September 30, 2014

the manning sandwich

Guys, I have a confession. This week, while Peyton Manning was on his bye week, I cheated on him. Now before you come running to my defense with the old "But, Laura, you're supposed to start a different quarterback when your main quarterback is on his bye week" excuse, let me finish. I didn't just start some random QB like Teddy Bridgewater or Alex Smith. No, I had to be cute and draft Peyton's little brother, Eli, as my back-up.

At the time I was too busy patting myself on the back for being so adorable about my "Manning sandwich" that I didn't think about the serious ramifications this decision could make. Namely this one: I cheated on Peyton Manning, my faithful QB 1 for more than two seasons, with his brother. And I liked it. A lot.

Even more than I liked this video:

Or this one:

Before I get carried away with the likely ill-fated tale of my somewhat storybook love triangle, I should probably state the obvious. My Fantasy Football Prince Charming of the week is...

Eli Manning.

I mean, look at that face, and listen to those adorkable rhymes (You watched the videos, right?). He's wonderful. If I stare too long, I get lost in those eyes, and I want to reach out and brush those rogue stray hairs aside.

I can't even get into how the rest of my fantasy teams performed. (That's a damn lie. I need to give a quick shout-out to the men who brought home victory to the Lady Chapmans. That means you, Aaron Rodgers, Antonio Brown, Kelvin Benjamin, Jamaal Charles, Travis Kelce, and Mason Crosby. There are just too many of you to pick from so I had to go crazy and pick the guy who scored half the points for my losing team. You understand, right? XOXO.)

None of that matters, because I'm still too caught up with what happened between Eli and I this week. Sparks flew. Passions were ignited. I fell hard and unexpectedly.

And after our short time together, I wake today to find myself wondering if what happened was really only a one-time thing or what I've been waiting for my whole life.

Maybe I should start from the beginning.

Thursday came as it usually does. I had my morning coffee, a piece (okay, two pieces) of my mom's homemade strawberry coffee cake, and I went to work. During NFL season, Thursdays now come with a mid-afternoon panic attack when I worry about whether or not I have any players in that night's game and if I have anyone on Bye Week. Now that it's Week Four that sort of thing happens, and I sometimes forget about it until Sunday. That happened this week, which is how I ended up playing the Falcons D instead of the Giants. Stupid, Laura. I suppose that error came, because I was too caught up this week with the discovery that my beloved Peyton wasn't playing.

"Well shit," I thought. "Guess I better start Eli."

And let's hope he doesn't completely blow this week and at least meets his projection.

I was too nervous about what would happen, and too engrossed with re-watching The Devil Wears Prada on TV for the third time in two months, to follow the game closely. But I checked in a few times on my phone.

"Oh good," I said during half-time. "Eli is doing well enough."

But by Friday morning, I discovered he'd done more than "well enough." He'd blown my freaking mind.

He completed 28 passes for 300 yards, scored four touchdowns, and earned me 40.10 points. He'd been projected to yield about 15. Needless to say I was impressed, thrilled and oddly moved that my QB 2 would step up in such a big way. And it reminded me of the time last season when his big brother gave me 60 points, which rekindled the spark in our somewhat stale relationship. By lunch on Friday, I found myself no longer caring that he'd thrown an interception (these things happen). Eli was a new man and ready to win my heart.

And I'm not the only one who noticed.

According to, "Since getting walloped by the Lions in Week 1, Manning has looked reborn in new OC Ben McAdoo's quick-hitting system... The G-Men aren't just paying lip service to going uptempo, and it's dramatically improved Manning's game.... Manning should keep rolling in Week 5, when the G-Men host the defense-less Falcons."

Holy balls, my friends. I'm in a bit of a pickle. Like a huge one, like the kind you get at Jimmy Johns when you really only want a spear, but they give you the whole dang cucumber.

What if Eli keeps performing like this, and I leave him sitting on my bench, because I feel a sense of loyalty to his brother? I'd be devastated to keep losing. (Incidentally, Cinderella's Fellas did end up losing this week by a fraction of a point. Talk about bummer.) Plus, there's something kind of thrilling about being a bad girl with a good boy.

But... I can't just bench Peyton when he hasn't done anything wrong and is still one of the most dependable quarterbacks in the business. And he's been good to me. Really good. He's been consistent, loving and taken me to two post-seasons. I adore Peyton. I maybe, probably even love him. I can't just throw away everything we've built together for the thrill and excitement of the slightly newer and younger model. Or can I?

I have a lot to ponder before Sunday when the time comes for me to choose the Manning of my future. Pity me, friends. Pity me for winning the love and admiration of two brilliant men, who share blood and a level of class not often found in the NFL. What's a girl to do?

And just because this is a riot and includes a bit about one brother talking about the other brother, I'll leave you with this:

Current Team Standings
Cinderella's Fellas: 1 and 3
Lady Chapmans: 2 and 2

(I'm so ashamed, but I can't even... I swear, I'm never playing Fantasy Football again.)

Not on Twitter? Miss some of my totally amazing commentary from NFL Week One? Check out the highlights:

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September 29, 2014

the butter to my bread


I'm going through a bit of a phase. Most nights I come home from work and plant myself in front of the television and watch movies on TV that I don't have any real interest in seeing. Or, I'll re-watch a movie I only vaguely enjoyed the first time around. Some might call this procrastination (I do have a novel to finish writing), but I like to think of this as giving some film crew a second chance at improving my opinion.

Okay, I'm procrastinating, but I'm in a mood.

It was in the midst of this kick that I found myself re-watching Julie & Julia on my Friday night instead of pushing my way through Chapter Nine. The first time I watched the movie I was in a different place. I was 23, living in Houston and working my way through every movie at the Redbox. And I enjoyed it. I mean, it was written by Nora Ephron, stars Meryl Streep, and is about food and blogging. Of course I liked it. But it isn't one of my favorite movies. Not something I should drop everything to sit and watch.

So there I was, watching Amy Adams and Meryl Streep use an obscene amount of butter when we reach the point of the movie (SPOILER ALERT) that Julie Powell and her blog are featured in the New York Times and the next day she ends up with a long list of publishers and agents lining up to turn her blog into a novel.

It's a nice thought, but that's not really how it works, is it? Maybe every so often you find yourself on a reality TV show and people willing to ghostwrite your book to earn you even more money. More often than not, you keep plugging away while you find yourself tempted to hate complete strangers.

And I won't even say I begrudge Julie Powell the offers or her success--she worked for them and was innovative. But it's a bit of a bummer for the rest of us writers, isn't it? I mean, we write, we blog, we try to make something happen, and it doesn't always pan out. Instead of screening phone call after phone call with offers, we're cuddled up with our kittens ready to watch the encore screening of a movie we've just sat through (but missed the first half hour).

That's when it happens. During the first half hour (ANOTHER SPOILER ALERT) you see just how bummed Julie Powell is before she starts her blog and even throughout the first part of her journey. She's not sure anyone is reading her work and feels like she's just tossing out words into a void and no one cares.

Now that is something we (I) get, right?

And while we might share some similarities with our fellow writers, we're all on our own path. No two of us is exactly the same. We each have to forge our own way. What's the point of making comparisons then? It'll only end in us driving ourselves crazy.

What do we do when we're in that funk? Do we:
a) Give up
b) Keep going

There's no right or wrong answer--only the one that's right for you or me.

So what's it going to be? I know my answer. Because even when it doesn't seem to be going anywhere, writing is the butter to my bread.


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September 23, 2014

my antonio

It would seem my wide receivers read last week's post and decided to bring their A games to work. Well, at least the wide receivers on the Lady Chapmans.

Antonio Brown earned a cool 21 points (well above his 9.78 projection). Pierre Garcon finally stopped with the whole sucking business and scored 19.8 (9.98 projected) and my darling Kelvin Benjamin once again beat the odds and spread with 17.5 (8.24 projected).

Thanks to their efforts (and only thanks to them, because everyone except my defense basically phoned it in this week) we were able to win our first game.

It's more than a little empowering to win a first game. For the moment I feel unstoppable, like I can do anything.

And while I wish I could name all three men my Prince Charming of the Week, I'm still pissed off enough about my other Fantasy team losing (I'd dish more about this, but I can't. I just can't.) and everyone else on the team deciding I'm not worth fighting...err... winning for. So... there can be only one.

My Fantasy Football Prince Charming of the week is...

Antonio Brown.

This week, Antonio made 10 catches, racked up 90 yards and... wait for it... scored TWO touchdowns. I don't even care if his team won or lost the Sunday Night Football game (I didn't watch because I was still nursing my wounds after the Packers loss earlier in the day). I only care that he played his heart out, and I can only assume he did it just for me.

Antonio makes my heart soar. He maybe even makes me feel like I could fly as this week's long-distance dedication suggests.

And, according to Rotoworld, "Brown will remain a must-start WR1 against the Bucs in Week 4."

Which means he's definitely not someone I'm willing to trade. So would my fellow league members stop trying to get me to take your sucky players in exchange for him? Because it's not going to happen, boys. I'm not an idiot. I need him. He's my everything...

Both of my teams are now working with 1-2 records, and I can't say that pleases me. I mean, maybe they're trying to be cute with this playing hard to get nonsense. But it's not working. I hate games. Unless it's a game I'm winning and that winning ends with a championship ring.

Not on Twitter? Miss some of my totally amazing commentary of last week's football games? Check out the highlights:

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September 19, 2014

the bringer of jollity

Outside the Houston Symphony in 2009.

It's funny how how a song can speak even when there aren't any words. Or maybe it does have words, but it says so much more than the lyrics themselves.

One of the songs that tells me a whole story, without having a single audible word, is the movement "Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity" from Gustav Holst's "The Planets."

I get pretty dorky when I listen to this song. If you ever have the chance to hang with me after I've had a couple of glasses of wine before playing this song (which will inevitably happen if you share enough bottles of wine with me) I'm a lot like Antonio Salieri in Amadeus.

"And then suddenly... high above it, an oboe..."

When I was in high school, every time I heard the song--or any movement from "The Planets"--I thought about marching band. The year before I went to high school, the marching band won state with an arrangement of "The Planets." For the next four years, that success was a measure we all aspired for, even though we never again achieved it.

At the time, I'll admit my favorite movement was actually "Venus, the Bringer of Peace." It was beautiful, whimsical, and everything I wanted from a song at that overly emotional time of my life. (You've all been in high school, right? Yikes.)

Years later, while watching the third episode in series one of Sherlock when Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman get into a fight with a suspect in the middle of a planetarium I was able to smugly turn to the kittens and say, "That's "Mars." From 'The Planets.' By Holst."

The more you know, right?

The real reason this song strikes accord from me happened about five years ago. When I was 23, I moved to Houston. While I was there, my dad came to visit a couple of times. Each time, we'd go listen to the Houston Symphony.

I was pretty excited on that first trip. I'd never been to the symphony in Houston, it was downtown--a place I seldom ventured to--and I loved "The Planets." This particular performance was going to be extra exciting, because footage from NASA satellite images would play in the background.

The Houston Symphony warms up.

As we waited for the curtain to open, so to speak, Dad and I discussed what we were most looking forward to in the performance. He told me he was excited for "Jupiter," because it reminded him of my mom. When I prodded him a little more, he explained that in the early days of their relationship he made her a mix tape. It was 1985 and that was the epitome of how you told someone you loved them. He included "Jupiter" on the tape, because "it's how being with her made me feel."

I wasn't quite sure what that meant. Again, I knew the music, but I couldn't quite figure out how "Jupiter" could represent the feeling of falling in love.

So I listened extra carefully. For the first few minutes, I thought, "Okay, I guess it's pretty happy and light. That's sweet, I guess."

But then we hit 2:53.

It starts out smooth and slow and beautifully. It's hardly noticeable. Then more instruments join in. It grows louder and bolder and stronger. And pretty soon it fills every bit of you.

Just like falling in love.

That's when I "got it." That's when I understood why my dad put Gustav Holst's "Jupiter" on a mix tape for my mom. It's because it described falling in love without a single word.

Nerd that I am, I thought of "Jupiter" when I heard "Fire" by Augustana while binge-watching Friday Night Lights this past summer.
No it don't come easy.
No it don't come fast.
Lock me up inside your garden.
Take me to the riverside.
Fire, burning me up,
Desire, taking me so much
Higher, and leaving me whole.
Because that's what falling in love is like, right?

As a writer, so often I get caught up with adjectives and descriptors to explain the feelings of love. But sometimes you can say so much more with so little. Sometimes the connotation itself, the story behind it, is just as important.

I try to keep that in mind now when I write about love.

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September 16, 2014

if the shoe fits...

I'm a day late with this recap on account of the aches and pains I'm experiencing to accompany my first cold of the season. Come to think of it, maybe it was sympathy symptoms for the aches and pains my Fantasy teams are feeling...

I mean, I can't completely complain. The Cinderella's Fellas did in fact win their first game of the season, becoming 1-1. I had good showings from Peyton Manning (27.58) and LeSean McCoy (18.2), but several of my team members--I'm looking at you wide receivers--left something to be desired.

Yeah... So I may have sang the praises of my wide receiver core a little too loudly last week. None of them did well on either of my teams. I'm still a little weepy after their performances across the board.

And with Jamaal Charles's high-ankle sprain sustained in the first quarter of the Chiefs-Broncos game, I'm feeling like my first-round pick for the Lady Chapmans was a bad call on my end. It's no wonder we're 0-2, now.

That said, I had a few shining pockets of excellence. The probably love of my life Aaron Rodgers scored an impressive 28.64 points. This after nearly giving me a heart attack by fumbling the ball on his first possession of the game. But no, like a true prince among men, he moved past that faux pas and right into my waiting heart.

Still... much as I'd like to award this week's glass slipper to my loves Aaron or Peyton, there are two other men who really stepped up and went above and beyond to prove how much they care about my quest for the throne.

That's right, I said two other men. My Fantasy Football Prince Charmings of the week are...

Mason Crosby and Dan Bailey.

In the Packers' comeback win over, Mason made three filed goals to keep my boys on the clock, including one from more than 50 yards away. Throw in his point after attempts, and Mason scored 13 points for the Lady Chapmans. If that isn't charming, I don't know the true meaning.

My kicker on Cinderellas Fellas was almost as impressive. Despite playing for the butthole Cowboys (I would say I'm sorry for my Cowboys hating, but... sorry, not sorry) Dan made three field goals, plus his point afters and gave me 19 points, which helped me win.

I don't know if that's the slight fever accompanying this cold or his outstanding slaying of dragons this week, but I'm all kinds of hot. And maybe even bothered. (Again, it could be that I'm bothered he plays for the Cowboys, a team I was taught to dislike from an early age. I'm so confused)

People who say kickers don't count for much in Fantasy Football obviously haven't experienced what I did this week. They can be real buddies when they put their minds to it.

Now... if you'll excuse me, Miss Laura needs to go get some rest, hydrate and dream about what potential victories may come ahead for her band of merry men in week three...

Not on Twitter? Miss some of my totally amazing commentary from NFL Week Two? Check out the highlights:

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September 15, 2014

the joy of leaving room for spontaneity

We've covered this before, but in the world of writing I'm a plotter. Every time I try my hand at pantsing, I end up stopping a few thousand words into the project and either quitting for good or outlining the rest of the story.

I don't necessarily follow the same approach each time. And I'm not super detailed about it either. I write one or two sentences for a scene or chapter (i.e. Lexi watches a movie at Jason's and... chicka chicka bow wow.)

This isn't the right approach for everyone, but it's what works for me. My mind has to have an idea of where we're going with this story, because I have to make everything build toward that ending.

I'm a planner in life, too. Or I can be. Most Fridays, I create a list titled "Goals for the Weekend." (I try calling them goals rather than things to do, because it's a mental game of sorts. If I don't do everything, I didn't fail to accomplish a list of tasks, but fell short of my goal. Does that sound crazy? It probably is nuts, but look who's talking.)

This weekend, my list looked something like this:

  • donate clothes
  • get grocieries
  • clean out car
  • do freelance writing?
  • write
  • do laundry 
  • watch football game

  • set Fantasy line-up
  • dust
  • vacuum
  • freelance?
  • prep lunches for week
  • make and portion dinners for week
  • write

I'm pleased to report that I accomplished everything in my list, though not necessarily in the order specified or even as I'd planned it in my head.

I got a jump start on the weekend Friday night by working on my current project. (I'm practicing a "don't kiss a tell" strategy at the moment with this book, so no hints on the story or how much writing I did. I hope you'll forgive me, but the mystery seems to work for me.) I took a dinner break and decided to tackle the freelance pieces I was commissioned to do. The force was apparently strong with me on Friday, because I wrapped those up by nine. I tinkered with my story a while longer and reached a point when I needed a break.

Okay. What next? It was too late to clean (I live in an apartment) and too early to work on my meals. So I strayed from the schedule. I went to visit my sister at work at the bar and had a couple of drinks. During the first drink, I updated my WIP's outline. For the second drink, I talked Fantasy Football and NFL drama with one of the regulars.

When my sister finished work around one, instead of driving home we decided to try our luck out seeing the aurora borealis that was supposed to be visible over Nebraska that night. It took longer to get away from the city lights than we spent out in the country. We didn't say much, and we didn't see the light spectacle (neither did anyone according to my Facebook News Feed), but it was still a lot more fun than I'd anticipated having.

Maybe it was the memory of so many nights in our childhood when our parents would wake us up in the middle of the night to go see a lunar eclipse or meteor shower. Maybe it was the sense of adventure and not knowing exactly how we were going to get where we were going or what we'd find. I'm guessing it was a combination of both.

I won't bore you with the play by play of the rest of the weekend, but while I accomplished everything I wanted to do, I still veered off the path a few more times. I went to breakfast and did some light shopping with one of my good friends. I went over to my brother's house to watch the late night Nebraska at Fresno State game and my other brother's house on Sunday to watch some NFL football. I took a nap. On impulse I picked up a six-pack of Oktoberfest beer (which wasn't on my list) at the grocery store. I had fun.

I arrived at my planned destination at the end of the weekend. I basically stuck to my plan. But I still left room for surprises. I had expected and unexpected moments, and both were great. Sure I had to tweak my plan a little, but the outcome was even better than how I'd started.

I do the same thing with my stories. While I basically stick to my outline, I leave room for surprises. I give myself permission to change the plan. I allow for spontaneity, because it always makes my story better while taking me where I wanted to go.

In case you missed it... be sure to enter to win a free copy of Brea Brown's The Secret Keeper or the chance to give a couple of romantic reads a new loving home.

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September 12, 2014

recycled reads: lots of love

I've gone and acquired too many books again. I know what you're thinking: "Is that a real problem?" Well, when you live in a small one-bedroom apartment and are terrified of becoming a hoarder, the answer is "yes."

In an attempt to avoid my greatest fear of ending up buried under a pile of old newspapers and books, I'll be giving away "Recycled Reads" every other week through the end of the year.

Entering to win is easy. Just use the Rafflecopter below. I'll randomly select one recipient, and you'll get the books. No purchase necessary to win. Must live in U.S. or Canada. For the biggest amount of entries, share the name and title of your favorite romance novel of all time. And that's it. See? Super easy!

Now to discuss the books up for grabs this week, which I'm calling the "Lots of Love" package, because they feature stories with... lots of love. And chickens, now that I think of it. Hmm. Now I'm disappointing. I should've called this the "Cluckin' Love" package. Sigh.

Anyway, the books...

Oklahoma Sweetheart
By Carolyn Davidson
The fact that Loris Peterson was carrying another man's child should have been enough to make Connor Webster despise her. But instead, he'd made her his wife!
Some said that she had betrayed him. But Connor's fierce passion for Loris moved him to rescue her from an uncaring family — and protect her from a mysterious enemy!

Foul Play
By Janet Evanovich
When Amy Klasse loses her TV job to a dancing chicken, handsome veterinarian Jake Elliott rescues her with an offer to be his receptionist. Jake just can't resist a damsel in distress, and Amy certainly doesn't mind Jake's charming sincerity. 
Then suddenly the job-stealing chicken disappears and Amy is suspected of foul play. Amy and Jake search for clues to prove her innocence. But will Jake be able to prove to Amy that love, too, is a mystery worth solving?

Good luck! And thank you for helping me do a little house cleaning to make room for some new books.

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September 10, 2014

five reasons to read 'the secret keeper'

People often ask me if I've read anything good lately. I can usually come up with a recommendation or two, but fortunately after reading the first five installments of Brea Brown's The Secret Keeper series I have five easy answers.

Brea has been a friend of mine through various writing groups, and I finally read the first book of the series, The Secret Keeper, back in June. I was hooked. I read the rest of the books available in the series that week, and now I want you to be hooked, too.

(Be sure to read through to the end of the post for a special offer...)

Five Reasons to Read The Secret Keeper, like, Right Now:

1. The main character is a riot. Peyton has a dry, yet often hilarious, world-view, which is super interesting to read. She sees herself as a mess, though most others see her as loyal and trustworthy. She thinks she's awful, but people--including this reader--are drawn to her, because she genuinely has a good heart. Always her toughest critic, Peyton does make mistakes and sometimes gets carried away, but she's ultimately a good person and a great, yet complicated, character to follow.

2. The minor characters are equally fabulous. From the nitpicking older sister and the rebellious younger brother to the douchey artist and fabulous gallery manager, the supporting cast in The Secret Keeper and subsequent novels are entertaining as can be. They're also believable. You'll recognize people from your own life.

3. There's a hot pastor. Yes, I just wrote that, and no I don't feel weird about it being a big selling point. That said, I have found myself looking at men in black shirts with white collars a little differently since reading these books. (OK, it was one young pastor in a diner, but my cheeks still flushed.)

4. No matter where you are on your spiritual journey, the stories will make you think and feel. I keep my own spiritual beliefs fairly private (because they're mine and they represent one of the most important relationships in my life), but reading this book and the following stories gave me a good opportunity to take a close look at my beliefs without making me feel like I was being judged, bullied or badgered into doing so.

5. The sixth and final installment of the series will be released this month! I had an opportunity to beta read an early draft of The Secret Keeper Fulfilled, and it was an emotional, yet funny, and ultimately satisfying conclusion to the series. I'll share my full review of it when it's published, but I loved it. The Secret Keeper Fulfilled will be available on Amazon on September 27. That means you have plenty of time to pick up the first book (for only 99 cents!) and fall in love with the series before it is released.

If you still aren't convinced, check out the reviews I wrote for each book on Amazon. You might want to note the date each review was written. That's right. I definitely slammed this series like a beer in a bar on a hot day. (Does that analogy work? I'm going with it.)

The Secret Keeper (June 28)
Carrying Brea Brown's signature wit and high quality storytelling skills, The Secret Keeper far surpassed my expectations. 
When Peyton finds herself in trouble, she doesn't know where to turn--even though she's spent a lifetime being the keeper of secrets for her family. Following the advice her parents gave her when she was younger, she seeks out her pastor, who happens to be the adorable Pastor Brice. While trying to ignore her growing feelings for the kind and funny young man and deal with the big secret in her life, Peyton was easy to cheer for throughout the whole story. 
With plenty of unexpected to twists, moments of laugh-out-loud joy mixed with heart-wrenching scenes, The Secret Keeper is a fast-paced, hard-to-put-down story about an ordinary woman going through circumstances that are anything but ordinary. 
I can't wait to read the rest of the series.

The Secret Keeper Confined (June 29)
Another well-crafted and -developed Brea Brown story follows Peyton and Brice as they navigate the choppy waters of the first years of their marriage. 
With lots of natural tension and excitement, I couldn't flip through the pages fast enough as we learn more about P&B. And as they learn more about each other and what it takes to make relationships work. No matter if it's between husband and wife, wife and child, child and God and so on. 
Can't wait to see what's next in the series.

The Secret Keeper Up All Night (June 30)
You know that sad feeling you get when you finish reading a book you love, and there isn't any more story? Thank goodness I haven't run into that problem with Brea Brown's TSK series. 
Book 3 takes us on more adventures with Peyton and Brice. They're first-time parents and building a new life in a new location. That comes plenty of adjustments, and their love for each other and faith are never more important than now. But don't worry, even with nearly nail-biting tense moments, there are still plenty of laughs for the seemingly perfect pastor and his foul-mouthed, kind of angsty wife. (I seriously adore this couple. They are too much fun.) 
With lots of laughs and feels, these books move lightning fast and offers plenty of memorable moments. 
Brea Brown is a truly talented writer who knows how to perfectly blend humor with heart. I'm excited to continue this journey with Peyton and Brice.

The Secret Keeper Holds On (July 2)
This fourth installment of TSK is another fast-paced and engaging read about a couple in love, who have a lot of unexpected twists in store... 
Peyton and Brice are back, and now they have two more babies on their hands. With three kids under two, they have enough on their plate. Add in some new problems at the church and the gallery, not to mention a couple of scares, and P&B are both forced to realize how lucky they are to be together. 
This story satisfactorily ties up some lingering worries from the previous books while raising new ones in a delightfully heart-felt and often funny way.
I've laughed and cried with the Northam family, and I'm anxious to see what's coming next. 
With each story I find myself falling more and more in love with these characters and the world Brea Brown has built for them.

The Secret Keeper Lets Go (July 2)
In the fifth TSK story, Peyton and Brice are once again settling into a new norm for their growing family. That also extends to changes in their church and extended families.
For fans of the series, this novel delivers answers and resolution for a couple of storylines--some reaching all the way back to book one. This will definitely satisfy fans of the rest of the series. The main and secondary characters continue to evolve the more we get to know them. 
And while Peyton and Brice's story gets more layers, Brea Brown also shows her continued development as a writer. There are parts of this story that were so well-crafted and -told, I was speechless. 
Prepare for a roller coaster of emotions. Like the other stories in the series there's a range of serious humor, happiness, pain and love. I hope it isn't too spoilery to say that this book offers the funniest, happiest, agonizing and romantic scenes of the series.
(I ugly cried at least three times. While I'm a bit of a crier, it takes a much deeper emotional connection to the characters and story make my chest hurt the way it did. That's impressive.) 
One of the greatest strengths of this series is how it addresses questions of faith and religion without giving definitive answers or being preachy. It's a completely unique reading experience. You get chick lit, philosophy and depth. 
I'll be thinking a lot about this story in the coming days as I process everything P&B experienced in this book and since we met them at the start of their relationship. I'll have a lot of feeling to do, too. 
I'm a mixture of excitement, sadness and even fear as I look forward to the release of the final chapter of this riveting series, due out later this year.

So, yeah... I basically really loved these books. To celebrate the upcoming release of The Secret Keeper Fulfilled, I'm giving away three FREE copies of The Secret Keeper. That's right, you could win a free ebook!

Because these are ebooks, this contest is open to anyone with a Kindle or Kindle app (it's free to download on your iPhone and Android devices). You must be eligible to read the books on Kindle, etc. etc. Entering to win is easy. Follow the directions in the Rafflecopter gadget below.

Good luck, and I hope you enjoy this fantastic series.

Stay connected with Laura Chapman on FacebookGoodreads and Twitter. Like Change the Word on Facebook.

September 9, 2014

take that, yahoo

I may have spoken too eagerly of my willingness to kiss as many frogs as it takes to find my Fantasy Football Prince Charming. We're only one week into this fantasy, err NFL, season, and my gag reflexes are kicking in. Big time. I'm practically on a diet of saltines and 7-Up.

The players on both of my teams gave vomy week one performances. I hope they were all getting out their bullshit now, because we're in for a shitty season otherwise. Maybe the Duchess of Cambridge can offer me some anti-nausea tips. (Congrats to the Wills and Kate, B-T-Dubs. I'm already placing my money on Baby No. 2 being a girl with the name Victoria. Anyone wanna take that bet?)

In case you can't tell by the tone of this blog post, both of my fantasy teams sustained crushing losses--99.56-136.76 for Cinderella's Fellas and 82.26-90.58 for the Lady Chapmans. Seriously, the only thing keeping me from going over to the dark side is my ability to re-watch this down-to-the-last-twenty-seconds-of-the-game save by Ameer Abdullah during the Huskers game on Saturday. I seriously almost peed myself in my excitement watching that play come into the end zone.

At least one of my fantasy leagues is thriving. My fantasy beer tour.

As of last night, I have 10 of 12 beers down (just a halfback and fullback to drink). And then I'll win my gridiron mini tour sweatshirt! As long as they have them in stock... Uh oh. Given my week, it's not totally out of the question for my local Old Chicago to run out before I finish.

Here's the deal, boys (I won't even call you "men" until we get a "W"). I spent a lot of my life thinking, "Oh I'm too demanding. I drive men to badness." But recently it occurred to me... It's not me. It's you. I'm a freaking catch and you can't catch (or throw or run or defend).

But before we get into why I'm already worried about my prospects, I'd like to make a long-distance dedication to my beloved Calvin Johnson, aka Megatron, who sadly is not part of my Fantasy Football franchise for the first time. Sniff. Sniff.

Of course he had to have an amazing first week. Like, the best first week ever. And I don't begrudge him success. No, just like Adele, I want nothing but the best for him. But why couldn't he love me like that? Why?!?!?!?!?!?

And of course every time he and Reggie Bush touched the ball it meant a takeaway from Joique Bell who is on my team. I swear I'll lose it if Calvin wins a championship for the owners on either of my leagues...

But before I get carried away blasting Adele while I curl up under a comforter and cry about the many ways I was wronged this week--and I could write a book--I had a few men prove they are committed to making our relationship work.

Let's start with the guys on my shit list, first. These boys are in the dog house this week based on their performances:
  • Jamaal Charles - 3.40 points. (Second-best projected overall fantasy player my ass. Consider yourself on probation.)
  • Charles Clay - 2.70 points (Gross.)
  • Vincent Jackson - 5.60 points (Out of a projected 12.52. For goodness sakes!)
  • T.Y. Hilton - 6.60 points (Out of a projected 11.92. Yikes.)

Had I started Chris Johnson as my running back instead of Charles, I would've ended up with 15.10 points,which would have won me the game. But in my defense, no one would've started Johnson over Charles, right? I also should have played Steve Smith Sr. (17.80 points) over Pierre Garcon (7.70), because I would have really won that game. But once again... Yahoo ripped me a new one for drafting him at all. I was scared to start him.

And this week I have an "Oh Shit" list with Toby Gerhart headlining after he left the game early with a sprained ankle. Apparently I should still plan on playing him next week, but sheesh. I don't know about that. I sprained an ankle last year and it took months to feel better.

Best Performers on Cinderella's Fellas:
  • My beloved Peyton Manning - 28.46 points (projected 28.61, so close enough.
  • Denver Defense - 12.00 points (8.41 projected)
  • Kyle Rudolph - 8.60 (7.41)
  • Joique Bell - a surprising 12.10 (9.98) considering how much Stafford was favoring Megatron and Bush.

None of those are banner results, but... I'll take them. Especially because I never really had a chance. My opponent basically kicked my ass, and would've defeated everyone else in the league, too. Dude was on fire.

I'm annoyed with Shady, because he didn't get me many points at all. But, I'm generous. I'm willing to write that off as a Week One fluke. Also getting a "hall pass" this week is Aaron Rodgers and Mason Crosby on The Lady Chapmans. It was a tough match-up against the defending Super Bowl champions, and I imagine they'll do better in the weeks ahead. I still feel a little disappointed, but who hasn't been disappointed in their partner a time or two in a relationship?

Players on the Lady Chapmans who didn't suck included:
  • Antonio Brown - 17.60 points (10.84 projected)
  • Kelvin Benjamin - 15.20 points (7.65)
  • Shane Vereen - 13.10 points (10.34)

So clearly I have three decent candidates for this week's Fantasy Football Prince Charming. And while a part of me would like to name Antonio Brown that man, I can't. He karate kicked a guy, and I'm just really not OK with registering for crystal or adopting a puppy with a guy who kicks other people in the head. It's not nice. We don't kick. Unless we're kickers. Then we kick, kick, kick! So, Antonio, despite your excellent performance, you're on probation. Don't do it again.

With Antonio out of the running this week, I am pleased to name the first Fantasy Football Prince Charming of the 2014 season...


...Kelvin Benjamin.

In his NFL debut, my man Kelvin scored one touchdown, caught six passes and yielded 92 yards. That's a pretty sexy way to start out your career, young man, and you have not escaped my notice.

And he was super adorable about that touchdown, telling the media, "I mean it was OK." Gotta love humility and a sense of humor like that.

And I really have to laugh about how well my boyfriend of the week and his buddy Antonio performed this week. Because here's what the experts at Yahoo had to say about me after drafting them, "(The Lady Chapmans) landed one of the worst groups of WRs in the league, as they have Antonio Brown, Pierre Garcon, and Kelvin Benjamin."

Ha. Well eff that noise, Yahoo. My receivers were damn fine this week. So take that, y'all!

Not on Twitter? Miss some of my totally amazing commentary from NFL Week One? Check out the highlights here:

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September 5, 2014

five on the fifth: september 2014

So, in the interest of getting to know each other, I thought it might be fun to start a little series that involves me doing a little over-sharing (or random sharing) about my self on the fifth of each (or at least the occasional) month. I'm calling it "Five on the Fifth." Super brilliant and clever, I know. But, I have to save my originality for novel writing, which means you're getting my brain's sloppy leftovers. #sorrynotsorry

As it's the fifth of the month, let's get this thing started, shall we?

1. I can play the oboe. And percussion... and sometimes the English horn and saxophone and piano. You know, depending on the occasion. I was an unapologetic music geek in high school, which is probably why there are music references in everything I write.

2. I still sleep with one of the stuffed animals from my childhood. Or at the very least I keep Mr. Bunny perched near me on the rocking chair next to my bed. That giant yellow and white bunny and I have been through a lot together, and I like having him close to me at night.

3. My imagination has unrealistic romantic expectations. Sometimes, at my weakest moments, I lose all independent woman sensibilities and imagine playing step-mom to Ryan Gosling and Eva Mendez's future child, acting out scenes from Fifty Shades of Grey with Benedict Cumberbatch, or getting Ryan Reynolds to carry the ginormous bag of kitty litter up the stairs once a month. (As you'll note, in addition to being unrealistic, my imagination is also a bit of a sexist pig, apparently.)

4. Until last night I had a Tinder account. Because why not? Sure I only spent one Sunday evening logged in and exchanging conversation with random local strangers, and no I didn't really think it'll go anywhere, but what a ride!

5. I had a huge crush on one of my bus drivers in kindergarten. Two firefighters shared a route to take us home for the afternoons, and I developed a ginormous crush on one of them. He had dark hair, a Tom Selleck mustache and had bulging shoulders and arms under the navy blue firefighter shirt he wore. His "hello" smile gave me butterflies. (Remembering it just gave me butterflies.)

After almost a full year of crushing, I kissed him on the cheek as a dare. My "friends" sang "Laura and the bus driver, sitting in a tree. K-I-S-S-I-N-G" on the ride home. The heroic firefighter told the kids to knock it off and asked me if I was OK when he left me at home. That night, I swore to control my feelings in the future. I never saw him again after the school year ended a few weeks later.

This remains one of the single most embarrassing, yet thrilling memories in my life.

I'll be back next month for five more facts.

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September 3, 2014

fantasy football prince charming: meet the daring gentlemen trying to win a championship and my heart

Tomorrow marks the official start of the NFL season, and I feel just like a princess. And this princess is ready to finally take her rightful place on the throne as Queen of Fantasy Football.

Let's take a look at the heroic knights--err... football players--who are joining me on my quest to rule this mofo kingdom. Oh... and as you'll note, I still haven't quite recovered from the awesomeness that was Queen Bey's performance at the MTV VMAs, so I've borrowed some inspiration from one of only three reigning queens I recognize (Elizabeth II and the surviving members of the band Queen are the other two in case you were curious) to help me build my team confidence.

Team No. 1: The Lady Chapman's
Team Motto: The championship rock I'm rocking--I bought it. #bowdownbitches

Quick Overview: This is my first year as a member of this league. The only person I know is the league commissioner, and I had a fair mess of butterflies fluttering in my belly when I set out to draft a team. I had the second pick out of 12 teams, which is a mixed blessing position. On one hand, I had the second overall pick. On the other, I had to sit and wait for 20 other decisions to be made before I could make my second decision. Also, with only a minute and a half for each turn, I had to be lightning fast to make each of my choices. I know this sounds like I'm making a lot of excuses, but I'm not. I fully embrace, or at least accept, my team, I just hope you realize how angsty I was about the whole damn thing.

The Team:
Probable Starters
Aaron Rodgers (QB)
Antonio Brown (WR)
Pierre Garcon (WR)
Kelvin Benjamin (WR)
Jamaal Charles (RB)
Chris Johnson (RB)
Charles Clay (TE)
Mason Crosby (K)
Cincinnati (DEF)

Shane Vereen (RB)
Bishop Sankey (RB)
Eric Ebron (TE)
Steve Smith Sr. (WR)
Alex Smith (QB)
Doub Baldwin (WR)

Yahoo Report Card Grade: B

What the Yahoo Experts Say About My Team: Coinciding with a juicy draft position (second overall), Lady Chapman had an outstanding performance. They're projected to finish second in Footballin' League with a record of 9-4-0 (1,202 points). They are clearly planning on cramming it down their opponents cramhole, using four of their first seven picks to add RBs Jamaal Charles (first round), Shane Vereen (fifth round), Bishop Sankey (sixth round) and Chris Johnson (seventh round). They landed one of the worst groups of WRs in the league, as they have Antonio Brown, Pierre Garcon, and Kelvin Benjamin.

What I Have to Say: Three words: Aaron Effing Rodgers. For those of you following my attempt at a happily ever after for the past couple of years, then you know my hope and dream every year has been to have Aaron Rodgers on my team. And this year it finally happened. There's a lot of other decent talent on my team (though I really should have done a better job stocking up on wide receivers--but it's not a PPR league and receiving TDs don't get as many points so whatevs), but when I look at this roster all I really need to see is Aaron Rodgers, my original FF dreamboat.

Team No. 2: Cinderella's Fellas
Team Motto: All I do is win... and lose. #bowdownbitches

Quick Overview: I ended up securing the second place trophy in this keeper league last year, which admittedly gave me a little more confidence going into this draft. Add in the fact that I could keep two of the men I fell in love with last year, and I was pretty excited. Unfortunately, a little glitch with Yahoo's system effed up our first attempt at a live draft, so we had to do a repeat performance later. Thank God. I would've cried had I been forced to play with Johnny Manziel as my backup QB (no thank you, world). Because I finished second last year, I had the 11th of 12 overall pick for the draft, which was fine by me.

The Team:
Probable Starters
Peyton Manning (QB)
Vincent Jackson (WR)
T.Y. Hilton (WR)
LeSean McCoy (RB)
Toby Gerhart (RB)
Kyle Rudolph (TE)
Joique Bell (RB) - FLEX
Dan Bailey (K)
Denver (DEF)

Maurice Jones-Drew (RB)
Rueben Randle (WR)
Mike Evans (WR)
Charles Clay (TE)
Eli Manning (QB)
Andre Holmes (WR)
James White (RB)
Mike Williams (WR)
Bryce Brown (RB)
New York Giants (DEF)

Yahoo Report Card Grade: A-

What the Yahoo Experts Say About My Team: A late round draft pick would fluster the novice fantasy football manager, but this was obviously not the first rodeo for Cinderella's Fellas. They were able to flip the 11th overall pick into an expected finish of second place with a record of 12-2-0 (1,622 points). They loaded up on ball carriers early, using three of their first five picks to scoop up RBs LeSean McCoy (first round), Toby Gerhart (third round), and Joique Bell (fifth round). These players will be heavily relied upon by Cinderella's Fellas, as they are one of the most prolific groups of RBs in the league.

Cinderella's Fellas took advantage of two of their three keeper positions to retain LeSean McCoy (1.5 ADP) and Peyton Manning (11.1 ADP). From an ADP perspective, both of their keepers are of first-round quality. Overall, the keepers on Cinderella's Fellas are projected to be significantly more productive (by 18.3%) than the draft picks they replaced.

What I Have to Say: Dude... did you notice that I'm expected to finish second in both of my leagues? I mean, I know pre-season projections are basically full of crap and Yahoo can't predict a championship, but... can't you feel it? That amazing sense that this is my year? I'm pretty pleased by this team, and while I'm not guaranteeing I'll exceed Yahoo's expectations and finish first, I do take comfort in knowing I put together the best team possible with my options. Also... PEYTON MANNING LESEAN MCCOY OMG OMG OMG!!!!!!

It is going to be a delightful quest for my kingdom. I look forward to sharing it with all of you in the weeks ahead of us.

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