I’ve just returned from a fun tryst in Minnesota and Wisconsin, experiencing quintessential autumn delights. A much needed visit to reconnect with old friends, and greet new babies. Because, while I’ve been writing and publishing my Other Worldly series, my best friend from our college years in Texas twice became a grandmother.
Not coincidentally, my current work in progress, Aliens Watch, has an inherent theme of reconnecting with friends.
In addition to tapping into sociopolitical current events in my Other Worldly novels, I’ve also tackled various mythological creatures (though not all of us think they’re merely a myth), along with creating my own versions of extraterrestrial species. Next up, Aliens Watch will feature the mysterious Bigfoot aka Sasquatch, who have made more than a few appearances in the big woods of northern states.
But as serendipity often goes, dinner conversation with the parents of one precious granddaughter in Stoughton, Wisconsin, lead me straight to not one but two creatures of local lore, including a traditional belief of regional Indigenous Peoples.
Right up my otherworldly alley—and perfect for my imagination to run rampant as I continue drafting novel seven of the series.
Traveling to gather information on subjects I’m writing about is something I’ve not gotten to do in the past few years while drafting books that include locales I’d been to years ago, such as England and Scotland featured in Being Alien, but also places I’ve yet to visit. Including Salem, Massachusetts, and Lake Champlain in New York and Vermont, where a US version of Nessie known as Champ makes an appearance in last year’s Alien Sensation and this year’s Altogether Alien.
Hence, in Aliens Watch, dinners and drinks enjoyed by protagonist Rowan Layne and her alien pals might really have been part of my marvelous vacation…and there could be more (alleged) mythological aquatic creatures waiting to greet Rowan from the depths of a Minnesota lake.
My only regret is the Aliens Watch timeline, which will land Rowan in the land of lakes and tall trees in summertime. Consequently, the autumn glory gorged upon in real life won’t be included, but what a feast for the eyes and palate it was.
Myriad apple varieties, including Honeycrisps—Rowan’s favorite, which happen to have been genetically engineered in Minnesota—were in abundant supply thanks to my dear friend. Fragrant, crisp, and dipped in caramel, or added to tasty oatmeal on a cool rainy morning. One apple was named First Kiss.
Colorful autumn leaves were making a later-than-usual appearance, lucky for me because on any other year I might have missed the delightful scene greeting me from every bend along Minnesota lakeshores, Wisconsin highways, and so very many quaint neighborhoods.
I dined on fabulous autumn-inspired meals, plus local favs like cheese curds from a roadside Wisconsin cheese store, and fried walleye at a riverside pub. Not to mention a tasty apple slice in my old-fashioned—a cocktail tracing its origins to Wisconsin—at a restaurant called Wendigo welcoming “all creatures great and small.”
You can’t get any more Minnesota and Wisconsin than that.
It had been more than ten years since I’d visited, and it didn’t disappoint. Like I’d stepped into a movie set for a classic, picturesque autumn scene. Pleasing piles of roadside pumpkins, fields being harvested for field corn, and the delicious scent of fresh-picked apples. Crisp breezy weather sending leaves aloft. Groves of tress as vivid and vibrant as a watercolor painting. And did I mention the fried cheese curds?
But to learn more about my gastronomic feasts and northern adventures, you’ll have to read Aliens Watch. So, I’d better get cracking in drafting intriguing encounters with some of these mythological beasts, one named Wendigo.
I haven’t decided which lakes in Minnesota Rowan will visit, as there’s many to choose from. But those brilliant maple trees in their flaming orange and gold glory alongside Lake Minnetonka were breathtaking, and did my heart good.
My best buddy LL, the proud grandmother whom I used to call my Minnesota mother when she’d advise me on winter hazards during the five years I lived there, will also feature in Aliens Watch when Rowan reconnects with her college friend. I’ve even come up with a cool alliterative name for her character, and of course I already know what her alien DNA percentage will be.
This is going to be fun. Apples, giants, and perchance a dragon, oh my! Don’t ya know.