Category Archives: Uncategorized

Glam Elf Short Story Contest

You walk outside one evening, about a month after you’ve moved into your new house, and something shiny under a bush catches your eye. You lean down in the gloaming and pull up…this guy, face-planted in the dirt.

IMG_6114Yeah, nothing creepy ’bout that, right?

So I’m offering a prize, free copy of either my book on fostercare FALL OR FLY or some Celtic music CD (we have some good ones lying around) for the best short story explaining why the elf was there. 500-word limit, no minimum. Send your stories to jbeck69087@aol.com. Deadline is next Sunday, Feb. 24.

Winning story as judged by me will be published via this blog weekend after next. Have fun!

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Filed under Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA, Wendy Welch, writing, YA fiction

East, West, Hame’s Best!

550 tazewell

Jack gets his Wednesday guest post out on Wednesday for once – –

I’ve written earlier about how much I hate moving!

It’s partly just the hassle but also the fear of the unknown. We mainly moved for strategic reasons to do with Wendy’s job and didn’t really know much about Wytheville at all.

But I needn’t have worried. The first thing was that we were taken in hand by Jim and Pattie who were friends of the previous owner of the house. They have kept an eye on the house and our cats while we’ve been away nights and ‘lent’ us the wonderful Paul, who has already built us a turning bay in the driveway and trimmed the bushes that were cutting out the light.

The first day we were here we found that a used-book store had just opened (so we don’t need to), and the owners, Randy and Lisa turned out to be real nice folk too!

The upshot is that we ended up with a houseful of folk last Saturday for our housewarming party. Five from Big Stone, one from Blacksburg, two from NC, Jim and Pattie and their friends plus Randy and Lisa.

The house dealt with the incursion well and I felt like I was at home.

Of course, we’re still dealing with the complications of address and bank changes, but I feel we’ve arrived finally.

As an added bonus, the party proved that we’re not so far away that old friends can’t get here fairly easily.

Meanwhile Haley is running the bookstore back in Big Stone and has all sorts of innovative ideas for it. So we’re pleased that it will continue, and the changes she is introducing make it more hers and less ours, which is good for her, for us and for Big Stone Gap!

 

 

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Filed under between books, Big Stone Gap, bookstore management, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA, Wendy Welch

THE MONDAY BOOK: Snap, a British Mystery Novel by Belinda Bauer

 

snapToday’s reviewer is Kate Belt, joyfully retired, whose current passions are reading and managing culture shock after a move from Portland, OR to Omaha, NE two years ago.

 

My Monday Book recommend offers an enjoyable, escapist, fast moving, story with characters who capture the heart. I’m not a murder mystery fan. I follow only one writer from this genre, Louise Penney, but will give a passing glance to any major award nominee.  That’s how I came to read Snap by Belinda Bauer, long-listed for the 2018 Man Booker Prize.   When I do read mysteries, I couldn’t care less about who did it or how it was done. Working out the puzzle doesn’t interest me. I gotta love the characters, the setting, the descriptions, all that stuff same as any other novel.

 

We meet 11-year old Jack on the road to find his mother after she’d left him and his two sisters in their broken-down car, while searching for a phone to call for help. A few days later, she turns up near the area, stabbed to death. Then the dad walks out of the house and never comes back. After that, the worst that could happen is social services finding them alone and placing the children “into care,” what we call foster care in the U.S. Jack is a resourceful child and sustains his little family, though barely, by burglarizing vacant houses with guidance from a young adult mentor, for whom he also babysits.  Skinny Jack is adept at getting himself in and out of small spaces. The storyline switches between Jack at age 11 and two years later when he finds a possible clue to his mother’s murderer. Detectives assigned to the case are not quite bumbling, but far from brilliantly competent. The book is more character driven than plot driven.

 

In full disclosure, I didn’t read this story. I listened to the well-performed Audible audio version, Fast paced and easy to follow, it’s a wonderful choice for an audiobook and would also make an excellent airplane read. Some critical reviewers might have difficulty with the structure. Sometimes the characters strain credibility, but I loved the kids and had to keep rooting for all to turn out ok for them. Did it? Read Snap and find out.

 

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Filed under between books, book reviews, bookstore management, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, publishing, reading, Uncategorized

All the Sevens

Just quite Thursday, so – – – Jack’s Wednesday post –

Another birthday! Now I’m seventy-seven!!

When I turned sixty, I retired (for the first time) and that didn’t seem like much. Then sixty-five and that wasn’t much different. Even seventy wasn’t a big deal, but seventy-five felt different somehow.

I can now see eighty approaching and there aren’t so many friends or family members that made it to there. Yet, here I am, relatively healthy and still going.

I find that those of my generation with the same interests tend to cluster together through social media and that’s both comforting and affirming. At the same time, I’ve found that a longtime enthusiasm for traditional music has connected me with many younger and exciting performers too. I’ve been able, also, to continue enjoying my trade and professional skills both directly and indirectly and that is a good thing surely?

But the funny thing is that as I’ve gotten to this point, I realize how incredibly lucky I am. I heard on a radio show recently that the average life expectancy in China in 1980 was between thirty-six and forty-six! 1980!!

So here we are and here I am, still with ever closer old friends and many newer new friends.

Wendy, of course, has a fair bit to go to catch up with me, and that may just be the secret to my longevity!

 

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The Monday Book: TO SAY NOTHING OF THE DOG by Connie Willis

We return to our friend  Jeanne Powers for this week’s Monday Book….

to say nothingWhen Lady Schrapnell agrees to endow the time travel project, it seems like a dream come true for the researchers at Oxford University. They didn’t count on their benefactor deciding to use the project to re-create Coventry Cathedral, sending travelers back to umpteen different time periods to locate objects. Time lagged and exhausted, Ned Henry is sent back to Victorian England to recuperate away from the demanding patron. Unfortunately, he’s sent so hastily that he arrives unprepared to fit into an era of séances, village fetes, and penwipes. He lands at a railway station in 1888 where he meets a dreamy college student who spouts poetry and tends to fall in love suddenly, an eccentric Oxford professor, a bulldog named Cyril and a whole host of characters who could have walked out of a P.G. Wodehouse novel. Ned is infatuated with Verity, a fellow time traveler, but he isn’t sure if it’s true love or time-lag. Whatever, they need to resolve a little problem caused by Verity’s accidental removal of an item that needs to be returned to its rightful place or else. . . well, they’re not quite certain what may happen but that might mean the downfall of civilization. At the very least they might be stuck in the past.

As you may have gathered, this is a difficult book to explain properly. I can tell you that it’s an entertaining adventure with science fiction, a bit of romance, some farce and a comedy of manners. I think it’s a delightful tale that should appear to a wide variety of readers, including those who don’t usually like science fiction or fantasy. One of my favorite scenes has a weary 1940 time traveler telling a colleague that a native asked about the Queen. “I told him she was wearing a hat. She did, didn’t she? I can never remember which one wore the hats.” They all did, is the response, except for Victoria. And Camilla. (It’s worth noting that this book was written in 1997.)

By the way, the title comes from Jerome K. Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat, but you don’t need to have read that to enjoy some of the in-jokes and brushes with history.

I’ve read it twice now, and enjoyed both times.  It’s part of a series which includes The Doomsday Book—a book that is considered a bit of a classic as it won both the Hugo and Nebula awards when first published—and the more recent WW II book, Blackout /All Clear. However, each is a standalone book.  While Dog is a much more light-hearted book than others in the series, Willis is using it to put forth her vision of time and time travel but wrapped up in an entertaining package.

I’ll admit the book drags a bit in the middle, but all the seeming side-trips play a role in the grand dénouement, making for a most satisfactory ending.

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A Spring on our Steps

It’s Thursday so it’s time for Jack’s Wednesday post –

I think I have already explained that I hate moving (or as we Scots say – flitting).

To give an example why, here is the saga of us getting a queen sized spring and mattress up the narrow stair to our guest room – –

We tried every way to finagle them up but they just wouldn’t go!

stair

The stair with small cat-helper.

 

 

 

jack27sfinger

The folded mattress and a split nail.

foldedspring

The spring, cut and folded.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

foldedmattress

Me: Do we have ratchet straps? Wendy: I have yarn.

 

We

thebed

Finally in place!

 

 

corner

The landing after the bourach!

 

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Filed under humor, Life reflections, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA, Wendy Welch

The Monday Book: AMUSING OURSELVES TO DEATH by Neil Postman

postman                In the 1960’s the media and culture critic Marshal McLuhan famously opined “The Medium is the message.” Neil Postman, who was a student of McLuhan’s expanded McLuhan’s thesis in “Amusing Ourselves to death.” The book is a stinging critique of the television culture and how television and other forms of media have changed society forever, and not for the better.

Postman takes us through a brief exposition of the history of language communication pointing out how each new development, from writing to the printing press to the telegraph expanded our access to information while at the same time exposing us to more and more information that we had little use for. He points out that while a man in 19th century Virginia could learn about the happenings in New York, he had little use for the information.

The advent of radio and television increased the deluge of information reaching us every day, but with the added problem that these media must keep our attention so that we are not tempted to change the channel or get up and go to the kitchen for a bag of chips.   When this strategy is applied to news and information it tends to trivialize.  An average evening news cast may feature news of a horrible wreck on the Interstate juxtaposed with a cute puppy story followed by an ad for a new dish detergent, with the most frivolous stories given the same weight as the most important.

Postman died before the advent of modern social media, but one can guess what he might think about a medium wherein profundity is now limited to 140 characters or less, and with a constant firehose of data spewing from one’s device it is impossible to sort through it all, and studies show that one is most apt to pay attention to information with which one is already in agreement.

Is it any wonder that college students, who, having grown up in a world where they could ignore or drown out any idea they did not want to be bothered with, are asking for “Safe Spaces” where they are sheltered from thoughts with which they disagree. Postman would see it as a logical progression of a society in which information is as cheap as air. As Michael Crichton put in in Jurassic Park, “In the information society nobody thinks. We expected to banish paper, but we actually banished thought.”

 

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Filed under book reviews, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, reading, Uncategorized, Wendy Welch, what's on your bedside table