Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Make Mine a Mystery II

I am pleased to announce that my fifth book, Make Mine a Mystery II has just been published by Libraries Unlimted.

Make Mine a Mystery II is a sequel to the original and continues all the information about the crime and mystery series authors who are still writing about their characters since the last book.  A whole new load of authors have been added to this volume to continue my attempt to introduce readers to the best writers of series fiction in this genre. 

Any one who is interested in purchasing my book can get it from Amazon at

Any one who needs a program on crime and mystery fiction, leading a book discussion or reader's advisory training for their librarians can contact me.  Check out the details on my website at

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Route 66 Assemblage

The Wustum Museum, the older location for the Racine (WI) Art Museum ( put out a call for art dealing with a sense of place for an upcoming non-juried exhibit called Hometown Heritage. The pieces that are to be submitted are to depict the artist's sense of place and I decided that my recent experiences on Route 66 could make a cool piece.

I started with a box that I bought on the route.  I knew that I wanted to some how incorporate a photograph from the trip as well as some of the found objects.  So I began to assemble some of the finds:

a muskrat skull that I bought at Necromance ( in L.A.

a hunk of actual Route 66 road from one of the abandoned stretches that we walked on where this tree is growing out of the old bridge--the rock still has a line of yellow from the old center stripe on the highway

two photographs:  one of a '57 Chevy part in an abandoned building that I explored

and the second a stretch of highway near Hackberry, AZ, that represents every one's traditional Route 66 photo--the desolate highway that extends into the distance forever

six yucca fronds that I picked up at Sitgraves Pass, AZ, while exploring a road side shrine

two pieces of leftovers laying on the ground at the Cadillac Ranch

and an old rusty bottle cap that I picked up somewhere on the trip. 

I really wanted to use the snake skin that Denice nabbed for me at this wayside

but to error on the side of full disclosure, this snake skin is actually from Utah--not from the Route.

To all these I added an old key, a baby doll body, two beads, two pieces of metal, and some wire that are not from The Mother Road.

So, what is this piece supposed to be saying?  My impression of Route 66 was that it was really suffering.  Obviously some of it is because the highway has moved on but most of it is because so has the money.  Yet, a traveler cannot help but be impressed by the wide open beauty of the American southwest portion of the route.

The death like figure stands on one of my photographs on the two yellow lines that still divide highways on The Mother Road. The idea is that the abandonment is represented by the figure assuming an almost crucified position, presumably the results of being left behind.  The metal rod that represents arms in the figure represent the telephone poles that we saw along the highway.  Now the wire represents how those lines disappear off into the distance. 

The background structure of the box has another photograph wherein the missing light from the car panel acts as a representation of the moon and the yucca fronds act as the sun.  Balanced at the top of the box in an ascendant position is the actual piece of road from Route 66. 

So that pretty much covers it.  It was a fun piece to conceptualize, construct and paint.  I am not one hundred per cent sold on it but I am pleased I got it done for the show at the Wustum. 

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Collage Class with Randel Plowman

Today I took a collage class with Randel Plowman ( at Bucketworks ( in Milwaukee.  Randel is a graduate student in Madison at the University of Wisconsin, working at the master's level on printmaking.  He has been making a collage a day on his blog ( and came to our town to share techniques. 

We worked on freeing the inner critic by making six collages in 30 minutes (none of these are going to show up here, youbetcha!).  Then we worked on gloss acrylic medium transfers and here is mine:

Then we worked on some transfer techniques and here are mine:

The class was a great deal of fun and my hope is that some of these collage techniques will be included in my assemblage work. 

Sunday, August 21, 2011


I have been inspired lately to finally use some of the old tools that I have been collecting.  My original idea (and one I still want to explore more) was to use them in the spines of books.  Now with my interest in apoxy clay sculpting, I decided to try to make cherubs out of some of them.

My first effort was a monochromatic design that consists of a ceramic doll head, an old chisel, an old curling iron, and some plastic leaves.  I call it Cherub #1:  Everlasting Leaf. 

My wife and Mom all like this one the best because (I believe) it is the most decorative.  But...decorative is not for me.

So, my next three efforts are more in the found object assemblage feel wherein I am most comfortable.  Cherub #2:  Watch Over Me consists of  an old soldering iron, a figurine's head, doll arms, plastic wings, watch parts and a sculpted body. 

This cherub consists of a ice pick, doll head, doll arms, wings a watch part and apoxy clay. It is called Cherub #3:  Surrender. 

The last little guy is really most in the thematic fold.  Of course, it is also the one that is the creepiest.  I am a pretty funny guy and I am constantly asked why I keep making these dark sculptures.  The answer is simple:  if I wanted to work for Hallmark, I would.  The dark side is much more interesting and creates art that is better.

Cherub #4:  Fork Flight consists of a doll's head, arms and shoes, a hummingbird, wings and a barbecue fork. 

Don't tell the others but I like this one the best. 

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Route 66 Day Eighteen

So, it is day 18, Sunday, July 10th, and all we want to do today is get to the Chicago lakefront and go home.  Illinois is not as thrilling as the west was for Mother Road interest, but it could also be blamed on a little bit of road fatigue on our part. 

Leaving Bloomington, we knew today was another day that was just going to be about logging miles. After breakfast at McDonald’s, we on down the road to Chicago and the end of the route.

Shortly after vacating Bloomington, we are in Normal, a situation we have not always found ourselves in on this trip.  Next up was Towanda, Lexington, Chenoa, Ocoya, Pontiac, and Cayuga. At Odell, we stopped to take a photograph of an old restored Standard Sinclair gas station also known as the Odell Station.

We were pedalling down the road to Dwight when a sign for a car show drew us like a magnet into a local park. 

Next it was Gardner, Mazonia, Braceville, Godley, and into Braidwood where to our great surprise we once again found ourselves in the presence of celebrities.

In Wilmington we found the Gemini Giant mascot at the Launching Pad drive-in.

Through Elwood, Preston Heights, Joliet, Lidice, Romeoville, Bollingbrook, Willowbrook, Burr Ridge, Countryside, McCook, and onto Lyons where we had lunch at Culvers.

Now we are into the home stretch going due east to the lake through Berwyn, Cicero, and onto Odgen Street in Chicago. This turns to Jackson Blvd. and deposits Denice and I at Michigan Avenue.

Originally, Route 66 began on Jackson Blvd. at Michigan Ave. In 1933, the start (and end) was moved east onto the reclaimed land for the world fair to Jackson and Lake Shore Drive. In 1955, Jackson Blvd became one way west of Michigan Ave. and Adams St. became the westbound US-66. However the start of US-66 remained on Jackson at Lake Shore Drive. So, even while currently Adams Street at Michigan Avenue is marked as the starting point, Route 66 never departed from there. The ending point is easier: post 1933 at Jackson Blvd. and Lake Shore Drive; prior to 1933 it was at the intersection of Jackson Blvd and Michigan Ave. (which is marked as the terminus).

So this may not look like much of a photograph to you but for Denice and I it represents accomplishing every mile of the Mother Road, Route 66. 

Miles today:  132

Total miles for the trip:  5,517

Miles back to our house in Milwaukee:  92

Total miles for the trip:  5,609

View the entire set of photos from this trip at

Route 66 Day Seventeen

Saturday, July 9th, is day seventeen of our Route 66 trip.  Today it should be all about logging miles as I anticipate that Missouri and Illinois are not going to be as interesting or vintage as the state’s we have been in.  We opt once again for breakfast in the car today and soon we are through Hofflins, Bourbon, Saint Cloud, Sullivan, Oak Grove, Stanton, Benson Tourist City, Saint Clair, and into Moselle where we discover the first distraction to the odometer--The Moselle Flea Market.  My take: forks and spoons, sheep shearer, and frog stabber, all for $10. 

Pacific reveals the remains of the Beacon motel.

Off next to Allenton, Eureka, Ranken, Peerless Park, and into Sunset Hills where we did not bowl at the Crestwood. 

From Windsor Springs, Kirkwood, Huntleigh, Frontenac, Ladue, Creve Coeur, Ascalon, Maryland Heights, and into Hazelwood which represents the western end of the Chain of Rocks Bridge which is now opened for pedestrians and bicyclists only.

After walking on the western end, we got back in the van, crossed over the river into Illinois, and visited the eastern end of the Chain of Rocks Bridge. 

Then it was onto Saint Thomas, Cedar Park, and Mitchell.  We tried to eat at the recommended Luna Cafe but the bartender said, "I can make you a burger but I don’t have any buns, lettuce or tomatoes."

A much better choice was the delightful Itty Bitty CafĂ© for a great chicken dumplings lunch. 

Edwardsville, Graney, Barnett, Maple, and Hamel led to Livingston and odometer challenge number two: Pink Elephant Antiques.  Here I picked up a rocking horse and a baby doll for $21.  More than half the fun of shopping here is the yard art outside the store. 

Moving along, we ran through Mount Olive and into Litchfield where we found more signage of worth. 

As we motored along Route 66 in Illinois, there is evidence of the original highway running parallel to the new.  Some communities ignore it, others sign it while some choose to use it as a bicycle or walking track. 

From here we are through Shop Creek, Raymond, Waggoner, Farmsville, Thomasville, Divernon, Pawnee Junction, Glenarm, Springfield (because we have been here before we take a been there, done that attitude), Sherman, Williamsville, Elkhart, Broadwell, Lincoln, Lawndale, Atlanta, McLean, Funk's Grove, Shirley, and into Bloomington in time to watch the inaugural NASCAR race from the Kentucky Speedway with a pizza for dinner in our Baymont Hotel room. 

Miles today: 327

Total miles for the trip: 5,385

View the entire set of photos from this trip at

Route 66 Day Sixteen

Day sixteen, July 8th, began with an early rise in Carthage, Missouri.  We woke up to fog which is the most moisture we have had since leaving Milwaukee. We were on the road, after hotel food, by 7:30 a.m.

The first stop of our day was Route 66 side trip to Red Oak. This "ghost town" was built from the remains of numerous area buildings. The site is just east and north of Carthage and is well worth the side trip. Built my millionaire artist who made his money with place mat art, he now lives on site with other residents in this half-tourist attraction, half-real town. 

After this tourist stop, we were back on Route 66 through Maxville, Forest Mills, Avilla, Stone City, Log City, Plew, Rescue, Phelps, Albatross, Heatonville, Spencer, and into Paris Springs.  Here we had a chance to meet one of the ambassadors of The Mother Route, Gary Turner, at his restored Sinclair gas station.  Gary helps tourists going in either direction and has almost daily tour groups who stop here including many foreign guests.  Gary and his daughter are great spirits for the idea of Route 66 and it was wonderful to meet them. 

Our next treat was when a Missouri car group, heading west for a car show, made a mandatory stop in front of the Sinclair station.  This was one magic moment for me on The Mother Road.

After our send off from Mr. Turner we went down the road to Halltown which has a number of antique shops including the White Hall Store.  Today I found some boxes, casters, and tools for $23. 

Next was Plano, Elwood, Yeakley, Haseltine, before riding through Springfield, Missouri.  We had lunch at Trolley’s today and then hit an indoor flea market where I bought 3 dolls, 2 stove scrapers, and some tools for $18.

On to Nogo, Strafford, Holman, Northview, Marshfield, Niangua Junction, Conway, Phillipsburg, and into Lebanon.

After Hazelgreen, Laquey, Hanna, Buckhorn, Waynesville, St. Robert, Devil's Elbow, Hooker, Powellville, Doolittle, Rolla, Northwye, Saint James, Schundler, Rosati, Fanning, and Amanda we entered Cuba to stay at the Wagon Wheel motel. 

Our dinner, which was outstanding, was at the Missouri Hick B-B-Q. 

Miles today: 231

Total miles for the trip: 5,058

View all the photos from this trip at