New and Improved

I’d been buying a seltzer water at a nearby store for the past few months. It was simply carbonated water with natural flavorings — no sugar or salt or chemicals — but it hit the spot on those days when just plain water didn’t seem refreshing enough.

Unfortunately, it was a short-lived product for that store, and now it’s gone from the shelves. The manager told me they have a store brand of the same product, but like most so-called sparkling waters, theirs are nothing more than a clear soft drink, with most of the same ingredients (lots of chemicals!) as a diet soda.

This reminded me of all the other things I liked that were discontinued over the years, as if my liking a product sounded the death knell for it. One example that immediately comes to mind is Space Food Sticks. I really liked those things — they were the first energy and meal replacement bar, and helped keep my appetite — and weight — in check. And then one day, with no explanation, they were gone.

Other products, like Rely tampons had been misused, and girls who had no idea what they were doing died of toxic shock syndrome. The product, of course, was removed, leaving those of us who “relied” on them out of luck. The same thing happened with the original Sensodyne toothpaste, where the pain deadening ingredient was strontium chloride. Used as directed — only as needed — it was perfectly safe, but people used it every day, which caused problems. Now, there is no sensitive-tooth toothpaste that works for me, and to get a modicum of comfort, I have to use the products available every day.

Even something as simple as sassafras tea disappeared, or at least became uncommon, because of harmful side effects. But oh, I did so like sassafras tea and the root-beer-like flavor.

Some products that disappeared are available under the same name, but the product is completely different, such as Dreamsicles. The Dreamsicle of my youth was a creamy concoction, with a soft sherbet outer layer, melding into an ice cream center. Truly a dreamy treat!

Even something as ubiquitous as Dawn changed. The blue-colored Dawn advertises itself as the original scent, but it isn’t. The original scent had no floral undertones. But then, that’s just one of the thousands of products that have been “new and improved” to make more money for the manufacturers and less bang for the buck for consumers.

And on and on. Dozens of products gone or morphed into something completely different. That’s the problem of my having lived during a time of great population growth and growing corporate greed, though that may not be a fair assessment. The past several decades have also been a time of unprecedented product development, so there have been way more products available at any one time than ever before.

Still, it is tiresome always having to find and break in new items only to have them disappear on me a short time later. But maybe that’s a good thing? Who knows. Certainly not me.

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Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

Aaaarrrgggghhhh!!!!! Now I Have to Write a Review!

StaccatoWhile most of the world is talking about the new Dan Brown bestseller, Second Wind Publishing, LLC has quietly released a thriller of its own — Staccato by Deborah J Ledford. You won’t find all the elements that have become Brown’s hallmarks: cartoonish characters, amateurish prose, tin-ear for dialogue, internal inconsistencies. What you will find is a well-written, well-constructed story that will keep you enthralled.

The product description on Amazon says it better than I could: Performed against the backdrop of the Great Smoky Mountains of North Carolina, Staccato transports readers to a behind-the-scenes glimpse of professional musicians, the psychological twists and turns of its characters, and in the end, retribution that crashes in a crescendo of notes played at the literary pace of a maestro’s staccato. The only drawback to Staccato is that it doesn’t come with a soundtrack — each meticulously chosen piece of music enhances the mood of the scene it accompanies, and unless you are much more informed about music than I am, you will miss some of the brilliance of this composition.

Readers are in for a treat, and me? Aaaarrrggghhhh!!! I have to write another review! Well, I don’t have to, but the book deserves all the attention it can get. So, I will add it to the stack of other books I’ve promised to review, yet haven’t:

Lacey Took a Holiday by Lazarus Barnhill
The Medicine People by Lazarus Barnhill
Steel Waters by Ken Coffman
Toxic Shock Syndrome by Ken Coffman
Mazurka by Aaron Lazar
Heart of Hythea by Suzanne Francis
and now, Staccato by Deborah J Ledford

Although all these books are much more literate, readable, and enjoyable than Dan Brown’s pap, the best I can come up with as a review for each of these deserving novels right now is, “Good book. I liked it and you will, too.”

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Twits and Tweets

I’ve been sitting here for about thirty minutes trying to come up with a topic for my online live chat tomorrow night at No Whine, Just Champagne on gather.com, trying to think of a bloggery for the Second Wind blog tomorrow, trying to think of something to write for my blog tonight. While I’ve been waiting for my brain to kick into gear, I’ve been doing the online equivalent of channel surfing — checking my emails, checking Facebook to see if anything is going on, checking Twitter.

Ah, Twitter. Now that’s something I can talk about. Is Twitter still a good way of connecting with people? It seems as if the only people who are adding me are multi-level-marketers, people posting links to nude pictures, people actively looking to sell me something, or people with more than 10,000 followers. I can’t imagine that any of those people will see or care about my tweets. In fact, it’s probably time for me to go through my followers and block those I’m not interested in. I should also go through the list of those I am following. When I first started with Twitter, I followed everyone who followed me, but I can see that’s no way to use the site. Maybe it’s better to have just a few followers and followings, people who actually care about one another’s twits and tweets?

I’ve read that Twitter has a 60% 30 churn rate, which means that 60% of those who sign up don’t return after 30 days. So there’s a good chance that more than half of those who follow me or who I follow aren’t even on the site. If I had the time, it would be a good idea to clean up my account, but if no one is paying attention, does it matter?

What I’m really looking for is the next fun site. Facebook is fun for me, but that’s because I’ve figured out a few things to do on the site, and I’ve actually been able to connect with people. Same with Gather. Goodreads should be fun, since it’s about books, but I find I have nothing much to say about books any more. In fact, I have four books sitting here on my desk — Steel Waters and Toxic Shock Syndrome by Ken Coffman, and The Medicine People and Lacey Took a Holiday by Lazarus Barnhill — books I promised to review but haven’t (sorry Ken and Laz), books I read and loved, yet the only thing I can think of to say about all four books is, “Great book. Read it.” Not much of a review, though it is the truth. So the books sit here, taunting me. But I digress.

So, what is the next fun site? If you hear of a site that’s easy to use, that get’s your name out there, that helps you make friends and connections, let me know. I need more places to check when I go surfing.

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A Thrill of Books

51miDOzhkHL._SX333_BO1,204,203,200_A murder of crows. A quiver of cobras. A charm of finches. A mischief of mice. A tower of giraffes. A scurry of squirrels. To this list of wonderfully evocative group names, I’m adding “a thrill of books.”

When I was young, I used to love coming home from the bookstore or library with an armful of books. I’d study the covers, read the blurbs and acknowledgments, open the book and sample a few words. It was a special thrill, this stack of new worlds that would soon be a part of me. Where would I go? Who would I meet? What challenges would I have to overcome?

The years did their damage, as they always do. Or maybe the culprit wasn’t the passing years, perhaps it was too many trivial stories, too much homogenization of genre, too much corporate policy infringing on the art. For whatever reason, I lost the thrill of having new books to read, and I thought it was gone forever.

I mentioned in my previous blog that I offered to review a few books, and today I received two of them in the mail: Steel Waters and Toxic Shock Syndrome by Ken Coffman. I looked at the covers (okay, I did more than look, I ran my hand over them, savoring the feel of the brand new books). I read the back covers, the acknowledgements, the author’s signature — “To my friend and fellow writer, Pat Bertram. I wish you all the best with your work.”

Already I could feel the glimmer of that old familiar feeling. Then I opened Steel Waters to the middle and saw, “I looked and smelled like a Bolivian sewer rat.” From comments others had made, I knew this was no homogenized piece of corporate bilge, but right then I felt it — the thrill.

So thank you, Ken, for giving me — one more time — a thrill of books.

See also: Pat Bertram Introduces Glen Wilson, Hero of Five Ken Coffman Novels
On Writing: Style and Cadence by Ken Coffman
A Cheapskate Guide to Creating a Publishing Company by Ken Coffman

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels UnfinishedMadame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, Light BringerMore Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am IBertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.