Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Leslie Ormandy and "Simply Supernatural," Part 2

Leslie Ormandy teaches two Vampires in Literature courses at an Oregon community college, has re-edited and published Varney the Vampire, and is the originator of the site www.simplysupernatural-vampire.com, a delightful stopping point of all things vampire.

There, Ormandy has links to a wide variety of Victorian literature; a collection of her vampire short stories, as well as the stories and essays her students have written; and links to whimsical items for vampire fans, such as festivals, crossword puzzles, clothing, and movies.

Ormandy has also included essays and links on many vampire characteristics and topics including sex, the victimization of children, children as vampires, porphyria, evil, Dracula, religion, euthanasia, vampire as metaphor, and more.

7)  What else does the class contain?

"We talk about vintage vampire poetry; we look at some modern stuff; and they all try writing a vampire sonnet and a vampire haiku. We’ve talked about vampires as pedophiles, and, at some point, we talk about religion, because you can’t really talk about vampires without talking about religion. I wrote a short story, The Blood is the Life, about a vampire who could walk into a church because she had once accepted God.”

8) I understand you provide modern translations for several vintage stories. What led you to re-edit Varney the Vampire?

"It’s a lost story. Very few people read it, although it was once massively popular, like Twilight. Everyone was reading it, and it spawned many look-alike stories, but now, no one reads it. Also, I’m good at Victorian syntax and explaining things. It was a big undertaking, but no one else was doing it. The story is fascinating. It’s love, romance, and vampires feeding.”

9) Where do you draw inspiration for your short stories?

"A theme will suggest itself, and the little muse will sit on my shoulder and demand I write the story. I just cannot rest until I do. It’s kind of scary what comes out of my psyche.”

10) What are the criteria for student submissions?

"I am an academic and picky. Submissions have to be well-written and connect with both humans and vampires. It’s hard to define what’s well written. You just know it when you read it.”

11) Who’s your site’s primary audience?

"I have a different audience than many other vampire sites. My audience tends to be more academic, but the site is not just for my students. I’m quite well-read in the UK and Europe, and I have a large following in Russia.”

12) I understand you’re currently enjoying steampunk literature. What was your introduction to it?

"My daughter brought a steampunk book home from the library. It had vampires in it and it was set in the Victorian period, thus combining two of my favorites.”

13) What made the most impact from your trip to London for a vampire conference?

"A lot of manuscripts are buried in libraries, so the stories literally have not been read since that time period. It was incredible to touch books that old. I’d like to explore more pre-Victorian vampire stories and Greek vampire stories.”


Monday, February 27, 2012

Leslie Ormandy and "Simply Supernatural," Part 1

Leslie Ormandy teaches two Vampires in Literature courses at an Oregon community college, has re-edited and published Varney the Vampire, and is the originator of the site www.simplysupernatural-vampire.com, a delightful stopping point of all things vampire.

There, Ormandy has links to a wide variety of Victorian literature; a collection of her vampire short stories, as well as the stories and essays her students have written; and links to whimsical items for vampire fans, such as festivals, crossword puzzles, clothing, and movies.

 Ormandy has also included essays and links on many vampire characteristics and topics including sex, the victimization of children, children as vampires, porphyria, evil, Dracula, religion, euthanasia, vampire as metaphor, and more.

1) People of many eras have enjoyed vampire stories. Why do you suppose they do?

 “While the eras may change, I think people still have pretty much the same interests and concerns. Vampires are all about magic. People have always been interested in magic, and they have always been worried about death. You have corpses walking around, taking in life. Nothing makes you feel more alive than that edge between death and life.

2) When did your fascination with vampires begin?

 "With Dark Shadows, the original series. When I first showed Barnabus to my students they weren’t too impressed, but back then, oh my gosh! We all thought he was so hot. After that, it was Anne Rice, but then my interest went dormant for a while, until I started teaching. I’d be doing research papers and run across an occasional vampire.”

3) How did you devise the vampire lit class?

"I was reading Varney the Vampire down at my dad’s farm and thinking about the concepts of life, death, and eternity. I thought it would be fun to be able to discuss those concepts with students. The first time I taught the class, in 2007, Twilight was becoming popular, but it wasn’t huge yet, so the class was predominantly male. I actually started with the literature of the Victorian period since one-third of my MA is in Victorian Lit.”

4) What can people learn from reading Victorian literature?

"The industrial revolution brought huge societal shifts. It’s similar to the changes we see today as we lose the middle class and become once more upper and lower class. It is so reflective of the Victorian time period. We can learn a lot about society from their choices.”

5) Why do you discuss so many vampire-related topics in your class and on your site?

"Because vampires are something that we can connect with, wrestle with, think about, and, if we cannot think, we are easily led and being led is easier than thinking for oneself. Topics that always in the top ten on my site are Dracula, the vampire disease, and the short stories.

6) What is the most popular topic with women?

"Women like the romantic aspect. When you walk through a bookstore today, the hugest section is the paranormal romance, but in the back, there is usually a tiny section where vampires are still monsters. I like both aspects, but I prefer my vampires as monsters. I find it an odd mix to love something that could kill you, and, when the vampire doesn’t, it’s had to make such a huge choice. Vampires as monsters have no qualms about what they are.”

Friday, February 24, 2012

"The Road Not Taken," by Robert Frost

The Road Not Taken, by Robert Frost (1915)

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Who's Your Role Model?

That was one of the questions from the students at Joliet West High School, and it made me pause before answering. Since one question also was, "Who's your favorite author?" (I don't have one), I decided the response didn't have to be writer-based.

So, I replied, "Fr. Boris Zabrodsky," and proceeded to verbally introduce them to a remarkable man.

Fr. Boris has been my confessor, mentor, and godfather ever since I was received into the Eastern Orthodox Church in the summer of nineteen eighty-nine. My association with his church, St. Nicholas Orthodox Church in Homewood, Illinois, is and has been the source of my greatest spiritual growth. Here's why.

   *  Fr. Boris is one of the forerunners of the charismatic movement in the Eastern Orthodox Church. This movement has added a strong element of holy joy into a denomination that often presents itself in a staid and static manner.

   *  His motto and best spiritual advice is, "Walk in praise," and he means authentic, sincere praise directed to God because He is God, not a Pollyanna oblivion to harsh circumstances of life.

  *  Donations are voluntary. St. Nicholas does not pass a collection basket.

  *  He advocates congregational singing. Worship in the Eastern Orthodox Church is antiphonal, although in many churches, the "dialogue" occurs between clergy and choir. We have no choir. Rather, Fr. Boris has always encouraged full particpation by all, and we truly do "make a joyful noise."

  *  He embraces hard work. At seventy-eight, Fr. Boris is not only pastor, he is hall manager and head custodian. He does not administrate from afar, but is strongly present in all church affairs, sometimes to our annoyance.

  *   He's not afraid to get his hands dirty. St. Nicholas rests on a well and septic. Guess who does the all-too-frequent rodding?

  *  He has an interesting sense of humor. Anyone know the jokes about the three pastors and their wives that present themselves to St. Peter after perishing in an auto accident or the fellow that encounters the leprachaun on the golf course? Yep, I heard them from Fr. Boris.

  * He believes in asking for and bestowing forgiveness, presonally and frequently. If you doubt it, come check out our forgiveness line this Sunday.

  *  Because Fr. Boris accepts his own blemishes, I've learned not to take myself too seriously.

  *  He promotes a strong healing ministry, with emphasis on physical healing, as well as complete healing. St. Nicholas hosts a monthly healing service, although one may request anointing and prayer at any time. Fr. Boris is a chaplain at one hospital and visits four more. He does not limit his visits to his parishioners, but seeks out those separated from their own churches, individuals who need and/or desire a clergy presence.

 *  He's a proponent of prayer, especially for the sick and the dead. He prays often and spontaneously and reminds others to utilize the same opportunity.

 *  Most importantly, Fr. Boris focuses his ministry on the individual. His love truly covers a multitude of sins. He "adopts" people others consider hopeless and builds strong servants of the church, whether these are men ordained at St. Nicholas (eleven by my count, amazing for a small mission parish) and now serve other churches or the homeless who have found refuge and meaning within St. Nicholas' walls.

Each of these principles, really the foundational principles of Christianity, have profoundly influenced the way I parent my children, run my business, write my stories, and minister unto others. Although it will take a lifetime or two to perfect them, the task is simplified with a living example before me.


Monday, February 20, 2012

"A Day at Joliet West High School"

Last Thursday, with Rebekah and her homework in tow to assist with book sales and generally entertain me between sessions, I talked to four freshman English classes at Joliet West High School about Bryony, the writing process, and the hard work required to make your dreams come true. It was the very first time I had talked to a large group since college speech classes, which I never relished. Did I say I'm fifty?

I anticipated being nervous, but when I awakened last Sunday, eager to talk at the writer's workshop, I began to think it wouldn't be so bad and it wasn't. Not only had I thoroughly enjoyed speaking to the women, the English teacher had emailed a list of questions the students had compiled, which provided an idea of what everyone wanted to hear.

So, after a brief introduction, we showed the book trailer and music video and then I talked about and read from Bryony, letting the students randomly pick the selection. Then, I turned to their questions.

And what did they want to know?

They wanted to hear what else I do during the day besides writing books, where I like to write, if I prefer typing to longhand, my opinions on Twilight and The Hunger Games, the length of time I need to write a book (including revisions), a glimpse into my childhood along with the first book I ever read, and do I want more children?

Well, who wouldn't want more children?

When possible, I let the teens talk, too. Several of the girls and some of the boys liked writing poetry. A few wrote short stories. One boy, a rapper, was shooting a music video with his friends.

During lunch, the teacher was pleased the students were so attentive during my presentations and shared with me some of hte demographics of the students. The majority received supplemental or free lunches. A good percentage were homeless. Five gangs had a presence in the school. Her words were sobering and humbling and made me glad I had encouraged the students in their creative pursuits.

At the end of each talk, we passed out Bryony cards. Nearly every student accepted one, and Rebekah and I stumbled over just three of those cards in the halls. And wouldn't you know it? We had such a wonderful time, we forgot the box of books and have to return this week to pick it up.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Ed Calkins (Finally) Gets His Due

Busy day today, oh my!

I just looked up from editing Visage, noticed the sun had set, and checked the time. Wow, what a short day: some last minute gathering of information and adding of numbers before seeing my accountant this morning, a power walk, mail check, some editing, and BAM! The day's nearly done.

This past Thursday, Rebekah and I spent the day at Joliet West High School, where I had the privilege of speaking to one hundred freshman English students divided into four class periods. I'll post the details on Monday, but suffice to say that, because of it, Ed Calkins, Steward of Tara, is inches closer to legendary fame.

Several days before my engagement, the English teacher had emailed me a list of questions the students had compiled. One of the questions was, "Would you ever base a story on a real high school?"

That's when I informed the students Bryony contained one and only one character based on a real person. Then I proceeded to tell them about Ed Calkins, the first Irish vampire, who subdues his victims not through bloody attacks, but insulting limericks.

While I won't say the parade in Ed's honor is rapidly approaching, with each retelling of his story, it becomes more plausible. In the meantime, Ed needs to order his poet into action. It's been a long time since the steward has sent a blog post penned in his own (ahem) hand.

Friday, February 17, 2012

"The Golden Fleece," by Nathaniel Hawthorne

First published in 1853 as part of Tanglewood Tales (Greek mythology adapted for children), The Golden Fleece is the story of the ancient Greek hero Jason, leader of the Argonauts, and their quest for the Golden Fleece, owned by King Aeetes, which upon its presentation to Pelias, would remove that king from the throne, where Jason rightfully belonged.

The story is full of the usual stuff that makes epic tales fun to read: prophecy (Jason loses a sandal in the river after helping the goddess Hera, in disguise, cross it, fulfilling the legend that a one-sandaled man would take the throne from Pelias), adventure (fire-breathing oxen, warriors that spring from sowed dragon's teeth, and battle with the dragon itself), and romantic tension (Aeetes' daughter Media, an enchantress in love with Jason, uses her magic to help rescue the fleece), not to mention Hawthorne's delightful writing style:

Be that as it may, it has always been told for a fact (and always will be told, as long as the world lasts), that Chiron, with the head of a schoolmaster, had the body and legs of a horse. Just imagine the grave old gentleman clattering and stamping into the schoolroom on his four hoofs, perhaps treading on some little fellow's toes, flourishing his switch tail instead of a rod, and, now and then, trotting out of doors to eat a mouthful of grass! I wonder what the blacksmith charged him for a set of iron shoes?

Read it at http://www.eldritchpress.org/nh/tt07.html.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Vampires and Romance

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, February 13, 2012

Wonderful Writer's Workshop!

One of the leaders of Word Weavers, a dozen or so Christian women writers that meet at the Portiuncula Center for Prayer in Frankfort, Illinois, asked me to share, during a workshop, what turned out to be my rather colorful publishing experiences.

Since I really like meeting and talking with other writers, and the entire Bryony project has been so much fun, I readily agreed. I later learned yesteday's event was the first time this two-year old group had invited a speaker. What an honor!

Not entirely certain what the women might want to know, I simply told my story. I'm an asthmatic that grew up reading and writing; I absolutely dote on pre-twentieth century vampires stories; and I conceived the concept of Bryony nearly thirty years ago.

I talked about writing tmy novel inside out and how, in the process, that one book became four, a cookbook, and a CD. I related my online education about the world of publishing, the submission process, agent querying and small press querying, along with the requests, and rejections, I received.

I talked about editing, self-publishing and ISBN's, the book trailer, the music video, branding, and marketing, and then passed around some laminated Bryony business cards and my press kit. Only when I noticed a few of the women were taking notes did I realize how much I've learned these past few years.

A pleasant surprise occured during the introductions, but first, a digression. This past weekend, while editing Visage, the second book in the BryonySeries, which we hope to release this fall, there's a scene where Melissa is shelving periodicals at the college library. This briefly reminded me of when I had done the same, more than thirty years ago, and a quick memory of my employer flashed through my mind.

So, when a woman to my left began talking about her current project, I immediately recognized her as my former boss. I glanced at her name tag; the name matched.

"Did you work in periodicals at the University of St. Francis?" I asked, extending my hand to the woman, who now look bewildered, but smiling.

She had.

"Denise Schonbachler," I said. "I used to work for you."

Even more astounding, she remembered.

"I grew up," I simply said.

It was a joyous reconnection. She asked me to sign a book especially for her, and someone snapped a few pictures. To top it off, something else happened earlier in the day, which might open some new writing opportunities for me.

I can't provide details yet, but please, keep your fingers crossed, say a prayer, sacrifice a goat, etc., etc. that if the challenge arrives, I'll be prepared to meet it.

Friday, February 10, 2012

"Leiningen versus the Ants," by Carl Stephenson

In Leiningen Versus the Ants, Carl Stephenson (1893-1954), opens the story with a native vainly trying to explain to a self-made, wealthy plantation owner in Brazil to flee for his life because the ants are coming.

The owner, Leinginen, placidly puffing on a cigar, is unconcerned. By sheer will and brain power, he has already outwitted man, beast, and pestilence, so a new challenge almost excites him.

But when Leinginen encounters the twenty-mile square mass of intelligent, determined ants who outwit one foil after another, Leinginen realizes the truth of the native's words, "before you can spit three times, they'll eat a full-grown buffalo to the bones," and embarks on a battle of wits that will only end when either he or the ants are dead.


Tuesday, February 7, 2012

"Made to be Broken," by Kelly Armstrong: "Bryony" Moment of the Day

On Saturday, Timothy and I were driving to my mother’s (She’s serving as my business manager and one of my sales reps) to drop off press kits, sales receipts, money to be deposited, etc. and attempting relevant conversation, in, around, and about the frequent ringing of my cell phone.

One such call, ironically from my mother, elicited huge sighs of annoyance, exaggerated eye-rolling, and a slew of protests. I pressed green anyway and said, “Is it urgent? I’ll be there in ten minutes.”

Well, it actually was. My mother had a “Bryony” moment of the day and didn’t want to forget to share it. An explanation of entails a Bryony moment of the day is here: www.bryonyseries.blogspot.com/2011/11/nanowrimo-day-5-and-bryony-moment-of.html.

“This will just take a minute,” my mother promised.

 I relayed that information to Timothy, who only sighed and rolled his eyes some more. Now he understands why Rebekah is always “stealing” my phone, especially when I’m reviewing her homework.

Anyway, my mother, who adores mysteries, was reading “Made to be Broken” by Kelly Armstrong. Visit Armstrong’s site for a synopsis: www.kelleyarmstrong.com/made-to-be-broken.

In the story, Armstrong mentions a Byrony Adoption Agency (my mother had to read that several times because he mind kept seeing it as Bryony), in all places, Detroit. To sweeten the coincidence, many people, when reading the title of my novel, do, in fact, say “Byrony,” instead of “Bryony.”

And with that, my mother bid us good-bye. Of course, we were nearly at her house by then. My phone made it up to Timothy on the way back by remaining quiet for the entire return trip.

Monday, February 6, 2012

WriteOn, Workshops, and Where to Buy "Bryony"

Several weeks ago, a local writer, Kristina Gardner Skaggs (see her short story, Dead Serious, www.bryonyseries.com/Harold_Masters.html and her interview at http://bryonyseries.blogspot.com/2011/09/meet-kristina-skaggs-author-of-dead.html) approached me about assisting her with a new writer’s group.

A few conversational emails later, we finalized time, date, and location: 6:30 to 8:00 p.m., the first and third Thursdays of every month, at the Three Rivers Arts Council (TRAC), 413 Mondamin Road, Minooka.

To our delight, five local writers turned out for that first meeting last week We shared our interests, heard some readings, set some goals, directed each other to helpful sites, and brainstormed our official title. Please come join us. For more information contact kristinasgardner@gmail.com

That same night, TRAC’s president purchased a copy of Bryony for the council’s lending library and instructed me to bring additional copies at the next meeting, so she could offer them for sale, too. I am definitely happy to oblige!

Then, on Friday night, while happily editing Visage, the second novel in the BryonySeries, I received a Facebook message from a local gallery member asking me if I would be interested in presenting a lecture about writing and publishing Bryony as well as leading creative writing workshop.

She and I swapped some ideas yesterday afternoon. We have not yet finalized a date, except to agree it should be on a Saturday afternoon in September. Last Friday, the owner of a Joliet establishment and I discussed on the possibility of offering ongoing writer’s assessments. I’ll post more information on all opportunities as I receive it.

Finally, a number of businesses are now offering signed copies of Bryony on consignment, so if you haven’t purchased yours set, here are some additional opportunities to do so. We are also working on making Bryony available as an ebook, finishing the final formatting of the Bryony cookbook, Memories in the Kitchen: Bites and Nibbles from "Bryony," and formatting a couple of Bryony bonus chapters, previous only available to my family as Christmas presents.

And if that doesn't fulfill your need for Bryony, you can download the "voice" of John Simons with a copy of The Best-Loved Compositions of John Simons. These are ten original piano compositions, including the theme song from Bryony, by romantic pianist/composer James Onohan. To download, visit www.jamesonohan.com.

International readers: Bryony distribution has been a bit sticky, so until we work the bugs out, if you’d like a hard copy, email me at BryonySeries@gmail.com, and we’ll make it happen. Bryony is also available on amazon.com and through the website at www.bryonyseries.com.

The following locations carry Bryony:

Aunt Nina's Sweets N Treats
21121 Division Street in Crest Hill, Illinois.

Book Market Sales & Trading
2368 Plainfield Road, Crest Hill, IL 60403

HS Healing and Wellness Center
3109 W. Jefferson Street, Joliet, IL 60435

T's N Taps Smiley Dyes
15 W. St. Charles Road
Lombard, IL, 60148

Three Rivers Arts Council
413 Mondamin, Minooka, IL, 60441

Saturday, February 4, 2012

A Peek Inside the Steward of Tara's Private Library

Ever wonder what Ed Calkins, the Steward of Tara, reads when he's not engrossed in Bryony, eagerly awaiting the next book in the BryonySeries, or composing fearsomely insulting limericks?

Then check out this link below. It will direct you on a virtual tour of the treasures found on the ruthless dictator's bookshelves.

20 Essential Irish Authors

Friday, February 3, 2012

"Little Orphant Annie" by James Whitcomb Riley

By James Whitcomb Riley (1885)

First titled The Elf Child, Riley later renamed the poem Little Orphant Allie  in honor of an orphan by the same name who had once lived in his childhood home. A copy error changed "Allie" to "Annie," and the poem remains such today.

Little Orphant Annie's come to our house to stay,

An' wash the cups an' saucers up, an' brush the crumbs away,

An' shoo the chickens off the porch, an' dust the hearth, an' sweep,

An' make the fire, an' bake the bread, an' earn her board-an'-keep;

An' all us other childern, when the supper-things is done,

We set around the kitchen fire an' has the mostest fun

A-list'nin' to the witch-tales 'at Annie tells about,

An' the Gobble-uns 'at gits you

Ef you




Wunst they wuz a little boy wouldn't say his prayers,--

An' when he went to bed at night, away up-stairs,

His Mammy heerd him holler, an' his Daddy heerd him bawl,

An' when they turn't the kivvers down, he wuzn't there at all!

An' they seeked him in the rafter-room, an' cubby-hole, an' press,

An' seeked him up the chimbly-flue, an' ever'-wheres, I guess;

But all they ever found wuz thist his pants an' roundabout:--

An' the Gobble-uns 'll git you

Ef you




An' one time a little girl 'ud allus laugh an' grin,

An' make fun of ever' one, an' all her blood-an'-kin;

An' wunst, when they was "company," an' ole folks wuz there,

She mocked 'em an' shocked 'em, an' said she didn't care!

An' thist as she kicked her heels, an' turn't to run an' hide,

They wuz two great big Black Things a-standin' by her side,

An' they snatched her through the ceilin' 'fore she knowed what she's about!

An' the Gobble-uns 'll git you

Ef you




An' little Orphant Annie says, when the blaze is blue,

An' the lamp-wick sputters, an' the wind goes woo-oo!

An' you hear the crickets quit, an' the moon is gray,

An' the lightnin'-bugs in dew is all squenched away,--

You better mind yer parunts, an' yer teachurs fond an' dear,

An' churish them 'at loves you, an' dry the orphant's tear,

An' he'p the pore an' needy ones 'at clusters all about,

Er the Gobble-uns 'll git you

Ef you




Thursday, February 2, 2012

A Recipe for Happiness

A Recipe for Happiness (author unknown) is neither Victorian nor 1970's, but the following is appropriate for all people, of all eras.

1 large sense of humor
1 warm, wide smile
1 generous handful patience
Dash of courtesy
Plenty of love and humility (you can never add too much).

Mix all ingredients together and press through a sieve to strain out lingering amounts of unkindness. Yield: Serves all of mankind.