Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Welcome to the Elfyverse…

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Thank you for stopping by my blog, which is called either “Barb Caffrey’s Blog,” or “the Elfyverse.”

Why two names? Well, I figured it would be easier for people to find me if they used my name. But I’ve been writing about Elfys, Elfs, Dwarves, and more for the past ten years — thus “the Elfyverse.”

As for what I do here, it’s simple: I talk about anything I like.

I’ve been blogging now for nearly four years. (Here’s a link to my first blog post, if you don’t believe me.) Over that time, I’ve talked writing, publishing, music, sports, current events, politics . . . anything at all that I feel like talking about.

So while you’re here, expect the unexpected . . . because you never quite know what I’m about to say.

Please feel free to stop by any time you like. And tell your friends about all my work, including AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE (Barnes and Noble link is here) and the two stories of my late husband Michael’s, “A Dark and Stormy Night” and “On Westmount Station,” all available at Amazon.

And remember . . . support a real writer.

Written by Barb Caffrey

June 9, 2014 at 5:21 am

My novel, “An Elfy on the Loose,” Is Now Available

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It’s been a long time in coming, but my first novel, AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE (now with a subtitle of “Book One of the ELFY duology”) is now available at Amazon.com and will be available soon at all major e-book retailers.

**Edited to add: AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE has also “gone live” at BN.com (Barnes and Noble’s website), as Paul Howard told me in the comments. If you have a Nook and want to read AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE, now’s your chance!

Now back to our regularly scheduled post.**

I’m very pleased that AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE is now out, even though I hadn’t expected it to “go live” on Amazon tonight, of all nights — but as it has, I figured I’d best skedaddle and get a blog post up, pronto.

For those of you who want a sample, please go here and read the first five chapters of AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE . . . then, I hope you’ll go to Amazon and get the e-book, as it’s on sale for a limited time at the low price of $3.99.

Because I’m a new author, and because I’m decidedly not well known, it is anyone’s guess as to whether or not AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE will do well enough to warrant an actual “dead tree” edition (that is, a paper edition).

For all I know, this e-book copy is all that we’re likely to get. So I hope you’ll enjoy it in the spirit intended.

In other words, if you want to read my novel because you’ve been intrigued about Bruno the Elfy and Sarah his human companion and want to know all about Sarah’s house (which is an Elfy trap of major proportions), or if you want to figure out why a Dark Elf would go to Northern California, or if you even want to know why Bruno’s mentor Roberto is worth saving despite being more than a bit of an butthead sometimes, now’s your chance.

I also hope that if you read and enjoy AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE, you won’t be averse to letting people know my book exists. Because I need all the help I can get . . . and I’m not shy about saying so.

Written by Barb Caffrey

April 12, 2014 at 12:34 am

Tagged in the Meet My Character Blog-Hop…and Other Stuff

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Folks, I’ve been tagged by author Erin Moore in the Meet My Character(s) Blog-hop. She’s the author of AWAKENED BY THE MINOTAUR, a contemporary romance about a man forced to shapeshift into the form of a Minotaur that’s set in Greece and uses Greek myth as its basis. Her book looks a little bit like P.C. Cast’s Goddess novels, which means it should be a fun, fast read with some really good grounding in history and mythology and a goodly amount of spice.

And as I’ve read nearly every book P.C. Cast has ever put out — even if I haven’t reviewed most of them — I look forward to diving into her book soon.

Now, observant readers may be aware that I’ve done this particular blog-hop before (here’s the link, if you don’t believe me) — but I talked about Bruno the Elfy, then. This time, I’m going to talk about Sarah, his human love interest — both are teens (or the equivalent, in Bruno’s case, as Elfys mature more slowly than humans), so it’s an age-appropriate, gentle romance — and discuss things from her point of view.

So look for my response to Erin’s tag next Monday, OK? (And thanks again, Erin, for tagging me! I’m always glad to discuss AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE.)

Now, as for the other stuff.

I’ve taken to Twitter in my support of comedienne Joan Rivers, as the eighty-one-year-old dynamo had a heart attack while undergoing a throat procedure in an outpatient clinic in New York nearly a week ago. Since that time, Ms. Rivers has been in a medically-induced coma, but the most recent word is that the doctors have started bringing her out of that.

No one knows how long Ms. Rivers was without oxygen, though. And that’s important — someone can survive a heart attack with immediate treatment (CPR, in this case), but the longer the brain goes without oxygen, the more likely she’s going to be impaired either physically or mentally.

Here, obviously, losing mental faculties has to be the main issue. (No one wants to lose the ability to move around, but actors and comedians can continue to make a living providing their minds are intact and they can speak and be understood.) As Ms. Rivers has made her way in the world due to a razor-sharp intellect, she must have her mind or she can’t work.

More to the point, she won’t be herself if she doesn’t have her mind, whether she ever works again or not. So I hope she does regain her mental faculties, knows who she is and recognizes her family and friends when she wakes up, regardless of whether she ever steps foot on stage again.

Because I don’t know about you, but losing one sharp-witted comedian earlier this year in Robin Williams — a good friend of Ms. Rivers, I might add — was more than enough.

Next, what can I say about my poor favorite baseball team, the Milwaukee Brewers, that isn’t already being said? The words “collapse” and “folding” and “I told you so” are already emerging from the national pundits, as the Brewers have now officially lost their nearly year-long lead in the National League Central due to their 4-2 loss today to the lowly Chicago Cubs.

But I’m more concerned about the fatigue I’ve seen on the faces of too many of the Brewers regulars. Ryan Braun looks like he needs not just one day off, but several — his thumb, and perhaps his back as well, is obviously hurting him. Khris Davis is not running as well as normal, so he looks to be ailing. Aramis Ramirez is still playing good defense, but he can barely run, and probably would be on the disabled list if not for being in the thick of the pennant race . . . the list goes on and on. And that’s not even discussing the relief pitchers who’ve been with Milwaukee since the start of the season, who to a man are exhausted due to their many, many appearances.

Mind, the Brewers traded a few days ago for Jonathan Broxton, late of the Cincinnati Reds, who’s a former closer and perhaps may serve as a fresh arm. But they look tired, they’re not playing well, and the dreaded St. Louis Cardinals look to be pressing their advantage — as they should, mind, because that is their job.

I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

Finally, I’m working on two fiction short stories and finishing up a major edit right now, so I may be scarce for the next several days. (We’ll see.) Don’t be surprised if you don’t see much of me until next week, as that’s what tends to happen when I’m on deadline.

As Maury Povich says, “Until next time, America…” (or should I say world?)

Labor Day Book Sale (Not Mine)…and Other Stuff

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Folks, Saturday was one of those days around Chez Caffrey.

Why? Well, Saturday was the day my car decided to stop running. And this looks to be a major repair, something I had not been expecting as I bought the car in late 2011 used with just under 40K miles on it from a reputable local auto dealer, am now up to 67K miles or thereabouts, and it was under warranty for the first 60K miles.

So my car is a piddly seven thousand miles over the extended warranty. And it’s now facing a major repair, cost as yet unknown as it’s a holiday weekend and there’s no way I can get an estimate until the garage I frequent opens on Tuesday morning.

This was obviously not in my plans, to put it mildly.

And because of this unexpected, unanticipated problem, the review I’d hoped to write over at Shiny Book Review (SBR for short) had to be postponed yet again. (Now I hope to write something next Wednesday evening, as that’s the best available day for me to write a book review next week.)

Anyway, I’d much rather talk about books — and most particularly, sales on those same books — than car repairs any day. So let’s get to it!

Writer Amanda S. Green has listed a number of writers — quite a healthy number, in fact — who have priced their novels, novellas, and stories at $2.99 or less for the entirety of Labor Day weekend. This is called the Labor Day Weekend Promotional Sale (or as I put it, the 2014 Labor Day book sale, for short), and features many authors whose work I’ve either reviewed over at SBR or who I’ve known for years, one way or another, including:

And, of course, Ms. Green herself (among many, many others — way too many to list).**

Now, just in case you’re wondering what kinds of stories are available, here’s just a few of the categories available:

  • Urban Fantasy (what, you thought I was going to list anything else in the first position, being an urban fantasist myself? For shame.)
  • Romance of all sorts (including paranormal)
  • Alternate History
  • Horror
  • hard SF
  • military SF
  • fantasy (dark and bright)
  • nonfiction

. . . and much, much more!

And did I mention that all of these stories are available for $2.99 or less? (Yes? Well, I’m excited about that, so it’s not surprising.)

Please go and check out Amanda Green’s page listing all of the books taking part in the 2014 Labor Day book sale. Because who knows? You may just find yourself a new, favorite author, all because of your love of cheap books. (Who said being cheap can’t pay off?)

———-

** I like book sales, whether I’m a part of them or not. Hope you do, too!

Quick (Sports) Hits, Friday Edition

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Folks, I’d hoped to write a post tonight about P.G. Wodehouse, which is the second of my “Learning from the Fiction Masters” blogs. However, that needs must be postponed as I have lots of work at the moment and very little time to do it in . . . I apologize, but I’m going to make this a bi-weekly series for the time being, and will have a new blog in this series up next Friday instead.

Anyway, I do have a few quick hits for you, updates regarding previous blog posts about sports. So here we go!

  • NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has changed his mind about domestic violence. Instead of the piddly two-game suspension Goodell gave to Ray Rice for hitting his then-fiancée and dragging her off an elevator (I wrote about this here), new domestic violence offenders will be penalized six games for the first offense, and have a lifetime ban after the second — but the lifetime ban is a qualified one, meaning the offender can try for reinstatement after a year away from football (and presumably improving his life in some way). This is good news, and I applaud Goodell for taking a step in the right direction.

    But Ray Rice still got over, and I remain deeply unhappy about that.

  • Chris Kluwe had filed a lawsuit against the Minnesota Vikings over the way special teams coach Mike Priefer behaved during the 2012 season (I discussed Priefer’s behavior in this blog, though I did not discuss the lawsuit as I was waiting for a resolution there — or perhaps for the trial to start, take your pick.) The Vikings initially were going to fight Kluwe, but instead have settled with him. The proceeds of this lawsuit are going to several LGBT and transgender charities, and are believed to exceed $100,000 (but are perhaps shy of the cool million dollars Kluwe’s lawyer was initially asking for); none of it benefits Kluwe directly in any way.

    I see no losers in this deal.

  • I continue to watch the Milwaukee Brewers, 2014 edition, and am cautiously optimistic that they can win the National League Central division. (Despite them stinking up the field thus far tonight in San Francisco, where as of this writing they are down, 6-1, in the bottom of the 4th.) The best position player thus far has probably been Jonathan Lucroy, and the best and most consistent starting pitcher all season long has been Kyle Lohse. (Don’t get fooled by Wily Peralta’s current pitching record of 15-8. Peralta can be very good, or very awful, and tonight he was awful as he gave up six earned runs.)

    Mind, I am worried about the relief pitching. Francisco “K-Rod” Rodriguez has been giving up homers lately in his save opportunities, and blew a save on Wednesday precisely because of that. Will Smith has looked good again lately, but has had a ton of appearances; so have Zach Duke and Brandon Kintzler and most of the rest of the Brewers bullpen.

    At some point, the Brewers pitchers may hit the wall, collectively. (We’re already seeing that with Peralta, and may have seen signs of that already with Smith, Duke and Kintzler.) If that happens, and the Brewers cannot bring up fresh and experienced arms, that will imperil the Brewers playoff chances — much less their chances to win the NL Central.

Oh, and as for folks wondering what I’m up to with regards to reviewing books over at Shiny Book Review? I hope to review something tomorrow, but it still won’t be “Mad Mike” Williamson’s excellent FREEHOLD. (I want more time and energy than I currently have to discuss that book. Let’s just say, for now, that I really have enjoyed my re-read and that it’s unlikely any fans of Mad Mike will be displeased by anything I have to say.)

It’s more likely that I will review a romance of some sort for Romance Saturday, even though I’m not exactly sure what at this point…still, I will find something, and we’ll all know tomorrow!

Saxes and Singers and Gnats, Oh My! (AKA the Racine Concert Band 2014 Free Summer Series Comes to an End)

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Those of you who’ve read my blog for quite some time now are aware of two things, I hope:

1) I’m a musician as well as a writer.

2) I sometimes indulge in extra long titles (as above).**

Why am I starting this blog post like this? Because the Racine Concert Band — of which I’m a member — just successfully concluded the 2014 free summer concert series at the Racine Zoo this past Sunday night.

“But Barb,” you say. “Why didn’t you get online and say something on Sunday night, or better yet, yesterday? Why wait a day?”

The reason for that mostly is because of the “gnats” part of the above title. At about the midway point of the Sunday evening concert, the gnats and biting flies and perhaps even some ticks (those are the pea-green critters, aren’t they?) came flying out to bedevil every musician they possibly could.

I, unfortunately, appear to have been the musician that announcer Don Rosen decided to discuss in his comments — he said something to the effect that “one of the saxes” (most likely me) was swatting insects, going back to playing, swatting more insects, going back to playing, and he didn’t know how any of us could do that.

Now, every one of us was swatting insects in the first three rows. (I cannot see the rows behind me, mind, but they probably were swatting them, too.) But as far as I know, I’m the only one who swatted so many insects, so hard, that I actually had the clips to keep my music from flying off at the first wind gust go flying into the nearby clarinet section instead. (Sorry, clarinets.)

I know I was bitten at least ten or fifteen times, too. And as I despise bugs with a passion, this was not easy to bear whatsoever. (I did kill at least twenty of the suckers, though.)

Anyway, the conditions for the concert were fine for the first half, awful for the second. It’s because of this that I hightailed it out of there afterward (at least, as much as any musician hobbled by a cane in one hand and a saxophone in the other can hightail), even though I believe someone I hadn’t seen in quite some time was attempting to get to the stage and perhaps say “hi.” (If that person is reading my blog for some reason, please know that I am sorry I didn’t stop to chat. I just could not deal with the bugs. At all. But do feel free to say “hi” here instead, OK?)

Look. It’s an outdoor concert. I know we’re likely to run into some problems here and there. But between the bugs, the heat and humidity, and the fact that my asthma was bad for several days due to the poor air quality on the one hand and the high heat/humidity on the other, that was possibly the most difficult concert, conditions-wise, I have ever played.

So I needed that extra day to rest, to recover, so I could come back and write a blog about the whole shebang. (Lucky you, huh?)

Now, as for a greater deconstruction of the headline — I am a saxophonist, thus “saxes.” Gnats should be self-explanatory at this point . . . and as for the “singers” part of the above headline, Ami Bouterse guested with us again this year and did a fine job with two art songs (the “classical” portion) and two show tunes. (The audience, as you might expect, liked the show tunes a whole lot better. It’s rare when the audience goes for the classical stuff instead.)

So the 2014 free concert season for the Racine Concert Band has come to an end. And you might be wondering whether or not the RCB will have a free summer 2015 concert series, too . . . but as I said last year around this time, no one knows that right now.

All I can say, as I did last year, is that I would appreciate anyone who appreciates the RCB to please contact Mayor John Dickert or your local alderman and tell him (or her) that you really, really, really want the RCB to continue as these are the people most responsible for city-backed funding for next year.

Please. You want to support the Racine Concert Band, because it helps to provide vitality to this community.

We need that. Badly.

So please, support the band. Contact the Mayor and the aldermen. And if you’re able, donate to the band, too . . . help preserve one of the very best parts of Racine and give us another free concert series to remember in 2015.

———-

**Mind, if I had felt like an even longer headline, I would’ve tried to shove in something about Adam Maegaard’s fine French horn solo, too. (I enjoyed that piece.) But the headline was already quite lengthy as it was, so . . .

Written by Barb Caffrey

August 26, 2014 at 3:34 am

New Guest Blog Is Up…

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Folks, the inestimable Stephanie Osborn has once again featured a guest blog from yours truly, this time in her ELEMENTS OF STORYTELLING: CHARACTERIZATION series.

Now, why did I write this particular blog? Simple. Characters are everything to a story — and without them, you don’t have much at all.

Here’s a bit from my newest guest blog:

Without characters, you don’t have a story.

I mean, think about it: Who’d remember the Harry Potter series if Harry Potter wasn’t there? Or his buddy Ron Weasley? Or his other buddy, Hermione Granger? And that’s just the good characters.

What about the enigmatic Severus Snape, the villainous Voldemort, or Harry’s own uncle and aunt? Without them factoring into the equation, how would the seven books about Harry Potter interest anyone?

No, books are built on characters. It can’t be any other way.

In this blog, I also talk about several stories in the Bible, Ernest Hemingway’s OLD MAN AND THE SEA, and (just for kicks) Geoffrey Chaucer’s CANTERBURY TALES. So do check it out, along with all the other blogs in Stephanie’s ELEMENTS OF STORYTELLING series.

Written by Barb Caffrey

August 23, 2014 at 7:34 pm

Learning from the Fiction Masters, Part 1: C.S. Forester

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Folks, I’m often asked, “Barb, who have you learned from, as a writer?”

The answer usually goes like this: “My husband, Rosemary Edghill, Katherine Eliska Kimbriel, Stephanie Osborn, Jason Cordova . . .

And I get an exasperated shake of the head. “No, Barb. Who have you read that has helped you?”

In addition to all of the above — do check out their work, please, as soon as you can! — there are writers anyone can find in the public library that will help them write rip-roaring yarns of action-adventure, or perhaps some gentler, humorous stories of far-off places, or maybe just evoke England between the World Wars in such a humorous way that you can’t stop laughing.

Who are these writers? Why, C.S. Forester — he who wrote the Horatio Hornblower series of military, ship-going fiction, L. Frank Baum — famous for the his stories of the fabled (and fabulous) land of Oz, and P.G. Wodehouse, of course.

In the next three blogs of this series (to come out every week on Friday), I intend to discuss one of these seminal writers at a time — and today, Forester is up.

Forester is the most obvious choice for anyone to read who’s writing military science fiction, if you haven’t already. (BTW, here’s a handy link to blog of the C.S. Forester Society, a going concern 115 years after his birth. All authors should do so well!)

Why should you read Forester? Well, he logically lays out exactly how an English ship of the line from the late 1700s/early 1800s actually ran. How the officers interrelated, how the ship worked, what sort of jobs people had on the ship, and does all that by showing how his main character, Horatio Hornblower, ascends the ladder in rank and has to deal with more and more challenges.

Granted, Forester wrote his books out-of-order, somewhat in the same fashion as contemporary military SF master Lois McMaster Bujold. It’s a good strategy, too, because it allows you to fill in the background of your hero or heroine as you see fit.

Why do you want to read Forester, though, if you aren’t planning to write any military SF at all? Well, he knew how to spin an action-adventure yarn, that’s for sure, so that’s one reason. Another is to observe how he authentically evokes the English Navy of Hornblower’s era, and does so in a way that is relatively unobtrusive — it’s there, it’s sensible, and Hornblower relies on it implicitly (as a real-life seaman of that time would’ve done).

This last is something that many contemporary writers do not seem to do nearly as well (with the exception of Bujold and the writers listed above). Many other writers, some quite celebrated (and with much greater sales figures than mine), use a technique called “infodumping” in such a way that it’s not just obvious, it’s so obvious that any reasonably assuming reader who already knows the writer and the universe in question is likely to skip it entirely.

Remember — you want to seduce the reader, if at all possible. You do not want to hit the reader over the head (unless you are writing humorous fantasy; that’s different). And you want the reader to enjoy what you’ve written, every single word, rather than skip hundreds or thousands because you’ve been too heavy with your infodumping.

Besides, Forester wrote more than just Hornblower. He wrote movies, plays, children’s stories, horror, mysteries . . . all sorts of stuff. So if one thing doesn’t work for you — even if it’s the genius of the Hornblower stuff — try another.

Anyway, if you haven’t read any of C.S. Forester’s work yet, here’s a few books to get you started — and best of all, they should be available in any good public library. (A good, free book is a win-win for all concerned in this down economy.)

  • BEAT TO QUARTERS — the first, and possibly the best, Hornblower novel.
  • THE AFRICAN QUEEN — an interesting sea-faring novel made into a movie. (You’ve probably seen the movie, so why not read the book?)
  • POO-POO AND THE DRAGONS — a children’s story, complete with illustrations by Robert Lawson.
  • PAYMENT DEFERRED — a horror/murder mystery, where the guy about to be executed for a crime is truly innocent, but cannot exonerate himself. If he does, he’ll prove he’s a murderer — but of someone else.

Enjoy!

Just Reviewed Victoria Alexander’s Latest at SBR

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Just figured I’d drop a little blog-let here to let you all know that I reviewed Victoria Alexander’s latest Victorian Era romance, THE SCANDALOUS ADVENTURES OF THE SISTER OF THE BRIDE, over at Shiny Book Review late Saturday night. (Or at SBR for short, as always.)

But you want a capsule review, you say? Well, here it is . . . I loved the story, thought it was funny, enjoyed the characters . . .

But the editing was absolutely horrible. And as this is a big-budget book from a well-known publisher, that is just not acceptable.

I don’t have a clue what happened with this book, quite frankly. But as an editor myself, I know that if you have a twenty-five word sentence with zero commas in it, there’s usually something wrong.

And it’s doubly wrong for a Victorian Era romance, because if anything, those old fuddy-duddy Victorians were much bigger sticklers about proper punctuation than I am as a modern-day editor. And if you want to properly evoke the period, you need to observe all the regular conventions of said period.

But you say, “Who cares about the commas, Barb? Why are you obsessing about this, anyway? You’re a modern reader. You can deal . . . can’t you?”

Um, yes and no.

The lack of commas (thus the lack of proper punctuation), especially in long stretches of dialogue, kept throwing me out of the reader’s trance with great force. And as there is absolutely no excuse for the lack of proper punctuation for the three reasons I gave over at SBR, I docked the book a grade.

At any rate, go take a look at my review, and judge for yourself whether or not I’m making any sense this fine day.

Then come back and let me know. (I’ll be here.)

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