From the perennially cluttered three sided desk of Darrell Bain
Note: Responses to subjects brought up by this newsletter are welcome. I can be contacted by e-mailing me from my website.
Free Books, Odd Happenings, EPPIE Award Winner, Book Report, Living Expenses, Progress Report and more.
Hi folks. Another month and another month older. As a matter of fact, I had a birthday in February, making me sixty-eight, and a good twenty or thirty years of it I'd like to ignore if I could. However, time and tide waits on no man, or so the saying goes. It sure isn't waiting on me, much as I'd like it to.
How to get the book? Simple. Just send me an email with the subject line HOTLINE TO HEAVEN in it. The first five people who do so get a free copy, postage and handling included. That's all there is to it. All I ask is that if you like the book, tell five other people about it. If you don't like it, please don't tell anyone. Remember, just send me an email, subject line HOTLINE TO HEAVEN. You can include your address but it's not necessary. If you're one of the first five, I'll ask for it.
Oh yes: you can receive more than one book; the same rules as above will apply each month. Only the title of the book will change.
Family members not eligible.
Overseas not eligible unless you agree to pay postage via paypal.
Note: I had 12 requests for Strange Valley last month, so if the same figures hold about the same next month, you can see that the odds are pretty good you can get a book. If not, there's always next month! I'll continue this promotion for a year, at least, and the title of the free book will change each month.
One day I was coming back from town, driving along the one lane blacktop road which dead ends a mile or so beyond our house. The road is sort of curvy and big trees grow close along both sides of it. This was also back when not nearly so many people lived out here (well, there's still not many, but back then there was only one home about every four hundred yards, maybe less). As I came around a curve and a straight stretch of the narrow road opened up in front of me, I saw two big white horses galloping toward me on the road, being herded along by a yellow and brown 18 wheeler Mack Truck. You can bet I pulled over as quickly as I could and stopped. I stared open-mouthed as the white horses and Mack truck passed me and turned my head and kept staring until they rounded the curve and were out of sight. They were headed toward the intersection of a bigger paved road, a two lane highway with a fair amount of traffic. I have no idea what happened when they reached that point, nor could I ever find out what the occasion was or why they were there or anything else. My neighbors looked at me like I was crazy when I asked if they knew anything about it, so after a while I stopped asking. But I've always wondered...what happened when they reached the highway? Why was someone herding a pair of big white horses with an 18 wheeler on our little road? Where did the truck and horses come from? I wonder that especially because ours is a dead end road and they were coming from the direction where it ends.
Maybe some puzzles aren't meant to be solved. If so, I guess this is one of them.
EPPIE Award Winner
Honesty: Readers vs Non-Readers
Spouses Who Talk
I re-read Shadow Box by John R. Maxim. That's a dandy. And very relevant in these days of counterfeit drugs. No one really knows what per cent of our prescription drugs are really made by the manufacturer on the label. A lot of them are knock-offs, containing more or less the same ingredients of the legitimate drugs but made by a rogue company. When I say more or less the same ingredients, that's what I mean. Since it's an illegal company making them and slapping counterfeit labels on the bottles, they do very little, if any, quality control. One pill may have more than the indicated dosage, and the next one less. Sometimes a great deal more or less. Betty and I have bought drugs from Mexico for years and have had pretty good luck until recently, when she got a bottle which must have been fake. They certainly didn't do what they were supposed to, but once that bottle was gone, the pills became effective again. A pretty good sign, I'd say. Sometimes the middle men dealing in drugs will manufacture them from ingredients meant for animal prescriptions. It's the same drug as for humans but much cheaper when prescribed for animals. What does that tell you? And sometimes the pills are completely fake, made from lactose or something like that. Reading Shadow Box always gets my dander up. Drug companies spend twice as much on marketing as they do on research and yet claim they have to charge so much in order to support their research. Nix. They charge so much to support marketing efforts. Well, I'm not going to change the world so I'll shut up.
I also re-read David Weber's Mutineer's Moon Trilogy after Betty finished with it. And I re-read The Egg and I by Betty MacDonald. That is a hilarious book and the language is some of the best use of similes and metaphors I have ever read. And I don't blame the author one bit for divorcing the guy she married. Read the book and you'll know why.
I read Walter J. Williams' Rift, the story of what might happen should the New Madrid fault cause another gigantic earthquake such as happened in 1811-1812. If such a one occurred again in the same spot there would probably be more than a million casualties and untold billions, possibly as much as a trillion dollars in damage. It's scary to think about because reputable scientists tell us that it's not a matter of if, but when, the next one will occur along that fault line. Brrr. A very good book, and one that'll make you think. And I re-read Vernor Vinge's A Deepness In The Sky. This is a very long and very interesting science fiction novel by a very good writer. It takes a little while to get into the meat of the story but once you do, it's great! Think of a species on a world which freezes over for about 200 out of every 250 years and what they'd have to do to survive. Then add two competing interstellar expeditions who need this species for help in getting home as the world enters its warming cycle and they come out from cover. Lots of good hard science fiction here. I read it once when it first came out but this is the first time I've been back to it. It's still as good as I remember.
I'm either finished or almost finished with another work, tentatively titled "Weenie Dog vs The Aliens". Here's more or less how the blurb will read for it:
Well, every writer is allowed some foolishness now and then. Tonto is a real dog and the description of the weenie dog in the story fits him pretty well. One of the characters is a tribute to a deceased friend and of course Tonto's owners are patterned after Betty and myself.
Reference to the tentative title above: I may change it to something simpler. After thinking about it, I may title the story BARK! and let it go at that. Simple and to the point and there is a lot of barking in the story as Tonto gets after the aliens.
Watch for this one. If you think my Williard Brothers are zany characters, you ain't seen nothing yet!
Note: I found some flaws in the story that I have to think about and fix before turning it loose. It may take a while because they are major flaws. I hate it when I get in a hurry and send a book or story off before I've thought about it and re-read it several times and find out later I should have been more patient! This is a case where I was patient and I found some major defects and inconsistencies in it that I need to figure out how to resolve. It definitely won't be out this month, nor the month after. They are the kind of things I'll have to mull on and let my unconscious mind finally resolve the errors so I can go back to it. Sorry.
Warp Point is still selling at Warp speed at Fictionwise.com. It's doing better than any of my books since Savage Survival, which is just about my favorite of the three dozen or so I've written. Savage Survival will be out in hardcover later this year.
We're still waiting on the editor to finish up the next Williard Brothers novel so it can be published. It should be out soon, but I can't say just when. Editors work on their own time zone.
A Note on Living Expenses
Now the details are out of the way so I can get on with what I was leading up to. How do poor people live? Our home isn't that big, only 2,000 square feet and it's pretty well insulated. Of course we're home most of the time where people not retired would have the heat turned way down, but still... we sure couldn't live here on minimum wage or anywhere close to it. We spend about $500.00 a month at Walmart and the grocery store and with the electric bill, we're already past what a person on minimum wages earns and I haven't included phone bills, both home and mobile, satellite bills, for TV and the Computer, life insurance, car insurance, home insurance, and so on. I repeat: how do poor people live? Very poorly, I think. I remember when I was a boy we were about as poor as poor can get but kids don't worry much about stuff so long as they don't go hungry. I guess a lot of beans, corn meal, flour, oatmeal and basics like that made up our diet. When we go to the grocery store, we see people using food stamps but they're also buying cigarettes, cokes, pastries, good meat, packaged cereal and so forth. How do they manage?
I'm rambling here because I don't know the answer to my own question so I'll quit. But Betty and I ask it of each other numerous times each month. If it weren't for my writing income, we would have long since had to sell our house and move to something cheaper, probably a mobile home. Either that or use up our emergency savings within three or four years. And over the last few years, we've had to start spending so much money on medicine that we'd have had to sell and move anyway except some illnesses related to Agent Orange exposure in Vietnam entitled me to a small veteran's pension to go with our social security checks and writing income.
Now just think: even our poor people, the ones living on minimum wage income, are far better off than most people in the world. Look at some of the pictures coming out of Africa or read beyond the headlines about conditions in such places as Romania and South America and even if you're poor, be grateful you're living in America. Many, many people have it far worse.
Besides, it won't be too many more years before we'll be unable to care for this big place and have to move anyway. Old age is sad in the way that you gradually begin giving a lot of your possessions to the kids and moving into smaller and smaller places. I watched it happen with my Mother and Stepfather and Betty and I think they jumped too soon with several moves, including the final one to a nursing home. We're going to hang on here as long as we possibly can.
A Writer's Delight
Now isn't reading something like that a delightful experience for a writer? I sure thought so!
We just learned that my older sister, only seventy-two, has terminal cancer. She has a choice of taking aggressive chemotherapy and maybe having two more years but being sick most of the time, or not doing anything and having a shorter, but better quality of life for what time is left. I think I'd choose the quality of life over the longer time, but I suppose you really have to be there to know what you'd do. She'll let us know in a week or two.
Our little addled, ADHD affected dachshund doesn't let many strangers near him, but he's recently made a friend. We have a woman over every couple of weeks to help Betty with some of the harder tasks of housework she can't do easily any more and the lady brings her ten year old daughter, Esmeralda, with her. Tonto and Esmeralda have hit it off and delight in playing together. It still seems strange watching him relate so joyfully to anyone except us, but we're glad he's found someone else he likes to play with.
I'm still getting used to Vista on my new computer. It is supposed to be an improvement, and I'm sure it is, but I guess I'm a slow learner, and besides, it does funny things. For instance, if I open the Internet Explorer browser before my Windows e-mail window, the browser looks funny and seems to be oversized and move jerkily when I'm scrolling. OTOH, open the email first, then the browser and it's fine. Strange, huh?
Spring is sprung and we're so glad. It's been a long winter. We'd be even gladder if it wasn't for that blasted time change. Why not leave the time alone? Daylight savings time was designed for farmers back when almost everybody was a farmer. Now hardly anyone is, so why do we still have it? Rats.
And I think this shall do it for now. Happy reading.
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This page last updated 03-26-07.