I’m finishing up a book this month.
Nose to the grindstone.
Turn and burn.
Shove everything to one side and write.
I’m not quite done yet. But I’m almost there. I can feel it.
The writing process for Death Rides The Zephyr, aka the train book, has had a lot of detours and interruptions. One of those detours is a need for lots more research.
The novel involves a journey aboard a particular train, the California Zephyr, in a particular month and year, December 1952. I’ve visited libraries at railroad museums in California and Colorado. I’ve read book, talked with people, ridden on trains, studied railroad timetables, menus and old photographs. Since my protagonist is a woman hostess known as a Zephyrette, I’ve interviewed two former Zephyrettes who live here in the Bay Area.
And in the case of last weekend’s trip, I took a drive up the Feather River Canyon in Northern California, for another look at the train’s route. The following day, I spent an hour at the controls of a 250,000 diesel locomotive, courtesy of the Western Pacific Railroad Museum’s Run-A-Locomotive program.
The book takes place primarily in the train’s passenger cars. My Zephyrette won’t be running the train. But after last weekend’s experience, I’m going to at least place her in the back end of a locomotive so she can listen in on a conversation between the engineer and the conductor – and so I can describe it, hoping that the reader will hear the engine and smell the diesel.
Climbing aboard that locomotive and talking with WPRM volunteer Loren Ross, who instructed me on how to run the thing, gave me some valuable and much-needed information that will give the book verisimilitude.
I’d better have verisimilitude. There are a lot of railfans out there. If I get anything wrong, I’m going to hear about it.
The other interruptions to the writing process have been more personal. A new job, a longer commute, a change in working hours leading to an alteration of my writing schedule. There’s always something that crops up to steal the time devoted to writing. The day-to-day rhythm of life, running errands, cooking meals, cleaning house. Every now and then I really must run the vacuum cleaner, or else I’ll be, as my mother says, hip deep in cat hair.
So if I don’t answer the phone, or the e-mail, don’t worry, friends, it’s not you. I’m finishing a book. I’m almost there. Soon I’ll brush aside the cat hair and come up for air.
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