Sunday, April 17, 2016

Taxes, Tales, and Puppy Dog Tails by Melinda Curtis

It's Sunday. I have good news, and I have bad news. Let's start with the bad news.

BAD NEWS: Tomorrow is tax day. Don't ask me why they extended the date to April 18 this year, but lucky us, they did. If my dad were alive, he'd be writing a check today to the IRS. He would look at his tax return from the previous year, add 10%, write a check, and stick it in an envelope with a tax extension request. On tax day, he liked to drop off his paperwork with his accountant and tell them not to worry until August. (Please note: do not try this at home.)

BAD NEWS: We are still a long way off from finding out who will run for President. Since I live in California where we vote in June, this means we shall continue to scratch our heads and argue with Aunt Sally about delegates versus the popular vote, the appropriateness of using your work email for personal correspondence, Donald Trump's temper, Marco Rubio's man-boots, Hillary Clinton's pantsuits, and daily updates on what the candidates are doing. (Please note: I am breaking the cardinal rule of author blogs by even mentioning politics, go easy on me.)

GOOD NEWS: I almost have our new little Yorkie mix trained to walk on a leash without having him freeze or leap three feet sideways! This makes walking so much more relaxing. (Please note: I must also report that as soon as I get up from the dining room table, both puppy and his fearless leader hop into my chair - we are still working on training.)

GOOD NEWS: I love the cover on my latest Harlequin Heartwarming release! When you work with a publisher, you don't always get a cover you can sigh over (I've had covers with heroes who look like they've been taking steroids, have severely receding hairlines, show the wrong amount of passion for the story, and...well, I should stop there). It also helps that I enjoyed writing A Man of Influence (trust me, books are like children - some are a challenge to get moving in the right direction, while others are just a joy). AMOI has a hero who thinks he's charming and a heroine who's onto him. Plus my supporting cast of those over the age of 65 are in fine form. Fun, fun, fun (oh, and maybe some tears at the end).

So if you're taking a break from doing taxes today, or trying not to watch the news, or avoiding a responsibility (like dog training), take a moment to enjoy an excerpt from A Man of Influence, out now (and in larger Walmarts May 1).

It was just another Friday morning in Harmony Valley. Tracy felt no stress at all.
And then he walked in.
Morning sunlight glinted off the blond highlights in his brown hair and outlined his broad shoulders. His eyes were the dark brown of coffee, no cream. Those eyes catalogued everything in the bakery, as if he thought there’d be a test later.
The conversation in the room dwindled and died. Chairs scraped. All eyes turned toward the newcomer, because Harmony Valley wasn’t a pass-through town. It was practically the end of the road.
“Don’t. Scare. Him.” Dang it. Stress jabbed repeatedly at her stilted speech button like a child playing ding-dong ditch. Tracy swallowed her sudden discomfort and waved the man to the counter.
“Who came in?” Mildred asked, voice on the max volume setting. Apparently, she hadn’t put in her hearing aids this morning, and couldn’t see through her ice cube lenses.
Mr. Golden Glow chuckled as he approached the counter. He moved out of the sunlight, and became…No more normal. Still gorgeous. He walked like he owned the room, exuding a vibe Tracy had always admired—power, prestige, a winner of corporate boardroom games. Didn’t matter that he wore jeans and a polo shirt. That walk said suit and tie. His confident air said I know people who can get you a job.
Tracy’s mouth went dry, because she needed a better job. Unfortunately, she could practically feel the full extent of her vocabulary knot at the back of her tongue, clogging her throat.
She tried to remember her latest speech therapist’s advice. Breathe. Relax. Turn your back on the person youre talking to.
Okay, that last one was Tracy’s antidote. But it worked. Not that there were many opportunities to turn her back mid-conversation or in an argument without looking like a total jerk.
And how could she forget the advice of her speech teacher in college? Breathe. Relax. Imagine your audience is naked.
“What’s good here?” Mr. Tall, Perfect, and Speech-Robbing stepped in front of her.
Tracy’s gaze dropped from his steel gray polo to the counter. Oh, for the days she dared imagine the opposite sex naked. “Coffee.” That was good. Normal sounding. If you didn’t count the frog-like timbre of her tone. She cleared her throat. “Scones.” She waved a hand over one of the pastry cases that her boss, Jessica, worked so hard to fill.
“Why do you suppose he’s here?” Rose, never shy, asked the room, shuffling her feet beneath the table. That woman never sat still.
Maybe he’s lost,” Eunice piped up from the window seat.
“Not lost,” the stranger said cheerfully, smiling at Tracy as if they shared a private joke.
The joke was on him. This was Harmony Valley, where people had no respect for personal boundaries and could have taught the FBI a thing or two about interrogation.
“Visiting relatives?” Mildred squinted his way.
“Strike two.”
Tracy had never been a believer in eyes twinkling. But there you go. His did. Despite that power-player vibe. Or maybe because of it. Her body felt a jolt of electricity, as if it ran on twinkles, not caffeine.
Old Man Takata held up a chunk of chocolate croissant. “Health inspector?”
“Thank you all for playing.” The newcomer grinned, scanning the menu board above Tracy’s head while the room erupted with speculative conversation.

This is Melinda again. Have a wonderful Sunday. And good luck with those taxes!

You can purchase A Man of Influence here: