Category Archives: Tales of the Unearthly Northwest

a bit

The following is a bit I wrote back in 2011, when the Unearthly Northwest stories were just a gleam in my eye.  I always intended to develop this into another in the series, but it’s not going to happen now.

So I thought I’s post it, just for fun.  It’s about as horror-y as anything I’ve ever written, which is to say barely at all.  Enjoy or not as you see fit.

It’s called At Perigee.

I keep thinking about that dream I used to have where I was trying to escape from a big old wooden building with all sorts of passages and stairs and dead-ends while being chased by something so terrible I don’t even know what it is. By candlelight. So on top of everything else there’s the fire danger.

It’s all so dried out and weathered to a silvery gray and the floorboards creak and I’m so afraid I’m going to fall through one and get stuck and I don’t know what would be worse – burning to death from dropping the candle or being caught by whatever it is that’s so determined to catch me.

Oh, and it’s pitch black outside. No street lights, no glows from nearby windows, no other light source except the distant, unfeeling stars. My breath is catching in painful gasps, the sweat burns into my eyes, the hot wax is dripping onto my hand, my hair keeps waving closer to the flame as if it wants to catch fire, and I can’t find my bloody way out.

Endless corridors, more stairs, broken banisters, nails sticking up in odd places. I’m not dressed for this, either, in flimsy sandals and shorts and a tank top. If I wasn’t sweating from exertion, I’d be shivering from the cold. As it is, I’m swiping sweat with my free hand, making it slip when I try to use the half-broken banister to pull myself up. I round another corner and come up against a blank wall. Not another one. I can hear the – whatever it is, I don’t know if calling it a monster is literal or metaphorical – thumping after me, catching up to me, only one floor below now. I think. Not any further away, and surely not any closer. Please not any closer. A sliver of light glows feebly at the baseboard in front of me. I don’t have time to figure out secret doorways, but I’m desperate. I shove on it. I don’t have time to go back, either. The thumping is getting closer. I shove on it again, lower down. Gods, open. I shove at the bottom with my feet, earning a splinter in my toe and a broken strap on my sandal.

The thumping is, louder, closer, up to the stairs I just climbed, when, without my even pushing on it a fourth time, the wall swings wide, like a door. On – oh, gods, it’s – nothing. No floor, no balcony, just unsupported air.

Something like the wind, if the wind had hands, pushes me forward. I teeter on the sill, grabbing futilely at the door jamb, trying desperately not to fall into the abyss. The door – there was a door? – behind me bangs open, jarring the whole building. I lose my balance. I can’t hang on. The sandal with the broken strap falls off my foot. I teeter forward again. The air – pushes. I don’t dare look back. I don’t dare look down. I squeeze my eyes shut. I drop the burning candle. I lean forward. And I let go.

I don’t know what happens after that. I never got even that far in my dream. In my dream I’m still running, climbing stairs, reaching dead ends, never getting anywhere by the time I wake up.

Now it’s all a blur. I’m not sure the monster, literal or metaphorical, hasn’t killed me. I’m falling, sort of. It’s almost too soft to call a fall. Almost like the seesaw effect of a feather floating to the ground. The wind still has hands. Arms. It feels as if I’m being cradled by dozens of them as I float endlessly. I’m afraid of what they look like, what they want of me. But at least they don’t seem to want to kill me. They’re gentle, not grasping, not grabbing. Not painful at all, in fact. I wonder if it’s because they know I can’t see them. I squeeze my eyes shut even more tightly. I hear a soft whooshing sound as if the wind were trying to laugh at me. At least I know I haven’t been deafened. Surely I’ve fallen much farther than even all those staircases I climbed.

I have to open my eyes someday. I screw up my courage, but when I open them they might as well still be closed. Pitchy, pitchy black. No stars, no lights, not a single thing to orient me. I’m not even sure which way is down or if I’m floating instead of falling.

Except that right that moment, I land with a thump. I half expect it to be viscous, gooey, to suck me down, but I can’t see or feel the surface, not even when I drop to my knees and stretch my hands out. It’s as if the wind has solidified just enough to hold me, but not one bit more. I thought I’d been disoriented in that maze of a house, but it’s nothing compared to this.

I stand, or at least stretch out my body in a standing position. Just one sandal makes my stance awkward somehow. I kick it off. It disappears into the abyss. I can’t see it no matter how hard I peer for it. Just past where it should be – where it is, dammit, it can’t just disappear – I see a speck in the darkness. It flickers, but I can see it. I haven’t gone blind after all, either.

I step forward onto the air. I don’t see it as a leap of faith, more like a baby step of bewilderment. The light – beckons. I take another step. A second speck appears. Before I know it I am leaping. Not with faith. But definitely leaps. Towards the ever-receding light.

Wow, it’s so lovely and warm

I always wake up at the crack of dawn when I’m camping. Especially this time of year when it gets light before six in the morning. But that’s okay.

I’m not sure why (am I ever sure why?) I decided to drive up to Lake Chelan this morning, but I never really have before. I stopped in the touristy town of Chelan, at the foot of the lake, to buy batteries for my camera and to stick my head in a quilt shop on the main drag. Whoever their fabric buyer is, her taste does not agree with mine. I’m not a big fan of what I think of as sixties neon, and that was about all that little shop held.

There is no road clear around Lake Chelan. It’s a landlocked fjord, and the upper end of the lake reaches deep into the North Cascades. There are two roads on either side. The one on the north shore of the lake is only about twenty miles long. The one on the south side is about twice that length, so that’s the one I took.

Lake Chelan is the third deepest lake in North America at over 1500 feet deep (the bottom is lower than sea level), according to a sign I read at the ferry landing. It’s roughly 55 miles long, and varies from one to two miles wide. It’s also pretty darned gorgeous. I stopped at the Fields Point Landing, a few miles up the lake, to poke around the visitor center and ask about the ferry that runs daily to Stehekin, the tiny settlement at the head of the lake. One of these days I want to take that trip, but the boat had left an hour or so earlier. Next time.

But I saw beautiful views, anyway, and more flowers.

The view across Lake Chelan from Field’s Landing. I don’t know if that’s a permanent snowcap or if it’s just because it’s only May.
A view of the ferry landing and down the lake.
Along the path looking northward along the lake. The yellow flowers are more balsamroot.
Prairie Star Flower. I saw these for the first time down in Oregon on my Long Trip last summer. This was the only shot I got of them this trip where the blossoms weren’t blurred by the breeze.

I’d thought about camping at 25 Mile Creek State Park at the end of the road that night, but it wasn’t even noon yet, and I decided I wanted to actually go on up to the Okanogan. So, stopping along the way to make a picnic lunch, I headed up to the town of Omak, where one of my favorite quilt shops (Needlyn Time) is. And, yes, this time I bought fabric, which I needed like a hole in the head, but tough.

After that, I headed up to Conconully, the little town that inspired the ghost town of the same name in my Unearthly Northwest books.

The view from the highway going up to Conconully from Omak. Please excuse the bug blurs — I had to take this through the windshield because there really wasn’t a good place where I could get out of the van.
This is what I meant by more balsamroot than I’ve ever seen on one trip before. Whole *hillsides* of the stuff.

Conconully is one of the few towns I know of with a state park right at the edge of town. But it’s a nice state park, and the campsite I wound up at was right on the lake and pretty secluded. I spent what was left of the afternoon just enjoying the day and reading, and listening to the red-winged blackbirds sawing their courtship cries. Oh, and watching the geese and ducks use the lake as a landing and launch pad. And the deer eating the campground’s mowed grass.

One of the red-winged blackbirds who sawed his mating call all afternoon at Lake Conconully.
One of the deer who wandered through the campground in the afternoon.
The view from my campsite at Conconully State Park.
My campsite at Conconully State Park.
Sunset from my campsite.

All in all, I drove a bit more than I had intended, but it was well worth it.

Over the mountains to sunshine

It’s no secret that this has been the wettest winter on record in western Washington (almost 45 inches of rain between October 1st and April 30th – our average, for well over a hundred years of record-keeping, is closer to 35 inches for the entire year), and one of the coldest. There’s no argument that it’s been incredibly depressing as well (and personal reasons have made it even more so for me).

So, when the weather forecasters for this past week noted (with great cheer) that it was supposed to get to and over 70dF on the west side of the mountains for the first time this year on Wednesday and Thursday, and even warmer, with lots of sunshine, on the east side, I thought, you know what? Screw it, I’m going camping.

Of course, when I thought about the east side of the mountains, my first idea was to go back to the Okanogan, which almost feels like home after the time I spent there researching my first two Tales of the Unearthly Northwest. I was also hoping it would nudge me back into writing the third Tale, which has sat there a few chapters in whining at me for longer than I want to think about it, due to those personal reasons I mentioned above. That didn’t really happen, but at least I got to spend some time in the sun, in nature, and to see lots of spring wildflowers.

The first place I went for flowers wasn’t on the way to the Okanogan, not in the region proper. At some point in the past I had picked up a flyer titled Wildflower Areas in the Columbia Basin, and one of them was about ten miles southeast of Wenatchee.

That turned out to be something of an adventure, as the photo of the Rock Island Grade Road will show. At my first sight of it, I thought, oh my gosh, I hope that little dirt road climbing up the side of a canyon isn’t the one they’re talking about, but yes, it was.

The Rock Island Grade “Road”, looking back towards the Columbia River from where I saw so many wildflowers.

It wasn’t the steepest, narrowest road I’ve ever driven, but I think it’s the steepest, narrowest dirt road I’ve ever driven. The recommended place to stop was about two and a half miles up, and the flyer hinted that there was a parking area. Ha. And what it turned out to be was a place for locals to go up and shoot cans, with all of the attendant garbage. That said, it was also literally carpeted with wildflowers. I managed to park Merlin as close to the edge of the road (not, at that point, hanging over the cliff) as I could, in case someone else came by (no one did, thank goodness), got out, and this is what I saw.

Spreading phlox spreading everywhere along the Rock Island Grade Road.
A phlox close-up.
And another. One of the things that makes phlox one of my favorite wildflowers (and garden flowers) is the infinite variation of a simple five-petaled flower in such a limited color palette.
The yellow flowers are wild radish. The purple ones are blue mustard. Both are tiny, but were profuse.
Yakima milkvetch, which was a new one to me.
And the first of more balsamroot I’ve ever seen in one trip before, which is saying a fair amount.

After I made my way cautiously back down to the highway, I headed back to Wenatchee, then north along Hwy. 97, which borders the Columbia River. It was getting fairly late in the afternoon by then, so I stopped at Lincoln Rock State Park, the first of three parks with campgrounds north of Wenatchee. I’d never camped there before. All of the sites are within sight of the river, and it was a peaceful, warm evening. I sat out in my lawn chair and just absorbed it all. Unfortunately, the batteries in my camera chose just then to give up the ghost, and apparently I’d forgotten to bring the spares, so I have no photos of that.

And that was my first day east of the mountains this year.  More tomorrow.

July 30: Ahoy, me mateys! And what’s a casino doing here?

Last night was fine, and this morning I got an early start and arrived at Mystic Seaport just before it opened at nine a.m.  I’ve got so many photos of the Seaport that I’m just going to put them all at the end.

It was just as good as I remembered, although I have to say I don’t remember a lot about it. The highlight was the Charles W. Morgan, which is the oldest whaling ship left in America. She just turned 175 years old a few days ago, according to the docent who told me. It was built in 1841. I got to board her and look around, and watch a crew launch one of the little boats they actually chased the whales in. That was fun.

I also went through lots of reconstructed period maritime businesses and a couple of homes (one of which had a garden I fell completely in love with), and went through a really wonderful (and air-conditioned – while the temperature is only in the low 80s, it’s even more ridiculously humid) exhibit on whaling history. It sorta took Moby Dick as a jumping off point, but aside from that (Moby Dick is one of my least favorite books I ever had to read in college) it was enthralling. Some of the technology they used for the exhibits was stuff I’d never seen before, too, which fascinated me, too.

Oh, and I got to see the one thing that made an indelible memory for me the last time I was here, which was the exhibit of ships’ figureheads. They were so cool.

I finally left Mystic Seaport about the middle of the afternoon, and came back to the Indian casino camper lot, where I decided I’d go check the casino itself out. Why not, right?

Well, it’s the biggest casino I’ve seen outside of Nevada (and presumably Atlantic City, although I’ve never been there), and certainly the biggest Indian casino I’ve ever seen (which is saying a fair amount as we have a number of them in Washington). I thought I’d check out the outlet mall attached to it, just for the heck of it (since I’m not a gambler and also because they don’t believe in smoke-free casinos the way they do at home). It was the biggest outlet mall I think I’ve ever seen, too, and it was only one small part of the casino. Anyway, I was really glad they had a shuttle running out to the parking lots, because my feet were dead by the time I was ready to leave.

Tonight I’m camped here again, but tomorrow night I have a reservation at a hostel in Newport, Rhode Island. I’d have had one tonight, but the Newport Jazz Festival is this weekend, so lodging was hard to come by. So I’ll go drive around where all the mansions are, and tour one or two (I’m thinking of Cornelius Vanderbilt’s The Breakers, in particular), which is something I’ve always wanted to do, then I’ll spend the night and head north in the morning.

I will also have knocked off one more state (Rhode Island), probably the last one that I’ve never been to for this trip, since the only two left after that will be Oklahoma and Hawaii [g].

Then it’s on to Massachusetts, and New Hampshire, and Maine. And Canada!

A cigar store Indian standing in front of the grocery store.
A cigar store Indian standing in front of the grocery store.
Appropriately enough, the quilt on the bed in one of the homes I toured is a Mariner's Compass pattern.
Appropriately enough, the quilt on the bed in one of the homes I toured is a Mariner’s Compass pattern.
Calling Dan Reilly.  This is just like the police lantern he used in Sojourn!
Calling Dan Reilly. This is just like the police lantern he used in Sojourn!
Did you know they used to make sewing machine lubricant from whale oil???
Did you know they used to make sewing machine lubricant from whale oil???
A chunk of ambergris, which is a whale product.  One of my favorite fictional characters is described as smelling faintly of ambergris, and this is *not* what I was expecting it to be!
A chunk of ambergris, which is a whale product. One of my favorite fictional characters is described as smelling faintly of ambergris, and this is *not* what I was expecting it to be!
That globe is a projection screen, believe it or not.  You could choose one of three documentaries to watch on it.
That globe is a projection screen, believe it or not. You could choose one of three documentaries to watch on it.
The Charles W. Morgan, 175 years old.
The Charles W. Morgan, 175 years old, and the oldest whaling ship in existence today.
Crew's quarters in the Morgan.  Can you imagine spending several years straight sleeping in there???
Crew’s quarters in the Morgan. Can you imagine spending several years straight sleeping in there???
Another view of the Morgan.
Another view of the Morgan.
Lowering a whaling boat from the Morgan.
Lowering a whaling boat from the Morgan.
The garden I fell in love with.  It's the mishmash of flowers, the whole dooryard thing, and the picket fence, I think.
The garden I fell in love with. It’s the mishmash of flowers, the whole dooryard thing, and the picket fence, I think.
Aren't these the most beautiful rose hips you've ever seen?
Aren’t these the most beautiful rose hips you’ve ever seen?
Figureheads.  One of the few things I really remember from the last time I was here.
Figureheads. One of the few things I really remember from the last time I was here.
Tiger lilies!  Blooming full blast with all the stops out.
Tiger lilies! Blooming full blast with all the stops out.
Part of a whole display of miniature figureheads.  The biggest ones are about six inches tall.
Part of a whole display of miniature figureheads. The biggest ones are about six inches tall.

Reunion is now available

Reunion, the second Tale of the Unearthly Northwest, is now available as an ebook from  Amazon, Smashwords, and Kobo.

Other e-vendors and paperback coming soon.

Reunion Twitter ad

Lost in Time

The year is 1910, and unemployed teacher Claudia Ogden is at the end of her rope. With nowhere to go and no one to rely on, she has no future at all. On the rumor of a job in a small, remote town called Conconully, she decides to bet what’s left of her life on it.

But when she arrives, and to her relief is hired, what at first seem like small eccentricities loom ever larger and more inexplicably, mysteries that make no sense. That is, until she meets Conconully’s accidental magician, who wants her to save them.

But from what?

You can read the first chapter here.

Cover reveal for Reunion

Some of you have seen this already.  And I want to thank Tracy MacShane, who taught me how to cut out a piece of art from its background, which has confuzzled me for a long time.  Thank you, Tracy!

Reunion 500

I have done some re-branding for the covers of Tales of the Unearthly Northwest, as well.  Here are the new covers for Sojourn, and for New Year’s Eve in Conconully.  I will be changing those on all of the major sales sites very soon.

Sojourn final branded cover 300

 

 

 

 

 

NYE in C final branded cover 300