A Happy Ending?

I'm a sucker for a happy ending. I hate when I get to the last page of a book and wonder 'what the hell happens next?' Ambiguity makes me crazy!!! I'm a straight-forward kind of gal. Tell me what happens! Don't make me guess.

That's why when I wrote my first book, I added an epilogue. I let the reader know that I was seriously committed to those two characters living happily ever after. Some people don't need that. Some people like to use their imaginations and create their own endings. Not my style. I want to close a book and feel sincerely happy, or utterly devastated. One extreme or the other.

As I wrote the last pages of my second novel, I wondered what would constitute a happy ending for these characters? 'Happily ever after' means different things to different people. When you delve into the romance genre, 'happily ever after' tends to mean the girl gets the guy, or vice versa.

But what if there are two important men in her life?

Does she make it work with the man she's in a complex relationship with, but still loves flaws and all? That would be one version of a happy ending. Probably the most difficult but realistic, and I do love realism.

Or does she leave the complicated relationship and go off into the sunset with the other man, someone she also cares about deeply? Another viable happy ending, with its own set of complications (what relationship is complication free?).

What if she ditches them both and concentrates on her own career and needs? To hell with the men in her life! I have to say, the feminist in me is screaming for that version of a happy ending.

I struggled with the 'happily ever after' in this book. So many choices. I knew the ending of What if I Fly? before I completed the first chapter. This one? I was completely in the dark until I reached the end, forcing myself to make a choice for the character I had created. I'm glad that's over! And I am very satisfied with the outcome.

Will everyone be satisfied by the choice I made? Maybe, maybe not. Depends on what 'happily ever after' means to you.

My second novel, tentatively titled 'As it Seems' will be available...sometime in the next two months...

Introducing Truman

 Barrington, RI

Barrington, RI

In my last blog post, I introduced you to one of the two couples featured in my second, still unfinished, book; Libby and Ted. I'd like to introduce you to their neighbors, Truman and Caroline. Truman is a stay at home dad, Caroline is the breadwinner. They have three daughters and he has his hands full. Libby and Truman have become good friends over the years, helping each other out while their spouses work long hours bringing home the bacon.

Truman and Caroline have an unconventional marriage (though more common than I ever imagined!) and in this book we see each couple's stories unfold from two points of view, Libby's and Truman's. I really enjoy writing from both a male and female perspective. Such a different experience! One day I'd like to write a book entirely from a man's point of view!

Here you go, an excerpt from the FIRST DRAFT of my latest novel, tentatively titled "As it Seems."

Excerpt from Chapter Three

Thank God for Libby, Truman thinks as he climbs into bed. She handled Sadie’s ‘situation’ like a pro, which of course, she is. He just left his eldest daughter’s bedroom having sat beside her while she slept, gently brushing her hair away from her face, wondering where the time has gone. His little girl is a woman now. Well, not quite a woman, but capable of womanly things, like getting her period. Truman lies back against his pillows and sighs. How did that happen? She’s thirteen, not a child anymore. He got off the phone with Caroline a little while ago, but he wasn’t able to really talk to her. She was out to dinner and it was too loud to have a conversation. She’s not even aware her eldest child reached a physical milestone today, and that pisses him off.

This is when Truman resents his wife’s job, moments like this. They have three daughters. She should be here for them! While the girls were small, he could handle whatever problems they brought to him. Teasing, arguments with friends, even crushes on boys, he could deal with those issues. Menstruation? Sex? No. He is not equipped to advise his daughters on tampons, pads, cramps, birth control pills… Oh god, Truman groans, feels sick just thinking about his girls becoming sexually active. They’re my babies!

He sighs, picking up a family photograph from his nightstand. It was taken two years ago for their Christmas card and because of his wife’s crazy schedule he had to reschedule this photo shoot three times. It’s a rare shot of the whole family. He has thousands of pictures of the girls, and Sadie taught him how to take ‘selfies’ of the four of them, but Caro is conspicuously absent from photographs, except on holidays and birthdays.

How did I end up raising the girls virtually alone? When did Caroline fade from their daily lives? He didn’t always work out of the house, but when Caro’s career took off, it was a matter of simple mathematics. At the time, she made three times the money he did, probably five times as much now. Someone needed to be home for the children and since neither of them wanted a stranger raising the girls, he got the job by default. Truman cut back his workload and turned the study on the first floor into his office.

He realizes it could have easily gone the other way. They wouldn’t live in this beautiful home, in this fancy neighborhood. The girls wouldn’t be taking horseback riding or sailing lessons. Their lives would’ve been considerably more modest if he were the primary breadwinner. In that scenario, he would have been the parent trying to make it up to the girls on weekends, and he’s glad he doesn’t have to do that. He tries not to hold it against his wife for being absent from the girl’s lives the majority of the time… but it’s hard. It’s very, very hard.

Prologue from "What if I Fly?"

I've been meaning to do this for weeks! For those who haven't picked up a copy of What if I Fly?, here is the prologue to peruse at your leisure! Please forgive the formatting issues! And here is the link to purchase a copy if you're interested! Amazon Paperback or Kindle

Prologue
What if I Fly?
by Jayne Conway

Copyright 2015

“Venti iced coffee!” the tattooed barista with the spiky green hair shouts from behind the counter, seemingly oblivious to the small mob of people surrounding her station. In desperate need of a caffeine fix, Will squeezes through the crowd and gratefully grabs his drink, then searches the room for a free seat.

The patrons are taking advantage of the air conditioned space on this steamy day and he waits patiently for a chair to become available, leaning against the newspaper rack stacked with today’s issues of the Providence Journal, Boston Globe and New York Times.

The shop is much more crowded than it’s been over the past couple of months. He’s gotten used to having his run of the place since the Brown University students made their exodus in May, but now they’ve begun streaming back into town from their summer breaks, forcing the locals out into Wayland Square in search of alternative shelter. The mildly hostile, but inevitable takeover has begun, the coffee shop overrun with their laptops and stacks of books.

Whatever happened to studying in a library? he wonders.

He feels old. It seems like a hundred years since he walked in their shoes, though it’s only been…what? A decade? So much has changed in ten years. Or, not enough. Maybe the only thing that has changed is his perspective. What he wouldn’t give to go back to those days, he muses, his eyes glazing over.

Mercifully, Will’s reverie is interrupted when an elderly gentlemen slowly vacates one of the leather chairs, his favorite place to read. Perfect.

He positions himself for a quick turnover before one of the kids in line beats him to the empty seat, then victorious, he settles in, opens the paper to the sports section, and notes with a smile that the Red Sox are coming out of their annual slump and could be headed to the playoffs.

Will attends games as often as possible, though it’s not as easy to get away from the office these days. Growing up, he made the two-hour trek north to Fenway Park regularly with his father, a devout fan who was born and bred in Boston. It’s his favorite childhood memory.

Reviewing the stats, he takes another sip of his drink and feels a hand on his shoulder, a gentle squeeze. Startled, he looks up from the newspaper and almost spits out his iced coffee. Julia? Coughing, he sits up in his chair, his heart hammering against his ribcage. Is it really her?

“Hi,” she says, softly.

Will rises and takes both of Julia’s hands in his, looks into her warm brown eyes and shakes his head in disbelief. It’s been almost six years since he last saw her, and hoped, but never believed he’d see her again. Julia’s face breaks into a smile and she squeezes his hands.

“How are you, Will?”

“I can’t believe you’re here,” he whispers. “How long have you been in the States?”

“Almost three months now.”

Julia has a table in the corner of the room and they sit across from one another in awkward silence. He doesn’t know what to say. I’ve missed you every day since I last saw you? I can’t forget you no matter how hard I try, and I’m not sure I even want to?

No, he can’t say what he’s thinking, so he just stares and resists the urge to reach out and touch her. She’s more beautiful now than ever.

 “How’s your father, Will? The last time we spoke his health was improving.”

“He’s good, in remission,” he says, a tremor in his voice. “You remember that?”

“Of course I do. I remember everything about our time together.”

“Yeah. Me too.”

He remembers their last two days together more vividly than the past six years. Will turns and stares out the window, watching Andy from the bookstore across the street carrying a pile of paperbacks and depositing them in the free bin. Andy raises his hand in greeting and Will nods absently, garnering a worried glance from his friendly acquaintance.

“Will, are you all right?”

He focuses his gaze down into his drink, and away from her knowing eyes. He’s never been able to hide his feelings from Julia and God knows he has no right to complain. He made his bed, now he has to lay in it.

“No one’s asked me that in a while,” he pauses, running his fingers through his hair. “No, Jules… I’m not. I haven’t been for a long time.”

This is killing him, sitting beside Julia. He’s prayed for this moment for so long, to apologize to her if nothing else, but now he wants to run away. Over time, he’s trained himself to not feel much of anything, and being around her is stirring up emotions he thought were dead.

I left her sleeping in that bed, alone. I walked away from her. For what? After what he did, he doesn’t deserve her kindness or sympathy.

“Talk to me, Will.”

“There’s nothing to tell. I knew I wouldn’t be happy with her,” he pauses, “I just never thought it’d be like this...” his voice trails off and he stares into his drink, swirling the green straw in circles.

“Come with me.” Julia rises and holds her hand out to him, “Come on. I’m driving your car.”

“Where are we going?”

“Does it matter?” she asks.

Will shakes his head and hands her the keys to his Volvo. His wife hates his old station wagon and makes sure they take her Audi convertible whenever they’re together in public. He gave up caring what other people think long ago. Only his parents’ opinion matters to him, and that doesn’t carry as much weight as it used to.

Julia drives them five minutes down the road to India Point Park at the mouth of Narragansett Bay. The city began a revitalization program last year and is turning this once crime-ridden area into a park with a playground, boat launch and a community center. Other than a few sun worshippers, they’re alone.

There’s a light breeze coming off the bay, making the heat bearable, and she leads him to the recently built dock, kicks off her sandals, then lies down, arms folded behind her head.

Will has a sense of déjà vu as he lowers himself down beside her, and turns his face to the sky, taking in deep breaths of salty air mixed with car exhaust from the nearby highway. He finds the whoosh of the passing cars above them and the sound of the water lapping below, oddly soothing. For several minutes they lay together in silence watching the clouds pass by, just as they did years ago.

Julia rests her head on his chest and his arm winds around her, naturally, comfortably. Closing his eyes, he imagines they’re in their early twenties again, laying on the dock in their hometown making plans for their future, and for the first time in years he feels at peace.

“You have to look for the joy in life, Will,” she says. “Sometimes it’s the little things that get me through the day.”

Will mentally wraps them in an insular world of his own, trying desperately to ward off the inevitable. He knows their time together will soon come to an end and he’ll be alone again. It doesn’t matter how many people surround him, without Julia, he’s alone.

But not now. Right now, he imagines they’ve spent the past six years building a life together, not apart. Will breathes her in and tries to memorize how her body feels pressed against his side, his arm holding her close, then realizes there’s no need…he never forgot. She’s a part of him, she always will be.

Their moment lasts for little over an hour, until Julia’s phone beeps, forcing him back to reality. She sits up and flips open the offending device to read a text message. Who is it? A friend? A lover? He swallows hard, trying not to think of her with another man. Surely, she has a man in her life.

“I have to get going, Will.”

Reluctantly, he pulls her to her feet and tucks a stray curl behind her ear, his fingers lingering against her cheek. Please, don’t leave me… Julia’s eyes connect with his for a long moment, filling him with hope, but she sighs and smiles, slowly shaking her head.

His heart sinks…but he understands. Julia deserves more than he can give her. They walk to his car, and for an instant he considers driving them to the nearest airport, but forces himself to continue along Gano Street and take the turn into the parking lot at the coffee shop.

“No goodbyes,” she leans in and kisses his cheek, “I’ll see you.”

And she’s gone.


The Sophomore

I've been working on my second novel, my 'sophomore' effort. It's a much different experience in some ways...exactly the same in others. The main difference is this little thing called expectation.  When I wrote What if I Fly, I didn't have any expectations (other than to finish the damned thing!) and never once considered the expectations of others. I didn't know if there would ever be others reading it, so I put it out of my mind and wrote it purely for my own enjoyment.

The feedback was trickling in at first, a steady, peaceful stream. Now it's an avalanche of well wishes and praise, with everyone asking me the same question, over and over again...

WHEN IS YOUR NEXT BOOK COMING OUT?

No pressure! I'm working on it, and I'm enjoying the process just as much, trying to ignore that pesky voice in my head asking 'is it good enough?' 'will my readers like it?'. Then I remind myself... I'm doing this for me. If I'm always thinking about what everyone else wants, I'll never write an original word again.

The new book is not a sequel, and is tentatively called "As it Seems". It's about two couples who live next door to one another in Barrington, (an affluent community ten minutes south of Providence, RI), the challenges they face and sacrifices made to keep marriage together once the sparkle fizzles and life gets in the way of their relationships. In five words, this book is about love, betrayal, loss, hope, redemption (not in that order!).

Here's a little taste, pulled from the middle of the first chapter. Remember this is the FIRST DRAFT and forgive the formatting! I can't figure out how to fix it!

Excerpt from Chapter One:

When Libby met Ted, he was a political consultant at a firm in Boston. She was a graphic artist working in the art department at a big advertising agency in the Back Bay. As a rule, Libby avoids networking events like the plague, truly despises them, and still does. The purpose of going is to make new business contacts, but they are really meat markets for people looking to hook up. It would be one thing if the men were single, but in her experience, the majority are married men looking to get a little side action. She feels awkward enough in a room full of strangers, never mind being put on display for a roomful of horny men.

On this particular occasion, Libby caved to the pressure of her co-workers. She was going to be in Cambridge that night anyways, and could stop at The Meat Market (as she not-so-affectionately refers to these events) before heading to The Middle East, a nearby club. She’d been on a couple of dates with one of the musicians in the band playing the club that evening, and had plans to meet him later that night. At the time, she’d been going on a lot of first dates, but until she met Geoff, none of the men she went out with warranted a second one. She was twenty-five years old and not interested in wasting her time with someone who bored her, and figured her youth afforded her the luxury of being selective about the people she dated.

After the long hours she puts in at work, and the complete absence of a ticking maternal clock, she’d rather curl up on her couch with a cup of tea and a good book than make small talk with a stranger. Geoff was interesting and the dichotomy of his life intrigued her; stock broker by day, drummer by night. An unusual combination. She wouldn’t mind getting to know him a little better.

She arrived at the networking event with her colleagues but quickly found herself alone at the bar, sipping her vodka gimlet when she first saw Ted. He was holding court across the room, surrounded by a crowd of men and women who were enthralled by whatever tale he was in the midst of telling. Ted is the kind of man who is hard to miss. At six feet four, two hundred and ten pounds, his size commands attention, but his personality demands it. He is one hundred percent Irish, with thick wavy auburn hair and emerald green eyes. Born and bred in South Boston, he’s a natural storyteller with a voice that penetrates the din of any crowded room. That night he was weaving yarns that captivated his audience and had them peeling with laughter. Libby kept her distance, nursing her drink, but she couldn’t take her eyes off of him.

Halfway through one of his stories he locked eyes with Libby and smiled. She doesn’t know if she smiled back, but she certainly kept looking. When he finished his tale he excused himself from the crowd and walked over to the bar, leaning against the wood railing beside her. Libby felt her cheeks blazing with heat and stared into her drink, swirling the tiny black straw in circles. His voice took on a more natural tone than the one she overheard him use for storytelling as he introduced himself.

“Hi. Ted Sullivan.”

He extended his hand toward her and grinned. She looked into his brilliant green eyes and gave him a tentative smile. He wasn’t the best looking man in the room, but he literally oozed confidence, something Libby had in short supply. She nodded and shook his hand, then took another sip of her gimlet, noticing the leggy blond who had sidled up beside him and the gorgeous brunette behind him, both anxious to make their move on Ted.

He laughed, apparently waiting for her to offer up her name, and realizing it wasn’t forthcoming asked, “And you are…?”

The mob seemed to gravitate toward him, the empty spaces around them quickly filling in until a semi-circle was formed, five people deep. Ted didn’t appear to notice the growing crowd encircling them, which meant he was either oblivious to his magnetism, or so used to the attention it didn’t phase him. Either way, she found it unnerving. He’s one of those rare species of men that appeals to both sexes, men want to be his friend and women want to sleep with him. Libby identified this quality in him immediately.

“Libby Taylor. Nice to meet you.”

“You’re not much of a talker are you, Libby?”

“Conversation seems to be your specialty.” She gave him a sideways glance and raised an eyebrow, “I’m willing to bet you could carry one on right here without my input at all.”

Ted burst out laughing.

“I probably could, but where’s the fun in that?”

“Maybe not for you, but it would be fun for me,” Libby countered.

Ted gazed at her, one corner of his mouth turned up with amusement. She watched his eyes brazenly move up and down her body.

“Are you checking me out?”

Again he chuckled and nodded.

“Yes, I am. Three words pop into my head. Smart. Sassy. Beautiful.”

She took a sip of her drink, observing him over the brim of the glass, then placed it on the little square napkin in front of her.

“Ah, now there’s a line,” she sighed.

“I’ve got tons of them,” he grinned.

Libby nodded, looking him over, “I’m sure you do.”

The eavesdropping blond with the short skirt and the mile long legs must have realized she was about to miss her opportunity, and grasped Ted’s arm, turning him toward her.

“Sully! So great to see you again!” She leaned in and kissed his cheek. Ted smiled and introduced Libby to Siena.

“Pleased to meet you,” Siena smiled, her eyes glued to Ted’s face.

Libby sat on the stool, feeling extremely awkward as Siena draped her arm around his waist and they became engaged in a lively conversation about the upcoming election and the campaign he was working for. Turning away from them, she checked her watch, then gathered her coat and bag, getting ready to leave. She found him incredibly sexy, but wasn’t interested in competing for his attention.

As she rose and pulled on her coat, Ted placed his hand on the small of her back and leaned in close, startling her.

“You’re not leaving yet!” he frowned. 

“I’m afraid I am,” she said, buttoning her coat and shrugging her bag over her shoulder.  

He took her hand and whispered close to her ear, “Not without me.”

Libby stared into his eyes and he leaned down and kissed her, his lips soft against hers. A delicious tingling spread throughout her body. A moment later she opened her eyes and slowly shook her head back and forth, a smile spreading across her face. No, not without you. Ted grabbed his coat and without saying goodbye to Siena or the rest of his admirers, walked into the cool night air, Libby’s hand in his.

The Middle East and the dichotomous drummer all but forgotten.