Sunday, June 26, 2011

North Dakota Flood of 2011

Hey there! It's been quite a long time since I blogged, and for that I apologize. Sometimes real life gets in the way of cyberspace.

So a couple of weeks ago we left on vacation - a road trip across the western half of the U.S., culminating in visiting family in Oregon. We drove from North Dakota through Montana to Yellowstone Park. The park was miserable. It was so packed with tourists it felt like driving in rush hour traffic and all I wanted was to get out. There was no way to commune with nature with that much traffic.

After escaping Yellowstone we stayed in Idaho, then the next day drove to Salt Lake City were we discovered some of the rudest drivers ever. Seriously, I was astonished at the bad behavior.

After Utah, we took off west to Reno where we stayed at Circus Circus for 2 days and had an absolute blast. Hubby and I only gambled a little bit because we had so much fun with the kids in the arcade and midway we had no desire to go to the casino.

After Reno we traveled through Northern California (the Shasta and Lassen wilderness areas are so incredibly beautiful it made up for the Yellowstone debacle) and up to Grants Pass, Oregon to visit family. The next stop was the Oregon Coast where we enjoyed the beach (well, the rest of the family did...I stayed in the hotel room and suffered with excrutiating tooth pain from a rotten tooth).  The last stop on the trip was Salem, Oregon where we visited more family.

Throughout the trip we monitored news back home about the flooding taking place in Minot, ND, which is only about 20 miles from our hometown. The Mouse River has inundated Minot and, unfortunately, our home town lies along the same river.

On the morning of our second day in Salem we learned that our hometown was calling for a mandatory evacuation 2 days hence. So we all piled into the car and drove 30 hours straight to get back home in time to pack our house for evacuation. Luckily we have 3 licensed drivers in the family. We stopped at a rest stop somewhere near Deer Lodge, MT and slept for 2 hours, then did a 3-man driving rotation where whoever wasn't driving could sleep.

We got home in time to get our house in order for evacuation. We managed to get a lot of stuff into plastic tubs and into our storage unit, but since we have no place to put furniture, our only choice was to haul everything up to the second floor, hoping that if the town does flood the water won't get that high. We didn't have enough time to clear out the whole house or enough space on the second floor to cram everything we own, so it came down to a lot of this more important than that?  All 3 bedrooms, a bathroom, and a hallway upstairs are packed solid with stuff.

Right now we're living in a hotel. The one lucky moment in this whole disaster was that when I called hotels in Minot (the part that isn't flooded), I was able to find us a room. Trust me, this is a minor miracle considering that parts of Minot, all of the town of Sawyer and most of the town of Velva have been evacuated. Hotels are booked solid.

So here we sit, with our cat, waiting out the river.  It's supposed to crest in our town tomorrow, and we're all on pins and needles waiting to see if all the clay temporary diking that the Nat'l Guard and Army Corps of Engineers heaped on top of the regular dike will hold. The river is already above the level of the regular dike and as of this morning much of the temporary dike was eroding from the river flow.  They were scrambling to place plastic sheeting and sandbags over the dike to prevent more erosion.

So that's where it stands at the moment. Until the river decides what it's going to do, we're basically homeless. Luckily I work from home anyway, so I should be able to work from the hotel and continue to earn a living. Other than that, it's just an effort to keep from going stir crazy.

The pictures above show:  the river hitting the bottom of the bridge at the north end of town. You can see the temporary dike on the right above the river; the second pic shows how they diked the bridge; the last pic shows the erosion before they started covering it with plastic and sandbags.

So that's the scoop. Anybody else live through natural disasters? What's your story?

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Shout Out for Blogfests

As many of you know, I love blogfests. They're a fun way to meet new bloggers, practice writing in genres or styles or with prompts you normally wouldn't, and to practice your craft.

I usually keep a list of upcoming blogfests over there on the right, but as you can see, all the blogfests on my list are expired, and I haven't seen any new ones advertised recently. Is everyone just exhausted from the A-Z Challenge? Or am I just not tapped into the blogfest Source?

Although I will be hosting a blogfest upcoming (probably at the end of June...but I haven't got the deets planned yet), I'd like to beef up the list for between now and then.

That's where you, dear readers, come in. Do you know of any upcoming blogfests I can add to my list? Join me in scouring the blogosphere for blogfests and let me know what you find. I'll add them to my list and we can have loads of fun blogfesting the summer away!

Friday, May 6, 2011

A-Z Challenge Wrap-up

So, for those of you playing along at home, you can see that I dropped the ball on the final stretch of the A-Z Challenge, having missed V-Z.  My excuses? Well, the semester was rushing inexorably toward closure and I had to hurry up and finish my MFA thesis so I can graduate, plus I had tons of grading to do for my freshman composition courses. So basically I was buried under it.

But now that the MFA thesis has been turned over to the thesis committee, I'm seriously relieved. The screenplay is pretty good, if I do say so myself. In fact, one of my mentors who has connections wanted to set up a staged reading in high places. We'll see if anything comes of that.

I still have grading of final papers to do for my composition courses, but hopefully that won't take too long.

Then I'll be back to just doing the day job...and searching for a job relevant to my new MFA. So if anyone knows of any writing jobs out there? Or teaching writing? Or maybe editing? Or something...anything?

Meantime, I'll try to finish up the V-Z posts. I still need to write Artie's tale to complete the Happy Acres tales...if anyone was paying attention to them. Which leads me to my only criticism of the A-Z Challenge: It was just too big. There were so many participants that instead of finding a bunch of fun new people to follow I ended up frustrated trying to sift through the thousand-plus participants for blogs I might be interested in. And everyone else was so busy trying to sift through them all, that my blog traffic actually went down (not that I'm all that, you know, popular to start with, although I did gain some followers, so that's good!).

Anyway, hang in there and for those of you following the Happy Acres Saga, there will be more soon. And everybody stay tuned for details about the upcoming blogfest...

What did you think of the A-Z Challenge?

Monday, April 25, 2011

T and U are for Thank U

Today is U-Day for the A-Z Challenge - it's the home stretch!

Obviously I'm running out of steam since I'm late posting T and U. I still need to write Artie's story for the Happy Acres Tales, and I'll get that done this week. I'm just in a big huge tizzy to get my MFA thesis all put together and mailed to the division office before the deadline or else I don't get to graduate. Ack!

Plus there's the whole job hunting for both me and Hubby, plus Hubby's graduating and oldest son is graduating from high school, so we're kind of hectic here.

But....the T and U of Thank U (which is admittedly a tad of a stretch for T and U) are for my followers. I appreciate your attention and comments, and I love meeting new bloggers and finding new and worthy blogs to follow.  So Thank yo(U) for being you and for being my followers!

I totally promise to have Artie's story done this week...probably Wednesday. And after the A-Z Challenge I'll announce the day of my 200-Follower Blogfest when you'll get the chance to create a character to add to the Happy Acres family.

Friday, April 22, 2011

S is for Simon's Tale

Today is S-Day for the A-Z Challenge. How many challengers out there are running out of steam? Hang in there! We're heading into the home stretch!

I've got two more stories to go for the Happy Acres Tales, and today is Simon's. Enjoy!


Simon's Tale

"So," Simon said. "You want to know how I ended up here?"

I rolled my eyes. "Um, yeah. That's the whole point of this tale-telling thing." I wanted to add 'duh,' but resisted the urge.

"All right, I'll tell you. I'm an international spy. Well, a double agent actually. I work for a recognized government, but I'm also the head of an underground movement to reinstall a monarchy in Scotland. I'm the rightful heir to the throne, you know."

We all nodded with varying degrees of enthusiasm. Simon's insistence that he's the king of Scotland is old news around here. I heard somewhere that if you tell the same lie long enough and with enough conviction, people will start to believe it. Here at Happy Acres it's more like if you believe in your own delusions strongly enough, and repeat them with enough conviction, we all just accept it as fact.

"Scotland hasn't had it's own monarchy since sometime in the 17th century," Artie said. Since he was new to Happy Acres, he hadn't yet acclimated to Simon.

"Too true, my good man," Simon said. "And long past time to reinstall a monarch, don't you think?"

Artie looked at me, confused, unsure how to answer. I just nodded, indicating he should go along.

"I was undercover on a mission," Simon continued. "My cover was as a brewmaster running a distillery making fake Scotch whisky. We were trying to break a distribution ring. But it was also the headquarters of my underground monarchy movement."

"Ooooh," Tessa said. "International intrigue!"

"Quite right. I realized there was a mole in my organization and in my effort to flush him out things went bad and the distillery blew sky high. Needless to say, along with the whisky, my cover was blown."

"Scusies again, but if you're a super secret James Bondy type, why are you here?" Mia asked.

"Some stoolie ratted out my monarchy plans and because I posed a threat to the crown and the status quo, I was carted off and institutionalized," Simon said. His usual air of confidence had deflated into a pout.

"If you're a real spy, aren't you supposed to keep all your missions and identity secret?" Bill asked.

"Of course, but who'd believe any of you if you told them my story? You're all a bunch of lunatics. People will think you made the story up."

"Hey, I take offense at that," said T-Bone.

"As it turns out, Happy Acres is the perfect new base of operations for my monarchy movement."

"Right," I said. "Because everyone in Scotland is going to want a king who lives in the nut house."

"Britain has never had a shortage of mad kings," Artie pointed out.

"For perfect!" Mia said. "You fit right in, Simon!"

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Q and R are for Quite Right

Today is R-Day for the A-Z Challenge. I totally missed Q-Day so I'm going to combine them here.

Back to Happy Acres....


"So," I said. "Who's next? Simon or Artie?"

"I was the last one here, so I'll tell my tale last," Artie said.

"Well, then. I suppose that leaves me, doesn't it?" Simon said.

He rose from his chair and sauntered to the doorway where a fire extinguisher was mounted on the wall. Unfazed by all of us waiting for his tale, he fisted his hand and knocked once on the wall panel beneath the extinguisher. The board popped out and inside, balanced neatly on a two by four brace, was a fifth of Sobieski vodka and a shot glass.

"It's against the rules to have alcohol in here," Artie pointed out.

A sly smile spread Simon's lips as he opened the bottle and poured himself a shot.

"Rules are meant to be broken, my friend," he said, throwing back the shot.

He replaced the bottle and the glass, then closed the panel.

"Now we know where your stash is," I said, triumphant. Simon is, after all, my Happy Acres nemesis. I'm always looking for ways to get the upper hand in our ongoing battle of wills.

"Quite right, good lady," he said, crossing his arms and leaning against the door jamb. "But wouldn't I be foolish to keep all my eggs in one basket?"

"You have more hidden hooch?" T-Bone asked, surprised.

Simon just smiled and watched as everyone's eyes scanned the room and considered where else he could have hidden goodies.

"Just what else do you have hidden around here?" Artie asked.

"Oh!" Tessa said. "Like cupcakes?"

"No cupcakes," Simon said with disdain. He clearly thought himself above pastry.

"Then what?" Bill asked.

Simon headed back for his chair where he settled in, crossing his legs and behaving every inch the king he claimed to be. When he didn't answer, I just sighed in exasperation.

"Never mind," I said. "He's just going to jerk us around and laugh while we scurry around trying to find stuff he may or may not have hidden."

"Like some twisted Easter Bunny," T-Bone said.

"I love jelly beans," Tessa said.

"Just tell us your tale and be done with it," I said to Simon, glaring at him. Not that at this point I wanted him to have any more attention. But we'd already started the tale-telling and there was no getting around it now.

"Well," he said, then teased us with a long pause. "I could tell you, but then I'd have to kill you."

I scoffed at him. "Yeah, I'd like to see you try."

"Be careful what you ask for, good lady."

"What're you going to do, Simon, charm me to death? Or maybe drink me under the table? Or bore me to death by reading Hemingway aloud?"

"Don't tempt me," he warned.

Before I could deliver my comeback, Mia cleared her throat. "Scusies, but the zombies are impatiently waiting for a tres totes peachy tale. So maybe you two can, you know, perhaps square off after the tale-telling?"

Simon squirmed briefly in his seat, his gaze scanning the area around Mia, then quickly returning to meet her eyes. Simon is uncomfortable around Mia's zombies.

"You're quite right, Mia. It's story telling time. Don't want to upset the zombies, now, do we?"  He chuckled uneasily.

Tessa tossed a handful of rainbow confetti. "Yay for stories!"

"So," Simon said, "you want to know how I ended up here?"

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

P is for Perseverance and Pluck

Today is P-Day for the A-Z Challenge. I'm taking a little break from the Happy Acres crew, today. There are only two tales left to tell - Simon and Artie - and I need to ruminate over those for another day or so.

I wanted to talk about perseverance and pluck today because I'm trying to summon them myself. All writers get to the point where they're just so frustrated they want to give up, right? Especially once we've started querying, because at that point we think we have a perfect shiny manuscript and it's depressing when the first agent you query doesn't jump up and down and *squee* with delight, shoving a contract in your face and begging for the right to represent you.

A friend of mine just had her memoir accepted for publication at a small press after (get this) 39 rejections from agents and larger presses.  This woman is a brilliant writer and her memoir is amazing. And she still got 39 rejections.  And here I am feeling down in the dumps because I've received fewer than 10 rejections from agents I've queried for my paranormal romance.

So here I am summoning perseverance - the drive to continue polishing and revising my manuscript (because nothing is ever perfect), and pluck so I don't lose patience and slide into the doldrums.  I figure, as long as I learn from any comments I receive from agents and/or contest judges, and I'm able to make my manuscript better because of it, then at some point an agent is bound to *squee* for me!

How about you?