Train of Thought … right on track

Deadlines are often my mortal enemies. They hate me, and rightly so. I taunt them. I brush up against them in annoyingly familiar ways. I tell them their father was a hamster and their mother smelled of elderberries.
This behavior doesn’t make them go away. In fact, they seem to loom larger the more I harass them. They are angry, bitter little beasts that don’t appreciate my behavior in their presence. You see, I’m a procrastinator. Always have been. Was late for my own birth, and I’ve perfected the skill in the ensuing years. I had to run for the bus an unprecedented number of times during my school years. I had to stay up late in college the night before a paper was due. I left for work thirty seconds later than it would take the average person to get there. It’s almost like I don’t hear the clock ticking until the deadline is breathing down my neck.
Deadlines love this behavior. They start taking bets on me, that I’ll falter and miss the deadline this time. Sometimes they’ve thrown my self-imposed, internal deadlines at me as signs that I’ll likely miss a real deadline currently before me. But they don’t understand that I know the difference between a random, self-imposed deadline and a real, can’t-change-the-date deadline. I know because I routinely conquer the latter while allowing myself way too much slack on the former.
The proposed September release for my upcoming cross-country train trip book, Train of Thought, was a target date for my Indiegogo backers. I chose that month based on what seemed reasonable once I got home from my trip in mid-May. Setting the date with a month—but no specific date—gave me more than four weeks of leeway to keep that rather flexible, self-imposed deadline.
Meanwhile, the deadline demons know how crazy my summers are and were giggling with glee that this time they would win. What they failed to factor in was Beaver County BookFest on September 9. There was no way I was going to sit at a third BookFest table in a row with the same four books for sale. I needed a new book this year.
Add a real deadline I cannot change onto my self-imposed deadline and you’ve got one determined writer. Once I am up against a wall I cannot tear down, I always scale it just in time. Always. I procrastinate until the adrenaline kicks in, and then I dash ahead. The deadline demons keep forgetting that I have more than a half century of practice at this. Don’t try this at home, kids. I’m a professional.
They will never win.
I have approximately ten days to finish this book (including layout, which is already in place) in order to have physical copies here before September 9. That’s plenty of time, as long as I don’t clean the house or have a social life or get heroic with dinner prep for the next week and a half. Which is standard operating procedure around here even when I’m not on a deadline.
So, if you see me on social media sites at all over the next ten days, it’s only because I need to remind myself that the real world is still out there and hasn’t been nuked into oblivion by some little nutjob halfway around the world. Because that’s about the only thing that’s going to stop me from meeting this deadline.
Take that, deadline demons.

Beaver County BookFest!


It’s coming around again! The huge western Pennsylvania free book festival known as Beaver County BookFest!

Save room on your schedule for
Sat., Sept. 9, and join more than sixty authors and other vendors in downtown Beaver, Pa., for a celebration of reading and writing. Come out to this free event and bring the kids. There’s always a huge Children’s Tent with activities all day long. This year’s theme is Harry Potter—with wand-making and other fun stuff to do.
Our authors will be in the huge Author Tent in the heart of the festival, ready to sell and autograph their books. Come meet our authors and support the work of local creatives.
As an added treat, our Sept. 8 Friday night kickoff event is an author panel Q&A with Wende Dikec, Kara Knickerbocker, Pamela Hart Vines, Madhu B. Wangu … and meeeeeeee! This fundraiser benefits the library of the Sts. Peter and Paul School and admission includes yummy food and tasty treats. It’s for a good cause, so enjoy the beautiful evening with us! Go here to purchase your tickets:  TICKETS HERE!
I love this event, which rolls around the second weekend of September each year, and not just because they’ve made me author liaison for the past few years. It’s a great way to meet and greet other authors, as well as hundreds of local readers and book lovers. I hope to see all my local friends there this year!

Real Life Encroaches

I’ve been back from my cross-country bucket-list train trip for about a week now. Hard to tell exactly, though, because my brain hasn’t fully adjusted to having a routine again.
That’s probably because I had to make three long car trips up east of the city this first week back:
  • one to pick up the guinea pigs (and apparently guinea pigs do not appreciate being stuffed into a small plastic box and carted 50 miles in a car while “Weird Al” Yankovic music is blaring over the car speakers);
  • one to join my daughters on a house-hunting spree (which included one house where we were counting the bullet holes in the windows and matching up the trajectories of similar holes found in the dining room wall—just like an episode of CSI, yay!);
  • and one to attend a standing-room-only memorial service for the wife of my first RP pastor.
Talk about a week of ups and downs!

At home I’ve been trying to:
  • catch up on freelance work;
  • sort through 1,500 pictures and 20,000 words of notes from the trip;
  • do laundry (apparently people like to wear clean underwear around here—how rude);
  • go grocery shopping (apparently these same people appreciate eating several times per day—every day);
  • and stare at the waving fields of wheat in our backyard. Well, it’s just uncut grass, because the lawn mower Wayne ordered in early April still needs to be picked up in Calcutta—Ohio, not India (though, judging from how long it’s taking him to go get it, I’m beginning to wonder if it’s not in India).

No matter what, though, I’m still organizing those trip notes and am now buckling down to turn all this raw data into Train of Thought this summer. Those of you who backed me on Indiegogo (and thank you for that!) will be glad to know that I’ll be contacting you soon about mailing addresses for hard copies of the book and email addresses for the Kindle editions.
Other than all that … I think I need a nap. One in a real bed that doesn’t convert back into a cute little seat on a train once morning hits. Having said that, I do miss someone else cooking all my meals and sometimes serving them to me in my private little room. Those rare steaks were pretty good! Maybe I’ll grill a few ribeyes this weekend … if I can find the grill amid the wheat fields.

But Wait … There’s More!

Thanks to all of you marvelous backers for a successful, fun Indiegogo campaign for Train of Thought! I couldn’t have done it without you! Well, technically, I could  have, but it would have been a pointless waste of time to write up an entire campaign only to donate a thousand bucks to myself and then watch Indiegogo take a cut. I’ve done stupider things, but not lately.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah, I was thanking you lovable, wacky knuckleheads…


Thanks to you, now the credit card company will stop throwing panicky fits over that huge charge I made to Amtrak a few weeks ago.

I’ve already made quite a few notes for the book, and I haven’t even left yet. But of course, a strangely introspective trip like this is going to start in my head months ahead of time. That’s the beauty of our overthinking, introvert brains: we never stop asking, “What if?” We are the kings and queens of the Worst-Case Scenario.

The official trip starts in early May, around midnight here in Pittsburgh. Due to my husband’s work schedule at that time, he can’t drive me to the station. So I’ll start off with a cab ride to the train station downtown. And I’m already obsessing over whether the cab will show up on time. (Just ONE time I called a cab in the 1990s and it was late, and I’ll never let myself forget it.)

Once I acclimated to the idea of a cab, though, I realized I might as well start the trip off with an introvert’s worst nightmare: sitting alone late at night in a small vehicle with a stranger who will drop me off in a desolate part of the downtown area. Yay!

And of course it will be smooth sailing from there. Right? Because… what could go wrong?*


*rhetorical question, not meant for actual answers

P.S. If any of your friends (or enemies, I’m not picky) still want to get in on this sweet campaign deal at one of my many backer levels, the campaign will continue to run until the trip. Oh sure, anyone will be able to buy the book after it comes out in September, but only backers will get combo deals on my other books, plus exclusive, hand-wringing updates like this one (including some photos and maybe video!) during the actual trip. (If you didn’t feel special before, I bet you’re preening like crazy now.)

Feel free to share this link with anyone. I’m not proud. Plus, that credit card company is still hassling me about the other half of that large Amtrak transaction…


But Where Do I Put My Passport?

Don’t get over-excited, but I bought a new wallet for the train trip. What’s wrong with my current wallet? Nothing, really. Except this new one not only holds my credit cards, cash, and travel documents, but also will do my laundry and help me memorize the entire New Testament. At least, that’s what I’m guessing based on the little insert that came with it. I’m reproducing the text exactly as it appears—typos, bad punctuation, and odd capitalization included.
I’m not doing this to mock whatever bad Google translation program they probably utilized to go from Chinese to English. I’m merely asking myself this: Does it seem as if they assume English-speaking folks need to have things repeated many times, with slightly different wording, in order to remember them?
I offer you the following, without commentary, if only because some things need no explanation:
  • This High Density linen/cotton blended fabric All-in-One Passport Holder fits your iphone, Holding Passport, Boarding Card, Credit Cards, Tickets.  Coins, Keys, money, other documents, etc.
  • The Passport Wallet is simple, compact, lightweight, zippered and multifunctional. Portable and Compact case, is easily held in Handbag passport holder. men’s and women’s travel gear case. An ideal travel accessory holder, a nice cover for your passport.
  • Best travel documents holder with smooth Closing Zipper, secure wallet that protects your travel accessories. A zip around travel wallet for your convenience.
  • Durable travel wallet with multiple pockets, perfect for all your needed documents.
  • A slim small wallet for holding and making easy to access your documents while traveling. Fits your hand, your bag, and your jacket pocket.
Doesn’t this make you want to go out and buy twelve of these wallets? Or invest in company stock? Or stab someone?


Daydream Believer

I try to stop myself from typing in “Amtrak sleeper” in the Google Images search box. But it’s no use. I’m off on another daydream about what it will be like when I first step out of that cab a few months from now, at around 11 p.m., armed with nothing more than a backpack and a messenger bag, each full of things I’ve deemed essential for survival for the next fifteen days.

What will it be like to sit in the Amtrak station here in Pittsburgh in that last hour before I am no longer a train-virgin? How many other people will be there waiting with me? Will some of them be so used to this routine that they’ll be nodding off out of boredom? How will I not stick out like the newbie I am?

And what will it finally be like when I climb onto that first train, headed for Chicago overnight? I’ve chosen a simple coach seat for the first nine hours, despite those nine hours coming between midnight and 9 a.m. I wanted to save my money for roomette and bedroom upgrades later in the trip. Besides, I know I’ll be too keyed up that first night and won’t sleep anyway. Might as well sit in my roomy, comfortable coach seat (I finally found a benefit of being 5’1”), with this little laptop open, typing my eager thoughts about the train—the sights, the sounds, the smells (good grief, don’t let there be too many smells in coach, though!).

But today, more than three months before my trip, I open a browser and type in the word “Amtrak” and thousands of images start popping up. Many I’ve seen before, since I do this dumb sort of daydreaming at least once a week. Now that I’ve purchased the tickets and the trip is set, I suspect I’ll daydream my way through many lulls in my schedule in the ensuing weeks.

And I admit, sometimes I fall asleep at night trying to imagine what it will be like once I am cocooned in a tiny roomette, where I will wake up hundreds of miles from where I fell asleep.

Oh sure, I’ve done that on a plane. I’ve done that on a cruise ship. But soon, I will do this on my very first train trip—a dream of mine since childhood. What adventures await me? What misadventures? I’m ready for all of them.

Bring it on, Amtrak. I’m ready to see America.


Want to help a gal make her way across the country to write a book about it? You can get a copy of the book for only a coupla  bucks by backing me on my journey! Go here:


Fly the Friendly Skies? Talking to Myself Again

Overheard in the grocery store… Wait, no, overheard in my mind (sorry, I get the two confused). A conversation with myself…
“Linda, why on earth would you take a train trip across the country for two weeks, when you could fly across and back in a single day?”
“Well, Alt-Linda, I hate flying.”
“So do birds, Linda, but you don’t see them complaining.”
“Birds don’t hate flying.”
“Well, you get my point, though.”
“No, not really.”
“You actually hate flying?”
“No, I’m just faking all those heart palpitations and that vomiting whenever a plane trip gets closer. Like, a year in advance.”
“But why take a train? For two weeks? To essentially do nothing but take the train?”
“Think of the adventure, Alt-Linda! The romantic lure of the rails! The glorious susurrus of the train as it glides across landscapes far and wide!”
“Susurrus? You just made that up.”
“No, it’s a real word. Honest. Look it up.”
“I’d have to know how to spell it to look it up.”
“Well, it’s right here on the screen.”
“Not yet it’s not. You’re still transcribing this conversation. And it’s not even a real conversation. It’s just you talking to yourself. Again.”
“Don’t be a smart-ass. It’s going to be an adventure, Alt-Linda. I can’t wait!”
“You’re lucky this conversation is all in your head. I bet you can’t pronounce susurrus.”
“Shut up. Nobody’s talking to you.”
“Except you.”
I’m you. Well, you know what I mean.”
“Rarely, but let’s move on, Linda. So, let me get this straight. You’re going to pay these Amtrak people a lot of money—”
“I already did. They charged my credit card, like, a nanosecond after I pushed ‘Submit.’”
“Okay, so, you paid these Amtrak people a lot of money to sit in a big metal box on wheels that’s going to go careening across the country at nowhere-near-breakneck speed… for two weeks.”
“Well, yes, but…”
“And at periodic intervals you’re going to go to a different metal box on wheels—attached to the first box on wheels and a bunch of other boxes on wheels—to get expensive food.”
“It’s included in the price, though.”
“Which was expensive.”
“You’re completely missing the point.”
“And at other periodic intervals you’re going to lie down and sleep in your original metal box—in a teeny, smaller box inside the bigger metal box, a box so small that they’ll give you a crowbar to get in and out of bed.”
“It’s included in the price, though.”
“Which was expen—”
“Okay, okay. What’s your point?”
“We haven’t even made it to Chicago yet in this scenario. Do I really need a point?”
“But it’s going to be—”
“If you use the word ‘adventure’ one more time I’m going to smack you.”
“That’d be quite a trick.”
“Back to your flawed thinking: If you get bored in the teeny tiny metal box or aren’t hungry enough to go to the metal food box—”
“They have tablecloths in the dining car.”
“Oh, well, THAT changes everything.”
“I sense sarcasm.”
“I still don’t see your point.”
“My point, Linda, is that your definition of ‘adventure’ is rather low, don’t you think?”
“Potato, potahto.”
“You’re always bringing up food.”
“Only when I think about flying.”
“That’s a gross, disgusting play on words.”
“You’re the one who brought up bringing up food.”
“Back to my original point! Where’s your sense of adventure if all you’re doing is sitting in big metal boxes, eating food, sleeping, writing, and showering in tiny cubicles with flexible hoses recently used by complete strangers?”
“I’m bringing my Kindle along.”
“That’s it. I’m outta here. Taxi!”
“Don’t call for a taxi. Take the train.”
“You’re out of your mind.”
“No, you’re out of my mind.”
“Oh, shut up!”