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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 just finished my 11th (to be) published non-fiction book, and the good news is that I didn’t have to make an index for it.

The bad news is that I didn’t have to make an index for it.

My Strange Wisconsin index

My Strange Wisconsin index

My dirty little secret: I like making indexes. The old way. With a pencil and index cards. I know there are software programs for this, but I agree with the Chicago Manual of Style when it states that a computer-made index “cannot in any way substitute for a real index prepared with the aid of human intelligence.” (Thankfully, degrees of human intelligence are evidently not an issue.)

The crux of it is that indexing requires a sifting process to decide exactly what is pertinent to the subject at hand, and that process is at least partly subjective . If a book is about strange creatures, “phantom pigs” is probably a pertinent entry, but its exact  location in the obscure Welsh hamlet of Pentrefoelas may not be considered index-worthy. At least I didn’t think so when I prepared the index for Hunting the American Werewolf. A software program set for  proper nouns might have beeped to differ.

Besides, I find the process relaxing. You get the galley in the mail and look at how the pages have shaken out and how the designer has arranged things. That’s always enlightening. Then starting at page one, you write the words you choose on the indexcards, alphabetizing each. And don’t forget the page numbers.  Several packs of cards will be required for most books targeted above kindergarten level. And that Chicago Manual of Style will be invaluable for the picky parts.

Along the way you pick out any lingering typos that can still be fixed without disrupting design flow. A favorite beverage and snack is mandatory. The only tedious part is the data entry after you reach The End, but you could also enter as you go.

I’ve done this for five books — the others provided professional indexers at their cost — and this last one is part of a series with detailed chapter entries up front. But an index is normally a lovely and necessary thing to any researcher (or purchasing librarian — I’ve been one), and in my opinion no NF book should suffer the indignity of an indexless rear end.

I will add that I would never sign a contract for a book that required ME to pony up for a professional indexer. It would be like paying someone else to pet my dog or do my crossword puzzles. Genre NF advances are meager enough as it is.

And in the end, literally, a non-fiction tome without an index is just, er, book-naked.

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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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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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