In the depths of mid-November, it’s not too late to start a NaNoWriMo project, right?

It’s turned cold. The pond has become frozen in time, transformed by a clear sheet of ice. It’s as if I’m looking at a photograph of it, even when I stand on the deck, feeling the chill wind that should be rippling its surface.

It is a visual metaphor for the last twelve days of my life.

I’ve been absent from blog, but you already knew that. After posting daily for all of October, I needed a break. I think I intended to take a couple of days off, but that stretched into twelve.

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I knew this would happen, but it still stings.

I gave the first five days of my blog vacation to just being with my family, while my daughter was still in town. On November 4th, we rented a game called Beyond Two Souls and the kids played it through, while Ogre and I watched. It was a good distraction for those last 24 hours before Pooka had to catch her flight.

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I’ll be reviewing this in the near future.

She left on the afternoon of November 5th. It’s ok that she’s gone home – I know she missed her Beau, and her cat, and her own computer, and her own life. Facebook, and the internet in general, make being separated from a family member much more bearable than it used to be. Interacting online is our normal, and always has been. (When Pooka was a kid, it wasn’t unusual for us to communicate via instant messages. When she was home for her extended visit, we continued to send memes and reminders to each other through various social media channels.)

So that’s all right then. I suppose I mention it because I’m feeling disconnected, but it’s not the 1,300 miles between my daughter and me causing the problem.

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Despite my good intentions, I pretty much lost the six days between her departure and today as well. I’m not entirely clear on what I’ve been doing. I guess I’ve been reading, cooking, cleaning – all the normal stuff. I’ve watched most of three seasons of The 4400. I spent one day sorting through my knitting books, yarns and needles and making swatches. I even went to the gym once. Beyond that, it’s pretty fuzzy.

This happens every year at about this time. November through January are tough months for me. First there’s the loss of light and the advent of the bitter cold that makes being outside, even in the few available daylight hours, painful. Soon there will be icy roads to enforce my isolation and trigger my vicious winter-driving anxieties – for myself and for everyone else I love. Next there will be Christmas – a season that makes me feel poor. I become sensitized to finances, of course, (and this year the finances are especially bad … again) but it’s more than that. I become increasingly aware of how tattered my once-large tapestry of extended family and friends has become over the years.

And then there’s the thoughts of my dad – who inadvertently carved my hatred of winter into me – rising closer to the surface of my mind every night as I lie awake, wishing for a way to get warm for more than a few minutes at a time. Experience has taught me that such thoughts come with the cold and become more frequent as we draw closer to January 29th, the anniversary of his death.

dad with pool

Apparently I was dubious. I’m told he eventually just sat down in the middle of the pool, still wearing his dress pants, and pulled me onto his lap, so that I wouldn’t get scared.

I hardly knew him, really. My parents had divorced when I was two, because my father was physically abusive to my mother and drank too much. In the years between the divorce and his death, our relationship was confined to infrequent, usually supervised, visits. I think I last saw him in 1976.

In 1977, he froze to death in a field alongside a deserted road, on the coldest night of the year. I was nine years old.

Of him, I have only the stories told to me as I grew up, a few distinct memories, and a handful of photographs – including thirteen – taken by a cop or coroner – of the “accident scene”.

dads car with cop car

Most of them don’t show his body, but some of them do.

The photographs are in a pink and white envelope, emblazoned with the words: photosshare your happy times, order reprints and enlargements.

Right now, I’m supposed to be writing about him. Well, not about the truth of him, but rather about the stories I’ve woven about him. Back in early October, I decided this would be the year I would tackle my feelings about what happened in my fiction. NaNoWriMo seemed like a great time to just let everything go onto the page.

But, aside from some pre-writing and outlining, I’ve not started.

Writing anything about him is hard. Even here and now I feel guilty about bringing this up. I just ran a search on the blog, to make sure that I haven’t already written about all this. I usually want to, but it seems I’ve not allowed it to bleed into this blog since I started it. 

I guess, some part of me recoils from the drama of it all. This is not my first slow-motion melt-down about my daddy issues. I assume folks around me are sick of it. I’m pretty sure that, as an adult, I ought to be able to put this to rest. But not talking about it, or writing about it, has not made anything easier, so I’m going to go ahead with it. (and wordcounts and deadlines be damned.) 

Tomorrow, you’ll be returned to your regularly scheduled programming here at the blog. (I’ve already written Wednesday’s post, a fangirl squee about Tom Hiddleston.)  I’m betting, however, that this won’t be the last you hear of my father this winter.

Tonight’s post is just my way of breaking the ice.

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

THE LIGHT UP THE NIGHT PARADE:

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

Confused?

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:

THE VULCANS:

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

THE VULCANS IN MY LIFE:

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.

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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.

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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. 

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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.

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