In 2008, Playing for First was born on my computer screen. After undergoing an extensive edit (one I thought would never end lol), Blue Feather Books published the book on June 8, 2009. I had a dream (and still do) of a woman breaking the gender barrier to play in Major League Baseball. So, I created Amy Perry. Along with Amy, I created Lisa Collins, a sportswriter from Indianapolis, who would follow Amy's career from its start in the Arizona Fall Instructional League all the way to Amy's "cup of coffee" with the Cincinnati Reds. In May 2011, Two for the Show continued the story with Amy permanently in place as the starting first baseman for the Reds.
As is often the case, there were autobiographical elements to my first release. I had played first base for years in softball, making it to the USSSA Nationals in Modesto, California, back when I was 19. I eventually earned a degree in Journalism from IU and went on to work as a sportswriter. Amy was who I dreamed to be--a woman playing first base for the Cincinnati Reds. Lisa? Well, Lisa was pretty much me. And Frankie Dunkin, her partner, was my Phyllis, even with the same age difference. What's fun, though, as fiction, I could take the story wherever I wanted it to go.
My father and I had discussed for years how we thought a woman could play in the big leagues. A woman doesn't need brute strength to play the game and believe me, I've seen my fair share of women softball players over the years who could outplay any male baseball player. The Playing for First series ended up being my dad's favorite of all my releases. He loved the baseball action. His approval of the first book made me feel 10-feet tall.
My dad read my first three books but was unable to read Survived by Her Longtime Companion. By that point in 2012, he had been diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer and immediately began undergoing chemotherapy treatments. With those treatments, he couldn't concentrate like he used to. I still remember him asking me in March 2013 when the Lammys were because SBHLC was up for the award that year. When I told him, "June 3," the look on his face said it all. He knew he would no longer be on this earth by that time.
He died April 3, 2013, three years ago today. Even though it was a blessing because it ended his suffering, his death was a blow to the very heart of me. I had lost my best friend, my sports buddy, the man I spent hours discussing the Civil War or World War II or some old movie. I remember telling him before he passed, "Dad, I'm really going to miss you." He said, "Sis, we had a great ride."
I was able to publish two books since his passing, but I couldn't quite finish this third book in the series, From Third to Home. I connected the series to my dad and a part of me thought if I wrote the book, I would be losing him again. But Phyllis assured me that what I was doing was honoring his memory. It took a long time to finish it. I worked on it off and on since 2012. In my last two releases, I had "Coming Soon! From Third to Home!" in the front of the books. I had every intention of honoring that commitment, but with the many deaths we endured--including my father, we lost seven family members, all within a year and a half--I couldn't concentrate on writing. When I thought I was done mourning, grief would hit me hard and let me know "you still need to work through this."
Finally, after writing furiously this fall and going through the editing this winter, From Third to Home will be released this week. My dad had joked that I could write a 17-page dedication to him in this one. As I say in my acknowledgements, it ended up being the entire book.
Opening Day is tomorrow, April 4, for the majority of major league baseball, and the Cincinnati Reds play their first game tomorrow afternoon. I know Dad will be watching. And I have to believe he's smiling because he gets to read some more about Amy, Lisa, and the gang.