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Subjects this month: Finalists, Books for Christmas, Special Book Sale, Misplaced ice cream, Sign of the Times, Book report, RICO Law, A tribute to Snooky, A Tribute to TC, Progress Report, Quotables, Excerpt from Prion Promises.
I just learned that two of my recent novels are finalists for the EPIC awards, to be given in New Orleans in March. One of them, Quanty, the story of a quantum computer that becomes self-aware and causes all kinds of problems for its creators, is a finalist in the Adventure category.
The other finalist is The Y Factor, a stand-alone science fiction novel in the Cresperian trilogy that began with Human by Choice, written with Travis S. Taylor (which incidentally won the Dream Realm Award for 2009). The Y Factor was co-authored with Stephanie Osborne. It is a stand alone novel, the second book of the science fiction trilogy.
Politicians must either not have any integrity to begin with or lose it on the way to Washington because it sure doesn't arrive there with them!
So long as money is the life blood of politics don't expect an honest government or honest lawmakers.
Books for Christmas!
Two of my most popular books, Life On Santa Claus Lane and Doggie Biscuit! become even more popular this time of year because they make excellent Christmas presents that can be enjoyed by all the family, kids and adults both. Order from Bookstores, Amazon or B&N on line.
Special Book Sale
A dozen or so of my books are from this publisher and are included in the sale described below!
This year is the 10th anniversary of the founding of Twilight Times Books
In celebration, Twilight Times Books will have a print book sale from now
For a limited time, and while quantities last, we are offering a 30% - 50%
Bad Ice Cream
One night recently I decided to finish off the night in my usual manner, by having a bowl of ice cream. Now when we have ice cream, the doggies have ice cream, too. I put their bowls on the counter along with mine and gave them a spoonful each and took mine off to bed with a book. When I was about half way through eating my ice cream Betty came into the bedroom, took one look at my bowl and screamed "You're eating out of Tonto's food bowl! Yuk! Doggie germs! Doggie germs!" I looked at the bowl. Sure enough it belonged to Tonto but since I was already over half through I said to hell with it and finished up my ice cream, doggie germs or no doggie germs. Betty told me to gargle with Listerine, brush my teeth and gargle some more before I tried to kiss her again! Okay, easy enough. But when I woke her up in the middle of the night barking and then peed on the floor she told me to shut up with the barking and clean up that pee before she got the broom after me. All this goes to prove the truth of that old adage: some you win, some you lose, some get rained out and every once in a while God decides you've been bad and a massive forefinger comes down from heaven and mashes you into a grease spot. Obviously I wasn't on good terms with Him that night!
Sign of the Times:
At one of our local businesses there is a sign posted:
Somehow, that seems a bit crazy to me.
While my son-in-law was here recently we talked a bit about whether term limits would or wouldn't be a solution to the craziness afflicting our nation and our leaders. I am of the opinion that term limits would not help at all. They would only induce the congress members to steal faster. Term limits would also mean even more former members of congress becoming lobbyists and increasing the numbers of those shills for pressure groups and corporations. Personally, I believe our nation had been afflicted with so many arcane, indecipherable laws and regulations and taxes no one understands that the situation is hopeless. The only solution is revolution, but…I seriously doubt there are enough Americans today willing to put their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor on the line as our forefathers did. Those men knew that if they lost, a hangman's noose was waiting on them. Would we have done the same in their situation?
Still in First
The Long Way Home is still hanging in there as the number one best seller in Science Fiction at www.fictionwise.com four months after making the list. That is an awfully long time to remain at the top of a genre. I don't know what I did right but the fans have given it the highest ratings of any of my books. It is available in print and ebook editions at Amazon, book stores, B&N and ebook stores.
The Axis of Time trilogy by John Birmingham is a dandy series. It takes a predominantly American naval fleet from the year 2021 that is thrown back in time to the area of the Battle of Midway in WWII. The author does a great job of portraying the differing viewpoints of men and women separated by 80 years of progress, especially the difference in feminine outlooks! Nevertheless, they must now cooperate in order win the war. Birmingham is a fine author and all history buffs and those who like alternate time stories should really enjoy this series.
Darrel T. Langart wrote Anything You Can Do…. back in the sixties but it is still just as readable today. An alien is trapped on our planet and trying to devise a communicator so it can be rescued. As a result of its peculiar culture it doesn't believe humans are the real intelligences running the planet, which makes for a fine subplot. I've reported on this one before but it's been a while and I just read it again.
Tom Kratman has written a possibly prophetic novel, Caliphate, that takes place a hundred years from now. In retaliation for continued terrorist acts the United States has nuked many Muslim nations. In Europe, Muslims have taken over simply by outbreeding the other people. America has an empire. There is slavery in Europe and Africa. Many of the scenes may irritate some people but you can't say Kratman pulled any punches. He takes the present world to one of the possible logical conclusions and the result isn't pretty. I think it is well worth reading, though.
The RICO laws were originally designed to combat criminal racketeering but the law was poorly written and is rarely used to confiscate property gained from racketeering. It is misused more often than not. Citizens don't realize how all-encompassing this law is and how wrongly it can be used by law enforcement officials. You can be caught with a marijuana cigarette in your car and your car can be confiscated for "racketeering". That's not the worst of it. Your car could be confiscated before you ever went to trial. A person might be totally innocent but their property is taken from them before they are tried. That is how this law can and is applied all too often. I'm for not letting crooks keep their ill-gotten gains but the procedure for taking it is worse than most of the crimes committed, if anyone wants my opinion.
A tribute to Snooky
My oldest sister, four years my senior, died in November. The name Snooky came from a radio program popular back in the late 1930s, Baby Snooks. My parents began calling her Snooky and gradually that became her name. When she was an adult she made it her legal name.
Snooky was a great sister. When we were very poor she helped Mother with the other kids and helped Dad on the dairy farm. She got up with him early in the morning and helped milk the cows by hand while she was still in grade school. She bathed me and my younger brother every day except when it was really cold out by the cistern that had a faucet. I can remember how Gary and I screamed when the cold water hit us on frosty mornings. She was a wonderful sister, always there for the family whenever anyone wanted or needed help and she usually offered before she was asked. She always did her best, even in circumstances over which she had no control, including a number of strokes in her later years that finally resulted in her going to a nursing home. Even there she remained cheerful. Betty and I traveled to see her one last time a couple of years ago and as many of the family as could make it all met there. After that she developed cancer that went undiagnosed in the nursing home until it was too late for much to be done. Even then she stayed cheerful right to the end and didn't complain about what life had handed her. She was only 74 when she died. We'll miss her.
And a Tribute to TC
TC Masters is my uncle, and has always been my favorite one. On top of Snooky's passing I just learned that he has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's. He is in his late eighties now. It is hard to imagine. Everyone, in his daughter's words, always regarded him as a superman. Nothing ever phased him. He could do anything he set his mind to. He never lost his temper. He could communicate with anyone from a tramp to a president in the same gentle, easy going manner we all admired so much. He always remained a quiet spoken, even-tempered, truly admirable man. Some of you who have read my memoirs "Darrell Bain's World of Books" have read about him and how much I have always admired him. He is a truly remarkable person, one of the type you think should go on forever. It was he who was in part responsible for me eventually becoming a writer simply through his encouragement. Everyone who ever knew TC loved him. I have never heard anything but good said of him and about him. He and Helen were married when he was 17 and she was 15 during the Great Depression. They just celebrated their 71st anniversary. They have remained together all these years, which isn't surprising since Helen is a really great lady herself.
TC always tried to stretch his mind. He built a business from scratch back in the early days of TV and not only supported his own family and children but provided jobs for many of them and guided their development until they were ready to strike out on their own. All my cousins, TC and Helen's kids, think the world of their Dad and Mom with every reason to do so. Even after selling the business for enough to retire on fairly early in life he still always tried to stretch his mind and learn new things. I corresponded with him on and off most of my adult life and he has always been one of my greatest inspirations, not only for what he accomplished but for how he lived and acted in his long life. I hate to think of him passing into the darkness like this, but from all accounts he has accepted his fate graciously and with his usual quiet good nature. Betty and I wish he and Helen well in the coming days and weeks and months. Each of them in their own way has a terrible burden to carry.
I've finally gotten my newest creation to jell. I started on it in three different versions and couldn't satisfy myself that any of them were what I was trying to do. Frankly, I was beginning to wonder if my writing career was over since I couldn't seem to get anything right. Finally, though, it is at about 30,000 words and going well. The title will be either The Bolt Cluster Enigma or maybe The Xanadu Enigma. I'll ask Betty which she likes best.
I've also made some notes on two more novels I may write after this one is finished. They seems like a good concept to me but I'll have to get into it to know for sure.
Thanks for reading.
Excerpt from Prion Promises (The stand-alone sequel to the best-selling Strange Valley)
"Do you really want to sit through the rest of this?" Lisa murmured against his lips, then slid her tongue partway into his mouth. Strands of straight red hair tickled the arm he was supporting her with, and more strands blurred his vision.
"We should. What he says may mean a lot for our future."
Lisa blew at the vagrant wisp of hair. "Oh, poo. He's not going to say anything in this speech that means a hill of beans and you know it."
Dan had to admit she was right, but nevertheless...
Lisa moved back to his ear with her tongue, making him laugh, even as he felt the familiar warmth she always induced begin to build in his body. Lisa wasn't bashful at all; very few of the Masterville women were. She didn't care that others were in the room with them, watching the same speech.
"If you're that interested, you can watch it from bed," Lisa whispered.
Daniel squirmed and ran his hand up the length of her bare thigh to where her shorts began. "Would we watch?"
"You can if you like. I'll be busy." Her tongue moved in his ear, making promises.
Daniel stood up abruptly, dumping her from his lap, but catching her hand to prevent her from going sprawling. He drew her to him. He was learning not to be embarrassed, too. "All right, let's go."
Just as they turned their back on the rest of the group, the volume and character of the broadcast changed abruptly. He heard screams, shouts, crashing sounds and a cacophony of voices going shrill with excitement, all trying to speak at once. He whirled back around to see what was happening.
On the screen, Daniel could see a tangle of bodies bent over a figure, with the commentator shouting that the President had been shot, and being overridden by other voices yelling unintelligibly. He felt Lisa gripping his hand fiercely. The scene opened up momentarily, showing the new president lying on his back with blood pouring from his mouth while hands and heads came into view, and receded just as quickly. He heard cries for a doctor and other voices yelling for an ambulance. In the background, the huge crowd that had gathered in the Washington Memorial Plaza for the inauguration was moving like a huge erratic amoeba, with pseudopods of humanity going first this way then that, but making little overall progress. The wail of sirens sounded in the background and became louder and louder.
Daniel didn't have to look any longer, even though he still stared at the chaotic scene. He had seen death before and he knew that President Sheffield was a goner. The blood had been coming from a hole in his chest directly over the heart as well as from his mouth. He found himself thinking that whoever shot him must be an excellent marksman.
"We're in for it now," Tyrone Beamer said.
Daniel looked over Lisa's shoulder. Tyrone Beamer, the head of Beamer research and the true leader of Masterville Valley was shaking his head, lips drawn into a grim line.
"Why?" Lisa said. "We didn't do it."
"We'll be blamed for it, if for no other reason than that religious bigot who's going to be president now."
Daniel felt his stomach knotting in distress. Tyrone was ahead of the rest of them, as he usually was.
John Sheffield had selected Manfred Williamson as his running mate, a southern born again Christian, in order to help pull in the votes of the fundamentalist and religious right wing of the party. Before that, Williamson was one of the ones who had called for isolation, if not outright imprisonment, of the population of Masterville Valley. "Mutant Atheist Prion People", he had labeled them, ignoring other voices like the Surgeon General, who advised against any sort of pogrom. And though the people of Masterville weren't exactly confined to the valley, one battalion of the army brigade that had been moved in by the previous president was still in place. Theoretically, it was to keep tourists away from the area that had been contaminated by a dirty bomb, one that a rouge cabal of the National Security Agency had exploded close to one of the passes leading into the valley, but Daniel knew that wasn't the only reason. They were there as the forerunner of even more troops if they were needed--and he knew who defined "need". The media kept the valley in the spotlight because of the differences of its population from the norm; differences that he knew could instigate violence from bigoted know-it-alls at the drop of a politician's speech or the whim of a publicity-seeking preacher.
Daniel started to comment about Masterville taking the blame for the assassination but Lisa shushed him by pushing him back down into the chair where they had been sitting and again plopping down into his lap. "Just watch for now," she said.
As it had in the past, the assassination played out on television during the long afternoon in all its gory detail, with disoriented reporters probing at every possible ramification, like a hive of bees swarming over a single honeycomb. The group in the apartment stayed silent as the big wall screen eventually showed feeds of the new president taking the oath of office, his cherubic face belied by hooded gray eyes resembling those of a lizard. There were flecks of blood spattered on the jacket of his light gray suit. Daniel, being a natural cynic so far as politicians were concerned, was certain that he had kept wearing the blood-adorned garment purposely, knowing it would make a great image for later use.
When the screen began showing reruns from just after the assassination, where the new president had disappeared from view into a phalanx of limousines headed back to the White House, Tyrone Beamer shut off the television. He got up from where he had been sitting with Marybeth Chambers, his part time lover, and went to the bar to freshen their drinks. Daniel suspected that only the succession of crisis' over the last year or so had prevented them from making their relationship exclusive, or as exclusive as Masterville people ever got. Or perhaps not; he and Lisa had been out of circulation, away from the valley for most of those months. They could have tied the knot for all he knew, though he doubted it; marriage wasn't a big thing here.
Tyrone sipped at his new drink as he leaned back against the bar. He said nothing, but raised bushy red eyebrows, denoting that the subject of President Williamson was open for debate.
Daniel had a question for him immediately. "Tyrone, a while ago you said >we're in for it, now'. You didn't mean immediately, did you?"
Tyrone rubbed at the beginning of reddish whiskers on his chin. "Hard to say, Dan. For certain, there's going to be those who blame us immediately, not even stopping to consider how much better off we would have been, relatively speaking, with Sheffield than with Williamson. But officially, I'd say it won't begin right away. Williamson may be ignorant about most things, but he's no dummy when it comes to politics. He'll let things stew a bit, then hop on us when he needs to stir up the people to get his points across in Congress. And that's the real problem: the House and Senate are split three ways just about evenly now between the conservatives, religionists and the moderate factions. It won't take much agitation to swing the majority against us, and he has two years to work at it."
Lisa leaned forward a bit from her position in Daniel's lap. "Daniel and I have been outside the valley for months, Tyrone. I can tell you, the people are jittery. Most of them still don't quite know what to think of us, and the religious-minded are damned scared of getting infected with our prions for fear they'll turn into atheists. They think we're emissaries from the devil. Or the fundamentalists do, anyway."
She leaned back against Daniel, making him speak past her freckles. "Lisa didn't mention that there are lots of people who want our prions, especially for their kids. There's even a black market, despite the penalties for selling them."
"Which means there are a few sane people out there," Gina Lesters, one of Beamer's administrative assistants said. "And we know about how many, since we supply the black market." Like Tyrone Beamer, she was a redhead. There were lots of redheads in Masterville.
Timothy Powers, Tyrone's other administrative assistant said "There's more than a few; more like fifteen percent, maybe."
"What are you talking about?" Lisa asked, covering Daniel's hand where his fingers had begun tickling her bare knee.
"That's our estimate of the percentage of the population who don't believe in religion at all." Timothy said. He ran his fingers through thinning brown hair and smiled at Gina.
"And everyone else is insane, is that what you're saying?"
Tyrone spoke for him. He grinned, making him look younger than the mid-forties he admitted to. "Look at it like this," he said. "Suppose that you not only went around telling people that you regularly talked to an invisible superman, but that you did it in public. Further, suppose you claimed that this invisible superman was responsible for everything either good or evil that happened to you and that if you were good and pleaded with him, that he would sometimes intervene in your behalf and help you, and that if you didn't believe this, you would be punished terribly, either in this life or when you die. Suppose that you regularly thanked this invisible entity for your every meal in public, out loud, and talked over your affairs with him at regular intervals, pleading for guidance. Then just think: if you called your superman anything but God, you would be judged totally insane and locked up for the rest of your life!"
Everyone in the room burst out laughing.
"Bravo!" Eileen Tupper said, clapping her hands. She was the Mayor of Masterville, a slim woman with a sharp voice and an angular face. "Now I know why I like you, Tyrone. You don't take prisoners."
That got another laugh from everyone but Tyrone.
"I'm perfectly serious, he said. "I believe most of humanity is slightly insane, by our standards. A belief in invisible entities who are responsible for all the unexplained phenomena which scared our cave-men ancestors witless came into being as a survival trait. As our distant ancestors gained in intelligence, that was the only thing that kept them from becoming quivering hulks, just waiting for the next bolt of lightning to strike. And it helped to alleviate the all pervasive fear of death, too. Just remember that back then, death occurred openly, not hidden away in hospitals, and a great deal of death was violent. Thinking that superbeings would succor you after you died helped to control the fear of death. And then, like any other basic trait that becomes expressed in behavior, institutions grew up around it. And once established, the institutions acted as any other group led by humans always have; they did their damndest to perpetuate themselves. Thus we have religion, with all its quirks and irrationality. But we should also remember that the religion genes helped humanity to survive at one point in our evolution. Unfortunately, the genes for it are still around after we no longer need them."
"That only applies to some people, Tyrone," Lisa said gently, then added, "but you're perfectly correct about the rest, those where the expression of the genes that hadn’t been moderated by environment. Hell, I always feel like an alien at a human convention when I'm somewhere that praying is going on, or even when someone insists on saying grace before a meal. That’s kind of rare here, but Dan and I ran across it a lot on the outside."
"Well, sure you feel odd. I do myself. That just goes along with the fact that so many people are constitutionally unable to live without religion--unless they grew up with our prions, of course."
"And they can't help it, for the most part."
"True, but that doesn't help us, either." Lisa got up and headed for the bar, knowing that Daniel was ready for another drink. She was ready, too. This was not turning into a good day.
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