The eve of any book release is nerve-racking. The main goal, first and foremost, is to have a book that people enjoy reading. That is my heart’s deepest desire. The second realistic goal, on the other hand, is to also have decent enough sales to keep the publisher wanting more books. Sadly to say, my Home in Heartlandia series got off to a rocky start. Of course I’m hoping book #2 – Her Perfect Proposal – will have a solid showing within the group of six books being released from Special Edition in March.
I’m super happy with the solid reviews rolling in from magazines, websites, and private readers. But I’ll honestly say that I don’t have a clue how to promote a book (and this is number seventeen with Harlequin!). I’ve tried everything, believe me. So here’s what I’m going to do this time around – share the first part of Chapter One with my blog readers. I hope you enjoy it! Let me know what you think!
“Is this because I’m an outsider?” said the petite, new and clearly fuming visitor in town. She’d jaywalked Main Street in broad daylight, far, far from the pedestrian crosswalk. As if it was merely a street decoration or a pair of useless lines. Did she really think Gunnar wouldn’t notice?
Dressed like she belonged in New York City, not Heartlandia, she wore some high-fashion fuchsia tunic, with a belt half the size of her torso, and slinky black leggings. Sure, she was a knockout in that getup, but the lady really needed to learn to blend in, follow the rules, or he’d be writing her citations all day long.
He took his job seriously, and was proud to be a cog in the big wheel that kept his hometown running smoothly. Truth was he’d wanted to be a guardian of Heartlandia since he was twelve years old.
“I won’t dignify that slur with an answer,” Gunnar said, though she was an outsider. He’d never seen the pretty Asian woman before, but that wasn’t the point. She’d jaywalked!
With the often huge influxes of cruise line guests all disembarking down at the docks, and now with the occasional tour bus added to the mix, he had to keep order for the town’s sake. The tourists rushed to the local stores for sweet deals and to the restaurants for authentic Scandinavian food without having to fly all the way to Sweden or Norway. If he let everyone jaywalk, it could wreak havoc in Heartlandia. The town residents had to come first, and it was up to guys like him to regulate the influx of visitors. Plus, jaywalking was a personal pet peeve. If the city put in crosswalks, people should use them. Period.
He kept writing, though snuck an occasional peek at the exotic lady. Shiny black hair with auburn highlights, which she wore short, her bangs pushed to the side, and with the pointy and wispy hair ends just covering her earlobes and the top of her neck. Interesting.
Most guys he knew preferred long hair on women, but he was open to all styles as long at it complemented the face. The haircut and outfit were something you might see on a runway or in a fashion magazine, but not here. And those sunglasses… She had to be kidding. Did she want to look like a bee?
Even though her eyes were shielded by high-fashion gear, he could sense she stared him down waiting for his answer to her “Is it because I’m an outsider?” question. Not wanting to be rude by ignoring her, he came up with a question of his own.
“Let me ask you this. Were you or were you not jaywalking just now?”
“I’m from San Francisco, everyone jaywalks.” She leaned in to read his name tag. “Sergeant Norling.”
“You with the cruise ship?” It was too early for a new batch of tourists to set foot on the docks, though there was no telling when those buses might pull up.
She huffed and folded her arms. “Nope.”
“Well, you’re in Heartlandia now, Ms.…” He stared at his citation pad waiting for her to fill him in. She didn’t. “Name please?” He glanced up.
“Matsuda. Lilly Matsuda. Can’t you cut me some slack?”
“I need your license.” Gunnar stared straight into where he imagined her eyes were, letting her absorb his disappointment at her obvious lack of regard for his professional honor. Something he held near and dear. Honor.
She wouldn’t look away, so he motioned with his fingers for her to hand over the license and continued, “Did you jaywalk?”
She sighed, glanced upward and tapped a tiny patent-leather-ultrahigh-heeled foot.
For the record, he dug platform shoes with spiky heels, and hers looked nothing short of fantastic with the skintight silky legging things she wore. Didn’t matter, though. She was a jaywalker.
His mouth twitched at the corner, rather than letting her see him smile. The way she’d said yes, turning it into two syllables, the second one all singsongy, sounded like some of the teenagers he mentored at the high school.
She lowered her sunglasses, hitting him dead-on with deliciously almond-shaped, wide-spaced, nearly black eyes. Hers was a pretty face, once he got past the Kabuki killer stare.
He tore off the paper, handed it to her and waited for her response.
Snagging the notice for jaywalking she frowned then glanced at it, and the discontented expression broke free with a surprisingly nice smile. “Hey, it’s just a warning. Thanks.” She suddenly sounded like his best friend.
“Now that you know the rules, don’t jaywalk again. Ever.” He turned to head back to his squad car, knowing for a fact she watched him go. He’d gotten used to ladies admiring him from all angles. Yup, there was definitely something about a man in a uniform sporting a duty belt, and he knew it. Just before he got inside he turned and flashed his best smile, but instead of saying have a nice day he said, “See you around.”
She had to know exactly what he meant—if she was sticking around this small city, he’d be sure to run into her again, and he’d be watching where she walked.
The petite Matsuda lady step closer, her flashy colorful top nearly blinding him. He gave his practiced magnanimous professional cop smile, the one he hoped to perfect one day when he ran for mayor. “Yes?”
“Know any good places to eat in town? Bars for after hours?”
“Just about any place here on Main Street is good. Lincoln’s Place does a great happy hour.” Was she planning on sticking around? Or better yet, was she trying to pick him up?
“You go there? Eat there? Drink there?”
His bachelor radar clicked up a notch.
She dug into her shoulder bag and brought out a small notepad and pen. “I’m looking for the best local examples of everything Scandinavian.”
What was she doing, writing a book? Maybe she was one of those travel journalists or something. Gunnar stopped dead, hand midway to scalp for a quick scratch. Or maybe she was one of those annoying type A tourists, who had to know it all, find the best this or that, snap a few pictures while never actually stepping inside or buying anything, just so they could impress their friends back home. She looked like the type who’d want to impress her friends.
“Yeah. My favorite lunch joint is the Hartalanda Café. And you can’t beat Lincoln’s Place for great dining. Got a crack new lady pianist named Desi Rask playing on the weekends, too, if you like music.”
She didn’t look satisfied, like he’d failed in some way at answering her query—the question behind the question. Too bad he hadn’t figured it out. Maybe she was a food reporter for some big magazine or something and wanted some input from a local. “Well, thanks then,” she said. “See you around.”
See me around? That’s what I said. So is she new in town, planning to stay here, or just here on assignment? His outlook took a quick turn toward optimistic without any specific reason beyond the possibility of Ms. Matsuda sticking around these parts. An exotic woman like her would be a great change from the usual scenery.
But wait. He wasn’t doing that anymore—playing the field. Nope. He’d turned a new page. No more carefree playboy, dating whoever he wanted without ever getting serious. If he wanted to be mayor of Heartlandia one day, he’d need to settle down, show the traditional town he knew how to commit.
Gunnar slipped behind the steering wheel, started the engine and drove off, leaving her standing on the corner looking like a colorful decoy in a Where’s Waldo? book.
In stores now, and available for preorder in e-book at all the usual stores and outlets.
Until next time, make it a great one,