Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Community News: July 31, 2018

Check out upcoming events in the Joliet area, as well as the awesome things people are doing.

District 210 science departments allow students to observe/interact with live autopsy 

Home Helpers of DuPage Suburbs marks milestone

Heartis Village of Orland Park completed 


State fire marshal presents ISO 1 plaque to the Plainfield Fire Protection District


Lincoln-Way East students collect books for Silver Cross Hospital


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Illustration by Matt Coundiff for "Visage." Follow him at www.facebook.com/artbymattcoundiff 

Of Sandwiches and Baby Cheetahs

A couple months ago, a writer commented to me about the difficulty of finding story ideas.

I sent back a replay about finding story ideas anywhere, including random thoughts. I gave a long line of ideas as they as the flew out of my thoughts culminating with "a baby cheetah appears on your porch and asks for a sandwich."

In the early days of WriteOn Joliet, my former co-leader started offering an optional writing assignment a month to get people's creativity flowing, a tradition we've kept. So for our August meeting, I suggested this silly topic.

One member wrote hers early and misunderstood the topic. She substituted "monkey" for "cheetah."

Another member also wrote his early and posted it on the WriteOn Joliet Facebook page. 

One of my sons, who doesn't belong to the group, loved the idea, may write a piece, and now wants a baby cheetah. 

So even if you don't like to write, if you'd like a hilarious time listening to the pieces (while drinking some excellent coffee from the Book and Bean Cafe...and sandwiches!), pop into our Aug. 16 meeting. 

We'll be there from 6 to 8:30 p.m. at the Joliet Public Library, 3395 Black Road in Joliet.

I don't have a stock photo of a baby cheetah to post here. But I can promise you plenty of gifs are out there (I've been sending them to my son).

But here's an illustration of a sandwich. 

Because you know, if you give a writer a sandwich, he/she's gonna want a baby cheetah to go with it.

Sorry. Had to. ;)

Illustration by Christopher Gleason for "Staked!"

Monday, July 30, 2018

Community News: July 30, 2018

Check out upcoming events in the Joliet area, as well as the awesome things people are doing.

Local pet events: July 29 through Aug. 6 

Pets of the Week: July 30 

Click on the caption of each photo for each pet's description.

Beware of bats, exposure to rabies
IDPH offers tips for keeping people and pets safe

Lockport library to host first LEGO robotics league

Lincoln-Way to host free JROTC Summer Drill Camp

Photography contest and exhibit coming in August at Goose Lake 

Illustration by Kathleen Rose Van Pelt for "Bryony."

Yes, You Probably Do Have a Book In You

Like many writers, I belong to several writers groups on social media.

This past weekend, someone posted this article written by Kate McKean of the Howard Morhaim Literary Agency: No, you probably don’t have a book in you: A literary agent on why your good story isn’t likely to be a bestseller.

McKean elaborated on the following points: 

1) Every story is not a book.

2) Writing is hard. 

3) Publishing is a retail industry, not a meritocracy.

4) Just because you are fluent doesn’t mean you can write.

Comments on the group ranged from respectful to upset, with some not-so-good opinions about traditional publishing to some lauding of self-publishing or seeing self-publishing as a last resort if an author can't land a traditional publisher.

Part of the confusion, I feel, lies in the difference between writing as art and writing as business, or the difference between creative and commercial art.

Writers: although overlap may occur, they are not the same.

Here's what I posted:

I'm the entire features section of a daily, a self-published author of several series, and the co-leader and co-founder of a writer's group. I stress the above points to those hoping to "get picked up" by a literary agent. 

Being published traditionally does not equal validation of good writing. All it means is that the author has written a book a publisher thinks it can sell. The writing can be good, bad, or indifferent. But it can be edited into a salable product that can be targeted to a specific market. I do this all the time with news releases and story pitches in my section. 

I've seen bad writers sign traditional contracts and some outstanding writers struggling to find readers for their outstanding novels. I tell writers all the time: "If you have an idea for a story burning inside you and will dedicate the long hours required to shape that story into a mesmerizing, believable read, you're a writer. Enjoy the process! You may only find five readers turning somersaults over your work, but that's OK. Write your story for them." 

With so many self-publishing options available now, it's an exciting time to be a writer. If you want to be a commercial fiction writer, study the market and write to it. But here's the thing. By the time a commercial work is ready for publication, the market may have changed. And no one, including literary agents and the top five, can predict what book will sell a surprising amount of copies. 

So write the book inside you, the book only you can write. And make it the best book it can be. A truly great book never goes unread.

And also this:

An agent only makes money with the sale of a manuscript. If I was a literary agent, I would not accept a project I could not sell. As far as publishing houses and blockbusters go, the blockbusters give new authors a foot in the door. Many, perhaps most, books do not earn out their advances. Many houses survive on blockbusters, making it possible to accept other books they know won't sell as well. Publishing is a business.

And finally this:

Once upon a time (get it, LOL), a midlist author could enjoy a quiet comfortable career. Publishers had larger staffs and worked with authors they felt had promise. But things change. Where I work, the features section had two editors, one staff writer, and a bottomless freelance budget. That was 1998 when I started writing for this newspaper. 

Today, I am the entire section and have no freelance budget. When I freelance and wrote stories on local authors "published" by vanity presses, I swore never to become one of the them. But as I learned more about what constitutes true self-publishing, I found another adventure. 

Every era in publishing brings its own opportunities and challenges. Let's seize the first and navigate the second. Who knows? Instead of bemoaning the changing of the game, we can become game - changers, and all these comments will sound quaint in ten years.

Writing a book takes knowledge, time, discipline, and persistence, and writers often (maybe usually) receive very low return for that effort. Writers, no matter how they publish their works, struggle to find readers for their writing. 

True, a writer may sell more books through a traditional house, and true, some self-published authors do very well.

But most books, published or not, sell only 250 to 2,000 copies in their lifetimes (depending which report you read), very discouraging to fierce dreams of becoming the exception. 

I've written and self-published several books, and I doubt any of them will hit even 250 in sales. I remarked at a recent WriteOn Joliet meeting that Before the Blood, this five-volume prequel to the BryonySeries trilogy that's consumed nearly ten years of my life, will likely only sell five copies in its lifetime.

And yet, I'm so very glad I wrote it.

If you haven't guessed, I agree with each of McKean's points.

However this does not mean writers should not write that book. Good God, YES, they should write it.

Write it to develop your talents.

Write it to entertain your imagination.

Write it for your own set of five people who will savor (or devour) it and clamor for more.

If every book was a bestseller, bestsellers would not exist.

If every book received a traditional publishing contract, publishers could not afford to publish books.

But that doesn't mean the process isn't valuable or that a writer's words don't have the power to change someone's life, even if it's the writer's.

So if you have a story or a topic burning inside you: write!

Here's the link to the complete article if you'd like to read it.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Community News: July 28, 2018

Check out upcoming events in the Joliet area, as well as the awesome things people are doing.

Trinity Services in New Lenox publishes leadership book

Joliet Noon Lions hosts celebration, installs officers

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Illustration by Christopher Gleason for "Staked!"

Sue's Diner: Fish Salad

Although Simons Mansion hosted most of Munsonville’s festivities, the villagers reciprocated one summer with a celebration in honor of John and Bryony Simons, with John providing the entertainment. A torn dress kept Melissa away from the refreshment table, but, except for the cake, we doubt she would have eaten anything from it, anyway. 

One of the foods that appeared on that buffet was fish salad. Try it at https://www.bryonyseries.com/sue-s-diner.

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, July 28, 2018

A Late Blog: Here's Why

Very productive day, right from the morning I awakened (although I did oversleep a bit).

Worked until eight last night, ran a couple errands (I needed a mouse for my laptop), I worked on Before the Blood until 1 a.m.

I worked on two chapters today and, except for two scenes, chapters eleven through twenty-one (the novel begins at chapter eleven and ends at thirty, plus an epilogue) are in good shape for self-editing.

Because I have parts of the remaining chapters completed, I'm hoping to work at the rate of two chapters per weekend up until Labor Day. At that point, the fifth book will be close to the self-editing stage. I will then hand off the first four manuscripts to my editor while I get the last into shape.

The goal, reiterated: publish all five novels in 2019, with the first being released sometime in January.

So far, it's looking good.

Now I need to get one more thing done for work...and try to finish those last two scenes...if I can stay awake long enough...

Oh, and we had a cooking party (of sorts) tonight in the kitchen, whipping up four more recipes from Memories in the Kitchen: Bites and Nibbles from "Bryony," for the Sue's Diner portion of the website. I'll post one tomorrow.

And now, back to it...zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz....

Illustration by Kathleen Rose Van Pelt for "Bryony."

Friday, July 27, 2018

Community News: July 27, 2018

Check out upcoming events in the Joliet area, as well as the awesome things people are doing.

Local arts and entertainment July 27 through Aug. 3 


10th annual event 'Men Who Cook' benefit moves to Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet


Plainfield students create hydroponic system


Joliet celebrated Arbor Day in April 


Lincoln-Way Central uses Schoolyard Habitat Action Grant Award


Students collaborate with Will County Forest Preserve


Around Town: Will County Brewing Co.


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Story Round-Up: Features in The Herald-News, July 22 through July 27

It's funny about improvement.

You work and work and work at something and don't perceive any measurable progress. And then suddenly!

There it is.

When it comes to reading my works aloud, I've improved.

For small presentations , at least, I've lost the jitteriness that comes from standing in front of a room and reading words that originated in my imagination. And I'm thankful to events like the  "Writers 15 Minutes of Fame" that the Plainfield Public Library offered last night.

I'm even getting a feel for selections that work well for reading aloud. With my drama tutor busy these last few months, I've not worked on any performance pieces, and that's still a goal I need to meet.

So last night I read one from Before the Blood I read almost three years ago at a WriteOn Joliet open mic, a piece that closed the event. My co-leader Tom Hernandez had complimented it at the time, saying he liked the "poetry" in it.

Ironically, the same piece closed last night's event, too. Plus, it shows how long I've worked on this prequel. It will be nice to finish it, read it as a reader and move onto other projects, knowing I've put the best I can into it.

And now onto other information.

Non-bylined features:

Monday through Saturday I assembled my non-bylined works - brief posts and calendar listings - into one convenient file and posting them on Facebook in the evening, so readers can easily choose the ones they want to read.

 One can also find those event listings, the Gotta Do It calendar, as well as the pets, health, faith, and arts and entertainment calendars, under the sections tab on the left hand side of http://www.theherald-news.com/. Click on "features" and the topics drop down.  Gotta Do It runs under "people."

Community news? Again, under the sections tab, under features, and by topic. Updates are posted on these days in print and web (and some only on web on other days as I have the time): Monday (pets), Tuesday (health), Thursday (faith), Friday (arts and entertainment), and Sunday (people).

Social media:

Daily updates: I do post the briefs and calendars on Twitter during the week, so you're welcome to follow me at @Denise_Unland61.

BryonySeries stuff: I post curated content relating to the BryonySeries at @BryonySeries. And assorted related content at www.facebook.com/BryonySeries. And of course, please follow the adventures of Bertrand the Mouse on Instagram at bertrand_bryonyseries.

If you're a writer anywhere in the world, you're welcome to jon WriteOn Joliet's Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/groups/writeonminooka/?ref=bookmarks. We're based in Joliet, Illinois, but we love to meet and interact with writers outside our area, too.

Upcoming events: 

These are listed here: https://www.bryonyseries.com/fetes-and-feasts

Books and Such

Information on my books (including where to buy) along with upcoming events is at www.bryonyseries.com.

Thank you for reading The Herald-News. And for reading this blog. And if you've read (or plan to read) any of my books. Your support is greatly appreciated.

'Journalism gave me a purposeful outlet for my writing'
10 questions with Herald-News intern Sydney Czyzon

Czyzon said: "Once I realized I could make a career out of my passion, I ran with it, and I’ve been writing ever since. I love that my career choice gives me the opportunity to make a positive difference in the community by empowering the voices of others."


'I want to get as much experience as I can'
10 questions with Herald-News intern John Nudera

Nudera said: "Once it was time to decide a major, I went with what I enjoy and that’s writing. I like having a voice that people can listen to regarding certain subjects, I just felt like journalism was the best for that."


An Extraordinary Life: 'We called him our king'
Joliet man modeled servant leadership

Martha and Edith recalled the time Isaac decided to tear down the dilapidated garage at their Iowa Street home and build a better one. But Isaac didn’t keep his skills at home.

“Every house on our street had some of my dad’s work,” Martha Rucker of Joliet said about her father Isaac McDaniel.


Joliet steak house has vintage atmosphere

Since Al’s is a steak house, I was curious to try something other than steak, just to see if the other food would be just as good. Not just steak.

So I ordered spaghetti and meatballs and was not disappointed.

'I go as the Lord leads'
Living Water church in Morris transitioning to Crossbridge Community Church
By Jeanne Millsap

 “We’re not closing,” Pastor Steve Cook said. “We’re transitioning.”


Lockport Poetry Project creates art from poetry, workshop on Saturday

"I'm not against graffiti," Sam Love said. "But what people are submitting on the cares and at the workshops is beautiful. People really understand this community and their love for it. Visitors will see the beauty of it, too."


Plainfield teen performs at Carnegie Hall as part of an honors band

"There were thousands of applicants from all over the word. What are the chances I would make it?'" Amelia said. "But my family believed in me. They knew I could do it."


LocalLit author spotlight: Ken McGee of Plainfield is back

McGee sums up his featured short story this way: "Don't bother to negotiate with your wife because though you might think you win the battle, you always lose the war."

Illustration by Matt Coundiff for "Visage." Follow him at www.facebook.com/artbymattcoundiff

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Community News: July 26, 2018

Check out upcoming events in the Joliet area, as well as the awesome things people are doing.

Local faith events July 26 through Aug. 2 

Joliet Catholic Academy announces May Students of the Month


"Boomhood" at Will County Brewing Company 


Herald-News intern Sydney Czyzon reads the latest Letter to the Editor from longtime letter writer Raymond Stoiber


An Extraordinary Life: 'We called him our king' video 


"A prayer when the heart is heavy"

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Illustration by Kathleen Rose Van Pelt for "Bryony."

BryonySeries Throwback Thursday: What Is "Bryony?"

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

What Is "Bryony?"

How and when I decided to give John Simons' wife the name of a poisnous vine and then encase his mansion in it is lost in obscurity. I only remember. rejecting "ivy" and recalling the name, "Briony," from Ruth M. Arthur's "A Candle in her Room." Coincidentally, and not on purpose (Honest!), Briony's older sister in that book is named, "Melissa."

At the time, I thought Briony's meaning had something to do with briars. When I researched the name, I discovered it was actually an obnoxious, toxic weed, with predator-type qualities, so perfect for a vampire novel.

Below are a few facts about Bryony, complements of the Montana State University and its July 28, 2009 press release, "Fast-growing, noxious weed, white bryony, found in Bozeman." (http://www.montana.edu/). First, its description:

* Bryony can grow up to 6 inches a day and quickly cover the sides and tops of trees.
* Its rooting system can be up to 18 inches in length and resembles a white turnip.
* White bryony has dark green, palmately lobed leaves, each with an associated tendril.
* The flowers are small, yellow-green or yellow-white, and are located in the leaf axils.
* The fruit is a round berry, which turns black as it ripens.
* Birds eat and spread these fruits. The fruits are highly toxic to humans and animals.

White bryony first appeared in United States during the 1970s. Its nickname is "Kudzu of the Northwest." Here's why:

* Bryony's rapid growth can block all light to the host plant.
* Heavy winter snow can accumulate on bryony and break the branches of the host plant.
* Following breakage, disease and insects may invade the host plant.
* The spread of white bryony can reduce wind protection for people and livestock.
* It can also lead to loss of wildlife habitat.

One must exercise caution when removing bryony:

* Wear protective gear (gloves, long sleeves), as bryony can irritate skin.
* Certain, effective herbicides can be hazardous to the host species.
* To apply, Pull the bryony vine away from the plant before applying.
* Several applications may be necessary.
* White bryony regenerates from the root, so severing the vines is not as effective.
* Root damage is the most effective control method. Cut roots several inches below the soil.
* This must be done in autumn, after the leaves have died.
* Watch for new plants and repeat.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Community News: July 25, 2018

Check out these recipes, other food-related news, and three newsletter opportunities.

Roundup of food pantries in Will and Grundy counties

IDPH investigation continues as foodborne illnesses increase 

For an easy, rustic dessert, you really can't beat a cobbler 

A streamlined way for making a colorful vegetable casserole 

Marinate your tuna ahead to ensure moist grilled fish

Salmon, avocado and grapefruit make a bright dinner salad

Turn to crab for a warm and bubbly decadent party pleaser

Illustration by Christopher Gleason for "Staked!"

Open Mic Night 2018: Colleen Robbins

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Community News: July 24, 2018

Check out upcoming events in the Joliet area, as well as the awesome things people are doing.

Local health events: July 24 through July 31

Illustration by Matt Coundiff for "Visage." 

Thank you, Ken McGee

I received the following email on Memorial Day from my friend, writing student, fellow author, and WriteOn Jolieter Ken McGee: Denise, I found this while going through book 8.

Ken, thank you very much for the very nice shout-out in your eighth book. And who knows? Maybe it will inspire one of YOUR readers to go looking for it.

For those unfamiliar with Ken's writings, one of his series (twelve volumes long and counting) takes the reader on the life of Emmy, a poor girl who finds God, true love, and musical success. He originally wrote the story for his young granddaughter, to inspire her when she grew older. His goal is to self-publish all the books before Christmas and then surprise her with them

Here's Ken's excerpt from Forever... Isabella... Forever: Emmy's Story, Part 8 (Volume 8). And here's a link to his Amazon page with all the titles of all his books (so far). Below is 


And here is the excerpt he shared:

“That settles it. I'm going to tell her you need her to watch the kids.” Emmy strode purposefully out of the room and found Mama sitting in her rocking chair reading a book. “Mama, could you help Sloane for an hour or so?”

“Of course, I'm not doing anything,” Mama said. “I've been trying to read this book, but I just don't understand it.”

“What's it about?” Emmy asked

Mama held up the book to let Emmy see the gruesome cover. “Some girl who is obsessed with a woman who married a vampire or something. I just don't get it, but it's so well written. The characters are so interesting.”

Emmy pointed to the cover. “That's some big teeth and a lot of blood. Sloane and I are going for a walk.”

Monday, July 23, 2018

Community News: July 21 and July 23, 2018

Check out upcoming events in the Joliet area, as well as the awesome things people are doing.

Gotta Do It: July 22 through July 29 


Troy District 30-C students compete at Argonne Science Bowl

Troy District 30-C adds to full-day preschool program

Youth Advisory Council gives teens up-close experience in state government


Local students named to dean’s lists for spring 2018 
Illustration by Kathleen Rose Van Pelt for "Bryony."

The Obligation of Buying

I recently read an indie author's rant on Twitter about the consumer's overall lack of support for indie and local artists and why people ought to buy local and indie.

I'm all for supporting local businesses and indie artists often do.

But not to the extent the customer is obligated to buy.

The author on the rant was extremely upset at the lack of support at a signing at a local bookstore. This included lack of attendance (and sales) from family and friends, as well as the customers marching past the table and vanishing among the shelves.

Believe me, I get it, except the part about getting used to rejection. I'm not sure anyone is ever 100 percent comfortable with readers preferring to read books other than our own and choosing them over ours at every opportunity.

It is, unfortunately, part of the process of hanging out our shingle. When the product we're selling has sprung forth from our creative selves, the shunning feels doubly personal. But we are not small children, and the world is not our refrigerator from which we post our handiwork.

Bookstores, libraries, really any venue, host authors in their space to attract potential customers to the store and not necessarily to the author's table. For the venue, a sale of any product still makes the cash register cling.

Now, it's nice if customers stop and buy one or more books. But no one is, or should be, obligated to buy.

Rather, the obligation is on us to help attract the public through the door.

We build the best product we can. We build the best reputation we can for us as and our works. We promote the event in courteous, non-spammy ways, knowing we can't control the outcome.

Be thankful for even the opportunity. No one owes you.

Sidebar: As I leave a busy weekend in the past, how did all those "Ws" work out?


Surprisingly, I got more writing in than I anticipated. I scrolled through chapter seventeen and found it ready for editing. I spruced up eighteen and nineteen and made my way about halfway through twenty when Rebekah had some time to help me create a template for the newsletter (this is for another post).

Createspace flagged the cover for Cornell Dyer and the Necklace of Forgetfulness, so Sue Midlock resized it last night, and Rebekah reuploaded it. I'll know in a day or two if I can finally order a proof.

Here's a sneak peek:

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Sue's Diner: Haluski by Amerika Adamowski

Neither Melissa nor Brian felt at ease during the unfamiliar church services in memory of their grandmother. The array of delicious food at the potluck luncheon that followed was more appealing. This was especially true for Brian, who had heaped his plate high with many of the dishes, including the haluski.

Try the recipe at https://www.bryonyseries.com/sue-s-diner.

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, July 21, 2018

Bertrand's First Paint Night, in Pictures

Remember "The Count" on Sesame Street?

Well today, was sponsored by the letter "W." Let's "count" them:  work, workshop, and wedding.

Isn't that wonderful?

Well (get it, another "W"), while I was at the wedding, Bertrand attended his first paint night and made a new friend, a Stegosaurus named "Cheetah."

Below is a recap his fun. For more photos of Bertrand's adventures, follow him on Instagram at bertrand_bryonyseries.

Buy his books at www.bryonyseries.com.