Neil Leist

Neil Leist

 

Yesterday, I met a famous photographer, Tony Vaccaro, who had photographed my brother in 1981. It was a year before my brother’s car accident. After two years in a coma, Neil passed. I’m more determined than ever to write a book on my brother’s life. Tony took photos of Presidents Kennedy, Obama, and Nixon. Famous stars like Sophia Lauren. Artists like Picasso and Georgia O’Keefe. And my brother, Neil Leist. Neil had just become the CEO and President of American Bakeries. He made his fortune in the commodities markets and was on his way to the top. The accident ended his dreams and mine.

This isn’t the photo taken by Tony Vaccaro. This photograph is the last one I have of my brother. 

CAN I EVER LET GO?

A fellow author is compiling poetry from authors on her WordPress site. The topic is letting go. I sat down and wrote this poem about my brother. As tears fell from my eyes, I felt sad and happy at the same time. Sad that I will never see him again, and happy that I can share my love with others.

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Can I ever let go?

Can I ever let go of your touch?
At night, I dream of your fingers.
I can’t believe I miss you so much.
Your strokes through my hair still linger.

Can I ever let go of your eyes?
With great pride, you watched me grow.
I dearly pray for one last surprise.
You to return to me, I know.

I know my prayers won’t be answered.
My wishes never come true.
But I still have hopes to be answered.
And one day to see you too.

Can I ever let go of your humor?
Your wit and jokes had lightened my days.
I know this is much more than a rumor
That I’ll never have you brighten my days.

Days keep on passing.
But life must go on.
My heart is fasting
Each day it beats on.

Can I ever let go of you?
To my dearest, older brother,
My answer is a ‘no’ to you.
You weren’t only my brother.

You helped my mother to raise me.
You provided light for her blind eyes.
You’ll always be the best of me.
Until the day, I close my own eyes.

HIS DEAR FACE

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In my heart, I know he is there.
Waiting for me, I have no fear.

Lost him so many years ago.
Tears have finally stopped to flow.

One day I will see his dear face,
But I cannot keep up this pace.

Living day to day without his love.
His warmth had fit me like a glove.

I must accept the sad fact
That he’s never coming back.

He will not be alone anymore.
My parents have now walked through that door.

I can feel him circling from above,
Reassuring me when I need love.

WHAT I CHERISH MOST

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What I Cherish The Most

What I cherish the most isn’t a ‘what’ but a ‘who,’ the person who I had looked up to and then had lost too early in life. This was my brother, Neil Leist.

Why am I an author?
The answer lies with my brother, Neil Leist.
Neil was a person who lit up a room when he entered. He was 6 feet 2 inches, but it wasn’t his height that drew peoples’ eyes. It was his dynamic personality. Those grey eyes mirrored his brilliant intellect and capacity for greatness. Neil took care of my blind mother until I was old enough to help. He helped raise me when my father wasn’t home but working interminable days and nights driving a taxi.
Flourishing in the business world, Neil traded on the Commodity Exchange until he earned enough money to own a majority stake in a Fortune 500 company. He became the CEO and Chairman of the Board of Directors of American Bakeries. Neil took me along on his ride to stardom as I worked for him on the Commodities Exchange and in his offices on Madison Avenue, New York. I majored in Finance at New York University, preparing to join him. For the first time, life was good.
In the middle of the night, a phone call turned my world dark. Dark as the one in which my mother lived. My brother had been in a car accident in the Hamptons. His red Porsche had hydroplaned on the wet roads. Neil was a skilled driver with quick reflexes; he drove the car off the highway and onto the grass. Luck wasn’t with him that night. The Porsche crashed beneath a truck parked in its path. His brain injury left him in a coma, and he died two years later.
I continued my education and received an M.B.A. in Finance, but high finance lost its appeal. I worked at various investment companies, but I didn’t want to trade or analyze stocks and commodities. My brother and my parents had passed. My daughters were beginning their own lives. Without a focus in my life, I began to write. As an avid reader, I had many stories racing through my mind.
In my first book, The Dead Game, I combine mystery and paranormal. Two guests disappear from a party at a deserted house, leaving the others to fend for their lives from wild animals and traps. Since I end the book with a cliffhanger, I had to write the second book in the series, Prey for The Dead. The residents of the coastal town of Oasis in northern Florida face vampires and hybrids once again. This time, the action takes them to Disney World, where vampires hide at an exclusive club. Yes, I based my story on an actual club at Disney created by Walt Disney. Next week, I will release the third book in the series, The Dead At Heart. Is the series finished? I don’t know yet. I now live my life as a big question mark: no periods or final thoughts, only possibilities.
My life has taken unexpected twists and turns. Memories of my brother follow me across every speed bump. I don’t have him any longer, but I have Neil stored in a special place in my heart. He’s given me the strength and the drive to pursue my dreams. After what he’s accomplished in his brief life, I yearn to create a fraction of the positive memories he’s left for me and those whose lives he has touched.

WHAT I CHERISH MOST — THE CHERISHED BLOGFEST

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What I Cherish The Most

What I cherish the most isn’t a ‘what’ but a ‘who;’ the person who I had looked up to and then had lost too early in life. This was my brother, Neil Leist.

Why am I an author?

The answer lies with my brother, Neil Leist.
Neil was a person who lit up a room when he entered. He was 6 feet 2 inches, but it wasn’t his height that drew peoples’ eyes. It was his dynamic personality. Those grey eyes mirrored his brilliant intellect and capacity for greatness. Neil took care of my blind mother until I was old enough to help. He helped raise me when my father wasn’t home but working interminable days and nights driving a taxi.
Flourishing in the business world, Neil traded on the Commodity Exchange until he earned enough money to own a majority stake in a Fortune 500 company. He became the CEO and Chairman of the Board of Directors of American Bakeries. Neil took me along on his ride to stardom as I worked for him on the Commodities Exchange and in his offices on Madison Avenue, New York. I majored in Finance at New York University, preparing to join him. For the first time, life was good.
In the middle of the night, a phone call turned my world dark. Dark as the one in which my mother lived. My brother had been in a car accident in the Hamptons. His red Porsche had hydroplaned on the wet roads. Neil was a skilled driver with quick reflexes; he drove the car off the highway and onto the grass. Luck wasn’t with him that night. The Porsche crashed beneath a truck parked in its path. His brain injury left him in a coma, and he died two years later.
I continued my education and received an M.B.A. in Finance, but high finance lost its appeal. I worked at various investment companies, but I didn’t want to trade or analyze stocks and commodities. My brother and my parents had passed. My daughters were beginning their own lives. Without a focus in my life, I began to write. As an avid reader, I had many stories racing through my mind.
In my first book, The Dead Game, I combine mystery and paranormal. Two guests disappear from a party at a deserted house, leaving the others to fend for their lives from wild animals and traps. Since I end the book with a cliffhanger, I had to write the second book in the series, Prey for The Dead. The residents of the coastal town of Oasis in northern Florida face vampires and hybrids once again. This time, the action takes them to Disney World, where vampires hide at an exclusive club. Yes, I based my story on an actual club at Disney created by Walt Disney. Next week, I will release the third book in the series, The Dead At Heart. Is the series finished? I don’t know yet. I now live my life as a big question mark: no periods or final thoughts, only possibilities.
My life has taken unexpected twists and turns. Memories of my brother follow me across every speed bump. I don’t have him any longer, but I have Neil stored in a special place in my heart. He’s given me the strength and the drive to pursue my dreams. After what he’s accomplished in his brief life, I yearn to create a fraction of the positive memories he’s left for me and those whose lives he has touched.

A LITTLE ABOUT ME

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A Little about Me

I was asked to contribute an article to a fellow author’s blog. At first I panicked. I didn’t know what to write about. I’m a listener. I listen to other people’s stories. I’m a good listener. I don’t like speaking about myself. Therefore, I don’t like to write about myself. But now that I’m a writer, I have to move into the spotlight.

I’ve done a few interviews on fellow authors’ blogs. Their questions helped to serve as guidelines. Now I have a blank page to deal with. Should I write about why I had decided to become a writer? I don’t think so. It has been done to death by writers. I believe I will write about what had inspired me to pursue my career in Finance. It wasn’t a ‘what’ but a ‘who;’ the person who I had looked up to and then had lost too early in life. This was my brother, Neil Leist.

Neil was the type of person who lit up a room when he entered it. He was 6’2”, but it wasn’t his height that drew others’ eyes. It was his dynamic personality and his intelligence. Those grey eyes mirrored his great intellect and capacity for greatness. He acted as my father when my father wasn’t home but working long days and nights driving a taxi. He took care of my blind mother until I was old enough to help out. He sheltered me as much as he could from life and responsibilities. He shouldered these burdens himself.

He did well in college but he flourished in the business world. He traded on the Commodity Exchange until he had enough money to take over a Fortune 500 company. With a majority share in its stock, he took over American Bakeries. Taystee Bread was never going to be the same. He took me along on his ride to stardom. I worked for him on the Exchange and in his offices on Madison Ave. in Manhattan. I majored in Finance at New York University, preparing to join him. All was going well for once in my life and in my brother’s life. My parents were proud. He helped them out. All was perfect until that awful phone call in the middle of the night.

My lights went out. All the light in the world was gone for me. I was stuck in darkness as dark and deep as the one my mother lived in. My brother had been in a car accident in the Hamptons. His fancy, red Porsche had hydroplaned on the wet roads. Neil was a great driver with quick reflexes. He drove the car off the road and onto the grass. Luck wasn’t with him. A truck was parked in his path and the Porsche crashed beneath it.

Neil was in a coma for two years before he passed away. Meanwhile, his so-called friends at American Bakeries were undermining his position at the company causing the stock price to drastically plummet. We had to sell off his investment in one big chunk at a big loss. Most of his money was tied up with this company. I spent eight years dealing with all the vermin or finance people and lawyers before his estate could be settled.

I lost my taste for high Finance. I did get an M.B.A. in Finance but it soon lost its appeal to me. I wasn’t cutthroat. I wasn’t a back stabber. I wanted an interesting job that was challenging. I did enjoy working at The Office of Management and Budget at City Hall. I wasn’t able to work the overtime hours on Saturdays because of my Sabbath, so I left.

I worked at different companies, such as: E.F. Hutton & Co., McCall Pattern Company, and at local brokerage firms on Long Island where I now live. None of these jobs appealed to me. I was married with two beautiful daughters. I devoted myself to them. I took on part-time jobs, but I was always available if they needed me.

The big 50 was approaching and I was beginning to feel that I had lost out on life. My brother and then both my parents had passed away. My daughters were beginning their own lives. I needed a focus, a reason for my life. I was helping my daughter write an essay for college. I read it over and was surprised that I had written it. It related to my mother being blind with dementia in a nursing home. I began to think about writing.

My mid-life crisis book, The Dead Game, took me ten years to write. I hadn’t realized that writing was so hard. Characters have to move around and speak at the same time. They can’t sound the same. Through all the rewrites, the plot and story remained the same. Only the dialogue and grammar changed. I believe I could edit for the rest of my life and still not be satisfied.

I found a self-publisher, who offered to print and edit the book for a set price. Anything else costs extra. If I made any changes to the book after it was published, it would cost hundreds of dollars for them to take care of it. They even charged to send the changes to Amazon and Nook, even though these companies don’t charge for this.

One day, the publisher informed me that my book was published. I thought that this meant it was printed. Not only was it printed, it was sitting on Amazon and Nook without a description or bio. It looked sad. I panicked. I had to learn how to use Google so I could ask it how to describe a book. I learned about the log line and synopsis. I bought books on grammar and editing. I opened blogs. I found Facebook and Twitter. Luckily, I found some nice authors who helped me with my countless questions.

My book looked nice on the sites, but it didn’t have reviews. I soon learned that without reviews there are no sales. I joined Goodreads.com to find reviewers. I was placed in review groups, where the members randomly reviewed other members’ books but not each other’s books. Some authors gave nice reviews with constructive criticism. Others took apart my book, piece by piece, and in detail described what was wrong with it. They even used excerpts. These hurt, but I used the reviews to fix any weak spots in my book. After a year of this, I put out a new edition of my book. I tried to address everyone’s concerns. But you just can’t please everyone.

My book is now sitting comfortably in its sections: Vampire Suspense on Amazon and Paranormal Suspense on Nook. I will continue to promote it online while I begin to work on book 2 of The Dead Game series.

My life has taken many unexpected twists and turns. I wonder what the young me would have thought if she had heard that she was going to write vampire stories in the future. Would she have laughed? Would she have been surprised? Knowing me so well, I wouldn’t have laughed or wouldn’t have been surprised. And I might have even been happy. I don’t believe I was so happy with Finance, even in the beginning. I did it as more of a challenge. I wanted to do well in a male-dominated field—just to prove that I could do it. And now I have a new mission. I want to prove to myself that I could be a good author. And I believe I’m well on my way.

Thank you for listening,

Susanne Leist

MISSING YOU

I miss you,

dear brother.

So many years

have passed

without you.

Without you to

share my adventures,

my happiness,

my sorrows.

Life has been lackluster

without you.

It’s been missing a

vital ingredient.

It’s been missing you.