Monday, July 27, 2009

Monster Hunter International and The Flock

Kevin Coolidge

A great summer read for those who love guns, guts and monsters is "Monster Hunter International" by Larry Correia now available in mass market paperback for just $7.99, and just $5.99 for members of From My Shelf Books. There's a great story behind M.H.I. Larry started out self-publishing this novel, and it sold so well through his blog and gun store that Baen publishing took notice, and has made it available. I reviewed the book back in January of 2008 for the Wellsboro Gazette, and thought "Hey, this book deserves to be published" I've talked to Larry and he's a great guy as well as a great story teller. Congrats to Larry and I'm looking forward to more. Hmmm, I wonder how long it is before Hollywood snatches up the movie rights for this soon to be bestseller?

Speaking of movie rights, James Robert Smith, author of "The Flock" is going to see his novel spring to life on the big screen. "The Flock" is a cryptid thriller that reminds me of a faster paced "Jurassic Park". "The Flock" has gone the way of many books and has gone out of print. If the chain stores and the evil empire of Amazon don't move enough, the book can go the way of the Dodo bird, regardless of how good it is. From My Shelf has several copies, one even signed by the author, and currently there are talks about putting this out in mass market. It might be awhile, but keep checking with us, because I'll have it available as soon as it is. This is James first novel, and he's sent two more in to his agent, one on zombies and one on werewolves, and I'm excited to read these books. Hmmm, now someone needs to do zombie werewolves! A big congratulations to James. You can check out his blog at

The All-American Road Trip

Kevin Coolidge

“Whither goest thou, America, in thy shiny car in the night?” Jack Kerouac

I hear the whisper of pines. The road is calling. Throwing a battered suitcase into the back of my Pinto, I drive to the Pine Creek Gorge, gem of the Northeast, located just ten miles outside Wellsboro, Pennsylvania. Recently the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon has been thrust into the national spotlight for receiving a “cease and desist” order from lawyers representing the Arizona State Tourist Board. The statement demands that all Tioga County Organizations and residents stop calling The Pine Creek Gorge, “The Pennsylvania Grand Canyon.” Ben Dover, senior director commented, "America's Grand Canyon is in Arizona. We encourage all Americans to accept nothing less than the real thing." Hmm, I wonder if my friend Laurel has heard about the local festival held in June?
If You Must Go:
Wellsboro Are Chamber of Commerce
114 Main St
Wellsboro PA 16901

It’s summer – time for that venture known as vacation, and there's nothing more American than the love of the open road. I love not knowing what lies around the next bend. Every drive has a beginning and an end, but it's the journey that matters. Wanderlust flows through my veins. Yes, it’s time for an all-American road trip, and no boring, humdrum guidebook for me! That’s why I’m using Road Trip USA: All the Places Your Dad Never Stopped At written by Harmon Leon and published by National Lampoon Press.

Why go to Disneyland when you can get kicked out of a religious cult with free food, lots of cult-babes, and kickboxing? Why visit the Batman Returns Stunt Show at Six Flags when you can take a tour of duty in fake Iraq, complete with method actors? And why visit Hoover Dam when you can visit Louisiana where cockfighting is still legal and considered family-oriented entertainment?

Part travelogue, part diary, part investigative journalism—Road Trip USA follows the adventures of Harmon as he leaves the beaten path, finding the true diseased underbelly of America, with a sense of adventure, and complete abandonment of common sense. He goes shopping in Hilldale, Utah among a tribe of identically-dressed wives. He experiences the big “O”, that’s Lake Okeechobee, Florida, where it’s only $170 to blow away a wild boar, but it will cost you five grand if you happen to accidently shoot one of the guide’s hunting dogs.

Harmon also includes great tips on budget lodging and suggests inexpensive, creative solutions to traveling problems. There’s a section on how to turn your iron into a hotplate by placing it handle down on top of an empty tissue box, and how to stay awake once your supply of energy drinks has run dry—such as thinking of all the people who might bury you in a shallow grave if you pull over to sleep at that desolate rest area. This list includes drifters, disgruntled truckers, hooker serial killers, and of course Canadians. There are also salutes to towns with funny names—such as Intercourse, PA; Happy, TX; and Sweet Lips, TN.

So sit back and let Harmon do the driving as he takes you on a journey filled with oddities, ironies, and insanities. He’ll be your tour guide for some of the funniest and strangest destinations in the USA. Buckle up, because we have a long way to drive, but it doesn’t matter. The road is life...

Planes? Trains? Or Automobiles? Drop me an email at Miss a past column? Make your destination. Have you had your own adventure with the supernatural? I’m starting a book on what’s weird in Wellsboro and the Twin Tiers. Ghosts, haints, spooks, and creepy tales, drop me an email and share your weird story.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Dear Authors and other bookstore friends

We are really excited to tell you about a big event for which planning is already well under way! On Saturday, October 17th, we are co-sponsoring a large, community literacy event at the Wellsboro Fireman's Annex. We're partnering with the teachers' union and the education support staff union for the Wellsboro Area Schools to create a day completely focused on celebrating reading, literature, books, and writing.

The bookstore will host a large used book sale, featuring thousands of hardcover and softcover books and lots of fantastic deals on our overstock. Tables full of these books will take up the center part of the large space available at the Annex. There will also be a couple of tables, for a silent auction on collectible/out-of-print books, especially some of regional interest.

Then, all around the outside of the room, we'd like to have authors who are excited to spend a day talking to people about their books, their writing process, and the joy of reading. Authors will only be charged $10 for a table/space. Any profit you make from sales that day will be your own; you will be completely in charge of your own money that day. We will not ask for a commission or percentage; you will keep your own cash box and figure out your own sales tax. You won't need to pay anything additional for all the great advertising and publicity this event will provide you!

During the day, we'll have book-related games, food sales by local nonprofit and school-related organizations, a read-aloud corner where local dignitaries and area personalities will take turns reading to their audience, door prizes, live radio broadcasts with two different radio stations, and more. The teachers' unions will be holding a large "Chinese raffle", selling tickets for chances on a wide selection of donated goods and services.

The money raised will benefit the bookstore, several school organizations and clubs, area nonprofit organizations, the teachers' unions' community literacy projects, and the high school library inventory.

We plan on advertising in many local and regional newspapers, with local Chamber of Commerce newsletters and emails, via Internet media like facebook and Twitter, through the bookstore, the schools, the network we have with the ABA/NAIBA/IndieBound organizations to which we belong, on our blog and our website, on invited writers' blogs and websites, through local and regional television and radio, and much more. The more writers who come, the bigger the impact we can make and the wider the word spreads.

October is an incredibly busy time in the Wellsboro area, with hundreds of tourists coming to see the foliage, to shop the quaint New England-esque village and to enjoy the crisp, lovely outdoors.

We hope you will join us in what promises to be a wonderful event.

Please let us know as soon as possible if you are able to attend, so that we may better plan. If you have more questions about the event, or about area accomodations, don't hesitate to ask.

Look for more details, coming soon, to,,, and/or

Sincerely yours,

Kasey Cox and Kevin Coolidge
From My Shelf
87 Main St
Wellsboro, PA 16901
(570) 724-5793

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Free Your Neck, and the Rest Will Follow!

Kasey Cox

For nearly the past decade, the following books have been sitting on my shelf: Taking Control of TMJ: Your Total Wellness Program for Recovering from Temporomandibular Joint Pain, Whiplash, Fibromyalgia, and Related Disorders, by Robert O. Uppgaard, D.D.S.; TMJ: The Self-Help Program, by John Taddey, D.D.S.; and Fibromyalgia and Chronic Myofascial Pain, by Devin Starlanyl and Mary Ellen Copeland. As you may have deduced, I suffer from chronic jaw, face, neck and back pain. So, from time to time, when my neck or face is especially troubling me, I get one of these books down, begin reading about exercises and treatment options and muscle insertions, and … zzzzzzzzzz. The next thing I know, I wake up, drooling on the book, with a giant crick in my neck.

While my jaw problems may be a little more unusual, I’m certainly not alone in my complaints about neck, shoulder and back pain. As we spend more time on the computer and phone, our work days taken up by long drives and even longer lists of emails in the inbox, our collective shoulders can handle less weight. (And you thought it was just the economy weighing on you.) The truth is, chronic pain is not just an annoyance: it’s distracting, fatiguing, depressing. If only we could “fix it”, we could live happier, more productive lives, both at work and at home. Like countless advertised products in our society, many books (as well as exercise tapes, doctors, therapists, classes, supplements, and spiritual rituals) promise quick relief. I’ve tried several of them; you may have, too, to varying degrees of success. As for me, I’m still looking for longer-term solutions.

When DiaMedica Press recently sent me a review copy of their new book, The Neck Pain Handbook: Your Guide to Understanding and Treating Neck Pain, by Grant Cooper, M.D. and Alex Visco, M.D., I felt fairly skeptical. I’m pleased to tell you, however, that this slim but efficient volume is NOT just another snorefest, nor is it “Neck Pain for Dummies”. Both of these physicians specialize in spine and musculoskeletal medicine. In their preface, they explain how they decide to co-author this book to address the increasing number of patients coming to them with neck pain, whether occasional nuisance or debilitating presence.

In a mere 126 pages, divided into four main sections, these docs cover learning the basics about the neck – including the nattily-titled chapters “Learn to Appreciate Your Neck” and “When Good Necks Go Bad” – how to care for your neck, when it’s time to see a doctor, and various treatments available. They advocate a more conservative approach first, including waiting before getting an MRI, unless you have one or more of the “red-flag” symptoms they list, which might indicate a much more serious ailment, such as cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, or severely impinged nerves. Drs. Cooper and Visco list some of those red-flag symptoms not to scare people, but in order that the reader, too, may determine when it’s time to insist on more attention from the doctor.

Otherwise, the chapters on taking care of your neck include such keywords as posture, computer work station, stretching and strengthening exercises, Thera-Bands, movement, posture, exercise, walking, and posture. The drawings of key neck muscles and joints, as well as photos of people sitting at their desks, talking on the phone, or doing the recommended exercises are helpful. Discussions about trigger points, injections, X-rays, and the efficacy of oral medications and/or supplements add to the text without bogging the reader down in too much medical jargon.

The author’s bottom line, and conclusion to the book, gives me a lot of hope – the reminder that neck pain is usually very responsive to treatment, over time and with the correct diagnosis, AND the reminder that above all, I must respect my neck. Forget the current rude saying, “Talk to the hand.” My new mantra is “respect the neck.” Or, “free your neck, and the rest will follow.”

Hobo says he enjoys sticking his neck out for his friends, family, and fans. If you’d like to stick your nose, or your neck, into Hobo’s old business, check out his archived articles at his blog, Stop by the store this summer when Hobo’s around, and he’ll tell you exactly where he likes his neck scratched. Look for Hobo’s new line of fashion neckties, available at Garrison’s Men’s Shop this fall!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

"Surviving" Summer Reading

Kasey Cox

While the kids, parents, and teachers are counting down the last few days of school, bookstores and libraries are getting ready for the influx of questions about books for summer reading. Most kids have summer reading that they’re “supposed to” do, whether by parental encouragement or by teacher mandate. For the lucky kids, this summer reading is not a chore, because they’ve discovered the joy of the reading. For other students, reading is more difficult, but I’m a firm believer that people just need to find a story that interests them. One of the first questions I ask reluctant readers is: “What do you like? What are you most interested in?” I don’t mind if the answer is a game or a TV show, since we can still work with that. I want to know what they like about that story – because there’s the hook.

One book which reigns high on the list of hooks for reluctant readers is Gary Paulsen’s young adult novel, Hatchet. This Newbury Honor book had its 20th birthday in 2007, and at that point, it had sold over 4.5 million copies. Hatchet is the story of Brian, a teen boy whose parents have recently divorced. He’s headed to northern Canada to spend the summer with his father, a mechanical engineer working with oil companies in remote locations. For the last leg of the trip, it’s just Brian and the pilot of the little Cessna. They crash. Brian has next to nothing to use for survival, except a hatchet. It’s a great story, the kind of story many of us find ourselves caught up in, whether it’s Tom Hanks marooned in the movie Castaway, or silly old TV series like Gilligan’s Island, or more gruesome events from history like the Donner Party. We like survival stories – adrift at sea, settling the prairies, captured as a prisoner of war, crashing in the mountains.

We’re lucky, then, to have so many stories like this to read (even if the people in the stories aren’t always so lucky). History itself is filled with such stories, especially American history, as our ancestor immigrants carved out new lives in harsh, strange places. And then there are the people who like to live even closer to the edge, the mountaineers and the extreme sports enthusiasts. In searching for more stories like this, I recently found Norman Ollestad’s memoir, Crazy for the Storm. Norman’s experience at age 11 reads like a version of Paulsen’s Hatchet. The book opens with the crash scene – Norman, 11; his father, 43; Dad’s girlfriend, Sandra, 30; and the pilot of a little Cessna, crash into the San Gabriel Mountains in California during a storm. At 8,600 feet, on steep slopes of almost shear ice, Norman is the only one left uninjured. His father and the pilot are dead. Sandra is gravely injured. It’s snowing. I won’t tell you the details that Norman relays in what people are lauding as beautiful, terse, Hemingway-esque prose, chapter by chapter, as he got down the mountain. I will tell you I couldn’t put the book down. I honestly read it in one sitting, from the middle of a sunny Sunday afternoon until late that night. I had to know how he did it.

Norman attributes his survival to his relationship with his father. In alternating chapters, this well-crafted memoir takes 11 year old Norman down the mountain, and relates growing up with his father who was constantly pushing him to surf, ski, play hockey, and hike remote areas almost as soon as he could walk. I have to admit, at first I was annoyed with the chapters reminiscing about younger life with Dad, living on the infamous Topanga Beach in the 1970’s, a crazy drive through Baja California. I wanted to get back to the mountain survival chapters. As I continued to read, however, I realized that young Norman’s experiences with his father – from being strapped to his father’s back as a toddler while Dad went surfing, to being ferried constantly to black diamond ski slopes for competitions – WERE part of his journey down that mountain.

So, if the kids are clamoring to see the twenty-third reincarnation of “Terminator” this week at the Arcadia, maybe you should let them go. Then you can use that as a segue to read and talk about some great books together. Challenge yourself and your family to have adventures together this summer, both on the page and in the outdoors.

Hobo likes hiking, but spelunking scares him. He’ll be helping kids survive summer reading by making some appearances at the bookstore. Watch for his schedule at his blog: Surf on by to see him.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Absinthe & Flamethrowers

Kevin Coolidge

“It was dangerous lunacy, but it was also the kind of thing a real connoisseur of edgework could make an argument for.” Hunter S. Thompson

“It’s a man’s world”, but I disagree. Day by day, our nation becomes more a mother’s world—safe and secure, a world more comfortable and soft around the edges, and with fewer outlets for risk. Gone is the vast, wild country. It has been replaced by shopping malls, bans on dodge ball, and government intrusion, a Nanny State.

There’s an instinctive desire for freedom and adventure. People take risks. They risk money. They risk reputation. They may even risk their very lives. All for many reasons, sometimes for no apparent reason—are such people acting illogically? According to William Gurstelle, author of Absinthe & Flamethrowers: Projects and Ruminations on the Art of Living Dangerously, the answer is no.

Taking risks proves your mettle, increases your confidence, and creates self-reliance. A person who does not take risks is unlikely to make it to the top. It is true that many thrill-seeking personalities, however, have shorter-than-average life spans. Can you learn to live taking risks, without falling off the edge? Certainly, there is a middle ground, the art of living dangerously.

William defines artfully-dangerous activities as: 1. Having a short learning curve, meaning no long-term or expensive training; 2. Human focused, meaning no complex machines (no parachutes, and no aqualungs); 3. Inexpensive, as high cost can take away the human component; and 4. Involves reasonable risk, since a little danger adds spice but too much danger makes your HMO even harder to deal with.

Before I continue this column, here’s the first of several warning required by the lawyers, my editor, and your mother. Many of the activities and projects in this book include an element of risk that simply cannot be avoided. Consider yourself warned. If you do not agree, please skip to the sports section. If you do read the rest of the column, it is essential to understand that you and you alone are responsible for your choice to live dangerously.

Scared? Should you read on? I’d tell you to plunge in, but it truly depends on your tolerance for risk. William is the author of several do-it-yourself books, and he emphasizes safety. The projects are well thought-out, well-engineered and engaging, but an element of risk remains. These projects, however, aren't for everyone, but even if you decide against participating, the read will do you good. After all, you never know when you might need to know how to make black powder, rockets, fuses, and your very own flamethrower. My editor encourages you to check your local fire codes. Your mom called and said you can't BBQ without burning the chicken, and you want to build a flamethrower???

In addition to projects, several dangerous practices are described—such as drinking absinthe, driving fast, and eating fugu, or Japanese blowfish. Remember that self-portrait by Van Gogh from that 8AM Art Appreciation class in college? The one where he sliced off his ear in a fit of rage? Van Gogh was a clinically depressed, social outcast who drank a whole lot of absinthe. The author also includes information on knife throwing, bullwhips, and Bhut Jolokia, a pepper so hot it makes your typical habanero look like a bell pepper.

Should you never smoke, gamble, speed, or drink, or is it acceptable as long as your pursuits don't bother anyone else? "Living dangerously is an art, a learnable and improvable skill that, when done well, enhances life without cutting it short," writes William Gurstelle. Perhaps, danger is a rite of passage. Many great scientists, politicians, writers and inventors were skilled at living dangerously. It's becoming harder to legally make and do interesting things. There's too much fear of terrorism, too much fear of litigation, too much fear of fear. Curiosity is a powerful need that only gets satisfied at a price. The more curious a person is, the more they are willing to pay that price. The edge, there’s really no way to map it, because the only people who know where it is, are the ones who have gone over…

Dancing with the Green Fairy? Or Pyrotechnic fun? Email me at While you are waiting for your eyebrows to grow back, explore past columns at I double dog dare ya. Have you had your own adventure with the supernatural? I’m starting a book on what’s weird in Wellsboro and the Twin Tiers. Ghosts, haints, spooks, and creepy tales, drop me an email and share your weird story.