Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Writer's Wednesday:For the Sake of the story

Superromance author Linda Barrett explains about meeting her Waterloo and how she survived!!!

With each book I write, I wonder why simple ideas to enrich the story always morph into complicated ones. For example, a brief mention of a lighthouse led me to learn about Fresnal lamps. When using an apple orchard setting, I learned about fruit farmers, renting bee hives for pollination, and the seasonal life cycle of apple trees. Research has informed me about professions, life situations and facts on any subject from divorce laws to the vocabulary of downhill skiing. Usually I’m patient. I can read and absorb. I can learn. With my current release, however, I’m crying uncle. I’ve met my Waterloo.

Its name is NFL football.

I blame Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. A 16-0 standing in the regular season a few years ago got me daydreaming about a profession and setting I knew absolutely nothing about. Zero. Squat. Nada. Despite having three sons, I still knew nothing. I pushed my kids toward baseball and basketball. Football looked like a killer sport, and far too dangerous for this mama.

When I started thinking about QUARTERBACK DADDY, I didn’t know what a down was. Line of scrimmage? Nope. I didn’t know the number of players on a team and that a team really has two parts: an offensive line and a defensive line who are not on the field at the same time! As for the game’s vocabulary? OMG! Free safety, cornerback, passing plays, hang time, hole number, incompletion, offside… the list goes on forever. Trust me, the SAT’s were easy compared to football.

When a know-nothing like me watches a football game on television, the action looks like a huge mess with big guys plowing into each other usually going nowhere. I know the goal is to get a touchdown, but how do they do it? Without understanding the rules of play and the plays themselves, the game means nothing. We say that writing is not a career for the faint of heart. I can apply the same admonition to learning football.

There was no question I needed help, so I subscribed to Sports Illustrated. I scoured articles in the sports section of my daily newspaper and on the Internet. The more I read, the more I realized how much I didn’t know. I needed more help than these resources and my husband could provide. My dh’s patience ran out after three questions. Okay, I’ll admit I asked the same question twice, but gee, even reporters get to ask follow-ups.
Among my own reference books are PCs for Dummies and Word 2007 for Dummies, so I figured there must be a similar book about football for this dummy. I figured right. Lined up on the shelf with other yellow-and-black books in the series was Football for Dummies by Howie Long, a Super Bowl winning defensive end for the Oakland/L.A. Raiders during his playing days. I snatched it from the shelf and held on tight. Soon I began to think Howie was my personal mentor, maybe even my friend. His book became my bible where I marked up pages and attached post-it notes. I studied the illustrations of the gridiron, memorizing each player’s position. I learned “sacked in the pocket.” I learned what a field goal was. But I also needed behind-the-scenes information, and my new friend provided it.

How do players prepare for each game during the season? I learned that every weekday has different goals with customized activities geared for peak performance on game day. What’s the best meal to eat the night before a game? The day of the game? The combo of proteins, carbs and fat are different. And what’s the rice about? A hundred pounds of uncooked rice in a barrel provides great resistance for strengthening wrist and forearm. What about the number on each guy’s shirt? Nothing haphazard there. They each have a specific meaning – quarterbacks have the lowest numbers. Eli Manning is a ten. Tom Brady is a twelve. Dan Delito is an eight. Never heard of Dan Delito? You will if you read Quarterback Daddy.

Howie’s book stayed at my side during the entire time I wrote my story. I kept it on my lap while I watched a game. I hosted my first Super Bowl party and had a blast. So, I’m ashamed to admit that after all my effort, I still don’t understand the game well. I’m starting to think that learning by doing is undoubtedly a better method to master a physical activity. But if you think I’m suiting up to run up and down a hundred yards of grass with a football in my arms…Fuhgeddaboudit ! Research goes only so far.

Linda Barrett is kindly giving away a copy of one of her books to someone who leaves a comment.

To learm more about Linda and her heart warming books visit her website:


  1. I loved reading this, Linda. Too funny. It is really great when authors blog and comment on forums. It brings the authors and readers together.

  2. Ok, I left the last comment. I'm not sure how to work this thing, so if I have left more than one, it's because I'm techo-deficient. :)

  3. Hi, Linda! I visited your website and signed up for your newsletter. How nice of you to learn all about football so you could write a book about football hunks! Wowser!

    When I was young, I used to watch football with my grandfather on TV. He very patiently explained the game to me as it progressed. He and my grandmother also took me to football games at my high school. My Gran even cheered along with me : )

    gcwhiskas at aol dot com

  4. I have to admit, I am one of those women who really enjoy sports. I'm not crazy about golf and hockey, but otherwise I will usually watch it. When my daughters started going to football games with dates I explained the terms to them so they wouldn't feel totally ignorant when their dates started talking about the sport. My youngest daughter was a soccer player for years, so I probably know more about it than the average person. I really enjoy soccer. My 4 year old granddaughter is getting ready to start playing, I can't wait. I like sports in romance books so I will look forward to reading your book.

  5. Thanks for sharing this, Linda. I enjoyed reading your blog and am impressed with your detail.

    I have never gotten into football -- probably because my parents never watched it. I videotape all the Superbowls, mind you, just so I can see the pregame and intermission shows, tsk tsk. Priorities, ya know!

    I DO enjoy watching hockey games, both in person and on television. I have played and watched baseball/softball throughout the years, but I could take it or leave it. (I'm not very good!)

  6. I can't tell you how impressed I am by the work you put into your research. Even held at gunpoint by a bunch of crazed fans, I couldn't bring myself to care about sport!

  7. Hi Linda,

    Love it, love it! Not knowing the rules and general game play.

    I'm not familiar with American football, hate English footy, but am an avid watcher of Rugby Football. Big strong hunks with no head gear and no protective padding.

    Quite like cricket, and that's a connundrum for anyone not familiar with this partcular game - as is:

    You're "in" when You're "out", and "out" when you're "in".
    Mindboggling game, and then there's LBW = Leg Before Wicket!I dare anyone to write a novel involving cricketers


  8. Loved the post, Linda. Very impressed with your intensive research for your books. Tom Brady inspired a story for me, too, but not from an angle that needs your amount of detail.
    Great post.

  9. LOL - loved this post! Your research rocks - if only I was so thorough. Caroline x

  10. I'm a Pittsburgh girl, so I have to love football, regardless of whether or not I understand anything about the game. I'm rather ashamed of our QB right now and I hope the Rooneys send him packing.

  11. Hi everyone -

    Apology first. I'm late replying to you because I was out-of-town visiting my grandkids - 7 month old and 3 years - and had no internet service. But I had a wonderful time!

    I loved your posts! It's nice that so many non-sports types as well as sports lovers enjoyed my research experience and will give the book a try.

    Caroline - the reason I'm as thorough as I am is because I know there are readers out there who know more about football than I do. If I goof, they'll catch it and let me know. Won't my face be red? LOL

    Francine - I had enough trouble with American football. But criket? OMG. I'm not truly a sadist!!

    Thanks for visiting the website. I agree that the whole point of the story is to bring writers and readers together. I really appreciate hearing from readers and how my stories affect them.


    Alison - could you please send me your address? Email to:

    I'm glad you all enjoyed the blog.
    Best to everyone.

  12. I screwed up, too! That last comment was from me, Linda Barrett.