Category Archives: humor

Not Quite a Diva

So the Celtic Festival is upon us, which explains why neither Jack nor Wendy can get a blog post out between getting the flags and signs to each venue, handing out towels to musicians overflowing the bookstore – I don’t even know the names of the guys sleeping in the Science Fiction section – and feeding the foster cats. dickson

Actually, herding the cats and herding the musicians is much of a muchness……

It’s all bedlam and bagpipes right now, and we wouldn’t have it any other way, but the cat rescue  still needs to be looked after. Appalachian Feline Friends is primarily a foster organization, but has a small place where we hold cats between leaving the local shelter and entering foster or forever families. AFF had an unexpected and urgent opportunity to empty four cages from the shelter, so in the midst of all the musical mayhem, when a fellow cat lover was able to pull them, I needed to figure out how to get the kitties into the holding tank by myself, since Jack was up to his eyebrows in parade plans.

Enter Barbara Dickson, singer-guitarist extraordinaire and this year’s festival headliner. She and Jack are old friends, from their shared hometown of Dunfermline, Fife. When I called the bookstore from the vet’s office to see if anyone had ten minutes to spare, I was told “Barbara will meet you out front.” She marched herself into the car, settled one of the carriers on her lap, and said, “Right, we’re off.”

At the holding tank, I warned her that there might be a certain catishness to the place, and she waved a hand. When I opened the door, she took a sniff and said, “Right. Where’s the broom and the mop bucket?”

For the next hour and a half, as I fed and watered and cuddled kitties, Barbara swept, mopped, and cleaned up suspicious stains. We had a blast. When I thanked her profusely, she said, “Pff. I love cats.”

And the next day, Barbara put on a dress, put up her hair, and delivered a standing ovation concert to open the Big Stone Celtic Festival.

She’s a woman like that.

You can hear one of Barbara’s Friday night songs here: Big Stone Celtic Day.

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Filed under animal rescue, Big Stone Gap, humor, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, Scotland, shopsitting, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA, Wendy Welch

The Monday Book: THE LAST MORTAL MAN by Syne Mitchell

deathlessSo I’m not the world’s biggest SF fan these days, but when THE LAST MORTAL MAN came into our shop, I was in a mood and needed a book in a hurry. I packed it in my bag and raced for my plane, train, or car pool, whatever it was.

Ironically, I soon discovered that I had picked up a novel that was one long futuristic chase scene. This book never stops, people running hither thither and yon getting disintegrated despite being immortal (which hardly seems fair) and willing their no-longer-human flesh into weapons and dropping buildings on each other while operating a mind-melding Facebook equivalent called Gaia-Net.

It is HBO’s animated wet dream, this book.

THE LAST MORTAL MAN is driven by violence and nano-science rather than characters. That said, Mitchell has a great imagination. (Well, hey, she’s a weaver. You can check our her fiber art stuff by googling her name.) She can find ways to kill people who have made themselves immortal and create landscapes with their brain. Also, underneath the VERY fast-paced killing and tech-willing, you find pieces of humanity-and-social-justice-oriented plot that could have been something special had they been developed. (Her series was cancelled after the first book. Which might explain why so many things obviously being set up were left unfinished; she expected to have more time later.)

The premise of the book is that the world is so full of tech, when you create tech that destroys tech, the only people left will be little kids and the Amish. Yep, there are Amish people in this book, and – wait for it – one of the girls is the love interest. Yeah, I about died laughing. All those Christian Amish romances, and it comes to this?

That sounds like I’m making fun of Mitchell’s work. No, just that it had a lot of potential that seemed to fall apart in the urge to write ever-faster hard-rock chase scenes where Immortal Girl in black rubber body suit wills her arm into a blade and defends little kids from big bad assassins sent by the Deathless Cartel because they’re mad at the Godfather of Immortality – whose henchman came up with the tech that kills tech.

It all runs faster from there, mostly downhill.

I wanted to like this book, and finished reading it because it was so…. silly. All plot and no people. No one you wanted to root for, and when it comes down to the finale the world is saved or doomed by a Siamese kitten and her girl, who are paired to be the perfect killers/saviors by releasing tech each of them holds half of. I like Siamese cats. I really do. But….

Normally I don’t review books I didn’t like, so you’re wondering why I did this one? Well, truth is, I did like it. It was so bizarre it amused me. Like every once in awhile, instead of getting chocolate cake, you choose Jello, just because.

This book is Jello. Flavorful, rainbow jello with sprinkles. And killer kittens.

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Filed under Big Stone Gap, book reviews, humor, Hunger Games, Life reflections, post-apocalypse fiction, publishing, reading, writing, YA fiction

It’s that time of Year Again

pipersThere are certain events that mark the calendar year for our bookshop, a literary liturgical year. We have the Epiphany Service gathering community churches in January, followed by the annual Burns Supper, the February Dreadful Date (ghostly love stories) and the St. Patrick’s Day Ceilidh Dance. Then we set aside events as the summer season picks up. Throughout those “quiet” (ha!) summer months, we’re in planning mode for the Celtic Festival, always the fourth Friday evening and all day Saturday in September.

As summer progresses, planning increases, and now we are in full final get-er-done mode. Jack has barricaded himself behind book boxes to finalize the parade planning, while our ever-faithful chairwoman Darinda makes a final round with the indefatigable Rhonda, who heads the merchants association. Elizabeth is figuring out where to put the many vendors who will be selling stuff with us, and Randy has the bagpipe band tuning.

It takes awhile to tune bagpipes. :]

A lot of work, a lot of stress, but every year when the band strikes up and the seven Celtic Nation flags fly, and the Breton association at the school dance in their black and white costumes, it’s worth it. I get a lump in my throat as the people on the sidewalk wave at the people in the parade. Because it’s more than a festival. It’s a town, coming to together to celebrate its past and its future. It’s a whole lot of cooperation and believing in a world that’s short on both. It’s a small town that’s proud of itself.

And that’s no small thing.

For a schedule of events Sept. 23 and 24, visit Big Stone Celtic Day on Facebook. The sheepdogs and Barbara Dickson’s concert are not to be missed!

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Filed under Big Stone Gap, home improvements, humor, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, Scotland, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA, Wendy Welch

Breaking in to Change the Locks

Mollydooker 2012 Carnival of Love Shiraz 2014 Winestate #1 Wine and #1 Shiraz in AUS & NZ (PRNewsFoto/Mollydooker Wines)

Mollydooker 2012 Carnival of Love Shiraz 2014 Winestate #1 Wine and #1 Shiraz in AUS & NZ (PRNewsFoto/Mollydooker Wines)

Many of you know that I own a nice little cabin tucked into a hillside in Tennessee. It is the Writer’s Retreat. About a month ago, thanks to the American NewMedia Education Foundation, I started a six-month mentoring program with two writers in SW VA. We went to the cabin and had a fun time writing and retreating (and eating) and left refreshed. One of the writers asked about going back out to the cabin from time to time. I explained where we hid the key and wished her well.

Last week another friend and I went to the cabin because it was nicer than the hotel offered by a conference we were attending. When I unlocked the door, it was evident someone had been staying there. A moldering cup of coffee on the table, pillows piled on the bed. Lots of canned food gone. A cigarette in an ashtray; I don’t allow smoking inside.

And in a sudden horrific downturn of discovery, the soap in the shower was wet.

“Someone’s been squatting,” said my friend Beth. “This is hobo living.” The peanut butter had been half-consumed by spoonfuls, the canned soups eaten, but in something between a funny and a poignant turn, the Indian ready meals of Saag Paneer and Tikka Masala were lying next to ripped-open boxes, unopened in their pouches.

“He can’t read,” Beth said. “He couldn’t follow the cooking directions.”

Indeed, the guy had used the microwave and coffepot but not the stove, and had in many ways indicated that life needed to be simple. I began to feel protective toward him.

“Maybe we should just leave the door unlocked when we leave. He’s not going to walk in while we’re here. He doesn’t want any trouble, hasn’t taken anything except the food.” As I spoke, Beth looked at me as if I’d grown two heads.

“You’re crazy, and not in a good way,” she replied.

We went back down the hill until we had Internet connection (about a mile from the cabin) to inform Jack of the break-in, in case our bodies were never found. Despite his urging, we stayed the night, and I still thought with sadness of the poor guy who just needed a place to crash. But I also shot a quick question to my writing friend who’d used the cabin last, just in case this was all made up in my head and they’d left things a little untidy.

The next day as the conference wound down, I had a reply from Lizbeth. Nope, it wasn’t them. Did that mean the bottle of New Zealand special vintage she’d left me was gone?

I scoured the cupboards. Nowhere waited a special bottle of Pinot Noir.

“Bastard! I hope he dies!” I shrieked to Beth. “We’re changing the locks tomorrow!”

There’s sharing with those in need, and there’s rare vintage. No more squatters in the Writer’s Retreat. But the funniest part of the story came when we went back yesterday to make good on changing those locks–

–and realized we hadn’t brought a key to get in. So Jack broke in so we could change them to break-in-proof ones. We will be the last people able to B&E my little writing retreat. That will make me feel safe when I’m out there writing.

And drinking good Pinot.

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Filed under between books, Big Stone Gap, home improvements, humor, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, out of things to read, publishing, reading, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA, Wendy Welch, writing

The Monday Book: THE BEAR WENT OVER THE MOUNTAIN by William Kotzwinkle

Okay, I hate magical realism. Why I picked up this book, I cannot tell you, but I’m so glad I did. It is laugh out loud funny. I read so many parts of it out loud to Jack, he finally told me to stop, he’d read it later.bear

Aesop’s Fables meets David Lodge in this book about a bear who finds a novel in a briefcase, and decides to turn himself into somebody. Which means going to New York, becoming the toast of the publishing and talk circuit world, and buying a British title. Also lots and lots of pies, cakes, ice cream, pretzels, and potato chips. He’s a bear. He names himself Hal Jam, because there’s nothing nicer than jam, and he can remember how to spell Hal.

People involved in the publishing and/or cult of celebrity world will shriek with recognition at some of the antics of this bear and his team, but everyone is going to love him on some level. If it gives you any insights, the book culminates in a lawsuit about copyright.

Here’s one of my favorite quotes:

The bear looked out the window at the city. “Mine,” he thought. Of course he’d need to shit around the perimeter and subdue some females, but time enough for that.

When I wasn’t annoying Jack by saying, “Wait wait, listen to this!” I was laughing out loud, startling the dogs as they lay by the bed. This book is so very, very funny. It skewers the publishing experience and a few other things besides. And it never lets up.

So when I finally realized I was indeed enjoying a magic realism novel, I thought it had to be because the author was such a good writer. Simple, fast sentences with complex nuances, floating between bear brain and publisher brain. He’s good, this guy.

Yeah, well, William Kotzwinkle wrote ET. Yes, that ET.

Two unopposable bear claws up for THE BEAR WENT OVER THE MOUNTAIN.

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Filed under book reviews, bookstore management, humor, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, publishing, reading, Uncategorized, Wendy Welch, writing

Hadley Marie Hemingway, Spooksfeline

Windsome hadleyHi everybody. You all know me. I’m Hadley Marie Hemingway. I’m famous.

sotto voice, offstage: Hadley, please….

Oh, right. I gotta job to do. A couple months ago Mom got with some friends and they started a cat rescue. Like they did for my brothers and me a couple years ago. They save kittens that are gonna get left alone or taken to the shelter. Big cats too. There’s been a lotta cats through this place. Some of ’em are nice, and some of ’em I’m glad they left. They were bigger’n me.

Mom and all the other people are working hard, and I guess that’s good, but sometimes the kittens come downstairs and sleep on the bed. With us. Near Mom’s face. Where I like to be.

whispers: Tell them about the fun you have playing, dear.

And sometimes they play with the dangly mouse on the cat tree. Which is mine. Or hog the sunbeam in the mystery room. If they do that I sit on them, though, so they usually move.

HADLEY! YOU PROMISED!

I mean, I like that mom an’ the lady who smells like bacon, an’ Fuzzy Daddy an’ the other people who work here – or maybe they live here, I don’t know – anyway, I like that they help the little kittens. I was a little kitten once.

Two of the kittens here now are really scared of everybody, so they’re hiding up under the bathroom sink. There’s a hole at the back of the cupboard that lets two or three cats get in there at once. Mom calls it “the Scaredy Cat Flat.” Sooner or later they all come out to play, though. There used to be three from this group, but Frosty – she’s a white cat like me with spots; we look so much alike people ask if we’re sisters. We’re not. I’m the only cat who’s like me.

*ahem*

Anyway, Frosty came out for wet breakfast after a couple of days, an’ now she’s my friend. We play jingle catch together with the feathery ball. That’s kinda fun, an’ I’m glad she’s safe an’ away from the shelter an’ all, but I’m not sharing my dangly mouse. That’s mine. We can share the sunbeam. It’s a big sunbeam.

Mom says I’m a good lil sister to the other cats, which is funny ’cause I’m older’n some of ’em, but that’s okay. An’ she says I get to be the spookycat. Um wait, the spookscat.

stage whispers: Spokescat, dear

Um yeah, you know, the cat who talks about the other cats. I get to have my picture on the FacePage an’ all.

FaceBoo-oh, never mind

So you can go look at me. I’m the cute one, above the blue button that says “donate.” Mom says that means “help us get the cats tutored.” I wasn’t gonna do it at first, but Mom says if Nate gets enough money, I can have my own sunbeam. That would be nice. Here’s where my spookscat picture is: https://www.facebook.com/appalachianfelinefriends/.

Mom says that spells “adorable photo of Hadley Marie Hemingway.”

Anyway, I’m Hadley an’ I improved this message.

Approved, dear

That’s what I said.

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Filed under animal rescue, bookstore management, humor, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, small town USA, Wendy Welch, writing

A guest blog from TWO BEARS FARM

This blog is from Lisa, who blogs at twobearsfarm.com, about her visit to our bookshop. Thank you, Lisa!

A while ago my mom loaned me a book called The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap.  A memoir, it sat on my bookshelf for a while before I read it and discovered it was so much better than I ever expected.  I fell in love with the quirky used bookstore in Big Stone Gap, and suggested to my parents (who both enjoyed the book, too) that we go there.

Big Stone Gap is waaaaayyyy down in the deep southwest of the state.  It took us a while to get there.  On the way we stopped at a farm to table restaurant in Meadowview called Harvest Table where I got the best grilled chicken sandwich ever.  I never even knew chicken could taste like that. On homemade focaccia with a remoulade sauce, it was the most tender, most flavorful chicken in existence.  If you are ever out that way (and you probably won’t be), be sure to stop in.

Eventually, we made it to Big Stone Gap, deep in the Appalachian mountains.  The bookstore didn’t disappoint.   The boys had a blast exploring all the rooms and carrying around the six (!) foster kittens in residence.  We all found a few books we needed.

On the way home we took a little detour through Lebanon so I could see the area where my grandfather’s family lived.  I enjoyed seeing his old stomping ground, imagining him as a young boy there with his siblings.

It was a lot of driving for one day, but included unique experiences, and I got to see some beautiful areas of the state I had never seen before.  Plus, that chicken sandwich?  Totally worth seven hours of driving.

Readers – have you ever gone out of your way to see a place from a book or a movie?

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Filed under Big Stone Gap, book reviews, bookstore management, humor, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, small town USA, VA, Wendy Welch, YA fiction