Today I’m excited to welcome Alice K. Arenz for an author spotlight. Read through to the end to find out how to enter to win an ebook copy of “The Wedding Barter”.
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 www.akawriter.com
Author Interview Questions:
- When did you start writing?
I’ve always said that I started writing at about 12-years-old, but that’s actually when I wrote my first “book.” It was called The Adventures of Christopher and Christina, and was passed from one person to the next in the 7th thru 9th grade study halls. I’d moved to the small Iowa town the year before, and this story helped me feel like I’d finally been accepted by the other kids in school. Their wonderful feedback, as well as the excitement of creating something from scratch, boosted my determination to one day become a writer.
- I noticed you have written everything from cozy mysteries to mystery/suspense. How is The Wedding Barter different from the others?
The Wedding Barter is a romance—no murders in this one. It’s set in the fictional town of Tarryton, Missouri, as the books in The Bouncing Grandma Mystery Series are—only nine years later. Many of the secondary characters from those books are in Barter. Even the main character in the series, Glory, makes a cameo appearance.
- What’s your writing process?
Ordinarily, it’s me praying in front of the computer with my fingers on the keyboard waiting for inspiration. This time, however, my entire body was in such a state of spasm that I couldn’t even sit at the computer. And, the times I tried, between that pain and horrific allergy attacks, I was useless! After a month of trying to figure out how to honor my commitment to my publisher for this novella, my husband, Chris, suggested that I dictate to him as he typed on his laptop. It wasn’t an easy process, but in the course of a few weeks, we finally got the hang of it. It took approximately seven weeks from start to finish—and instead of a novella, we ended up with a 49,000 word short novel!
- Now you’ve written a romance, which do you like better, cozy mysteries, mystery/suspense or romance?
Mysteries. I love the puzzle process. Besides, there’s always an element of romance in my books. Writing a straight romance—or at least as much of a romance as Barter is, was very difficult for me, a lot harder than I ever believed it would be. I now have an even greater respect and admiration for romance writers.
Readers, leave a comment below to enter for a chance to win an ebook copy of “The Wedding Barter”.
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.
The Wedding Barter
“You have to look at this!” I passed the pages I’d printed to Natalie, indicating she should give the extra one to Hannah, who’d already begun munching on a crunchy breadstick—one of Marcello’s specialties.
“Wha’s this?” Hannah spoke around the food in her mouth. A trim finger, with hot pink nail polish, covered her lips—probably to keep crumbs from falling out.
“It’s obviously important, Han, or she wouldn’t have asked us to read it.” Nat flounced in her chair, or would have if she’d been wearing anything other than jeans. She just naturally had that attitude—all super girly girl. There was nothing pretentious about her, never had been. Just because she was always “put together,” even when covered with dirt, some people believed she was not only stuck up but stuck on herself. Quite the reverse was true; Nat was an introvert on steroids—unless she knew you well.
Hannah, neither introvert nor extrovert, perused both sides of the paper I’d given them, her dark blue eyes wide.
“Is this for real?” She finally asked, stabbing at the page with a hot pink nail.
“As far as I know. Remarkable, huh?”
“Audacious is more like it.”
“Come on, Riley. A bridesmaid auction? Most people I know would rather bow out and risk the loss of a friend than incur such an outrageous expense.” Nat tossed the paper on the table. “The very fact there’s such a lengthy email chain speaks loudly of a hoax. Why on earth would anyone—”
“Did they?” Hannah asked before taking another bite of the breadstick.
I raised an eyebrow in response, realized what she was asking, and shrugged. “Actually have the auction? I don’t know. There’s nothing in the chain beyond the invitation, announcement, or whatever you’d call it. It was scheduled for what—um—a couple months ago? May, wasn’t it?”
Both girls nodded. I was about to say something when our waitress came by to take our orders. Knowing Nat needed to return to work in an hour, I knew we shouldn’t waste anymore time. We all ordered Marcello’s lunch specialty, BBQ beef calzones with the flakiest crust this side of heaven, and iced teas—unsweetened, of course—then went back to our conversation.
Hannah looked through the pages again. “The auction was in May and the wedding, um, is in September. Yesterday, if it was held this year.” Shaking her head, she continued. “You don’t really care about these strangers, do you?”
“This is a joke, right?” Nat narrowed her eyes. “I mean, you’re not thinking of doing an internet search…” She choked on her sip of water. “Our very own dinosaur searching the net for anything has got to be a joke.”
We all laughed. My friends knew me well. Ever since I’d suffered a head injury that left me in a coma for three days, computers and I were barely friends. I rarely used one except for work and email. And, it wasn’t just the loss of my computer skills; all my interests and hobbies suffered because of the accident—my love of reading and my determination to one day further my photography skills. But, this wasn’t the time to think about such things.
“It got me thinking, you know?” I leaned back in my chair and studied my friends. “If someone could devise a plan like that auction, surely we can come up with some ideas to help Amy plan her wedding.”
“I thought all you were supposed to do was arrange for Pastor Grant to perform the ceremony.” Hannah said between bites. “I distinctly recall our emails asking us to keep it small and intimate. You know how Amy is about fanfare.”
“After almost nine years in the Army with two tours in Afghanistan, and nearly getting blown up by an IED, Amy’s had enough “fanfare”.” Nat wrinkled her nose, eyeing me suspiciously. “Riley Carr, what have you got up your sleeve?”
The delivery of our lunches saved me. It would be a few minutes before I was put on the spot and forced to explain—not that we’d stop talking. Whenever Nat, Hannah, and I were together, we never stopped talking.
I listened to my friends’ conversation about the many varieties and colors of mums available at Kelly’s Garden and Landscaping where Natalie worked with her Aunt Kelly. I closed my eyes, picturing the beautiful shades of purple, orange, red and yellow that would soon be in full bloom. It was only a couple weeks before the official start of autumn, and despite the September heat wave, the sights and smells of fall were all around us.
A refreshing breeze washed over us, ruffling our hair and making me glad we’d decided to have lunch on the restaurant’s patio. The enormous flag in front of the post office, at half mast in honor of 9/11, waved against the crystal blue sky.
I took another bite of my calzone, the tangy BBQ sauce tickling my taste buds. The moment of enjoyment was interrupted by a gentle nudge on my shin.
“The flowers sound exquisite,” I opened my eyes and grinned. I knew they wanted an explanation; the problem was figuring out a way to present my ideas that would get them excited about helping.
“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.