If you are interested in blogging or want to promote your book, please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com.

WWK's May interviews will be: 5/2--indie author Bobbi Holmes, 5/9--TG Wolff (aka--Anita Devito), 5/16--Chocolate Bonbon author Dorothy St. James, 5/23--Lida Sideris, 5/30--Food Lovers' Village (and multiple Agatha winner) Leslie Budwitz. Please join us in welcoming these authors to WWK.

Our May Saturday Guest Blogger Schedule: 5/5--John Carenen, 5/12--Judy Penz Sheluk, 5/19--Margaret S. Hamilton, 5/26--Kait Carson.

Congratulations to our writers for the following publications:

Tina Whittle's sixth Tai Randolph mystery, Necessary Ends, debuts on April 3, 2018. Look for it here. Tina was nominated for a Derringer Award for her novelette, "Trouble Like A Freight Train Coming." We're all crossing our fingers for her.

James M. Jackson's Empty Promises, the next in the Seamus McCree mystery series (5th), will be available on April 3, 2018. Purchase links are here.

Dark Sister, a poetry collection, is Linda Rodriguez's tenth published book. It's available for sale here:

Shari Randall's "Pets" will be included in Chesapeake Crimes: Fur, Feathers, and Felonies anthology, which will be published in 2018. In the same anthology "Rasputin," KM Rockwood's short story, will also be published. Look for E. B. Davis's interview with the authors in this anthology on 4/14! Her short story "Goldie" will be published in the Busted anthology, which will be released by Level Best Books on April 25th.

Shari Randall's second Lobster Shack Mystery, Against the Claw, will be available in August, 2018.

In addition, our prolific KM has had the following shorts published as well: "Making Tracks" in Passport to Murder, Bouchercon anthology, October 2017 and "Turkey Underfoot," appears in the anthology The Killer Wore Cranberry: A Fifth Course of Chaos.


Monday, April 11, 2016

Writing on the Train

by Shari Randall

Dateline: Northeast Regional, Amtrak Train 171

Greetings from the Quiet Car of the Northeast Regional, aka the Introverts Car. No loud talking or use of cell phones allowed. The Introverts Car makes a great writing jail.

The air in the car is thick with Work Ethic. Most of my fellow passengers have laptops open. My seatmate, a young woman with serious glasses and a shiny engagement ring, is typing virtuously. Not wanting to be my usual chatty, embarrass-the-kids self, I don’t ask her what she’s working on. I saw the words “Hiring Top Performers” in the title of her document and figure it’s not something I’d willingly pick up and read anyway.

Many riders are hunched over cell phones. Even the woman across from me keeps her laptop open as she snoozes. The woman ahead of me across the aisle has a Kindle and is reading a novel. I’m jealous. Amtrak’s WiFi entertainment offers a free excerpt of The Martian. I am tempted but, encouraged by the professor two seats ahead who is editing a Cultural History, I press on with my work in progress.

I like the idea of the quiet car. For an introvert it is a haven. Noise is frowned upon, conversation is verboten. The woman in front of me is on the phone with her office. The air around her is electric with the disgusted looks of other passengers. She can’t ignore them. She cuts her conversation short. Ahhh.

However, I think back to other train trips I have taken, the people I’ve met. The majority of the casual conversations I’ve had with fellow travelers have been positive and enjoyable. I’ve chatted with professors from Cote d’Ivoire, missionaries from Maryland, students from New Hampshire prep schools. These conversations have encouraged and enlightened me, underscoring the wonderful diversity of our country. The old travel motto “See America” made sense to me in a different way: You could see the American landscape pass outside the windows, and meet America in all her wonderful diversity within.

Ages ago, before cell phones made Quiet Cars necessary, I traveled from New London to New Jersey to see a college friend. My train stopped in New Haven, where a young man carrying only a guitar got onboard. He took the seat next to me. As he stretched out his long, lanky legs I noticed, to my bemusement, surprise, and a bit of shock, that he had written whole stanzas of poetry on his jeans. He noticed my surprise.

We started talking. He was a musician, he said. I figured this from the guitar. Sometimes, he said, he was seized with ideas, lyrics, and poetry, and had to write them down somewhere before the Muse left him. He liked to travel light; he didn’t want to carry a notebook. So the pants were his notebook.

He read some of the lyrics to me. I don’t remember any of it, or even if I thought it was any good, but I admired his dedication to his art. We talked music and poetry from New Haven to New York City. He was traveling light, a guitar and a pen. What more did he need?

We parted amicably. I still wonder if his pants were a weirdo conversation piece, a way to get girls looking at his legs? Weird but also kind of wonderful. It worked on me! I wonder what happened to that boy, wearing his heart not on his sleeve, but on his pants legs.

Do you travel by train? What do you think? Were those pants a way to meet girls or just a creative kid’s substitute for paper?


Jim Jackson said...


Perhaps it is the introvert’s car; perhaps the only way to escape obnoxious cell phone use is by rejecting any direct communication with fellow passengers.

As readers of this blog know, these days most of my train travel is long distance, and I have a sleeper room to escape to for quiet. The club car and dining car are the places where I get to meet interesting people.

~ Jim

E. B. Davis said...

I've never traveled much by train, Shari. Your blog was informative for those of us who go by car or plane. I'm not thrilled by mass transit these days. Planes aren't cleaned very well. I feel captive and vulnerable to germs and canned air. I hope your writing was successful on the train. You weren't distracted by observing curious strangers or the scenery going by?

Carla Damron said...

I LOVE train travel but rarely get to ride one. And your story about the musician needs to go in a book!

Warren Bull said...

My wife and I took a transCanada train once and I remember it fondly. Why could' the pants be both?

Margaret Turkevich said...

loved the poetry on the jeans. Very sisterhood of the traveling pants, which one of my daughters did years ago.

I like train travel. I daydream, look out the window, and people watch. Now that cell phones have invaded public transportation, I would be a candidate for the quiet car.

Julie Tollefson said...

I love train travel. I once rode from KC to Boston with no clear idea of what I would do once I reached my destination. Turned out my seat mate worked at a Marriott near the train station and helped me get a discount on a room for the night I arrived. The next day, I rented a car and drove up to Maine. I was a lot younger and a lot more adventurous then. :)

Gloria Alden said...

The only train I've ever been on is one that goes through Cuyahoga National Park. Once was with my grandchildren on a trip with a park ranger who talked to the kids about things in nature to look for in the park with some pelts, etc. The other two times was as a reenactment on the Underground Railroad, where we became slaves following our guide by lantern, with various scary things happening when a sheriff jumped out, or we were hiding out in an old barn as someone on a stop on the Underground Railroad argued with some slave catchers. When we heard gunshots, we had to escape into the woods following another guide. It always ended with us crawling into the train in the dark.

As for plane travel, I've met some really interesting people. I tend to spend most of my time reading, but as we are getting ready to load or come down, often I strike up a conversation if my seat partner seems willing to talk. It's a great way to create characters if you have time to write it down after leaving the person. Even if I don't strike up a conversation, I like to observe people and wonder about where they're going, why they're going there, etc.

Shari Randall said...

Hi everyone!
I'm back on the train - going home!
Jim, the sleeping car/dining car combo sounds great.
EB, I am with you about the cleanliness of planes (and trains and most public forms of transportation). Honestly, why can't that be done better?
Carla and Warren, Yes and Yes!
Margaret, I have to say that the Quiet Car is great - I've gotten a ton of writing done - and also so daydreaming and dozing.
Julie, Wow! Here's to even more adventures!
Gloria, Your adventure with the Cuyahoga train was amazing. What a great way to teach history.

Kait said...

I love train travel. It started with my love affair with a coal burner.

When I was little, very little, I barely remember it and most of what I remember is the grit, the Erie Lackawana railroad announced it was retiring its last coal burner and the company was going to send it on a final trip over all of its tracks. Tickets were being sold by the leg, this was a commemorative run after all. So, my mother bought one to take me to my Godmother's parent's house. It was a good long trip through the NJ countryside and I fell in love with train travel. I often said I would love to cross the country by train. With a good engineer...it's a trip and an education!

Shari Randall said...

What a nice memory, Kait. It's easy to see how children feel so attracted to trains. Hope some day you do get to make that cross country run.

KM Rockwood said...

When I was young in the NYC area, travelling by train was fairly common. We'd go to the train station in Hempstead to pick up my grandmother when she came to visit; she'd take us on the train to stay at her apartment in Yonkers. If we went to visit my great grandmother in Boston, we'd go by train. Any time we went "into the city" (Manhattan) we'd take the Long Island Railroad. We'd also take it out on the island to visit an aunt who lived out there. I can't quite conjure up the chant we'd listen for on the public address system, starting with "Now loading on platform..." and listing the stops, then "Change at Jamaica for ..." but I'm sure I'd recognize it if I heard it. I can practically smell the scent of the creosote soaked ties when they got wet, and hear the steam escaping from underneath the cars by the wheels (brakes? It never occurred to me to wonder why steam should be coming from under the cars.)

I remember how horrified I was when I first used the "rest room" in an old train, and understood first hand why there was a little sign saying, "Do not flush when in station."

I took the Chicago-NY train a number of times. And when we lived in Michigan, the main line from Chicago to Detroit ran across the street behind our house.

We now have freight trains that run through the area, and sometimes late at night, that lonesome whistle wails on the wind, suggesting destinations and adventures that I can only dream about.