The Sports Escape

I don’t know about you, but I lasted almost ten minutes into the presidential debate shown on all major channels before I escaped to ESPN and Monday night football.  I suspect the debates might have swollen the audience who got to see the Saints seriously beat down by the Falcons.  The opening drive by the Saints was textbook: Drew Brees nailing pass after pass, wham, wham, wham, touchdown, my last joy of the evening.  After that it was mostly a matter of watching the rookie defense and special teams make mistake after mistake for the Saints, big penalties, and that fiasco where two members of the return team collided, missing the ball, and allowing it to be run back for a touchdown.  Come on, Saints, we need you to be the team who inspired the city after Katrina and went on to win a Super Bowl.  Instead, you are devolving into the Ain’ts of yore, and I really, really need some good football.

Just the day before, LSU coach Les Miles was fired after losing two out of three of his opening games.  In his single victory this season playing one of those schools who are paid to give big university teams some practice, LSU ran up the score in the first half, failed to show up for the second, and very nearly lost that game, too.  In the Auburn game where their opponent won by virtue of an excellent placekicker who scored all the points (yea for kickers, among my favorite players ever since I wrote Kicks for a Sinner), LSU’s new and better quarterback threw a dramatic pass into the end zone in the last seconds of the game.  Caught!  Hurrah!  Let the celebration begin.  Except the play clock had run down, and it didn’t count.  As for the Wisconsin game, bring back a quarterback who didn’t work out the year before, and you lose.  I defended Les the year before after he lost three SEC games in a row, but this year, I could only say good-bye. With the defensive coach now in charge (and their defense is always fierce preventing higher scores), I just don’t know what the rest of the season will be like.  I counted on the Saints to cheer me up after the LSU debacle.  Not going to happen.

When my home teams aren’t winning, I turn to some of my old favorites, the Packers and the Giants, mostly because I like Eli Manning.  Looks like no help there either.  Okay, I did enjoy seeing the Steelers big loss to the Eagles and their new quarterback.  Since I grew up in eastern Pennsylvania, my dad always watched the then hopeless Eagles.  He would have been so happy to see that game.  At least, I still have the Patriots who can win without Tom Brady and the Gronk and really don’t need to deflate balls for a victory.  Down to their last backup, they have Julius Edelman practicing to take over.  Bet he could do it, too.  They appear to be on their way to another Super Bowl.  Drew Brees is headed to the Hall of Fame–single-handedly without the team he deserves.  If only the Saints played the Browns because they really need the win, but no, wrong division.

The good thing about sports over politics is this season will end.  There is always another game and another year to look forward to.  In politics, if the voters make a massive mistake, the country suffers for four years.  And, I’d so much rather watch a humorous or heart-warming beer commercial than one more hateful political ad played over and over again.   So, how are your teams doing?  Have you escaped into sports?  You can join me on the bench or in the dugout.  I might even watch the World Series this year.

5 Ways to Throw Yourself into the Football Season

Here we go again! Another season. Another championship on the line. But there’s more to being a football fan than sitting around on Sundays (or Thursdays or Saturdays) in an oversized jersey, watching your favorite team play.

Get more out of this season with these 5 fun and easy tips:

  1. Cut the couch potato routine. Shut off the television and attend a live game. Get out, where you can smell the turf, taste the food, feel the fresh air, and yell until your throat hurts. If you’re a hardcore fan, commit to completing the Grid Iron Triumvirate this season: a high school game, a college game, and a professional game. Chances are you can find all three within driving distance if you’re not picky about who’s playing.
  2. Join a fantasy league. It’s fun. Really. And you don’t have to be cutthroat to get something out of it. I was once in a league comprised of all romance authors. Seriously. If you can’t find a league to join, email friends and family who might be interested, and then use or to start your own league. Much of the operation is automated, leaving you with more time for fun.
  3. Be the hostess with the “mostest.” Hold a Sunday Football Viewing Party (or Saturday, if College Game Day is more your speed). Better yet, get a few friends on board and alternate houses throughout the season.
  4. Go long. Pick the perfect afternoon and head to an open field or your own backyard. If there’s only two of you, play catch; learn to throw the perfect spiral. (Google for specific tips.) If you can summon enough people for a legitimate game of touch football, even better! And if playing isn’t your thing but you have kids, consider having a friendly game of touch football between the kids while the parents watch and serve a picnic-style lunch following the game.
  5. Enlist social media. Follow your favorite players on Twitter and Instagram. You’re bound to get some entertaining posts and pics. (My personal favorite: JJ Watt’s Instagram—justinjames99. You won’t be sorry—even if you aren’t a Houston Texans’ fan.)



The Change UpElley Arden is the author of the ground-breaking Cleveland Clash sports romance series that focuses on female professional football players and the men who love them. Heroes and Heartbreakers called Running Interference “thrilling” and “one to root for.” The first book in Elley’s newest sports romance series,  The Change Up: Arlington Aces 1 (baseball), is available now.

To stay up-to-date on all the latest Elley news, sign up for her newsletter and get access to exclusive content and subscriber-only giveaways.

Charming characters. Emotional stories. Sexy romance. On and off the field.

Writing the Sports Romance

Most likely all the authors who blog on Romancing the Jock or post to the site on Facebook were inspired by Susan Elizabeth Phillips and her Stars football series. So glad to see her newest is another Stars book after an absence of many years.  My copy is on order. Meanwhile, those of us on RTJ have tried to fill the void with our own sports romances.  It’s not as easy as it sounds. You pick a sport, make up a hot guy hero, and start typing. Nope.

The first thing you do is learn all you can about that sport. I choose football because that is the sport I knew the most about–or so I thought. My first move in research was to buy Football for Dummies wherein I found out all I didn’t know. What do players eat when training, how are jersey numbers assigned, what do they do during the off-season? My husband’s subscription to Sports Illustrated helped immensely. I watched the game with new eyes. Since my first heroine in Goals for a Sinner was a sports photographer, I also watched the sidelines to see what the photographers were doing. Later, when I did books on kickers and punters, I often strained to see what they did when not on the field. How did they train? What made them good or even great? Immersion in your subject is important.  When I moved on to bull riders and bullfighters, I dragged my man to a rodeo. I’d been to many football games, but wanted to be able to describe the noise and smell of the bull pens, the types of fans attending. You can also catch professional bull riding on TV, though the times are elusive and the season runs from January through the finals in October with the holidays off, but you won’t know about the odor.

Believe me, if you make one single small mistake, readers are on you in an instant. After four flawless books, I made an error in the fifth by having my fictional team play three games in a row on the road. I needed this for the plot and thought it plausible, especially since the Saints played all their games on the road after Katrina, but a reader informed me this never happens, and since I knew so little about football, she would not ever read one of my books again. Took me a while to get my confidence back after that one, and I concentrated on my single titles and other series I’ve got going.  It’s good to write more than one kind of book. So, be very well prepared if you attempt the sport romance.

Heroes–do they all have to be smokin’ hot alpha males?  Not all of mine are. Football is a team sport and not everyone leads though I did start out with two, Connor Riley, the wide receiver in Goals for a Sinner and Joe Dean Billodeaux, the quarterback, in Wish for a Sinner. These are the glamour positions, the flashy guys.  Behind them are men like my fictional Samoan cornerback, a defensive player who is all about the team, and the awesome kickers who often score the field goals that win (or lose) the game like those in Kicks for a Sinner and She’s a Sinner. Characters should not be flawless, winning every game and scoring every point. How boring would that be?  They need to lose the Super Bowl on occasion or muff a kick to be real. They don’t operate alone either.  The team is their family–and then they have families of their own who present problems because we’ve all got those. The heroine really should not be a fan or a groupie.  She needs to have a life and profession of her own (which you have to learn about) and the strength to stand up to often dominant males.

Sex?  Of course your readers expect it. My books might have a lot or a little depending on the character or the plot. Many writers to it better than I on paper. What is more important is telling a good story at least to me. In my opinion, there can be too much sex in a sports novel. If your characters are having sex every other chapter, I soon grow tired of it and want the story to move along. Possibly, that is just me. I’d rather work on their problems like should a severely injured player return to the game or how long should they play before retiring? It’s a matter of personal taste I guess.

Not too long ago, say as much as six years, sport romances were no long acceptable to agents and publishers. I guess too many writers jumped on the boat and sunk it after the success of SEP. Yet my fellow RTJ authors wrote them anyhow, and eventually found a niche, mostly in e-published books.  What do you know?  Fans of the genre were out there and hungry for more. Long may the genre reign. Of all my now nineteen published books, my Sinners Sports Romances remain my most popular, but if they should peter out, I’ll move on.  It’s good to have a backup on the bench.


Rio 2016

_DSC9544smWell, it’s summer Olympics which means no hockey, and it also means fewer medals for Team Canada. Nonetheless I have been entertained and intrigued. Here are a few of my Olympic highlights so far as pulled from Twitter:

Watching the opening ceremonies:





Discovering women’s rugby:





























The women kicking butt including 16 year old Penny Oleksiak with 4 medals:


Broadcaster Elliotte Friedman totally screwed up the call of the gold medal win by Michael Phelps by mixing up the lanes and then posted this:






The bromance:





What are some of your Olympic highlights?

The Olympics–Here at Last!

Tonight I’ll be watching the opening ceremonies of the Olympic Games (and reading the new Harry Potter book) so happy to escape the heat and the relentless coverage of politics.  This year features over 6,000 hours of coverage on various channels and the reintroduction of golf, which might account for lots of the time, and rugby, well worth a watch if the game I saw in Ireland is any indication.  Fiji is favored in Rugby if you’d like the cheer for a team that has never won a medal. I do love an underdog.

But, I also love the big names.  Michael Phelps is back at age 31 swimming in six events and trying to add to his count of twenty-two medals, eighteen of them gold.  He has seemed lost between Olympics, smoking weed and getting a DUI, but now has a baby son on his side.  I’d like to see him win again.  Usain Bolt, age 30, will be running despite a hamstring tear early in July. He will do the 100 and 200 meter dashes and a relay.  This is the last hurrah for both men. Good luck to them both.

I, personally, love to watch the womens’ gymnastics, and the mens as well.  One is a display of athleticism and grace, the other of power and dexterity.  Simone Biles is back along with Gabby Douglas, both such strong young women, not the little fairy-like kids who often compete.  Their team stands a good chance of getting the gold again.  Great to see women who can do such amazing feats.  I am the kid who couldn’t climb the rope in gym and only learned a forward and backward roll on the mat because I had to in order to pass what was my worst class. I did make it across a balance beam, no stunts required, and was relieved I didn’t have to turn and go back. My husband will be watching something else like Greco-Roman wrestling. He really hates gymnastics and probably wasn’t any better than I was at those skills.

Tonight, the American athletes will be marching in dressed in Ralph Lauren attire of blue blazers and white pants only the physically in shape should wear.   They receive outfits for both opening closing ceremonies plus some casual attire fitted and doled out in the Houston Convention Center, big enough to hold 700 athletes and all those clothes, a twelve day process that includes tailoring for individuals that don’t fit the mold–like Michael Phelps.  Since he is acting as flag bearer, he needs to look really sharp.

Despite polluted water, the Zika virus, and now, I hear, snakes and capybaras on the golf course, there will be magnificent, inspiring victories and tragic defeats and injuries. We will watch it from beginning to end enthralled.  That is my take on the 2016 Summer Olympics.  Who do you favor?  What sports do you watch?  How many hours will you spend on the couch watching the athletes perform?


The Indy 500 and Perfect Plots

Sorry to say I missed my turn to blog last month when my ancient computer had its last fatal crash and needed to be replaced. Nine days later, I more or less had a functioning system that I am still learning to use. That put me behind on working on the new Sinners book, Sister of a Sinner, and way behind on the blog, so here is what I wanted to write in June. No guessing the winner of the Indy 500 this year as now everyone knows. Our family members always pick a slate of winners and one dark horse to make watching the race more fun. Those endless rounds of the oval can be monotonous unless there is a crash. The worst crash this year happened in the pits when one eager driver cut off another and damaged three cars. He got a one lap penalty. Some of us had picked that guy. Our winner gets a wooden plaque with a Matchbox car glued to it to have and hold for the next year. No huge silver trophy with our likeness punched into it for us! Good thing, because I lost again this year, as did most of our group. None picked the first place winner, but what a story that was.

I’ve often said race car drivers are not what women think of as romantic heroes despite their need for speed. They tend to be lithe and on the short side like taller jockeys because weight counts in auto racing as it does in horse racing and the driver’s compartment is cramped. Some have remarkably high voices, but others alluring foreign accents. Their back stories, however, are the stuff of legends and could provide any romance writer with endless plots.  Take James Hinchcliffe for instance.  While practicing for last year’s Indy he suffered a crash so bad he required fourteen pints of blood on the way to the hospital. A piece of the suspension had pierced his leg, and he ended up watching the race from his bed.  He also had a bad concussion and says he doesn’t even recall the crash and so entered this year’s race without fear after a long rehab.  In the time trials, he won the pole position and dominated many laps of the race going on to…win? Nope. In a novel, he would have and gotten the girl, too, after this test of courage.

How about this for a plot? A young California guy leaves the States at the age of 16 for Europe hoping to get a start in Formula One racing (you know, the kind they do in Monaco). He gets his feet wet, but is lured back to the U.S. to be a relief driver for the famous Andretti family who has had a long dry spell at winning the Indy. Maybe for the sake of the story, he could leave behind a lovely French girl related to the Monaco royal family. They have dated race car drivers before. Now twenty-four, this handsome man bides his time on the track, surges to the front of the pack as the last laps come up.  His car is very low on fuel, but he is coached to continue as the star drivers are all in the pits tanking up for the last round–and he coasts across the finish line riding on fumes.  His car must be towed to the winners circle. Veteran drivers gnash their teeth.  He shows his in a blazing smile. Rookie Alexander Rossi, a 66-1 shot, become the ninth newbie to win the race since its start in 1911. The princess dashes from the crowd to share the famous milk mustache all drivers acquire from downing the traditional pint after their victory. Okay, I made that last part up about the princess ,but all the rest is true. Fantastic plot.

I really should be writing about race car drivers instead of football players and bull riders I guess, but I am not mechanically inclined and seldom pick the real winners. I’d have to get a copy of Auto Racing for Dummies to study. Surely, there is one. I could always rely on my son-in-law who invented our family game for advice, though he never wins either. I’ll give it some thought.





Seven Games vs. One: Which Playoff Format Works for You?

Tonight the Pittsburgh Penguins could win The Stanley Cup. As I write this, they lead the San Jose Sharks 3 to 1 in a best-of-seven series. I have no particular plans other than to watch the game from home—from the same spot on my couch. I’m superstitious that way. But shouldn’t I be celebrating this game and a possible win the way I celebrate a football championship? Shouldn’t the house be full of fans and food? I live in Pittsburgh for crying out loud! I thought about the vigor with which we celebrate the Steelers around here, and I know we don’t love the Pens or the Pirates, for that matter, any less. Still, I’ve heard of and been to countless Super Bowl parties—even when the Steelers aren’t playing. But Stanley Cup parties? Not so much. (And we are serious hockey fans!) You know what I think? I think the series format is to blame. Something about that one definitive championship game mobilizes fans to come together in a way the best-of-seven series can’t. Think of all the pomp and circumstance surrounding the Super Bowl from media day to the half-time show. Think of the ad dollars spent. That single game puts people into a frenzy. Seven games to get it done just makes you wonder if today is going to be the day or if you need to adjust your schedule so you’re free to watch the next game.

Have you ever wondered why football is the lone wolf when it comes to playoff format? I’ve heard people say even a best-of-three series is too high-risk for an injury prone sport like football. Please. Have those people ever watched a hockey game? Have you ever wondered why the NHL, NBA, and MLB don’t shorten or eliminate their series format all together, turning to a single championship game that can be milked for monetary gain? Which format do you prefer? And do you party as hardy for a series as you do for a Super Bowl? It’s something to think about … while you’re watching the Pens win The Cup tonight. 🙂


The Change UpElley Arden is the author of the ground-breaking Cleveland Clash sports romance series that focuses on female professional football players and the men who love them. Heroes and Heartbreakers called Running Interference “thrilling” and “one to root for.” The first book in Elley’s newest sports romance series,  The Change Up: Arlington Aces 1 (baseball), is available now.

To stay up-to-date on all the latest Elley news, sign up for her newsletter and get access to exclusive content and subscriber-only giveaways.

Charming characters. Emotional stories. Sexy romance. On and off the field.

Go Figure…Hotness on Ice–Guest Blogger Elizabeth Harmon

I come from a family of devoted Chicago Cubs fans.

As a boy, my grandfather roller-skated inside the Wrigley Field construction site. Even after decades of disappointment, my father-in-law remained true Cubbie blue. In the late 1980s, I lived blocks from Wrigley and remember the first night game—the star-studded one which was rained out in the second inning, and the real one the next night, after all the celebrities were gone.

So when it came time to write a sports romance, it was only natural for me to write about…figure skating.

I’ve loved it since I was a kid. The Cutting Edge is one of my favorite movies. I even take lessons and a few years ago, checked off a bucket list item when I skated in our rink’s ice show. I fell once, but still….

Yet many people know nothing about it. Check out this Twitter post on Ten Misconceptions About Figure Skating.

Trust me, you can’t go to a pond and learn triple axels. The sport only seems easy because its top athletes make it look that way. Off camera, there’s training and conditioning as rigorous as what you’d find in sports played with a ball or puck.

As for the “aren’t all male figure skaters gay” question? Since I write m/f romance, I hear this one often. True, one of the sport’s most visible faces, Johnny Weir, is proudly out. So is Canadian pair skater Eric Radford. There are more openly gay figure skaters than say, openly gay football players.

But it’s only part of the story. There are plenty of straight guys on the ice, too. Americans Grant Hochstein, Chris Knierim and Charlie White, are either soon-to-be or recently married. There’s a long tradition of married couples in Russian pair skating, the latest includes 2014 gold medalists Tatyana Voloshozar and Maxim Trankov.

There’s also plenty of international hotness, on and off the ice. Check out 2016 U.S. Men’s Silver Medalist Max Aaron.


Russian pair skater Alexander Smirnov


Russian pair skater (and drummer) Alexei Roganov


Or smoldering French ice dancer Guillaume Cizeron.


With its breathtaking athleticism, and hot men, there’s lots to love about figure skating…and male figure skaters.

Intrigued? Check out my Red Hot Russians series, and meet Anton, Vladimir, and Mikhail, three sworn-worthy figure skaters who know how to heat up the coldest nights. Book one in the series, “Pairing Off” is a 2016 Rita Finalist. Getting It Back, the latest in the series, came out this month.GiB-FINAL_Cover

In this second-chance romance, a former top men’s figure skating champion is willing to risk everything for a comeback–except a new start with his long lost love.

An unexpected phone call from the man who broke her heart offers Amy Shepherd an opportunity to return to the work she loves, training elite figure skaters. Except it’s just one figure skater: Him. Can she finally forgive and forget?

Figure skater Mikhail “Misha” Zaikov once had it all: medals, money and the adoration of millions. But a devastating injury put an end to his career and his romance, leaving him with nothing but regret over what could have been. His last chance to re-join the world’s top skaters is now. And there’s only one person who can help him: Her.

On Russia’s unyielding ice, Misha must reclaim what he’s lost while facing off against a talented young rival and risking further injury. But Amy soon discovers Misha’s much bigger challenges lurk off the ice. And she’s determined to keep Misha whole and healthy, even if doing so ends his shot at the gold.

Derby Day–Again!

As the first Saturday contributor to Romancing the Jock, my blog always falls on Kentucky Derby day. As I’ve often confessed, I rarely pick the winner. Last year I went with Dortmond, American Pharoah’s stablemate, not a bad horse, but not a Triple Crown winner. Had I known at the time what a sweetheart Pharoah was and still is though he has become breeding stallion, yes, a stud, I would have picked him.

I always go for the good story, part of being a writer, I guess. Anyone who has read my books knows most take place in the Cajun country of Louisiana which has a long, rich history of horse racing that turns out jockeys such as the legendary Calvin Borel who lives not too far away from me. Another is Kent Desormeaux (how’s that for a Cajun last name) who will ride the second favorite, Exaggerator, from the difficult eleventh position. His brother, Keith, trained the horse. Both boys grew up riding at Cajun bush tracks on weekends which in the old days had lanes separated by a fence, so no jockeying for position, just flat out running fast done mainly by quarter horses.  Those inner rails have vanished now and thoroughbreds have taken over. However, Keith grew tall and Kent stayed jockey size and went on to fame and fortune that eventually destroyed his career with drink and drugs. When Kent showed up unfit to ride, his career took a slide. Keith brought his brother back up to form and now the two will take on the Derby together. With a plot like that I think they have to win. By the way, undefeated Nyquist is the favorite, starting from the 13th post.

Alas, there is no love interest in the above plot. Jockeys are by nature too short to be the hero of a romance novel. Just saying. Harlequin used to send out guidelines saying the hero has to be at least six feet tall and have dark hair though they’ve loosened up those rules. However, that could be spun around as there are more female jockeys now–and didn’t the elegant Fred Astaire marry a woman jockey? So, we make Keith, the trainer, a little more studly, and turn Kent into a she-jockey without the drug and drink problem, just a woman trying to make it in a man’s world. I think it could work, especially if the horse involved was a lovely American Pharoah type.

Speaking of love and horses, I was touched to read that Bob Baffert, Pharoah’s trainer, still visits the Triple Crown winner at the stud farm. After his horse’s mighty victories, Baffert kept his stall empty for thirty days before he was able to make himself give it over to another animal. Life goes on. Baffert will race Mor Spirit in the Derby, a good horse, he says, but a 12-1 shot. Still, you can never count out this trainer’s horses.

Who do you choose and why?  Me, I’m going for the good local story and Exaggerator.

My Favorite Thing About Playoff Hockey

Image by Sarah Connors (Blues vs Lightning)

Image by Sarah Connors (Blues vs Lightning)

Playoff hockey is here, and again I’m reminded that the game can be played without a fight, and I like it better that way. I grew up in ice rinks. I watched grown men rip their teeth out, throw them on the ice, and continue to play the game. I listened to adults in the stands scream vulgarities and death threats during on-ice, bench-clearing brawls. I had no doubt the men and women around me wanted someone “good and hurt” or at least to see blood. I accepted it—all of it—because this was hockey. This was the way the game was played.

When I was 5, 10, and even 15, I didn’t think about the players as sons, husbands, or fathers. They were gladiators in a frozen arena, and I cheered along with everyone else when a guy got his “lights knocked out.” These days, when a fight happens (and I’m in charge of the remote), I change the channel. If I’m at the game, you won’t find me on my feet. I’ve changed. I’m the mother of two sons, so I see who these guys really are now. I’m the wife of a sports medicine physician/concussion expert, so I know exactly how costly these “tussles” can be. It’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt—isn’t that what our moms used to say?

Fortunately, the league has changed, too. Some people say the NHL hasn’t done enough to curb fighting, which basically means some people want an all-out ban on fighting. I don’t know that it’s necessary. Fighting doesn’t happen with the frequency or intensity that it used to. Do guys still get hurt? Absolutely. It’s hockey. Do they still fight? In the regular season, yes indeed. But in the playoffs, where every second is life or death, nobody wants to be the guy who hurts his team with a loose cannon. So all you pacifists like me, let’s enjoy these next couple months of speed, grace, and agility. All you warmongers, settle down. There will be plenty of time for fisticuffs come October. 🙂


The Change UpElley Arden is the author of the ground-breaking Cleveland Clash sports romance series that focuses on female professional football players and the men who love them. Heroes and Heartbreakers called Running Interference “thrilling” and “one to root for.”  Elley’s newest sports romance series, The Arlington Aces (baseball), begins May 16 with the release of The Change Up.

To stay up-to-date on all the latest Elley news, sign up for her newsletter and get access to exclusive content and subscriber-only giveaways.

Charming characters. Emotional stories. Sexy romance. On and off the field.