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, July 31, 2008

Summer Bounty

My little garden has been providing enough zucchini to have a serving (or more) a day and plenty of tomatoes and cucumbers. The peaches are all gone (the last ones were pickled) and the yellow squash succumbed to squash beetles, but I'm still picking something every day.

Eating fresh veggies from the garden minutes after you pick them is the way to go.



Saturday, July 26, 2008

Lit Happens

A lot of literary happenings in the next few days:

Today, I hung out at Peggy Shifflett’s Cottage Curio, where Rex Bowman was signing copies of his wonderful Blue Ridge Chronicles. Peggy’s sister-in-law, Hilda, cooked some green beans just like Grandma used to make. She had also made some apple butter rolls and some homemade potato salad, too.

Rex Bowman and Peggy Shifflett

A bunch of folks stopped in to chat and tell stories. An intern from the Salem Times-Register took some pictures and interviewed Rex and me. All copies of Rex’s books sold out by one-thirty.

Rex and I with our books.

On August 8, Peggy will be one of the readers at the Franklin County Book Festival Coffeehouse readings. She’ll read from her book, The Red Flannel Rag. I’ll be one of the readers, too. Dick Raymond and I will read from out worst sentences in the Bulwer-Lytton anthology, It Was a Dark and Stormy Night. I hope the 2008 Bulwer-Lytton winners will be announced by then. They haven’t been announced yet! In the past, judging never lasted beyond mid-July at the latest. (Other readers are Mike Allen, Peter Crow, and Dan Smith.)

Sunday afternoon, the Westlake Library will have its official ribbon-cutting. Since I now serve on the Franklin County Library Board of Trustees, I’ll be there.

On Tuesday evening, I’ll return to Westlake to hear author Scott Loring Saunders speak. I know Debi is going with me. I might convince one or two other writer buddies to go along.

This coming Friday, I’ll join two other Bookfest committee members in publicizing the Franklin County Book Festival on Dick Showemaker’s Rise and Shine show on cable 12. We have to be there by 7:45, so I’ll have to rise earlier than usual that day. Don’t know yet if I’ll shine or not.

I’m chair-person for the Virginia Writers Club “Back Page” poetry contest. Deadline is August 1, and entries are finally starting to roll in.

On August 9, we’ll have two Civil War authors as guest speakers for the book festival—Robert Johnson and Marc Leepson.

And my own big lit news:
At 10:15 tonight, I finished the first draft of my middle-grade paranormal novel, Stuck.

Yeah, I know the real work—rewriting—starts now. But I have carried this idea around since December 26, 2006. I should have finished it a year ago, but I procrastinated.

But now it’s finished! Thirty-two chapters!

Well, the first draft. . . .


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Friday, July 25, 2008

Silver Linings

I can now see the silver linings in the ominous clouds that have been hanging over me lately.

My left hand (victim of my freak housework accident) is better. I can close it. I can type with the little finger and not make errors. It only hurts if I band it against something.

The replaced fuel pump in Ol’ Blue, my elderly pick-up truck works fine. And gas prices are dropping enough so that I don’t cringe so much when I top off his tank.

The Chrysler folks, after weeks of negotiations about the 8/80,000 warranty that they claim was never entered into the computer at headquarters, have agree to give Li’l PTie the transmission transplant he desperately needs. His vital organ is currently en route from Michigan. My hubbie is to be commended for his stick-to-it attitude as he explained the same information ad infinitem to a plethora of people from local dealerships all the way to Chrysler headquarters. I’m sure he has, by now, memorized Li’l PTie’s VIN number. He’s a retired engineer, so he’s used to set-backs, minutiae, vendors not coming through, etc. Plus he’s an ace at troubleshooting.

And I’m not going to bail from the writers group. Our fearless leader talked with the individual in question, who promised to mend his ways. Indeed, at today’s meeting, the individual was quite the gentleman. We had a productive—well-attended—meeting with nary a single raised voice. Today, I got some really good feedback on two chapters I read of my middle-grade paranormal novel, Stuck. These were the two stickiest chapters and I welcomed the input. I handed out a few CDs with what I’ve written so far, so my eagle-eyed buddies can catch any obvious things I might have missed.

My work-in-progress is now at 37,515 words, with a goal of 40,000 words. I’m only a couple chapters—three, at most—from the end. While I’ve already written the last chapter (so I know where I’m going), I need to write the chapters right before the end. I’ve gotten most of my characters unstuck and wrapped up most of the loose ends. I should have this draft done within a week. Then the rewriting begins.

There’s always room for improvement.


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Thursday, July 24, 2008


Route 220, the heavily traveled main drag between Rocky Mount and Roanoke, has more than its share of road-blocking accidents. Like today.

We decided to get an early start to Roanoke this morning and left home a few minutes after nine. We should have been in Roanoke a few minutes after ten. We didn't get there until eleven.

We made good time until just past Boones Mill. Then the traffic slowed to a crawl. We crawled for about two miles until we came to a policeman who diverted traffic onto Naff Road. He said there'd been an accident. That's all we knew.

As we joined the bumper-to-bumper traffic up the mountain, we heard on the radio that a tractor trailer carrying explosives had over-turned and blocked both sides of Route 220.

Since we weren't going anywhere fast, we might as well enjoy the ride. It was a pretty day for a drive through the mountains. lat night's rain had washed every thing clean.

About halfway through the drive, I remembered I had my camera. This is what I saw:

Finally Naff Road became Merriman Road, and we knew where we were: the Starkey section of Roanoke County—the other side of Roanoke from where we needed to be.

We later learned that the accident was cleared up by 10:15. If we'd left home fifteen minutes later, we could have arrived an hour earlier.



Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Black Widow Redux

I took these pictures last week at the Penhook dumpster. I squashed the spider after I took the pictures. Those red triangles on the black body are a dead giveaway.

This morning in the dog kennel, when I dumped over the red plastic dog dish to clean it, I saw a similar spider. I squashed it, too.

Two years ago, I blogged about killing a spider just like this. Same dog dish, too.

Must be the season for 'em.



Monday, July 21, 2008

Getting It Right

. . . Makes for a Good Read

I love it when writers of horse books get it right—when they demonstrate a knowledge of horses and horsemanship.

The worst horse book I ever read was this one, in which a novice jockey ran his first race in the Kentucky Derby and tied with an elderly woman jockey who hadn’t ridden for several years but just happened to have her jockey silks in her vehicle, and—I can’t go on. The book was just too dreadful.

I’ve read another book, which I actually liked, by an author who has a home on the lake. I believed the suspense and intrigue surrounding a woman who’d won a rigged lottery, but I didn’t believe that—while escaping a dangerous situation—she put her horse in a stall at a strange barn (unattended) and left it for two days.

I'm suspicious of books in which horses gallop all day and require no food or grooming, where ladies (in period costume) are forever vaulting unassisted into their sidesaddles and galloping away, where riders can gallop bareback down a steep hill while carrying a newborn infant in one arm and luggage in the other, etc. I’ve read books like that and cringed when I read the absurd scenes.

I loved Sara Gruen’s Riding Lessons and Flying Changes because she got it right. I loved Richard Adams’ Traveller because it was written from the viewpoint of Robert E. Lee’s horse as he told the story of his life to a barn cat.

I love Gigi Amateau’s new book, Chancey of the Maury River, because she writes from the horse’s viewpoint and because she—as a horseperson—gets it right. Her protagonist, an elderly albino Appaloosa with health problems, reflects on his life and how he found his purpose. The plot could easily be depressing, but it isn’t. Chancey’s story is one of hope and inspiration. The theme is universal: One must find one’s true purpose in life.

Her style (Chancey’s?) is lovely and lyrical and loaded with equine philosophy. Anyone who’s ever owned and loved a horse knows the truth of these statements directly from the horse’s mouth:

Horses can detect truth easily because truth is conveyed with not only words, but also with body and heart. (p. 66)

I have observed, on multiple occasions, that people and their animal friends occasionally reflect one another physically and often also in manner. (p. 75)

I will take heart and loving-kindness over technical ability any day of the week—for a rider with an open heart allows the fullest possible joining up, whether galloping over the Maury River, slowly walking a figure eight, or merely standing in my room watching the blue mountains. (p. 184)

And there are more. The book is targeted to readers ages ten to fourteen. However, it’s just as appealing—and perhaps more so—to us sixty-somethings who have loved horses all our lives—especially to us sixty-somethings who have an elderly horse in our back yard, a horse we’d never dream of selling.

I talked to the author last April when we were in a long line together for the restroom at the Richmond Public Library. She was one of the panelists at the SCBWI meeting, and she discussed her up-coming book. While we waited in line, we talked horses. I couldn’t wait to read her book when it came out.

Chancey of the Maury River was worth the wait.


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Saturday, July 19, 2008

What's Blooming Now?

The flowers in my yard are changing. I still have plenty of coneflowers, but the orange daylilies have gone. However, some other lilies are blooming. The blackberry lily is one of my favorites. My Lake Writer buddy Sally gave me the seeds (which look like blackberries) a few years ago:

I can't remember the name of this lily or where I got it. The little flowers beneath it are Tears of Job:

Most of my gladiolas fall over shortly after they bloom, but this one stayed upright:

The Rose of Sharon bushes are still blooming:

The crepe myrtles are starting to bloom. The holly almost hides this one:

My work-in-progress is blooming, too. I'm now at 32,000 words. And it's changed a lot from when I started.


Friday, July 18, 2008


or, How Not to Shill Your Book to Me

This morning I got an e-mail from someone I don't even know. He, no doubt, got my e-mail address from the list of members of AWA, an organization I've belonged to in the past.

He wants me to buy his book. I know nothing about him or his book. All I know is that he's spamming a bunch of folks in the vain hope that we'll buy his new book. Here's what he sent (with details omitted) with my annotations:

Ah, the event approaches—on July 26th copies of my short story collection titled [INSERT TITLE HERE] will be available. You should be able to order it then (or shortly thereafter) from Amazon or get it from the other usual places, at the cost of $14.95.

Should be able?Usual places? Like where? If you don't know for sure if—or where—it will be available, don't announce it! And please don't announce it to total strangers.

But in the business it is typical for the author to have some copies, and I will, and so can offer a SPECIAL DEAL to relatives, friends, AWA folks, and friends of friends. (So, yes, it would be lovely for you to forward this to a few—or few hundred—of your closet friends. The more the merrier!)

I'm not going to spam my friends with info about a book I know nothing about. Somehow no famous authors "in the business" have ever offered me a SPECIAL DEAL, although some have offered me complimentary copies for review purposes. If you want me to tell the world about your book, you need to be someone I actually know and whose book I've actually read. Or else, you can send me a quote from your Publisher's Weekly Review, Library Journal Review, New York Times Review, etc. (The legit reviews—no reviews from the scammers who charge for reviews, please, just in case you're thinking of shelling out $20 or $50 or so for one of their pseudo-reviews)

Here’s the special – $12 instead of the retail $14.95, and autographed as well (if you want an inscription, let me know what it should say), and—heck—I’ll even toss in domestic shipping for $1 more.

All it takes is a check for $12 and whether you want it autographed. If mailed, I’ll need a mailing address and then the check would be for $13. Checks payable to [THIS GUY'S NAME].
And, just in case you might wonder how ‘safe’ it is order or recommend the books to friends, heck, take a look at the comments below [I OMITTED MOST OF THEM] that will be on the back cover. Fred Chappell in particular is a great name in southern fiction, and he and I have not even met—so his comments were especially heartwarming.

Fred Chappell is indeed a great name in southern fiction. I met him several years ago at a conference. I wonder if he knows his name is being bandied about in e-mail spam. That he gave you a cover quote is no indication of how "safe it is."

Buy a book. Tell friends. I’ll start shipping on July 26th and will bring some copies to the office on the 27th.

I have no clue where this guy's office is. (I hope his co-workers are forewarned and his boss approves.) His book might be great, but if he can't even target his e-mails to the right folks, I don't think I want to read his writing. And this blog is the way I tell friends.

The best email for reply (and orders!) is [***] (and the website is [***] should folks like to see some of the publication credits)

I took a look at the one-page crowded website and saw a list of credits. It would have been nice to see an excerpt from the book. Maybe the cover. Maybe a few legit reviews. Something. . . .

And the best mail address is [a place in Missouri]

He only gave the one mail address, so I don't know what the worst one was. I Googled the name of his small Missouri publisher to see what this press does, but couldn't find its website. Not a good sign.

Part of Fred Chappell's quote, though, "There are darknesses abounding -- spousal abuse, alcohol disasters, searing and destructive memories of war. . . " sounds like too much misery for me. Maybe I'm missing a great read, but the way to sell me a book is not via e-mail spam.

July 19 Update: The person who sent the e-mail has contacted me. He's sending me an advanced reader copy for review.



Monday, July 14, 2008

To bail, or not to bail?

That is the question.

Back in my trail-riding days, my motto was “When in doubt, bail out.” I had the emergency dismount down pretty well. Cupcake would act up (which she did a lot in her younger days), and I’d do a quick emergency dismount, land on my feet beside her, and deal with her misbehavior from the ground. I figure I saved myself a lot of trips to the emergency room by getting out of harm's way.

I learned to bail out because I’d had a bad riding accident thirty years ago. If I’d known how to do an emergency dismount back then, I wouldn’t have a couple of permanently cupped vertebrae now. From that mishap, I learned that it’s better if I can choose if and when to bail rather than having the horse make the decision for me.

Now I’m considering bailing out again, but it’s not from a horse’s back. It’s from a writing group I’ve belonged to for eight years.

I’ve been a member of at least one writers group—and often more—since the mid-90s. I think it’s a good idea to join with other writers for support, information, and critiques. When writing groups work, they’re wonderful.

For instance, the crit group I’m in is incredibly helpful. This group consists of four who are writing children’s literature. We can spot each other’s problems and offer solutions. Because we’re concerned with a particular age group, we can be narrow in our focus. We don’t have a leader—or even a name. We don’t need it. Our focus is the members’ WIPs. We might wander off topic, but we always find our way back. We’re a closed group, although an occasional guest can sit in. I come home from these monthly meetings really pumped, inspired, and ready to write. Often, we continue dealing with a Work-In-Progress through e-mail.

The one I’ve attended for eight years also offers support, information, and critiques. This group is mostly retirees who have decided to write after a lifetime of doing something else. Most meetings have a dozen or so (though not always the same dozen). Many of us are self-published; many are actively pursuing commercial publication. Many are friends outside the group. The critiques and input from this group is incredibly helpful. Usually, I leave inspired.

Last Friday, however, I came home from this group feeling angry. For a half hour, one of our members—a gifted and talented individual—spewed venom about people and circumstances in his life. It’s not the first time he’s done this, but perhaps this time was the worst. He’s never published anything he’s read to the group before, so it isn’t likely he’ll submit what he read for publication. He didn’t really want input from the rest of us. We were just a captive audience for foul language, ranting and histrionics.

For instance, he read another member’s published letter to the editor and then read his response which trashed that member’s ideas—while supporting freedom of speech. The other member, who listened quietly to the rant, was a model of restraint and gentlemanliness. Everyone else, I’m sure, was uncomfortable. (At least I was, and so was the person I carpool with. In fact, she doesn’t even want to return.) In the other pieces he read, he loudly trashed members of his family and some other individuals.

This kind of “contribution” to the group is not something I want to hear—being a captive audience member for foul language and vituperation certainly isn’t why I attend a writers group. Perhaps what he read was therapy to help him to deal with his issues, but it was doggone close to emotional abuse for the rest of us who sat quietly and listened.

As I said in a recent post, I don’t want to deal with literary misery. That’s why I’m now thinking about bailing out of this group.

“When in doubt. . . .” And I’m doubting. I just haven’t yet made up my mind.

Do I bail? Or do I take up the reins, dig in my spurs, and ride out the bucks until the problem is solved?

Picky English teacher note: If you’re doubting my use of “writers groups” and think I should have inserted an apostrophe, keep in mind that I’m using the attributive form of the noun writers rather than the possessive form. “A “writers group” means “a group composed of writers” not “a group belonging to writers.” If the group belonged to the writers (instead of the writers belonging to the group), it would be “the writers’ group.” It couldn’t logically be “a writer’s group” unless the writer somehow possessed the other writers in his/her group—which, of course, conjures up an image of a group leader holding the other writers captive. (Or at least attempting to control members with busy work, “writing assignments,” strange rules, and passive-aggressive e-mails.) Oddly, I’ve been in that type of group twice before—and, yeah, I did bail out.



Saturday, July 12, 2008

The Grass is Growing

. . . on the bush-hog?

After John finished mowing at Smith Farm a couple of weeks ago, monsoon season hit. Between the rain and the sultry weather, we didn't have a chance to move the tractor back home to the barn—until this morning. So, the tractor sat out in the open and nature took its course. The result: a crop of grass on the bush-hog. And elsewhere on the tractor, too.

Grass is growing in the tractor's tool storage area:

. . . and in whatever this part is called:

The crop didn't seem to affect how the tractor ran, though.

Now, we need a herd of little, teeny critters to graze on the bush-hog. Too bad miniature horses aren't that miniature.

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Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Misery Loves Company?

I’m not into misery. That why I didn’t read Stephen King's book of that name.

I don’t want to read books about people (or critters) being miserable unless there’s a light at the end of the tunnel (pardon the cliché) and non-miserable parts balance out the miserable parts. Consequently, I won’t read about domestic violence, child abuse, or animal cruelty.

At an open mike session at a writers’ conference a few years ago, a victim of domestic violence read her ten minutes-worth of unpublished blow-by-blow description of an abusive husband’s treatment of his wife (her?) Those of us in the audience winced, but the reader/author never once looked up. She wanted her book published because “people need to know this stuff.” Maybe so, but will people buy it in book form? I won’t. I don't want to read about misery.

I recently tried to read Angela’s Ashes. (Yeah, I know I’m a bit late and that almost everyone in the civilized world read it a few years ago.) Granted, the book is well-written in a distinctive voice. I could see why it won the Pulitzer. But I couldn’t finish it. Too much unrelieved misery.

Same thing for Gap Creek. Several years ago, I made it about three-fourths of the way through. Again, great writing, distinctive voice—but too much misery. I couldn’t finish it.

I know some folks who believe that like attracts like—i.e., if we’re surrounded by misery, odds are good we’ll also be miserable. I don’t know if I believe that or not, but I do know that while reading Angela’s Ashes, three miserable things happened to me. Well, not hugely miserable. More like mildly miserable. And they could have been a lot worse.

Last Tuesday, when my husband and I returned from the grocery store (Senior Citizens’ Day!), the engine light came on in my car and it sort of bucked once. But we made it home OK. Before we took the groceries in, however, we stopped at the barn to check the horses (who were fine). Then the five-year-old PT wouldn’t go into reverse. Then it wouldn’t go into drive.

Luckily we were in our driveway and not on the highway. According to a mechanic, the transmission imploded. A week later, my PT is still awaiting a transplant while we negotiate about the warranty. The local 5-star dealership doesn’t want to honor the 8 year/80,000 miles Powertrain Warranty that the original 5-star 8-Year dealership (no longer in business) gave us.

Thursday, after I’d mopped some floors, I slipped on a still-wet place in the bathroom. When my left hand hit the tile wall, I was pretty sure it was broken (the hand, not the tile). I iced it, but it swelled to the point that I couldn’t use my fingers and it hurt.

At the local Immediate-Care place (don’t get me started on the four-year-old who was bouncing/stomping around the room so much the furniture vibrated) where we went because the 4th of July celebration in town would have made going to the emergency room next to impossible (yeah, I know it was the 3rd, but that’s when the 4th is celebrated in Rocky Mount), I had to wait several hours because only one doctor was on duty.

Anyhow, after waiting almost three hours, X-rays showed I only had no broken bones—only a bad sprain. Unfortunately, the elderly doctor couldn’t figure how to bandage my hand without making it hurt worse (the wrist brace they finally gave me at least held the tongue depressor in place to stabilize my little finger—and I had to ask for the tongue depressor). At home, I figured out a better way to pad my hand using vet wrap and masking tape. Now only the little finger doesn’t quite work, and even it’s getting better.

This Tuesday—yesterday—we were en route to Kroger in Ol’ Blue, my 1994 truck which has run pretty well most of its 140,000+ miles. We were about halfway to Rocky Mount when Ol’ Blue groaned a few times and bucked to a stop. Restarting attempts were unsuccessful.

Luckily, we were beside Rocket Lube (an auto repair shop!) when Ol' Blue had his seizure, and the mechanic (who was probably distant kin to me) could look at the truck right away. Luckily, the shop had an air-conditioned waiting room—a big plus on a hot, sultry day with thunder storms in the forecast. The mechanic determined it was the fuel pump, said they could get one by tomorrow, and a woman in the office gave us a ride home. I got Ol’ Blue back this afternoon and he runs fine.

So—at the moment I’m not reading any more books about misery. Just in case. . . .


Tuesday, July 08, 2008

What's Blooming?

A bunch of stuff is in blooming my yard. There's my flowerbed . . .

. . . and the sunflower . . .

. . . and the snapdragons . . .

. . . and the coneflowers.

The peach tree, which bloomed so profusely in the spring, is now full of ripe peaches.



Monday, July 07, 2008


Last week's scam phone call started me thinking about some scams I recently received via e-mail. I now present the best (worst?) of them with my annotations:

I received this obviously scammy e-mail in mid-May and again a week ago. It raises some questions: Why can’t scammers punctuate properly? Or spell correctly?

Subject: Contact Fedex Express Courier Company Immediately
Date: May 14, 2008 6:53:01 AM EDT

Dear friend,

We’re not friends. I don’t know you.

How are you today ?.

You don’t really care how I am, do you? You only care if I’m stupid and/or gullible enough to fall for this obvious scam.

I'm writing to inform you that I have Paid the fee for your Draft Cheque.

What “Draft Cheque”?

Yesterday, I went to the bank to confirm if the Cheque has expired or getting near to expire and Mr.Anthony zuma the Director of B.O.A Bank Of Africa told me that before the cheque will get to your hand that it will expire.

Wow! They must be clairvoyant or something? But—if they know it’s going to expire, why send it to me? That’s a waste of postage.

So I told him to cash the $1.5m, to avoid losing this funds under expiration as I will be out out of the country for a 3 Months Course and I will not come back till end of June 2008.

Hmmm. I wonder what “3 Months Course” could take a person “out out” of the country. It must be an abridged course because it only lasts one month.

What you have to do now is to contact the FEDEX EXPRESS COURIER DELIVERY COMPANY as soon as possible to know when they will deliver your package to you because of the expiring date.

Wouldn’t they start delivery as soon as the get it? It’s a check, er, cheque. It’s not like it’s a stuffed elephant or something equally heavy and bulky. Uh, oh! I see a problem. Your Fed-Ex uses a Yahoo e-mail address? And you didn’t give me the tracking number for my Fed-Ex delivery so I can tell where it is?

For your information, I have paid for the delivering Charge.

Well, of course. I never accept COD packages.

The only money you will send to the FEDEX EXPRESS to deliver your Consignment direct to your postal Address in your country is US$106 One Hundred & Six United States Dollars only being Security Keeping Fee for the Fede x Service so far.

Somehow, I knew I’d be expected to cough up some money.

Again, don't be deceived by anybody to pay any other money except US$106.00.

Hey, I’m not even being deceived by you!

I would have paid that but they said no because they don't know when you will contact them and in case of dumourrage on your Package with them.

Yeah, sure, you would have paid that. “Dumourrage”!? ROTFL!

Please write a letter of application to the given address below:
Company Name : FedEx Express
Director : Dr.Obi Morgan
Contact Email:fedexexpresscompany94@SOMEFAKEYAHOOEMAILADDY
Contact Tel : 229-xxxx-xxx

Finally, make sure that you reconfirm your Postal address, nearest local and international airport, Direct telephone number to them again to avoid any mistake on the Delivery.

Like there’s really going to be any delivery.

Let me repeat again, try to contact them as soon as you receive this mail to avoid any further delay and remember to pay them their Secur ity Keeping fee of $106.00 for their immediate action to deliver urgently.

You don’t have to “repeat again.” You don’t even have to repeat the first time.

Note that: The FEDEX EXPRESS don't know the contents of the Box. I registered it as a BOX of African cloths. They did not know that the contents was money, this is to avoid them delaying or termpering with the BOX.

Well, you certainly wouldn’t want anyone to termper with a box of money. I wonder why they wouldn’t termper with a BOX of African cloths?

Don't let them know that the box contains money ok. Thanks and More Blesssing.

Pastor Mike johnson

And then there’s this job offer that I couldn’t refuse—NOT!

Date: May 15, 2008 7:51:01 PM EDT

Cheapfabrics of Windsor UK
Thames Court,1 Victoria Street
Windsor,Berkshire SL4 1Yb London U.K

Tel:+44 (0) xxxxxxxxx

Good Day Sir/Ma,

I’m neither a sir or a ma.

Would you like to work from home and get paid weekly ,without affecting your present job?

What present job? I’m retired, though I do some freelance writing—and I write a humor column. needs a book-keeper in the States to be part of its financial team.

Bwahahahahahahahaha! My math skills are laughable! And I’m not a team player.

For more Enquiries Call or E-mail Me on the above Email address and phone number.
Thank you in anticipation.

Best Regards,
Mr Brown Chi

I followed the URL to a classy website, but none of the links work. Could this be a scam, ya think? And then there’s this one:

Date: May 19, 2008 8:05:32 AM EDT


Not again! And with lousy punctuation yet!

I Am MRS. Linda ,a personal assistant to the president British Support High Commission for foreign affairs.

A personal assistant should know how to capitalize and punctuate properly. Also, does the BSHC prez have a name? And here's the best (worst?) part:

A top Government official in your country has recommend you to us as a Good and nice person whom we can in trust the sum of (sixty five million pounds) for our support to your country to reduce the numbers of unemployment and to support the motherless this year.

What "top Government official" has recommend me as a “Good and nice person”? Do they ever recommend Bad and mean persons? If so, to whom?

As you are to put up an industry with this Little funds that my Government can afford.we are here by request for all your in formations and your position in your country as at now.
pls reply this message as soon as possible.

My current position is slouched at my desk, trying to keep the desktop cat off the keyboard. I am not, nor do I intend to be “in formations.” What kind of an industry am I going to “put up”? Could I put it down?

yours faithfully
Mr, Henry J.Katalnga

How did MRS. Linda become Mr. Henry. Do those overseas Yahoo adddresses change gender when they cross the pond? Sheesh! If you're gonna scam somebody, at least keep your name consistent. Is there no honor among scammers? And then, there’s this one:

Dear Sir,

Here we go again.

I got your contact through the internet search.

OK, at least this one is more honest than the others. . . .

Sir, I am Lt.Col. David Hook of Second Infantry Div. Unit (S.I.D.U.) Abul Uruj Baghdad, Iraq.

Uh, aren’t you busy fighting a war? How do you have time to email strangers?

This mail will definitely come to you as a surprise,

Not so much. I expect a scam email or two a day. But you’re my first from Iraq. If that is indeed where you are.

I have in my position a huge amount of US dollars in cash which was Recovered in one of our operations we did here in Iraq, As I am the officer in charge, I wish to solicit your assistance and confidential..

You command soldiers, yet you have such a limited command of the English language? And you’re confessing that Americans are stealing from Iraq? Hmmm.

This fund has just Been lodged in a security vault in England were I am now, Which will be disclose to you letter, if you accepted or have interest, With my position I assure you free and fare transaction with good arrangement between I and you, we can do it..

Arrrggghh! You’re plucking every grammar and punctuation and capitalization nerve I have! (As well as forcing me to use exclamation points!) And you admit you’re not in Iraq after all!

I can't make mention of the amount involved now and were this fund is been kept until I receive your reply then arrangement will take off.

Well, I don't deal with scammers who offer me less than ten gazillion dollars. I have standards! (Does the US government know you’re doing this? Did George Bush tell you to do this?) I'll bet the arrangement won't be the only thing taking off.

Thanks and Regards
Lt.Col. David Hook
My mobile number here is xxxx

So I can call a soldier on his mobile phone. Doesn’t this sort of interfere with the war effort. Oh, wait! He’s not actually in Iraq. I’m also guessing that a real Lt. Col. would be a bit more literate. At least, I hope so.

Some of us make fun of scammers; others enjoy scamming scammers. These three sites (featuring scammers that are scammed) are worth a look:

OK, so much for my time-wasting when I really should be working on my novel. But y'all click on those above links. They're a hoot!

(Note to my crit group and other interested readers: My work-in-progress is now 25,410 words.)


Sunday, July 06, 2008


The flowers in my flower beds are growing and blooming.

The passion flower vines are growing. Today one bloomed.

My little garden plot is growing, too. I've already made a couple of zucchini harvests.

My work-in-progress, a middle reader novel, has grown to 25,000 words (18 chapters). Only about 15,000 words and two major plot turns to go.

My left hand is growing stronger. The swelling actually makes it feel better and look younger (no wrinkles!).

And I'm growing older. Which certainly beats the alternative.

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Saturday, July 05, 2008

Evening of Agent Info

Last Wednesday night Lake Writers hosted a visit by writer/editor/playwright Chuck Sambuchino, who was spending the long weekend on the south side of Smith Mountain Lake. He’s probably best known as the editor of the Writer's Digest Guide to Literary Agents.

Since only two of us Lake Writers live in the Southlake area (albeit not on the lake), we had the job of getting Chuck to the Moneta/SML library. Well, Claudia did in her Hummer; my PT (which suffered the automotive equivalent of heart failure on Tuesday) is in the shop awaiting a transplant.

We’d planned to meet Chuck in downtown Union Hall at Donna’s Antique Shop (a clearly visible landmark with its bright orange window trim, plus most of Union Hall around it has been bull-dozed by the builder who went bankrupt, so the shop really stands out) but that didn’t quite work out. At 6:10, while Claudia and I sat in the parking lot, I called him. He was just exiting the south side of Roanoke—at least a half hour away.

We regrouped and decided to save time by meeting six miles to the west at the Glade Hill Minute Market, an easily identifiable landmark with plenty of parking. Then we could take a back road to Rt. 834 to Westlake and then to Rt. 122. I called our fearless Lake Writers leader, Jim Morrison, to let him know we’d be late. He’d warm up the crowd while they waited.

Chuck—who’d been driving for 10 hours—shortly arrived, and we made it to the library only a few minutes late.

The seventeen people in the audience included some Valley Writers and a few folks from Lynchburg. Chuck spoke about literary agents, but he also fielded some questions about related publishing topics. It was good to hear about the inside of the publishing industry from someone in the know. While he mainly addressed concerns with acquiring agents (which only one person in the group has done), Chuck gave some other good info—such as how to write a query letter (“one page humbly asking an agent to represent your work”).

His query letter instructions were easier to understand than some I’ve heard from agents and editors at conferences. He broke the query letter into three parts:
  1. 1. What the work is and why you’re contacting the agent.
  2. 2. The pitch—three to six sentences about the work itself.
  3. 3. The author’s bio and platform.
He also recommended we read a blog that critiques query letters: Query Shark. I checked it out later that evening and found it really helpful. It reminded me of Miss Snark, one of my favorite agent blogs that, alas, is no longer updated. (A digression here: Chuck claims to know the true identity of Miss Snark, but wouldn’t tell us.) Anyhow, if you enjoy Evil Editor (another of my favorite blogs), you’ll enjoy Query Shark.

He invited us to sign up for the free Guide to Literary Agents newsletter and to check out the GLA blog. (His post about visiting Lake Writers is here.)

We Lake Writers (and guests) spent a pleasant evening together—and we learned some things we didn’t know before.

Plus Sally made some really good snickerdoodles.

(Note: My sprained left hand is healing from Thursday afternoon’s housework-related freak accident. All fingers but one now function, and as long as I don’t type the letters q,a, or z, I’m fine. Thanks to all who expressed concern.)


Friday, July 04, 2008

Blogging Problem

blog on hiatus

sprained left hand
can't type well

(housework can be hazardous)

Wednesday, July 02, 2008


Lately, we've had an abundance of rain in Franklin County. Not as much as folks in the Midwest have had and not enough to make up for the last two years' drought, but an abundance nevertheless.

My little ornamental peach tree has had its own abundance this year. The peaches, while numerous, are small and hard—not like last year's, which were full and sweet.

The little tree was so loaded that branches started to snap. And the fruit on the remaining branches is ripening, but it's still small.

Sometimes, I suppose, you can have too much of a good thing. And often the good thing isn't as good as you thought it would be.

More is not always better, as I used to tell my English 101 students who'd pack their essays with empty words and little thought.

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