Peevish Pen

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

© 2006-2019 All rights reserved

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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), Miracle of the Concrete Jesus & Other Stories, and several Kindle ebooks.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

200th Post

To commemorate my 200th post on this blog, I'll pose a few questions based on pictures I took recently:

Does the lily know that the ornamental grass overshadows it?

Does the holly tree know that a poke weed grows in its shadow?

Does the boxwood know it grows under that a tunnel spider's web?

Was Buford thinking outside the box when he selected a box too small to comfortably sleep in?

Ah, questions. . . .


Tuesday, May 29, 2007

In Memoriam

Jack Mushko
(early 1993—May 28, 2007)
~a fine and noble dog~

Jack with 8-week-old Maggie (Dec. 28, 2005)

Jack shows young Maggie the farm in January 2006.

Jack in February 2007.

Rainbow Bridge
(author unknown)

Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.

When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge. There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together. There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.

All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor. Those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by. The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.

They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent. His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.

You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.

Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together. . . .

This picture of Jack in the creek was taken in January 2005, shortly
after our first border collie—and Jack's friend—Abby died.
This part of Polecat Creek was Abby's favorite place.

See you on the other side, Jack.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Visiting My Town?

Or is that “toawn”? The spam filter didn’t automatically put this obvious junk mail message in the junk mail folder.

From: (some fake addy)
Subject: Re: Hallo!

Hope I am not writing to wrong address. I am nice, pretty looking
gbirl. I am planning oan visiting your toawn this month. Can
we meet each otherb in person? Message me back at hazkieq@(somescammyemailaddy)

If I were going to reply—which I’m not—here is what I’d say:

Dear Gbirl (?),

How nice you are going to visit my toawn—er, town—which is mainly populated by cows and assorted rednecks. We do have some nice people here, but they will be busy working.

The town itself consists of a sign at the crossroads. There is a larger town two miles west, but most of it was bull-dozed to build a shopping center that hasn’t been built. It looks like ground zero. There is, however, a recently expanded marina, should you be in the market for a high-priced boat. Two miles east is another town with an even bigger marina, a Minute Market, and a Dairy Queen. If you’re looking for groceries as well as a boat, this one is the place to go.

For your stay in our area, I suggest you dress appropriately: sturdy shoes, long sleeves (even though today’s temps will be in the high 80s), and a ball-cap. You do have a ball-cap, don’t you? You’ll need it to participate in the main activity that is currently underway here: making hay. As I’ve noted in a previous blog entry, making hay is hot, dirty, labor-intensive work. the ball-cap keeps the sun off your face and might delay your eventually getting skin cancer.

That you are “pretty looking” is irrelevant. Can you drive a tractor? Hook the rake or baler to the tractor? Change a tire on a tractor? Spear a round bale right smack in the middle?

Can you tell which snakes are poisonous and should be killed and which are to be left alone to do their jobs (rodent disposal)? If you can’t tell a copperhead from a blacksnake, you might not want to visit. Are you likely to be grossed out by buzzards ripping apart any rodents killed during haymaking?

Do you think a visit to farmland should include running barelegged through the tall grass because you’ve seen scenes like that in movies? (Let me rephrase the question: Are you so incredibly ignorant that you are not aware of ticks and chiggers, which are quite prevalent now?) If so, I hope you have good insurance coverage. Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Lyme disease take a while to cure. The chiggers won’t give you any potentially fatal disease, unless you sever a vein or artery while scratching where they’ve caused itching so intense that . . . oh, you don’t need to know about that.

In the event that you see any cattle loose on the roads, you can tell the difference between a bull, a cow, and a steer, can’t you? You might be able to herd the cows and steers out of the road, but I don’t recommend you mess with the bulls. Just in case you have to do a bit of rounding up loose livestock, you can saddle and bridle a horse, can’t you? Do you have a strong voice that’ll command a border collie’s attention?

And you can tell the difference between a coyote and a dog, right? Actually, you shouldn’t try to pet anyone’s dog either. Most of the dogs around her are pretty territorial and protective of their property. And, no matter how cute you think they are, don’t try to pet possums, groundhogs, and raccoons. Especially don’t pet any cute little black critters with while stripes down their backs. If you do, don’t say I didn’t warn you. (Helpful hint: Tomato juice really does neutralize the smell.)

Well, I could go on, but there’s work to be done here in rural America. You understand, won’t you, that I’ll probably be too busy to meet you “in person” if indeed you decide to pay a visit? (How will you get here? This town has no taxi, bus, train, or plane service. If you don’t drive, you’re plumb outta luck.) I figure you won’t stay long.

Anyhow, y’all come back, here?


Sunday, May 27, 2007

Open Letter

Dear blonde driving the black GMC SUV that was tailgating my old Dodge truck for two-tenths of a mile on Kemp Ford Road about 9:30 this morning:

I'm so sorry I inconvenienced you by going slow. When I looked in my rearview mirror, I could tell you were impatient by the way you were swerving back and forth as you rode my bumper. Were you so close that you didn't see the truck's flashers going? Were you so close that you didn't see the slow-moving tractor in front of my truck?

Did you think that swerving behind me would make me go faster? It didn't—I had to go slow to protect my husband on his tractor in front of me. Having someone ram the back of my truck is preferable to having someone ram the back of the tractor. An old Ferguson isn't built for speed. When it's pulling a hay rake, it has to go even slower. Sorry about that. We probably caused you a great deal of inconvenience in the less than five minutes you were behind me.

I saw you try to pull out several times to pass, even though the road has a double solid yellow line. There's a reason for that line: the hills and the curves. With the high grass along the right-of-way, it's even harder to see what is coming. Each time you tried to pass, you had to get back behind me because of an on-coming car or truck. Traffic can be heavy near the lake on a Memorial Day Weekend.

My husband decided to move his tractor this morning before the church traffic picked up. If he'd waited until later, he'd have inconvenienced more people and had a greater risk of being hit. I need to be behind him because our Union Hall farm is on a road to the lake—a road where people often speed.

We had no problems for the two-tenths of a mile we were on Route 40. Two pick-up trucks were behind us. I think they were locals. They weren't in any hurry to pass and they didn't tailgate. They must have known that a tractor wouldn't be on the road for long. Going slow for the short stretch we have to be on Route 40 is usually the scarey part of tractor-moving. Today, however, was fine. But not long after we turned off Route 40, there you were.

I'm sure you thought we should have pulled aside and let you pass. But there was no place to pull aside. There isn't a shoulder on this curvy narrow road. Plus the hayrake sticks out some. That's why it has the orange triangular "slow moving vehicle'" sign attached. That's why my husband was wearing an orange shirt: visibility.

I was going to note your license number, but your big SUV didn't have a front license plate. As soon as my husband and I turned off Kemp Ford and you sped away, you were going so fast I didn't see your rear license plate. All I saw was the SML sticker on your rear window. You ain't from around here, are you?

Later today, you'll probably have a Memorial Day Weekend cook-out, and most likely you'll throw a few steaks on the grill. As you chow down on your T-bone, you might think about the steer that steak came from—and about how somebody had to provide hay to feed that steer through the winter so it could end up on your plate.

Maybe the somebody who made the hay that fed the steer that provided the steak that you ate while you sat on your deck and looked at the lake and complained about being inconvenienced by the locals was the one who moved his old tractor and hayrake to his hayfield this morning.

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No, that tractor with attached rake isn’t the latest in lawn art. John parked it near the house after he’d finished raking at Polecat Creek Farm. Next, he’ll take it to Smith Farm. Our house is the halfway point. We’re in the midst of haying. Cupcake and Melody eat a bale of hay a week. More in winter. Not little square bales—the big round bales.

The best thing about feeding round bales, besides having to put out only one each week, is they can be left outside. Rain runs off and doesn’t sink in. The outside gets a little yucky, of course, but less than an inch down is the good stuff. The tastiest gourmet-quality hay is at the center.

Getting to the good stuff involves hollowing out the bale. Cupcake and Melody have mastered this art. Tunnel in (one horse on each end of bale) and when the tunnel goes all the way through, Melody paws apart what’s left of the bale. They don’t eat the yucky outside.

Cupcake tunnels in.

If you drive past my pasture and see what looks like a headless horse, you’re really seeing a mare partake of the ultimate equine dining experience.

Feeding hay requires making hay. Usually we do it in June and September. This year, the hay came in early. Weather conditions have been perfect the last couple days: “Make hay while the sun shines.” Bedford got a quarter inch of rain Saturday afternoon and warnings were out for the lake, but the rain missed Penhook and Union Hall.

Haymaking isn’t cheap, when you factor in the costs of fertilizer, equipment, and the current high gas prices. We own neither haybine nor baler, both of which cost big bucks. We go shares with Bobby, a guy who does have a really good tractor, haybine, and baler. John does own an old Ferguson and a hayrake. Bobby cuts one day, John rakes the next day after the hay has cured, and the other guy bales.

Sometimes, hay-making is like juggling. Friday, for instance, Bobby cut all the fields on Polecat Creek farm down the road. Saturday, John raked at Polecat Creek while Bobby cut at Smith Farm in Union Hall, three miles away. After the hay had dried from John’s raking, Bobby returned to bale the Polecat Creek Farm hay.

Newly baled hay—especially hay that hasn’t been rained on and has been cut on a hot windy day—is a beautiful sight.

In her novel Fair and Tender Ladies, Lee Smith has a character say, “Farming is pretty work.”

Making hay is hot, dirty, labor-intensive, and expensive—but the result is doggone pretty to look at.

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Saturday, May 26, 2007

Emma's Annual Make-over

Emma drinks from the bucket while Harley the catahoula hangs around.

Emma, our 8-year-old mixed sheltie, has really bad hair. So bad, there's no telling what lives in there. So bad, poopsickles hang from it in winter, necessitating a partial clip. In late spring, however, Emma needs a full clip.

The first time we had her clipped, I hardly recognized her. I brought home half the dog I took to the vet. Her clip job also revealed the mystery of Emma's waddling gait: she has absolutely no waistline. She's built like a log.

Emma is our only bilingual dog, so she can disobey commands in both English and Spanish. She originally was raised by the Mexican migrants across the road. The named her Salavino, socialized her well, and couldn't take her with them on the bus to Mexico in 1999.

The Mexican's employer, no doubt knowing I ws a sucker for animals, said she was too nice a pup to take to the pound and did I want her? I crossed the road and looked into the pup's eyes—stockdog eyes. I love stockdogs. I took her.

She fit in well with the other two dogs I had then: Abby (my border collie) and Jack. She was, however, a free spirit who only obeyed when she wanted to.

When Abby died, Emma became the kennel boss. Jack, as senior dog should have taken over, but he's a laid-back sort who doesn't care for managerial responsibilities. Emma is bossy and snarky, so she was perfect for the job.

However, when Maggie reached full-size, Emma was edged out of her manager's position in what may or may not have been a hostile take-over by Maggie. Emma moved out of the dog stall and established residence in the dog house where she could have things her way.

Anyhow, Emma had her hair cut Thursday. Here she is with her new look.

Yes, I am aware that Emma looks like a Warren Kimble cow.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Poetry Popularity Contest

My elderly mixed retriever Jack just received another in a multitude of emails from Apparently, they’ve moved from the ranks of scamming into spamming. What they want you to do is forward your poem’s link to as many people as you know (and have them forward, etc.) inviting them to visit and vote on your poem, no matter how lacking in literary quality it might be.

To the clueless, voting for a friend’s poem might seem like a lovely thing to do in the name of friendship, even if the poem is dreadful. is betting that those clueless will be so impressed with the International Library of Poetry website when they visit to cast their votes that they’ll start posting their own poems, being declared semi-finalists, being offered over-priced merchandise, dubious awards, etc. In short, they’ll be hooked.

In the past, I have received emails from poets and self-pubbed novelists who had never met me but who harvested my email addy from the Virginia Writers Club website and figured (wrongly) that I’d help out an unknown writer of dubious talent. A quick look at whatever I was supposed to vote for told me it wasn’t deserving of recognition. While I was tempted to write an in depth critique for a few of them, I decided not to waste my time for something I wasn’t getting paid for.

The clueless don’t get that the determination of a work’s literary value isn’t by majority rule. Yeah, some books are popular because they’re good, and word spreads. But you can’t have declare an otherwise dreadful book—or poem—worthy of literary merit by having a lot of folks vote for it.

OK. Rant over. Here’s the email Jack received:

Jack, have your favorite poem rated by friends and family, and take advantage of this unique contest brought to you by We have given away over 80 iPod Shuffles and $6,000.00 in cash. We are committed to continuing this fun and exciting contest, and we need your help! All you have to do is send your poem to everyone you know, requesting that they rate your poem and send it to their friends. Before you know it, your poetry will circle the globe in the blink of an eye. Who knows? . . . you may even join our long list of winners in this extraordinary competition.

We award an Apple iPod Shuffle to poets every day, seven days a week, and we award $1,000.00 to two lucky poets every month.

Remember this contest is free and our gift to you for helping to spread the art and love of poetry.
We have been amazed at how creative some of our poets have been. Some have posted the link to their poem on their personal web page or on their page, while others have used blogs, chat rooms, and other imaginative techniques to get the word out about their poetry.

Put Your Poem Link On Myspace!
Copy and Paste the below HTML onto your myspace page: You can also use the above HTML on, blogs, chat rooms, and any other network to get the word out about your poetry.

Here is your link:

Good Luck, Get Creative, And Keep Poetry Alive!

News Flash: Poetry is alive and is likely to remain so, despite the efforts of to kill it off by flooding the market with mediocre (and worse!) poems.

If you think scamming a scammer is pretty creative, then go ahead and vote for Jack's poem. Just don't look around too much while you're visiting

Good luck, and don't forward this to anybody you know. Jack doesn't want an iPod Shuffle; what he really wants is a video iPod. And maybe a MySpace page.


Monday, May 21, 2007

Goodwill, Graveyards, Gift Shops, Etc

My former college roommate Polly and her daughter Robyn and their elderly toy poodle Gilbert visited from Newport News last Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. I’d lost touch with Polly for about three decades but found her again on the Internet in 2004. Now, we see each other a couple of times a year. Naturally, I wanted them to see the local attractions while they were here.

Robyn is a crafter, so one of our activities involved visiting places where she could get fabric to line the purses she makes. Another activity involved visiting gift shops to see what merchandise of a crafty nature they carried.

For fabric, we went to Goodwill in Rocky Mount. Polly and Robyn were impressed how nice and clean the Rocky Mount establishment was. Robyn found lots of interesting clothes she could cut up into purse linings and a bunch of sweaters she’d unravel to recycle the yarn.

It was pretty late by the time we got home, so after supper, we visited Smith Farm, the Brown place, and the local dumpster. Maggie the border collie, of course, went along for the ride—and the run. (Gilbert, not a farm-type dog, stayed home.) At Smith Farm, I showed them the family graveyard on the road and my tombstone I’d bought in 2005 when Rhonda was running a special down at Add-A-Touch Monuments. (I can’t pass up a bargain, and I knew I’d need it eventually.)

After I'd parked my pick-up near the old cabin, we walked up the hill where the old Bernard cemetery is. William Bernard owned the farm before my grandparents did. He cut the little window in the cabin wall so he could sit by the fireplace and look at the place where his wife, Gillie Ann, was buried. My brother, who was born and died on January 17, 1941, is also buried in that little graveyard along with a cousin who only lived a few months.

Next day—Wednesday—was the biggie. We started our tour of the area with a short trip to Sandy Level to see a little church with a large bleeding-from-the-heart-in-full-color concrete Jesus that had lovely plants around it. A photo opportunity if there ever was one.

Of course, they had to see the Smith Mountain Lake, so we took off for Westlake. On the way, we stopped at Bethel Church where my great-grandfather, John Reid Martin, was an elder for many years. We visited his grave and poked around at other graves in the old cemetery. Some families, we noticed, had lost a lot of children while they were still babies.

First stop at Westlake was the Discovery Shop (think very upscale Goodwill with proceeds benefiting the Cancer Society), where we ran into my animal communicator friend Karen. I asked her if Gilbert was afraid to stay by himself at my house. She told us he didn’t like the smells inside but he liked outside. She also mentioned that he was having gastric problems (Polly and Robyn had brought his medicine for that!) and his joints hurt.

After looking through the Discovery Shop, visited a new outlet and then the General Store, which sells a lot of my books. After that, we headed for Bridgewater Plaza, but stopped on the way at the old Hook-Powell-Moorman house near Hale’s Ford on Rt. 122. John Hook, from Scotland, ran a store and had been a Tory sympathizer during the Revolutionary War. We walked around the empty house, whose tin roof was blowing up and down in the breeze.

I told them about the story I’d heard from Dr. Moorman—how his grandfather as a young man had come to the area after the Civil War and stopped at Taylor’s Store, a few miles south. There he saw a young girl ride up, jump off her horse, and go into the store. When she mounted her horse to leave, he glimpsed her ankle and was smitten. He asked if she’d been “spoke for,’ and the answer was no. He decided to marry her—and eventually did. Their graveyard is on land that became Trinity Ecumenical Parish.

At Bridgewater, we picked up maps and tourist info from the Visitor’s Center, tasted fudge in Gifts Ahoy, browsed the Little Gallery, and looked at all the voraciously hungry carp at the dock. We went to the new Goodwill at the Forum, where Polly and Robyn found more recyclable stuff (and I found a copy of the AP Stylebook for only a dollar!), then across the bridge to the Bedford side, but the place where we were going to eat was closed, so we came back to Westlake to Reds, Wines, & Blues. From there we went to the Cottage Gate gift shop and then down 122 to the Booker T. Washington Monument. We drove through the grounds but didn’t go in.

After a nap and supper, we listened to the tape John had made of his trial when he’d been served with false warrants last summer by Mr. Redneck down the road. I’d forgotten how funny it was until we were howling with laughter at Mr. RN’s testimony: “He didn’t shoot me, so I stood there. He didn’t shoot me, so I gave him the finger.” Hearing the assistant commonwealth attorney say that three shots were fired (when John was target shooting at our woodpile) but the plaintiff heard only one was pretty good, too.

Then Polly, Robyn, and I went to Polecat Creek farm to check on things and get the paper from the mailbox. To get there, we had to pass Mr. RN’s house. Upon seeing my truck, he hurried out of his garage to glare at us with his arms crossed. When we turned the corner, he ran further out to continue glaring with his arms crossed. We could hardly contain our laughter.

After checking the farm and collecting the mail, we made the requisite dumpster run and drove down to the public dock to look at the lake. We went past a gated lake neighborhood that I think looks like an army barracks, but the gates were closed. It would have been easy enough to drive over the shrubbery had we wanted to.

On Wednesday, we visited Smith Mountain Dam, and an old cemetery in the Water’s Edge subdivision where Mt. Zion Methodist Church once stood.

Next we stopped at Willow Tree Nursery/Gift Shop and the about-to-open Blue Ridge Cowboy (that was Simply Country a few weeks ago). Then we went back to Smith Farm where John opened the cabin so we could look inside. After lunch, we posed for pictures in the yard and in the road in front of the three redneck chairs.

No sooner had they gone, than Mr. Redneck himself came past in his pick-up. The next day, a manure truck spent hours spreading manure on the fields across the road.

Ah, what Polly and Robyn missed. . . .

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Friday, May 18, 2007


I found the following questions here on Anita’s blog. (Anita and I both have newspaper connections: she writes for the Fincastle Herald; I write the column for Smith Mountain Eagle. We're both members of the Roanoke Valley Pen Women.) I was amazed that many of her answers were doggone close to mine. (Her answers are in parentheses.)

Instead of Working

1. WERE YOU NAMED AFTER ANYONE? Not that I know of. My father wanted to name me Annie Pearl, after my maternal grandmother’s sister who died young, but for some reason they didn’t. My mother might have been inspired by Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. (Nope. But my uncle stole my name and his daughter, who is two years younger than I, has the same first name and middle initial as I do. My mother really did not like that.)

2. WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU CRIED? It’s been so long, I can’t remember. (Sometime earlier this year.)

3. DO YOU LIKE YOUR HANDWRITING? Nope. The older I get, the more illegible it is. I can’t even read some of what I handwrite. That goodness for computers! (No. It is nearly illegible, very tiny and cramped. It is getting worse as I age.)

4. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE LUNCH MEAT? Sliced turkey. (Vienna Sausages.)

5. DO YOU HAVE KIDS? Nope. (Nope.)

6. IF YOU WERE ANOTHER PERSON WOULD YOU BE FRIENDS WITH YOU? Yeah, but then I’m fond of brutally honest, sarcastic, nit-picky, out-spoken curmudgeonly individualists with a wicked sense of humor. (Probably. I don't know anyone else like me, though. Which probably says a lot, I'm just not sure what.)

7. DO YOU USE SARCASM A LOT? Heh, heh, heh. See previous answer. (Moi? Be sarcastic? Never!)

8. DO YOU STILL HAVE YOUR TONSILS? Yep. They get larger every year. (No. I had them removed in 1994. I was supposed to be off from work for one day; I ended up being out sick for two weeks. There were complications.)

9. WOULD YOU BUNGEE JUMP? No way! (Not now. Maybe when I was young. Back then I went up in a small plane. I've also been in a hot air balloon.)

10. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE CEREAL? I don’t eat cereal. (Frosted Flakes. They're!)

11. DO YOU UNTIE YOUR SHOES WHEN YOU TAKE THEM OFF? I usually wear velcro-fastened sneakers. (Depends on the shoe.)

12. DO YOU THINK YOU ARE STRONG? Mentally, yes. Physically, I’m progressively getting weaker. (I am strong mentally but not physically.)

13. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE ICE CREAM? Tie between Breyer’s strawberry cheesecake and chocolate with almonds. (I don't eat ice cream but I like Chocolate Obsession Soy dessert)

14. WHAT IS THE FIRST THING YOU NOTICE ABOUT PEOPLE? Usually their eyes—unless they have some unusual feature, like a horn protruding from the forehead. (Their eyes.)

15. RED OR PINK? Depends upon the circumstances. (Pink.)


17. WHO DO YOU MISS THE MOST? My labradoodle who died about 15 years ago and my first border collie who died in 2004. They were both great dogs. (The people whom I never had.)

18. DO YOU WANT EVERYONE TO SEND THIS BACK TO YOU? No, but you might answer the questions yourself on your own blog. (No.)

19. WHAT COLOR PANTS AND SHOES ARE YOU WEARING? Jeans and white socks. I just took off my muddy white sneakers. (Jeans and white sneakers.)

20. WHAT WAS THE LAST THING YOU ATE? An apple. I’m drinking coffee now. Does that count? (Raisins.)

21. WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO RIGHT NOW? Birds singing; the sound of a manure spreader across the road. (Silence. Well, the air purifier. Plus the bell on the microwave keeps dinging to let me know the rice is done.)


23. FAVORITE SMELLS? Tie: Lilacs—the old-fashioned kind that actually have fragrance–and anything fresh-baked. Fresh coffee brewing is a close second. (Breakfast cooking.)

24. WHO WAS THE LAST PERSON YOU TALKED TO ON THE PHONE? Woman who (thank goodness!) calls about every two months to ask if I need my carpets cleaned. I generally do. (A person I was interviewing for an article.)

25. FAVORITE SPORTS TO WATCH? Horse shows. (Women's tennis.)

26. HAIR COLOR? Light brown with lots of gray. (Brown with lots of white coming in.)

27. EYE COLOR? Hazel (Hazel)

28. DO YOU WEAR CONTACTS? Glasses—tri-focals, actually. (Glasses.)

29. FAVORITE FOOD? Strawberry cheesecake. (Strawberry shortcake.)

30. SCARY MOVIES OR HAPPY ENDINGS? Happy endings. (Happy endings.)

31. LAST MOVIE YOU WATCHED? Dreamer—a couple of years ago. I rarely go to movies. (Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, for about the umpteenth time. I haven't been to the theater in so long I can't remember what I last saw.)

32. WHAT COLOR SHIRT ARE YOU WEARING? Purple sweatshirt. (White with a logo on it.)

33. SUMMER OR WINTER? Summer (Summer)

34. HUGS OR KISSES? Hugs (Hugs)

35. FAVORITE DESSERT? Tie between cheesecake and most things chocolate. (Chocolate anything.)

36. WHAT BOOK ARE YOU READING NOW? Just finished Jodi Picoult’s My Sister’s Keeper, which was wonderful. Now I’m proofing More Peevish Advice. (I'm in between books.)

37. WHAT IS ON YOUR MOUSE PAD? Don’t have one. My eMac’s Pro Mouse doesn’t require a mouse pad. (Go blog yourself.

38. WHAT DID YOU WATCH ON TV LAST NIGHT? The weather forecast. Then I slept through the 1:00 a.m. thunderstorm, or so my husband told me. (I didn't watch TV last night.)

39. FAVORITE SOUND? Nature noises. (Nature noises. The wind whistling, the frogs chirping, the birds singing.)


41. WHAT IS THE FARTHEST YOU HAVE BEEN FROM HOME? Either Canada or the Florida Keys. I haven’t been to Europe. I figure my ancestors had good reasons for leaving it. (Spain and France. I guess that means France, I think it is further away.)

42. DO YOU HAVE A SPECIAL TALENT? Does writing redneck humor count? (I make my friends laugh.)

43. WHERE WERE YOU BORN? The old Lewis-Gale Hospital (torn down a couple of decades ago) in Roanoke. (In a hospital.)

Monday, May 14, 2007

Bookcover From Hell

. . . or maybe it was a bad Photoshop day.

Today I received the proof copies of More Peevish Advice. I thought I'd made it clear to the POD company what the cover should look like. I sent print-outs and explicit directions.

I did not get what I imagined.

Instead, I got this (ignore the gray line at the bottom; I didn't crop very well):

I thought lavender would make a nice background. Instead, I got the color of the heartburn pill.

I never asked for a green frame. And not a Victorian frame. I thought a silver or gold frame would look beauty-shoppish.

The part of my Dolly Parton wig that has the pink plastic curler on top is cut off.

The illustrator's name is missing.

I was not sunburned or embarrassed when my picture was taken. Where did the red skin-tone come from?

I wanted the same font for my name as Peevish Advice had in 2001. The squarish font looks too techy.

I emailed my list of complaints/corrections to the project manager as soon as I saw the cover. Let's see if they fix it. Meanwhile . . .


Friday, May 11, 2007

Happy Birthday, Cupcake

Tonight, my old mare turns 26.

On the evening of May 11, 1981, G’s Liberated Lady (aka “Cupcake”) came into the world at Red Lake Stable in southeast Roanoke County.

I boarded my Blackie, my quarter horse, at Red Lake and rode the adjoining Blue Ridge Parkway trails almost daily. Blackie’s stall was next to Fair Lady, the barn manager’s pregnant racking mare. Naturally, I’d look in before I left to see if anything had happened. At four o’clock on May 11, it hadn’t.

A few hours later, I got a phone call. Another boarder on her way out saw legs protruding from Fair Lady. She called the barn manager who called other boarders. By the time my husband and I had driven the 8 miles to the barn, a wet foal lay in a heap in the stall. A surprised Fair Lady, who at 16 was pretty old to be a first time mom, lay nearby.

A dozen or so of us stood in the barn aisleway for what seemed like forever. Eventually, Fair Lady rose and sniffed the alien being in her stall. After many tries, the foal wobbled to its feet and started to nurse. We on-lookers heaved a collective sigh. The barn manager went in and toweled the baby dry.

“It’s a girl,” she announced.

“How much do you want for her?” my husband asked. I knew he didn’t mean it. He always squelched my ideas of buying a second horse.

“She’s not for sale,” the manager said.

Six months later, she was. I got the call at school while I was on my planning period.

“How much?” I asked.

“Three hundred.”

The timing was good. My husband was in Philadelphia on a business trip. I stopped by on my way home from school and wrote the check.

Buying her was both the best and the stupidest thing I ever did. We’ve been though a lot together. Her personality and mine have always been pretty much the same.

When I got her, I was still in my mid-30s, which I now consider pretty young. When I faced middle-age, she was an adolescent. In my early middle-age, she was young. For a time, we were middle-aged together. Somewhere she passed me. At 26, she is old; I can see old age looming.

I missed her birth, but I was there for her first step. With any luck, I’ll be there for her last.


Wednesday, May 09, 2007

More Writing

The past five days have been filled with more writing activities.

Last Saturday, for example, I traveled to Fredericksburg with two other Valley Writers to attend a regional meeting of the Virginia Writers Club. Since the meeting would be at a fairly new community college, I packed my trusty laptop in anticipation of Wi-Fi. (Note: Those of us on dial-up relish the chance to partake of the joys of wireless Internet service, i.e. YouTube, etc.)

However, the college didn’t have Wi-Fi! Instead, it had state-of-the-art restrooms with toilets that flushed automatically whether you wanted them to or not, faucets that turned on automatically and turned off before you finished washing your hands so you had to wiggle your hands around to get them to start again, and automatic paper towel dispensers that didn’t give you enough on your first or second attempt. But no Wi-Fi! I would rather stand in line for a porta-pottie as long as I could get online.

Monday and Tuesday, I worked on my mid-grade novel, tentatively called Stuck. I think I’m finally getting somewhere with it.

Today, Rocky Mount Writers met in the Franklin County Library (which does have really fast Wi-Fi!), we shared some ideas, critiqued a bit, and recommended writing books to one of the librarians. I couldn’t linger afterwards, though, because I had to hurry home. My husband called the library to tell me my horse vet was coming early. Anyhow, Cupcake and Melody are officially vaccinated for the next year.

Tomorrow will not be a writing day. Both the carpet cleaner and the farrier arrive at the same time tomorrow morning. Lake Writers was supposed to have a lovely and tasteful ceremony for the winners of its essay contest tomorrow evening, but most of the kids who won or placed have prior commitments. Consequently, we decided to cancel.

Friday, Lake Writers will meet, some of us will do lunch afterward, then I’ll go to the Smith Mountain Eagle open house where I’ll be Ida B. Peevish for a few hours.


Friday, May 04, 2007

Dark & Stormy Valley Writers

It was a dark and stormy night yesterday evening when Valley Writers celebrated its 25th anniversary.

Our guest speaker was multi-talented Mike Allen, who covers court cases—usually involving violent crime—for the Roanoke Times. However, he also reports on such diverse topics as (and I am not making this up—the following is a quote from Mike’s email to me) “government scandals, movies, aerial ballet, textile layoffs, tobacco farmers, wedding rings, Dairy Queen bluegrass, fake UFO landings, the Great Privy Race in Independence and, my favorite, the Ass-Kicking Machine of Burnt Chimney.”

Besides working a day job as a mild-mannered reporter (Why am I thinking Clark Kent here?), Mike also does a super job as a writer, editor and publisher of “eccentric and unusual stuff.”

For example, as a science fiction and fantasy author/editor/publisher, he edits the poetry journal Mythic Delirium, writes an occasional book (Strange Wisdoms of the Dead is his latest), contributes poems and short stories to several venues, and puts together anthologies (such as Mythic and Mythic 2).

The Valley Writers who braved the rains enjoyed not only hearing about Mike’s experiences in writing and publishing but also loved hearing him read some of his work. All of us were moved by his piece about a friend killed in the Virginia Tech massacre.

Take a look at his website and blog. You’re in for a treat.


Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Writing About Writing

Today I’m writing about writing. My last two weeks were filled with writing.

I worked as Roanoke County Public Schools’ Writer-in-Residence at Cave Spring High School week before last and at Northside High School for four days last week and three this week. In fact, today was my last day. Last October, when I agreed to be writer-in-residence, I didn’t realize how much I would enjoy the job.

I only have to work 35 days—seven days at each school. Earlier in the school year, I spent a week at William Byrd, Glenvar, and Hidden Valley. Each school was different, and working at each was an enjoyable experience. My faith in high schoolers has been restored. The kids I encountered were polite and interesting. And interested in writing. Who knew there was a guy at Cave Spring who wrote formal poetry, including epic poetry? Or a guy at Northside who's writing novels and publishing via Lulu? Or girls at a couple of schools who write about escaping to a meadow? (What's with meadows? They're full of ticks and chiggers!)

Working for Roanoke County Schools has been pure joy—such a different experience from my 26 years working for Roanoke City. I took early retirement from Roanoke City in 1997. I got out alive—for a while, I didn’t think I would.

At Lake Writers last Friday, we decided the winners of our Lake Writers Essay Contest, a competition we started three years ago to honor the memory of Tony Torre, who loved writing about people and places. All the high school winners were from Hidden Valley High (where a lot of kids are interested in writing). Judging was so tough we had to declare co-first place winners, the first time this has happened.

All last week and most of this week, the Rocky Mount Writers—a new writing group that I sort of helped found (although Marion and Heather did most of the initial work) have been posting on the RM Yahoo group. Some members—newcomers to the area—have started blogs.

Saturday, I went to Richmond for the SCWBI workshop that the Mid-Atlantic branch sponsored. There I was able to thank Sue Corbett (Miami Herald book reviewer and author of the wonderful middle grade novel, Twelve Again) for the good comments she gave me about my work-in-progress mid-grade novel, Stuck, in the CNU contest.

Since Saturday, I’ve been revising Stuck—a lot. The creative writing classes at Cave Spring and Northside gave me some really good critiques. They remember being ten (the age of my main character) more than I do. Their “ten” is more relevant than my “ten”—the world has changed plenty in the last half century. Someday, I’ll write about how.

Tomorrow, May 3, Valley Writers Club celebrates its 25th anniversary. Naturally, I’ll be there.

I’ve got plenty of ideas for articles I need to develop. I used my drive to Roanoke every day as think time. Maybe I’ll work on those ideas now that my job is over. Or maybe I'll work on the novel. Whatever—I'll write something.

One of these days, I might even be writing about writing about writing?