Saturday, April 12, 2014

Saturday Sample - April 12, 2014

Welcome back to my Saturday Sample. In today's opening scene from Gone for a Soldier, my novel that will be released later this summer, Rulon Owen is headed into Mount Jackson, Virginia, on an errand. What happens in town changes his life.

In case you haven't seen the gorgeous cover art for this novel yet, here it is. What do you think of it?

Rulon Owen is going to war...and he isn't taking prisoners.

Rulon Owen hadn’t intended that crisp Friday in April to be momentous.

In fact, when he’d saddled his horse in order to do an errand in Mount Jackson for his ma, he hadn’t given much thought to anything but stealing a few moments to see Mary Hilbrands.

She was only a little bit of a thing, a girl with dark hair and eyes that shone like... well, they kind of smoldered nowadays whenever he looked her way. Those smoky dark eyes tended to give him a shaky feelin’ that spun his head in circles and tied his gut into knots that...

“Whew.” Rulon realized he’d let the horse slow to a walk while he’d been off in a reverie, somewhere not in Shenandoah County, as far as he could tell. He got the horse loping again, and wished it was already a year from now. Mayhap folks wouldn’t get their tails in a twist about them keeping company once Mary turned sixteen. He was almighty tired of Ben and Peter, and especially Pa, accusing him of robbing the cradle because he’d taken such a shine to the girl. Yes, he’d concede she was young, but when she spoke his name, his knees felt like they was composed of apple jelly.

Ma sides with me, he thought. Pa was the true cradle-robber of the family when the two of them wed. Him twenty-four and Ma barely sixteen herself. Humph! If I ask her to say a word to Pa, she won’t let him keep ridin’ me.

He knew he wasn’t likely to throw his opinion on that subject in his father’s face any day soon. Firm. Formidable. Those were good words to describe his father. Rulon shook his head. Receiving back-sass from his offspring did not sit well with Roderick Owen. But at age twenty, Rulon hadn’t taken a lickin’ for a long spell. Maybe Pa’s gone soft in his old age. That's likely, now that he has nigh onto forty-five years pressing him down.

Rulon slowed the horse to a walk as he entered the town. Ahead, he spotted his brother Ben pulling sacks of grain out of a wagon parked in front of the mill where he’d taken employment over the winter. Glancing up, Ben saw Rulon, and stopped to raise his hand in greeting, a big grin splitting his face.

Rulon drew rein and halted. “Brother Ben.” He clasped the outstretched hand. “What makes you so happy today?”

“I am put in a smilin' mood from seein’ you with that enraptured look on your face. Can’t wait to thrust your hand into the cookie jar, huh?”

Rulon snorted at Ben's fancy.

Ben kept on talking his nonsense. “Oh yes indeed. You're an enchanted man, spellbound and smitten, ready to do that girl's bidding.”

“Speak for yourself, brother.”

Ben laughed and said, "Give my best to Miss Mary,” then smacked Rulon's horse on the rump, which caused it first to shy and then to run.

After half a block atop the runaway, Rulon regained control of the animal. “Heartless boy.” He settled the horse down to a sedate walk once again as he proceeded on his errand.

As he came in view of Mr. Hilbrands' store, he saw a crowd of excited men, some coming, some going. Some were running. Running! What was amiss?

He drew up and dismounted. As soon as he had his feet on the ground, a friend of Pa’s shoved the newspaper from Harrisonburg into his hands and bid him take it home. Slapping him on the back, the man ran down the street.

Rulon watched the man's hasty departure, then looked at the immense black headlines of the special edition. He read the subtitles interspersed with the text on the front page. His heart went cold at the urgency of the words. It soon rebounded, and began to beat at a rate he’d not experienced many times in his life. He looked up from the paper, his breath as quick as his heart rate, and made a decision. Feeling the cogs of his life shuddering to a halt and then changing direction, he strode into the store to put his plan into action.

What do you think is going on in Rulon's town? What do you suppose he has decided to do? How do you react when a crisis occurs that impacts your community?

I hope you enjoyed this tidbit from Gone for a Soldier. Thank you for visiting. I love to read your comments, so if anything in the sample compels you to speak up, rest assured that I eventually read what you write and will reply, if needed. Questions? I'm open to them, too.

Please come back next Saturday for another sample. Thank you!

Marsha Ward is the award-winning author of an acclaimed novel series featuring the Owen family. Her latest book, Spinster's Folly, won the 2013 USA Best Book Award for Western Fiction. A former journalist, Ward has published over 900 articles, columns, poems and short stories. She is the founder of American Night Writers Association aka ANWA.

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