Monday, February 1, 2016

A New Project

Ah crap. Stuck again.

I was rowrbazzling (Walt Kelly’s great word) along on the latest novel when everything came to a dead stop a couple of weeks ago. I think it’s because I started writing about other stuff—my family, life in Paris as a kid, and the fairly strange yet fascinating people I grew up with. All of a sudden it was hard to get back to my characters, none of whom can hold candle to the extended family that raised me. I mean, my great aunt slept with her hat on and was in Africa when people were still throwing spears at each other.  My dad held up a hospital cook shortly after my birth and forced him to whip up an omelet for my mom (she complained that it lacked salt.) Edith Piaf came to our apartment when I was a little kid. Both my parents were soldiers with the Free French in World War II.

My guys haven’t gone through anything like that. Urban warfare, maybe, and guns. But no spears. Well, that’s not entirely true. There was a guy killed with a spear in Thirst.

Actually, my imaginary people are engaging. I wouldn’t be able to do 90,000 words if they weren’t, and the plot wass moving along nicely until recently. The characters have developed their own legs, their own rhythms and habits.  I’ve got most of the action where I want it to be, and pretty soon it’s going to be time to trip the switch that makes the dénouement, that launches the Rube Goldberg device, because really, isn’t that what novels are, intricate constructions with dropping balls, falling ladders, sleeping cats that wake to paw at running mice that jump on spring-loaded platforms that strike a match to light a cigar?  

I write every day and can’t remember the last time I didn’t. I have little notebooks all over the house with stuff I think is worth remembering (last two entries:  Those with scars must help the wounded and There’s a difference between helping and getting involved.) On my bedside table is a writing tablet with an attached pen. When I pick up the pen, the tablet lights up. We need more inventions like that.

Generally, I have a couple of book projects going on at the same time. Right now I’m finishing Dope, a sequel to Thirst. A few months ago I finished writing The Fortunate Few, IVS Volunteers from Asia to the Andes. The book was published in September. I’m wrapping up the second book of a trilogy on a Parisian family’s decision to move to America. I have three books with my agent and a few more ideas germinating.

In November, I started a new project with my friend Steve Head, a personal trainer I‘ve known since 1995 who is skilled in bringing out the best in his clients. A while back struck me that within the exploding industry of personal fitness, people in my age range—in their fifties and above—are considered, well, dead. Or maybe simply non-existent. We live in a youth-oriented culture and people born in the 40s, 50s and 60s, whether male or female, are largely invisible when it comes to exercise and diet.

It turns out that Steve has spent quite a bit of time working with clients in that age range to wondrous results. The people he trains often come to him with aches and pains and preconceived notions regarding their limitations. He gets them past that and they do amazing things, deadlifting their body weights, pushing sleds stacked with hundreds of pounds,  and dropping years as they train.

Steve and I met a couple of times to hammer out some basic ideas, and a book idea was born. Steve will train me for about a year, and I’ll write about it. It won’t be just an exercise book, though. We plan to touch on a number of issues related to ageism, physical capacities, mindset, realistic expectations and other topics not dealt with often enough.

It’s going to be interesting.  

So I shouldn’t complain. Writing-wise, life is very full. Temporarily running dry on a novel actually enables me to spend more time on the non-fiction project.

There’s never a dull moment; I just like to complain.

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