress is So Slow

Yes, it's true fiction-writing these days is mostly confined to a day (or two) - the actual writing part, I mean, not the mental writing and note jotting.

It's excruciatingly slow progress for most of the chapters in Before the Blood, which has left me wishing for ways to speed it up.

Then I had this "aha!" moment while working on a scene Thursday afternoon. It won't fix the problem, but it did provide much-welcomed insight.

It's not overall lack of time that's ultimately slowly my progress and dampening the muse. It's the research, not the overall research, but the picky little research that's needed as I write a scene.

Consider a nineteenth century Thanksgiving potluck in the basement.

1) What might be under those dishes, not just for the time period, but for the region? Would a remote area of northern Michigan around 1870 have potatoes? Apples?

2) If food is brought already prepared, how is it kept warm during services?

3) The "furnace" was upstairs. Was the basement heated?

4) So if the men are passing around the alcoholic beverages, what are they drinking?

5) Entertainment? What kind?

6) And let's not forget some authentic text for the service itself, for atmosphere, if nothing else.

And these are just the ones that come to mind at five a.m. Monday morning,

Furthermore, everytime I stopped to browse, I got sidetracked into something interesting and only remotely related. And another hour would pass.

BUT, it's worth it.

Last night, I sent about130,000 words to Sarah for a beta read. As I scrolled through the chapters I'd composed over the last year, I was amazed at their depth: in setting, time, character development and voice, plot.

Plodding along on the first draft road is tedious and laborious, but, oh!

Oh, the progress, the satisfying, exhilarating progress!

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Black Avocado Dip

While Melissa and Brian tricked and treated with their friends, the grownups remained at the Daltons’ house playing cards and eating an avocado dip Steve made for the evening.

Black Avocado Dip
By Brianna Morales

1 black, firm avocado per person
Sour cream, to taste (optional)
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Garlic salt, to taste
Onion salt, to taste
Salt, to taste
Tortilla chips

Scoop avocados into a bowl, and smash with a fork. Add remaining ingredients and stir. Serve immediately.

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

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Steward Setback Saturday: Breaking News: Cluricauns on the Loose in Tara

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Breaking News: Cluricauns on the loose in Tara.

By Sarah Stegall

Ed Calkins has been awfully busy attending to his duties in Tara. Some may feel he is neglecting his fame derived from Bryony, however he is truly a busy ruler. Currently The Steward of Tara is tending to a rowdy bunch of Cluricauns.

Commonly mistaken for Leprechauns, these amusing look-a-likes are causing a stir in Tara. Having no desire to work or do well, this particular bunch of Cluricauns has taken the liberty to enter wine cellars of the rich and drain dry the appeasing liquid. There are also reports coming in that they are harnessing up the neighboring livestock, bog jumping and racing through the fields, their play cloaked by the blankets of night. As you can imagine, the reports have some truth for a sheep was just found in a bog.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Story Round-Up: Features in The Herald-News, Sept. 6 through Sept. 18

In honor of 9/11 last Friday, I held the round-up, so I'm playing catch-up this week.

Below are cover stories and the link to the feature briefs and event calendars, which I write/edit. The fourth calendar, Gotta Do It, runs each Sunday and often stays on the home page through the week.

The link to features briefs and calendars: http://www.theherald-news.com/lifestyle/

And here ya go:

Homer Glen woman starts local chapter of 100+ Women Who Care

The concept of this non-profit is so amazingly simple.


An Extraordinary Life: Joliet woman didn't want anyone to be forgotten

What she asked at the end of her life inspires awe.


Joliet family raising money for stroke victim homebound since 2007 (VIDEO EXTRA)

This woman isn't even thirty. Even her doctor says she needs to get out of the house. Her need is simple: a ramp.


Joliet church to host five-year anniversary and grand opening of new space (VIDEO EXTRA)

It was the first time I had been in the old Cub Food since the store closed. The photos of the storeroom reflect that time; the church's journey from start-up to prolific membership is astounding.


Morris Couple receives American Gothic tribute painting as gift

It's the many personalized details that make this unique.


Minooka High School student spent seven weeks studying abroad
By Allison Selk

And she came home with a unqiue perspective on the Korean culture.


An Extraordinary Life: Joliet man personified the values he cherished

Gene Finney was a quiet man, but his actions carried substantial weight.


Manhattan resident to participate in 3-day event to raise funds for kidney care

Jacob Nagy doesn't have chronic kidney disease and neither do his family and friends. So why is he raising money for the cause - and taking vacation time and paying his own expenses to take part?


New Lenox priest created images based on St. Augustine's 'Confessions' (VIDEO EXTRA)

To Rev. Don Bates' knowledge, these works have not been illustrated, until now. Bates' 80 pieces are not for sale, but he has good reasons for it.


Lockport man to play for Pope Francis in Washington D.C.

His unique program of performances show solid grounding in the Catholic faith.


Experts discuss ways to increase the Joliet area monarch population

...as well as why monarchs are dwindling and why we should save them.


Thursday, September 17, 2015

BryonySeries Throwback Thursday: Coffee Anyone?

Coffee Anyone?

We sip, we slurp, we rely on its warmth and pick me up, we drink coffee socially, but, does anyone know when it became a permanent fixture in our lifestyles? According towww.wikipedia.com, coffee has been traced to the thirteenth century, although its origins are still unclear. The first credible history of drinking coffee showed up in the fifteenth century.Www.coffeecakes.com states coffee came to America in the seventeen hundreds by way of the British and by the nineteen hundreds American were consuming one half of all coffee produced in the world. Guess that's what happens when you tax and dump tea.

Coffee at that time was prepared similar to Ethiopian styles. Green beans were roasted over a stove, ground in a pestle and mortar, and boiled on a stove until done. The ceremonies that go about serving it were different, yet the adoption method of preparation was general.

James Mason patented the first coffee Percolator in 1865. Years later, the first electric Percolator in 1910 came about, and then the drip coffee maker in 1960. The drip coffee maker was a huge breakthrough, it didn't re-circulate the grounds like the prior methods leading to an improved taste. House wives favored these new inventions as they led to increased ease of preparation on their part.

The term "Cuppa Joe," refers back to World War I when no G.I. Joe was without his cup of coffee. The soldiers had a dehydrated version in their rations or assembled in halls around a large Percolator. Coffee houses were the place to be after the war. The soldiers were so used to having their coffee that it became accustomed socially to gather and drink. When they needed a meal with the drink, soda fountains and lunch counters sprang into existence.

So as I sit here with my beverage, a steaming mug filled with coffee that has my senses alert, I rapidly type out the posting for today hoping to share with you the rather large contribution coffee has made to Bryony. Without this beverage that has kept me running and up at all hours typing, the much anticipated novel (so my family claims) might not have ever made it to editing. As you sip, slurp, and savor your "Cuppa Joe,"think what coffee has added to your day.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

What Keeps You from Writing?

Balance in your life is important.

One can't and shouldn't write all the time, even if one works as a writer and editor. Each individual must find his/her balance life and the writing life.

Nevertheless, many of us know that one person who is "working" on a book or who is "going to write a book" in that elusive someday...except that person is busy, busy, busy with so many distracting fun activities that the hard work of writing never actually gets done, except, at best, in short and occasional spurts and stops.

Are you a real writer or a pretend writer?

The first? When do you write? How often to you write? Do you write with any consistency?

The second?  List the activities you do instead of writing. 

Monday, September 14, 2015

Early Weekday Mornings

I love the serenity of slowly waking up, hitting snooze, stumbling around to feed the cats and make the coffee, dozing over the computer as I check email, schedule posts, and write my blog.

It's dark outside and quiet inside, save for the sound of Rebekah's fan, lulling me back to sleep, even as the mental stimulation and the caffeine nudges me to the new day.

I love this time.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Fish Chowder

When Melissa and her family arrived in Munsonville, they stopped for lunch at Sue’s Diner on Main Street, a dingy, squat-looking gray building with surprisingly good food. Still, Melissa and Brian played it safe and ordered cheeseburgers. 

Fish Chowder
By the former Green Shutters Inn, Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia

2 ½ pounds fish (halibut, cod, or haddock)
2 ounces salt fat pork
1 large onion
2 medium-size potatoes
1 quart milk or cream
6 crackers
Salt and pepper

Dice pork, onions, and potatoes. Boil fish in small amount of water until nearly separated from the bones. Remove skin and bones; break up any large pieces of fish. Save water. Fry pork in soup pot until cubes are a delicate brown. Add onion, potatoes, and fish water. When the potatoes are soft, add fish, milk, or cream. Heat, but do not boil! Roll crackers and add to chowder. Season to taste and serve.

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.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Top Ten Irish Movies

According to Rotten Tomatoes, these are the ten. Wondering if any of Ed Calkins' favorite movies are on this list.


Thursday, September 10, 2015

BryonySeries Throwback Thursday: The First Cut is the Hardest

Monday, August 23, 2010

The First Cut is the Hardest

I’m not certain when the first round of edits arrived, since we don’t use the front door much in the winter. One of the kids had opened it on a Saturday afternoon in January and there was my manuscript, packaged and propped against the door.

A list of suggestions accompanied the copyediting. To my relief, those suggestions did not include deletions or plot changes, nothing that drastic. I focused on the mistakes. My husband Ron saw only the positive comments, especially, “A series would sell.” I couldn’t wait to get to work.

The editor wanted to deeper character development in two supporting characters. I was also instructed to deepen scene descriptions (I had focused more on action), use longer sentences, and to eliminate “wordiness” (a general, persistent fault of mine).

Then, an interesting thing happened. I had spent months learning to tell a story in novel form and even more months perfecting it. When I sat down to make my first, official change, I felt like a surgeon operating for the first time, except that I was also the patient. That first slice into my manuscript was the most painful. The rest were substantially easier.

The biggest error I made throughout the manuscript was style confusion (AP vs. MLA) and it was HUGE. The second, not as pervasive, but very embarrassing, was that some of my carefully set page breaks had moved.

It took eight weeks of daily work before Bryony was ready for its second send-off. I set it aside for several days and scrolled through it. I found copy errors and straying page breaks. I cracked.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Writing Feedback: What to Keep, What to Reject

This post assumes, of course, you're seeking objective feedback from a critique group, beta readers, and even friends and family (presupposing they're understanding you want more than, "Rah! Rah!").

It also assumes that, the more opinions you seek, the more varied the responses will be. So how does a writer implement all the suggestions?

You probably don't. Ah, but what to change?

Well, before you dismiss ALL criticism of your work and bask in the praise, I'll share how I approach any evaluation of my work.

1) If it's part of a novel, and the reader is only receiving an excerpt, some suggestions might already be addressed in other sections. That doesn't mean said suggestions aren't applicable. Take a look the selection; perhaps certain points could be reinforced or toned down.

2) See what resonates strongly. If someone is willing to champion a character, passage, style, it may be effective and could be worth keeping. Conversely, if everyone doesn't like something, or if they're lacking a strong emotional responses where such responses are indicated, the problem could very well be the presentation. Or the plot. Or the character. Set the piece aside and take another look.

3) Keep in mind the genre, style, time-period, character - and stay true to those while realizing that a suggested change to setting or dialogue might be inappropriate. I still wouldn't dismiss it. I'd take another look at my piece and see where the reader missed the point. I may need to rewrite to ensure the point is not missed.

4) The bits with mixed reactions. Carefully apply each reaction to your piece and see where change might be indicated.

Okay now practically speaking.

Last Thursday I read a chapter from Before the Blood told through a viewpoint of an adult character that is opinionated, illiterate, and in denial about many aspects of her life. It's the only chapter in the novel told from this viewpoint.

The suggestions I received for change included eliminating/keeping the dialect, adding more character description, killing/keeping the last line, changing a word in the last line, and strengthening her narrative voice. So over the weekend, I opened up the chapter and held up the suggestions to the prose. This is what I did.

Dialect: I had two strong opposing opinions on this one, plus the added opinion of narrative that didn't quite sound like her voice, at least, in some places. So I'm keeping the dialect, but toning it down in passages where one listener felt it was overdone and ramping it up in others where another listener felt her voice wasn't hers.

Character descripton: Since these are existing characters, and I add reminder descriptions in other chapters, and since so many new characters are introduced several chapters back, I added a few strokes of description here and there, to keep the descriptions and personalities fresh.

And BTW, WriteOn Joliet has one excellent grammar guru. I almost always implement her suggestions.

The last line stays.

And the word change in that line?

The suggested word is too strong, so I'm altering that line to better express my intention.

Does all this seem like a lot of work? Well, it is. But effortless-sounding prose is an enormous amount of frustrating, satisfying work

And so worth it.

Because when you get it right, oh, the joy!

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Mutton and Potato Pie

Who in the twenty-first century has leftover mutton in the fridge? Well, just in case. 

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

The luncheon pies at Simons Mansion were quite a departure from the peanut butter sandwiches Melissa ate at home over a book. Yet, Melissa found it impossible not to eat them when a vampire scrutinizes every bite.

 Mutton and Potato Pie

Leftover mashed potatoes
Minced onion
Slices of mutton
Leftover bits of salt pork

Season potatoes with butter, onion, salt, and pepper. Butter a deep dish and spread a layer of potatoes. Add a layer of mutton and season with salt, pepper, and salt pork. Alternate layers, ending with potatoes. Bake 60 to 90 minutes.

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

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Steward Setback Saturday: Ed Calkins Plans His Christmas List

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Ed Calkins Plans His Christmas List

Dearest MOMI (Mistress of My immortality)

I fear I will need at least thirty-five copies of the next book and ten copies of the first for this Christmas. If there is a way that I can buy these copies directly from the author, I would like to do that as it will add to their collectiblity.

Of course, I am counting on my Christmas tips from the newspaper route to fund this investment. Interesting, most of the copies I gave were read promtly, but not completely. Many jumped to the page with my picture, read that first, then put the book down for a few months.

Only now are most people finished, all wondering how the next book might link with the first and still contain Ed Calkins since John Simons might no longer be a vampire. (Of all those who read the first book, they would like to have the second.)

For my part, it would be a spoiler, don't tell me. Let me read the whole book when I buy it.

Yours ruthlessly,

Ed Calkins, Steward of Tara

Friday, September 4, 2015

Story Round-Up: Features in The Herald-News, Aug. 30 through Sept. 4

So during my first and second weeks back, I've been fighting a nasty virus, and I'm not quite back to a hundred percent yet, a little unfair, methinks, but hey, right?

Sick or not, here's what I've been doing all week. Below are cover stories and the link to the feature briefs and event calendars, which I write/edit. The fourth calendar, Gotta Do It, runs each Sunday and often stays on the home page through the week.

The link to features briefs and calendars: http://www.theherald-news.com/lifestyle/

And the cover stories:

Through career and published works Joliet woman exemplifies survivorship

After having grown up in the foster care system, Dani Weiss is showing others what it means to truly thrive.


An Extraordinary Life: Amputation didn't stop Wilmington man from living and serving

Larry Tutor didn't let personal tragedy interfere with this goals. He figured out how to get around it and just kept going. WITH VIDEO EXTRA.


Pets of the Week

The purr-fect place to find that purr-fect four-footed companion


A new approach to wound healing
By Jeanne Millsap

Rejection is a known possible side effect of transplants. In this case, it's a good thing.


Lakeside Worship Center in Plainfield celebrates its first anniversary

It's been a year of blessings - and both the pastor and church members state why.


Joliet philosophy professor authored book on why people like ghost stories

I actually read his book and found we agree on many of those elements. We like many of the same authors - and he told me yesterday after I submitted the story that he ordered all three books of the BryonySeries. :) WITH VIDEO EXTRA.


Thursday, September 3, 2015

A Few Raleigh Videos

Playing Chutes and Ladders with Lucas, Rebekah, Sarah

The lazy river at Buffalo Road Aquatic Center

Lucas bowls a bumper strike

Lucas makes a wish at Goodberry's Frozen Custard

Walking/biking the trail behind Sarah's house

At Rum Runners

A view from the Stegall boat

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

A Universe Shifting

In the summer of 1997, I was a homeschool mother of six children, ranging in age from eighteen months to barely fourteen.

Due mainly to my husband's financial irresponsiblity (and he would now agree with that statement), we were extremely money-poor, although we didn't feel it to an extreme degree because of my frugalness and ability to make sunshine out of nothing (a statement of which he would also agree, even back then). 

My friends commented that I was the most domestic person they knew; those that weren't my friends felt that I secluded myself. Both perceptions, I think, were a bit off. I was very dedicated to my role and never saw it as stifling. Home was simply where the adventure was. :)

Towards the end of 1996, something happened that began changing my world. The Barnes and Noble in Joliet invited me to host a mini-seminar in the store on homeschooling. I agreed, and it went so well, I was invited again, and then a Kankakee store (I believe it was Kankakee) invited me to do likewise.

The man who was the opinion page editor at The Herald-News (when the newspaper had such a position) also had a show on Friday mornings at a local radio station. He contacted me about the topic of homeschooling and asked me to appear on the show. I did, and that show went so well (the phone lines were actually jammed), I was invited back for two more appearances.

Then, in early 1997, the newspaper began a series of unpaid guest columns, and I was asked to write two columns a month on any topic I desired.

You have to understand that I had done nothing like this since college (I left college after I got married in 1981). I didn't even own a typewriter, much less a computer, and those columns were handwritten. I had no personal ambitions beyond that of my family, and I only agreed to these events because there was an interest from other families in the topic, and I was happy to share what I knew. 

As far as the columns, I literally had not written anything since, again, college (except for letters to elderly, out-of-state family members), but I am one to follow the prompting of the Holy Spirit, and I figured that I should follow this opportunity to resurrect dry and dusty skills, because who knew when I might need them?

In the spring of 1997, our newest pastor and someone I found personally interesting artistically and spiritually was getting some flack about changes in the church that I found wonderfully refreshing and true to orthodox tradition, from which many uniate churches, including ours, had strayed. I became somewhat vocal of this support. 

So that summer, he invited me to attend a national three-day conference with him in Chicago. He had to go on the order of the bishop and was told to take one lay person from the church. I was stunned, as I was really in the background as far as the practical managing of church affairs was concerned. I wasn't part of any groups, committees, etc. He felt I was best qualified. In fact, he also had a second obligation for the second day in Ohio and could not attend the entire conference, but thought I was a qualified substitute.

So this was the plan: we would attend on day one, come home, and return on day two. He stayed for the morning sessions and left; I proceeded alone. Our church booked me a room, where I stayed overnight on day two and then continued on day three. I took notes, and we submitted a report at the end. He periodically checked in with me, actually, he checked in quite a bit.

At the end of day two's sessions and before I went to dinner, I headed up to my room to listen to music and meditate. I literally felt my universe shifting. Something was changing; a new life was emerging. I didn't know what it was; I had no vision for my future other than the course I was on, and yet...something was happening, and I realized that the life I thought I was going to have was not the life I was going to have, that God had a different plan, a better plans, and it was on the horizon.

This same pastor asked me to contribute stories about our church in the diocesan newspaper as our church didn't appear much. The diocesan seat was in Parma, Ohio. I reminded him that my skills were woefully out of shape and that I had never even seen a computer up close. He'd read some of those columns and felt I'd do a fantastic job. He taught me how to use the church computer, including how to hold and manipulate a mouse.

Six months later I was a single parent, by choice. Four months later, my first features story was published in The Herald-News. And thus began the tale whereby most of you have met me.

Why am I recounting this?

I felt that same shift during the sleepless night at Sarah's, hours before I was to board a flight home. We have had so many changes during the last few years, it should probably come as little surprise that more are ripening.

I thimk I realized this when I offered to buy the stickers for Lucas' teacher. It was another step to shrinking the distance between my life here and another life there.

The difference is, those changes aer radically different from the ones I thought might be coming or had hoped might be coming. I don't know what they are yet, but they are most certainly looming. I can feel them; I can sense them. I want to be ready to embrace them.

The adventure is not yet over.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Help for a Dry Muse: A To-Do Treasure Box

So last weekenmd I was finishing reading the BryonySeries for the first time, and the weekend before that I was in Raleigh, not writing fiction.

This weekend, I was the weekend editor for The Herald-News and the Morris Herald-News and battling a nasty virus. Losing myself in the nineteenth century was unlikely, and yet, not making any progress on Before the Blood for yet another week, especially with a full weekend ahead, wasn't an option, either.

So what's an amateur novelist to do?

For starters, I teach fiction as a donation for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Will and Grundy Counties on the third Friday of the month, so since I was MIA this past time 'round, we rescheduled this past Friday night. Despite feeling unwell, it was marvelously rejuvenating to hear everyone's progress on world-building and to share some of my work, too.

Must jump-sarted. Cool, so far.

But after a night of fretful sleep and needing to reserve brain cells for the job, I had little concentration left for the manuscript. So that's when I dug into my handy-dandy treasure box of min chores and got to work.

Say what?

Every story (even my feature ones) present these extra "items" that need addressing, things that slow the muse's flow when the story is streaming from your fingertips, but perfect when the muse is sluggish and slow to respond.

So, huddled at my computer in jeans and sweatshirt and interspersed with shivers and coughs, I let the muse rest and worked around it. I went to my viritual treasure chest, raised the lid, looked at the collection of story chores, and selected "characters."

Still with me? Okay, here goes.

Part of the fun of raising a village from scratch is peopling it. I was still short on people, but creating multi-dimensional people take time, and it's nearly impossible to create multi-layered people while writing multi-layered scenes.

So on this Saturday, I let the scenes go and worked on making people (the pretend kind). They needed names, personalities, ages (for the children); without these guys, I couldn't go forward with many of my scenes.

I'd been avoiding this chore for awhile because it wasn't actual "writing," but since actual writing seemed too hard, I was able to go skirt around the challenge and get something accomplished. I'm not quite done with these characters, but the beginning is nicely accomplished, and I felt like I had accomplished something, too.

Then, on Sunday, after I edited a story for work, and finished season two of BoJack Horseman with Daniel and took a walk with Rebekah, I went back to the treasure box and selected "housework." I have a Victorian housekeeping scene that needed some particular details. However, the resource that I thought would provide it actually didn't, so I reluctantly returned that treasure to the box and  turned my attention to Tuesday's health calendar.

Since this coming up weekend is a busy one, my plan is to finish outling the current chapter (which is shaping up to be my longest yet, about 25,000 words, I'm suspecting), so that the FOLLOWING weekend, I can get them written, am author's version of paint-by-numbers (write-by-numbers?) for a work-in-progress.