Hiya peeps! We have Kelly Jensen visiting today with her new release Building Forever, we have a brilliant guest post from Kelly, a great excerpt and a fantastic giveaway where you can win a $25 Riptide Publishing gift card and a swag pack of stickers, art cards, and bookmarks! So check out the post and leave a comment to enter the giveaway! ❤ ~Pixie~
A new town, a new neighbor, and a new chance to build a forever.
Charlie King is doing fine. Sure, he’s a widower raising a teenage daughter who just got her first boyfriend, his book series isn’t writing itself, and he has a crush on his new neighbor — the guy next door. But everything’s just fine.
Simon Lynley is doing better. He moved to Bethlehem to fall out of love and rebuild his career. An affair with his neighbor isn’t part of the plan, but the attraction between them is too hard to ignore.
But when Simon’s ex follows him to Pennsylvania seeking reconciliation, and Charlie’s life starts to feel like a video on repeat, everything comes apart. Charlie worries that he’s failing as a father, and Simon is a distraction he can’t afford. Meanwhile Simon doesn’t know if he could survive being left again, and he hasn’t come all this way to make the same mistakes. But despite their fears, it’s only together that they’ll find the strength to slay old foes and build the forever they’ve been waiting for.
Building Forever is the first in a series of standalone novels focused on older characters who think love has passed them by. I loved writing these second chance romances, and I hope you enjoy reading about the books—especially this one because Charlie and Simon will forever be the characters who started me on this journey.
Who Is Charlie King?
Charlie wandered into my head one day, with a name, a great big smile, and the irrepressible urge to talk. And talk. And talk.
My projects usually start out with a character or two, the journey they need to take, and the possibilities that arise when these two journeys intersect. For Charlie, the story I wanted to tell was twofold.
As the father of a teenager, he grapples every day with the question so many parents know intimately: am I messing this up? Parenting is hard—so much harder than it looks from the outside. It is for me, anyway, and I found myself infusing Charlie with many of my own fears and insecurities. Especially with teenagers, it’s difficult to know when to be there and when to step back. They’re such moody creatures. Writing Charlie, in a way, helped me work through some of my own issues.
The second part of Charlie’s journey was all about exploring his sexuality. He’s always known he was bisexual—even if he never actually put a name on it. He was aware of the fact he found both men and women sexually attractive. But he fell in love with a woman first, got her pregnant, and married her, meaning—for him—that any experimentation with men was pretty much relegated to the realm of fantasy. For a long time, this suited Charlie and he expressed his sexuality through his writing, giving the main character of his series love interests that were female, male, and of non-determinate gender.
Then he met Simon and everything he’d put aside came rushing forward. Possibility happened.
The aspect of Charlie’s character I hadn’t quite planned was the depth of his grief regarding the loss of his wife. I hadn’t naively thought that five years would be enough time. I knew he’d miss her forever. What I had hoped was that he’d forge a new relationship with Simon that could exist beside the love he’d had for his wife. And that’s pretty much what he does—but first, he had to deal with a lot of things he’s been ignoring, including a whopping case of guilt over his wife’s passing.
What I came to admire most about Charlie is his ability to stay positive. He takes responsibility for his mistakes, and then instead of covering them up, he weaves them into the fabric of his life. Not always right away, and not always gracefully. But it’s obvious from the first page that he’s a man who loves life and relishes every opportunity that comes his way. His talkative nature and wide smiles could be construed as a way to hide his issues, but the opposite is actually true. He is fully engaged with life and it’s only when Charlie stops talking that we know something is truly wrong.
Charlie was one of the most complete characters I’ve written. By the time I got to the end of Building Forever, I really felt he’d come full circle. He’d grown in ways neither of us might have expected and had become the man he was always meant to be. I think the most fascinating thing about his story, though, was that completeness. Often when I finish writing, I wonder what might be next for my characters. I look forward to revisiting them in short stories, or perhaps the next novel of a series. I didn’t do that with Charlie. He does appear in both Renewing Forever and Chasing Forever and he’s charmingly Charlie in both books, but he doesn’t continue to develop on the page.
Of everyone I’ve written, Charlie King truly found his happy ever after with Simon Lynley and I don’t ever want to mess with that.
To view my inspiration for Charlie and the other characters and settings in Building Forever, visit my Pinterest board for the book.
For all he didn’t consider himself a religious man, Charlie King had a particular reverence for Cheez-Its. Now and again, he’d worship a single cracker by placing it on his tongue like a communion wafer. As sucking the life out of one little square usually proved unsatisfying, he more often scooped up handfuls and shoved them in the general direction of his mouth. It could be a messy business; he often ended up playing catch with a stray cracker or two, which was exactly what he was doing when Simon Lynley walked into his life.
Charlie glanced at the open kitchen door and spluttered through a mouthful of cheesy crumbs. Approximate translations might have been Hello, hold on, and Holy shit, are those contacts? His visitor’s eyes were an impossible shade of blue. Like the sky on a sunny day. Dark and light at the same time. Golden, but still blue. Celestial.
His wife’s eyes had been a greenish sort of brown, and simply one part of the whole that was her face. He could rhapsodize about her face, but then he’d been stupidly in love. Merry could have had a mole sprouting hair at the end of her nose . . .
Okay, maybe not.
His visitor’s eyes were extraordinary, particularly against a vague impression of fair skin framed by black hair, eyebrows, and a shadow of stubble . . . and Charlie was staring. Possibly gaping. Also, he was thirsty. Blue Eyes’ appearance had interrupted his chewing. Charlie grabbed a glass off the rack by the sink, filled it, and washed away the cracker sludge gathering around his molars. Then he figured he should say something.
He indicated the faucet with the empty glass. “Can I get you some water?”
Blue Eyes’ forehead wrinkled quizzically. “Ah . . . sure.”
Charlie handed him a glass of water. A fresh glass, not one sullied with cheesy crumbs. “Is this about the front porch? Listen, I know it looks old and it’s probably about ready to fall off the house, but I can’t afford to do that and the roof. I need a roof. I don’t need a porch.”
Blue Eyes gave him a blank look in response. Then Herbert started howling. Well, resumed howling. Charlie hadn’t actually registered when he’d stopped. The dog had been competing with the sounds of eighties rock and nail guns all afternoon.
“Is it the dog? I can take him out for a walk if the barking is bothering you guys. Oh, by the way, my daughter has to get out of the driveway—” Charlie checked the digital display on the microwave “—soonish. Sorry, I know we should have parked her car on the street last night, but my friend was blocking the driveway until late.” Friday nights with Phil and the Xbox were near tradition. “Then, between walking the dog and checking in on a neighbor who thought she heard something, I totally forgot.”
Blue Eyes hadn’t taken a drink yet. In fact, he’d paused with the glass raised halfway to his lips. “I’m not one of your contractors.”
Right, no Kendricks Roofing logo on his neat polo. No tool belt, no baseball cap. Just a stranger, standing in the middle of Charlie’s kitchen, looking at the glass in his hand as if he suspected the water was poisoned.
“Uh . . .” Charlie cleared his throat.
“I’m your new neighbor,” Blue Eyes said. “Moving in next door?” He tipped his head toward the door, through which Charlie could see the open gate in the hedge between their properties. Beyond that, the outline of a moving truck in the driveway.
Blue Eyes frowned.
Charlie scrubbed his free hand on the side of his jeans and offered it up. “Sorry, took me a bit by surprise there. I’m Charlie. Welcome to the neighborhood.”
“Simon.” A warm hand folded around Charlie’s, and the touch was as shocking as that first glimpse of his blue, blue, very blue eyes. What the heck?
Charlie let go and rubbed his palm on his jeans again.
Simon watched, a serious little frown marring his brow.
“Sorry, I had Cheez-Its all over my hand, and I didn’t want to— Yeah, you already— Or I . . . Um . . .”
The brilliance of Simon’s eyes had dimmed enough for Charlie to appreciate the rest of him and . . . Simon was a really good-looking guy. Charlie hadn’t noticed a guy and thought Wow since high school—and that had only been because Billy McHugh, captain of the football team, had been physically perfect, and the envy of every guy at Liberty High.
He was staring again, wasn’t he?
“I’m going to get to the front porch soon,” Charlie explained, not sure where they’d left the conversation but somehow convinced Simon was there because of the noise, or his cheap-ass choice of roofing tile. “I’d have done the roof myself if my daughter hadn’t threatened me with an emancipation suit, whatever that is, if I got up there. She does not want to live in Florida with my folks. Something about frizzy hair and alligators. Not that I’m in the habit of falling off things, but it is kinda high up there. And a long way down.”
Simon was staring at him now and probably not thinking, Wow his eyes are so brown.
“This isn’t going how you expected it to, is it?” Charlie said. “It’s not too late to shove everything back in the truck and move again. No one wants to live next to the weird guy.”
Simon’s laugh was sudden and very, very welcome. Charlie inspected the floor rather than the way Simon’s eyes crinkled and twinkled. He’d done enough staring for one afternoon. Besides, the back of his neck itched—the sensation almost unfamiliar. He was blushing. Standing in his kitchen with a stranger, staring at his floor, and blushing.
“For all you know, I could be the weird one,” Simon said. “I did just let myself into your kitchen, after all.”
Charlie glanced up. “Right past my howling attack dog.”
“He was busy chewing something that looked like a plastic chair leg.”
“I can’t have nice things. Not plastic things, anyway. So, where’d you move from?”
Simon was finally taking a sip of his water. Charlie busied himself with refilling his own glass instead of watching Simon’s mouth, lips, and the drinking-swallowing thing. He really needed to get out more if he was tempted to watch strangers swallow—and the question of why he might watch, with extreme interest, his male neighbor swallow would be tabled until later.
“Morristown,” Simon answered.
Huh? Oh, right, where he’d moved from. Get with the program, Charlie.
“What brings you across the border?” Moving across the Delaware River into Pennsylvania used to make sense. Lower taxes, less traffic. Now the bills and roads were just as crazy.
Simon’s smile faded a little. “Looking for a change of scenery.” He turned and put his glass back on the counter. “Anyway, I was checking out the gate in the hedge and when it opened and your door was open and you were standing here, I thought I’d introduce myself.” He glanced over his shoulder. “And I left it open, didn’t I?”
“’S okay. Herbert is on a chain. He’ll strangle himself long before he gets close to the gate.”
“Good to know.”
“He’s managed to push through the hedge when he’s off the chain, though. I’ll try not to let that happen.”
“Hey, it’s all good. He seems like a nice dog.”
“He is, mostly. Friendly. Had him since Olivia was ten.”
“Olivia is your daughter?”
Charlie’s smile was involuntary, as it always was when Olivia wandered into the conversation. She had him happily wrapped around her little finger, and he wasn’t ashamed to admit it. His days started and ended with his girl. “Yeah. You got kids?”
“No, it’s just me.”
“That’s a big house for one . . . Um, unless you’ve got a lot of hobbies or like space. A lot of rooms.” Moving on, “This is a good neighborhood. Quiet. Well, usually, when Herbert isn’t saying hello, and contractors aren’t playing music. A few kids, a couple of retirees. The lesbian couple on the corner.” Why tell a complete stranger about the supposed sexual orientation of the couple on the corner? “They’re very nice. Sue always brings the best salads to cookouts . . . and I’m gonna stop talking now.”
Simon was laughing again. “You spend a lot of time alone, don’t you?”
“Guilty as charged.”
“What do you do?”
“That would explain it. What do you write?”
As if the conversation weren’t awkward enough. “Technical writer by day, science fiction author by night.”
Simon’s eyebrows rose. “Like aliens and stuff?”
“Do you read?”
“Not much,” Simon said. “I used to. Even read some science fiction when I was a kid.”
Because grown men didn’t read stories about space pirates. Nope.
“I haven’t read anything but a trade magazine in years,” Simon continued.
“What do you do?”
“Oh yeah? You really don’t want to look at my front porch, then.”
Simon smiled. “I’ll be working with Arthur Beckwith.”
“Beckwith and Associates on Main Street? You’ll have to tell us who his associates are. We have theories, but no one has ever met any of them. Anyway, I think he redid the place on the corner. They had a sign in their yard for a while after.”
“The lesbian couple?” From the sparkle in his eyes, it was clear Simon was messing with Charlie.
“Other corner,” Charlie said, grinning. “I thought about using him, but I don’t want to do everything at once.”
Even though his parents had moved to Florida almost a year ago, the place still felt like their house. Putting on a new roof for now and making plans for the front porch, and maybe the garden, made the house feel more like his.
“One day I might knock out the back wall of the kitchen and put in a nook sorta thing. Like to eat in. Or maybe a sunroom.”
Simon smiled again and the whole kitchen felt warmer. “You’ve definitely got the space for it, and a good aspect.”
Charlie’s best project to date chose that moment to blow in. “Dad!”
Olivia took after her mother, which meant she was blessed with beauty, poise, and a complete lack of hairy moles. Glossy brown hair she spent two hours doing stuff to every morning, and a pixie-like face. She had Charlie’s eyes—more brown than green—long limbs, and a knockout smile. At seventeen going on twenty-seven, she didn’t smile enough for his liking, though. Of course, all Charlie remembered about seventeen was not listening to anyone’s advice on anything, particularly when it had come to Merry. He should be grateful Liv hadn’t lost her head yet.
“I need to go, and there’s a truck blocking the driveway,” she said.
Charlie gestured between his new neighbor and his daughter. “Simon, Olivia. Olivia, Simon. Daughter, new neighbor. Back in a second, Simon. I want to ask the guys to move their truck.”
“I should head next door, anyway. Make sure my movers are moving.”
“Well, nice to meet you. If you need anything, I’m usually around.”
With a wave, Simon disappeared, taking his blue eyes and sunshine with him. Charlie probably stared at the empty doorway for too long. He told himself he was practicing a lingering gaze for a scene he wanted to write. Then he glanced over at Olivia.
Her eyes were narrowed. Her jaw moved once, twice, and then gum snapped behind her teeth. “He’s hot.”
“And way too old for you. Jesus. Don’t give your dad a heart attack. I haven’t finished doing up the house.”
Chuckling, she followed him outside into the late-summer sunshine.
This Time Forever series!
Small towns and second chances.
Simon, Frank, and Brian think love has passed them by. Each is facing down his fiftieth birthday—Simon in a few years, Frank next year, and Brian soon enough. Each has loved and lost. But for these men, everything old really is new again, and it’s only when they return to their roots that they’ll find their second chances and the happily ever after they’ve been waiting their whole lives for.
This time it’s forever.
This series includes:
- Building Forever — releasing October 15, available now!
- Renewing Forever — releasing November 12, available for preorder!
- Chasing Forever — releasing December 10, available soon!
If aliens ever do land on Earth, Kelly will not be prepared, despite having read over a hundred stories about the apocalypse. Still, she will pack her precious books into a box and carry them with her as she strives to survive. It’s what bibliophiles do.
Kelly is the author of a number of novels, novellas, and short stories, including the Chaos Station series, cowritten with Jenn Burke. Some of what she writes is speculative in nature, but mostly it’s just about a guy losing his socks and/or burning dinner. Because life isn’t all conquering aliens and mountain peaks. Sometimes finding a happy ever after is all the adventure we need.
- Website: com
- Facebook: facebook.com/kellyjensenwrites/
- Twitter: com/kmkjensen
- Tumblr: tumblr.com/
- Pinterest: pinterest.com/kmkjensen/
- Instagram: instagram.com/kellyjensenwrites/
To celebrate the release of Building Forever one lucky person will win a $25 Riptide Publishing gift card and a swag pack of stickers, art cards, and bookmarks!
Thanks for following along, and don’t forget to leave your contact info!