What the Characters in Marsha’s Head have planned for 2016

2015 was an interesting year for Marsha Ward and the Characters in her Head. Although they didn’t release any new novels, they did a lot of thinking, planning, and writing for 2016’s ambitious publishing program.

Marsha took a few dings from fate, including a painful bout with what the doc called call tennis elbow, but was really just awful pain in one arm from an injury that prevented her from writing as much as she wanted to do; a nasty fall that resulted in bruising to the ego and the body; and the death of a sibling.

Notwithstanding those slings and arrows, Marsha and her Characters worked hand in glove to prepare for a better year in 2016.

The Zion Trail coverFirst up will be a novel featuring Julia Owen’s first cousin, Elijah (known as Lije to family and friends).  The Zion Trail doesn’t reveal that family relationship, but jumps back to the 1840s to tell the story of teen-aged Lije Marshall’s adventures that begin when he invites traveling preachers to eat lunch with the family. You’ll never believe what happens next!

The ebook will be released in February. If you want the exact date, please sign up to Marsha’s Mailing list. The link is at the top of the sidebar –>

The release of a print version of the book will depend upon reader demand. Use the Contact Form (see menu at top of page) to request that Marsha fight off the Characters long enough to prepare a print edition for you to purchase. Thank you.

Other stories will come throughout the year, including Mended by Moonlight, a heart-warming romance featuring one of the Characters from Gone for a Soldier, and a story featuring gloves.

That’s it for now. Marsha installed a widget that lets you follow the site by email, so click the “Follow Now” button to get an alert for the next post.

Have a Wonderful New Year!

How Much Do You Know…

…about Rulon Owen? Take this little quiz and see how closely you’ve read the Owen Family Saga books in which he appears.

Rulon Owen is Not a Patient Man1. In Gone for a Soldier, how much does Rulon have to pay Mr. Moore for officiating at his wedding?
a. One dollar
b. Two dollars
c. Five dollars
d. Ten dollars

2. What new skill did Rulon learn when he went off to earn money to pay for the wedding?
a. Smelting pig iron
b. Driving a team
c. Felling trees
d. Grinding charcoal

3. What illness struck Rulon that put him into the hospital?
a. Measles
b. Smallpox
c. Polio
d. Mumps

4. Who taught Rulon the skill of tracking?
a. Rod Owen
b. Vernon Earl
c. Garth Von
d. Ren Lovell

TMFS-160w5. What secret does Rulon think he’s keeping from his family when he agrees to go west with them?
a. Mary is pregnant
b. He’s addicted to laudanum
c. His war wounds aren’t healing as they should
d. Roddy isn’t his son

6. How does Rulon use his skill of tracking in The Man from Shenandoah?
a. He finds the Great Bend of the Arkansas River
b. He finds a place where someone watched the Owen wagons pass by
c. He finds Ellen in a snowstorm
d. He finds the correct trail of the kidnappers

SF-pcover-1507. When Pa set out to build a barn in Spinster’s Folly, why was Rulon put in charge of the logging operation?
a. His axe was the sharpest
b. He’s the eldest son
c. He learned to fell trees in Virginia
d. Bill Henry was sick

8. Why did Rulon lose the trail of Marie and Mr. Thorne?
a. Tom Morgan walked his horse over the fresh trail
b. Too many horses had traveled over the tracks
c. He had forgotten how to track
d. A rainstorm washed away the tracks

Congratulations on finishing the quiz! The first person to send me the correct answers by Monday, August 31, using the contact form, will receive a free digital copy of the short story, “Happy Halloween.” Specify the file you prefer: mobi, epub, or pdf.

I will post the answers next Tuesday.

Ben Owen Follows the Rainbow

(The post was originally published on July 17, 2013. It was the first time I had been visited by my character Benjamin Owen.)

This is a work of fiction. I don’t really talk to time-traveling characters from my novels. I do like them a lot, though, and am glad they pass under the rainbow from time to time to visit me in my own time and place. To order autographed copies of my novels, Gone for a Soldier, The Man from Shenandoah, Ride to Raton, Trail of Storms, and Spinster’s Folly, visit marshaward.com or westwardbooks.com

Gone for a SoldierI sit on my deck after an intense rain storm to enjoy the cool air. I’m not sure if I nod off or what, but when I raise my head and open my eyes, a young man sits across the table from me.

He notes my alarm and hastens to assure me that he means no harm, calling me “Mom,” and saying he is Benjamin Owen.

I should have known him right off, although he hadn’t come visiting before now. He resembles his younger brother, Carl. Or maybe I have that turned around, and should say Carl looks like Ben.

When my breathing regularizes, I become curious about the reason for Ben’s visit. Usually, my characters come to urge me to tell their story, but I’m in the midst of doing just that with Rulon Owen, and to a lesser degree, with Ben.

Me: I’m glad to make your acquaintance, Ben.

Ben (eyeing me speculatively): Are you now, Mom?

Me: Indeed.

Ben: Rulon’s gettin’ the bulk of the words you write. Sometimes I feel a mite cast aside.

Me: This is the first draft, Ben, and I’m jumping around a lot, and writing out-of-order scenes with this novel. Be patient.

Ben (squirming a bit in his chair): I ain’t a patient man. Ella Ruth can attest to that.

Me (arching an eyebrow in my best imitation of Randolph Hilbrands): You’re much like Rulon in that area. You take care. I don’t want to add a tragic subplot about an unwed mother.

Ben (rising to his feet): Unwed mother! I wouldn’t— Well, I’m sorely tempted, but I’d druther not face Ma’s fury on that head. She would flail the skin off my bones, she would.

Me (signaling him to be seated): Then control your passions. Don’t meet the girl in private. Keep to crowds when she’s with you.

Ben: That wasn’t my idea, there behind the mill. She crept up on me. Surprised me.

Me: Don’t let it happen again.

Ben (hanging his head): She makes it difficult. A body would think, well, it would almost appear she . . . (his voice trails off)

Me: Ben, she’s more than a little bit spoiled. She expects to get anything she desires. (I look pointedly at him.) She desires you, but wrapped around her little finger and doing her utmost bidding.

Ben: I get that same feeling, ma’am. I recall that speech she spoke me about the suit she expects me to wear for her dream weddin’! I can’t afford such outlandish trappings, nor would I buy them if I could. But ma’am, Mom, how my body does betray me whenever I get a whiff of that good-smellin’ perfume she wears!

Me: Benjamin, you must strive to be the good Christian gentleman your mother raised you up to be. Strong. Mannerly. Celibate. (I stress my final word.)

Ben (groans): Ma does have her standards. (He looks at me searchingly.) Did Rulon—

Me: No, he didn’t. I expect you to be the consummate Southern gentleman, as well. I have my standards, too.

Ben (seeming to grit his teeth between halting phrases): Then I will … give my most … fervent efforts toward that end, Mom.

Me: You will keep yourself in hand?

Ben: Help me. Don’t let Ella Ruth, ah, ambush me again.

Me (quirking an eyebrow): Fervent efforts, Ben. Fervent efforts.

The sun comes out, and he’s gone.

Copyright © 2013 Marsha Ward

Rulon Owen Visits Me Again

(This post was originally published on April 7, 2013. I had begun writing Gone for a Soldier, and had just written about Rulon Owen and Mary Hilbrands’ wedding.)

This is a work of fiction. I don’t really talk to time-traveling characters from my novels. I do like them a lot, though, and am glad they pass under the rainbow from time to time to visit me in my own time and place. To order autographed copies of my novels, Gone for a Soldier, The Man from Shenandoah, Ride to Raton, Trail of Storms, and Spinster’s Folly, visit marshaward.com or westwardbooks.com

Gone for a Soldier I decided to take a power nap after a very edifying, but exhausting, weekend. As I dozed, Rulon Owen showed up. I let him in the door, seated him, and performed the amenities. He wasn’t interested in food or drink.

Me: Should you be here?

Rulon (his face coloring): Perhaps not, but I won’t stay long. I need to give you my thanks for beginnin’ my tale. It is … easier now to go on.

Me (studying his face): You are going to have a hard time over the next few years.

Rulon: Years? It won’t take years to give the Yankees their comeuppance!

Me: I live now. I know a few things.

Rulon: Hmm. You have a point. (He seems abashed.)

Me: I will bring you through it, but expect hard things.

Rulon: Thank you for the warning words. (He tilts his head.) I am a mite chagrinned to see myself as you see me.

Me (not sure if I should grin or not. Thinking better of it.): You’re young and strong, and have plenty of vitality.

Rulon (quirking an eyebrow): I am a lustful dog.

Me (tilting my head): That too. I hope getting married helped.

Rulon (mouth twitching. I don’t know whether to expect a frown, or what. Finally, he chooses to share a huge grin.): It did.

Me: Good. Now go to war. Get that out of your system.

Rulon: You make it seem like a rite of passage.

Me: In a way, it is. You’ll be fine, but don’t expect it to be easy, you hear?

Rulon (sobering): You will take care of Mary?

Me (nodding): I will. (I rise to my feet, not knowing where Mary is waiting, not wanting her to wait long.) Expect hard times.

Rulon (rising, his face cautious): You’ve said that four times, now. You won’t tell me details?

Me: No. Go back to your wife. Your time with her now is short.

Rulon. Don’t I know it! Thank you, Mom.

And he’s gone.

Copyright © 2013 Marsha Ward