Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Ghost of Writing Future by Keith Raffel

Ebenezer Scrooge was visited by ghosts of past, present, and future. I’ve tried to follow the example sat by Ebenezer in my three postings here on The Well-Read Donkey. Monday was the day I dealt with the ghost of the past when I posted about growing up among the wonderful independent bookstores of Palo Alto and Menlo Park. Wednesday I discussed how I write now and how the ghost of writing is enticing me into an alternative reality. Today I want to scribble a little about what comes next in my writing life.

The near-future is pretty much laid out. Next week I’m off to Indianapolis for Bouchercon, the world’s largest mystery conference. (In 2010 it’s in San Francisco -- not to be missed.) Yes, I am speaking there and doing some publicity, too, but the best part is hanging out with old friends and making new ones. Writing can be a solitary profession. Bouchercon is summer camp for us stir-crazy writers. From experience I know that my favorite parts of the conference will not take place in lecture halls, but in cafés, restaurants, and bars. After a couple of days with my pals, I know I’ll get on the plane back to SFO inspired and charged up.

I’ll need that energy. I’m launching my book tour for Smasher at Kepler’s on October 20 at 7.30. I know that’s going to be a highlight of the whole publishing process. I love talking to the readers at Kepler’s, and many of the booksellers there are my friends. But that’s just the beginning. After Kepler’s comes two dozen more stops on the book tour.

With all that on the schedule, I figured I won’t have much time to write. My objective was to finish the manuscript of my next book and get it to my agent before the tour begins. Mission accomplished. So while I’m out touring, I’ll be hoping to hear from Josh about what’s going to happen with my next book. (Jewish folklore says that when you talk aloud about your hopes, the Evil Eye can intervene to stymie them. The antidote is to stay “Keinahora” and spit three times. There.)

I went down to Hollywood after my first book was published and talked to movie agents and producers. It was fun to play what if. Now though, a team with a track record has done an outline of a script for Smasher, and they’re talking to my agent. Stay tuned. It’s still an incredible longshot, but I’m willing to take a chance on success going to my head. Keinahora again.

After everything settles down, I’ll start on my next book. The sportswriter Red Smith said: “There's nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.” Despite the aches, the frustration, the loneliness, when I’m not writing, I miss the exhilaration, the excitement of being transported to another reality. What Rodgers and Hart wrote about not being in love applies to me when I’m not writing:

I sleep all night appetite and health restored.
You don’t know how much I’m bored.

The sleepless nights, the daily fights

the quick toboggan when you reach the heights
I miss the kisses and I miss the bites
I wish I were in love again!

After doing some research this past summer at the Kennedy Library in Boston, I have great ideas for setting and for characters for a thriller. It’s that damn pesky plot where I’m missing inspiration. How will it come? I’ll sit down and start writing. There’s bound to be a false start or two. There sure was with Smasher. My first idea just plumb didn’t work. Then my wife and I went out to dinner on Castro Street with old friends Brian and Cindy. Brian made a chance remark, and – poof! – there was my plot. Again there’s an analogy to love. When the real thing strikes, you know it. Can’t wait to experience “the heights” of writing a novel again. Keinahora.

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