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Darrell Bain's Newsletter

September 2007

This newsletter may be copied and/or sent to friends with the stipulation that the source is noted and the copyright notice is included as follows:
Darrell Bain Newsletter
Copyright © September 2007, by Darrell Bain

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

I've added two new sections to the newsletter, beginning this month. When they appear it will be as the last part of the newsletter. The first new section is titled "Notes from Musing." It will cover subjects I think readers might enjoy reading about, but which weren't long enough to justify a subject title. The other new section will be a monthly excerpt of one of my books in print. It will be at the very end of the newsletter. This month's excerpt is from Savage Survival, my first hard cover novel.

FREE Offer: One Advance Reading Copy of SAVAGE SURVIVAL, my first hard cover, to the person who comes up with an acceptable title for my newsletter books. The books will consist of a year of my newsletters, updated and annotated, and come out each year as Vol I, Vol II, etc. in both print and e-book editions. Please send title suggestions with the subject heading: TITLE. All suggestions must reach me in September. I can be contacted from this web site. Thank you and good luck! Darrell Bain

  Subjects this month:

Free Books. Stupidity, Armadillocon, Scary Disease, Shoddy Merchandise, Revenge, Book Reviews, Progress Report, Notes from Musing, Excerpt from Savage Survival

Free Books
If you are not interested in a chance at a free book, then scroll down to the next subject. Otherwise, read on. This month, my free book offer is for the newly released Shadow Worlds. I mentioned it and gave a short description of what it is about (alternate worlds and a dire threat to our own earth) in the August newsletter when it made its debut in print. The description is available in the newsletter archives at my web site here, but I will add that it has gotten excellent reviews. It is available now at all regular sources such as book stores and Amazon, etc.

To receive a free copy of Shadow Worlds, you must be one of the first five persons to send me a mail, either from my web site or your address book, with the words SHADOW WORLDS in the subject line. That's all there is to it. I do ask that if you are one of the ones to receive a free copy, and you enjoy the book, please tell five other people about it. That's all. Oh, yes. I pay the postage, too, so the first five people who mail me with SHADOW WORLDS in the subject line are not out a penny. Thanks for reading and good luck!

Please Note: No overseas unless it is an APO address or you agree to pay the postage (about 8 or 9 dollars).

Wrong Textbooks & Stupidity
Have you ever run across a textbook with an obvious error in it, then when you pointed it out to the person teaching the class, they refused to accept it? In other words, "It's in the textbook. It must be right! Who are you to question such an authority?"

This happened to me while I was in the military. My former wife was taking a dental hygiene course being taught by a Major who was a dentist, of course. At the time I was attending the year-long advanced Medical Laboratory Technician school and we happened to be in the Microbiology section at the time.

Connie came home one day after class and said, "Do you know how many bacteria there are in the human mouth?" No, I didn't know, other than there were plenty, I told her. She picked up her textbook and read proudly, "There are 1028 bacteria in the human mouth!"

I thought for a moment. "That doesn't sound right," I said, "but let me check." Connie looked at me like I was an idiot for not believing a textbook, but I remembered something else I'd read somewhere (and I have zillions of those little factoids banging around in my mind from my eclectic reading habits). It was in a science textbook of some kind, I thought, and it had stated that there were only 1078 atoms in the whole universe (this figure has since been considerably expanded). I knew there was a logarithmic progress in powers of ten, but still…

I went about it methodically. I also knew from even the basic lab course that the resolution of the best light microscope was only 0.2 microns and that bacteria just didn't come any smaller than that, at least none known at the time. I'm going out on a limb here, but I believe any living thing smaller than 0.2 microns will not be a bacteria, and anyway, we're talking about bacteria known at the time. I'm out of date, though, so I stand open to correction. Anyway, I took that as my starting point, presuming every bacteria to be 0.2 microns in all dimensions (even though many in the mouth are much larger), and began multiplying very carefully in order to see how much room would be occupied by the number of bacteria in the mouth as stated by that textbook. By the time I got to 1028 I calculated that many bacteria would occupy somewhere between a quarter and a half of a cubic mile! And that was figuring them all as the very smallest bacteria known! Just to be sure, I took my figures to our math teacher and had him check them for me. The next day he told me he could find no errors at all. I then told Connie her textbook was wrong.

She came back from class the next day and told me her professor (the army major and dental professor) said I was flat wrong. I then took my calculations to him, along with a written summation of my reasoning and the check by the math teacher. He told me, "Well, the bacteria must be compressed." When I told him that bacteria are composed mostly of water and cellulose, neither of which can be compressed much except under tremendous pressure, he said, "Well, you must be wrong somewhere. Why should I believe an enlisted specialist when this book was written by a full professor of dentistry!"

I gave up. Ignorance can be remedied by education, but there's no cure for pig headedness and stupididty. Or as Betty puts it, Ignorance breeds stupidity!

Next month I shall tell about an experience in the 9th grade of high school (as far as I got in high school and I didn't even finish the ninth grade, but never mind) where a teacher demonstrated some of the same attitude and where I found my first textbook error. After that, I'll get off the subject.

Armadillocon Report
Science fiction conventions are fun, but I'm getting to the stage where I really don't like to travel. A bad back and peripheral neuropathy will do that to you and I'm not really old, only 68. However, I did enjoy attending the Armadillocon, meeting some new people, selling some books and most important, being present to receive my trophy. Warp Point, my science fiction novel, won the Dream Realm Award for best science fiction e-book of 2006. It was published by Twilight Times and will appear in print in 2008. It has been one of the best selling e-books of the year.

On the downside, I had intended to introduce Savage Survival, my first hard cover novel, at the convention with a number of Advance Reading Copies. Unfortunately, the books didn't show up until the day after we left for the convention. What I did was print a number of four page excerpts from the novel and staple them to copies of the cover of Savage Survival and hand them out. It was a make-do solution and the best idea I could come up with. Just a note here: The cover is extraordinary and I am extremely pleased with it. However, while www.amazon.com and www.barnesandnoble.com have it listed now for pre-order (issue date is September 28th), they have not yet posted the cover. Therefore, I will show it to you here:

Savage Survival    

There. Isn't that a great cover?

I did notice when I got back that both www.barnesandnoble.com and www.amazon.com now have Savage Survival listed for pre-order and it is available for pre-order in book stores now. This is a Special Limited Edition and only 500 copies of it will be available for this first edition so get your order in early! It is designed to be a collector's item. It will be reissued in a later edition, but this is the first!

And here's something new: If you'd like to hear the protagonist of Savage Survival, Lyda Brightner, answer some questions, please go to the blog "It's My Turn To Talk" at www.mycharacters.blogspot.com. Lyda will appear beginning the week of September the 14th and running through the 20th. Now isn't this a great idea? Having the hero answer some leading questions? I promise, you'll be entertained and have your curiosity piqued by the questions put to her and the answers she gives. This will not be included in the book, by the way, so trying the blog at the url given is the only way to read this!

NOTE: Scroll to the end of the newsletter to read an excerpt of savage survival, then pre-order it from Amazon, B&N or your favorite bookstore!

Scary Disease
Shortly after the August newsletter was published, I woke up one night about eleven o'clock with a terrible pain in my left eye. It felt as if the surface of my eyeball was being cut to pieces with a dull knife or rubbed with coarse sandpaper. The last time I had anything hurt so bad was when I accidentally had boiling water poured over my hand. Naturally I thought I had got something under the eyelid and it was rubbing. I'm sure you all know how a little speck of matter can feel like it is big as baseball when it gets in your eye. I went into the bathroom to try to wash whatever it was out, with no success. I tried pulling my eyelid back to see what it was but the pain was so intense it was making both eyes stream tears. Finally I had no choice. I woke Betty.

She had no more success then me at locating the offending particle, if that's what it was. Eye drops were no help at all, so fearing for my sight—the worst thing I can think of in the way of illness—Betty led me to the car and we headed to the emergency room.

Fortunately, it was a slow Sunday night. I was seen within thirty minutes or so, shortly after midnight. The doctor examined me and said it looked as if I had an abrasion of some sort, but I could tell he didn't think what he saw was severe enough to be causing that much pain.

Next, he told me to brace myself. He put some drops of something in my eye that practically made me scream because they increased the pain so much. Then miraculously, about thirty seconds later all the pain went away!

I don't know what he used, but I could have kissed the doctor because the relief was so great. He told me to see an ophthalmologist the first thing in the morning and sent me home.

The pain returned, but nothing like it had been before. I took an extra pain pill ordinarily used for the neuropathy and my back and finally got back to sleep.

I wasn't able to see the ophthalmologist until noon the next day. He examined me and within twenty seconds had the diagnosis: Shingles of the Eye!

Betty and I both worked in medicine for nearly thirty years but neither of us had ever heard of shingles of the eye. Apparently it isn't that uncommon, although not nearly so prevalent as other types of shingles.

Shingles, in case you haven't read about it, is caused by the virus from childhood Chicken Pox, which then hangs around in the body until you get older and your immune system becomes weaker. The virus then travels through the network of nerves and pops up as shingles. About half the older population will eventually get a case of shingles if they had Chicken Pox as a child.

What was scary in my case was that the ophthalmologist told me there was about a 40% chance it would return.

Fortunately, when I told my family doctor about the experience a few days later, he informed me that a shingles vaccine had just been approved by the FDA. I have a prescription for the vaccine and intend to get it tomorrow. From all reports, it is pretty effective. I certainly hope so. I never want to experience that again. After doing some research on the internet and finding that return bouts of shingles of the eye can cause all kinds of problems, including blindness, I want to get that vaccine yesterday!!

Note: I did! It costs three hundred dollars but believe me, it's worth it to prevent shingles, especially of the eye!

Shoddy Merchandise
If you're anything like me and Betty, you probably get awfully aggravated on occasion at the poor workmanship found in many products. Or perhaps it isn't even the workmanship sometimes, but the materials. Regardless, corporations have become so fixated on "the bottom line" that they cut corners where they shouldn't and ultimately drive customers away. Take lawn mowers for example. We bought our first lawn tractor several years after moving out to the farm. It was made by Montgomery Ward. Originally we used it only for to mow our three acre yard (and don't ask me why we made the yard that big because I don't know). Soon, though, we were using it to mow between the rows of our Christmas trees when we decided to open a Choose and Cut Christmas tree farm back in the early eighties. At first we were only going to do it for a hobby and for something to bring in extra income. However, I found that I liked doing it and was about burned out on medicine by that time, especially with AIDS looming ever larger in the national consciousness. We named out little lawn tractor Tinker Bell and used it for years to mow the trees and the yard both. It hardly ever gave us any problems and it would mow anything. I could take it through knee high grass growing in mud and Tinker Bell never slowed down or bogged up with cut grass.

In the end, we just about worked poor Tinker Bell to death, but when we bought a new one we gave her to our son-in-law Rob to use and he mowed with it for another few years around their house.

Our next mower wasn't nearly as good. We bought a Murray brand at Wal-Mart, a middle of the line mower just as Tinker Bell had been. We found out quickly that it wouldn't mow wet grass like Tink always would. A few turns around the yard and the cut grass gums up beneath the flange that throws the grass out sideways, stopping the mower from cutting. Each time, it is necessary to get off (thus killing the motor, a safety feature but I hate it) and use a stick to break the clotted grass loose. A few more turns and the same thing happens. It also won't mow high grass without getting all clogged up, no matter how dry it is. And that's after I devised a bungee cord to lift the flange partway up so it would throw the grass out instead of having it collect under the flange and stop the mower. That improves the performance but doesn't completely solve the problem.Tinker Bell would never have allowed anything like that to happen!

The next problem turned out to be the flywheel. Would you believe they manufactured a medium sized mower with a plastic flywheel? There was a plethora of other problems that kept the Murray mower in the shop as often as it was home and eventually, we gave it to Rob to use and bought another one.

I'm an optimist, I guess. The first Murray was a brand new model, so I figured that after seven or eight years, the engineers would have all the bugs worked out, including the problem of not being able to cut wet grass without pulling the flange up to a dangerously high level with a bungee cord.

I was wrong. The only place I could find an improvement was the flywheel. They had decided that perhaps plastic really wasn't the proper material for a part like that. And of course the tires still came without inner tubes and like the previous ones, went flat at just the sight of a moderately sharp object. So like the old one, each time I had a flat, I made sure the tire was enhanced by buying an inner tube.

Should I go on? No, I think not. The mower is just one of many examples, so now I'm going to get to the point of this little essay.

Are there other people like Betty and I who would pay extra if we just could find merchandise of better quality? If so, perhaps one of them will set up a special web site that features nothing but very well made products. I know I would patronize them and I'd be willing to bet a hell of a lot of other people would, too, particularly ones like me who are talented with words but haven't got much sense when it comes to objects that contain moving parts.

So there you have it, a million dollar idea I'm giving away free. Start a web site featuring a variety of quality merchandise and watch us beat a path to your door. Heck, I'd crawl through the telephone lines or ride the waves up to the satellite if I could to do business with someone who sold really good stuff, from socks that don't have that damned heavy and uncomfortable roll of thread sealing the end of the sock to an adjustable wrench that would stay on a nut and not slip off to a lamp where the switch wouldn't break off the first time a little pressure is put on it to a pair of glasses made so the little screws holding the frames to the eyepiece don't come loose to a…

Get the idea? Go for it, you young entrepreneur! Here's you a fortune.

By the way, I thought of a good idea for another fortune but it would take a lot of money to develop and then convince builders of new homes to incorporate it into their buildings and the makers of a certain household item to manufacture it a new way in order for it to be compatible. It's a great invention but would take some money and salesmanship to develop. I'll tell someone about this idea if I'm promised a small piece of the action. I have it written up.

What does revenge do for us—if anything? Does it make us feel better or worse? Does simple daydreaming of revenge provide the same catharsis as real physical revenge? How about if we actually devise a plan for revenge and carry it out. Does that satisfy us as well as coming across an accidental chance to have our revenge and taking it? Or does revenge satisfy us at all? How about being able to say "I told you so!" Is that revenge? I think it is, in one sense, but personally I'm very careful about ever saying it even when I have the right. I think most of the time a person is much better off letting the other person come to the realization that they were wrong on their own. That way you avoid aggravating the other person and perhaps giving them the impetus to plan some kind of revenge against you. Carry that a little further and think about it. Shakespeare's adage of "Revenge is a dish better served cold." wouldn't be quoted so often if there wasn't a lot of truth to it. Wait a while and the idea of revenge will most likely be tempered a bit or go away entirely. In general, I believe the energy of seeking revenge could be better put to use by thinking of ways to prevent the event that made you mad from happening again. If the prevention involves revenge, then so much the better, but revenge for revenge's sake is more likely to backfire than anything else.

I can say such a thing easily from my comfortable chair in front of my computer but suppose someone killed a member of my family in cold blood? I doubt very seriously if I'd pass up a chance for revenge in that case. Perhaps that proves the old adage that there's an exception to every rule.

Anyway, the whole idea of revenge is peculiar but very human. I ran across a reference to it while reading a book recently and began thinking about the concept. It's much more complicated that I envisioned at first thought. And now I'm thinking about some of our troops in this war and past wars who killed in revenge, retaliating because their buddies had been killed. Were they right or wrong or is there some middle ground. Somehow I think a lot of the recent punishments went too far. It's all too easy for an arm-chair warrior to say "You shouldn't have done that. It's against the rules." Put that same person into the stress of combat and have him watch a few close friends die then see what he thinks is right or wrong.

Enough. That's all I want to say on this subject.

Book Report
A science fiction book I just read by S.M. Stirling, Dies The fire, used the theme of electricity and chemical reactions other than fire no longer working due to interference by aliens, who remain unseen. All of a sudden the whole earth is back to the technology of about 1200 A.D. which can't possibly support over 6 billion people. The action is centered in America, mostly in Idaho and Oregon and describes how people either coped or died, but mostly they died. Stirling was meticulous with his research, which is always a bonus in a novel. It was a terrific read and then Betty got hooked on it. After that, I sent it to my brother Gary and he loved it. Anyone who longs for the "good old days" hasn't got a lick of sense. No pain pills. No toilet paper. No toothpaste. Almost everyone either a farmer, working dawn to dusk, or dying. And even then, the crops are subject to bandits and roaming gangs from the cities, now using bow and arrows instead of guns. Dies The Fire is really a well done book and I enjoyed it tremendously. Betty and I will be getting the sequel as soon as it's out. I've read other Stirling books and have reported on several. He's a very, very good author. It won't be long until I'll be reading it again! It's that good.

Fast Movers by John Darrell Sherwood covers some individual stories of the aviators in the Vietnam war and goes into some of the air campaigns. I liked it a lot and will recommend it, but don't expect it to be a complete history of Vietnam aviation because it's not. Still, it's well worth reading, especially the section on the prisoners of war and their treatment. We owe these men a debt of gratitude for the way they conducted themselves regardless of how you felt or feel about that war. They were proud to be Americans and proved it by their actions while in captivity over and over again.

David Baldacci writes truly good thrillers. I recently read two more of his and enjoyed them more than any of his others, even though his others were good, too. The first is The Camel Club. In this book he created some of his most unusual characters, four eccentric hangers on around Washington who have taken it upon themselves to ferret out untruths. In this case they fall into more than they can handle. A Secret Service agent becomes involved as well. There are lots of twists and turns and misdirection, all of which play out to a satisfactory ending with lots of thrills along the way. The other is The Simple Truth, where an innocent man sits in an army prison for something he actually thought he did—until the army accidentally sends him a letter that allows memories to surface. He has a writ of habeas corpus smuggled out, directed to the Supreme Court and from there on the action flourishes. Baldacci gets into the way the Supreme Court of our land really works in a way I haven't seen done before. It will surprise a lot of people. I know it did me and I thought I was pretty well versed on their procedures. Two really entertaining books by David Baldacci. He only improves with time as good writers usually do.

Kinky Friedman is a character. A real character, funny and irreverent and politically incorrect to a degree that beats my own Williard Brothers all to hell. I really wish he had won the race for governor of Texas. If he had, it would have been the death knell for American politics of the ilk we are used to. This is leading up to a book by him, naturally. He's best known as a mystery writer but I haven't read any of those. This is a non-fiction book, 'Scuse Me While I Whip This Out. I haven't laughed so hard over a book since I read Rude Behavior by Dan Jenkins. He has a turn of phrase that surprises when you least expect it. Such as when he was describing an interview with Willie Nelson while on a golf course. He wrote about golf "The only two good balls I've ever hit was when I stepped on a garden rake." Or about Joseph Heller when he met him in a hospital while the famous author was suffering from a severe illness, "I could tell by the feverish look in his eyes that he had definitely taken a turn for the nurse." The book is filled with episodes from his erratic life and those of other famous people ranging from George Bush to Bob Dylan to Bill Clinton. If you want a fun, fun read, go buy this book!!!

Betty and I have begun reading all the Harry Potter books again, from first to the last. She is going first. I can't recall ever reporting on Harry Potter before and really don't think it would serve a useful purpose since everyone in the whole world has already read them, so I probably won't. Don't hold me to it, though. Betty is going through them much faster than me, since I already had a couple of long books started. Anyway, that's what I'm reading now.

As I've stated before, I read many more books than I report on. I review only those which I think are exceptional and that I think anyone might enjoy, regardless of what genre they usually favor. I don't have as many science fiction reviews this month as usual because, sadly, I didn't care to report on any of the others I read. They were good but not exceptional. That's bad news for someone who loves the genre as much as I do.

Progress Report
There's lots to tell about this month.

First, I am very pleased to announce the sale of Bark! for a print edition to LL publications for a three figure advance, a publisher just now branching out into science fiction. I am awfully glad they liked Bark! enough to want to publish it.

Bark! is my science fiction novel of an odd, addled little weenie dog who not only saves the world from alien invaders but gets rid of a bunch of crooked Washington politicians in the process. Publication is set for early next year, 2008, probably January or February but no later than March.

It is already available in an e-book edition at Fictionwise.com and eReader.com but I really did want to see it in print and now I will. The dachshund in the story is an avatar of Tonto, our own weird little weenie dog that I've written about on numerous occasions. I even gave the fictitious dog the same name as ours, Tonto. Our Tonto is cross-eyed and probably afflicted by a form of Autism and/or ADHD. He can't jump, he's cross-eyed and has problems smelling and eating and a few other handicaps but for all that, he thinks he is perfectly normal and enjoys life to the fullest. He is also the only tool-making and tool-using dog I've ever heard of. You can read about that aspect of his life if you like in my September 2005 newsletter in the newsletter archives of this web site.

I have also just completed a biography of Tonto I think readers will find interesting, especially those who like the odd and unusual aspects of our canine companions. It will be published but as of this writing (16 August) I don't know where.

Robyn's Rock, a 12,000 word "short" science fiction story is now available at Fictionwise.com and eReader.com. The story is based on a real rock, an odd but pretty little thing our granddaughter picked up from our private road when she was six years old. That was right after we had a new load of golf ball sized gravel hauled in to repair the road, a never ending process. (A long private road can sometimes be more expensive than a house to maintain and keep in order). We still have the rock on a shelf by the fireplace twenty years later because she asked us to save it for her, and we've always called it "Robyn's Rock". Don't ask me why, but I glanced at the rock one day and the notion of a story about it popped into my head after all these years of more or less ignoring it. It's just another example of how writers get their ideas from just about anything! Anyway, it was a fun story to write and I hope many of you enjoy reading it.

My Brother Gary is at last available as an e-book at Fictionwise.com and eReader.com. It isn't as long as I had hoped to make it originally, but living so far apart made doing a complete biography of his life difficult. Nevertheless, I am extremely proud of my brother and I believe you will greatly enjoy reading about the many exciting events and adventures in his life. He should be dead several times over by now but somehow he always makes it through, the mark of a true warrior and survivor, not that hokey "reality" stuff on television. He has had numerous adventures. If there's any other pilot who has ejected three times from fighter jets, two of which were in flames at the moment, and are still around to tell the tale, I'd like to hear from them. They must form a very small and very exclusive club!

Some of Gary's adventures became the basis for the themes or scenes from my Williard Brothers Series of fictional novels that many of you have read (and which have the most devoted fans)! You might guess, after reading this biography of Gary, that he is the avatar of the character Jason "Jumpin' Jase" Williard, the most adventurous of the three brothers in the books. If you include Medics Wild, the prequel to the series, there are now five of the novels out as e-books and the first two are in print. The third, Bigfoot Crazy is scheduled for print soon. All this is just my long winded, rambling way of introducing you to what I believe will be a very enjoyable read for you, My Brother Gary. I don't know if I will be able to find a print publisher because of the length, only 22,000 words, so the e-book is probably going to be your only option. If there is a print publisher reading this who would like to publish the book, please contact me. I could add a few short subjects and/or essays to it if that would help.

I will contact Doc Travis regarding our collaboration, presently titled Human By Choice to see where he'll taking it and perhaps give a preliminary report on it in the October newsletter, but no promises. I've turned the first half of the book over to him. He has the say on the second part of the book so I don't know how it will turn out myself yet! Also he is extremely busy right now so we don't talk much. But it is an intriguing title, isn't it? Human by Choice? Now what could that mean? Heh heh. You'll just have to guess until the book comes out in July of next year.

I have recently re-edited The Original Sex Gates Novel and Mindwar, as well as The Pet Plague Trilogy. These three books will be re-issued in print. The Original Sex Gates Novel is already available for order at Amazon.com. I will report as soon as the others are available again, but it should be soon. I'm glad I had a chance to do them over, particularly The Original Sex Gates Novel. Some of my earlier work got out with little or no editing. A few got less than sterling reviews based strictly on the typos and sentence structure rather than content.

Just a note here on The Original Sex Gates Novel. This book is the way I originally wrote it alone except for the editing and updating I just completed. It contains one more main character and several more minor ones than the collaboration and the last third of it goes in a completely different direction than the collaboration. It is also complete in this one novel, with all questions about the Sex Gates answered.

Notes from Musing
Like BAIN BLUNDERS, this is a section of the newsletter that will appear periodically. It will consist of idle thoughts and musings that aren't long enough to have a subject heading of their own, but I still believe are interesting enough for readers to enjoy.

1. Did the age of dinosaurs, which lasted a couple of hundred million years at least, delay the necessary setting for the development of intelligence? As a corollary, is it possible for reptiles or other animals similar to dinosaurs and the like to even evolve reasoning and self-aware intelligence? Or does it take a mammalian ancestry to evolve reasoning powers such as we have? Just an idle thought that popped into my head one night and got written down on my bedside tablet. Comments?

2. All too often, by the time we are financially able to afford to take long vacations and go to different places and in general enjoy some of the finer things of life, we're too old or crippled to do so. Fortunately, Betty and I can still get around, even though she has to drive if it's anywhere farther than 20 miles or so and I can't stay on my feet too long because of peripheral neuropathy and spinal problems. We like cruises because you can have a good time without ever leaving the ship if don't want to, and when we're tired or hurting we can go back to our staterooms. We're trying to get together with my brother Gary and his wife Barbara either this fall or next spring for a seven day cruise.

3. I've been accused all my life of being absent-minded. I prefer to think of myself as active-minded. My mind is always occupied with thinking, frequently to the detriment of attention to surrounding events.

4. Crew Wax may seem like a strange subject to write about, but for those men like me, who have very fine hair, almost like a woman's, it is a nifty solution. It only took me fifty years to discover that a very tiny dab of Crew Wax rubbed between my hands and then massaged into my hair after washing and toweling it dry gives it some body. It doesn't leave it greasy or stiff like hair oil or hair spray will. It makes it easy to comb and stay in place and my hair feels natural. If you have fine hair like me, give it a try, but remember: a little dab will do you—and I do mean a little!

Book Excerpt

The following is an excerpt from Savage Survival, Limited Hard Cover Edition, available for Pre-Order now at Amazon.com, B&N.com and your favorite bookstores!

        Lyda opened her eyes. She stood up on wobbly legs and looked around, squinting through frighteningly strong sunlight at a surreal scene of horror. In the distance, mountains grew from a brown landscape, solid and timeless, but nearby were two mutilated bodies. She averted her eyes from them quickly. One of them had been a young woman. She was naked. Blood seeped from between her thighs. The other body was that of a man, sprawled out in an awkward position. His skull had been crushed and caved in above one of his eyes. The eye lay on his cheek like an obscene colored ball on a thick white string.

        Beyond the bodies, men and women milled around, some gathered in throngs, some alone. Most of them wore dazed, frightened expressions, like the ones she had seen on some of the dogs when her class toured an animal shelter, but like some of the dogs, a few were defiant and their faces and attitudes promised savage reprisal should a chance come their way. She saw a man dressed in dirty jeans squatting by a cactus. He had hacked off one of the flat pancake-like outgrowths and was trying to scrape the needles off it with the little file on a fingernail clipper, cursing as he did. Was he trying to get water from it, or planning on eating it?

        Lyda thought of her parents. Where was Mom? She couldn't remember anything after she saw Dad being flung and crushed against the wall and that blue light engulfed her. Was Mom here? Or dead, like Dad? She was sure Dad was dead; she had seen how his throat was torn open by the broken studs in the wall. But she didn't know about Mom, nor did she know anyone to ask. She began walking slowly, looking around, trying to define her situation and trying not to cry. The ground of the desert was hot and gritty under her bare feet, not at all like she had imagined a desert would be. She thought she remembered slipping into her flip flops when she shrugged into her jacket, but if she had, they were lost now. Tiny stones gouged at the soles of her feet, bringing numerous little hurts. There didn't seem to be much of a landscape to see, other than the gritty dirt that passed as sand, larger rocks and even larger outcroppings of stone that rose from the desert floor like old shelters, petrified by time. Occasionally she passed tufts of greenish brown grass of some sort and more cacti, some very large and growing in clusters like flattened houses in a village. There were a few large bushes with spindly limbs and thin leaves but no trees anywhere.

        And people. There were people as far as she could see, standing, sitting, lying on the ground. She thought some of them must be dead simply by the way they lay unmoving with limbs twisted under them or flung out in unnatural positions. There were other children among them, some being held by adults; others were free to move about under the watchful eyes of their guardians, but there were many who looked to be as lost and vulnerable as herself. The people were dressed in everything from suits to borrowed shirts tied around the waist by some who must have been caught naked. Lyda was glad she had her clothes on. She spotted several men and women who wore no garments at all. They looked entirely different than the nude bodies she had seen in the material passed around by the kids at school, as if someone had hosed them down and washed part of their color away. She wondered why that was.

        At first Lyda wasn't really fearful; she was sorrowful about Dad and worried about Mom but beyond that, she was curious. How did she get here without remembering? How long had it taken? What was going to happen next? Was there water and food to be found? Why were the awful spider things bringing their captives here to this desolate waste? In the distance she saw one of the giant transport craft descend and land as silently as clouds bumping together. She wondered how it was powered. It couldn't be a rocket, could it? There was no noise. As she walked, some men or women glanced at her but most ignored her, as if they had too many problems of their own to care about an eleven year old girl walking around by herself.

        When Lyda grew thirsty, she decided to ask someone about water. She picked a gray haired woman who resembled grandma, though she wasn't dressed as nicely as grandma always was.

        "Ma'am, do you know where I can find some water?" Lyda asked the old woman politely.

        "Girl, you need a protector to get water around here. Where's your folks?"

        "I…I don't know," Lyda told her. She didn't want to tell anyone that Dad was almost certainly dead and that Mom…well, she had been trying to protect her, too.

        "Then you better find someone quick, lest you…ah shit, leave me alone." The woman covered her face with her hands and began sobbing.

        Lyda went closer, wanting to comfort the old woman but she was shrugged off, then pushed forcefully away when she tried again. Puzzled, Lyda left her alone and began wandering again. What was a protector? Well, probably someone like a parent, she thought. But how do you find one?

        One found her, one who had watched and listened, a tall grungy man in his forties with a two day beard and a gleam of desperation in his eyes. He was wearing the remnants of a suit and had a sweat-stained tee shirt wound around and over his scalp to protect his bald head from the sun.

        "Hey girl!"

        Lyda turned toward the voice. Before she could back away, she found herself being gripped by the upper arm.

        "I can get you some water, girl. What's your name?"

        Lyda didn't answer. She didn't like his looks. She glanced around, looking for help. The few nearby adults turned away. One man started toward them but stopped when he saw the grungy man show a large pocket knife with the blade open. He turned away.

        "Come on girl. We'll both get some water."

        "I don't want to go with you," Lyda said, trying to wrench her arm away. That only made the man grip her tighter.

        "What's your name, girl?" He repeated, squeezing her arm so hard it was painful.

        "Lyda," she said reluctantly.

        "Okay, Lyda. I'm Boris. Come on, let's go get some water. Maybe some food, too." He began walking, pulling her along by her arm. His long legged stride forced her into a half walk, half run in order to keep up. His breath was heavy and gasping, with a wheeze to it like his throat was dry, the same as the gritty desert sand. He led her for a half mile through and around small groups of people and halted beside a large outcropping of rock that provided shade for a scruffy looking gang of men and women.

        A big dark haired man stepped forward, holding a sharp pointed rock in his fist. He also wore a two day beard, perhaps three days. "What we got here?" he asked. His question was asked in a pleasant tone of voice that contrasted with his feral appearance. He reminded Lyda of Wolverines she had read about, only bigger.

        "Something to trade," Boris said deferentially to the big man. Now he was holding Lyda by both arms, forcing her to stand in front of him.

        Lyda began to grasp what was going on now. There was a pile of supplies being guarded by this group. Every one of the men held either a rock or a pocket knife in their hand. Several of the women had armed themselves, too. She could see what looked like red bricks stacked in piles beside open containers of water that came in tubs made of some gray material. While she stood there a woman, closely accompanied by a man wearing jeans and windbreaker and holding a rock in his hand, leaned over one of the tubs and cupped water in the palms of her hands and lifted it to her mouth. She did this several times, then stood up. Her companion grinned at her like she was a prize he had just won from the coin toss at a county fair. He reached out with his free hand and squeezed one of her breasts. The woman winced but stood stoically. Then he led her around the stone outcropping, his hand already sliding down under the waistband of her slacks.

        "She's too young," the big man said, still speaking pleasantly, looking at her, not the couple who had just left. Lyda detected an undertone to his voice, like the trill of a clear mountain stream that held poisonous algae beneath its surface.

        "She's a virgin, Big Bill. Never been had. Ought to be worth something."

        Lyda made a violent effort to wrench herself out of Boris' grip. She got one arm free but not the other, and before she could use her loose arm to try to claw or strike her captor, he had his forearm under her chin, pressing up so hard that she couldn't breathe.

        The man named Big Bill laughed. "She's a feisty one. All right. One brick and all the water you can drink. Then go."

        "But…Big Bill…"

        "That's all. I could just take her."

        Boris relented. He shoved Lyda forward into the arms of Big Bill and scurried for the water tubs. He drank hugely, got tossed one of the red bricks and was told to leave. He was munching on it as he walked away, not looking back.

        The red bricks are food, Lyda thought. So strange looking that they might be from the aliens. Like the water tubs. But the food and water both should be rationed. This isn't fair. Her mind swirled with conflicting desires; for water, for getting out of the grasp of this man's arms, for a sudden need to find someplace private to relieve herself. And what Boris had said about her being a virgin—did that mean…

        "Come along," Big Bill said. "May as well get you broke in. There's one in the Rocky Mount gang as likes 'em young. But me first. Ain't never tried one as young as you before."


Happy reading to you all.

Darrell Bain
Shepherd, Texas
September 2007



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