Category Archives: website

So, I was tagged in Facebook

RH 300 cover

Peggy Henderson, a fellow writer of Yellowstone, tagged me to talk about seven things in my writing life. That’s going to take some thinking.

1.  I’ve been writing a good chunk of my life. I started keeping my first journal on a trip to Alaska when I was fourteen, and I wrote my first fiction — an extremely bad case of Mary Sued fanfic of the shortlived 70s TV series Apple’s Way — not long after that. I kept voluminous journals (no longer in my possession, alas) in high school and college, wrote a lot of really bad poetry during the same time frame, and was only stopped dead in my tracks by the creative writing teacher from hell when I was twenty-one. I didn’t start writing again until my thirties, but have been ever since.

2.  It took me twelve years, off and on, from the time I first came up with the idea for Repeating History, until I actually had a published book in my hands. I wrote at least three other books (none of which have seen, or are likely to see, the light of day) during that time, too, though. And wasted a lot of time receiving rejection letters from tradpub and agents that said, in essence, “I really like this, but I can’t sell it,” during that time, too, before self-pubbing became a viable option.

3.  I’ve built two iterations of my own website, the first one hand-coded using Notepad and The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Creating a Website (I still own my dogeared copy), and the second one using self-hosted WordPress, which was both orders of magnitude easier and much more professional-looking. I’m rather proud of that, and of the fact that I do all my own graphics work, too. That was a steep learning curve for me.

4.  I vastly prefer writing about fictional versions of real places, and preferably real places I have visited, or, in one case, lived in briefly. I also vastly prefer to write about ordinary people dumped into supernatural circumstances than to write about people who are supernatural themselves. I firmly believe there’s magic in the world, even if the only place we can write about it is in fiction.

5.  I use the “event horizon” method of plotting, as once described by Lois McMaster Bujold. While I do usually have a last line or scene that I’m aiming for, what I do is plot until I hit the event horizon (the point where I can’t figure out what happens next), then write up to that point, then plot to the next event horizon, and so forth and so on, till I get to the end.

6.  NOT a fan of marketing my books. I worked in advertising in a past life, and so have an extreme allergy to being marketed to, which means I don’t want to inflict that on anyone else. This makes life difficult. Also, unlike writing books, marketing them does not have a clear beginning, middle, and end. That’s very frustrating.

7.  Most of my book ideas come from odd things I find, or from historical events, or from natural disasters, of all things.

I hope you enjoyed this little venture into sharing my writing life with you.  If you have any questions, please be sure to ask!

A trip to the Okanogan country, day 2

Harry the pig, who resides in the hamlet of Molson, Washington.
Harry the pig, who resides in the hamlet of Molson, Washington.

The knee could have been worse, I suppose. I won’t be doing any hiking today, at any rate.

But I head north to one of my favorite places in the Okanogan Highlands, the little half ghost town, half hamlet of Molson, which has the name of a Canadian beer because when the town was first founded, its settlers thought they were north of the 49th parallel (as it turns out, they were a couple of miles south of it, but oh, well).

It’s kind of a drive up there, another hour or so along the Okanogan River, past the little village of Riverside and through the slightly larger town of Tonasket, up to Oroville, along the southern shore of long, narrow Lake Osoyoos, which is cut in half by the U.S./Canadian border. There’s a huge grocery store just south of the customs building, with a parking lot always full of cars with British Columbia license plates. I guess groceries are cheaper in the U.S.?

At Oroville I turn east on a little two-lane called Chesaw Road (you know you’ve made the correct turn when you see the sign saying this way to the Sitzmark Ski Area, a little rope tow out in the middle of nowhere about forty miles out of Oroville), and head up through a narrow canyon, gaining quite a bit of altitude in the process before I come out on top of an undulating plateau. These are the true Okanogan Highlands, and are mostly ranchland where they’re not part of the national forest. About twelve miles east of Oroville is the lefthand turn on Molson Rd.

This is beautiful countryside, in so many ways. If you love rolling hills, larches and pines, golden brown grass, and wide open spaces, or you have a thing for wondering who lived in the occasional old, abandoned building out in the middle of the meadow, or even if — in spite of being absolutely in love with the thick Douglas fir forests on the west side of the mountains — you’re simply enthralled with the enormity of the bright blue sky, then the Okanogan Highlands are a balm.

One of the abandoned buildings you find scattered about the Okanogan.  This one is on the road to Molson.
One of the abandoned buildings scattered about the Okanogan. This one is on the road to Molson.

And the little town of Molson is well worth the drive. In the first place, it’s the home of the Molson School Museum I mentioned a couple of posts ago.

In the second, the citizens of Molson have preserved about an acre’s worth of historic buildings, which are open all the time so you can go in and explore.

The ghost town of Old Molson.
Part of the ghost town of Old Molson.
Inside one of the ghost town buildings of Old Molson.
Inside one of the ghost town buildings of Old Molson.

And in the third place, they have Harry the pig.

I love Harry.  I wanted his backstory so badly I invented one for him.  And then wrote a novel around it.
I love Harry. I wanted his backstory so badly I invented one for him. And then wrote a novel around it.

Now, I don’t know if the plaster pig in the abandoned store window in ‘downtown’ Molson actually has a name — I never asked. But in my novel Sojourn he’s Harry, and he’s very important to my fictional Conconully. As a matter of fact, the town might not even exist without him. So I love him. He’s just such a whimsy for a place like that.

After a couple of hours exploring and a pleasant picnic lunch, and a gravel lane that eventually leads me back to Tonasket, I reluctantly head south again. I need to be home by tonight, and it’s a good five-hour drive if I take the bit of a detour into the Methow Valley that I have planned.

My goat trail for the trip.  Actually, it was a very nice, well-maintained gravel road.
My goat trail for the trip. Actually, it was a very nice, well-maintained gravel road.

At the town of Okanogan I turn west, and less than half an hour later I realize that I ought to have checked the road conditions first. Unfortunately, as I mentioned in my last post, this past summer Washington state experienced its largest wildfire ever, which covered over 250,000 acres in the north central part of the state. The Carlton Complex fire caused damage that the area will still be recovering from years from now, and part of that damage was to U.S. Highway 20 between Okanogan and the Methow (pronounced Met-how, pronouncing the T and the H separately) Valley. The traffic was down to an alternating one lane for over a mile, and I lost a good half an hour by the time I reached the valley.

That was just my first check. The second was that State highway 153, which runs south down the valley towards Wenatchee, was also closed due to fire damage. Fortunately, a backroad runs parallel to it and a detour was set up. But I lost another hour by the time I got to Wenatchee.

Still, it was worth it, although I don’t think I’d have made the detour had I known. U.S. 20 climbs up over a magnificent pass and descends into the scenic Methow Valley, and the backroad down the valley was spectacular, crossing and recrossing the Methow River in the shadow of glorious mountains. And I found a non-crowded fruit stand just north of Wenatchee and loaded up on apples and pears.

I didn’t get home till well after dark that Sunday evening. I was tired and my knee was sore. But it was all so worth it. I highly recommend a weekend in the Okanogan country.

An update on Tales of the Unearthly Northwest

Sojourn E cover 300

My new series, Tales of the Unearthly Northwest, now has its very own page on my website, with a link to the first book, Sojourn, and its first chapter.

I’ve also set up a pathfinder for Sojourn‘s setting and history, the wild Okanogan Country of north-central Washington state, and a page in my photos section so you can really see what Harry the pig’s prototype looks like, and some true orange larch trees, as well as the Okanogan Country’s beautiful lonesomeness.

I hope you take a gander.  Let me know what you think!

exploring Internationally

Seattle’s International District is a strange and wondrous place. 

They have dragons on the power poles.

They have big traditional gates standing guard over sleek modern cars.
They have the Wing Luke Museum, housed in an old hotel where wave after wave of Asian immigrants lived after they arrived while they got their feet under them.  The Wing Luke is named after the first Asian-American Seattle City Council member, who died in a plane accident at a too-young age.  Not just a museum of the immigrant experience (although it does that extremely well — the tour of the restored hotel was a highlight of the visit), but one of all Asian-Americans, it includes art as well as history.

And they also have Uwajimaya.  I’m hard put to describe Uwajimaya.  It’s sort of like Cost Plus, sort of like Target, plus a huge grocery store and a mall food court, all in one.  Except, of course, that it’s all Asian, all the time [g].  The grocery store is particularly fascinating.  I love learning about what other people eat.  And if you want manga, the bookstore is your place.  Not just shelf after shelf, but wall after wall, both in English and in the original languages.  Fun stuff.

The express bus from Tacoma goes right into the heart of the International District.  A good day was had by all.

P.S.  My website has been updated again, to include sections on the freelance museum work and writing business I am starting.  Please come by and check it out. 

pictures! and references!

I have added many new reference sources and photos to my website, and would love it if anyone wants to take a gander and tell me what you think.

Also, I finally managed to take a picture of the Meeker Mansion, where I am doing my hat practicum, and here it is:

Isn’t she beautiful?  The house was built in 1890, and is in the process of being fully restored (it was a hospital and a nursing home among its past lives — much work has been done, but it still needs more).  I work in the attic, which is much better than it sounds.  It’s very light and airy up there.  My workspace is just above the three window section on the first floor.

My website is no longer TK!

I just let the guys (my two elderly male cats, Morgan, who is white, and Linnet) out onto the patio so they could see for themselves that it is indeed January and therefore raining. I expect them back in momentarily.

My big news today is that my website is no longer TK! It is now live, and it is available for your perusal at http://mmjustus.com/.

The content is just a starter set. I have much more in the way of librariany research bibliography and link citations to post over the next few weeks, as well as more photos relevant to locations in my stories. The novel synopses and short excerpts are from my “pre-published” work, a term an acquaintance used that tickled me. The hullabaloo that will ensue when (not if) I do sell one of them will be more than audible here, I assure you. I also have at least one novella manuscript that I will post on the site a chapter at a time in the near future.

I tried to give my site a unified look as this was my first attempt at graphic design of any sort. The banner here and on the site is from a photo I took in September, 2006, from a point in the Upper Geyser Basin, looking back upstream towards twin eruptions of Grand Geyser on the left and Castle Geyser on the right. If you look very closely, you’ll see a building in the center distance. That is the Old Faithful Inn. It was very cold and windy that day, and it snowed that night, just as it did on Chuck in September, 1877, in Repeating History. The following year I was there at the same time, almost the same week, and it was in the upper 80s. You never know what kind of weather you’ll get in Yellowstone.

I hope you will enjoy the site and visit it again as I add more to it, and that you’ll find it useful.

Evidently it’s momentarily. The cats want back in. They’re complaining loudly, of course, because it’s January. It looks a lot like my banner out there just now. Minus the geysers, of course.

Website TK

Well. I do wish working with computers came more naturally to me. Some aspects do. I’m terrific at learning new programs easily and quickly, and I have more of a concept of how to make a computer work than I do, say, an automobile. Not that the latter is saying much – I know gas goes in one end of a car and oil in the other, and where to take it when it misbehaves.

Which, in some ways, is more than I know when the software refuses to cooperate on my computer, after all. Hardware, yes. I know where to go when the hardware goes belly-up. A small local company called Angel Computers (a wonderfully apt name) has been taking care of my hardware needs ever since I quit relying on my 1000-mile distant brother-in-law for the purpose a number of years ago.

It’s the software everything-but-using-it that’s the battle. From my point of view, a car doesn’t have software (although I know it has a computer). Maybe that’s the real issue.

All this to say that I’ve spent most of the last three days emailing back and forth with my ISP getting the trial run of my website to actually publish. And, at last, it does. Now I just need to design and build the actual page and put the content on it. Why do I feel like that’ll be a piece of cake compared to just getting out onto the web? And why do I feel like a rock climber who needs to keep three of my hands and feet on the cliff at all times?

Website address TK as soon as there’s something to read there. TK? I was a newspaper proofreader in a former life, and read display ads for a living for about three years. TK was what we put in the blank spots while waiting patiently for the sales staff to provide graphics for the finished ad. No, I don’t know why it’s TK and not TC that means to come, but it does.

So. Website TK. Soon, darnit. And next time we’ll have some real content here, too. I promise.