Peevish Pen

Ruminations on reading, writing, rural living, retirement, aging—and sometimes cats. And maybe a border collie or other critters.

© 2006-2015 All rights reserved

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Location: Rural Virginia, United States

I'm a retired teacher turned writer. Ferradiddledumday (my Appalachian version of the Rumpelstiltskin story) and Stuck (my middle grade paranormal novel) are available from Cedar Creek Publishing.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Little Snapper

While mowing the lawn yesterday, my husband thought he ran over a rock where a rock shouldn't be. He stopped the mower and picked up the rock. When he washed it, the rock turned out to be a young snapping turtle. Fortunately, the turtle had sustained no injuries from its ordeal.

You can't keep a turtle in a bucket forever, so the turtle had to be relocated. Here's the underside of the turtle. .  . 

. . . and the top side.

The little snapper was returned to the bucket and then went on a the turtle equivalent of a field trip.

We chauffeured the turtle down to the farm near Dinner Creek where our horse trail begins . . .

. . . and my husband carried it to the creek . . . 

. . . and released it. What looks like a rock to the left is the turtle:

Here's another view. Apparently the turtle liked his new home, or maybe it liked the view of the minnows that swam past.

I liked the view of all the green, even the multiflora roses, an invasive species that has taken over of lot of rural land since being planted in the 1930s to help control erosion.

The horse trail begins near the creek . . . 

. . . and goes under the power lines and up the hill.

Ferns abound near the creek.

This should be a good habitat for the little snapper. But if you're riding my horse trail and you water your horse at the creek, you might want to check for turtles first. That little snapper isn't going to stay little for long.


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Thursday, May 14, 2015

Horse Trailer Scam

Recently, my husband found an ad for a horse trailer on the Roanoke Craigslist. Doesn't it look great for a 1999 model?! And ONLY $1,500!!!!!

Now, we don't need another horsetrailer. We haven't used our 1995 aluminum Starro since we moved here in 1999. (A horse trailer makes a great moving van.) I've been using the Starro as a storage shed for years.

Figuring we could always use another reasonably priced storage shed, he emailed the seller. "What are you asking, and where is it located?" he wanted to know. Well, he already knew how much the trailer was from the ad, and he wanted to know if it was really in the Roanoke area. Here's the reply to his question. See if you can find some, er, suspicious things in it:

From: eva bond < >
Date: May 13, 2015 at 7:11:24 PM EDT
To: John
Subject: Re: Horse trailer
 John ,thanks for asking! our '99 EquiSpirit trailer is still for sale! is aluminium made and is in perfect condition, maintenance has been carried out at regular intervals. weights 3,000 lbs and 12 feet total length. also, has ramp, dressing room, 7'8" Interior height, 6'8" Interior width and 11' stall area. sell it because my boy of 24 died 3 months ago in a car accident, a drunk driver hit him and his fiance. he was with fiance's car coming to our home at his little brother birthday. it was my son's first car and brings me bad memories and it is for this reason that I sell so cheap ($1,550).
   I travel a lot with my work, and that is why i decided to sell using Online Services of eBay. they would protect both us and also gives you 5 days of inspection. all the documents and title will be arriving at your address at the same time as the vehicle in 2 business days. shipping is also PAID by me so it doesn't worry about.

  If you are interested let me know, Eva!
She attached lots of lovely pictures:

Notice the truck's bumper?
The license plate is blank.

And the trailer has a blank license plate, too.

That white interior is really clean.
Doesn't even have any dings or scuffs on it.

Those floor mats look in mint condition.

Even the spare tire is in mint condition!

The ad is no longer on Craigslist. It was already flagged as suspicious when John last saw it. Here's how we knew it wasn't a real ad:

*The description in the email sounds like a cut and paste job from an actual ad.
*English doesn't seem to be the seller's first language.
*"11' stall area" for 12' total length? So the dressing room is only one foot?!
*The sad story about the death of her son (and his "fiance") and the fact that this horse trailer "was my son's first car and brings me bad memories and it is for this reason that I sell so cheap." Uh, how did the son drive the horse trailer????
*The ad was on Craigslist, but she seems to have forgotten that: "that is why i decided to sell using Online Services of eBay."
*The vehicle will arrive in only two business days and she pays all the shipping. Yeah, right.
*Plus all the documents and the title will arrive "at the same time as vehicle."

Wouldn't it take way more than two business days to get this trailer from Nigeria? Because I have a hunch that's where this ad came from.

This scammy ad has been floating around for a while and other sites have noticed. Here's one from February in which she says, "I'm selling it because my boy of only 25 died 5 months ago in a car accident." Wow! She lost two sons to car accidents!? And that site mentions the trailer is in an eBay warehouse in Dallas.


Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Really Bad Writing

Bad writing fascinates me. After all, I’m a two-time category winner in the Bulwer-Lytton Bad Fiction Contest. In fact, I’ve posted my winning B-L entries on this page of my web site).

On this humble blog, I’ve even reviewed some dreadful books, including two by an infamous romance-writing plagiarist. The links to those posts are here and hereOn one of those posts, I wrote this: “If you are the sort of reader who enjoys stereotypical characters, contrived and unbelievable plots, improbable coincidences, stilted dialogue, a plethora of adjectives and adverbs, an inconsistent voice . . .  you’ll probably love this book.”

Tanner: "Why did someone give me this lousy book?"

Who would have thought that my above words would also apply to a recently published book, Nekkid Came the Swimmer. Never have I encountered a book so truly deliberately horribly bad as this feeble attempt at a novel by Lorelei Leigh Lakewurst. 

Here’s the book’s description:

Recently widowed Lorelei Leigh Lakewurst recounts a year spent at her aunt's home on a nondescript cove at Smith Mountain Lake where she encounters various lake characters (an evil homeowners' association president, a rogue wildlife protector, a strange handyman, an unusual book club, etc.) and swims naked everyday. Alas, Lorelei Leigh Lakewurst isn't real and her adventures and encounters bear no resemblance to anything that's ever happened on Smith Mountain Lake.

So how could a book this bad ever be published—especially since its author isn’t even a real person? Maybe because it’s published through CreateSpace, a free self-publishing service that allows ANYONE to publish a book, no matter how bad it might be. (Disclaimer: However, there are good books published through CreateSpace, too, such as this one, which I highly recommend.) But wait—there’s more in the book’s description:

She [Lorelei Leigh Lakewurst] is but a figment of the combined imaginations of eleven Lake Writers who set out to write the worst (and most improbable) book about Smith Mountain Lake ever. The book has no redeeming literary qualities whatsoever, except as an example of how NOT to write a novel. Consider yourself warned: DON'T BUY THIS BOOK!

(Disclaimer needed here: I have been a member of Lake Writers since its beginning in 2000. I won't say whether I may or may not have been involved with the creation of Nekkid Came The Swimmer.)

Tanner: "Maybe if I ignore this book, it'll go away."

How bad is this book? Here are some passages.

(p. 12) But here I am at Smith Mountain Lake, where my Aunt Agatha Usher and her significant other Christie, who were currently on a year-long tour of Europe thanks to Aunt Agatha’s acumen at insider trading and her successful Etsy business and her lack of spending money to maintain her rather run-down southern colonial Craftsman cottage on a cozy secluded cove.
I’d arrived only the day before, during the whole of a dull, dark, and soundless day on the last day of July, when the clouds hung oppressively low in the heavens or at least over a singularly dreary and neglected tract of real estate at the end of a nondescript but cozy and secluded nameless cove. I had been driving alone, in a late model Prius without a GPS, and at last found myself, as the shades of the evening drew on, within view of the melancholy house of Usher.

Notice a literary allusion in that passage? Well, there are a lot more—equally bad or perhaps worse:

(p. 22) As I was saying, love is fraught. I allude once more to the literary allusion (sometimes mistakenly thought by the less literate to be illusion, but it’s not) above. Try telling that Blanche person that love is not fraught. Here she is, just trying to do the delicate little flower bit to get some affection, when suddenly there is not God so quickly but Stanley with more affection than she was really looking for, and that not entirely consensual to boot. She got those bright lights flashing, all right, but they were the ones on top of the little white wagon that took her right to the loony bin. So I know love is fraught. And you do too if you’ve read hardly anything at all.

Nekkid Came the Swimmer is also fraught with horrid descriptive passages:

(p. 28) Her heart palpitated, fluttered rapidly, then clenched again. Hurrying as fast as her long, shapely legs and her non-bunioned nor hammer-toed feet could carry her, she rushed to the front door, unlocked the lock, turned the knob, and, with great expectations, threw open the door. Her hand flew to her mouth and she gasped when she saw. . .

 (p. 32) It was a dark and stormy morning, as a bolt of crashing lightning, accompanied by a roll of thunderous thunder, woke Lorelei with a jolt as she laid, er, lay—oh, whatever—in her bed. She rolled over on her side and looked out her bedroom window through eyes that were no longer emerald but were now bloodshot—the color of raw, red beef—and blurred from a very trying month of October and too much tequila chased by cheap India pale ale (not Sunken City’s Red Clay IPA) during the dark and stormy night before.

. . . and, of course, there’s more. An insufferable lot more. In the dozen chapters plus epilogue, the eleven writers who stooped to write this dreck manage to commit all major writing errors and a number of minor ones as well—there’s blatant plagiarism (albeit from works that are mostly now out of copyright), malapropisms, various other –isms, purple prose, way too many clichès, excesses of adjectives and adverbs, dangling modifiers and goodness knows what else, misspellings and typos, etc. Even the formatting is bad. Dialogue is even worse. The point of view shifts from first to third and back again, and the prose sometimes shift to poetry or drama. Or a combination. The plot is twisted, uneven, full of holes, and—well, words fail me. Possibly it has no plot. It’s hard to tell. One chapter is impossible to make sense of (as opposed to some others that are only next to impossible.)

There is one thoughtful touch. The back of the book tips you off that you shouldn’t read it: 

However, if you do—despite these warnings—buy the book, at least your $10 will be going to a good cause—a Smith Mountain Arts Council scholarship for students in the counties of Franklin, Bedford, and Pittsylvania.

Now, I just happen to have come across the official FAQ (frequently asked questions) for Nekkid Came theSwimmer (because I might or might not be involved with the dreadful book’s creation). In order to enlighten you about the creation of this wretched book, I present it here:

 Nekkid Came The Swimmer FAQ

Q. What is Nekkid Came The Swimmer?

A. It’s the culmination of a 2014 writing project undertaken by certain members of Lake Writers. These members wanted to see if they could come up with the worst novel ever written that's set at Smith Mountain Lake. Consensus is that they succeeded.

Q. What kind of book is Nekkid Came The Swimmer?

A. It’s the worst book ever written that’s set at Smith Mountain Lake.

Q. So it’s fiction?

A. Absolutely. Really, really bad fiction. 

Q. Is it based on real happenings and real people?

A. Some real places and events are mentioned, but they’re used in a purely fictional way. None of the characters is in any way based on a real person. None of the things that happen in this book are remotely believable.

Q. How did the idea for this dreadful book originate?

A. One member of Lake Writers—who wishes to remain anonymous—suggested it as kind of a writing exercise. Oddly, several other members were amenable to the idea. The thing just grew. Contributing writers found it fun to break as many rules of good writing as they could. Plus there was a 1960s dreadful book, Naked Came the Stranger, written by a group of journalists using the name Penelope Ashe. . . .

Q. If this book is so bad, how did it ever get written?

A. A list of recurring characters and a few guidelines provided a basis. Chapters were assigned based on months in the year, so each author wrote his or her chapter without knowing exactly what the others were writing. However, since some chapters were read to the group, those authors who procrastinated were able to incorporate a few of the ideas from other chapters into their own. Eventually, there was a book. One chapter had more than one author, though.

Q. What is the premise of Nekkid Came The Swimmer?

A. Recent widow Lorelei Lee Lakewurst comes to live in her aunt’s lake cottage for a year while the aunt is away. She swims naked because of her allergy to spandex. Complications—some of which are far-fetched—ensue.

Q. What makes this book so bad?

A. You name it—it’s bad. Plot, style, characterization, formatting, plagiarism of long-dead authors, point-of-view switches, numerous clichés, etc. Actually, the book is kind of funny if you like to butcher literary sacred cows. Otherwise, it’s not funny—just bad. And tedious. And maybe stupid.

Q. Does Nekkid Came The Swimmer have any redeeming qualities?

A.  Very few. But it can serve as a warning about how not to write. In fact, included is a study guide at the back. A few contributors discovered that deliberately writing badly actually helped them to write better. And any proceeds from the book will be donated to the Smith Mountain Arts Council’s scholarship fund.

And that’s all I’m going to say about that (or whether I was or was not involved in its creation).

Tanner: "This book might
be useful for bathroom reading."

Saturday, May 09, 2015

When Iris Eyes Are Smilin'

Some irises blooming (and maybe smiling) in my yard:


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Sunday, May 03, 2015

Choice Matters

 Note: Apparently, in one of my posts from March 2008, I rained on someone's parade. Thus, I choose to address that problem (and some grammatical issues) in this blog post.

Before comments are posted on this blog, I choose whether or not to approve them. Usually comments are made within a couple days after an update. It’s rare to see a comment appear seven years after a post, but that’s what happened the other night when someone took issue with my 2008 post, “A Matter of Choice,” in which I wrote about choosing to be happy.

At 9:18:51 PM on Friday, I received this email from someone I don’t know. Apparently, my post about choosing to be happy really touched a nerve. Note: I have blocked out the name of the sender (Bless her heart!) to protect her identity, but her comment made me realize that I hadn't written about any grammatical or writing issues lately in this humble blog:

The email notification gives me a choice to publish, delete, or mark as spam any comment my blog receives. I have chosen to use none of those options with this comment. I choose instead to use it as a teaching moment. After all, I was an English teacher for decades.

General advice about commenting: When one is replying to something posted online, and one thinks it necessary to reply in a paragraph, one ought to compose a unified and coherent paragraph. I immediately noticed that the above paragraph lacked both unity and coherence. I imagine that faithful readers of this blog, many of whom are college educated, noticed that, too. 

It's been about seven months since I've addressed any writing issues in a blog-post, but this paragraph inspires me to do so now. Let’s examine the parts of this paragraph sentence by sentence, shall we, to see how the writing might be improved?

You have obviously have not suffered from clinical depression.
Well, this is an interesting opening sentence with the word have repeated unnecessarily. Since the writer does not know me, how does she presume to know from what I might or might not have suffered? However, I am a diabetic, and—according to the American Diabeties AssociationStudies show that people with diabetes have a greater risk of depression than people without diabetes.” (It would have been much better if the writer had opened with a question: "Have you ever suffered from clinical depression?" See, that leaves the door open for discussion.)

Its ignorant people like you that are killing the people who can be helped with medication.
Oh, dear! I believe the writer means It’s—the contraction for it is, not the possessive pronoun. Why, since she does not know me, presume I’m ignorant? Must I post my college degrees? They're the two on the top row:

Now back to the implication in that second sentence (which certainly went in a different direction from the opening sentence) that I am to blame for killing people: I have never withheld medication from anyone who needed it, nor have I ever murdered anyone (I did deliberately kill a copperhead once by beating it with a rock, if that counts.) I’m having trouble understanding how my ignorance of whatever it is that I—and no doubt many others—are ignorant could be responsible for killing people who need prescription medications. It’s a pity that the writer did not cite any studies that prove we are to blame? I, for one, choose not to accept that blame. (I'd leave out that sentence entirely. Why aggravate your readers by accusing them of something they didn't do. Much better to share your own experiences with depression and lack of medication.)

Did you know that white people have the highest suicide rate?
This sentence is going into yet another direction, so any hopes the paragraph had for coherence and unity are pretty well shot. Why would the writer bring race into this? And what do suicide rates have to do with whether or not I choose to be happy? However, I did a bit of Googling and learned that, for 2014, the suicide rate is “nearly 30% higher in people ages 65 or older.” Should I worry that I’m well over 65? Just when I was enjoying my senior citizen discounts. . . . (I'd leave out that sentence, too.)

I can not believe you are an educator.
I am not responsible for what the writer can or cannot choose to believe, but—if it helps—in the second row of the picture posted above, there's my postgraduate professional license that certifies me to teach and beside it is plaque recognizing 26 years service in the Roanoke School system. (Another sentence I'd leave out.)

People who can choose obviously don't have a conscience.
I cannot understand the writer’s reasoning here. Were this statement on a student’s essay, I would write “fallacious reasoning” beside it. People with consciences make choices all the time. However, the writer is certainly entitled to choose to believe a fallacy if it makes her happy. (Maybe, "I have trouble identifying with people who choose happiness.")

Think about it, don't you have guilt or feel guilt?
That sentence is a tad repetitive. What is the difference between “having guilt” and “feeling guilt”? Plus it really needs a semicolon instead of a comma. (The English teacher in me chooses to cringe at comma splices.) But to answer the question: Every time I eat too many carbs and cause my blood sugar to rise, I feel a little guilty. I should know better than to push my diabetic limits. I’m feeling a bit guilty writing this blog-post because most of my faithful readers would rather see pictures of my cats instead of getting an English lesson. I know for a fact that some of my former students read this blog, and I feel guilty that this post might be causing them PTECSS (Post Traumatic English Class Stress Syndrome). To relieve their suffering, I’ll take time out to post a picture of George:

There’s nothing like a picture of a cute kitty to brighten your day—or so I choose to believe. (FYI: I have a dozen kitties, all of whom I chose to keep rather than rejecting them. Some of them were dumped by previous owners; some were kittens of cats dumped by previous owners—oh, please forgive me. I’m getting off topic and veering into another direction entirely!) Least I be accused of writing a blog post that lacks coherence and unity, let’s return to dissecting that paragraph, shall we? (As for that sentence, perhaps this: "I often feel guilty if I'm happy. Do you ever feel that way?)

I do believe in staying optimistic however, it should not be a moral weakness because they can't.
I’m having trouble following this run-on sentence. (Why did the writer choose not to put a semicolon after optimistic?) And I’m not clear on her meaning. Did the writer mean that choosing to be optimistic is an option for only some people? Why would she even consider lack of optimism to be a moral weakness. Truth be told, I tend to be pessimistic. However, I still choose to be happy. The two states aren’t mutually exclusive. At least I choose to think they’re not. (Maybe this: "I do believe in staying optimistic, but some people have difficulty doing so.")

Here's another picture of George:

Its like telling people who are paralyzed they really don't need a wheelchair.
(Oh, dear. Its is a possessive pronoun. The writer should use the contraction it’s because she means it is.) Why would anyone other than a medical professional tell a paralyzed person what they need or don’t need? I certainly wouldn’t choose to do that! (Now I’m getting mental images of vile people creeping into hospitals and telling accident victims—oops! Off topic again. Sorry.) But telling disabled people they don’t need conveyances to make their lives easier is rather like telling people who choose to be happy that they shouldn’t be happy or should feel guilty about being happy. (Maybe this: Telling people to be happy doesn't really help. They have to find happiness in their own ways.")

FYI Abraham Lincoln suffered from depression.
Thank you for sharing that. The 1860s were a depressing time for many. I’m not sure what Abraham Lincoln's emotional state has to do with my choice to be happy, though—especially since he said “Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” Isn’t “making up their minds” akin to choosing? I choose to think it is. (Maybe: "Throughout history, people have suffered from depression that prevented them from feeling happy." And then cite some examples—with citations, of course.

At 9:37:13, I received this comment:

I cannot, of course, say what Robin Williams seemed like, other than he seemed to be a good actor. I especially enjoyed his performances in Dead Poet’s Society (a movie any English teacher can love!) and Good Morning, Vietnam. I never met the man personally, so I don’t know what he was really like; the persona he projected through the media was, of course, his choice. (Maybe: "Some people give the illusion of being happy when they really aren't. And then cite some examples—with citations, of course.)

Let’s take time out for another kitty picture, shall we? Here's Jim-Bob:

OK—back to choosing happiness. At this point I choose to put in a few plugs for two writer buddies of mine who both seem to be happy people. Eduardo Mitchell has written two ebooks about mediation: Original Zen: A Pathway of Inner Development Leading to Wisdom, Inner Peace, and Enlightenment and Living in Zen: Lighten Up. There’s Nothing Wrong With A Little Joy, Happiness, and Pleasure

Both ebooks can help you be happier. You also might want to check out Ed’s blog or his website.

Author Ginny Brock’s blog is A Shaft of Light. Her latest post, “Make a Wish,” might help you achieve peace, which is—I choose to think—a sort of happiness.

Anyhow, I wish my blog readers happiness and peace. And good writing skills.  And maybe cats. 

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