Do I have a Secret Admirer??!!!

Strange days here in the bookstore – stranger than usual, I mean.

Yesterday I opened my microwave and a wee box from Blackbird Bakery sat there. Inside I discovered the Mother of all Pink Cupcakes – tall icing, silver sugar sprinkles, wee flowers, the kind of thing Our Hadley would have picked out if she’d been taken to the bakery, shown the cakes, and told she could have any one she wanted.

tshirts 014It made a lovely breakfast. That’s how things go around here – you find a cupcake in the microwave still in the box, you check to see if it’s anyone else’s, and then you eat it. Delicious.

So  now the mystery remains to be digested: who left it there?

Was it the same person who, about four days before, left a bar of peppermint goat milk soap on the paranormal romances?

Ohhhh, the plot thickens, just like my waistline after eating the Pink Cupcake.

(I regret NOTHING.)

Anyway, if it was you, thank you. It’s lifted my spirits while Jack’s been away, and I smell of peppermint. Actually, I’m taking the soap back to the writing cabin this weekend to put in my sweater drawer, where it will keep mice away, plus counteract the hard water of northeast Tennessee.

So, random chaos abounds in a good way here at the bookstore. It could be elves, one supposes – but don’t they more often frequent shoe shops?

No, it’s probably a human or two. My friend Elissa guffawed when I said, “Yes, but only a few people have access to the microwave.”

“Everyone in Big Stone knows where the key is kept, plus half of Facebook, and you’re narrowing suspects by access? Stick to memoir writing; you have no future in crime novels.”

She has a point.

5 Comments

Filed under Big Stone Gap, bookstore management, humor, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, Scotland, small town USA, VA, Wendy Welch, writing

The Monday Rant: Fed up with Starvation

jessie 6The Monday Book will return next week.

Dear ____:

You asked me for a cat, but on learning you’d have to put $20 toward her spay, went to a yard sale site and got a “free kitten” instead. Then you posted on Facebook that you were “all for rescues but I can’t afford to help with the costs.”

I see.

Via Facebook, you also complain about welfare recipients taking this country apart with their demands for free services and refusal to contribute to the common good. This week, four of my friends are trying to feed, foster, and find homes for: 14 kittens and 5 adult cats; 18 kittens and 7 adult cats; 6 kittens and 4 adult cats; and a feral family of five. Most have some form of infection from lack of care.

We live within ten miles of each other.

In each case, we are paying–from our own pockets, from crowdsource begging, from crafts we make–to get them all spayed and neutered. Because we know if we don’t, five months from now we will be bottle feeding another sick, starving family of neglected cats.

This doesn’t count the litters that go to the shelters because their owners “couldn’t afford” to spay Mom.

Here is some information on what it costs taxpayers to run an animal shelter:

 In 1972, American shelters spent approximately $800 million on animal welfare versus around $2,400 million in 2007.there is a direct correlation between the dollars spent per capita on shelters and the decrease in shelter populations/euthanasia. (http://www.humanesociety.org/animal_community/resources/timelines/animal_sheltering_trends.html)

In other words, it is cheaper to kill than to adopt. It is understandable that you need to live a frugal lifestyle, but does that mean you euthanize the unsold Doberman puppies from your backyard breeding business? $900 as the going price seems like it might offer a little bit of discretionary income, but hey, it’s your money.

None of us object to you living on what you can afford; we object to you leaving us to clean up your messes. What you refuse to pay for, my friends and I are covering in sweat, tears, and cold hard cash: sick cats whose suffering could have been prevented with a $16 vaccination package; unweaned kittens left in roadside boxes where it takes them two days to die of starvation; 6 of 10 cats entering our shelter euthanized at taxpayer expense because $67 on the Margaret Mitchell van was “too much.”

The cost of refusing to spay/neuter is exponential, but if I have understood you correctly, so long as you don’t pay, you don’t care. Let bleeding hearts like me pick up the tab and the kittens. It’s a kind of legal blackmail based on personalities: we care; you don’t. La-la-la-la.

Not taking responsibility for your actions does not remove the problem, just passes it to someone else. Sorta like those welfare people you complain about.

You are not despicable. You are evil.

12 Comments

Filed under animal rescue, Big Stone Gap, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, post-apocalypse fiction, small town USA, Wendy Welch

For a Murderer, He’s an awfully nice Guy

temp welchSo I was asked to speak on a panel at the Appalachian Heritage Writers Symposium, on developing ideas into stories. The symposium was about an hour away, a beautiful drive through the June-green mountains.

Jeffery Deaver, of crime thriller fame, was the keynote, but hadn’t arrived yet because a family event had intervened, the moderator announced. Also, regrettably, Mr. Deaver would have no books with him because of the glitch.

As a collective sigh of disappointment arose from the assembly, my mind flew back to our mystery room’s “D” shelf, better known as “DeMille/Deaver” with a few James Dosses thrown in.

I offered to fetch the 40+pre-loved thrillers and sell them at the book signing after his talk, but–on finding Mr. D was unreachable in transit–hesitated. Authors sometimes have love/hate relationships with second-hand book sellers and seizing the day at someone else’s expense just seemed uncouth. Once the organizing committee grasped the question, they agreed to ask when he arrived, while I headed home; if he wanted them, no problem and I’d head back.

Not to worry; when the keynote speaker arrived he said, “That is an amazingly generous offer and yes please. And I’m a big fan of independent bookstores, by the way.”

It was a win-win-win. The speaker got to talk to people in a structured setting after his keynote; the people attending could buy books they wanted to read; and I sold – HANDSOLD – fiction with the author at my left elbow. Believe it or not, bookslingers LOVE to handsell; doing it in tandem with the author just doesn’t happen every day. At one point a sweet lady asked for one “with the least possible horror content” and I reached for SPEAKING IN TONGUES.

“Oh no, no, this one,” said Monsieur Deaver, picking up another – might have been TWELFTH CARD but I couldn’t swear to it. (Is this the moment to admit I haven’t read them all?) We depleted the stock of titles to about 1/3 in just 30 minutes. It was handselling on steroids, and it sure was fun.

temp welch IIJeffery Deaver is a very pleasant person, quick to generosity toward an offer not every author would have appreciated, invested in his readers while signing. He asked people about their own works-in-progress, chatted about the day’s speakers, and generally gave off a laid-back cheerfulness in the face of a rather long line. He then personally authorized (and illustrated) a book for Our Good Chef Kelley at Second Story Cafe. Who was the teensy bit jealous that I had spent the afternoon with her favorite author.

Judging by how his characters die, one might not peg Jeffery Deaver, bestselling thriller writer, for a mellow, pleasant individual with a passion for Celtic folk music. But he is, and it was a delightful afternoon.

Thanks Mr. Deaver!

1 Comment

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

Yarn Porn?

DSCN0278Just as Jack was getting on his plane to head off to Scotland, friends of friends were having a yard sale here. And my friends told me about their friends’ yard sale because said sale sold yarn.

I guess I have a reputation or something…..

Being tied up all day, I couldn’t get to said yard sale, a knotty problem, to say the least, yet quickly solved by friends stringing together a series of emails in which I prepaid for the haul, and they hauled it to me.

The boxes and bags – about 200 skeins in all – arrived the day after Jack left, leaving his side of the bed the logical place to stash the, er, stash until I could get it put away at the weekend.

Hence “The Photograph.” I got my friend Elissa (yes, the one who shoots kittens) to document a playful moment and thought no more about it – until that night, when I put said playful photo on one of the many, MANY crochet sites out there on Facebook. The caption read, “My husband is gone for a month, so I’m trying to make the best of things” or something like that.

An hour later it had 700 likes and several very funny comments. And then it disappeared. Admin took it down and now I find my posts (on other subjects) blocked.

I don’t know which is funnier: taking it, taking it down, or taking it badly. Some people get their knitting into twists, y’know? And some are just too tightly wound.

Truth be told, makes me feel kinda empowered to have been banned from a crochet group, like maybe I could still have a shot at being cool?

Nah. I rescue kittens and my idea of a hot time while Jack is gone is binge-watching Netflix until midnight while crocheting and drinking club soda. (Wine while crocheting leads to some interesting pattern innovations.) I have long hair and wear sensible flats and the last time I had an affair it was with a fictional character in a classic novel. (Never you mind who; get your own book daddy.)

But I HAVE been banned; surely that counts for some kind of honorary coolness points?

23 Comments

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

The Monday Book: A STREET CAT NAMED BOB by James Bowen

bobOf course I was going to love this book, because 1) it’s about a cat and 2) it’s an insider’s ethnographic account of a lifestyle most people don’t experience but think we know a lot about. I like almost any book that tells a story about a lifestyle I won’t experience naturally, so long as it’s done without anger or proselytizing. This book did not disappoint on its promise to deliver my two favorite types of non-fiction in one read…..

As an added bonus, Bowen has a nice turn of phrase; he well-read and puns every once in awhile in a fun way (like the title). He also has a great story to tell: how he found Bob on the streets of London, nursed him back to health, and realized he needed to be a responsible adult because he loved something that needed him.

Pretty straightforward things follow. Bowen gets off drugs, takes a job, ups his musicianship game, and sorts out a few loose ends in his life to do with relationships. One kind of expects these, and his simple explanatory prose in their telling made them accessible for those who don’t engage life in the same way. As in this quote:

“I don’t know why, but people seem to be fascinated to learn how some members of society fall through the cracks. I think it’s partly that feeling that… it could happen to anyone. But I think it also makes people feel better about their own lives. It makes them think, ‘Well, I may think my life is bad, but it could be worse, I could be that poor sod.’ ”

But the story doesn’t end with “happily ever after” once Bowen is clean; the things that happen AFTER his re-entry to adulthood (more or less) are as compelling as his cat-induced act clean-up; I was particularly taken with Bowen’s stories of getting moved around because of Bob jealousy from other Big Issue sellers, and also the do-gooder who pretty much insists she is going to take his cat away from him, for his own good- which is a great ending story in a book about how this cat saved his human’s life.

Throughout the story, Bob runs a silent yet larger than life orange character whose personality drives the narrative. A couple of times I swear I felt Bob’s fur brush against me as I read.

A happy book without being sentimental – read it on the beach, read it for a sociology class; it fits in both.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under animal rescue, book reviews, folklore and ethnography, humor, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, publishing, reading, Scotland, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA, Wendy Welch

Jessie Lea, Den Mom

jessie leaHi, I’m Jessie Lea, and I’m temping at the bookstore. It’s a grant-funded position, I believe, because they keep telling me I’ll be moving on when the last of the kittens have been adopted.

Excuse me, won’t be a moment–

JACK AND MAC! GET DOWN FROM THERE THIS INSTANT!!!

Sorry, as I was saying, I came here about two weeks ago, and they put me in what they call the mystery room, and wouldn’t you know there were three motherless tykes in there, poor souls, all confused and nervous. Never been in a house before, dry food a mystery to them. Well, I’d just had a little procedure following my own kittens, and perhaps I was feeling a wee bit nostalgic because I just set right in. They needed a good seeing too – washing behind the ears, teaching paw maintenance, the works. I soon had them shipshape but no sooner were we on an even keel than the door opened and here came the cat carrier again!

All I heard from inside the carrier was hissing and spitting, so I stuck my head inside and the fuzzy wee lad struck at me! Really, these foster children. They just need a bit of loving-kindness and a reassuring lick. So I talked him and his brother out of the carrier, showed them ’round the place, introduced them to the others here.

Oh, excuse me–

IS THAT ANY WAY TO TALK TO YOUR BROTHER?! I DON’T CARE WHO STARTED IT! APOLOGIZE AT ONCE.

Sorry, where was I? Oh, yes, the new arrivals. Soon they were all using the playground nicely, taking turns on the catnip slide and having a nice game of jingle ball soccer. And then the door opened AGAIN!

This time, to my joy, a lovely wee girl was in the mix. Three kittens; two didn’t actually stay long; some adoptions are faster than others, but when Rita’s brother Dexter left, she stayed here. I played jacks with her to keep her mind off things. And just this morning we’ve gotten another little fellow, Giacomo. (Really, who comes up with these names?) He was hissing and spitting at the back of the crate, so I just climbed in and sat with him awhile until he calmed down. Now he’s having a game of chase on the jungle gym with Fforde – oh dear….

jessie 6YES YOU DID PUSH HIM. I WATCHED YOU. DON’T MAKE ME PUT YOU IN TIME OUT.

Of course, some kittens take longer to learn manners than others. Take the Feral Brothers; they really were raised in a barn. So of course the litter box was a new thing, but I’m pleased to say they’ve made all their box targets today.

Yes, it’s cozy here in our little corner of the bookstore, the six – er seven – no six, one was adopted, that’s right – kittens and me. In the mornings I help them with their wet food etiquette, and about lunchtime we have a plate of crunchies. Mid-afternoon I read them a story before their naps, and then after supper we have some extra playtime so they tire out before bed. It’s all quite simple to manage and I’m sure the nice people who run the shop could do it themselves, but I understand the lady’s husband is about to leave for Scotland, so I’m just staying on a bit longer before my own adoption comes through. I don’t think she could do without me.jessie resting

Now, the kittens are all down for their naps and I’m just going to have ten minutes of me time. Let me just put the kettle on; would you care for some catnip tea?

4 Comments

Filed under animal rescue, bookstore management, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, publishing, Scotland, small town USA, VA, Wendy Welch

The Green Green Grass of Home – – –

In Jack’s weekly guest post he continues to complain – whit’s he like?

One of the things I’ve never really got used to living here, is the rate that everything suddenly starts growing once the temperature rises and the summer thunderstorms hit. I mean grass, weeds and things that might or might not be weeds. One of our regular customers paused to admire some mint that’s taking over part of the front yard and asked if she could volunteer her daughters to ‘tidy up’. Please, please I said!

Between running the bookstore, an annual tour of Scotland, an annual Celtic festival, a weekly radio show and trying to keep on top of the upkeep of a 1903 building, there’s little time left for gardening.

The irony, of course, is that even if we had the time and inclination, we are actually completely useless gardeners. We grow tomato plants from seed and then plant them out where they quickly die – same with most other things – potatoes, peas, brussel sprouts, peppers – – -. We rarely even keep house-plants going for any time.

Meanwhile that pesky grass needs mowing, and the weeds need whacking – assuming I don’t expire trying to get the mower and weed-whacker started!

But wait! “What light through yonder window breaks – – – -”

So yes – Sunshine is good and so is the lack of snow, not to mention longer days and tee-shirt temperatures. I’ll fly into Edinburgh this Monday morning and will be reminded of that quite forcibly I suspect! So I can’t complain can I?

“Sumer is icumen in – – – -“

9 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized