Ah, yes. Once Upon a Vine. I mean time. (This is good wine, by the way.) I just wish I had come up with the fabulous label. We all love fairytales—both reading and writing them. I hope you enjoy the following excerpts from my women’s fiction, THURSDAYS AT COCONUTS, which has romantic and suspenseful elements as well as the close-knit bond between three women who’ve known one another since high school.
Before we launch into excerpts from my novel, I want to share some of my first sentences with you. First sentences are essential to hooking the reader. Don’t you love to open a book and find a first sentence that grabs you by the throat or won’t allow you to stop reading?
Here are several versions of my first sentence for Chapter 1:
- I can’t go through with this.
- My perfect day is now ruined.
- Suzy adjusted her beaded wedding dress for the hundredth time and clutched her grandmother’s hanky—her something old—for strength.
- The quaint chapel overflowed with calla lilies and fragrant lilacs, yet something was terribly wrong.
- Suzy trembled as she sat alone in the dressing room adjoining the chapel.
- Suzy sat alone in the dressing room adjoining the chapel.
- Suzy’s wedding dress swished loudly as she paced.
- Suzy adjusted her beaded wedding dress for the hundredth time and cried once more into her grandmother’s lace hanky, her something old.
See how many directions you can go with just one sentence? It’s agonizing–and fun. By the way, I chose #1. It’s short, to the point, and hopefully hooks the reader into thinking “She can’t go through with what?”
I’m going to share a portion of chapters one, two, and three so you can meet all three of my main characters. You’ll see that Suzy is a wedding planner who can’t find her own wedded bliss. Alexandra (Alex) is a bank marketer who meets a bad-boy cop and has a “touch” of OCD. And Hope is a high school guidance counselor who hates her frumpy appearance and is constantly irritated by her hippie parents.
I can’t go through with this. Suzy bit her bottom lip and clutched her phone, unable to dial. Should I call and confront him? She took a deep breath and paced. Her heels clacked on the hardwood floors. The cheery yellow walls annoyed her. Her throbbing ears competed with the loud swish of her chiffon wedding dress as she fumed.
Suzy rubbed her knotted shoulders as she peered out the dressing room window watching the unknowing guests filter into the chapel. They chatted and laughed, dressed in their wedding best. She held onto the curtain for strength as she watched friends and family parade inside to wait for the bride-to-be. To wait for her. Suzy angrily brushed away tears and adjusted her strapless, beaded wedding dress for the hundredth time. At that moment, she made up her mind. She didn’t have a choice.
Determined, she dabbed her eyes with her grandmother’s lace hanky—her something old—and did her best to reapply mascara. The guests were going to be in enough shock without looking at a raccoon-eyed bride. Suzy glanced at the clock. The ceremony was minutes away when her father appeared in the doorway.
“Ready, Suzy?” Gianni asked, smiling broadly.
Suzy managed a small smile for her handsome, half-Italian father. While she would have much preferred to inherit her father’s olive skin and dark, curly hair, she had her mother’s Irish red hair and easily sunburned porcelain skin.
“You look beautiful, sweetie. Absolutely stunning. You’re the most gorgeous bride in the world.”
Suzy blew out her breath and touched her chignon. She wanted to rip it out, throw on some jeans and run. Instead, she stared at the floor avoiding her father’s eyes.
“Thanks, Dad.” Suzy’s voice wavered but she continued. “You look very debonair in that tux, more handsome than ever but—” A sob caught in her throat as she looked into her father’s deep, brown eyes.
“Listen, Dad, there’s going to be a change. I’m going to walk myself down the aisle—”
As usual, Alex was running late. Balancing the steering wheel with her left knee, she applied pink lip-gloss and glanced in the rearview mirror. Satisfied with the new color, Alex peered into her purse. Where are those gold hoops? And what could this urgent board meeting be about? How could it be more important than my best friend’s wedding?
It wasn’t like the bank president to be unreasonable but Alex was irritated that she had to miss Suzy’s wedding. She pulled out her phone to call her friend. It was dead. She had forgotten to charge it. Crap. Now, I can’t even call Suzy. With a big sigh, Alex shoved the dead phone into her purse.
Alex glanced up. The light was still red so she continued to dig in the deep black hole of her purse for earrings. She fished wildly through her bag, cursing the fact that whatever she needed was always in a different pocket or crevice.
Suddenly, she felt a small movement followed by a thud. Her body lunged forward. Oh, God. She had a feeling she knew what had just happened but was afraid to look up. In denial, Alex fixated on the contents of her purse. Her pulse raced as she tried to will the thud away and pretend it never happened. Alex cursed under her breath and finally got the nerve to look out the windshield.
Damn it. I knew it. I’ve hit a car.
Alex squinted as she made out the type of car. Sweat broke out on her top lip as her heart pounded.
I rolled right into a …
Hope dreaded going home. She knew most people couldn’t wait to get home after work but they didn’t have what she had waiting—hippie parents. Make that hippie parents who refused to get normal jobs and depended on her for food and especially beer. Hope had missed the Ozarks, but sometimes wondered if she had made the right decision by moving back to the Midwest.
Now, every day was the same—counseling kids at school, feeding her parents, fighting with her parents—and repeat. Just like the movie Groundhog Day.
She stopped by the store to buy bread, chips, and beer. God knows she’d never hear the end of it if she forgot the beer. Her parents, Larry and Montana, always had the munchies from pot and certainly couldn’t afford their own groceries. How could they? Neither one had a job unless you counted Montana’s colorful macramé plant holders that she sold at endless garage sales. Hope wasn’t exactly on Wall Street with her meager high school counselor salary, but she managed.
Once Hope pulled onto her street, she spotted her parents’ familiar, yellow Volkswagen Microbus with tie-dye peace signs and daisy decals adorning the sides. Just seeing that ridiculous vehicle made her shoulders droop.
She parked in front of her drab, tan duplex with shrubs that sorely needed trimming. The half brown, half green lawn was patchy at best. She noticed one of the brown shutters was crooked and the screen door had a hole in it that was somehow getting bigger by the day. A green garden hose now draped across the drive and the barbecue grill was beside the garage instead of on the back patio. It’s too much trouble to recoil the hose and return the grill to the backyard?
Her parents’ old VW bus, Betsy, actually had a bed in the back, seventies-style. They had it stocked with hard rock music on cassettes and even a few eight tracks. Hope did share their love of sixties and seventies music but their commonality seemed to end there.
Sure, it was great in high school when she had the cool parents who smoked weed and didn’t mind if she got in at two in the morning. All of her friends loved the fact that Hope could drink beer, smoke pot, or paint her walls any color of the rainbow. She was allowed to wear short skirts, lots of makeup, have parties, and play rock music loudly. Very loudly.
Hope’s friends had always put her parents on a pedestal. If they only knew. They told Hope how lucky she was and constantly complained about their boring, strict parents. But Hope had always envied her friends. She wanted a curfew. She didn’t want her parents to let her smoke pot or drink beer. The parents of Hope’s friends were all grown up. Unfortunately, hers still acted like teenagers.
Hope hadn’t had the nerve to tell her best friends from high school, Suzy and Alex, that she had moved back to town. She was too embarrassed about her unchanged situation and her looks. They were both gorgeous and she had a curvy—okay fat—body and unruly hair. Can’t something be right in my life? If I at least had an accent, I might be considered cool.