My book, Chasing Sunsets, had just released. In an effort to touch base with all the Christian bookstore managers in the Central Florida area, I packed my Jeep Cherokee with hot-off-the-press copies, a hand-drawn road map with directions from Store A to Store B and so on and so forth, and my trusty admin behind the wheel.
Her job was to drive, mine was to jump out at the stores, run in, introduce myself with a gift of a book and some bookmarks, and a happy-to-meet-you smile.
We went to the first store. The whole thing went well. And, I somehow managed to go into a bookstore without coming out of the bookstore without having bought, ah-yet, another book.
Then we went to Store B, which was no longer there.
Store C. Which we drove past. If we looked head on at the extraordinary long strip mall, the Family Christian Store was at the far right end. We had to enter the parking lot at the far left end. The mishap cost us a good two minutes. Maybe three. (That's important for later on.)
Cheryl drove toward the front door of the store, pulled up alongside it, and I jumped out. "Be right back," I said, then darted in. Just inside, I found the store empty (at least as far as I could see), save one store clerk who stood behind the counter to my left. She was talking on the phone.
I stood a few feet away, waiting patiently for her to end the call with the person on the other end, apparently a customer. When she did, I took a few steps forward and introduced myself, handing her the copy of my book. A hand reached over my shoulder--out of no where, it seemed.
"Did you write this book?" a woman's voice asked.
What the heck? Where did this person come from?
I whipped my head around to look at her. Tall. Slender. Angular features. Wild dark hair. Funky glasses. I liked her on sight, even though I still couldn't figure out where she'd come from. But that wasn't the greatest mystery.
You see, what I didn't know--yet--was that this phantom customer was about to bring a change to my life. A deep change. In a most unexpected way.