“First & Goal” by Laura Chapman
Blurb: When Harper Duquaine’s no-nonsense approach to work unintentionally ruffles the wrong feathers at her new job, she joins her co-workers’ fantasy football league to prove she can hang with the guys. Only problem: she doesn’t know a sleeper from a keeper (or any of the other lingo thrown her way).
Embroiled in a world of lineups, stats, and trades, Harper’s quest to make nice topples when her competitive streak emerges. And her promise to herself that she’ll be a strong, independent woman and leave the drama and heartache behind is seriously tested when she catches the attention of her two biggest competitors: J.J., a local celebrity determined to win a fantasy championship, and Brook, the mild-mannered coach who seems too good to be true. Both threaten her resolve to remain single… and, more importantly, her chances at winning the prize pool.
With a slew of conflicting advice in her real and fantasy worlds, Harper must figure out how to play the game and come out a winner.
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While I dig through piles of green and yellow shirts, I call my younger brother, Christopher. I need advice before the draft. I may not be in this for the glory of victory or the money, but I don’t want to embarrass myself by coming off as an idiot.
His sleepy voice answers a second before it goes to voicemail. “What’s going on?”
Not wasting any time, I explain the situation. After giving him a minute to get the laughter out of his system, I tell him what I need from him. “I need a crash course in drafting a team.”
“Why do you care if it isn’t about winning?”
He snorts. “Fair enough. Do you have a pen and paper?”
My hands freeze on a long-sleeved green and yellow rugby style shirt. “Not on me. Should I grab some?”
He busts out laughing again. This time I struggle to stay patient while he pulls himself together. “Can we get through this?” I ask. “Today if possible?”
“Calm down, BK.”
I glare at the pile of shirts. “I told you not to call me . . . that.”
“Technically, you told me not to call you—”
“Don’t even say it. And don’t pretend saying BK is any different.” I walk over to a rack of jerseys. “Tell me your ‘rules.’”
Christopher clears his throat and begins. “Rule number one: Don’t draft a kicker or defense until the last few rounds.”
“It doesn’t matter if they show up as the highest-rated available player or if someone else makes a grab for kickers and defenses early. It’s a wasted pick. The guys in your league will make fun of you for the rest of the season if you do something so amateurish.”
Noted. Saving myself humiliation is the primary objective.
“Number two,” Christopher continues. “Don’t try to draft every player from your favorite team.”
“Why not? The Packers are good.”
“Yeah, but what happens if they have a bad week?”
I feign mock outrage. “Are you actually suggesting our beloved Packers would have anything less than a perfect season? What would Dad say?”
“Trust me on this one, Harper. Your Sunday . . . or Thursday or Monday will be a million times worse if you’re dealing with a Packers and fantasy loss.”
“Okay, avoid drafting the entire Packers starting lineup. Got it.” I’m going to have to do some fast research to find out who else I might want on my team. Basically, all the players I know are in Green Bay. “What’s next?”
“Have you found out what pick you have?”
My eyebrows furrow in confusion. “Pick?”
“Where are you in the draft order?”
“The first three people have selected the top three running backs in my mock drafts.” I want to ask what he means by ‘mock draft,’ but there’s no time. “You can have a little fun with being fourth, but I say you should take the Pope. You’ll impress the guys in your league.”
“Who’s ‘the Pope?’”
“John-Paul Massa. An underrated but totally badass running back.”
“Massa it is.” I stare at the Chad Baker jersey in front of me. “When can I draft Baker?”
“No sooner than the second round, but try to hold off until the third. You want to make sure you get a solid wide receiver, and they tend to go fast after the top six running backs are off of the board.”
“But I want Baker.”
“He’ll be around,” Christopher assures me. “And if things get hairy during your draft, you can always text me.”
“Is there a fourth rule?”
“Yes.” He clears his throat again and hesitates. Content with my clothing selections, I walk toward the checkout line. “My fast and final rule: Don’t let the guys seduce you into giving them the best players.”
My gasp of outrage draws attention from the person standing in front of me. I dart an apologetic grin, before hissing at my brother. “Why would you even go there?”
“Harper, you’re smart and driven.”
“But . . .”
“You’re an idiot when it comes to men.” He releases a heavy sigh. “Maybe it’s because deep down you’re a sweet person or maybe you’re too trusting, but you have a talent for giving it up to douchebags.”
I want to argue back on principle. I am a strong, independent woman, who doesn’t need a man to succeed. But, a glance back at my dating track record gives Christopher’s commandment some weight. Maybe I should tell him I’m a new woman after what happened with the last guy. Instead, I thank him for his advice and pay for the new football gear.
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**About the author: Laura Chapman is the author of First & Goal, The Marrying Type, and Hard Hats and Doormats. Her work also appears in Merry & Bright, A Kind of Mad Courage, and All I Want For Christmas. A native Nebraskan, she loves Huskers and Packers football, Netflix marathons, and her cats, Jane and Bingley. Laura is currently in pursuit of a fantasy football championship while penning her next novel.
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No two days are exactly alike. That’s the beauty of being an author. One day you’re plotting, another you’re navigating your way through a tricky passage, and on the next you’re swearing at your computer, because your marketing plan hit a hiccup. While I’m a big plotter, one of my favorite parts about being an author is that it challenges me to adapt as the situation changes—which is every day.
When Isabella asked me to write about my life as an author, I found I couldn’t put it succinctly, because it’s always evolving. Rather than speak in generalities on the subject, I figured I’d share a few days that illustrate the world of Laura Chapman: My Life as an Author.
November 30, 2010
Only 1,000 more words to go. I note the time on the display in the corner of my computer monitor. It’s after seven—plenty of time to meet my deadline, yet it doesn’t seem like enough. It won’t be the end of the world if I don’t finish. No one will die, no wars will break out, and no one will care. Except for me. I will care.
When I started National Novel Writing Month on the first (Has it really been a whole month?) I was out to prove something. I had to show myself that I could do it—I could write a book if I sat down and made myself finish what I started. Finishing would be the key difference this time. The partial manuscripts rotting in a folder on my desktop were evidence of my inability to complete what I began. “Laura Chapman likes to start stories,” they seem to scream. “But she doesn’t have the follow-through to reach the end.”
Not this time. This time, I will hit the 50,000-word mark. And then I will keep at it until the story is done.
With only 1,000 words more words needed and a few hours until midnight, when I have to verify my word count online, I pack my laptop and drive to Indigo Bridge Books. The local bookstore has the vibe I need. People are always writing there, and productivity sizzles in the air. It will be good to spend some time around like-minded people. The bookstore also has another distinct advantage over staying home: it has Internet.
I’m two years out of college, and I’m still in a financial crunch. The recession hit mere months after I earned my diploma. I’m lucky to have a job, even if it doesn’t pay much. Tack on the student loans, rent, and the debt I accrued when I moved to and from Houston during the past eighteen months, and Internet is a luxury I can’t afford.
But I need the Internet tonight to verify my words. And I need to finish writing those words.
Settled in at a small table with a mocha latte and my laptop, I type away furiously. I can do this, I can write 1,000 more words tonight. I can paint the picture of Lexi Burke’s quirky world on the Gulf Coast. I can show her chemistry with Jason Beaumont. Oh man. Jason Beaumont. I may have broken the mold with this character. To my twenty-four-year-old self, he’s the epitome of male perfection. He has a good job, the motivation and drive to succeed, a sense of humor, and the everyday southern charm I witnessed countless times while I lived in Texas. And like Mr. Darcy, he has a pretty bitchin’ house. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a big sprawling home with a pool? I bet he has Internet, too.
And so I type and type away, giving pause every so often to check the time and my word count. What would Lexi do? Write it down. Keep going. Around nine, I do it. I pass the 50,000-word mark with some change. Adrenaline pulses through my veins. I did it. I wrote 50,000 words in one month. I still have a ways to go until I type “the end,” but this is a huge step in that direction.
Feeling like I just scored a six-figure advance from a major publisher, I pull up the NaNoWriMo website so I can let them know I finished. The page takes a full minute to load, and another minute passes before I get to the word verification section. I copy my document and paste the contents into the form. Blood pumps loudly in my ears. I click “verify my word count.”
And nothing happens.
The spinny wheel of death pops up and still nothing. I refresh the page, only to find I have to copy and paste my text once more. This time I wait longer. I’m about to break a pencil in half when an error message appears on the page. What the eff. I try a few more times without success. I hit up Twitter to see if anyone else is having issues. Just as I expect, the frustrated tweets flow on screen. Due to an influx of traffic, the NaNoWriMo website is having problems loading.
Not one to sit in my failure for long, I call a few friends with faster, stronger Internet connections until I find one who can help.
“Sure.”Of course Aja will help. We’ve been friends since first grade. We were in the same Brownies troop. Aren’t the Girl Scouts always preaching preparedness? Or is that Boy Scouts? At the very least, I’m quite certain we sang a song about being friends until the end. And this is as close to the end as I’ve ever come.
Staying on the line, I give Aja my password to log-in. I send her my document, and she runs through the same motions I had earlier. Only this time, instead of a spinny wheel of death or an error, a congratulatory message pops up on her screen.
“’Congratulations,’” she reads to me. “’You did it.’”
While she enters in the necessary information to complete my winner certification, the excitement returns. My eyes burn with unshed tears. For the first time ever, I feel like an author. I can do this. I can live my dream.
September 10, 2015
This isn’t a great time to be leaving town. My third novel launched yesterday, and there’s still a lot to do in the way of promotion. But I did my best to plan ahead. I sent out interviews and guest posts to more than thirty bloggers, and I scheduled my tweets and Facebook posts during the next few days. For the most part everything has gone like clockwork.
Except for one crucial element: one vendor still doesn’t have First & Goal available for sale. Oh, they say it’s available on the publishing dashboard, but the null searches on the purchasing side beg to differ. I suppose this isn’t a big deal—or so I keep telling myself to avoid having a stroke. It doesn’t look terribly professional to have to keep saying “It will be up soon,” to waiting readers, but what can you do?
You can have a heart attack or cry. I’ve come close to both, but to what end? I have a flight to catch for a previously planned business trip. Death and hysteria aren’t practical options.
At least the screening lines at the Lincoln Airport are fast. The small municipal airport usually gets you in and out without much fuss. That’s a good thing. I didn’t sleep much last night—or the night before. In addition to releasing a novel, I spent the previous day wrapping up a bunch of projects at my other job. Then I had to do laundry and pack my suitcase. As icing on the cake, I had to draft a crappy fantasy football team at almost midnight. It wasn’t my best draft, and there’s a lot of opportunity for heartbreak this season.
There’s always next year, I suppose.
Successfully through the TSA search, I park at the gate and pull out my laptop. Maybe there’s something I can do to help my book’s cause before I fly to Indianapolis by way of Chicago. Sure enough a new email appears from my publisher. Great news. The rogue distributor finally has First & Goal up on its site.
“We’ll begin pre-boarding for Chicago, please…”
With limited time, I update my blog and website. I post to Facebook and Twitter. Hopefully this helps me with a few more sales. Almost as quickly, I repack my suitcase and board the airplane. Crammed into the tiny puddle jumper, I check my social media pages and email until we are collectively asked to turn off our mobile devices. We taxi around the tiny tarmac then come to a halt.
A few minutes later, the captain’s voice booms over the intercom. “We’re experiencing some slight delays getting into Chicago. They’re a little backed up on account of some weather in the area. We’re going to hang out here for half an hour, but we’ll get you there as soon as possible.”
Sneaking out my phone, I check the status on my other flight. Still on time. Normally that would be great, but I only have a forty-five minute layover. And my gates are on opposing sides of the airport.
I guess that’s why the phrases “just one of those days” and “it’s always something” exist. Hell.
February 23, 2020
“Just five more minutes,” I plead. “I’m almost done with this scene.”
I said the same thing ten minutes ago, but this time I mean it. I know we should be out the door an on our way already, but there’s no stopping inspiration when it strikes. I’ve always written when the mood arises. I did it ten years ago when my stories were ideas, and I do it now that I’m a best-selling novelist. I can’t change who I am just because someone is in a hurry to hit the Red Carpet.
Not that I can blame him. My husband is up for an Academy Award—again—but this time I have no doubt he’s walking away with Oscar gold. He’s deserved it every time he’s been nominated, but the Academy would have to be crazy not to reward his ingenuity on screen. Besides, this year he has his good luck charm—me. At least that’s what he told me when he walked away with his Golden Globe and SAG awards earlier this season. I’m not sure if there’s any truth to the superstition. But if there is, well, my lucky charm skills can only be stronger now that we’re good and truly married.
(That’s between us right now, though. How we managed to sneak off to Germany for a simple, but beautiful, wedding with only our families and closest friends without alerting the media is still a mystery to me. But it will only be a secret for a few more hours. I snuck a peek at his acceptance speech—the one he won’t carry on stage, but has memorized. I distinctly saw a note to thank his “magnificent wife.” He actually called me magnificent. I’m living a fairy tale.)
I guess luck really is on our side this year. I’m married to one of the sexiest and most brilliant men alive—who is hours away from having “Academy Award winner” attached to his name—and my last five novels have hit number one on the bestseller lists.
And not to toot my own horn too much, but the screen adaptation for one of those books begins filming next month. The hubby and I are headed to the set after we take our overdue honeymoon. I helped pen the screenplay, so who knows? Maybe I’ll be adding “Academy Award winner” to my list of accolades one of these days too. For the moment I’m perfectly content with everything I have, including the scene I am just about to finish—
“My dear,” he calls out. “You know I could sit here and watch you write all day, but the studio will kill me if I don’t make a couple of stops on the Red Carpet. I’d hate to have Harvey tell me I’ll never work in this town again.”
I tear my eyes away from the screen and freeze. No matter how many times I see him in a tuxedo, I never seem able to keep myself from gaping. It’s hard not to—the man looks like he was born wearing an Armani suit.
Swallowing hard, I find my voice at last. “I’m done.” I slam the laptop shut, not caring whether or not I’ve saved the current draft or finished the scene. I rise from the desk in our hotel suite and gently smooth out any wrinkles that might have formed in my vintage Oscar de la Renta gown. “Sorry to keep you waiting.”
He captures my hand and raises it to his lips. “Worth waiting for.”
My stomach tumbles. It’s just like I’m seeing him for the first time when we met at that bookstore in London. He was picking up a couple of books to take on a shoot. I was finishing up a signing. That was almost two years ago, and here we are now.
He nods toward my laptop. “Are you at a good place for stopping? We can take a few more—”
“It’s good—great,” I correct myself, squeezing his hand. “And anyways, we can talk about the book later. You won’t have much of a choice when we’re on our way to Fiji. But tonight is about you.”
I can’t resist straightening his already perfect tie, just because I can.
“Your phone is charged?” I nod. “Then you can sneak in another scene in the car or during the commercials. And if any of the acceptance speeches go too long . . .”
Laughter about to erupt, I silence him with a kiss. We pull apart at last, and I can’t even remember what we were talking about. He does that to me. With my thumb, I smooth off the lipstick I inadvertently left on his lips. My shade of red does look nice on him though.
“Shall we?” he asks, taking my hand in his once again.
I nod. He leads me out of the room, down the elevator, and through the lobby to the waiting town car.
The driver scurries to open the door for us. “Ms. Chapman. Mr. Fassbender.”
If this isn’t living the dream, I don’t know what else could possibly compare.
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