Peevish Pen

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

© 2006-2018 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.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Before the Rains Came

Before the rain came yesterday evening, clouds piled all around. This was the view to the south between Turkeycock and Chestnut Mountains:

Looking west, toward Jack's Mountain, the clouds looked like this:

In the pasture and facing north, I could see ominous clouds over the horses:

Later, when I stood in the front yard, and looked west over the pines, I could see a face in the clouds:

Is it someone with a pug nose facing right and looking down? Or is it a guy with a beard lying down and looking up? A few minutes later, the pug-nosed person had vanished and the guy with a beard had sat up:

Looking eastward toward Smith Mountain (the lump beyond the cornfield), I could see a hole in the clouds.

Meanwhile, the flowers around the gazebo waited for the rain:

At sunset, the clouds turned pink and rain fell.

"Red sky at night" is supposed to mean fair weather. Is there a different rule for a pink sky?


Thursday, August 27, 2009

Phoney E-mails and Phishing

Anybody see anything suspicious about the e-mail I received yesterday, other than I replaced the @ with (at)?

From: virgtek(at)
Subject: MyEMBARQ Account Alert
Date: August 26, 2009 7:24:39 PM EDT
Reply-To: upgraderesponses(at)

MyEMBARQ Subscriber,

We are currently upgrading MyEMBARQ with a hard spam protector due to the incessant rate of Sca, as such all MyEMBARQ Account users must respond to this e-Mail immediately.

Failure to comply with the above instruction will immediately render your e-Mail ACCOUNT deactivated from our database.

Enter your email here:
MyEMBARQ e-Mail Address:
MyEMBARQ Password:



Why would Embarq send from a addy instead of an Embarq one? And why would they have me respond to top a addy? is a European e-mail forwarder used by a lot of scammers. And if they could send me an e-mail, why would they need me to put my e-mail in the reply? Except they didn't send it to
me personally. Notice there's no "To" in the header?

Naturally, I checked this scam out at Here's their reply:
It looks like you have been targeted to be robbed. What you received was likely an attempt on the part of thieves to get you to hand your personal information to them so they could run up your credit cards, take out loans in your name, or steal your online identity. This form of fraud is called "phishing."

Do not provide any of your personal data to these people. Do not fill out any of the fields on the web page you were directed to by the email. If you are a customer of the particular business entity that supposedly sent the request, call that institution and tell them about the email you received -- they will confirm that they had nothing to do with sending it to you and that it is an attempt to steal your financial information. Or visit the business's web site to look for something posted there about this attempt to defraud that institution's customers. (If you choose this latter course of action, do not attempt to get to the real site by clicking the link you were mailed or by using any part of it -- use your already-established bookmarks or type the address in by hand or use a search engine to find the site's URL for you.)

We have a page on our site about phishing scams. Though it may not contain information about the particular come-on you received, it will help better explain how this form of theft works. The page also contains links to various phishing attempts we have debunked, which you could also look at to gain a better understanding of how this form of theft is carried out.

Urban Legends Reference Pages
If you get this, uh, "Embarq" e-mail, don't fall for it.

And if you get any suspicious e-mails, always check them on Snopes—like a writer buddy of mine did with this phony e-mail virus warning he and a whole bunch of other people (including me) were forwarded (the original e-mail text is red; his comments are blue):

I got this from someone whom I trust but it had been forwarded to him. I did not personally check it out with Snopes but it seems to be worth forwarding.

Tann, whoever you are, you are an idiot. Maybe you SHOULD start checking out such mindless b*llsh*t like this before you deem it to "be worth forwarding."

Then immediately run to your bedroom and hide under the bed. Better yet, pack only what you can carry and leave the country. Your money won't be any good where you're going, so just leave it in your closet, I'll find it

This virus was discovered by McAfee yesterday,

NO, it was discovered 3 and 4 years ago. It is no longer a threat to anybody who runs any of the leading antivirus programs...or anybody with enough brains to have the URL bookmarked on his compute


I don't think so. That won't do any good at all. What you must do instead is to IMMEDIATELY send $100 to [me] for [my] invaluable services in debunking these fake out-of-date virus warnings and thereby relieving enormous stress and potential heart attacks and strokes for thousands of computer owners. Maybe you should send $200.

Just verified this with Snopes and it is REAL.

You DID? And exactly what kind of recreational drugs were you using at the time?

Read the actual Urban Legend page at:

And then, pass this message to all those unfortunate people to whom you sent the original b*llsh*t message, who are now cowering in their basements, waiting in the dark for civilization as we know it to end.



Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Doing Much Better

by Melody Sundance
(20-year-old Tennessee Walking mare)

I had a rough few days (My hoof hurt!), but I'm doing much better now.

Me in the stall. I'm wearing a flymask, so you can't see how pretty my face is.

Last week, my human caretaker thought I had injured my shoulder because I was really lame and I was covered with shavings where I'd rolled in the run-in shed. She figured I'd either gotten cast (stuck against the wall and unable to get up, for you non-horsie folks) or that I'd gotten my leg caught in the woven wire when I mashed down the fence to get some grass on the other side and maybe twisted my leg.

Since this happened a week ago Saturday, she figured she'd have to wait until Monday to call the vet. I was lots better on Monday. In the meantime, she'd contacted the really nice lady who has done body work on me before and made my muscles feel really good, but the nice lady is in Michigan for a couple of weeks.

Last Saturday, I was really lame, and Sunday I was really really lame. My human called Dr. N early Monday, and he came to see me. As soon as he saw me walk, he figured I had a hoof abcess, so he started paring away the bottom my hoof. It's kind of like a manicure, but on a much larger scale. I stood very still because I knew he was trying to help me.

Finally he found a tiny hole where some pus came out. He made the hole bigger and a lot of pus came out. What a relief. You could almost hear me say, "Ahhhhh!" Then he packed the hole with some icky stuff and bandaged my whole hoof with lime green Vet-Wrap. It looked kind of pretty, but he soon covered the bandage with a Davis boot so the bandage would stay clean.

A Davis boot is a big blue rubber thingie. The blue color looks very nice against my bright chestnut hair, don't you think?

Although I felt a little better, I had to stay in the stall for a whole day. I hate that. It's actually Cupcake's stall and she hated that I was in there, too. I really wanted out. I hated that I had to take some medicine, too, but at least it made me feel better.

My human had to come and take me out a few times so I'd stop rattling the gate so much. I got to eat grass on the lawn and Cupcake didn't, which made Cupcake mad that I got special favors.

By Tuesday morning, I was walking so much better! When Dr. N. came Tuesday afternoon to check my foot, he was glad to see how good it looked. He re-bandaged it and said I could go out as long as it wasn't raining and I didn't get water in my boot. I have to wear the bandage until Friday when Geoff the farrier comes to trim my hooves. Then the bandage can come off, but I will still have to wear the boot another week so bad stuff doesn't get in my hoof-hole and make me limp again.

Here I am back in the pasture Tuesday evening.

I am so glad to be out again! I do not like staying in a stall!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Cleaning Up

On Sunday, John and I mowed our family graveyard in Union Hall. It looked pretty good by the time we had finished.

The picture below shows the road leading to the graveyard, which is beyond the curve and just to the left of where the road disappears.

Each sign like this costs VDOT $70 to erect, but I guess they figure it's worth it if folks keep the road they adopt clean. There are signs like this on roads all over the county.

After we finished mowing the graveyard, I decided to mow the right of way along the road from the graveyard to the farm's main entrance—a distance of about a thousand feet. VDOT hadn't mowed the right-of-way for a while, so it was slow going in the tall grass. Every few feet, I had to stop and pick up litter.

I found a lot of bottles and beer cans on the right of way . . .

. . . as well as a bunch of bags and wrappers and picnic-type stuff. Guess folks headed back from the lake are too busy to drive the extra mile to the dumpster. Luckily we had some bags in the truck to put all the debris in.

Even though we haven't "adopted" this stretch of road, it borders our property, so we want to keep it clean.

This is a lot of trash for a thousand foot stretch.

As we drove to the dumpster, we noticed lots more trash along the county roads.

I guess all those $70 VDOT signs don't work very well.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Kitten Update

Thirteen days have passed. Olivia's kittens still live. In fact, they've active and their eyes are opening.

The yellow one's leg that had been entangled in the afterbirth seems better. At least, the leg moves. When myofascial release specialist Ruth Mitchell returns to the area in two weeks, she'll work with that kitten.

There's been no sign yet that any of them have Olivia's respiratory problem. In fact, Olivia hasn't been quite as bad as she's been before. It's been a month she's been on antibiotics.

She's moved the kittens three times. For the past week, they've lived in a 71 Ford truck. Fortunately, John left one of his jackets on the floor of the driver's side.

They usually sleep in a pile. It's hard to tell where one kitten ends and another begins, but all are four kittens are in this picture:

I'm trying hard not to become attached. . . .

Meanwhile, out at the tack room, the three wild kittens and their mother are thriving. I think they're about seven weeks old. I can't get a picture of them—only fleeting glimpses. They take off when they see me coming.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Kreative Blogger Award

Amy T. over at The Virginia Scribe tagged me for this.

The Kreative Blogger Award is for bloggers who are creative (or kreativ) and requires that I list seven things about myself that people might find interesting.

Hmmm. Here goes:

1. I always wanted a horse when I was a kid. When I was in my 30s, I took riding lessons, fell off a runaway, and fractured two vertebrae. As soon as the doctor said I could ride again, I bought my own horse. I figured I already owned a back brace and I'd rather fall off a member of the family. I've never been without a horse since.

2. I've never sold an animal, though I've given several away to good homes. My first horse went to a little girl who kept him the rest of his life—until her own little girl was a toddler and could ride him. I currently have a couple batches of kittens—through no fault of my own except I fed two stray cats and—well, you get the idea. The first batch of kittens (and their mama) are wild. So if you're up for a feline challenge. . . .

3. For my birthday next month, I'm planning to order another tombstone to replace the one that, uh, went missing. I can't decide whether to keep the same style or go with something different.

4. I can't imagine life without a border collie or a truck or a Mac computer.

5. I don't think I could ever live in the city again. I'm getting to the point where I don't even like to visit crowded places.

6. When I was a baby, the doctor told my parents I might not live past five years old, so my father took out a thousand dollar life insurance policy on me. I collected on it when I was eighteen and used it to pay for a year and a half at RPI (now VCU). That, Social Security after my father retired, and some state teacher scholarships got me through. (Total cost of my bachelor's degree: $5,000)

7. I earned my master's degree at the Citadel—the Military College of South Carolina. My husband had been transfered to Charleston, we arrived in August—too late for me to get a teaching job, and the Citadel had just started a graduate program. I was at the right place at the right time. The price was right, too. (Total cost of my master's: $1,500.)

Since I don't do tagging, passing along lists, etc., you can do this if you want. Or not.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Stillness at Appomattox

A couple of weeks ago, on my way back from Mechanicsville, I stopped by Appomattox. The afternoon was quiet and still.

In the little cemetery, the graves of the unknown soldiers were marked with flags.

Near the cemetery was a huge oak whose shadow stretched onto some of the graves. Was this tree a sapling during the War? Or had it not yet sprouted?

Beneath Virginia's sunlit skies,

Where oaks their shadows throw

And ragged mountains darkly rise

To guard the vales below,

There is a sweet, sequestered spot,

Where peace and silence reign;

A fair God's acre is the lot,

Where sleep the Southern slain.
from "Jim of Biloxi" by Alice Graham

This poem seems fitting:

Confederate Memorial Day

(Author Unknown)

The marching armies of the past

Along our Southern plains,

Are sleeping now in quiet rest

Beneath the Southern rains.

The bugle call is now in vain

To rouse them from their bed;

To arms they'll never march again--

They are sleeping with the dead.

No more will Shiloh's plains be stained

With blood our heroes shed,

Nor Chancellorsville resound again

To our noble warriors' tread.

For them no more shall reveille

Sound at the break of dawn,

But may their sleep peaceful be

Till God's great judgment morn.

We bow our heads in solemn prayer

For those who wore the gray,

And clasp again their unseen hands

On our Memorial Day.

The park looked so peaceful and still in the afternoon sunlight. Hard to believe that 144 years ago, one of America's bloodiest wars ended here.


Sunday, August 16, 2009

Books and Promotions

My last few days have been filled with bookishness.

I’ve been reading, of course, and I bought a few more books at the Discovery Shop recently, but I’ve also been involved in a couple of meetings.

Last Thursday, the Board of Trustees for the Franklin County Library met. (I represent the Union Hall district on the board.) We discussed and clarified a bit of policy that should make dealing with a sticky issue a bit easier. We didn’t discuss acquisitions or personnel—given the cut-backs, not much money is out there for either. There’s even a hiring freeze; the current employees are spread pretty thin. I imagine that’s the case at most libraries.

Thank goodness we have a lot of volunteers because library use is heavy. Every time I go to the library, the place is busy. Everyone knows where to come to find the book they're looking for and/or where to go to use computers.

On Friday at Lake Writers, Betsy Ashton and I led a discussion about querying and promotion. I’ve queried more than most other members, attended several conferences where agents have talked about querying, and I read a bunch of agent blogs. Betsy’s specialty is marketing. More than half the Lake Writers have books in the works and aspire to commercial publishing. Several are self-published or small press-published. Consequently, we had a pretty good exchange of ideas.

Everyone at the meeting now realizes—if they didn't already—that books just don't sell themselves. They require promotion and marketing.

On Saturday, a bunch of Valley Writers met at our president’s lake house for socializing, dinner, and a boat ride. One of the members had brought along a novel written by a relative of hers and based on family history. She wanted some input about how her relative could get it into the schools. Because I was unfamiliar with the book, I could only offer vague suggestions. I noted who the publisher was, though.

Because the hard-back looked pretty good, I did some Googling today to see how the book had already been promoted. Apparently, it hadn't. The publisher, it turns out, is a “subsidy” publisher in a nearby state, so the author paid to get published—most likely paid a lot. I doubt this publisher has a distributor, so it’s likely the book won’t be in any bookstores. It would be well nigh impossible for schools to order it.

A big problem: I couldn’t find the book, published a half-dozen years ago, on the publisher’s website. I suspect the publisher only carried it for a couple of years. I did find that the publisher listed the book as available in 2006.

On, there were three copies available from resellers, and listed it as out of stock. Apparently the doesn’t carry it because it isn’t available. There were three peer reviews on, but no professional reviews.

The book’s title did pop up on a lot of reseller’s sites—with a high price tag. It’s unlikely these sellers have an actual copy. They’ll list anything with an ISBN number and hope they can procure a copy if someone orders from them.

I checked Barnes & Noble—it’s not listed at all on their website. Hence, it’s unavailable from them. (For comparison, my four vanity-pubbed books—collections of my previously published material and still available from a much cheaper vanity outfit—were available at both and B&N.)

A search at told me the book was in only five libraries. Not a lot of folks have access to it.

I Googled the author’s name and couldn’t find her website or blog. I couldn’t find her on Facebook, either.

Do you see the problem: It’s hard enough to promote a non-commercial book with an Internet presence even when the book is readily available. With a book that isn’t available online or in stores, promotion can’t yield results. With no Internet presence and no bookstore presence, how can folks learn about the book?

Perhaps the author has a stash of copies, though, and can hand-sell them herself at presentations she does. At any rate, trying to promote a book that folks can’t find at a bookstore or library is well nigh impossible.

This is why I encourage writers to seek a commercial publisher—even a small press that can get the book out there. I’ve run into too many folks, though, who bought into the field of dreams: If I write a book, the readers will come.

Except they won't.

If you want them to come, you'll have to provide some incentives. You'll have to show them where to find the book. And the book has to be waiting for them at the end of their journey.


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Saturday, August 15, 2009

Foggy Mornings, Misty Evenings

Foggy days in August supposedly foretell snowy days in winter. Looks like we'll have a snowy winter. The last two mornings have been foggy—and we've had several other foggy mornings this month.

I'm usually up and out the door by six. Yesterday, the fog hung wonderfully low over Smith Mountain so the top of the mountain rose from mist.

The evenings have gotten a bit cooler, though. Because John bush-hogged the trail and bottoms at Polecat Creek, I walked the woods for the first time in a while yesterday evening.

In the above picture the sun is behind me. You can see it highlighting the pines to the left. John has just come up the trail; I'm going down.

Along the way, I pass some wee mushroom folk.

The trail to the bottoms runs west to east. As I head down—eastward—I see the woods are still green, but a mist seems to hang in the air.

In the bottoms, I faced south when I took this picture.

I can't figure out the ball of light in the tree to the right. It can't be the sun, because the sun is in a whole 'nother place. This farm has some hainted places. Could this be one of them?

Near where I took the above picture, the trees look almost ethereal. Shafts of light from the low-hung sun provide highlights.

A few minutes later, I start back up the trail—heading west. You can see the sun hanging low—where it should be.

A bit further up the trail, the sun is to the right and out of sight. But look how green everything is!

Come winter, when the snow covers this land, will I remember all the green?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

School Lunches, Now and Then

If I were a 30-something super-mom instead of a retired public school teacher, I might put some credence today’s Roanoke Times Extra section front page story: "Healthy School Lunches." However, I know from many years of required lunchroom duty on the junior high and middle school level that toting a lunchbox is anything but cool. I also know that the recipes included in the article lack kid-appeal. And they contain some esoteric and/or expensive ingredients.

Note: the story, which originally appeared in the August 6 Sun Sentinel, was illustrated in the RT by a HUGE picture of a metal lunchbox, which is probably illegal to carry to school nowadays because it’s a useful weapon for bashing another kid in the head.

Now, let it be know that—in early elementary school—I carried a lunchbox to school on the few days that I didn’t go home for lunch, an act that required me to run the three blocks home and back so I could scarf down Mama’s home cooking. This is probably why I was so skinny when I was a kid, a condition that no longer applies to me.

I still have my lunchbox:

. . . and the matching thermos:

. . . and my name is still affixed to the outside (beside the air vent):

The edges are a little dented and scuffed. Wonder how that happened?

Of course, nowadays many kids cannot be out of range of parents or guardians unless they are equipped with a cell-phone, GPS, and bullet-proof garments, but in the 1950s kids were just instructed not to talk to strangers and to come straight home.

I can remember my packed lunches (which I carried in a brown bag from third grade on, because NO ONE with any social sense still carried a lunchbox) because they never varied: a sandwich consisting of sliced-chicken and white bread (nothing else), a handful of potato chips, and sometimes a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. The sandwich and chips were wrapped in wax paper. No one particularly cared about nutrition then; the main thing was Will the kid eat it and not waste food? Also the ingredients had to be readily available and cheap.

Here are a few reasons why the lunchbox and healthful recipes idea in that article won’t work:

1. Kids don’t like to carry lunches; they have enough to carry these days. Check the weight of a typical kid’s backpack—books, notebooks, sometimes a laptop, well-hidden MP3 player and cellphone, some sugar-laden snacks and gum, etc. They certainly don’t want to add to their loads.

2. Even if they could tuck the lunchbox into the backpack, a half-day of slinging the backpack around won’t leave the lunch in good shape—especially if mommy has made the “Bone-Building Lasagna” (with extra-virgin olive oil, minced garlic, tofu and other stuff) and packed “a slice of the lasagna in a small, reuseable container with carrot sticks, your child's favorite dip and an insulated container of unsweetened herbal ice tea.” By noon, that lasagna will be in an unrecognizable wad, the dip will dripping all over, and the “herbal ice tea”(!?) will be leaking out. I don’t know about kids today, but the idea of eating cold lasagna makes me want to hurl.

3. C’mon—how many kids do you know who drink even regular tea, much less the herbal kind? I know from personal observation—while on lunch duty—that the kids are gonna hit the juice machine and get one of those 40-carb (Yes, I’ve looked on the can so I know.), fructose-laden concoctions that will give them a sugar-high for the next couple of hours before they get sleepy. (Yes, I’ve taught those kids.)

4. The writer thinks kids will be responsible for reusable containers, no less! If the kid doesn’t toss the reusable container, odds are good it might sit in the bottom of the backpack or locker until the residue it contains is suitable for a science project.

5. Will kids actually eat more than a few bites of the “Fiber-tastic Burger”? “Pack it with a favorite bread or roll (preferably whole grain, which will add about 3.2 grams fiber), a bag of baked sweet potato chips and a container of cold, low-fat soy milk,” the writer suggests? That burger is made from beans, for goodness sake! That’ll make the kid the butt (no pun intended) of jokes for weeks. And by lunchtime, odds are good that the “low-fat soy milk” won't be cold.

6. “The burger can be put on the roll and eaten as is or microwaved for 10 to 15 seconds. Even fast-food junkies will appreciate this meal.” Two problems here: kids don’t have access to a microwave at school, and fast food junkies want actual fast food.

7. Will they even look at the “Peanut Butter Banana Dog” sprinkled with yogurt-covered raisins and served on a hot dog bun—whole wheat, no less—without going “Eeewwww!” This has to be one of the grossest concoctions imaginable. Any kid who unwraps one of those things in the lunchroom will be made fun of for at least a month. Possibly socially ostracized for the year.

8. The “Not Your Ordinary Spinach Salad” with added raisins, goldfish crackers, cashews (or peanuts), edamame (fancy word for soy beans), cheddar cheese, and low-fat dressing)—need I say more?

OK, I will. I have never known a kid under voting age to actually eat spinach of his or her own free will. The nuts will probably be used to throw at other kids. (I’m digressing here, but one of the most impressive food fights I ever saw in a school cafeteria involved peanuts. For some reason, one day the lunch ladies put a scoopful of peanuts on every kid’s plate lunch. After some kid threw the first handful, the cafeteria erupted in flying peanuts. The lunch ladies never served loose peanuts again, but we were served a lot of peanut butter cookies the rest of that year.)

9. Kids have no qualms about tossing whatever they don’t like. If I had a nickel for all the apples and other pieces of fruit I’ve seen tossed into the school garbage can (or thrown at someone), I could’ve retired way earlier.

10. All those “healthful” lunches require a pretty big investment of time on Mommy’s part. Wouldn’t it be better to supplement the school lunch (pizza and/or chicken nuggets—the kid favorites) with a bottle of water and a granola bar and hope for the best? Mommy could use her lunch box time to prepare a healthful dinner for the whole family, and then spend quality time with them.

Of course, if Mommy is busy picking up the kid at school and ferrying him or her to soccer/football/whatever practice—or maybe music lessons or tutoring or choir practice or Scouts, then I can see why Mommy can’t make dinner. Plus, after everyone is home, she has to do—er, see to—the kid’s homework, so she can’t even think about meals until everyone else has gone to bed.

I was kind of expecting the article to include info on what positive messages to include in lunch boxes so the kids would be reminded how special or unique they were (Have you seen that Hallmark card commercial?), but I guess the parents can just call the kids on their cell-phones during lunch and tell them.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Mastering the Old Technology

on a lighter note. . .

Some folks complain that technology is changing so fast that they can't keep up with it. What they don't realize is that technological problems have been with us for centuries.

So—aybe it's time to back up to some, er, older technology and master that first with the help of the Medieval helpdesk. This You-Tube video makes it easier (well, if you read the subtitles):

There, doesn't everything seem simpler now?

Fast-forward to modern times for a bit of editing humor: Check out what the folks at Vanity Fair did to whip Sarah Palin's resignation speech "into publishable shape."

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Population Explosion

Yesterday, Olivia looked like she was about to burst.

She looked the same way late last night when I returned from night #2 of my high school reunion.

Early this morning, when I went to get the paper, Olivia was flat-sided. She was also bloody. I checked the boxes and other nesting places I'd prepared for the, uh, event.


I figured she'd lost her kittens. That didn't surprise me. After all, she still has some health issues and was in bad shape a couple of months ago when she'd no doubt met one of the neighborhood tom-cats.

Anyhow, she trotted along with me to the mailbox as if nothing were amiss, sat with me in the gazebo while I read the paper, and cleaned herself. When I went back to the house fifteen minutes later, she trotted along.

A few hours later, John said he heard mewing in the garage. He followed the sound and saw Olivia's foot sticking out of one of the carpet-covered cat towers that the other cats no longer use.

He looked inside. Yep, you guessed it.

When he came into the house, he said he saw two kittens. Later, I peeked in and saw four.

It's too soon to tell if they'll make it or not. I don't think one will, so I'm trying not to get attached.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Correcting the Error

Whereas the Roanoke Times did not print the letter I wrote for the opinion page (despite one of their personnel contacting me to check that I indeed wrote the letter and inquiring to know how I wanted it signed), and whereas I do not want anyone showing up for an event that that the Roanoke Times mentioned on two separate pages in Monday's paper, I hereby post my letter on this, my humble blog:

Despite the announcements on pages 1 and 6 of Monday's (August 3, 2009) Extra section, there will be no Franklin County Book Festival this weekend. That festival was held a year ago. The planning committee, of which I was a member, disbanded months ago. It's old news. Why did the Roanoke Times wait so long to announce it?

During the past few weeks, the Times has "recycled" other news. A story that ran on page 7 of the July 31, 2009, Nation & World section was the same as the story that ran on page 6 of the previous Tuesday's Extra section. The July 21, 2009, front page of the Sports section was--in many papers, but not all--the same as the previous day's.

I have been a Roanoke Times reader for over a half-century. In recent years, I've seen the pages become smaller and fewer while the price increased. It's bad enough to have less news (and bigger pictures) than in the past, but recycled news is a bit much.

Or a bit less, as the case may be.

I wrote and submitted this letter before the Roanoke Times latest error, using the same picture for two separate obituaries.

Granted the RT did print corrections to the above mistakes, but those corrections were hidden in a corner at the bottom of page 2. Shouldn't RT print a correction in the section where the errors originally occurred—where people affected by the errors would be most likely to look? And maybe the word "Corrections" should be in red print?

Since I've been an RT reader for several decades, I remember back in the day when it was a respected newspaper.

But so many errors in so short a time don't speak well for the RT's current reputation.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Point of View

As a fiction writer, I consider point of view a lot. How do I know which point of view to use? Which is most effective?

Yesterday, before the storm, I walked around the yard and admired my crape myrtle from different points of view.

Here's the view as I stood on the deck and looked into the middle of it:

And from a little further back and a bit to the right:

This view is from the side yard, just past the big maple. The crape myrtle looks like it's hiding behind the boxwoods and the maple. It doesn't look very big here:

Further down the side yard, the view changes to reveal that the crape myrtle is a lot bigger than it first appeared. It towers over the house:

But even further down the side yard, past another crape myrtle, the size changes again. Which crape myrtle is larger?

From the courtyard (aka the septic field), I can stand back and look at the whole crape myrtle. It's one BIG crape myrtle.:

But which point of view is the right one? Which is most effective?

I ask myself that a lot when I write.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Getting a Blog Award

. . . and Getting To Know You—er, me.

Amy of The Virginia Scribe awarded me the Premios Dardos Award for bloggers “who distinguish themselves for showing cultural values, ethics, great and fun writing skills, as well as individual values, through their creative writing.”

I’m honored to receive the award for this humble blog that sometimes goes in strange directions. I’m supposed to pass the award along to five other blogs, but Amy already passed it to some blogs that I would have awarded it to.

So, here’s what I’ll do. The first five readers who haven’t yet received it and who comment on this blog saying their blogs fit the qualifications will be put on my list of blogs to consider. I’ll scope out your blog and up-date this one to reflect my choices.

Getting to know you

I swiped this “Getting to Know You” meme from Blue Country Magic who’d swiped it from Facebook where I’d also seen it and had been tagged a couple of times. Like Blue Country Magic, I am not tagging anyone, but if you wish to answer these questions, please do. (I would award Blue Country Magic the Premios Dardos award, but Amy beat me to it)

1. What time did you get up this morning? 5:40 a.m. I’m usually up between 5 and 6 or whenever the cat thinks I should get up.

2. How do you like your steak? On someone else’s plate. I’m not much of a steak-eater.

3. What was the last film you saw at the cinema? It’s been so long ago, I can’t remember. I can wait for the DVD.

4. What is your favorite TV show? The Big Bang Theory. Funny and cerebral. It’s one of the few shows I watch. (Who has time to watch TV?)

5. If you could live anywhere in the world where would it be? Right where I am. Or maybe on one of my other farms.

6. What did you have for breakfast? Scrambled eggs, bacon, and coffee. It’s what I have most mornings.

7. What is your favorite cuisine? Down-home country cooking.

8. What foods do you dislike? Raw fish—that’s bait as far as I’m concerned. Mexican—or anything with hot sauce or that’s highly spiced or carby. Chinese plays havoc with my blood sugar levels, so that’s out.

9. Favorite Place to Eat? It varies. Currently I like the diner in Moneta or the Westlake Country Club. Both are good places to do lunch.

10. Favorite dressing? Ranch

11.What kind of vehicle do you drive? PT Cruiser (the official geriatric sports car) and a 94 Dodge truck (with a towing package).

12. What are your favorite clothes? Jeans and T-shirt in summer, sweats in winter, and orthotically enhanced sneakers.

13. Where would you visit if you had the chance? British Isles, especially Scotland. Maybe Australia.

14. Cup 1/2 empty or 1/2 full? Depends on whether I’m drinking or pouring.

15. Where would you want to retire? Right where I am. Right where I did.

16. Favorite time of day? Sunrise

17. Where were you born? Lewis-Gale Hospital (the old one that’s been torn down) in Roanoke, VA

18. What is your favorite sport to watch? Pleasure classes at horse shows; sometimes show-jumping.

19. Who do you think will not tag you back? Nobody. I’m not into tagging.

22. Bird watcher? Yes, but only the ones who visit my feeder, my flowers, or my property.

23. Are you a morning person or a night person? Morning person. But I’m a frequent afternoon nap person.

24. Do you have any pets? Two horses, four dogs, six full-time cats, one part-time cat, and impending kittens.

25. Any new and exciting news you'd like to share? Ferradiddledumday, my Appalachian version of “Rumpelstiltskin,” will be out from Cedar Creek Publishing in mid-January.

26. What did you want to be when you were little? At various times a cowgirl, a lab technician, a clerk in a store, an artist. I remember I didn’t want to be a teacher. However, I became a teacher.

27. What is your best childhood memory? Going to the pony rides on Williamson Road.

28. Are you a cat or dog person? Cat, dog, and horse.

29. Are you married? Yes—for nearly 42 years. Same person.

30. Do you always wear your seat belt? Yes, on public roads. Not always when driving through my fields.

31. Been in a car accident? A couple of times, but not recently. My cars (a 77 Pinto and an 84 Mustang) sustained damage but I didn’t. The other person’s insurance always covered the repairs.

32. Any pet peeves? Yeah, many—newspapers that “recycle” news or get things just plain wrong, high heels, and balloon releases are three that leap to mind.

33. Favorite pizza topping? I rarely do pizza (the blood sugar thing again), but I love black olives as a topping.

34. Favorite Flower? Make that flowers. The rose, gladiola, and iris are at the top of my list

35. Favorite ice cream? Kroger’s French vanilla. Breyer’s peach is a close second. Then strawberry.

36. Favorite fast food restaurant? None.

37. How many times did you fail your driver's test? None. (Do people really fail that? I mean, they give you a manual to study!)

38. From whom did you get your last email? An equine list.

39. Which store would you choose to max out your credit card? I have only one card that I use for one grocery store and I pay off my balance at the end of each month. People who max out credit cards are ruining the economy (add that to my pet peeves). I never buy what I can’t afford.

40. Do anything spontaneous lately? I stopped at Appomattox to take pictures last Saturday.

41. Like your job? What job? I love retirement.

42. Broccoli? Like it—especially in a casserole with cheese.

43. Kids? None—except the cats, dogs, and horses.

44. Last person you went out to dinner with? It’s been so long, I can’t remember. I’m usually a “do lunch” person, not someone who goes out to dinner. The dinner hour around here is when I feed and water a bunch of critters.

45. What are you listening to right now? The sound of papers being rearranged on my desk by a cat.

46. What is your favorite color? Blue.

47. How many tattoos do you have? None. I also don’t have any piercings.

48. How many are you tagging for this quiz? None. I’m not much into Internet games.

49. What time did you finish this quiz? Why does that matter? Do I get extra credit for finishing early? Points taken off for taking too long?

50. Coffee Drinker? Yep. A couple of cups a day. Black. I wouldn’t desecrate a fantastic beverage by adulterating it with any additive.

I wonder what all the bots that infest the web and harvest info from posters will think of my answers?