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February 2007

  From the old computer and new desks 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.

Political Story, Betty's Christmas, Car Trouble, Bureaucratic Blundering, Progress Report and more.

Political Story
I couldn't sleep the other night and while staring into the darkness in bed, I came up with an idea for a political system I think would solve the world's problems if it could somehow be put into effect. Since I doubt that it can or will be implemented in the foreseeable future, I simply wrote a short story about it. The title is A Simple Idea. You'll find it at Fictionwise.com and eReader.com. It really is a nifty idea if I do say so myself. I think my readers will enjoy it.

Betty's Christmas Book Gifts
One nice thing about being a reader, and being married to a reader, is that you're never going to be stumped for a gift to the other. Betty and I usually give each other lots of small gifts at Christmas rather than one or two major ones, then have lots of fun each opening a gift in turn, always by ourselves after the company has gone or before they get up on Christmas morning. I always find at least half a dozen books I think Betty will enjoy. Ever since we've been married I've heard her tell about the very first book she actually owned rather than borrowed, Little Women, and how many times she re-read it as a youngster. So this year I bought her a copy. She hadn't read it since she was a teenager and thoroughly enjoyed visiting an old dear friend again. This is amazing in a way, since this book was written back during Civil War Days, yet is still in print today. And whether most folks know it or not, it is one of the most influential novels in American history, giving women a pattern they followed for more than half a century--and remnants of it still hang on today. I'm not saying all the behavior and habits Little Women instilled in so many women were all good, I'm just saying it happened.

Speaking of Betty, she has some new material up at Fictionwise.com and eReader.com. The title is Nurses In Your Home. This is a truly heart-warming combination of two articles she's written. The first has been widely read and is included in my anthology Around The Bend. The other is a complementary article to the first and was written years ago but just recently discovered while we were remodeling the office. I'm extremely pleased to present these two pieces together for the first time. Fair warning: Have a hanky handy before you start reading. You'll need it!

Eyelid Surgery Results
I had a note the other day from a reader wanting to know the results of my bilateral blepheroplasty operation. After the swelling and black eyes disappeared and the stitches finally fell out, I can see so much better that I'm going to have to get my glasses changed. I can read regular print now without glasses and only have to use them for smaller print. Why did I wait so long?

Car Trouble
We're having car trouble of the worst kind: a problem the mechanics aren't sure how to repair other than trying one thing after another. Water is somehow getting to the passenger's side of our 1996 mercury Marquis even though the seals look pretty good. There's several other things that might be causing it, but unfortunately it will cost a lot of money to find out which unless we get lucky the first time. I'm waiting until the storms tonight are over so I can absolutely rule out the seals, then will take it in and leave it Sunday and hope for the best. In the meantime, I'm still driving the little Toyota truck I bought back in 1984 and the only thing that's ever gone wrong is the air conditioning. I haven't bothered having it fixed because I only use it to go to the road to fetch the mail and/or newspaper.
Note: of all the possible causes people told me would cause water on the passenger side of the car floor, none of them were right. None of the mechanics were right. My mechanic admitted he was baffled so I told him to peel back the carpet so he could tell when water got there, then tear into the car and find the problem. He did. The new part cost twelve dollars. The labor was two hundred dollars. It is fixed though.

Bureaucratic Blundering
I got real mad yesterday. The SS department was supposed to begin holding out the money for Betty's Medicare Rx program, same as me, way last year, but they never started even though the billing department at AARP said it was being done. Well, I could look at Betty's check and see it wasn't, so I kept paying with the coupons they sent when we first signed up. Now it's a new year and no more coupons so I called AARP a couple of weeks ago to tell them to do something. They said they'd contact billing and they'd get back to me but they never did. I called again and the woman said she couldn't do anything about it because it was a SS problem. I called SS and they said they couldn't do anything about it because it was an AARP problem. Catch-22. Both women were very rude and huffy and couldn't be made to understand.

Finally I just filled out a form for them to have it withheld from our checking account to be sure it's paid, but now SS will probably suddenly start withholding it, too, and really cause a hassle. By the way, do you all know where the phrase Catch-22 came from? It's the title of a novel of WWII by Joseph Heller, a very satirical look at the military mind. I thought of him while I was writing Medics Wild. And I sure thought of him while the above was going on. I'm still ticked off about it. What ever happened to polite, helpful service? There sure seems to be a dearth of it nowadays.

The Original Sex Gates Novel
For those who would like a print copy of "The Sex Gates" as it was originally written by me, it is now available in print at Lulu.com.

It has a completely different ending than the original, and it contains one more major character and several more supporting ones. In this original version, all questions are answered and all issues resolved in this one book. It is being published now in response to all the fan mail and interest the trilogy written with Jeanine Berry generated and continues to generate. "The Sex Gates" has already become a science fiction cult classic and this book should be a significant addition to the sex gates universe.

Progress Report
Warp Point, my latest novel, is out in an e-book edition now. I've already started getting mail about it. I really do like it when readers comment on my work, regardless of whether it's good or bad (but of course I like the good comments better).

Other than that, I've just barely started several stories and novels, none of them yet far enough along to say much about. The latest Williard Brothers novel is still languishing while I try to think of a way to get them out of the trouble they're in and the book about Tonto the wonder dog saving humanity from alien invaders is at the same point. I'll wake up one morning with an idea of how to finish them but I don't know when it will be.

Also, as noted above, I have a nifty new short story out, a political piece in a way, but it's pure science fiction. But oh how I wish the system depicted in the story could be put into practice! The title, as noted above is A Simple Idea.

And finally, (the newsletter is written intermittently) I've gotten back to the Williard Brothers, taking them out of the frying pan but putting them right back into the fire. Maybe I'll get that book finished this year. It's at about 40,000 words right now.

Note: Warp Point is really off and running. It had over two hundred downloads at Fictionwise just the first ten days it was out and continues to sell briskly. That makes me happy and my publisher happy.

Book Report
This past month I thought I had finally found a good history of WWI. Jeff Shaara's To The Last Man was fairly decent, but still not up to the standards of Ferenbach, for instance. I'll keep looking. There must be a good, readable history of "The Great War" out there somewhere. Readers? Help! Continuing on my history kick, I just found out that T. F. Ferhenbach is more than a terrific military historian. I just finished Commanche, his very good--if rather long--history of the Commanche people. I learned a lot of related history from it as well. And since Betty is a native Texan, one of my Christmas gifts to her is Fehrenbach's Lone Star, A history of Texas. She's enjoying it.

I re-read The Education of a Wandering Man by Louis L'Amour. It's a fascinating account of this great western writer's wanderings from the age of fifteen to thirty and the books he read along the way. It's mixed in with some fascinating bits of history from all over the world. I recommend it highly, as well as any of his other books. Please don't dismiss this great writer just because he wrote mostly westerns. For one thing, you can be almost guaranteed that everything in the background of one of his stories is absolutely factual, from the description of the area to the fauna and flora he might mention to the kinds of food the characters eat and the way they cooked it. He was quite a man. Try that Wandering Man book first if you've never read any of his works and you'll see why.

I delved back into David Brin's Uplift Series with Startide Rising and the last of the second uplift trilogy, Heaven's Reach. The second trilogy isn't quite as enjoyable as the first because the multiple viewpoint is a distraction, but if you've read the first trilogy, you just about have to read the second. Brin is an amazingly versatile writer.

For the first time in ages, I re-read Slan by A.E. Van Vogt. The SF classic is still just as good even though it has some flaws, but the writing is so good you don't really notice them until the third or fourth reading. It's on the list as one of the all time great SF novels, just as Startide Rising is.

Also, I just finished reading the biography of a fighter pilot who did little actual fighting but did change the whole outlook of the military for both air and land warfare. His name was John Boyd. The name of the book is Boyd by Robert Coram. Boyd was an amazing man. More people need to know of his contributions. His theories even carried over into business. If you want proof of how good he was, more Marines than anyone else showed up for his funeral--and he was an Air Force Pilot!

I don't know if other authors re-read their own books, but I do. I just finished Crazy Ships, my novel of a very unique and dangerous method of faster than light travel in a future where the world is ruled by giant corporations. I wrote the first part of the book fifteen years ago and finished it up five years ago--and it looks as if my world of giant corporations running things might become true. When I started the book, no one had ever heard the word "Globalization!"

And I bit the bullet and ordered Ten Percent of Nothing by Jim Fisher, describing the agents from hell, Dorothy Deering and her kin, the ones who scammed me out of so much money, along with thousands of others. I urge every writer and would be writer to read this book. It might save you some trouble later on and if nothing else, it's a very interesting book on how easy a scam can be worked on unsuspecting dupes like me.

Our 29th wedding anniversary is New Year's Eve. I didn't pick that date for our marriage just because it's so easy to remember, but because I'm sentimental. It's the anniversary of our first real date. This year I bought a present early and since it wouldn't fit on the shelf in my closet, I asked Betty (without telling her who or what it was for) to keep the wrapped present on her top shelf--and then I promptly forgot ever receiving it. As our anniversary neared, I began getting worried that it had never arrived. I could find no record of it at all and had forgotten where I ordered it from. In despair, I bought a couple more gifts to replace it. Then, Christmas morning, after Betty and I had opened all our Christmas presents, she reminded me of the one in her closet. "Is that package in my closet for Christmas?" she asked. "What package?" I responded. She took me by the hand and led me to her closet and showed me and then, then, the memory came back. There was the missing gift! So Betty really made out like a bandit this year. She got three presents instead of one and that's besides the 29 red roses. I hope I don't start forgetting like this very often--it could get expensive!!

Psychic Search
The search was for lobster tails on New Year's Eve. Betty and I had originally decided to have shrimp for our anniversary dinner, but after thinking about it, we remembered we hadn't had lobster at home for a while so we decided on that. First we thought of a live lobster from Wal-Mart but on the way to get one, we changed our minds and decided to get a couple of big frozen lobster tails with all that good meat. Alas, it turned out that Wal-Mart doesn't carry frozen lobster, only the live ones.

We debated for a moment then decided to try somewhere else, then if we couldn't find the frozen tails, we'd come back and get the live lobster. So next we went to Brookshire Brothers. They didn't have lobster of any kind. The only other grocery store anywhere close (remember, we live way out in the country) was H.E.B. Neither of us thought they would carry them. We started not to even stop, but to go on back to Wal-Mart, but ultimately thought, what the heck, may as well try. We were so certain that H.E.B. wouldn't have them that Betty simply let me out in front of the store so I could run inside and ask. And so I did.

"No, we don't have any frozen lobster tails," the cashier told me. "You're sure?" I asked. "Positive," she said. I turned to go, then something, I don't know what, impelled me to go look for myself. I went back to the frozen meat section and sure enough, there were no frozen lobster tails there. Again I turned to go, but again, something made me hesitate. I saw an employee near the meat section and went over to her and asked. "No," she said. "No lobster." I started to leave, but once again, as if someone or something was guiding me, I turned back. I walked along the meat bins until suddenly I saw the little bell with the sign Ring Bell For Service. I rang the bell. Eventually a gentleman appeared.

"Do you have any lobster tails?" I asked. He started to say no and I started to turn around, search ended. Perhaps it was something in my expression, or perhaps it was that guiding spirit still active and by my side.

"Wait," the man said. "I think we may have just gotten some in, but they haven't been entered into the inventory yet, nor had a price assigned to them. Just in case, how many do you want?"

"Two," I said, "price no object."

"It'll take me a few minutes," the man said. "I'll have to create a label for them so you can check out."

Sure enough, a few minutes later he came back out and handed me a package of two frozen lobster tails, about a pound each. I thanked him and hurried back up to the cashier, knowing that Betty would be wondering what had happened to me. It was then that I noticed the label he had created. Marked for quick sale. $9.99.

I handed the package to the same cashier who had adamantly claimed they had no lobster tails. She looked at them unbelievably for a moment then shook her head and rang them up.

Betty knew my quest had been successful the moment she saw the spring in my step and the expression on my face. But I'm still wondering. What impelled me to persist in the face of denials that the store even had the lobster tails? Was it just dumb stubbornness? I don't think so, since I certainly hadn't done that at Brookshire Brothers. I tend to think it was a psychic phenomena, borne on the mental waves of wanting to satisfy our desire for lobster tails for our anniversary.

Betty broiled them to perfection that night, with twice baked potatoes with cheese and bacon bits and sliced tomatoes on the side. With the champagne, they were delicious, and there was even enough left for a lobster salad the next morning for brunch.

Along with some other events, and our presents to each other, it's an anniversary I think we'll both remember for a long while.

My oldest son, Allan, came up from Houston for an afternoon. It's always good to see him since he isn't in the country all that often. He lives mostly in Thailand these days, working in the personal armor field. I think Betty's cooking was the most impressive part of his visit. He ate more than I ever could even in my best days.

I wish our local TV stations would get some female weatherpersons. Betty's sister was having her 75th birthday party and we wanted to go, but the weathermen forecast steadily falling temperatures and the beginning of an ice storm on that day. Like pluperfect idiots we believed them and drove the ninety miles a day early. The next day when all the nasty weather was predicted, it started off at 45 degrees but instead of falling it rose--all the way to 70 degrees! We felt stupid, but I guess it wasn't a total disaster. At least we did get to go to her party even if we were the only two guests there that day. We just pretended we were a little early!

Now, is there anyone out there who's heard the expression "pluperfect?" Betty hasn't. No one else I've asked has, but I distinctly remember it from my youth.

Wedding Ring
If you remember, in a previous newsletter I described how, by trying to be so careful about not losing my wedding ring when I was in the ICU unit of the hospital and my hands were swelling so much that I had to take it off, I wound up losing it anyway by taking it off and putting it in a special package and Betty put it in her purse. We got home with it, she took the package out of her purse and put it on the counter where her purse lives when its not out spending money and that's the last we saw of it. After turning the house upside down several times over, we sadly had to assume it got inadvertently tossed out in the trash.

One of my anniversary presents from Betty was a new wedding ring. We couldn't match the old one exactly, but it's really nice anyway and I'll feel much better once it arrives and I start wearing a ring again.

For those of you who have been read any of the installments of my memoirs, they are now complete and can all be read at www.darrellbain.com. I have a publisher who wants me to expand them and add more detail and anecdotes and publish them as a book, so that will be one of my projects for 2007.

This has gone on long enough. What say we break off and pick it up again next month. I've still got to get the Williard Brothers and their girl friends out of another jam.

Thanks for reading. Comments on subjects brought up in the newsletter are always welcome.

Darrell Bain
Shepherd, Texas
February 2007

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