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Today is the first of the Tuesday Wedding Tales blog series posts where I’ll be highlighting wedding themed stories.

To start it off the new series, I’d like to welcome Alice K. Arenz, one of my fellow authors in the Trying Out for Love boxed set, which came about because of a bridezilla story shared on the ACFW loop where we both are members. Bonnie Engstrom shared the outrageous news article with the loop with an offhanded comment about how 10 authors could come up with 10 different stories. The article piqued several authors’ Muses and resulted in an interesting series loosely based on the idea. The bridezilla story, which I’ll be revealing bits about over the next few weeks, sparked six very different stories, which Forget Me Not Romances, a division of Winged Publications, put together as single books and a boxed set.

Be sure to read to the end of the post for an excerpt of her book The Wedding Barter and a chance to win one of the six books in the set or the complete boxed set. Seven giveaways and seven winners!

 

Now I’ll let Alice tell you about how she ended up in this group. Welcome, Alice!

HOW A MYSTERY/SUSPENSE WRITER CAME TO WRITE A ROMANCE

or

WRITE A ROMANCE? YOU’RE KIDDING, RIGHT?!

 

And yes, that was my reaction when I was asked to join the group writing novellas for the “wedding/bridezillas” (as it was first referred to) boxed set for my publisher, Forget Me Not Romances. Though romance to some degree has always been part of my books in the past, I hadn’t attempted one in…well, let’s just say YEARS when I tried to break into Harlequin America back in the 80s. That didn’t go very well. My books were filled with too much comedy, too much mystery, and not enough sensual content—which was already too much for me! So, I accepted their comments and moved on.

Back to the story of how The Wedding Barter came to be part of the TRYING OUT FOR LOVE boxed set. To be honest, the encouragement I received, along with the idea behind why we were brought together for the project, sealed the deal. I was convinced it was the correct decision when, after a lot of prayer, the title for my “short novel” as well as the names of the lead characters were given to me. From there, it was a question of how to fulfill my commitment. That was a little more difficult because of my health issues. But, I’m a firm believer that God wouldn’t have given me the idea and details if He didn’t have the solution already worked out.

After stewing over the dilemma for about a month, my husband suggested that I dictate to him as he typed on his laptop. Seriously? Which is exactly what I asked him. He was not only serious, he was dedicated to the project—even when absolutely nothing was happening! He tried to understand that “my process” had always involved me sitting at my desk, eyes closed, fingers on the keyboard as I prayed and waited for the “connection.” I can’t even begin to explain how much more difficult it was to find a way to verbally describe what I saw happening in my head! But, like my characters in Barter reminded themselves, all it takes is a mustard seed of faith. That’s what I sought, and what we got as a result is a 49,000 word short novel—a romance based in the same fictional town of Tarryton, Missouri where The Bouncing Grandma Mystery series is set. No murders, but a few twists and turns, and, I hope, some laughs as well.

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THE WEDDING BARTER

by Alice K. Arenz

Riley Carr has been best friends with Amy Lawton since they were toddlers.  While Amy awaits her discharge from the Army, Riley’s been left in charge of helping to arrange “a very small, intimate ceremony with no fanfare” for Amy and her fiancé. But, Riley has something else in mind.

With the aid of two other friends, Riley presents her “wedding barter” idea to groom, David Herron. He agrees, providing best man, Mike Todd, stays in the loop to keep things from getting out of hand.

It doesn’t help that the giant of a man is threatening, overbearing, and just doesn’t seem to like her or her ideas. But, when Todd gives Riley an ultimatum of producing results in three weeks or he’ll take over, she’s determined to prove him wrong. . .in more ways than one.

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EXCERPT:

“You know we haven’t time for games, Riley.” Nat said with a touch of impatience. She glanced at her watch, then gave me a full measure of her soft brown eyes.

“Sorry.” I took a deep breath, then decided a reminder of our past seemed the best way to start. “Remember how much the four of us loved playing Barbie’s? I’d bet they were the best dressed dolls in town.” They looked a bit confused, so I rushed on. “One of our favorite things to do was plan their weddings.”

“Mrs. Lawton made the most incredible wedding dresses. Ours were usually in the bridesmaids’ gowns but were just as exquisite.” Hannah sighed, a tear seeping from her right eye. “Such beautiful memories. Mrs. Lawton would’ve been planning this wedding, sewing Amy’s dress as well as our bridesmaids’ gowns…if she were still here.” She sniffed. “Is it any wonder Amy wants this low-key? Even thinking about it has to be difficult for her. When her parents died, her whole world turned upside down. Quitting college in our sophomore year, having to sell the home she’d grown up in—it’s no wonder she joined the Army after losing everything she’d ever known.”

“I imagine that’s among the many reasons Amy asked us to…” Nat’s voice trailed off. She jerked once, then gave me a hard stare. “You’re not suggesting we do some kind of wedding auction?” Nat was incredulous at the idea.

“No, of course not. I did think about doing a raffle—”

“You know raffles are illegal in Missouri—unless you’re a church or some other kind of non-profit sort of thing.” Hannah said around a bite of calzone. It was uncanny how she seemed to know facts the rest of us were clueless about.

“Okaaay, but I’m pretty sure that doing something on a barter system wouldn’t be illegal.”

“Quid pro quo.” Nat.

“Tit for tat.” Hannah.

I nodded. “I know Amy would never want us to exploit her or David’s service record.”

“Which is really a shame. I’d bet most of the businesses in Tarryton would be more than happy to contribute items for their wedding. She is, after all, a hometown hero. And, David’s record—”

“I know, Nat, but she’d never forgive us. We’ve got to do this on the down-low. Surely we can come up with ways to barter our services for the things we’d need to give Amy the wedding of her dreams—without her knowing what we’re up to.”

I could literally see the wheels turning in Nat’s and Hannah’s brains. Awesome how one slight twist on an idea could add more enthusiasm than I’d ever expected or hoped for.

“Hey, we could ask my in-laws if we could use the barn where Chuck and I got married.” Hannah clapped her hands together like a kid at Christmas. “We’d have to clean it up, of course. And, well, there might be some damage from the tornado we had this spring. But, I know they’d let us use it for free.”

“That sounds terrific. I don’t think Pastor Grant will have a problem going to the farm instead of using the chapel, but I’ll check with him to see what he thinks.” It had only been a couple minutes yet things were already set in motion.

“Look, guys,” Nat said, standing, “I’ve gotta run, but I’ll mention this to Aunt Kelly and see what she says about supplying some plants for decoration. And, maybe if I play my cards right, I can get her involved, to…um, it’s best not to get ahead of myself. But, there’s something you should do first, Riley, and you’re not gonna like it.” Nat slung the strap of her purse over her shoulder. “Since your main contact for all of this is the groom, you need to speak with David before we go any further.”

As we paid our checks and said goodbye, all I could think about was facing a man I hardly knew and trying to convince him that our best friend’s wedding actually needed a little fanfare.

Want to read more? The Wedding Barter is available on Amazon, or you can enter the Rafflecopter for your chance to win the book. Winners will be announced February 20 at the end of the Trying Out for Love author guest posts. No purchase is necessary to enter this giveaway.

Enter Rafflecopter Giveaway by clicking box below:

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Though Alice K. Arenz is known for her cozy mysteries and romantic mystery/suspense novels, the Carol Award winning author has branched out with her newest release, The Wedding Barter, a romance that is both serious and funny.

Arenz is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers. Her first three novels were honored by two finals and one win in ACFW’s Carol Awards: cozy mysteries The Case of the Bouncing Grandma (a 2009 finalist), The Case of the Mystified M.D., (2010 winner), and mystery/suspense Mirrored Image (a 2011 finalist). These novels have been followed by An American Gothic, Portrait of Jenny, and short story, Home Cookin’.

Visit her at her website http://www.akawriter.com/