The Anoka Light Up the Night Parade, Vulcans, and an excerpt from Legacy Falls.


Last Saturday, Ogre, Pooka and I went to the Light Up the Night Parade in Anoka. (The Boy, sadly, was too snuffly to want to stand outside on a cold, damp October night.) I didn’t get many good photographs, because I didn’t take a proper camera and tripod, but we had fun. (Chilly, chilly, fun.)

Pooka, in particular had a good time. If you’re a regular reader, you know she has a button-making business on Etsy. And she’s always had and affection for buttons of all sizes. She wanted to be sure to get this year’s commemorative button.

halloween button 2013

A few minutes after purchasing said button, while admiring a boxer puppy, she met the wife of a Vulcan krewe member, who assured her that — if she could catch the attention of a Vulcan — he would be happy to give her a button.

And this is Pooka — after we got home — proudly wearing both her 2013 Anoka Halloween AND her Vulcan krewe buttons … as well as the mark of her encounter with Vulcanus Rex.

vulcan mark


I was too, for most of my life. Only since I started working on my novel, Legacy Falls, have I understood ANYTHING about these men who show up at the Halloween parade, smear face paint on people, then disappear. Allow me to share some of what I learned when I researched the organization for inclusion in my novel:


vulcan krewe 2013

What is a “krewe”?

Wikipedia – A krewe (pronounced in the same way as “crew”) is an organization that puts on a parade and/or a ball for the Carnival season. The term is best known for its association with New Orleans Mardi Gras, but is also used in other Carnival celebrations around the Gulf of Mexico, such as the Gasparilla Pirate Festival in Tampa, Florida, and Springtime Tallahassee as well as in La Crosse, Wisconsin and at the Saint Paul Winter Carnival.

What’s the story of Minnesota’s Vulcan Krewe?

The Vulcan krewe, The Imperial Order of Fire and Brimstone, does not sponsor or organize the Anoka Halloween parade. Rather they make appearances at several of the Minnesota’s parades, while working most intensively with the St. Paul Winter Carnival. (Which does not coincide with the season of Carnival, but rather celebrates deep winter.)

If you want to know more about the New Orleans krewes, click: Mardis Gras New Orleans


When I was a kid, the Vulcans fascinated me. These costumed men were allowed to chase and grab us. They smudged the cheeks of the girls, and drew moustaches on the boys. I couldn’t understand why their rowdy behavior was so well-tolerated by the adults around me — adults who would normally kill anyone who looked sideways at one of us kids. When I asked who and what they were, no one seemed to know. They were a mystery I’d never been able to solve.

Which is why, I suppose, that they found their way into my work-in-progress. (See excerpt, below.)

Nowadays, the Vulcans are a kinder, gentler, more PC, krewe. They don’t chase people through the crowd anymore, and they apply their face paint marks, on willing victims, with a grease stick. I guess that’s a good thing.

Click “read the rest of this entry” to see the excerpt*.

*It’s actually one of those darling that I need to kill, or at least eviscerate. But I still like it.

Read the rest of this entry »


Setting inspiration for the novel Legacy Falls: Oliver H. Kelly Historical Farm, Anoka County, MN

I’ve been a bad blogger this week, but a good writer.


There are still 10 days left of July, and I’ve blown past my month’s novel-writing goal of 90 hours. As of today, I have spent 101 hours doing hands-on-the-keyboard revision. For the last week, however, I’ve been starting to get a little crazy – the work was blurring and I couldn’t pull myself away from it. Yesterday, the heat wave we’ve been having broke, Ogre had the day off work, and I needed a break. I couldn’t really abandon the novel-writing headspace entirely, so I opted for a sort of working holiday.


Every setting in my novel, Legacy Falls, is inspired by a real place, in or around the town of Anoka, Minnesota. The house where Lizzy, Will and the kids live (and where another family of spirits roam) is based on the Oliver H. Kelly Farm. I have take huge liberties with its location, size, floorplan … well, with just about everything. And I’m okay with that. Now that I’m in the revision draft, though, it’s time to get some half-remembered details right. 



From chapter 1 of Legacy Falls:

Now, as she surveyed the area, she was surprised to find her sense of satisfaction waning. The cellar looked too empty, even barren.

Ought to be full, oughtn’t it? This late in the season.

Heat flushed Lizzy’s cheeks. Despite the chill, she felt sweat welling from her scalp and along her hairline. In the span of a blink, she imagined the room as it should be—the bins overflowing with potatoes and onions, the shelves lined with jars of pickles and preserves.

Apple butter. ‘Should be a dozen pints of apple butter put up by now.

With all this beautiful space at her disposal, why had she never taught herself to can the vegetables she grew in her gardens? Sure, she had been known to blanch and freeze a few Ziplocks full of green beans, but—

But this is just wasteful, idn’t?

A drop of perspiration ran down her temple and into the corner of her eye. When she raised a hand to rub the sting away, she realized her palms, too, were oily with sweat. Instinctively she moved to dry them on her apron … then stopped in mid-motion, with her hands hovering over her stomach. Of course she wasn’t wearing an apron. She hadn’t worn an apron since she was a kid, playing house.

Lizzy knuckled the salt from her eye, pressing hard enough to make phosphenes dance behind her lids. Dizziness flared, then turned into a surge of cold that flashed from her head, through her torso and along her arms. She reached for the counter to steady herself. For a second, she thought she had missed it, but then her fingertips caught the edge.

A small dust-devil—carrying more golden leaves than dust—tumbled down the short flight of wide steps from the yard. All but invisible, it whirled directly toward Lizzy, raised the hair from her sticky nape, then collapsed at her feet. A scent engulfed her, something warm and sharp and pungent. The earthy odor had a bracing effect and her knees steadied.

You should be resting in this heat. Think of the babe.

Apple butter? Apron? Babe? Where were these thoughts coming from? She coughed. Straightened. Wiped her hands down the thighs of her jeans. Still the scent clung to her. Out loud, she asked, “What is that smell?”

Manure, Schatz. Just good manure.

Lizzy stood still. She tried to believe the words had sounded not in her ears, but somewhere in her head. She listened to her own breathing until she heard a squeal and hiss from beyond the cellar door. The school bus had arrived.



July 2013 WriMoProg: 101+ 54 = 156/145
[X + Y = Z / total-hours goal, where X = writing/editing time, Y= other writerly tasks.]

Becoming a horror writer: now I know the difference between editing and revising a manuscript.

A couple of weeks ago, I had the entire Lizzy Novel manuscript printed. I thought I was going to fix the ending (which has been giving me fits) then do a hand-edit, make a few changes, check on the flow and pace, then start the second full draft of the book – you know, the one where you check for dangling subplot threads and go cross-eyed looking for adverbs  and clichés.

LN editing session on deck

See how clean and crisp those freshly printed pages look?

Then I read the damn thing – from page one to the end – and discovered that whole great swaths of the behemoth are pretty much useless.

The good news is that I had far exceeded my intended word count anyway – so much of the cutting was only painful, as opposed to excruciating.

The bad news is that somewhere in all those pages, I had become lost. My plot-line had become diluted and weak. Too many tangents had crept into the work as I tried to write my way from one flimsy section to the next, and too many crucial bits of story development had been glossed over or written around.

There was much worth salvaging – the characters are likeable, distinctive and engaging; I seem to have a decent handle on creating atmosphere and mood; there isn’t much info-dumping – but the foundation of the story was more like a haphazard cairn you’d stumble onto in the woods than the mortared stone wall I wanted it to be.

I set to with a will, but working with the pages didn’t get me anywhere. I kept getting caught up in details, rather than getting a clear overview of the story. No matter how much I manhandled the manuscript, and slashed at it with pencils, I couldn’t find my way back to the heart of the plot. Worse, I started to fear that the whole thing needed to be burned in a cleansing bonfire fueled with frustration and shattered dreams scrapped.

20130630 LN manuscript touched

I stomped around the house and complained I needed a way to see the whole thing at a glance … I wanted a massive whiteboard or something. I didn’t make any real progress until Ogre reminded me that I already had the tool I needed, in the form of the section map I’d made before I started generating text. (A section map is basically a detailed, scene-by-scene, outline – the method is from The Marshall Plan for Novel Writing.)

I only needed about a day with my original section map  to see how it was flawed. In the months since crafting it, I had done my job by writing to its specifications, but I had also learned a lot about how a plot should actually unfold. The map was solid at the beginning and ending, but the middle sections were too vague, and they had led me down the tangential paths. (When I made the map, I had not written anything as sprawling as a novel, so I didn’t spread out the plot development well.)

At first, I tried to make corrections on the original map. For a while, it worked. But then even the map became unwieldy as it stretched to several pages. Once again, I couldn’t see the big picture. I started a fresh one, and kept my section descriptions to a maximum of three lines. With patience, I was able to create what I needed – a map that showed me exactly where the major problem was … turns out, it was smack dab  in the MIDDLE of the thing.

2013-07-01 section map holes

The start was good, the end was good (surprise!) but I needed to make sure the reader would find tasty crumbs all the way through the book. When I had pulled all the pointless tangents, I had revealed the holes. Into those holes, I needed to redistribute events and revelations more subtly and evenly; I also flat-out needed more of them. And I needed to figure out if any of the discarded sections were worth keeping, after being flogged into submission with a thorough reworking, of course.

I wanted to talk it all through with someone, but  no person on the planet has enough patience to listen to me think-out-loud as I go over every detail of a plotline.

revision via voice recorder bra showing square

No person except me, that is.

revision via voice recorder blue glow

So, I took the ultimate Artist Date. I settled in on my balcony with iced coffee, my smokes, the revised (hole-riddled) section map, and my cell phone. I fired up the same Easy Voice Recorder I use for EVP hunting. Then I talked my way through the entire story. It took an hour and a half. Then I listened and took notes for another two hours.

And now I know what to do with my writing time this week.

God, I wish I’d done this a long time ago.

I’ve taken the first seven minutes or so of that session, slapped it on top of a slide show of images that suit the book, and posted it to my youtube channel:

Those seven minutes cover the first five sections (of eighty-one.) Each section is  3-5 manuscript pages. (Sections are not chapters, nor even necessarily scenes – a scene can have multiple sections. These are guidelines, people, it’s not as restrictive as it sounds.)

You’re welcome to have a listen.
In case you’re curious, I can tell you the swearing on the full recording doesn’t start until right about section 23. After that there is much wailing and gnashing of teeth until 34, then I’m calm for another dozen sections, then there’s one more terribly-irked rant, before the ending sequence really kicks in at 56. That’s not too bad, is it?

By the way, In this process, I may have stumbled onto my title. It might be appropriate to name the story after the town in which it takes place, especially if the name of the town also describes the story arc. (Here’s the plot synopsis.) Of course, that may be too punny. If it works though, which do you like better, Heritage Falls or Legacy Falls?


It’s the first of the month, so WriMoProg is open for a new cycle. 

I’m really proud of my June results – As usual, I spent too much time on social networking and could have done better on the novels, but I exceeded my total goal.
June, 2013 –  GOAL: 68 (novels) + 30 (blog and other social media) = 98 (hours) 
ACHEIVED: 60 +58 = 118

I feel like I can do better this month, so I’ve set my bar higher – kind of a lot higher, now that I think about it, but we’ll see.
July 2013 WriMoProg: 2 + 8 = 10/145
[X + Y = Z / total-hours goal, where X = writing/editing time, Y= other writerly tasks.]