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PAXTON’S PUSHING UP DAISIES!

toilet flowersToday’s blog is the character list for our upcoming murder mystery on Friday, May 13 starting at 7 pm. Wendy has way too much fun writing these. Jack fears she will snap one of these days on the line between fiction and reality…..

The bookstore lawn has long been the talk of the town. Some find their toilet flower container post-modern ironic, others call it disgusting. Then there’s the English garden herbarium, and something called heirloom seeds brought over from a Quaker Peace Garden in some remote Scottish village? All very quaint, but hardly up to standards. So the garden clubs have been sent in to help. John Bach, bookstore owner, finds himself caught between feuding clubs: the Superior Gardener Club of the Ladies of the United Methodists, and the Gardener Superiors of the Southern Baptist Ladies’ Society, Eastern Division, Virginia Chapter.

It’s gonna get ugly, and that’s not just the designs and still life in pot arrangements and perennials on a plate they bring to the meeting. When the Methodist president goes face-down into the fertilizer, whodunit? Come join the fun in PAXTON’S PUSHING UP DAISIES, the 15th Murder Mystery held at the Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap.

When you see the part you want to play, send Wendy a PM on Facebook, or comment here. We regret to say that all parts are assigned, so if you’ve not already asked for one, you are welcome to watch but we can’t offer you a live role. Also if a part is in bold, it has an assigned person. Thanks!

Superior Garden Club President (Methodist) – Paxton

Garden Club Mother Superior (Baptist) Peony  Large – As bombastic as the scent of honeysuckle, and just as strangling. Can you get a word in edgewise? Perhaps she’s the intended victim – people would certainly stand in line to do things to her with a trowel.

Assistant to Superior Garden club Baptist President, Violet Shrink – She has good ideas, if you could hear her. How can anything bloom in the shadows? And is it true she and Paxton were best friends in high school?

Earth Mom and fey Baptist, Hannah Hephzibah-Eleanora Smith – Never underestimate the power of Epsom Salts and good clean living digging in the dirt; but what else has she been digging up?

Loud Male Chauvinist Council Guy who keeps addressing everyone as ‘Dear’ Christopher Love – here to oversee the competition John Bach didn’t know he was running

Nerdy swinger just there to pick up girls: Jimmy – He’s like a bee in the flower garden, but maybe he’s the one getting stung (Jimmy Brown)

The Proper Horticulturalist, James, a widower – Is he one of the garden ladies’ fancy man, or does he really know that much about how to make something come to life?

Prepper, grow food while you still can, Primrose Evergreen – It’s all going to end badly, like, tomorrow. Of what use are flowers at the end of the world; produce ornamental edibles! Too bad she’s got the wrong idea about some of those poisonous blossoms.

Flirty girl, bimbo, Poppy Upster – Pushing up daisies? No, pushing up something else. Did Paxton’s husband really date her in college?

Margaret Bach, Girl Detective, brings her mom this time! She’s John Bach’s sister-in-law, this helicopter mom determined her little Daisy is getting in the Junior League, come blossom blight or high water, Peggy Dunn Good Bach– Her daughter will provide the winning garden design, or someone will die trying. The fact that Margaret isn’t interested in flowers is neither here nor there.

Hat saleslady, Ima Millner – Garden, schmarden, she just wants to sell hats and she’s got the wrong idea about this garden club thing. But maybe she’s got a couple of other wrong ideas as well; did she crash this party on purpose?

Sweetness and light to the point you want to drown her, Jonquil May– How can you not love this sweet child? Easy. Can anyone be this nice, or is she a plant?

Passive aggressive poisonous criticizer Ivy Sue Mac– “Oh, what an… innovative arrangement, dear.” If she said something nice to you, you’d know you had a terminal illness.

Overly enthusiastic gardener, Joy Abounder – The quintessential church lady; when she says “Bless you” it sounds as though it starts with “F”

Social Climber Hyacinth Bucket – She came from the dirt, so it’s only natural she should use gardening to rake her way to the top; was Paxton in her way?

 

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And I would walk – – –

Jack’s Wednesday guest blog post –

It’s Wendy’s birthday at the end of the week and back around the time of my birthday in February she asked me for a very specific present. Not a fancy expensive thing, but just a song. Not any old song, though, and not a traditional song which would have fitted with my usual repertoire.

The song she asked me to learn and then perform publicly at a gig coming up April 30 was ‘500 Miles’ by The Proclaimers!

The Proclaimers are brothers Craig and Charlie Reid, who grew up in Auchtermuchty in my home county of Fife in Scotland, which is also the town where Wendy and I married 18 years ago.

I really wasn’t sure that I could do justice to the song, particularly after watching various excellent performances on YouTube. But nothing ventured, nothing gained, so I spent weeks going around singing it to myself until I learned the words. But a funny thing began to happen. It may be because the Reids sing in a broad Fife accent very similar to mine or maybe it’s because the sentiments of the song are quintessentially Scottish, but I found myself falling for the song. Of course the idea of demonstrating love by being prepared to travel a long distance – five hundred or even a thousand miles – is a very common motif in folk-songs and that may have chimed with me too.

The opportunity to perform the song had also been a long time in preparation. Almost two years ago our good friend Mark Merz, who leads the excellent Celtic band ‘Night Crossing,’ had proposed a ‘Celtic Clanjamphry’ concert at the historic Lincoln Theater in Marion VA. At the time we weren’t able to pull it off, but with the appointment of a new director for the theater the idea was again raised and the sainted Kristin Untiedt worked enthusiastically with Mark to realize his dream.

Also appearing would be our old friends ‘Sigean’ and another local band ‘Fire in the Kitchen’. The idea was to present a live concert version of my radio show and record the whole event for future broadcasting. So a lot to plan and a lot to potentially go wrong! Sigean were happy to give backing me in the song a go, but our only actual rehearsal opportunity was a brief 15 minutes between the sound check and the start of the concert, back in the Green Room.

Soon the theater began to fill up and the concert began. The first half featured ‘Fire in the Kitchen’ and ‘Night Crossing’ who both played wonderfully. The second half would start with Wendy and me followed by Sigean with ‘500 Miles’ as our last item to make for an easy stage transition.

We announced it was Wendy’s birthday present, and then as I began to sing the first few words, the audience reaction was amazing – an enthusiastic shout went up, and everyone sang along. I hadn’t realized just how popular or well known the song was. There’s a special feeling you just occasionally experience when performing – when everything clicks and the audience is right with you. It was such fun.

I may just have to keep ‘500 Miles’ in my repertoire now! Wendy says I have to sing it to her every year on her birthday. That could happen. We’re going to Asheville this weekend with friends, and I see a rendition on their trolley bar that pedals through the streets, the patrons singing lustily. Or perhaps drunkenly.

If you’d like to see the live performance from the Lincoln, click here.

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Filed under folklore and ethnography, Life reflections, Scotland, Uncategorized, Wendy Welch

The Monday Book: ASTRAY by Emma Donoghue

Astray is a collection of short stories themed around old newspaper clippings. In each, someone is adrift, out of sync with life, expecting one thing but getting another. They are really powerful stories in some cases.

The opener is about an elephant keeper whose charge is sold off to America, and his running conversation with his charge. It’s adorable. Less adorable but quite hard-hitting is the woman traveling with two small children, expecting to meet her husband in America, having been lucky enough to get passage out of famine Ireland.

Then there’s the Revolutionary War story, “The Hunt,” which covers a side of troop behavior that doesn’t make it into patriotic celebrations. Many of these stories have that undercurrent theme, the “alternate reality” feeling that makes them good fiction. So when you find out each is based on actual events, with just some ideas and feelings and motivations colored in between the lines sketched in by history, it’s a powerful thing. This is history with a small h, and therefore more accurate.

And of course it’s no small feat to pack an equal wallop of caring about a fully developed character in less than 10,000 words. Donoghue’s words are each carrying their own weight. She’s one of those rare gestalt writers, whose sum exceeds the parts. She makes you feel as though you know someone well, even though you’ve read two sentences about her.

An enthusiastic shout out for this book; you don’t have to be interested in history to enjoy the many dramas unfolding in this compact volume’s pages. Big things come in little packages.

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Jack’s Sister Margaret

We interrupt our regular bookstore blog to bring you sad news from Jack’s family…

margaretOur phone rang yesterday morning and could see it was a call from the UK. I was shocked to learn that my big sister had died during the night, suddenly and unexpectedly. She had just celebrated her 80th birthday and a big family celebration was planned for when I will be over in June for my annual tour. So, lots of memories and thoughts today.

One of my most treasured possessions is an old hardback copy of ‘The House at Pooh Corner’ that Margaret gave me as a present when I was probably about 8 years old. Over the years it has stayed with me in all the houses I’ve lived in and the other books in the series have been added. But of all the books I own it is the most valuable to me. Throughout my life Pooh has played an important role, and because Wendy is also a big fan our wedding cake was Pooh themed. I have many memories of being well looked after by my big sister before she headed off to England to work and eventually marry. Cycle rides to the seaside and the country were our big thing.

In recent years there hasn’t been a Christmas, birthday, 4th of July or Thanksgiving when I didn’t get a card from her, while I’m particularly glad that I was able to visit her a couple of times in the last few years.

I’ll be re-reading ‘The House at Pooh Corner’ again over the next few days and I know that when I reach the last page, where Christopher Robin explains to Pooh why he won’t be seeing him any more, I’ll be crying as usual. But this time the tears will be for Margaret’s passing as much as Pooh’s.pooh

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Lend me your ears – –

 

Jacks’ Wednesday guest blog post

There we were, on our way home on Monday night from the annual volunteers’ appreciation banquet at the prison where I visit every month. I’d noticed that Wendy had been busy on her phone for the last half hour and that usually means cats.

I should explain that I generally try to be the sensible one in these situations, trying to remind her that we can’t save them all and that the bookstore can only accommodate a finite amount while still operating in a customer friendly way. So I’m the ‘bad cop’ to Wendy’s ‘good cop’ much of the time.

Thinking this would probably be another clutch of tiny kittens I was gearing up to be my usual grumpy curmudgeonly self. But as we arrived home Wendy announced we were going out straightaway to find a feral cat that was hanging out in an area of town we’re not too familiar with. We had an address and the lady who Wendy had been on the phone with had offered to guide us to the place.

We arrived as it was beginning to get dark and began to search. No luck until Wendy’s phone contact came out and began guiding. In the darkness a very friendly white cat with oddly shaped black ears came straight to us. We had brought food and water and she made straight for them. Purring and most definitely not feral, so we had a closer look. Her ears weren’t naturally black – they were half eaten away and bloody. She was also scrawny but with a bloated belly. So she was injured, mal-nourished and pregnant!

We brought her back but couldn’t risk putting her in the same space as our own cats or the other fosters, so into the garage she went for the night. All this time she was happy to be picked up and carried in a box – as if she knew she’d turned a corner.

Of course the whole episode was being followed on FaceBook by a whole host of friends and fellow animal rescuers. One of them was our good friend Joe, who offered to come round in the morning to take her up to our Sainted Beth the veterinarian who never imagined she’d share so much of her personal and professional life with us.

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So now we know that Pogo (we called her that because she looked like a possum in the half-light) has melanoma on both ears, is completely flea-ridden and has a belly full of worms (so – not pregnant).

But all of that can be treated, although she may lose a goodly part of both ears in the process. Apparently she is about seven or eight years old and has obviously been a domestic pet. She either ran off and got lost, or was abandoned because of her ear problem. And to my astonishment, as soon as Wendy posted the update the next day showing Pogo relaxing in hospital, people began to offer financial assistance towards her bill. Which we know Beth will keep to the bare necessities, because she is a saint. But hey, saints and their nurses gotta eat too. Powell Valley Animal Hospital should you want to donate to her care. And we thank you from the bottom of Pogo’s sad little ear stubs.

I may try to lose Wendy’s phone, but she’d just get another one – bless her heart – – –

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Filed under animal rescue, bookstore management, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, Uncategorized, Wendy Welch

The Monday Book: THE BOOK OF SPECULATION by Erika Swindler

bookThis book came into the bookstore, and its cover attracted me. (Yes, I know about that saying you can’t judge a book by its cover; it’s a lie. People go to special marketing schools just so you can.)

I’m not the biggest fan of surprise endings – let’s start with the ending, shall we – but this one had a great twist. I’m also not a big fan of time-hopping books, but this one moved between the eighteenth and twenty-first century with some smooth maneuvers.

I am a big fan of well-developed characters, which this book has in spades. Even the minor players get major development.

The basic plot is some families have been hanging around each other for a few centuries, working the carnival circuit, and some of them keep dying the same way. It all comes down to a very old curse, some very new secrets revealed, and a cast of quirky misfits.

I’d call this something between a mystery and a family saga. It’s too gentle for a thriller (Gott sei dank) and too mysterious for general fiction. Now might be a good time to say, if you’re afraid of water, you won’t like this book. I’m a certified lifeguard, and parts of it made me queasy. (Also, let me just say now, don’t try any of that stuff at the lake.)

The writing doesn’t get in the way of the story; this is character-driven well-plotted book that would be enjoyable anywhere, except the beach. Trust me; don’t read it at the beach. Your bathtub is safe.

Two hands up, waving not drowning.

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Filed under between books, Big Stone Gap, book reviews, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, publishing, reading, small town USA, Uncategorized, Wendy Welch, writing

Isabella has a few Things to Say

isabellaWell h’lo there! I’m Isabella. I came from a large family of cats – fourteen or so of us – that got dispersed because Dad died and Mom was kinda fed up with the whole thing.

I’m spayed and I keep my sleeping area neat as a pin. I’m so glad to finally have one of my own to keep! Used to share with three of my sisters, and they were always sticking their feet in my eyes.

I wear a tuxedo all the time, but I’m not stuck up or dressy or anything. My foster mom here says the tuxedo is right for me ’cause I’m not very feminine. Or maybe she said feline. She says I run around so much, I’m like a lightning bug on cocaine.

I’m really good at catching lightning bugs. And flies. And dust beams. Foster Dad says I’m their tiny dancer ’cause I do the most graceful pir- piroue – flips. He says I’m more fun to watch than television.

At night when things slow down I like to wait until Mom’s asleep and then sneak down and get between her shoulder and her chin. It’s my favorite place to sleep. When she wakes up and finds me there she laughs. She says no one would ever believe I could hold still long enough to sleep.

isabellaMom asked me what I wanted in a forever home, and I’ve given it a lot of thought between runs. I want a place where it’s okay to climb up on things. I LOVE being queen of the cat castle in the mystery room here at the bookstore! It would be fun to have another cat or two around, and I don’t mind if there’s dogs. It would be nice to have some older kids to play with, but I’m not gonna get dressed up in a bonnet, ‘kay? I play; I don’t get played with. And NOBODY puts Bella in a stroller!

Other than that I don’t much mind what kind of home it is, so long as it’s forever and the people are nice and don’t expect me to ride around on their shoulders. Laps are cool; shoulders and getting carried, not so much. Why ride when you can run?

So maybe you’re looking for a good mouser inside (I’d be lonely in a barn) or a friendly cat to play with who isn’t gonna be all co-dependent and everything. That would be ME!

Come by the bookstore. Ask for Isabella. See ya!adoptables 036

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