Three thousand miles’ worth of shimmering Midwestern highway heat and – ack – overgrown insects rolled by under the tires last week; I know, because I had an oil change before we left…and returned at pretty much the recommended mileage for another. It’s been a long time since I did a road trip this long, and never yet with the Collective. But they acquitted themselves nicely, courtesy of a Harry Potter marathon on the overhead DVD player and about 1.2 trillion games of Mario Kart on the Wii. (Yes, I heard every one of those songs at least twenty times.)

It was good to go; it was better to come back.

In between those oil changes, I accomplished exactly nothing on the next book –  nothing visible, anyway; the wordcount meter didn’t register a single addition. But Nebraska and Iowa and South Dakota were great for storyline exploration, if not keystrokes. Once we dropped onto I-90 for the eastbound leg of our trip to see my new niece, and the green CRUISE light on the dash told me I could relax my right leg for another seven hours or so, it came to be a stimulating environment for pondering the possibilities. What if? Why not? How come? By the time I lowered my road-stiffened carcass into a Quality Suites hot tub, I had a half-dozen good ideas for Khemnet.

I’m excited to put them into place. The summer’s been its usual blend of the occasionally productive, the oddly work-crazy (corporate development usually takes the summer off, so it’s been more active than normal for me) and the creatively diverse. I spent a solid month’s worth of downtime getting another blog launched with Kathy; we’re collaborating on putting down our thoughts on gifted education in Chasing Hollyfeld, a sort of journal/blog/breadcrumbs exercise to help us organize our thought process on bringing up the Collective. Fall is just around the corner, and with it brings the possibility of a bit more structure in my schedule, even if it is more hectic. That’s the oxymoron in our house. Summer is a stretch of lazy anarchy; the school year, by contrast, is ordered fury. (If summer was a Dungeons and Dragons character, it would be chaotic good to the school year’s lawful neutral.)

But what I was reminded of, on those long stretches of highway, was the value of getting away from the keyboard from time to time to just let creativity flow. Sometimes, the best thing that can happen is having something nearby to type on – because Inspiration comes knocking at bizarre times of night, cloaked in oilcloth and mysteriously bloodied rags, and is almost always bearing some suspicious-looking bundle or box. And sometimes, the exact opposite is true, and handy access to a keyboard is one’s worst enemy; sometimes, it just takes thoughtware to move a book concept forward.  I dictated a few notes here and there through the Midwest, occasionally startling my sleeping wife awake while I nattered into the iPhone about one plot point or another, but by and large, the trip was one long mental exercise in working the plot – and it was good.

I’ll have to remember that as Khemnet gets on toward completion. Maybe, just maybe, I’ll take a personal roadie in October to set final order to things. But I’ll take some better scenery this time, thanks very much.


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