Sunday, July 31, 2016

Fish Salad

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

The following recipe is from the Bohemian-American Cookbook by Marie Rosicky, published by the Automatic Printing Company ( Use with permission.

Fish Salad

Cold, diced fish
Anchovies or capers
Sliced potatoes
Sliced red beets
Desired dressing

Mix the diced meat with anchovies or capers, place a layer of potatoes and beets over a layer of meat, then pour over all the desired dressing.

From "Memories in the Kitchen: Bites and Nibbles From 'Bryony'"

All proceeds benefit Big Brothers Big Sisters of Will and Grundy Counties.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Story Round-Up: Features in The Herald-News, July 24 through July 29

As much as I enjoy time off, it felt good to work a normal-sized week. A few ups and downs, a few challenges, a few victories: a complete week, I think.

And, yes, I did make some progress on Henry's story in Before the Blood. I'm still working on chapter six, but it's a long worldbuilding chapter, so it's taking time to construct.

Check out the health, faith, and arts and entertainment calendars. Three of them can be found at the link below. Gotta Do It, runs each Sunday and often stays on the home page throughout the week.

Feature briefs for Tuesday (health), Thursday (faith), Friday (Arts and Entertainment), and Sunday (People) are also edited (texted and photos) by the lady of this blog, but only the stories have bylines.

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

And if you do peek at these stories, to quote our editor Kate Schott, "Thank you for reading The Herald-News." :)

Lemont athlete finding success in wheelchair sports
Jeff Yackley sees international success in wheelchair softball

In Japan, Team USA won the world cup, Yackley said. In addition, Yackley was named one of the top 10 wheelchair players in the world. Last year – Yackley’s first year playing wheelchair softball – he was named Rookie of the Year during the world series of wheelchair softball in Mississippi.

Plainfield man built a legacy of business with integrity

Nick Kourlesis believed in himself, his people

“He wanted to make a better life for himself,” longtime employee Debra Pandy said. “He was very adventurous and very brave. He would have an idea to do something and then figure out all the details. Even to the end, he was talking about wanting to do this and wanting to do that.”

Plainfield woman shares hidden health care costs associated with chronic pancreatitis
Plainfield woman’s chronic illness draining her resources

“My parents used to stay if you don’t have your health, you don’t have anything,” Ann Zigrossi said. “I believe them now.”

Joliet church setting aside Aug. 4 for the sacrament of reconciliation
Rev. Peter Jankowski will hear confessions for 16 hours on saint’s feast day

“My attitude about confession is I consider it to be therapeutic; that you can walk into a room, say, ‘I’ve done wrong; I’m sorry for what I have done,’ and – through the priest and the church saying, ‘We love you and we forgive you,’ – you walk out of there and start with a clean slate,” Jankowski said.

Students at Minooka Bible Church's day camp raise money to build a house for a widow in Haiti
Widow in Haiti to have new home, thanks to campers’ fundraising efforts

Last year, campers raised money for children in Haiti. This year, campers were challenged to donate $3 each with a goal of raising $4,000, McFadden said. Almost $7,000 was raised. The project was run in conjunction with Don Shire Ministries.

“The kids would bring change in with them in the morning and drop it into buckets,” Julie McFadden said.

Shorewood man expresses the profound through his acrylic paintings (VIDEO EXTRA)
Design engineer for Chicago’s Picasso sculpture yearns to exhibit paintings

Their artist, Anatol “Tony” Rychalski, 91, of Shorewood, describes himself as an amateur painter, but he is certainly no amateur artist.

According to the WTTW website, Rychalski was the engineer who oversaw the design and construction of the 50-foot-tall, 162-ton Picasso sculpture outside the Daley Center in Chicago. Rychalski said it also was his job to explain the sculpture and its relation to the city.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

BryonySeries Throwback Thursday: What Do You Consider the Most Overrated Virtue?

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

What Do You Consider the Most Overrated Virtue?

For the first time in my newspaper delivery history, we carriers were told to stay home on account of Blizzard 2011. I suddenly went from cold dread at braving the brutal storm to giddy elation knowing I could spend the entire night working on Bryony's prequel. I've got this horrid cold, but my bed is but a few feet from the computer, very handy, in case I succomb.

Right now, I'm filling out character questionnaires. I originally intended to use them on the freshly introduced, minor players, but for warm-up practice, I decided to work up the familiar, main characters, too. I completed Bryony's then tackled John's.

Although the other books in the BryonySeries have already addressed some of the more obvious topics, such as, "Do you have a secret?" and "Have you ever been in love?" questions such as this blog's title made me pause and think.

So did, "Who is John Simons' favorite fictional character?" "What smells does John associate with his childhood kitchen?" and "Whom does he secretly admire?"

Certainly I could answer all of the above (Okay, I punted on John's favorite fictional character), yet typing out the responses solidified personality traits and moral worldviews, making me feel closer to the charcters and more confident to tell their story.

Of course, listening to the music James Onohan ( composed for Bryony through headphones (so as not to wake the sleeping household) definitely set the mood, too.

All in all, not a bad way to spend a snowed-in night.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

A Bit of Blogger's Block

Do you kow the feeling? When you have a bunch of ideas rolling around in your head, but they won't come together?

Yep, that's me (grammatically incorrect, but the correct one sounds wrong) this morning. So how does one fix it?

For today, it's some quick sharing of details:

1) Progress on Hentry's story in Before the Blood is still slow, but somewhat steady. It's not the lack of ideas per se, but the particular detail and voices I wish to convey. Those take time to develop, as does the particulars of the time period and culture. No doubt about it. Research significantly slows the process. 

2) I find that rereading other parts of the novel, even those parts that belong to John, Kellen and Bryony, keep me connected with the story while giving some rest to the part of my brain that's focused on Henry.

3) Still, I do have to actually WRITE. And that is done in pieces and bits.

4) While I'm making uneven progress on the work-in-progress, Rebekah is helping with some other aspects of the BryonySeries, again in an uneven progression, as she is busy, too. More on this as we get things done.

Have a great and wonderful day! :)

Monday, July 25, 2016

A Milestone:100,000 Total Views

It took nearly six years to reach it (I began the BryonySeries blog on Aug, 1, 2010), but while I was sleeping (or trying to sleep, curses, insomnia!), the blog hit 100,000 views; I signed on to see 100,005 to be exact.

I took a picture and texted it to Sarah as she really should know it first. Why is this?

While I was still in the editing phase of Bryony in early 2009 and researching publishing options, I kept encountering this piece of advice: authors should have blogs.

So when Sarah was setting up the Facebook page, originally to collect recipe submissions for what would eventually be called Memories in the Kitchen: Bites and Nibbles From Bryony, and then later the website and the Twitter account (which was never morked much, more on this in a future post), I shared the blog advice and asked her to research those options, too.

Sarah reached out on Facebook to her blogging friends and narrowed her choices to Blogger and one other. She liked Blogger because of its connection to Google and proceeded to set up the page. She also researched topics like "keywords" and "search engine optimization," concepts that proved useful today as a newspaper editor (Who knew at the time?).

But what to write? Sarah, again, was full of suggestions: Write about progress with the book, its publication, and any events and themes connected to it. Write about yourself. I balked at this last, but Sarah felt readers would like a glimpse into the author behind the words.

Afraid I would run out of ideas to write, I prewrote the first month's post. This was a wise choice. The surgery I was scheduled to have in mid-June was postponed to late July, and Sarah actually posted the first couple weeks of those prewritten blogs. When I was hospitalized a couple months later, she even ghostwrote some of them.

BTW, Sarah hates to write.

And in those early months, Sarah did all the tagging, too, Talk about someone who believed in the story!

In those six years, Sarah has taken the skills she learned helping me (the ones mentioned here and others she acquired), merged them with the ones she already had, and landed a job she loved with terrific insurance where she is now a supervisor. This means that she is, quite rightfully, not as available to help as much, although she is still a terrific resource.

Together Sarah and I cheered the milestones. The first several views. The first view in two digits. The first twenty views. The time we hit fifty views total and in one day. The time we hit one hundred total views and a hundred in one day. The day we hit 50,000 total views.

To some, 100,000 total views in six years may not seem like much. But we have watched this blog grow from three views a day to several hundred views a day. Except for scattered days when I was so busy breaking down my home and facing homelessness while trying to work as an independent contractor, I posted each and every day.

We did it from an idea I had for a story that's expanded into a series. We did it without a platform; instead, we are growing one.

But also in those six years, I have seen other writers' blogs come and go. I can only assume they served their purposes and came to natural ends. For me, I feel as if we are just beginning.

To my handful of loyal readers who have followed this blog since its inception: Thank you. Your support and encouragment has kept my motivation going.

To the readers that have found this blog along the way: Thank you for sharing the journey. I'm cheered you've found something to interest you.

To my newest readers: There's a lot of posts here in about every topic imaginable related to the series (or to me), and no shortage of typos. Pull up a chair, pour a cup of coffee, browse, enjoy.

(Raising my coffee mug): Here's to the next 100,000!

Sunday, July 24, 2016

My “World Famous” Potato Salad By Lori Dodd

A family bike ride in the woods followed by an autumn picnic is the perfect opportunity for Melissa to reflect on her recent encounter with vampires. Nothing can distract her, not a game of croquet, a grilled hot dog, or her mother’s delicious potato salad, which tasted surprisingly like this one.

 My “World Famous” Potato Salad
By Lori Dodd

5 pounds russet potatoes
1 large yellow onion
4 large stalks celery
2 ½ to 3 cups reduced calorie or light mayonnaise (the “real stuff”)
Yellow mustard, to taste (I probably used a couple of teaspoons; I never actually measure).
Sea salt, to taste
Black pepper, to taste

Wash potatoes and place in large pot of water on medium heat. Water should easily cover the potatoes. If pot is not large enough, cook in smaller portions. Check water regularly, and add more to keep potatoes covered. Water should come to an easy boil (not hard). Cook until a fork easily pierces potato. Drain and rinse in COLD water. Set potatoes aside.

Note: If possible, cook potatoes the day before and store in the refrigerator overnight. If you don’t have the time to refrigerate, give ample cooling time.

Peel and chop onion; clean and chop celery. Vegetable size is your decision; I have a chopper, so mine is chopped small, but noticeable. Peel potatoes. If you’ve never peeled cooked potatoes, a butter knife works wonderful at pulling just the skin off. In a large bowl, chop the potatoes in bite size pieces. When all potatoes are chopped, start mixing in mayonnaise. Slow is good, this allows you to not use too much. Your potato salad should be moist, but not mayonnaise soup. When you think your consistency is good, start adding the onions and celery. You may find you need a bit more mayonnaise. Fold items together in the bowl.

When thoroughly mixed, add a couple healthy squirts of mustard, and mix well. Add salt and pepper; fold in bowl until all is mixed. Store in refrigerator until ready to serve. Enjoy! Yield: 15 servings

Note from Lori Dodd: “The recipe is a very basic, simple recipe, but sometimes they are the best! This is my ‘tried and true’ recipe that I always use, but feel free to play around with it and make it your own.”

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Steward Setback Saturday: Ed Calkins on VampFest

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Ed Calkins on VampFest

Ed Calkins, the Steward of Tara, made an appearance--in a kilt--last night at VampFest, and it was fortunate for all that he was there.

Several times during the evening, whenever "Bryony" was mentioned, Ed was at hand to quickly interject how the story is really about him, although that fact may not be completely obvious at first glance.

"I'm not sure even the author is aware of it," Ed said.

Ed graciously posed for several photographs before the pictorial backdrop of a window inside Simons Mansion overlooking the vast estate. Although he originally planned to distribute limericks and samples of his "Bryony" game, Ed apolgized for having neither.

"I keep modifying the game," Ed said. "I'm having a hard time finishing it."

He thoroughly enjoyed the food, mingling with the guests, and swaying to the music, although none of the entertainment was Irish-themed. The Steward did, however, express great displeasure at yet another delay in "Bryony's" road to publication, since he had hoped to sign many copies that night.

"I'm telling you, the IVA is very displeased," Ed said.

I assured Ed we were doing everything humanly and subhumanly possible to get "Bryony" into readers' hands as quickly as possible. I certainly would never wish to raise the ire of the Irish Vampire Association.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Story Round-Up: Features in The Herald-News, July 17 through July 22

Another crunched week of trying to make five days fit into four so we could treat Rebekah to a day in Chicago. Unfortunately, the heat index nipped those plans, so we are defaulting to possibly a movie day.

And because I still want the day to be special for her as its rapidly ticking by (as all vacation days seem to do), let's get right to it.

Check out the health, faith, and arts and entertainment calendars. Three of them can be found at the link below. Gotta Do It, runs each Sunday and often stays on the home page throughout the week.

Feature briefs for Tuesday (health), Thursday (faith), Friday (Arts and Entertainment), and Sunday (People) are also edited (texted and photos) by the lady of this blog, but only the stories have bylines.

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

And if you do peek at these stories, to quote our editor Kate Schott, "Thank you for reading The Herald-News." :)

Plainfield woman receives highest American Red Cross volunteer award
Forty-five years later, Dorothy Dodendorf is still volunteering

Until recently, Dodendorf said she never even tracked her hours until the organization asked her to do it.

As a nurse anesthetist and a volunteer, Joliet woman served her community (VIDEO EXTRA)

Virginia Garvey served without expecting recognition

If recognition had occurred during Virginia’s lifetime, how might she have responded?

“I think she would have been humbled,” John Garvey, Virginia's son, said. “She would have said, ‘Oh, my gosh, why did you do that? Oh, for Pete’s sake.’ And she would have just blushed.”

Zumba classes at Will-Grundy Medical Clinic offer more than exercise (VIDEO EXTRA)
Will-Grundy Medical Clinic’s Zumba program includes many aspects of wellness

A celebration of the expansion of the clinic’s wellness program is scheduled for July 26. The event will feature Zumba classes in the parking lot and a variety of health-related information.

Diana Stonitsch remembered as 'Joliet's biggest cheerleader'
Diana Stonitsch loved Joliet and proudly spotlighted it

Whether a person modeled for a fashion show, appeared on “Special People” or was associated with any number of Joliet’s organizations – many of which received a mention on “Special People” – Stonitsch never forgot a face and remembered important details about each person.

Joliet praise dancers on way to Tennesee to perform on gospel television show (VIDEO EXTRA)
St. John Praise Dancers to appear on ‘The Evolution of Praise Dance 2’

Although praise dancing has commonalities with other dance forms, its main difference is that the music is gospel and the intent is ministry.

Joliet native gives walking tours of Chicago
Marzek’s walking tours provide an intimate look at Chicago architecture

Although boat tours of Chicago are popular, Marzec founded Inside Chicago Walking Tours in 2014 so people could have a slower-paced, more intimate look at Chicago’s architecture, often in perspective with the city’s history.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

BryonySeries Throwback Thursday "Ode," by Arthur O'Shaughnessy

Saturday, November 14, 2015

"Ode," by Arthur O'Shaughnessy

"Ode," by Arthur O'Shaughnessy

We are the music makers,
  And we are the dreamers of dreams,
Wandering by lone sea-breakers,
  And sitting by desolate streams;—
World-losers and world-forsakers,     
  On whom the pale moon gleams:
Yet we are the movers and shakers
  Of the world for ever, it seems.

With wonderful deathless ditties
We build up the world's great cities,     
And out of a fabulous story
We fashion an empire's glory:
One man with a dream, at pleasure,
  Shall go forth and conquer a crown;
And three with a new song's measure     
  Can trample a kingdom down.

We, in the ages lying
  In the buried past of the earth,
Built Nineveh with our sighing,
  And Babel itself in our mirth;     
And o'erthrew them with prophesying
  To the old of the new world's worth;
For each age is a dream that is dying,
  Or one that is coming to birth.

A breath of our inspiration     
Is the life of each generation;
A wondrous thing of our dreaming
Unearthly, impossible seeming—
The soldier, the king, and the peasant
  Are working together in one,     
Till our dream shall become their present,
  And their work in the world be done.

They had no vision amazing
Of the goodly house they are raising;
They had no divine foreshowing     
Of the land to which they are going:
But on one man's soul it hath broken,
  A light that doth not depart;
And his look, or a word he hath spoken,
  Wrought flame in another man's heart.     

And therefore to-day is thrilling
With a past day's late fulfilling;
And the multitudes are enlisted
In the faith that their fathers resisted,
And, scorning the dream of to-morrow,     
  Are bringing to pass, as they may,
In the world, for its joy or its sorrow,
  The dream that was scorned yesterday.

But we, with our dreaming and singing,
  Ceaseless and sorrowless we!     
The glory about us clinging
  Of the glorious futures we see,
Our souls with high music ringing:
  O men! it must ever be
That we dwell, in our dreaming and singing,     
  A little apart from ye.

For we are afar with the dawning
  And the suns that are not yet high,
And out of the infinite morning
  Intrepid you hear us cry—    
How, spite of your human scorning,
  Once more God's future draws nigh,
And already goes forth the warning
  That ye of the past must die.

Great hail! we cry to the comers     
  From the dazzling unknown shore;
Bring us hither your sun and your summers;
  And renew our world as of yore;
You shall teach us your song's new numbers,
  And things that we dreamed not before:     
Yea, in spite of a dreamer who slumbers,
  And a singer who sings no more.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016


I love subplots, subtext, and making the most of every word I use.

Here's a tip for giving your chapter/novel depth.

Once you'ver written that first draft, and maybe even after you've edited it, critically examine it and ask yourself this: What can I add or change to further the plot or add another aspect of characterization?

The most ordinary instances can become purposeful and lead to a more developed story.

For instance, your character is a guest at dinner. Add one item to the menu that reminds him of a good or bad event in his life - and weave that event into your story.

Your character is walking through a building for the first time. Maybe he sees something that profoundly affects him and incites choices he makes later on.

Your character is having a conversation with a friend, something he often does. The first three such conversations can be a normal exchange of information. Now you've got the reader at ho-hum, change it up, so your reader sits up straight and thinks, "Whoa!What's this?"

Or maybe the friend implies something but never says it - but it's not lost on the character and the friendship is altered, for good or for bad. Make that part of your plot.

And speaking of plots, try having more than one plot running at a time and make them all work for the good of the story.

People talk about "page turners" as if they're the barometer of a great story. Sure, I occasionally enjoy a story I can whip through fairly quickly.

But think in terms of "page stayers," words so compelling they force your reader to soak up each one. Sure, it's harder for the reader. Some might argue readers are getting lazier.

And yet, think about the books that have stayed with you over time. The books that resonated something inside you, books you cannot forget. Write that kind of book.

Just a thought.

Monday, July 18, 2016

The Mad Catch-Up

Coming off a short week into a long weekend into another short week is not something I would plan in an ideal world, but...

Still, anything I needed to accomplish last week I accomplished, and I trust the same can happen this week, too. Funny how it never looks possible at the back end of the tasks.

Resolution for this week: to take everything minute by minute, breathe, and do my very best.

I think that's a good plan, don't you?

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

Sunday, July 17, 2016

BLT Sandwiches By Amber Cable

BTW, the submitter for the BTL is now amber Baran, a very special woman that scheduled the date of her third (and final) C/section to correspond with my birthday. She is married to my third child Joshua and, thanks for Amber, Riley Marie and Denise Marie now share a July 15 birthday, fifty-five years apart.

These are the club sandwiches Steve and Brian prepared for dinner one night while Melissa brooded in her bedroom, the repercussions for saving the hide of a vampire.

BLT Sandwiches
By Amber Cable

2 slices white bread, toasted
2 slices tomato
Lettuce, to taste
Mayo, to taste
5 strips bacon, soft-cooked

Spread mayonnaise on bread; layer ingredients. Cut on the diagonal. Yield: 1 sandwich.

From "Memories in the Kitchen: Bites and Nibbles From 'Bryony'"

All proceeds benefit Big Brothers Big Sisters of Will and Grundy Counties.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Story Round-Up: Features in The Herald-News, June 11 through July 15

A crunched week, trying to make five days fit into four so I could take yesterday off

You see, the company that owns The Herald-News gives its employees a vacationd day on their birthday, or rather, emnployees may take a vacation day any day of the month of their birthday. And my supervisor graciously let me have today off. :)

If that's not wonderful enough, my second granddaughter was born today, so I spent a fair amount of the day in Morris. Her name is Riley Marie, which means she has my middle name, which was the name of my maternal grandmother, as well as that of my grandmother's first cousin, who was also my godmother. One of my nieces, to whom I am godmother, also has "Marie" for a middle name, so our family now has a new member to that club.

Check out Riley's cuteness at

Afterwards, I visited Frances and Hope (two of my cats that are living in other homes for the time being). It's been over a year since I saw Hope, and many months since I saw Frances, so it was wonderful to see them.

Two of my sons then treated me to lunch, and then I responded to birthday greetings on Facebook (with more to go, because I try to answer each one personally), took a walk, and taught a writing class, which, by the way, is one of the high points of my month.

It's a rather unqiue class. It's small (by invitation only). The cost is a small donation to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Will and Grundy Counties. And we have fun! We work on particular topics or take intense looks at writing samples. We encourage what's done well, share ideas for improvement, and offer tips for developing craft.

Today, it's a baby shower, writing and one BryonysSeries related project (I hope to both), and (possibly) taking a peek at the household budget.

And there you have it. :)

Check out the health, faith, and arts and entertainment calendars. Three of them can be found at the link below. Gotta Do It, runs each Sunday and often stays on the home page throughout the week.

Feature briefs for Tuesday (health), Thursday (faith), Friday (Arts and Entertainment), and Sunday (People) are also edited (texted and photos) by the lady of this blog, but only the stories have bylines.

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

And if you do peek at these stories, to quote our editor Kate Schott, "Thank you for reading The Herald-News." :)

Events coordinator at Joliet Junior College says school is a community resource
Joliet Junior College offers plenty for the community to see and do

“People should come to see what JJC has to offer,” Susan Stockwell said. “I book the theater all the time for kids’ recitals. We have outside events – for motorcycle training and the police do some of their training outside. The softball field, we can rent out. We’re actually looking at getting a gazebo so we can do more outside events.”

Joliet woman was a behind-the-scenes giver  (VIDEO EXTRA)
Nancy Ferencik lived a life of love and prayer

Nancy gave of herself and her prayers – she even prayed for an end to cancer, Nicki said – until that loving heart suddenly gave out May 13. Nancy was 49.

Products for lymphedema available at Silver Cross Hospital in New Lenox
Mokena breast cancer survivor prevented lymphedema despite high risk

"The key is to be educated,” Siona Bitton said. “Someone can have lymphedema right after surgery and someone can go 20 years down the road and all of a sudden have symptoms. Some may not develop it. But it’s always good to know how to prevent it.”

Fifteen years on the streets helps Joliet homeless man bring others to God  (VIDEO EXTRA)
Homeless man depends on others, witnesses to the love of Jesus Christ

“I didn’t see it on the radar,” Sherwood said. “I prayed and asked God where I could better serve him and others. And it wasn’t long after that – with life situations – that I ended up on the street.”

Four Joliet area churches hosting festivals featuring ethnic foods
Food, culture shared at four local churches’ picnics and festivals

“People can experience our tradition, see our church, eat our food,” Dorothy Michalarias said,

Thursday, July 14, 2016

BryonySeries Throwback Thursday: VampFest is Approachin'...It's a Busy Week in Munsonville!

Monday, October 10, 2011

VampFest is Approachin'...It's a Busy Week in Munsonville!

LOTS of interviews scheduled early this weeek, so I can loosen my deadline schedule a bit as the week progresses. Still, I have one I didn't finish over the weekend and two other stories to edit.

A galley of the the official "Bryony" cookbook, "Memories in the Kitchen: Bites and Nibbles from 'Bryony,'" was sitting inside my inbox this morning with a lovely note from Serena Diosa, author of the "Tinkey's Goldfish" series.

Serena did all the formatting for both "Bryony" and the cookbook. Since she did such a lovely job with the novel, I can't wait to peek at the cookbook.

We're still hoping to have "Bryony" for VampFest. Proof copies arrived Thursday, but there's an issue with the ISBN number, so it's back on the phone with Bowker this morning. Please pray for a speedy resolution.

I have two radio interviews this week, and two newspaper stories will be published this week, thanks to freelance writer Jeanne Millsap. Jeannne and I had lunch last week, bemoaning the fact that our busy schedules don't seem to allow more than one lunch together a year.

I'm blessed that a such a good friend handled my first interview (I hope I didn't botch it too much) and that she was sooo excited to hear about "Bryony" and the story behind the book.

Tonight, we're having a pre-VampFest costume party at my mother's house. Since she no longer has a house full of kids (and cats), she had graciously consented to the the keeper of the clothes until all our volunteers are properly garbed.

Sarah, Bryony's web administrator, who just flew in to help with the silent auction and final details, couldn't wait until tonight to select her costume and emailed me a photo of her dressed in her vamp outfit of choice. If she has a moment, I'll have her post a picture.

Heather Frelichowski, owner of Crafty Moms, Inc. and official "Bryony" seamstress, will be there, too, making temporary adjustments to costumes (they belong to a local college theatre) and (hoping with fingers crossed) fitting my daughter Rebekah (our Melissa for the night) and me with our ball dresses.

Rebekah wanted to wear the first dress Melissa found herself when she went back in time: yellow, trimmed in lace and pearls. Mine is deep purple with flecks of glitter. We can't wait!!!

Oh yes, and there's still a few last minute silent auctions to pick up.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

My Play List (So Far) for Henry's Story in BTB

It's funny about play lists, at least for me.

The songs, usually, have nothing to do with the storyline. What happens is that a word, a line, a melody, the cadence, will sound or "feel" like a character, story arc, chapter, etc. and unleash a stream of ideas.

In fact, until I find the song for a particular chapter, etc., the ideas don't come. And when I DO find that song or those songs, I play them over and over and over and over and over, for days, weeks, and sometimes months, until I've written that section and hit the next dry spell.

So here's the current play list for Henry's story in Before the Blood:. If you were to pull my earplugs out during my morning power walk, the odds are good one of these songs is playing.

It's an odd mix of music. Just so you know.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Migraine Weekend

A bout of insomnia and little sleep Thursday night plus a late work night on Friday night plus sleeping heavy the first couple of hours when I finally did get to bed equals PAIN for Denise.

Caffeine (i.e. extra coffee) on Saturday helped (after I was done with my physical and getting pretty lightheaded from the fasting), but the work I intended to do later that night was shelved, considering even writing fiction was pretty miserable. (Yes, forged on. I wait all week for dedicated time on the novel).

I did work for about four hours on Sunday (pretty normal) and scrolled through my latest additions to Henry's current chapter in Before the Blood. The many descriptions and building of new worlds and characters is slowing my pace, and the headache slowed it further, but it IS shaping up nicely and, with some primping and pruning, is taking on Henry's "voice."

Remnants of the headache are still hanging around, making a nap this Monday morning mighty tempting. But, alas, the days of power naps in the attic office are gone.

Hopefully, this headache is gone soon, too.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Lemon Drop Cakes

Served at the Harrington ball. It was at here that Melissa met Ed Calkins, Steward of Tara, for the very first time.
From Miss Beecher’s domestic receiptbook: designed as a supplement to her Treatise on domestic economy.

Lemon Drop Cakes

3 heaping tablespoonfuls of sifted white sugar
1 tablespoon sifted flour
3 lemons, grated rinds only
1 egg white, well-beaten

Mix ingredients together. Drop on buttered paper and bake in a moderate oven.

From "Memories in the Kitchen: Bites and Nibbles From 'Bryony'"

All proceeds benefit Big Brothers Big Sisters of Will and Grundy Counties.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Story Round-Up: Features in The Herald-News, June 3 through July 8

What happened to the week??? It feels like yesterday I was crunching holiday deadlines.

Enjoyed a mellow three days (ish) off: a nice mix of a movie with the kids, a couple of assignments, putting together a cople of calendars, two fireworks shows, time with family, shaping a couple of new social media projects for BryonySeries, and working on Henry's story in Before the Blood.

 My first day back was actually spent offsite working on a new project. That left three days of the five for everything else. Yikes!

A few less stories this week. No secondaries. And ran wire for Thursday after not one, but TWO Faith stories weren't quite ready for publication. (On one, the main source asked me to hold off a couple weeks, the second couldn't be photographed until Thursday).

WriteOn Joliet last night meant booking out of work a little early; insomnia last night will make addressing the significant amount of "everything else" today rather interesting.

And now...

Check out the health, faith, and arts and entertainment calendars. Three of them can be found at the link below. Gotta Do It, runs each Sunday and often stays on the home page throughout the week.

Feature briefs for Tuesday (health), Thursday (faith), Friday (Arts and Entertainment), and Sunday (People) are also edited (texted and photos) by the lady of this blog, but only the stories have bylines.

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

And if you do peek at these stories, to quote our editor Kate Schott, "Thank you for reading The Herald-News." :)

Joliet attorney installed as 140th president of the Illinois State Bar Association
As president of the ISBA, Vincent Cornelius will focus on education

"Watching my mother engage in our community and help everyone she could in every way she could – I wanted to be in a profession where I could do that.”

Joliet Franciscan dedicated her life to Our Lady of Angels Retirement Home
To Sister Peter Didier, OLA was home and ministry

“If licensing for nurse practitioners was part of the medical scene in the 1970s, she would have passed the exam hands down,” Sister Albert Marie Papesh said.

Pets of the Week: July 4

Click on the caption of each photo to find out about that pet, including where he or she can be adopted.

Frankfort pet blogger running 24-hour marathon for canine cancer treatment
Frankfort blogger raising money for cancer treatment after it helped her corgi

Carleen Coulter did some research and learned about Canine T-Cell Project through Facebook. According to Coulter, this treatment is an immunotherapy procedure for dogs with B-cell lymphoma. It is not effective for dogs with T-cell lymphoma.

Channahon musician, music director and music teacher is quarterfinalist for award (VIDEO EXTRA)
Jones a quarterfinalist for The Recording Academy and Grammy Foundation award 

“I think music teaches everybody to be kinder, to be more well-rounded, more of aware of the world and how we perceive things, how we work through our daily lives – conflicts, problems, sadness,” Janet Jones said. “I think music just makes people very happy. It’s always made me happy.”

Thursday, July 7, 2016

BryonySeries Throwback Thursday: In the Throes of the Writing Desert

Sunday, November 28, 2010

In the Throes of the Writing Desert

Most days, except Sundays when I'm too busy rolling newspapers for delivery, the daily Bryonyis written and posted by two a.m. Today, however, I am coming up dry.

I've talked to friends, read some material, perused the internet, and listened to music, but inspiration is far away.

Now, I'm not completely dry. While waiting for the trucks, I wrote a piece on bull mastiffs for the newspaper and a press release about doulas for a hospital. However, there's a world of difference between an assigned piece and one I dream up as I go.

While sitting here staring at the blank "new post" when I should be grocery shopping, my publicist unexpectedly calls, and she's very excited about some ideas she's been developing. "I have sticky notes everywhere," she said.

We talk for half an hour or so, but I'm still dry. Nevertheless, I'm cheered by her excitement over the Bryony project and the possiblities it is creating for me and other artists. Tomorrow, I probably won't be dry, but for today, I take heart that my past creativity is opening up opportunities and remain confident that my muse is simply taking a nap and will rejoin me later.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016


One advice I often hear given to writers is not to waste words, to make each word count.

That doesn't mean one should only write short, choppy, undeveloped prose - although short and choppy has its place.

But it means every word should do at least one of these things: develop characters, hint at clues, push the plot foward, and/or immerse the reader into the scene through use of one's senses. How rich when words do all of these at once!

No scenes for "just because" that have no relationship to the story.

No info dumps.

No meaningless conversations (too much of that in "real" life anyway).

Can you imagine a chair cushion with hanging threads that add nothing decorative or functional to the cushion? Or a room with a pile of random bric a brac in the center?

Snip off those loose threads. Dump anything that doesn't contribute to the story.

You'll wind up with a lean satisfying read.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Marinated Peppers and Mushrooms

Marinated Peppers and Mushrooms
By Denise M. Baran-Unland

1/3 cup cider vinegar
¼ cup olive oil
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
1 8 ounce package fresh button mushrooms, halved
¾ cup green onions, thinly sliced
2 bell peppers, any color, cut into 1-inch pieces

In large plastic or glass bowl, combine vinegar, oil, seasoning, salt and garlic powder; mix well. Add vegetables and stir to coat. Cover and refrigerate overnight to blend flavors. Stir before serving; serve with slotted spoon. Refrigerate leftovers. Yield: 6-8 servings,

Note from Sarah Stegall: “My mom (Denise M. Baran-Unland) first made this salad for a church dinner. We were told to stay out of the fridge, but we didn’t. Mushrooms were expensive, and she only bought them to treat the church. We figured we probably wouldn’t get any of them, so three of us pilfered the mushrooms out of this salad as a midnight snack before the newspaper routes.”

From "Memories in the Kitchen: Bites and Nibbles From 'Bryony'"

All proceeds benefit Big Brothers Big Sisters of Will and Grundy Counties.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Story Round-Up: Features in The Herald-News, June 26 through July 1

Week in review: It's all below, really.

That and reshaping some description detail on Henry's story in Before the Blood.

Looking forward to this weekend: spending time with the kids (fireworks, at least one movie), working on the prequel, one event coverage (with Divine Liturgy) and one in-person interview.

Oh, yes, and I have a couple BryonySeries marketing projects I'm planning to work on, too. If I get that far, I'll share after the fact.

It's a nice mix for a three-day holiday weekend, dontcha think?


Check out the health, faith, and arts and entertainment calendars. Three of them can be found at the link below. Gotta Do It, runs each Sunday and often stays on the home page throughout the week.

Feature briefs for Tuesday (health), Thursday (faith), Friday (Arts and Entertainment), and Sunday (People) are also edited (texted and photos) by the lady of this blog, but only the stories have bylines.

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

And if you do peek at these stories, to quote our editor Kate Schott, "Thank you for reading The Herald-News." :)

Providence High School alumni celebrate 60th anniversary at monthly gathering (VIDEO EXTRA)

Jan Lisdero Ciarlette of Lockport called it a miracle.

It was Ciarlette’s turn to say the rosary at Providence High School, then located at 169 N. Ottawa St. in Joliet.

Ciarlette had recently transferred from Lockport Township High School. She knew how to recite the rosary, but she felt nervous anyway.

Suddenly, the ceiling fell down and the rosary was canceled.

“I’ll never forget it,” Lisdero Ciarlette said. “They never asked me to do it again.”

Volunteers remodel house for Morris family that doubled in size after death of loved ones

“A part of me is having a hard time picking out material and stuff because it’s bittersweet,” Jennifer said. “If my sister hadn’t passed away, I wouldn’t be doing this.”

Shorewood woman was honest, funny and giving

Carol had no idea the significant impact she made on people, Eve, of Antioch, said. Carol was direct, honest, funny and had a gift of making people feel at ease.

In short, Eve said, Carol was a true friend.

“She was an extraordinary person,” Eve said. “She was the most forgiving and humble individual you will ever meet.”

Bike ride through Channahon, Minooka and Morris raises funds for Friedreich's ataxia

In 2008, when she was 12, Emily Young was diagnosed with Friedreich’s ataxia, a genetic condition that causes progressive damage to the nervous system.

But it doesn’t keep Young, of Gibson City and now 20, from riding a recumbent bicycle and fundraising for a cure.

Joliet Franciscans install new governing board, discern new direction

In the order’s 2016 directional statement, the sisters committed to “recognizing and confronting all forms of violence and injustice, such as racism, oppression of women and girls, human trafficking and hostility toward refugees and immigrants,” to minister to people of all ages as Christ would and to be “generous stewards and witnesses for peace.”

It’s a tremendous commitment in a changing world.

Rev. Gómez performs horse blessing on horseback

More had planned to attend the free 25-minute service at The Forest Preserve District of Will County’s Hadley Valley - Gougar Road Access, but by 10:30 a.m. it was already 90 degrees, Bochenek said.

“So we took a picture of those horses and father blessed them, even though those horses were in the picture frames,” Bochenek said. Gómez also said a blessing prayer for the horses that had passed on.

Lemont church to present 'The Adams/Jefferson Letters'

Rev. Thomas Koys wrote, “The Adams/Jefferson Letters,” a 90-minute historical presentation he adapted from actual letters between Adams and Jefferson. Koys portrays John Adams in the production. He feels his church is an appropriate place to showcase history.

“Faith has a lot of light in it,” Koys said. “Our nation is in trouble and it needs light in order to steer a course for the future. And some of that light can be found in history.”