Monday, July 1, 2013

Sunshine: Diary of An Affair by E.J. Caulder

Title – Sunshine: Diary of An Affair
Author – E.J. Caulder
Genre – Romantic Suspense
Series – Book one of three of The Sunshine Affair series
Synopsis - Eric Simmons is a man on a mission to pursue his ultimate goal of being inducted to the radio broadcasting hall of fame. But not all is going as planned. Eric is at a crossroads in life and questions whether his personal and professional decisions have all been the wrong ones. As he questions his life, fate brings Tina Cook into Eric's life and he believes she's the woman he's meant to spend the rest of his life with. There's just one problem: Tina Cook is married. But she is unhappily married and seeks comfort in her friendship with Eric. As their friendship grows into something more, Eric wonders if Tina will leave her husband to build a life with him. Tina's husband becomes suspicious of their friendship and it causes Tina and Eric to take their friendship to the shadows in an effort to keep their budding affair a secret. Eric conspires to win Tina's heart and show her why leaving her husband is exactly the right thing to do. Tina struggles with her attraction to Eric and the vow she made to her husband. Tina tries to keep Eric close to her by trying to set him up with a friend of hers...not to mention concocting scenarios where it is appropriate and not suspicious to be seen with Eric. In the meantime, Tina's husband uncovers his wife's feelings for Eric though he can never confirm she is having an affair. Eric and Tina are able to stay one step ahead of her husband...but for how long?

Comments from the author – 
Writing the Sunshine Affair series was one of the most difficult undertakings I've had as a writer. Now, writing isn't new to me but writing the type of story that fell in front of my keyboard was. As a writer the three things I look for in any story are realism, a compelling plot, and the main character(s) motivation. When Eric came to me and said, "Here. I think you're the person to tell my story" all three of those elements and more were suddenly in front of me. What Eric had given to me out of the blue were the journals he kept during a secret affair he had over the course of years. This was an affair of which no one knew.

I read Eric's journals. Page after page of his handwritten jotting revealed his thoughts, feelings, and actions...some of which were shocking to me. He put everything is exquisitely defined detail, making me feel as though I were standing next to him as everything unfolded. I felt as though I was finding out what was happening the same moment he was. It took me almost a year to read the secret life he led. During this time I had to decide if I could write the story or if Eric's belief in my writing abilities had been misplaced. It didn't take me long to decide. This was a story I could not pass up telling. I told Eric I would do my best to do his and Tina's story justice.

As much as I loved writing the series, it was not without its challenges. Now, Eric made my task much easier because of his painstaking detail, especially the dialog. 95% of what you read in the Sunshine series actually happened or was said. I didn't have to make up the conversations because what Eric recorded in his writings was far better than most writers could make up. The candidness and vivid specifics stood up on their own. My challenge was to not just throw in quotation after quotation of conversation but to really set the scene around those conversations. It's important for the readers to not only be part of the conversation but to put them in the room with Eric and Tina by including facial expressions, body language, and mannerisms.

My strategy in writing the Sunshine Affair series was to stay as true as I could to the diary format to help move the relationship and readers through time as smoothly as possible. The diary format was also used as a tool for people to get in Eric's head and provide a perspective so that we're learning as he's learning, we're surprised as he's surprised, and so on. And that's where I got and stayed awhile - in Eric's head. And it was tougher to get out of than I thought.

We've all had moments when we've wanted to get in someone's head and find out what they're really thinking at a given moment, to know what makes them tick. Prepping and writing the Sunshine Affair series put me squarely in Eric's head. It wasn't that the story sucked me in and wouldn't let go, it was the pondering of why Eric would throw away his entire belief system for Tina, why he did so many things he had told me for years he would never do, how he could keep all of this inside him for so long and not tell anyone. I've never asked Eric directly because part of me doesn't want to know and part of me thinks Eric still doesn't know.

What I can tell you is the Sunshine Affair series is some of the best writing I've ever done and one of the most compelling stories I've ever heard, read, or written about. My hope is that, in the end, I have done Eric and Tina's story justice. But that's not for me to decide.

I invite you to get in Eric's head by checking out book one: Sunshine: Diary of An Affair by clicking on the link.
- E.J. Caulder

May 13, 1999
My apartment

One of the perks of driving on the interstate is that you can point the car in the direction you want to go, set the cruise control, kick back, and relax. My Pontiac is my personal meditative cocoon that happens to travel at 70 miles per hour. I’ve had plenty of time to reflect. Contemplate. Ponder. A two-hour drive from the Concordia campus to my fashionable southwest Bostin apartment provides an opportunity to let the day’s happenings sink in. I should be elated. The achievement of my bachelor’s degree should be a source of pride and satisfaction. But it’s not. Instead, I am left with a feeling of frustration and disappointment. I’m trying very hard to not let my victory party turn into a pity party. I’m failing.

I exit from the interstate to the closest exit that gets me home. About two blocks away, as I’m making my final approach to the duplex, I notice something unusual. I see three figures parked with their bikes along the curb in front of my apartment, just a few feet behind where I usually park my car.

What the heck?

As I get closer the three figures’ identities becomes clear. The three girls are Tina’s daughter Megan with her friends Cody and Kayla. I recognize the three because I had met them a few weeks ago at The Club. I was on my way out from working out one day as Tina and the girls were coming in to swim. Megan resembles both her parents. She is long and lean. She has her dad’s hair color and eyes matched with her mother’s smile, figure, and good looks. Already pretty, she’s going to be a stunner sooner than Tina would prefer. Cody is about five inches shorter than Megan and of Korean descent. Kayla is the typical blond-haired, blue-eyed Scandanavian girl the Midwest is known to produce. All girls are 11 and have the look of innocents yet the hair on the back of my neck is jumping up and down. It’s tough not to read too much into this. I mean, Megan only lives a few blocks away. But how does she know where I live? She’s never been here.

I pull the car in front of them to park. I muster my best poker face and get out of the car, which brings me facing the girls. I smile and say hello. The girls respond with a “Hi Eric” that comes out in unison, almost sing-songy. The greeting is followed by a classic pre-teen giggle. It reminds me of girls in a schoolyard teasing a classmate they knew who someone else had a crush on. That’s when it hits me.

Megan knows. She. Knows.

Megan knows her mom has some sort of relationship with me. I’m guessing I’ve been a topic of discussion in her house. The warning bells sound in my head. Loudly. I play dumb, give a quick smile and wave, and beat a hasty retreat to my apartment. No sense in giving Megan and her friends any ammunition to take home to dad.

Been that kind of a day.

The apartment is a fort at the moment. I’ve emotionally barricaded myself in here. Not wanting to deal with any more than I’ve already had to today. I’ve spent hours watching tv shows I recorded this week. I’d just finished watching “Frasier” when I look out my front window and see my friend Tina approaching with Zeus. I figure whatever unfinished business she had from last night is going to be taken care of this evening. I welcome the diversion. I wait until Tina rings my doorbell and then answer the door.

“Would you like to go for a walk tonight?” she again invites

I accept the invitation and choose now to leave my fort. It is a beautiful night for a walk. The air is crisp enough for Tina to be wearing a light jacket but warm enough that she doesn’t have to zip it up. Zeus keeps a consistent walking pace that allows conversation without getting short of breath. By this time of night, the neighborhoods are quiet. The sun has set so we’re led down our paths by street lights. Traffic is minimal. There is no one out but us. And the crickets.

Now they chirp. Bastards.

We meander about Bostin, chatting about light issues. I figure Tina’s waiting for the right moment to tell me what is on her mind so I didn’t force the issue. When she is ready, she’ll let me know. The topic of our conversation turns to graduation. I give Tina the quick version of the story, not really dwelling on the disappointing aspects of the event. Tina tells me she’s proud of me for what I’ve accomplished. I decide not to tell her about her daughter and friends greeting to me when I got home.

Our walk continues for another hour. The conversation seems like there’s a lot of filler but not much substance. There’s a shoe waiting to drop. She came by my place two nights in a row wanting to go on a walk with me. It isn’t for chit chat. But what?

We arrive back on my sidewalk sooner than I would have preferred. Time with Tina always goes too fast. She is about to say something but stops as she reaches inside her jacket pocket, unsure what could be in there. She pulls out a length of utility rope.

“Well, this is rather sudden,” I say. “I guess we know what you have on your mind.”

Tina looks up at me, bemused. “This is Jake’s jacket, not mine. I just borrowed it.

I purse my lips, furrow my brow, and nod my head quickly. “Yeah, right.” We laugh. Then silence. Again with the silence.

Tina looks at me and begins. “Eric, I have something to tell you. I wanted to tell you this last night, which is why I stopped.” Tina pauses. “I don’t know how to say this without embarrassing myself.”

Here we go. The shoe is on its way down. “It’s okay,” I assure her. “Everything’s okay. Go ahead and say what you have to

She does. “I was thinking that if Doug had a lady friend that he visited on a regular basis that I wouldn’t like it very well. So I just want to tell you that I won’t be walking by your house anymore. We won’t be taking any more walks together either. We’ll still see each other at The Club but that’s it.”

Not sure which is dropping faster right now, my stomach or my heart.

How appropriate. How appropriate that Tina would tell me this today of all days. On a day when I was alone at my college
graduation I have a friend tell me we can’t hang out anymore.

Despair creeps up on me.

“I understand.” I reply. “Actually, I’ve been expecting this. Most of my friends are married women and this is something that has happened many times before. There are a lot of husbands who aren’t comfortable with a single man like myself hanging out with their wives. I’ve seen the familiar signs that indicated our time together was going to come to end an soon.” All of what I said is true but it doesn’t make it hurt any less.

I feel like stalling. Right now things hadn’t changed. Tina is still standing in front of me. We are still friends. Once she leaves, she will be out of my life, or at least, not as big a part of it as she had been. I ignore the feeling.

“I’d better get back home,” Tina says, looking down at the dog. “Good night.” Tina gives Zeus’ leash a quick shake and walks off.

She’s not happy in her marriage. From what she’s told me, I can certainly understand why. Why do some men fail to realize how lucky they are…how good they have it? The friendship Tina and I had probably made her feel guilty for a host of reasons. All I know is that right now I’m a little sad and more than a little angry. The perfect end to a perfect day.

Get Sunshine: Diary of An Affair now:


No comments: