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December 2005

Mentors (a great example), drug laws, Joe Sixpack, more Tonto, Mind of a Writer, those great little flash drives, good books, Christmas and more.

As always, I enjoy letters from fans and interested correspondents. I can be e-mailed from my web site, www.darrellbain.com

This month I'd like to start off with the brief biography of a man who could serve as a model for all of us who try to set a good example for the younger generation. Your efforts now will pay untold dividends in the future. Don't believe me? Just remember: it's those kids you can set a good example for now who are going to be running the country when you reach retirement age! Think about that one for a while.

Mentors (a great example)
Here's the story of Tex Allen Fisher. I never met him myself, but he was a mentor to a good friend, who would like to see him remembered, and who sent me this letter.

I wish you could have met Tex Allen Fisher. He was one of my "old men". He played electric harmonica with Hank Williams, made about a dozen records in the 50's with his own band. He was a tiny guy, wasn't supposed to live at birth, LOTS of med probs. Then they said he wouldn't make 3, wouldn't make 5, wouldn't make 10...finally he hit 12 and the docs said "fuck it, he's gonna live forever." He died last year at 78. Allen had severe asthma- yet worked for years as an underwater welder offshore in the 60's. He had a terrible fear of heights- yet got his pilots license and became an accomplished pilot. He designed the very first working helicopter on FAA (Then CAA) record and flew it- they bought it from him and flew it for years, many people think his homemade design was what Bell studied to come up with the Bell 47. He built about a dozen airplanes in his life, every one straight out of his head, no plans, no pre-tested airfoils- he used his own 'foils. He left me his favorite, an all-metal low wing he called the "Wild Turkey"- I'll show you pics of me flying it when I visit. It looks like a 1/3 scale Spitfire...he got the idea for the design by watching wild turkeys fly off the end of his little runway.

He used colloquialisms...SUCH colloquialisms, and metaphors and similes, country style. Everything was funny, and amazingly descriptive...

He met every fear he had head-on, if something frightened him, by god that was his next hobby! You wouldn't believe the things this uneducated, unhealthy Hillbilly accomplished. He only went to school through the 7th grade, never had formal training in ANYTHING- even taught himself to scuba dive and weld, and of course to read and write music, play the electric harmonica, you name it. He built a ranch house for himself and his family out of foam and beer cans  and stucco. It turned out gorgeous, and stayed 68 degrees year round- probably the first use of recycled materials as high tech insulation.

I often say Tesla* is my personal hero, but only because few people have heard of Tex Allen Fisher...he's the guy who I think about when I'm making a life decision. What would Allen do? He taught me so much, let me test fly several of his airplanes- he was ecstatic when I chose aviation as a career. I took him for his first (and only) ride in a military jet- I snuck him onto Randolph and into a T-38, which was...a HUGE no-no...and then took him for a supersonic ride over the gulf, another huge no-no. Couldn't give him egress training, which would have gotten my butt...god, who knows? Shot? But he meant that much to me. He knew the risks, and couldn't have cared less- he was much more worried about my career, but by then I knew my days were numbered flying Uncle Sam's toys.

I miss him. Allen, not Uncle Sam.

If I live long enough, I hope I can be the "old man" for some kid. Besides my own, that is. Hopefully a kid who wants to be a pilot, and has good hands.

*Note by DB: Tesla was a pioneering Serbian-American inventor, electrical engineer and scientist and a genius in matters of electrical phenomena. He was responsible for many of the developments in electricity we take for granted today, yet was overshadowed by Edison. He was one of those tragic men who were far ahead of their time, yet even so he held over 700 patents and was responsible for alternating current, the induction motor, florescent lights, and too many other things to mention. DB.

Those Great Little Flash Drives
When I've made a good start on a book or story, especially once I reach the 10,000 word mark, I become deathly afraid that someone will break into our house and steal the computer when we're gone and I'll lose all my work. Even hiding a backup disk somewhere in the house doesn't assuage my fears. What if the house burned down while we were gone? And I'll bet the nice lady at the bank would become annoyed with me if I ran down there every day and put my latest backup into our safety deposit box, wouldn't she?

Once I tried my first flash drive (thumb drive, keychain drive, whatever) my fears disappeared. Now when we leave the house Betty asks "Have you got your computer in your pocket?" That's my only fear now, that I'll forget to remove the flash drive and stick it in my pocket. Not only can I carry my latest work with me, I can bring along dern near everything of importance on the computer, all in a little gadget smaller than my thumb. Remarkable! If you've never tried one, do so. They're handy, cheap and give you peace of mind. All the time I was working on my latest book, Mindwar, I carried it (and about a hundred MB of other data) in my pocket when I left home. Maybe all that travel helped it to become an E-book best seller? If so, I've got another one in the works because the book I'm writing now is in my pocket every time we leave the house unattended!

The book I'm working on now (along with other stuff) that's on the flash drive will take place in only a few years. It's a rather ambitious attempt to describe and solve a lot of the country's problems through revolution. Note to Homeland Security: It's fiction, so don't get excited. Fiction, hear me? Please don't come arrest me. Anyway, I did something like it once before, a book titled A Parody of Clinton: Joe Sixpack, President. The title is a misnomer. Even though I did sort of parody Clinton a bit, and wrote the book in a humorous vein, it was meant to be taken seriously. It is available in E-book editions only at Fictionwise.com and eReader.com.

This new one, when it comes out will be titled The Focus Factor. Neat title, huh?

BTW, all of my E-books are also available for download at www.amazon.com . Just make sure you select the download rather than the print edition or vice versa.

Christmas is Coming, Christmas is Coming!!
And just in time, I've reached an agreement with one of my publishers, Twilight Times Books, to sell Autographed Copies of the six print titles they are handling for me from my web site, www.darrellbain.com . These are attractive, trade paperback books, five and a half by eight inches, at only $12.95 and that includes postage and handling. You can order these books from my website at www.darrellbain.com and use either a credit card or paypal. Two of those will make exceptionally neat Christmas gifts, Life on Santa Claus Lane and Doggie Biscuit!

Also available are a quirky romance, Hotline to Heaven, the best selling SF/Suspense/Thriller Strange Valley, and the prequel in another series, Medics Mild and first book in the Williard Brothers Series, Postwar Dinosaur Blues, for your action and adventure loving friends. The Williard Brothers books were recently featured attractions and are currently best sellers at eReader.com as I'm writing this. Heck, I'm the author and I'm a fan of those zany, outrageously macho-istic and politically incorrect characters who are always getting into trouble up to their necks while trying to make a fortune in wildly improbable ways, and never quite succeeding. Reminds me of myself in a way, which is maybe why I like writing (and yes, reading) those books so much. Okay, 'nuff said. Just remember, Christmas isn't far away and books always make great gifts, assuming the recipient is a reader, of course.

Drug Laws
Relax. I'm not gong to argue the pros and cons about our current drug laws. I just thought I'd pass on a bit of history about them. Back around the turn of the last century and for a few years after, snake oil salesmen abounded. They peddled nostrums in catalogs, sold them in drug stores and went house to house with them. And a lot of them really worked. At least they made the people who bought them feel good. Thing is, a lot of them contained good old 50% ethyl alcohol, the drinking kind. A lady back then couldn't go to the nearest bar and have a quick pick me up when she wanted it, but by golly, no one could argue with her about taking medicine! And then along came cocaine. They started putting it in the bottles, too. And now they really made the people who used the stuff feel good! Too good, in fact, for our leaders to put up with. They're the ones who are supposed to make us feel good. If you don't believe me, just ask them. I have my doubts whether the country would have gone to the devil or wherever we were told it was heading just because little old ladies liked a nip of ethanol and/or a hit of cocaine now and then (whether they knew it or not), but pretty soon congress got on to the problem and made practically everything that came in a bottle or from a drug store illegal. Hell, they even made alcohol illegal for a while and you know what kind of problems that caused. If you don't, go read your history, kids. The DEA and FDA were born partly because your great grandma drank cocaine and alcohol laced "medicine". They did it for years and years and nothing bad ever happened to the country. Heroin and other narcotics were freely available back then, too and the country didn't seem to be going to hell. Shucks, there's hardly a mention of it in the history books. Kind of makes you wonder, huh?

Veteran's Day
I'm writing this portion of the newsletter on Veteran's Day. A book comes to mind I think everyone should read, because it's educational, inspiring and best of all, a tremendously good read. I've mentioned it before, but here it is again. It's a fictionalized history of the American revolution, told from both sides, and as historically accurate as possible. The book is The Glorious Cause by Jeff Shaara. I highly recommend it.

Other books I've read this last month are Pandora's Box by Christopher Anvil, an old favorite. I read the first volume of an alternate history by Harry Turtledove entitled In the Balance. Pretty good. Talking about how fun magnets are to play with reminded me of one of Fredrick Brown's old ones, The Lights in the Sky are Stars. That book, along with talk about autism with a friend who has a son afflicted with the disease, led to me writing a short story, "Unforseen Reward." It's available at Fictionwise.com and is already a best seller only a week after publication and very highly rated by the fans.

This also reminded me of another of Brown's books, The Mind Thing, which then led to my short story "The Egg," which should be available at by the time this newsletter is up, around the first of December. After writing "Unforeseen Reward" I got further into autism and it worked very well into the novel I'm doing now. I don't know how other writers minds work, but that's an example of the way mine rattles around in my skull.

I finally began the Honor Harrington series by David Weber. And I'm going to recommend a book you probably won't be able to find in books stores, although they would probably order it for you. I suggest you just go to Amazon or B&N on line and order it. The title is Cousin Feely. It doesn't have a wide distribution but it is an excellent and very unusual book. I can't tell you much more about it without revealing the plot, but do me a favor: at least go to Amazon.com and look at the blurb. Also note the very high ratings from the ebook version at Fictionwise.com.

This book deserves a much higher readership.

I've read some other books this past month, of course, but I'm running out of space. Come back again next month.

TV Remote
We don't watch a lot of television, but we do at least turn on the news every day, and Betty occasionally watches some of the daytime cooking and home and garden shows when her eyes get tired from reading. The other day she came to me, wanting to know what I had done with the remote. I didn't remember doing anything with it. Neither did she. Want to guess where we found it? Never mind, I'll tell. It was on a row of books in one of Betty's bookshelves, the first place we should have thought of looking. Some days listening to the news, I think it should stay lost.

Time Notable Books
Time Magazine put out a list of the most notable books of the last century (plus a few from the century before, if I remember right). Perhaps they are notable. I wouldn't know, because despite how voraciously I've pursued books all my life, I've read only three or four of them. Several others I have honestly tried to read and given up as a bad job. It makes me wonder if the people who compile these lists have ever written a book, or ever read anything that's not considered lit'rary. I've about decided they're the same ones who write the reviews for Time and Newsweek. I've also about decided they pick books they think we should read in order to be considered their literary equals. Would anyone like to comment about this? I'm listening.

More Tonto
Tonto, our befuddled, cross-eyed, one testicled, tool-using miniature dachshund loves to make sticks to shovel pine straw, which I've written about. He also likes to arrange garden hoses. Almost every morning at daybreak he goes out to check the garden hose, and during the recent dry spell, has almost invariably found it out of place. He likes it in the place where he has it fixed in his mind that it belongs, and also thinks it should be arranged in a particular position. If it's not there, he spends about an hour dragging it around, placing various sections of it just so, backing up to see if it's right, then goes back again and again making adjustments until it's laying exactly where and how his peculiar little doggie mind says it should be.

But what happens when Betty goes out to water? Unless Betty locks him in the house, he will spend the whole time she's watering trying to pull the hose back into the position where he left it. Of course Betty is stronger than him so he doesn't manage it, but as soon as she leaves, back into the original position it goes. And if she's attached the sprinkler, it will absolutely not remain where she put it. Betty will go back out and there's the sprinkler, still attached, but the hose is back where Tonto believes it belongs and the sprinkler is watering the side of the house or the TV satellite antenna or…well, you get the idea. He finally got tired of the sprinkler hampering his work and chewed it up. And recently he decided to help Rob and Pat, our kids who live just 70 or 80 yards away. The other day Rob was washing his car. He would lay the hose down and then when he would try to pick it back up, it would be in a different place. He thought he was going crazy until finally he saw Tonto out of the corner of his eye, busily moving the hose back where he had decided it belonged. He thought it was so funny he had to come over and tell us about it and then we had to tell him such goings on were already an old story at our place. What a….strange?...doggie. We love him, though.

Back Problems
My back problems have recently gotten bad enough that it has started seriously cutting into my writing time. An MRI showed there were more things wrong than either I or my doctor thought. The Monday after Thanksgiving, I'm having some steroids injected into the spine down in my lower back. It's a procedure where you're sedated first, for which I'm grateful. I really hope it helps. I would hate to have to go to the speech to text software. I'd feel like the perfect fool sitting in an easy chair instead of office chair and trying to talk a story instead of typing it. There's something about typing and listening to the clatter of the keyboard that's conducive to the creative process. I have no idea why that should be, so don't ask.

Thanksgiving
Thanksgiving still seems sort of strange to Betty and I. We spent twenty years trying to get the Choose and Cut Christmas Tree Farm open this time of year. At first we opened the day after Thanksgiving, but then as our business grew, customers started coming out on Thanksgiving Day wanting a tree, always with their kids. Neither Betty or I could ever stand to send kids away without a tree, so we wound up every year out in the field while the rest of the family was sitting around the table eating turkey and dressing. Finally we gave up and started opening on Thanksgiving Day and having the turkey after dark. Now that we've closed the farm, we sort of wander around the house when it gets close to Thanksgiving, with our subconscious minds telling us we should be out getting the trees ready to sell and the shop decorated and wreaths made and so on. It feels weird. I suspect anyone reading this who's recently retired feels the same way the first month or two when they don't have to get up and go to work. We hope you all had a very good Thanksgiving. We did. I love dressing with giblet gravy. And we're using an artificial Christmas tree now, even if it does make us feel like traitors.

That's All
And that will do it for this month. As always, I enjoy correspondence and comments or critiques about my writing or about subjects I ramble on about in the Newsletter. You can write me from my website, www.darrellbain.com .

Thanks for reading and I sincerely hope Santa is good to every single one of you and that you have a very enjoyable Christmas and a happy and productive New Year, one that involves a lot of reading, preferably some that includes a few of my books.

Darrell Bain
Shepherd, Texas
December 2005

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