My first southern contemporary novel Junk Shop Girl released a day ago! Here are the cover and description:
Kiki Keller wasn’t always a sleek, urban graphic artist.
Teenaged Kittie, as she was known then, was awkward and wildly in love with the town bad-boy, Stephen Tellisford, who destroyed her romantic dreams, her reputation, and her life. Shamed and bullied by her classmates, Kittie fled to art school in Atlanta and tried to put what happened in that small southern town behind her. But her beloved grandfather’s death summons her back home and to the antique store, locally known as the “Junk Shop”, where she played and dreamed in as a child.
Russell Tellisford wasn’t always a smooth, small-town developer.
Growing up, Russell only wanted to escape from his abusive, drug-addicted father and his brother, Stephen, who idolized their father. As a boy, that escape was to the town junk shop, where a young girl named Kittie made fantastical worlds out of cardboard, sequins, and glitter. Later, escape was college and a fast-paced life in Washington, DC. After his father’s death and his job in DC collapses, Russell is called back to the family home he despised, a pile of debt, and a brother struggling with addiction. Russell, desperate and angry, transforms his family’s crumbling mansion into a resort. Now he’s aiming to renovate the town’s historic square, which, for decades, had been trashed by the sprawling junk shop.
With Kiki as the store’s new owner, he might get some traction on this project—and with her. But the open, trusting little girl he remembered has changed. The closer he tries to get to her, the more walls she erects between them. And he doesn’t know why …
I thought release day would never come. Poor Junk Shop Girl. The manuscript was rewritten and rewritten and rewritten. I’m not sure I’m publishing it so much as getting the book out of my life. It has to go live somewhere other than my head. Go buy it, give it a home in your head for a spell.
In the initial three chapter draft of the story, I introduced two minor characters, Terence and Heather, who were artsy friends of Kiki’s, the main protagonist. Terence and Heather were merely vehicles in the first pages for Kiki to vocalize her thoughts to rather than having to internalize them. My then agent liked the characters so much that she wanted them in the rest of the story. So, Terence and Heather followed Kiki from Atlanta to Tellisford after the death of Kiki’s grandfather. There, they set up a virtual office in Kiki’s grandfather’s old home.
The first full draft of Junk Shop Girl was dominated by Terence and Heather. Their dialogue lines flew fast and furious, and they could easily take over a scene. Neurotic Heather was my favorite character to write. While Terence was spouting wisdom, Heather was saying something wildly inappropriate or making snarky commentary on the dysfunctionality of her own life. In the book, she’s a journalist and an unhappy fiction writer, but for me, she was a like a standup comedian I could put in any scene to up the energy.
In the second draft of Junk Shop Girl, I cut back some of the friends’ scenes and deepened the romance between Kiki and Russell. Sadly, many of Heather’s lines hit the cutting room floor in this draft. Sniff. So, to celebrate releasing this book, I going to post those lines that hurt so much to delete. I don’t think these scenes introduce anything that isn’t in the description. If you enjoy them, you’ll find even more great Heather scenes in the book. You can buy the ebook on Amazon or read it on Kindle Unlimited.
Heather finds her soulmate and tells someone off.
The Coffee And Cupcakes Cafe and Heather were soul mates. The place had a retro feel with shiny chrome, pastel yellow, pink, and aqua. Etta James played softly from speakers in the ceiling. The wonderful aroma of sugar, dough, and coffee-scented the air. However, Kiki’s gut knotted as anxious coursed through her. She was so swept up in Heather’s joy that she really didn’t think through going out in public in Tellisford. Now she glanced about the shop. The help, all college-aged women in polka-dotted aprons, used tissue paper to pull cupcakes from glass counters that formed a large L. Customers sat by themselves at small round metal tables, hunched over their laptops or scrolling on their phones. She didn’t recognize anyone. She released a breath and relaxed in the lovely aromatherapy of sugar, butter, and coffee.
“How am I supposed to decide?” Heather complained as she viewed the different varieties of cupcakes in polka dot wrappers and high swirls of icing. “Just, yes. Yes to it all.”
Ultimately, Heather narrowed her choice to a coconut cupcake, Kiki chose a pink strawberry one, and they decided that Terence would appreciate the hummingbird. They added honey bee cappuccinos to their order, which the barrister extolled as, “Oh my God, it’s, like, so awesome. It’s, like, my favorite. Seriously.”
As Kiki waited as the barrister collected their order and another staff member set a to-go cup of coffee on the counter. “Latte with hazelnut,” she called out.
A man stepped around a rack of fresh cupcakes. “Yeah, I’ll call you back,” he said to his phone and then put it in the pocket of his Khaki pants. His gaze fell on Kiki. She could see the surprise dawn in his eyes when he recognized her. Her head heated as a loud roar filled her ears. Oh, crap! Justin Rickey. The last time she had seen him was in the school parking lot. She was walking home, and he was sitting in the bed of his truck, smoking with Stephen and more of their loser friends.
She grabbed Heather’s arm. “We have to go,” she whispered.
“Friend of Stephen’s nine o’clock.”
Heather glanced behind Kiki and zeroed in on the man. “You mean that douche canoe?” she said loud enough to draw the customers’ eyes away from their various screens.
Kiki rubbed her forehead. “Heather, please,” she hissed. “Just… leave it alone.”
“Not while there are buttercup cupcakes on the line! Hey, you,” Heather called to the man.
Justin’s face tightened. “Yes, ma’am.”
“Is there a reason why you’re staring at us?” Heather demanded, making a half-circle motion with her neck and head.
He didn’t respond, at least, not to Heather. Instead, he murmured something to the barrister and quickly scanned his card in the tablet. Then he shoved his card in his pocket, grabbed his latte, and hurried to the door.
“What? Leaving without saying good-bye? How impolite, you jerk!” Heather said to his back.
Justin stopped and turned. “I’m… I’m sorry about your grandfather, Kittie,” he said, quietly. He gave a small, respectful nod and slipped out of the shop. The string of bells on the door continued jingling after his departure.
Everyone in the shop was staring at Kiki and Heather.
Kiki wanted to kill her friend. But the murder would have to wait. At the moment, she just had to get out of the shop without breaking apart. This was exactly why she had to leave Tellisford. She couldn’t walk around the town without having an anxiety attack.
Her hands were shaking as she pulled her wallet from her backpack. When she unzipped it, all her change fell out, clanking on the counter and rolling on the floor.
“No, you’re good,” the barrister said. “That guy, like, totally paid for y’all’s order. I’m serious.”
“What the hell?” Terence said when Kiki and Heather entered the kitchen back at the house. He wore black jeans and a plaid shirt that was open, displaying a t-shirt with a Marvel comic character. “Did you think, ‘Hey, maybe we should tell Terence we’re leaving?’ Maybe he would want to come too, ’cause his job sucks so bad.’ Y’all are rude.”
Kiki was too anxious to figure out if he was kidding or not. Sometimes it was hard to tell with Terence. “I tried to sneak away but Heather stopped me and made me take her.”
“We brought you a cupcake because we love you.” Heather smiled sweetly and held out the box. “And Oh. My. God. You won’t believe this! The editor of Southern Hearth and Home liked my sophisticated southerner story.” She waved her hands and made an open-mouthed, muted shriek of excitement.
“See, I told you!” Terence said, interlacing their fingers together, joining in hand waving. “It’s going to work out. You just had to be patient.”
Heather gushed about Tellisford Estates and showed Terence all the pictures she had taken. “So, this opulence is the presidential suite—comes with fluffy robes and chilled champagne and everything. And this is the whirlpool in the women’s spa locker. Just look at the delicious steam rising off the whirlpool. This is the mimosa they gave me at the spa—I tried to be an artist, like y’all, and have the room reflected in the glass. I don’t think it worked. And this…wait, that’s my parking section number in the Atlantic Station parking deck.”
Kiki paced about the kitchen, her fingers itching to do something as Heather babbled on. Kiki was already on edge after the run-in with Justin, and Heather’s praise for Tellisford only added to her anxiety. As Heather gushed on and on, Kiki glanced about, the idea sinking in that soon she could no longer come to this kitchen. How many times in her life had she entered from the back porch and heard the wham of the sunscreen door? Thousands from the time she was four until now. It was never anything special to her, but now the idea of losing these everyday things was the scariest part. Somehow the textures and sounds had sunk into the silent core of her memories. Her history and her grandfather’s would be wiped away in Russell’s shiny new vision.
Terence lifted his gaze to Kiki. “So? Is your soul sold? Did you get a good price for it?”
“I have an offer,” Kiki confirmed. She didn’t want to talk about it. When she told Russell she would sell everything to him, it seemed more like an abstract concept. Now her words, the lines on his pages, were becoming real.
He opened his palms. “Well, let’s see it.”
“Fine!” Kiki drew the pages from her backpack.
Terence flipped the pages, stopping on the last one. He gave a long, high whistle. “Girl, your soul’s a cheap ho if you take this.”
Kiki flung up her arms. She sarcastically pretended the encouragement she wished her friends would give her. “Gee, Kiki, I realize this is a hard decision for you, and, as your friend, I really want to be supportive and understanding at this difficult time. Don’t worry, you’re doing the right thing.”
“You’re not doing the right thing.” Terence held up the pages. “You’re doing the easy thing.”
“The easy thing?” Kiki had almost embarrassingly melted down in a coffee shop when she simply ran into a friend of Stephen’s. What would happen when saw the jerk in the flesh? “Yeah, it’s so easy living a few moments away from a panic attack. Why, every day is a freaking garden party for me in Tellisford.”
“Okay, y’all, like, I’m having a good day for once,” Heather said. Even though several feet separated Terence and Kiki, Heather stepped between them like a ref in a boxing match, sending the fighters to their corners. “I have a job, a cupcake, and a compliment. And I told off a douche boat. That’s more goodness than I have had in a long time. So, don’t ruin it. Just eat your fluffy cupcakes and find your happy places.”
Terence flashed Kiki a “this isn’t over” look and crossed to the table, opening the bakery box and lifting out his cupcake. He took a good bite of creamy icing. “I can’t believe you left me here when you were out telling someone off,” he said to Heather, talking around the frosting in his mouth. “That’s just mean.”
Heather parties too hard
Heather appeared from the foyer in blue, fuzzy slippers and pale pink fleece robe dotted with white hearts. Without her usual bright lipstick, penciled eyebrows, and liquid eyeliner, her dyed hair was harsh against her pale face. He skin was ashen and puffy around the eyes.
“Are you okay?” Kiki asked.
“I’m hungover. Everyone was getting some last night and I didn’t want to be left out, so I decided to date a bottle of chianti that I met at Walmart. Of course, like many of my recent dates, I hate myself in the morning and wonder what the hell I was thinking the night before. Oh, God, that smoothie looks like worm guts.” She grabbed her stomach. “Ugh!” She slowly eased into a chair and rested her forehead on the glass tabletop. “Oh, that feels good and cool. Look, it might be wise not to bring up my ex-fiancée or Instagram today. Just saying.”
“Oh no, you didn’t drink alone by the warm glow of social media?”
“It’s always worked out so fantastically for me before.” Heather dryly quipped. “Why should this time be any different”