Saturday, July 30, 2016

Sample Saturday - Trail's End

Welcome to Sample Saturday. Today I'm going to do something a little different: I'm going to post a complete piece. It's shortfewer than 500 wordsso you won't be overwhelmed in reading it. Enjoy!

Trail's End

She heard his spurs jingle in the darkness as he came into the room where she lay, and she opened her eyes, but with no moon or starlight broaching her draped window, she did not expect to see him. Nevertheless, she knew her husband by the odors he brought with him into the room: the musty smell of dust, the pungence of sweat and leather, the hint of tobacco.

A match flared, and he lit the candle on the washstand. Its sputtering flicker lighted the angles and planes of his face, his eyes shaded by the wide brimmed hat he hardly ever removed.

Then he unbuckled the gun belt, and coming between her and the light, he fastened it around the near bedpost. His silhouette stretched long and lean as he paused for a moment, then turned, sat on the bed, and pulled off his boots. They hit the wooden floor, one at a time, with the combined music of bell and drum, then he stood once more and crossed the room to the window.

She supposed he changed his mind about looking out, for he turned before touching the drape, and removed his vest. He moved lazily across the room and hung it on a peg, then he unbuttoned his shirt, pulled the tail free from his jeans, slid the sleeves from his arms, and hung the shirt over the vest.

The candlelight reflecting off his chest seemed to light a glow within her, and she wondered if he was really taking as long as it seemed. Her eyes flicked up to his face and caught his half smile, almost sardonic.

Then he bent over and blew out the light. She heard his jeans fall to the floor as he threw them over his boots, and he was beside her; his warmth and his smell and his strength were there for her to love.

She put out her hand and took the hat from his head. As she placed it on the bedpost over his gun belt she whispered, “First thing on and last thing off, but you don’t wear it in our bed!”

Copyright 1990 Marsha Ward

A piece this short is oftentimes called "flash fiction." Have you read, or written, any flash fiction? If you've published any, where can we find it?

Saturday, July 23, 2016

I'm taking Sample Saturday off

Due to receiving word YESTERDAY that I have been honored to fill in for a speaker at tomorrow's Payson Book Festival, time ran out on me this week.

Actually, I was asked very nicely if I could possibly do it, as an emergency had arisen in the life of the originally scheduled speaker. I believe the word URGENT was in the subject line of the email. Which came at 11:52 p.m. or so on Thursday night.

Good thing I checked my email before getting to bed at nearly three a.m. that "night."

What can a girl do when she's so highly esteemed as an extemporaneous speaker that the organizers of the festival have confidence in her that she can whip up something about creative writing in 36 hours or fewer, minus the time it took to make a 160-mile round trip to The Big City to convey a friend to the doctor? Seven hours, more or less. Yeah, I said, "yes."

So, see you next week, folks. And wish me luck with the gig tomorrow!

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Sample Saturday - Ride to Raton

Welcome back to Sample Saturday!

Some writers plan out everything they will ever write. When I finished The Man from Shenandoah, I thought I had written the only full-length novel I would ever write. I thought that was it for these people, and any further long-form fiction.

But evidently I had more to tell. I left James Owen sorely wounded in heart and mind, and he demanded that I give him a chance to work through his pain.

Accordingly, I wrote Ride to Raton (It probably should have been called Ride to Raton Pass, but I liked the sound of the three words, and totally forgot the fact that there is a town in New Mexico named Raton). I thought this novel would finish up my account of the Owen family from Virginia.

Boy, was I wrong! The two books have grown to five, with offshoots and spinoffs going in all directions, and more to come.

It's been quite a while since I've posted any scenes or samples from Ride to Raton. This never-before-posted scene occurs after James is shot in Pueblo, Colorado Territory, by a disgruntled former Union soldier. Randolph Hilbrands, a friend of James's father, has taken him into his home to recuperate.

“Mister James, Mister James, wake up, please? You must be hungry.”

Surprised to hear his name, James rolled over, grinning at the soothing touch of the water on his naked body, and swam upward from exploring the bottom of the pond behind the flour mill on a creek feeding the Shenandoah River. He tried to shrug off the hand that gently touched his right shoulder, but the movement brought such a flood of pain to his side that he moaned before he could catch himself.

“Please, Mister James. Ma said I wasn’t to come back to the kitchen without feeding you. If you don’t wake up soon, your food’ll be stone cold.”

He thrust his head and shoulders above the water, opened one eye, then immediately shut it against the sunlight that streamed through an open window between muslin drapes and hit his face. His body felt bloated, invaded by aches and twitches. And although he was still naked, he seemed to be lying half covered by a sheet and quilt on a bed inside a room, instead of treading water in the millpond.

Someone besides himself was in the room. “Six little beans!” he grunted, trying to shade his eyes with his left hand, remembering that a girl’s voice had addressed him. “It’s brighter than noon day in here. Can you shut them curtains?”

A young girl put the tray of food on the washstand and ran to the window to pull the drapes together. She returned to stand beside the bed, and James blinked his eyes as she drew near.

The girl was about fifteen, he judged, slender and blonde. She wore a white bib apron with a full skirt over a light weight gingham gown patterned with sprigs of lilacs on a white background. Her wavy hair hung below her shoulders, tied back with a white ribbon. The girl smiled, tentatively, and one dimple appeared in her cheek.

“Who’re you?” he asked, wondering how he came to be between the sheets. The last thing he remembered, he had been lying atop the coverlet, enduring the sting of a thousand hornets as Amanda Hilbrands’ needle pierced the flesh of his side. Now he looked around. The tub was gone from the room, and the towel had disappeared from around his hips. James blinked twice, and reached down to draw the sheet over his chest, grateful that the quilt masked his nakedness from the girl.

“I’m Sylvia. My pa runs the hotel. Don’t you recall he brought you here?”

James shut his eyes for a moment, less to remember his arrival than to recall where he had heard the girl’s voice before. He gave his head a shake, then opened his eyes.

“Yeah,” he sighed, a long drawn out sound, and fingered the bandage around his chest. “Your ma put this thread into me a couple of hours ago.”

“That was two days back!” the girl exclaimed. “You’ve been asleep since then.”

“Six little beans! Did I take a fever?” James got himself onto his elbows, and the girl bent forward to put a pillow behind his back so he could sit partway up. As the sheet slipped and gathered in creases about his waist, the girl’s hair brushed his shoulder.

The blonde hair—he could see it on another head, arranged in tumbling ringlets behind a face twisted with fury. A voice—with the same timbre as this girl’s voice—batted at his ears: “You never came around, Carl Owen. Cecil was here. I have a right to marry a man I can trust!”

James shuddered.

“No.” A frown furrowed Sylvia’s forehead. “I reckon you’re just wore out. You been through a lot of woe since you came to Pueblo City.” She turned away to bring the food tray, then sat gingerly on the edge of the bed with the tray on her lap. “This is a good room, though. Pa let Ida use it for her wedding night.”

A wrenching pain invaded James’s gut. Ida Hilbrands had breathed this air, her body had lain on this bed. The body that should have quieted Carl’s lusts was given to an English dandy—on this bed, beneath this quilt. James swallowed. His throat closed on cotton.

The girl touched his wrist. James’s arm twitched under the cool fingers.

“Are you all right, Mister James?”

He cleared his throat. “You sound like your…older sister.”

“You mean Mary?” The girl’s face brightened. “How is her little baby doing? We all want to see her.” Sylvia picked up a spoon and a bowl and stirred the contents.

James again eased the sheet up to cover his chest. “The little gal’s growing, but no, I wasn’t speaking of Mary.” The sheet bunched in his lap again, and James jerked it upward and pinned it underneath his arm.

“Oh. You mean—”

“Ida! I mean Ida.” His voice rasped in his throat as he said the name.

The girl looked puzzled. “Are you angry with Ida?”

James felt his face settling into ridges as he scowled. Angry? The word was wrong. Wrong and far too weak. I hate her. I despise her wide blue eyes and her lying, cheating heart. He cleared his throat again. “I have reason.” His breath left his lungs in a lengthy shudder.

Sylvia looked at him for a moment, puzzlement crinkling the skin around her eyes. Then she picked up a spoon.

“Here, have a taste of porridge. Ma made it fresh for you today.” Sylvia held the spoon to James’s lips, and he accepted the morsel. “What did Ida do to you? I thought it was Carl she threw over.”

For a moment, he could only chew, then swallow. He sensed no taste, no savor. Before he had a chance to speak, Sylvia put another spoonful of mush into his mouth. He swallowed that down, then, as Sylvia brought up another bite, James shook his head.

They’ll know sooner or later. Pa will come in for supplies, or Ma will send a note to Mrs. H. by a passing stranger. He turned his head to look at the doorway. Will I be gone, first? Or will Danny O’Brien shoot me in the back? He looked at the girl and squeezed his hands into fists. The pain forced his mouth open.

“You didn’t hear, I reckon. Carl got over being mad at Ida. He wed Ellen Bates about a week past.”

“Oh, Mister James! She was pledged to you!” Sylvia dropped the spoon into the bowl, and it clanked against the side.

Instantly, he repented of his burst of words. “Forget I said that. Just forget it!”

“I’m sorry.” Sylvia held her hands tightly together in front of her mouth.

James snorted. “It’s done and over.”

“How could that happen?” The girl moved the tray from her lap to the bed and leaned forward.

Bitterness rose in James’s throat, and he turned his head to swallow it down.

Sylvia bounced once on the bed. “Ida caused it. She sure is mean.”

James shuddered anew, slumping against the pillow. “Go away,” he said.


“Take your gruel and leave me be. I’m weary.”

“But you didn’t finish.”

“Tell your Ma I fell asleep again. It won’t be a lie. Look. I’m nodding off now.” James shut his eyes.

He heard her get to her feet and pick up the tray. “I reckon I tired you out, talking so much.”

“It’s not you. I’m wore out, like you said.” James twitched the quilt higher on his chest. Suddenly he bolted upright, winced, then lay down again. “You’d better get your papa, girl. I got to put myself deeper in his debt.”

If you haven't yet read Ride to Raton, here are links for print and ebook copies:
Print books $15.95: Amazon | Barnes and Noble
ebooks $3.99: Smashwords all formats | Kindle | nook | Kobo | iTunes Bookstore

Please remember that in this new world of publishing, YOUR reviews are vital to authors. Go post a review on any of my books, novellas, or short stories you have read. They don't have to be long. You only need to express what you thought about the work, and perhaps why. Did you like the characters? Did the history of the period excite you? Was the story enjoyable? Would you recommend the work to your friends? Writing a review is your chance to do just that.

Thank you!

Friday, July 15, 2016

Fresh Book Friday - Faith and the Foreman

It's Friday! Today is Book Release Day for my newest project:

Title: Faith and the Foreman
Author: Marsha Ward
Genre: Romantic Western Adventure Novella with a Bonus Short Story
Publisher: WestWard Books
Date of Publication: July 15, 2016
Price: $2.99 (ebook formats)

Book Description:
Faith and the Foreman was introduced in OLD WEST COLLECTION, volume nine of the bestselling and RONE Award-winning Timeless Romance Anthology series, and is now available as a standalone novella.

New Yorker Faith Bannister's circumstances force her to become a school teacher in faraway Arizona Territory. Harsh conditions don't seem so overwhelming when Faith meets lanky Slim McHenry. But menacing Rance Hunter stands in the way of Faith and Slim's happiness. Both must rally all their resources and act to overcome evil before it spreads.

Faith and the Foreman is bundled with a Western short story, The Usual Game, which is set in early-day Jerome, Arizona.

Verl might not make it home to Phoenix this weekend. His landlord is stuck in Happy Sam's usual poker game, and it looks like he's losing his entire savings. High stakes action in early Arizona.

A bell jangled on the horse-drawn street car outside as Faith Bannister folded the letter she’d been reading and rose to pace the room. After two circuits, she stopped before her cousin. “I am ruined.”

Clarissa Pembroke looked up from the bandage she was knitting and shook her head. “The news can’t be all that bad, dear. We’ve managed to survive the bank crisis fairly well thus far.”

Faith waved the letter. “The interest on my stocks is practically zero.”

“You should have told me, Faith. I must try harder to find employment.” Clarissa breathed heavily. “I can’t believe my usefulness as a nurse is over because of a few gray hairs.” She straightened her back as though in denial of aging. “I’m going to a lecture tonight to keep up with advancing science. Doctor Harley will speak on treating poisons.”

“You shouldn’t have to support me, Clarissa. I’ll sell the house to that fat banker who lusts after it.”

“Faith! Mind your language.”

“He’s wanted it ever since Poppa and Mama got killed.” She bit a fingernail, then removed her finger from her teeth at Clarissa’s continuing reproachful look. “I know. Mama tried so hard to break me of that.” She brushed a blonde curl away from her misting eye and whispered, “Stocks and bonds are no replacement for one’s family. I’m most grateful for your companionship.”

Clarissa wiped her own tearing eyes.

Faith turned away. “Perhaps I can enter the nursing school at Bellevue Hospital. Mr. Spencer offered a price sufficient to pay tuition and allow me to rent an apartment.” She shrugged. “I’ll have to let the servants go. If it appears I don’t have time to train as a nurse before we’re destitute, I’ll become a governess or a shop clerk.”

Clarissa shook herself as though to restore a cheerful outlook. “Let’s not fret about finances now, dear. Come with me tonight and enjoy the lecture.” She held up her knitting. “This bandage will be finished by then, and I’ll have another eleven for the good doctor.”

Purchase Links:
Smashwords all formats | KindleKobo

Author Bio:
Amazon best-selling author Marsha Ward writes authentic historical fiction set in 19th Century America, and contemporary romance. She was born in the sleepy little town of Phoenix, Arizona, in a simpler time. With plenty of room to roam among the chickens and citrus trees, Marsha enjoyed playing with neighborhood chums, but always had her imaginary friend, cowboy Johnny Rigger Prescott, at her side. Now she makes her home in a forest in the mountains of Arizona. She loves to hear from her readers.

Find Marsha online:

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