Monday, March 29, 2010

Seeking Monsters

Kevin Coolidge

“He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster. And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.” Friedrich Nietzsche

Bill, bill, credit card application, invitation to my class reunion at Miskatonic University. Has it really been twenty years? I always thought I’d wait until at least the fifty year reunion. That way, I wouldn’t have near as many boring stories to listen to. I figure that the majority of my classmates will have died or mutated. But I have fond memories of Professor Dexter and his rambling lectures on the mating habits of the Chupacabra, and I thoroughly enjoyed my semester abroad in Scotland. There are just not enough misty moors, or deep water lakes, in the States.

Luckily, there’s plenty of odd creatures right here in the Keystone State for a cryptozoologist to study. Monsters of Pennsylvania, a new book written by Patty A. Wilson and published by Stackpole Press, features some of the best bone-chilling stories of Pennsylvania’s more elusive fauna.

There’s your traditional five-toed bigfoot. He’s intelligent, curious, shy and certainly a little startling. He’s stalked hikers and hunters, and even appeared on farms and in backyards, but did you know about his smaller cousins? There’s the three-toed creature often called a skunk ape because of the foul odor, and there’s the four-toed Albatwitch that stands only five feet tall. Albatwitch is short for “apple snitch”. These little guys are found along the heavily-wooded banks of the Susquehanna River, and are known for stealing apples from picnickers, and pelting them with the apple cores.

The Pennsylvania Game Commission insists that there are no mountain lions in Pennsylvania, but stories of these and other big cats persist. Some are hoaxes or mistaken identity, but some remain unexplained. There are many strange things in the Black Forest of Tioga and Potter County, including the tale of Bertha. She was reputed to be larger than any bobcat, yet the cat’s dark markings never changed.

Even the skies of Pennsylvania contain strange creatures. You are probably familiar with the Jersey Devil, who stalks the Pine Barrens. It has been described as having ram’s horns, and either a dog’s head or a horse’s head, three to five feet tall, and has been sighted from Canada to Texas, but most frequently in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New York. This beast has been observed eating berries, but has been associated with livestock deaths. A creature of the air that has been blamed for the disappearance of children and the elderly is the thunderbird of Western Pennsylvania and the Black Forest. These huge black birds are said be over five feet long with wingspans of fifteen feet or more.

There are also tales of serpents and ghastly lizard creatures in the rivers and lakes, including the Broad Top Snake, said to be the mutant spawn of an escaped circus boa constrictor and a native black snake. Included are whispers of werewolves and strange, poultry-stealing varmints who rip the heads off chicken and cast the drained bodies to the ground.

There’s nothing like enjoying these stories late at night in bed, or sharing them around a roaring campfire. So grab a copy, keep your camera handy and you might just get that photo published in my upcoming field guide, Cryptids and other Creepy Critters…

Bigfoot? Or Big Alien Cats? Email me at Miss a past column? Track it down on our blog at and find the missing link. Discover a book written by a cat, “Hobo Finds A Home”, a children’s book about a kitten who found a home. Get your copy and find the hidden Squonk…

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Dance 10; Looks 3 ??

"Underneath It All"

American essayist Robert Fulghum – who rose to fame with his book, All I Really Needed to Know, I Learned in Kindergarten, in the early 1990s – went on to publish several more popular books of essays, including his third book, Uh-Oh: Reflections from Both Sides of the Refrigerator Door, which I thought of as I sat to write this week’s column. In Uh-Oh, Fulghum expresses his admiration for Michel de Montaigne, intellectual and statesman of the French Renaissance, who became known as the first writer to popularize the essay as a literary genre of merit. During his own time, the addition of personal musings and the tendency to add anecdotes were believed to weaken Montaigne’s writings on serious intellectual topics. Montaigne’s approach, though deemed too casual by many of his contemporaries, went on to influence the writing styles of Shakespeare, Descartes, Rousseau, Nietzsche, Emerson, Asimov … Fulghum … and yours truly.

As Fulghum celebrates in his essay on Montaigne, no topic was seen as off-limits, uninteresting, or unworthy of Montaigne’s discussion -- “war horses, farting, sandwiches, etc.” So, too, I hope our little weekly column and its resultant blog have been a place where we can reflect on any topic. After all, as Kevin is fond of saying, if there’s something out there that interests you – no matter what it may be – there’s probably at least one book about it. Consequently, we have written our book column on topics as diverse as space exploration, World War 2, local folktales, gardening, vampires, dressing a deer, marijuana, how to start a book club, mining, Christian devotionals, and hundreds of other subjects. I’d like to continue laying cobblestones along this path of diverse topics by adding to it this interesting little book on lingerie, body image and breasts, entitled Underneath It All: A Girl’s Guide to Buying, Wearing and Loving Lingerie, by Jennifer Manuel Carroll & Kathy Schultz.

With the huge strides made in awareness and advocacy for breast health and the recent pro-active stance in dealing with breast cancer, breasts are no longer a topic reserved for the doctor’s office, the bedroom, or R-rated movies. Just look around at all the pink ribbons on the back of family vans, key chains, T-shirts, and handkerchiefs worn as headwear at the dentists’ office, and you’ll have to agree. While I am sad to see members of my community struggle with breast cancer, I am pleased to see that breasts are no longer just the punchline of risqué jokes. As a woman who has breasts, and therefore must go through the trials of finding bras that fit properly, I was excited to find the book Underneath It All.

To be honest, I’ll skimp and buy my jeans at Goodwill – they’re better broken-in, anyway – but a decent bra costs as much as a pair of shoes, and needs to be more comfortable, so I’d rather learn how to find one that really fits both my body and the clothes with which I’ll be wearing it. I get quite frustrated with the millions of dollars that are spent every year in advertising, trying to convince women to buy this makeup or that hair product to make themselves look beautiful, but even I’ll admit that there’s a necessary difference in the bra I need to wear if I’m training for a half-marathon versus the bra I want to wear underneath the bridesmaid’s dress at my cousin’s wedding this next summer. A bra is an investment, and women should know how to find what they need to feel comfortable, and how to take care of this product which spends more time next to their skin than their husband, their baby, or their flannel pajamas do.

I loved the opening chapter on the history of undergarments, and was especially amused to be reminded that the era of the appreciation for a woman’s ‘booty’ was not just the contemporary influence of J. Lo. and hip-hip songs, but also includes the era of the bustle – a contraption that not only laid on top of a woman’s bottom on the outside of her fancy Victorian dress, but additionally inspired a type of underwear garment somewhat resembling a push-up brassiere for the derriere. Following chapters include a discussion of the “lexicon of lingerie”, so a woman (or man) knows how to talk about garments being purchased; how to measure to get real numbers for band measurement and cup size; deciding on the proper lingerie for bridal dress; and correct care and storage of lingerie.
For women whose mothers were too embarrassed to impart this wisdom; for mothers – or single dads – who need help helping their daughters learn this now; for spouses who want to know how to shop for the woman they love, I recommend Underneath It All. Not every chapter or every bit of advice is for every woman – I could have done without the quotes from Shannon Dougherty or Heidi Klum – but for the added insights, and for a cover price of $13.95, it’s well worth purchasing this ‘little pink book’ to share with a sister or friend.

Hobo asks: Dance 10, or Looks 3? Email Hobo your fashion tales of woe at He has made it quite clear that he prefers padded bras, because they are much more comfortable to sleep on. Boxers or briefs? See how old reviews stack up at Hobo’s blog,, currently the featured blog on!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress

This past Friday brought us the last weekend of January 2010, and the brightest, biggest full moon we’ll see this New Year. The perigee of the Moon (the point when the Moon is the closest distance to Earth in its elliptical trip around our planet each month) just happened to coincide with a full moon this month, which means since it’s also been clear, crisp, and freezing cold, it was perfect viewing of the winter landscape by the light of a full, glorious Moon for anyone crazy enough to stand out in the freezing night air for more than a few minutes. According to, the conditions of Friday night gave us a 14% wider view and about 30% brighter appearance than any other full moon this year.

This really cool website, besides having fantastic side-by-side comparison photos of what we see when the moon is at apogee versus at perigee, also has a somewhat sobering chart listing the “potentially hazardous” Earth-asteroid encounters for each month. There’s a chart giving the size of each asteroid, its scientific name (usually a combination of numbers and letters, nothing as sexy as “Asteroid Wolf-Biederman” or “The Coolidge Comet”), how close it came to Earth, and the date of its closest approach to Earth.

You know, there are so many disaster movies and post-apocalyptic books that deal with asteroids hitting the Earth that I never thought much about the quite possible scenario of a large, dense asteroid hitting our Moon. After all, asteroids hit the moon fairly often. As a matter of fact, all those dimples and pits and “Seas” on the Moon’s face are referred to as “impact craters.” Most of the time, all of those space rocks hitting the Moon don’t make much difference, except occasionally to add a few more beauty marks to her face. Cue Susan Beth Pfeffer’s young adult novel, Life As We Knew It.

Without a doubt, one of the best young adult novels I read in the last year, Pfeffer’s book Life As We Knew It gives a fresh perspective to an old theme. Although the novel deals with “what-if” scenarios and earth and space science, the stories read much more like real, immediate survival stories than they do science-fiction. Indeed, Life As We Knew It gives the reader the credible, first-person account of Miranda, a junior in high school in small-town, northeastern Pennsylvania, whose journal entries reflect the normal worries of an American teenage girl – math tests, her stepmom’s announcement of a baby on the way and whether or not she’ll get asked to the prom. Miranda complains to her journal how all of her teachers are making a big deal about a large asteroid that will collide with the Moon in mid-May: all of her homework assignments, from history to French class, deal with the 1969 Moon Landing or “la lune.”

No one expects the asteroid to be anything except interesting to watch in the spring night sky. However, not even the scientists predicted that this asteroid, denser than any other that has collided with our Moon, would have far-reaching, life-changing consequences, the kind that life on Earth hasn’t seen since the last Ice Age or the great mass extinctions of the dinosaurs. This asteroid knocks the moon off-kilter, pushing it closer to Earth. The climactic changes are both immediate and ongoing, as tides abruptly shift, causing huge tsunamis, killing millions along the seaboards, wiping out entire cities, states, even countries. Next come shifting tectonic plates, and later, newly active volcanoes, as the Earth’s crust and magma respond in frightening ways to the changes in the magnetic pull between the Moon and the Earth.

When the asteroid firsts knocks the Moon closer to Earth, Miranda is scared and sad like everyone else, but she thinks her mother’s immediate plans to start stockpiling canned food, batteries, gas lanterns, firewood, bottled water, even tampons, is a little extreme. Surely, the scientists, the government, the people in charge will get things back on track soon, won’t they? They’ll have to come up with plans to take care of people, right?

Once you pick up this exciting novel, you’ll find yourself right there with Miranda, her resourceful mother, her brothers, their neighbors and friends, and the world as we knew it, as it changes right in front of their eyes. And you’ll find yourself turning pages late into the night, then creeping out into the kitchen to check on how many cans of peaches and chicken noodle soup you have in your cupboard.

“Deep Impact” or “Armageddon”? Email Hobo your survival tips at Hobo says there’s even a cat in the book, and his family made sure to store up lots of cat food, so it wasn’t so scary for him. The cat’s name is “Horton”, which is close enough to “Hobo” to make him extra-cool. Missing real victuals? Look through Hobo’s stockpiled articles at his blog,

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Peasants Under Glass?

Voice mail from Diane Eaton, at the Gazette: “Keep me posted on the Mike D’Aloisio author event coming up in March.” (Sorry, Diane … an invisible, unbreakable force field just sealed off the town of Chester’s Mill, Maine, in Stephen King’s newest book … let me just find out what happens to the people initially injured ….)

Reminder email, automatically generated from “etides”, telling me sales tax is due soon. (Sorry, Governor, they’ve just doubled the size of the emergency ‘police’ force, and I’ve got to see if the missile breaks through the Dome or not…)

Every night this past week or so, I have come home, and as quickly as possible, shut out the world, to get lost Under the Dome. You would think as the manager of a bookstore, I would read each day for hours on end, actually being able to justify my reading time more than other people can (“It’s my job!”). As much as I love to read, I don’t often allow myself the luxury of getting completely swept away in a book, because I have to be careful, rationing my time and energy to take care of the business, my relationships, and my health.

My approach to reading is different now: trying to be an adult, mindful of my responsibilities, I budget my time, savoring my books for an hour here and a half hour there, instead of inhaling them. Not so with Stephen King’s Christmas gift of 2009. Despite its hefty 1,074 pages, this latest novel from King does not drag under the bloat which has weakened many of his books of recent years. The pace is relentless, compelling the reader to walk, trot, run and full-out sprint to the finish, then leaving him sorry to leave the (remaining) people of Chester’s Mill, and their struggle, behind.

Compared by many in the literary world and across King’s readership to his other weighty, survival-story novel, The Stand, King also began this novel early in his career, in 1976, but abandoned it after several attempts at making the more scientific aspects – medical, meteorological, militarily – plausible enough. Fans of The Stand will easily recognize themes with which King has wrestled in his best work – the psychology and actions of ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances, and the importance of hope.

An enormous difference, however, between the two books – besides their actual publication date – is the manner in which God is handled, and the actual manifestations of Good and Evil. Sure, there’s an obvious struggle of good versus evil in Under the Dome, as the population of “The Mill” quickly divides into two camps, but it is more subtle and a lot less supernatural than the population division that happens in The Stand.

In The Stand, the characters, the only survivors of a U.S. devastated by a superflu virus, begin dreaming of God’s representative on Earth, an old black woman from Nebraska, and Evil’s representative, a man who is, if not the Devil, at least an incarnation possessed with the ability to do dark magic and to inspire extreme destruction. People choose which representative to join, as the book moves towards the final stand of humanity. Under the Dome presents an entirely different scenario: the two camps are those trapped in a small town, many who choose to follow Town Selectman “Big Jim” Rennie, and a few who distrust, oppose, and eventually act against him. Rennie has no supernatural powers; in fact, he is a big fish in a small pond that has now turned fish bowl. Whereas most of the population of “the Mill” desperately pray that the scientists and military minds working on breaking the Dome will succeed, Rennie seizes the situation as his God-given chance to come in to full power. In a matter of days, life in the Mill is less like small-town America and more like Hitler’s Third Reich or Stalin’s Russia.

With this, King delivers the theme that will make Under the Dome one of his most remembered works: this is a tale of the slippery slope of evil – not evil as in some supernatural clown-ghost in a sewer pope, but the hurt we human beings can inflict on each other, from playground bullying to nuclear war.

Peasant under glass or Small World in a Snow Globe? Email Hobo your thoughts at “Lord of the Flies” or “Brave New World?” For more book reviews, go to Hobo’s blog, Hobo warns his readers that King’s new book does include sex, drugs, and a Christian radio station gone bad, but no cats. For a great book about cats, check out Hobo’s book, “Hobo Finds a Home” – soon to be available at the bookstore in Chester’s Mill.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Agent to the Stars

Kevin Coolidge

“Ten million and five percent of the gross? For a cat? Are you out of your freakin’ feline mind?”

I just love headsets. They allow me to speak on the phone while leaving my hands free for the really important things, like scratching Hobo’s ears and opening cans of cat food.

“It’s a perfectly sane figure from my client’s point of view.”

“I can do five million and maybe one point of the net. The studio is riding me to take this 3D, and you know what that costs.”

Net points are a promise of profits the film makes, if the film makes it into the black and with Hollywood accounting, yeah right. Gross points are a straight percentage of the film’s take at the box office.

“Net points are for the naïve. You can give that to the screenwriter. Hobo is the star, and you can’t do ‘Hobo Finds a Home’ without the Hobo...”

Negotiating a good deal is tough: getting a great deal requires the best of agents, and that requires Thomas Stein. Thomas knows something about closing deals. He’s one of the hottest young agents in Hollywood, and that’s why he’s approached by the spacefaring Yherajk in Agent to the Stars by John Scalzi.

The Yherajk have a serious image problem. They are hideously ugly and they smell like rotting fish, and Hollywood loves evil aliens. They just make for better films. Put in bad aliens and you get Independence Day or Predator. Put in good aliens and maybe you get lucky with a Close Encounters, but after all, we never really find out what happens to Richard Dreyfuss. Do we?

The Yjerajk have friendly intentions and have been learning about humanity by monitoring Earth’s television broadcasts, but they’ve seen The Blob, and have decided that before they appear to humanity, some arrangements need to be made. They’re going to need an agent to get the role of the friendly aliens.

The “First Contact” scenario is pretty standard fare in science fiction, but Agent to the Stars puts a fresh, comic spin to mankind’s first interstellar friendship with an irreverent look at Hollywood, the media, and celebrity culture. But just when you think John Scalzi is only aiming for the funny bone, he hits the head and the heart with an occasional poignant or serious moment. Agent to the Stars is a great first novel that delivers a predictable Hollywood ending in an unexpected way.

This novel had a strange journey into print. Though it was the author’s first novel, it was not his first novel sold, but rather a “practice” novel – that is, a novel he wrote to see if he could actually write a novel. He had no intention of selling it, but instead posted in on his personal website, offering it as “shareware” and encouraging readers to send him a dollar if they liked it. A publisher came across the book and the rest is history.

So, if you are an alien species thinking of dropping onto the White House lawn, remember – the American president can only speak for the American people, but American movies speak for the world. Now, let’s talk merchandising…

Have an agent? Or do you represent yourself? Email me at For all past press releases and columns, visit For all the dirt on Hobo, read his memoir, “Hobo Finds a Home”, a children’s book about a cat who traveled millions of light years to find a home. Hobo is currently in negotiations with a major studio to bring his tail to the silver screen. Stay tuned for details.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Newsletter: March 2010

87 Main St, Wellsboro, PA 16901

Newsletter: March 2010


*Honors from ‘Bookazine’: Bookazine is a wholesale book company who specializes in taking good care of independent bookstores. Their special attention and personalized service make them to us what we are to you – set apart from larger companies because we take time to know our customers’ individual needs & to support our local communities. Bookazine has a fun home website that welcomes browsing from booklovers nationwide (you need to be a bookstore to log on to buy books there, but the book information at the home page is fun for all!) Bookazine has chosen our book blog, “Hobo’s Books”, to be their featured book review blog/website for the month! Go to to see us featured, and while you’re there, turn up the sound on your computer. Click on all the fun icons – the cat, the phone – and then click on the little TV that says “Living Room.” The TV there features short videos made by booksellers about their stores, their favorite books, new authors, etc. Notice that From My Shelf bookstore is now on one of the channels on the Bookazine “TV Guide” … showing everyone what a wonderful community we live in, and how much we at From My Shelf love you! Check back every couple of weeks, and we’ll have something new posted at the Bookazine ‘Living Room.’

Upcoming Events at the Bookstore:
(see calendar on website for details)

*Saturday, March 6th, 4 to 7pm: Woolverine Game Night, focusing more on games enjoyed by our ‘younger’ crowd: sometimes the featured games of the night are strategy games that are a bit too challenging for our youngest players. This Saturday we specifically welcome kids who play or collect Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh!, or Bakugon cards and figures. Learn how to set up a deck to play your Pokemon cards, come trade your cards with other kids, or buy some here at extra-special game night discounts. We may play some other games, too, depending on who shows up and what they’d like to play – I have a couple of people wanting to play Pirates again – but this night is especially for our young players. Free & open to the public. Light refreshments served.

*Saturday, March 20th, 12 to 3pm: Double author event! We’re hosting Mike D’Aloisio, author of the “5 C Hero”, who coached local athlete-gone-pro, Joel Stephens. Coaching Joel, and knowing him throughout his struggle with cancer inspired Coach D’Aloisio to want to keep Joel’s story, his strength, his character, and especially his faith, alive. Come meet Mike, talk with Joel’s family, and learn why Joel was the example he is. At the same time, extend your welcome to Rachel Castellanos, Christian fiction author of “Gentle Forbearance”. Rachel’s book would be of great interest to those who love Janette Oke, Karen Kingsbury, the Love Inspired or Steeple Hill Café romances. Stop in and say ‘hi’, get a free T-shirt from KC101 … we’re having a live radio broadcast with Jenn Thomas of our favorite hometown country radio station!

Sunday, March 21st: Writing Seminar: Self-Publishing & Marketing Your Book: How to Get Started, What to Consider, Pitfalls to Avoid: facilitated by Kasey, featuring guest commentary by several successful writers who have self-published 1 to 4pm, at the bookstore
seminar cost: $15 (pre-registration highly recommended)

****Every week, we have people ask us how they might go about publishing a book they are writing. Inevitably, we get twice as many phone calls and emails from recently self-published authors, asking us if we will consider carrying their book in our bookstore. If you have written a book, or are considering writing a book, or have been told you should write a book about your area of expertise, perhaps self-publishing is for you. (It may not be; we’re happy to tell you that, too!) Find out what to find out, how to weigh different companies, what pros & cons exist, from local folks who have seen the self-publishing industry from both sides of the table – as booksellers who do work with self-published authors, but only under certain situations; and as self-published authors, ourselves, who want to share our mistakes & successes. Packet of info plus light refreshments included in seminar fee.

“Read it before you see it”:
*Dear Johnand/or The Last Song-- both by Nicholas Sparks
*Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane
*Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll …. also, check out The Looking Glass Wars,
Seeing Redd, and/or Hatter M by Frank Beddor
*Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney
*How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell

And, on deck for this fall: an animated, family-friendly fantasy movie, “The Legend of the Guardians”, based on this series we’ve loved, “The Guardians of the Ga’hoole” by Kathryn Lasky. We always have this series in, and often have used copies (at least of the first several), so you can try it to see how much you’ll like it!

Discovering a New Author -- from Kevin

Waiting for the next book from your favorite author can feel like forever. That's why nothing beats that feeling of discovering a new writer with an established body of work. I recently read "Agent to the Stars" by John Scalzi and immediately ordered more for the bookstore and for myself. You can catch my review on our blog . If you like old-school style sci-fi in the style of Robert Heinlein, yet adding twist and variations making the story truly his own, Scalzi is the new author for you, too!

Michelle's Corner

The Black Dagger Brotherhood Series by J.R. Ward:

Men. Big, bad, sexy, hunka hunka burn'in love men. Do I have your attention? Are you thinking, I want me one of those? Well, you need to read J.R. Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood series. This is the story of six vampire warriors who are charged with the guarding of their race, but their enemy, the Lessening, are always looking for ways to destroy them. Each book tells the story of one of the warriors. You won’t want to put them down once you begin. Start out and read the first book, which is Dark Lover. This tells the story of Wrath, the king of the vampire race, the most powerful and only full blooded vampire left on the planet. If you find you like these, then check out J.R.'s other series, called 'The Fallen Angels': in October she just released the first book called Covet.

Michelle's picks for new releases not to miss

(These series need to be read in order)

March 2nd - In Bed with The Duke (The Governess Brides Series) by Christina Dodd

March 16th - The Spellmans Strike Again by Lisa Lutz

March 30th - Changeless (The Parasol Protectorate) by Gail Carriger


(This book can be read on its own, but you may want to read Ravishing in Red first to gain some additional information on the characters in this book)

Feb 23rd - Provocative in Pearls by Madeline Hunter

This just in! New releases/new inventory to celebrate!

*The Last Train to Hiroshima by Charles Pellegrino -- yes, we’ve got it. Yes, there’s been a lot of controversy and scuttlebutt over this author and this book. Yes, it’s been discontinued. Yes, James Cameron says he still wants to make a movie out of it. Come in and see why.

*The $64 Tomato by William Alexander

*Hex & the City by Simon Green (part of this really cool series, Tales of the Nightside)

*The Savage Tales of Solomon Kane by Robert Howard & Gary Gianni

*Curious George Goes to a Chocolate Factory by H. A. Rey

*House Rules by Jodi Picoult

*The Brother Gardeners by Andrea Wulf

*Alice in Wonderland and Philosophy: Curious and Curiouser (anthology)

*On A Clear Day They Could See Seventh Place by Charles Salzberg (570) 724-5793