The woman he left behind and the son he never knew are tougher opponents than any he’s met on the field.
Pitcher Johnny “The Monk” Scottsdale has won awards, been named an All-star and has a perfect game to his credit. Known for his legendary control both on and off the field, his pristine public image makes him the ideal person to work with youth players in a preseason minicamp. Except the camp is run by the one woman he can’t forget…the woman who made him a “monk.”
Alice Harrison’s three strikes include an unexpected pregnancy, a marriage of convenience and young widowhood. She once traded her dreams so Johnny could have a chance at making it to the Majors. Johnny comes back into her life just as she’s ready to resign as foundation director and pursue her own dreams of finally earning her teaching credential. Her plans may go on hold, though, depending on the reaction when she confesses she may have kept a major league secret from Johnny and her son.
With the minutes ticking by until Johnny will leave for spring training, they’ll need to let go of the past and work together in order to win the game of love.
CONTENT WARNING: Some strong language, consummated love scenes
“Yeah, the kid’s kind of growing on me.” Johnny sounded surprised. But pleased. “I thought it would be hard to be around him. Since he’s…Mel’s. But, he’s such a great kid.”
The lump in her throat grew. She should tell him. Now. Before she lost her nerve.
He stepped toward her. “You have mascara, here.”
He reached out and wiped the smudge under her left eye. Her lashes automatically fluttered closed at his touch. A sigh escaped her lips, an instant before he captured her mouth with his.
He pulled her closer. Closer. Kissing her like they’d been apart for merely a two-week road trip, not fourteen years. His hands wove through her hair. Moved down her back. She leaned against him. She could feel him, his need pressing against her belly. Her insides dissolved. Longing filled her. Powerful. Uncontrolled.
“Ali…” His breath was ragged, heavy with desire. “Oh, Ali.”
She was about to surrender completely, when she heard the toilet flush upstairs.
“Johnny. Wait.” She pushed him away. Smoothed her blouse. Her hair. “Zach’s upstairs. He could come down any minute.”
“Right. Zach.” Johnny stepped back and her heart gave a small whimper. “I should go.”
“Johnny, please… Stay.” They needed to talk. She needed to tell him the truth. Or what could be the truth about Zach.
“I really need to go.” His eyes rested on the formal family portrait. He didn’t need to tell her any more. He wasn’t ready for a family.
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The More Than a Game Series:
Hi, Kristina. You've been writing for awhile. Better Than Perfect is your first published book. What was it like getting the letter from Lyrical Press, saying they wanted you?
I almost gave up on this book. I had received several rejections, most of them as a form letter. I got a few suggestions, encouraging me to keep writing but I wasn’t quite there yet. I was getting frustrated because I wasn’t sure why it wasn’t selling.
But I kept at it. Savvy Authors hosted a “Pitch Perfect” event last April. They set up several agents and editors to take pitches on their website. I got two requests right away, and sent the required partial or full manuscript. One of the editors I pitched to didn’t post the results right away, so I had to check back.
In the meantime, I got a critique back from a blog contest. It was like my dental hygienist—very thorough and painful. I couldn’t finish reading it. I know she was trying to be helpful, but I was pretty down. I figured my hero was destined for the disabled list, maybe permanently. I was working on the second book in the series, but I stalled out around chapter ten. I wasn’t ready to give up, but I felt like I was down to my last strike.
I checked the Savvy Authors website and sure enough, the last editor wanted to read my manuscript. I sent it, thinking if I was going to go down, I’d go down swinging.
The next day she sent me a quick e-mail telling me how much she looked forward to reading it.
About a week later she’d finished reading it. I read the e-mail skimming past the words “I loved it” waiting for the “but.”
There was no “but.” She wanted my book.
A week later I had signed the contract with Lyrical Press.
So yeah, sometimes you can be down to your last strike, and with one swing of the bat (or click of the mouse) you can hit one out of the park.
Better Than Perfect is the first book in your More Than a Games Series. What is it about baseball that made you want to build a series around the sport?
I love baseball. It is a long season, 162 games, and the players almost become like family. You see them day in and day out. Sometimes they make you crazy, but you grow to love them. Since the game itself isn’t non-stop action, there is a fair amount of storytelling that goes on between pitches. I feel like I know the players. I know their favorite pregame meals, their wives names (and pet peeves), and offseason hobbies. Plus I know enough about the game to be able to make it mostly realistic.
Why exactly is Johnny Scottsdale called "The Monk"?
The public perception is that the nickname is because of his Zen-like control when he’s on the mound. He has a mantra he repeats to calm his nerves. Focus. Breathe. Let it go. But his teammates gave him the name as a joke because he doesn’t sleep around.
Please tell me about your characters, Johnny Scottsdale and Alice Harrison.
They first met when they were too young to overcome their upbringings. Johnny was the son of a prostitute and Alice was the reason her father had to give up on his own athletic dreams. When a baseball career becomes a real possibility for Johnny, Alice worries that she’ll hold him back, so she broke up with him.
But they never stopped loving each other. Alice is proud of Johnny’s accomplishments even though she feels she can’t share in them. Johnny shut down his heart the way he’s shut down his opponents. When he’s asked to work at her camp for underprivileged kids, they have to overcome their past in order to help build a future for the young players.
Here's a tough question....The secret child storyline has been written a million times. What is it about Better Than Perfect which makes it different from all the other books?
When Johnny and Alice were dating, Johnny’s best friend and roommate, Mel, often tagged along on their dates. He was the one with money and he often paid for things his two best friends couldn’t afford. He loved Johnny as a brother and he cared about Alice, too. After Johnny’s absence left a hole in both Mel and Alice’s lives, they ended up in a hotel room together and Alice ends up pregnant. Rather than ruin Johnny’s chances at the big leagues, she accepts his best friend’s offer of marriage. She doesn’t know for sure who the father is until Johnny orders a paternity test. (You’ll have to read the book to find out the results).
What advice would you give to someone trying to be a published author, or what is it that you wished you would have known?
The best advice I can give is to join a writer’s organization like Romance Writers of America. I’ve learned so much about the craft and business of writing and I’ve met so many wonderful writers. If I hadn’t joined RWA, I would still be an “aspiring” author, with several manuscripts gathering dust on my hard drive, but I wouldn’t have the confidence to send anything out.
I also think it’s important for aspiring authors to be patient. There are many paths to publication, and the smart author will take the time to hone their craft and do the research needed to decide what is the right way to get their books to readers. I chose to go with a small press, and I’m grateful for the support I received from my editor and publisher. When Lyrical Press was bought by Kensington I was nervous at first, worried I’d get lost in the crowd. But my experience has been good so far. They’ve helped me with so many little details I wouldn’t have even thought of. I’m glad I have a team behind me and I’ve learned so much in little over a year since signing my contract.
Writing may seem like a solitary endeavor, but there are so many people who have helped me bring my stories to life. It will take at least fifty more books for me to be able to acknowledge all of them.
Kristina, thank you very much for the interview and congratulations on your new book.
Kristina Mathews doesn't remember a time when she didn't have a book in her hand. Or in her head. But it wasn't until 2010 that she confessed the reason the laundry never made it out of the dryer was because she was busy writing romance novels.
While she resigned from teaching with the arrival of her second son, she's remained an educator in some form. As a volunteer, Parent Club member or para educator, she finds the most satisfaction working with emergent and developing readers, helping foster confidence and a lifelong love of books.
Kristina lives in Northern California with her husband of twenty years, two sons and a black lab. A veteran road tripper, amateur renovator and sports fanatic. She hopes to one day travel all 3,073 miles of Highway 50 from Sacramento, CA to Ocean City, MD, replace her carpet with hardwood floors and serve as a “Ball Dudette” for the San Francisco Giants.
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Kristina will be awarding a $10 Amazon Gift Card plus a digital copy of Better Than Perfect to a randomly drawn commenter during her Better Than Perfect Blog Tour promoted by Goddess Fish Promotions. Leave a comment and be sure to include your email address so you may be contacted, in case you are selected the winner. Good luck!