Friday, July 29, 2011

Inventions and Fiction Writers

I have an iPad. One of my sisters has an iPhone. Lately, instead of talking on the phone we video chat with FaceTime. It is almost as good as having my sister here for a visit. Way back when we were kids, the idea of video chatting was science fiction. Now it's a reality.

The amazing thing is that so many inventions were dreamed up in fiction. Most readers are familiar with the gadgets Jules Verne and H.G. Wells wrote about that were able to be produced much later when technology caught up. However, I found an incredible site on the web that details many more technological wonders that were dreamed up by novelists who were way ahead of their time.

Go to

This compilation will show that ebooks were thought up in 1961 by Stanislaw Lem. Frederik Pohl wrote about cellphone voicemail in 1965. Poul Anderson wrote of laser rifles in 1966.

So though truth may be stranger than fiction, fiction writers are rather clever when it comes to devising useful tools that people need.

Thanks to fiction writers, my sister and I can talk to each other in real time. I love those fiction writers!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Two Years Ago

Two years ago today my mother died. In the photo above, my mother is the toddler on the right. She was the daughter of a coal miner and grew up in a family with six other children. She went to art school and then joined the Marines in World War II. She met my father after the war.

Mom was truly gifted as an artist, but she also had an indomitable spirit and a heart filled with compassion.

I miss her, but I can't help but believe that she's still busy painting, giving out good advice, or delivering food to some poor soul somewhere.

Sunday, July 17, 2011


Large, black carpenter ants live in New Jersey. In fact, carpenter ants are hearty and find many locations just to their liking. Though they are not termites, they are still destructive to wooden structures like houses. You can find information online about these prolific insects here.

Over the years, carpenter ants have wandered into our house--typically during the springtime. We stepped on them and bought ant baits which we placed in corners about the house. That seemed to alleviate the problem.

However, on Thursday the ants chose our home for their annual convention but they really should have made reservations first. We were totally unprepared for the invasion. There were hundreds of them crawling around in the living room. It resembled a scene in a horror film. I got out the vacuum to remove them and while that did not kill them, I placed the scurrying contents of the vacuum into a plastic bag and tied it tightly in the hope that they would suffocate.

An exterminator came later in the day to assess the situation. He was impressed with the size of the ants. Maybe what we had in our house was a convention for bodybuilding ants. The exterminator set up an appointment to have the house treated on Saturday. Meanwhile, I had to deal with the ants. I spent much of the day vacuuming the aliens life forms crawling across the rug. Some of them came in carrying food on their mandibles. Maybe there was a potluck supper going on.

By that evening the influx of bugs had diminished but Daughter #1 read online that carpenter ants are most active from 10 pm to 2am. She placed another fresh ant bait near the spot beside the chimney which the ants appeared to be using as their special entrance to the big convention.

We did not sleep well, but in the morning while we did find a few ants it was nothing like the inundation of the previous day.

The exterminator sprayed outside and inside on Saturday. On Sunday, not a single ant was to be seen. I'm hoping it stays that way.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

My Experience in Sales

One summer, between my junior and senior year of college, I landed a job as an aide in a summer school program. It was a great experience since I intended to become a teacher. However, it paid next to nothing and I needed more money for college. To supplement my puny salary, I decided to sell cosmetics. My success in selling cosmetics depended almost entirely on the vanity of women. Fortunately, many women long to be beautiful and anything that will help them toward that goal is something they desire to own. (Especially if it is not too expensive.)

In fact there were only two real problems selling a line of beauty aids for me. One was my fear of getting bit by a dog. I went door-to-door initially to gather a customer base, but I skirted around any house with a snarling dog.

My other downfall was that I tended to use up my profits by buying many of the cosmetics for myself. Yes, I longed to be gorgeous and alluring just like everyone else. I believed all the hype--and, of course, I looked in the mirror and found myself lacking--even though I was twenty, thin, and did not have a single wrinkle in my face. Still, my lips seemed too thin. I had freckles. I wanted glowing cheeks and come-hither eyes. I put on way too much makeup.

Nevertheless, I had fun. I got to chat with people, something I've always enjoyed because in the process I collect gossip and characters--an extremely useful habit to develop for a writer.

My customers never complained about the products I sold. I'd douse myself with the newest fragrance, they would get a good whiff when I walked in the door and then they would order some for themselves.

It was a great business.

Selling books is far more difficult than selling cosmetics. Some people don't read and those who do read, don't read romances. Most people refer to my habit of touting my wares as shameless self-promotion. In addition to that, there's always criticism in the form of reviews.

Despite that, some of the techniques I learned in selling cosmetics actually do work in selling books.

Here are the salient points:

1. Stay away from snarling dogs.

2. Dress up and smell good.

3. Smile.

4. Enjoy the conversation, wherever it goes. (You might get an inspiration for another character.)

5. Always believe in your product. (I have had to explain over and over what a romance novel is. Some people really do not understand the genre at all.)

6. Help the customer find what they want. If they don't want to read any of your books, point them to another author who writes in the genre they claim to enjoy.

7. Keep writing!