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A Priest and a Leprechaun Walk into a Bar . . . by Diane Kelly

Love,_Luck,_and_Litt_Cover_for_Kindle (2)As an aspiring writer not so long ago, I wrote several manuscripts as I developed my skills, learned my voice, and tried to figure out who the heck I was as a writer. Though I’ve since gone on to traditionally publish a romantic mystery series starring an IRS special agent and I love writing female law enforcement heroines, I had a soft spot for several of the characters in my unpublished manuscripts.  I decided to give life to one of them by self-publishing the book.

Erin Flaherty is a single mom who runs a shoe-repair business and teaches Irish step dance lessons. Though Erin is trying hard to be good person, she finds herself hopelessly in love with her priest. Yep. You heard right. She’s in love with her priest. And if that’s not bad enough, he just might return her feelings.

I once pitched the mansucript to an editor (not my current editor) who leaned back away from me in her seat and said, “I wouldn’t touch that with a twenty-foot pole.”  The idea terrified her. But I do no scare so easily.

Heh-heh-heh.

As I’ve discovered, one of the wonderful things about self-publishing is that writers can write the book they feel compelled to write, regardless of marketing concerns or possible backlash that might scare off a traditional publisher. What a sense of freedom! On the other hand, the details of self-publishing seem a bit overwhelming to me, and I love working with a traditional house where they take care of things for me. I also love my editor at St. Martin’s who gives me lots of free rein with my Death and Taxes books but also adds lots of value with her spot on suggestions for revision.

It’s been fun dipping my toe into the self-pubbing waters, and I applaud those brave women among the Ruby Slippered Sisters who helped blaze the trail.

If you’re recovering from a St. Patrick’s Day green beer hangover and need some laughs, read the excerpt from Love, Luck, and Little Green Men below.

*******

CHAPTER ONE

MONDAY, FEBRUARY 14TH

MIXED BOUQUETS, MIXED MESSAGES

Another Valentine’s Day and here I was again.

Lonely.

Loveless.

Lover-less.

Yep, I’m unlucky in love. Unlucky in just about everything else, too. Life tried, and time again, to kick my ass. But, you know what? Life could piss off.

I, Erin Flaherty, would not go down without a fight.

***

For the third time in as many months, I sat at the counter of my shoe repair shop screwing a new tap on the heel of a men’s size thirteen tap shoe. Part of me wanted to scold my son for abusing his dance shoes, but another part knew the broken tap was a sign of his passion for dance. With his enormous feet, athletic style, and unbridled enthusiasm, Riley could stomp a stage into splinters. Heck, I’d broken a tap or two myself over the years. Might as well cut the kid some slack.

My shop wasn’t much to brag about, just a small foyer and stockroom with walls painted a soft sage green and dark wood floors that, judging from the multitude of scars, were likely original. Two wooden chairs flanked the front door. Not that I was ever so busy customers needed a place to sit while they waited their turn, but best to be prepared just in case, right? A brass coat tree nestled in one corner, an oval standing mirror in the other. The white Formica countertop supported an outdated but functional cash register and one of the world’s last remaining black-and-white portable TV’s. A full-color map of County Cork, Ireland and a poster of Saint Fin Barre’s Cathedral, a County Cork historical landmark, graced the walls, giving the shop a touch of Irish kitsch.

The bells hanging from the front door tinkled and a blast of brisk winter wind blew into my shop, carrying a sweet, flowery scent with it. I looked up to see an enormous bouquet of long-stem roses, six red and six yellow, making its way inside. My heart performed a pirouette in my chest and I emitted an involuntary squeal. “Flowers? For me?”

Dumb question, really. I was the only one in the shop. But you can’t blame me for being surprised. The last time anyone had given me flowers was when Riley’s father had shown up in the delivery room with a tiny bouquet of carnations and an even tinier engagement ring. That was fourteen years—and what seemed like a lifetime—ago. I’d kept the flowers but refused the ring. The right choice, obviously, given the look of relief on Matthew’s face when I’d handed the small velvet-covered box back to him. But who could blame him? Like me, he’d been only nineteen, much too young to deal with a new baby and a wife, though not too young to knock me up, the knucklehead.

He’d promised to pull out.

Never trust a guy with a hard on.

Of course it takes two to tango, and I’ve accepted my share of the blame. Or should I say credit? When I think of my son, of what a clever and caring kid he’s turned out to be, it’s impossible to consider him as a mistake.

The roses made their way toward me, bringing their lovely smell along with them, coming to rest on the countertop next to the cash register. Their courier stepped aside to reveal himself. I knew the face in an instant. Strong-jawed, with the ruddy complexion of a man who’d spent a decade toiling at the dockyards of Dublin. Dark hair worn closely cropped in a no-fuss style. Intelligent, soulful eyes under thick brows. The roguish smile that revealed an upper bicuspid chipped in a life-changing moment the tooth would never let him forget.

Brendan.

“Happy Saint Valentine’s Day, Erin.”

Would I ever tire of that deep Irish brogue?

A sense of warmth flowed through me and a smile spread across my face. “Back at ya’, Bren.”

Brendan was “Black Irish,” dark-haired and darker-skinned than the majority of the fair and freckled Irish population. Legend had it they were the progeny of naïve Irish lasses taken into the arms of Spanish sailors shipwrecked long ago on the Emerald Isle. God help me, I’d often wondered what it might be like to be taken into Brendan’s strong arms.

Shame I’d never get a chance to find out.

He was dressed in his usual casual style. Blue-and-white striped cotton shirt, un-tucked, sleeves rolled up to the elbow, along with worn blue jeans and brown ankle-high work boots. Despite the frosty weather, he wore no jacket, still acclimated to the colder Irish climate even after living in Texas all these years. Brendan was only average height, but appeared manly, formidable even, given his stocky frame, and he still towered over me. Heck, fifth-graders towered over me.

I set the tap shoe on the counter, tossed the screwdriver into the plastic bin on the shelf under the cash register, and stood to admire the arrangement. Dainty baby’s breath and lush greenery filled out the bouquet, which rested in an adorable vase shaped like a vintage women’s lace-up boot.

“Brendan, they’re . . .” Unexpected? Surprising? Confusing? I decided to go with “Perfect.”

And they were. Full, open, at their prime. Yellow, signifying friendship. Appropriate given that Brendan and I were close friends, had been for years now. And red, signifying . . . love?

No. That’s certainly not what Brendan could have meant by choosing red roses. After all, he couldn’t love me. Not in that way. No way. No how. It wasn’t allowed.

But what if it were? I reached out to touch a velvety red petal and pricked my finger on a thorn, the sting bringing me instantly back to reality. Why waste time thinking about something that would never—could never—be?

“Ouch.” Instinctively, I put the nicked finger to my mouth. Brendan’s gaze followed, flickering from my lips to my eyes, then back again. Heat flooded me again, this time hotter, more intense, more concentrated. But this feeling, this heat, was nothing more than embarrassment, right? Sure. After all, what else could it be?

Arf! Arf! Blarney, my son’s Irish Setter mix, rolled off his plaid doggie bed in the corner and made his way over to Brendan with his tail wagging. Taking his eyes from me, Brendan crouched down and scratched Blarney behind the ears with both hands. “How ye be feelin’, boy?”

Blarney responded by wagging his tail harder and licking Brendan from chin to forehead.

Brendan chuckled and wiped the doggie slobber from his face with the back of his hand. “I’ll take that as ‘fine.’”

Blarney looked up with his sweet brown eyes, today looking nothing like the crazed beast who’d sunk his fangs into Riley last Thursday. Although I’d suspected something was wrong with the dog, noticed he’d lost weight and seemed disoriented at times, I’d hoped it would pass, just a temporary bug. Riley had noticed Blarney’s lack of interest in food, too, and had bought his pet an expensive T-bone with his own money, cooking the steak himself on the stove, flipping it in the pan until it was just right. He’d cut the meat into bite-sized pieces and had been trying to hand feed it to Blarney when the dog snarled and snapped, clamping down on Riley’s hand. The puncture wound was deep, but thankfully needed no stitches. As much as the bite must have hurt, it was clear from the look in Riley’s eyes his heartbreak was far worse. How could the dog he loved turn on him?

Brendan gave Blarney one last scratch and stood, turning to me. “Sure ye don’t want me to go with ye to the vet? It would be no bother.”

No, I wasn’t sure. But as much as I needed Brendan, the sinners at Saint Anthony’s needed him more. Confession was scheduled each Monday afternoon. If Brendan canceled today, the congregants would have to bear their sins a week longer or carry them down the road to unload them on Father McMann at Saint Elizabeth’s. Besides, Brendan had already accompanied me to Blarney’s appointment last Friday. I shouldn’t ask more of him.

I shook my head. “I appreciate the offer, but I’m sure the doctor will tell me the CAT scan came back fine.”

At the last appointment, Dr. Delgado had performed a physical exam and run the usual blood work, but found nothing wrong with Blarney. She’d suggested a CT scan to rule out other possibilities. I could ill afford the two-hundred and fifty dollars the procedure cost, but how could I refuse? Blarney wasn’t just my son’s pet, he was Riley’s best buddy, the brother he’d never had. Brendan had presented Riley with the wriggling pup as a gift for his seventh birthday. Now fourteen, Riley hardly remembered his life before the goofy orange dog bounded into it and began chewing up shoes almost as fast as Riley could outgrow them.

Brendan cocked his head. “Still on for dinner?”

“Counting on it.”

“Great. There’s a recipe in the arch-diocese cookbook I’ve wanted to try. Communion wafer casserole.”

Leave it to Brendan to wrench a laugh out of me despite my worries. I stepped around the counter and gave him a playful punch in the arm, noting his firm bicep didn’t yield to my touch. “You’re full of it.”

He reached out a hand and tugged gently at that rebellious red curl next to my right cheek, the one that refused to stay tucked behind my ear. He released it and let it spring back into place. “Boing.”

“Hey. No making fun of my hair.” I crossed my arms over my chest in mock indignation. Truth be told, I liked it when Brendan touched me, enjoyed sharing a sense of intimacy with him. He could tug my curls all he wanted.

He turned to go, calling back over his shoulder. “See ye at seven.”

I could hardly wait.

As Brendan walked to the door, I eased one of the red roses from the bouquet and held it to my face, breathing in its beautiful scent. Strange, though. My nose detected a spicy smell, too, like patchouli or an old man’s pipe. Probably nothing more than the residual smell of incense on Brendan’s clothes. I lifted my head and the scent grew stronger. Wait. Was the unusual smell coming from my storeroom?

“Jakers!” Brendan stood in the open doorway of my shop, looking up at the sky. He waved me over. “Come ‘ere, Erin. You’ve got to see this!”

I slid the rose back into the vase and rushed to his side. From the doorway I looked up. “Holy smokes.” My mouth gaped in awe. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Over our heads, against a dull backdrop of gray winter sky, arched the most brilliant rainbow I’d ever seen. Not only were the colors vivid and intense, but the spectrum was incredibly wide, filling the sky as if the rainbow were mere inches above our heads, reaching down toward us.

I stepped outside onto the sidewalk, Brendan and Blarney following me. We made our way out in front of the shop and turned back to look at the roof. A puff of steam streamed from my mouth as I emitted a bewildered and elongated, “Whoa.”

The rainbow narrowed and grew fainter as it descended toward the building. The colors faded away just a few feet above my shop.

We were at the end of the rainbow.

I turned to Brendan, hoping he could explain what we were seeing, but the look of amazement on his face as he stared upwards told me he was as mystified as I was. Rainbows were supposed to be far off things, high in the sky. They weren’t supposed to float in the air mere feet from the ground. And didn’t a rainbow require, well, rain? It hadn’t rained in days.

Not a drop. It wasn’t even misty. What’s more, the sun was hidden behind the clouds, not a ray in sight. Without the requisite moisture and sunshine, how on earth could there be a rainbow in the sky?

I whispered, as if speaking out loud would break the rainbow spell. “How can this be?”

Brendan slowly shook his head before turning his wide-eyed gaze on me. “If I didn’t know better, Erin, I’d say it’s magic.”

 

LOVE, LUCK, AND LITTLE GREEN MEN is only $2.99 on Kindle and Nook!

Visit Diane Kelly online at www.dianekelly.com, www.Facebook.com/dianekellybooks, and www.Twitter.com/dianekellybooks.

 

 

21 responses to “A Priest and a Leprechaun Walk into a Bar . . . by Diane Kelly”

  1. Welcome to the ranks of the independently published, Diane. The story sounds fabulous. And you’re so right. It’s very liberating to have the freedom to write the book that’s burning in you.

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  2. Amanda Brice says:

    I love it, Diane! And yes, this is a story that almost seems tailor-made for self-publishing.

    FWIW, the priest who presided over my wedding is a “married priest.” I wanted a vaguely Catholic wedding, but I wanted it outdoors, and the Catholic church doesn’t allow outdoor weddings. But there’s a movement out there of “married priests” (former Catholic priests who left the priesthood to get married, but they cosnider themselves in their hearts to still be priests) who will perform outdoor Catholic ceremonies.

    My married priest left the priesthood to marry — wait for it — a nun. 🙂 He and she are now social workers, and he runs a wedding ceremony business on the side.

    So I’d totally buy this story. It happens more than you think!

    0
    • Diane Kelly says:

      Wow! What a story about the power of love! Social work and serving as a minister are very similar, so it’s nice that they can continue their service.

      0
  3. Congrats on dipping your toe into the self-published waters! Wishing you much success and many sales! 🙂 I have to admit, your setup has me hooked!

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  4. “Never trust a guy with a hard on.”

    *snort* Love Erin’s attitude.

    Congrats on trying a new venue for publishing – wishing you many sales! 🙂

    0
  5. Vivi Andrews says:

    Congrats on the new release, Diane! It’s a real charmer. 😀

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  6. Tammy Baumann says:

    Yay Diane! This story sounds fun. Must go check it out…

    Congrats!

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  7. You know I can’t resist anything about Irish Dancing. :0 You had me at the ghillies on the cover.

    Can’t wait to finish reading this story!

    Congrats and cheers!

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  8. Rita Henuber says:

    How great is this? Congrats!

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  9. June Love says:

    I’m hooked and must go buy, so I’m thrilled you decided to self-publish it. I hope you have a lot of success with it.

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  10. Liz Talley says:

    What a cute excerpt – right up my alley and I love the magic in it. And outside the box romances are fun. Nothing wrong with having a priest as a hero…worked for The Thornbirds…though I guess not really in the long run.

    Congrats and I’ll be adding this to my kindle library 🙂

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  11. Kate Parker says:

    You had me at a dozen roses from a priest and a big, dumb dog. Must go order the book. Best of luck, Diane

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