William Least Heat-Moon, author of "Blue Highways," is writing his next book for all those people who, upon hearing of his subject, ratchet their brow, squinch their eyes and flatten their lips as they strain in disbelief to push out the two painful syllables of such a foreign word: Kansas?

"In my experience," he said in a recent interview, "people know three things about Kansas: One, that it's flat; two, that it has something to do with that wizard; and, three, that `In Cold Blood' happened there."Well, one is not true, the second is a fairy tale and the third is a nightmare.

"I want to overcome the distorted image of the state," he said.