Set your lineups and pull out the old game tape—football is here. This year, you can experience fantasy football vicariously through (or commiserate with) Harper Duquaine in First & Goal by Laura Chapman.
What begins as a way to make nice with her new co-workers soon becomes an obsession for Harper as she navigates the ups and downs of managing a fantasy football team. Add in a pair of meddling brothers, a crew of quirky colleagues, and a league-mate who makes her toes curl, and Harper’s football season has plenty to keep her interested.
This new romantic comedy is now available from Marching Ink on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo. Join in the fun and cheer Harper on as she takes on the old boys club.
If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. Then beat them.
First & Goal (Queen of the League #1)
written by Laura Chapman
published by Marching Ink, 2015
About the book – from Goodreads: 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.
The Hail Mary
Though I’d invested weeks—and frankly a year— of plotting and planning, I officially began First & Goal as part of National Novel Writing Month 2013. (It’s worth noting that while I wrote 50,000 words that month, I ended up tabling this project and coming back to it from a new angle in Fall 2014. Still, I needed this first attempt to create the finished product.)
Like the crazy person I am, in addition to starting a new novel, I scheduled moving into a new apartment for the same weekend. I tried to alleviate the stress and all-around ridiculousness of this by taking off a few days from work. The extra time helped, but I was already beyond exhausted by November 2. Despite having an apartment to move and a novel to write, I managed to reserve a few hours of that Saturday for my favorite activity of fall: watching football. This ended up being a good call on my part because it was the inspiration I needed to keep writing.
My Nebraska Cornhuskers were hosting the Northwestern Wildcats in Lincoln, and it was with a mix of excitement and concern I tuned into the game at a local bar with a friend. The week before, we’d sustained a disappointing loss to the Minnesota Golden Gophers, and I had no idea what to expect from Nebraska. Our starting quarterback was out with turf toe, plus several other key players were out with injuries of their own.
It wasn’t looking good for my ‘skers. Down 21-14 at the half, Nebraska tied the score. And in the last minutes of the game, an interception gave the Wildcats a 24-21 edge over the Huskers. You always have faith in those final moments, even while you prepare yourself for the disappointment of a loss.
Ameer Abdullah—perhaps one of the finest athletes to attend Nebraska—kept our hopes and the play alive a little longer by making a crucial fourth down conversion.
“Yeah, but a girl can always dream,” she replied.
Eyes fixed on the TV, we held our breaths as the ball was snapped. The final seconds ticked away as the backup backup quarterback (also known as our third string) scrambled to find his opening. The clock ran out, and Ron Kellogg III pulled his arm back and launched the ball across the field. We watched in silence as this happened:
Oh. My. Effing. G. He did it. He threw a Hail Mary, and it worked. The ball bounced off the hands of a Wildcats defender and was snatched up by Jordan Westerkamp. He tapped down both feet in the end zone before falling to the ground.
In those few minutes after, we became fast friends with the rest of the bar patrons—exchanging high fives, loud cheers, and even a few hugs. We were united as a Husker nation.
I’ll admit I left the bar a little shaky and teary eyed. It was hard to believe what I’d witnessed. But it was a little later, when I was at home prepared to tackle my novel once more, that I truly let me emotions show. It occurred to me just how amazing that play was. After a hard-fought game, the Nebraska and Northwestern players were exhausted. Many of the Huskers probably wanted to give up, but they didn’t. They kept fighting until the end, and it worked for them. And you have to hand it to Northwestern. As disappointing as the loss had to be for them, they kept trying to make plays until the game was over.
This was the attitude I needed to adopt toward my novel writing. Instead of complaining about how I could barely remember what I’d written, which probably meant it sucked, I had to push forward.
I took this play as an omen. I had to keep going and see this story through to the end. Because you never know—as ugly as it started, if I tried hard enough, maybe I could have an impressive finish, too.
Through the rest of November, whenever I was feeling overly stressed, I’d look back at that play. Like many of my fellow Huskers, I made references to it. Like in this text message exchange with my big brother:
And of course, like a total nerd, I fangirled over Ron Kellogg when I bumped into him a month later at my sister’s graduation a month later.
(Westy also went on to be kind of everything last season, too. Take a look at this totally awesome catch [https://youtu.be/OH59a2srnwk] during the Husker’s season opener against Florida Atlantic. It was even more exciting because my good friend and fellow author/football fan Brea Brown was there to share the moment.)
And whether it was re-watching the play, being silly with my friends or listening to an interview from one of the players, I always felt better after remembering its awesomeness. Even now, almost two years later, rewatching this play keeps me motivated. (Which is good because there’s a sequel to finish.)
About the author: Laura Chapman is the author of First & Goal, The Marrying Type, and Hard Hats and Doormats. Her work appears in Merry & Bright, A Kind of Mad Courage, and a forthcoming Christmas anthology from Marching Ink. 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.