Meanwhile, my friend Christopher Hoare has been entertaining me with stories, so I coaxed him into sharing one with us today. Chris, a frequent guest host, is the author of The Iskander Series. If you haven't bought a copy of one of his books and you love S/F, you're missing something. If I had to list in three words or less why Chris's books are so entertaining, it would have to be: STRONG WOMEN CHARACTERS.
Here's an excerpt from the first book in his series titled Deadly Enterprise:
"Gisel turned away quickly. Two wings of the building stretched away from her. Both echoed with the sounds of running feet. Which way? One stretched away into darkness, the other had an open loft door at the far end. The daylight meant outside – maybe the stable yard. A shout of alarm rang out — from the lighted wing. She launched herself forward.
Then a pistol shot, the woof of a black-powder weapon. Gisel sprinted the whole length between fresh stacked bales of hay. More shots — Yohan’s revolver this time. She dove for the edge of the hay loft, and peered over the wooden sill. A groom in the stable yard struggled to hold two frightened horses as he backed them into an alcove. Across the far side, Yohan stood beside an open door. His back was to the wall – his pistol in his hand. He twisted his body to peer inside. From a window behind him the head and shoulders of a man appeared. Six feet away from Yohan. He raised a flintlock pistol, tilting the firing pan uppermost like a good cavalryman.
Gisel raised her automatic and fired in one motion. She swung out of the opening. The man cried out and clutched his shoulder. His pistol hit the ground."
Now here's Chris and Shirl's latest adventure in frugal shopping:
Careful, considered, frugal shopping.....
Well, not quite. One day, many years ago, we went into town to buy a pound of butter and ended up buying a house. Not quite as reckless as it might sound, perhaps, because it looked to be an ideal revenue property that with a little fixing up could easily earn its keep in rentals. And, for awhile it did.
Eventually, after a regular turnover of tenants we found that – unlike the relatively civilized tenants we’d had when we were in the city – these small community, rural, people had different ideas on renting. The damage deposit was really intended to be part of the last month’s rent when they moved on without giving notice. Defrosting a new fridge was fast and efficient if you used an ice-pick on the cooling system. It was merely a family custom to ram one’s spouse’s head through the drywall. Landlords probably like repairing doors frequently after tenants lock themselves out (or spouses looking to keep their heads out of the drywall locked them out).
After a couple of years we called the experience further education and sold the place. I don’t think we lost anything, but didn’t end up much over break-even. By the way – we didn’t forget the pound of butter.
Fast forward to today. We had received a letter from Ford about a recall on our 14 year old Explorer, so arranged to take it in for the 15 minute job this morning. While waiting for the vehicle to be driven inside for the job we took a stroll around the premises. My wife liked the look of the Mustang GT in the showroom, but this was no more than casual tire-kicking.
The salesman was lonely so he came past on his way to the popcorn machine, and I went for some too, to keep him company. We stood around talking cars and the price of watermelons for awhile and no doubt mentioned that the old Explorer is holding up well, but has over 306,000km on it. It makes some odd noises that it never did when it was younger – but what the heck, so do I.
We advanced to the topic of almost new Fusions – just like those two silver ones over there that are just off lease. We took a walk around the lot outside – just for a bit of exercise, to shake the kinks out. I was merely looking at practical things, like the claimed fuel economy and whether they had intelligent, European design, lever handbrakes instead of those despicable North American sh*t flingers operated by the left foot. (The Explorer’s is a joke since it has such a puny amount of force spread over the rear disk brakes. Don’t trust it on anything steeper than a 0.1% grade.)
Shirl had been sitting in another senior’s new Ford Escape the day before, and so the topic of smaller, more economical SUVs than the Explorer came up. A car is nice, but we really need something that can pull a light utility trailer – to collect firewood, and pick up coal from the local Hutterites (that I’ve forgotten to phone about yet again). Salesman pointed us to the money offered for turning in our old clunker, but hold on – it’s years from being a clunker yet. We looked at the used Escapes (I balk at buying new and taking that big hit from the sticker price) as well as a Saturn SUV that had escaped from the GM lot. It was three years old, with 95,000 km for only $11,999. Interesting but no tow hitch – and how much weight could it handle back there?
Strolling over to the shiny silver Fusions I looked at a much more sober red Focus – only a year old. We asked and found out it had just over 10,000 km and had been traded by a young couple who’d had it new for less than a year. With 2 kids already, wife became pregnant with twins. A Focus might be called cute, but not with four squalling kids in the back – they’d gone for an Expedition to house the family. The Focus, asking $12.999, with oodles of warranty left and a four cylinder engine that promised 48 mpg in the country – where we live – it seemed worth taking for a drive. (The Explorer was still not inside for its 10 o/c appointment – gee, should I be suspicious?)
Not bad for room, not bad for pickup and hill-climbing – since my racing days are long over. Front wheel drive, so it should be able to get out of a snowbound driveway as easily as the Audi we had when we first moved down this way. Manual transmission – which had ruled it out for all the amateur drivers. We’ve only ever owned two vehicles with sewer-pump transmissions. The Explorer is manual and Shirl has been driving her brother’s BMW a lot since he went into a lodge – so she managed her trial trip without too much nonsense (only stalled it once and only hit 5000 rpm once when shifting from 1st to 2nd). But she likes it.
“We really need two vehicles in the country.”
“I can keep the Explorer for knock-about trips after firewood or taking the dogs. So we don’t need another 4WD with load capacity.”
48mpg will look good when the price of oil tops $200 a barrel next year. We’d better check at the bank that we can still access the line of credit I used to have when I ran my own business. Whee, 3.75% interest, and we can choose our own repayment schedule as long as the monthly payment covers interest and other expenses. With Canada’s biggest customer looking more and more like falling off the edge of the world next year it’s a good time to turn dollars into necessary utility. In high inflation economies it makes more sense to be a debtor than a creditor.
We pick up the Focus tomorrow at 1 o/c.