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.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Glade Hill Fire

A piece of area history went up in smoke this morning when an old farm house at the corner of Franklin Turnpike and Timber Ridge Road burned. I don't know how old the house is—er, was—but it's way older than I am. I'm guessing it was between 90 and 100 years old.

My husband and I were headed to town today and had just neared Glade Hill Elementary School when we saw a plume of smoke farther down the road. It looked too big to be smoke from a fireplace, and brush fires are prohibited before 4 p.m. Then we saw flames coming from the old farmhouse. One firetruck was already there.

We turned into the parking lot of the Glade Hill Minute Market, where some other folks had stopped to watch. Luckily I had my little Kodak.

"Where's there's smoke, there's fire," the saying goes. A lot of fire was visible.

Soon more firetrucks arrived.

Despite all the firefighters on the scene, the house looked to be a goner. The fire had spread to a cedar tree when we decided to go on into Rocky Mount.

I hadn't seen any official photographers on the scene, so we stopped by The Franklin News-Post office and asked editor Kim Waggoner if she'd like some photos. She'd already talked to the fire marshall, so she was aware of the fire. She popped my camera card into her card reader, and we watched as the pictures appeared on her computer screen.

We then went about our business in town. When we headed home, we passed the scene again. 

A lot of firefighters were still there, and the ruins still smoldered.

I'll miss seeing the old farmhouse when I go to town. 

Update: You can see another picture on WDBJ7's website.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Old Things

I like old things. Consequently, I have a lot of old things in my house. Many belonged to my mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother. Everything in this post is at least sixty years old—or much older. 

One of the oldest things I have is this rocking chair made by my great-great-grandfather, John C. Nace. It's been painted many colors, but I think the original was green. Last year I painted it green again. The cushion on the seat belonged to my grandmother. I remember that cushion from when I was a kid.

The little rocking chair sits in front of the window in my study. Sometimes a cat naps in it.

This glass jar was the Mama's cookie jar when I was a kid. I remember it sat on her dish cabinet. The flowers on it are decals. Now it sits on my kitchen counter.

This little green gizmo is an orange juicer. I remember Mama making my orange juice with it when I was little. That was way before you could buy juice from concentrate. I haven't used the juicer for a couple of decades.

The items below were Grandma's. She once told me that she got the blue carnation vase at a "Christmas tree" at church when she was young. The candleholder is one of a pair. I can remember seeing them at Grandma's house but the candles were never ever lit. I don't know if there's a story behind the smaller vase, but it's also one of a pair. The glass is from a set. 

I remember seeing the pink pitcher and glasses displayed in Grandma's dining room. As far as I know, they were never used. They haven't been used since I've owned them, either. I do remember eating off the plates behind them, though.

This teapot, sugar bowl, and creamer used to sit on the library table in Grandma's parlor. It has "Made in Japan" stamped on the bottom. I have no idea how old it is, but it's older than I am. It has never been used.

I think Mama acquired the milk glass rooster and hen when I was a kid. The ceramic stage coach and the Indian couple used to sit on the what-not stand. I think they're older than I am.

The white vase is old. Mama used it many times when I was a kid. The teapot, sugar, and creamer were given to her by a next-door neighbor when I was nine or ten. Mama never used them. They were for decorative display purposes only. 

These canning  jars belonged to my great grandmother, and they now hold a collection of old buttons. When clothing was cut up for quilts—or was too worn out for further use—the buttons would be cut off and saved for possible re-use. I inherited several boxes of buttons. I figured I'd display them in the jars.

This little glass vase was Grandma's. It sat on the library table in her parlor . . .

. . . as did this little double vase that's carved out of something. Soapstone? It looks similar to this one, but it has no identifying marks on it at all. Both sit near the button jars on top of a bookcase in my living room.

I've never used some of these old things, but I like to look at them and remember where they used to be.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Scam Fail

This post is either a rant or a public service. Possibly both. 

Today this scam appeared in my in-box:

How do I know it's a scam? Let me count the ways.

1. "This message is from the Office of the Century21 tech support Center to all Century21 account owners." Century21 is a real estate company, not an internet provider. I am not involved whatsoever with this company, so I doggone sure don't have an account with them.

2. "This is to enable us increase security level in all Century21 account to block spam mails for your convenience." One sentence with two errors (using singular when plural is needed) offends my former English teacher self. If someone is going to scam me, he ought to employ standard English usage.

3. "This Maintenance commenced on January 7th to end January 30th 2013 beginning at 9:00 p.m. until approximately 12:00 midnight to enable us increase the storage size of your webmail account." Uh, wrong use of capital letter, lack of commas to separate year from day, and—here's the biggie—it's now February 22, 2013. Apparently someone sent this spam three weeks too late.

4. "Be informed also that we will not hesitate to delete your email account if not functioning to create more space for new users." What does this sentence mean? That my account—which I do not have with a realty company—should be functioning to create more space? Or I should be functioning? What?

5. "Confirm Your email account Details by clicking on the reply button and follow by your;" Oh, dear—two capitalization errors and a punctuation error. Scammer, must I refer you to this site to help you with correct semicolon usage? 

6. Scammer, you want all that info, including my date of birth? You are so not getting it.

7. "Please understand that this is a security measure intended to help protect your email Account." Liar, liar, pants on fire!

8. "Tech support Center
Warning Code :ID64623821" Shouldn't you have an actual name—even a fake one? And a Warning Code? What's with that?

9. The email addy this was sent from and the reply to addy don't match. Shouldn't they also have the name of the actual company?, a wireless satellite broadband company, is based in Ireland. Googling the reply addy revealed a lot of sites that expose this scam.

Anyhow, faithful blog readers, if you get one of these emails, don't be fooled into giving up your info.


Thursday, February 21, 2013

Prolific Writers Group

I've been in a one writers group or another since the mid-90s, but never have the members of a group published so many books in a year as Lake Writers. Below are the books; you can click the cover to go to the book's Amazon page.

Last March, Sue Coryell's cozy mystery A Red, Red Rose was published in both print and ebook by LLDreamspell, a small press.

In June of 2012, Ginny Brock's By Morning's Light was published in both print and ebook by Llewellyn, a mid-size commercial publisher known for its mind/body/spirit books.

In September 2012, Franz Beisser self-published (and self-printed) Red Solstice, a literary novel that gave a possible explanation for what might have happened to Franz's father during WWII. He used Kindle to publish the e-version.

A month later, Don Fink used a print-on-demand subsidy, XLibris, to publish and e-publish his novel, Escape to the Sky.

In January 2013, Fred Waddell, a retired college professor who'd been a Lake Writer before moving out of the area, self-published What Colleges and Universities Don't Want You to See: Confessions of a Rogue Scholar, a book he'd been working on while he was still in the group. (A ebook version had been published in June 2012.)

The back of Fred's book gives you a good idea of the content:

Also, in January 2013, I republished my 2001 self-published novel, Patches on the Same Quilt, as an ebook through Kindle Direct.

In February, Betsy Ashton's novel, Mad Max: Unintended Consequences, was published and e-published by small press Koehler Books.

At one time or another, parts of the above books were workshopped through Lake Writers. Some of the above books were read in their entirety by a few members who served as Beta-readers and gave critical input.

Writers who aspire to be published should consider joining a writers group (or establish one if none exists in their area) for encouragement and support.. Fellow members who have been there/ done that can give advice and input. Unpublished members can act as a test readership for a book.

If you live in the Smith Mountain Lake area, we'd love to have you attend our meetings. Check out the Lake Writers website and Facebook page.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Stolen Hearts

I just finished the best book I've read so far in 2013—Stolen Hearts, by Jane Tesh of Mt. Airy, NC. It was published by Poisoned Pen Press in October 2011 and has been reviewed by both Publishers Weekly and Kirkus.

I'd acquired my copy when I met Jane last July in the "Meet the Authors" tent at  Mountain Meadows Festival in Meadows of Dan, but I hadn't gotten around to reading it until the other day. Laid up with a pulled muscle in my back, I suddenly had time to tackle the stack of books I'd meant to get around to reading when I had time. Stolen Hearts was near the top.

The back of the book promised an interesting read:

And it was indeed an interesting read. Here's why I liked Stolen Hearts so much:

1. A heck of a good opening line: "I didn't expect a murder to happen right down the street from my second wife's house, but then, I didn't expect a lot of things, including sleeping in my car." That opening raised a lot of questions, and I wanted to know the answers.

2. Appalachian lit, my favorite literary category: The setting, a small town in North Carolina, was almost a character itself. Local color abounded. One of the mysteries involved who wrote some particular mountain music from many decades earlier—and whether there was a murder or suicide involved.

3.Characters: They were quirky and well-developed—what you'd expect in a small town—and each carried some baggage. And the main characters were likable and believable.

4. Narrator: I like stories told in the first person, not only for character development, but also for the limited viewpoint. Private investigator David Randall makes a good narrator. He adds necessary details, anguishes over his shortcomings in life, and keeps plugging away.

5. Paranormal aspect: Cam, Randall's friend and owner of the house where Randall and some others stay, is psychic and unwillingly channels the spirit of an arrogant John Burrows Ashford.

6. Cover: The house on the cover looked exactly like the one my grandparents lived in when I was between ten and thirteen.

7. Title: "Stolen Hearts" refers not only a heart-shaped locket Randall was hired to find, but also to the music that was in dispute. Plus, Randall was attracted to a young woman who was engaged to someone else.

8. Plot: This page-turner is well-crafted with plenty of twists and turns and surprises. Not only is Randall involved in solving a couple of current mysteries, but also the mystery from the past. Foreshadowing is subtle and effective. All the loose ends are tied up. 

I really liked this book and plan to read more of Jane Tesh's work. Stolen Hearts is the first in the "Grace Street" series, and book two, Mixed Signals, came out last October. I just added it to my Amazon wish list.

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Friday, February 15, 2013

Eighth Grade at WFHS

I posted last month about leaving my neighborhood and going across town to school at Lee Junior High for my seventh grade year. For my eighth grade year, I was back in the neighborhood—sort of. Anyhow, William Fleming High School was close enough for me to walk. Here's a picture of the school I copied from my eighth grade yearbook.

This particular incarnation of WFHS on Williamson Road doesn't exist anymore. (Breckinridge Middle School is now in the same location, but it looks a lot different.) In my junior year, the new Fleming opened off Hershberger Road, which was in the county at the time, so we referred to the building above as the old Fleming. A few years ago, the new Fleming I attended was replaced by a newer Fleming.  

This 1940s building was solid and substantial, kind of like Lee Junior, but not as imposing. There were two front doors, a couple of side doors, and a few backdoors so access was pretty easy. The office area was to the back, which meant visitors had a long walk down the hall to get there. If an intruder wanted to enter, the door was always open and he'd have to travel for a ways before anyone would notice. To my knowledge, WFHS never had any problem with intruders. We had a bomb threat or two while I attended there, which meant everyone was herded out back where any terrorists around would have had no trouble picking us off. Of course, this was 1958, so there were no terrorists (just communists in Russia who wanted to undermine our entire American way of life, but they didn't bother with Roanoke).

The library was on the first floor—to the right of the picture. The science classes were on the second floor—kind of above the library. The windows let in lots of natural light and they actually opened (no air conditioning). It would have been easy for anyone to get in—or out of—the ground floor windows. I can remember once a cat jumped through the window and wandered around.

The school was so crowded that three different schedules were needed to accommodate everyone. Early schedule began about 7:40 AM for those who wanted to begin school early (or take more than six subjects); regular schedule began about 8:35 (which most students preferred), and late schedule began about 9:30. All the eighth graders were on late schedule, which meant we didn't get out until 4 PM or thereabouts.

There were no school busses. Roanoke City Schools weren't concerned about how we got to school, just so we got there. Students either walked or rode a city bus. I walked. My house is marked in red below; where WFHS was located is in yellow. Depending on with whom I was walking, I had several options for routes. Usually we cut through some back yards and walked the back streets.

Here's a picture of part of the eighth grade—I'm in the second row from the bottom, third picture in.

You will note that we were a bland looking bunch. No one had piercings (pierced ears came years later) and no certainly one sported a tattoo. Clothing was modest—puritanical by today's standards. Take a look at the  how well covered the cheerleaders were.

Also note they they encouraged violence ("let's fight!"); indeed, many of their cheers involved "beating" the other school. But they were modest about it. 

How times have changed in the last 54 years!

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Monday, February 11, 2013

Learn Me Good

Back in the day, when I had to take certain "teacher training" classes at college, we didn't read any real accounts written by teachers about their early classroom experiences. Instead, we had to read incredibly boring textbooks about educational methodology.

The summer before I started teaching, I read the novel  Up the Down Staircase which was a pretty good learning experience for me. I wish I'd had a few similar books to warn me of what I'd face in the classroom—especially true (or mostly true) accounts.

Although I retired from teaching 14 years ago, I still like to know what's going on in the educational realm. Consequently, I recently downloaded and read the ebook version of Learn Me Good. It's a hoot on many levels.

Originally published in 2006, the epistolary novel by John Pearson recounts an engineer-turned teacher's first year teaching third grade math. Instead of written letters (Remember those?), Pearson—er, protagonist Jack Woodson— communicates via emails sent to a former colleague at the company where Woodson had been laid off. Pearson, who notes he changed names, calls the coworker "Fred Bommerson" and the company "Heat Pumps Unlimited." He also says, "This book was inspired by real experiences. A few of the details have been altered or embellished. . . . Nearly everything that I write about did happen at some point."

Having taught middle, junior high, and high school for three decades before taking early retirement, I can identify with what Pearson writes about—testing, uncooperative kids, testing, crazy kids, testing, parents, testing, crazy parents, testing, field trips, testing—well, you get my drift. This is a book that every education major should read before accepting a teaching job. The book is funny as all get out and some of Woodson's students seem impossibly weird, but the book rings true.

Having been married to an electrical engineer for 45 years, I especially liked the emails Mr. Woodson sent to his engineer buddy. A lot of the story is in the subtext.

Pearson, whose sequel is Learn Me Gooder, also blogs at

If you're a former teacher, a current teacher, a teacher wanna-be, or a parent of an elementary student, you just might want read this book. I give it an A.

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Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Curious George & the PT Cruisers

George the big orange cat likes cars—specifically PT Cruisers. Perhaps it's because he lives in the garage and is in close proximity to at least one. Perhaps he wishes he could drive. Perhaps he's just curious.

"I think I could drive this."

"Better check under the hood first."

"Looks OK. Maybe I better take a look above."

"Windows could stand a little cleaning."

"I'll just wipe this little smudge."

"Things look pretty good from up here."

"I'll just check out the interior."

"Floor needs a bit of cleaning."

"This shouldn't be too hard to figure out."

"Where's the key? I need a key!"

Fortunately George did not take a PT for a cruise. But he has been known to hitch a ride in one from time to time.

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