Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Original ABEGALE FORCE first page.




I found the original first page from three, or more, years ago when this story came bubbling up from my story root system. And after hundreds of rewrites I much prefer this original vision. 

The opening pages were critiqued on open forums and much the "voice" was lost. I want it back! I may rewrite it again with this page in mind. Luckily, for the most part only the first chapter was over-worked.  (Remember my mention in an earlier post about over-editing. Beware, it happens!) 
But I sure learned a lot. 

                     After school on Friday
Going to Stephanie’s apartment building helps me appreciate my home. But the smells always make me wish for more. In the evening it often smells like someone just baked a sweet potato casserole and stewed it for hours with extra butter and caramel sauce. 
“Just a few things?” I ask Stephanie.
“Yeah, and Chris might be home,” she says, still teasing me about her brother who is preparing to leave for college.
We approach Stephanie’s building, which sits near the back lots of a shopping strip. The winds are picking up and tempest swirls seem to be following us. No one’s outside this late in the afternoon. But I do make out Mr. Miller feeding seeds to the pigeons. He’s an old air force veteran who talks a lot about the misconceptions of government. He’s really funny and goes off about “covert operations” no one knows about.
We pass to the left of the parking lot and he doesn’t see us. Besides I wouldn’t want him to scatter the birds. The sun is getting higher and warmer in the west. I drift toward it, and the heat presses against my cheeks. Stephanie is rambling on about something.
“I’m sorry, what did you say?” I ask her.
 “Chris is going to ask me about that CD.”
“I’ll get it to you before he leaves.”
“I think you’re holding on to it on purpose,” she delivers in a singsong voice.
“Are your parents home?” I change the subject. I know I’ll have no protection, both her parents work day and night.
We get to the door of her building and Stephanie buzzes 2B, again and again.
“Hey, give me a minute, Phenny, where are your keys?” Chris’s voice trails from the speaker.
Stephanie pushes through the heavy metal door as the buzz sounds. And as we enter we hear a voice, “Stephanie is that your friend?” the voice whispers out of sight. Then there’s a thump . . . thump . . . thump.
I didn’t know anyone moved into the apartment by the front door. A tall lanky woman appears with dark inset eyes and hair pulled up on her head like a cameo broach. She’s wearing a floor length dress and has a tall walking stick that outstretches her hand above her waist.
“Hello Stephanie and Abegale, Stephanie has told me so much about you.” She has a warm mothering smile.  “I’m Mrs. Egremony. How’s your cough, Stephanie?
Stephanie clears her throat. “Um, I guess it’s okay, I haven’t thought about it. I guess I’m feeling better.”
“Well, let me know if you’re still coughing at night. I spoke with your mom and she’ll be listening,” Mrs. Egremony finishes.
“All right.” Stephanie seems impatient to leave. “Thank you, Mrs. Egremony.” Stephanie’s walking backward up the steps.

Mrs. Egremony turns to her apartment but calls after us. “Drink fresh lemon juice, lemonade if you like, but lots of fresh lemon.”

Monday, April 27, 2015

Making the Decision to Pause the Music.


Hardest decision EVER! I spent years working on my music, writing original tunes and studying jazz and improvisation with various teachers. Four years hosting a jam session I created to get the performance practice I needed and to help other vocalists. Since I had the space, I’d create it and they would come. Sure helped that my husband owns one of the hippest jazz venues in NYC.

As I was trying to find my voice in jazz, I was also trying to develop my voice in fiction. A stranger once told me, “Those are two of the hardest businesses to crack into.”  Thank you, kind stranger. But he was right.
It’s always, do what you love, what’s in your heart. But what if you love several things and you aren’t half bad at them, either?

I already resigned myself to put down the paintbrushes and stop my figurative sculpture classes. Leave the painting to weekend meditations.
To help me decide I’d boil it down to one thing: Story Telling, which is what Jazz singers do. They tell an emotional journey, a tale. I love connecting with the emotional core of the song.
I was energized by the thrill and the buzz of live performances for years, and I became pretty good. Then I stopped.

There were a few personal reasons I ended the jam session, last September. As in, if you aren’t having fun – why bother. I didn’t need it to pay my rent. And the truth is I made scarcely anything after paying my pianist. It was quite a bit of behind the scenes work, with promo, etc. But it was more than monetary rewards. It was helping others when I was in a position to do so — and getting my practice on. But the lifestyle – the nights and the longer nights – I didn’t think I could do – not with one parent already working every night.  Now, if I could sing at Jazz brunches every weekend I’d be down for that, but it’s not very realistic.

As a kid, I was always singing, and often writing stories. Both have been a part of me for as long as I can remember.

I made the decision to focus on my fiction. I still jam with friends, but the time needed to go out and hustle for gigs, and search for musicians at this time in my life isn’t going to work out.  All I need, to focus on my writing is me -- for now. Until I want to publish them, that is.

We can only do so much on our own. Eventually we need the help of others, even the solitary practice of writing. And we need our readers!

I want grow as a writer and learn my craft from inside and out and become the best fiction writer I can be.

I write during the day, as I babysit the family Jazz club and attend to café customers. At night, I research craft, or history for the story I’m working on, (make dinner!) and read at night. There’s scarcely enough time. I must be extremely disciplined to get the work done. But I LOVE it!!! I could spend hours (if my rear end would let me) in my fiction. Time dissolves; hours pass, and I hardly notice where the day went. It's a little different when I’m editing. But, shh, I actually enjoy editing. This may be part of the reason I always over-cut my bangs. I’ve also been known to over-edit. Oh, for the love of first novels.

Today, I pause the music. But it’s not the end. Oh Lord, no. The music is in me. I am a storyteller. I just cannot do it all, all at once. Right? This is what I tell myself.  Cause, I sure do miss performing. (I vocalize every day, no matter what, to relax and keep my instrument supple) And lucky for me, I spend my days writing in a Jazz club. So the music is also, all around me.

What have you had to put aside to focus on writing?

If you'd like to hear an original song of mine. (2011)
 The live shows were of poor phone quality. You'll find one or two on my youtube channel and more on www.myspace.com/karenleehallam.