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

Language, and the Writers Who Use It

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Over the past week or so, I’ve been struck by the changes in language over the past ten years or so…namely, the uptick in allowable profanity on the one hand, and the uptick in allowable “gross slang” on the other.

For example, I doubt that ten years ago I’d have heard the word “pissed” on television, much less on a show like Divorce Court that features a real judge with real people trying to solve difficult relationship problems. Yet I heard it this past week from Judge Lynn Toler, a retired municipal court justice — and no one batted an eye.

Ten years ago, the word wouldn’t have been “pissed” at all. It would’ve been “ticked” (as in, ticked off) or “perturbed” or “displeased” or even “upset.” But not “pissed,” as it was considered vulgar and uncouth.

Another word that’s attained much more acceptance is the word “farted.” Ten years ago, most who now use this word wouldn’t have chosen this particular expression; instead, it would’ve been “passed gas,” “broke wind,” or if you were highfalutin’ (or like me and just liked the sound of the word), you’d say “flatulent” instead.

Finally, ten years ago it was considered at least slightly impolite to say “Hell” or “Damn” while discussing business matters. (Note it wasn’t at all considered impolite while talking with your friends, those who knew you best.) But now, it happens all the time.

What does that mean? Mostly, it means that language changes. And writers need to keep on top of that.

That doesn’t mean your own speaking habits need to change. But it does mean you need to be aware of what your characters are saying, and more to the point, how they’re saying it.

So when you’re writing dialogue, be aware of your setting, your characters, their particular temperaments…and, of course, keep an ear out for slang. Because that way lies verisimilitude (or at least a better reading experience).

Written by Barb Caffrey

October 20, 2014 at 5:18 am

Review: An Elfy on the Loose

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Barb Caffrey:

I received a wonderful review from Jonathan Lightfoot over at Be Swift, Be Precise, for my novel AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE. Go see what he has to say about it, then please do go and pick up a copy for yourself today.

Here are the links:

Amazon (US): http://amzn.to/1p6xvQj
Amazon (UK): http://goo.gl/dDoBnd
Barnes and Noble: http://goo.gl/dDoBnd

And thanks much!

Originally posted on Be Swift, Be Precise:

Books shouldn’t be allowed to end with cliff-hangers like that.

An Elfy on the Loose by Barb Caffrey is part of the Elfy Duology, and as the first of a two-parter, ends at a point where you are building for a big confrontation, but it hasn’t happened yet.

Of course, you wouldn’t care about what happens, if she hadn’t drawn you in. But she did draw me in.

The world, or should I say worlds, that Caffrey built are a good setting for the story she places in it, of which I think only a small part is actually displayed in this first part of the duology. I kept reading to find out what happened.

Which doesn’t mean that I always found the reading easy going. I tried to figure why I sometimes felt labored at reading, and yet driven to continue. I think it had something to do with…

View original 157 more words

Written by Barb Caffrey

October 17, 2014 at 11:28 pm

My Novel, “Changing Faces,” Is Complete…

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Folks, I’m happy to report two things.

I finished my long-delayed novel, CHANGING FACES, today. As this took over fourteen years of hard work and multiple drafts, I’m ecstatic that my novel is finally complete.

(Yes, I said fourteen years. My late husband Michael liked this book; he compared it to C.S. Lewis. And my late best friend Jeff Wilson also enjoyed this novel immensely. But I digress.)

Upon completion of my final edit, I sent it to my publisher, Lida Quillen at Twilight Times Books. I’d asked her a while back if she might be interested in my transgendered fantasy/romance (with aliens who may as well be angels). She said she was, so I told her when I finished it I’d gladly send it to her forthwith for her appraisal.

And now, I have.

May the happy dance commence!

Written by Barb Caffrey

October 15, 2014 at 6:05 am

The Campaign to Fix My Car Continues…

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Folks, it’s been 44 days, and my 2010 Hyundai Accent Blue is still not fixed.

Why not?

Some of it is a matter of money. Some of it is a matter of principle. And some of it is because it takes time to repair a faulty transmission — especially when it catastrophically fails, like mine did at 67,000 miles for my Hyundai Accent.

I was only seven thousand miles over the warranty, as I’ve said before. I did try to get it addressed at 52,000 miles (as I’ve also said before), but I didn’t demand satisfaction.

Normally, I would’ve. But it was cold that day. It was nearly closing time. And the guy was rude.

I probably should’ve blogged about the bad customer service at the time. But I didn’t.

And I wasn’t given any documentation at all. So I’m just screwed as far as this repair goes.

I’ve set up a GoFundMe page to help defray costs for this car repair, as I am not wealthy, this car repair is ruinously expensive, and health concerns demand that I have a car (for both myself and my mother).

So far, four lovely people have donated $125 toward the cost of my car repair. I appreciate their help.

I still need more help, unfortunately, as the car repair will cost at least $2200.

I’d rather talk about anything else than this car repair. Sports. Politics. Current events. Even Kim Kardashian, for pity’s sake.

But this is all I’ve got time to talk about, as I’m trying to finish off a comprehensive edit in order to perhaps generate a little more revenue for myself.

Why should you help me? Well, I’m hard-working. Honest. I’ve tried my best to get this resolved, if to no avail…and I do not deserve this bad of a result, merely because I didn’t demand satisfaction at 52,000 miles.

I pray that someone out there will care that this has occurred, and will want to help me. Because it’s obvious that I’m not going to get any satisfaction from the Hyundai USA people — and the folks at the dealership just can’t do that much. (I believe they do want to do more, or I’d be much angrier than I already am.)

Milwaukee Brewers Fire Two Coaches…But Not Manager Ron Roenicke

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The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results. Which is why I find the Milwaukee Brewers’ refusal to fire manager Ron Roenicke after the Brewers’ historic collapse in September 2014 so troubling.

This past Friday, in a press release, Milwaukee fired two coaches: first base coach Garth Iorg and hitting coach Johnny Narron. Hitting was a major concern for the Brewers down the stretch, so firing Johnny Narron wasn’t at all surprising. But firing Iorg made very little sense, as Iorg wasn’t to blame for Milwaukee’s players’ brain freezes on the basepaths or Mark Reynolds’ failure to remember how many outs there were in an inning or Carlos Gomez’s inability to lay off bad pitches or even Ryan Braun’s thumb injury.

While Roenicke wasn’t directly to blame for any of those things, either, someone has to be held accountable.

I mean, really. The Brewers were in first place for 150 days of the season. Then they went 9-22 over the last 31 games to miss the playoffs and finish 82-80.

And the person who usually is held accountable is — wait for it — the manager. Not the piddly first base coach.

Of course, if the Brewers had fired Roenicke, it’s very possible that every single one of the coaches on Roenicke’s staff would be looking for work right now rather than only two of them getting their pink slips. But it still looks very strange that Roenicke stayed while Johnny Narron and Iorg had to go . . . especially when you consider that Johnny’s brother Jerry Narron is still employed by the Brewers as their bench coach. (What sense is there in firing one brother but keeping the other?)

Overall, I am extremely disappointed that the Brewers retained Roenicke. But I am even more disappointed that the Brewers didn’t even have the guts to call a press conference; instead, they sent out a milquetoast press release on a Friday afternoon in the hopes that no one would be paying attention to the fact that Brewers’ owner Mark Attanasio has thus far refused to hold anyone significant accountable for the Brewers’ historic collapse.

My view is simple: Roenicke should’ve been fired, and someone else — perhaps former Brewers pitching coach Mike Maddux — should’ve been hired instead.

But that’s not what the Brewers did. Obviously, Milwaukee hopes that fans will forgive and forget the Brewers’ historic collapse. But my gut feeling is this:

No. We won’t.

Please Help Me Fix My Non-Working 2010 Hyundai Accent

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Folks, I’m beyond frustrated. I had to set up a GoFundMe page to help me fix my car…and I didn’t want to do this.

Here’s what happened:

Over the past 41 days, I’ve tried to get Hyundai USA interested in fixing my non-running 2010 Hyundai Accent Blue. I bought it in November of 2011 at 37,000 miles; it conked out due to the transmission’s casing having cracked at 67,000 miles on September 1, 2014 — three days before I was scheduled to go in for surgery.

So I had the use of my car for less than three years before the transmission’s casing cracked. I’ve never had a car do this before. Not at any amount of miles.

Mind, I have had transmissions go out before. But not like this, and certainly not this early.

I realize that cars, like anything else, are on a continuum. Some cars do very well and last for over 300,000 miles; you tend to see those on Toyota commercials, or maybe for a Ford or Chevrolet truck. Most tend to last anywhere between 100,000 miles and 200,000 miles.

And then there are cars like mine, that have something odd happen when they’re seven thousand miles out of warranty.

As I’ve said before, I tried to get this addressed at the 52,000 mile mark. The old Hyundai dealership in Racine, Frank Gentile Hyundai, has since gone out of business and took all its records with it. My attempt to get the car looked at back then didn’t get put into the computer, so Hyundai USA has no record of it — and I wasn’t given anything at the time to prove I went there.

An aside: Forewarned is forearmed. Get documentation when you do something like this, even if it’s fifteen degrees outside with a howling wind and it’s near to closing time. Don’t assume they will do the right thing. And do not take no for an answer; I did, and I’m paying for it now.

All I have is my bare word. Plus the fact that I did try to get a hinge fixed on my car’s fuel door, and was denied that at Gentile — that is in the computer.

Why didn’t Gentile want to do anything? Well, they didn’t like Autowerks (the place I bought my 2010 Hyundai Accent from). They didn’t like Autowerks at all. And because I had bought my car from Autowerks, they just didn’t care about fixing it even though all warranty work is 100% covered by Hyundai USA.

The new Racine Hyundai has tried to help me. They sent a car for me yesterday so I could fill out forms to try to get financing (I was denied; I’m a writer and editor and my income stream isn’t very high yet, nor is it like a forty-hour-a-week job). I talked with the service manager, Raffaele, and believe he’s an honest man who knows I didn’t cause this repair and did try to address it properly.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean much to Hyundai USA. That’s why I have to fully fund this repair on my own. And as it’s extremely expensive, I’ve had to set up a GoFundMe page.

I am a private person, and I don’t like going into all my personal business in this particular way. (Sharing some of it on a blog is one thing; admitting I don’t have the money to fix my car is another.) I feel like I’ve failed because I can’t handle my business, and I feel like I’ve failed even more because I truly believe Hyundai USA should pay for my repair — that they aren’t is unjust, unfair, and immoral.

I say this in regards to the Hyundai USA corporate enterprises, mind. I have no problems with the local Racine Hyundai dealership. I believe if they had been in business back when my car first started having problems at 52,000 miles, I would’ve been able to get this repaired in warranty and I wouldn’t have had to go through all this.

Yes, Hyundai USA should pay for this. They should realize that alienating a customer like this is a bad move from a customer service perspective, and look into whether or not I’m telling the truth about Gentile having a terrible relationship with Autowerks. (That shouldn’t be hard, by the way.)

But they won’t.

And since they won’t, I somehow must raise the funds to get my car back. I need it for three reasons:

  1. It will improve my quality of life. (Not being able to get to doctor appointments is quite stressful.)
  2. It will improve my mother’s quality of life. (See #1, as she needs to get to doctor appointments, too.)
  3. And it will ease the stress I’ve lived with since my car died three days before I had surgery, which should help my health a little.

That’s why I set up the GoFundMe page. Even though I’d rather have done anything else.

Milwaukee Brewers 2014 End-of-the-Season Wrap-up

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Folks, I waited a few extra days to post my end-of-the-season wrap-up for the 2014 Milwaukee Brewers, mostly to see if the Brewers would show some sense and fire manager Ron Roenicke. But as they haven’t — yet — it’s time to fish or cut bait.

Here’s what I thought of my 82-80 2014 Milwaukee Brewers:

PITCHING

  • Kyle Lohse (13-9, 3.54 ERA, 198 1/3 innings pitched) was robbed. He left with the lead six more times than he has wins; if the Brewers had won even three more of those games, he’d have had a 16-win season. Lohse was Milwaukee’s most consistent starter, and threw a 2-hit shutout gem late in the season when the Brewers were still (barely) in Wild Card contention.
  • Wily Peralta (17-11, 3.52 ERA, 198 2/3 innings pitched) was a bit overrated. Peralta improved in his second season, no lie, but unlike Lohse and the other starters, Peralta’s games featured better offensive support and better relief pitching . . . so Peralta didn’t have as many no decisions as Lohse.

These were the Brewers two best season-long starters.

“But what about Mike Fiers, Barb?” you ask. “Wasn’t he great, too?”

Yes, he was.

Fiers was Milwaukee’s best pitcher down the stretch and helped keep the Brewers in contention long past their sell-by date. But Fiers (6-5, 2.13 ERA, 71 2/3 innings pitched) wasn’t brought up for good until August, which is why he’s not listed above with the two best Brewers pitchers.

“What about Yovani Gallardo (8-11, 3.51 ERA, 192 1/3 innings pitched) and Matt Garza (8-8, 3.64 ERA, 163 1/3 innings pitched)?” you ask.

Mostly, Gallardo and Garza both had better seasons than their records indicated. Both, like Lohse, were victimized by poor run support throughout the season and hit-or-miss relief pitching that often wasted their quality starts.

These five pitchers should be in the starting rotation for 2015.

Now, as for the relievers?

  • Francisco “K-Rod” Rodriguez (5-5, 3.04 ERA, 44 saves in 49 opportunities) was excellent at the start of the season, had an odd July, and a decent rest of the season. The home run ball was a bit of a concern at times, and K-Rod lived up to his nickname of “twenty minutes of terror,” but he’s a quality closer and at thirty-two is already tenth on the all-time save leaders list with 348.
  • Will Smith (1-3, 3.70 ERA, 78 appearances, 30 holds) was overused; prior to his overuse, Smith was a legitimate All-Star candidate and was K-Rod’s set-up man for the first three-fifths of the season.

Everyone else (with Rule 5 pick Wei-Chung Wang as a conspicuous exception) was competent and unexceptional over the long-term, though several (Zach Duke and Tyler Thornburg in particular) had some great stretches here and there that made me sit up and take notice.

HITTERS

Here, I’m going to break it into the good, the bad, and the ugly:

The good:

  • Jonathan Lucroy (.301, 13 HR, 69 RBI, and a league-leading 53 doubles) had a breakout season. Deservedly a starting All-Star, Lucroy will garner some MVP votes; unlike most of the other Brewers hitters, Lucroy is willing to take a walk and patiently waits until he gets his pitch. Lucroy is not the world’s fastest runner, but he also makes very few baserunning mistakes and is perhaps the smartest — and toughest — player on the team.
  • Scooter Gennett (.289, 9 HR, 59 RBI) did very well against right-handers and exceptionally poorly against left-handers in his second season in the bigs. Gennett’s main problem is that he strikes out way too much and takes far too few walks; he needs to learn some plate discipline from Lucroy.
  • Carlos Gomez (.284, 23 HR, 73 RBI, 34 SBs) did reasonably well and was a deserving All-Star. However, he swung at everything and anything — especially toward the end of the season — refused to take walks, and made some bad outs on the basepaths down the stretch. The epitome of a “high risk, high reward” player, Gomez must learn to keep his head in the game.

The bad:

  • Mark Reynolds (.196, 22 HR, 45 RBI) would’ve been acceptable if he’d just have kept hitting at his pre-All-Star levels (.205, 14, 33) because his defense at first and third was stellar. But his production fell off, his strikeouts mounted, and he had some odd mental lapses that contributed to the Brewers losing games down the stretch that they should’ve won. Reynolds should not be back in 2015.
  • Jean Segura (.246, 5 HR, 31 RBI, 20 SBs) had a great final thirty days of the season, batting .327 during that stretch, or he’d have been in the “ugly” category. And his defense continues to be way above average. But considering Segura was an All-Star in 2013, his first full year in the bigs, 2014 was a step backward. (Mind, players are only human, and Segura lost his son right before the All-Star break. That assuredly accounts for why much of his second half was abysmal.) Let’s hope in 2015, Segura gets back on track.
  • Aramis Ramirez (.285, 15 HR, 66 RBI) has decent numbers, but they are somewhat deceptive.  Down the stretch, Ramirez showed that he was tired, old, and slow — and while his defense at third was still adequate or better, he cost the team numerous runs because he simply could not run (possibly due to a lingering injury, possibly due to his age). He’s due $14 million if the Brewers pick up his contract option next year, and I’m not at all sure Ramirez is deserving of such largesse — especially considering his anemic performance (.212, 1 HR, 5 RBI) down the stretch.

The ugly:

  • Ryan Braun’s thumb injury sapped him of his power stroke and caused Braun to alter his overall hitting mechanics. None of this helped Braun’s overall numbers (.266, 19 HR, 81 RBI, 11 SBs). In addition, like Ramirez, Braun’s final thirty-day performance was dreadful (.200, 1 HR, 3 RBI). Braun has had cutting-edge thumb surgery since the end of the season, and much is riding on it; only time will tell as to whether or not Braun can regain his power stroke.
  • Khris Davis (.244, 22 HR, 69 RBI) was a major disappointment. He struck out way too much, walked too little, his defense remains a work in progress and his arm is quite weak. Ideally, Davis projects as a DH in the American League, though if he’s willing to learn how to play first base and shows some aptitude for the position, Davis might be OK there instead.

Everyone else was either mediocre or competent in some ways but not others (for example, Lyle Overbay did quite nicely as a pinch hitter and can still field at first base, but otherwise showed that he’s ready for retirement).

PROGNOSIS

Simply put: The Brewers could not hit down the stretch, which cost them any chance at the playoffs. The pitching was competent and sometimes brilliant; the hitting was OK at the beginning of the season and dreadful at the end, while the fielding was for the most part steady and unspectacular.

To improve in 2015, the Brewers need a brand-new manager of the firebrand type — Ozzie Guillen, say. Or Mike Maddux, who definitely let it be known when he was upset with his pitchers during his stint as the Brewers pitching coach years ago. Or even Dale Sveum, who certainly mixed it up in his playing days and was willing to chew his players a new one in private . . .

Anything but Roenicke, who is too quiet and reserved to manage this bunch of huge, overpaid egos. He should’ve kicked some butts and taken some names during the Brewers woeful 1-13 stretch in September, and allowed at least some of his frustration to show through so fans understood he wasn’t happy with how his team was playing.

As it stands, Milwaukee was not consistent in how it’s handled Roenicke’s tenure, either. Ned Yost was fired back in September 2008 because his team was on a losing streak. Yet Roenicke’s Brewers were on a bigger losing streak, and the Brewers did not make a move.

But they had better. Because Roenicke, while a quality human being and a good baseball man, is not the right fit for this team.

Anyone who watched Milwaukee stumble down the stretch should know that.

AWARDS

Pitcher of the year: Francisco Rodriguez (Runners-up: Kyle Lohse and Wily Peralta)

Brewers MVP: Jonathan Lucroy (No one else was even close.)

Comeback Player of the Year: Mike Fiers (Runner-up: Zach Duke)

Rookie of the Year: No award.

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