It's 115 degrees in Scottsdale, so I'm loading the dogs, cats and hubby into the SUV and heading up to a small cabin in the piney woods of northern Arizona. This is supposed to be my vacation, but one look at my luggage shows me I'll be doing more work than relaxing. A laptop. Six pads of yellow, legal-sized paper. Something like 20 black gel pens. Two shopping bags full of books (and I'm only reviewing three for Mystery Scene). Obviously, I'm a workaholic.
Since I finished "Desert Cut" a couple of weeks ago, I've been roaming around aimlessly, trying to figure out what to do with myself. I can't start on the next Lena Jones book until my editor decides which of the four ideas she'd like me to develop into a full novel. So other than the Small Press column for Mystery Scene that I'm tidying up, I'm not writing anything. This is a bit traumatic for someone who is used to getting up around 3:30 or 4 every morning and writing until 11 or 12, taking a break, then returning to the toil.
Out of frustration of not being able to write about Lena again yet, I've been coming up with ideas for a new series. Male protagonist for a change? A female again? First person? Third person? Someone living in the sticks or in the big, bad city? West coast? East coast? The hearty heartland? Cozy? Noir? These are all the decisions a writer has to make before writing down that first sentence -- or maybe that first sentence itself will inform the writer what kind of book it's going to be. Books do tend to boss writers around.
I was talking to James Sallis once, and he told me that the idea for "Drive" came to him in one image: a man sitting against the door of a cheap motel room, with blood flowing towards him. Out of that one image came a small masterpiece. If you haven't read "Drive" yet, do so. To my mind, it's flawless. The Washington Post, L.A. Times, Entertainment Weekly, and other media agree with me -- they voted it one of the Top Ten novels of the year.
Back to my own writing frustrations. I have about six file drawers full of ideas for novels, so I'm not exactly lacking material. The problem is that right now I'm loathe to make that emotional decision as to which idea I want to throw my heart and soul behind. Since writing a book take over your every waking moment, you have to make certain it's exactly the right project. And the project has to fit in with whatever Lena Jones I'll be working on next (I have a suspicion which of my LJ ideas my editor will want developed, but I've been wrong before). So I guess what I'm really thinking about is writing TWO BOOKS at the same time.
Geez, I must be nuts.