One To Get Ready, and Two To Go

The “one to get ready” announcement is a reminder of the NW Publishers Book Fair in Portland’s Pioneer Square on July 30th.  Puddletown Publishing Group will have a table, and I’m very excited to be one of their authors.  Pat Lichen, Roxie Matthews, Susan Landis-Steward and I will be there to schmooze and autograph copies of our books; Volunteer for Glory, Kidnapping the Lorax, Sanna, Sorceress Apprentice, and The Blind Leading the Blind.  Other tables will feature other publishers and authors.  Don’t miss Jean Sheldon, publisher and mystery writer (Flowers for Her Grave and Woman in the Wing) and Veronica Esagui, host of the local TV show, Authors Forum, and author of Veronica’s Diaries.  Come out to peruse, visit, and buy. The Fair runs from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.  Tents are provided for the booksellers in case the fickle Oregon weather decides to drizzle.

My “two to go” is announcing that, Scattered Pieces, my third novel, has come to the final round of checking for typos.

Scattered Pieces is scheduled for a late August release through Lisa Nowak’s Webfoot Publishing. Between now and then is the final run through of the manuscript and approval of a completed cover.  Lisa has just published her own YA novel, Running Wide Open, the first of a five book series set in the world of stock car racing.  Her second book, Getting Sideways, is set for publication in September.

I am still completely hyped with the positive reception that Volunteer for Glory is receiving and will continue to work hard at marketing, but I’m also looking forward to releasing Scattered Pieces first in e-pub formats and then in POD.

For those of you who don’t know anything about the story, Scattered Pieces is set from 1946 to 1961, a more recent era than the Civil War or turn-of-the-century. (Wrenn, Egypt House.) When Katie Harris’s little brother, Jimmy, disappears at a Cleveland train station, her life, and the life of her family, will never be the same. Determined to be the best she can be, and to make up for her brother’s loss, Katie excels in school, eventually majoring in psychology.  In the course of a graduate counseling internship, she is assigned an unsettling client who may be the link to what happened to Jimmy.

Visiting the Civil War

The day I drove to Mission State Park in Salem, Oregon my head was bursting with anxiety and anticipation. To view a Civil War reenactment seemed like stepping back a century and a half to the world of Volunteer for Glory. To distract myself, I thought about my teen-age persona, The Rio Kid. My horseback riding pals and I had assumed various sobriquets as a way of reliving eras when horses were the main source of transportation, and gunslingers dominated small towns. (At least according to movies and television.) Drawing upon Rio to coolly approach the unknown with aplomb, I transformed my automobile into my horse, Stormy. So my fantasies were embellished over the long miles to Salem. Nothing would stop the daring Rio and her invincible mount as they wound through Rebel cavalry to the scene of battle. A messenger sent on a top-secret mission, her job was to deliver maps and information to General Grant.

But as I approached Mission Park, Rio galloped away, leaving plain little old me to make the final approach. After paying both Park and Civil War fees, I hopped a shuttle to the encampment, sparing me a two-mile hike. The weather was unexpectedly warm, so I was grateful.

When the shuttle unloaded its passengers, I entered a world of hoop-skirted ladies and uniformed men. The blue and the gray mingled companionably as this was a re-enactment, rather than real thing. Soldiers carried muskets, some had sheathed swords, and many escorted elegantly dressed ladies.

Noting that the battle was about to begin, I followed a crowd to the action. The battle was staged some little distance away from me, except for three Confederates manning midget mortars. The dramatic explosions kicked up a flurry of grass and dust. Several Union soldiers fell beside their cannons. Troops advanced. Horses and riders appeared. Two large, black horses pulled artillery caissons to fortify rebel lines.

Whipping out my digital camera, I prepared to take photos. My husband had instructed me, saying all I had to do was aim, check the picture in the viewfinder, and press a button. This ought to have been sufficient except for the fact I couldn’t see a darned thing. The viewfinder was completely dark except for a few vague shadows. Maybe it was because I was standing in direct sunlight. Still I needed to soldier on! Just as I positioned myself for another shot, a little message flashed, saying the memory had expired!

The spectacle was satisfying, however, and the smoke from muskets, cannons, and mortars clouded the atmosphere, much as described from contemporary Civil War accounts. Far fewer bodies littered this field than in battles like Donelson, Shiloh or Gettysburg where the casualties created a patchwork quilt of blue, gray, and butternut.

As the soldiers, marvelously resurrected, marched away, I returned to the sutlers that offered everything from “weapons” to decks of cards featuring various generals. Books and toys abounded. Of course, there were gorgeous dresses, hoop skirts, shawls, and hats. In fact, I fell prey to a particularly winsome bonnet and bought it on the spot. Remember to look at the bonnet and forget the face.

Relying on advice given by the announcer of the battle, I spoke to Doris, the sutler coordinator, and her daughter Cindy, about Volunteer for Glory. After looking over a copy, they offered to take all I’d brought on consignment. According to them, books sell well at re-enactments, and if any are left over, they take them to the next event. After this euphoric experience, I treated myself at the food and drinks concessions.

My next stop was the field hospital where Civil War medical procedures were demonstrated. Fortunately, there were no amputations as that might have strained the nerves of spectators as well as actors. To think that these were forerunners of the MASH units we learned about in the TV series.

Driving home, I forgot the Rio Kid and relived the experiences of the day. I’m totally primed to attend the reenactment planned at McIver Park in September. See you there?

Volunteer for Glory—Part 3

Here’s another excerpt of Volunteer for Glory, so that you can see whether or not it’s a book you might like to purchase.

Rachel, muffled in a heavy winter shawl, pail in hand, met them in the yard.  The afternoon had grown late, and, as twilight approached, she had prepared to milk the bawling cow.  Now she was embarrassed, for Stuart had not come alone.  Her dress was limp and bedraggled after a day spent over the laundry tub. Angry with her husband, she would have liked nothing better than to withdraw to the house in silent dignity.

“Hello, sweetheart.”  Stuart swung off his horse, well aware of her displeasure, but willing to risk a kiss anyway.  “I wasn’t going to leave you with the chores.”  He smiled as he took the empty pail from her unresisting hand.  “I’ve brought company.  Mrs. Westbrook’s nursing at the Dudleys so I thought Ferris and Jared could use some home cooking.”

By the time the men came in from the barn, stamping snow from their boots and unwinding their mufflers, Rachel had regained her composure, though her cheeks were hot with hurry.  While they unhitched, and Stuart did chores, Rachel had been tidying, smoothing her hair, and tying on a fresh apron.

Jared, who had only seen her once before at a distance, was taken aback at her nearness, and the sound of her pretty voice. Her blue dress made her eyes seem all the bluer.  At twenty-four, he was inexperienced with women, school studies, and work on his father’s farm, conspiring to keep him solitary.  His only near romance had ended prematurely when the young lady he had been attracted to had grown tired of his procrastination and married another.  A fleeting picture of the girl passed through his mind but without regret.

He hung his hat and coat on the pegs by the door, and, feeling too tall and clumsy, sat down by the fire.  Looking around, his attention focused on a nearby bookshelf. Books, he knew.  He was comfortable with them, the way he was comfortable with the changing seasons that dictated the work of the land.  He couldn’t help trying to guess which books she had chosen. Whittier, Longfellow, Keats, and the several anthologies were most likely hers, for he couldn’t imagine Stuart musing over an Ode to a Grecian Urn.  The books on agriculture and animal husbandry were likely his, he conceded, but not the rest.  While his father and Stuart debated secession, he glanced at an open book lying on the footstool beside him.

The table had been set, and he caught Rachel’s inquiring glance as she passed him.  “Yours?”  He lifted the volume of Emerson’s Essays to show her.  A shy nod acknowledged his gesture.

Catching the by-play, Stuart quipped, “Rachel fancies herself a scholar, but I tell her blue stockings are out of fashion for pretty young ladies.”

Laughing, they took their places around the table for a meal of smoked ham and delicately seasoned root vegetables. Rachel’s experience as a minister’s daughter had taught her be both quick and inventive when dealing with unexpected guests.

When Stuart mentioned the shots fired in Charleston Bay, her dark brows drew together.  Divining that a change of subject would be welcome, Jared urged his father to tell them stories of the early days.

Warming to this, Ferris related that he had come west, and fallen in love with a pretty Norwegian girl. Once married, he and Elsa began farming in 1830.  Wolves had roamed the prairies, and he made a good story detailing how they had huddled together on winter nights, listening to howls rising from the creek bed that now ran through the Norcross acres.  But wolves no longer roamed the prairie, Ferris assured Rachel.  The farmers and the railroads had driven them out.

*          *          *

            After their guests had gone, Stuart helped Rachel carry the damp laundry out of their bedroom.  “You didn’t mind me bringing company, did you?” he asked, haphazardly draping a garment across the wooden drying rack.  He glanced sideways at her.

“No.”  Rachel shook the wrinkles from an apron and rearranged his part of the work.  “But I was mad about the milking!”  They laughed and Stuart caught her to him.  He pulled the pins out of her hair, fixing her with an intense look.  Seeing her with the Westbrooks, watching their gallant attention, her desirability was enhanced.  He had forgotten her pregnancy.  Her dark lashes and full pink mouth intoxicated him.  He unbuttoned her dress.

Published in: on July 11, 2011 at 4:00 am  Comments (6)  

Volunteer for Glory—Part 2

Here’s another excerpt of Volunteer for Glory, so that you can see whether it’s a book you might like to purchase.

Rupert’s Prairie, like most farming communities on a railroad line, had expanded from a single mercantile store, one saloon, and a church into a respectably sized town.  Two churches served the spiritual needs of the community.  In addition to the depot and telegraph office, were Puckett’s General Store, a smithy, a harness and carriage repair shop, two saloons, a doctor’s office, and Gallatin’s dressmaking establishment.  The sheriff’s office had three jail cells that were seldom occupied, for Rupert’s Prairie, despite its saloons, was rarely disturbed by anything more serious than a fistfight or an occasional dispute over land boundaries.

Further away, and opposite the schoolhouse, a grain elevator loomed against the sky.  Children looking out classroom windows could sometimes see sacks of pale wheat and golden corn being loaded into railroad cars.  Nearby stockyards held cattle and hogs awaiting shipment to big city slaughterhouses.

Jared Westbrook, his height and blond good looks betraying a Scandinavian heritage, was tying his team to the hitching post in front of Puckett’s Store when his attention was distracted by a rider whose mount threw up bits of snow.  Stuart Norcross was making his predictably flashy entrance.

Stuart dismounted, so near to Jared that the other man had to move aside to avoid being jostled.  “Papers in?”

“Expect so.”  Jared tossed a blanket over his team before joining Stuart who was already crossing the wooden porch that ran the length of the store.

Ian McGruder greeted them with unconcealed excitement” They’ve fired on our ship in Charleston Harbor. And more succession.  Mississippi, Florida, Alabama.” He ticked them off, one by one.

“Dang  ’em anyway,” observed one shabby fellow, aiming a stream of tobacco juice into a nearby spittoon.  “We ain’t gonna let ‘em bust the Union.”

Murmured assents arose from the men who sat, stood, or leaned on counters.  Stuart, adopting a careless pose, pulled his hat off, revealing thick dark hair. Isaiah Puckett, a mere raisin of a man, paused in his wrapping of a parcel to listen.

“Once we retaliate, there’ll be no going back,” Jared said slowly.

This comment roused both agreement and disapproval.  Though Jared was respected as an educated man for having graduated from the Bloomington Normal School, several men frowned and muttered among themselves.

“You can’t just let armed rebellion go by.  You have to admit that, Jared.”  Stuart leaned forward slightly, as though daring him to disagree.

But it was the elder Westbrook who spoke, shifting his weight on the wooden packing case where he sat.  As he placed his reading glasses into his jacket pocket, Ferris’s blunt kindly features creased with thought.

“Any of you been to war? It’s a bloody business, and it doesn’t take long to get a bellyful of dust and dysentery.  Keeping the Union’s a better cause than fighting the Spanish over Texas, but war doesn’t prove who’s right.  Only who’s strongest.”  His voice held authority for he had fought in ’47

“ They’ve dishonored the flag, and I say we give them a licking.” Stuart argued. “The way I see it, it’s a question of whether you believe in the Union or not.”

Ferris shook his graying head. “The Union must stand,” he admitted.  “And if it comes to a fight, I’ll defend her.”

“To the Union.”  Stuart raised his hand as though proposing a toast.  Then suiting his action to his words, he swept up his hat, and opened the door, inviting the assembly to join him. “Let’s wet our whistles at the Red Dog.  Arguing politics is mighty dry work.”

Published in: on July 4, 2011 at 4:00 am  Comments (2)