First Chapter Reveal from THE LAST APRIL

The Last April, An Ohio Civil War Novel

We are in the final editing days for The Last April, my new young adult historical fiction book with a planned release of April 2017. My beta readers and editor have sent feedback and I’m crawling through the manuscript making updates. In the meantime, I wanted to share the first chapter of The Last April for your reading pleasure.

Join me on Patreon to see the proposed concepts by my cover artist! You are under no obligation to contribute, but with your patronage I can release an audiobook in 2017 or early 2018. Thank you to my supporters so far!

Here is a snippet of the first chapter of The Last April:

Everyone else would remember that Saturday as the day President Lincoln died. Gretchen Miller would remember it as the day the ragged man collapsed at her feet.

Gretchen was tugging at weeds and swatting at gnats when a thud made her whip around. The war was over, but Confederate supporters were everywhere. They lingered after General Lee’s surrender, and President Lincoln’s reconciliation speech, and in pro-Union Columbus.

Gretchen snapped up from her hunched position to lean back on her barefoot heels. Her skirts puffed out with the movement. She slapped them down, annoyed.

Sharp sunlight made it difficult to see. Gretchen thought she saw a collapsed man just yards from her hem. She dragged her straw hat by the strings so it shaded her eyes.

A man’s limbs sprawled across the oak tree roots. Gretchen could not tell his age or condition from where she crouched. His back was to her, his dark head resting on his outstretched arm. He was not moving.

“May the angels have charge of me,” Gretchen whispered. She patted the revolver in her skirt pocket.

His leg twitched.

Gretchen’s heart leaped. That dark, matted hair gave her a turn. Maybe it was her brother Werner, returned from war at last. A hundred men from the Grove City area had answered President Lincoln’s call for soldiers. Everyone was afraid of the number that would return.

Gretchen grabbed her skirts as she scrambled to standing. She flailed her arms at the log farmhouse she called home. She could not shout, in case the man had faked his injury and was waiting for an excuse to attack.

Her aunt, Tante Klegg, stuck her head out the kitchen door. “What is it?” Tante Klegg’s heavy German accent was strident in the quiet morning. It matched the severity of her hair braided and twisted tight against her head.

Gretchen put her finger to her lips. She cupped her hands around her mouth so her whisper would carry. “There is a man.” She waved at her aunt to come outside.

Tante Klegg tiptoed across the rocks Gretchen had overturned gardening. She held her skirt layers high above her ankles, muttering.

The man remained quiet, only his twitching foot letting them know he lived. Gretchen did not know if that meant he was dangerous or that he was too injured to move.

Gretchen brushed a strand of reddish hair from her mouth as the breeze picked up. Though it was April, the humidity was heavy and stifling. The wind still carried the scent of cooling bonfires from yesterday’s elaborate celebrations.

Last night, Gretchen had danced until her feet ached and sung until her voice was hoarse. She had been ready to do anything to help her country heal. She held onto the president’s words of reconciliation. She hoped everyone could see the Confederates as prodigal brothers and sisters. She hoped the Confederates would be humble and welcomed home.

With a stranger at her feet, Gretchen realized such things were easier said than done. She gripped the revolver and held out her other hand to stop her aunt from advancing. Holding her breath, she crept closer.

The man perhaps could have been her brother, once upon a time. His body was gaunt, worn thin by trials Gretchen suspected she would never understand. His left hand did not bear Werner’s distinctive strawberry-shaped birthmark.

This was not her brother.

 

Lucky 7 Excerpt from my Young Adult Civil War manuscript

letter-writingThere has been a “Lucky 7” excerpt writing meme spreading across the interwebs since 2012 if my cursory Google search is accurate. I thought it would be fun to share some of my progress.

In case you don’t know, the rules of the Lucky 7 meme are:

  1. Go to page 7 or 77 in your current manuscript.
  2. Go to line 7.
  3. Copy down the next seven lines as they are – no cheating.
  4. Tag 7 other authors.

Now, I’m nowhere near page 77 of my manuscript, so it’ll have to be page 7. These memes always make me nervous… what if they select a part of the book that’s kind of, well, boring? I suppose the idea is to open your eyes as a writer and make every page in your book compelling.

Anyway, here is my Page 7 line 7 excerpt from my young adult Victorian fiction, without preamble or context:

He opened his eyes in time to see wide skirts sweeping from the room. That confirmed it. He wasn’t at Camp Chase. The only woman allowed in the prison had died a few months ago of the very disease she had been helping her doctor husband fight.

Waking up away from Camp Chase should have brought him some relief, but that woman’s harsh accent filled him with dread. He had never heard anyone speak like that before, not even in the prison. Was he with friends, or simply in a smaller, more lavish prison?

“He’s awake?” he heard a younger voice from down the hall, most likely Alina. Whereas the older woman sounded annoyed, Alina sounded excited. “Have you spoken with him? Can we keep him?”

I don’t have seven writers to tag, so please forgive me. I’d love to see excerpts from:

  1.  Drew Farnsworth
  2. Caitlin O’Sullivan
  3. Eliza Wyatt
  4. Evangeline Holland

Update from the Trenches

Dear Reader,

Have you ever been so sick you can’t even stumble from bed? That’s what I’m going through right at this moment. My manager mentioned it might be strep, which I hope it isn’t because that means I have to leave my apartment to get antibiotics.

Anyway, over the weekend I wrote another 900+ words for Catching the Rose, which is pretty great. Not that what I wrote was fantastic, but it’s progress, anyway. I’m upping the tension in the book much sooner… I’ve cut out pages and pages of description and pitted Amy and Veronica against each other in a way that both surprises me and has me interested. Which I hope my readers will feel the same way. An excerpt to wet your whistle…

As if there wasn’t enough to worry about these days, with the southern states breaking away from the union. Amy pushed her tongue to the side of her mouth and bit it lightly to keep from saying anything. Veronica was a spoiled brat who had no concept of what was going on around her. She wouldn’t know, or care, that this war was chasing Amy south, for a little while, anyway.

“But you know,” Veronica said, leaning back in her seat, “they probably should have. Or they would have, if they had any idea what I’m intending to do here.”

The carriage skidded to a stop. Amy’s stomach landed somewhere between the stamping hooves of the horse that dragged them to the quiet street where Mrs. Beaumont lived.

“And just what might that be, Miss Vernon?” Amy managed, hand on her stomach.

“Ronnie,” Veronica corrected. She rifled through her satchel, which had sat hidden beneath her skirts all this while, and pulled out a careworn journal. She flipped through it expertly until finding a page some three-quarters of the way through. “Find him, and marry him.”

Amy blinked at the handsome sketch of a man Veronica couldn’t possibly know. “What?”

“It’s not the best likeness, I know,” Veronica said. She sighed a little, staring at the portrait of a man with dark hair, sharp eyes, and the hint of a smirk tucked at the corner of his lips. “I haven’t seen him in years. But that won’t stop me, no ma’am.”

“You’re in Richmond to find this man and marry him.” Amy knew she sounded stupid repeating Veronica again. Her lips felt swollen and her tongue heavy. The nausea from the train came back with a vengeance and she swallowed heavily against riotous bile. She had come to Richmond to erase all traces of this man.

It’s a first draft, obviously, but I like it.

How is everyone else doing? Check out the Round of Words in 80 Days list of participants to keep up.

Best,

Belinda