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April 2007

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.

Free Books
As noted in my last newsletter, each month I will give away five of my print books. There's only one minor change in procedure. Rather than emailing me from my web site (or from your address book) with the subject line Free Book, enter the current month's title in the subject line. This month's selection is HOTLINE TO HEAVEN, so that's what you would put in the subject of the email. Hotline to Heaven is the story of a scam artist who convinces an innocent young woman to invest her life's savings in his out of this world scheme. Will the leopard change its spots? Will the girl forget her upbringing? Some reviewers have noted that they had a hard time deciding which character to cheer for, the crooked but lovable bunko scoundrel or the innocent and virginal young lady. The way it works out will be a surprise, or so readers have said. I wrote this book in response to my Mother asking why I never wrote a romance. Well, I tried, but got sort of carried away and it came out more of a well...think of Stephen Connell's King Con with humor and you'll get the idea. Sort of an adventure/humor/suspense/romance novel.

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.

Odd Happenings
Do any of you ever have odd things happen to you or see odd things happen? I have, occasionally, but I remember one in particular that I've never found an explanation for. Now read closely, and I promise, this is an absolutely true story. I haven't exaggerated a bit and I'll wonder what was going on until the day I die.

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
The Eppies are the most prestigious award in the e-book publishing industry. I've been a finalist for the award several times but ultimately lost out to other authors. I didn't win an Eppie this year, either. I won TWO of them! : ) The first was for White Odyssey in the Young Adult category and the other was for Mindwar in the Action/Adventure category. This one was actually a tie with another author, Gerald Mills, so we'll both get trophies. Ironically, Gerald is my co-author for our novel The Focus Factor.

Honesty: Readers vs Non-Readers
I don't remember how the subject came up but a while back Betty and I wondered: are readers, those people who read more than they watch television, more honest than non-readers? Now here I'm not talking about one-genre readers, e.g., those who read detective stories to the exclusion of all else. I mean the eclectic readers who not only read books but newspapers and magazines, fiction and non-fiction and various genres such as Betty and I do, but particularly a wide variety of fiction. Does all this information we glean from reading allow us, or tend to make us, more honest people? Does the fact that most fiction has a moral in it, if nothing more than the good guys usually win, help give us a basis for honesty? Perhaps. I really don't know, and we came to no hard and fast conclusions, but it was an interesting subject.

Spouses Who Talk
I used the above to lead into my real subject. Do you talk and have real conversations with your spouse or significant other? I've been married before, more than once, and I can remember plainly the dearth of intelligent discourse. Outside of family matters and such, we hardly talked, in contrast to the way Betty and I do. Even with the way we read so much (and perhaps because of it) we still have plenty of time to talk about things outside the home, some matters of world importance and others not really that significant, but still interesting and always enjoyable. Just about anything can make us drop our books and enter into a discussion. In fact, lots of times it's something in the books that we want to share with the other that brings it on. We don't always agree, of course, but we never argue. I love to have someone like Betty sharing my life who also shares a lot of my eclectic interests, even if we don't always agree. I don't really understand people who live together but hardly ever talk, or who think they have to shout and scream in order to get a point across, and I don't think Betty does either. How can anyone live like that? Anyway, having someone to talk to, especially someone you love, sure makes for a healthier marriage, and a much happier one. My opinion, anyway.

Book Report
This has been a very poor month to report on books I liked. I'm about finished with the stack I brought home the last time we visited the book store in January and have found very few keepers. In fact, about half the ones I bought went into the trade box only half read, or even less. They just weren't good enough for me to spend my time on, not at my age. When I was younger I always read a book through, with very few exceptions. No more. Betty agrees with me. There are too many good books out there to spend time on ones that don't appeal to us.

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.

My apologies to anyone who's been used to going my web page through SFF.NET. A glitch I hadn't noticed caused it not to be updated for several months. It is fine now and should just about match my web page at www.darrellbain.com . Which brings up another subject. Last month in my newsletter, the link to www.darrellbain.com didn't work for some reason or other, probably computer gremlins playing a joke on me just when I decided to give my readers some free books. Anyway, it's working fine now and my apologies again if you had problems finding me last month.

Progress Report
"The Naughty Bed."How's that for an intriguing title? It is the title of my latest short story, although not all that short. It runs to 7,000 words and is available now at Fictionwise.com and eReader.com. I had fun writing that story. It was one of those that practically wrote itself. And naturally, it was one of those stories that pop into my head at night, when I'm in bed. Heh heh.

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:
Tonto, a cross-eyed, ADHD affected little weenie dog with only one testicle, who already has a self-created job of compulsively shoveling pine straw into piles with stick tools he makes, is suddenly drafted into another job: saving the world from an alien invasion! Can he manage both jobs? Well perhaps, if a compulsively cursing alcoholic super genius and his co-ed groupies combine talents with a cigar chomping Italian whose airheaded secretary inadvertently gives him unlimited pentagon funding, and then help out Tonto's owners, who love Tonto and think politicians are almost as smart as lizards and even smarter than grasshoppers. Get ready for a wild and crazy ride with Tonto and his friends, the most amazing characters Darrell Bain has created so far in his eclectic writing career! This is a science fiction story so insane that it only begins to make sense when it's discovered that the aliens had a part in Tonto's conception to begin with!

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
We have an all electric home. That means everything, even the water (pumped by electricity from a well) is run from electricity. What with rising fuel costs I should have expected it, but our electric bill for last month was $461.00 – and for a good part of the month Betty and I were in the office during the day where the wood burning Franklin stove lives and kept the heat turned down fairly low for the rest of the house. Shucks, that $461.00 doesn't even include what our wood cost at $175.00 a cord, and two chimney sweeps a year at the same price each time.

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.

Garage Sales
Maybe poor people buy their clothes and kitchenware at garage sales. They didn't have those when I was a kid. We bought from the Goodwill; clothes, furniture and anything else that was cheap. When did garage sales get started? Betty and I were talking about it and decided it was probably the early seventies when the craze really hit and there hasn't been a let-up since. We've even had some ourselves, and back when we first moved out to the farm, garage sales were a source of a lot of small tools and things I was constantly discovering I needed. We went to lots of garage sales back then, searching for bargains--and found them! Nowadays we hardly ever go to one. We have everything we could possibly want, other than knocking a couple of dozen years off our ages.

A Writer's Delight
I received an email from my publisher regarding the novel Space Trails, the one published right before Warp Point. Following is an excerpt:
I've had an assistant since June 2006. Part of her duties is as a First Reader for new
submissions. For fun, I let her read Space Trails. She said "You've got to publish this.
I haven't read a book of this caliber in some time." She is not a SF fan.

Now isn't reading something like that a delightful experience for a writer? I sure thought so!

Last Notes
The kitchen is still torn up and neither Betty nor I can find things half the time. Her son Mike is doing the re-modeling and can only work one day a week on it so the project is going kind of slow. We'll both be glad when it's finished!

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.

Darrell Bain
Shepherd, Texas
April 2007

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