Sunday, September 9, 2007


I'm back from St. Louis with trains on my mind, partly because I'm still writing like crazy and I only have room up there for one other "train" of thought. Sorry. :)

Do you love trains as much as I love trains?

No getting to the station an hour or more ahead of time, no damned security, no wands and x-rays and dirty looks. Just motorvate downtown to the station, saunter in and pick up my ticket, hear my train called (on time) and ease on down to Amtrak. I walked into a clean, attractive car, and chose a single seat by a window. I easily stowed my bag overhead and then plugged in my laptop. By the time I sat down, here came the snack bar attendant to wish me a good morning and to hand me complimentary coffee and The New York Times! I stretched out my appendages in the oodles of leg room and sipped and read my way out of Kansas City. By the time we got to Jefferson City I had already written for two hours on my book.

The trees are lush and green. The Missouri River is high. From where I sat, Hermann and Washington look like charming towns. Kirkwood has an adorable restored old station. (See photo above.) And the whole thing cost less than flying.

A good time was had by me.

I'm glad to be home, though, and very happy to say goodmorning to my blog buddies. How are things in the village?


Nancy P said...

It's midnight. See you with fresh coffee in a few hours.

katiebird said...

Hi Nancy,
!!! Your back!!!

I missed you -- and the wonderful conversations -- dreadfully. But, I'm glad you've been able to do a lot of writing.

I had no idea the train experience was so pleasant these days. I've ridden the train between NYC & DC but it wasn't that different from riding a plane.

Nancy P said...

Hi,kb! I hope you had a good week. I waaay over-ate on my trip, so Just For Today, I will cut back to sanity.

Yeah, I'll bet that NY-DC commuter corridor is packed. I took a train trip from NYC to Raleigh this past spring and it was really nice, but I splurged on a cabin, which made all the diff, I'm sure.

katiebird said...

!! You're up! Good morning!

A cabin, wow -- I've got to talk to you before I make travel plans. I wouldn't have ever thought of that.

Nancy P said...

If you're thinking of train travel, we must talk, for sure.

I just found out that some routes--probably big commuter ones--have "Quiet Cars" where no cell phones, loud talking, etc., is allowed, so people can work, read, whatever, in peace. Yum. My Business Class car coming back was not quiet--there was a group of eight friends who were really enjoying each other's company, so there was much cross-aisle chat and laughter, but they seemed like sweet people, and it was fine for me, because I had music and headphones.

Beth said...

Welcome home, Nancy! We missed you - and ditto kb on the conversations.

I rode the train from Boston to NH recently, and even though it's only an hour's ride, it was wonderful. As you said - lots of leg room, place to plug in my laptop, nice people, no hassles. I took Amtrak from Idaho to NY once - 72 hours - DEFINITELY get the cabin, kb. Sitting in a chair for three days is not conducive to restful travel.

Hope everything went well, Nancy - and yahoo that you got a lot of writing done! I'm going to start writing today, after a summer of attempting to plot and outline. Tough stuff for an organic writer, but I thought I'd try I'm done trying it! :-)

Happy Monday, everyone!!

Nancy P said...

Hey, Beth! Idaho to NY with no cabin--oh, my achin' back and sleepless nights.

It's HARD for an organic writer to plot and outline. Ugh ugh ugh. Thank god you're finished with that. :)

Kelly McCullough said...

Good morning. Fall has started and it's wonderful. I know this because this morning I came down to find a mug of hot tea and a crockpot of overnight oatmeal courtesy of Dr. McCullough. Drinking tea on the treadmill now with oatmeal in an hour, yay! Glad your back. Hello everyone (waves from treadmill).

Nancy P said...

Overnight oatmeal in a crockpot! That's a brilliant idea. Oatmeal takes Too Damn Long if I cook it when I WANT IT. Got any tips for the crockpot version, Kelly?

Feels like fall here, too, yum yum. Cool moist. But still very green.

Kelly McCullough said...

Nancy, I'll get you recipe when I get off the treadmill. It's a fantastic idea. The friends who introduced it to us also throw in a handful of dried fruit that plumps up over night, but Laura and I like the plain version.

P.S. Do you still want the Broad Universe contact info? I find that I've got an email addy for you in my book. it's the kc.rr address. If you like I can send the contact stuff there.

olivia said...

Morning Nancy and all. Welcome back. That sounds like a wonderful way to travel Nancy. :)

Nancy P said...

Kelly, I'm so sorry, I forgot! And yes, I absolutely do want the Broad Universe info, thank you! And the oatmeal recipe. :)

My email is the

Beth said...

Kelly, how do you blog and tread at the same time? Jealous. You win at multi-tasking.

And I'd love the oatmeal recipe sounds like a great idea, and yummy!

Thanks for the verification that I'm not dysfunctional, just out of my league with the outlining stuff, Nancy. Arrgh!!!

Nancy P said...

Here's my outlining story, Beth.

I had heard there are writers who outline. Sounded like unicorns in the woods to me, but I finally decided, what the hey, I'll give it a try.

Outlined a book, l6-page chapter by chapter outline.

Sat down every morning and wrote exactly what it told me to write. Mailed ms. to editor. Three weeks passed. Editor called, says, "Nancy, I love these characters, but. . .I think you picked the wrong villian."

I knew instantly she was right. I said, "Okay, but do you have any idea who really did it?"

She didn't. Neither did I.

I went for a walk, vowing never to return until I knew who the real murderer was. About a mile and a half down the road, I realized who it was!! It was there all the time, but my slavish devotion to that damned outline kept me from seeing the truth. I became like a bad detective intent on convicting the wrong man!

You have my permission not to outline today. :)

Kelly McCullough said...

Overnight oatmeal. The original recipe is courtesy of Alton Brown and Good Eats. I'll put that in first, and then note the modifications we've made to get a small enough portion for two.

Overnight Oatmeal
Recipe courtesy Alton Brown
Show: Good Eats
Episode: Oat Cuisine
1 cup steel cut oats
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup dried figs
4 cups water
1/2 cup half-and-half

In a slow cooker, combine all ingredients and set to low heat. Cover and let cook for 8 to 9 hours.

Our version:

Heaping 1/2 of steel cut oats*
1/3 cup half & half
1 3/4 cup water

The rest of the details are the same. I don't think we could reduce the quantities much more in our cooker because of surface area issues, but a smaller narrower cooker would probably work fine.

*we use the Bob's Red Mill brand because they're easy to find in most organic sections

Kelly McCullough said...

Nancy, have I mentioned that the idea of not outlining a mystery gives me the creepies. I know it works for you and works astonishingly well, but I can't get my brain to wrap around it. But then, I'm a hardcore outliner, a process which I know absolutely kills books dead for some writers. It's a weird old field.

Nancy P said...

Thank you, Kelly!

I envy you hardcore outliners who ALSO can give free rein to your creativity while you're working with the outline. You guys can juggle and walk the tightrope at the same time. I can do one or the other, but not both, it seems. :(

AndiF said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kelly McCullough said...


Blogging and treadmilling. It's mostly about having a really good sense of balance and the right setup. I have a small shelf on the wall at just below eye height in front of my treadmill. It's just big enough to hold my laptop and it's wall mounted to isolate it from vibration. I have an external trackball velcroed to the grip of the treadmill which I use for scrolling and changing windows and all that stuff. As long as I don't go over 3.4 miles per hour I can read and walk. In order to type I have to slow down to about 2.4--more if I really have to think about what I'm saying.

The most important caveat is the sense of balance. I used to fence and do martial arts a lot and one of the exercises my main sparring partner and I would do is fence (Western and Eastern styles) on something resembling a balance beam, in this case a wooden bar 4-6 inches wide. I think I'd probably break my silly neck if I tried it now, and it's probably a minor miracle that neither of us was seriously hurt then. I swear it made sense at the time, but I was a teenage adrenaline junkie and the judgment centers in my brain hadn't finished forming.

AndiF said...

I guess this counts as the Monday post, even though it went up on Sunday (hi everybody).

So here's your Monday picture posting: Welcome back to the Web, Nancy

(note to self: there's a reason for that preview button.)

Beth said...

Thanks for the recipe, Kelly, and the description of your tread-blogging. When I have a "real" home I'll have to look into it...or some semblance of it!

Think of all of the fun we'd have missed if those centers formed earlier...although looking back, I too am mortified at some of the things I did.

Thanks for the permission, Nancy! I'll let you know tomorrow how I did. I have a friend who can't imagine NOT outlining, like Kelly. I guess we all do it differently...

GORGEOUS pic, andif!

Nancy P said...

"welcome back to the web"

lol, Andi! And thanks. The photo is like looking through a spider's living room window.

Kelly McCullough said...

Beth, you're most welcome.

Nancy, likewise. Also, the Broad Universe post should be in your inbox.

Andi, that's really fabulous.

More on treadblogging (can you tell I'm procrastinating this morning?): The thing I really like about it is gives a me completely guilt free hour to an hour-and-a-half playing on the internet. I write full time sitting on my butt at home, so I really need some kind of exercise. I also wake up slowly, so I'm pretty useless for writing when I first crawl out of bed (unless I've been dragged awake by inspiration). I've always used that waking-up time for things like blogging, but I've also always felt a little guilty about it (darn Midwestern values). But if I'm noodling _and_ exercising! That's work, right?

Outlines: I just had this discussion on one of my professional F&SF listserves, and the variety of methods is pretty much equal to the number of writers +N (N being the number of writers who use different methods for different books). I've written 11 fantasy novel now, with 5 more in various stages of progress> The first two I wrote without outlines because I'd learned to hate the things in college. The third I felt I had to at least try to outline because it was book one of three and certain things had to happen for the second two to work. And it was like the heavens opened and a great shining light came down on my keyboard saying this is the method for you. In some ways that third was my first real book, and I sold the very next one after it. But it's like everything in writing, you listen to what other people do, try what sounds like it might work, and throw away anything that doesn't make your writing life better.

Kelly McCullough said...

Okay, so the Broad Universe post twice bounced. Should be npickard@ the .com mentioned above, right? I'll try again a couple of hours to see if its a temporary server issue.

Nancy P said...

kelly, oops, that's an old address. should be nanpickard @

Kelly McCullough said...

Got it. Fixed and sent.

AndiF said...

Afternoon all and thanks for the compliments on the photo and a special thanks to that industrious and far-sighted spider who apparently woke up that morning, scouted out the locale, and said "Wow, photo op!"

(I've been on that trail hundreds of times and this is the first time there's ever been a spider web in that location)

Man Eegee said...

[waves energetically]

Trying to get back into a groove after taking some well-needed time off. I applied sunblock liberally during the vacation so no burns this time! Work has been surprisingly mundane, I was expecting a tornado and only got a whistling breeze. No complaints here! Hope you're all doing well.

Nancy P said...

Waves energetically back at Manny!!

I'm so glad you got some r & r. I hope the effects last for awhile.

Nancy P said...

Manny--do you know that D. got asylum??!!!What great great news.

Man Eegee said...

I didn't know that! I have been a terrible follow-upper. Thanks for letting me know. I'll have to send her an email soon to let her know how happy I am for her. I think about her often but little good it does when I don't tell her so! (cue the Permanent Smile for the day)

Nancy P said...

Well, don't feel bad, Manny--she JUST got it, like within the past few days. I haven't even talked to her yet, but I know she is over the moon. You may need a new email address, btw, so e me if you think you do.


katiebird said...

!! Nancy, that's great news!

Beth said...

Welcome back, m! Glad you had a good vacation (waving too).

Boy, you can tell we missed our daily chats - 33 comments and still going strong!

Nancy P said...

I missed our chats, too! As you can tell. :)

The "D" that Man Eegee and katiebird and I are referring to is a young Iraqi woman who came over here and who would have faced great danger if she had to go back. (This is Diane's friend, for any of you who know her that way.) She has just learned she got asylum, one of the very few Iraqis living in this country who have been granted it so far. It's like getting the news that you're going to live instead of die. In fact, I guess it's not "like" that, it IS that. The relief is overwhelming, as it is for her mother, who escaped to another country and who has been frantic with fear for her daughter.

Beth said...

Thanks for explaining, Nancy - I didn't want to ask. That IS great news!

Kelly McCullough said...

That's fantastic! I remember the worry over at Booman's when she first arrived. Hooray!

Kimberly Frost said...

Travel by train sounds fun. I haven't done it since I was in middle school. These days it reminds me of Agatha Christie novels. Does anyone else love David Suchet as Poirot? I do completely.

I'm about to write some new scenes and did some brainstorming today, but the brain was a little foggier than I would like. Maybe I needed some coffee and a train ride to perk me up.

Welcome back, Nancy. :)

Nancy P said...

Hi, Kimberly. Thanks. And good luck with the new scenes. I am so impressed with writers who also hold down jobs, especially one as serious as yours.

I've never seen that actor!

boran2 said...

Welcome back! I'm recently back from vacation and still attempting to get back into my old routine. Two weeks away is great but disruptive to ones habits. But maybe that's a good thing.

BTW, as to trains, although your trip sounds peaceful and productive, riding the rails makes me edgy. Must be all those rides on the NYC subway years ago.

Nancy P said...

Hey, b2. Welcome back to you, too. I guess you saw that I really like the painting you put up today.

Edgy, huh? Well, that's just weird! :)