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Darrell Bain's Newsletter

June 2006

  From the organized chaos of Darrell's computer and desk.

Strawberries, Wildlife, Ottoman Shopping, Cookies, Memoirs, The Focus Factor, and more.

How to Eat Strawberries
Pay close attention to this segment of the newsletter. It's a lesson in how to eat fresh strawberries. First, make sure the strawberry is red and juicy. Next, dip it in water and leave it wet. Then hold strawberry by its stem, dip thoroughly in sugar bowl, eat half of it, dip remainder in sugar bowl, eat the rest. Repeat until full or strawberries all gone. It is very important that you use the regular sugar bowl, regardless of leaving globs of sugar encrusted juice behind. It tastes better than if you remove the sugar to a little bowl or plate first. Be sure and teach this to your kids, grandkids and greatgrandkids. We've trained all of ours and they won't eat fresh strawberries any other way. They tell us their parents won't let them use the sugar bowl because it makes a mess, but we don't mind--we make a mess, too.

Alien Infection
I'm pleased to announce that my international best selling E-book, Alien Infection is NOW IN PRINT! It may be obtained from bookstores, Amazon, Bamm.com, Barnes & Noble or autographed copies from my own web site. And it may be just my predilection, but I think it has one of the most striking covers of any of my books.

News and Apologies
I have just become aware of a technical glitch in the procedure for ordering the autographed copies of my books, using the "Book Sale" icon at my web site, www.darrellbain.com. The credit card ordering has not been working. The glitch has now been taken care of and you may use credit cards with the shopping cart to order, should you choose. Paypal is also available.

My sincere apologies if you have tried to order before and been unsuccessful. At present the following autographed Trade Paperback print books are available at $12.95 each, shipping and handling included:
Alien Infection
Doggie Biscuit!
Hotline to Heaven
Life on Santa Claus Lane
Medics Wild
Postwar Dinosaur Blues
Strange Valley

These books make nice gifts and I'll be glad to personalize the autograph on request. You can email me from the web site.

Diets
Neither Betty nor I ever had to worry about our weight or dieting until we were well into our sixties. Both of us stayed slim and ate whatever we liked. Then all of a sudden I developed diabetes and Betty got high blood pressure from elevated cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Then we both had to start dieting. And at long last we can appreciate the difficulty of sticking to a diet. Both of us love sweets and Betty is a superb cook. It is damned hard. It must be doubly hard for those people who gain ten pounds just by looking at a dessert.

I've noticed that after a year or two, our old habits are gradually reasserting themselves. It's probably a good thing that we've gotten into the habit of using low fat milk and butter and eating desserts baked with Splenda that's only half sugar. And better still, we broke the habit of French Vanilla ice cream. I used to eat almost a quart of that stuff a day. And Betty has learned to cook so well with olive oil that I can barely tell the difference. We have cut out most fried food, saving it for special occasions. Both of us draw the line on pie crusts, though. It's just not a good crust unless it's made using solid Crisco!

So, I am formally taking my hat off to anyone who goes on a diet and sticks to it over a period of years. You have my utmost respect.

Wildlife
I've noticed a cycle in the wildlife on the farm. And yes, we still call it a farm even though we closed the Christmas tree part of it three years ago. For a while we'll see lots of rabbits hippity hopping along the road as we go in and out or to and from the mailbox. Then we'll begin to spot either coyotes or wildcats. Before long, we see fewer and fewer rabbits and eventually none. The wildcats or coyotes then disappear. Then the rabbit population begins building up again and suddenly they're everywhere. That's when we begin to watch for the predators because we know they'll show up soon. All this is nothing new, of course. It's just interesting to be able to observe one of the cycles of wildlife almost from the front door (and from the front door occasionally, with the bolder coyote or wildcat).

The Focus Factor, etc.
My new book, The Focus Factor is available as an e-book now, with print to follow. It is a futuristic suspense thriller on one level, but on another a manifesto for political change in America. This was a collaboration with Gerald Mills, using both our styles and observations on life in America and naturally involved a lot of compromise on both our parts. No two people ever look at the world in exactly the same way. The Focus Factor can be found at Fictionwise.com and eReader.com.

My second collection of short stories is also available now, Back From The Bend. I've annotated the stories and included a few articles which have been published in other places. And finally, my newest short story, Neanderthal Nemesis is available as e-book at Fictionwise.com and eReader.com. Beware of the animals the Neanderthals keep as pets!

New Favorite Link
I am very selective about links I recommend to readers. In fact, I've listed only three up until now. However, I recently ran across another I'd like to add. This is http://www.madehow.com/ a link to a web site which tells how just about any product is made. It also gives a brief history of the product, describes how it is manufactured and shows diagrams of the process by which the product is made. Want to know how felt is made? Or fabric softeners? A mirror? M & M candy? Raisins? Revolvers? Rolling Pins? This is the site for you. I found it fascinating just to scroll through the listings at random until I saw a product I wanted to know more about. Bingo! There it was. Have fun, but watch yourself. You may forget the time and suddenly wake up and find hours have passed while you read about the history and methods for making chewing gum or Kool Aid or...

Ottoman Odyssey
Furniture shopping should be easy, I think. I found out it isn't when my feet began hurting from dangling past the extension of my recliner. I decided to get an ottoman and not use the extension. First, I looked on the internet. I found a couple of ottomans of the correct dimensions and softness for my aching feet and showed them to Betty. Both times she gave me a thumbs down. The color just wouldn't do. Next day, since we were seeing the eye doc together, we decided to find ME an ottoman while we were near Houston. From ten in the morning until two in the afternoon, we checked furniture stores. I found lots of ottomans of the right dimensions and softness. Sorry. Wrong colors again. Or way too expensive. Finally, I gave up.

On the way home, we stopped by the vet to pick up some heartworm pills for the furry members of the family. Coincidentally, right nearby was a furniture store we had forgotten. Betty took me inside and we looked for ottomans. When again, we could find nothing that matched Betty's color schemes (and by this time I was beginning to think the whole thing was a scheme), I had a bright idea. Since this furniture store was close to home, how about finding Me an ottoman in their catalog and having them order it for us? Good idea, said Betty. We began poring through catalogs. I was looking and checking prices and making darned sure I didn't pick one in a color Betty had already rejected, when she disappeared. A few minutes later she asked me to come look at something. Aha! She found an ottoman she likes, I thought. She led me over to a chair and ottoman. By this time I was ready to take whichever ottoman she picked for me. Isn't this a cute matching chair and ottoman? She asked me. Uh huh, but we only want an OTTOMAN for ME. Can I buy the ottoman? Of course you can, Betty said, leading me back to the little office where the catalogs and the friendly saleslady lived.

The next thing I knew, we had purchased both the chair and ottoman for Betty. Not for me, for Betty! And all the time I thought we were shopping for an ottoman for me. You can have my old one, Betty told me, the soul of generosity. And that's what I have now. Betty's old ottoman, while she has a new easy chair and ottoman in a color she likes. And now as I'm writing this, I'm wondering how it happened. Wasn't it ME we went shopping for? Wasn't it just an ottoman we were after? For ME? Obviously not, because we didn't buy an ottoman for me, we bought a chair and ottoman for Betty. There must be a moral here, but for the life of me, all I can think of is don't go furniture shopping with your wife if you're looking for something for yourself. Especially if you're shopping for an ottoman.

Memoirs Note
Just a note here about my memoirs/biography. I'm trying to do one segment a month, and I previously told you it would come out about the same time as the newsletter. I'd like to modify that a little. I'm still trying to do one segment a month, but with everything else I'm trying to do I may not always manage. Also, it may or may not appear at the same time as the newsletter. What I will do is always announce in the newsletter when a new segment has been posted. Like now: a new segment of my Memoirs is up. It relates events during and shortly after WWII, from about 1943 to 1947 or so. It's interesting to look back at how primitively we lived back then. Making your own soap? That sounds like something from pioneer days! But Mother did, just as she made our own butter and washed our clothes in a big iron pot in the yard with a wood fire to heat the water.

Book Report
Eric Frank Russell wrote lots of science fiction short stories. Last month I went back and re-read a lot of them from several collections. I like him for the way his characters thumb their noses at authority.

L.Sprage de Camp wrote the definitive "back in time" novel, so far as I'm concerned. Lest Darkness Fall is the title. I've read a couple of dozen times over the years. Always just as good. Crusade by David Weber and Steve White is a really good military science fiction about an alien race with a misguided religion. Weber's characterization is always real good and didn't suffer at all in this collaboration. Needle by Hal Clement is one I started reading back when I was a teenager and still take it out every couple of years. It's about an alien living inside a human, but in a cooperative way. It's also a mystery, because the alien is looking for another of his species which is amoral and may harm humans.

I re-read The Egg And I by Betty MacDonald, for the fourth time in the last two years since finding it living on Betty's bookshelves. I had seen her reading it so many times that it finally roused my curiosity. I love that book. It is hilarious. I made the mistake of reading it at the table and laughed so hard I spit milk everywhere, even though it was my fourth reading. It's about a newly married woman suddenly thrown into country living on a chicken ranch back before WWII. It is hilarious (I know, I'm repeating myself) and MacDonald has the best use of metaphors and similes I've ever seen in a writer.

What that woman went through before finally divorcing is unbelievable. Not that her husband was mean to her, it's just that they obviously lived in different worlds. If I had been her, I'd of been gone after the first two months. Well, maybe not. Remember the era. Women didn't just walk off and leave their husbands back then. And they were expected to do everything their husbands asked them to, even if it did involve living five miles from the nearest neighbor, doing without running water or electricity and being asked to help with all the farm chores in addition to running the house. The book was such a best seller you'll have no problems finding used copies, even 60 years after publication. Trust me on this one. Find you a copy and prepare to laugh yourself silly—and then if you're a woman, be thankful times have changed.

The Puppet Masters by Robert A. Heinlein was among the first science fiction books I read. In fact, it got me to reading science fiction to the exclusion of anything else for a while. I re-read it in the original unedited form and discovered that even a writer of Heinlein's merit needed an editor. The edited version is shorter but reads much better. This is a part of publishing that most readers never think about, but a good editor is a necessity to make a good book. This holds true for all but a very few writers. The better the editor, the better the book, as a rule. The next time you read a good book, give a little bit of thanks to the editor. He or she probably almost certainly contributed to your enjoyment. Just a note here: Savage Survival is my highest rated book. It's also the one where I felt the editor did a particularly good job.

Predators by Daina Graziunas and Jim Starlin is an unusual book. It's about a serial killer who kills only other serial killers. Where's the morality here? I found myself sympathizing with the killer, even though he was taking the law into his own hands. It's very well written. For a different take on the genre, try it. I don't think you'll be disappointed.

Lethal City by Jeffrey Ames is a really good detective story. I was fooled about whodunit. The writing is as good as the story.

Cookies
I love cookies. Good cookies, that is, the type Betty makes. The only store-bought cookies I really enjoy and am likely to pig out on is Oreos. Otherwise, I stick with Betty's cookies. The ones I like best are made with dried dates and dried cherries and brown sugar and spices and this and that. Even though she uses half and half Splenda in place of the regular sugar called for in the recipe (in addition to the brown sugar), they still are absolutely delicious. We call them "Gary" cookies because my brother Gary sent the recipe to us.

Toppers
For those of you who like humor, I recommend Toppers. It's a book, more or less true, written by Darrell Bain (me) and Will Stafford. I've never met Will in person. We began corresponding way back when my book Medics Wild first came out. Our correspondence ranged over wide areas and consisted mainly of each of us trying to top the other's tales. Betty and I both just howled with laughter every time another of Will's outrageous stories came in the e-mail. Some of the stories are about growing up in rural Arkansas and some from Vietnam and some…but read it yourself. His stories were so good I saved all the mail and eventually put it together into a book. It's available in print (although the print version is rather expensive considering the length, I still think it's worth it) and will soon be available again as an e-book. I have enough material I saved to make another book if I ever get around to it. Dern, I hate having to limit my working hours but that's what the doc said to do and I'm doing it. One trip to ICU was enough to last me the rest of my life.

Gardens
A lot of younger readers probably have never eaten really fresh produce from a back yard garden. It is ten times as good as what you buy in a grocery store. We have a garden every year. For the first time, we had to hire someone to till it and make the rows. It's producing now and I love everything that comes from it. We're still waiting on the first tomato.

Gardening is a dying tradition. It's sort of a topic of conversation with Betty and I when we go somewhere over well-traveled routes. Every year, we notice there are fewer and fewer gardens. The young people today stay too busy to make one. It's a shame, really. New potatoes, lettuce. Broccoli, tomatoes. Yummie! (I won't eat broccoli from a grocery store, and I don't blame kids for not liking it. It's tasteless).

I hadn't been involved in gardening since I was a small boy and had forgotten all about how to do it. Betty knew a little more, but her former husband had always taken care of it for her. It was a new experience for both of us. I've never written a story about our first couple of gardens, but I should have. Particularly my first attempt at building a fence to protect the garden from varmints. That fence, the first one this mechanically challenged author ever did, almost ate my lunch. For years, it was a topic of conversation up and down the road. I've never been laughed at so much in my life! One day I'll get up the courage to write that story.

Eye Surgery
It seems I can't stay away from hospitals. One of my eyelids decided that laziness was the life for it and began drooping enough to interfere with reading. I found myself sitting in my easy chair with my feet propped on Betty's old ottoman (while glancing covetously over at her new one) and holding my book with one hand and my eyelid up with the other. That did it. I had the lazy thing repaired and am recovering nicely, after wearing an eye patch for a day or two. I can see better now and also have a much better appreciation of what my brother-in-law Louis goes through daily. He lost one of his eyes to a ruptured artery a few years ago. The worst thing is the lack of depth perception, which requires two eyes. I found myself tipping over water glasses, stumbling while going in and out the door, bumping into walls, and so on. Having only one eye for a couple of days was bad enough. I can't even imagine going through life blind. Brrr.

That's all for now. See you next month. In the meantime, happy reading to you all!

Darrell Bain
Shepherd, Texas
June 2006

 

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