Sliding into Home (Love & Baseball, #3) by Arlene Hittle : Spotlight, Excerpt, Author Interview & Giveaway

Book Blurb & Info

Sliding Into Home

By Arlene Hittle

Genre: Contemporary Romance, Humor
Publisher: Turquoise Morning Press
Publication Date: April 2014

More than anything, Arizona Condors first baseman Greg Bartlesby wants to make his own name in the big leagues. Too bad being the son of MLB legend Jake “Big Man” Bartlesby makes that impossible. Even worse? His failed attempts to differentiate himself from his old man frequently land him in legal trouble. His latest brush with the law brings him in contact with an attorney he’s met before — as a dancer at the club where he was arrested for protecting her.

Jenn Simpson isn’t a stripper—not that she can convince her idiot client her twin is the one doing the dancing. When Greg offers her sister a job at his father’s Foundation, Jenn is the one who accepts. She soon discovers she likes the work—and her boss—more than she should. The closer they get, the more important it becomes for her to convince Greg she’s not who he thinks. And when his father is hospitalized, compelling Greg to fast-track his leap to the majors by capitalizing on Big Jake’s fame, it might be too late to come clean.

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Book Excerpt

Jenn waited for the judge to exit the courtroom and then did the same. She barely noticed Greg was a step behind her.

When she realized he followed her, halfway down the corridor, she stopped and turned. He was watching her closely, his face nearly as severe as the judge’s had been. She didn’t like the scrutiny. She didn’t much like him, either, for that matter. He talked too much. “What?”

“You’re a much better stripper than you are a lawyer.”

“I’m not—never mind.” This spoiled man-child’s opinion of her was of no consequence whatsoever. “Things would have gone much more smoothly if you knew when to shut your big mouth.”

“Or if you were as familiar with law as you are with the pole.”

Letting him think she danced was one thing. Listening to him insult her sister’s current livelihood was another. “You think you’re so much better? Have you forgotten you play with balls for a living?”

With that, she walked away. Folks with more money than sense always rubbed her wrong, this one more than most.

He swore, and soon his footsteps sounded behind her. He put a hand on her shoulder. “I’m sorry, Jade. My comment was uncalled for.”

She stopped and shrugged him off. She wasn’t about to apologize, even if her comment, too, was out of line. He started it. “You have a right to be testy. I certainly didn’t hold up my end of the bargain.”

“To get me off?” One corner of his mouth lifted. “You sure didn’t.”

Ooh, that half-smile was appealing. Too appealing. She stepped back, away from temptation. “Judge Troxler is tough.”

“Believe me, I noticed.”

Jenn paused. She remembered the look on his face when the judge had mentioned he should volunteer with his father’s foundation. “If you don’t mind my asking, what does your father’s foundation do?”

“A little bit of everything.” He shrugged. “But the main focus is helping underprivileged kids.”

And that had him out of sorts? Growing up with four siblings and an out-of-work father, she’d been an underprivileged kid. They’d practically lived on sandwiches made from cheap white bread and pale yellow government cheese. “You have a problem with helping those less fortunate than yourself?”

“Of course not.” His look was undecipherable. “I just don’t do well with kids. Can’t relate.” “I’d think kids would love the chance to meet a famous ballplayer.”

“I’m not famous. My father is.”

And that galled him. It was evident in his clenched jaw and drawn-up shoulders. Against her

better judgment, she found herself wanting to boost his ego. Since she’d had a few minutes to read up on Greg Bartlesby, first baseman, before court, she knew exactly how to go about it. “If you’re as good as the sportswriters say, you won’t be in the minors for long.”

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“Four years and counting,” he grumbled. “And when they get wind of this, it’ll probably be another four.”

“They who? The press?”

“MLB officials. Dad says no one’ll call me up to the majors until they have proof I’m mature enough to handle it.” He scowled. “Right now, my ‘wild’ behavior makes me too much of a risk.”

Far be it from her to point out that brawling—even in defense of a woman—wasn’t all that mature. Still, newscasts were full of pro athletes arrested for offenses far worse. “Why don’t you use your community service sentence to show who you really are to whoever you need to show?”

He looked thoughtful. “That idea’s not half bad.”

“That’s what I thought.”

Before she realized what he was going to do, Greg swooped in to capture her in a bear hug.

He was all muscle, a solid wall of yum, and her body molded itself to him effortlessly. She tipped her head up to look into his eyes, the color of the summer sky right before a thunderstorm. Blue so clear and deep she could lose herself.

She was so caught up in the moment that the passerby registered as no more than a shadowy shape—until he stopped, turned and stared. Her boss. Mr. Stull didn’t say anything, but his disapproving frown spoke volumes.

Caught in a clinch with a client? Oh God. How embarrassing. Even if the contact had started out purely innocent, her response made it inappropriate.

She squirmed out of Greg’s arms and took a few steps back. “Mr. Stull! What a surprise!”

“No doubt.” He pursed his lips. “Shall I assume you were merely celebrating the case’s positive outcome?”

Jenn grimaced. “Not exactly.”

Mr. Stull tugged on his tie. “What do you mean, ‘Not exactly’?”

“We ran into a snag. Judge Troxler heard the case.”

Greg stepped forward. “That woman is not a randy old goat.” He shook his head, bemused. “Immune to my charm, too.”

Her boss’ face lightened two shades. “Dare I ask what happened?”

“Nothing good.” Jenn hung her head, ashamed. In less than thirty minutes, she’d let down the defendant, the client and her boss. Not a stellar way to start the week.

“It was my fault, not hers.” Greg’s hand settled on her back. “I let my temper get the best of me and mouthed off to the judge.”

Doing her best to ignore the way his fingers burned through her cotton shirt, she met her boss’ eyes again. “I failed to adapt. I’m to blame.”

“I’m sure there’s plenty of blame to go around.” Mr. Stull’s expression was sour. “Jake Bartlesby will not be pleased.”

Greg’s palm flattened against her back. “Leave my father to me.”


Hi Arlene,

Thank you so much for sitting down with Toot's for an interview. If you don't mind, I have some questions for you about your series Love & Baseball, your new book, Sliding into Home, and your process for our budding authors as well as fans.

So first off, your newest book is part of your series, Love & Baseball. Let's talk about the series as a whole....

In your own words, what is the Love & Baseball series about?

The series follows the exploits of the men of Arizona Condors, a fictional semiprofessional baseball team based in Phoenix, and the women who—fortunately or not—choose to love them.

What inspired the series?

You’ve heard the phrase “All is fair in love and war,” right? As I was writing Beauty and the Ballplayer, which would eventually become the second book in the series, my brain subbed in the word “baseball” — and All Is Fair in Love and Baseball (Love & Baseball for short) was born. Although I wouldn’t call myself a super-fan, I’ve had at least a passing interest in baseball since I was a kid. My dad and I used to watch Cubs games on TV, and I’ve seen a few games live. The older I get, the more I enjoy it. As a teen, when my brother wanted to watch EVERY sporting event on TV, I responded by boycotting them all.

Can you tell us a bit about the newest book in the series, Sliding into Home?

Sliding’s hero, Greg Bartlesby, appeared in the first two books in the series as a teammate—a teammate who isn’t always the best influence. There’s a reason I dubbed him “the Condors’ rebel first baseman.” I knew I wanted him to have his own book to explain why he acted that way, even though as I wrote those stories, I didn’t know what, exactly, that reason was.

Then I started brainstorming ideas for Sliding, and it came to me: Everything he does, he does to try to escape his famous father’s shadow. (His father is Jake “Big Man” Bartlesby, a celebrated third baseman.) He plays first base, not third; he takes his middle name; he refuses to let his father muscle him into the major league, insisting he’ll get there by his achievements, not his famous name. Unfortunately, his attempts to distinguish himself from his father often backfire. That’s how he meets heroine Jenn, who’s hired to defend him in court after a fight in a strip club. He thinks Jenn is the stripper he was arrested for protecting. The dancer is really her sister, and she tells him that upfront. He refuses to believe her, though, and the fact that she can never find the right time to convince him of the truth becomes a major obstacle to their happily ever after.

How did you come up with the title of your newest book in the series and can you tell us its significance?

Would you believe I didn’t settle on a title until shortly before I turned it in to my publisher? I called it “Untitled Book 3” through most of the drafting and editing. Only through brainstorming with fellow writers and writing groups did I arrive at “Sliding into Home.” It worked on multiple levels: Greg must make peace with his father, metaphorically finding his way “home.” He has to find a home in his father’s foundation, where he works in the off-season, and a MLB home. And, of course, there’s the baseball-sex thing.

How does the new book, Sliding into Home, fit into the series?

Greg plays first base for the Condors. The first two books featured the shortstop and catcher.

How many books are planned for the series?

Well, a baseball team has nine positions ... Sliding is the last book I had a contract for, but I’ve started work on a fourth book, pitcher Luis Castillo’s story, with the hopes my publisher will pick it up. I also have a raw, undeveloped idea for a novella involving the team mascot. And since I keep replacing players as they leave the Condors, I could conceivably continue as long as the ideas keep coming.

What genre would you say Sliding into Home is and what sets your book apart for fans of the genre?

Contemporary romantic comedy. Fans of witty banter should love the exchanges between Greg and Jenn, and even Greg and his father. I’ve been told I write great dialogue.

What was your favorite scene to write in Sliding into Home?

It’s a toss-up between the courtroom scene near the beginning, where the judge takes Greg to task, and the happy ending. It was fun putting Greg, Jenn and Big Jake in superhero costumes.

What was the hardest scene to write for Sliding into Home?

The scenes where Greg visits his father in the hospital were all pretty gut-wrenching for me. And, of course, the big black moment. As a Libra, I prefer it when things are in balance—making my characters fight is difficult.

What is your favorite line or quote from Sliding into Home?

Here’s a fun one from the home run derby that Jenn and Greg organize to raise funds for the Bartlesby Foundation holiday party. I love how it gives you a glimpse into what makes Greg tick.

Each one of Matt’s successful hits grated on Greg. Did the guy have to be freakin’ Mr. Perfect all the time? He was born with his shit together, where Greg constantly scrambled to hold it together with both hands. And frequently let it squish through his fingers.


Do you recall how your interest in writing originated and what made you decide to pursue it as a career?

My parents were big readers. They taught me to read at age 4, because I wanted to do what they did, and I loved to read. We’d visit the library and I returned home with a box of books, which I devoured so we could go back for more. I knew I wanted to write stories for a living in second grade. In 10th grade, I decided to be practical. Realizing even then how tough it was to sell a novel, I decided to major in journalism so I could make a living writing while I tried to break into fiction. Reporting sapped my creativity for a while—after writing all day at work, the last thing I wanted to do at home was write some more. But a switch to page design—and a kick in the pants from the Boyfriend—rekindled my creative spark.

What inspires you to put the pen to paper or fingers to the keyboard?

I get story ideas all the time, from stories I hear on the radio or see on the AP wire, from people-watching, from something funny one of my coworkers said.

What are some of the elements in/of your writing process?

I almost have to have a Starbucks drink next to my keyboard. I do most of my writing at one of three Starbucks locations, with an iced tea, iced coffee or Frappuccino by my side. It’s such a habit now that even the scent of coffee puts me in the mood to write.

Are you a Plotter or a Panster?

Definitely a Panster. I wish I could be more of a plotter, especially when I hit that midpoint brick wall where I don’t know what to write next. But having more than a bare-bones plot in mind doesn’t seem to help much.

Have you released anything under a different pen name, and if so, is there any difference between them?

No pen name. If you google “Arlene Hittle,” you can find not only my novels but also stories/columns I’ve written for the Arizona Daily Sun.

What's next for you?

Well, I dipped my toes into indie publishing last fall, with a holiday novella called Home for the Holidays. I plan to release a full-length novel, the first of two “Reality (TV) Bites” stories, in June. It’s called Blind Date Bride, and tells the story of the reluctant grand-prize winners of Romance TV’s “Get a Love Life” contest. To claim the prize money, they must marry on a TV special and live together for ninety days.

Is there anything you’d like to add or say to your fans?

Thanks so much for reading. Every book you buy brings me closer to being able to quit my day job and write full-time. After 20 years in journalism (holy crap!), I’m beyond ready to give it up.

Personal questions......

Now I know this is like asking you to choose between your own children, but out of all your amazing characters, who is your favorite and why?

My all-time favorite character would have to be Mike James, whom few people have met because he’s in my still-unpublished Women of Willow’s Grove series. His coworkers think he’s a bad boy because that’s what he wants them to think. His past has convinced him he doesn’t deserve the love of a decent woman, so he’s created this bad-boy image to hold decent women at bay. He even moonlights as a male stripper to supplement his meager sports reporter’s income—and to atone for his past. He’s in the first book in that series because the heroine thinks she wants to date him (but ends up with a social studies teacher); in the third book, he gets his absolution and happily ever after.

Are there any of your stories or characters that hold a special place in your heart?

I’m a sucker for a bad boy, so Dave (the hero of Diva in the Dugout) and Greg rank right up there. Of my heroines, I admire Meg (Beauty and the Ballplayer) for overcoming my worst nightmare.

If the book or series had to have a theme song, what would it be?

I’ll go with Tom Petty’s “American Girl.” At one point, Greg and Jenn are in his kitchen. She’s making an omelet and he offers her a plethora of French cheeses—or cheddar. She asks if it’s Wisconsin cheddar, and he hums “American Girl” while he shreds the cheese.

Lastly, let's steal an idea from the magazines.....What 5 things do fans not know about you and 5 they don't know about the book?

5 things about me

1. I was a band geek—flute and piccolo.

2. Beauty and the Ballplayer (Love & Baseball 2) was inspired by my own life: A pregnancy scare at the ripe old age of 30-something got me thinking “what if?”

3. I can’t settle on one favorite drink at Starbucks. Baristas at multiple locations know me by name, but they never know what I’m going to order.

4. I read Wuthering Heights for the first time in sixth grade and again in 10th. (Turns out I missed a lot. It was a completely different story when I read it a third time in college.)

5. One thing that saddens me: Both my parents died in 2003, before they could see me as a published author.

5 things about Sliding into Home

1. The first draft took me six weeks to write.

2. I had Ryan Reynolds in mind when I wrote Greg ... so you can imagine my consternation when my boss took one look at the cover for Diva (Book 1) and said the hero looked like “that guy from Van Wilder.”

3. Jenn is my first published heroine who’s not a blonde. (I have other redheads and brunettes in unpubbed manuscripts.)

4. Greg’s dad, Big Jake, was a blast to write.

5. After beta readers knocked the book as having too many clichés (see No. 1), I turned in 11 pages of edits to the galley in an attempt to cut back. I left the ones Big Jake’s dialogue because that’s the way he talks, and let some of Greg’s clichés slide because ... well, like father like son.

THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU for taking time to answer some questions. Congratulations on the new book and I can't wait for everyone to read it!

Author Info

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 arlenehittle.com, on Twitter or on Facebook.

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