My new publisher and I are in the beginning stages of creating a cover for my new book, A Penny on the Tracks. The expected release date is October of this year. A Penny breaks away from the romance-themed kind of story my first two books were categorized. A Penny on the Tracks is a Young Adult book that revolves around the friendship of two eleven-year-old girls and into their teenage years.
A Penny started out as a short story I had written in a Creative Writing course in college almost nineteen years ago. The story then was called The Hideout, and until about the halfway point of revising this short story into a 75,000 word novel, that title remained. I was writing a scene of one of the young girls, Lyssa, placing pennies on a set of railway tracks they hang out at all the time, and the title just popped out at me.
It was so obvious I’m not sure why I had ever considered another title because placing pennies on the tracks becomes a symbolic part of the story. I am sure I had originally selected The Hideout as the title of my then short story because the place where the tracks lay is a spot Lyssa and Abbey spend a lot of time at and refer to it as their “Hideout” because aside from a high school boy they befriend there, they’ve never seen anyone else at their secret place.
So this space does feel like their very own hideout, but the scene is so much more than that. Those grounds will be the place two characters of the book will choose to end their lives. I’ve only felt this good about the choice of my book title once before; when I felt the title really matched the story.
I’m not sure how much other authors struggle with titles, but I usually have a hard time deciding on one. So I am delighted when a title pops out at me, especially while in the middle of writing a scene.
Although my publisher and I have yet to go through the editing process, here is an (unedited) excerpt from my upcoming book, A Penny on Tracks:
I balanced the weight of my body on my back foot and dug the heel of my high-top sneakers deep into the thick gravel. I wound my arm like a major league pitcher, and with all my strength, I launched a rock, almost the size of my head, at a passing train. The rock landed against the moving steel, and the cargo it carried, with a loud thud.
“Damn it!” I slapped my hand against my thigh. “I wanted to smash the glass.”
I quickly turned to search the brush for a rock as good as the one I’d just wasted a terrible throw on and noticed Abbey was still holding her own rocks tightly in her hands.
“How come you didn’t throw yours yet? Throw em’ before the train’s gone.” I moved to continue my hunt, but then looked back at her and added, “And aim for the windshield!”
“I can’t,” Abbey said.
“Then aim for whatever you want.”
“No, I mean I can’t throw it.”
“Yes, you can.”
“No I can’t,” she insisted.
“Just do it!” I yelled.
“But I don’t want to!”
I peeked down the tracks, checking if the train was near the end. It wasn’t. We still had time, but not much. “Hurry up and throw it!”
I watched Abbey hesitate while gripping two medium-sized rocks in each hand. She moved a couple steps closer to the passing train, and chucked the rocks, one at time, at the cars mounted onto the train.
I cheered loudly after one of the rocks hit its target with a loud crash. “Did you hear that?” I yelled.
I looked down the track again, but this time, I could see the caboose. The train was coming to an end. “Come on! Let’s hide in the woods so no one sees us.”
We squatted near the edge of the grass, just inside the woods, behind a thick tree trunk.
“That was a bad idea,” Abbey said. “We shouldn’t have done that.”
I laughed and told her to shut up. “It was fun.”
Once the train passed, we popped out of the woods and watched as it disappeared down the tracks.
“How come you always make us hide at the end?” Abbey asked me.
“In case someone’s in the caboose and…”
“Unloads a salt gun on your asses,” a voice behind us finished.
I turned around and saw Derek standing near the brush, a cigarette dangling loosely from his lips. His faded blue jeans were torn at the knees and a black Led Zeppelin T-shirt, underneath a worn jean jacket, tugged against his lean waist.
“Don’t even get her started,” I warned him. “No one’s gonna unload a salt gun on our asses. They don’t even have a salt gun.”
“Then why do we run?” Abbey asked.
“Like I was saying before I was interrupted,” I paused and gave Derek a hard look. “In case someone’s in the caboose and gets a good look at us.”
“A good enough look to shoot your asses full of salt, you mean.” Derek smirked at me.
“See!” Abbey threw her arms in the air. “It’s true! That guy really does have a salt gun, doesn’t he, Derek?”
Derek pushed a strand of his long tangled brown hair away from his eyes and sat atop a large rock. He leaned his elbows against his knees, his skinny body crouching forward. “It’s what I heard,” he said. “But keep it up and soon you’ll know for yourself.”
“Shut your trap, Derek.” I pointed my finger at him.
Abbey shook her head. “I’m not doing this anymore.”
“Don’t listen to him. Does he look like he knows anything?” I argued.
“Then don’t listen to me.” Derek took a long drag off his cigarette and let out a deep exhale of smoke. Off to the side, near his feet, a dirty black and white bandanna lay in a twisted mess across the gravel. I recognized it as one that Derek used to wear. The old bandana must have slipped from his back pocket one day and he never bothered to pick it up. “Get hit with rock salt,” he continued, “and feel the burn when that shit tears into your flesh.”
“Shut up!” I rushed at him, but he dodged my efforts to grab him.
“That’s it,” Abbey said, determined. “We are definitely not doing this again.”
I watched Derek flick his cigarette in the direction of the tracks.
“Are you happy now, Asshole?” I asked him.
“Nice little girls aren’t supposed to talk like that, or throw rocks at trains,” he said.
I sat down on one of the rails of the track. “I’m not nice.”
“No, you aren’t.” Derek laughed.
“And I’m not little,” Abbey said, even though she was.
Thanks for reading. Please check out my books, Her Name and Loving Again, available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords.
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