Junk Shop Girl – The Lost Scenes

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.

“What? Why?”

“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”

Making It On The Victorian Stage – Managers, Agents, Theatres, and Roles

“A dog of mine,” says the celebrated Mathews, “should not go upon the stage,” and he says wisely, for the profession is fraught with toil, anxiety, and misery, beyond any other; but if that dog cannot be happy out of this hotbed of misery, in Heaven’s name let him be a miserable puppy in it.”  — from the preface of Leman Thomas Tertius Rede’s 1827 book The Road To The Stage, Or, The Performer’s Preceptor: Containing Clear And Ample Instructions For Obtaining Theatrical Engagements, With A List Of All The Provincial Theatres … And A Complete Explanation Of All The Technicalities Of The Histrionic Art

While watching “Stitch In Time”, a BBC series about the history of clothes, I was intrigued when a  costume historian stated that she used old theater photos to study historic clothes because, back in the Victorian day, actors and actresses had to supply their own costumes and, thus, most bought used clothes off the streets.

I have come across numerous theater photos through the years, so, naturally, when I went to look for some, they seemed scattered away. That’s how it works for me—I can’t find what I’m looking for, and I find plenty of other fun things.  In this case, I dug up this wonderful volume that began its long bookly journey first published in 1827 under the title The Road to the Stage. Sadly, the book’s sage author, Leman Thomas Rede, would die a few years after its initial publication, yet his book would live on, being updated and revised through the years, including altering its title and adding tips for the American actors and actresses. I was able to find several versions of the book between the years 1827 and 1872.

For this series of four blog posts on Victorian Theatre, I will use the 1836 edition because it’s in the early Victorian era but still useful to the Regency enthusiast.

This edition contains a kind, short memoir about its late author.

LEMAN THOMAS TERTIUS REDE (the author of the following pages) was the son of Mr. L. T. Rede, of the Inner Temple, author of ” An Essay on the Laws of England,” ” Anecdotes and Biography,” &c. &c., who died at Hamburgh, December, 1806, when the writer of the little work to which this notice is· affixed was only seven years of age, he having been born on the 14th of October, 1799, in Clerkenwell Close, London. At an early age, Mr. Rede chose the law for his profession; but his design of treading in the steps of his father and that father’s father, was frustrated by a dramatic bias, which induced him to leave and attempt the stage. He made his first appearance as Wilford, in the town of Stafford, in 1819; and in the year 1821 appeared at the Adelphi Theatre, London, in a farce called ” Capers at Canterbury.” An accident, which befell him at Margate shortly afterwards, induced him to resign the idea of making the stage permanently his profession; he became connected with the press, and devoted his attention to literary pursuits.

As a companion, he was much sought; his powers were less dazzling than engaging; and, perhaps, few men had a more extensive circle of convivial acquaintances. In 1829, he returned to the stage, and conducted the Queen’s Theatre for a short period; and from that period to the time of his death, he occasionally (though seldom) acted. In November, 1832, he performed The Gentleman in Black in his brother’s drama of ” The Loves of the Devils,” at Sadler’s Wells, for the benefit of Miss Forde. On the 12th of December following, he expired (after a short but severe illness) of a disorder of the heart.

His remains were interred in Clerkenwell Churchyard. Of one, whose social qualities, talents, and disposition, made him the delight of every circle in which he mingled, much more might justly be said, but the subject can only involve the obtrusion of private sorrows on the public ear. Mr. Rede’s enemies (if he had any) will declare that he was in heart and mind a man, in manners a gentleman, in acquirement a scholar, of unquestioned courage, gentle, charitable, and unassuming; formed to adorn any station, from his personal as well as mental advantages. He met death as a certain visitor, who came sooner than he had hoped, but whose approaches he encountered with an unchanged mind. He left a widow, but no child, to deplore him; and is survived by his mother, by three sisters, and a brother, who feels his irreparable loss too much to add one word more to this brief notice.

The illustrations and actress mini-bios in this post are excerpted from a rather dubious 1844 publication titled Our Actresses: Or, Glances at Stage Favourites, Past and Present, Vol. II. ( *Vol. I contains biographies of Regency actresses)

Let’s dive into the world of the Victorian stage!

THAT a general prejudice exists in the breasts of parents and preceptors against the stage, is as undeniable, as that a love of it is common to the young and inexperienced. That the oft reiterated complaints of the uncertainty attending this ill-fated profession are true, I shall not attempt to deny, but it must be remembered that its rewards are also considerable. If we are to be told that numbers have existed in barns, and expired in workhouses, we should also recollect that many have rolled in carriages, that could never, but for the stage, have emerged from behind a counter.

John Reeve quitted a banking-house contrary to the advice of all his relatives, yet he has cause to rejoice in a resolution that has raised him at once to an income he could never have hoped to have gained in his original station-indeed, be blesses the day when he left off being a cheque-taker to turn comedian.

Perhaps that father would most truly study the welfare of his child who should, on discovering his dramatic bias, send him at once to some country company, instead of driving him, by his opposition, to duplicity when at home, and to seek his favourite amusement in private theatres abroad;-as long as acting affords entertainment to the performer, he must like it–make it his business-his duty-and, in nine cases out of ten, a cure will be effected.

The practice that a private theatre affords is usually pernicious, and mistaken are those parents who consent to their children performing at those establishments, to learn the rudiments of the profession. At private theatres, no man studies rudiments–every one grasps at first-rate characters, which are awarded, not to strength of intellect, but of pocket-­ for the merest booby that ever carried a banner, who could command two pounds, would be cast Richard, in preference to a Kean, if he could only afford ten shillings.

I do not wish to join in the common-place censure levelled at private theatres, though I have reason to fear there is too much truth in the character generally given of these places. There are indeed exceptions, but their number is limited.

*Susanna’s Note: The original 1827 edition mentions Mr. Pym’s theatre on Wilson Street and Mr. Durrant’s on Gloucester Street exceptions.

To any person whose mind is so far engaged with the dramatic mania, as to be unsettled with regard to other professions-to one to whom all other modes of existence appear “flat, stale, and unprofitable”­- I should say enter it at once-and now the how becomes the question.

I shall reserve the mention of the things necessary for any performer on his outset for another part of the work, and proceed at once to explain the method of procuring a situation. At the Harp (a public­ house in Russell-street, immediately opposite the pit-door of Drury), resides Mr. Sims, the theatrical agent, and his hours of business are from eleven o’clock until three. On the payment of an introductory fee of seven shillings, he enters the name of the applicant in his books, together with the line of the drama he may wish to fill-and, on the procuration of a situation, he proportions his demand to the amount of the salary obtained; but it seldom exceeds the total of one week’s stipend.

Mr. Sims holds the situation held for so many years by his father; to the manners and acquirements of a gentleman, he adds an intimate knowledge of the profession, and his promptitude in business is only equalled by his urbanity and good­nature. It has been matter of regret in the profession, that Mr. Sims has not chosen some other place for his house of business, as it is peculiarly unpleasant, especially to ladies, to make calls at a house of public entertainment.

Mr. Tumour (of Covent Garden Theatre) has an office in Bow-street, and is also a dramatic agent­ his mode of transacting business is similar to that of Mr. Sims.

Mr. Kenneth, at the corner of the same street, also procures engagements for aspirants, and Mr. Miller, of Henrietta Street, Covent Garden, is in constant communication with all provincial managers (as agent to the Dramatic Author’s Society) though he does not act as an agent between actors and managers except indeed such as meditate a transatlantic trip.

Though every creature that places a foot upon the boards does so in expectation of becoming a favourite in the metropolis, it is ascertained that only one in one hundred, on an average, comes to the royal theatres in any capacity at all–nor do I mention this as matter of regret. Many provincial situations are preferable to London ones; the favourite of the Bath, Dublin, Edinburgh, and Glasgow Theatres, may, with reasonable prudence, realize from four to five hundred pounds per annum; and an income equal to that has been amassed in the York circuit. An engagement of twelve guineas per week at a royal theatre amounts, with the deductions made during Lent, Passion week, and the usual vacation to something less than five hundred pounds a year.

The book then lists the managers, towns and circuits, and salaries of provincial theaters and sharing companies. The later version will include lists of American theaters, as well as American agents. I will insert a snippet of the list of English provincial theaters. 

All mentions of travelling troops, such as Richardson’s, Scouton and Holloway’s, Ryan’s, Adams’s, &c. would be here out of place, as these persons its is presumed do even style themselves theatrical managers.

Sharing Companies

The system of sharing companies being nearly exploded, it is only necessary to briefly explain the principles on which they are conducted. If there were eight actors and four actresses, besides the manager, the receipts would be divided into seventeen parts or shares: One to each actor and actress; One to the manager, as an actor; One to him for dresses ; One for scenery; One for properties ; One also as manager. Thus if the receipts any one night amounted to 17l., the manager took 5l., and the company ll. a piece. In addition to this, as some little outlay must occur, the manager advancing this called it a stock debt, for which whenever they had a tolerable house, he made a large deduction.

London Theatres

On a rough calculation the United Kingdom is supposed to contain about 3000 performers; that is to say, individuals of both sexes who really understand their business–the amount of persons connived at by their friends and the public as actors and actresses must be about seven times that number.

As music is becoming daily more popular in this country, first singers are proportionably in request. At Liverpool the leading vocalist has a salary of five pounds per week; and such is the dearth of male singers, that that is now considered the most profitable and safe line, and one for which an engagement can always be obtained.

Tragedy is, it has been justly observed, going out of fashion. Whether England will ever become so completely fashionable as to dislike Shakespeare it is difficult to say, but certainly he has been latterly played to houses, that would indicate that the immortal bard’s attraction was declining ; but as improvements generally originate in the metropolis, so also do innovations, and tragedy, though unattractive in London, is not yet scouted in the provinces. As nearly all aspirants commence as tragedians, this line has always numerous professors; it is now, from the arrangements of modern managers, become imperative that a leading man should provide his own wardrobe. A tragedian always commands the best salary in the theatre, and in large establishments his situation is easy and profitable; in small ones he is expected to blend the light comedy with the serious business, and thus his labour, though not his profit is marvelously increased.

Genteel Comedy has been long called the most profitable line upon the stage–it requires a good modern wardrobe. In small theatres the light comedian must play the seconds in tragedy (Macduff, Richmond, &c.)–the salary is generally first-rate ­- at all events next to that of the leading man.

 Low Comedy is supposed to be the best line, with reference to the benefits it ensures, but this is trusting to a very precarious chance–the salary is generally on a par with the light comedians.

First Old Men obtain somewhat similar terms.

Walking Gentlemen (Charles Stanley, Henry, Moreland, Harry Thunder, &c.) is a line that also requires an extensive wardrobe; this business is usually assigned to persons learning the rudiments of the profession-the salary is generally low ; in Dublin even, not exceeding two guineas per week, and in many respectable companies not more than one.

The observations already made, apply to the other sex equally with regard to the First Tragedy–Fine Ladies–Singing Chambermaids–Old Women–and Walking Ladies.

First Singing Ladies are much more numerous than male vocalists, a circumstance which the system of modern education accounts for–and, perhaps, for a Lady, the Old Women may be considered the most profitable and safe line. Any young lady embracing this line, and possessed of even a moderate share of talent, could seldom lack a provincial engagement, and would stand an excellent chance of metropolitan distinction.

Having premised thus much, it is now necessary to place before my readers the regulations of provincial establishments.

Rede then lists the general rules governing the country theatres including rehearsal and performance and the fines accrued for infractions on these rules. For example, “Every performer is expected to go on the stage and assist in all the processions and choruses, where it has been customary in London for principals to be engaged, as in Macbeth, Pizarro, Juliet’s dirge, Alexander’s entry, &c.-non-compliance with this regulation subjects the party to a fine of ten shillings” and “Saturday is considered the first day of the week, as in the London theatres.”

For rehearsals, “Notice of pieces to be rehearsed to be posted in the green-room, and the time of beginning, before the end of the play on the previous night of performance; and it is the call-boy’s duty to give notice to every performer who does not perform that evening” and “For not being reasonably perfect at the last rehearsal (sufficient time having been given for study), five shillings.”

An actor was fined a guinea for being intoxicated during a performance and five shillings for “omitting or introducing a scene or song without the consent of the manager.”

In the coming post, we will look at the skills required of men and women entering the acting profession.  In the meantime, here is a little 1899 theatrical gem.