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

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Rulon Owen is Not a Patient Man

(This post was originally published on February 14, 2013, and resulted in me writing and publishing Gone for a Soldier.)

*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

Rulon Owen is Not a Patient Man

I’m outside, slogging through the snow to the garbage can I’ve stashed on the other side of the road for the winter so I don’t have to move it back and forth during periods when the half-dollar size granite rocks are covered ankle-deep with snow. Truth be told, I don’t like to trundle the bin over the granite rocks, either. Good thing the cross-road neighbors don’t visit very often, I think, hauling my plastic bags by their pull ties to the black monstrosity.

“Looks like you could use a hand,” someone behind me says in a deep voice, causing me to nearly jump out of my skin.

I whirl around the best I can with two heavy bags impeding my pirouette. My heart pounds as hard as it did the last time someone told me Sean Connery had fallen to his death from a crag in New Zealand.

A grey-hatted man sits astride a reddish horse that nickers softly, its breath streaming from its nostrils like steam escaping from a broken pipe. I back up as the man swings down from the saddle and drops the reins to ground-tie the animal.

“Who are you?” I ask, my voice quavering ever so slightly. I don’t tote a firearm with me when I take out the garbage. Maybe that should change.

“Mom,” he says, relieving me of first one bag, then the other. “You’ve met me. You should know me by now.”

I’m a bit rattled by his choice of words. My sons call me “Mom” in just that impatient tone of voice, making more than one syllable out of the word.

My mind is jumping from one compartment of my brain to another, rattling the filing cabinet drawers I jerk open as I search for clues to help me remember this man.

“I’m younger,” he says, turning away from me to study the garbage bin.

Cole? Bob? John? Jim? No. He doesn’t resemble the outlaw Younger brothers. My gosh, who is he? I’m beginning to slip into fear.

He sets the bags on the ground and bends his head sideways to examine the lip of the black lid. He raises an arm to test it. Discovering that it moves, he thrusts it upward, and the lid flies back. He chuckles. I’m moving backward, puzzled by his actions. He picks up the bags, chucks them in the bin, closes the lid, and turns to me, dusting his hands together.

“Them parcels have a slippery feel, but the keg is harder. What do you call that material?”

When he raises his hand to tilt back his hat, I finally know him.

“Rulon,” I exhale. Rod Owen’s oldest boy, and he’s much more boyish looking than the man I’d met a couple of years ago. “Plastic. They are both made of plastic, but different types.”

“Humph,” he snorts. “Plastic.”

“You’d best come inside,” I tell him, glancing at the horse, and wondering if it’s better to tie it to the rail of the back-door deck or the ramp’s railing. The back door is locked, but I don’t want the horse destroying my Heat Trak electric mat, so I settle for a third choice, the railing on the covered deck closest to the shed. That will hide the animal sufficiently that someone won’t come along and elect to take a joy-ride.

Rulon ties the horse where I tell him to, then wipes off his boots before entering my living room.

“Sit down and take your ease,” I say, lapsing into a genteel Civil War-era-matron persona. “May I get you a refreshment?” I mentally go over the contents of my refrigerator and cupboards. “I can offer you water, mint tea, pineapple juice….” I stop as his brow contorts in confusion. “Never mind the pineapple juice. How about hot chocolate?” I shiver. “That seems a good choice. I also have a loaf cake.”

Rulon sits, perched uneasily on the edge of my chair. “I believe I’ve tasted that ‘hot chocolate’ somewhere. Don’t it take quite a time to brew it?”

I think of the luxury we have in our time. Instant beverages from a foil package. “No, this is special,” I say. “It won’t take very long. Will you take cake, as well?”

“I reckon,” he says. “Thank you, Mom.”

I leave him alone, knowing he’s not even going to offer to assist me in preparing the repast. That is a woman’s work, and Rulon is decidedly not a woman.

He’s more handsome than I had remembered, full of face and not worn down by privation. He wasn’t cautious in moving his body. “He hasn’t been hit by shrapnel yet,” I whisper, the truth dawning on me. This is the pre-war Rulon.

When I enter the room again, carrying a tray with cups of hot chocolate and plates of cake, I notice he’s fidgeting, flicking one thumbnail with the other and biting his lower lip. I set down the tray and serve him.

He samples the chocolate, but it’s hot and he blows on it.

“Tell me about the family,” I say. I want to know the timeline I’m dealing with.

“Ma and Pa are well. Brother Ben’s got himself a job at the mill.” He grinned. “He’s sparkin’ Ella Ruth Meems (last name changed to “Allen” in the novel). Figures to marry her right soon.” He sips at the beverage.

My heart contracts, squeezing hard. I don’t know Ella Ruth. I imagine I’ll get to know her this year, probably too intimately for comfort.

“And you?” I manage to ask, forcing my lips into a smile. “You’re getting long in the tooth and not wed yet.”

“I am not,” he sputters. “I mean, I aim to marry, just as soon…” His voice fades as his head drops. He tries to mask his chagrin by chugging the chocolate, but it’s still hot, and he sputters anew, then coughs.

I hand him a tissue. He looks at it coldly, then sets his drink down on the table and wipes his mouth. He nibbles at the cake.

“Rulon, are you seeing someone?”

“Yes!” He barks the word. “Yes,” he repeats, and breathes heavily. “I come to ask you to get on with writin’ my tale.”

He’s rushing his words now, spilling them out so fast I feel obliged to stop him, but I can’t, not yet.

“I’m forbidden to wed her until you write out the words and make it real. I can scarcely stand this waiting, waiting, everlasting waiting. She won’t let me–”

“Rulon!” I cut him off. “You can’t do that.”

He’s breathing hard now, nearly gasping with pain. His yearning is almost palpable, his drive to possess filling my room with the musk of desire, and I won’t tolerate the dark aspect of his need.

“Get yourself in hand! Of course she won’t permit you taking liberties. She’s only a bit of a girl, and doesn’t realize how she’s pushing you to your limit.”

“You know that?” he groans and narrows his brows as he gazes at me. “You know her?” He moves one leg awkwardly.

I acknowledge his distress. “I think you’d best stay the night here. I’ll call my neighbor about sheltering your horse.”

He slumps forward, nerveless, and I am glad he has set down the chocolate. “I’m a cur,” he whispers, then groans again.

“No, you’re a young man full of yourself. It will do you good to be removed from Mary for a while.”

He shuts his eyes and compresses his lips, then nods slowly. “I’ll stop here for the night, on one condition.” He looks up at me, his eyes full of challenge. “You have to start writin’ down the words.”

Now it’s my turn to nod. “I’ll begin inside of a month.”

Copyright © 2013 Marsha Ward

Marie Owen is Glowing

(This is a post that originally was published on November 30, 2012 on another blog of mine, The Characters in Marsha’s Head. I’ll share like this from time to time.)

*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.

I’m feeling a bit down today, with a crick in my neck and a chill starting up my back. I jump as the doorbell rings, then a sharp series of knocks begins on my door, and I pry myself out of the chair to answer it. Forgetting that I’ve hung a map on the inside of it and can’t peep out, I start to get annoyed as I scramble around to find the knob to unbolt the door.

Me (opening the door and speaking in an annoyed voice): Yes? What is it?

(I see a young woman on my step. She’s wearing a long dark dress, and is hugging herself and bobbing up and down. I move my computer glasses around until I can focus, and recognize Marie Owen.)

Marie (squealing): Mom!

Me: Come in! It’s chilly out there.

(I open the screen door, and she enters, then flings her arms around me.)

Marie: Oh Mom, Mom, you can’t believe how happy I am.

Me (Trying to breathe within her tight grasp): I’m glad. Come sit down. What has you all excited?

Marie: I’m free of that brutish man! (She loosens her hold on me, then smiles brilliantly and sits on the chair I point to, bouncing a bit) You did that. You got your book about me to the readers, and now I’m out of his clutches.

Me: Mr. Thorne?

Marie (scoffing) Mister? He doesn’t deserve the title. But it doesn’t matter. He’s gone now.

Me: I believe I know about that ending.

Marie: Yes. (She looks away briefly, then meets my gaze again.) My man is helping me forget that.

Me (starting to get over being grumpy as I feel the peace and joy radiating from her): Your man, huh?

Marie (suddenly shy): He’s, he’s the most wonderful man I ever met!

Me: You’ve changed your opinion, then?

Marie (giggling): Mom! He loves me. He suffered a mighty hard journey in order to find me. He never gave up, Mom. He came for me, and when he did, I was so frightened for him. (She starts to bite a nail.) He suffered more than the journey!

Me: He does care deeply for you.

Marie (her eyes lighting up): Yes. Thank you.

Me: For what?

Marie: For publishing the book at last.

Me: I’m sorry it took so long. You were in such distress when last you visited.

Marie: All that is over now, thanks to you.

Me: Do you love him?

Marie: What?

Me: Do you love him, or are you merely beholden to him?

Marie (She closes her eyes and takes in a slow, deep breath. I watch her, and when she lets out the air, she is smiling.) I love him.

Me (I nod)

Marie: At first, before I agreed to marry him, I worried that I didn’t care for him, that he would smother me. Then it came to me, like a ray of sunshine through a cloud, that he was precisely the man I wanted. The man I wanted all along.

Me: Where is he?

Marie: He’s out holdin’ the horses. He’s more shy than you know, considering.

Me: Considering what?

Marie: Considering we rousted a priest out of bed to have us a ceremony.

Me: A what? You don’t mean–

Marie: Yes! The priest agreed that since we’re not of his Catholic faith, we didn’t need any delays to read banns or the like.

Me: How long ago did this happen?

Marie (suddenly very shy): Just now.

Me: When?

Marie: A few hours ago.

Me: You’re kidding me! (I grin at her, maybe a bit too broadly) No wonder he’s standing out in the cold.

Marie: Don’t be a-teasin’, Mom.

Me: I’m sorry. (I pause and look at this glowing creature I created.) I reckon you’d best be on your way. It’s cruel to keep the man waiting.

Marie (standing): It was his idea to come here. He thanks you for publishin’ the book.

Me (smiling as I rise to my feet): You go give him my love.

Marie (trying to keep her smile in check as she inches toward the door): I reckon not. At least, not tonight. He’s only gettin’ my love tonight. (She giggles.) I’ll give him your love on another occasion.

Me: Butter.

Marie (stepping outside and turning to gaze at me): Exactly so.

And she’s gone. I close the door slowly, feeling some of her glow myself. “Butter. Melting butter.”

Copyright © 2012 Marsha Ward

Spinster’s Folly, Book 4 of “The Owen Family Saga,” is available as an ebook and in print at online book sellers. Autographed copies available at http://westwardbooks.com

What is the Owen Family?

This unique group of individuals is the creation of award-winning and Amazon best-selling author Marsha Ward. She first discovered these characters way back in 1965, when–after a major life rerouting–she poured her disappointed heart and soul into writing what she envisioned as “The Great American Novel.” Except it wasn’t ever going to be a literary novel, because she didn’t much care for them. She preferred tales with action, adventure, and romance in them.

Marsha cut her reading teeth on such works as Howard Pyle’s The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood of Great Renown in Nottinghamshire, Les Misérables, by Victor Hugo, The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers, by Alexandre Dumas, père, and Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With The Wind. Other influencers were Louis L’Amour, the Western novelist, and Robert Newton Peck, whose children’s books include A Day No Pigs Would Die.

Marsha created a family who lived in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. Father Rod and mother Julia headed the clan, and in the original iteration, there were twelve children. Marsha subsequently cut three children from the bunch. Don’t ask their names. She doesn’t remember them. There was, however, a baby who died. He is mentioned briefly in one of the books.

Her first brush with the  Owen family became the highly regarded novel, The Man from Shenandoah. Her latest novel is Gone for a Soldier, the prequel to the the original book, detailing the events in the lives of the family during the American Civil War. Following these two books come Ride to Raton, Trail of Storms, and Spinster’s Folly. The later may be read following Ride to Raton, just because Marsha likes to keep things complex and interesting.

Members of the Owen Family (and their ages at the beginning of the American Civil War) are:
Roderick Owen, farmer, horse breeder
Julia Helm Owen, his wife, whom he calls Julie
Rulon – age 20, sometimes called Rule
Benjamin – age 19
Peter – age 17
Carl – age 16
James – age 14
Marie – age 13
Clayton – age 11
Albert – age 10
Julianna – age 8, also called Jule or Anna

Thank you for coming along on the ride with the Owen Family. I hope you enjoy it.