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.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

What's Old

. . . Is Still Old.

But here's how the new edition of my old book looks: 

Recently, I decided to recycle (yet again!) my self-published novel, Patches on the Same Quilt, into a brand new edition via Createspace. The original was published in 2001, thanks to a grant from the Smith Mountain Arts Council that subsidized about a third of the cost of the first press run. Back in those days, self-publishing was a pricey endeavor that involved a print run of at least a thousand to keep the cost per copy down. To further keep the cost down, I went with a two-color cover that the printer designed instead of a pricey full color cover. As covers went, it wasn't a thing of beauty.

It took me over a year to sell the first thousand copies, and I did another press run (the second thousand was way cheaper than the first!). During the following decade, I've sold about eight hundred copies. There were a few minor things I wanted to change, but—while they weren't set in stone, they were set in type.

In 2013, I decided to make a Kindle ebook of Patches, and—with a little help from cover-designer Ed Mitchell—I did. Making an ebook, I learned, is tedious but not difficult.

Because Createspace's print-on-demand technology provides an inexpensive way to get books printed as well as make them available on online sites, I decided to give Patches a new life in print. I read up on how to use Createspace and downloaded a template. It took me several tries, with a little help from my friends, to get the manuscript the way I wanted. I used the front cover Ed had designed, and Lake Writer buddy Chuck Lumpkin helped me with the back cover.

After I'd uploaded what I thought was the final result, I ordered a proof copy. Several errors became apparent, so I marked up the proof copy, made some edits, uploaded the revised version, and ordered another proof copy. Then I compared the second proof with the first.

Proof number two was good! I clicked the button on the Createspace site and the latest edition of Patches on the Same Quilt went live. Here's how the back of the book looks.

The process, now that I look back on it and realize how I made the errors I did, was not difficult. Tedious, yes, but not really difficult. 

If anyone wants to go the self-publishing route—after you've exhausted attempts at getting an agent or big-name publisher—I'd recommend Createspace. Granted, it's not a legit publishing credit—no self-publishing effort is. But it's a fast, inexpensive, and fairly easy way to get your work into print.

Now I think I'll go back and tweak the e-book version.

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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Fragile Circle: July Losses

"We who choose to surround ourselves 
with lives even more temporary than our own, 
live within a fragile circle, easily and often breached. 
Unable to accept its awful gaps, 
we still would live no other way. 
We cherish memory as the only certain immortality, 
never fully understanding the necessary plan." 
—Irving Townsend

Within a two-week period in early to mid-July, I lost two of my pets— elderly dog Emma and middle-aged cat Eddie-Puss. Both were "off-road adoptions."

Emma joined us in September 1999, when she was seven or eight months old and we'd recently moved here. She was a stray who'd been taken in by the Mexican migrant workers who lived in a trailer across the road. They'd named her Salavino and weren't able to take her on the three-day bus trip back to Mexico. Their employer/landlord told me that the pup was too nice to take to the pound, and did I want her? I went across the road, looked into her eyes, and brought her home.

She got along with Abby the border collie and Jack the mixed retriever, who were up in years by the time Emma joined them, but Emma Lee Dogginson was her own dog—a free spirit who was disobedient in two languages. She did what she pleased, and that was that.

After Abby and Jack passed on, Emma got along with Hubert and Harley. However, she maintained he own residence (show in the background below). As she got older, she had arthritic problems.


We figured Emma was a mixed sheltie, but there could have been border collie in the mix. She was basically a shaggy dog.

A really shaggy dog.

Emma's hair was so unmanageable that I started taking her to get clipped in the spring. Her first clip revealed that she had no waistline.

When Maggie joined the kennel crowd as a puppy, she and Emma got along. But when Maggie reached full size, she and Emma had managerial issues over who was kennel boss.

So Emma moved from kennel to garage about four years ago. Although her limp was getting increasingly noticeable, she still enjoyed a roll in the snow.

Eventually a stray cat—George—moved in with Emma. George kept Emma company in her twilight years.

Even in her last days, the geriatric Emma enjoyed sitting in the yard and watching the world around her. George often kept her company. 

Eddie-puss joined the household about twelve years ago when he was a kitten. I was calling Camilla (shown below with Eddie-puss) when I heard a meowing in the bushes. 

Then a small scrawny black kitten came toward me. I took him in and fed him. He ate and ate. Eventually he grew into a big cat.

Eddie-puss was raised by Potter, who's now our elderly porch cat. Eddie-puss and Dylan became friends.

When Dylan decided to become an outdoor cat, so did Eddie-puss (in foreground of both the following pictures).

Ed liked pushing newspapers around and making a nest.

He sat on my desk a lot; he was my cat and had no use for other humans. His purr was so loud that you could hear it in the next room.

He was a cat for all seasons.

He was the one who taught Tanner what he needed to know to be a household cat.

In the last ten months, Eddie-puss started to lose weight. The vet said he was hyper-thyroid. We tried special food, then medication. It didn't help. Although he ate and ate, Ed faded away to a shadow of himself. In the picture below, he was just starting his weight loss.

The day before he died, he sat on the front porch for a while and then walked around the house. He kept to his routine until the last. He died in his bed during the night.

Part of the fragile circle has been broken. But the memories remain.

Monday, July 21, 2014

July Scams & Tales

Nothing like having scam emails pop up on your computer.

Four appeared this month. How do I know that this Discover Card warning isn't for real?

I don't have a Discover Card. And the real Discover Card folks would use better grammar. And, instead of "Discover Card Management," there'd be a person's name.

How about this one?

Well, Billy Moron, you're not going to hear from me. I don't have a marketing or sales campaign, so I'm not targeting anyone. If you "guarantee 100% accuracy," then why did you send this to me—I'm not the customer you're looking for. And, really, you should work on the spacing in your emails. Looks like your has been copied a few times.

Maybe you know Courtney, who enjoyed "looking through" my "nice website" (although I doubt she looked at it):

First clue this is scammy: I'm not a webmaster. Second clue: the vagueness: "I have some good quality sites on a related subject." What, dear Courtney, is the subject of my website? I'll bet you don't know because odds are good you never even looked at it.

Then there's the spacing issue—is she perhaps writing free verse? And her grammar—Arrggghhh! No way am I "exchanging links" with someone as ungrammatical as she is.

Then there's this one: Vasilina's subject line caught my eye because I do not remember ever meeting a live person (or an animal) named Vasilina, although I do remember a fictional character of that name.

Uh, Vasilisa, you are so targeting the wrong person! Didn't my name tip you off that I am not the man you seek? Or did you send this to a whole batch of "contact details" you'd bought from Billy (see earlier scam)? and hoped you'd find someone stupid enough to fall for your ploy get lucky? 

I hope a "sightly, smart, kind, and responsible" person like you has better luck elsewhere or at least learns to set up your emails so they don't look like free verse (see Courtney's email above). 

By any chance are you this Vasilisa (also found here)? She's a fictional character as I suspect you are. She appears in several books, including these two:


The first book is for sale here; the second, here. Like you, the fairytale Vasilisas are "sightly, smart, kind, and responsible." And therein lies a tale—er, a tail—attached to a cat who is checking his email.

But Dylan is too smart a kitty to fall for an email scam.


Saturday, July 12, 2014

Summer Doldrums

This blog has been quiet for a while, during which time I continued to have some mobility issues and our elderly dog Emma—who also had mobility issues—went to sleep and peacefully never woke up. She is buried on the farm.

The weather has been hot and humid. We have missed bad storms which struck north of us (Bedford and Lynchburg) and on the east coast, but we've gotten some heavy rain and some spectacular cloud displays, including these before one of the showers . . .

. . . and these afterwards:

One afternoon we had part of a rainbow:

And we've had some spectacular sunsets:



Saturday, July 05, 2014

Virginia Literary Journal

I have a short-short story in the premier issue of Virginia Literary Journal, an online publication. Thanks to the miracle of the Internet, you can even read a version from this blog . . .

. . . but this link gives you a better reading experience.

Virginia Literary Journal is published twice a year by Cedar Creek Publishing, "a Virginia publisher of Virginia books." Consequently, all the authors in Virginia Literary Journal reside somewhere in Virginia and all the stories, essays, and poems therein have Virginia connections. 

I haven't finished reading the whole journal yet, but I'm impressed by the quality of what I've read so far. I feel honored to be among such good writers.