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, March 29, 2018

Bone's Gift

I'm a big fan of Appalachian lit and stories about characters who have special powers—think Sharyn McCrumb's ballad novels and her character Nora Bonestell who has the gift of second sight. In fact, my self-pubbed novel, Them That Go, is set in Appalachia and is told from the viewpoint of a character who has a special gift. So, when I heard that Roanoke resident Angie Smibert had a new novel that was set in Appalachia and had a character with a gift, I knew I had to read it. I pre-ordered a Kindle copy and read it in two nights.

(Disclaimer: I've known Angie for years, was in a crit group with her for a while, and have reviewed a couple of her YA dystopian novels on this blog: Memento Nora and The Forgetting Curve.)

Bone's Gift is a fine example of Appalachian literature. While it's promoted as a book for middle graders, it has something to offer readers of all ages. Set in 1942 in Big Vein, a mining town along the New River, the novel deals with young Bone's curiosity about her mother and Bone's releationships with other members of her family.

The back cover sets up the premise:

Bone Phillip's need to know drives the novel's narrative. Bone—real name Laurel, but called Bone from a kind of coal that contains rock—can receive impressions from things she touches, a gift that sometimes is unpleasant. Gifts run in her family—her Mamaw can use plants to heal, an uncle can diagnose problems that animals have, and her deceased mother could heal the sick or injured. Bone is curious about her mother's death. All anyone will tell her is that her mother died of influenza. Meanwhile, Bone's life is in turmoil. Her father is being called to report for active duty, so Bone will have to live with her religious-fanatic aunt who doesn't believe in the gifts. Bone's best friend Will drops out of school to work in the mine. Bone has been foridden to go across the river to visit Mamaw. A bright spot in Bone's life is that Miss Spencer, a collector of stories, has come to the area, and Bone—who likes to tell stories—offers to help her. And Bone finds her way around some of the obstacles in her path.

Bone's Gift is a wonderful story—rich in aspects of Appalachian lit—and it works on several levels. It' a book that mothers would enjoy reading with their daughters. And it would be a good choice for  a book club (it includes notes from the author). Although complete in itself, Bone's Gift is the first in a series of three "Ghosts of Ordinary Objects." I'm looking forward to reading Lingering Echos in 2019 and The Truce in 2020.

Note: I did notice an error in the ebook version. The link to Ferrum College's AppLit website is incorrect. it should be

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Sunday, March 25, 2018

Spring Snow 2018

Even though it's spring, last night's snow made this morning look like winter. We were expectrd to get from 2 to 5 inches here, but we got between 3 and 4. Here are some pictures I took:

First thing this morning, the world was blue and foggy. In this view from my front porch, Smith Mountain is barely visible at the right. Below, fog hides the road.

The back yard:

The driveway. The glow above the car is the rising sun.

I drove the golf-cart out to feed the barn cats. I wasn't sure the cart could make it, but it did. See our tracks in the side yard?


I took the road back to the driveway. Those wet-looking places are ice, I was surprised how well the cart did on ice. 

I didn't see any cows in the pasture beside the road.

An old border collie waited patiently in the driveway while I took pictures. Those small tracks in front of her are cat tracks.

Looks like there won't be any peaches on my little peach tree this year:

Nice to see that blue sky!

There's a road out there somewhere:

This isn't a good day to sit in the gazebo:

Here comes the sun! Let the melting begin.

Not a good day to sit on this bench either:

This looks more like a seascape with crashing waves than a view of the field across the road:

 The back yard again—this time with sunshine:

Let the melting commence! 

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Friday, March 23, 2018

Lost Inheritance

TANNER: "My favorite character was the cat Sugar Lips."

Recently I received an advance reader copy of Lin Stepp's latest Smoky Mountain novel, Lost Inheritance. Published by Mountain Hill Press, the book will be available on April 3, but can be pre-ordered from Amazon now.

I've had the pleasure of reading several of Stepp's other Smoky Mountain novels, and I've posted reviews of Daddy's Girl,  Welcome Back, and Saving Laurel Springs on this blog. The new novel is as enjoyable as the others for many of the same reasons. Like the others, Lost Inheritance has a strong sense of place, and Stepp's detailed descriptions add to the reader's experience. The main characters are interesting and complex, and the plot has a few unexpected twists.

The back cover gives a good summary without telling you too much:

Lost Inheritance deals with themes of loss and redemption. Loss affects several characters. Not only has twenty-five-year-old Emily Lamont lost the inheritance that was promised to her, she has lost her job in the Philadelphia art gallery she expected to own. She has lost the god-parents who raised her as their own after she lost her parents in a car crash when she was ten. But she has inherited a small gallery in Gatlinburg, so that's where she goes.

Though it's been years, Cooper Garrison hasn't come to terms with the loss of his father from a heart attack or his older brother from a motorcycle accident. He's also resentful that his mother lost the opportunity to own the Creekside Gallery she's managed for years. While he's attracted to Emily, he doesn't want to get too involved.

Cooper's mother, Mamie Garrison, doesn't mind that she didn't inherit the art gallery and she real likes Emily. While Mamie's come to terms with the loss of her husband and son, she still misses not knowing who her real parents are and why her birth mother gave her to an orphanage.

ARLO: "Tanner, are you ready to share that book yet?"
TANNER: "No, I want to re-read the parts about Sugar  Lips. I like that cat's attitude."

The story eventually has a happy ending, but there are surprises and complications along the way. I won't give them away here—discovering them is part of the appeal of this book. I enjoyed the inclusion of dogs in the story—especially Emily's standard poodle Mercedes.

CHLOE: So, Tanner, how did you like the book?"
TANNER: "It was pretty good. But the cat should have helped Emily instead of that dog."
ARLO: "Shut up, Tanner! You're giving away too much!"

While Lost Inheritance is primarily a romance, it also has a couple of mysteries. One involves a traveling exhibition at the Creekside Gallery. When Emily notices someting odd about a picture in the Norman Rockwell exhibition, she starts asking questions. But if I told you what resulted, I'd be giving away too much. Ditto for the mystery of Mamie's parents.

If you like romance and mystery, the Smoky Mountains, and an interesting story, you'll enjoy Lost Inheritance.

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Saturday, March 10, 2018

Computer Scam Retorts

If you have a computer, odds are good you've gotten calls from scammers who want to "fix" the problem you didn't even know you had.

My computer, my cat Jim-Bob
A couple of weeks ago, I  got a call from some guy with a really heavy accent who wanted to help me with  my computer. Between the static in the phone line (which happens just about every time it rains) and his heavy accent, I never could understand what his name was—but I was pretty sure he was a scammer. You know the type—the ones who call to tell you that they "detected a problem" with your "Windows computer." 

But I didn't let him get that far. I wanted to know what company he worked for. It was something like "Rep Assist-something" or it might have been "Rep Asset-something"or maybe "Rat's Ass-something." Anyhow, I asked him what his company's website URL was. He tried to oblige me.

Between his thick accent and my deliberate mistakes as I slowly and laboriousy "attempted" to type the URL (while saying the letters I thought he said out loud and being corrected by him because I was saying the wrong ones), I wasn't able to get "your rep web assist (dot) com" (or something) and finally (in an exasperated voice after letting him know that I got "Rep Assist at Amazon") exclaimed, "There must be something wrong with my computer!" A moment of silence ensued. Then he hung up.

That was the fastest a scammer has ever hung up on me. Usually I can keep them going for a while. 

Sometimes I pretend I have to turn on my computer—which of course takes a while. And I push a bunch of button on the phone which makes little beeping noises for him. One guy had the nerve to tell me to stop doing that, and I had to insist this was how I started my computer. Then I have to put in the password which I spell out loud as I type it in: "S-u-p-e-r-c-a-l-i-f-r-a-g-i-l-i-s-t-i-c—Uh, oh! I think I left something out. Let me start again."

I kind of enjoy the Windows scam, wherein my "Windows computer" has gotten a virus or something, and the scammer will help me remove it. I try to drag the scammer out for a while (see password in previous paragraph), as he tells me to do such-and-such. One was flustered that I couldn't find a particular key, although he painstakingly described where it was on my keyboard. But I kept insisting it wasn't there. I knew it was't there because a Mac keyboard is different from a Windows keyboard, but it never occured to him I was using a Mac. I'm not the only Mac user who does this. Here's a pretty good YouTube video of a Mac user dealing with a Windows scammer: 

Recently I got a heavily accented computer scammer to hang up on me in less than 5 minutes! He didn't attempt to try my last name but asked if I was Miz Reee-beh-kuh and if I was the prime computer user. I agreed. That's when he told me they'd gotten reports of my computer downloading malicious downloads. 
Me:" Oh no! What's the name of these malicious downloads!"
He couldn't give me an answer. 
Me: "But if you know my computer has downloaded malicious downloads, you should certainly know the name of them! What are they called?"
I couldn't understand all he said next, but something to the effect that if I would turn on my computer, he would walk me through how to get rid of the malicious stuff.
Him (obviously reading from a script): "Now if you would step in front of your computer—"
Me: "Step in front of my computer? I don't understand!"
He repeated himself—
"Now if you would step in front of your computer—" and I cut him off again.
Me: "I have to step in front of my computer?"
Him: "Yes, and then—"
Me: "But I'm sitting in front of if. I don't understand what you're asking. Do you want me to get up and do something like an Irish step dance?"
Silence (well, except for all the other scammers in the room where he was). Then he hung up.

It was just as well. I can't Irish step dance. But if you want to see step-dancing, here's a video:


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Wednesday, March 07, 2018

In Like a Lion

We had some warm days in February—one even hit the 80s—and it seemed like spring was here. A lot of buds appeared on trees and some flowers bloomed. The crocus, of course was first,

It wasn't long until the forsythia bloomed.

The "ornamental peach" that produces wonderfully sweet peaches was covered in buds.

The old-fashioned lilac that I transplanted from Smith Farm years ago had green buds.

Of course there were daffodils . . .

. . . and bridal wreath.

But March roared in with damaging winds and peeled the roof on the shop. 

For two days and nights, the high winds blew and blew. We were lucky that we didn't lose power like thousands in the county did. But we did have a lot of branches down.

I suppose the early spring was short-lived. We're expecting snow this weekend.