I’m happy to welcome another debut author, 2011 RWA Golden Heart finalist Arlene Hittle, whose debut DIVA IN THE DUGOUT was released in October. Hi Arlene. So glad you're here. I've downloaded DIVA, and I'm hoping to devote some of my Thanksgiving break to reading it. I've heard nothing but good things about the book--and not just from baseball fans. LOL. Please tell us a little about it.
In DIVA IN THE DUGOUT, Arizona Condors shortstop Dave Reynolds faces the toughest test yet: fatherhood.
After a successful stint in drug rehab, Dave is still trying to outrun his bad boy reputation. When the team's new owners tell him to shape up or be fired at season's end, he vows to change. He doesn't count on fatherhood playing a part in his transformation.
Melinda Cline makes a rash decision: take solace in the arms of a sexy-as-sin ballplayer whose name she insists she doesn't want to know. Big mistake. Now a single mom to a four-year-old, Mel strives to live as quietly and cleanly as possible. But fate intervenes and she comes face to face with the man who insists on being included in their daughter's life. The attraction between them is still strong, but it may not survive Dave's reputation or his attempts to do the right thing.
Can the Condors' bad boy step up to the plate and knock out a home run for fatherhood? And if he does, will his daughter's mamma be ready?
What drew you to this story?
When BEAUTY AND THE BALLPLAYER was selected as a finalist in the 2011 RWA Golden Heart (Contemporary Series), one of my first thoughts — after OMG, OMG, OMG — was if that is going to be my successful manuscript, it’d better have a companion. Luckily, BEAUTY had always been part of a series in the back of my mind — a baseball team has nine positions, after all!
The hero in BEAUTY, Matt, is adamant that the pregnant heroine, Meg, tell the ex who’d run out on her about the baby. His buddy Dave’s story is the reason why. So I’d already mentioned it in passing. I just had to take those few paragraphs and use them to craft a series-length novel.
It helped that I’ve always been a sucker for a “secret baby” story. It was fun to imagine how an unwitting father would react to the surprise, and how the mother would handle his intrusion into her — and their daughter’s — life.
Secret baby stories are so popular. Would you share an excerpt?
This scene is from the day Dave meets his four-year-old daughter, Tara, for the first time. They’re at a Chuck E. Cheese-type pizza place, playing games, while Melinda watches from the table.
Dave watched Tara’s third straight ball drop into the center ring. “You’re pretty good.”
Tara giggled. “You too, Daddy.”
“Not as good as you.” He couldn’t believe how hard it was to hit a target no more than five yards away. His arm was made for distance throwing.
Either that or you’re losing your touch.
Dave refused to dignify that thought with a response. It’d be a cold day in hell when he couldn’t even play skee ball. He checked his watch. “The pizza’ll be ready any minute. Let’s sit down.”
Tara shook her head.
“No?” Well, hell. He didn’t want to have to go fetch Lin to get Tara back to the table. What kind of impression would it make if he couldn’t even wrangle his girl to the table for dinner?
“Have to potty and wash up first.”
So she wasn’t just being willful. Relief surged through him. “Great idea, kiddo.”
He spotted the “restrooms” sign on the far wall and headed that way, Tara in tow. He stopped mid-stride and Tara smacked into his leg. Was he supposed to take her into the men’s bathroom?
“Maybe your mom should take you.”
She shook her head. “You.”
“You’re a girl.”
Tara frowned. “So?”
“So I can’t go in your bathroom.”
“I’ll go in yours.”
The more Dave considered that, the worse it sounded. What if someone else was at the His little girl wouldn’t see some stranger’s equipment on his watch. “No way.”
Her lip started to stick out. Dave gulped. Was that the pout or the beginning of an honest-to-god fit? He didn’t want to find out.
“We’ll use yours.” He grabbed her hand again as she made a beeline for the bathrooms.
His relief was palpable when presented with a third option, the “family” restroom. He pushed on the door, but it didn’t budge.
Crap. There went the easy out.
Tara started for the women’s bathroom. “Gotta go.”
“You can’t wait until this one’s open?”
With a shake of her head and stamp of her foot, Tara walked into the women’s restroom.
Dave had no choice. It was either follow her or let her go by herself. She was still too young for that, right?
He glanced around guiltily and then slipped through the door. Thank God it was empty. “You can go by yourself?”
Eeew. He felt creepy listening to someone pee—even if that someone was his daughter.
He shoved his hands in his pockets and leaned against the wall, wondering if his pizza was getting cold. As he contemplated the horrors of congealed cheese, the door swung open and thunked his shoulder.
A kid ran back out of the room, screaming. “Mommy, there’s a man in the bathroom!”
Uh-oh. That couldn’t be good. “Tara, you almost done?”
He heard a flush and she came out of the stall still pulling up her shorts. At the same time, the bathroom door opened again and a burly guy in a Pizza Palace uniform glowered at him.
“What’s going on in here?” the big guy demanded. His nametag declared him to be Chuck.
Dave yanked his hands out of his pockets. He needn’t have bothered. He didn’t look any less creepy. He was still a grown man in the women’s restroom—and this time he wasn’t there for a quickie with some hot chick he’d just met.
He gave Chuck his “I’m a good ol’ boy” grin and pointed at Tara. “She had to go to the bathroom and the family one was occupied.”
The employee’s glare didn’t waver until he stooped to address Tara. “Where’s your mommy?”
“She’s not feelin’ good.” Tara leaned forward and whispered, “I think Daddy scares her.”
“Does he scare you, too, sweetheart?” Chuck asked Tara while giving Dave the stinkeye.
She giggled and hugged Dave’s leg. “Uh-uh. He’s the bestest.”
Chuck rose back to his full height. Then he looked from him to his daughter and back again. His hands clenched and unclenched at his sides, like he was itching for a fight. “If you’re sure...”
“I am.” Dave put his hand on Tara’s head and gave the guy a level look. He didn’t want a fight. While he and Chuck were evenly matched in height, the guy probably outweighed him by fifty pounds.
Tara nodded. “Me too.”
Tara ducked under Chuck’s arm and ran out the door. Dave started to follow, but the other man held up his hand.
“Dude, don’t hang out in the women’s bathroom.”
“It was an emergency.”
He shook his head. “Doesn’t matter. Next time, we’ll call the cops.”
Arrested in a kiddie pizza place? That’d do his reputation no favors.
Dave shuddered. “Message received.”
Love the excerpt. I think this is going to have to move up my Kindle play list. You talked about nine positions on a baseball team. Is your next project part of that series?
Turquoise Morning Press will release BEAUTY AND THE BALLPLAYER in March 2014, and a still-untitled Book 3 in my “All’s Fair in Love and Baseball” series in April 2014 ... just in time for a new baseball season.
I’m also independently releasing a holiday novella, HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS, this month, and hope to put out two full-length novels in 2014.
Sure, it sounds like a cliché, but sayings become well-worn for a reason: They’re recognizable, universal truths. Writers have to stick with it, learn what they can from rejections (even when they sting at first), and develop their craft.
DIVA isn’t the first manuscript I finished. It’s not even the second. It’s number six or seven. Maybe even eight. They all start to blur together after a while. The earlier ones are publishable (I hope), but it took considerable reworking to get them there. The first draft of that first manuscript wouldn’t recognize itself today.
That is so important for all of us writers to remember. Sometimes we feel crushed if our first manuscript doesn't sell immediately. It might seem, because you're writing a series, that your plots are "built in." But I understand they're not. How do your stories come to you at first--through characters, setting, story line?
Like many writers, I play the “what if” game. What if the Arizona Condors’ bad boy shortstop suddenly found out he was a father? What if the child’s mother is still the sexiest one-night stand of his life? What if she finds him irresistible, too?
Once the creative juices are flowing, the scenes tend to unfurl in my head like a play, mostly dialogue. I deepen description and describe the characters’ feelings in subsequent drafts.
Apparently I’m not alone. I’ve heard other authors say they write the same way.
You're absolutely right. I love it when the scenes come almost naturally. Thanks so much for visiting today. Best of luck with your first book. I hope you'll come back to visit when BEAUTY is released.
Find DIVA IN THE DUGOUT at Turquoise Morning Press, Smashwords, All Romance Ebooks, Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Smashwords will begin distributing to Kobo, iTunes and other e-tailers soon.
Arlene Hittle is a Midwestern transplant who now makes her home in northern Arizona. She suffers from the well-documented Hittle family curse of being a Cubs fan, but will root for the Diamondbacks until they run up against the Cubs. Longtime friends are amazed she writes books with sports in them, since she’s about as coordinated as a newborn giraffe and used to say marching band required more exertion than golf. Find her at http://arlenehittle.com, on Twitter at http://twitter.com/arlenehittle or on Facebook at Arlene Hittle, Author.