Is There Such a Thing as a Perfect Wedding? by Debra H. Goldstein

Summer is wedding time, and when my friend Debra H. Goldstein’s newest book arrived with a wedding theme, I couldn’t wait to dive in and ask her Just One Question: Is there such a thing as a perfect wedding? Debra’s answer is below, along with a chance to win her latest terrific mystery, Five Belles Too Many! Take it away, Debra! — Shari Randall/Meri Allen

When I think about a “perfect wedding,” I think about a beaming beautiful bride and a thrilled groom. They only have eyes for each other as they happily share their vows, oblivious to everything else at the moment their union is sanctified. It is a wonderful illusion.

Wedding reality differs – none are ever perfect.

From the moment a couple decides to get married, tension ensues. One may want a large wedding, the other a small wedding and the parents may have a third idea as to what they can afford. There may be religious differences that impact who the chosen officiant will be or the venue that can be used. Are there allergies that prevent the use of flowers? Is there a venue rule that prohibits animals which makes it difficult to have the couple’s dog be the ring bearer? Do the parents like the groom or bride? Is there a bridezilla or Mamazilla involved?

Even if all of the pre-ceremony issues can be resolved, things can go wrong during the ceremony. Someone may faint. Rain may disrupt the planned outdoor wedding. Bees may beset a fruit display used as the centerpiece for food being served on the lawn. The rings may be lost or, as happened during my wedding, instead of being tied to the pillow with a slip knot, the six-year-old ringer bearer may re-tie them with double knots so he won’t drop them going down the aisle. To this day, I remember the best man, when asked for the rings twice, saying, “Dammit, Rabbi, I’m trying!” as he feverishly unknotted them.

In the newly released fifth Sarah Blair mystery, Five Belles Too Many, I incorporate the concept of the “perfect Southern wedding” with what happens behind the scenes of reality TV shows. In Five Belles, a New York TV show comes to Wheaton, Alabama to tape five finalist couples vying to win that “perfect Southern wedding.” Four couples are in their twenties, but the fifth couple is Sarah Blair’s sixty-plus-year-old mother, Maybelle, and her friend, George. They entered the contest on a lark, although Maybelle was sure they had a good shot at being finalists because of the demographic need for an older couple.

The show requires the five competing Southern Belles to each have a chaperone. Because Sarah’s twin, Chef Emily, works at night and Mother Maybelle doesn’t want to inconvenience any of her friends, Sarah is forced into the role. Not only does Sarah have mandatory chaperone duties, but she also must juggle her law firm day job and caring for her furry pets, RahRah and Fluffy. What makes it even worse is that the show contracted with Sarah’s greatest nemesis, Jane Clark, to have the contestants and chaperones stay at Jane’s bed and breakfast. Mother Maybelle assures Sarah it won’t be a big deal because she’ll be sleeping most of the time she’s at Jane’s Place, but, unfortunately, on the first night the TV show’s producer is murdered and Jane is found kneeling over his body with blood on her hands. When it is decided that the show must go on, Sarah must find the true killer before any more of the contestants or crew are permanently eliminated.

For a chance to win a copy of Five Belles Too Many (U.S. only), tell me, do you have any “perfect wedding” stories like what happened with the rings at mine?

 

Allow Me To Introduce Myself – And My Other Self: Using a Pen Name

 By Shari Randall

 

Any writer will tell you there are ups and downs on the road to publication. To torture the metaphor, there are washouts, hairpin turns, and dead ends along with the rare, blessed miles of straight-as-a-pin, put-the-top-down-and-blow-your-hair-back Montana highway. I thought I’d managed these changing conditions pretty well until the publication journey threw up a completely unexpected challenge.

 

A hitchhiker.

 

Anyone who’s ever watched horror movies is now having flashbacks and shouting, “Never pick up the hitchhiker!” But since it was required, I took a deep breath, swung open the door, and let her in.

Not only did I let her in, I let her drive.

I picked up a pen name, Meri Allen.

 

“Why a pen name?” readers asked. My agent says “new series new name,” and luckily, the new Ice Cream Shop series has been welcomed with great energy and reviews.

 

But how does one “be” another author? Sally Field in Sybil haunts my dreams. I have questions. What about Meri’s author photo? Should I change my look? Use a disguise? The pandemic already changed my hair color, so at least I have that going for me. A new website is in order, but who gets it, Shari or Meri? How to write Meri’s bio when she doesn’t really exist? 

 

Thank goodness the writing has gone smoothly. Both Meri and Shari adore the same writers and cut their teeth on Nancy Drew, Trixie Belden, Agatha Christie, Ross MacDonald, and Sue Grafton. They’re both huge Murder, She Wrote fans.

 

Shari’s main character, Allegra “Allie” Larkin is a dancer who works in a lobster shack and discovered a talent for and love of sleuthing. Meri’s main character, Riley Rhodes, is a librarian who worked for the CIA – and had a few undercover assignments on her many travels. Riley’s older and has been around the block a few more times than Allie, but both are independent women, fiercely loyal to their families and friends. Shari set her stories on the Connecticut shoreline, Meri sets hers in a wonderful little spot in Connecticut we call the Quiet Corner. Quiet, except for the murders I’ve written in. The Lobster Shack Mysteries had definite Gilmore Girls vibes, while Meri’s Ice Cream Shop Mysteries have a Midsomer Murders vibe, darker, as befits a protagonist who has secrets of her own.

 

The writing process took me to some unexpected places, but I’ve come to love Riley and her friends in Penniman, a quintessential New England village with the covered bridge, town green, and locals with generations-long grudges and secrets to prove it. At first it was hard to put aside my Lobster Shack mysteries characters, but I’ve signed on to the Destination Murders anthology series and will bring them back in short stories once a year. I’ll still get to spend time in beloved Mystic Bay. 

 

As a writer, I’ve discovered one big benefit to a pen name. In talking with a friend who uses pen names (three!), I realized a wonderful advantage. Using a pen name gives you clear headspace to write new characters. When I write as “Meri Allen,” it’s easy to switch gears and enter into Riley’s world.

 

To my relief, Meri’s a terrific driver, and I’m enjoying the ride.

 

Writers, have you ever used a pen name? What was your experience? Readers, what do you think about authors using pen names?

 

Shari Randall is the author of the Lobster Shack Mystery series. The first in series, Curses, Boiled Again, won an Agatha Award for Best First Novel.

 

Meet Meri on social media. She’ll, well, we’ll be celebrating her new book, The Rocky Road to Ruin, with lots of giveaways and fun, plus sharing all things cozy New England and ice cream galore!

 

Check out The Rocky Road to Ruin here.

Instagram: @meriallenbooks

Facebook: Meri Allen Books

July 14-26: Win a paperback copy of The Rocky Road to Ruin! Macmillan has set up a Goodreads Giveaway

A Delicious Debut and a Giveaway!

by Shari Randall

Dear Readers,

Greetings from the quiet northeastern corner of Connecticut, the setting for my new series, The Ice Cream Shop Mysteries. The setting, the village of Penniman, comes complete with a covered bridge, pocket farms, and the Udderly Delightful ice cream shop that specializes in unique flavors crafted with local products. It’s a dream setting and I have to be honest – the research for this series has been a dream, too! I’ve traveled the back roads of New England searching out the most delicious little ice cream parlors to inspire Udderly Delightful. The ice cream maker on my kitchen counter has gotten quite a workout as I’ve experimented with recipes for the book.

I’ll share more about the series as we get closer to publication date, but I did want to let you know that my wonderful publisher has set up a Goodreads giveaway with 50 (!) print copies of THE ROCKY ROAD TO RUIN on offer. So click the link to head on over, enter, and read more about the story! Here’s the link to the Goodreads Giveaway.

Shari Randall is the author of the Agatha Award winning Lobster Shack Mystery series. Her new series, The Ice Cream Shop Mysteries, written as Meri Allen, debuts on July 27 with THE ROCKY ROAD TO RUIN. You can follow her on Instagram and Facebook @ShariRandallAuthor and @MeriAllenBooks.

#goodreadsgiveaway #cozymysteryseries #icecream