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December 2006

From Darrell Bain and his soon to be disposed of desk.

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

Bad News, Remodeling, Holding Hands, Lost Nephew and more.

Bad News
As much as I don't like to think of it, I guess I'll start this newsletter off with what's happening with Betty. We got the report the last part of October (shortly after the previous newsletter went out) on a biopsy of her thyroid. It showed probable cancer. Fortunately, it was caught early, purely by accident on a lung scan for another minor problem, then followed up by her alert and concerned doctor. Right now, the 21st of November, we're waiting for her to have surgery the 30th of November, where the half of her thyroid containing the tumor will be removed. If it proves to be malignant, she will return a week or so later and have the rest of her thyroid removed and begin treatment. If not, we will both breathe a huge sigh of relief and get on with our lives. Needless to say, I'm devastated, and of course Betty isn't very happy about it herself. It makes me wonder, like I have so many times before, why bad things happen to such good persons while scoundrels like myself get away easy. I guess there's no real explanation other than the universe isn't fair and never will be.

Neither of us is much good for anything right now with this on our minds. It took almost a month after the tumor was discovered to get even a tentative diagnosis, then another week or so before getting into the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center's system. We had to call on Betty's daughter for a little help. My back couldn't take two days in a row of the long drive to Houston and sitting on those uncomfortable chairs all day. Colleen came and did some of the driving while I stayed home one day. When Betty saw the internist, he wanted to do another biopsy, of all things. This, after the tumor has doubled in size in just a few months? Betty wants it OUT and so do I. The doctor conceded. The surgery is still scheduled for the 30th and there will be no new biopsy. They'll examine the lobe of the thyroid which is removed, of course, to see what kind of cancer it is or hopefully, tell us it is benign.

New Orleans
We had already decided on a short trip to New Orleans when the thyroid cancer thing came into our lives. We decided to go anyway. I'll tell about that next month.

Lost Nephew
I had a very nice (and completely unexpected) surprise in my mail a few days ago. There was a letter from my nephew Jantz, the son of my youngest brother, Mike. He and his Dad had been sort of estranged for years after his mother and Mike divorced and our family had lost contact with both Jantz and his sister.

Jantz said he had stumbled on to my web site purely by accident and decided to write. I'm so glad he did. I always liked him and now we're in contact again. I gave him all the e-mail addresses of members of the family and hope they'll write him, too. He seems to have put hard feelings behind him, for which I'm very glad. He's also doing well himself now, after a few bumps in the road, and is happily married and has two more kids. His daughter by his previous wife is grown now.

Progress Report
First, I'd like to announce that my wife Betty has had a humorous short story published by Double Dragon, titled Cooking 101 For A Newlywed. It is a true story of the cooking disaster of her very first dinner party shortly after she was married to her previous husband, who died of heart disease at a very young age. You can find it at Fictionwise.com and Double Dragon eBooks and should appear soon at eReader.com.

It really is funny, and she says it was just the first in a long series of disasters as she learned her way around a kitchen. It makes me sort of envy Charlie (her previous husband) for all the laughs he must have gotten, but I also feel a little sorry for him for having had to suffer while Betty learned. However, by all accounts he was an exceptionally good man, probably a better one than me, and I'm sure he always comforted Betty after he finished laughing. Betty hasn't told me whether she laughed along with him. I think I'll ask now that I've thought of it. Betty will be having a couple more stories published; the next two I think will be accounts of our vacations in Bangkok and Damascus. She is a very good writer with a real talent for description. I hope you'll read and enjoy her stories as much as I have.

Next, The four books of the Williard Brothers series, the zany trio who live for adventure and are the most politically incorrect scoundrels you'll ever meet, have been collected into one volume. It's been released by both Fictionwise.com and eReader.com under the title The Williard Brothers Collection. The books were originally begun as a fictional account of me and my brothers' adventures in Vietnam during the war and continued as a fiction series afterward. They were sort of meant to appeal to a male audience, but surprise: women like them as much if not more than men! Maybe because they are such scoundrels, but lovable scoundrels all the same. Anyway, this series draws more fan mail than my other books, and more from the ladies than male readers. I love writing about them and just wish humor paid more, for they are funny, but at the same time they're suspense/thriller/adventure/science fiction type stories, too.

While cleaning out the office in preparation for new carpet and other changes (see below), I ran across more of Betty's writing, including a piece about patients of home health nurses, just the opposite of the beautiful and inspiring tribute she wrote to home health nurses, which can be found in my collection, Around The Bend. There's also a vignette on aging she wrote and I found a hundred page diary I kept while in Saudi Arabia I had completely forgotten about. Maybe we should clean more often!

While trying to clean up a lot of my old computer files, I found a few things I had written, humorous stories, mostly, which will be published under the title A Steel Trap Mind and Other Vignettes.

And finally, I've completed Warp Point, my latest novel and sent it off to the editor. I'm hoping for publication as an e-book by late November but probably will be December.

Remodeling
Before Betty was diagnosed with the cancer, we had embarked on a remodeling project for the office (which was originally a two car garage). This involves new carpeting, a new computer desk, removal of my old work desk and computer desk and hutch and rearranging or throwing out or giving away books and files and all the other accumulated stuff. I went through my keeper stock of books and was ruthless--anything I hadn't re-read for ten years or more, went. I donated them all to our little local library, all eight big boxes of them. Betty threw out an accumulation of Southern Living and Organic Gardening magazines dating back twenty years. I disposed of a lot of magazines, newspaper stories about the Christmas tree farm and lots of other paraphernalia. And here's the amusing part: while cleaning, Betty and I found some long lost items of our writing (see above). We also found old pictures and spent some time laughing at our younger selves (and wishing like hell we still had their looks and energy)!

Right now we're sort of on hold until we get Betty's schedule of treatments and tests they'll have to run beforehand. I have felt several times like crawling through the telephone lines and strangling some people who have lost faxed documents, referred her to the wrong department and in the process delayed the start of her treatment.

The vacation we had planned for New Orleans did get sneaked in, even though we don't know yet what the near and farther future holds. I had wanted to do something nice for her and New Orleans was her choice, so we went despite everything.

Update on remodeling: My stepdaughter Colleen, who is very handy at mechanical things, put my new computer desk together last night while I acted as her gofer and holder while she did the real work. I can state positively, I would never have gotten that big L shaped desk together by myself, not in a thousand years! I'm so glad she volunteered to do that while she was here. I'll have to think of something nice to do for her in appreciation.

Update: Everything is now in place. The office is hardly recognizable from what it looked like before. All that's left is for the satellite people to come out this morning and make me a new connection where the new computer desk sits.

Update: The satellite connection is complete and I'm back on line.

Book Report
As you can imagine, I haven't done a lot of reading this month after Betty's diagnosis of cancer. I was pretty well unable to concentrate on fiction, so what I did was take out a few long books I've re-read enough times to practically have them memorized. I've read IT, by Stephen King, the best horror book ever written, in my opinion. Oracle by Mike Resnick is a really good science fiction book. I like his style. He doesn't get too elaborate and moves the story right along. Dark Universe by Daniel Galouye, one of the most unappreciated science fiction writers I know of is a wonderful book. It's about an enormous survival complex built so some people could repopulate the earth after the radioactivity from a war died down. But then the lights go out. Generations of people live in total darkness until they've forgotten what light is, other than myth. Then survivors from another complex come to open it up and they think the others are monsters! By the way, they survived in the dark by use of "manna plants" which used heat to produce edible food, like our plants use sunlight. A great book and he's written others as good, too. Try him--you can find used copies at Amazon. Virus by Graham Watkins is a good book about a computer program run amok. It's a bit dated now, but still a tremendously good story. I tried a couple of new books but soon put them up for later perusal. It's just hard to concentrate on something new while Betty's treatment is still pending and we don't know exactly what will happen. I just started Herman Wouk's two volume fictional history of WWII. I'd read it once a long time ago and this seemed like an appropriate time to read it again. That will take a while. Both books are big ones but well worth reading. In fact, just about anything by Wouk is worth reading. Next, I may get out Mila 18, but not sure yet. I will take several long books to New Orleans.

Note: We had so much fun I didn't even finish one book while we were there!

School Days
Our great granddaughter Cheyenne, came back from her first day of Kindergarten. When asked how she liked it she said, "I don't. They're mean! They make you sit down and make you be quiet and you can't even get up and walk around!" Poor girl--she has twelve more years of the same thing to look forward to!

Holding Hands
When Betty and I are out shopping or walking a little (I can't walk far because of my back) we usually hold hands. I can see people glance at us and just about read their minds: Aw. Isn't that cute, look at that old couple still holding hands after all this time. Maybe they should try it more often. Holding hands is something you can do in public that expresses your love without making a spectacle of yourself. Besides, it's a nice feeling, having your sweetie's hand in yours as you walk. We'll probably be doing the same thing in the nursing home, sitting side by side in our wheel chairs, still holding hands.

Fire
We had our first wood fire in the Franklin Stove a few days ago, and have one going now. We leave the door open so we can watch the flames and besides, it's warmer like that. There's nothing like an open fire to warm your hands and your heart. If we ever have to move from here, we're really going to miss that stove.

Blepheroplasty
Now that's an odd sounding type of operation. What it means is reconstructing droopy eyelids. I had it done on both my eyelids this time (the first attempt, on one eyelid, didn't work because it was done wrong. And no, I didn't sue the doctor, though I easily could have and almost certainly would have gotten a lot of money. A second and third opinion told of a number of things the first doctor had goofed up on). I didn't know it, but my eyelids had gradually begun drooping and were covering half my pupils. No wonder I was having problems reading! Anyway, what they do is cut into the eyelids, remove a segment of muscle, then stitch the muscle back together. In effect, it tightens up the tissue and keeps the eyelids up where they belong. The downside is that I'll have to get a new pair of glasses because my old ones no longer work.

Actually, this is a fairly common thing that happens to a lot of people as they grow older so it may be in your future, too!

Costs of Peace and Quiet
When we built our house out in the country, we wanted to get well away from the blacktop county road and the noises and people associated with it. We wanted privacy. We got it, but there's a cost attached. Our road is almost a third of a mile from the county blacktop road and over the years we've put about fifteen thousand dollars into maintaining it. We still think it's worth it, though. It is quiet and peaceful back here in the woods--except during deer season when some of the kids like to hunt.

Christmas Shopping
It's never too early. May I recommend Life On Santa Claus Lane as a Christmas gift for your friends and relatives who like humor? The sequel, Laughing All The Way is also still in print. Both can be obtained at Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble or your bookstore will be glad to order either of them for you. Thanks and happy reading.

That's all for now. Thanks for reading and may you all have a very enjoyable Thanksgiving.

Thanks for reading.

Darrell Bain
Shepherd, Texas
December 2006

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