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Love Is Just a Game - Inspiration and Snippet, Part I

Updated: Aug 21

I asked my amazing critique partners what this blog should include, and one of them asked for my inspiration behind Love Is Just A Game, my first manuscript, so here it is! Or Part I of it, at least. Love Is Just a Game is a contemporary small-town romance currently out for submission and looking for a publishing home. It is a finalist in the Bookstore Romance Day Discover New Romance contest.


First, here's the blurb!


Jake Maguire had it all—looks, charm, and enough skill to achieve his dreams in the Major Leagues. But after an injury forces his retirement, duty calls him home to take over the family feedstore. He expects boredom during his six-week stay in his tiny Arizona hometown, but finds temptation instead when his high school sweetheart's all-grown-up little sister, Samantha Somers, walks in with her non-stop curves and a no-nonsense attitude.


Samantha’s plate is full. Not only does she manage the local Inn, she’s the town’s go-to council woman for recycling woes, errant raccoons, and more. Now she’s running for mayor in a contentious race and can’t be distracted. When Jake shows up at a campaign event and Samantha ends up in his arms on the dance floor, their chemistry is too hot to ignore. They make a plan to give in to their undeniable attraction without becoming the targets of small-town gossip, but as they find it harder to resist the emotional pull between them, gossip may be the least of their worries.


Jake has no intention of staying in town. Samantha has no intention of leaving. As the clock ticks down to Samantha’s election and Jake’s departure date, they’ll each be forced to make a choice between the place they live and the person they might just love.



So, why Jake and Samantha? Why this story as my first foray into fiction? I'm going to answer that question in a series of reflections, and this is the start. First, baseball. To quote Susan Sarandon in Bull Durham, "I believe in the Church of Baseball." In fact, I grew up in the Church of Baseball. My older brother played baseball through and after college, and I have more memories than I can count of hanging out all ball fields. First, it was searching for scuffed balls and ground squirrels in the swaths of creosotes surrounding the local little league field where my family practically lived; then it was following my brother's small high school team to little towns around Arizona, chewing nervously on fingers and tapping feet on dinging metal bleachers as he pitched. And baseball was everywhere else--minor league games in Tucson, special trips to L.A., San Francisco, and San Antonio to watch MLB games, games on the tv, baseball cards scattered through the house.


On our special trips to big parks, we'd get there hours early to watch batting practice, standing with waving arms, hanging over the fence to beg for a ball or an autograph. In 3rd grade I impressed all the boys in my class by naming the starting lineup at the San Francisco Giants, and when I was 17, I attended the inaugural game for the Arizona Diamondbacks, though it felt a cruel irony that our state only got a big league time when I was moving away for college.



Now, I couldn't tell you the starting lineup of any major league team, but baseball is part of my very soul. Whether it's practice fields of our local high school or the wide open spaces of the Diamondbacks stadium when I head up to Phoenix for a game with my dad, the sight of a baseball field just opens me up. It makes me feel good. Add the smack of the ball in the glove, the combination of the slow-as-hell pace of the game with fast bits of excitement you'll miss if your face is in your phone, and I'm in heaven.


So when I started writing, the story started with baseball. And while Jake is a retired player, this isn't a sports romance (which are great, by the way, check out Jacqueline Snowe and Rachel Reid, among others), and we never see Jake playing in the pros. Instead, baseball enters the story more as the role it plays in my own life--as a background, as a touchstone, and as a source of joy.


That said, I did have to include a couple scenes of Jake on the small-town high school baseball field that started his path to stardom. In the scene from which I'm drawing this snippet, Jake is letting off some steam by doing batting practice with his best friend and former teammate, Carlos. Even though this whole book was written as an act of love (for baseball, for Arizona, for the power of romance, and for myself as I struggled through the pandemic), this scene might be my very favorite.





As the ball left Carlos’ hand, Jake’s brain and body made a series of decisions in a flash, produced from decades of honed instincts and muscle memory. He’d never found words sufficient to describe the way that his body just knew what to do without him telling it. His legs sprung slightly as he pulled his shoulders back for just an instant, then his energy exploded in the spiral of his swing, the wooden bat a mere extension of his arms, pulling his body around as his eye stayed on that little white ball. What a thing, to determine so much of his destiny—a little ball of twine covered in leather. The vibration of ball on bat shook through his hands a fraction before the sound of the ball hitting wood cracked through the air. That sound—so clean, so pure, the sound of thousands of nights of dreams.


Jake’s body twisted with the follow-through of his swing as the ball soared over the field in a beautiful, slow arch, eventually falling into a stand of cottonwood trees dozens of feet outside the outfield fence.



Thanks so much for reading! My next blog post will focus on another bit of inspiration for this manuscript: the breathtaking southern Arizona landscape in which the story takes place.

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