Tag Archives: Humorous contemporary romance

Sunday Snippet – Dearly Beloved 8.26.18

From my upcoming DEARLY BELOVED, Book 1 in the Match Made in Heaven series.

Chapter One

“9-1-1! Colleen, I’ve got a 9-1-1 in the Bawl Room!”

I cringed at the crisis call blaring through my earpiece. I hated emergency calls, especially when everything was about to start. To pull off the perfect wedding, just like when invading an enemy country during wartime, you have to run on a strict, unbendable time schedule. There was no room for deviation. A 9-1-1 call was the equivalent of a ticking time bomb, set to blow up the whole operation.

“On my way,” I said. “Any bloodshed?”

“None so far,” my assistant Charity Quinlan replied, her small voice breathless with urgency. “But it’s coming. Get here. I don’t know how much longer I can keep them from killing one another.”

I shot from my command post at the back of my hometown church in Heaven, New Hampshire, and sprinted down the long corridor toward the kid’s section, affectionately known as the Bawl Room, which was the staging area for the soon-to-start wedding I was in charge of. The small space was given this moniker because it was where parents of unruly children shuttled their little miscreants when their behavior disrupted the congregation during Mass. My sisters and I had been banished to the room every Sunday of our childhood.

I took a calming breath in front of the closed door—a door that did nothing to muffle raised, angry, and shrill voices—and ran a hand across my quaking abdominal muscles. They’d been throbbing and pulsing like a precision quartz timepiece from the confining, belly-flattening, spandex undergarment I wore to mask the extra eight pounds I’d recently packed on.

I said a silent prayer to St. Gabriel, the patron saint of strength. “Breathe,” I whispered, making it a plea. “Just breathe.”

Placing a broad smile across my face, I pushed through the door and entered into a tempest I regarded as the tenth circle of Hell: ex-wives.

Two lavishly dressed women—one in her fifties, the other ten years younger, and both trying desperately to look in their thirties—stood, dyed stiletto to dyed stiletto, glaring at one another. Both had fisted hands planted on their hips, shoulders hunched, perfectly coiffed heads bent, ready to do battle.

“Who do you think you are?” one screeched at the other. “You’re not her mother. You’re nobody in this wedding, just my ex’s current squeeze of the second, so back the hell off. Now!”

The woman being shrilled at, all six foot of her in icepick heels, leaned forward and pulled her outlined, lipstick-enhanced mouth back into a perfect teeth-baring snarl. She jabbed one of her french-manicured tips at her aggressor and ground out, “I’ve been married to him longer than you were, bitch, and you know it, so who you calling squeeze of the second, because from where I’m standing, you were more like a mistake who got knocked up than a wife any day of the week.”

The elder of the two was set to pounce, aiming for her rival’s perfect camera-ready face so I did a quick little jog and insinuated myself between them.

“Ladies.” My gaze ping-ponged from one to the other. “Please. The wedding is about to begin. We can’t have this kind of behavior.”

“She started it,” the actual mother of the bride, Mary Ann Stively said, pointing at her ex-husband’s current wife. “She says she should go down the aisle after me because she’s married to my loser ex—”

“Who’s the father of the bride,” JoEllen, wife number two, said. She turned her back on wife one and faced me. “You’re the wedding planner, Colleen. You know proper protocol says I should go down the aisle right before the party, since I’m married to the father of the bride. I looked it up, read all about wedding etiquette and procedures.”

“In what? Your current edition from slut-of-the-month book club?” Mary Ann spat.

JoEllen’s eyes slitted under penciled eyebrows standing stationary on her unlined and unmoving forehead, a paralytic effect—I surmised—from years of Botox injections.

“Why, you—” She inched forward and tried to reach by me, but eight years of track in school and four more in college gave me a decided advantage in swiftness. I blocked her, my arms splaying out at my sides so she couldn’t go around me.

My left eye started to twitch—never a good sign—and I knew I had to set this situation to rights. Now. The wedding was scheduled to begin in less than ten minutes.

“Mrs. Stively.” Both women stared at me. “Um, the current Mrs. Stively.”

JoEllen pulled herself up to her towering height and gave her paid-for breasts a good forward thrust. “What?”

“I know you feel you deserve to walk down right before the wedding party—”

“I do.”

“—but I’m sorry. Whatever you’ve read stating that was the correct procession is incorrect. The actual mother of the bride is the one who immediately precedes the party. Unless, of course she’s not present or deceased. Then it would be proper for a stepmother to be the last person down the aisle before the attendants and bride.”

JoEllen slanted a deathly glare at Mary Ann. I swear I could hear her brain running through scenarios on how to commit murder in the next five minutes.

“Now, I need you both to take your places so we can get this wedding started. Stop arguing and let’s go.”

I’d dealt with these two overbearing women many times in the past few months and knew neither would give an inch, or relinquish control, of their own accord. Since they continued to stand rock-still, daggers zipping between them, I did what I always do in situations like this and got physical.

I grabbed the first Mrs. Stively firmly by the forearm and gave her a good yank while motioning to Charity, who’d been cowering behind a pew, to do the same to Stively spouse number two.

Charity, at a spit above five foot, was no match for the lengthy, stilettoed second wife, but what she lacked in height, she more than made up for in determination. With a firm hand draped along JoEllen’s back, Charity began walking, propelling the woman forward.

“Can you believe that bitch?” Mary Ann asked as I escorted her down the long hallway to the back of the church where the procession stood, waiting. I continued to hold her forearm in a grip of steel in the event she planned to escape and go back to punch her replacement.

“Forget JoEllen,” I commanded. “It’s your daughter’s day. Focus on her. You don’t want Annie to remember this day filled with problems or fights. You want her to have the most wonderful memories of her wedding, don’t you?”

Before she could reply, I steamrolled right over her. “Of course you do. Fighting with JoEllen serves no purpose and will only upset Annie. Take a quick, deep breath if she annoys you again and ignore her. Believe me, you’ll feel better for it.”

I knew I was telling a bald-faced lie.

Mary Ann and JoEllen both wanted to scratch the other’s eyes out, and today’s incident was another in a long line of antagonistic outbreaks since Annie had retained me as her wedding planner. The two Stively wives despised one another for various and obvious reasons. Their only compatible redeeming value was their mutual unconditional love for the bride-to-be.

In the vestibule, the melodic strings of a Mozart concerto serenaded the waiting congregation.

Annie Stively’s parents had spared no expense on their cherished only daughter. From a twenty-thousand-dollar, custom-made, hand-stitched, lace and satin gown complete with a five-thousand-dollar tiara and train, to the five-hundred-dollar-an-hour stretch limousine waiting outside the church entrance, prepared to whisk the happy couple off to their reception a mere five minutes away, Dr. and the two Mrs. Stivelys set out to give their little princess everything she desired in a wedding.

With my help, they had.

“Mom? JoEllen? What’s going on?” The bride glanced from her mother to her stepmother, concern creasing her flawless brow.

“A few last-minute details we needed to go over,” I answered before either woman could. “They wanted everything to be perfect for you. It’s all settled now, correct, ladies?” With an arched and determined glare, I all but dared them to contradict me.

Both women, with uncharacteristic placidity, nodded.

“Good. Now, let’s get you all lined up, and we can get this beautiful girl married.”

I went into command mode, corralled the wedding party into their appropriate places, and gave the all-start command. “Let’s roll.”

Once the bridal party, including the two warring Mrs. Stivelys, were all seated, the soft, haunting strings of Johann Pachelbel’s Canon in D drifted through the air.

I stood behind one door, Charity the other. On my count, we threw open the doors wide at the same time. A collective wave of sighs blew through the church as the first view of the stunning bride broke through. While she floated up the aisle on her father’s arm, my photographer darted ahead of them, filming, as they slowly made their way to the altar. Charity and I closed the doors behind us and slipped into the last pew to watch the wedding.

At the front of the church, Dr. Stively stopped, lifted his daughter’s veil, and then kissed her cheek. I could hear dueling sniffling from the front pew, Mom and Stepmother each trying to outdo the other in the waterworks department. Once Dr. Stively took his seat between his first and second wives, the congregation sat as a unit.

“Did you check to make sure the best man has the rings?” I asked Charity, looking toward the stable of tuxedoed ushers at the altar. The groom’s younger brother looked as if last night’s bachelor party had been a rousing success, evidenced by the pasty tinge to his skin, the railroad track redness covering the whites of his eyes, and the none-too-subtle tremor in his hands.

“He does,” Charity replied.

“Did Devon bring the basket with the bird seed?”

“He did.”

Off to one side of the altar, I spied my trusty and talented photographer being as unobtrusive as possible while he captured the happy event through his lens.

“Kolby has everything he needs?”

“He does.”

When I slanted her a look, Charity grinned. “And before you ask, I already called the inn. Everything is ready. The champagne is chilling, and the band is warming up. Maureen told me to tell you not to fret. She’s got it all covered. No worries.”

Two of the most overused and least accurate words in the English language, especially when speaking about a wedding.

With as deep a breath as I could manage (I really was going to throw in the towel with this pseudo-girdle and cut back on the carbs instead), I sat back and watched the ceremony I’d put together, and prayed the rest of the day would go on without any further problems or arguments between warring family factions.

What’s that old saying? Man makes plans and God laughs?

Yeah…the story of my life.

 

DEARLY BELOVED, coming November, 2018. Buy links coming soon!

 

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Filed under A Match Made in Heaven

A visit with Author Cheri Allan

I am so pleased to have talented author and my NHRWA chapter mate CHERI ALLAN visiting me today. She’s got a brand new release out – Book 4 in her Betting on Romance series, DEAL ME IN and  today, she’s talking about what’s involved with writing a series, what to avoid, and when to say – sigh – goodbye.

Here’s Cheri…

              Don’t Kill Grandma and Other Tips for Writing a Series

DEAL ME IN, my newest humorous contemporary romance, is the fourth and final book in my ‘Betting on Romance’ series. While I won’t claim this makes me an expert on writing series books, I’ve learned a few things along the way. (Pack snacks. Travel with friends. But I digress.) So, in the spirit of ‘do what I say and not what I do’ I thought I’d share some of my tips and observations for others.

  • Is it a series? What kind? First, know what you’re writing at the outset, because there is a difference between a serial (one story arc told in many parts) and a series (stories which may or may not stand alone but each having a unique story arc and conclusion.) My books are stand-alone novels interconnected by characters and the fictional setting of Sugar Falls, NH. Each book has its own couple, story arc and secondary plot lines, which make this a loosely connected series. However, I do have four match-making, poker-playing grandmothers who appear in each novel. Some authors choose to have a series arc–an overarching plot line–that carries through the series and resolves in the final book. I chose not to do this for two reasons: a.) that’s a heck of a lot of plotting for this pantser and b.) I didn’t want my debut stories linked too closely together in case I decided to pop off in another direction after book two. Promising a series resolution that never comes would be worse than never planning one to begin with. Happily, this also leaves me open to add another book in there at a later date. Keep those options open, people!
  • Who’s on first? It was about book three that it occurred to me that despite how intimately I knew my characters as I wrote each book, by the third book, I couldn’t remember a random character I’d mentioned in book one and now wanted to refer to. Now, I keep a master list of every character that appears in each book and a short phrase of who they’re related to or other distinguishing feature. Not only does it keep me from naming too many characters Ed (a distinct possibility), it saves a lot of flipping through old books trying to remember what I’ve named someone’s pet dog. (Max, as it turns out.)
  • My hero: Ned? Speaking of throw-away names, be careful of what you name those characters you think are only popping on screen for a moment. I was very cavalier in the first book about naming secondary characters only to realize by book two one of them would be a future hero. And I didn’t entirely love his name. (It was fine, but it was no ‘Levi.’) I’ve made peace with that, but unless you want a hero named Ned, choose carefully. Or be prepared to come up with a charming nickname.
  • Let each book have its own voice. You may be the ultimate plotter with color-coded sticky notes and a series bible with sheet protectors (you know who you are), but I’m here to tell you that over the course of writing two, three, or four books, your writing voice will find its rhythm, but your books may not always cooperate. When you think about it, it’s only natural that each book will have its own character. The story with the shy heroine or nerdy hero will have a different vibe than the one about the tough and snarky girl or wounded hero with PTSD. DEAL ME IN gave me heart palpitations half way through writing, because I realized this story was naturally more emotional than the others. Yes, there’s humor and grandmothers, but it has its own tone. And that’s okay. My voice is consistent, and unless I pop out of subgenre and introduce werewolves into my contemporary romance, readers will be okay with it, too. I’m growing and changing as a writer with each book, and so are you. Don’t sweat it.
  • But don’t kill grandma, either. There’s a limit to how much you can deviate from reader expectations. If you’ve set up a series where the reader feels safe, amused and somewhat insulated from the ‘real world’ (for instance) be careful how much of that real world you allow to intrude into your story arc. It may feel like you need to shake things up by series end, but if you deviate too far from established reader expectations (Werewolves! Ebola outbreak!), you’ll hear about it. I could, for instance, never bring myself to kill off a grandmother. These characters represent enduring friendship and unconditional love, and they’ve been there, shepherding other characters and my readers through four books with their poker, meddling and homemade cookies. They deserve to ride into the sunset on golf carts sipping cocktails, and I plan to let them.
  • Know when it’s time to say goodbye. For the very reason I can’t kill off grandma, I knew the length of this particular series was finite. They won’t live forever! I also don’t want the story premise to grow stale. That being said, I’ve grown fond of Sugar Falls, and with every fictional event and landmark I’ve brought into being, I’ve grown to love spending time there. So, I will. With a new But without grandmothers this time. They’re off playing with their great-grandbabies anyway.

So, tell me, what have you learned from writing your own series? As a reader, what is it about series you enjoy? What makes them feel stale? Discuss!

BLURB:
Is the game of love worth the price?

Deal Me In cover kindle

Grace McIntyre never planned to lose her virginity in a seedy motel to the hottie with the eagle tattoo, but she knew he was The One–until a heart-wrenching goodbye proved he wasn’t.

Despite three tours of duty and one heroic mountain-top rescue, Army veteran Jeff Dayton no longer dreams of a career in search-and-rescue. Two years ago, his politically-ambitious sister needed help spiffing up the family image to win a seat in the state senate, so Jeff returned home to Sugar Falls, New Hampshire, to walk the straight-and-narrow and take a job as a small-town cop. Now his tattoos are covered, his rock-n-roll father is under wraps, and Jeff should be bored out of his mind… but he never figured on reconnecting with his free-spirited high school sweetheart, Grace McIntyre.

Grace and Jeff have managed to dance around their rocky past since he’s come back to Sugar Falls, but when they’re both assigned to the town’s Harvest Festival planning committee, their attraction sparks to life, igniting both old passions and burning regrets. New revelations help them see each other in a new light, but it takes a small-town festival calamity–complete with a llama petting zoo, a female empowerment “demonstration,” and Jeff’s rocker dad on the main stage–to force these two to let go of the past and find the strength to forgive. Because half the fun of the game of love is winning… and the other half is deciding to play.

*** Mild sexual content; Mild language; No violence ***

BUY LINKS:

Amazon ///Kobo /// Nook // Google Play  //

Bio

cheri

Cheri Allan writes hopeful, humorous contemporary romances. She lives in a charming fixer-upper in rural New Hampshire with her husband, two children, two dogs, five cats and an excessive amount of optimism. She’s a firm believer in do-it-yourself, new beginnings and happily-ever-afters, so after years of wearing suits, she’s grateful to finally put her English degree to good use writing romance. When not writing, you might find her whizzing down the slopes of a nearby mountain or inadvertently killing perennials in her garden.

Betting on romance… because every woman deserves to get lucky.

 

 You can find Cheri here, or as she calls them, at her STALKER LINKS:

Facebook // Facebook,Author // Twitter // Website  //GoodReads

 

 

BETTING ON ROMANCE ( Books 1-3)

luckbook2all

 

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Filed under Author, Contemporary Romance, Friends, Life challenges, love, NHRWA, Romance, Romance Books