Peevish Pen

Ruminations on reading, writing, rural living, retirement, aging—and sometimes cats. And maybe a border collie or other critters.

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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, September 27, 2014

Signs of Fall

Autumn officially began about week ago, and I'm seeing signs of it all around me—the fall colors in the sky, for instance.

The hay has been baled, and October's bright blue weather has started in September.

The corn across the road was cut for silage a few weeks ago, and barley—the winter cover crop—was drilled in today

The purple coneflowers along the sidewalk have bloomed and gone to seed; their seeds remain to feed  the birds when cold weather comes.

The oaks in the side yard are getting a burnished look.

The chrysanthemums are blooming.

And inside, cats are snuggling together to share the warmth.


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Sunday, September 21, 2014

Last Morning of Summer

On the last day of summer, George and Jim-Bob breakfasted on the deck.

They have  lot of cat-work to do, so they eat hearty.

 Inside, Dylan and Tanner napped in the sunlight.

Fortunately, no one was rocking in the rocking chair.

Tanner even naps recklessly.

Down the road at the farm, hay that was baled yesterday dried in the morning sun.

But something moved near the bale. See them?

How about now?

Something else moved through the tall grass, How many can you count?

Looks like a lot of critters were out and about this morning.

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Saturday, September 20, 2014

September SkyArt

A few days ago, the sky put on an art show. Here are a few pics.


Sunday, September 14, 2014

Reading Journeys

I've been traveling lately, but I haven't left home. The last three books I've read have all involved a journey. As a reader, I—of course—went along for the ride.

While the three novels all involved travel, they were very different genres. I think a book's first sentence—or maybe first paragraph—is a good roadmap for what the journey will be, so thanks to the scanner app on my iPad, I've copied the first paragraph from each of the books.

Fingerprints of You, a YA novel by Kristen-Paige Madonia, is narrated by seventeen-year-old Lemon who has never known her father, begins:

I met the author in October 2012 when I journeyed to the Binding Time Bookfest in Martinsville and started the book as soon as I got home. I was a few chapters in when I misplaced it. By the time I found it, I was reading something else, and then something else, etc. However, when I heard Kristen read from her book at the Virginia Writers Club symposium last month, I decided I really wanted to finish it. And I did. Here's a synopsis:

Lemon grew up with Stella, a single mom who wasn’t exactly maternal. Stella always had a drink in her hand and a new boyfriend every few months, and when things got out of hand, she would whisk Lemon off to a new town for a fresh beginning. Now, just as they are moving yet again, Lemon discovers that she is pregnant from a reckless encounter—with a guy Stella had been flirting with. 
On the verge of revisiting her mother’s mistakes, Lemon struggles to cope with the idea of herself as a young unmarried mother, as well as the fact that she’s never met her own father. Determined to have at least one big adventure before she has the baby, Lemon sets off on a cross-country road trip, intending not only to meet her father, but to figure out who she wants to be.

Over Christmas break, Lemon travels by bus from West Virginia to San Francisco with her best friend Emmy. She finds her father, and ultimately finds herself. But she suffers a loss, too. And therein lies the story. While Fingerprints of You is YA, it has a lot to offer adult readers, too.

 I've known Ibby Greer for years and, when she recently wrote and self-published a paranormal novel set in a town where she lived for two decades—a town fifteen miles from where I live, I wanted to read it. Here's how Moonshine Corner: Keys to Rocky Mount begins:

The paranormal novel not only is about a physical journey (from Colorado to Virginia) but it also involves time travel and a spiritual journey. See the my post on the Mountain Spirits blog for more about Moonshine Corner.

I met Pam Newberry last spring when I journeyed to the Wytheville Library to participate in a book-signing and author event. There I acquired her memoir, The Letter: A Page of My Life, about her journey to learn more about her father (note the similar theme to Fingerprints of You). Recently, I won a copy of her novel, The Fire Within, a self-published romantic mystery based on a two-week Caribbean cruise that Pam once took. Here's the opening: 

From her website, the synopsis:

On a cruise to the Caribbean, Marine Letsco is on her first vacation in ten years from her job with Transcontinental Solutions where she works as an assassin. She finds herself entangled in a murder-for-hire, a murder conspiracy, and a fall that results in her losing her memory. Aided by Dr. Chester Henegar, a neuropsychiatrist, Marine begins a danger-filled quest to regain her memory. The deeper she searches, the more she becomes convinced she may not want to know who she was as the fire within her soul demands to be released.

Since The Fire Within is the first book of a trilogy, there's not yet an end to the main character's journey.

All three novels provide interesting—albeit different—journeys. I've already planned my next book itinerary: Sharyn McCrumb's new novel in her ballad series: Nora Bonesteel's Christmas Past. If you  travel back to this blog on October 1, you'll see how my journey went.


Tuesday, September 09, 2014


Chloe has taken over a small box where I was going to file some pictures. I'd left the box (temporarily) on the bookshelf in front of the study window that looks out onto the porch.

Chloe thought it was a perfect place to watch the goings-on out front. But then Tanner (the blob on the cushion below) decided it was a better vantage point than the cushion I'd left for cats.

It wasn't long before he made his move .  .  .

. . . and Chloe moved elsewhere.



Saturday, September 06, 2014

Special Delivery

My grandparents, Joe and Sallie Smith, lived on a farm in Union Hall. Here's how they looked when they were first married—years before I knew them.

Before my grandparents moved onto the farm, it had belonged to William Bernard and his wife Gillie Ann. William had built the cabin in the early 1850s. When Gillie Ann died in 1897 at the age of 58, she was buried up on the hillside.

William cut a little window in the wall of the log cabin (now covered with clapboards) so he could sit by the fire and look at her grave.

When William died 10 years later, he was buried beside her. A plain stone marked his grave. A few years later, my grandparents bought the farm.

In 1952, Joe received a letter from West Virginia: 

Obviously the stone was delivered and placed. It's been there for 62 years.

But the old stones weren't removed.

They, along with William and Gillie Ann, rest on the hill.

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Friday, September 05, 2014

Snowman: The Eighty-Dollar Champion

I've always loved horses. Long before I owned a horse, I loved horse books. When I was in elementary school, I read  most of C.W. Anderson's books. When I was 12, I read most of  Walter Farley's books. As an adult, I still love horse books. The latest one I read is The Eight-Dollar Champion: Snowman, The Horse That Inspired a Nation. It's a true story, published in 2012.

About the time I was reading Walter Farley books, Harry de Leyer bought an $80 horse from a dealer trucking horses to a slaughterhouse. Harry had intended to get to the New Holland sale to purchase a school horse prospect for his modest horse business, but a flat tire delayed him. By the time he reached the sale, all the horses had been. He looked between the slats of the killer's truck, and an ex-plow horse looked back. Harry bought him. By the time the horse was delivered to his farm, snow was falling heavily. When the horse was unloaded, his matted hair was quickly covered in snow, and the de Leyer children thought he looked like a snowman. That's how he got his name. Nt onlywsSnowman a great pet for the de Leyer children, he was also an excellent school horse and eventually a champion jumper. You can read more about Harry and his horse at the "Harry and Snowman" website.

Both horse people and non-horse people will enjoy this story about triumph over adversity. Although there were some repetitive parts and the author sometimes interrupted the flow of the narrative to explain things to non-horsey readers, I enjoyed the  book and could hardly put it down. The Eighty Dollar Champion had two themes I love to find in books: (1) It was about how one twist of fate can change a person's life (and the lives of his family) and (2) how a horse can impact a person's life.

In fact, I used those themes 15 years ago when I wrote Patches on the Sam Quilt—a novel in which boy's wish for a horse comes true by pure chance, and it changes his life and that of his family for generations. But I'm digressing.

The story of Snowman's remarkable life is being made into a movie. There's a YouTube video that previews this upcoming documentary:

I can't wait to see it.

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Monday, September 01, 2014

Little Meg Reddingoode

Blatant plug here:

Little Meg Reddingoode: An Appalachian "Little Red Riding Hood" is my latest Kindle ebook.

Nine-year-old Meg Reddingoode, who lives in Bedford County in the 1770s, must go over the mountain to take some supplies to her grandmother. There's no one else to go—her two older brothers are away in the Powell Valley in deep southwest Virginia with Joseph Martin, another brother is needed to help with farmwork, and there's no one else to make the trek. Meg is worried about wolves, bears and English soldiers who might be about, but her mother reassures her and agrees to let Meg wear her fine red cloak. Meg sets off at dawn and follows the sun. When she's almost at her destination, she encounters a young man who saw her red cloak through the trees and mistook her for an English soldier. And then—well, to find out more you'll need to read the ebook. It's only $1.99.

I'm delighted with the first review to appear on Amazon: 

Mushko's retelling of Little Red Riding Hood is a winner. The settings and feel for the time period are spot on. Of particular enjoyment was the change of the Big Bad Wolf from a talking animal to a realistic image of a human predator consistent with the time period. The inclusion of common wisdom and knowledge needed in the 1770s makes for a great teaching moment. With this moment in mind, Mushko draws on her thirty plus years of teaching experience by including a study guide to accompany the story. The guide covers more than a literary analysis of the text. It also ties in geography, history, and science making the story a useful inclusion for many different lessons and age levels all the way from kindergarten to college pre-service teachers. The kindle version makes the story easily accessible.—K. Flowers

I wrote Little Meg Reddingoode over a decade ago and used it in my 2005 vanity-published kids' book, Where There's A Will. I decided to recycle Little Meg as a companion for Ferradiddledumday, which I Kindle-published in June. Both are Appalachian retellings of stories from the Brothers Grimm. Besides being entertaining for kids seven and up to read on their own, both will work well in elementary or middle school classrooms. 

Little Meg, like the Ferradiddledumday ebook, is text-only, no illustrations. Currently, I have no plans to do a separate print book. The print version of Ferradiddledumday (which contains illustrations and a study guide) is currently unavailable on Amazon, but the publisher has assured me that this is only temporary and the print version will soon be available. Meanwhile, I have a few print copies of Ferradiddledumday, and it's also available directly from the publisher.

If you like Appalachian re-tellings of old tales, you might enjoy these tales.

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