For the Love of the Game

Image result for seattle marinersToday’s the opening day of baseball season! We’ve made it through that 2-month-long drought after Superbowl, where there was nothing to watch on TV, sports-wise, except soccer and basketball, neither of which interest me very much. Now, there will be a Mariners’ game on almost every night to keep me company while I clean up the kitchen, fold the laundry, or putter around on the internet. And just maybe this, at long last, will be Seattle’s year!

It was not very wonderful that Catherine, who had by nature nothing heroic about her, should prefer cricket, BASEBALL, riding on horseback, and running about the country at the age of fourteen, to books – or at least books of information… (Northanger Abbey, chapter 1)

Image result for seattle marinersFor me, baseball is just one of many interests, a pleasant diversion, an undemanding entertainment – not my passion. But for someone aspiring to play the game professionally, it is serious business and, by necessity, an all-consuming passion. Nothing less than single-minded dedication would produce success in one of the most competitive sports on the planet.

I suppose I knew that much even before I began my research for the character of Ben Lewis in Leap of Faith, just released. Then the idea was confirmed by everything I learned through that process, including my conversations with Christopher Rosenbaum, a minor league professional baseball player, who ultimately became the technical adviser for the book.

Chris’s playing days are over now, but he’s found a way to stay in the game, converting his life-long love of baseball into what will hopefully be for him a life-long career. I thought today, in honor of Opening Day, I’d share some of his thoughts on the game, an excerpt from his retrospective that I included as a postscript in Leap of Faith. In his own words:

Image result for baseball catcherBaseball is a beautiful game, one that has been stitched into the fabric of my life since I began playing when I was eight years old. I spent seventeen years on the field and sixteen of them as a catcher behind home plate – a fitting name, for no matter which field, that patch of ground always feels like home to me.

It was an early goal of mine to play professional baseball – not an easy feat but one I was fortunate enough to accomplish. After a successful collegiate career, with two NCAA National Championships and an Academic All-American honor, I was signed by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.  Again, I had some triumphs – enough to keep me going – but after three seasons in the minors, suddenly it was over. Despite all the time and hard work I had invested, I was released.

As realistic as I had been regarding my talent, knowing I wasn’t as good as many of my peers, it was still painful to hear I was no longer wanted. What do you do when the one constant in your life is being taken away?

Although I had hoped that day wouldn’t come so soon, I knew I would eventually need to face life after baseball…

[With an MBA under his belt, Chris prepared to enter the corporate world, only to discover that the economic downturn had left no room for him there. So he turned back to baseball. His new plan became breaking into baseball’s executive side, using his unique combination of player experience and business skill to help his organization win, this time without actually setting foot on the field. He’s now a full-time advance scout for the Washington Nationals.]


Image result for baseball player …But, looking back, was it all worth it? – the enormous effort and countless sacrifices made so I could play professional baseball?

Especially in light of the disappointment of a premature end to my playing days, it would be easy to become jaded remembering below-minimum-wage salaries, endless bus-rides through the night, debilitating injuries, and grueling rehab. And yet baseball has given back so much to me. I’ve had opportunities and experiences most only dream of.

The game that I loved growing up has transformed into an ongoing livelihood and vocation for me. However, the true beauty of baseball lies within its unchanged core, where pitches are still balls or strikes, runners are out or safe, and batted balls are either fair or foul. There is no clock; every team gets an even chance to win, to claim Image result for Chris Rosenbaumvictory by the collective sum of their individual efforts.

So, like Ben Lewis, I have no regrets. To borrow a thought from the final chapter of this book, I lived my dream, however briefly, not achieving everything I once hoped, but enough. Whatever else I do in life, I can always be satisfied that I played hard and competed honorably.     Chris Rosenbaum

What do you think? Do you love baseball too? Can you relate to any of the sentiments Chris has expressed? Do you see any parallels to whatever career you have pursued? My passion is writing. What’s yours?

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Time to Tour!

My two new novels have just launched out into the world, and one early reader has already burned through them both, leaving 5-star reviews for each on Amazon! Here they are:

second-chance-at-the-dream_kindleLeap of Faith: What a great story! I love second chance stories, and Winslow’s told a good one with a unexpected twist in it. I’ve read several of her other books; my favorite is ‘The Persuasion of Miss Jane Austen.’ Leap of Faith was entertaining as well as thought-provoking, and I’m looking forward to reading Leap of Hope.

chance-at-an-austen-kind-of-life_kindleLeap of Hope: Excellent book! This is the second book in a ‘second-chance’ series. It is tied to the first book, but only in the means by which our heroine gets her second chance. Unlike in the first book, Hope asks for a brand-new life for her second chance. Her adjustments to her new time were quite funny (no spoilers!) To her surprise, what she expected out of a new life is not quite what she ends up getting…

Thanks, “Leslie.” Reviews are SO helpful, and I truly appreciate anyone who takes the time to leave one for me!

blog-tour-suitcaseNow it’s time for me to go on book tour! – virtual book tour, that is, visiting several blogs this month as a guest blogger, all in an effort to get the word out about Leap of Faith and Leap of Hope to a wider audience. Along the way, I’ll be giving more books away (but you still have one day left to enter to win the biggest giveaway at the Austen Variations launch!). Each post will be different – excerpts, interviews, and fun stuff related to the new books. So I hope you’ll follow along.

Here’s the schedule, which I’ll be updating with topics and live links as we go along, so check back periodically or watch for my announcements on Facebook.

Even though these new books are a little different than what I’ve given you before, I trust you’ll find the quality of writing the same and the stories just as compelling. And as always, you can count on romance and happy endings!

“I shall be miserable without you – t’will be a most pleasant tour to you… pray, be persuaded.” (from Jack and Alice – a juvenile work of Jane Austen)

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Twin Sailing

celebrate2My big double launch day is finally here! And I do mean FINALLY. One of these two books has been waiting a very long time for its turn at publication.

It really started about eight years ago. I’d had about the best fun of my life writing my first two JAFF novels, and now I was diligently pursuing their publication. Although the odds were against me, I was hopeful. But what if the whole Jane Austen thing didn’t pan out? I didn’t want to stop writing; I was totally hooked by then. So I asked myself what other genre I would be interested in pursuing.

20170222_144124_resizedI’ve always been intrigued by the idea that a single choice in life can change everything that happens subsequently. For example, what if rather than choosing to go to college A, where you met your future spouse, you had selected college B? Would you have ended up marrying someone else instead, and consequently having different children? Yikes! Even a minor decision (such as where to eat lunch, what to order, or what route to take getting there) might make the difference between an ordinary day and winding up in the hospital from food poisoning or a car accident. Of course, being the romantic that I am, I’m thinking you might meet that certain someone wonderful in the hospital, which you never would have if you hadn’t gotten sick/injured. The possible variations are endless.

But let’s take it one step further. What if there were a way you could turn back the clock and make a change, perhaps to correct the biggest mistake of your life?  Is there a certain point where you turned left and now wonder what would have happened if you’d turned right instead? Or would you use your second chance to choose a different life entirely?

Well, the Jane Austen thing did catch on for me, I’m happy to say. But in the meantime I’d written my first book of what I’m calling my Crossroads CollectionLeap of Faith has been patiently waiting its turn for publication ever since.

second-chance-at-the-dream_kindleAt the Crossroads Center, they’re in the business of granting second chances.  And their newest client is Ben Lewis, a former star athlete who never recovered from the death of his dream to make it big in the big leagues. Now he’s being offered the opportunity to return to 1991 and try again, this time without the illness that originally ended his baseball hopes.  What’s the catch?  He will pay for his second chance by forfeiting his memories of the first… and possibly along with them, the love of his life. Can he find his way home to the woman he’s long forgotten but never stopped missing? Or will reaching for the brass ring with both hands cause the treasure he once possessed to slip forever from his grasp?

Yes, there’s a modern setting. Yes, there’s baseball and a time-travel element. And yet, Leap of Faith really isn’t so different from my other stories, dealing with love and the forces that bring people together… or keep them apart. Romance is job one, in other words. (In the beginning, I actually tried to make this book about something else, but I just couldn’t do it!) Still, I wasn’t sure my JAFF-readers would be willing to make the “leap” with me to a modern story about a baseball player, even if he does remind me a lot of Mr. Darcy – tall, dark, brooding good looks. You can see it, can’t you? Anyway, to help you along a little, I decided to take one of the minor character’s from Ben’s story – a Jane Austen obsessed college student named Hope – and give her her own book!

I’m counting on Leap of Hope (which is totally JAFF) to bridge the gap between what you’ve been used to from me into this new series. Actually, I call it a “collection” instead because the books don’t have to be read in any particular order. Each one is complete in itself. But whichever book you read, you’ll meet the hero/heroine of the next/previous book on their common ground: the Crossroads Center. Of course I’m hoping you will decide to read both. Then you can tell me which character you meet at Crossroads you think should get the next book!

chance-at-an-austen-kind-of-life_kindleAt the Crossroads Center, they’re in the business of handing out second chances. And their newest client is Hope O’Neil – college student and Jane Austen devotee, who has always believed she’d be more at home in the past, wearing corsets and courted by men in cravats. But can a modern girl really fit into a world with no electricity, cell phones, or indoor plumbing? Hope is about to find out when her wish for an Austen kind of life is unexpectedly granted. Although she envisions her second chance will be like something straight out of Pride and Prejudice – complete with her own Mr. Darcy and a romantic happy ending – she gets more than she bargained for in this delightful romp through Regency England… a lot more.

Now, time to give away some books! Since I don’t want to play favorites (I love all seven of my “darling children” equally!), I’m going to be giving these two books away together, in pairs! Visit my official launch at Austen Variations (running this post concurrently) and leave a comment for a chance to win one of five sets (2 signed paperback sets and 3 Kindle copy sets). I’d love comments here, too, but the giveaway is happening there. Also, learn how to double your odds of winning by sharing my news on social media sites. Good luck!

Thank you for sharing this exciting day with me, and happy reading!

(These two books are currently available in paperback and Kindle. See full covers and read the prologue to Leap of Hope on previous Austen Variations posts.)

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Double-the-Fun Cover Reveal

What could be more fun and exciting to book lovers (and authors) than a brand new cover revealed? Two brand new covers revealed, of course! That’s what I have for you today: the full covers of the two new books I’m releasing at the end of the month. Yippee!

Leap of Faith and Leap of Hope are the first two novels of my new series called the Crossroads Collection – something I’ve been thinking about and working on for a long time. These are stories about turning points, possibilities, and out-of-this-world second chances. Each book will be complete in itself but connected to the others by theme and the Crossroads Center characters. I hope you’re able to read the book blurbs on the back covers. If not, pop on over to the Crossroads Collection page to learn more.

You’ll notice that only one of these two is actually a Jane Austen Fan Fiction piece (Leap of Hope), but I want to challenge you hard-core JAFF readers to expand your horizons a little and give Leap of Faith a chance too. (I’m hoping the hunky guy on the cover will convince you!)

So, without further ado, here they are! Be sure to tell me what you think.

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Scavenger Hunt

scavenger-huntToday, in coordination with Austen Variations, I have a scavenger hunt for you, complete with buried treasure! If you’ve already been to my post at Austen Variations, you have arrived here with a pocket full of words to solve the puzzle below. If you haven’t got the magic words yet, go find them and hurry back to play!

Okay, now you’re ready for part 2!

For-Myself-Alone_KINDLEBefore, you were looking at quotes from Jane Austen. Now here’s one of mine from For Myself Alone, but it’s missing some critical words. You just need to fill in the blanks with the words you brought with you from Austen Variations. Email your answers (the correct words in correct order) to me at shannon(at)shannonwinslow(dot)com to be entered in the drawing for today’s prizes as well as the final grand prize at the end of the month! Be sure to write “Scavenger Hunt” in the subject line. Extra credit (your name entered twice for today’s drawing) if you can tell me in what chapter of FMA this quote appears. Good luck!

To my dismay, I have ___1___ that most gentlemen do not wish their prowess in the ___2___ realm challenged, especially by anyone ___3___. I  remember once reading that a woman, if she have the ___4___ to know anything, should ___5___ it as well as she can. Perhaps I should have taken this ___6___ to heart, for I believe my ___7___ has proved a bit too ___8___ for some. Having once been cut by it, many a man has ___9___ to be put at peril of it again.

Did you notice the quote within the quote? Most of the second sentence is pure Jane Austen. That’s one of the features of this book – over forty direct Jane Austen quotes blended into the story.

When I began this novel, my goal was to create, not a sequel or tie-in this time, but a new story, one I imagined Jane might have written next. I didn’t intend any direct references to her work, only a nod to her style. With her words so deeply entrenched in my mind, however, I often found myself thinking of and alluding to various passages from her books as I went along. Rather than fighting the temptation to borrow some of her expertly turned phrases, I decided to go with it. After all, I couldn’t hope to improve on the master! I had a wonderful time tucking these little jewels in between the pages and trust readers have just as much fun discovering them there!

Meanwhile, back to our scavenger hunt. Did you solve the puzzle? Today’s three prizes are as follows:

  • a signed Shannon Winslow paperback of your choice (US only)
  • a Shannon Winslow ebook of your choice (international)
  • an exclusive “bookbead” of my best-selling The Darcys of Pemberley (international)

20170103_103944_resizedWinners will be chosen by random drawing from those submitting a correct entry via email as directed above. Along with your answers, include your preference of the three prizes, which book you would like and in what format. Winners will be posted (here and on my post at Austen Variations) on 1/11/17 and also notified by email. Good luck!

Thank you for participating in today’s scavenger hunt! Watch for more games and prizes all this month at Austen Variations.

1/11/17 Update:  The lucky winners are Anji Dale, Sarah Brandon, and Zenaida Cook! I will be contacting you by email about your prizes. Here is the correctly completed quote from chapter one of For Myself Alone:

To my dismay, I have discovered that most gentlemen do not wish their prowess in the intellectual realm challenged, especially by anyone female. I  remember once reading that a woman, if she have the misfortune to know anything, should conceal it as well as she can. Perhaps I should have taken this advice to heart, for I believe my wit has proved a bit too sharp for some. Having once been cut by it, many a man has declined to be put at peril of it again.


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Go With What You Know?


ja-rice-portrait2“Write what you know!” You’ve probably heard the saying, intended as sound advice for anyone with literary aspirations.

Jane Austen subscribed to this idea. Me? Not so much.

Jane Austen absolutely wrote what she knew best – her own time period, her own geographical location, her own section of society, and from a woman’s point of view. Unlike so many modern “Regency” novels, Jane Austen’s aren’t overflowing with dukes and lords; they feature mostly members of the gentry class, some rich and some not – people much like those she would have met and mingled with all her life. She knew their worries and their ways, their faults and foibles.

Austen so strictly believed in writing only what she knew from personal experience that she is famous for never writing a scene between only men, reasoning that she, as a female, couldn’t possibly have an accurate idea about how men behaved when women weren’t present. It may also be part of the reason none of her novels follow her lovers into their married life. Here again, she could have no personal knowledge of how married people behave when they were alone, since she never married herself (unless you subscribe to my totally credible alternate version of her life as told in The Persuasion of Miss Jane Austen).

So, if Jane Austen is my role model in all things, why haven’t I imitated her in the practice of “write what you know”? (After all, I’ve spent very little time in the UK and none at all in Regency England.) Three reasons:

  1. What I “know” best is my life and my own limited world. Well, as with most of us, the tale of my life wouldn’t really make a very entertaining book. Other than discovering a second career as a novelist, perhaps, nothing all that unusual or even especially interesting has happened to me. I don’t mean that to sound like a complaint; I’m actually grateful. I had a normal, mostly happy childhood, after which I married (again, happily) and raised two sons who turned out to be well-adjusted, productive members of society: all good, but not much drama, nothing to serve as backbone to a good piece of fiction. My “day job” isn’t a bountiful source of material either. Do you really want to read a book about how exciting the life of a dental hygienist is NOT?
  2. I subscribe more to the write-what-you-love school of thought. I don’t write what might be trendy or try to anticipate the marketplace. I write what most interests me – the sort of thing I love to read myself. It takes months to produce a quality novel, and there wouldn’t be any joy putting that much time and energy into something that doesn’t get my creative juices flowing. Passion shows and so does the lack of it. My readers may not consciously see that I have invested my heart as well as my head in all the stories I’ve written, but they would definitely notice a drop in the quality if that wasn’t true for my next book.
  3. Unlike Jane Austen, I don’t have to be limited to what I know from my own experience. Jane had little choice; she had to write about what she already knew or could find out, and her resources for finding things out were pretty limited compared to today. She couldn’t pop onto the internet to look something up, watch movies/TV shows/documentaries about life in a different social stratum, or catch a flight to visit another part of the world. The modern author can. So I am not confined to stories about people like me living in places like my home town. Not at all. The whole world is my oyster. Now if only I had a time machine too…

That being said, I have to make a few comments about the flip side, to give sort of a rebuttal to my own arguments. (Probably not good form on the debate team, but I never participated.)

Jane Austen close upI want to acknowledge Jane Austen’s creativity and innovation. She pushed the envelope of her limited world about as far as she could have – as a woman in a man’s profession, as one of the early pioneers of the novel as a literary form, and also for writing what she loved – stories centered around courtship and romance, even though she supposedly had little of these things in her own life (here again, unless you subscribe to my plausible alternate version).

As for me, I’ve broken my own pattern for my next book. Not Regency England this time. I’ve confined my story to things I know… mostly.

It’s true that there is a fantasy/time-travel element in Leap of Faith(to be released in January), but the story takes place entirely within my own lifespan and (with a couple of minor exceptions) in places I have actually seen with my own eyes. And I have to admit I enjoyed this kind of writing experience just as much or more. It was fun to send my characters to some of my favorite northwest locations (Mt. Rainier National Park, Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium, the Ballard locks, Seattle Center) and to speak with a lifetime of authority about the infamous Seattle rain, the lay of the land, and the look of the scenery. These things I experienced again through new eyes as I wrote.

Here’s a peek at a portion of the cover and the hunky hero of the book, Ben.


Okay, so I know what you’re thinking. No, I’ve never actually been a man or a professional athlete either. Still, Leap of Faith is definitely my most write-what-you-know book to date. Does that mean it will be my best? Maybe. You’ll have to be the judge. If it turns out that it is my best, that will go towards proving the old adage we started with.

“You know your own concerns best.” (Mrs. Jennings, Sense and Sensibility, chapter 40)

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Meet Cora and Poindexter

new-life-chapter-oneHave you ever wondered how your life would have been altered if at point A you had turned left instead of right? Would you have been happier or not? If you had a chance for a world-class “do over,” would you choose to go back to improve on your own life or pick a different life altogether, perhaps in a totally different time and place? I have always been fascinated by such questions, which led me to start a new series that’s all about second chances (the first two books to be released together in January).

If you’ve been following my progress, you already know something about the novels themselves. Each novel has a unique hero/heroine and story: Ben Lewis is a minor league baseball player and Hope O’Neil is a Austen-obsessed college student, and their choices take them on radically different adventures. But today I wanted to tell you a little about what they have in common; I want to introduce you to Cora, Poindexter, and a mysterious, who-knows-where place called The Crossroads Center.

“It would be a charming introduction for you, who have lived so secluded a life; and I could immediately secure you some of the best society in the place. A line from me would bring you a little host of acquaintance…” (Emma, chapter 32)

Cora and Poindexter are the slightly off-beat directors of The Crossroads Center, where they are in the business of giving out second chances. It’s usually dire circumstances that bring new clients their way (certainly true of both Ben and Hope), and then it’s their job to second-chance-clock-globeassist these down-on-their-luck people to sort out what to do next. With their help, Ben decides to turn back the clock a few years to take another shot at his dream (read blurb here). Hope turns the clock back even further, to 1809, trading in what she had before for an Austen kind of life (read more here).

There are probably going to be about a dozen clients at Crossroads at any one time, all of them trying to decide what to do with their second chances and interacting with each other along the way. Ben and Hope meet there, since their time at Crossroads overlaps. In fact, I chose Hope as the heroine of the second novel because of her appearance during Ben’s story. Each successive book will star someone you met in the previous one. (Maybe I’ll even take votes for who gets the next story!)

colonel-sandersBut what about the enigmatic Cora and Poindexter? I said I was going to tell you about them, but that’s not easy because nobody seems to know exactly where they came from, what their relationship is, or even what they really look like. Just as with Jane Austen, no photographs exist and descriptions vary. Poindexter, who always wears white, puts Hope in mind of Colonel Sanders. Ben, who doesn’t get along as well with him, albino-ratsays Poindexter reminds him of a former pet albino rat named Roscoe. No consensus there! Cora is either a middle-aged brunette or a young, gorgeous blonde, depending on whom you ask. But one thing is for sure, she has a very quirky (even outrageous) fashion sense.

While heroes/heroines come and go, Cora and Pointexter are the constant, carry-over element in this series, so as the series continues there will be many chances to get to know them better – a little more with each new book. For now, I’ll leave you with this glimpse of them from the prologue of Ben’s story, Leap of Faith:


“So, what do you think of our newest specimen, Dex?” asked the forty-ish brunette lounging on a canary-yellow chaise. She gave a nod toward the monitor displaying a good looking, athletically built young man pacing his room like a caged lion. “Personally, I like the look of him.”

“I’m not surprised,” muttered her associate, a thin man of a more mature vintage. He stood at attention, tapping his pen against his jaw as he studied the screen. He barely heard the nasal twang in Cora’s voice anymore. After so many years of successful partnership – professional as well as personal – he had grown as accustomed to her idiosyncrasies as she had to his.

“It is far too soon to venture an educated opinion,” he continued in his clipped, aristocratic accent. “However, Mr. Lewis must have shown some promise or he would not have been referred to us.”

“His bio’s impressive – smart, talented, disciplined, loyal to the core, and a real team player. Plus, look what he did for the Ellerton boy. You have to admire someone who goes out of his way like that to help a kid. Ben’s good at heart, I believe, just down on his luck.”

“My interpretation of his character is rather less sympathetic. I shall endeavor to keep an open mind, but something tells me this one’s going to be a tough nut to crack.” Pursing his lips, he pondered a moment. “I’ll test the waters first, shall I? Then you can tidy up whatever mess I make and smooth things over with your charms, like always. I think you had better use your alter ego this time. The pre-arrival evaluation indicates the subject will respond best to a woman his own age. Besides, with the quantity of science fiction books and movies this young man has consumed, he will no doubt be expecting all the high-tech bells and whistles we can throw at him. Best foot forward, eh?”

“Of course.” Cora sat up and stretched her long, cat-like limbs. “I think I’ll be a blonde this time,” she declared. “I’m going to have to adjust the pitch on the voice modulator too. The higher setting I tried last time was a disaster. I could hardly stand to listen to myself. And the poor client… I swear he winced every time I opened my mouth.”

“Well, we all have our off days.” He extended a hand to his colleague and ran an admiring eye over her form as she rose. She stood nose to nose with him in height and, with her well-rounded figure, outweighed him by a few pounds. “It turned out right in the end, though,” he added. “I checked in on Mr. Carson only the other day, and he’s adjusting nicely to his new life. I believe we can count it as another resounding success.”

“I’m glad to hear it. Same approach this time?”

“Yes, I believe that will be best. I do hope this one won’t be too obstinate,” he said, finishing with an exaggerated sigh.

“Come on, Dex. Your complaints don’t fool me for a minute. You thrive on the more challenging cases. The others bore you to tears.”

“How well you understand me, my dear,” he said, squeezing her hand. “Of course, you’re perfectly right… as always.”


I’m always interested in what you have to say, so comment away!


Posted in Jane Austen, Jane Austen Quotes, life, my books, Shannon Winslow, Uncategorized, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments