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.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Saturday Sky

The clouds this evening were works of art. Take a look:


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Thursday, June 27, 2013

Offers I Can Refuse

The vanity publisher I used for four collections of my previously published stuff emailed me yesterday with this great limited time offer.

Here is what the package includes:
  • We will create your Basic Book Trailer for you and we will also put it on Infinity Publishing's You Tube Channel with information of where the book can be purchased. 
  • We will create 500 Facebook likes to your Facebook Fanpage.  
    • If you do not have one we will create it for you. 
  • Plus you will receive 10 Book Reviews on Amazon and Goodreads.
Visit our website to purchase this NEW Marketing Package and take advantage of the Special Savings!!

Despite the publisher's attempt to take advantage of me, I'm so not taking advantage of this amazing offer. Why not? Because it's a waste of money and will have no real effect. Who, for instance, would buy 500 Facebook likes? And where are those 500 likes coming from? Are there folks out in FB-land who don't care what they like and sell their like-ness to the highest bidder? Or did the "publisher" create 500 fake FB users to use for liking pages. Either way, this has unethical written all over it.

As for the "basic" book trailer, how would a reader—who hasn't even heard of your book—find your book trailer on YouTube, which has gazillions of other book trailers. The "publisher's" list of YouTube videos are here. Of the 29 (that's how many were there when I checked), seven were promotions for the company. One of those ( was kind of a 49-second Christmas card that had mini-second exposures of Christmas-related books. A whopping 77 people had viewed it since it was posted on Dec. 7, 2012. This one ( was a minute and forty-two seconds of 2-second views of lots of book covers. I thought it was a hoot that a rival vanity press had an ad on it.

And what about those "reviews"?  Do I really think that 10 reviewers are actually going to read one of my vanity-pubbed books and post a review? What's that review going to include. A lot of folks are aware of fake reviews on Amazon: here and here and here. Or maybe the "publisher" will hire Harriet Klausner?

And $495 for this crap?! I hate to think that someone will actually pay this. But a lot of vanity publishers offer similar packages for even more $$$.

Others have also jumped on the author scam bandwagon. Last week, a friend who had self-published his own book, sent me a copy of this email:

Small OrangeGirlsmall Cmyk(1) (2)Dear Publisher:

Join me for the Beijing Book FairNew York Library Association, and the Frankfurt International Book Fair.

Display Your Book For:
* Bookstore Buyers * Agents * Publishers *Retail Buyers * Distributors *Public Librarians * School Librarians * Universities * Distributors * Wholesalers * Colleges * School Systems * Foreign Rights Agents * Multi-Level Marketing Agents * Shopping Network Buyers *

Book Shows Offer Fantastic Benefits Including:
* No Travel Stress & Expense * Cover Facing-Out Display *
* Catalog Listing & Distribution * Online Database Profile*

Upcoming Book Show(click link to learn more & buy online)

Beijing Book Fair:Aug 28-Sept 2, Beijing, China
*purchase placement deadline August 5th  $190 New York Library Association: September 25-28, Niagra Falls NY
*purchase placement deadline September 8th $120

Frankfurt International Book Fair: Oct 9-13, Frankfurt, Germany
*purchase placement deadline August 12th $190
We display one copy of your item cover facing out!
Interested attendees contact you directly through our exhibit catalog!
Buyers are looking for new and exciting titles for sales, rights and exposure!
Save Time and Money by allowing us to display your book!
 Essentially this means that for a good chunk of change. this "company" would display one copy of your book—facing out, no less!—among gazillions of other books at the book fair. Just how many folks do you think will actually pick your book up? And if they do, who will talk to them about it? How will they know where it's available?

If you're self-published or vanity- published, your main way of selling your book is going to be out of the trunk of your car—or at least in face-to-face situations with potential buyers. Don't waste your money on promotional scams schemes that won't work.

But, if you want to throw away your money, pay me $50 and I'll drive around the county with a copy of your book on the dashboard of either my 94 Dodge truck or my PT Cruiser (you choose!) and I will park in the Kroger or Walmart parking lot for at least 15 minutes so passersby can see your book. Plus—for no extra charge—I will post on Facebook a picture of your book being looked at by a very cute kitty (again, you get a choice of which kitty). Finally, I'll comment on your FB page or your blog (again, you choose!) the following comment: "Hey! You wrote a book. Nice going!"

Is that an offer you can't refuse, or what?

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Sunday, June 23, 2013

Submission Slogging

Warning: Educational post bordering on a rant. No kitty pictures in this one.

I've been on a committee to read submissions—lots of submissions—for an anthology that my writer group is putting together. First the submitters had to send in hard copies. The three of us on the selection committee would read the hard copies, select the works we wanted to include, and then notify authors to send in electronic copies of the works we had chosen. That would be simple enough, right?

Some—not all—of the anthology slush.

While some submissions were a joy to read, and some would be a joy if a few glitches were fixed, others—well, the English teacher that I once was would be turning over in my grave if I were dead. (Since I'm still alive, the English teacher I once was is seriously missing my red pen.)

The selection committee had established some submission guidelines to ensure that submissions were uniform and easy to read. These were basic manuscript format and weren't difficult, but some entrants had problems with a few of our requirements. For instance, we asked that all entries be in Times New Roman 12—a font and size that's easy to read and which is available on just about any computer. Having all entries the same font and size would make it easier for the selection committee to determine how much space an entry will take up in relation to other entries.

Many entries were indeed in Times New Roman 12. Some entrants, alas, were a bit more creative in their choice. A few used Helvetica or other sans serif fonts. (Fortunately no one used Comic Sans or Papyrus.) Well, it's easy enough to change the font/size, but the fiction entry submitted in all capital letters will have to be retyped.

 We asked that the hard copies of essays and stories be double-spaced and poetry be single spaced. Double-spacing isn't difficult, but a few prose entries were nonetheless single-spaced. And a few poems were double-spaced. Spacing is fairly easy to fix, though.

A little trickier to fix is the use of two spaces after end punctuation. Those of us old enough to remember typing class know that on a typewriter (remember those things?) you did indeed put two spaces after a period. But you DON'T DO THIS when you're using a computer. Putting more than one space anywhere in a manuscript leads to real problems when the text is justified. Those extra spaces look like big holes in justified text.

Apparently several submitters were still trying to use a computer as if it were a typewriter.

When you're word-processing, no mark of punctuation has more than one space after it. Some (dashes, hyphens) don't have any spaces before or after them. Em dashes (—), en dashes (–) and hyphens (-) are not interchangeable. Using two hyphens (--) to make a dash is typing, not word-processing. 

We'd also asked that prose be indented to the fourth character space. Many submitters hit the tab key instead. Others apparently hit the space bar four times. A paragraph indent is not a tab. Don't hit the spacebar four times to get to the 4th character spaces. (Several did this!) Set indents in the ruler. This link will tell you about indents.

Using the "show invisibles" feature in Word, I could easily see all the times the space bar had been hit Here's an picture with no indent set:

And here's one with the indent set to the fifth character space:

Speaking of indents, don't put an extra space between paragraphs if you're indenting. That's overkill. Pick one or the other in your manuscript. Since we really didn't want all those extra spaces in the book, we just wanted paragraphs to be indented. (Yes, those spaces between paragraphs look nice in a business letter—but not in a manuscript.)

We wanted all poems flush left to make printing set-up easier. But several folks hit the space bar several times to get the lines where they wanted them on an 8.5 by 11 page. The book page, however, will be a smaller size than 8.5 by 11, so a poem won't occupy quite the same space. If we ever do the anthology as an e-book, poems that are "creatively" spaced will be a real headache.

When submitters were notified to send in electronic copies, things got , er, creative. We'd asked that submissions be saved as a doc. Not docx. Not rtf. Not a zip file. The elderly version of Word on my Mac doesn't recognize a docx. and thus can't open it. However, Pages—the Mac word-processing software—will open a docx. and then convert it to Pages. Then I  do a "save as" from Pages to a Word doc. Does Pages change anything in the original? Maybe, but I don't have any way to be sure. Some ended up pasting their submission in the body of a document, so that had to be pasted into Word, etc.

In the guidelines, we asked for a bio of 50 to 75 words. We probably should have made it clear that we wanted the bio written in complete sentences. But most people got it right.

Anyhow, I'm been slogging through the electronic copies for a couple of weeks now. The slogging has made me realize that I never want to serve on a selection committee again.

And I miss that red pen I used when I graded student compositions.


Saturday, June 22, 2013

Chasing Rainbows

This evening, I spotted a rainbow in on Route 40 Union Hall.

It was still in the sky—a bit southeast of Smith Mountain—when I got home.

Here's a close-up.

It was still there when I headed toward Penhook.

Before long, it started to disappear into a swirl of golden clouds.

And then it was gone.



Sunday, June 16, 2013

Galax 2013

I love going to Galax every June for the Leaf & String Festival. I've attended in 2010, 2011, and 2012. This year, I wasn't up to doing two days, so I only went on Friday.  Chapters Bookshop sponsors the Authors on Grayson tent, and they really know how to make authors welcome. Here's how I looked after I sat up my display.

I was next to Karen J. Hall on one side . . . 

. . . and Betsy Ashton on the other.

One of the visitors to the tent was a charming and well-behaved labradoodle named Skittles. Unfortunately, the dog didn't read.

From time to time, I wandered to a few nearby shops. In the antique store (I think it's A Place in Time) on the corner, I found this little coin purse that looks like a Laurel Burch design.

I bought my lunch (chef salad with pork) at the Galax Smokehouse. They always give a discount to authors.

Among some of the arts along Main Street were these hand-woven and hand-dyed baskets.

This big chair was a hit with the kids. I asked the maker how it got it to the festival. He said he just slid it onto the back of his pickup truck.

Here's a detail of the back.

The craftsman also made other furniture to sit on. I love the tractor seat stools.

I saw this giraffe in front of a gallery. The critter was made of a gazillion bits of beer cans.

Actually, there were two of them. I should have gone in the shop, but I didn't have time.

This was the first time I've been to Galax where it didn't rain, so the drive home Friday evening was pleasant. However, it's taking me a couple of days to recover from the trip. I'm not as young as I used to be, and the aches and pains of old age are more evident.

But I'm still looking forward to Galax in 2014.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Mountain Majesty

Yesterday, I drove to Galax for the "Authors on Grayson" part of the Galax Leaf & String Festival. My favorite part of the trip is driving over Lovers Leap. I always stop to take pictures.

Although the morning had been clear for most of my drive, clouds and a haze were visible from the overlook.

This is the first time I saw anything in bloom, and I had to look over the side of the wall to see this rhododendron—or is it mountain laurel? I always get the two mixed up.

Hazy or not, the view was, as usual, majestic.

Unfortunately, vandals like to deface the wall—and the sign that tells them not to. And they're not too literate: "Wildman wuz hear." Arrgghh.

Another peek over the wall revealed a highway sign. It said, "Unmarked pavement." Well, yeah, there wouldn't be marked pavement in a tree, would there?

Below, you can see the actual unmarked pavement. Apparently Route 58 had recently been paved.

On my way home, the haze had lifted and the clouds were higher.

The view was still majestic. 

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Thursday, June 13, 2013

Gardens Grow

How does my garden grow? Thanks to all the rain lately, my gardens are growing very well. In the one by the gazebo, the zucchini will soon be ready to pick.

In the small garden by the lower driveway, last year's onions didn't do much, but they make a spectacular display now as they go to seed. Butterflies like them.

The Swiss chard and this year's onions are doing nicely. I'm eating chard almost daily.

Tomato plants have blooms. A good sign.

The yellow squash will soon be ready to eat.

At the garden on the other side of the bottom driveway, the kale is doing pretty well. Bugs are eating a little of it, but there's still plenty for me. I'm eating kale every day, too.

The big kale patch on Polecat Creek Farm is thriving. 


So far, my gardens grow.


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