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April 2009

This newsletter may be copied and sent to both friends and enemies with the stipulation that the source www.darrellbain.com is noted and the copyright notice is noted and included as follows:
Bainstorming: Darrell's Bain's Newsletter.
Copyright © April 2009, By Darrell Bain

Responses to subjects brought up by this newsletter are welcome. I can be contacted by e-mailing me from my website.

Subjects this month:  
Kindle report, Apt quotes, Excerpts, A Gary funny, Title question, Pleasant exercise, Concentration, Computer fix, Book report, Tonto's crisis, Progress report, Parents of special needs kids, Small town prices, Hidden aggravation, Excerpt from The Disappearing Girls.


Kindle report
My brother gave me a Kindle book reader for Christmas, but I only received it in March. I'm pleased to say I am impressed! You really can download a book in less than a minute if you know what you're looking for. And even if you don't it's fun to browse in the Kindle store.

Well, a note here. Kindle should take a lesson from the Fictionwise ebook store and include a little blurb with the book covers, title and author. In fact, you can buy books at Fictionwise, download them to your computer and email them to your kindle so I may wind up doing most of my shopping at Fictionwise unless they start using blurbs. Otherwise you spend a lot of time and battery power going to the next page to see what the book is about.

I could also wish for a little less emphasis on best sellers because that's about all you see at first and the prices aren't too much lower than what you'd pay in a book store. That could just be sour grapes though because those of my books on the Kindle aren't national best sellers, only bestsellers in the other ebook stores.

Nevertheless, you can really buy lots and lots of books for about five bucks and the Kindle will carry over a thousand books in its memory! That ought to be enough for anyone's summer vacation! The newspapers you can subscribe to with the Kindle still don't get it. When I subscribe to a newspaper, I want to see the comics! I hope someone with the Houston Chronicle is reading this, and I don't care if you can find the comics online, I want them waiting on me first thing in the morning!

Battery life is very good (I've read several books without recharging) so long as you leave the whispernet off. So far I haven't forgotten and left either the whispernet or the reader itself on by accident (and that's remarkable for me!).

Apt Quotes
You're not perfect yourself, so don't expect anyone else to be. - Darrell Bain

A gaffe in Washington is when a politician accidentally tells the truth. - Michael Kinsley

Creative minds are rarely tidy. -- Unknown

Excerpts from many of my most popular novels are available in a free pdf.

A Gary funny.
This is from my brother Gary:

Barb and I went to Wal-Mart and as we were checking out this cute 'lil checker-outer put a small watermelon Barb bought in the white plastic bag. As she looked up I said to her in all seriousness and in a stern voice," You didn't put my watermelon in there upside down did you?" The poor girl was so taken aback and confused all she could do was stutter-haha!! Got her good, I did! -G

Title question
My book about a self-aware quantum computer had considerable input from Travis S. Taylor, Ph.D. Travis is a renowned scientist and a science fiction writer as well. One area where we disagreed was the title. While there was still a possibility of him being the co-author he wanted to title it "An Unintended Consequence" while I favored "Quanty" as a title, for the name of the intelligent computer. If he had wound up as co-author the title would most likely have been his choice. I'm hopeful it will have good sales anyway. I suppose I just liked that impudent computer I invented so much I wanted the book to bear its name, Quanty. Since the name doesn't mean too much unless you read the book, I may miss some sales from people who look at titles for meanings but if so, I'm still satisfied. I believe it's a good book and a better one for Travis' input even though he isn't listed as co-author. It should be out soon.

Pleasant exercise
I've written about how Betty joined me in the bad back club and how we now "exercise" together. This consists of putting a couple of pillows under our stomachs, propping on our elbows and reading for 15 minutes twice a day. This stretches the veterbrae apart and relieves some of the pressure that causes our pain. At first it was strenuous, believe it or not, but after getting used to it the exercise isn't that bad. Shucks it couldn't be when it gives us a chance to lay down and read together. It beats hell out of a lot of exercise and really does appear to lessen the pain.

Computer Fix
For the last six or eight months I've been bothered by shadow lines on my monitor. I talked to the service people at Dell who have my service contract. Well, actually I talked to a guy somewhere across the ocean in Boola Boola land I couldn't understand. I gave up on him and tried again a few days later and got someone I could marginally understand. He insisted it was a software problem. I'm not very smart about computers but even I knew that wasn't right. He refused to let me talk to his supervisor. A month or so later I tried again. Same thing. I gave up on Dell and started searching the internet. Over a period of time I found three other similar problems. All had purportedly been solved by replacing the video card. Not knowing what else to do, I paid a local computer service to do replace mine. The shadow lines went away but came back the next day worse than ever. The computer guy was very nice. He came back out and put my original video card back in and refunded the money for the part. I decided I'd just have to work with the shadow lines until it was time for a new computer. Then the next day I accidentally bumped my monitor. The shadow lines moved. Hmm. I moved the monitor into various position and the shadow lines got better and worse and better. I pressed down on the monitor and they almost disappeared. I made sure the plugs were all in securely and pressed down on it again to get it seated really good. The shadow lines disappeared and have never come back. Problem solved, no thanks to the outsourced customer service.

Our dog Biscuit should have been written up as an example of concentration. When we'd go to the bank and go through the drive-in, the tellers would always put a doggie biscuit in the carrier for him. From the instant I sent it to the tellers he would hang half out the window, unmoving, eyes, fixed, a total study in unwavering concentration as he waited for the carrier to return. One time when they were out of doggie biscuits he thought the world had come to an end!

Book report
Frank Riley is the author of They'd Rather Be Right, a novel written 40 years or more ago about an intelligent computer that is still just as apt today as when it was first published. I've always enjoyed stories of intelligent, sapient computers. Some of my favorites are When Harlie Was One, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress and The Adolescence of P-1. Riley gives us a lot of detail and some very astute insights into human nature, psychology and politics among other underlying themes in his novel. Read it, you'll like it!

And yes, I've just finished my own novel about a self-aware computer. Its title is Quanty. It will be available as an e-book first at Kindle, Sony and Fictionwise, probably by the end of April, and will be in print a month or two after the e-book edition comes out.

Cheating Death by George J. Marrett is a non-fiction book dealing with the rescue of American pilots in Vietnam and Laos. It is very good. The author flew the A-1 Skyraider, a prop driven airplane that was used both as a bomber/fighter, and as a slower moving plane to keep the enemy away from downed pilots. Marrett doesn't confuse you with a lot of military technology or jargon and he does make you feel almost as if you're flying with him.

I'm going to meet some former Skyraider pilots at the reunion of all the men who were involved in the rescue of my brother after his F-4 Phantom jet was shot down by anti-aircraft fire in Laos. I've already bought the tickets for Betty and I to go. It will probably be hard on our backs but I'm sure it will be worth it to meet the gang who rescued Gary and kept the bad guys away until the Jolly Green helicopter got to the site. You can read Gary's account of the drama at www.videoexplorers.com

Tonto's crisis
Tonto is a dachshund as most of my readers know. Sometimes he gets more fan mail than I do and this has been particularly true lately. This was brought forcefully to my attention when I reported him sick to a couple of groups. He got lots and lots of mail.

What happened is that we woke up one day and saw Tonto was having problems walking. We took him to the vet and by the time he was X-rayed and back home we knew he had calcified disk disease that was pinching a nerve so badly he couldn't walk at all. He is on steroids now and gradually getting better. The crisis came the third or fourth day when he suddenly threw up some blood. I rushed him to the vet again and that was one wild trip.

Betty had gone to get some items we needed 20 miles away and my only transportation was my 25 year old truck. Tonto is scared of loud noises and that old rattletrap of a truck provided plenty of them, especially on the country roads before I got to the highway. Suffice to say he panicked! I had to drive one handed while holding a squirming dog that wasn't supposed to be moving at all except going to potty. I was scared to death he was going to really injure himself worse than he already was and it only got worse as we hit the highway and he heard the noises of the 18 wheelers going by. I was worried and stressed about as much as Tonto-and then my oil light came on. I debated with myself over whether to stop or go on and risk ruining the truck. It wasn't much of a debate. As far as I knew Tonto was still bleeding internally. I said to hell with it, if I ruin the truck at least I can make it to the vet first. As it turned out, the bleeding had stopped and the vet cut down on the steroids.

At this date, March 11, Tonto is gradually getting better but also getting spoiled. He can walk some now but waits and expects us to carry him most places. He's also such a peripatetic little dog that he gets bored easily and quickly caught on to the fact that if he pretended he had to pee or potty we'd carry him outside. Another thing is having to get up several times at night with him which interrupts our sleep patterns. We're tired when we get up and get tireder as the day wears on. I don't know the ending of the story yet, but I hope it is a happy one. At any rate it's another couple of weeks before I have to send this in so I'm sure I'll add to it. In the meantime, see the next segment of Bainstorming.

Note: As this goes live on my web site, Tonto is back to happily shoveling straw and acting almost like his normal idiot-savant self.

Progress report
The Y Factor, the sequel to Human by Choice has been edited. An ARC e-book copy is now available at http://twilighttimesbooks.com/ttb_arc_order.html . It should be available at all the e-book stores soon and will eventually be in print Winter 2009.

Starship Down and Galactic Frontiers are now in pint as well as e-book versions.

One of my earliest books, Tales From A Texas Christmas Tree Farm is now available as an ebook at most places such as Fictionwise.com, the Sony store and Kindle. In fact, just about all my books are available on the Kindle.

I haven't written anything this month because of all the attention Tonto required and because of a death in the family. When I get back to writing, I will be working on a novel tentatively titled The Long Way Home.

Parents and Special Needs Kids
Caring for an invalid dog quickly made us realize what parents of Special Needs children must go through. Caring for Tonto was absolutely exhausting. A lot of it was stress but a lot of it was physical exercise. Betty and I are both old and we both have bad backs.

Picking up a 20 pound dog forty times a day was hard on us and coaxing him into taking his medicine was almost as hard. Getting up at night with him numerous times when he had diarrhea from the medicine was stressful and sometimes he didn't wake us in time which meant cleaning up messes, washing rugs and cleaning carpets or floors. After little more than a week of Tonto being ill we were both wondering how much longer it would last and in the meantime doing our level best not to get aggravated with Tonto because it wasn't his fault. I haven't done any fiction writing at all since his illness began and don't expect to for another couple of weeks.

I really don't know how parents of Special Needs kids handle it on a day in and day out basis for years and years. They have to be absolutely wonderful people. Betty and I can only admire them.

Small town prices
Here's a good example of prices in a small town. We can take the two dachshunds into town and get their nails clipped, have them bathed and have their anal glands expressed for only eleven dollars each. In the city that would probably come to thirty or forty dollars each. Not only that, the folks who do the work are pleasant and care about the pups. They asked about Tonto when he was having his problems and couldn't come in.

Hidden aggravation
I may have written about this before. I've been writing Bainstorming for over three years now and I'm beginning to forget some of the content of past issues. Nevertheless I'm going to put this little piece in here. I'm sure it has a moral but I'm undecided what it might be. I can see where one might think of an obvious one but a little musing might make one decide it's not necessarily so. Anyhow, here it is.

For the first thirty years of marriage I aggravated Betty in a way I had no intention of doing and she never said a word about it so I didn't know. When we'd be traveling sometime and be near home or on the way back from a morning trip to Wal-Mart she would ask if I wanted something to eat. Occasionally I wouldn't be hungry but would answer, "I'm not hungry but if you'd like to stop it would be fine with me." And every time she would refuse. I suppose I should have gotten the idea eventually that me saying that aggravated her no end, but I swear I had no idea. I thought I was being nice by offering to stop and let her eat. It was only last year she finally told me. I was astounded because it sounded to me like she had been cutting off her nose to spite her face.

However, some things irritate some people and other things irritate others. At any rate, when she asks that question now I just say "Sure," and we stop. Or I'll suggest we stop first if I have any idea she's wanting to and eat whether I'd rather wait until we get home or not. Such a little thing (or maybe not so little) and I had no idea.

Thanks for reading.

Darrell Bain
Shepherd, Texas
April 2009


Excerpt from The Disappearing Girls

I'm reading this book right now myself. It is one of my earliest works. Frankly, I'm amazed at how well I wrote back in those days before knowing a thing about the craft. Back then I just wrote by the seat of my pants but yet I can't find much fault with this book. In fact, I think it's pretty damn good if I do say so myself.


Teresa Smith waited impatiently for the security guard at the rear entrance of Northpark Hospital, located in the Kingwood section of Houston. The employees' parking lot was already deserted, the rest of the night shift having come and gone while she stayed with a cardiac patient in the emergency room. She felt the weariness of her twelve-hour shift even more than usual. Her shoulders and back ached from bending over desperately ill patients half the night and her feet and ankles hurt so badly that she could almost feel each individual muscle and tendon complaining. She shifted her feet, trying to lessen the pain and made an effort to pull her shoulders back. She hated to slump. Where was the guard? She looked out over the asphalt, shadowed by pin oaks already in full foliage. There were cars and vans and pickup trucks scattered randomly in marked off parking slots, the yellow stripes appearing a dull gray in the wispily clouded moonlight. Teresa had come on duty at noon, when the lot had been overflowing with vehicles and had to park in the farthest corner from the entrance.

Where was the guard? She glanced impatiently at her watch and twisted her neck, trying to get the kinks out. A gulf breeze blew strands of blandish hair around her face and she brushed them away, feeling the dampness there from her last sweat-soaked exertions with the cardiac patient. He hadn't made it, despite all the heroic efforts of the emergency room crew. The death only added to her weariness. It depressed her when that happened, especially to a relatively young person. He had only been fifty three, a salesman attending a convention at one of the hotels near Houston International airport, not all that far from the hospital.

Where was the guard? It had been hospital policy that women leaving work after dark should be escorted to their cars ever since a young nurse had been assaulted in the parking lot a few months before. A flickering of light to the south drew her attention. She turned that way just as lightning flashed again against the clouds in the southwest, harbinger of an approaching thunderstorm coming in off the gulf. She shifted again, nervously, and shoved her hand down into her purse. Her fingers touched her car keys just as the moon came momentarily from behind a blot of approaching clouds. The parking lot brightened measurably. She scanned the expanse of concrete. It was still bereft of persons, but damnit she could see her car, the lines of the General Motors Saturn unmistakable even from this far away.

Where was the guard? He was usually all too ready to escort her to her vehicle when she came off duty. He was famous for paying more attention to attractive women than duty strictly required, taking his time getting them out to their cars or trucks or vans and bantering them with innuendoes that fell just short of sexual harassment while he surreptitiously admired their bodies. Teresa was familiar enough with him. She knew she was attractive and ordinarily didn't mind stares of approval at her slim figure so long as they weren't blatantly sexual, but the guard commonly went rather far in that direction. He made her uncomfortable. Lightning flared again, closer this time, limning dark clouds racing north, toward the city. Teresa suddenly made up her mind not to wait; much longer and she would get wet, either that or be forced into close proximity to the guard while he held his umbrella over them both, and used the opportunity to "accidentally" brush against her. Maybe that was why he was late; perhaps he was holding back until the rain began before making his appearance. Well, she didn't feel like fooling with him tonight, not as tired and depressed from the failed resuscitation as she was. She stepped from beneath the canopied entrance and headed toward her car, walking swiftly.

Teresa detoured around a van, crossed a double row of vacant parking spaces and walked past a large pickup truck, hesitating momentarily just to the side of the cab, checking for the shadowed figure of anyone who might be lurking on the other side. Seeing nothing unusual, she hurried on, now on a direct path toward her car, parked beneath one of the old pin oak trees. Her car keys were already in hand as she approached her vehicle. She stopped, dropping her purse strap from her shoulder to her hand and inserted the key into the lock. She was already twisting the key when she heard a popping noise behind her, like the sudden release of air into a vacuum. Immediately, a rush of wind blew her hair around her face again. She turned at the noise, thinking that the wind had blown an acorn to the pavement, then as a sudden darkness blotted out everything in sight she tried to scream. It was impossible; she was suddenly gasping for breath, trying desperately to suck air back into her lungs. The purse strap slipped from her fingers as she fought against a terrific force pulling her backwards into the blackness. Her last thought was that it couldn't have been an acorn dropping; It was too early in the year for them to have formed yet.


Weston Tamrick had barely set his coffee and donuts down on the one corner of his desk unencumbered with paperwork when he heard his partner's voice behind him.

"Good thing you're here early, Wes. We got another one."

Weston turned around. His partner, Jimmy Thang, was already halfway across the precinct room, coming toward him from Lieutenant Ward's office where the door was just swinging shut. He didn't have to ask what Jimmy was talking about. The set expression on his blandly oriental face was tinged with the frustration they both were feeling since being assigned to the disappearances.

"Where this time?" Weston asked.

"Northpark Hospital. In the parking lot, sometime after midnight." Jimmy pushed some file cases toward the middle of his own desk, clearing a corner of it to sit on. The only time he used his chair was when he was forced to sit in it in order to type case and activity reports into the computer.

Weston glanced at the map of the northern environs of Houston tacked to a large bulletin board set against a wall behind their adjacent desks in the corner of the precinct room they called their office. The board had seen better days. Its frame was weathered and stained with smudges from frequent handling. On the map were sixteen small red circles, scattered seemingly at random, each with a date written neatly beside it.

"Same MO?"

"That's what the Lieutenant thinks. He's getting pissed, too. He wants some action."

Weston shrugged. He couldn't blame Lieutenant Ward. He and Jimmy had made absolutely no progress since being assigned the cases after the seventh--or was it the eighth?-- abduction. He picked up a marker from the narrow trough running along the bottom of the board and scanned the map until he found Kingwood Avenue, then traced the street line to the hospital location. Carefully, he made a seventeenth red circle on the map then stood back to see if it made any difference in establishing a pattern. It didn't, other than the fact that all the marks were located north of the Beltway. He turned away from the map and pulled his chair away from his desk and sat down. Jimmy Thang leaned forward and handed him a hard copy of the latest report. Weston scanned it briefly, picking out the high points in hopes that something would stand out and give him a hint of an abnormal datum, something different or in addition to the other cases.

"You see anything?" Jimmy asked, rummaging in Weston's sack for a donut.

Weston dropped the printout to his desk and pulled the lid off his coffee. It was black and not overly strong. McDonald's might not make very good burgers but he preferred their coffee even if it did mean two stops on the way in, one for coffee and another for donuts. He glanced down at the sparse report while he sipped at the coffee, cursing silently at the old woman who had sued and won a huge settlement from McDonald's over hot coffee she had spilled in her lap. He liked his coffee hot, but now they had lowered the temperature and by the time he got it to the precinct it was only lukewarm. He traced down the report with one finger.

"No witnesses?"

"Same as usual." Jimmy agreed.

"No sign of a struggle?"

Jimmy shrugged. "Not so far as we've heard. We've got uniforms holding down the scene til we get there."

Weston moved his finger down the page and found the time of the disappearance and stopped there. He dropped his half eaten donut back into the bag. He looked up at his partner. "Jesus Christ, Jimmy, the woman disappeared at midnight. Why weren't we called in earlier?"

"Read on. There was a security guard involved who was supposed to have escorted her to her car after she got off. He didn't turn up until after one o'clock. They found him in a linen closet diddling one of the housekeepers. After that, the hospital folks spent an hour reaming his ass out then wasted some more time searching the grounds before they called us."

Weston turned that over in his mind, feeling his pulse increase. "You think there's a connection with the guard?"

"Could be. At first he claimed he had escorted her, then finally confessed that he hadn't."

"Maybe we're finally going to get a break."


Weston stared at his partner. Jimmy was new to homicide. He still wore his suits as if he missed his uniform, every now and then feeling about his waist as if still wearing a gun belt rather than carrying his weapon in a shoulder holster. For all that, Weston was beginning to like him. Jimmy tended not to speculate without cause and worked as if he had memorized the procedure manual. His tone of voice hadn't been very convincing, though.

"You don't think he was in on it?" "Doesn't seem likely, unless her body turns up on the premises. I don't think it will."

Weston ran his finger along the next paragraph. "Keys still in the car door. Purse on the ground. No sign of a struggle. I don't think so either. Shit. Well, maybe something will turn up at the scene."

"I hope to hell something turns up somewhere. Whoever is doing the snatching must be one smart son of a bitch."

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