Wednesday, September 12
I don't think anyone likes to be presented with their flaws. It's not pretty. Self transformation is often a difficult and soul searching process...but one that also comes with great reward. Not only do you gain a better understanding of yourself, but your actions, and hopefully transforms you into an improved and hopefully happier version of yourself. So in the end it's worth it.
Author Jaci Burton is my guest today to share with us a bit about her hero Cole Riley who happens to have to go through this exact thing in her newest Play by Play novel, Playing to Win. It's either that, or possibly lose everything, and for a football player who is used to excelling....finding that he's not perfect is not easy.
“So what’s your conclusion?” Cole asked.
“This is just a preliminary analysis, but my belief is that you have anger management issues.”
He let out a snort. “I do not.”
Savannah speared a leaf of lettuce, and didn’t argue with him.
“Seriously. I don’t have anger management issues. Or any other kind of issues. I told you last night, the media lies. They blow everything out of proportion.”
“What about your issues with the teams you’ve been on?”
He shrugged. “Personality clashes. I’ve just been on the wrong teams.”
“I see. And you think it’ll be different with the Traders.”
“Yeah. I’ve already connected with them. This is a good fit for me.”
“So assuming this team is, in fact, a good fit for you and you have no skirmishes with anyone on your team, from players to management, what about your personal life?”
“What about it? I told you it’s not me, it’s the media.”
She laid her fork down and dabbed at the corners of her mouth with the napkin. “To some extent, you’re likely correct. The media has a tendency to overdramatize and exaggerate. But if you don’t give them anything to work with, they have nothing to report. You give them plenty, so even if what’s there is minor, they have the opportunity to blow it up.”
“That’s bullshit.” He pushed his empty plate to the side and finished his glass of water. Mike was right there to refill it, then blended into the darkness of the restaurant again. “I don’t give them anything. They make shit up.”
“You also have an issue of not being able to accept blame for your actions.”
“If I’m wrong, I’ll accept blame.”
She raised her fork, then paused, her lips lifting in a hint of a smile. “Let me guess. You’re never wrong?”
Irritation spiked. He pushed it down, refusing to get into an argument with her here. “I didn’t say that. And you’re baiting me.”
“I’m not baiting you, Cole. We’re having a conversation. Your anger is quick to spark. Once it does, you don’t back down. That’s why you get into trouble so easily. And so often.”
He sucked in a breath, trying to keep control. “So is this an exercise to see how fast you can piss me off?”
“No.” She looked down at her plate, then back up at him. “It’s lunch.”
“You think this is funny.”
“I wasn’t making a joke. I’m trying to get you to understand that you’re angry for no reason. We’re having a conversation. A conversation that you’ve turned into what you think is me attacking you.” She pushed her plate to the side and drew the file folder in front of her, opened it up and pulled out photos and articles. “If you’d like, you can explain these photos and altercations. Give me an understanding of you, of what was happening during these events.”
He took the photos. “This one was at a club. I was kicking back with some friends, and suddenly there are ten cameras in my face. Lights are popping, they’re pushing the woman I was with just to get closer to me. What the hell was I supposed to do? I shoved them out of the way so I could get my date out of there. She was freaked out.”
He pulled out an article, this one from some tabloid rag that said he’d been drunk and passed out in a club. He snorted. “Paparazzi tripped me while I was trying to get away from them. So they take this photo of me lying facedown in a club and then print that I’m drunk and passed out.”
At her dubious look, he shot her a glare. “I don’t drink during the season. It affects my performance. Look at the date.” He handed the article back to her.
“Exactly. Deep in the middle of the season. No alcohol. You can go to the club owners and ask them.”
She filed the article away. “I don’t think that’s necessary.”
“This one, I was out with my parents. My parents. That’s news? It was their anniversary and I wanted to take them out to dinner. Some place nice and quiet and the goddamned media shows up. I’m not an actor. I’m not Hollywood. I’m just a jock. Taking my parents out to dinner isn’t newsworthy. Yet they stalked me and hounded my parents, blinding them with their cameras.”
“Did you bring a date that night?”
He frowned. “What?”
“When you took your parents out to dinner for their anniversary. Did you bring a date?”
“That’s why you had the media stalking you. You’re a hot commodity, Cole. You have big endorsement deals, you’ve done commercials, and you’ve been known to date high-profile women. That makes you attractive to the media. Next time you want to take your parents out for a quiet dinner, don’t bring a date.”
“It shouldn’t matter whether I want to bring a date or not. The media should leave me alone.”
She smiled at him. “What you want and what you’re going to get are two different things. You’ve been in the NFL for six years now, and you were hot even when you played college ball. If you don’t want this life, then maybe you should consider retiring.”
He was about ready to let Peaches hoof it back to her car. “That’s a bullshit suggestion.”
“And you’re a whiner. You have a great career, you make more money than most of the people in this country will ever dream of. You have a ton of perks, you can retire before you’re forty and live a life of luxury—provided you’re financially astute and haven’t pissed it all away. Yet you’ve cornered yourself into a terrible reputation and your career is hanging by a thread. What? Fame, money, and success aren’t enough for you? Are you unhappy?”
He pushed his chair back, pulled a wad of bills out of his wallet, and threw them on the table, then tossed some extra at her. “You can take a cab back to your car, Peaches. We’re done here.”
He walked out.
Now that was the Cole Riley she’d researched.
This was a tough scene to write. And it wasn’t the only one. This was a hard book, and I waffled a lot when writing it, because Cole, in the beginning, was highly unlikeable. But in order to do this story justice, I had to make him that way.
I love writing strong, confident, and yes, often arrogant heroes. Athletes have to have great self esteem in order to transfer that self confidence to the playing field. After all, if they don’t believe they’re awesome and can achieve their goals, they likely won’t. But there’s a fine line between belief in self and being a total douchebag. Cole walks that line very finely, and I worried the readers would hate him.
But in order to effect change in a character, sometimes you have to make him unlikeable at the beginning. And if anyone needed to change his life, it was Cole Riley. He was a bad boy, both on and off the field, had been kicked off several teams, his career hanging by a thread. He needed Savannah, even if he didn’t think he did. He liked to party and didn’t ever see himself as part of a team, and it was Savannah’s job to make sure he gels with the Traders. Her job is on the line, and so is his entire career. If I made his transition too easy, there’d be no conflict. And conflict is at the core of any good story, as well as any good romance.
To say that Cole and Savannah conflict with each other at the beginning of Playing to Win is an understatement. She thinks he’s an utter butthead, and he thinks she’s out to completely change who he is as a person. The dance between these two is delicate, but oh so fun to watch unfold.
I hope everyone enjoys Cole’s transformation in Playing to Win.
Football star Cole Riley is notorious for doing as he pleases—on the field and off. He parties hard and fights harder, but if he doesn't clean up his act, his career is over—so Cole reluctantly agrees to work with image makeover consultant Savannah Brooks. He's not used to being told what to do, especially by some (admittedly hot) southern belle. As for Savannah, she's not convinced she can transform this cocky (and aggressively sexy) force of nature. But she's determined to give it her best shot.
When the sparks start to fly, Savannah lays down the ground rules: no personal complications. If she can turn off the tingle she feels every time Cole gives her a hot stare with his gorgeous baby blues, he can turn off his desire as well. But for two people determined to have it all, a hands-off policy can only last so long before one of them yields.
Thank you Jaci for being my guest today!!! I'm totally loving this series, even if it hasn't featured a Rugby playing hero yet (hint hint). I can't wait for Thrown By a Curve (March 2013) that features Cole's sister Alicia Riley, and a return to baseball in the next book in the Play by Play series. What a way to warm up a cold winter day!
If you'd like to learn more about Jaci Burton and the books she writes (that I just love love love), then you can find her at her website www.jaciburton.com, Facebook, and Twitter.
To celebrate the release of Playing to Win by Jaci Burton, her publisher Berkley Heat, would like to giveaway a print copy of the book to one U.S. Musings follower. Enter to win, and read all the rules/disclaimers in the Rafflecopter widget below:
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