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February 2006

Author of the Year, Dern Spell Checker, Books Report, Calvin & Hobbes, Newspapers, Top E-Book, Winter, Current Projects, & More

Fictionwise Author of the Year
I've been busy this last week answering all the congratulations from being named Fictionwise Author of the Year. Lois McMaster Bujold and Anne McCaffrey were runnerups. That's some pretty august company!

One of my E-books, Alien Infection, was also one of the best selling E-books of the year, as reported by The International Digital Publishing Forum.

Now with that kind of following, I'd like to know where all the big NY publishers are? Yoo Hoo! Anyone listening? An agent, perhaps?

Spell Checkers
I learned something new about the Microsoft Works spellchecker. I had no idea it wouldn't flag misspelled words when they're all in capital letters. That led to a really bad goof. My best selling short story at both eReader.com and Fictionwise.com is titled UNFORSEEN REWARD. The correct spelling is UNFORESEEN. However, not a single complaint, which goes to show even editors depend too much on spell checkers. Also that a lot of people besides me don't know how to spell unforeseen.

My newspaper carrier is the bane of my life. I can't get my day started right until I've read the newspaper front to back, saving the comics for last of course, just like all good desserts. Anyway, the carrier can't get on a schedule. We live in the country, way back from the blacktop road, and I have to drive up to look for the paper now that I'm not walking very well because of back problems. There's no telling when the paper will get here. I spend more money on gas going to look than I do on the paper, and each time it's not there, I become increasingly aggravated. I rarely use curse words, and am usually very even tempered, but by about the third trip, when the sun has been up an hour and I'm ready to begin writing some paying copy and still no paper, I start to cuss like the proverbial sailor. Grrr. If he's going to be late, why can't he at least be late on a schedule?

I've been seeing a lot of publicity lately about the new Sony E-book reader. It uses the newly developed E-ink technology that promises to revolutionize some forms of media. It can't come too soon for me. I'd love to get up in the morning, download my paper, and be able to read it with my first cup of coffee. Maybe it will come soon, but I bet I'll have to pay a premium to get it without the ads! Or heck, I'd settle for it with the ads. In fact, now that I think about it, I bet it won't be available until they can send it to you complete with all the advertising and classifieds.

Newspapers have hung on so far, despite the Internet and television and gaming. Even with the aggravation of living so far from the source of The Houston Chronicle, Betty and I love our morning paper. Even with a carrier who obviously doesn't own an alarm clock, we still love it. So far I've found nothing on the net to substitute. News feeds aren't complete and don't satisfy like holding the big crinkly paper in my hands while reared back in my easy chair with a cup of coffee. A cigarette or two used to go good with it as well, but those days are in the past.

Nicotrol Inhaler
Speaking of cigarettes, I'm going to do a little advertising for a product myself. I smoked heavily for decades. Not only did I smoke, I enjoyed smoking. It was only the expense and my health that finally induced me to quit. I tried all the regular methods, from cold turkey to chewing gum and nothing worked until the Nicotrol inhaler came on the market. It's a little gadget that you insert cartridges of pure nicotine into and inhale it like a cigarette. One cartridge, which costs about a dollar, is the equivalent of only one cigarette. I use one cartridge every three or four days, a far cry from three to four packs a day I was smoking. I haven't had a cigarette in years and don't miss them so long as I have my little inhaler with me. My lungs have cleared up, the house smells good again, and I can "smoke" anywhere I damn well please and it only costs me about thirty cents a day.

Okay, that's the story. There's only one drawback. You have to have a doctor's prescription for the inhalers. Don't ask me why. It makes about as much sense as having to get a doctor's prescription for a pair of pants. You can buy enough tobacco to give lung cancer to a small nation or a herd of elephants without a prescription, yet you can't buy a harmless inhaler, with none of the tars, gases and other carcinogens in it that cigarettes contain? Big brother has his blinders on. In fact, I'll go so far as to say it verges on the criminal to forbid over the counter sales of this great product. It may not be for everyone but it sure got rid of the cigarettes for me. I get one package of 120 inhalers a year. Anyway, if you smoke and have tried other methods of quitting without success, I recommend this one. If you decide to try them, write me and I'll give you a few hints about how to use them most effectively.

Book Report
Betty was really pleased with her Christmas gift, the complete collection of Calvin & Hobbes. After she finished I read it too, and spent days howling with laughter. What an obnoxious, imaginative little kid! And what a great talent! Reminds me of myself at six years old. Instead of a stuffed tiger that came to life and turned into a real tiger, Mother says I played with an imaginary purple alligator. My excuse is that we were so poor we had to think up our own amusements, but don't ask where I got a purple alligator from. I haven't a clue, but perhaps it was a harbinger of my love for reading in general and science fiction in particular.

I also read "Knife man," the biography of the 18th century surgeon John Hunter. He was at least a century ahead of his time.

When I read "Rising Tide," the history of the great 1927 Mississippi flood, much of the political maneuvering could hardly be distinguished from what went on today when Katrina pulverized New Orleans and the Mississippi coast. Politicians and money men were just as venial and self centered back then as they are today. Little has changed, unfortunately. I did learn a lot of new and fascinating things about the history of attempts to control the Mississippi River and history of the Mississippi Delta, as well as how a few men controlled New Orleans and the delta without holding elective office. Anyone who didn't grow up in the segregated south could also gain some insight into the way blacks were treated back in those days as well. It's a good read.

I'm still on a courtroom drama and detective kick. This month it was Steve Martini's Books. He's real good. I also read a good one by Barry Reed, The Choice. I guess courtroom drama is the modern equivalent to gladiators fighting it out in the arenas of ancient Rome. These kind of novels are frequently written by lawyers with extensive courtroom experience. The techniques used to sway juries bring me to realize all over again what weird rules we use in trials. Most of them were thought up by lawyers, of course, to give them more room to obfuscate matters and help the jury to decide in their favor, regardless of the fairness of such techniques. I think I'd like to see trials where juries could ask questions and where defendants and/or plaintiffs were allowed to elaborate on their answers. Many questions can't be accurately answered in context with a simple yes or no.

I've served on five juries in our county since we moved here, so I speak from personal experience as well as from my reading. One thing I was impressed with (and surprised by) while doing my civic duty, is the astuteness of our young people when serving on a jury. I found the eighteen and nineteen year old members were frequently better qualified and more fair minded than older people. There may be some hope for the future of the country after all if the young men and women I've seen on juries are any indication.

Book Discussion Group
A fan was inspired by The Melanin Apocalypse (print version not out yet) and has started a discussion group for my books. The address is http://groups.yahoo.com/group/DarrellBain for those interested in joining. I find it sort of odd in a way to have a discussion group for just my books, but it is a very nice compliment. I try to tell a good story and I suppose it's inevitable that parts of an author's beliefs and personality will creep into the writing. I will make a disclaimer here: what my characters do and say may not necessarily reflect things I would do or say. With that caveat, I have promised to drop in on the group from time to time and add a comment or two.

Movie Option
I just signed an option agreement for a movie based on the book The Sex Gates. This has always been my best selling book (and among the best selling ebooks ever) and has become a Cult Classic already in the SF world. It's sometimes hard to find in bookstores but can readily be purchased at Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble.com. Bookstores will also order it if you're interested. The movie, if produced, will be based on the collaboration with Jeanine Berry. The original version, written without a collaborator, and appropriately enough titled The Original Sex Gates Novel is out in an ebook version. A print edition will be available soon.

Also on the subject of movies, if anyone would like to see a clip of the short movie being produced based on my short story "The Good Book," the link is www.greenhornent.com. That story is contained in my collection, Around the Bend, available in print and ebook editions.

What I would really like to see is a movie/television series based on my Williard Brothers series. I think it would make a neat movie/series, based on three aging but still adventurous war vets always trying to make a financial killing and never quite succeeding, accompanied, of course by their girl friends. Lots of room for flashbacks of their crazy adventures for a TV series. I've also introduced strong female characters into the series. I love writing those books. The zany brothers and their girlfriends have become almost like real people to me. I'm glad the books are making their way into print now, for those who don't read ebooks. The first, Postwar Dinosaur Blues, is out in print now, with two others to follow this year.

Current Projects
I'm working on a SF novel which takes place in the next century. In it, I'm looking at the opposite coin of what I did with The Melanin Apocalypse. Now I'm writing about a future where whites are the minority and are segregated and discriminated against, as well as used for virtual slave labor and as guinea pigs to test the habitability of alien planets before dark skinned colonists are brought in. To get a feel, I took out my old copy of "Mandingo." That book gives me the creeps, reading about how some of my ancestors treated blacks during the slave days of the old South. Interesting all the same, though. I don't believe in ignoring problems by not reading about them, whether they occur in the past, present or future. Slavery and discrimination is a problem that's plagued mankind all our recorded history. There seems to be something in the human psyche, the way our brains are wired, which predisposes us to treat anyone different from our own group as inferior, whether it be on the basis of race, religion, economic status or a hundred other factors. I don't expect such practices to end in my lifetime and probably not for the foreseeable future, unfortunately.

I'm also periodically working on another Williard Brothers novel, spurred on by the fans of those characters. Even my stepdaughter says Postwar Dinosaur Blues is one of her favorite books and she reads a lot.

For a change, these are the only two books I have going, other than the collaboration with Gerry Mills.

We live about sixty miles north of Houston and consequently have relatively mild winters. Nevertheless, it does get well below freezing down this way on numerous occasions. Shucks, last year there was even snow, quite a bit of it, well southwest of Houston, the first they had seen in about a hundred years. My point is, I don't like cold weather! I've never liked it, not since the days when I had to get up at four in the morning to throw a paper route in Shreveport, Louisiana all through my early and mid teens. And I began to actually hate cold weather, dating from an experience back when I was seventeen and in basic training. We were left to stand in ranks in windy, freezing weather for about forty five minutes dressed only in fatigues. No coats. I began shivering violently, then slowly froze solid. I can't remember ever being so cold, or so glad to begin moving, even though we were headed for KP duty. I'm sure the marines at the Chosin reservoir during the Korean War would laugh themselves silly at me thinking that was cold. All I can say is that I truly admire the men who suffered through that magnificent fighting withdrawal during an extremely cold, snowy, windy December in the mountains of Northern Korea.

Rescue in 'Nam
And that brings me to the final subject of this month's newsletters. The Vietnam war is ancient history to the young people of the country now. Perhaps they've heard stories from parents, uncles or family friends but it must seem far away and long ago to them. I'm still planning on putting together a book about my brother Gary. In the meantime, I'd like to refer you to a story on his web site, www.videoexplorers.com It's under the videos link but you can go directly to it here http://www.videoexplorers.com/real.htm

All too often we don't realize what some of our young men and women go through when they don the uniforms of our country's military. This story involves a couple of rescues by the "Jolly Greens," the rescue helicopters. I won't describe it here, but take my word for it; it's well worth reading.

What I would really like to see on Gary's site, or if it's short enough, in this newsletter, is some stories from the nurses and female corpsmen who worked the hospitals and treatment centers in Vietnam. They haven't received nearly enough recognition. Any stories about nurses, or any other females who served in Vietnam for that matter, would be great, but I'm particularly interested in any from nurses who were at the 17th Field Hospital in late 1968 when the Viet Cong came through the wire almost on top of the nurses barracks. If anyone knows, or has heard of that story, or knows any of the people involved in it, please write to me or Gary at our web sites.

And I believe this will do it for the February edition.
Best wishes and Happy Reading to you all.

Darrell Bain
Shepherd, Texas
February 2006

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