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.

Friday, April 30, 2010

April Comes and Goes

Where did April go? It seems the month just began and now it's the end. Since April's going, one of my favorite Simon & Garfunkle songs, "April, Come She Will," seems appropriate for today's posting:

This April has been one of the prettiest, greenest Aprils I can remember for a long time. The pasture greened up early. It's so lush, I can only let the old mares in for limited periods.

The woods are almost luminous:

Perhaps this green, green April is Mother Nature's way of making up for the dreadful winter.

But April went too fast.

Thursday, April 29, 2010


No, not the 60s musical, but horsehair. Cupcake hair.

I've been clipping and currying hair off my old mare Cupcake for a couple of weeks. Clumps of her hair  are everywhere outside. Birds recycle it to make nests. The barncats pounce on clumps as if they're alien rats

The other day, though, Cupcake's hair appeared on my carpet. See?

Now, how could it have gotten inside?

I'll bet Jim-Bob had something to do with it!


Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Crossing Oceans Debut

Tuesday night, my neighbors and Facebook friends, Claudia Condiff and Jan Bemis, journeyed with me to Roanoke Public Library for the book launch of Gina Holmes' debut novel, Crossing Oceans. I'd known of Gina through Facebook and her blog, Novel Journey, but I'd never met her in person.

River Laker, Resource Development Coordinator for Roanoke Public Libraries, had been publicizing this event for weeks, so I decided I really wanted to go. Luckily, we arrived early so we could get a parking space. My little PT, parked on Jefferson Street in front of the library, is half-hidden by one of the trees below.

The library's mezzanine, where the event was held, was packed. As we came in, talented 15-year-old Maddie Grace Garber played guitar and sang songs she'd composed.

Besides music, the presentation featured door prizes,  Holmes talking about her book and reading from it, a dramatization of a scene from Chapter 1 by local actors, and a showing of two book trailers—the real one and a spoof of the real one.

Here's the real one:

And here's the spoof:

Hearing how Gina actually got published by Tyndale House was interesting. She told how she'd written several novels that hadn't been published and been unsuccessfully represented by two agents before she met her current agent, how she'd always been an avid reader, and howshe always knew she wanted to write. Her advice to those who seek publication: read books about writing, join a critique group, go to writers conferences because that's where you meet agents and editors. After the presentation, she signed books—lots of books.

Did I buy one? You bet! Here she is signing my copy.

After the event, we drove home under a pretty sunset and then a huge full moon. On Route 40, we encountered a bit of a problem: my headlights caught couple of deer standing in the highway—and the car behind me was tailgating. I couldn't slam on the brakes without getting slammed into. Quickly I turned my headlights off and on a couple of times, and split the deer herd down the middle. The car behind me stayed farther back for the next few miles. I must have scared the dickens out of him. (For a couple of seconds, I scared my passengers, too.)

So, here's my advice: If you encounter deer on the road at night, quickly turn your headlights on and off. They'll be scared away instead of hypnotized. And buy Gina Holmes' book. I'm a couple of cahpters into it and I like what I'm reading.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Flowers and Cats

What's in my yard now? The bridal wreath has been spectacular this week.

The irises look good, too. I love this shade of blue.

Jim-Bob and Chloe check out the iris.

These irises at the old gazebo are a similar color, but they're a shade or two lighter.

These lavender ones beside the upper driveway are nice, too.

Here's a different view—with Camilla on a rock. Camilla is sort of a camouflage cat. She blends right into this flower bed.

Chloe gets into the picture. Hmmm. Not Chloe's best side. Poor Chloe can't help it if it looks like she was put together from spare cat parts.

 John brought this big rock from our farm down the road. Jim-Bob claimed the rock for himself. He likes to play mountain lion on it.

These tulips are tucked away under a bush. I'll have to move them one of these days.

The white azalea under a pin oak did well this year.

This is my favorite pin oak; no azalea under this one. But there is a bench where the cats and I often sit.

Flowers are just starting to come out around the new gazebo. The herbs survived the winter nicely. In a few weeks, there'll be a lot more flowers here.

Chloe shows her good side. She still looks like she was put together with spare cat parts, though.


Friday, April 23, 2010

Earth Day

by Maggie Mae Mushko
an almost-five-year-old border collie

Thursday was Earth Day (with capital letters) but to me every day is earth day because I live close to the earth and often dig in it. The other day my mommy took me to the farm for a run, which is the best way to celebrate Earth Day that I know of.

I made sure to take my little orange football, which is my favorite toy to take on a walk. It's made of plastic, so it will last. Humans say that plastic isn't earth friendly, but I think it's pretty friendly to me. And it squeaks, too. I made Mommy throw it for me.

I like to run over the earth—in this case, the hayfield—and fetch my little orange football.

While she waited for me to run back with the ball, Mommy looked at trees. She likes how they're starting to bud.

Some have more leaves than others.

Just look at that hillside! Doesn't it want to make you want to chase a ball down it?

Chasing a ball over the earth can be hot work. Sometimes I need to take a break and cool off. This is where a creek comes in handy.

Before I got in the creek, I noticed this hole in the earth that needed my attention.

I dug for a while but didn't find anything interesting. My legs might have gotten a little dirty. Better get in the creek.

Ah, that feels so much better. When I got out of the creek, I headed this way:

I hope you enjoyed your Earth Day and maybe chased a ball and got in a creek, too.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Revision Process

I've recently revised my middle grade novel that I'm preparing to shop around. I've already rewritten and revised more times than I care to count. The first revision, more than a year ago, was much easier. I was a lot pickier this time. Here's how my process goes:

1. Take a good look at the manuscript. Stand back and take a long look.

For the purpose of illustration, I'll use my old mare, Cupcake, as the manuscript.

2. Maybe look at it from several angles. Notice that the manuscript is too fluffy—too many excess words, maybe some excess characters. It is definitely in need of trimming.

3. Decide what can be trimmed. Sometimes whole chunks of the manuscript have to be removed. No point in keeping anything that doesn't serve the plot.

4. Cut mercilessly. Lose the clichés, the adverbs, the excess adjectives, anything that dangles, etc. Remember, the delete key is your friend. Before long, you'll be amazed at how much fluff you got rid of.

I know you want to see my finished manuscript, Faithful Readers, but it's still a work-in-progress. I still have several more revisions to go. . . . 


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Snake in the Woods

On Monday, John and I took a truck ride over the farms in Penhook and Union Hall to make sure the fertilizer truck could get through on Tuesday. As we went down the old road into the Tom Brown Place, something crossed in front of us. Then it hid in some old logs:

Did you see it? Only the face and tip of the tail is showing.

The poet Emily Dickinson noticed snakes, too:

A narrow fellow in the grass
Occasionally rides;
You may have met him, did you not,
His notice sudden is.

The grass divides as with a comb,
A spotted shaft is seen;
And then it closes at your feet
And opens further on.
He likes a boggy acre,
A floor too cool for corn.
Yet when a child, and barefoot,
I more than once, at morn,
Have passed, I thought, a whip-lash
Unbraiding in the sun,
When, stooping to secure it,
It wrinkled, and was gone.
Several of nature's people
I know, and they know me;
I feel for them a transport
Of cordiality;
But never met this fellow,
Attended or alone,
Without a tighter breathing,
And zero at the bone.
Well, this "narrow fellow" wasn't in the grass; it was in the logs. When I saw it, I grabbed the camera and jumped out of the truck to take some pictures. Take a closer look. See it peeking out?

The black snake beat its tail against the log to frighten me off, but the ploy didn't work. In dry leaves, the beating tail will sound like a rattlesnake's rattles, but this critter didn't scare me. In the above picture, you can just see the tip of the tail in front of the snake's face.

When John moved the log, the snake decided not to stick around.

It stuck out its tongue at me one more time before it made itself into a whiplash and slithered into the woods. 
I didn't breathe tighter or feel zero at the bone; actually, I thought this little black critter was kinda cute.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Lawn Care

I looked out my window and what did I see?

A Southern States fertilizer truck coming toward me!

This morning, John had the hayfields on our three farms fertilized, plus another farm that he care-takes. About a half acre's worth of fertilizer was left, and John didn't want to waste it.

John exits the truck and is greeted by little Ruby Sherwood, the daycare dog.

So, that's why the truck was on the front lawn, which is about a half acre or so—just the right size.

Waste not, want not.


Thursday, April 08, 2010

Let Sleeping Cats Lie

 Shhhhhhhhhhh. Chloe the kitty is taking a cat-nap.

Sometimes it's best to let sleeping kitties lie. Or sprawl.