Friday, May 27, 2022

Story Round-Up: Features in The Herald-News, May 21 to May 27

 Good morning!

I have nine feature stories to share with you today and more yet posted. So do check back on The Herald-News site: shawlocal.com/the-herald-news

Over the last couple of months, I also wrote an additional nineteen stories for a special "Thank You, Teachers," edition that will ran in print and online on May 5. You can check out all those stories at this link: https://www.shawlocal.com/the-herald-news/thank-you/teachers/

On the fiction side of things, we released Cornell Dyer and the "Mistical" Being this week. It's not available in the BryonySeries bookstore yet, but it is available on Amazon.

The proof copies for Call of the Siren (the second book in the BryonySeries Limbo trilogy, with gorgeous cover art by Nancy Calkins) and Cornell Dyer and the Calcium Deficient Bones (with artwork by Sue Midlock) have arrived. 

I'm working this weekend, but I'm off Monday and Tuesday. So I plan to read through Calcium Bones Friday night and Siren on Tuesday.

Rebekah is working on updating the BryonySeries YouTube and Pinterest accounts, so watch for those.

Next up in the series: a Sherlock Holmes parody (the main character is Sherman Homes). Timothy and I had scheduled a "Cornell" breakfast for last Saturday. But he was sick, so we postponed it again. This weekend is "Art in the Park" and next weekend I'm working. But perhaps Memorial Day?

Jennifer Wainright (frontispiece artist for Lycanthropic Summer) has completed two portraits for  "Girls of the BryonySeries" series for tween girls and is currently working on a third. The portraits are beautiful and it shows that artist Jennifer Wainright can draw anything from werewolves to portraits! 

Rebekah has completed cover art for two of "Girls of the BryonySeries" books. They are beautiful! One book in this series of eight books is completely written, a second is halfway written, and the rest are outlined. 

Now back to the nine stories. Simply click on the link of the story that looks interesting to you. Happy scrolling!

But before the stories, I have a list of additional resources and information. Please check them out, too -

Finally, if you'd like to find more kindness in your life, consider this book.

And have a great Friday!

RECIPE OF THE WEEK

Sue's Diner is a fictional restaurant in the fictional Munsonville that only exists in the BryonySeries.

Each Sunday, we post a new recipe. The recipe is either featured in one of our cookbooks or will be featured in an upcoming cookbook.

Check out the recipe here.

WRITERS

If you're a writer anywhere in the world, you're welcome to join WriteOn Joliet's Facebook pageWe're based in Joliet, Illinois, but we love to meet and interact with writers outside our area, too.

If you'd like to officially join WriteOn Joliet, we have two tiers of dues. We also have a marketing arm that's getting longer every year, well, except this year. Check us out at writeonjoliet.com.

I also suggest this book: Little Book of Revision: A Checklist for Fiction Writers. It's exactly as it says. Each page some with one suggestion for revision. The rest of the page is blank, so you can add your own notes. All proceeds benefit WriteOn Joliet.

If you need support in your writing, I highly recommend this Twitter group: #5amwritersclub. I  joined it last year. Writers support each other on Twitter and meet every three weeks at 5 a.m. (4 a.m. CST - needless to say, I am often late!) on Zoom.

If you need editing or help with self-publishing, check out dmbaranunland.com.

ARTISTS

If you need an artist for a project, I offer these recommendations.

NEWSLETTERS

Sign up for The Munsonville Times by emailing us at bryonyseries@gmail.com. The newsletter still isn't official yet, so we don't have an actual link on the website - but we are working on it! 

SOCIAL MEDIA

Daily updates: I do post the briefs 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 on Twitter at @BryonySeries and assorted related content at facebook.com/BryonySeries, youtube.com/user/BryonySeries, and themes of each book in the BryonySeries at pinterest.com/bryonyseries.

And of course, please follow the adventures of Bertrand the Mouse on Instagram at bertrand_bryonyseries.

BRYONYSERIES BOOKS

For books and more information about the series, visit bryonyseries.com.

BRYONYSERIES EVENTS

A full month of virtual events can be found at bryonyseries.com/calendar-of-events.

QUESTIONS

Email me at bryonyseries@gmail.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.

FEATURES

Should you be worried about monkey pox? Not for now: Pinsky: ‘Monkey pox really “doesn’t spread very efficiently.’ 

Ron Lehman honored for 50 years of enriching people’s lives: The Channahon Park District honored Lehman and will rename Community Park in his honor.

Pets of the Week: May 23: Will County rescues have dogs and cats for adoption.

“It’s in God’s hands now’: Cancer would not wait for Covid-delayed screening. 

Joliet police chaplain recovers after passing out during police memorial due to heat: Rev. Chris Groh feels that’s insignificant compared to what police face every day.

Students at D-204 in Joliet win awards at literary festival: Students from Joliet Central and Joliet West high schools submitted writing pieces 

Will County foresters honors 2021 Volunteers of the Year: In 2021, 576 volunteers generously donated more than 9,100 hours of service to the district. 

CAPE’s 46th celebration honors adults for role in Plainfield’s schools: CAPE is the committee for the Coordination of Administration and Parent groups for educational efficiency in District 202. 

Two Plainfield Girl Scouts reach the pinnacle: More than 40 girls receive service awards at ceremony in Plainfield




Illustration by Matt Coundiff for "Visage"




Thursday, May 26, 2022

"Feels Good to be Queen"

Yesterday my oldest son stopped by the house with a Mother's Day present from him and Jennifer.




Inside were...coffee mugs!

But not just any coffee mugs.




These coffee mugs acknowledge my rightful place in the home (wink).




See? Note the crown.




And the term of the reign.


Best of all, they are microwave and dishwasher safe.

As any queen mugs should be. 

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Remembering Those in Texas...

Yesterday, Timothy, Rebekah, and I spent part of the morning at A.O. Marshall Elementary School in Joliet, which is located in a low-income part of the city.

Together, we donated four hundred and twenty-five BryonySeries books to the students: Bertrand the Mouse books to the younger children and The Adventures of Cornell Dyer books to the older students.

We also received a tour of the schoool. I had attended kindergarten there in the lower level, and Sarah had participated in Daisy Scouts in the school gym. Those are the only parts of the school I had ever seen.

And then we heard about Texas.

Terrible. Terrible. Terrible.

Remembering with those families today...




Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Now available: Cornell Dyer and the "Mistical" Being

Although "Cornell Dyer and the 'Mistical' Being sounds like a new book in the Adventures of Cornell dyer sries, it's really the first book.

Not the first book in the series.

But the first book written for the series.

Waaaay back in 2009 when I was writing the first draft for "Visage" (the second book in the "drop of blood" trilogy), I thought a spin-off series for kids on up with the Cornell Dyer character might be fun.

So Rebekah wrote one.

She was around fifteen and struggling with her dyslexia, so writing was difficult for her.

After she wrote the book, her computer crashed.

We had forgotten that she had emailed the book to me and that the book was saved on an old hard drive.

So during the pandemic, we went hunting for it.

And found it.

I read it aloud, and we laughed through a lot of it, in some very good ways.

So we talked about my expanding it. We changed a few pieces of it.

Yes, Timothy is my official collaborator for the series.

But Rebekah's story was too wonderful to pass up.

We release it today for your enjoyment, with fun artwork by Sue Midlock, our official illustrator for the series. 

When asked to banish ghosts in a backyard lake, supernatural super sleuth Cornell Dyer encounters one mystery after another: a ghostly mist with eyes, a ghost town, and a town that keeps changing its name. Delving into each one will change Cornell's life. Is he ready?

"Cornell Dyer and the 'Mistical' Being isn't available on the BryonySeries store yet.

Nor is it available on Kindle yet.

But you may purchase the paperback on Amazon.

Happy reading!


\

Monday, May 23, 2022

Twenty-Nine

A typical question artists and authors will sometimes ask other artists and authors after an event is, "How much did you sell?"

So I'll tell you. 

BryonySeries had a table (actually two tables) at "Shakespeare and Art in the Park” last Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at the Billie Limacher Bicentennial Park and Theatre in Joliet.


Every person who bought approximately $15 worth of books received a $5 gift card to the Book and Bean Cafe in Joliet, which is inside the Joliet Public Library, Black Road branch

So several people actually walked away with a bag full of books and three gift cards. 

We were inside Friday and Saturday night due to rain or the threat of rain. But that didn't deter customers.

We sold twenty-nine books and gave one away.

Bertrand the Mouse did extremely well at this event, followed by The Adventures of Cornell Dyer, followed by Nine Months of Kindness followed by Bryony

We also sold the fourth installment of Before The Blood.



We officially introduced "Bryony Bucks" and gave away one dollar off towards future purchases with every $15 spent. A few people (very loyal, repeat customers) received an extra dollar.

Most of those sales were done in the one hour before the show began. We had a couple at intermission, a couple at the end.

The rest of the time, we relaxed, visited with each other and the other artists (I had three of my adult children with me, too), watched bits of the show, and walked around the beautiful park area.


As we packed up on Sunday, I received an invitation to set up the tables at New Orleans North on June 10 in downtown Joliet.

So I will look into that today.

Have a marvelous Monday!








Friday, May 20, 2022

Story Round-Up: Features in The Herald-News, May 14 to May 20

Good morning!

I have sixteen feature stories to share with you today and more yet posted. So do check back on The Herald-News site: shawlocal.com/the-herald-news

Over the last couple of months, I also wrote an additional nineteen stories for a special "Thank You, Teachers," edition that will ran in print and online on May 5. You can check out all those stories at this link: https://www.shawlocal.com/the-herald-news/thank-you/teachers/

On the fiction side of things, Rebekah has formatted Call of the Siren and she is working on cover design. Call of the Siren is the second book in the BryonySeries Limbo trilogy, with gorgeous cover art by Nancy Calkins.

We are also waiting approval from KDP for Cornell Dyer and the "Mistical" Being and waiting for the arrival of the proof copy for Cornell Dyer and the Calcium Deficient Bones and Cornell Dyer and the "Mistical" Being.

Rebekah is also working on updating the BryonySeries YouTube and Pinterest accounts, so watch for those.

Next up in the series: a Sherlock Holmes parody (the main character is Sherman Homes). Timothy and I had scheduled a "Cornell" breakfast for last Saturday. But he was sick, so we postponed it again. This weekend is "Art in the Park" and next weekend I'm working. But perhaps Memorial Day?

Jennifer Wainright (frontispiece artist for Lycanthropic Summer) has completed two portraits for  "Girls of the BryonySeries" series for tween girls and is currently working on a third. The portraits are beautiful and it shows that artist Jennifer Wainright can draw anything from werewolves to portraits! 

Rebekah has completed cover art for two of "Girls of the BryonySeries" books. They are beautiful! One book in this series of eight books is completely written, a second is halfway written, and the rest are outlined. 

Now back to the sixteen stories. Simply click on the link of the story that looks interesting to you. Happy scrolling!

But before the stories, I have a list of additional resources and information. Please check them out, too -

Finally, if you'd like to find more kindness in your life, consider this book.

And have a great Friday!

RECIPE OF THE WEEK

Sue's Diner is a fictional restaurant in the fictional Munsonville that only exists in the BryonySeries.

Each Sunday, we post a new recipe. The recipe is either featured in one of our cookbooks or will be featured in an upcoming cookbook.

Check out the recipe here.

WRITERS

If you're a writer anywhere in the world, you're welcome to join WriteOn Joliet's Facebook pageWe're based in Joliet, Illinois, but we love to meet and interact with writers outside our area, too.

If you'd like to officially join WriteOn Joliet, we have two tiers of dues. We also have a marketing arm that's getting longer every year, well, except this year. Check us out at writeonjoliet.com.

I also suggest this book: Little Book of Revision: A Checklist for Fiction Writers. It's exactly as it says. Each page some with one suggestion for revision. The rest of the page is blank, so you can add your own notes. All proceeds benefit WriteOn Joliet.

If you need support in your writing, I highly recommend this Twitter group: #5amwritersclub. I  joined it last year. Writers support each other on Twitter and meet every three weeks at 5 a.m. (4 a.m. CST - needless to say, I am often late!) on Zoom.

If you need editing or help with self-publishing, check out dmbaranunland.com.

ARTISTS

If you need an artist for a project, I offer these recommendations.

NEWSLETTERS

Sign up for The Munsonville Times by emailing us at bryonyseries@gmail.com. The newsletter still isn't official yet, so we don't have an actual link on the website - but we are working on it! 

SOCIAL MEDIA

Daily updates: I do post the briefs 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 on Twitter at @BryonySeries and assorted related content at facebook.com/BryonySeries, youtube.com/user/BryonySeries, and themes of each book in the BryonySeries at pinterest.com/bryonyseries.

And of course, please follow the adventures of Bertrand the Mouse on Instagram at bertrand_bryonyseries.

BRYONYSERIES BOOKS

For books and more information about the series, visit bryonyseries.com.

BRYONYSERIES EVENTS

A full month of virtual events can be found at bryonyseries.com/calendar-of-events.

QUESTIONS

Email me at bryonyseries@gmail.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.

FEATURES

Flu still hanging out in Will, Grundy counties: Your allergy symptoms might not be allergies.

Mystery Diner in Shorewood: Happy Place Cafe has fast service, family atmosphere: Good experience for dine-in and carryout

‘An unfortunate confluence of factors’ leaves parents throughout northern Illinois scrambling to find baby formula: Factors include supply chain woes, formula recall

Pets of the Week: May 16: Will County rescues have dogs and cats for adoption.

D-204 in Joliet announces its students of the month for May 2022: Service clubs honored ‘character, responsibility, and academic performance or improvement’ 

Catholic Charities’ donation center in Lockport has 60 days to find a new home: The Giving Tree is a place for eligible clients to ‘shop’ with vouchers. 

Multiple Joliet area organizations come together to send hygiene kits to Ukraine: Sue Pritz-Bornhofen: ‘If more people would open their doors and their hearts, I think we all would be better off.’

JJC award-winning orthotics teacher changing lives with her skills: Alisha Brennon: ‘You know you are 100% changing a person’s life’

Romeoville man needs bone marrow donor to beat leukemia: John Block hopes his story will attract diverse donors. 

Morris Hospital earns 8th “A” rating in a row for patient safety: Landers: ‘Patient safety is our number one priority.’

Joliet 5th-graders showcased their business skills: ‘This is really about helping the kids’ Teacher Amberley Maierhofer: ‘This is really about helping the kids to grow and succeed in life.’  

Take a walk on Sunday in Bolingbrook and help young heart patients: Congenital heart disease affects 1 in 100 people

Red Cross needs volunteers to install free smoke alarms in Joliet on Saturday: Need a smoke alarm? Sign up by Friday to receive one. 

5 Things to do in Will County: art in the park, bird counts, touch-a-truck and wellness fair: Plus Marty Stuart and “Carrot Top” will peform at the Rialto Square Theatre in Joliet. 

After prison sentence, Frankfort resident looks to raise awareness for second chances: McReynolds: ‘I wanted to be prepared for a better kind of life than when I walked in.’

East side Joliet neighborhood needs volunteers for Saturday’s cleanup day: Chat with neighbors, meet new friends, get community service hours.





Illustration by Matt Coundiff for "Visage"






Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Evolution of "Bryony Bucks"

In the first BryonySeries novel in the "drop of blood" trilogy, Ed Calkins, Steward of Tara, announces at a dinner party he prints his own currency.

In a "truth is stranger than fiction" reality twist, the BryonySeries is now doing the same.

Sort of.

About eighteen months ago, Timothy designed what he called a "Bryony Buck" - basically, a certificate that gives the purchaser of a BryonySeries book a dollar (or more) off the next purchase.

Timothy thought these would be handy to distribute at events, once we did events again in a post-pandemic world.

This was his original (refined) concept.


And we did start distributing them in limited amounts with select books about a year ago.

And Timothy kept refining them in terms of size, color, etc.



Here are his latest. Thoughts?






I'm hoping Timothy will have a few extra for Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. But you'll have to come out and see for yourself.

But that will be tricky, considering we need about five hundred before Tuesday.

Mind you, Timothy only has an inkjet printer. And he cuts all these Bryony Bucks by hand.

He'd love a commerical printer, but he's put off buying one. Because apparently even printers are caught in the supply chain woes. 

Hopefully that's not the case with colored, ink, too.

Fortunately, we have lots of crayons.

Just kidding! (as Timothy would say).




Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Sue's Diner: S'Mores Mousse

This week we are featuring a recipe that Rebekah developed a few years ago: S'Mores Mousse.

It features a homemade chocolate mousse and homemade marshmallow cream (which is easier to make than you might think).

You can try the S'Mores Mousse recipe on the Sue's Diner page on the BryonySeries website

But try the recipe this week. It will be gone some time next week. A new recipe will take it's place.





By the way, Sue's Diner is only real in the BryonySeries world. But didn't Timothy do a great job making the page look like a real menu at a vintage diner?

Here is the full diner page: bryonyseries.com/sue-s-diner. You can't really order, of course (wouldn't it be great if you could?).

For more BryonySeries recipes, check out our three cookbooks at our BryonySeries bryonyseries.com/general-store.

Monday, May 16, 2022

BryonySeries and "Shakespeare and Art in the Park”

If you come out to "Shakespeare and Art in the Park” on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at the Billie Limacher Bicentennial Park and Theatre in Joliet, be sure to stop by the BryonySeries table and check out our books and a special offer.

Every person who buys one (or more) of these combinations will receive a $5 gift card to the Book and Bean Cafe in Joliet, which is inside the Joliet Public Library, Black Road branch

Gift cards are not limited to one per customer. But for each additional gift card, you must still purchase one of these four combinations.

1) One "regular" young adult or adult BryonySeries book (choices include any book in the "drop of blood" trilogy, Lycanthropic SummerThe PhoenixRuthless by Ed Calkins Steward of Tara or any of the Before the Blood books) or Nine Months of Kindness.

2) Any two books in The Adventures of Cornell Dyer series.

3) Any three books in the Bertrand the Mouse series.

4) All three of our BryonySeries cookbooks.

To check out our books, visit https://www.bryonyseries.com/

















Friday, May 13, 2022

Story Round-Up: Features in The Herald-News, May 7 to May 13

Good morning!

I have fourteen feature stories to share with you today and more yet posted. So do check back on The Herald-News site: shawlocal.com/the-herald-news

Over the last couple of months, I also wrote an additional nineteen stories for a special "Thank You, Teachers," edition that will ran in print and online on May 5. You can check out all those stories at this link: https://www.shawlocal.com/the-herald-news/thank-you/teachers/

On the fiction side of things, I'm working on the final development of the minor characters in Call of the Siren. My goal (from a Friday morning point of view) is to complete that process this weekend. 

Call of the Siren is the second book in the BryonySeries Limbo trilogy, with gorgeous cover art by Nancy Calkins.

Now that our slew of family emergencies (2022) is an adventure: here is one of our emergencies), Rebekah is planning to dedicate two days in May to catching up with BryonySeries projects she's had to let go for a while.

That includes formatting Call of the Siren and do the finishing production touches of Cornell Dyer and the Calcium Deficient Bones and Cornell Dyer and the "Mistical" Being, along with some other behind-the-scenes projects, such as updating the BryonySeries Pinterest and YouTube pages.

Both Rebekah and our artist Sue Midlock have gone through health issues this past year, which has caused publication delays (both books were written last year. But I'd rather have delays and healthy collaborators. Please send up good thoughts for them both.

Next up in the series: a Sherlock Holmes parody (the main character is Sherman Homes). Timothy is ready for a Cornell breakfast to share his ideas.

Jennifer Wainright (frontispiece artist for Lycanthropic Summer) has completed two portraits for  "Girls of the BryonySeries" series for tween girls and is currently working on a third. The portraits are beautiful and it shows that artist Jennifer Wainright can draw anything from werewolves to portraits! 

Rebekah has completed cover art for two of "Girls of the BryonySeries" books. They are beautiful! One book in this series of eight books is completely written, a second is halfway written, and the rest are outlined. 

Now back to the fourteen stories. Simply click on the link of the story that looks interesting to you. Happy scrolling!

But before the stories, I have a list of additional resources and information. Please check them out, too -

Finally, if you'd like to find more kindness in your life, consider this book.

And have a great Friday!

RECIPE OF THE WEEK

Sue's Diner is a fictional restaurant in the fictional Munsonville that only exists in the BryonySeries.

Each Sunday, we post a new recipe. The recipe is either featured in one of our cookbooks or will be featured in an upcoming cookbook.

Check out the recipe here.

WRITERS

If you're a writer anywhere in the world, you're welcome to join WriteOn Joliet's Facebook pageWe're based in Joliet, Illinois, but we love to meet and interact with writers outside our area, too.

If you'd like to officially join WriteOn Joliet, we have two tiers of dues. We also have a marketing arm that's getting longer every year, well, except this year. Check us out at writeonjoliet.com.

I also suggest this book: Little Book of Revision: A Checklist for Fiction Writers. It's exactly as it says. Each page some with one suggestion for revision. The rest of the page is blank, so you can add your own notes. All proceeds benefit WriteOn Joliet.

If you need support in your writing, I highly recommend this Twitter group: #5amwritersclub. I  joined it last year. Writers support each other on Twitter and meet every three weeks at 5 a.m. (4 a.m. CST - needless to say, I am often late!) on Zoom.

If you need editing or help with self-publishing, check out dmbaranunland.com.

ARTISTS

If you need an artist for a project, I offer these recommendations.

NEWSLETTERS

Sign up for the Will County Go Guide and Sign up for the LocalLit Short Story and Book Review Newsletter at https://www.theherald-news.com/newsletter/

Sign up for The Munsonville Times by emailing us at bryonyseries@gmail.com. The newsletter still isn't official yet, so we don't have an actual link on the website - but we are working on it! 

SOCIAL MEDIA

Daily updates: I do post the briefs 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 on Twitter at @BryonySeries and assorted related content at facebook.com/BryonySeries, youtube.com/user/BryonySeries, and themes of each book in the BryonySeries at pinterest.com/bryonyseries.

And of course, please follow the adventures of Bertrand the Mouse on Instagram at bertrand_bryonyseries.

BRYONYSERIES BOOKS

For books and more information about the series, visit bryonyseries.com.

BRYONYSERIES EVENTS

A full month of virtual events can be found at bryonyseries.com/calendar-of-events.

QUESTIONS

Email me at bryonyseries@gmail.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.

FEATURES

11 students at D. 202 in Plainfield honored for creative works: Mediums include ceramic and glass, sculpture, digital art and short stories.

Literacy efforts spark love for reading in Troy students: Book clubs, literacy programs and book donations encourage kids to keep turning the pages

Watch for these 10 signs of hepatitis in children: Parents should also vaccinate their children against hepatitis viruses A and B. 

Silver Cross celebrates nurses week with kindness as its theme: Nurses became ‘like a second family’ to patients during the pandemic

D-202 in Plainfield names 3 new principals: Their roles begin July 1. 

Silver Cross Hospital earns 15 As in a row for patient safety: Binder: ‘This community should be proud.’ 

3 international teachers share why they love teaching at District 86 in Joliet: Quiroz-Cardenas: ‘I think this is the best country for education and the best place to be a child to grow up’ 

2 Troy Shorewood teachers were once students in the same building: Vicki Petrovic and Kristine Kennedy both became teachers because of their great experiences at Troy.

Multilingual program at D-201 in Minooka recognized by the state of Illinois: Erika Martinez: ‘Our numbers are getting high, especially with the Spanish-speaking population’ 

A slip on ice was lifesaving for preschool teacher at Minooka Primary Center: Tonya Best: ‘I miss my students, more than I ever thought possible’

Joliet Central music teacher founded nonprofit to bring arts to low-income kids: Don Stinson also is the author of ‘Teaching Music to Students from Underserved Backgrounds.’ 

Lewis University professor teaches about the realities of the incarcerated: Christie Billups: ‘Crime harms people, including the person who does the crime’ 

New housing community for adults with disabilities opens in New Lenox: Dykstra: ‘From a program perspective, you’re facilitating independence.’

Spanish teacher at Providence Catholic H.S. in New Lenox teaches love for cultures through language.: Lara DeVries: ‘You never know where life will take you’ 




Illustration by Matt Coundiff for "Visage"




Saturday, May 7, 2022

"Werewolves and Zombies, the Tale of Two Teens: Book Reviews" by Ed Calkins, Steward of Tara

Only Ed Calkins can compare and contrast two books that are seemingly dissimilar on the surface: "Lycanthropic Summer" and "Flower Power."

I'm thrilled to be placed in the same category as Lindsay Lake.


Dear MOMI,

It was good to see you in person. I know you're really busy but here is the book review that Linsey might want to read

                          

  "Werewolves and Zombies, the Tale of Two Teens: Book Reviews"

I’d like to introduce you to two teenage girls with some things in common. Both find themselves facing adulthood in the 1960’s and have some untraditional plans that may seem naïve yet so relevant to more mature adults living in present times.

The youngest is a creation of Denise M. Baran-Unland in the novel "Lycanthropic Summer."  Caryn Rochelle plans to start her adulthood by being very rich; much wealthier than her mother who divorced her father when she inherited big. But seventeen-year-old Caryn has a less conventional way in mind. She is going to write the greatest werewolf love story ever written before her eighteenth birthday. She envisions the tours, interviews, and book signings after that will surely keep her a wealthy, busy, young adult.

There is a small problem, however, and it’s described in an interesting way. Caryn has yet to write a single word of it and it's already June 1st. Her birthday is in late August. Her dad, the only person that isn’t dead and is still of use to her has an answer, be it a cheesy one. It’s a yellow diary with a childish lock and key. The bulk of the novel is a dated letter to an imaginary friend, “Maggie”, who was a classmate of hers but never an actual friend. There are other pretend friends, too, in the story. But it’s the friendship, not the teenage girls, that are imagined with Caryn secretly disdaining them while keeping up appearances of a close-knit inner circle.

Caryn is a true lone wolf; cynical, imaginative, vulgar, and sexually inexperienced. Early in the novel, she gets in trouble when she attempts to change that inexperience after her prom dance in her boyfriend’s car. Still, both the boyfriend and the experience seemed designed to give her something to complain about rather than satisfy adolescent urges. She gets caught by a policeman and grounded in a way that grants her mother a summer without a daughter stealing cigarettes from her purse.

Mother sends daughter to live with dad and her aunt Silly in a tourist prison called Shelby where her father has a veterinarian office and a place he shares with his sister, who makes her living by crafting and selling jewelry to the tourist trap shops. Caryn adapts to her new prison quite well. One might expect to find her just a rich kid spoiled brat, but she’s almost the opposite, looking for any opportunity to help Dad with his veterinarian office and Aunt Silly with her jewelry. Caryn won’t admit it, but she’s also quite fond of her easy-going unconventional aunt.

Caryn’s prison quarters are about the size of her bathroom at home, but she seems to prefer it, even though her bedroom door is misfitted to the frame and doesn’t close all the way. Housework has an interesting pattern well suited to teenage sensibility. 

The journal fills with the wisdom of adolescence and werewolf lore along with some of Caryn’s short werewolf stories. The writer has talent, but the wisdom is confined to her number of years. The days of Shelby fall into rhythm, but no "Greatest Werewolf Love Story" emerges.

One might expect that a seventeen-year-old might mingle with the local teens, sharing cigarettes and ways to make trouble. Caryn keeps to herself, her aunt, her father, and the animals under her father’s care. But a rumor causes curiosity to creep into her writer’s mind and she explores a rich native’s estate. Through a window she finds a naked, hairy, teenage boy chained to a basement wall. Naturally, she expects to spend her reward money promoting her book when she turns the captors in; but another idea claims her attention.

The writer gets an idea and, just as quickly, the greatest werewolf love story gets its first chapter. As the journal fills, the other chapters only get written every time she conducts her clandestine visits to her chained naked muse. As a reader, you can feel the urgency as the pages yet to read grow smaller and the progression of chapters seem to fail to claim those pages. The village of Shelby has its secrets, but the revelations are all shadowed. Caryn has a deadline that her father seems to legitimize.

I’ll give you one hint. As you’re reading the novel, keep an eye on that door that doesn’t close and also the misbehaving rowan cane and the power of the native flowers. Except for the "f" bombs which I find humorous, the story is not one word longer than it needs to be and its full sense isn’t revealed till the book’s last sentence.

The story of an older teenage girl starts in a hick town in Texas sometime after the Beatles invaded the States. In the novel, "Flower Power" by Lindsay Lake, Shelby is the protagonist looking for a life that doesn’t depend on marriage. Like Caryn, Shelby is independent, creative, and has a smart streak that seems to fail her early on. Unlike Caryn, Shelby loves everyone and is quite interested in boys almost to the point of addiction.

She wants to be a nurse, but her high school grades rule out college. She works as a nurse’s aide with German nuns in a newly built hospital. But then, she talks with an Air Force recruiter. The Air Force could make her a nurse. She signs on the dotted line and is shipped to Lackland Air Force Base in Texas for her secretarial training! That’s the last thing she wants, and she makes that clear to her assignment officer despite a warning not to make waves. Was that her first mistake or was it being too dismissive of a pair of guys boasting that they could get her assignments anywhere in the world?

In either case, she’s flown out to begin her four year sentence on Thule Airbase in Greenland, where the sun rises once a year. Once on the base, she hopes to meet handsome pilots, but is confronted by zombies who overrun the base. Hmm. "Zombies" and "overrun" might be an exaggeration. Zombies would have more personality and "overrun" implies that they are acting in unison. No, the airmen, contractors, and support staff aren’t undead, they just look like it and the dull grey that covers everything doesn’t help much. It seems like everyone on the base is dead inside and mental illness threatens in many forms. They drink too much, fight, rape, and kill themselves when they are not too busy being clinically depressed.

On her first day, Shelby meets her two commanding Captains. Madonna Wakowski, who runs the hospital, is an RN with a manlike haircut and a likable disposition. Dr Alan Markkov has the charm and looks of a grumbling homeless man with an unkempt long beard and dark circles under his eyes. Being the only doctor on the base left the man and the clinic he worked in gigantic mess; one that Shelby got right down to cleaning up. He doesn’t impress her, but she does have what could pass for dinner with him in the officer’s mess hall. Dr Alan gulps down his food and leaves for his quarters before she’s halfway through her meal.

Once in her quarters, her neighbor Nan informs her that they both have dates with the base commander and a friend. She dresses for the Officers Club she had heard about, but instead finds herself at the friend’s apartment where drinking is taking very seriously. Shelby gets bad vibes and bails. 

The next morning, Shelby is late, and Captain Wakowski has a new patient; the base commander who got drunk and tried to force himself on Nan who happened to study karate. All that happened on the first day.

Because of my enthusiasm for the novel, I’m in danger of telling the story instead of letting the author do it. What I can tell you is Shelby appoints herself as an activities director. Her first task is to change the color of the walls. Surprised that she had no trouble getting the Air Force to send Thule gallons of paint that isn’t grey, she was even more surprised at the ease of getting contractors and airmen to volunteer to paint.

She has other ideas too and the bulk of the novel is the execution and effect of them, sometime unintended. There is also the matter of sex, lovers, and storms both inside the buildings and out.

Will a simple flower child be able to fight back the tide of zombies or is the base doomed to suicide, riots, and starvation, not to mention nuclear war? She does have allies. The base commander isn’t the jerk he makes of himself, rather he, too, is the victim of the craziness of the desert snow.

Later, two other characters, DeSoto, an angry black airman, and Beau, a brawling young contractor sporting long hair and piercings, join her quest and mix it up with the base in varying ways. All the main allies journal their pain. Although the entries don’t take up much of the novel, each informs of some secret insanity looming. Even Shelby is not doing as well as she appears and her plea to her childhood imaginary friend Buc will break your heart. To the reader I’ll give a hint. Keep your eyes on the weather and the dog sleds as the ending takes a hard left turn.

But how am I to make these tales of two teenage girls all about me? I have to come up with something. I could say things like; while "Flower Power" is historical fiction, the werewolf novel is hysterical fiction, (please don’t make me pronounce that title again,). All the f bombs did make me laugh. I could say that the name Caryn sounds like ‘caring’ which is a big part of Caryn’s character. I could say that Shelby sounds like "shall be" which sound like a biblical Beatles’ song or something often proclaimed by a very confident activities director.

I could be clever and insightful by pointing out that werewolves are the perfect metaphor for adolescence. I could also claim that "Flower Power" tells the story that modern life is decades removed from. In the Vietnam era the nation was sharply divided, suffered runaway inflation, and lived in fear that the Russian's aggression would lead to the end of the world. Wait…never mind.

I could sound ridiculous by stating that the major difference between the two novels is the location of power that combats the wolfs and zombies. In the first, it’s the power of flowers that grow inside of Shelby. In the second, it’s the flower power that grows inside of Shelby.

I will admit you might read both books and disagree.

Here’s something you can’t disagree with because you lack the authority. I have two new imaginary friends and a lot in common with both of them. People that have worked with me might think I’m more like Shelby. We both have had the same unofficial jobs. But I am most of the time more like Caryn in keeping to myself.

Caryn has no use for anyone her age, or as she puts it "anyone that isn’t dead". Is it fear that motivates that? Oh, I know she does not agree and would use her string of f bombs say so. But I know fear and am inclined to project it on her. Is it her, me, or both that distain company because of fear of getting her/mine/our feelings hurt? Or is it the reverse? Are we afraid of the monsters inside of us hurting other people? One thing about Caryn is that she believes herself to be a great writer. I can’t say that about myself. If I could have just a little of her confidence, maybe I could pretend to believe which would lead to believing, which would lead to being. You see why I’m keeping her around.

Then there’s Shelby. It’s going to come out of me anyway so I might as well admit it. I have a crush on Shelby. For a man my age, you might call that creepy. I’d rather you call it ruthless. How can I help it? When Shelby looks at me with big blue eyes, her lit-up smile, and Jane Fonda haircut, she’s bouncing on the balls or her toes almost too excited to tell me about the new activity she’s just thought of. She’s irresistible, even if I have to share her with guys more endowed than me.

Caryn is my "writers block" buddy. I imagine her to the right of me as I type on my computer and she’s scribbling in that yellow dairy.

“How’s it coming, Mouse?” I would call her that. I’m about the same age as her father in this fantasy and he called her that. “What are you writing just now?”

“No way!” she’d insist. “I’m not giving you my werewolf love story for free. You have to buy it like anyone else.”

But I can see she’s at her diary and not at the typewriter. She knows she’s busted.

"What about you?” she asks.

“I’m writing, but I’m not sure anyone’s going to read it.”

“Bleep that blah!” She uses more colorful words. “Write any way you think and if any of the Bleeping Blobbing blahs can’t understand the bleeping blobbing blah you’re trying to say…well bleep em. Besides, my werewolf love story is going to make so much money you’ll never have to bleeping blah again. And if any bleeping bleeper bleeps the blah out of you I’ll beeping …well you know what I’ll do.”

“Thanks, Mouse.”

 Shelby is for a different time. When I feel like my Greenland is an island of cold, white, old age surrounded by death, I’ll be alone in my barrack’s apartment, and she knocks on my door.

“It’s open,” I tell her. There’s no reason to lock it.

“Are you OK?” she asks, but she can see that I’m not. “Is there anything I can do for you? Anything at all?”

Hmm,… but no. I tell her, leaving out the ‘hmm’.

Big blue eyes stare back at me hopefully.

“Is there anything you can do for you?”

“Yes,” I admit. “I could check the signup sheets for some activity I might enjoy or write in my journal. Maybe it wouldn’t hurt to pick up a phone.”

But her blue eyes haven’t left mine. She’s still hoping as if she’s coaching the words from my mouth.

“Or I could come up with my own activity and print out sheets for that.”

That’s what she wants to hear from me.

“But the mail came today, Shelby. My world is smaller than it was and the activities that I once enjoyed I’m now too old for and have less people in my life to share what’s left.”

Shelby doesn’t answer. With tears forming in her eyes she buries her face in my chest and wraps her arms around me. For a minute or more, there is nothing but the body heat and empathy between a young, tired woman and a dried-out old man.

“Is it time to plan a hard left turn," she whispers, still embracing me.

“Not yet, Sweety. Not yet."

 My girls…not yours. I imagined them first. Well, maybe the authors played some small part but it’s my imagination that makes them so real. You’re not going to understand any of this until you read the books, and I should get back to telling you why you must read them.  I’m reviewing with my own system of grading.

“Lycanthropic Summer’ is an easy read with profanity, humor, mystery, and the astute observation of an adolescent that showcases her talent but stays within the experiences her years allowed. The book makes good use of fonts and forces you to reevaluate its plot line after you’ve finished the book's last sentence. Do yourself a favor and don’t read ahead. I give it five out of five.

"Flower Power’ is an insightful masterpiece with a firm grip on the history and psychology of the men and women who served at that time in that place. It is fictional, but for each bump in the plot there is a comparable historical twist according to my source, who implies some of his information is still classified. (He brags a lot.) But regardless of whether the plot is meant to mirror actual incidence, Lindsay Lake gives her characters a balance yet makes you care about them. For some that lived during the Vietnam era, the book may bring painful memories which is testament to its truthfulness. For those who have not lived in the era, it’s a must-read lest we forget the lessons the U.S. military learned. The book is a page turner but expect more tears than laughs. I give it five out of five.

Caryn from the werewolf book gets five packs of cigarettes. (To understand my willingness do that, read the book)

Shelby from “Flower Power” gets five red roses.