Sunday, March 31, 2013

"Staked!" Updated


Glorious weekend. Tired. tired. Tired.

I had my first intense Friday fiction night in a very long time, so I made some decent headway on "Staked!" More of the same followed on Saturday, the celebration of my oldest son's thirty-first birthday notwithstanding.

Today, being Eastern Orthodox, while the rest of the world celebrated Easter, I worked on "Staked!" before and after church. I broke long enough to watch Vampire Sucks with Daniel, Rebekah, and three cats.

That's when I remembered I had forgotten to post a blog.

So where am I at regarding the editing for "Staked!?"

Chapter thirteen needed quite a bit of work, so that one received most of my attention this weekend; I am happy to report that one's now in pretty good shape. I also went back to chapters one through twelve and made some additional adjustments. Then I read through fourteen and fifteen and did some rewriting there, but they are nowhere near complete.

Part of the enjoyment, however, with reworking a draft I wrote nearly four years ago are the surprise twists, clever prose, and humorous dialogue, all details composed in the moment and long since forgotten. I can't wait to "read" the rest.

Yes, I am still having fun.

Friday, March 29, 2013

"Easter" by Margaret E. Sangster and Story Round Up

Easter By Margaret E. Sangster
From Harper’s Young People, March 20, 1894

When Easter comes the violets lift
Their shyly hooded faces.
Where late the frozen snows adrift
Heaped high the woodland spaces.
When Easter comes the sunbeams dance
On green leaves all aquiver,
And grasses rally, spear and lance,
By rippling brook and river.

When Easter comes the lilies haste
What time the bells are ringing,
To bring their perfumes, pure and chaste,
From hallowed censers swinging.
Shine dim church aisles on Easter day
Beneath their serried whiteness,
And happy children kneel and pray
Amid the lilied brightness.

When Easter comes, a merry train,
The robin, wren, and starling,
With song and wing are here again,
And many another darling.
The bluebird and the oriole,
The martin and the swallow,
“Away,” they chant, “with grief and dole,
Here’s spring, and summer ‘ll follow!”

When Easter comes, when Easter comes,
Then winter’s spell is over!
Erelong we’ll hear the elfin drums
Where bees are deep in clover.
After we catch the swaying lilt
Of winds among the daisies,
And see the rosecups’ sweetness spilt
Among the garden mazes.

When Easter comes, ah! happy day,
E’en tears like dewdrops glisten,
And songs climb up the heavenward way
While angels bend to listen.
For love and life and joy untold
Are in the age-long story
That spells itself on harps of gold,
And thrills with endless glory.

Here are my stories that ran in this week's Herald News:

Giving flight to his dreams

Cerbral palsy couldn't stop Tyrell Rhodes' goal to become a pilot. It just meant a decision to undergo six surgeries to help him attain it.

Forest preserve welcomes Jullo, new search and rescue dog

This eighteen month old German shepherd takes his job quite seriously, but at home, Jullo is just like any other dog. He loves to play with green tennis balls and is afraid of the ceiling fan.

Getting fit, staying fit

After finally losing sixty pounds, this fifty something woman starts tackling mud runs.

Unitarian church welcomes new minister

A consulting minister brings new life to a church that's been without a minister for quite some time.

A landmark undertaking

Roger Thompson believes more tourists would visit Joliet if only they knew about the many landmarks that existed there. So he's compiled a pictorial website to help visitors find them.


Thursday, March 28, 2013

Recipe for Victorian Sponge Gingerbread

I asked Rebekah to pick a recipe she'd like to make as a birthday cake for my oldest son's birthday on Saturday, and this is the one she chose.

Yes, my thirty-one year old son still looks forward to his giant chocolate chip cookie, but since Christopher also likes ginger cookies, etc., we decided to try this cake recipe, too. This recipe originally appeared in Miss Beecher’s domestic receiptbook: designed as a supplement to her Treatise on domestic economy.

Sponge Gingerbread

1 cup sour milk

1 cup molasses

1/2 cup butter

2 eggs

1 1/2 teaspoon saleratus
 (We're going to substitute baking soda and see how that works)

1 great spoonful of ginger

Flour to make it as thick as pound cake

Put the butter, molasses and ginger together, and make them quite warm, then add the milk, flour, and saleratus, and bake as soon as possible.

Note: It doesn't say when to add the eggs. I'm thinking about beating them into the milk. Thoughts?

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Another Doctor Visit, Really? Good for "Staked!"

So today Daniel telephones me from the drama camp where he's a volunteer this week because he's struggling with a nosebleed that won't quit. I talk him through it, offer some self-help measures, and told him to call me back with an update.

After he got the thing under control, I called his ENT to schedule my third day of medical running this week. Unfortunately, Daniel's regular doctor is gone until Monday, and just one other doctor in the group is covering for the other three. Still, the nurse didn't want to postpone the visit since it's Daniel's third day in a row with a nosebleed. Yay us.

You see, Daniel has some malformed blood vessels, which the ENT chemically "burns" off. As those vessels grow back (You'd think the pesky suckers would get the hint by now), the nosebleeds return, so every few months, we're taking Daniel to the ENT for yet another (and another and another) cauterization.

 I find it interesting that our medical adventures parallel my love for gothic vampire fiction.

Daniel has periodic nosebleeds, three boys have confirmed polycythemia (the rest of us have scattered symptoms but no firm diagnosis yet), which is an inherited syndrome where the bone marrow manufactures too many red blood cells. The treatment? Good ol' fashioned, medieval medicine: periodic bleedings (phlebotomies).

Oh, and did I mention Daniel needs a whole bunch of blood tests on Friday?

Because the nurse double booked the ENT for tomorrow, we are prepared to wait. The waiting room is small and generally packed, so it's difficult to work on freelance assignments via laptop. Juggling pages of notes is awfully clumsy when you're sitting knee to knee with strangers.

So I guess this means I'll just have to work on Staked! The sacrifices I make, sheesh!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

I Think I Missed My Calling

"Why don't you go to medical school?" my primary physician said to me with a straight face.

I thought she was making fun of me. We're turning into a family of weird diseases and syndromes, and I, with my love of all things research, have found most of them.

Then I saw she was completely serious.

Because of my own health issues, I don't feel I have the stamina for medical school. Furthermore, I've done some medical advocating in the past, and that's where my heart is (should I ever wish to forsake writing or add another role to my already crazy lifestyle).

I've toyed with the idea of chronicling some of our medical adventures since it's the stuff that makes good fiction. For tonight, I think it's enough to say that both skills--feature and fiction writing and medical advocating--contain similiar methodologies.

These are openminded listening, a detailed chronicling of the history, and empathy for people and characters. Of course, if I had my druthers, I'd skip the diseases and the syndromes and simply focus on the people stuff.

But since I can't, I'll toss a few of our family faves out there. And yes, I found them all, and no, I'm not taking a bow.

   *  pheochromocytoma

   *  idiopathic urticaria

   *  polycythemia

   * postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome or POTS (hyperadrenergic subtype)


Monday, March 25, 2013

It's Been A Full Day....

....with most of it spent away from home, not a pleasure run by any means, except the fun my two teens and I can bring to a series of appointments, some grim, others boring by general estimation, but we are a family with a rather unusual sense of humor. We have known to make a surgical procedure seem like a spa day.

Currently, I'm sitting at the computer staring at ninety-two emails requiring attention (and that's with periodic checking of messages all day). Today's work is staring me in the face and tomorrow's sitting here somewhere, but at nine-thirty, the more prudent choice is really to burrow into the sleeping bag with a book than wake up with another cup of coffee. Guaranteed the work will still be here, ready to tackle in the pre-dawn hours, when I'm more refreshed to tackle it.

Besides, early morning coffee tastes better than the late at night stuff, anyhow.

So for tonight's blog, although I'm wishing the muse would churn out something witty, inspiring, informative, etc., etc. I'm instead enjoying the feel of the house (silent except for the low hum of my computer and the occasional thump of a cat as it leaps into the crawl space), the serene and dark night from my attic window, and the inner calm that's got me quite mellow, despite the craziness of the passing day and the one poised before me.

A book is bidding me, "Come," and I hasten to obey.


Saturday, March 23, 2013

Ed Calkins (Finally) Gets His Due

A few years ago, while I was writing the early drafts of Staked! and handing it off a chapter at a time to my teens, Timothy accompanied us to the distribution center one night and drew back in surprise when Ed Calkins stopped him and said, "Wow, it's been a long time since I've seen you."

Timothy felt otherwise, as I'd depicted Ed so well, Timothy felt as if he'd been hanging out with him all along.

I've spent the better part of this weekend working on Staked!, the first time I've taken a really serious look at the manuscript in over three years, when I completed its working draft.

Until now, I'd forgotten the greatly expanded role Ed Calkins, Steward of Tara, assumes in the third BryonySeries book. Moreover, the fictional Ed Calkins really does resembles the "real" Ed Calkins, not just in appearance but in mannerisms, personality, and even dialogue.

However, I can't claim full credit for the last. On occasion, I'd call up Ed, get him rambling, and (with his knowledge), take notes. Most of Ed's dialogue in Bryony and large parts of it in both Visage and Staked! are Ed's actual words, creatively (and legally) taken out of context.

Oh, man, I'm having fun.

"The Naming of Cats" by T.S. Eliot and Story Round Up

The Naming of Cats by T.S. Eliot

The Naming of Cats is a difficult matter,
It isn't just one of your holiday games;
You may think at first I'm as mad as a hatter
When I tell you, a cat must have THREE DIFFERENT NAMES.
First of all, there's the name that the family use daily,
Such as Peter, Augustus, Alonzo or James,
Such as Victor or Jonathan, George or Bill Bailey—
All of them sensible everyday names.
There are fancier names if you think they sound sweeter,
Some for the gentlemen, some for the dames:
Such as Plato, Admetus, Electra, Demeter—
But all of them sensible everyday names.
But I tell you, a cat needs a name that's particular,
A name that's peculiar, and more dignified,
Else how can he keep up his tail perpendicular,
Or spread out his whiskers, or cherish his pride?
Of names of this kind, I can give you a quorum,
Such as Munkustrap, Quaxo, or Coricopat,
Such as Bombalurina, or else Jellylorum-
Names that never belong to more than one cat.
But above and beyond there's still one name left over,
And that is the name that you never will guess;
The name that no human research can discover—
But THE CAT HIMSELF KNOWS, and will never confess.
When you notice a cat in profound meditation,
The reason, I tell you, is always the same:
His mind is engaged in a rapt contemplation
Of the thought, of the thought, of the thought of his name:
His ineffable effable
Deep and inscrutable singular Name.

Below are my stories that ran in this past week's Herald News:

Vietnam native brought cultural lessons home

Meet Ta Wilson, who found success in the United States...and opened those same opportunities to many of her extended family members.

Easter is going to the dogs.

Egg hunts aren't just for kids anymore. Read about two such events for dogs, with proceeds helping other dogs.

Gentlemen, start your ovens

Meet two amateur cooks that engage in amateur culinary sparring in order to raise money for a local children's advocacy center.

Get ready for some drama

The Three Rivers Arts Council is hosting a mini children's drama workshop over spring break, but that's not the only art-related programs this nonproft brings to its community.


Thursday, March 21, 2013

Tonght at WriteOn Joliet, the Unveiling of Snowbell

Kristina Skaggs, my co-leader at WriteOn Joliet, regularly schedules general topics, such as "candy," for members to develop into poetry, short stories, essays, etc. This month's topic was "pets," and after scrapping one piece, I realized had the perfect one already written.


Several years ago, before I had broken contract with the small press and publication was pushed back a year, my publicist had suggested writing Snowbell's "real"story as a short story we could use for pre-publication readings.

Snowbell, as you recall, was the mysterious stray cat with the disabled neck that appeared on the Marchellis' doorstep one morning. Melissa's little brother Brian adopted the cat, which soon wove itself into Melissa's vampire dreams.

Although I did write the story as my publicist asked, her plan never materialized, especially since she was expecting a cuddly kitten story (hardly). So I copied Snowbell and presented it as my Christmas present to my family that year. Since then, we've toyed with the notion of using Snowbell as a loss leader, but again, we never fleshed out that concept.

So tonight, Snowbell will make its first official, outside of my family, public appearance to a mixed audience. Meaning some will have read Bryony, and some will have not. Their reactions will help me decided how best to place Snowbell; publicize it or scrap it, LOL.

So if you're a BryonySeries fan looking to temper your BryonySeries craving until we release Staked! in December--or simply someone interested in becoming involved with a writer's group--come on out tonight.

I have no idea what the other members have written regarding "pets," but I can assure you this: each piece will be unique, well-written, and with a perspective so fresh, it will send you dashing to your computer to write one of your own.


Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Almost Halfway Through "Visage"

So while I'll save my official review until I've finished the book, I must say I'm already pleased on several counts:

   *  The quality of writing surprised me. When I first began writing fiction after a several decade hiatus, I cringed at my clumsy and amateurish writing style to the point I nearly quit. But the advice I read on writing site after writing site really was true: hard work does, indeed, pay off. Writers can and DO improve.

   *  Visage fulfilled the goal of continuing the series and holding its own as a stand-alone book.

   *  I really do forget that I've written it. That sense is underscored everytime something in Visage catches me off guard. I'm continally amazed that I could write something clever and/or surprising and totally forget about it.

Shutting down the computer for the night. Back to the book!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

So Everyone in my Family had a Stressful Day Today: Time Travel is in Order

Of course, the best way to effect that, given that we aren't vampires, don't have access to the TARDIS, and don't buy Calgon (Our bathroom is only big enough for just a shower anyway) is a good book, the way Melissa escaped into another world before she met John Simons.

Of course, since I'm now working my way through Visage, those worlds are somehow colliding. So without further ado, I have a few openings on my dance card, and I'm off to fill them.

Wait. Wrong century. Victorian Nights fundraiser, anyone?

Night, all!


Monday, March 18, 2013

A Third of the Way in Editing "Staked!" (Stuck on Crafting Mood)

So I did spend some quality time this weekend with BryonySeries novel number three (meaning not the volume of quantity time I would have liked, such is life), but I did stumble on chapter eleven.

Pacing is nice; dialogue is nice; (actually, the dialogue rocks!), but I did mark a few passages where I need more mood enhancing descriptions. Creating the right atmosphere and emotions with words takes some focused thought. Time was short; I folded, temporarily, that is.

Because I've been pullling all-nighters on Saturday nights to roll newspapers with my oldest son in the distribution center (You can take the carrier out of the warehouse, but you can't....yeah, yeah), doing the same on Friday nights has been an impossible feat to accomplish.

My brilliant solution is to spread out the fiction in appetizer bites throughout the week and leave one great big meal for Saturday. This means I scheduled those descriptions for tonight. In the meantime, I've been simmering those scenes in the back of my mind, hoping the right meld of words will be at the forefront of my brain when I'm ready to bring fresh life to chapter eleven's homecoming carnival.

Oh, did I say that out loud?

Sunday, March 17, 2013

I'm About Ready for an Ink Well and a Quill Pen

I had a great Irish video I wanted to share for St. Patrick's Day except YouTube videos shared to Blogger aren't posting, at least not on the BryonySeries site.

A week ago, I battled battled major computer problems--first the desktop and then the laptop--due to multiple viruses. Last weekend, my phone wouldn't send text messages. A few days later, email wouldn't open. Then it wouldn't keep me logged in. This weekend, my text threads keep jamming.

Unfortunately, the next few days are super full, so the phone issues will have to wait. In the meantime, please send telegrams or snail mail. They'll probably get to me faster.

Maybe the Victorians had it right.


Saturday, March 16, 2013

Papal Elections? Ed Calkins is too Late!

While I can only assume the Steward of Tara acted with the best of intentions, it appears any opinion the IVA (Irish Vampires Association) offered has been disregarded. Read further:

Dear MOMI (Mistress of My Immortality)

With great regret I must withdraw my offer of making you the next Pope, as I have found the limit of my power. You being a woman of a different faith would not have deterred me, but the IVA has already decided the next Pope will be of African descent. Unless you have some claim of such, I'm afriad I've been :::gasp::: overruled.
Yours ruthlessly,
Ed Calkins, Steward of Tara
O Steward,
I can claim anything descent you wish. You wrote my genealogy. Can't you alter it?
Dear MOMI:
Indeed, I am already altering it. You have not expressed willingness to become Pope, however. I need your answer quickly. Papal elections are not as easy to alter as one might think.
Yours ruthlessly,
Ed Calkins, Steward of Tara

Friday Literature Links and Story Round Up

Anyone following my blog certainly knows what I like to write: people-centered feature stories and character-driven fiction with gothic elements.

However, my love for writing stems from my huge passion for reading, even though I don't gravitate to popular genre fiction. That's the purpse of my Friday short story/poem link: to share with you my favorites.

If you cruise the "label" section of the blog's main page, you'll find author names to guide you into those past links. Most of my interest revolves around pieces that have withstood time. The majority of those works employ a writing style no longer in style. It's a style I "sort of" emulated for the Victorian parts of Bryony.

For a glimpse of my non-fiction works, here are links to stories that ran this past week. Most of them appeared in the Herald News, but one of my assignments from last weekend appeared in the Joliet Bugle.

I also write for The Farmers Weekly Review, but that newspaper does not have an online presence. Also, the pet page feature for Tuesday's Heald News (about the preference for parrots) was not linked online.

High Schoolers staging love story musical "Grease"

It's an ambitious project, but the musical's director, a graduate of this high school who appeared in Grease when the school produced it back in his student days, is tackling it today for modern audiences.

Former police officer brightened lives of those around him

Whether at home or as a police officer on the job, Joe Gerrettie lived for one reason: to serve others.

Museum items to be auctioned off

Due to financial reasons, the Victorian mansion where we filmed Bryony's book trailer and music video is closing. This is truly a loss for the area, as touring historic home was truly a one of a kind and unforgettable experience.

St. Mary Magdalene Church hosts relic of its patroness

Viewing a piece of the body of someone close to the historic Jesus is difficult for participants to adequately express.

Through thick and thin

In an age of soundbites and social media, these ladies have sustained close friendships for over forty years.

A little of this, a little of that

But when they pull it all together, OD Jo creates a sound unique to its band.


Thursday, March 14, 2013

On Hold

Although some components of the BryonySeries are in limbo at the moment, rest assured they won't stay there.

A series of delays have pushed back some marketing and scheduling of events, but we are working hard at resolving all of them. Coming up soon: a BryonySeries book signing hosted by Big Brothers Big Sisters of Will and Grundy Counties.

Our cookbook, Memories in the Kitchen: Bites and Nibbles from "Bryony," is a fundraiser for the organization that matches adult mentors with children from single parent families. Stay tuned.

Remember how I've mentioned the challenges my family is battling? Unfortunately, we have plenty of company. Other members of the BryonySeries team are experiencing more than their fair share, too, which has pushed back the release of the official editon of Visage and its trailer. If all goes well, we hope to present both of them in the next couple of months (crossing and double crossing fingers).

In the meantime, I'm working on preparing the manuscript of Staked! for my editors and plan to spend the majority of the time this weekend (St. Patrick's Day should provide plenty of inspiration, hint! hint!) working on it.

I'll be alternating working on my novel with reading a new manuscript from Thomas Meisinger. So far, anything Meisinger has produced has highly entertained me, so I can't wait to dig in. and yes, we are still looking at an early December release date for Staked!

Now if I can just keep Faith from stealing my stuffed mouse and leprachaun....


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Zebra Cakes

Picture this: shortly after midnight on a rainy, double-bagging Sunday morning, when we "spring forward" to lose an hour of sleep, when I pull an all-nighter helping my oldest son, Christopher, bag newspapers at a distribution center, the said Christopher stops at a gas station near the center so seventeen year old Daniel can brave the elements to buy him Zebra Cakes.

After complaining that Daniel is taking too long, Christopher launched into a verbal tirade and rained down fire and brimstone upon all the gas stations of the world when he learned that particular establishment no longer sold Zebra Cakes. Did I mention Christopher is nearly thirty-one? Or maybe, we've just had so much bad bluck lately that even the loss of Zebra Cakes is hard to swallow.

For the first time since I started the blog on August 1, 2010, a series of woe-is-me unfortunate incidents over the past week (day, month, year) has kept me from my daily blogging habit. Actually, I was going to wait one more day to return, but the best darn thing happened to me today that I decided, heck with bedtime, this can't wait.

But first, a digression, no big surprise to anyone that's followed this blog for a spell.

Despite writing vampire novels, I keep my own bleeding private. The last couple of years has brought more crises than you'd believe if I told you, so I'll skip the gory details. Suffice to say, it's been back-breaking grueling, and if we, as a family, didn't have a wickedly sarcastic sense of humor, we'd all be darkly muttering into some corner by now.

However, everyone has that proverbial straw that collapses the donkey's back, and mine came at the start of 2013. Yes, I'm standing, on shaky legs, but standing, and because addressing that straw has led to a really cool side project (details are for later), I can't even bemoan the incident. And even THAT one was rapidly followed by several more horrible incidents until you feel like huddling ito a ball, too weary to fight back.

Thursday morning, I signed onto the computer to find out my AVG had captured thirty viruses needing Christopher's attention. That meant working off the laptop (plenty of new nibble marks from curious cat teeth now adorn my power cord, a discovery made when plugging into the cafeteria at the junior college while my youngest two were in math class) until Christopher eradicated them, except the computer retaliated by succombing to the blue screen of death.

So whilst performing Frankenstein feats on my tower, my laptop "caught" the computer illness at a very inconvenient time, so Christopher hastily prepared a traveling loaner (I worked all weekend away from home).

Monday, computers officially restored, I set to work restoring order to my chaotic office, got carried away, and initiated a long overdue spring cleaning. I mean, Sarah's moved twice since I'd given it a thorough dusting, so you can see my point here. Of course, I also lost Monday as a work day, so any headway I'd received over the weekend is long gone.

Oh, and did I mention I'd dropped the coffee pot last week, so, too broke to replace it, I've been trekking to the local gas station with a giant mug to purchase a day's supply of coffee? No? Well, that's where this story picks up, because today slew of small blessings absolutely trumps all the beatings.

Calling it an early night at eight o'clock, while sipping the last of the coffee and falling asleep at the keyboard, I hailed Daniel, and we started off for the gas station. As we walked, I showed him the humorous texts I'd swapped with Timothy, while he was languishing away in his evening gen ed classes.

Timothy: "I have something cool to tell you later."

Me: "Can't wait to hear."

Timothy: "It will definitely make you smile."

Me: "Share, damn it!"

Timothy: "Later."

Me: "Argghh!!!"

(A while later).

Me: "A plate for you is in the fridge. Rebekah made dinner. It was good."

Timothy: "What is it?"

Me: "You're mysterious, I'm mysterious."

Timothy: (Adds smiley face)

Me: (Adds mouth with zipper).

I tell Daniel, "I've always wanted to use that one."

We chat all the way to the gas station. He refills my mug and starts to pay for it when he says, "Wait! I forgot something."

As Daniel turns away, he notices my puzzled look. "Christopher gave me some money for Zebra Cakes."

I laughed out loud, doubled over, still laughing. I told both cashiers, and they started laughing, too. Daniel paid for six Zebra Cakes, and we left, with me laughing into the clear night air.

Daniel smiled and said, "When they kill him (Christopher refuses to address his high blood sugar) I'll lay a Zebra Cake on his grave."

I found that pretty funny, too.

Yes, life sucks sometimes. We often get a grim satisfaction when bad things happen to people just screaming for it, but when good people suffer crushing blow after crushing blow...well, it's all too easy to forget the origins of real joy in this life.

Hint: it's not in the big things, at least, not for me. It's in the little things, like being able to power walk today for the first time in three weeks (more medical stuff, grumble), fantasy pictures a friend texts in the middle of the night because I like them, interviewing people about their passions and writing about them, a family that--while not quite the model for apple pie America--knows how to pull together for survival's sake at least.

And, yes, as I said earlier, our ability to find humor in the craziest stuff.

Of course, I had to tell Christopher about Daniel's "laying a zebra cake on the grave" as he opened his paper sack of treats. He just grinned and said, "And I'd be back to claim it."

I, for one, wouldn't doubt it. And on that note, I'm signing off. Timothy just texted that he's on his way home. That surprise had better live up to its hype! :)


Thursday, March 7, 2013

My Take on "Bryony," from a Reader, not an Author, Point of View

Setting aside the few typos and formatting errors, as well as the  editing changes I would make (all of which I tried really, really hard to ignore to just immerse myself into the story), I'd give Bryony a solid "B."

When I mentioned that to Sarah, she wanted to know why I didn't give the novel an "A," since I'd written the type of story I like to read. Here's why:

   * I felt the pacing, in spots, could have been brisker and conversely

   * I saw other sections where, even against editorial advice at the time, I really should have slowed down and elaborated a bit. I think some of the irregularities arose from the uneven editing and multiple editors when the book was in the hands of the small press. We streamlined the editing for Visage, but as I haven't read it yet, I can't comment on whether or not that approach made any difference.

   *  Also, I noticed a few areas where I "showing" would have been more effective than "telling." These areas, however, only momentarily pulled me out of the story.


   * I enjoyed and became attached to the characters, so I think I gave them sufficient depth.

   * I had forgotten the subtle creepy elements, so those were nice surprises.

   * I think I did justice to my original inspiration: a teen girl that becomes infatuated with the romanticism surrounding vampire legend.

  *  It "felt" like the Victorian vampire stories I've always enjoyed reading.

  *  It reminded me of the young adult novels I'd read growing up, and I liked that.

  * I liked the timeless feel of the story. The present day is always in the past, so the story, I hope, will age well.

  * I could simultaneously feel Melissa's pull toward John and my exasperation at her obsession, making me happy about my decision to write the novel in third person perfect. Past drafts had run the gamut of first person diary entries to third person points of view, which included perspectives from other characters.

Would I rewrite it? Other than removing the typos and formatting blunders, I would not. At some point, an author needs to declare her work as finished. My biggest fear had been that the writing would be so poor, I'd cringe at reading it. That did not occur. If others enjoy the story, too, awesome, if not, that's cool, too.

Now to find time to read Visage....

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Blue Screen of Death Postpones "Bryony" Review

I'm delaying posting my impressions of Bryony until tomorrow, thanks to my desk top.

Cats fed and first cup of coffee in hand, I signed online to read mail and post my Bible verse on Facebook. Instead, AVG greeted me with thirty viruses it had caught. Happy Hump Day, me! (NOT!)

After Christopher removed those pesky buggers and dubbed my desk top good to go, the darn thing froze. I restarted it...sat face to face with the blue screen of death.


Fortunately for me, Christopher owns a computer repair business (, so he's working on fixing it. In the meantime, my laptop and I have become reacquainted while I feverishly try to catch up on lost work time today (didn't quite get there).

Sooooo, I'll share my thoughts in about twelve hours or so, when my brain has the capacity for intelligent-sounding composition.



Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Guest Post by Sir Frederick Chook: "Beware: Culture"

Beware: Culture, By Sir Frederick Chook
Penned upon the 24th of May, 2006
First appeared in FrillyShirt (

The Arts and Crafts movement, of the late nineteenth century, saw a danger in the spread of industrial machines into human life. They set about creating beautiful things with their own skilled hands, and decided that when a machine must be used, it should make work easier, not be work in itself. The furniture, decorations and wallpaper they created were not meant for museums, but to be sold to the public. In working so, they wished to save the creative, spiritual and human from the soulless and mechanised.

One hundred years on, society seems not only to have given up hope, but even to have forgotten what it wanted to protect. Art has become metallic, impenetrable, minimalist to the point of seemingly never having been touched by human hands. The unskilled, uninspiring and unappealing are dominant – and it is said this is in defence of the common people, against elitist values!

Which is more populist: to bring fine things to those who have gone without, that all may enjoy them, or to abolish those fine things and make drudgery universal? Placing low content in a high context may be memorable, for an easy option, but to place high content in a low context is a truly radical act. To condescend to the proles so much as to be afraid to offend them by displaying skill, education or culture is elitist values condensed (though alas all too common in these allegedly-egalitarian colonies, where the manly man is king and those with too much culture must cringe).

Spraypaint a Renoir on a public wall. Perform your favourite opera in a busy shopping strip. Write letters to the editor in verse. Picket a paticularly banal commercial broadcaster in the form of a waltz, demanding Mahler. And by the devil’s well-manicured horns, never let anyone say that high education or public media are special interest concerns.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Sir Frederick Chook is a foppish, transcendentalistic historian who lives variously by his wits, hand to mouth, la vie bohème, and in Melbourne with his wife, Lady Tanah Merah.

When not reading Milton and eating Stilton, he writes, ponders, models, delves into dusty archives, and gads about town. He has dabbled in student radio and in national politics, and is presently studying the ways of the shirt-sleeved archivist. He is a longhair, aspiring to one day be a greybeard. He has, once or twice, been described as “as mad as a bicycle.”

FrillyShirt is a compilation of articles, essays, reviews, photographs, artworks, question-and-answers, promotions, travelogues, diatribes, spirit journeys, cartoons, ululations and celebrations by Sir Frederick, his friends and contributing readers. Irregularly regular features include Teacup in a Storm, an etiquette column, and How to be Lovely, advanced speculations on the aesthetics of the self.

Other topics that pop up include fun things in and around Melbourne, art, nature, history, politics and schnauzers. Sir Frederick’s favorite color is all of them. Enjoy his writing? Drop him a telegram at




Sunday, March 3, 2013

Guest Post by Thomas Meisinger: Jeremiah: 29:11

By Thomas Meisinger
Originally posted on January 29, 2013 at

I chose this verse for several reasons, but most of all because it is mentioned in my current project, 20th and Rangeline.

Jeremiah 29:11
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Yesterday after work I drove straight to Kohl’s to buy workout clothes. My idea was that if I spent money to workout, I’d be motivated to do it. Immediately after buying these clothes I drove across the street to the grocery store, bought a pizza and a six-pack of beer. I fell asleep on the couch before the news. Spending money on something doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll provide results.

I’m not a pastor nor do I play one on TV, but I never thought I’d mention tithing in a blog. My father would be so proud. I don’t tithe every week because I honestly haven’t been going to church regularly. I relocated to the greater St. Louis area in October and although I’ve visited four churches, I haven’t found one that felt “right”.

I did tithe at one time though. When I lived in Joplin, I found a church that brought me home. I don’t know what it was about the place. Perhaps it was the preacher who looked like Bill Engvall and was just as funny. Or it was the vinyl quality praise band that had an attractive redhead rocking the vocals. Or it could have been because it was a place I felt comfortable with my faith.

I was comfortable with my faith and therefore trusted giving God money. It was after tithing I started to realize the little miracles that came along with it. Now I’m not saying throwing a dollar bill in the collection plate is like buying a Powerball ticket, but if you have faith that God will take care of you then he will.

First, overtime became available at work. Then I literally got cash in the mail after being selected to take surveys by a statistics agency. Finally, my new apartment in St. Louis flooded prior to the move in date. As a result, I was upgraded to a larger unit for $60 less a month.

I need those little miracles again. The other day an employee who was having, in my opinion, a far worse day reminded me, “Everything happens for a reason. I’m not sure what it is yet but the good Lord has a plan.” I’m not gonna lie, it was right at five o’clock after a horrible Monday so I got a little teary-eyed.

I’ve been struggling to see God’s plan for the last few months. I had two ways I could go. I could either make a change, or wait for change. I prayed and things started falling into place and now I’m in St. Louis. I love it. Although my life still isn’t where I want it to be, I know my life should be here.

Now that’s out of the way, the question is what should I do with my life? My big sis was in Alchemist's Anonymous in high school and now she's a forensic scientist. My twin started playing piano when she was eight and now she's a music therapist. I've been writing since I could hold a pencil (incorrectly). All I want is to be able to do what I love for a living. At times, I’ve spent forty hours a week writing but at the cost of my social life.  I don’t know how much longer I can do that.

I came home today with the intention of editing my second book. That was the plan until overplayed hits on the country music station led me to surf until “One Thing Remains” which I recognized from my old church. It left me sitting in silence with my hands stuck on the wheel and watching the pouring rain obscure the windows. It left me thinking of my employee and what he said and wondering where it was all going.

I walked inside and started the coffee maker to begin writing. I looked at a blank page for ten minutes and thought, “I ought to watch this past week’s sermon. After all, I paid for it.” But it doesn’t work that way.

I’ve lost faith in what God’s plan for me was. I truly believe that I’m meant to make a career in writing. It’s my passion. It makes sense. It’s what I’m comfortable with. I have no desire to be rich and famous. I think people who live in big houses are dumb because you can’t be in more than one room anyway. All I want to do is make an average wage.

But until then I need to have faith that everything that is happening is supposed to happen. Perhaps tithing, serving others in the capacity I do now, and using the talents I have for God will lead me there. It’s what I pray for every single day, and even though I don’t always want to admit it, God is listening.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Thomas Meisinger was born, raised and educated in Chicago's southwest suburbs. He began performing stand-up comedy in 2009 while in college. You may have seen him at The Comedy Shrine, Edge Comedy Club, and other establishments he doesn't like enough to give free publicity. If he spent as much time filling out job applications as he did writing jokes during his last semester, he would probably have a better paying job. Currently residing utterly alone in Missouri, he has since shifted his focus to writing.

He spent a year working on his first novel, The World Is Shallow; That's Why I Never Learned How to Swim, which is currently available on all major eBook retail sites. The humorous fictional autobiography has received rave reviews from family, friends, and stray cats wandering his apartment. Meisinger’s favorite hobby is people-watching at coffee shops but let's face it, he really just has a staring problem.

He currently writes four blogs: Penguins are Pretentious ( is a collection of Meisinger’s ideas, opinions and experiences. Bacon, Eggs, and Whiskey ( is life from a bachelor’s point of view. Spiritual Vitamin ( contains Christian-themed reflections. Dear Grandma Margie ( is a series of fictional letters Meisinger wrote to his real grandmother. He hopes to honor her by self-publishing those letters by her 88th birthday, March 24, 2013.

If you must, "Like" Meisinger's Facebook Fan Page, follow him on Twitter at #TomMeisinger., or check out his website at







Saturday, March 2, 2013

Ed Calkins on Pope Benedict's XVI's Resignation, Lent and Calkins Day, "Visage," and Revisiting the Marriage Proposal

Dear Momi (Mistress of My Immortality):

Surely, you jest as to why I haven't been able to drop you a line. My internal investigation into the IVA's involvement with Pope Benedict’s resignation is quite difficult as you can imagine any internal investigation would be when you don't know who the members are.

As the only public member and spokesman, I can assure you that allegations of strong arming the Pope, intimidating him, or scribbling on him with colored markers, are being investigated. In case you haven't drawn any parallels into the Pope's resigning I should point out that Calkins Day fell on Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent for Catholics.

For members of faith, Lent is supposed to be a long period of fasting, somber refection, and self-denial, making it difficult for the joyful indulgence of Ireland’s most ruthless dictator, paper boy, and vampire extraorindaire. Of course this limitation only applies to Catholics; do you think there are any of those in Ireland?

I personally have argued against dispensation the way the Vatican treats St Paddy (who wants to piss off a saint), but I’m sure the Bishop of Rome was warned what might happen if Lent wasn't pushed back a month. (The season of Lent is determined by a lunar calendar, so the actual day moves; I think it’s the same in your Eastern Orthodox faith.)

Anyway, my reading of Visage has until now been delayed because I gave any too many copies, leaving me to share with my wife, granddaughter, and son. I've just started reading it... or will by the week’s end so NO SPOILERS, please.

Already my granddaughter, who was really too young to attempt the book—she’s nine-- is asking for her leprechaun and giggling. My wife groaned about newspapers and muttered that I'm going to need larger pants for my ego after this.

Once again, Momi, you must not feel guilty about turning down my proposal of marriage. The hurt inside will heal and make me a stronger, more ruthless vampire for the wear if it. I'll update you latter on the Pope thing.

Yours (not your husband, of course, but yours), truly,

Ed Calkins, Steward of Tara

"Tears, Idle Tears" by Alfred, Lord Tennyson and Story Round-Up

Tears, IdleTears by Alfred, Lord Tennsyon (1847)

Tears, idle tears, I know not what they mean,
Tears from the depth of some divine despair
Rise in the heart, and gather to the eyes,
In looking on the happy autumn-fields,
And thinking of the days that are no more.

Fresh as the first beam glittering on a sail,
That brings our friends up from the underworld,
Sad as the last which reddens over one
That sinks with all we love below the verge;
So sad, so fresh, the days that are no more.

Ah, sad and strange as in dark summer dawns
The earliest pipe of half-awaken'd birds
To dying ears, when unto dying eyes
The casement slowly grows a glimmering square;
So sad, so strange, the days that are no more.

Dear as remembered kisses after death,
And sweet as those by hopeless fancy feign'd
On lips that are for others; deep as love,
Deep as first love, and wild with all regret;
O Death in Life, the days that are no more!

Below are links to my feature stories that appeared in this past week's Herald News.

Using art to grieve

Many bereavement counseling sessions consist mainly of talking. Art therapy is a unique way to connect the head and the heart, allowing both to heal.

Archivist brought congregation's history alive

Sr. Marian Voelker was the go-to source for any information pertaining to the Sisters of St. Francis of Mary Immaculate. Yet, history to her was not a static collection of facts. Read why.

Special needs pets need homes

Tillie, an arthritic dog, and Mim, a kitten with deformed legs, need a special family willing to provide the extra care they need. Could you be the one for them?

With songs in their hearts

A local Catholic children's choir is off to Washington D.C. to sing with an international group of students learning the same repertoire. But belonging to such a choir has benefits that go beyond singing.

In touch with technology

MiFun, an iPad club for adults 55 and older, introduces them to the joy of twenty-first technology. Benny Goodman mp3's, anyone?

Band makes name for itself playing ukuleles

When Stan Ketcik fell in love with the ukulele, he became determined to play it well. He's since joined with several like-minded musicians, and they're keeping local feet tapping.