A Penny on the Tracks

Last November, I published my book, A Penny on the Tracks. It is a YA book based loosely on my childhood friendship with my best friend. I wrote this story in college. At the time, it was written as a short story and was titled The Hideout. The finished product hardly resembles anything of the original.

In fact, the college version of A Penny on the Tracks was so bad that when I reread it nearly fifteen years ago, my first instinct was to throw it away, but the writer in me remembered the agonizing hours I put into the piece, so I stuffed it in an overfilled drawer of mostly unfinished old works and left it there.

About three years ago, for whatever reason, I searched that overfilled drawer for that story and this time when I reread the piece I didn’t want to toss it into a fire. This time I saw potential. Although I ended up rewriting almost the entire thing, the core of the story has stayed the same — two friends sharing their childhood together while dealing with personal tragedy.

The importance of friendship is prevalent in this story, and I’m proud of the way A Penny on the Tracks has turned out. I’m proud that I not only finished the story, but a publisher liked it enough to contract it. I’m hoping the same thing will happen with the story I am currently writing tentatively called Annabel. 

This is another awfully-written college short story and was titled The Attic. This piece was also stuffed in that same overfilled drawer and for some reason I also fished this story out and decided to salvage it with a rewrite. I’m over two hundred pages in and am still unsure about an ending, but I have some ideas. With A Penny I always knew how the story was going to end, and of course knowing the direction you’re writing to makes writing a story so much easier, but I do have a knack of making life harder for myself. Why should writing be any different?

The story of A Penny on the Tracks deals with friendship, coming out, and tragedy.  A girl names Lyssa and her best friend Abbey discover a hideout near the train tracks and spend the summer before sixth grade hanging out and finding freedom from issues at home. Their childhood innocence shatters when the hideout becomes the scene of a tragic death.

Here is an excerpt from A Penny on the Tracks:

I JERKED FROM my sleep while the phone was still buzzing its first high-piercing ring. I glanced at the clock on the nightstand. It read 4:17 a.m. I knew something was wrong.

The second ring was abruptly broken up, and my mother’s muffled voice carried into my room. I was already sitting upright in my bed when my bedroom door squeaked open, and my mother’s slight figure appeared as a shadow near my door.

“Lyssa? You up?” she asked.

“What’s wrong?” My voice was no louder than a whisper.

My mother made her way into the dark room. I couldn’t make out the expression on her face, but her movement was stiff and hesitant. 

She turned on the lamp and sat down beside me. Her face was pale and she let out short, shallow breaths. It seemed difficult for her to look me in the eyes.

“What is it?” I asked. “What’s happened?”

My mother looked at me with pain in her eyes. “Lyssa . . .” She smoothed her hand gently across my arm. “Abbey’s dead.”

I took in her words without an ounce of denial. The reality of what my mother had told me was instant.

My best friend was dead.

 

 

APennyontheTracks-web
A Penny on the Tracks

 

 

 

 

Excerpt from my YA book, A Penny on the Tracks

 Lyssa and her best friend Abbey discover a hideout near the train tracks and spend the summer before sixth grade hanging out and finding freedom from issues at home. Their childhood innocence is lost when the hideout becomes the scene of a tragic death.

As they’re about to graduate from high school, Abbey’s family life spirals out of control while Lyssa is feeling guilty for deceiving Abbey about her sexuality. After another tragic loss, Lyssa finds out that a penny on the tracks is sometimes a huge price to pay for the truth.

APennyontheTracks-web
A Penny on the Tracks

 

 

Excerpt:

I WAS MAKING our favorite sandwich—bologna, lettuce, and cheese smeared with mustard and mayo on white bread—when Abbey called for me from the living room.

 “Lyssa! Hurry up! Poison’s on!”

The sandwiches lay on the counter amid a mess of open condiment jars and scattered pieces of lettuce and lunch meat. I quickly smashed the top slices of bread onto both sandwiches against the piled-stack of a sloppy mess I had created and hurried into the next room, dropping bits of food as I ran.

Abbey was standing on the couch, shouting out the lyrics we both knew by heart as Brett Michaels’ voice filled the room.

I handed her a sandwich, jumped on the couch, and screamed out the chorus to “Talk Dirty to Me.” I took bites of my sandwich during the guitar solo, and Abbey held her sandwich high in her left hand, as though it were the end of a guitar, and strummed her right hand against the front of her shirt. We banged our heads in unison, hair (and food) flying everywhere.

Abbey’s house had a bigger TV and better food options than bologna and cheese sandwiches, but we never could have done what we were doing right then if we were at her house.

Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It” came on next, and we both lost our minds. We dropped what was left of our food onto the table and yelled out the lyrics to our favorite song. Abbey sang the song with more conviction, as though she had a lot more that she didn’t want to take anymore.

The video ended, and we both collapsed onto the couch and finished our lunch. After, I went into the kitchen and grabbed a couple cans of pop from the fridge. Hanging on a magnet, on the side of the refrigerator, was a note from my mom reminding me she was working late that night and that there were frozen dinners in the freezer. At the end of the note she promised a home-cooked meal soon.

Abbey was often envious of the lack of parental supervision at my place, especially when it came to dinner. She was jealous I got to eat whatever I wanted. Even if my mom left dinner for me in the fridge, if I wanted to eat S’mores for supper, I ate S’mores.

“You eat dinner on the couch while watching TV?” Abbey had asked me one day.      

“If I feel like it,” I answered.

“You’re so lucky. My mom makes me eat with her at the table, even if my dad isn’t home yet. And I can’t even put my elbows on the table.”

I ate on the couch while watching TV because my friend didn’t know the loneliness that crept inside a person while eating dinner among empty chairs.

But I had forced a smile. “Yep. I am lucky.”

I walked back into the living room and handed one of the cans to Abbey.

Abbey didn’t take it. “My mom said I drink too much pop.”

“Your mom’s not fucking here.”

Abbey smiled and grabbed the can from my hand.About eight videos later and a sore neck from head banging, Abbey had to go home.

I walked her to the door. “Let’s ride our bikes tomorrow.”

“Where to?”

“I don’t know. Somewhere far.”

“Last time we did that we were almost too tired to ride back,” she reminded me.

“That was because of the wind,” I explained. “It was blowing against us on our way back.”

Abbey considered this. “Okay. If it’s not very windy tomorrow, we’ll ride our bikes far.”

 

You can purchase A Penny on the Tracks on the link below at Amazon.com.

Thanks for reading!

A Penny on the Tracks

November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). It is a program that challenges writers to complete a 50,000 word novel in one month — 50,000 words in 30 days.  If it sounds insane, that’s because it is, but I’m sure I saw a quote somewhere from Stephen King stating that a writer should be able to finish a first draft in 30 days.

I have never finished a first draft in 30 days — not even a first draft of a 15,000 word short story I recently wrote. That tale took me two months to complete.

 

For four straight years, I have promised myself I’d take part in this challenge, and for the fourth November in a row, I backed out before I even began.  I’m not against pushing myself as a writer. I think this is a great motivator for people to actually finish writing a book because so many books are left unwritten because, well, writing is hard.

So, if this gets writers to stay in their seats and write, great. But I don’t approach writing with a word count. I really hate getting caught up in counting words, which is probably why I have not been motivated to take a shot at this challenge. I shut the word count feature off on my computer so that I can’t see the number as I write.

When I sit down to write, I tell myself, “Alicia, write one good, solid scene.” My hope is that I come up with a page or two of dialogue or prose that either advances the plot or develops the characters, basically anything that moves the story along.

I’m currently writing a book about a teenage girl in the 1950’s called, Annabel. Even if I wanted to compete in this NaNo challenge, I’m too far along in this story (about 250 pages, don’t ask me the word count, because I don’t know) to even attempt to write a thousand-plus words a day. I’m mostly in the “fill-in-the-blanks” part of the writing process.

My YA book, A Penny on the Tracks, will be released tomorrow. It is a 75,000 word novel that took me about a year to complete. I couldn’t tell you how long I had been working on the book before I finally had a first draft completed, but I can tell you there were a ton of revisions. An absolute ton.

But in the end, I came up with a story that I’m very proud of and was totally worth the many frustrating late nights I spent writing it.

Here is an excerpt from my coming-of-age book about life, love, and friendship:

I was making our favorite sandwich—bologna, lettuce, and cheese smeared with mustard and mayo on white bread—when Abbey called for me from the living room.
“Lyssa! Hurry up! Poison’s on!”

The sandwiches lay on the counter amid a mess of open condiment jars and scattered pieces of lettuce and lunch meat. I quickly smashed the top slices of bread onto both sandwiches against the piled-stack of a sloppy mess I had created and hurried into the next room, dropping bits of food as I ran.

Abbey was standing on the couch, shouting out the lyrics we both knew by heart as Brett Michaels’ voice filled the room. I handed her a sandwich, jumped on the couch, and screamed out the chorus to “Talk Dirty to Me.”  I took bites of my sandwich during the guitar solo, and Abbey held her sandwich high in her left hand, as though it were the end of a guitar, and strummed her right hand against the front of her shirt. We banged our heads in unison, hair (and food) flying everywhere.

Abbey’s house had a bigger TV and better food options than bologna and cheese sandwiches, but we never could have done what we were doing right then if we were at her house. Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It” came on next, and we both lost our minds.

We dropped what was left of our food onto the table and yelled out the lyrics to our favorite song. Abbey sang the song with more conviction, as though she had a lot more that she didn’t want to take anymore.

The video ended, and we both collapsed onto the couch and finished our lunch. After, I went into the kitchen and grabbed a couple cans of pop from the fridge. Hanging on a magnet, on the side of the refrigerator, was a note from my mom reminding me she was working late that night and that there were frozen dinners in the freezer. At the end of the note she promised a home-cooked meal soon.

Abbey was often envious of the lack of parental supervision at my place, especially when it came to dinner. She was jealous I got to eat whatever I wanted. Even if my mom left dinner for me in the fridge, if I wanted to eat S’mores for supper, I ate S’mores.

“You eat dinner on the couch while watching TV?” Abbey had asked me one day.

“If I feel like it,” I answered.

“You’re so lucky. My mom makes me eat with her at the table, even if my dad isn’t home yet. And I can’t even put my elbows on the table.” 

I ate on the couch while watching TV because my friend didn’t know the loneliness that crept inside a person while eating dinner among empty chairs.

But I had forced a smile. “Yep. I am lucky.”

I walked back into the living room and handed one of the cans to Abbey. Abbey didn’t take it.

“My mom said I drink too much pop.”

“Your mom’s not fucking here.”

Abbey smiled and grabbed the can from my hand. About eight videos later and a sore neck from head banging, Abbey had to go home.

I walked her to the door. “Let’s ride our bikes tomorrow.”

“Where to?”

“I don’t know. Somewhere far.”

“Last time we did that we were almost too tired to ride back,” she reminded me.

“That was because of the wind,” I explained. “It was blowing against us on our way back.”

Abbey considered this. “Okay. If it’s not very windy tomorrow, we’ll ride our bikes far.

 

APennyontheTracks-web
A Penny on the Tracks