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.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Irises and Azaleas

One of my favorite flowers is the iris. These are currently blooming near the house:

I love azaleas, too. These are blooming under one of the pin oaks. The bench in the picture below belonged to my grandmother.


Monday, April 29, 2013

E-book Stuck

My novel Stuck is finally available as a Kindle e-book. Here's how it looks compared to the paperback, which was published by Cedar Creek two years ago.

Little Chloe doesn't seem too impressed. I think she was more excited when the box of author copies arrived two years ago.

On Saturday night, I'd uploaded the file to Kindle and previewed how it looked on some simulated devices, such as the old black and white Kindle. .  . 

. . . an iPhone. . .

. . . and a Kindle Fire.

This is how the Table of Contents looks on the Fire . . . 

. . . and how part of Chapter 1 looks on the Fire.

The e-book version of Stuck differs a bit from the print because it doesn't have the chapter-by-chapter study guide that the paperback has. But, at only $2.99, the e-book is considerably less expensive.

You can buy it here.

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Friday, April 26, 2013

Lion's Testicles

Bet the title of this post caught your interest!

Actually it's part of the title of a book I recently read: Learning to Play With a Lion's Testicles: Unexpected Gifts from the Animals of Africa, by Melissa Haynes. In Africa, the term "playing with a lion's testicles" means to take foolhardy chances or to do something stupid.

Published in March 2013 by Behler Publications, the book is a first-person account of the author's coming to terms with her mother's death while volunteering on a game preserve in South Africa. Haynes skillfully moves back and forth between events leading to her mother's death and her experiences in Africa. Both were traumatic.

I have limited experience with lions (Lion Country Safari in Florida in 1969), but I share my home with numerous lion-like critters. Some of them were interested in the book.

Jim-Bob was the first to have a look. Perhaps he was channeling his inner lion.

Jim-Bob certainly liked the cover.

I liked what was beyond the cover—the author's journey through her grief and her quest for meaning in her life. From the Behler Publications site, here's the summary: 

Melissa, an exhausted executive from the city seeks meaning and purpose from her work, and volunteers for a Big Five conservation project in South Africa.  Her boss, an over-zealous ranger, nicknamed the Drill Sergeant, has no patience for city folk, especially if they're women, and tries to send her packing on day one. But Melissa stands her ground with grit and determination, however shaky it may be.
 Conflict soon sets the pace with a cast filled with predatory cats, violent elephants, and an on-going battle of wits with the Drill Sergeant. Even Mother Nature pounds the reserve with the worst storm in a century. But the most enduring and profound conflict is the internal battle going on within Melissa, as she tries to come to terms with the guilt surrounding her mother's death. When death grips the game reserve, it is the very animals Melissa has come to save that end up saving her.
 For the reader who has ever dreamed of going to Africa or knows the pain of loss and guilt, LEARNING TO PLAY WITH A LION’S TESTICLES will fill your soul. 

The book is indeed  loaded with conflict: Melissa Haynes' guilt over not being there when her mother died, the daily conflicts with her supervisor (the "drill sergeant"), her conflict with a harsh and dangerous environment, her fear of staying alone in her tent at night while she hears growls in the darkness, her conflict with Kittibon the elephant who flings dung and branches at her, the amorous rhino with raging hormones, the lions, etc.

In some cases, she took dangerous chances (hence the title) in order to prove to the "drill sergeant" that she could do the jobs assigned her—and to prove to herself that she could do them. While there were a few times that I thought she wouldn't make it out alive, I reminded myself that, after all, she did survive to write the book.

One of the things I especially liked about this book is that Haynes' writing style is up-close and personal—not detached and after the fact. She comes across as wonderfully human, flaws and all. Plus, as a confirmed animal-lover, I enjoyed reading about the wild critters on their home turf. 

I highly recommend this book. Any woman who has endured the death of her mother (the book arrived on the 9th anniversary of my mother's funeral) or who has had doubts about whether or not she could make it through life's challenges would enjoy this book.

Tanner contemplated the cover, but he wasn't as intrigued as Jim-Bob. Of course, Tanner is young yet and hasn't developed his tastes in reading. 

Tanner decided that, instead of reading a tale about lions and other wild critters, he'd rather play with Eddie-Puss's tail.

Blatant promo here: One of the reasons I liked this book so much is that it deals with the same themes as my middle grade novel, Stuck—coming to terms with grief over a mother's death and coming to terms with challenges in life.  Stuck, published in 2011 by Cedar Creek Publishing, is currently available in print and as an e-book.

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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Farmer Eddie-Puss

A Guest Blog-Post
by Edgar Allan Puss
(household cat)

Spring means that some of us house-cats have to go outside and help with farm chores. I've been checking out the Massey-Ferguson to see if it's field-worthy. That's me on the seat.

Gotta make sure the tires are OK.

All these chains on top of the bush-hog look OK. (Note: Some yankee cats call it a "brush-hog," but I'm a born and bred rural Southern cat, so I call it what it is.)

The bush hog looks OK—at least from the top.

Chloe, do you want to help me get this tractor ready?

Let's check the blades to make sure they're sharp and still attached.

They look like they'll do. You can't be too careful. I remember back in the fall of  2011 when Daddy got one of the tractors stuck.

Jim-Bob, thanks for checking that tire again.

Everything is looking good from this end . . .

. . . but maybe I'd better check the front again. Jim-Bob said it was OK, but you're can't be too sure.

And I'd better check up top. Looks like a branch is about ready to fall on this tractor.

Darn. I forgot the chainsaw. No way I can get it loose with my bare claws.

Looks like Chloe and Jim-Bob are inspecting the hay-rake. 

Hey, kitties, y'all see any problems? No? Good!

Well, I guess there isn't much I can do up here.

Guess I'd better hop down and see what else needs doing.

I probably should look under the hood.

A cat's work is never done.

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Saturday, April 13, 2013

Mad Max

One of the good things about being a member of a writers group is the input you get on your work in progress. Another good thing is seeing a fellow member's work-in-progress become a published book.

As a member of Lake Writers, I've heard Betsy Ashton read chapters from her manuscript that eventually became the novel, Mad Max: Unintended Consequences. In fact, I was one of the Beta readers a few years ago. In 2009, her manuscript won the Smith Mountain Arts Council Novel Contest.

The novel has changed in the last few years as it's gone through rewrites and revisions. When I first read it, the setting was Chicago; now it's Richmond. I remember the novel beginning at an art exhibition; now it begins in a restaurant. I didn't remember a grandchild having the ability to read other people's feelings.

The main character, called "Mad Max" by her grandchildren Emilie and Alex, enjoys her cushy life in New York. Although she and her daughter Merry are not close, when Merry is badly injured in a car crash, Max returns to Richmond to care for her and the two children. Merry is not the same physically and emotionally after the accident, and her relationship with her family rapidly declines. Max, who never intended to raise children again, now has to. Then things go from bad to worse—there's a murder and some mysteries to be solved. I won't spoil the ending by telling you what happens, but Max and her grandkids make a great team when it comes to sleuthing—and giving a murderer what he deserves.

Mad Max: Unintended Consequences is hard to classify by genre. It's women's fiction as well as mystery—and then there's the murder. And the paranormal aspect. Suffice to say, the book has something to appeal to a variety of readers, and it's a commendable debut novel.

If you live in the area, you can hear Betsy read from Mad Max herself. On Tuesday, April 16, the official book launch will be at the Westlake Library at 6:30 PM.  On Tuesday, April 30, she'll read and sign at the Franklin County Library in downtown Rocky Mount.

And she'll have books available, just in case you haven't gotten yours yet.

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Friday, April 12, 2013

Fast Change

What a difference a week makes. On April 4, we received a few inches of snow.

Snow clung to branches and covered the ground.

 But less than a week later, spring had vanquished winter. The white on the branches wasn't snow but cherry blossoms.

Or wild plum blossoms.

The japonica bloomed . . . 

. . . and the forsythias were at their peak.

The redbuds budded out in the yard . . .

. . . and beside the garage—where a mockingbird sang on the dusk to dawn light.

 The corkscrew willow suddenly was green.

And the lawn and fields were green, too.

Tulips bloomed . . .

. . . and cats wandered among the daffodils . . .

. . .  or lounged on the greenness  of the lawn.

Honeybees covered the rosemary bush.

Temps hit the mid-80s.

Looks like spring is here!


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