Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Building a Marketing Plan

Ever since one of my readers mildly chastised me for my laxity in marketing, I've mulled on ways to do more. By nature, I am not a saleswoman, but I have since learned one important distinction.

Marketing is not sales. Marketing is making one's product known in the hopes it leads to sales.

So I've spent a couple years researching ideas. The research was sparse at first and has grown in frequency. During this time, I've learned something else.

What seemed to be a good way to market even two years ago may not be relevant today, leading me to also realize that today's ideas may be passe tomorrow. The bad news: there is no one sure answer. The good news: free choices abound.

So this past weekend, I opened my idea file, chock full of the ideas I've collected, and created an in-depth marketing plan for 2017. As I worked, I learned more things (If anything, this has been educational, right?).

I did not use every idea I collected. Rather, I focused on the ones that appeared useful and within my abilities.

One: I have so many ideas, I probably can't check them all off this year, much less implement them.

Two: I really have done very little in the way of making potential readers aware of the series.

How do I know this? My revised plan is divided into seventeen sections, all with their own subsections.

It's basically divided into goals and ways to build awareness. Two goals are very important. One is to spend no money (although I'll probably have to spend a little). This goal is paramount to me, as I wish to pass on valuable strategies to authors, with the assumption most of them/us don't have the marketing budget of top New York publishing houses.

The second goal is, of course, finding and connecting with potential readers in authentic and non-spammy ways. Nothing turns me off faster than insincere and pushy sales tactics, and I don't want the BryonySeries to smack of it.

Rather, I want my efforts to resemble the way I wrote and shared stories in my childhood. I reveled in the creativity and then asked my friends, "I wrote this. Would you like to read it?"

Monday, November 28, 2016

A Respite and Giving Thanks: A Summary in Sound Bites

The week I spend in Raleigh notwithstanding, these last few days have been the most time off I've taken off in many, many years, very rejuvenating and productive.

So after a very long Wednesday work day that extended into my regularly scheduled bedtime before I was finished, here's how I spent the past few days:

Thanksgiving Day: Divine Liturgy, fiction writing, power walk, traditional dinner (poor boys, kettle chips,pumpkin pie), Monopoly marathon with my family

Black Friday: Power walk, lunch with a friend, fiction writing, practicing my open mic piece for Thursday, working on a marketing plan, finished the Monopoly marathon with my family

Small Business Saturday: Power walk, picked out new glasses, fiction writing, work (just a couple hours in the evening, didn't quite get it all done on Wednesday)

Sunday: Divine Liturgy, work, dinner with friends, power walk, work that was interrupted by someone needing to talk

And back to work today. I'm ready to tackle the week and eager to return to the job I love so much.

Still, I long for one more day...

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Biscuits and Gravy

It’s too bad Melissa and her mother left for Detroit the day after Thanksgiving. They missed the sausage gravy the fellows prepared to top the leftover biscuits, the perfect breakfast before chopping down a Christmas tree in Simons Woods.

By Rebekah Baran

4 cups flour
½ cup butter, melted
2 tablespoons baking powder
Salt, to taste
1 cup powdered milk

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Mix together first 5 ingredients, adding enough water to hold mixture together. Drop by large spoonful onto greased baking pan. Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until toothpick inserted in middle is clean. Yield: About 12 biscuits.

Sausage Gravy
By Deby Bowen

½ pound sage flavored breakfast sausage
1 ¼ tablespoons butter
4 heaping tablespoons flour
3 cups milk
1 ½ teaspoons beef flavored soup base
½ teaspoon sage
Pinch cayenne pepper

Brown the sausage slowly.  When brown, add the butter and cook 6 minutes more.  Add the flour and mix to combine thoroughly.  Slowly add milk.  Add soup base, sage, and cayenne pepper.  Cook over medium heat until thick.  Serve over your favorite biscuits.  

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Will Ed Calkins Ever Get His Due?

The creation the Ed Calkins, Steward of Tara, character in Bryony is a superimposition of the make believe on a real person who's already fictionalized himself.

Come again?

I first met Ed Calkins in 2007. At that time, Ed supervised one of four news agencies in a single warehouse after distribution for The Herald-News in Joliet (owned at the time by The Sun Times) was deconstructed and contracted out to the Chicago Tribune. For the remainder of my newspaper-delivery career (which ended in 2011), I would work for two to three news agencies at one time, whoever happened to handle the accounts I delivered.

If you've read the BryonySeries, you've met Ed Calkins: the the pot-bellied, bespectacled, gray-haired man wearing blue jeans and a white and red-striped shirt...pushing a pallet jack full of newspapers.

In the series, Ed, a vampire, fancies himself a "ruthless dictator" and calls himself "The Steward of Tara." He threatens people not with violent attacks for their blood and fear of death, but with badly composed limericks designed to ruin their good reputation.

Ed creates a verbal harem ('Oh, there’s no ceremony,” Ed said, “and no sex...I just appreciate beautiful women, and being a vampire doesn’t change that. You only verbally agree to join my harem. This way, I make wives left and right") and forever is inducing people to sign his petition: 

“Of course, the highlight of the year is the Calkins Day parade on February thirteenth, my birthday. In fact, I have a petition circulating to make February twelfth through the fourteenth a three-day national holiday. Would you care to sign it?”

Ed also lures potential carriers into his news agency: "It’s a profitable business, especially since I print my own currency. To amuse the peasants, I grill steaks on the Fourth of July, host a Queen of Christmas contest where I distribute candy canes and presents, and organize a pallet jack race for Labor Day.”

And it's all real. Except for printing his own currency. Even the dialogue is word for word to slight adaptations of real conversations with Ed. And it's all legal, per his and mine written agreement.

Ed had only one request: to be known. And, I fear, I've been lax in that department, especially where Calkins Day is concerned. Not many novel series come with built-in holidays. Every year, I resolve to create a celebration. Every year, February 13 comes and goes. Later, I remember with a clap to the forehead, a groan, and a swift text to Sarah: "We missed it again!"

This time, I being proactive.

I'm rolling around some ideas in my aging brain on how to properly commemorate the day. Nothing that's jelled yet. But it will get there. I promise.

“Next time,” Ed promised with a hearty smile and a farewell nod.

No, Ed. THIS time. 2017. I promise.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Story Round-Up: Features in The Herald-News, Nov 20 through Nov.25

Except for Pets of the Week, which I still have to complete this weekend, I met every deadline on Wednesday, although I felt a bit challenged toward the end.

At 1:30 a.m. Wednesday, Faith woke me up crying, crying, crying. I jumped up, thinking I had overslept, and she was in hunger distress. False for both, which meant I never really slept after that. Coffee and motivation saved the day!

Yesterday, a serene, enjoyable day that began with Divine Liturgy and then moved onto some writing time, walk time, a great traditional dinner (well, traditional for usL poor boys, kettle cooked chips, and pumpkin pie), and board games until we could play no more! :)

Except for lunch with a friend, and maybe trying on new glasses, today and tomorrow are dedicated to fiction writing and marketing.

Here's this week's work summary:

First, the non-bylined work: the health, faith, and arts and entertainment calendars. Three of them can be found at the link below. http://www.theherald-news.com/lifestyle/ 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.

I also put together an extra calendar, a listing of area craft fairs for 2016: http://www.theherald-news.com/2016/09/13/area-craft-events/aei3pml/

Another option: I do post the briefs and calendars on Twitter during the week, so you're welcome to follow me at @Denise_Unland61. However, I won't be posting on that account (except for this blog) until Monday.

FYI: videos have not been attaching to stories, although they do run for a time on the home page. If you'd like to watch a video, and it's not showing up for you, message me, and I'll manually attach it.

Thank you for reading The Herald-News.

Talking turkey with Channahon bow and arrow hunter (VIDEO EXTRA)

Mesothelioma can’t keep Jim Pangrazio from pursuing his favorite sport

Hunting turkey is tricky, especially with a bow and arrow. Turkeys have “exceptionally good eyesight.”

“Any movement and they’re gone,” Pangrazio said.

An Extraordinary Life: Joliet woman shared her artistry with others (VIDEO EXTRA)
JoAnne Ford-Mackay played accordion, sketched movie stars and made people happy

"We had a little routine,” Art macaky, her husband, said. “I would go up to one of the ladies, kneel down and sing, ‘Let Me Call You Sweetheart.’ She’d come back of me, pull me by the ear and say, ‘Don’t you dare play for those ladies!’"

Elwood man thankful for the prayers he believes kept him alive
Instead of dying from melanoma, Jack Schultz is living with it

Schultz said his family prayed for him. One relative brought Schultz several relics from various saints. Schultz, a Catholic who had not attended Mass in years, began attending.

“I didn’t go back to say, ‘Save me,’ or, ‘Cure me,’ ” Schultz said. “I went back to say, ‘When it’s my time, forgive me and take me into heaven.’ ”

Joliet designer's home featured in new book on Christmas design (VIDEO EXTRA)
Stephanie Tuliglowski’s Joliet home is featured in new book of holiday ideas

A designer for 25 years and a faux finish artist for 30, Tuliglowski said Patricia McMillan contacted her two years ago and asked if she would like to be featured in one of the chapters.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

A Federal Judge Altered the Course

The topsy turvy events of this week remind me of this scripture verse: "I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content." Philippians 4:11

On Monday I received the news that this coming Sunday I would become hourly instead of salary and had to modify my job duties and watch my hours.

Last night, my supervisor called to tell me I'm still salary.

I definitely feel many workers are way, way underpaid for the work and hours they put in. But mandating it doesn't make money magically appear, especially in some small businesses and in certain struggling industries. 

Furthermore, when staff is tight and job duties are myriad, trying to manage the nuances of life and work is stressful without adding clock-watching to the mix. So I, for one, for now, am glad the law is blocked, just as I was glad earlier in this week for new opportunities.

That said, I'm still looking at changing a few things up in 2017.

Last year, I resolved to find an hour each week day to work on my fiction. That didn't happen, but I've been successful with half an hour. In the coming year, I will make that hour happen.

Also, since I put editing services out there, I also resolve to take on some select limited projects. I think the experience will be good for me, and I feel my experience could benefit other writers. If you're interested or have questions, message me at bryonyseries@gmail.com.

These are my thoughts on an extremely busy "going into the holiday" Wednesday. Have a most blessed day, vampire fans. :)

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

No Loss Without Great Gain: A New Opportunity

By now, I'm sure everyone is familiar with the new salary/overtime law.

Like many others, especially those of us close, but not close enough, to the threshold, we've waited to see how we've been impacted.

Yesterday I learned that, on Monday, I will become an hourly employee instead of a salary employee.

Never a minimalist who tracks hours and watches clocks (except for noting looming deadlines). I now must do both, for I must not go over my allotted thirty-seven and one-half hours per week. As a writer who routinely (always? consistently?) goes far beyond that paltry amount, this was sobering news indeed.

I love all components of my job, but these components will obviously be modified. So far, I have the freedom to adjust the hours and the duties, as long as hours are tracked and the work I choose to execute fits the hours.

So what will I do with this extra twenty hours a week?

For one, I plan to spend more time on Before the Blood, to shorten the time between draft to finished product. With my present work schedule, that time is two years out.

I also plan to start editing manuscripts for other authors.

Over the years, various writers have asked this service of me. Often I have refused. In previous years, delivering newspapers, freelance writing, homeschooling, and my own fiction projects left no time for accepting editing projects. In recent years, my work schedule, along with scrambling to find time for my own fiction projects, left no time for "extras."

"Coincidentally," I recently refused three such projects.

That's now about to change.

I spent some time yesterday, a Monday on an insanely short work week, fiddling with creating a new work schedule for me, and I anticipate playing around with it over the long weekend. After the holidays, most likely January 2017, I'll accept my first editing projects.

I am excited for this new chapter in my life.

For more information, message me at bryonyseries.com.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Three Good Reasons to Take a Three-Day Break: Ezekiel, Jessica, and Riley

The downside to working many hours as a newspaper features editor and writer, as well as having a solitary hobby I love (writing fiction), coupled with the current inability to afford a car poses a distinct challenge when it comes to spending time with family that doesn't live nearby.

So with some leftover vacation time that needs using up before the end of 2016, I decided to spend some of it with family.

I spent the last three days about an hour away from home at my son Joshua's and his wife Amber's home being mother and mother-in-law and as well as grandmother to Ezekiel (4), Jessica (2) and Riley (4 months and born this year on my birthday).

Timothy hung out with me on Friday and played uncle. Rebekah hung out with me on Saturday and Sunday and played aunt.

And what did we do?

I colored and played with stickers and sticker book with Jessica, browsed through Spiderman comic books with Ezekiel, danced to Colby's Missing Memory with Jessica and Riley, played Candyland (Joshua, Rebekah, Ezekiel, and Jessica, with Amber and Riley looking on), watched bad stand-up comedians with Timothy, introduced Joshua to Galavant, and watched Koran dramas with Rebekah.

I ate pizza from Aurelios twice, compliments of Joshua managing the local venue. I taught my monthly writer's workshop (and I have a new student) on Friday night, hardly missed a beat on exercise, read some, and slept full night's sleep on Friday and Saturday , luxury in and of itself. 

On Sunday, we all attended the church of Amber's choice. This brought the double blessing into running into an old friend (guitar player in the worship band) and a great message of dying to self.

I changed plenty of diapers and even mixed up two batches of formula, a first for this former nursing mom (Amber's breast pump broke).

In short, I had a fantastic weekend!

Today it's back to work for just three days, a marathon feat since five days will have to be crammed into these three.  But first, a few photos of some of the most important people in my life.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Story Round-Up: Features in The Herald-News, Nov 13 through Nov.18

First of all, social media posting for today and through the weekend will be spotty to non-existent. I have a vacation day today, so I'm spending it and the next two days in a nearby town with one of my sons, his wife, and three of my grandchildren.

And I have to leave the house early today because I'm the chief babysitter of a newborn, toddler, and preschooler while their parents are at work. And before that, I have to shoot a video for work (Hey, it's on the way).

And I'm also teaching tonight, but that will get me in the mood for some late night fiction-writing...and for next weekend, where I intend to embark on Before the Blood writing marathon.

While that may sound awesome, it also means that I have to cram all my deadlines into Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of next week. Bring on the coffee!

Secondly, videos have not been attaching to stories, although they do run for a time on the home page. If you'd like to watch a video, and it's not showing up for you, message me, and I'll manually attach it.

Here's this week's work summary:

First, the non-bylined work: the health, faith, and arts and entertainment calendars. Three of them can be found at the link below. http://www.theherald-news.com/lifestyle/ 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.

I also put together an extra calendar, a listing of area craft fairs for 2016: http://www.theherald-news.com/2016/09/13/area-craft-events/aei3pml/

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

Thank you for reading The Herald-News.

Leadership changes coming to Stepping Stones in Joliet (VIDEO EXTRA)

Paul Lauridsen will build on Stepping Stones’ approach to substance abuse treatment

Last year Stepping Stones treated 701 people, Pete McLenighan, executive director, said. Two hundred are on a waiting list, with 120 of them waiting for residential treatment, he added. Furthermore, Stepping Stones continues to follow up with its clients. The era of "28 days and done" is gone.

"Our ultimate goal is abstinence and even that is being modified," McLenighan said. "If someone is being maintained on a medication – typically through a doctor's supervision – and is functioning well and living a stable life, productive life, that's ultimately what we're trying to help people achieve."


An Extraordinary Life: Joliet woman was a faithful servant to the end (VIDEO EXTRA)

Kathy Wagner ministered and mentored anyone God placed in her path

"It seemed like Kathy was always just there, doing what needed to be done, faithfully and in the background," Karen Braam of Manhattan said.

Joliet musician is known for spectacular piano and organ performances (VIDEO EXTRA)

Rose Sochan’s Christmas concert and final CD release party is Sunday

Through the years, Rose has performed pop music at nightclubs, lounges and even in her brother’s rock band. In college, Rose played mostly classical compositions. At church, Rose played Christian music.

Starting 15 years ago, Rose also has played for weddings at the Jacob Henry Mansion Estate in Joliet. But the most difficult pieces Rose ever played were “Here I Am Lord” at her mother’s funeral and “Amazing Grace” at her father’s.

Easterseals Joliet Region hosting its final American Girl fashion shows this weekend
Tickets still available for two shows

The fashion show has two parts, so during intermission the models change clothes, Teresa  Summers, development associate at Easterseals Joliet, said. Some of them have to change quicker than others, she added.

“There’s a lot of changing of hair ribbons and bows to match their outfits. It gets hectic back there,” Summers said. “But, for the most part, we’re a well-oiled machine. We have a lot of volunteers.”


Homer Glen girl will portray Clara in 'The Nutcracker' at the Rialto Square Theatre in Joliet

Twelve-year-old Reagan Davidson has lead role in ‘The Nutcracker’

“I find her acting ability to be extraordinary for that age,” Ken Von Heidecke, founder and director of the Chicago Festival Ballet, said. “Many children aren’t good at portraying expressing the passion and the feelings, but she’s figured it out.”

Thursday, November 17, 2016

BryonySeries Throwback Thursday: Branding Logos and Taglines, Grrr....

Monday, December 27, 2010

Branding Logos and Taglines, Grrr....

Coming up with ideas for a logo was easy, thanks to the previous creative efforts of Bryony's illustrator Kathleen Rose Van Pelt (http://www.imaginarylinesstudio.com/) and Christine A. Lindenberg, president and founder of CAL Graphics, Inc. (http://www.calgraphicsinc.com/).

An effective, snappy tagline, however, is eluding us.

Just when the majority of us like a particular verse, someone else comes along and slams it, either for the phrasing, the cadence, a solitary word, of all of the above. Sarah Stegall, Bryony's web administrator, has had fun creating really awful taglines and randomly posting them on Bryony's Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Bryony/115857775121196?ref=sgm).

Yesterday afteroon, Sarah had a brainstorm of an idea. As I wavered between skepticism and cluelessness about certain concepts, Sarah very carefully explained how the process could work to me until I had sufficient understanding to be able run Sarah's idea past my publicist.

I don't want to say any further unless we go with it, at which point I'll fill in the blanks (once I grasp them enough to explain them). I never realized creating an image for a book was so complicated. I wonder how long it took McDonald's to do it.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Choose Your Words Wisely: More on Show, Not Tell

First, an update on yesterday's blog.

Several people let me know the link to the BryonySeries blog is broken. It's not broken, but we ARE having trouble with the mobile site. Switching to a desktop view on one's phone fixes it until we can haggle it out (again) with GoDaddy.

That link again is www.bryonyseries.com.

Onward to show, not tell.

All writing by its very nature is "tell." Crafting a story that immerses a reader takes refinement of skill, practice, manipulation of words, practice, plenty of self-editing, and practice.

Straight "show," even if the writer uses an abundance of words and lays off the adjectives and adverbs, will actually sound like "tell."

The way an author makes a story come alive has much in common with writing dialogue.

Just as writing dialogue the way people naturally speak it makes it sound unnatural, so writing straight show makes a story seem like a collection of dull facts.

Rather, think in terms of when to present information in the form of a scene or as a summary.

And then play, play, play with the wording until the prose leaps off the page and sparks the reader's imagination.

Monday, November 14, 2016

My First Children's Book is Now Available

"Bertrand and the Lucky Clover" is the first book in the Bertrand the Mouse series.

The idea for the series came from two ideas.

The first is my love for the Dare Wright books and her enchanting photography, despite this mixed review here: http://nyti.ms/2fRrDJA.

The second was from a remark made by my second editor for "Staked!" "Bertrand is the cutest red herring I've ever seen."


Now the photography in Bertrand has none of the professional polish Dare Wright gave hers. I am not a photographer and my camera is my cell phone. The result is less enchanting and more whimsical.

But I'm having fun creating these books. I hope reading them makes you smile, even for a moment.

Purchase "Bertrand and the Lucky Clover" here: http://www.bryonyseries.com./  Just click on the icon of the book cover.

Happy Monday, vampire fans! :)

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Browned Potatoes

Served at the Smythe dinner party. Simple and delicious

Adapted from Miss Beecher’s domestic receiptbook: designed as a supplement to her Treatise on domestic economy.

Browned Potatoes

Boiled potatoes
Cream or milk

Mash potatoes fine, season with salt and butter, and a little cream or milk, place them in a dish, smoothing and shaping the top handsomely, and make checks with a knife; then brown them in a stove, or range-oven, and they are excellent.

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

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

Order the cookbook at www.bryonyseries.com.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Story Round-Up: Features in The Herald-News, Nov 6 through Nov.11

First of all, please check out this week's briefs. I've edited and uploaded stories about veterans to the People and Arts and Entertainment pages in honor of Veterans Day.

Secondly, videos have not been attaching to stories, although they do run for a time on the home page. If you'd like to watch a video, and it's not showing up for you, message me, and I'll manually attach it.

And finally, I'm coming into an intense couple of weeks, so send up a prayer, think good thoughts, have happy wishes, sacrifice a goat.,..I have a four-day work week next week and a three-day work week after that. While that may sound awesome, it also means that I have to cram all my deadlines into that space. (Bring on the coffee!)

But it also means that next weekend, I'll be staying in Morris and spending three days just being a mom, mom-in-law, and a grandmother to Joshua's family. Looking forward to it.

For the week after that, I'll celebrate a simple, low-key Thanksgiving with my family before switching into a fiction marathon, a writer's retreat on the home front, if you will.

Here's this week's work summary:

First, the non-bylined work: the health, faith, and arts and entertainment calendars. Three of them can be found at the link below. http://www.theherald-news.com/lifestyle/ 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.

I also put together an extra calendar, a listing of area craft fairs for 2016: http://www.theherald-news.com/2016/09/13/area-craft-events/aei3pml/

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

Thank you for reading The Herald-News.

Channahon faith-based organization helps kids in 2 ways

Legacy Families is faith in action where children are concerned

What do sports and orphans have in common?

At first glance, probably not much. But Lee Swank of Channahon saw the connection and combined ministry for both under one organization – Legacy Families. The nonprofit offers Christian-based, family-friendly sports programs to children and financially assists families in the process of adoption.


An Extraordinary Life: Brandon Regan's legacy

“I think people looked at their own lives and their troubles and then they saw this kid who was facing death and still fighting,” said Robert Regan, Brandon’s father. “He inspired them.”

Minooka freelance writer shares benefits of pilgrimage walk
Jean Tyrell shares the benefits of local ‘Camino’ hike

For newcomers like me, the monthly walk is a chance to learn more about the Camino experience and get some tips about the trek. Plus, I wanted to exercise with a group. Exercise, along with the head-clearing aspect of walking, is an essential part of my day, so an entire trip centered around days of walking with a spiritual goal appealed to me.

Manhattan woman's book teaches kids to trust God
‘I want children to understand that God is real’

“Mama used to sit all eight of us down every night and read to her," Lekeda L. Vaughn of Manhattan said. "Her passing lit a fire under me.”


Joliet VFW honors veterans throughout the building (VIDEO EXTRA)

Stone City VFW Post 2199 invites community to see memorabilia 

Tucked into corners, spanning walls and flying overhead at Stone City Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2199 in Joliet are reminders of military service.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

BryonySeries Throwback Thursday: Borders Without Walls

Monday, January 9, 2012

Borders Without Walls

Nearly two years ago, my niece, then twelve, asked to read a copy of Bryony. She was the first person to do so.

My three youngest children--all teens (at the time)--were my first laboratory rats, at my request, not theirs, but their enjoyment of the story spurred me to seek publication instead of leaving the story in my computer for in-home entertainment only.

With my sister's permission, I three-holed punched a hard copy, bound it into a binder, and shipped it away. My niece, in return, sent me some really glowing emails as she passed certain landmarks in the story. Her enthusiasm prompted my sister--then an employee at Borders--to read the story, and the initial efforts at hand selling Bryony, still going through editing, began.

My sister began talking up the book at the store and circulating my niece's binder amongst the employees and updating me on their reactions. She created paper Bryony bookmarks for in-house promo pieces. My first official review came from a former Borders paperchase supervisor.

Last night, my sister presented me with an order for eleven copies of Bryony, all from former Borders employees, one of whom reviews books on her blog. These people, like my sister, like me, like our family, love books. We like the tales they tell, the smell of print, and the feel of two covers between our hands. We have bookshelves filled with books all over our houses. Our love for a good story spills out from us, and we can't wait to share it with someone else.

Take that to a corporate level, and you have a bookseller who is eager place the right book into the customer's hands, whether she is looking for a book on the mechanics of breastfeeding or the latest sci fi adventure. When you love reading that much, and you want others to experience that same delight, the dismantling of a physical infrastructure won't stop you.

My sister, who has already struck a consignment deal for Bryony at a '70's store near her home, is confident her former co-workers will be telling others about Bryony. That's nice for Bryony, but that's not the real story here (I'm now wearing my reporter hat).

The real story is that, despite the leveraged criticisms against Borders' business practise which, perhaps, contribute to its demise, the spirit of Borders was really found in its "in the trenches" employees, the ones who diligently worked to make sure each and every customer walked out of the store satisfied with his purchase, the ones who ensured every worthy good book found a good home.

It's a spirit no liquidation can kill. Rock on, Borders!

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Three Voting Reflections From Three Founding Fathers

“Nothing is more essential to the establishment of manners in a State than that all persons employed in places of power and trust be men of unexceptionable characters. The public cannot be too curious concerning the character of public men.” Samuel Adams

“Should things go wrong at any time, the people will set them to rights by the peaceable exercise of their elective rights.” Thomas Jefferson

“When the righteous rule, the people rejoice; when the wicked rule, the people groan.” William Paterson

Monday, November 7, 2016

Any Fiction Progress This Weekend?

The answer is a resounding yes!

Although "sleeping in" (still early for most people) is extremely tempting, getting up at the same time on Saturdays is making me extremely productive. I find I do better volume and quality-wise earlier in the day than later.

The last two Saturdays I logged in about eight hours of fiction before the muse wound down, at which point I turned my attention to other activities. This has made for extremely satisfying Saturdays. When the sun goes down, I can fiddle with the story a bit more, if I'm so inclined.

This may have the additional advantage of providing some quality time with Before the Blood during weekend editor duties. I'm up again this weekend, so I'll find out then.

And speaking of novels, need to get my weekday thirty minutes in. Have a great Monday, vampire fans! :)

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Apple Pudding

When Melissa and her family arrived in Munsonville, they stopped for lunch at Sue’s Diner on Main Street, a dingy, squat-looking gray building with surprisingly good food, especially the apple pudding.

This recipe was first published in the Bohemian-American Cookbook by Marie Rosicky, published by the Automatic Printing Company www.autoprintomaha.com). It is used with permission.

Apple Pudding

Bread crumbs
Sliced apples
Blanched almonds
4 eggs
1 cup sugar
2 ½ cups flour
Vanilla flavoring or lemon flavoring, to taste

Butter a baking dish and sprinkle with bread crumbs, then cover with sliced apples, sprinkle these with sugar and chopped blanched almonds, then add another layer of apples and proceed thus until the dish is ½ full. Beat the eggs with sugar by hand for 30 minutes. Then fold in carefully the flour, adding vanilla or lemon flavoring to taste, and pour over the apples. Bake slowly for 1 hour.

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

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

Order the cookbook at www.bryonyseries.com.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Steward Setback Saturday: A Glimpse at the Fictional Ed Calkins Through the Lens of "Staked!"

Saturday, December 6, 2014

A Glimpse at the Fictional Ed Calkins Through the Lens of "Staked!"

           Ed Calkins saved the pawn shop’s bundle for last, after first pulling off the road to adjust John-Peter’s leprechaun, a pocket-sized creature with a leering face, tiny black eyes glinting below a pair of bushy red eyebrows, and a thatch of wild red hair sliding out from under its tall green hat. In the center of its belly, a series of numbers in the billions spiraled downward. The lull in the action always caused John-Peter to nod off, but he always reawakened feeling as refreshed as if he’d slept the night. By waiting until daybreak to deliver the Eircheard’s Emporium, Ed could be certain that Eircheard himself would have unlocked the front door, prepared the tea, and, if the wizened shopkeeper was feeling particularly ambitious that day, prepared a loaf of warm, Irish soda bread--using vinegar instead of buttermilk and a vegan spread from Brummings in Shelby to top it--out of respect for John-Peter.
             But no whiff of freshly baked bread greeted John-Peter’s nose that morning, only the pungent scent of the tobacco that emitted from Eircheard’s clay pipe. When John-Peter was a small boy, the sight of this leprechaun-like old man intimidated him and became the source of a recurring nightmare. Since early childhood, John-Peter had often dreamed of the shop keeper, sitting on a tree trunk and carving a misshapen piece of wood with a long-handled knife. A series of incantations followed the store owner’s act of jamming the wood into the ground. While Eircheard chuckled in glee, John-Peter’s leering face emerged from the top of the wooden post.
            But the Eircheard’s fearsomeness now only existed in John-Peter’s dreams. Inside the pawn shop, he was simply an old man making a dime from those wanting a quick buck and parting with their possessions to obtain it. The one-room, wood shop was not large, but Eircheard had filled it to bursting with all manner of furniture, knickknacks, clocks, lamps, signs, clothing, wall hangings, books, record albums, toys, dishes, household furnishings, and so forth, all stacked haphazardly and without category consideration.
          “No tin whistles today,” Eircheard said, leaning back in his desk chair, puffing on his pipe, and gesturing to a side table. “But some fellow brought in a whole stack of records. All bagpipe music.”
            Uncle Ed made a dour face and recited:
            A pygmy did sit in his chair
            Luring the innocent into his lair
            He said, “Why not you stay
            And buy something today?
            If it’s garbage I really don’t care.”
            Eircheard grinned around his pipe and watched Ed weave through the card tables, laden with assorted figurines, plaques, and jewelry, to flip through the albums.
             John-Peter poured a cup of tea, popped his vitamin, and polished off the remnants of yesterday’s bread while Eircheard puffed and watched some more. The boy wished he had topped off his jug before leaving the distribution center. His parched throat screamed for water.
            “Saved the last from yesterday. Had a feeling you gents would stop this morning.”
            “Thankee, Mr. E.”
             Eircheard smiled through the black gaps between his broken teeth. “Anytime.”
             Ed looked up from the stack of records.
           “Want to drive Kellen nuts?”
            “I’ll pass, Uncle Ed.”
             Kellen’s disparaging remarks about classical piano music were the bane of John-Peter’s life. No need to blare bagpipes, too.
             Ed selected three albums and brought them to the counter. Eircheard rose painfully to his feet to ring up Ed’s purchases.
            “That will be five dollars even.”
            “You drive a hard bargain.”
            “Got to keep a roof over my head, same as you.”
             Ed picked up the records and turned to John-Peter, who spread margarine on this third chunk of bread. Three-fourths of the loaf had disappeared into the boy’s growling stomach. “Let’s drop Munsonville, and get you home.”
            “Think Reece will be mad the country route is late?”
             “Not mad enough to find someone else to take it out.”

Friday, November 4, 2016

Story Round-Up: Features in The Herald-News, Oct. 30 through Nov. 4

The proof is in! A couple of tweeks, and Bertrand and the Lucky Clover will be available for purchase, most likely in a week.

Hoping to upload Cornell Dyer and the Missing Tombstone this weekend.

And I'll be doing some preparation on WriteOn Joliet's mic night in December.

Still, the main goal for Saturday is work on Before the Blood, especially since last Saturday was so productive.

Here's this week's work summary:

First, the non-bylined work: the health, faith, and arts and entertainment calendars. Three of them can be found at the link below. http://www.theherald-news.com/lifestyle/ 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.

I also put together an extra calendar, a listing of area craft fairs for 2016: http://www.theherald-news.com/2016/09/13/area-craft-events/aei3pml/

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

Thank you for reading The Herald-News.

Illinois is unprepared for a zombie attack, Joliet area residents speak out

Sue Klen of Joliet disagreed with everyone. A fourth-generation Jolietan, Klen said Joliet residents are community-minded, accepting people. They would simply befriend the zombies.


Plainfield family raises money for low-income children with Halloween scenes

“Last year, a wedding party got out and had their ceremony on the front lawn,” said Salvatore Perry, builder of the fundraising display. “They said, ‘Do you my mind if our minister blesses us?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, go for it.’ It was pouring rain outside.”


An Extraordinary Life: Plainfield teen left his legacy

Adam Calkins left behind a lot of life

“He touched a lot of people in a deep way just because of how kind he was,” Keith Calkins said.


Resale shop has donated more than $1 million to New Lenox hospital

Encore celebrates 55 years of supporting Silver Cross Hospital

The board’s newest goal is to raise $105,000 toward the purchase of a blanket warmer, nine new hospital beds, stretchers for moving patients and surgical tray for the robotic da Vinci surgical system.

“We can probably fill a $150,000 pledge in two to three years – with very little overheard,” Donna Zanzola said.


Joliet churches remember and honor the 'communion of saints' (VIDEO EXTRA)

All Saints and All Souls days remembered in Joliet churches

“The souls of our beloved dead are still a part of our lives and we are a part of their lives,” Rev. Kathryn White said. “We understand that heaven is not somewhere we go only after we die. We believe we live in the presence of God.”


Joliet nurse and faithful servant of God to receive award

Sherry Lindstrom recognized for decades of humble, unassuming service

“She’s like a Mother Teresa of Joliet,” Dr. Fred Alexander said. “She’s humble, selfless – she’s not looking for attention – and serves in whatever way she can for Christ’s sake.”


Joliet Township High School alumni are 'United In Excellence'

Alumni of JTHS after-school program brightening the future for current students

“We’re bringing back a sense of unity in this town,” Cristi Gaither said. “Instead of always worrying about the negative going on in the streets, we want them to know that positive outlets are now available.”


Thursday, November 3, 2016

Today's Throwback Thursday Has Been Replaced With...

...story links about the Cubs from The Herald-News.

I didn't write any of them. And I'm not a huge sports fan. But unless one lives on Mars (I don't, most day), it's impossible not to follow this historical event.

It's an important day for many people, including my mother. I have childhood memories of her swearing at the television screen during Cubs games. She's in her 80s, and I'm glad she lived to see the day.

Go Cubs! Holy cow!

Cubs win 1st Series title since 1908, beat Indians in Game 7


Cubs fans in Joliet celebrate World Series title


'Next year' finally arrives for joyous Chicago Cubs fans


Styf: Why the Cubs' World Series title wasn't in Thursday's edition


Wednesday, November 2, 2016

You May Wonder: Do I ever Watch TV?

Rarely. I stopped in my sophomore year in high school. Lineup up at the time included Charley's Angels, Three's Company, and Starsky and Hutch. Even then, I wanted to spend my time in other ways, like writing.

However, when insomnia hit last year, I also realized the wisdom in stepping away from the computer, work, and my own thoughts for an hour before bedtime - and toward two adult children who insist I "really need to watch this show."

And they're right. Because they know my tastes.

So in the last couple of years, I have watched the following shows with my Rebekah or Daniel, depending upon who was home in that last hour (Sunday through Thursday). Which means I watch  a grand total of four to five hours of television a week (at best, sometimes less if I can only make one 30-minute episode).

1) "Family Guy" (Daniel, incomplete)

2) "Sherlock" (Daniel, incomplete)

3) "Once Upon a Time" (Sarah, Rebekah, incomplete, show got boring after the first season)

4) "Smallville (Daniel, complete)

5) Bojack Horseman (Daniel, complete, eagerly awaiting the next season)

6) "Bob's Burgers" (Rebekah and Daniel, current season in progress)

7) "Futurama" (Daniel, current watch)

9) :Outlander" (Rebekah, current watch, second season almost complete, in anticipation of season three)

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Weekend Writing Summary

The muse is back, and it's hot!

With Rebekah leaving early for work on Saturdays now, I got going almost as early as I would on a weekday (four-ish),finished the morning routine fairly early (including walk and coffee), and settled in at the PC to write.

Eight hours later with ideas still flowing, I reluctantly stepped away from the computer to rejoin life. I did come back later to add some finishing details to Cornell Dyer and the Missing Tombstone, which should be in formatting stages by next week.

On Sunday afternoon while I worked on calendars for The Herald-News, Rebekah wrapped up Bertrand and the Lucky Clover and then uploaded it to Createspace. It really turned out well. We made some minor adjustments and re-uploaded it. Proof copy is on the way. If Createspace doesn't flag any issues, it should be available by the weekend.

Betrand book #2 is already in progress. :)

Writing tip: Keep stoking the muse. It will always flare back up.