Saturday, January 3, 2015

"Even Better Than Before" - The Prologue

With a bit of luck and perseverance my novel, Even Better Than Before, will be ready to share via e-mail with a few friends in the next couple of weeks. I have shared 2 excerpts on this blog already (click HERE for those) over the past few months, but I thought for the first weekend of the new year you should get a peek at the very beginning. So without further adieu, here is the prologue to Even Better Than Before...

It was already the second week in April of 2014, but the thermostat outside the large picture window of her beautiful Clarendon Hills home said 34 degrees. Spring or not, this was still Chicagoland. Keri Fischer Thompson snuggled on her sofa with her fuzzy purple Snuggie for another evening home alone. Her husband Mark was traveling for work yet again, as he had done for what seemed like eight nights a week for the past 14 years. They had never had kids, and her beloved boxer, Brutus, had been gone for three years now. This night, like so many nights before, she poured herself a glass of Pinot Grigio and settled in to watch reruns of The Big Bang Theory. The show never failed to make her laugh. And so many nights Keri needed a good laugh.

Often as the night went on and the wine kicked in Keri’s thoughts would turn reflective, her mood would grow somber and her heart would begin dwelling on that most dangerous of questions- “What if?” This night was no different. What if she had not married for money and security instead of for passion? What if she had followed her dream and become a professional singer instead of an accountant? What if she had been more willing to risk and to live a life of adventure? And each time her mind crossed that path, it would stop at the same place. Some nights she would even speak the question aloud. “What if I had gone with Brent all those years ago?” She would think back to their adventures as friends in middle school, high school and college. Theirs had always been a unique relationship. Keri counted on Brent to make her feel special and loved at the times when she often didn’t really like herself; he counted on her to give him courage, guidance and support when he didn’t trust himself. By the end of high school he knew that she was the love of his life, but that was not a role she was willing to play at the time. It was just too risky for her. Over and over again as they grew older they turned to each other for support and comfort, usually emotionally but occasionally physically as well. But they were never truly a “couple.”  They had never really dated; they had slept together only once and that had been 20 years ago. When Brent had left North Carolina to search for fame and fortune he begged her to go with him, but again she was not willing to risk what they had to take a chance on what might be. She got married in 2000 and he in 2002, but the flame still flickered in their hearts. Over the past five years so many things had changed. As her marriage became more stagnant and his life crumbled both personally and professionally he had become her light in the darkness and she had remained his one beacon of hope. Their relationship had always been important; now it was indispensable to them both. They could not imagine life without the other even as they lived 5oo miles apart. On these lonely nights Keri was often haunted with thoughts of how different her life might be if only she had said yes and gone with Brent fifteen years ago. And she was left to wonder how differently his life might have turned out as well.

She was jarred back to reality by the ringing of her cell phone, and she smiled at the irony of it all. The ringtone was the Zac Brown Band song Keep Me In Mind. It was assigned to only one person- and that person was Brent. He didn’t call much because as he often said, “If I call anytime I want to I’d be calling all the time.” She usually called him if she wanted to chat. They would text each other almost daily just to check in and say hello, sometimes chatting for hours on end. So for him to be calling so late meant something must be up. She answered with her usual “What’s up Buttercup?” and as always, Brent chuckled. After a moment or two of small talk, he got straight to the point. “Look Keri…I’ve been thinking about giving in and heading to this thing in Myrtle Beach on Memorial Day weekend. Craig and Dan are really after me to show up. It just feels like it could be a circus for me, so before I commit I need to know for sure. Will you be there? Because that’s the only way I’m going.” Keri smiled to herself. Thirty years and so much of life had flown by, but Brent had never stopped needing her as his support system. His best friend. His counselor. His Soulmate.  “Yes sweetie” she replied in that voice that had always melted his heart. “I will be there. And so will you. Just think of it as a trip to the beach with me. If we happen to run into 15 other old friends, so be it!” Brent laughed. That was what he wanted to hear, the reassurance that she would be there for him to lean on. Keri felt warm all over. This was going to be just what she needed- an escape and an adventure. She loved that Brent still needed her, and that he still loved her totally and unconditionally. They said goodnight and Keri started to get ready for bed. She looked in the bathroom mirror as she brushed her teeth and thought to herself, “What if you really can have a second chance at the life you were meant for?” “Keep me in mind” the song said, “cause somewhere down the road you might get lonely…” She had been longing for an adventure. Maybe this would be it...

A few weeks later Brent sat at the soundboard in his home studio outside of Franklin, TN, doing the final mix on a new song. His good friend and sound engineer extraordinaire Darin Walker was finishing a 4th new song for a demo project they were hoping to use to attract some attention from local record companies. Darin was really excited about the new music and to be working with Brent again. He thought the song they were putting the finishing touches on, My Amazing Grace, had adult contemporary/modern country hit written all over it. But that was not the song on the demo that had him most excited. They had, with the help of some of the best studio musicians in Nashville, recorded a cover version of the 2003 Sister Hazel song Come Around. The song had never been released as a single and was not all that well known, even in music circles. But it had a great chorus, an amazing hook, and Brent sang the hell out of it. Darin had worked with pretty much every big name in the industry, from U2 to Jars of Clay to Taylor Swift. He knew popular music. And every time he listened to the playback of Come Around he found himself thinking, “This is not just a hit. This will be the #1 song in the country.” Now if he could only convince the people with power to listen to it. He had promised Brent he would personally deliver the demo to some of the record labels in town, but he had no idea what the reception would be. Brent Thomas had been missing from the music business for nearly 8 years now, and his name carried some baggage. But Darin was determined to give this his best shot. This music was good and deserved to be heard. Brent would be venturing out into the world on Memorial Day weekend to see some old friends. Maybe that would be the beginning of his comeback. Or at least of his return to a little bit of a normal life. Only time would tell.

I hope that leaves you wanting more! Have a great weekend!



  1. Anonymous1/04/2015

    Carl, this is really, really good! I hope you will press on and get this published someday, because I know we'd all love to read it. Happy New Year to you and your family! ~ Chris Cooper

    1. Thanks so much, Chris. I'm excited to see what may come of this book.

  2. Anonymous1/06/2015

    What a great beginning! I can't wait to read more!

  3. Ooh, I am very interested to read more! :-)


Thanks for reading,and thanks for your comment!