Skip to content

Did it work to caravan?

As in football, Bill blocked for me. Every time I wanted to change lanes, I clicked the turn signal and looked in my rear view mirror. Bill’s white Ford SUV had already moved into the new lane, leaving me open space to pull in ahead of him.

It was a long, 6-day drive from Pittsburgh to Dana Point, California. Although I drove first, we followed the same directions from Apple Map. I felt protected.   Bill always chased the girl driving away.

We had plenty to talk about at dinner.

“I’ll have a Dewar’s on the rocks please,” I told the waitress at a restaurant in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

“I don’t know what that is,” the waitress said. “I’ll ask my manager….”

“Wait — do you serve alcohol?” Bill asked.

“No, we don’t have none of that here. You can find some two blocks down at The Golden Saddle.”

So we stumbled into a Persian restaurant with a live country & western band where we could buy Budweiser or Corona with 3.2 alcohol content. “You won’t get any buzz from this beer,” the waitress said. Still, it tasted good. Bill ordered shish-ke-bob and I had a delicious Persian stew.  After dinner, we even got up to dance to the country music.

Often, driving through Oklahoma, Arizona, New Mexico, the wind blew.   I had only seen real tumbleweed once before. I thought of Steinbeck and Larry McMurtry, Carson McCullers and Cormac McCarthy.

I had also read about wind in Little House on the Prairie. Bill said that these days, big trucks with their large surface area have been blown over by that prairie wind. My little Prius shook. I jiggled the steering wheel back and forth sometimes to make the car go straight. In his Ford, Bill did not notice the wind as much as I did. When we stopped for gas and got out of our cars, the wind blew my hair into tangles and burnt my face. I normally like wind, but I was glad to get inside and away from that wind.

Bill organized everything perfectly. I wanted to drive no more than eight hours a day, and I wanted to see the Grand Canyon.   We reached the Grand Canyon’s south rim at about 4 p.m. on the fourth day. It was awe-inspiring and dramatic under the lowering gray clouds. The next morning was sunny and clear, but cold at 47 degrees. We unloaded our bicycles and rode for more than an hour along the trail overlooking the canyon. Even the gentle upgrades at 7,000 feet left me breathless. I felt euphoric, as if with a runner’s high.

I had never been to the “high desert,” but only heard of it. In the Mojave Desert, we drove through thousands of acres of black rock, molten lava heaps, the mirage of grey lakes. It looked like a moonscape to me.   On the fifth day, we reached Los Angeles. On the sixth, we reached Dana Point, California, our destination for the next two months.

Why Do You Need Two Cars?

Everyone asks us this. The answer is that last week, Bill and I needed two cars to drive from Pittsburgh to Dana Point, CA because:

  • We had so much stuff. We had golf clubs and bicycles, our computers (with printers & scanner), Bill’s snow boarding gear and scuba gear, our big dog and his big crate. We also had my clothes.
  • We like different books. Bill listened to six lectures on the Battle of Hastings in 1066. I listened to the psychological thriller about a man and his twin by Wally Lamb, I Know This Much is True.
  • We wanted two cars in Dana Point.
  • We wanted two cars in Naples, Florida, where we’ll be for three months after our two months in Dana Point.

(Tomorrow: Did it Work?)

Antidotes to Winter Blues

If a forever writer feels lonely and misunderstood, think what happens in a northern winter?   Sunlight goes away from 4:30 p.m. until 7:30 the next morning.   You wake up in dark and endure long dark hours in the evenings.   How do northern Swedes endure it?   No wonder there’s vodka in Russia.

Then I think:   at least my office has LED lights.   They cost a fortune but are worth it for simulating daylight.  I’m writing, if slowly, and know I’ll pick up speed just by sitting here every day and doing it.   Thank heavens for cross-country skiing, the snow reflecting light even when the sun has set.   Thank heavens for friends.   Thank heavens for the Internet, which never sleeps.  Thank heavens for my dog.

New Year’s Day

I started my new book today, and plan to write 60,000 words by June 30.  

I’ve written seven other novels and professionally ghost-written 3 other projects — and never left one unfinished.  (I did throw two away).  

Will I make it this time?  I’ve set myself a fairly tight schedule.


I learned this from the New York Pitch Conference

On the way back to Pittsburgh, I thought about Berkeley editor Dana Isaacson’s comments to me – and to several others, I learned.  He said,

a)  Ditch the title.

b)  Set the novel in the present,

c)  Use one person’s point of view instead of an omniscient narrator.

In other words:  rewrite the whole book.

Or …. and this was my lightening bolt:  write a new novel.

So that’s what I’ll do.  There’s nothing to stop me.  I can send out queries to agents about the novel as it stands while I write the new one, probably in 6 months, exactly as Dana suggested.   I know the result will be more commercial.

The twins have nothing on me!   This is MY challenge!

If you write, you’re lonely.

If you write, you’re lonely.    A writer works alone.   That loneliness must be part of the reason writers like Virginia Woolf and Ernest Hemingway committed suicide.

But there are compensations for writers like me.   Most writers I know are fairly social creatures, and good company.   We find ways around the loneliness.