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This will also net you a free copy of my short story “Homesick,” in my Time in Yellowstone series.
You can click on the cover to read the first section, to help you
The theme for this week’s snippets is autumn, given that the equinox is tomorrow. My short story Homesick takes place at this time of year, so I thought it might be appropriate.
I just hope it’s not too confusing out of context!
Karin had fallen in love that day, for the second time in mere months. The first, Will thought with satisfaction even after all these years, had been with him. And that, he’d discovered soon after, was that. Will found himself taken in by the darkhaired young scoundrel Jem, and party to Karin’s adoption of him as their own almost before he knew what happened.
And now here was Jem’s son, another five-year-old miscreant who had them wrapped around his little fingers. At least Will’s father had never claimed the namesake he’d predicted Jem’s wife would bear was a time traveler.
Yes, I woke up to more rain two weeks ago today. I drove back into the park, anyway, of course (it’s about thirty miles from West Yellowstone to Old Faithful), and parked Kestrel (my car) near the lodge. Still feeling optimistic about the weather at this point, I packed up my daypack with all the necessities for a day out in the geyser basin, including, but not limited to, my Kindle, my journal, and my cross-stitch (some geysers must be waited for, sometimes for up to three or four hours).
Fortunately, my daypack is waterproof and I have a good raincoat. My first stop was in the visitor center, to check the eruption predictions. Old Faithful itself goes off often enough that one can often catch it in passing while headed somewhere else, but Riverside only goes off every six hours or so, Castle every nine to eleven hours, and the Grand, that pinnacle of predictible geysers, erupts about every seven to eight hours, so if I wanted to see them, I needed to know when to go sit and wait for them.
Eruption predictions are never on the minute. Grand, for instance, has a three-hour window, which means that it’s most likely to go off up to an hour and a half on either side of the prediction time. Riverside and Castle were predicted to have morning eruptions, and the Grand wasn’t due to go off till late afternoon.
Anyway. About the time I left the visitor center, the sky opened up. Not quite raining in sheets, but in the five minutes it took me to walk from the visitor center to the Old Faithful Inn, I was fairly drenched where my raincoat didn’t cover me, and the visor of my hood was dripping.
Still, as I peered through the murk over towards Old Faithful, I did see Lion Geyser erupting in the distance. But I really didn’t want to get any wetter, so I used the zoom on my camera to get this shot.
And instead of sitting out in the rain waiting for things to erupt, I went into the Inn and found myself a cozy spot and caught my journal up after several days of ignoring it. Not exactly what I’d had in mind, but there are much worse places to be stranded.
An hour or so later the rain let up and I finally went out into the geyser basin. I walked out as far as Castle Geyser, which had apparently gone off during the rainstorm but was still bellowing (and I mean bellowing — the sound is pretty impressive) steam.
I turned right and headed across the bridge towards Sawmill, which was churning away as usual. I know the “real” geyser gazers don’t think much of Sawmill because it robs energy and water from other, rarer geysers like Tardy and Penta, but I like Sawmill, for its chugging sound (hence the name) and simply because it looks like it’s thoroughly enjoying itself.
Most geysers do. I can’t help anthropomorphizing them that way. I just can’t. I’ve never met a more cheerful geologic phenomenon than a geyser, and that’s just the way it is.
I strolled around Geyser Hill, past Giantess (one of the biggest geysers in the world — and also one that I’ll probably never get to see because it erupts so seldom) and Beehive, which is not an officially-predicted geyser, but can be caught occasionally because it’s got what’s called an indicator, which is a small geyser off to its side that often starts erupting just before Beehive itself does. I’d missed it this morning, but here’s what it looks like from 2008, in much better weather, when I didn’t miss it.
Then it started raining again, and it was past lunchtime, so I went to what’s affectionately known as the Lower Ham (Hamilton, although it’s no longer owned by the family) store, and ate lunch at the counter there. That lunch counter/soda fountain has been there a long time, by local standards. The store itself was first built in 1897, and Charley, who was still Chuck at that point, ate his last meal in 1959 there before he inadvertently time-traveled back to 1877 in Repeating History. It’s also where James first went looking for his son just after Chuck disappeared and met Jo in Finding Home. An important place, the Lower Ham store.
Then again, so is the whole Upper Geyser Basin, so far as I’m concerned. My short story “Homesick” takes place here, too, and one geyser in particular is very significant in both Repeating Historyand “Homesick.”
It took the rain a while to let back up again, alas, although I did catch what turned out to be my only view of Old Faithful from where I’d walked back to the Lodge (as opposed to the Inn), and by the time it did, it was getting close to four in the afternoon, Grand’s predicted time. Of course, given the window, it could have already gone off, but I didn’t have anything to lose except the time and a little shoe leather, so I headed back out one more time. Except for the rain, this was a pretty normal geyser basin day for me. Out and back and out and back, watch this geyser and that, have a thoroughly good time.
Anyway, when I got back out to the Grand, there were still a fair number of people sitting and waiting. My spirits rose. And, lo and behold, less than ten minutes after I sat down, guess what happened?! Grand’s pool, which had already been overflowing, started generating little waves, Turban (a kinda sorta indicator) went off, and away Grand went! I think that’s the shortest amount of time I’ve ever waited for the Grand.
And it was. Grand, that is. Just one burst, but it was a good long one, and that was enough to make my day. Make my trip, actually.
Especially since I always think of the Grand as Charley’s geyser. It was a crucial half (the other half being an earthquake I’ll tell you about tomorrow) of the phenomenon that sent Chuck back in time to become Charley in Repeating History, and it also caused Charley’s son Will and — okay, this may get confusing — Will’s five-year-old grandson Chuck (yes, that Chuck) to witness something in “Homesick” that changed their lives forever.
The rain didn’t start back up yet again until I was back in my car and headed back to West Yellowstone an hour or so later, either, and that was a good thing, too.
August, 1945. Ranger Will McManis patrols an empty Upper Geyser Basin in Yellowstone, V-J day and his mother’s death on his mind. His grandson, five-year-old Chuck, will leave soon, too, off to faraway Denver, a brand-new life, leaving a huge hole. Will thinks he knows all kinds of change. But out among the geysers with Chuck, something happens to dwarf it all, and nothing will ever be the same again.
If any of you follow more writers besides me, you’ve probably seen others doing the Writing Process Blog Tour, in which different writers discuss the stories they’re working on and how they do it. They tag the writer who tagged them, and find other writers to join in. What you get out of it? Finding new writers and spreading the word!
What Am I Working On? Right now, I’m working on what I hope will become the first book in another series, set in what will later become Mt. Rainier National Park. My hero is a young man from Savannah, Georgia, who is traveling west in the summer of 1885 in hopes of a cure for his consumption (tuberculosis, very common but as yet uncurable at that time, although not always fatal in the short term), but also to escape from his smothering family. And that’s about exactly how far I am with Stephen’s story right now, except that it does have a title: Zoetrope, which is also the name of a simple 19th century gizmo for creating the illusion of moving images, which may give you a slight idea as to where I intend to go with this one. Or not.
Once I finish building the museum exhibit that is consuming the rest of my life between now and May 3rd when it opens at the Lakewood Historical Society, I will also be revising my “highway patrolman crashes his cruiser out in the wilds east of the Cascade Mountains and finds himself in the local equivalent of Brigadoon” story. Brigadoon if it wasn’t silly and full of music, that is. That one’s called Sojourn.
How Does My Work Differ From Others Of Its Genre? I’ve never actually run across other books in my particular sub-genre, which isn’t to say that they don’t exist. My books are fantasy, but they’re not quest fantasy or urban fantasy. Definitely not urban. Almost all of them are historical because they involve time travel and other fantastical hijinks, but they’re not in located in the usual settings for historical fantasy, even though there’s a lot of straight historical fiction, and other time travel novels for that matter, set in the Old West, but not any fantasy set in national parks that I’m aware of. Love stories are central to all of my books, but only one of them is a genre romance, and it’s contemporary. It’s also something of an aberration, because I have no other genre romances in the works. I have to admit this has made my Yellowstone trilogy-plus (the plus being the short story “Homesick“, which is available for free through my website) the marketing challenge from heck.
Why Do I Write What I Do? Because I have a penchant for looking at perfectly ordinary things and thinking, “what if?” Well, okay, Grand Geyser is not ordinary in any normal sense of the term, but I don’t know of anyone else who has watched the Grand erupt in all its glory and thought, “wouldn’t that make a terrific time travel device!” A lot of my writing (like much of my own sense of identity) is inspired by a sense of place, and from learning about a place’s history. The people generally just show up and tell me that I need to take their dictation about the bizarre adventures they’ve had, which isn’t to say that they’re not important. I read for character, pretty much full stop, so I write for it, too.
How Does Your Writing Process Work? Lois McMaster Bujold once talked about her writing process as “writing to the next event horizon.” That’s pretty much what I do, too (imitation being the sincerest form of flattery, especially when it works). I brainstorm the plot until I’ve gotten as far as I can get, then I sit down and write up to that point, then I brainstorm till I’ve hit the next event horizon, then I write to that point, and so on and so forth till I’ve reached The End.
I like to know the end point I’m aiming for early on, but that doesn’t always happen, and even when it does it often changes before I get there. The only time I actually knew the very last sentence in the book when I started was with True Gold, my Klondike Gold Rush novel and the second in my Time in Yellowstone series (yes, I managed to get Yellowstone into a Klondike Gold Rush novel – if you want to know how, read the book [g]). I won’t say what it was because it’s a spoiler, but I knew from the very beginning exactly who was going to say the last line, and what he was going to say. And he did!
So, that’s how I write, and if you’re a fellow writer and you would like to be tagged, comment here and I’ll amend the post.
To celebrate our arrival in 2014, I am giving away five ebook copies of your choice of my books. My only request is that if you’re one of the five winners, you post a review on Amazon when you’re done reading.
To enter, leave a comment talking about the best book you read in 2013. Make sure I have a way to contact you. I’ll draw five winners at random in a week or so.
Winners will receive a coupon for the free book through Smashwords, which provides plenty of formats, including for the Kindle. And since there’s no shipping costs, that means there are no geographic restrictions on who can enter.
Please spread the word, and start out the new year with a new book to read!