From her home in the forest, writer Marsha Ward offers up an eclectic collage of musings on life, insights into the writing process, sample scenes and snippets from her work, book spotlights, and author interviews. Now including "The Characters in Marsha's Head."
Sweet Saturday Sample: Excerpt from Trail of Storms
This week's snippet for Sweet Saturday Samples (clean fiction excerpts from authors) is an excerpt from Chapter Two of Trail of Storms. The setting is Mount Jackson in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley just after the American Civil War, the genre is historical Western fiction, and the rating is G. Please note that I've skipped a raw scene. Sorry. But you want to buy the book anyway, right?
Robert ran down the Pike, his heart thudding in his chest. Where would the man take Hannah? If he was intent on doing her harm, he’d want a private place, like a barn or a grove of trees, even though the occupation soldiers and cavalry were doing pretty much as they liked these days. He’d have to ask if Hannah and the rider had been seen passing by. That might be useless—folks were staying out of each other’s business. His breath rattled in his throat. His side burned with pain. His legs seemed made of lead. No matter, he thought, and continued his headlong dash. Hannah needs me.
When he stumbled and fell, Robert lay with his face in the dust for a moment, then raised his head and eyed the road. The marks of horses’ hooves mocked him. I don’t know how to track. I don’t know what’s fresh and what might be five days old. He scrambled to his knees, got to his feet, and looked around. He was outside of town and had passed two farms already. Have I gone too far? He took a steadying breath. No. Those farms had been burned out by the Yankees. Their barns hadn’t been rebuilt yet and the woodlots were gone. No privacy there. Robert began to run again. George Heizer’s dairy farm was next. He had a barn.
Robert approached the Heizer place. From the lane he could see two men standing by a wagon in the barnyard, talking. They seemed calm, not looking over their shoulders or fidgeting. No Yankee’s been there, he decided, and continued down the pike. I’ll try at McNeely’s.
Robert ran another two hundred yards, turned into McNeely’s farmyard, skidded to a stop at the door of the house and rapped. His windpipe wheezed and his lungs burned as he sucked breath into them. After a moment, Mistress Maude moved the curtain to one side and peered out. She opened the door a crack, her white face telling of her fear.
Before he could say a word, the woman began.
“Mr. Fletcher! Oh, please, can you look? My Patrick won’t be home until after dark.”
“Look where, Mrs. McNeely?”
“Oh my! Out in the stable. There’s been the most horrid sounds coming from out there for such a long time. Screams, very terrible sounds, they were.”
He ground his teeth. “Do you have a gun?”
“A gun? Oh, no, Mr. Fletcher. We had to give it up.”
“A knife, then. Lend me your butcher knife.”
Her gasp told Robert how she felt about that idea as she closed the door in his face. He heard the lock snapping into place.
He found a stout stick of firewood he could wrap his fingers around, not thinking what he would do with it, but somehow needing to feel the wood’s heft, needing to have a weapon. He strode toward the stable.