Title: Play On
Author: Michelle Smith
Release Date: April 21, 2015
Publisher: Spencer Hill Contemporary
In the small town of Lewis Creek, baseball is everything. Especially for all-star pitcher Austin Braxton, who has a one-way ticket out of town with his scholarship to a top university. All that stands between him and a new start is one final season. But when Austin starts flunking Chemistry, his picture-perfect future is in jeopardy. A failing grade means zero playing time, and zero playing time means no scholarship.
Enter Marisa Marlowe, the new girl in town who gets a job at his momma's flower shop. Not only is Marisa some home-schooled super-genius, she's also a baseball fanatic and more than willing to help Austin study. As the two grow closer, there's something about Marisa that makes Austin want more than just baseball and out of Lewis Creek--he wants a future with her. But Marisa has a past that still haunts her, one that she ran all the way to South Carolina to escape.
As Austin starts to peel back the layers of Marisa s pain, it forces him to look beyond the facade of himself and everyone he thought he knew in his town. What he sees instead is that in a small town like Lewis Creek, maybe baseball isn t everything--maybe it is just the thing that ties them all together."
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In this excerpt, Marisa surprises Austin on the baseball field…in more ways than one.
I pass the bat to her, watching her face light up like a full moon on a summer night. “Now, it’s a little heavy,” I joke. “Think you can handle it?”
Her eyes widen. “I don’t know,” she says breathlessly. “I may need the help of a big, strong, baseball player. Because we both know that baseball is so superior to softball.”
I shake my head. “That’s not entirely true. Your balls are bigger.”
We stare at each other. Stare. Stare some more. She’s the first one who breaks, bursting out laughing. It’s one of the best sounds I’ve heard in a long time.
“Here,” I say, still laughing. I carefully place my hands on her hips, helping her square up over the plate. “In case, you know, you’re too out of practice.”
She bites back a smile. “Yeah. Because I’ve totally forgotten how to square up for a pitch.”
“Two years is a long time.” Resting my hands on her shoulders, I remind her, “And relax these. You’re too stiff.”
She hangs her head. “You’re killin’ me, Smalls.”
I walked right into that one. She relaxes her shoulders. Slowly, my hands move down her arms until they rest on top of hers. They’re so warm, fit so perfectly in mine that it almost hurts to let them go. But I do, because, you know, friends.
“There,” I say on an exhale. “Ready?”
Her lips curve up. “Let me have it, Floral Prince.”
My mouth drops open. “All right. No mercy, Marlowe.”
I grab the ball and jog out to the mound. I gotta say, she’s the prettiest batter I’ve ever been up against. Taking a deep breath, I wind up and let my fastball fly.
That girl smacks the hell out of the ball.
Holy… I turn, watching it sail all the way back to the fence. When I whirl back around, she grins, pointing the bat at me.
“And that’s how it’s done,” she calls to me, setting the bat in the dirt. She wipes her hands on her jeans.
All I can do is gape. Some of the guys on our team could take a lesson from her. It’s not like I thought she would be bad, but damn. I pull off my cap as I walk toward her. As soon as I tug it onto her head, she laughs.
“Are you going to have any of these left?”
“I have an endless supply.” I nudge the brim of the cap, so I can see her eyes. “And you’ve earned that one.”
She quirks her lips into this little half-smirk that makes me pure weak in the knees. Takes a step closer. Another. And another. I swallow hard. My hands ache to touch her, to pull her to me and kiss the daylights out of her.
But friends, though.
Q&A with Michelle Smith
1. Play On touches on several sensitive topics. What do you hope your readers will take away from reading it?
I hope they come away knowing that illnesses do not define us. That setbacks, mistakes, scars, whatever we’ve done in the past—none of that defines who we are. That yes, you can fall to rock bottom, and you can still thrive after that fall. There’s laughter, and happiness, and hope, and love waiting for you—there’s so much love. And I hope they know that they’re worthy of that love.
It’s okay to not be okay. It’s okay to reach out. It’s okay to admit that you need help with this crazy life-thing. Because none of us have all the answers—we’re just doing the best we can. And we’re all in it together.
2. What scene do you most regret having to cut?
Not really a scene itself, but one of the lines. In the original draft, Austin had an ex-girlfriend that was, in a word, vengeful. One night, Austin told her to leave, and she came back to slash his truck’s tires. After discovering what happened the next morning, his mom said, “Your breakup really brought out the redneck in that girl.” That line always made me giggle.
(There’s no ex-girlfriend in the final version, by the way. She got the cut in my first round of edits.)
3. On the flip side, what was your favorite scene that got added during edits?
My favorite scene in the entire book was added during edits! It takes place toward the end and involves stars, hand-holding, and Austin and Marisa talking about what’s to come, rather than the past. It’s a sweet moment that makes me grin like an idiot.
4. Biggest writing quirk?
I have to have something on my feet, whether it’s socks or shoes. Like, I absolutely cannot write with cold feet.
5. Are you working on any new projects?
I am! I can’t say too much at the moment, but I will say that we haven’t seen the last of Lewis Creek. ;)
Michelle Smith was born and raised in North Carolina, where she developed a healthy appreciation for college football, sweet tea, front porches, and a well-placed “y’all.” She’s a lover of all things happy, laughs way too much, and fully believes that a little bit of kindness goes a long way.
Michelle lives near the Carolina coast with her family.
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