Peevish Pen

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

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Location: Rural Virginia, United States

I'm an elderly retired teacher who writes. Among my books are Ferradiddledumday (Appalachian version of the Rumpelstiltskin story), Stuck (middle grade paranormal novel), Patches on the Same Quilt (novel set in Franklin County, VA), Them That Go (an Appalachian novel), and several Kindle ebooks.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Faster Pastor: A Review

I recently finished an Advance Reader Copy (ARC) of Faster Pastor (Ingalls Publishing Group, Inc.), a novel by Sharyn McCrumb and Adam Edwards, that will be in bookstores in April 2010.



The book, based on the “what if” premise of a group of ministers racing for a $2-million prize, is a hoot. Several hoots, actually. The book is full of numerous laugh-out-loud moments. 

Mix together a down-on-his-luck stock car racer, a recently deceased racing fan whose will specifies that his NASCAR collection be sold and the money given to the church of whichever minister wins a race, a gaggle of ministers each with a need for money, a handful of other characters with ulterior motives, and the small town of Judas Grove that just happens to have a stock car track, and you have a fast-paced book with a lot of twists and turns, a few crashes, and pit stop every so often. 

Camber Berkley, a minor league stock car racer, crashes the funeral of the town eccentric—literally crashes it with his car. Fortunately he stops just short of the casket and no one is hurt, but Camber is arrested and soon convicted on several charges. Given the choice of several months in jail or two weeks of community service, he naturally opts for the service. Pajan Mosby, an officer of the court and daughter of the judge who found Camber guilty, supervises Camber’s community service—teaching the preachers to drive a race car.

Camber succeeds in several ways, but I won’t give away what they are. Rest assured that the book comes to a satisfactory and believable conclusion. Getting there is half the fun.

What makes Faster Pastor interesting is that it has two authors; what makes it good is that you can’t tell where one’s writing ends and the other begins. The voice is consistent throughout, and the third person omniscient point of view allows for a little educating the reader about certain technical aspects of racing every so often. 

McCrumb, who already has two racing books out already—St. Dale (winner of numerous awards) and Once Around the Track, says the book began as a “what if” idea. What if an unlikely group of folks had to race stock cars—and who more unlikely than a bunch of ministers? She and co-author Adam Edwards, an actual race car driver, tossed the idea back and forth and Faster Pastor is the resulting piece of fiction.

Does art reflect life? In this case, it does. The idea of racing clergy isn’t just fiction. A plethora of pastors are already zooming all over—and have been doing so for years. Some actual faster pastor races are documented via You-Tube. Here's one from the 2009 Macon, IL race (Note: the race in the McCrumb-Edwards book is even more exciting!):




Numerous blogs mention various faster pastor races. This one takes place in Pt. Charlotte, FL, and this one in Jackson, MN, and this one at the Atlanta Motor Speedway, and this one in Arizona. And there are more. 


  
Google “Faster Pastor” and you'll find a movie about Adam Farrell (watch the trailer here), a website about a faster pastor who provides motorcycle funerals in the UK, and lots of blogs. 

Whoever imagined that so many pastors were so speedy? I’ll bet the folks who attend all those faster pastor races (and possibly the motorcycle funerals) would enjoy the McCrumb-Edwards book. 

If you're a fan of down-home feel-good southern fiction, odds are good you'll like this book.
~

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Deja Vu & Instant Karma Too

About this time every year, our lawn gets trashed by someone with an urge to drive on it. Last October 25th, for instance, one of the two gals who sped back and forth across the lawn ended up on our drain pipe. (The account is the second half of this post.) This morning, I noticed some idiot* had attempted to trash the lawn again. Deja vu? (*I use the term "idiot" because an intelligent person wouldn't do this.) He probably thought he'd get a big laugh out of us having our lawn torn up again.

Now, the lawn damage wasn't the first thing I noticed when I went out to feed this morning. The first thing that caught my eye was the mare from down Novelty Road who'd come to visit my horses, which prompted Melody to kick out a fenceboard while the dogs barked like crazy and the barn kitties frantically circled around to be fed. After feeding horses and cats (the dogs had to wait), I went back to the house to holler to hubby to call the horse's owner and to grab a little extra feed, get the halter and lead, catch the horse and start walking up to the intersection where the horse's owner soon appeared.

As the visiting mare and I walked up Listening Hill Road, I noticed tracks along the edge of our lawn and some marks into the juniper that covers the beginning of our drainage ditch. Back in the house, I might've mentioned this to my husband after I told him the fence needed fixing. Then I took a shower, had more coffee, and got onto the Internet.

My surfing was soon interrupted by hubby asking me to photograph the damage. As I did so, we reconstructed the crime. Someone turned from Novelty Road onto Listening Hill and—after clearing our mail box and big rocks—turned onto our lawn. Since we were still up at eleven last night and didn't hear anything, it must have happened late.

There was a scattering of hoar frost early this morning, so the grass was pretty slick. Plus the ground was still soggy from all the rain a few days ago. Anyhow, you can see the tracks here. The driver was careful not to hit the white rocks around my flowerbed:



Eventually the tracks exited the lawn and continued across the road:



 A bit farther down, the tire tracks appeared wider and further apart. How can this be? Because the driver over-corrected when he came off the slick lawn and then slid sideways—into our drainage ditch.



Here's the view from the other side:



The drainage ditch is open under the spreading juniper. Then a pipe goes under our bottom driveway (just the other side of the juniper), continues underground for a while, goes under the pavement, and drains into the pasture across the road. You can see the angle a bit better in this picture:



 The vehicle left some deep gouges:



Let's take a closer look:



We figured the juniper cushioned the vehicle as it slid into the ditch. Maybe it saved the idiot's life. We couldn't figure if the vehicle overturned or not. Some gashes were cut in the pavement in front of our driveway. The gashes were in the tire tracks. How did that happen?



We decided from the marks on the pavement and some other tracks that the the idiot needed help to get out of the ditch. Someone apparently pulled him out, and they continued on down Listening Hill Road. We figured the vehicle must have sustained some serious damage.

We didn't bother to call the cops this time—at least not yet. We figured the idiot will have to shell out for car repairs and maybe new tires. Maybe he learned a lesson: You reap what you sow.

Karma—you gotta love it when it happens so fast! Our lawn will grow back. Tires don't grow back.

Heh, heh, heh.
~

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Fw: Re: Fwd: Etc.

Warning: Rant and excessive use of italics to follow.
Today I received an e-mail from the former president of an organization I've belonged to for quite some time. The e-mail came to the e-mail account that I reserve exclusively for writing-related communication—querying agents, submitting work, conducting writing club business—you know, official writing stuff.

That e-mail addy has my full name in it because I've heard agents say both online and at conferences how important it is for a writer to have this kind of addy so the agents and editors know who is sending the e-mail and so the e-mail doesn't get caught in a spam filter.

Now, I certainly would never use that e-mail account for spam. I don't send spam. I. Just. Don't. (Time out here: Literary agent Janet Reid recently addressed the problem of authors sending spam e-mails to her.) I use that e-mail account for official writing stuff.

So, I was disappointed that the e-mail I received at my official writer e-mail account was actually spam that had been forwarded and forwarded and forwarded. Yeah, it was an inspirational poem, etc. etc., etc., but it was still multi-forwarded spam.

Now, as this inspirational e-mail is forwarded again (though not by me!) all over goodness-knows-where, my e-mail addy rides along with it and becomes spammy by association.

Another thing that bothered me is that no author was given credit for this poem. I don't forward anonymous writing and I don't think others should either. It's an insult to the author.

I won't quote the whole inspirational poem because it's all over the Internet in a couple of different versions, but here's the opener:

Her hair was up in a pony tail,
her favorite dress tied with a bow.
Today was Daddy's Day at school,
and she couldn't wait to go.

I received the 2007 version where the kid's daddy died in Iraq (Oh, I've spoiled it for you. Sorry!), but there's also a 9/11 version where the kid's dad is a fireman who dies when the World Trade Center collapses.

But the poem isn't really anonymous. A quick visit to snopes.com produces info about the author—Cheryl Costello-Forshey—and the original version of her poem. According to the author, the poem was a "fictionalized account of what [the loss of her father] meant to one particular little girl and by extension what similar losses mean to all children who lose parents." See the original poem and the full explanation at Snopes.

At Snopes you'll also learn that the poem has been published in two places: Chicken Soup for the Parent's Soul and Stories for a Teen's Heart (book 2). It's under copyright.

I already send and receive a lot of e-mail. I don't need to receive inspirational messages that have floated around the Internet since 2000, are referenced in a gazillion places, and even have You-Tube videos made of them. Especially  inspirational messages that end thus:



Now that last part is what rankles. I haven't "forgotten my friends" unless forgetting to spam them somehow equals forgetfulness. Adding this passive-aggressive crap onto Costello-Forshey's poem does her work a disservice.

Upstream in the e-mail forwards, the person who sent this to the person who sent it to me, wrote this: "I shed a few tears, too; am sending it to my writers group I recently joined; will also fax to local papers; hope one of them will publish it."

Uh, no. Reputable newspapers do not publish anonymous inspirational poems. For one thing, there's that sticky copyright issue in case the real author, whose name was omitted from the first several million times this thing was forwarded, comes forward and threatens a lawsuit. For another, few newspapers reprint poems, period. Not poems that were written nearly a decade ago and already copyrighted. It's not news.

OK, rant over. Now for some advice:
  • If you just absolutely have to send stuff to friends, give credit to the stuff's writer. If you don't know who created something, don't send it. 
  • If you send a group e-mail, at least don't make the e-mail addresses visible to everyone.
  • And if you really urgently have to forward something, remove the e-mail addresses from the previous sender.
Otherwise, you're going to be getting some interesting offers from some new friends in Nigeria,  some lottery folks in the UK, and some pharmaceutical folks from goodness knows where.
~

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Countdown to Publication

Ferradiddledumday, my Appalachian version of the Rumpelstiltskin story will be released in early January. That's only a little over six weeks away. Already my publisher has made an author page for me and my illustrator and has sent me a bunch of promo materials: advance reader copies, bookmarks, and cards.



I've already sent out some of the advance reader copies to bloggers. Amy Tate's review has already appeared on her Virginia Scribe blog.

I've been putting together some press kits that I'll use for media folks who've indicated interest in doing a story.



I have several appearances already lined up. Waiting for this book to come out is kind of like waiting for Christmas when I was a kid.
~

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Deja Vu at the RT Again

Once again, the Roanoke Times has, uh, recycled some of its material. This morning, I braved the monsoon (which has already dumped more than two inches of rain here since last night) to get the paper and feed the outside critters.

Feeding the horses and barn cats wasn't too bad. The mares were already waiting in their run-in shed; the barn kitties were lurking in the tractor shed. Dog-feeding was a challenge, though. After wading into the kennel to feed the dogs, I was anxious to get back to the house, shuck my soggy socks and sneakers, grab a cup of coffee, and read the paper.

Uh, oh! Page 5 of the Extra section looked strangely familiar. A quick dig through the recycling basket produced Monday's paper. Page 7 was almost identical (funnies, Jumble, Wordy Gurdy and the other puzzles—even the horoscopes!) but there were two differences. Do you see them?


 Today's page is on the left; Monday's on the right.

A quick cat scan finds those differences right away:



If the RT folks can change the Kroger ad and the birthdays at the bottom, why can't they fix the whole page

~

Sunday, November 08, 2009

VWC Meeting

Yesterday, a few other Valley Writers and I attended the annual meeting of the Virginia Writers Club in Charlottesville. There were a couple of things about this meeting that stood out.

1. One of the attendees wasn't human. He was a hawk named Harris Potter who came with his author owner, Andy Straka. I am not making this up. The hawk was live, not stuffedHere is a picture:



2. My publisher sent me a half dozen Advance Reader Copies of Ferradiddledumday, plus a whole bunch of promotional bookmarks and postcards. (Unfortunately, she wasn't able to attend the meeting herself because her daughter was in a accident that morning.)

I'd already seen PDFs of what the book's interior sort of looked like and jpegs of the front and back cover. It was neat to see what the book would actually look like. 


 
Recently my author page appeared on the Cedar Creek website, with a toll-free number to advance order copies. In about two months, my book will be available. Check it out.

Meanwhile, I need to distribute the ARCs to some of my blogger buddies who have Blue-Ridge/Appalachian blogs so they can get started on their reviews. 

(Is this a post blatant promo? Yeah, I guess it is.)
~

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Wednesday, November 04, 2009

The Woes Done Gone

My MacBook is now working the way it should. When my phone service was finally workable today today, I called Apple tech support. (Not only have I had MacBook problems, I've also had phone problems. Last weekend's heavy rain meant that water got into the underground phone lines again and produced static so loud we had to shout to be heard over it. The lines were finally fixed late this afternoon.)

I called Apple's toll-free tech support number (1-800-75-2273) to see if I could somehow get installation CDs that would replace the MacBook's Snow Leopard operating system with the older Leopard. I was talked out of that (which might possibly be doable, but then I wouldn't get tech support, etc., and I'd have to pay for them).

I referred the first tech person I talked to (Jarrod? Jared?) to my previous blog post. He took a look at the example Pages text I'd posted and knew something couldn't be right. He referred me to a higher level tech support person.

Consequently, Tammy in Apple Tech Support spent over an hour and a half walking me through a bunch of procedures that ultimately solved my word-processing problems. I could not begin to describe all that we did, but the important thing is—IT WORKS! The Pages documents in Times New Roman look great—all the weird stuff is gone. The Word documents in TNR actually print.

I no longer hate Snow Leopard. And I really appreciate the dedication of Apple's tech people.

So, I now have a phone that works and a MacBook that works. If I could just get rid of the cough I've had for over two weeks, I'd work better, too. Two woes down, one to go.
~

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

The MacBook Woes Continue

If you were bored by yesterday's post, don't bother to read this one.

Still trying to troubleshoot the MacBook, I tried printing various documents—one in MS Word, one in Appleworks, and one in Pages—from the MacBook to the C4680. I used a couple of different fonts on each, but each had a sample of Times New Roman.

First, as a control measure, I printed them from the iMac to the C4680. All printed fine from the iMac. I emailed them to the MacBook, downloaded and printed. From the MacBook to the C4680, results were not so good. Oddly, the Word document printed. Other Word documents didn't, though, including one that I created brand new on the MacBook. I can't figure that out.

Appleworks didn't work at all. Pages was, well, weird. I then did a complete reinstall of iWork. It didn't make any difference.

Take a look at the two samples I printed using Pages (part of Apple's iWork). After I printed them, I scanned the results and converted to a jpeg. I noted the day and time and computer on each. Keep in mind that this is the same application on both computers, both documents in Times New Roman, 12-point. Only the operating systems are different: the iMac is still using Leopard (OSX 10.5.8) and the MacBook uses the latest Snow Leopard (OS X 10.6.1)




See? The problem has to be with the MacBook. (Note: I incorrectly called it an iBook in the above sample. My elderly iBook, while limited to Panther OS, at least allows me to print in TNR.)

Could it be that this refurbished MacBook wasn't fully refurbished. Maybe it has issues that are unsolvable? Or is the problem with the Snow Leopard operating system?

What do I do now? Call Apple again. . . ?

Well, I can't call until Embarq, er, Centurylink gets the water out of the phone lines so the phone will stop buzzing/humming/whatever, so the DSL line will stop dropping the Internet connection (happened twice while I was creating this post) and so I'll actually be able to hear the person I'm talking to. They're supposed to fix the phone lines tomorrow.

It's always something.

Update: on the off-chance that it might be a keyboard decoder problem, as one of my fellow bloggers/Facebook buddies suggested, I unplugged the keyboard from the iMac, plugged it into the MacBook and tried to do a Pages document in Times New Roman. Same problems as the sample above. Changing the keyboard DIDN'T FIX the problem.


Another Update: Another online buddy thought I might have corrupted fonts. I went to Font Book to validate fonts, found some duplicates, and clicked the thingie that fixed the duplicates. DIDN'T FIX THE PROBLEM!


A bit of Googling confirmed that it's a SNOW LEOPARD PROBLEM. Check out these two discussions: 


 "Altered Font Spacing Crippling for Designers"

 "Major Font Problems in Snow Leopard!"


~

Monday, November 02, 2009

Leopard & Snow Leopard & Word, Oh My!

Warning: This is long and boring, especially if you aren't into computers. For those of you who followed the three-part saga of my kitchen countertop renovation, you'll detect similar themes.

I was so prepared to love my new MacBook. Well, it's not exactly brand new; it's a recent model, but it's refurbished. And I'd heard such nice things about the Snow Leopard operating system.

Last March, when I bought the iMac to replace the elderly G4 eMac, I'd wanted to get a replacement laptop for my elderly G3 iBook. When I recently won a bit of cash, I figured, What the heck. I'll spend my writing-related winnings on something I can use for writing. I watched the Apple Store website's refurbished ads until the MacBook I wanted (at the price I wanted) appeared. I ordered it October 29 and had it in hand on Halloween.

But let me back up here. My iMac, purchased last March, has the Leopard operating system. I really like Leopard. I like it a lot better than the old eMac's Panther system which I'd liked better than the eMac's original Jaguar system. Consequently, I was prepared to like Snow Leopard even more.

I read up on how to use the migration assistant to get all my stuff (including a gazillion documents in both Word and Appleworks, and a few in Pages) to the laptop. When I zapped stuff from the eMac to the iMac, I'd used Target Disk Mode, or something like that. The migration assistant was similar.

I should mention that I'd also ordered a new inkjet printer (HP Photosmart C4680) because it was free after the rebate. I'd already installed that printer on the iMac so everything—including printer settings—should have zapped over. Or so I thought.

I did a test print on the C4680 of one of my pictures from the iMac, and it printed fine.

Somehow, though, the MacBook didn't recognize my LaserJet, the printer I use for all my snail mail submissions. I searched online and noticed that many folks had problems getting Snow Leopard to recognize the HP P1006. I downloaded an update, and the MacBook recognized the HP1006 and allowed me to add it to the printer queue. Then I tried to print a Word document and got a blank page. I downloaded another update which took almost an hour. Still blank.

Now, I need to mention that the version of Word I used was part of Mac Office v.X from 2001. But it worked great on the iMac (as it had on the old eMac and G3 iBook), so why shouldn't it work on the MacBook?

I spent part of Monday afternoon on the phone with Earl from Apple Tech support. He had me delete the printers from the queue, reinstall them, etc. Finally I printed a test page on both the P1006 and the C4680. So far, so good—right? Wrong! I still couldn't print the Word document I wanted to print.

Earl had me copy the document into Text-Edit (which is like a bare-bones word-processing thingie, for you non-Mac users) and print from Text-Edit. That worked on both printers! Then Earl wanted me to open a new Word document, type a few lines of text, and print. I did it, but the font was Helvetica, not the Times New Roman that I generally use—the Times New Roman, I might mention, that is standard in both the college composition and writing worlds that I inhabit. I discovered I could print a document in Pages, but the TNR-12 looked weird. It had odd spacing between some of the characters making the 12-point size wider than the 12-point size I'm used to. But it did print. The printed document looked crappy, but it at least printed.

Earl, who by now was probably getting tired of dealing with me, told me to reinstall Microsoft Office, and if that didn't work, the problem Microsoft's fault and I should get in touch with them about updates.

After we'd hung up, I decided to experiment with different fonts. I could print in Word using Helvetica, Times, and Lucinda Grande, but not in Times New Roman or Baskerville. Huh? What's with that?

Then I opened an Appleworks document (in Times New Roman, of course) and tried to print. Another blank page. I switched fonts to Helvetica. The page printed. (For y'all non-Mac-types, Appleworks is an older Apple word-processing program that replaced Clarisworks and was in turn replaced by Pages.)

So it's not just Microsoft. It might be—ack! gasp!—Apple and the Snow Leopard system.

This saga—which I really hope will not drag on like the countertop saga did—will continue in a later post.
~

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Kreative Blogger Stuff

Tara, over at the Bloodcrossed Writer blog recently awarded me a Kreative Blogger Award. (Thanks, Tara!)



The Rules:
  1. Copy the pretty picture and post it on your blog. [Done]
  2.  Thank the person that gave it to you and link to their blog. [Thanks, Tara!]
  3. Write 7 things about yourself we don't know. [See below]
  4. Choose 7 other bloggers to pass the award to. [This is where I have problems. I don't send stuff on. I couldn't begin to count the number of e-mail chain letters that have died with me. So here's my deal. If you think you deserve the award, I hereby give it to you.]
  5. Link to those 7 other bloggers. [Let me know if you accept, and I'll edit in a link a link here.]
  6. Notify your 7 bloggers. [You're readingt this; you're notified.]
Now, this isn't the first time I've received this award, so I'll try to think up some new stuff.

Hmmmm. Thinking . . . thinking. . . .
  1. I don't like to watch sports, and I can't understand why people get so excited about a game.
  2. I have problems with artificial sweeteners. Aspartame gives me bad back-of-the head headaches. Splenda raises my blood glucose levels as much as sugar does.
  3. I've never been to Europe or even wanted to go. I figure my ancestors had good reasons for leaving.
  4. I never ate broccoli, Brussel sprouts, eggplant, or pizza until I was in college. Mama only cooked the things her mother had cooked (which were things she'd grown herself), etc.
  5. I never bought a school lunch (not counting the college cafeteria) until I was a student-teacher. Mama always packed my lunch from first grade (no kindergarten in those days) through high school. 
  6. My goal in first grade was to quit school when I turned sixteen.
  7. I'm tone deaf to sharps and flats. 
There.
~