Well, my worst fear happened: I missed the deadline for Spooky North Dakota. It’s OK with my editor; she said to just have it in by December 1st. It will cut into initial sales, though, since the State Museum Stores and most of the other places that will carry it, other than Barnes and Noble across the state, and maybe in Minnesota and South Dakota, do their buying in the spring. So they won’t be buying until spring of 2011. (My, that sounds like it ought to be so very far away!)

How did this happen? A number of reasons. First, procrastination and writer’s block; I couldn’t really get going on it until I decided to start writing first drafts the way I write fiction: on a notepad with a pen. That broke the dam and words began to flow. Another reason was illness. Every time I took a day trip to get photos, I’d lose not only that day but at least one more, if not two or three. I also managed to have bouts of everything I have bouts of to put me “down” for days at a stretch. But just as I thought it was going to happen, catastrophe struck.

I sat at my computer on July 8, typing in a section with several stories (true or not, depending on your beliefs!), when suddenly I caught a whiff of a vile odor. I looked under the table (always suspect the dog…) but realized that innocent Kimiko was outside. The odor grew in strength and horrendousness (and if that’s not a word, it should be), and I got up and walked towards the back door. Right inside my back door is the landing of the stairs to the basement, and the odor was emanating from the depths. I turned on the light, and walked down a few stairs, trying not to inhale, and saw that one of my worst fears had come true.  The sewer had backed up into my basement. Oh dear lord, the stench.  The area that was flooded, about 6 inches deep, happens to be my laundry area, and three or four plastic laundry baskets of clothes, sheets and towels were gleefully soaking up the sewage (I know, I’m anthropomorphizing — but that’s what it looked like!).

This has never happened to me before, so I didn’t know who to call. I called the plumber I have usually used. He came over promptly, walked down part of the stairs, and said, “The sewer line has backed up into your basement.” (well, duh. That’s what I’d said when I called!). “What can you do?” I asked. “Nothing until it gets cleaned up,” he replied. “Then I can look for the clog.”

Now, because my mother had the same thing happen in her house shortly before she died, and didn’t have insurance to cover it, I decided, since my house has a basement, that I should get the rider my mother didn’t have to cover sewer back-up — meaning that the clean-up would only cost the $1000 deductible.  My insurance company has a preferred (premier? some fancy word) service that does that, so they came out and looked, and suggested that it would save me time and money if I hauled the laundry, etc., out of the basement. Me? with no immune system and no protective gear? I think not. That’s why I’ve been paying that little extra premium all these years! So he said they’d come back the next day.  My dog went to the kennel, and I came to my sister’s house, with a few things because I didn’t think it would take long.

Of course, I couldn’t see what was past the laundry area, so I didn’t know about the damage to the basement bathroom or to the finished bedroom in the basement that I don’t use because in the massive storm of 2002 there was water seepage there, and I had to pull out the carpet and pad, as well as everything stored in the closet (if it’s not one thing…). But I digress.  No, not really. The cleaners put all the stuff in my garage (which leaks like a sieve, and it’s been raining far above average since then), and finally finished their work, including replacing and repainting some drywall,  just this last Friday, the 31st of July. The plumber charged $85 to say “The sewer backed up,” then about $700 to come back after the sewage was removed run cable and a camera 100 feet and find nothing (which the insurance won’t cover) , then another $400 to come again and run cable and camera 130 feet and push “tree roots, probably” into the main line, which the insurance agreed to cover since “determining the cause” is mentioned in the rider. So, $1700 later, I can theoretically return to the basement. Uh-huh.

Then the planned remodeling of my upstairs bathroom and new kitchen flooring began on the 20th (actually they gutted the bathroom the Friday before that, right down to the 1920’s era lathe and plaster, to remove all the mold and mildew and start over).  They said they’d be done by the 25th. It’s now August 2 and there is no floor in the bathroom, the tile isn’t done, and nothing but the tub is in place. In the kitchen, the floor remains, although painting has started. It’s been one thing after another. And one of the crew wants to live with me when they’re done (I’m like flypaper for strange folk…). I really, really hope they’re done by the 5th, but I’m not holding my breath. More than I miss my home, I miss my dog; I am grateful that she actually enjoys the kennel.

I found, and continue to find, that it’s nearly impossible to work here.  This computer is old and so is the software; I can’t get my email here; there is no place to spread my research material and notes, and my sister, or her “presence,” is here always, hovering.

But, there is a blessing in the midst of this. Thanks to a fellow writer, I am in contact with someone who has more info — almost firsthand, stories from his father and aunt — about one of the incidents in my book. At least two, and hopefully three, of the haunted places I’m including will be investigated by Dakota Paranormal Investigators in August, and they’re willing to share their reports and photos with me at no cost (they’ll be credited, of course, in the acknowledgments and bibliography, and the caption of any photo I use — and probably any text, too).  So I now have, and continue to get, information that will make the book better. I guess that’s something to be grateful for, right?

This weekend my sister from the Twin Cities is visiting, so I haven’t much time. I do intend to do a family and birthday related post soon, along with another sneak peek  of  Spooky North Dakota.  I hope someone looks at this, once in a while!