Friday, March 31, 2017

Story Round-Up: Features in The Herald-News, March 26 through March 31

It's been an incredibly packed week with an unexpected life stressers: extra work in preparation for a church spaghetti dinner, one very sick cat, one son sick with either the flu or flu-like illness, and I woke up with a sore throat this morning, too.

Plus, some imp has tossed pebbles in my path all week, so that I'm entering a very packed Friday very much behind. Some good thoughts and prayers much appreciated.

And now...

First, the non-bylined work: the health, faith, and arts and entertainment calendars. Three of them can be found at this link:.

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 of course, I post curated content relating to the BryonySeries at @BryonySeries.

Just an FYI: On free days, holidays, and Sundays I'm not on call, I only post the blog to my "real" Twitter account, as my company insists we do take time off. I'm less reasonable, so unless I'm on a real vacation, I still post to the BryonySeries accounts.

FYI: videos have not been attaching to my Herald-News stories, although they do run for a time on the home page. You may also find them under the "videos" tab.

If you'd like to watch a video, and it's not showing up for you, message me, and I'll manually attach it. No worries for this week, though, although I will have videos for Sunday.

Thank you for reading The Herald-News.

Mokena man finds a father figure in 90-year-old Joliet veteran (VIDEO EXTRA)

“He’s been with me through thick and thin," Tom Grotovsky of Mokena said. "Through my trials and errors in life, and in business and in relationships, he’s mentored me and given me encouragement, and told me to keep praying, and told me God is going to reward me. He [God] has already rewarded me by giving me a friend like Albert.”

For the 2013 story on how this Mokena man sent his Joliet friend//mentor on Honor Flight Chicago, read Mokena man helps Joliet WWII vet to a special day at

For my 2013 blog post on this pair, read

An Extraordinary Life: Joliet man of faith was known for building

Andrew Betts lived for God and shared his construction talents at home and church

“He never boasted about the things he did. He was just an awesome man of God,” Bonnie Winfrey of Joliet, said. “He built a legacy of love and a spirit of ‘I can.’ People can look at his life and pattern it after him and know they can go after the things they feel is impossible.”

By coincidence, Joliet mother and son both have seizure disorders
Absence seizures may resemble daydreams

Dr. Takijah Heard, pediatric epileptologist and neurologist at NorthShore University HealthSystem in Evanston, said some seizures are very subtle and can be difficult to diagnose if people never see them

Mystery Diner: Merichka's is family owned since 1933, famous for fine dining and poorboy

Now, the Merichka’s name is associated with its famous poorboy sandwich: 6 ounces of tenderized cube steak on a toasted roll drenched in minced garlic and butter, mozzarella cheese extra.

Joliet Jewish Congregation educates about Passover at local Jewel Osco

Rabbi Charles Rubovits said Christians are interested in their Old Testament roots. Celebrating Passover with a Seder meal is one way to connect with those roots.

Photos: A brief guide to Passover from Joliet Jewish Congregation

Joliet area residents foster healing through painting, poetry and theater (VIDEO EXTRA)

Meet three people with lofty purpose behind their artistic vision

Two couples donated $100,000 to create a contemplative place near a local hospital's emergency department for families with seriously injured or recently passed away loved ones.

One woman publishers her original poetry about her struggles so others can find a companion in theirs, too.

A fourteen-year-old girl began her own theater company to produce fundraising musicals and donate the free will offerings from performance to those in need.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

BryonySeries Throwback Thursday: Will the Real Julie Drake Please Stand Up?

Monday, March 7, 2011

Will the Real Julie Drake Please Stand Up?

Last year, while writing An Extraordinary Life story about a local woman, my source, the woman's daughter, asked me to call her sister for additional information.

I agreed and asked for the sister’s name and number. I almost dropped the telephone when the voice on the other end said, “Julie Drake,” and proceeded to give me the number.

Of course, I had to tell Julie Drake about Bryony, because one of Melissa’s Munsonville friends is also named Julie Drake. Even more coincidental, the “real” Julie Drake has a husband named David. In later books, Julie’s boyfriend (and, eventually, her husband) is also named David.

“I can’t wait to read this book,” Julie said. “When I thought it was going to come out last December, I had told my two nieces about it because they love to read. When I first met Denise and spoke to her about, I knew we were supposed to meet. It was so comfortable talking with her.”

Recently, Julie agreed to let me interview her for the BryonySeries blog and see how she compares to the fictional Julie Drake, especially since both Julies grew up in the 1970s.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

When Just Any Word Won't Do

I spent the majority of my thirty minutes of fiction time working on three paragraphs, trying to play with the right combination of words that conveyed the rainy scene and the emotions in an unspoken communication between two people about to enter a "situation."

The scene I see in my head and the feelings it should invoke: how to create that bridge from my mind to the readers?

I played with words, rearranged them, cut them, and brought some back, jostling them around. "Show" is more than sentences with strong action words and light on the adjectives. It's finding the right mix of vocabulary and varying the sentence structure. It's attempting to create a visual, a mood.

I'm not quite there yet, but I'm closer. Amazing how a handful of words can absorb so much time.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Website Woes

So after nine months of going back and forth with GoDaddy over the extremely poor mobile view of the BryonySeries website, we've been told to upgrade, which means rebuilding the website.

This explains why, when Rebekah tried upgrading last summer, the website disappeared, throwing her into a panic.

We're feeling a little discouraged.

In 2010, Sarah Stegall spent many months creating an entire realm of a website, to reflect the rich storytelling that unfolds in the BryonySeries. The thought of beginning anew is disheartening to all of us.

Another GoDaddy customer said it should be possible to download the files so we can rebuild with them. Rebekah said she could play with the new template someday when she has time.

I can hear the chorus of why we should turn to another company and do our own web hosting etc. People have told us we won't make any money this way and so forth.

But we chose this company for its 24/7 customer service. Except for this one point, we have been extremely happy. Plus, we aren't trying to make money on our site with ads, etc. We see the website as a portal into the world of my books. It's to present information and imagination, and we're trying to do so within the limit of our website-building capabilities (and those are pretty limited).

So we are in the process of trying to sort this out and soon as the situation is seriously curtailing marketing efforts since we want to feed everything back into the website.

Stay tuned.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Split Pea Soup By Sarah Stegall

After Melissa shares her feelings for John, she worries all day about his dispassionate reaction. Her mind felt as thick as Simons Mansion pea soup. Here is a modern version of that soup.

Split Pea Soup
By Sarah Stegall

1 ham bone
2 cups ham, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 bag split peas
6 carrots
8 cups chicken broth
2 cups water
1 packet sanza goya spice (optional)
2 tablespoons black pepper

Rinse peas and set aside. Boil the bone to remove any extra meat you’d like. In a large pot, add chicken broth, water, peas, ham, pepper, and spice, if desired. Bring to a boil. In the meantime, peel and cut carrots into bite-sized pieces. Add to pot, cover, and simmer until peas are tender. This could take up to 1 ½ hours, so give yourself plenty of time. Serve with crackers. Yield: 6 servings.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

A Writer's Thoughts on a Rainy Saturday

I can't think of anything more deliciously sublime than a rainy Saturday morning at the computer writing fiction (Henry's seventh chapter in Before the Blood), with an icy water bottle on my left, a hot cup of dark roast on my right, scattered notes here and there.

I haven't heard from Ed Calkins in a long while. Perhaps I'll call him today.

Carpe diem!

Friday, March 24, 2017

Story Round-Up: Features in The Herald-News, March 19 through March 24

Where did the week go? I feel liked I blinked and pooh! It was gone.

Today will be a long day,m so I'm working ahead on the calendars in order to cover an event this Sunday. I'm also working "on location" this Monday for two upcoming stories. Saturday, however, is reserved mostly for Before the Blood.

Also, we are hoping to FINALLY release Cornell Dyer and the Missing Tombstone this week. Just waiting to hear back from Createspace. I've also started a second Bertrand book, a "counting" book for preschoolers.

And now...

First, the non-bylined work: the health, faith, and arts and entertainment calendars. Three of them can be found at this link:.

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 of course, I post curated content relating to the BryonySeries at @BryonySeries.

Just an FYI: On free days, holidays, and Sundays I'm not on call, I only post the blog to my "real" Twitter account, as my company insists we do take time off. I'm less reasonable, so unless I'm on a real vacation, I still post to the BryonySeries accounts.

FYI: videos have not been attaching to my Herald-News stories, although they do run for a time on the home page. You may also find them under the "videos" tab.

If you'd like to watch a video, and it's not showing up for you, message me, and I'll manually attach it. No worries for this week, though, although I will have videos for Sunday.

Thank you for reading The Herald-News.

Plainfield deacon has collected nearly 7 million pop tabs for Ronald McDonald House Charities

James R. Sossong plans to collect 10 million pop tabs to help families with sick children

Sossong’s goal is to reach 10 million and then – maybe – retire from active collecting.

“I just believe God put me on this earth to help others,” Sossong said, “and most of the time, when I do things like that, I get more out of it than what I give. So I’ll probably just continue doing it."

An Extraordinary Life: Joliet woman's gift was service and she had fun doing it
Sue Klen understood the golden rule

It was Sue’s fun side that first attracted John Leeson, who married her in 2004. He’d met her while playing pool and felt immediately drawn to her playfulness, friendliness and sense of humor.

“She was a down-to-earth girl,” John said. “She didn’t put on any airs.”

Mystery Diner: Nevin's Brewing Company has top-level brews and bites

The real reason I stopped by, the beer options. They give tours and have deals throughout the week, from four options for $4 32-ounce pitchers on Sundays to $3 select drafts on Wednesdays and Thursdays and a 3 to 6 p.m. Tuesday Happy Hour.

Joliet man is celebrating the person God wants him to be
Joliet man shares story of recovery

The Rev. Gregory Thompson, a minster, preacher and teacher at The Way Church of Joliet. called Pucel “a man of faith” and one of “God’s trophies,” living proof it’s possible to stand tall after falling far.

“Even though he’s years into this [recovery] lifestyle, he still has exuberance and enthusiasm,” Thompson said. “He’s a very kindhearted, humble guy, not flashy, just down-to-earth and excited about what God is doing in his life.”

Trivia events a popular way to give back in Joliet area (VIDEO EXTRA)

But it was Rebekah who blew everyone away with her “Ooooh! Oooh” answer to the very last question: What show created the spin-off, “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo?”

Thursday, March 23, 2017

BryonySeries Throwback Thursday: CUT!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015


During the self-editing process, after you have eliminated wordiness and tightened prose, reversed passive verbs to active, trimmed adjectives and adverbs, and banished all unnecessary "wases and weres," fixed bad grammar and typos, and filled plot holes, you congratulate yourself, thinking your work is now complete.

Well, not quite.

Set that manuscript aside for at least a week - maybe a month - and read it with fresh perspective. It's now time to cut and combine. What goes?

Any scene, exposition, or dialogue that does not fill at least one (and better if it's multiple) purpose or objective. Treat it like a lazy worker at a company. If it doesn't have a clear, defined job to do, give it one. If the scene still isn't working, send it packing.

Sample jobs: provide pertinent information, strengthen and/or move the plot, reveal character, build tension.

Just as filler words are a no-no, so are filler characters and scenes. 

Can't quite bear to part with some darlings? Try combining certain characters and scenes and see if that helps. If so, great. You win. 

If not, bring forth the editing knife and be ruthless.

Really ruthless.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Happy World Poetry Day 2017: I Just "Paid" for a Cup of Coffee With a Poem

Over the weekend, I read about how Austrian coffee company Julian Meinl will allow patrons to pay for a cup of coffee with a poem in honor of World Poetry Day.

UNESCO adopted March 21 as World Poetry Day in 1999 as part of its 30th session held in Paris.

Now although Julian Meinl does have a locations in the United States, it certainly doesn't have one in walking distance from my house. But there is a place that serves great coffee.

Now I don't write good poetry, but I am working on one that is getting there. So I would need to share one I hadn't written, but one in the public domain since I don't have permission from my poet friends to share their work.

The challenge, I realized as I searched online, is to find one that wasn't dark. A lover of gothic vampire fiction, I also like dark gothic poetry. I even considered The Day is Done by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, for I really like the phrase "and the night shall be filled with music," but the first few stanzas are dreary, not the uplifting mood I wished to convey.

Finally, I had one, a G-rated favorite from childhood, one I had memorized because I enjoyed the cadence: Meeting the Easter Bunny by Rowena Bennett (1930).

So I printed it on nice parchment paper from (Rebekah) and tied it with white yarn (also from Rebekah) and traipsed across the street to try my luck.

I explained the story to the woman behind the counter and asked if I could swap this poem for a small coffee. She beamed and said, "You may have a large coffee." When I returned to snap a picture of the poem and coffee, she told me she recently discovered her daughter liked classic poetry: Poe, Shakespeare, and Homer."

I shared my fledgling attempts and the satirical one I'd written in a few minutes for Before the Blood, promising to bring that one on Saturday.

"I'd like that," she said.

She was still smiling as I left. And I am sipping a steaming hot large coffee as I write this.

For more information about World Poetry Day, visit

For more information about the Pay With a Poem movement, visit

To read Meeting the Easter Bunny, visit

Whether you drink coffee or not and whether you write poetry or not, take a moment to celebrate by reading a poem, writing a poem,or sharing a poem, so that today may, indeed, be "filled with music."

Monday, March 20, 2017

Writing, Marketing, and Side Projects: Fast Recap

Really fast recap, as I opted to sleep in two hours today, which meant I didn't get up until 5:45 a.m. Celebrating a day I'm working from home while systems are down in the office today.

Saturday: Up early to finish a work project I didn't finish the previous night and then onward to Before the Blood. Not as much progress as I wished (mostly because my expectations are high, I think), but plenty of sections to compose and refine for the coming week.

Sunday: Working with Rebekah, I fixed as much formatting as possible for Cornell Dyer and the Missing Tombstone. She is uploading it today. If Createspace approves it, we'll probably only scan the online proof before going live.

I also have a couple Bertrand books in progress, one for release next fall, another for release this spring.

Marketing: Mostly maintaining the pace (which is good) and mostly because the website still sucks on mobile view, so I don't want to go the next level until that's fixed. A call to Go Daddy is on today's "to do" list. I'm SLOWLY gaining some Twitter followers (@BryonySeries) and "likes." Same goes for Bertrand's Instagram, too.(bertrand_bryonyseries).

"Real" work-wise, I'm also plodding along on some new projects I hope to launch, with our managing editor's approval.

Side project: Received a lovely note from an art therapist at Joliet Area Community Hospice about the impact my art therapy books are having on clients. Really, really made my day. Isn't it wonderful how God can use even the challenging parts of our lives to bless others?

Another side project: Last Thursday, Harper Collins author Lori Rader-Day shared her story (and signed books) at our WriteOn Joliet meeting. The visit was informal and engaging, and members offered great feedback on how Rader-Day's visit inspired them.

Finally: Tomorrow is World Poetry Day and there is a movement to "pay for a cup of coffee with a poem." I don't write good poetry, but I'm going to print off one of my classic favorites and see if I can't "buy" a cup of coffee with it. Wish me luck!

And there we go. Happy Monday morning, vampire fans! :)

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Venison Shepherd’s Pie By Sarah Stegall

Venison Shepherd’s Pie
By Sarah Stegall

3 pounds ground deer
10 medium to large potatoes
2 large onions
6-8 carrots
1 cup each of the following: peas, corn, asparagus, green beans
2 cups beef broth
Fresh churned butter
Salt and pepper
Chopped: parsley, basil, chives, and thyme to taste

First you hunt a deer according to state regulations, preferably killing it with a shot to its lungs to minimize internal damage. Immediately field dress the deer to preserve the meat. Turning the deer over to its side several times helps to loosen and remove organs during dressing. String the carcass up by its hind legs to bleed and skin it, starting at the hind legs and pulling skin down to neck. Remove head and legs below the knees with a saw, After the meat is butchered to cuts, take all remaining scraps that are usable and feed them through a meat grinder. When you have approximately three pounds, you can start preparing the dish.

Fetch from the garden fresh spices and vegetables. Scrub clean, removing all bugs, clumps of dirt, and chopping off parts not desired in the dish. Shelling peas is optional.

In a large pot, boil the potatoes whole or until tender enough to mash. While waiting on the potatoes, start cooking the carrots in a large pan, using a generous amount of butter. When they start to tenderize, add the onion, peas, corn, asparagus, and green beans. When vegetables are mostly tender, add in ground deer. Cook meat until no longer pink. Add in spices and broth and remove from heat.

Mash potatoes adding just enough butter to mash. You want them stiff. Season with salt and pepper. Stir the vegetables and meat mixture and transfer to a large baking dish. Top with potatoes, smoothing them over the whole mixture. Garnish with fresh spices, if desired, and bake until potatoes are golden brown, and dish is bubbling. Yield: 12 servings.

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

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

Order the cookbook at

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Amazing Recapped

Sunday, October 27, 2013

I Met the Most Amazing Man on Saturday: This is Why I'll Never Be (Money) Rich

So before you start reading anything more into this post than what it means, let me further say that I had coffee with two very nice men on Saturday morning, an interview for a feature story.

Yes, I tend to prefer telephone interviews, but one man was over eighty, and the other man was someone I'd interviewed many times for various stories and had never met in person.

Hence, the coffee meeting.

Near the end of the interview, I asked the elder gentleman how he ended up in Joliet, as he originally lived in another state. Well, that's where the story grew interesting.

What really could have been a two sentence answer evolved into a thirty minute expounding of the man's early years as one thought of his bumped into another thought and led to yet another.

Perhaps more efficient reporter types would have re-directed the conversation and quickly, but politely, concluded the meeting, but it seemed to me this man just wanted to talk about this portion of his life and tell this particular story.

Yes, I had a tight schedule for the day. Surprised?

And yet, that's not how I treat the people I interview. I earn my crust of bread by telling other people's stories. The key word here is "people." I respect their sharing, often deep sharing, of significant events in their lives to me and how those events make them feel. They laugh; they cry.

So I reciprocate by respecting their occasional need to talk.

When this man finished, I again thanked him for his time, as I rose, slid on my coat, and then extended my hand. The man, too, stood and firmly returned the greeting.

And then he said, "I like you. You're different from other people."

I wish I could remember more than soundbites. But as I sank, opened-mouthed, back in my chair, the man continued, eyes locked onto mine, for another five minutes or so in this vein:

   *  "I can tell you're deep, but you don't always let people see that, only when they should."

   *  "Women like to talk, but men sometimes have things to say, too. You listen to them. That's a highly unusual quality in a woman. Did you know that?"

   *  "You're a joyful person. Not too many people have joy in their lives. There's not much that upsets you."

   *  "You're all about love, and, love, is always victorious in the end."

I supposed if I didn't spend time with people, I could churn out more stories and make more money.

But then again, my stories wouldn't resonate with the humanness that makes people relate to them.

So, I'll continue on as a struggling freelancer.

Wondering, though, if this gentleman might not like to have coffee again.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Story Round-Up: Features in The Herald-News, March 12 through March 17

I pronounce this past week as "sick week" and happy to leave it behind.

I worked from home for part of last week and this, but I'm feeling much better now and ready for a partial Saturday of writing fiction. It's partial because I am covering an event Saturday afternoon.

However, before I get to that point, I'll have a late Friday playing a bit of catch up from the rest of today. One of my sons was admitted to the hospital last night with blood poisoning, (an appropriate finale to "sick week"), so prayers, nice thoughts, the sacrificing of goats, etc. all appreciated.

And now...

First, the non-bylined work: the health, faith, and arts and entertainment calendars. Three of them can be found at this link:.

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 of course, I post curated content relating to the BryonySeries at @BryonySeries.

Just an FYI: On free days, holidays, and Sundays I'm not on call, I only post the blog to my "real" Twitter account, as my company insists we do take time off. I'm less reasonable, so unless I'm on a real vacation, I still post to the BryonySeries accounts.

FYI: videos have not been attaching to my Herald-News stories, although they do run for a time on the home page. You may also find them under the "videos" tab.

If you'd like to watch a video, and it's not showing up for you, message me, and I'll manually attach it. No worries for this week, though, although I will have videos for Sunday.

Thank you for reading The Herald-News.

Elwood woman publishes a book about her miracle rescue dog  (VIDEO EXTRA)

‘Eva’s Heart’ has uplifting message for all ages

Milo was uncertain of Eva’s breed, saying that Eva “is a brindle and has beautiful coloring.” But that didn’t matter to Milo. She couldn’t believe several families had rejected a dog that remained so calm and loving, despite being returned several times to the shelter.

But Milo had an explanation for it.

An Extraordinary Life: Frankfort woman helped anyone, anytime, anywhere

Terri Rossi epitomized selfless generosity

"It didn't matter how busy she was or how spread thin she was," Amanda Marshall of Orland hills, Terri's daughter said. "She always told everyone, 'Sure, no problem. I can do that.' "

Morris dentist discusses the changing face of oral health
Dr. Keith Jaeschke looks back on 30-plus years of dentistry

Jaeschke said in those early days, dentists practiced "wet-fingered," meaning no gloves and no masks.

Mystery Diner: Fire Water BBQ has some outstanding brisket

For starters, the restaurant is set up like a picnic, with picnic and square tables set up throughout and bar stools near the windows. Then there’s board after board of menu options, written in different colored chalk.

Joliet Franciscan publishes guide for family and friends of incarcerated people

Former director of Center for Correctional Concerns authors book

“Everybody thinks it happens to other people,” Ujcik said. “But one out of every 32 people ends up interacting with the system and one of every 100 ends up spending time there.”

Joliet area residents celebrate their Irish spirit

Lots of people post pictures of their children on Facebook, and Marianne Uthe of Manhattan is no exception.

But it was the photo of her son Corey Uthe, 17, of Manhattan, that made me remember a story I wrote several years ago, about a Joliet resident that dressed up as a leprechaun for charity.

If there's two, I mused, there's gotta be more.

So I asked on Facebook: "Does anyone in Will/Grundy counties have photos of themselves dressed as leprechauns? If I can get several, I'd like to run them in this Friday's Herald-News. Please message me."

And people responded. Happy St. Patrick's Day and enjoy!

Thursday, March 16, 2017

BryonySeries Throwback Thursday: Logo, Makeover, and First Appearances

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Logo, Makeover, and First Appearances

Wow! Bryony is getting busy.

First, the official Bryony logo and tagline is complete, thanks to Bryony's illustrator, Kathleen Rose Van Pelt ( and CAL Graphisc, Inc (

To view, click onto Bryony's Facebook page:

My publicist, Dulcinea Hawksworth, has scheduled a makeover for this Friday afternoon and is coming with TWO cameras in tow--I don't own one :(--so she can take lots of pictures of the "new me" to post on the Bryony sites.

Now, this a little daunting for me because I don't wear makeup (I have chronic hives), but Dulcinea insists it's part of my packaging (see, and that the make-up is very hypo-allergenic.

I trust Dulcinea's judgment and, besides, it's should be a nice bonding time with my two daughters. Rebekah, seventeen, can heckle me in person, and my web administrator, Sarah Stegall, who lives out of state, can heckle me long-distance, via camera phones.

I have a dressmaker!!!

Last week she came to my house and measured me for my first, three Victorian outfits: two walking suits (spring and fall), and a ball gown. Yesterday, we purchased our first patterns and several yards of shimmering burgundy/black fabric, on sale.

Her future plans--sooner than later--is to kidnap me for a day (sans her children--two small boys who "helped" us yesterday look for patterns) and flee to a much larger, out-of-town fabric store.

Last, but certainly not least, Bryony has two upcoming events. Because any profits of the Bryony cookbook will be donated to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Will and Grundy Counties (, Bryony is supporting the 2011 Bowl for Kids' Sake in two ways, by helping to fund event costs and through pledge-sponsored bowling on March 25.

If you live in the area and want to become a sponsor, form a team, join an existing team, or pledge a bowler, visit for details. It takes $1000 to match one child with a positive adult mentor, so any help is welcomed, appreciated, and put to good use.

Bryony will also participate in an April 10 event at the Universalist Unitarian Church of Joliet ( I don't have details, but will share them when I do. Although WriteLife LLC does not yet have a release date for Bryony, the entire Bryony team is eager to start spreading the word.

To view sketches and biographies of the Bryony team, visit our website at or click here:

I wonder if the spring walking suit is appropriate for April 10. I certainly hope so!!!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Special Guest at WriteOn Joliet This Thursday

In January, I wrote a story previewing a revision workshop hosted by Harper Collins author Lori Rader-Day at the Plainfield Public Library. I had hoped to attend, but work duties intervened.

However, I followed up with Rader-Day to see how the workshop went. One conversation led to another, with the result that she will hang out with members, share her story, and sign copies of her books this Thursday at the regular meeting of WriteOn Joliet. For more information about WriteOn Joliet, visit

Rader-Day's third book will be released in April. See below for the full story I wrote. Follow her on Twitter at @LoriRaderDay and on Facebook at Visit her website at

Award-winning author to speak about revisions at the Plainfield Public Library

Mary Higgins Clark award-winning author Lori Rader-Day to lead a revision workshop

Lori Rader-Day wrote her first novel in 2007 while completing her master of fine arts program.

When the program ended, Rader-Day, of Indiana, slid the manuscript into a drawer and began another novel.

Two published mysteries and seven years later, Rader-Day, during a creative dry spell, dusted it off and revised it. Harper Collins will release “The Day I Died” in April.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Stupid Virus

Horrible cold? Mild flu?

Sick since Wednesday night and working from home since then. No fever, but sooooooooo tired. Slept ten hours last night and will probably take a nap today.

And that's it. Saving the rest of my energy for the "real" writing.

Happy (zzzzzzzzzzzz) Monday, vampire fans...

Sunday, March 12, 2017

BryonySeries Cookbook: Unfamiliar Terms

While reading the Victorian recipes in the BryonySeries cookbook, Memories in the Kitchen: Bites and Nibbles from "Bryony," the reader might encounter unfamiliar terms or vague instructions for baking, ingredient usage, etc.

Unfortunately, since many Victorians cooked with wood in cast iron stoves, they had no precise way to control temperature control. Experience was the only means for determining cooking times. Moreover, because many vintage recipes do not offer exact ingredient measurement, the cook must rely on instinct rather than mathematics.

Below are definitions of some of the most commonly used ingredients and terms found in the Victorian recipes:

Blood warm: Body temperature. A finger stuck in the liquid should be comfortably hot to the touch, but not enough to burn.

Gill: A liquid unit of measurement equal to four ounces.

Lights: eyes

Liquor: liquid

Moderate oven: 350 degrees

Quick oven: 400 degrees

Sweet herbs: marjoram, parsley, rosemary, sage, summer savory, thyme,

Saleratus: baking soda

Saltpetre: potassium nitrate used for home-curing. Some online stores sell food-grade potassium nitrate.

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

Order "Memories in the Kitchen: Bites and Nibbles from 'Bryony'" at

Friday, March 10, 2017

Story Round-Up: Features in The Herald-News, March 5 through March 11

Short commentary by moi this morning. I have a cold, I'm dragging,and I'm a bit behind.

Well, this last might have happened anyway. ;)

No fiction yesterday and probably no fiction today as I head into another working weekend. Yes, I know I worked last weekend, but there's only three of us editors, and I offered to make it more fair to someone else. Besides, I'm covering an event on Sunday, which pushes Sunday's work to Saturday, so I might as well work all of it.

I'll catch up with fiction, family, and friends over the next couple of weeks, so it's all good.

That said, I'm hoping Rebekah has time THIS weekend to finally work with me to finish the first Cornell. Remember that book? (LOL).

Still planning on picking at Before the Blood this weekend, as well as a couple new projects for my features section I want to launch, with my managing editor's permission.

If all of this sounds hard, it really doesn't sound hard to me. The only part that sounds hard is getting dressed, the consequence of being sick, I guess. I worked from home yesterday, and hope to do so again today, but I do have a mandatory meeting to attend, and it won't do showing up in pajamas.

And now...

First, the non-bylined work: the health, faith, and arts and entertainment calendars. Three of them can be found at this link:.

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 of course, I post curated content relating to the BryonySeries at @BryonySeries.

Just an FYI: On free days, holidays, and Sundays I'm not on call, I only post the blog to my "real" Twitter account, as my company insists we do take time off. I'm less reasonable, so unless I'm on a real vacation, I still post to the BryonySeries accounts.

FYI: videos have not been attaching to my Herald-News stories, although they do run for a time on the home page. You may also find them under the "videos" tab.

If you'd like to watch a video, and it's not showing up for you, message me, and I'll manually attach it. No worries for this week, though, although I will have videos for Sunday.

Thank you for reading The Herald-News.

Joliet area chefs showcased their finest at Center for Disability Services benefit   (VIDEO EXTRA)

Joliet chef coordinated his 22nd tasting party to benefit people with disabilities

Larry Burich, interim CEO, said last year’s Great Chefs Tasting Party & Auction raised about $90,000 for CDS, and he hoped this year would be closer to $100,000. One possible allocation for some of the proceeds would be toward the purchase of additional TAPits (Touch Accessible Platform for Interactive Technology).

An Extraordinary Life: Local builder helped shape the face of New Lenox
Bill Bolker developed family-friendly communities in New Lenox

Bill’s daughter, Bev Judge of New Lenox, said her father was born and raised in a 950-square-foot house on Vine Street with his parents and his two brothers.

Pets of the Week: March 6

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

Mystery Diner: Hot Pan Noodles & Dumplings are made to order, from scratch

I had the fried noodles and beef as well, but selected only broccoli and cabbage for my vegetables. When it arrived with an extra ingredient I hadn’t ordered, the owner immediately whisked it away and prepared a second dish in minutes.

Three Joliet Franciscan centenarians reflect on their ministry and relationships to God  (VIDEO EXTRA)

 “We gave up being married. We gave up having children. We gave up much of doing our own will,”  Sister Mariarthur Hamann said. “For many years, we lived by the vow of obedience. I think God blessed us because we were doing someone else’s will and we were doing it willingly.”

Owner of Joliet insurance agency is first-time participant in Men Who Cook

Joe Garbin cooks for the love of cooking

Garbin’s main culinary focus is “old-school Italian cooking,” which he learned from his now-deceased grandmother Carmela Garbin, who came from Sicily.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

BryonySeries Throwback Thursday: Tips to Avoid a Sagging Middle

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Tips to Avoid a Sagging Middle

The other day, a writer posted in WriteOn Joliet that she does a great job with beginnings and endings and not-so-well the parts between them.

We've all heard about how important it is to snag your reader from the beginning. But how does one keep that reader stuck to your story until the end? How does THE WRITER keep him/herself stuck to the story until the end?

In short, how does one keep the spring in your story and prevent the midsection from drooping?

For me, the answer is an outline, not the dreadful (or dreaded) outline many of us remember from our grade school days, but a tailored-to-you type of outline that keeps your thoughts organized and ideas happening. For me, outlining is a process of visualizing the entire story and then breaking down the tasks into tight components. I actually do something similar when writing feature stories, although the process is brisker and, at time, nearly simultaneous, since those stories are short and deadline is often tight.

1) Write a one-sentence summary of your story. The writer should always be prepared to give a one-line summary of his story. At The Herald-News, that one-liner goes into our daily budgets. If you're pitching to agents and small presses, especially at conferences, that one line might be the only opportunity to grab someone's interest. Know your story well enough that you can pitch it in a single sentence.

Example: "Bryony" is the story of a '70's teen that trades her blood with a Victorian vampire for a trip back into time.

2) Write a back cover summary of your story. If you self-publish, you'll need one anyway. This helps provide the details (or summarize them, if you already know them). If you query agents and small presses, you can use this material there.

3) Write a three-page synopsis of your story. This helps expand the details and gets your idea rolling, and, again, if you plan to pitch to agents and small presses, you might be asked to provide this. Writing it now will put you on top of the process.

4) Decide how many chapters you want in your book. Open separate files for each and name them. This mentally formulates where the details of your story will go.

5) Write the first few sentences and the last few sentences of each chapter. This ensures that the beginning and the end of each chapter is compelling and flows well into the next, keeping the string of interest tight. It also narrows what information will and will not go into each chapter.

6) Make notes in each chapter about the details of that chapter. This not only helps with plot and pacing, it gives your a framework for character development. It also lets you know where research is necessary.

7) Write the chapters. The writing is now simplified, almost like a paint-by-number book, because much of the advance thinking is already done.

8) Refine as needed. As you write, you may decide to change elements of the plot or characters that aren't working, or you may expand parts that are. That's perfectly fine! An outline is not meant to be a static rulebook of adherence, but a flexible mold to get you started and unleash the muse.

And there ya go! :)

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Writing: My Quiet Joy

Few experiences in life equal or surpass the silent delight of composing a story, whether it's a features story or fiction.

I don't have to explain to my fellow authors the deep immersing of ourselves during the composition process, the losing awareness of time and our surroundings, and merging with the psyche of our characters even as we create and manipulate them.

But a similar phenomenon happens with features writing, too. At least it happens with me.

At work, as the list of my duties increase (and with it my stress and, it appears lately, my errors), once I begin a piece, the urgency of deadline drifts away, as does the chatter around me (and inside me). Instead, I get caught up in the "feel"of the story and the pleasure of structuring each section and selecting the right quotes to emphasize certain details or emotions.

I can't imagine life without writing, even if, one day, I write only for myself.

Monday, March 6, 2017

This and That: The Weekend and Today

It was the best of working weekends and the worst of working weekends.

On the plus side, it was productive, and the first working weekend that wasn't stressful, where I really felt like, "No matter what happens, I can address it." And since I'm working a section that isn't mine normally, this was a good feeling to finally have.

On the minus side, I noticed a number of calendar items, five, that didn't make it into print, and I spent a good hour trying to add them online because I couldn't get the website to update. Don't laugh: this was probably the most stressful part of the weekend. Here's why.

The amount of events I handle keep going up. I even counted how many made the calendars this week (247), which doesn't count the ones I skim for dates, deciding if this one goes in this week or another week. Also, because it requires the least brain power, I usually work on these in the evenings, after I put my reporter, editor, and social media hats away for the day.

So why was I stressing? Because I like to get things right. And it wasn't right. People submit them with the expectation I will get them in print in a timely fashion. And I want to be 100 percent accurate in 100 percent of everything I do.

Self-chastisement over. Moving on.

I did go out to lunch on Saturday (a non-working lunch), something I never do on working weekends, although our managing editor has encouraged us to "live our lives"during those weekends, and it was a very nice lunch.

My two fellow lunchers were a former priest at my church (who has returned on a part time basis) and a former boss, and these two used to date each other nearly thirty years ago, at  time when I didn't know either one. I'm smiling as I write this.

I did make Divine Liturgy on Sunday, although I stayed in town and didn't venture forty miles away to "my" church as I had plenty of work to get done by mid-afternoon since I had an event to cover.

So work-wise, here's what I did: the regular amount of calendar work I usually do on weekends when I'm not the weekend editor (not counting the hour I spent fixing my mistakes), two extra features for a new project I'm hoping our managing editor will incorporate on a weekly basis because I think readers will enjoy them, my regular bryonyseries social media, and the regular weekend editor duties.

And one more.

My brother and sister-in-law invited me to the 22nd Annual Great Chefs Tasting Party & Action at the Bolingbrok Golf Club. The event was a fundraiser for the Center for Disability Services in Joliet. My niece, their daughter, is a client there.

In the past, I attended one with Ron, but that was nearly twenty years ago, and the event has grown immensely since then. A Joliet Junior College chef began it and still oversees it. Rebekah was invited to attend, too. so we both knew people.

A nice plus was that our managing editor not only encouraged me to attend, even though I was technically working, he allowed me to cover the story when I pitched it to him. That meant, I enjoyed the night as guest and reporter, which, to some, may not sound like enjoyment.

But it really, truly was.

The night was this interesting meld of talking to the copy desk when questions arose and talking to the copy desk about the story I was covering.

I interviewed some guests and chatted informally to others I knew. Rebekah kept me fed, hydrated, and talked to the guests she knew, since some were with JJC and some were former JJC students working for other restaurants represented at the event last night.

I took video (which I'll edit this morning and post) and shot photos for the story, along with  "extra"photos, which I posted on Joliet Connect. But when my niece made a special appearance, I posted that photo on my personal Facebook page.

I had pre-written parts of the story on Saturday. So while the live auction was going on, I sat on a bench in the hallway with my laptop and hotspot writing my story, which attracted friendly comments from passersby, reminiscent of my middle-of-the-night newspaper delivery days, when I sat on a work station at 1:30 a.m. and worked on stories while waiting for the first truck.

I left with one story idea and in high spirits.

Today I am working from home. Rebekah is off today, and she is helping me learn video editing. Daniel is sick (work up with nearly 101 temperature), so he may need a ride to the doctor.

So my focus for today is learning a new skill, being thankful for all the parts of the job I got right, and forgiving myself for the calendar mistakes. I had five omissions, but they are all online now, and I did do two hundred and forty-two of them correctly.

Oh, and I haven't looked at Before the Blood since Thursday (or was it Wednesday?) morning. But I shall return to my daily thirty minutes tomorrow. Promise.

And these are my musings on this fifty-plus degree Monday morning. :)

Sunday, March 5, 2017

A List of Recipes in the BryonySeries Cookbook

Melissa and her younger brother, Brian, move to Munsonville after the death of their father. 

Steve, a local maintenance man, takes to their family and becomes involved in their lives. From building new bookshelves for Melissa or doing schoolwork with Brian, he becomes a positive force in their daily routines. 

One of his favorite things is "manning" the kitchen  with Brian, whipping out the family meals. 

The first book in the BryonySeries mentions food from two time periods, 1975 and the 1890's.

Hence, a cookbook to bring those recipes to the reader. Today's cooks will find some recipes easy to replicate, others will be more difficult, and some, due to food safety concerns, only make fun reading and a glimpse into meals of past eras.

All proceeds of Memories in the Kitchen: Bites and Nibbles from "Bryony" are donated to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Will and Grundy Counties, in honor of Steve's mentoring relationship with Brian.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Will and Grundy Counties is a volunteer-supported agency proven to help at-risk children of single, low-income and incarcerated parents succeed through one-to-one mentoring relationships.

For more information about BBBS, visit

To order the cookbook, visit

And now, a glimpse of what's inside.

1)      Introduction
2)      Acknowledgments
3)      History of the BB/BS
4)      Dedication
5)      Unfamiliar Terms
6)      Sue’s Diner
·         Boiled Fish with Gravy
·         Apple Pudding
·         Shepherd’s Pie
·         House Salad
·         Garlic Bread
·         Lemon Chicken with Caramelized Onions
·         Fish Loaf
·         Tartar Sauce
·         Fish Chowder
7)      Grandma Marchellis’ Memorial Luncheon
·         Grandma Anna’s Blintzes
·         In Advance French Toast
·         Cinnamon Coffee Cake
·         Apple-Banana Bread
·         Sweet and Sour Meatballs
·         Lasagna #1
·         Lasagna #2—No Boil Noodles
·         Pork Sausage Casserole
·         Home-Style Casserole
·         Beer Bread
·         Puerto Rican Rice
·         Marinated Peppers and Mushrooms
·         Spaghetti Salad
·         Haluski
·         Italian Herb Monkey Bread with Garlic Olive Oil
·         Aunt Elizabeth’s Carrot Cake
·         Amish Friendship Batter (With Bread Recipe)
8)      Bryony Breakfasts
·         Poached (Scrambled) Eggs
·         To Preserve Oranges and Pears
·         How to Clarify Sugar
·         Fried Potatoes
·         Scarborough Puffs
·         Ham Pieces
·         Cod Sounds (Air Bladders) and Tongues)
·         Codfish
·         Cottage Cheese Balls
·         To Prepare Rennet
·         Best Rice Griddle Cakes
9)      Simons Mansion
·         Ice Cream #1
·         Ice Cream #2
·         Strawberry Ice Cream
·         John’s Coffee
·         Fish Skin to Clarify Coffee
·         Tea with Eggs
·         Homemade Yeast
·         Hard Yeast
·         Potato Yeast
·         Prosphora
·         Molasses Candy
·         Candied Orange Peels
·         Spiced Chocolate
·         Children’s Boiled Fruit Pudding
·         Pear-Mascarpone French Toast
·         Goose Giblet Soup
·         Split Pea Soup
·         Mutton and Potato Pie
·         Rice Chicken Pie
·         Venison Shepherd’s Pie
·         Nut Cake
·         Irish Soda Bread
10)  Fetes & Feasts
·         Pot Pie of Beef
·         Bucottora
·         Turtle Steak
·         Veal Balls
·         Head Cheese
·         Spiced Vinegar for Pickling
·         To Pickle Peaches
·         To Pickle Peppers
·         Pickled Walnuts
·         Fine Pickled Cabbage
·         Pickled Beef tongue
·         Pineapple or Quince
·         Jelly Cake
·         Mr. H.H.’s Receipt for Curing Ham
·         To Cook a Ham
·         Very Nice Rusk
·         Roast Chicken with New-Made Applesauce
·         Calf’s Foot Jelly
·         Potato Biscuits
·         Royal Strawberry Acid
·         A La Mode Beef
·         Smoked Boiled Tongues
·         Yorkshire Raised Biscuits
·         Lemon Drop Cakes
·         Coconut Drops
·         Plum Preserves
·         Chicken Salad with Crackers
·         Bologna Sausage for Sandwiches
·         To Prepare Cases for Sausage Meat
·         Apple Ice
·         Sarsaparilla Mead
·         Mock Champagne
·         Roast Stuffed Opossum
·         Roast Rabbit with Sour Cream Gravy
·         Potatoes with Marjoram Gravy
·         Fish Salad
·         Raised Cake
11)  The Smythes’ Dinner Party
·         French Vegetable Soup
·         Baked Fish
·         Boiled Calves Head
·         Boiled Turkey
·         Drawn Butter
·         Roasted Pig
·         Browned Potatoes
·         Mashed Turnips
·         Sweet Potato Pudding
·         Old Hartford Election Cake
12)  Steve & Brian’s Thanksgiving Dinner
·         Steve’s Roast Turkey and Dressing
·         Roasted Root Vegetable Medley
·         Traditional Cornbread
·         Biscuits
·         Salad Dressing
·         Darlene’s Trifle
·         Darlene’s Pumpkin Roll
·         Sausage Gravy
13)  John & Melissa’s Lake Munson Picnic
·         Cold Beef Stewed with Apples
·         Roast Lamb with Mint Sauce
·         Buttermilk Bread
·         Cucumbers and Tomatoes
·         Stewed Fruit with Cream
·         Lavender Lemonade
·         Pastiera (Neapolitan Easter Cake)
14)  John & Bryony’s Christmas Eve Wedding
·         Fish Balls
·         Fruit Fritters
·         Scalloped Oysters
·         Giblet Soup with Veal
·         Chowder
·         Mushroom Catsup
·         Roast Wild Duck with Cranberries and Peas
·         Boiled Pigeons with Turkey Stuffing
·         Roast Goose Stuffed with Mashed Potato Dressing
·         Breaded Potatoes
·         Boiled Cabbage
·         Winter Squash
·         Boiled Parsnips and Carrots
·         Rice and Meat Pudding
·         Baked English Plum Pudding
·         French Rolls or Twists
·         Minced Pie
·         Bryga’s Special Eggnog
15)  Ordinary Days
·         Pizza
·         Fried Fish Cutlets
·         Stuffed Peppers
·         Pork Roast with Cabbage and Sauerkraut
·         Chicken Pot Pie
·         Barbecue Sauce
·         Steve Barnes’ Spaghetti Sauce
·         Melissa’s Garlic Bread
·         Darlene’s Hot Chocolate
·         Special Corn Dip
·         String Beans with Sour Cream Gravy
·         Bulldog Sloppy Joes
·         Black Avocado Dip
·         Meatloaf
·         Best Ever Chocolate Cake
·         Overnight Toffee-Apple French Toast
·         My “World Famous” Potato Salad
·         Ham Surprises
·         Vegetarian Chili
·         BLT Sandwiches
·         Darlene’s Cookies
16)  A “Real” Date
·         Tripe Soup
·         Ordinary Beef Soup
·         Turtle Soup
·         Rye Bread
·         Lentils with Sour Gravy
·         Pork with Kohlrabi
·         Potato Dumplings
·         Kale Fritters
·         Bohemian Biscuits with Jam
·         Cinnamon Lozenges