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Books About Touchdowns And Touchy Divas

So, if you were wondering, I’ve been trying to keep up on my reading through the past few months, still looking to meet my New Year’s Resolution of reading more books than I did last year (when in turn, I think that was also a resolution for 2019.)

A couple I’ve read recently were classic guilty pleasure “summer reading” titles, both by Emily Giffin. Giffin is by now one of the more established romcom/romance writers around and a longtime fave of my sweetie. My first introduction to her material was through the movie Something Borrowed, a likable little flick starring Ginnifer Goodwin at her cutest, Kate Hudson and a pre-action hero John Krasinski. It (spoiler alerts afoot here!) involves Goodwin and Hudson’s characters, Rachel and Darcy respectively, being childhood friends now turning 30. Darcy is the spoiled, self-centered one engaged to the millionaire blue blood lawyer, Dex, while Rachel is quiet, demure, brainy and seemingly a pushover. As it progresses though, we find Dex and Rachel have loved each other for years and when Darcy has a pre-wedding fling, the other two are thrust into each other’s arms. Meanwhile, Krasinski’s all-seeing, all-wise Ethan is a straight-talking friend to all. It’s fun, it’s lightweight and while not an Oscar contender, there are far worse date-night movies around. The movie actually ends with a scene from a sequel…which for what ever reason, never was shot.

The sequel, Something Blue, follows the same characters, but is told from the point of view of self-centered Darcy who simply can’t believe her meek, plain friend “stole” her guy and overlooks the fact that she too had an affair…with one of her guy’s groomsmen. And that she’s pregnant with twins, a result of said affair. Ethan’s moved to England to work and Darcy decides to go to him to avoid the gossip and stares around the fancy places that were her previous haunts.

Since the movie wasn’t made yet, and now Krasinski is a big-time star, and the young women just aren’t that young anymore, probably never will now, I decided to pick up the book for some light reading and to see what happened to those characters.

I wasn’t necessarily instantly taken by the idea by reading about obnoxious Darcy’s exploits that much, and the first few chapters are only readable because it’s funny how self-absorbed she is. And how I can imagine every one of us has met at least one “Darcy” in real-life! But as the book progresses, Darcy is forced to look in the mirror (she can no longer see her feet by looking down) and grow up a little. By the end, she’s managed to become a likable character and as with most romance books-movies not written by Nicholas Sparks, there’s a pretty happy ending for all.

That led to my sweetie rummaging around in a closet and pulling out another book by Giffin, The One & Only for me to read. This one quickly set the tone as being football-centric, and as a big baseball fan who cares little for the gridiron and Friday Night Lights, I was a bit reluctant to even dig past the first chapter. But I was glad I did, as it ultimately was a pretty good book, more nuanced and thought-provoking in fact than the other two. And as a resident of football-crazy Texas now, I loved picking out the telltale signs of life in King of the Hill-land… Shiner Bock being the go-to beer for locals, the Whataburgers, the October days that still feel like mid-summer in the desert.

While still a romance, The One & Only is more drama than comedy, and could borrow from Law & Order‘s “ripped from the headlines” tagline. Again, spoiler alerts ahead although I will try to limit the detail. The story revolves around a football-crazy stathead girl, Shay. She lives and breathes football (which again, might seem foreign to most of us not born in the southern Plains but rings true here) living in a thinly-disguised version of Waco. Her city, “Walker”, like Waco, is obsessed with college football, has the team colors everywhere in the city, and is home to a “near Ivy League” private religious university which has a powerhouse football team, playing in a stadium on the shores of the Brazos River just south of Dallas and a populace with seems overcome with their despise for the University of Texas team. It’s surprising Walker didn’t have a reality-TV couple making home renovation programs there in the  book.

Shay has an entry level job at the university and a pothead boyfriend, but is friends with people in high places, Texas-style, including the aging football coach at the university and a high-profile pro player for Dallas who’d gone to school in Walker. Suffice to say she’s challenged to leave her comfort zone and apply herself a little and soon she’s got a better job and a chance at a better relationship. In time she’s forced to confront questions about her own loyalty to her school and “BFF” vs. her boyfriend. Not to mention, knowing which beau is best.

Although the story centers around Shay, a relatable enough young 30-something even for those of us who don’t share her passion for all things football, but in doing delves into the psyche of the sport and its stars. It examines recent scandals involving university players being accused of impropriety and team official’s turning a blind eye through a surprisingly thoughtful lens.

If you need a lightweight summer reading escape, Giffin’s Something Borrowed/ Something Blue aren’t half bad choices. If you’re a football fanatic, or want some grit with your love stories, The One & Only might be just that.

May Hooray 2

Another silver lining of the pandemic, if there is such a possibility, is that it’s giving us extra time to watch old favorite TV shows, or perhaps find new favorites. Every evening not spent shopping could mean three or four episodes of a New Classic! Now while I don’t want to suggest everyone become couch potatoes and do want to remind you it IS OK to get outside and move around a bit, as long as we’re not in crowds, sometimes a bit of time with good “friends” on screen can be a boost.

For me, this spring I’ve discovered two new series that have appealed to me. Both reflect my love of romcom films like When Harry Met Sally and You’ve Got Mail.

The first is the familiarly-titled Four Weddings and a Funeral. The title itself was taken from a popular British 1994 movie starring Hugh Grant and Andie MacDowell and follows them and their on-again, off-again trans-Atlantic love affair as they attend mutual friends’ weddings and funerals. The TV version was a 2019 remake of sorts from Mindy Kaling. The 10-episode miniseries delivered on Hulu borrows the name and the overall gist of the movie, but isn’t simply the same story with new characters, lest you wonder. This confused me a little at first, but once I accepted this was a new story and took it for what it was, it worked.

Like the movie, the show follows a romance between an American woman, Maya, and a British guy, Kash and how they interact through mutual friends in London. The film borrows readily and blatantly from famous scenes in romcom movies like Love, Actually and Notting Hill and while a little long-winded, a little heavy-handed in its handling of gay characters and overly PC at times, it still has its charms. By the end you’re cheering for the leads and their romance.

The other new show I’ve fallen for is a current network offering… and that’s not something that happens every year for me anymore. NBC’s Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist is a romdram, if you will. Part romance, part drama and an exuberant return to Hollywood musicals of the past. Rather a new, grown-up version of Glee, in the early years of that show before it jumped the shark and took Jane Lynch with it, casting her essentially as Lucifer and forcing the writers to turn themselves inside out finding convoluted reasons to have the group of university types keep coming back from across the country to hang out at their old high school.

Zoey is a nerdy millennial gal who works in a trendy software company and has to deal with office rivalries, family stresses and isn’t sure which way to turn when confronted with two decent but flawed suitors. Oh, and through a freaky MRI incident, she’s blessed with the ability to at times hear what others around her are thinking… in song. So the story line gets driven by big musical numbers of songs ranging from “It’s the End of the World As We Know It” by REM to Billy Joel’s “Lullabye” to  The Beatles “Help,”  Tears for Fears “Mad World,” and a rather somber take on “American Pie.”

It’s an entirely odd concept but it works better than it should, thanks in large part to solid writing and the charisma of Jane Levy as Zoey. Season one wrapped us this past weekend and probably singly increased the demand for Kleenex by about 50%.

If you like romance stories or comedies with a bit of a dark underbelly, both shows might work for you. If it’s not your thing, that’s fine too… don’t be afraid to take a bit of the time this pandemic is keeping you from being out in groups from looking for new faves of your own… but don’t forget to take time to keep on top of the real romances in your own life be they at home or far away!

Introducing Grace, Fully Living

It’s Christmas Eve and thirty-something Grace Tyler just can’t find what she’s looking for… on the store shelves this close to closing time, or in the men in her life. And while it seems like all those close to her have people in their lives to hang stockings with and successes to celebrate tonight, she’s planning to spend her Noel alone. After all, isn’t “alone” just an anagram for “A Noel”? At least it gives her plenty to time to look back over the year. And what a year it has been… misadventures on the ski slopes, the suave, talented yet creepy and threatening photographer, the art gallery parties and the male stripper the gallery’s owner tried to fix her up with. Trips home to see her school BFF’s new business venture , admire her Dad’s growing internet savvyness and try to un-hear her mother’s unwavering criticisms. All that and the driver who couldn’t get over himself, the boss called “Horrors”, the apple of her mother’s eye, namely her day-trading brother Roger and who can forget that unwanted surprise in her toilet one day? Certainly not Grace! And of course, there was Doug… enigmatic Doug, the mysterious northerner she never quite could get out of her mind…nor into her arms. If only her life was more like her “Friends” Monica and Chandler!

In the tradition of Bridget Jones Diary and The Holiday, it’s the story of finding love and finding yourself in the modern world. Join us as we tag along with Grace as she maneuvers her way into a new millennium, and a new life.

Life for the modern single lady isn’t always graceful… but with our heroine, it is Grace…fully living!

I’m pleased to announce my first novel, Grace, Fully Living is finally available! Currently it’s available as an e-book in all popular formats so you can enjoy it on your phone, Kindle, Apple device, Kobo, Sony Reader or even your PC!

Grace, Fully Living as the prologue above suggests, is a lively modern-day rom-com following the adventures of Grace, a single Gen X lady finding her way in a new life and new millennium. I try to bring a sense of fun and hope to a story many of us will find relatable while bringing back memories of our not-too-distant past. Merging the attention to detail and pop culture of Douglas Coupland’s novels with the great romance and lovable heroines of Nora Ephron’s screenplays, Grace will make you laugh and believe in love again. And maybe bang your head on the wall once or twice as well!

Grace, Fully Living is available for download now at many popular retailers including Barnes and Noble, or through the publisher Smashwords.

I hope you enjoy meeting Grace as much as I did bringing her story to you.

Grace, Fully Living… Sneak Preview

Pity poor Grace Tyler. She’s turned 30, she’s newly single, lives with a kitty who’s a real “fraidy cat” and she works putting ads for laxatives into magazine mockups. And of course, her younger brother is wildly successful in business and the apple of their mother’s eye. Her nerdy best friend from school is a blooming entrepreneur and the one man who seems to understand her is gay. The one man she’s wild about, she can’t seem to hook up with in the post-Y2K, pre-Iphone era and when she does, injuries and illnesses seem to follow along.

Can Grace find happiness? Or a good coffee shop to satisfy her caffeine-loving man of her dreams? In the manner of Bridget Jones Diary and He’s Just Not That Into You, we present the forthcoming novel GRACE, FULLY LIVING. A sneak peak… here!

 

 

The next morning, as per usual at 9:10, Labeth was leaning against Grace’s cubicle partition, travel mug in hand.

So the green soup is a go, along with the green bread, green cookies, top ten ways to make green beans and shamrock shakes recipes but I’ll be damned if we have room for the green rack of lamb. Figure I’m saving us a lawsuit dropping it anyway.”

Can hardly wait for the ‘Easter Eggs-citement’ issue.”

More green in my wallet, less in our magazine is my motto.” She sipped from her coffee and pulled a face. “That new chick at the coffee shop must be putting the shampoo she’s not using on her hair in my coffee.”

That’s the same one you called a ‘sloth’ the other morning?”

I said she moved like a sloth. And smelled like one too. But she shouldn’t have been listening in on my phone call…”

Everyone in the cafe has to listen in when you pull that thing out, Miss Moneybags!”

LaBeth grinned despite herself. “Cellphones are great! When are you going to join the 21st Century and get one?” Before Grace could answer, she added what had become her usual refrain since Royce had become history. “Or get a boyfriend. Or at least a guy to bump the headboard with and make you forget about that piece of turd whose name I refuse to speak?”

Bump the headboard with? God, I’d have a cast on my head- that thing’s solid oak! Besides,” she added perkily, “that guy I was telling you about from the ski store called me last night!”

Broken Jaw Bruce?”

Doug! Doug the Canadian.”

Canadian? Is he a hockey player? What’s he doing here?”

Looking for the girl of his dreams maybe.”

So are you going out for that coffee with him?”

Grace looked away. “Well, sometime…I told him I was real busy at work right now.”

Like you even think about ad spacing after 5 PM! Girl, I swear I don’t get you…”

I want to see him. I just don’t want him to see me like this. Crutches? Ain’t no way I’m getting my cute jeans on over this cast. How’s he even gonna see my butt if I’m in baggy trackpants?”

Put on ski pants and hope he buys into the ‘Sportsy You’ concept?”

The redhead rolled her eyes.

Say, my mother’s neighbor’s son just broke up with his wife. He’s a poker player or something. Maybe a cowpoke. Anyhow, he’s like 35 and not bad looking. Maybe you could come to dinner with me and Mom could invite…”

Did you not hear a word I just said?”

Have it your way, Four Legs!” With that she wandered away to her cubicle. Singing “One Is The Loneliest Number” all the way.

Grace turned back to her computer and began “March-ing Into Spring”. LaBeth’s section had been uploaded and she was able to fit a chewy antacid banner ad nicely beside a green Irish stew recipe like a hand in a glove. Next she flip-flopped the full page Campbell’s (Not green!) soup ad back and forth between recipes pages or between “Ask The Chef” and a feature on Ten Things To Do In Your Garden Now (To Be The Envy Of The Block Come July). She glanced at that article. “Prune those bushes” made her think again of beavers which led her mind back to Doug the Canadian. Should she have played her hand and been more effusive when he called? She sleepwalked through the ad placement for much of the rest of the morning until she came to an ad for a pet food brand that had the tagline “Feed Your Doggie With Style” which of course took her mind back to the Christmas party and the coatcheck room.

***

She’d been a bit self-conscious of her breath – well, a bit self-conscious, period…when was she not?- after the hors d’oeuvres that consisted of pearl onions and some sort of pate or spread she’d not encountered before but which seemed to be comprised largely of garlic and some sort of fish placed on a cracker. Ironic that her boyfriend played Metallica and schmoozed for a living while she helped women create the perfect meal, the perfect cocktail, the perfect home for the man to come home to, yet it was his company that put out the lavish, surely Emeril-approved spread. She recalled the year before her office party had a stack of pizzas delivered to go with the trough of icy Pepsis and Old Milwaukees.

The onions and odd meat-paste had made her as approachable as a dragon fresh from hibernation (she distinctly remembered thinking that and wondering if dragons hibernated) but she was sure she had a pack of gum in her coat pocket. She went to look for her coat, before trying to track down Royce, whom she’d not seen for what, fifteen? twenty-five minutes? Deftly maneouvring between a junior manager in a banana-colored suit and Jag the Sports Guy (a guy with an encyclopedic knowledge of Packers player stats through the decades, ego of a bear with a voice to match but the body of a junior high student who’d be bullied by guys like, well, adult Jag). Her college year working weekends as a waitress came in handy working through the crowd towards the coatcheck room.

She didn’t end up finding her gum. She did find Royce however, and understand why she’d not seen him for what, fifteen? twenty-five minutes? She didn’t spy her coat among the many hanging across the room right away but with that Harley Davidson tattoo just above it, there was no mistaking the ass gyrating in front of her nor the piglike squeals coming from its owner. It was less obvious to her who the shapely little ass underneath Royce belonged to; someone pert and short and pony-tailed. She was moaning for “daddy” to “drive it home” which was something Grace had never remotely considered asking despite Royce’s frequent utterance of “Who’s your daddy?” in the throes of passion.

As she played the scene over in her mind she came to realize she never did go back there later that night. Memo to self- go back to that club and see if they still have my coat. I loved that coat. And the gum was quite nice too, I think. The minty-fresh flavor lasted longer than most. Or than that bastard’s faithfulness for that matter.

The phone on her desk ringing snapped her back to the here and now and page 38 with its dog food ad. Dentyne had just changed the photo for their ad. Hello again Page 19, my old friend…