Monday, April 14, 2008

Three Years on the Slow Train, or How a Vampire became a Woman


Three years ago I was working at the Amtrak call center in Philadelphia and living in a studio apartment in a Northeast Philly high-rise. The plan had been for the family to move to Philly once our house in Elkhart was sold, but money and an attachment to the Midwest changed that. About once a month I arranged a long weekend and took
the train back to Elkhart, most often using Amtrak's Capitol Limited, which winds its way through the Alleghenies along the river valleys. When I rode it, I thought of Bob Dylan's poem on the liner notes of his album, "Highway 61 Revisited," and the Flanders and Swann song, "On the Slow Train," bemoaning the elimination of branchline passenger trains in 1950s Britain.
Meanwhile, my son Jim, who was and is very much into role-playing games, let me know about a novel writing contest sponsored by White Wolf Publishing. The novel could be set in the vampire world of Chicago or with the werewolves in Denver. I had lived in the Chicago area for eight years, so my choice was easy. My proposed novel featured a beautiful vampire known as Cassandra, because she told some unpleasant truths that the Chicago vampire hierarchy refused to accept. I wasn't sure exactly what the original story of Cassandra was, so I Googled the name. I found a blog called the Cassandra Pages, written by Beth Adams. It inspired me to start my own blog.
My synopsis of the novel didn't make it past the first round, but I had an idea for a novel that would focus on the idealism of my generation and would involve the 1968 Democratic Convention. Cassandra became Helena, lost her bloodsucking ways, and the story morphed into Things Done and Left Undone. (The next chapter should be ready soon.) When I'm really optimistic, I have fantasies of a movie version of the story, with Navi Rawat playing Helena. One can always dream.
I began writing On the Slow Train three years ago. Since then I have met many wonderful people online. You've been a great help to me in my writing, and in my life. Thank you all. 
Photo credit Jim Frazier

14 comments:

SzélsőFa said...

I never knew what an interesting background this story had.
And Nawi Ravat looks beautiful!
And would look beautiful in your movie, too!

Kurt Kuden said...

beautiful!

steve said...

Szelsofa--Thank you so much. You've inspired me through your encouragement and through your blog. And I'm indebted to you for your help with details of Hungarian cuisine.

Kurt--Thank you and welcome. I checked out your blog. Very well-done. Your English is a lot better than that of many Americans.

Lisa said...

I love knowing the story behind how you started On the Slow Train as well as the genesis of Things Done and Left Undone. I'd never have guessed that vampires were involved! I'm very glad you're here and blogging. Your posts never fail to make me think and your comments are always thoughtful and encouraging.

Charles Gramlich said...

Yes, that's cool to hear the background of the story.

steve said...

Lisa--I really need to mention your role in my novel. The idea had been in my head for three years, and I had maybe two chapters in my computer. Then one day I checked your post and saw a picture of Dickens and an invitation to do the Challenge. Like you, I initially decided I couldn't do it, but decided to do it especially because I'd have you and Usman as fellow travelers. Many thanks.

steve said...

Charles--your comment came up while I was answering Lisa. Thank you for your help and encouragement on my novel.

bart said...

thanks for this insight into your blogging history... we all do it in our own ways and that's what makes the experience so special...

keep well...

steve said...

Bart--Very well stated. Part of the enjoyment of blogging is to discover the perspectives of others.

Peter said...

Happy blog-versary, Steve!

I started blogging around this time a few years ago, too. I also was Googling, looking for the author of a book review I had found on Amazon. I discovered dale of mole, and I was captivated by his writing and the medium in general. I was blogging within two weeks.

twoblueday said...

I haven't commented here in a long time. I am not reading your serialized novel. Not because of its inherent qualities, but because I don't do serials. Call it a mental failing on my part. I don't watch serialized TV (like "Lost," "Sopranos," etc.). I probably wouldn't have read Charles Dickens's serialized novels, although I've read them all in their complete forms.

So, don't take it amiss, please.

steve said...

Gerry--No offense taken. Since I've started the Dickens Challenge, I've been devoting a lot of time to it, and not always making my regular round of blogs.

Beth said...

Wow! What a great story, and how touched I am to have had a hand in its beginning. may your blogging continue happily for many more years.

steve said...

Beth, Your comments mean a lot to me. I read your blog regularly, and it's always interesting and well written. Given the time you've needed to spend with your father-in-law, I'm impressed that you've been able to blog about him and many other things.

Thanks for visiting.