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

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.)

An Update…Plus My Thoughts on Ferguson Shooting and More on Robin Williams

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Folks, it’s time to do a little catching up. And as I haven’t blogged very much in the past week, I figured now was as good a time as any to do just that.

What have I been doing with myself? Some editing, some writing (though the writing has been like pulling teeth). Some book promotion. Lots of baseball-watching — the Milwaukee Brewers have continued to play well, for the most part, and I’ve enjoyed that.

As always, I’ve been keeping an eye on current events. The stuff going on in Ferguson, MO, is appalling — an unarmed African-American teenager, Michael Brown, was shot to death by a policeman, and the circumstances behind this seem murky at absolute best. Brown had apparently just stolen some cigars (or possibly cigarettes) a few minutes before this happened, and no one knows for certain whether or not the policeman who shot Brown knew that. But the response seems disproportionate to the crime from everything we know right now.

Worse yet, the response from the Ferguson Police Department was about as badly bungled as it could be. Tear gas was shot at protestors for what seems like the flimsiest of excuses. And at least two reporters were arrested, merely for being present in a local McDonald’s while preparing to write their stories.

Fortunately, the state police have now been called in and things seem to be calming down in Ferguson. The fact that United States Attorney General Eric Holder has appointed someone to look into the death of Brown has also helped quell the unrest.

Compared to that — Hell, compared to the unrest in Israel, or the ongoing crisis in Iraq — my struggles with writing and editing seem remarkably trivial. Which is one reason I haven’t said much.

Also, I have to admit that Robin Williams’ death really disturbed me on many levels. It’s not just that a very funny and brilliant man is dead; it’s that someone as bright and funny and wealthy as Williams still wasn’t able to get the health care he needed despite trying with all of his might to make himself well.

The latest revelations about Williams and his health include the fact that he was battling Parkinson’s disease in addition to everything else. It’s been alleged that this may have been the straw that broke the camel’s back . . . but no one will ever know for sure.

And again — my struggles with writing and editing, or anything else — pale before the life-and-death drama of Robin Williams. So it’s hard for me to come up with something to write about under the circumstances.

That said, I hope to have a review for you later today of Victoria Alexander’s 19th Century English romance, THE SCANDALOUS ADVENTURES OF THE SISTER OF THE BRIDE, over at Shiny Book Review. (For those of you waiting for my take on DIGITAL DISCONNECT, that’ll have to go next week. I’m still sorting out my thoughts there.) Maybe a frothy romance might make everyone feel a little better for a little while . . .

But if not, it’s good that the attempt is made. (Yes?)

Guest Blog up at Penny’s Tales about “An Elfy on the Loose”

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Folks, I’m pleased to report that my latest guest blog about my novel, AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE, is up over at Penny Estelle’s website, Penny’s Tales.

Note that this particular blog was originally published over at Stephanie Osborn’s Comet Tales back in April. I am very pleased to have the ability to spread my message far and wide.

Here’s a bit from this particular blog, which is called “On the Writing of AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE,” discussing just what I found so interesting about my main character, Bruno the Elfy, and why I found his journey so compelling:

…why should anyone care about Bruno just because he’s an Elfy and from a magical society? You’d think that someone who has magic, and a lot of it, would be too hard to root for, right?

Not in Bruno’s case. He’s an orphan, a ward of the state, and because of a past traumatic brain injury, he doesn’t remember everything he should. Further, most of what he’s been told about himself is wrong. Worse yet, the Elfy High Council is so afraid of Bruno’s potential magical power that they’ve intentionally mistrained him before sending him off to the Human Realm (our Earth), intending to maroon him there forever.

Despite all this, Bruno never completely loses his sense of humor, which appealed to me. He refuses to give up – it’s just not in him – and that, too, appealed to me. So I kept writing…and my husband (Michael) kept editing.

As I wrote, I learned that Bruno had landed in a house that was haunted. And where he mostly couldn’t do magic. And where he only had one friend: the strange Human girl Sarah, with whom he had to make common cause due to her loathsome parents (as one of my friends put it, “Sarah’s parents are straight out of reality TV”). They’re in a bad situation, but it quickly gets worse when Bruno’s mentor Roberto tries to rescue them, but instead ends up getting captured himself by Sarah’s terrible parents. Who are themselves in thrall to a Dark Elf, who’s up to no good…and then, of course, they fall in love, and everything gets better in a weird way because that’s what love does, despite everything else going to the Hells in a handbasket.

With all of that going on, Bruno and Sarah realize they have to gather allies. But how can they? Bruno’s new to the whole Human Realm (our Earth), while Sarah’s been told her whole life that she’s unimportant and way too young to be bothered with. And they need both Elfy and Human allies, which isn’t going to be easy…

There’s much more to the blog, as it discusses just what my late husband Michael did to help me write AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE, and just why his input was so very, very important. So I do hope you’ll check it out.

And as always, if you want to read the first five chapters of AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE, please go here to the Twilight Times Books site and check it out. (Or, if you’d rather go straight to Barnes and Noble.com to get a copy, go here.)

Written by Barb Caffrey

August 13, 2014 at 5:37 pm

Posted in Elfy, Elfyverse, Writing

Tagged with ,

Depression and Robin Williams — A Remembrance

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Folks, over the past day or so, I’ve seen many, many tributes to the late comedian/actor Robin Williams (1951-2014). Some were funny; some were touching; some were things that should’ve been said to Williams before he died.

One thing that’s been said, over and over, is that Williams suffered from severe and unremitting depression. This is alleged to be the main reason as to why he’d turned to substance abuse in the past (he was a recovering alcoholic and cocaine addict), but it’s also possible that the depression got much worse due to the heart issues Williams suffered in recent years (he had an aortic valve transplant in 2009).

The mind and the body are linked. We all know this. So when your body is not doing well, that feeling of illness can be reflected in your mind also.

And it’s just that much worse if you’re someone who fights depression and anxiety . . . I know this due to the struggles of my family and friends, past and present.

I’ve written about depression before (see this post about the late Mike Flanagan if you don’t believe me). It’s a difficult subject to discuss, because so many of us don’t want to talk about it. There is a stigma attached to depression, as if the person who’s feeling depressed actually wants to feel so bad . . . and treating a depressed person is so difficult, so challenging, that even if a patient fully cooperates in trying to get better, some of them just don’t.

Thus Robin Williams.

Ultimately, Williams will be remembered for his comedy, for his acting, and for his personal generosity. He was a brilliant, caring, kind-hearted, and generous soul who brought happiness to many despite his own struggles against depression and addiction.

But what I will remember most about Williams is how open he was about everything. His struggles. His joys. His failures. Williams was an American original, yes, and a genius, too. But he mostly was himself, and he owned up to his failures as easily as he talked about the much more fun stuff — his numerous successes.

Williams’ wife and family have asked that people do their best to remember Williams as the creative, funny and brilliant man he truly was. But I can’t do that — mostly because I think that leaves far too much of who Williams was on the table, unaddressed.

Instead, I’ll remember him as a complex, interesting, mercurial, honest, and compassionate creative artist, who lost his long battle with a pernicious disease — chronic, severe depression — after a valiant fight.

I hope that now that Williams is in the Afterlife, he’s getting caught up with his great friends, Christopher and Dana Reeve, and so many others who preceded him in death . . . and that he has found the peace he’d sought all his life at long last.

Time for My First Ever Book Hook BlogHop! #MFRWhooks

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Folks, I’ve never done this before. But as I recently joined the excellent group Marketing for Romance Writers, I’ve discovered some new things to do that might interest old readers and perhaps entice some new ones into sampling my work.

So here we go . . . it’s time for Book Hooks Wednesday!

MFRW Authors Blog

 

To set the scene for my novel, AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE . . . here’s a short blurb to whet your interest:

Bruno the Elfy believes he’s very young, has no power, and has no enemies.

He’s wrong.

Quickly sent to our Earth (the Human Realm) and told to watch for magic, Bruno must unravel the lies, keep his mentor from being tortured, and—oh, yeah—figure out why he’s so strongly attracted to young, Human Sarah.

Because his life depends on it.

Now, here’s eight lines or so of AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE from page 11, when my Elfy hero Bruno (originally named Jon) first starts to realize that Sarah, the young Human girl he’s destined to fall in love with, is worthwhile:

What had he gotten himself into?

And what, if anything, could he do to get through to her parents? He had to have sunlight, and food, and companionship …these people could starve him to death without even realizing it, and if not for their daughter he wouldn’t have had any companionship in more than two days.

And she did seem to be rather good company. At least, Jon was hoping that was why he’d had the sudden urge to give her his name. He just had to ask hers first, as Elfy etiquette demanded.

Sometimes Elfy etiquette was so stultifying.

* * * *

Why is he in trouble? Why is Sarah helping him? And why is he even there?

You need to read the book to find out!

Here’s a link to five sample chapters, to get you started . . . then go either to Amazon (link is here) or Barnes and Noble (link is here) and grab yourself a copy of AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE today!

And after you do that, please take a look at these other fine Marketing for Romance Authors’ posts . . . they’re a great bunch of authors with some fine stories to tell, and I’m proud and honored to be affiliated with them.

And yes, in case you’re wondering, gentle YA romance counts with these folks. (Thank goodness.)

* * * * *

NOTE: Here’s the list of people participating in Wednesday’s Book Hook Bloghop . . . we’re supposed to use a LinkyTool, but for whatever reason it didn’t agree with my blog, so the actual list (including my own blog link) is reproduced below.

 

 

 

Written by Barb Caffrey

August 6, 2014 at 3:59 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Brett Favre, Green Bay Packers “Kiss and Make Up”– Retirement of Number 4 Will Happen in 2015

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Well, it’s official: Brett Favre, one of the best quarterbacks to ever play in the National Football League, and his long-time team the Green Bay Packers have “kissed and made up.” This means his long-delayed retirement ceremony and the retirement of his iconic Number 4 in Green Bay will finally happen in 2015.

Now, why is this news, exactly?

Yes, Favre was traded to the New York Jets a few years ago in order to make way for Aaron Rodgers — something that didn’t sit well with many fans at the time (including me), but was probably the best move for the team as Rodgers was ready to play. And after that, Favre played two years with the Minnesota Vikings, a long-time rival of the Packers in the NFC Central division, leading the Vikings to the 2009-10 NFC championship game.

And yes, things were very messy, at the time — even being characterized in Wisconsin as a “nasty public divorce” (most recently by various WTMJ-AM radio commentators, including Doug Russell and Jeff Falconio; WTMJ-AM serves as the “home of the Packers” and is the flagship station for the entire state). Fans took sides, Favre was booed in Green Bay while he wore a purple number 4 jersey, and some fans were so angered with Favre continuing to play in the NFL rather than retiring that they burned Favre’s jerseys and refused to even speak his name.

(No, I’m not kidding. Wish I were. But Wisconsin takes its pro football seriously.)

Even now, there’s discussion as to whether fans will actually boo Favre because Favre wanted to keep playing football after the Packers traded him, rather than retire outright as a Packer legend as many fans felt he should — even though Favre, demonstrably, still was playing at a very high level up until mid-2010.

Fans take things so personally, in fact, they forget how awful they would feel if, in their mid-thirties, they were told they had to stop doing something they loved. That had paid them very well for years. That they knew they could still do. All because a younger person was available to do the same job for a lower amount of money.

In any other profession, this would be called age discrimination. But in sports, because of how most people’s bodies react due to aging and how their physical skills can’t but help decline, it’s called a simple fact and franchises are lauded when they jettison older stars.

Even when, as in this case, that older star is the Iron Man of Professional Football.

At any rate, I don’t understand why anyone would boo Brett Favre at this point. He’s been retired from pro football since the end of the 2010 season, for crying out loud. And he did so many wonderful things for the Packers: He took them to two Super Bowls, winning one; he won three Most Valuable Player Awards; he set numerous records; he broke the consecutive games played streak while in a Packers uniform; and he did many positive things for Green Bay and the state of Wisconsin.

He even was an active supporter of many local charities.

So even though Favre played for two teams in addition to the Packers, it wasn’t like that was Favre’s choice — he was traded. He wanted to be a Packer until his body gave out. Just because that didn’t happen doesn’t mean that all of the onus of Favre and the Packers’ “messy divorce” should fall upon him — some of it should fall on the Packers, most particularly General Manager Ted Thompson.

But some fans just don’t care about that.

Why? Well, Favre is famous for retiring, then un-retiring, in a similar manner to basketball legend Michael Jordan. And all that retiring and un-retiring was difficult for his team in Green Bay to handle, for his coach to handle, and most especially his GM to handle.

So if you’re a fan who was angry at Favre because he had the audacity to keep playing after the Packers clearly indicated they were ready for the Aaron Rodgers regime, please do me a favor: get over it.

That way, the rest of us can enjoy Favre’s well-deserved retirement ceremony in peace.

2014 Racine Concert Band Season Continues Tomorrow . . .

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Folks, I didn’t manage to get up a reminder about the Racine Concert Band summer concerts at the Racine Zoo in July . . . at least, I don’t remember doing so. But we have four more free concerts left out at the Zoo, and I figured I’d get over here and say a few brief words about tomorrow night’s 7:00 P.M. concert to whet your interest.

Tomorrow night’s concert features trumpet soloist Mark Eichner and xylophone soloist Nicholas Stainbrook — and if you’re a longtime reader of my blog, you’re probably going, “Mark Eichner? Isn’t he the conductor of the band? How can he play a solo?”

I could be sarcastic and say, “Very easily, thank you.” (Oops, I just was.) Because we have a guest conductor for two pieces, our regular euphonium player Paul Taylor (who led a high school band for many years in the Kenosha Unified School District — Bradford High, I think) will conduct two pieces — Eichner’s trumpet solo “Beautiful Colorado,” which is a virtuosic waltz for trumpet and concert band, and “The Florentiner” march directly before the solo.

This concert interests me more than most of the others because I’m playing the first clarinet parts instead of the second alto saxophone parts. I even have a solo on Chaminade’s “Scarf Dance,” which is a piece of French band music with the characteristic French harmonies (love that stuff, truly), and have a number of very good and very melodic parts. (We haven’t seen much of that in the saxophone section so far this summer. Depends on the year what we get, of course.)

Other things that may interest you: My usual stand-mate, Vivian Krenzke, will have an extended alto saxophone solo on “Spiritual,” and Vera Olguin will have several solos on both flute and piccolo among the woodwinds. Dave Kapralian and others in the cornet and trumpet section have some interesting parts, and our substitute first horn player (sorry, I don’t know her name; she’s a dark-haired woman with a robust sound and exquisite musicianship) will have a lengthy solo in one of the French pieces also.

Mind, there’s a good amount of music people who usually go to band concerts will recognize — Percy Grainger’s “Country Gardens,” several marches, including John Philip Sousa’s “King Cotton,” and a waltz from the ballet “Coppelia.” (This last is something you often hear on television commercials in vastly shortened form.) And did I mention this concert is absolutely free yet?

All you have to do, if you want to come out and see it, is go to one of the two side entrances to the Racine Zoo. (That way, you’re getting in for nothing. Besides, the front entrances should be closed by the time you get there at six-thirty or so to grab a spot on the lawn.) Bring a blanket or a lawn chair, and prepare to be captivated by sound.

See you tomorrow evening at 7:00!

——

P.S. After the concert, please make sure to tell your local alderman and/or Racine Mayor John Dickert how much you enjoy our absolutely free Zoo concerts. Because we still need your support — badly.

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