Archive for the ‘Life’ Category

First, I must say that the Beast of Bray Rd. and his kin that are reported to me from around the country for the past 17 years regrettably bear no resemblance to the cute, sexy werewolves of the book and movie, New Moon. (Which are really Native American shapeshifters or Skinwalkers, not werewolves.) And they would make terrible boyfriends for the following reasons:


-The creatures I call Manwolves have no physically human aspect, other than bipedal stance and some behavioral traits, so while they may be good-looking for canines, they aren’t really movie star handsome unless you’re casting for Rin Tin Tin.

-Many who have encountered a Manwolf at close range have reported a horrible smell of wet dog and urine. I bet even love-struck Bella would not be enticed by that.

-Manwolves are snarly, aggressive and anti-social; less than optimal boyfriend material. They eat roadkill, deer and cats so you wouldn’t want one to take you to dinner.

-And worst of all, unknown bipedal canines leave the scene at the first opportunity. That smacks of major future commitment problems.

Second, I would just like to mention that the hunky werewolf lover has a long tradition in literature, despite the inherent problems. One is the story of Bisclaveret, which is Breton for werewolf. Like New Moon, it was penned by a popular female writer, in this case Marie de France, but it predates Stephenie Meyer by about 1800 years (the 1100s).

Bisclaveret was a rich and hunky lord of Brittany who naturally married a beautiful woman. His wife wanted to know where he went for three days of every week, however, and found out that he was spending the time running around, literally, as a werewolf. He transformed by shedding his clothing, and could only change back by putting the same outfit back on.

His wife decided she would prefer a former, entirely human lover who then stole Bisclaveret’s clothing and partied on the werewolf’s wealth with the lady for years. Eventually Bisclaveret was able to kill the knave — and his unfaithful wife — and get his clothing and estates back.

Werewolves are fun to put in fiction, I have done it myself. The possibilities are endless. But whatever it is that people are really seeing in the American woods and fields is something entirely different. And the real creatures, whatever they are, don’t appear ready for their close-up just yet.

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My Evening Adventuress costume

Me as "Evening Adventuress"

Steampunk costumes are glorious things. My own effort was not contest-worthy (though I still had fun wearing it), but I was blown-like-a-zeppelin-in-a-hurricane away by the grand prize winners; a wheelchair tricked out  with everything from a dangling faux gaslight to a metal-tubing cupholder, and a man with a wooden cabinet backpack that had moving gears, Tesla lights, and an array of other steamish objects too vast to describe here.

My quick take-aways from the weekend:

Victorian-era clothing looks great on every age group, with the possible exception of corsets worn as sole top. A corset-fail pictorial would have been horrendously easy to document.

Most SF/F fans believe Bigfoot is also SF/F, judging by the Mystery Animal Panel.

Autographing tables really should be located someplace near the attendees.

Girl Genius is a funny and top class comic.

Panelists in the know mentioned Tobias Buckell and Paolo Bacigalupi and Catherynne M. Valente  as some of their fave, upcoming novelists. My Amazon wishlist runneth over.

Concensus from the 2012 Apocalypse panel I sat on was that the big change will be a spiritual transformation rather than an all out Armageddon as in the movie. Whew! I can drive again without checking for yawning sinkholes to Hell every two minutes. And does this mean anyone can be Pope in 2012?

It is possible to go an entire weekend eating nothing but Con Suite and Green Room food. And those who do, really appreciate it.

With the exception of one argumentative dealer, SF/F people are the nicest and most mannerly of crowds. Maybe it’s because we have so much practice at keeping our monsters in our heads where they belong.

windycon 007

WindyCon36 attendees

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My Necravenomicon Wings

My Necravenomicon Wings

I’m not a costume person. I had a bad costume-fail for my second grade class Halloween party and never quite recovered. I have always blamed my mother.

She had this thrifty notion that my costume should also be able to double as pajamas, so she had my grandma whip up a baggy bodysuit out of tiger-print flannel, complete with an eared cap that tied under my chin. The really egregious part was that she had forgotten to buy a mask or costume makeup, so she drew jagged stripes all over my face with her bright red lipstick. Altogether, I looked like Freddie Krueger had gotten hold of the neighborhood cat.

My classmates were grossed out. Worse yet, my two best friends, Mary and Leslie, were dressed like little dolls as Little Bo Peep and a fairy princess, respectively. My boyfriend  of the week, Larry Vorba, said Leslie was pretty but I was not. And the lipstick smelled like my mother’s saliva. I pretty much swore off elaborate costumes forever.

Then came WindyCon’s Steampunk-themed con, happening this Nov. 13-15. I’m on two panels and have a book signing — how could I not wear a costume? Besides, Steampunk is Victorian+fantasy+cool, Neil-Gaimanesque imagery. Irresistible. I decided to forget the tiger suit debacle and bought a hat and corset. I then set about creating a fantasy gadget “jet-pack” and attached it to some post-Halloween sale wings from Walgreen’s. I’m aiming for a gothy Victorian Tinkerbell look.

Here is a shot of the wing ensemble, and I’m also rigging up a big pocketwatch/brooch combination and will be carrying a transformed old book. I also have a very short ruffled skirt and tall black boots. And the only lipstick on my face will be between  my nose and chin where it belongs.

Larry Vorba, whereever you are, this one’s for you.

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I must be one, then.

I’ve been called worse. So when an airline in-flight magazine gives me the title of monster hunter it strikes me only as a tad amusing, and perhaps even accurate. Midwest’s current fall issue chronicles the tour of southeast Wisconsin strangeness that I gave Chicago writer Rod O’Connor in July (read ONLINE). Using my books Strange Wisconsin and Weird Wisconsin, we covered Lake Geneva’s lake monster, Jennie, the Beast of Bray Road (natch), the Millard dinosaur store (which didn’t make it in but see my photo below), Whitewater’s famed witch’s triangle, and the weirdest legend in Wisconsin: Haunchyville, alleged domain of tiny men with miniature but lethal baseball bats.


O’Connor does a great job of contrasting SE Wisconsin’s pleasant, woods-and-cornfields landscape with the monsters and strangeness that lurk therein. He writes as fastidiously as he keeps his car — despite the fact that he often has a baby on board, the interior would put any dealer’s detailer to shame. “We never eat in the car,” he told me as I bit into the pita sandwich I had just acquired at the LaGrange General Store. His eyes followed a crumb that had dropped to the pristine passenger seat where I sat. I hastily retrieved it and made sure there were no more. You never want to tick off someone who is going to write a major magazine story about you. 

I did thoroughly enjoy the day, especially our side trip to Mystic Drive in Muskego where the Haunchies famously dwell. The tales tell of a forbidden lane at the end of the street that is guarded by a rifle-toting man in a black pickup truck, where you are sure to incur a whopping fine for trespassing. We did encounter a black truck with two men but no visible rifle. But the farm at the end of the street where the lane should have been is now busily subdividing itself like an amoeba, and the Haunchy habitat appears to have been obliterated.

I was amazed then when we discovered a weedy yard on Mystic Drive itself with three small, strange-looking buildings. From the looks of them, no humans of any size ever dwelled here, but I wondered whether their presence was enough to have started the Haunchy legend in the first place? Supposedly the Haunchies were a colony of little people retired from area-based circuses, but I had expected to find nothing at all from this popular urban legend. The tiny buildings were a fun bonus. They can be seen from the road, no need to trespass. Here is a picture of the oddest one:


It is obvious from the state of disrepair that this is no country for old, little men. 

The tour was fun, though, and we barely scratched the surface of weirdness in Wisconsin. I hope the Midwest passengers get a charge out of the article and a little crypto-education to boot. Perhaps more than one will be alert enough to glimpse that pterodactyl winging its way past their cabin window…. 

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I confess that I take way too many pictures of my Lhasa Apso, Grendel. But how many dogs get this close to three sandhill cranes and live for their owners to tell the tale? These were taken on a recent walk around the ‘hood. The comments on each photo are straight from the Grendel-mind, I assure you.

And it is a good thing I had my camera along to capture this scene. I heard the cranes blasting their “Dang the temperature hit 40 last night, let’s blow this place for Florida” call last  night so they will not be around much longer.

The horses stay all year, bless their stolid hearts.

This is the mean  one that always tries to kick Grendel.

We take this walk every day past very ancient and deep kettles (ancient as the last glacier anyway) and it never gets old.












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Are you still sleeping with the light on after reading Iowa mega-author Brad Steiger’s Shadow Worldbook by the Steigers, about spirit parasites and such lurking on the other side of the veil? Or are you just looking for some comfort and hope amid the fears of this near-Apocalyptic world? If your answer was affirmative in either case, you may wish to check out one or both of  Steiger’s recently released antidotes for gloom, Beyond Shadow World (Anomalist Books) and Real Miracles, Divine Intervention and Feats of Incredible Survival, co-authored with Sherry Hansen Steiger (Visible Ink Press).

book by the Steigers

When I ripped open the manila envelope and found my copy of Beyond Shadow World, I steeled myself for a deeper,  scarier look at the Other Side. Au contraire! I was pleased to be treated to an account of Steiger’s personal spiritual journey. The book is all about preparing one’s self for positive spirit helpers and experiences, and includes sojourns into the lives of others who have made crucial but unearthly connections along their intended paths. I was especially intrigued by the stories of Arkansan Al Kiessig, who has a knack for finding interdimensional portals, and New Age music pioneer Iasos, who hears and translates the heavenly choir. And Steiger doesn’t want anyone to swallow any of his information just on faith; he exhorts readers to examine every idea carefully. Always a prudent idea!

Real Miracles is an amplification of the Miracles series the husband/wife team has been co-writing for many years. It runs the gamut from amazing escapes from natural disasters to after death experiences. Some will give you the willies…a man escaping from an alligator after it chomped and swallowed his arm…and some, like the tiniest baby ever to survive at 9.97 ounces, will warm the cockles of the most  jaded heart. Even a heart too jaded for cockles.

I should mention for sake of full disclosure that Brad and Sherry are friends of mine. And it’s nice to have friends who write books so fabulous I would recommend them regardless. But both these books radiate the warmth and careful storytelling that is the Steiger hallmark, and will strike a celestial chord in anyone looking for an uplifting read.

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What’s in an influenza name? A lot, apparently. And like the swine this one is named for, it doesn’t smell so sweet. A

H1N1 Swine Flu Virus Magnified

H1N1 Swine Flu Virus Magnified

growing number of voices are clamoring for a better title for the recent virus, since it also (strangely) includes DNA from human and avian strains of influenza. The American pork industry is grunting the loudest because people mistakenly think they can catch swine flu by eating pork chops, and tenderloin sales are beginning to plummet.

Even genius raconteur Paris Hilton has fallen for this misconception. When TMZ crews asked her if she was afraid of swin flu, she stared blankly for a moment and then replied, “No, I don’t eat that.” (April 28 show)

So yeah, if  Paris is confused, the name has got to change. Some have suggested Mexican flu, but I think that sounds culturally biased. Here’s an idea. The virus contains DNA from three different species, which makes it an official scientific chimera. So how about the Chimera Flu? I’ve drawn my own nightmare image of it (right, copyright Linda Godfrey).

It does seem to spread very rapidly, so Flash Flu might be apt, and has great alliteration.

Scientists, however, have dug deep into their pocket protectors and pulled out the dull medical label, H1N1. That’s the official nomenclature of this particular virus and they say that’s what we should call it. OK. If you pronounce the 1’s like i’s, it sounds like Hiney. Hiney Flu.

But that makes  flu  the butt of a joke, and I don’t think that pig will fly. So I’m sticking with Chimera Flu. In world mythology, chimeras were everywhere — griffins, sphinxes, leopopards — and often had bird and human parts. Pig men are not unknown in folklore, either. It appears this version will spread worldwide, so that part fits too.

I’m glad that’s settled. Now to wait for the rest of the world to catch on.

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Kenosha diner sign

Kenosha diner sign

There is a  reason I like to go out and talk to people about my books. Yes I like the sales, and the refreshments are often delicious. My gig last Thursday at the Burlington Antiques Club offered cheesecake and fresh fruit. The. Best. But what really got my boat afloat occurred after I finished blathering and took the opportunity to listen to the 10 people who had gathered to see me. That is when the good stuff always happens. 

This time was no exception. I found out that the host of the meeting, Laurence, grew up in the same town as the Lima Ax Murderer featured in my Strange Wisconsin. And that the murderer, after he went to prison for bashing his two elderly uncles to death, faithfully sent Laurence a Christmas card every year from Waupun. Touching!

I also learned that another of the attendees was the wife of the prinicipal who hired me for my first real art-teaching job, many moons ago, and that they had been following my book publication trail. They had been making a pilgrimage around the state to key sites related to the books and she had brought  their map to prove it. Seeing that was even better than the cheesecake.

This wasn’t unusual. People have told me all sorts of things at signings. One woman had a doctor’s diagram to prove she’d been molested by aliens. Many have related their family ghost stories, or that they have seen unknown, upright canines. The sweetest are those who share that their kids who never read sat down and read Weird Wisconsin or The Beast of Bray Road. Out loud. To their little brother.

Due to the inconvenience of there being only one of me, I sadly can’t attend all the events I’d like. But every time I have to say no, I wonder what I missed. What innermost secret did I fail to learn from some blessed reader?

For it really is true. Get enough cheesecake into someone, and they’ll spill their souls. With raspberry sauce.

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birthday zebra child

birthday zebra child


Well, they don’t actually say it’s your birthday, they say it’s mine, on this Spring Solstice Day. Loathe as I am to claim the number that goes with it, I admit the word “birthday” still gives me a thrill. It’s that childish mystique; parties, cake, presents, the birthday song…

Some might call it shtick.

Not everyone does birthdays like modern Americans. My German grandmother always told me her family was too poor for birthdays. Years came and went; who even knew how old anyone was?

My relatives in Prague say they don’t care much about birthdays, either. There the big deal is “name day.” Everyone named Marie celebrates one day, all the Miloslavs party the next. That’s why most Czechs have traditional names…how mean would a parent have to be to name their child something too weird for an official day?

In Norway, they fish for ice cream bars. In some African countries, they ignore birthdays altogether and instead stage group initiations that involve things like decorating themselves with white paint.

Come to think of it, Starbuck dreamed she did that in Season Three of Battlestar Galactica, and it looked like fun, even if it did involve kissing a Cylon named Leoben.

My point, if there is a point hidden under all this icing, is that birthdays are really what we make them. And these days I don’t feel like making them too much.

Let me just wake up and realize that hey, I’m still around, and that purple crocuses are in bloom out there. I’ll take a crocus over a candle any day. I’d much rather wish everyone Happy First Day of Spring! Guaranteed shtick-free.

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It’s been a couple of harried weeks, and I won’t schlep through the long tale of what’s kept me from blogging. But sometimes a video just says things so much better, and here is one that, while it has nothing to do with anything, conveys the feelings from my little timeout. Its first line says it all. And since it’s experimental animation, prepare for strangeness. I am not the creator, kudos go to guerilla You-Tube artist Narfin1000.

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