SEQUIM — Martha McKeeth Ireland’s path has led her to the publishing world again.
While it’s not necessarily the path the former Clallam County commissioner first imagined, she released the story she’s been waiting to tell since childhood.
In 2014, McKeeth Ireland, 69, released four volumes of “The Trail of the Snake,” her action-adventure western following six years in the life of Jadene Box as she tracks a murderer, as a digital-only collection through Amazon’s Kindle.
Following a demand for a print edition, the Sequim author reformatted the story with vintage photographs from her McKeeth family photographs as a two-volume set.
“I’ve found in my own life that life is a trail and you don’t always see where it’s going,” she said. “Sometimes you think you’re setting the trail. Sometimes you think you’re completely off the trail and it comes back. Life isn’t easy.”
At the beginning of her series, Box is a 14-year-old tomboy living on her father’s ranch in Southern Idaho.
“A murder occurs and she recognizes things aren’t as they appear to be,” McKeeth Ireland said.
“Trail” is multi-genre, she said, being part detective story, part romance, part action-adventure set in the 1880s West, but not a “formula western.”
“I don’t like books with shallow characters, or shallow plots or plots filled with holes,” she said. “I think that’s a big part of why it took me so long to put the book together.”
McKeeth Ireland has dreamed of writing a western for a long time and she’s always thought of herself as a writer, but it’s taken different turns than she expected.
The Idaho native moved to Washington in 1979 and eventually Sequim in 1988 and has worked for newspapers, including serving as editor for seven years of the Sequim Gazette’s former sister paper The Peninsula Business Journal.
She felt an itch to run for political office and was elected in 1995 and served as a Clallam County commissioner from 1996-1999.
“So I served my four years and ran for re-election. Thank God I didn’t win,” she said. “It was a good, interesting four years and I don’t regret it at all.”
McKeeth Ireland said soon thereafter she broke her arm for the first time after coming down off a horse and her mother fell ill in Boise, Idaho.
“It was a blessing I was at liberty to go and help,” she said.
She began writing again as a columnist for the Peninsula Daily News and began working in the administrative office for Serenity House of Clallam County.
In 2014, she took a class on self-publishing at Peninsula College, which led her to release “Trail” online as four volumes.
“I’d been so busy, I put any thought of a western on the back burner,” she said.
McKeeth Ireland published under her full name because of connections to Idaho and the Snake River but also to distinguish herself as she’s the only Martha McKeeth Ireland she could find online.
While on a trip in Idaho, she visited the Owyhee County Historical Museum in Murphy, Idaho, which was funded by the estate of her uncle Norris McKeeth. She was given boxes of photographs that weren’t museum quality but were scenic shots of Idaho, which she in turn uses throughout the print version of “Trail.”
McKeeth Ireland rigorously researched the area and employed many aspects accurate to the times, such as county names, products and songs. She says there isn’t any egregious sex or violence, but the action does keep the plot moving.
When she’s not writing, McKeeth Ireland continues to work three days a week for Serenity House, ride her horses with friends, attend Peninsula Evangelical Friends Church and volunteer for the Clallam County Republican Party and the Sequim Prairie Grange.
Once she retires next August, she plans to start working on stories about her other characters in “Trail.”
“The Trail of the Snake” is available through McKeeth Ireland by contacting her at 360-683-8399 or [email protected] She sells Volume 1 for $13, Volume 2 for $16.25 or $27 for both.
They also are available for purchase on Amazon in print and Kindle/e-book editions.
Matthew Nash is a reporter with the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which is composed of Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum. Reach him at [email protected].