An Excerpt from my Untitled Work-in-Progress.

My current work-in-progress has no title. I was hoping by the midpoint mark something would have come to me, but I’m close to the end of this labor of love and my mind is still blank on a title.

This is a revision of a story I had written almost 17 years ago. It was my first novel, and it was horrible. The precis was good enough to grab the attention of a publisher, but the manuscript wasn’t strong enough to carry its own weight. A big rejection letter soon appeared in my mailbox.

After blowing the dust off this story, it was easy to see why it didn’t make the cut. The story was badly written. The characters weren’t developed enough, and the dialogue sounded like something out of Degrassi Junior High.  The story was labeled a romance, but ended with the love interest dying in a plane crash. Pretty much sums up my view on love. :p

After six months worth of revisions, I’m almost finished. I think I got most of the ugly out. I just have to write the ending…and no, no one’s dying in a plane crash. Actually, the book hardly resembles the original at all. I realized I had started the story at the wrong place. I needed to go back. I needed to show, rather than tell, more of what I wanted the reader to know.

The book revolves around the friendship of two women. The way I had written the story the first time was to tell the reader about the friendship, rather than show it. One of the women betrays the other, and it is pivotal to the story that the reader understands the depth of their friendship to really feel the deception.

Here is an unedited excerpt from my untitled work-in-progress:

Taylor’s bedroom door opened and rock music poured loudly down the hallway and into the living room where Carolyn was sitting alone on the couch, her face crammed in a book. She eyed Taylor walking toward her.

Although she knew Taylor would have turned the music down if asked, Carolyn didn’t say anything because she preferred listening to the loud raucous tunes than to the sounds of her roommate having sex.

The woman in Taylor’s bedroom wasn’t Alicia. Taylor waited for no woman. 

“Where’s Jeff?” Taylor asked.

 Carolyn peered over her book to catch Taylor lean into the fridge and pull out a bottle of beer. Taylor’s gray and white camouflage cargo shorts hung just above her knee. Carolyn counted the six small sweat stains on Taylor’s white tank top. Her ruffled dark black hair hung at her chin. A shorter layer fell just below her eyes, and often Taylor had to brush it away with a flick of her head, or a wave of her hand.

“He left,” Carolyn answered.

Taylor twisted the bottle’s cap and pitched it into the sink. She took a deep swig. “Everything okay?”

“Sure. Can you think of any reason why everything wouldn’t be okay?”

“Whoa, I know that tone.” Taylor dropped next to her on the couch. “What’s goin’ on with you?”

Carolyn closed the textbook over her lap. “You know I have finals coming up, right?”

Taylor closed her eyes and leaned her head back. “Fuck me! I’m sorry. I completely forgot. I’ll turn that shit off. You need quiet.” Taylor moved to get up, but Carolyn stopped her. “Jeff and I broke up.”

Taylor fell back into the couch. “No shit?”

“No shit.”

“Just now?” Taylor asked.

“Just now.”

“Wow… I’m sorry.”

Carolyn eyed her friend closely. “No, you’re not. You hated him.”

“I’m not sorry for me. I’m ecstatic for me. I’m sorry for you. You really liked him. Never understood why, but you did. What’d he do? Do I have to kick his ass?”

Carolyn shook her head. “It was my decision. He’s a jerk.”

Taylor draped an arm around Carolyn’s shoulders. “Yeah, well, glad you figured it out now before it was too late. You gonna be okay? Need me to do anything?”

Carolyn smirked at her friend’s seriousness because it wasn’t like her.

Taylor pulled back. “What’s that look for? I’m being sincere. I really wanna know if you’re gonna make it?”

“I’ll make it just fine. In fact, I’m surprised at how little I feel about it. When he walked out the door, I was actually relieved. Kinda scares me that I saw myself marrying him. How could I miss what an asshole he was?” Carolyn groaned and rubbed her hands over her face.

“You were blinded by love. I hear it happens a lot.”

Carolyn studied her friend. “You’ve never been in love? Never felt that emotion?”

Taylor crossed an ankle over her knee. “Nope.”

“How about the woman in your bed right now? How do you feel about her, or about Alicia? You were screaming at her on the phone earlier and now there’s another woman in your bed. Why don’t you just let her go?”

“I don’t have feelings for the woman in my bed right now, but I think I could have stronger feelings for Alicia when the time’s right. I know that’s hard for you to understand, but that’s just the way it is.”

“You’ve never loved a woman?”

“Nope.”

“Not even a crush?”

Taylor seemed to think about it. “I liked my Kindergarten teacher…a lot. Does that count?”

“In Kindergarten? You had a crush on a woman in Kindergarten?”

“She was so fucking hot.”

 “You knew way back then?”

“Hell yes! Are you kidding me? I was noticing girls for as long as I could remember, especially the older ones. They had boobs.”

Carolyn rubbed her forehead. “That is crazy. You realize I’m studying to be a teacher, right?”

“Then consider this your warning. If you see little Sally staring at your chest, she’s not admiring your necklace.”

 “Great. Something to look forward to.” Carolyn leaned her head back and sighed. “As much as I would love to sit and talk with you about meaningless crap all night, I have to study so that someday I could teach meaningless crap to children who will not respect me, make faces behind my back, and apparently, stare at my boobs.” She picked her book off her lap and stood up. “Have fun.”

Taylor tipped her bottle towards her. “You betcha. And Carolyn? I was never gonna let you marry that asshole. He didn’t deserve you.”

Carolyn smiled. “It’s good to know I have someone watching my back. Thanks, Taylor. Now turn that crap off because it’s giving me a headache.”

 

 

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Just…Write.

I have a book coming out in October called A Penny on the Tracks. When I finished and edited that story, I was satisfied with what I had. I felt my writing had evolved from my first two books. I submitted the MS and was lucky to have my first choice of publishers accept the story and offer me a contract. I was on a terrific high for days, until I started writing my next book.

If I felt I had grown as a writer while writing my third book, I feel I am regressing as a writer as I write my fourth. Every line I write reads like bullet points. Lacking is the eloquent prose that draws a reader into the story, compelling them to feel they are the character I depict and everything happening in the story is happening to them.

I’m a little more than halfway into my book and last night I deleted over three thousand words (and God only knows how many wasted hours). They were crap. Absolutely horrible, and they had to go. So off they went.

I know I’m supposed to write the first draft without editing. Shut the internal editor inside me down.  Just get it out. Only when I have my first draft completed, am I to push myself on every word. That’s what I was told to do, but I’ve been working on this particular story for over five months and I don’t even have a finished first draft yet.

I have an edited and reedited first 134 pages, but I don’t have an ending. I know how I want the story to end, just not sure how to get there. I’m too preoccupied with the first half of the story being perfect.

I need to get the first daft out and write words no matter how bad I think they are because I can’t edit words that aren’t on the page.

Write. Write. Write.

But last night, instead of writing I was deleting. I know the more I do this, the longer I am prolonging the completion of a first draft, but the desperate rationalization inside me figures those words were going to go at some point, because they were terrible, so I saved myself the time later.

I know if I am going to finish this book sometime this year, I need to change my mindset and just…fucking…write.

 

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Halloween Has Long Passed, But I Love an Erotic Halloween Story Year Round.

by Lizzie T. Leaf

I like humor in my life. I like to read humor and to write it. So when originally approached to write a Halloween story, no surprise my mind went in the humor direction.

When I mentioned to a friend the possibility of a vampire story that wasn’t horror, she suggested making the heroine Jewish (which my friend is) and throw in Kosher (yet again, my friend’s food style) to add conflict to the drinking blood issue. I took the bull by the horns and off I went. Thus evolved DEAD Awake, where the heroine is a socialite whose grandmother, a Reform Jew, keeps a Kosher Kitchen.

Our gal, is a little on the wild side…think Paris Hilton…and a paparazzi darling. Her connection with the hot guy in a vampire costume at her Halloween party, leads to a life change she’s not too pleased about.

She wakes up smelling pine and discovers, thanks to the helpful stranger lurking outside the mortuary, she’s not one of the living dead. And, her new main food supply is blood. Yuk! She doesn’t eat food that’s snuggled with blood, let alone drink the stuff.

Not to bore you with details, I finished the book and moved onto other work—my vampire days behind me—so I thought.

Then readers started to ask, “When’s the next book in the series?” Series? My mind hadn’t gone down that path, so what to write next? Then another friend said, “How about a vampire who faints at the sight of blood?”

Once she planted the seed, my mind wouldn’t leave the idea alone and plans for DEAD Faint came to be and with that the DEAD series was born. The next book in the works is DEAD Hunter, about what else…a vampire hunter (or so she thinks…snicker).

Then there is DEAD Memory. What if you’re a vampire, but don’t remember that little detail. All you know while you’re recovering from your wounds from what must have been an awful beating is blood smells wonderful. Why does his hot care provider insist on cooking the food…raw works.

Vampires don’t always have to be blood thirsty beasts. They can have an attitude that will make you smile and love problems, too. Check out Mary Janice Davidson’s, Undead series (which I had not read until after my first DEAD released and readers kept telling me I had a similar style, to which I say “thank you for the compliment,”) and you’ll find humor.

Are there more in my DEAD series? Definitely! DEAD Hot is another story in the planning stages and there are several more on the dying to come onboard.

People have to stop planting seeds in my head. Combined with all that appear on their own, I have a headache. Now I’m off to pop a couple of martinis and write…which is the only true way I can purge the noise.

Here’s a brief intro to my vampire story that is guaranteed to heat up your chilly fall nights.

Socialite Deb Stein lives a life of luxury until she takes the hunk dressed as a vampire to her bed. When she wakes up one of the living dead, she’s pissed-off. To complicate matters more, she has to find a new identity since everyone thinks she’s dead. Plus, if she’s dead, she can’t touch her trust fund, and that means she has to work! How can someone who has never had a job find one?

And her social life is in the tank. Her new friends are a street guy called Rat and fellow strippers at the dive where she works. If she ever sees Aaron Lowell again, she’ll put a stake in his heart.

Aaron Lowell feels guilty he took his mentor’s advice and left town after taking the sexy socialite into the undead world. Concerned, he returns to check on her and discovers she’s become a stripper – and not a very happy one when she sees him. But she’s still hot, and he can’t stay away from her, even if their meetings are explosive.

Can two vampires move beyond anger, combined with a strong sexual attraction, to find the kind of love they both crave?

Buy Links
Decadent Publishing
Amazon

To read excerpts from other books by Lizzie T. Leaf please click onto Amazon.

Lizzie T. Leaf loved books since she opened her first one. Her dream was to write them herself. Lost in the hectic day to day world of family, job, laundry and housework, writing became a distant memory. When the twinkling ember did spark, it was usually doused by someone demanding their share of her time.

Lizzie’s life went full circle. The desire to put the stories that continued to play in her head on paper emerged stronger than ever, and at a time when there was someone who encouraged. Now she lives her dream.

Learn more about Lizzie T. Leaf on her website and blog. Connect with Lizzie on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.

Second Chance Stories

A few years back, I enrolled in a writing course at my local community college. I’d been away from writing for many years at that point and knew I needed to brush up on my skills. We were instructed to bring in five pages of a piece we were working on to each class.

I chose a short story I’d written in college, eighteen years ago. In the weeks leading up to the class, I did a lot of revising. In fact, I was horrified after my first read through of this piece I’d written so long ago. The story was utter crap filled with the most cookie-cutter, senseless dialogue that would have been rejected by The Brady Bunch for being too hokey. Not sure how I passed that class. Maybe you just had to show up.

That story, originally titled The Attic but changed to Annabel, was actually well-liked by the class at my community college. Of course, this came after heavy revisions. After my first read-through, I was surprised that I’d held onto a story as lacking as this one was. Most of the stories written during my early college years were horrible, but I was only starting out. Surely, a masterpiece couldn’t have been expected.

Hanging onto a binder from a Creative Writing class stuffed with forgettable and badly-written stories for almost eighteen years? Who does that?

I imagine tossing out anything I had written, even the crap, seemed unfathomable to me. So I kept my old stories. For eighteen years. And good thing I did because after a third, fourth, and fifth reread I found that maybe I was on to a little something, all those years ago.

I recently signed a contract for a different short story I had written while I was a student in that small class of about eight classmates almost two decades ago. We’d huddle around one large table and share with each other our creative works.

I don’t think at twenty-two years old I envisioned my future forty-year old self someday revising the stories I was writing and getting them published. But I did and I am. I have more stories to dig up from my past, and though they’ll be far from masterpieces, I’m sure I will find something in those stories worth breathing new life into.

Most people deserve a second chance. Shouldn’t old, tucked-away, not-so-great, stories get one, too?

In the writing course I took at my community college, a woman let it be known that she throws away old work. The class reacted as though she confessed to storing human heads in her refrigerator.

Apparently, I’m not the only writer who believes imperfect, old stories should be kept and given a second chance.

Even if it’s eighteen-years later.

 

 

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Getting the Title Right

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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A Writer in Need

I’m currently in the midst of writing a story which I had planned on being completed by the end of this month. I don’t feel confident that will happen. This is not an unusual place for me to be, struggling to finish a manuscript. I love writing, but there are moments I really hate it, too.

I sent the first hundred pages of my new story to a trusted friend who reads all of my work. She is honest. There is no blowing smoke anywhere with this woman. If something she reads is shit, she tells me it is shit.  I appreciate that about her. She’s a strong reader even though she hates to read, but she knows when a story works and when it doesn’t.

I believe she is the reason I received my latest book contract last September for the story, A Penny on the Tracks, coming out this October. When I was finished with the third draft for A Penny, I had sent the MS to her and she texted me after reading a couple chapters asking what the heck the story was about. “Where is this going?” she had asked. “I’m tired of reading about a day in the life of Lyssa and Abbey.”

It was a bit of a crushing text because by the time I had gotten to multiple drafts of the story, I had almost a year invested into the story. Now, she wasn’t telling me the story was exactly shit. She had thrown in a couple positive texts, too. She liked the writing, but the story lacked any strong direction for the reader.

Before I had given my friend the MS to read, I told her very little about the story. A Penny on the Tracks is a coming-of-age story about two young girls who find a secret hiding place in a field, near a set of train tracks, that they refer to as their “Hideout.”  They spend a summer at this secret places and take on fun adventures. They meet a high school boy there and forge a friendship with him.

The first half of the story centered around showing the girls’ daily activities, allowing the reader to get to know the characters and their friendship. The story was leading up to the deaths of Abbey and the high school boy, Derek, but I had originally written the story to not reveal their deaths until it happens.

After my friend questioned me where the story was headed, basically, what the point of the story was, I knew I had to change something. I went to bed that night a little bummed out because I already had the story written. The plot revolved around showing the path to the deaths (suicides) of these two characters.

Suddenly, I had jumped out of bed knowing exactly what I needed to do. To make the story more interesting, to give the reader the direction the story apparently lacked, I had to reveal the deaths of Abbey and Derek first. It was a two o’clock in the morning revelation that seemed so obvious I couldn’t believe I had written the story any other way.

So a story that had originally began set in 1986 with the girls being 11 years old, now begins with a Prologue set in 1993. The girls are eighteen year old, the age Abbey kills herself. The book opens with the news about Abbey’s death before the reader even knows a thing about her, other than the fact that she kills herself.

Now I have the reader’s attention.

Chapter One opens in 1986, the girls are 11. Now, there is some direction in the “day in the life of Lyssa and Abbey” scenes because the reader is now reading towards something, unlike before.

Telling the reader the fate of not one, but two, characters in the book increased their curiosity and interest in the story by giving them a reason to want to turn the page. To want to read more.

When my friend had expressed her dissatisfaction with my original story only a few chapters in, I had told her to stop reading it. Put it away. That was when I went to bed that night and realized what I needed to do. After I changed the story and sent her the revised version, it had made all the difference.  A couple chapters in, she texted me that she couldn’t wait to find out the reason Abbey and Derek both killed themselves and had spent most of the book guessing.

I am certain that had I sent my book to the selected publisher, the way it was originally written, I would not have been offered a contract. No way. Publishers are busy. They wouldn’t have wasted their time reading a story that seemed to be going nowhere.

My friend saved my previous book and now that I have sent her a large portion of my current story, I know am I asking her to save this one, too. I need her to lead me down the right path because I fear I have lost my direction with a story I’ve already spent six months writing.

 

 

Hopefully every writer has a friend like her.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That’s Just the Writer in Me.

An excerpt of a story about a middle-aged woman who visits her old college in an attempt to settle the obvious midlife crisis/crossroad she’s living through:

The coffee tastes like shit, yet I continue to drink it. Writing and coffee always went hand in hand. At least I no longer smoked. I visit the old college I attended when I was a fresh-faced eighteen year-old. Maybe it will help me become more creative as I sit in a place that reminds me of my younger days, when anything seemed possible.

One of the perks of writing here is the coffee costs 75 cents, a monster savings compared to Starbucks, but like I already said, the coffee tastes like shit and I’m on my fourth cup.

I’m sitting at one of the tables in the lounge. There is a young woman, maybe nineteen, at the table next to me, face deep in a text book. Her long hair is dark and carelessly messy, but in a stylish way. She looks like someone I would have had a crush on. She wears jeans with holes at the knees, a black graphic tee, leather studded boots that capped at her mid-calf. Kind of grungy (do kids today even know what grunge is?). Maybe she’s a bit rebellious in a dark, mysterious, Kristen Stewart, kind of a way.

Her attire shows she might be of the “alternative” lifestyle. I remember looking for that in girls I met at college in 1995 because I was incredibly desperate to meet girls who were like me. I expected everything to be so much broader than the restricted Catholic high school I went to, and in some ways they were, but probably not broad as I had wanted, or needed, them to be.

I wonder if what I’m experiencing is a mid-life crisis. I probably wouldn’t feel this way if I felt I had accomplished something in my life. The fact that I haven’t done anything depresses me.

Did I know I would do this? Did I know I was going to spend so much time looking back? I wonder if I’m capable of anything more with my life. It’s so hard making it as a writer and I fear I may not even be any good at it. (Pause. Takes another sip of coffee. Yep. Still tastes like shit, even more so now that it’s cold.)

Two girls sit on a couch across from me. They are very affectionate and playful toward each other, despite the fact I’m only a few feet away from them and another boy sits at a near-by table. But they don’t seem to notice either of us. I watch as people pass in the busy halls, and barely look at the two girls sitting closer, now holding hands.

Their interaction isn’t tacky, nor is it an in-your-face display of affection. The two girls appear to be in love, lucky to be living in a time when they could be like this in public. Definitely not something I would have expected to see when I walked these halls very frequently, 21 years ago – though I wish I had.

I think about leaving, but decide to stay. I watch. I write. I sip my bad coffee. I sit and observe other people, like a spectator in life.

I suppose that’s the writer in me.

 

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