Monday, June 17, 2013

The Naked Roommate

Kevin Coolidge

You’ve been waiting. The day has finally come. Your teachers, your parents, and you did a great job of getting you through high school, even after that little cadaver incident. You will soon graduate and never again be forced to shower with 40 sweaty guys, or suffer through another boring study hall again, but now what?

You don’t know what you want to do with the rest of your life. Thankfully, there’s college and the undeclared major. You didn't know what to expect, but it was never this.

As you walk into your dorm room, your new roommate looks up from his video game, a long string of hot cheese dangling from his mouth. If he’s not more careful, he’s going to singe something, and it’s going to be painful, because he’s nude, but you’re the one feeling naked.

College is a big change. Classes with hundreds of people, staying out late, making your own choices. There’s a big difference between high school and college life. The Naked Roommate: And 107 Other Issues You Might Run Into in College written by Harlan Cohen can help you prepare.

Harlan went to college feeling it was going to be an easy transition. He was sure everything would just fall into place, but instead he felt out of place. It took two semesters and a transfer to figure it all out. He realized there’s so much no one tells about life in college, and that’s why he decided to write this book.

He wanted to share all the things that will make college life easier to handle. Much of what students experience is universal, and whether it is a commuter campus, or a university far from home. You are about to experience a higher education inside and outside of the classroom.

Learn to expect the unexpected. You might think you know what will happen in college, but you really don’t. You expect you will stay together forever with your high school sweetheart (probably not). You may have always gotten As in high school. You might, but not with the same amount of work. You expect your friendships to be like high school, but it takes time to develop quality friendships.

Most of college life is great, but once in awhile it’s not so great. There are some great tips—such as handling a drunk or high roommate (don’t let them use this book for rolling papers). How to get the best deal on college textbooks (one of the biggest scams in the industry). Learn inexpensive-to-down-right cheap strategies for eating (or barely eating). There’s an art of reading (or not reading) a college textbook, and of course the rules of college love (or sometimes just lust).

There are a lot of firsts happening here—first time away from home, first time borrowing thousands of dollars, first time managing money, and first time having to make some important choices on your own. It’s not going to be comfortable. Comfort takes time, but college can be the best four, five, six, or seven years of your life…

No shirt, no shoes, no service? Or Come as you are? Email me at and let me know. Miss a past column? Here’s a tip. Catch up at http://frommyshelf.blogspot .com Hobo, bookstore cat, is a proud graduate of the School of Hard Knocks. You can help him pay his rent by checking out “Hobo Finds A Home”, a children’s book about a cat who wanted more out of life.

If you'd like to buy this book, why not buy it where you tried it? Simply click on the photo below, or the title, highlighted throughout this post, to purchase the book at From My Shelf Books & Gifts, and to support the writers of this fine blog ;) We thank you!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

The Widow of the South

Kasey Cox

Read the Printed Word!
The Widow of the South was a real woman, a fact I did not realize when we chose the book of the same title to read for our book club selection. Carrie McGavock did, in fact, exist, and as she and the cemetery of Confederate soldiers she tended on the land of her family’s former plantation, her reputation grew. People all over the still-healing nation came to know her devotion to one of the largest private military cemeteries ever built. When Oscar Wilde made a tour of the United States in 1882, he insisted that itinerary would include a visit to Tennessee, “to meet the Widow McGavock, the high priestess of the temple of dead boys.”

Carrie McGavock, her family home of Carnton, outside the little town of Franklin, Tennessee – all these became symbols of the sacrifice of a nation in the final months of the Civil War. Why did Carrie McGavock become “The Widow of the South”? Why Franklin, Tennessee, a town many of us have never heard of, in this anniversary year 150 years after the Gettysburg battle? As a child, I was lucky to have parents who took me to visit historical sites, so I thought I knew quite a bit about the Civil War – Harper’s Ferry, Bull Run (Manassas), Antietam, the courthouse at Appomattox? The movies gave me scenes of Sherman’s burning of Atlanta and “the turkey shoot” at the battle of Petersburg. Now, history websites give me short lists of “famous” bloody Civil War battles that include Chickamauga (Georgia), Chancellorsville (Virginia), Spotsylvania (Virginia), Shiloh (Tennessee), and “the Battle of the Wilderness” in Virginia. I’ve at least heard of all of these places, whether or not I know all the details. Perhaps in 2013, we are too far removed from the Civil War and the Reconstruction period that followed.

This era has been either completely romanced for us by film or TV mini-series, or it has become nothing more than a chain of dry facts and figures memorized for history tests. In the mid-1980s, author Robert Hicks was invited to be on the board of a nonprofit organization founded to restoring the Carnton “Big House”. Hicks was already involved in museum projects dedicated to Southern music and culture, but immediately became drawn into the story of Franklin. His work with restoration at Carnton drove him to a ton of research on the pivotal place it served in our nation’s history. A talk with celebrated Civil War historian and award-winning author Shelby Foote convinced Robert Hicks to go ahead with his idea for a historical fiction work that might breathe life into the people involved in the battle of Franklin and its aftermath.

In his research, Hicks found memoirs written by General Isaac R. Sherwood, who had been a Lieutenant Colonel with the 111th Ohio Infantry when he was wounded at the Battle of Franklin. General Sherwood was one of the last Civil War veterans to serve in Congress after the War. In his Memories of the War, Sherwood eloquently and succinctly explains how the surrender of the Confederate Army happened at Appomattox in April of 1865, but that the final outcome of the War was decided at Franklin. “Franklin dug the grave of the Confederacy,” Sherwood wrote. “The final day was Appomattox, four months after Franklin; but Appomattox was not a battle. It was an event, surrender…. The epochal date was April 1865, but the forces that made that date possible were marshaled on the green hills around the Harpeth River, south of Nashville…. The finger of destiny was lifted, pointing the open road to Appomattox.”

On an Indian summer afternoon, on November 30, 1864, Confederate forces marching to Nashville met entrenched Federal troops in the little town of Franklin. In a battle lasting a little more than five hours, 9,200 men fell dead – 2,500 Union and 6,700 Confederate casualties. This is more casualties in five hours than in the nineteen hours of D-Day in World War II, and on one of the smallest battlefield areas in the United States. In the aftermath, a town of 2,500 people were left to try to take bury or heal more than three times the number of their population, with few resources.

The “Big House” at Carnton became the largest field hospital in the area. Carrie McGavock and her servant-friend-lifelong companion, Mariah, spent hours tending to wounded and dying men, tearing up sheets, clothes, linens, curtains, and anything they could find to make bandages. Thousands of dead men ended up in shallow graves in the Carnton fields. Eventually, those not claimed were moved, by the McGavock family, to a plot of land close to their house, which became the infamous cemetery. Carrie McGavock kept meticulous records of each body’s identification – the soldier’s name, rank, what state he fought with – for the rest of her days. Although a relatively young woman when the Confederacy fell at her feet, the experience had changed her for life. In this way, she became a symbol of what the nation, as a whole, had lost.

Robert Hicks’s novel, The Widow of the South, gives honor and new life to a place and a time we as a nation should remember, amongst all the pomp and circumstance of these anniversary years of our nation’s Civil War. Hicks allows his cast of characters to be real people, with sorrows and regrets, pride and the possibility of hope. The people of The Widow of the South are a study in contrasts, as the nation was in 1864, and as it continues to be now.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Faust’s Secret War

Kevin Coolidge

Frederick Schiller Faust was born on May 29, 1892 in Seattle, Washington. His parents were poor, and life was tough. He would escape his hardscrabble life through his fertile imagination and his love of medieval literature. His parents died when he was still young.

When orphaned, he was sent to live with a distant relative, Thomas Downey, a high school principal. Downey introduced him to mythology. Greek and Latin literature would continue to feed his love of storytelling throughout his life.

He went on to attend the University of California, Berkeley, and wrote for student publications, poetry magazines and newspapers. He showed promise as a writer, and had a natural inclination towards poetry. He was not, however, a good student. He was too restless, a maverick, and never graduated.

When the United States entered World War I, Faust tried to enlist, but was rejected even for the Ambulance Corps, because of an enlarged heart. He then turned his focus to becoming a major poet. He worked manual labor until Mark Twain’s sister read a letter he wrote to The New York Times. She was so impressed that she arranged for him to meet the editor of Munsey Publications.

He began writing extensively for pulp magazines. By the time he sold his third story, he had begun to write under a pen name. This was more than the desire to be anonymous. America was at war with Germany, and using a German name would destroy his career. What name is more German than Faust?

Once he felt his new vocation as a magazine writer was secure, he married his college sweetheart, Dorothy Schillig. He began to write for more upscale magazines, and many of his stories inspired films. His character Dr. Kildare was adapted to radio, movies, and even comic books.

He made a small fortune from these adaptations. He also began working as a screenwriter for Hollywood studios. At one point, he was making $3,000 a week from Warner Brothers, at a time when most people didn’t even make that in a year. Faust became one of the highest paid writers of his time.

Faust disparaged his commercial success. He only used his real name for his poetry. He would spend each morning devoted to the work that he regarded as his literary calling. He considered three lines crafted as a successful day. In the afternoon, he might write crank out thirty pages of a story.

Many of Faust’s characters died a heroic death in battle. Perhaps, it was this romantic notion that made Faust insist on doing his part when the Untied States entered World War II. He had missed the Great War, and he wasn’t going to miss another.

He was well into middle age, and had a chronic heart condition, so he had to use all his connections to become a front line war correspondent on the Italian front. There he lived among men who had grown up reading his stories of heroes and great deeds, and there he died. In 1944, he was mortally wounded by shrapnel in what some historians have called the “bloodiest conflict of the entire war.” President Franklin D. Roosevelt personally commended him for bravery.

Often condemned by those seeking realistic detail in fiction, this didn’t stop Faust from becoming one of the world’s most popular and prolific storytellers. His love of mythology and storytelling drove him to write more than 500 novels, and almost as many short stories. His literary output is estimated at between 25 and 30 million words. He was a poet, an author of romance, fairy tales, legends, dreams and dramas, and wrote over 300 Western novels and stories.

Faust wrote under many pseudonyms—including George Owen Baxter, David Manning, Evan Evans, George Evans, John Frederick, George Challis, Peter Morland, and Frederick Frost, but you probably know him as Max Brand, the Shakespeare of the Western range…

Make your Brand? Or Does Grey matter? Email me at and let me know. Miss a past column? No need to worry none. You can catch yourself up at At the heart of every tale, you’ll find a hero, “Hobo Finds A Home” is the journey of a little, furry one…