Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Archive for October 2010

Time to vote — also some reflections on Jon Stewart’s “Rally to Restore Sanity”

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I have a simple message today: please, regardless of your political persuasion, be sure to vote.  If there is no one to vote for, figure out who you like the least, then vote against that person even if you end up writing in your own name.  Just go, make your case, and vote.  Our system of representative democracy depends on it.

Voting is a way to say that we, the people of the United States of America, demand your notice, Mr. and Ms. Politician.  And we’re tired of being blown off.

That’s why we must vote, and have our say.  Keep them honest, or at least less dirty.  And make your will be known.  Please, please vote. 

I would also like to suggest that all political ads be removed from the air two or three days before an election.  Most people have made up their minds by this time, and the few that haven’t aren’t going to be swayed by political advertising.  Maybe a non-partisan “please, vote” on voting day would be fine — but the plethora of political ads now is deafening and irresponsible.

In my home state, Wisconsin, I am subjected to ads over and over again, to the point where I can quote them.  I’ve heard from Russ Feingold, incumbent Democrat, and I’ve heard from Ron Johnson, a very wealthy man who’s running for the Senate as a Republican.  (This year, being very wealthy seems to equal being an incumbent; both are despised by the vast majority of voters.  Don’t start on how irrational this is, because I am well aware.)  I’ve heard from Tom Barrett, Democratic candidate for Governor (and current, sitting mayor of Milwaukee, the biggest city in Wisconsin), and I’ve heard from Scott Walker, the Republican candidate for Governor (and current, sitting county executive for Milwaukee County, the biggest county in Wisconsin).  And I’ve heard all sorts of ads for just about any campaign imaginable in Southeastern Wisconsin.

All I can say is this: stop, please.  There is no need for this.  Voters are fed up, and all these ads do is make voters more and more upset that we haven’t a way to fast-forward to Voting Day (this year on November 2nd) and vote already in order to shut the various candidates’ voices up yesterday, by preference.

Finally, I think Jon Stewart’s “Rally for Sanity,” which was held this past Saturday, was on to something.  As Stewart said, we all work together every day — it’s only in the hallowed halls of government that everything breaks down.  If we are going underneath a tunnel, or are trying to merge into traffic, whether a person has a NRA sticker or an Obama sticker on the car is irrelevant — we’re going to let that person in, and most of the time won’t hit them with our car in the process.

Here’s a link to the full text of that speech:

http://www.examiner.com/celebrity-in-national/rally-to-restore-sanity-jon-stewart-s-closing-speech-full-text

And a relevant quote:

If we amplify everything we hear nothing.  There are terrorists and racists and Stalinists and theocrats but those are titles that must be earned.  You must have the resume.  Not being able to distinguish between real racists and Tea Partiers or real bigots and Juan Williams and Rick Sanchez is an insult, not only to those people but to the racists themselves who have put in the exhausting effort it takes to hate–just as the inability to distinguish terrorists from Muslims makes us less safe not more.  The press is our immune system.  If we overreact to everything we actually get sicker–and perhaps eczema. 

And yet, with that being said, I feel good—strangely, calmly good.  Because the image of Americans that is reflected back to us by our political and media process is false.  It is us through a fun house mirror, and not the good kind that makes you look slim in the waist and maybe taller, but the kind where you have a giant forehead and an ass shaped like a month old pumpkin and one eyeball.

Mr. Stewart is right on the money in his critique of the overreaction of the mainstream media.  When everything is a crisis, how can anything be evaluated except as a crisis?  Then whatever you say, whatever you do, is “amped up” to the point that it’s blown so far out of proportion that it can barely be recognized.

I don’t know what the answers are to the 24/7 cable news networks in this country.  I don’t know what the answers are to why our own federal government works so improperly, and with so much more “heat” than “light.”

I do know that we need people in Congress to work together.  Find a consensus.  And go from there.

Our country deserves better from our politicians, and it’s time to stand up and demand they take notice.  That’s what the “Rally for Sanity” was saying, and they were right; it’s what many of the Tea Partiers have been saying, and they, too, are right.

We, the people, are better than our representatives.  And the imbalance is palpable.

This must be fixed.  Which is why I say again, for the third (and last) time, please, please vote.

Written by Barb Caffrey

October 31, 2010 at 11:42 pm

On the Meaning of Friendship.

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One of my friends on Facebook sent along a “status update,” something that’s supposed to discuss what she’s experiencing or thinking about.  Hers was on the nature of friendship, which got me thinking about what, to me, constitutes a true friend.

To me, a true friend is someone who cares about you regardless of your background, your financial status, how you look, what your house or car might look like, or even if you have a house or car at all.  A true friend cares about you because of who you are, not what, and he or she cares because of what makes you the unique individual you’ve become. 

Or, to put it another way, friends care.  They care how you’ve lived your life — what experiences you’ve gone through, and how they’ve made you who you are.  They help you observe the various life lessons you’ve learned over time, and celebrate your achievements while mourning your setbacks.  These are the things that bind you together.

It is that spark of interest from another person as to just how you’ve managed to get through it all that celebrates the best part of humanity.  And it’s one of the things that makes life worth living no matter how difficult it may be the rest of the time.

I can’t say enough about the value of true friendship.  Friendship is beyond any monetary price tag, and is right up there with love as far as I’m concerned. 

If you have a good friend, cherish him or her, and tell your friend often how much you care.  Life is too short, a truism often heard but rarely felt.  Please don’t leave words unsaid if you can help it.

Written by Barb Caffrey

October 27, 2010 at 6:22 pm

Posted in friendship, Writing

An Elegy for Pat Strawnsky, 73.

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One of my friends, Pat Stransky, passed away recently at the age of 73. I hadn’t seen her in at least two years, but I thought about her often and called upon occasion . . . she, like me, lost her husband in 2004 and we often talked about how much we missed our husbands, along with current events and the oddities of which pop star was doing what to whom.  (Pat, like my Grandma, liked to follow the gossip magazines.)

Pat and Roger had two children; one, Mark, is in a group home due to some learning disabilities, while the other is married with children living in another state.  I hope the two surviving children will remember the love Pat had for them, and all the good times they must have shared as a family.

Pat loved animals.  She had a very large dog — I can’t recall her dog’s name right now, but though it weighed well over 100 pounds it was a sweet and gentle animal, devoted to Pat’s well-being.  Pat’s dog died a year or so ago, which saddened me when I heard about it.

Pat was 73, which is a good age for a woman with chronic health issues, emphysema, and all the other things Pat faced in retirement as a woman alone after her husband died.  But it saddened me greatly to hear of her passing for two reasons — one, she spent her last days in a nursing home (a very nice one, but she’d never wanted to go there — we’d talked about it often), and two, she was a very kind and gracious lady, and the world needs far more of those than it has.

I cannot say “rest in peace” because I find that common phrase to be an abomination — but I can say that I hope Pat has found Roger in the afterlife, and that they’ve been reunited with all their loved ones on the other side, including their pets.

My life was richer for knowing you, Pat.  I’ll miss you.

Written by Barb Caffrey

October 26, 2010 at 4:07 am

Posted in Remembrance

The Economy 2, SF/F magazines, 0 — or, RoF and DoD shut down due to poor sales figures.

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I was shocked to read at Ralan.com this evening that both Dreams of Decadence and Realms of Fantasy (also called DoD and RoF by cognoscenti) are shutting down immediately due to poor sales figures.  I knew Realms of Fantasy was in trouble; I didn’t know Dreams of Decadence was also in trouble, though they were both owned by the same parent company.

Warren LaPine, the publisher of Realms of Fantasy, said this in his final letter from the publisher, available at this link http://www.rofmag.com/2010/10/18/a-note-from-the-publisher/ :

I invested more than $50,000.00 of my own money into reviving (Realms of Fantasy). I tried every traditional method I could think of to increase the circulation, but nothing worked. I also spent a great deal of money trying nontraditional methods. I advertised online with Google and Facebook, neither of which came close to covering their costs. And we created DRM-free electronic versions of the magazine to see if that would help increase our circulation. Sadly, the DRM-free versions never sold more than twenty five copies per issue, and the Kindle editions sold fewer still.

 As things stand, I would need to invest another large amount of money simply to continue publishing the magazine at its current level—an investment that I do not believe would have any chance of repaying itself. So, unfortunately, I have no choice but to close Realms of Fantasy and Dreams of Decadence.

This is horrible news for readers, who now have fewer choices when it comes to quality magazines that publish science fiction and fantasy, but it’s even worse news for writers.  Simply put: the economy gets us coming and going.  We all scramble for the available markets, and while a few new ones have opened that seem very, very good (Redstone SF, Daily Science Fiction, and John Joseph Adams’ new Lightspeed magazine), it seems that every time we turn around, there’s another venerable SF&F magazine like RoF biting the dust.

It’s sad.  It’s shocking.  And I wish I didn’t have to report such horrible news.

The only potential good that may come out of Mr. LaPine’s note as of 10/18/2010 is that he’s willing to sell Realms of Fantasy for $1.  That’s right.  One whole dollar.  But don’t try to buy it unless you’re willing to put at least as much money — and time — as Mr. LaPine . . . I know that if I had at least $50K start-up, I’d be glad to buy Realms of Fantasy and Dreams of Decadence and put everyone back to work.

But I don’t.  And many writers/editors are like me — flat-out busted.

So for now — and perhaps forever — we must bid adieu to these two fine magazines.  How I wish it weren’t so.

Written by Barb Caffrey

October 20, 2010 at 4:05 am

Loren Jones’s novel “All that Glitters” now available from e-Quill Publishing.

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My friend Loren K. Jones now has two novels available, the first being All that Glitters at e-Quill Publishing.  All that Glitters is a fantasy novel/coming of age story about Stavin kel’Aniston, once the smallest and least-regarded of all the warrior-candidates in his village.  Because of this, he feels he has nothing to lose in attempting to beard a dragon in its den, and ends up with a quasi-friend in the dragon along with dragonscale armor, something no one else in his village has or has ever had.

But this is just the start of Stavin’s problems; he still must learn how to work within the system in order to show his worth.   If he can do so, fame and fortune will be his, but more importantly, he’ll be able to marry the woman of his dreams (a slightly older, and nearly blind, scholar).

All that Glitters is just under 100K words, and is an excellent read.  I urge everyone who loves fantasy, coming of age tales, or simply something fun to read to check out Loren K. Jones’s fine novel.  And better yet, it is the first in a four-book series . . . more reading pleasure awaits, if you only will accept the challenge of buying — and reading — the first book in Stavin’s journey.

Go here to purchase Loren’s novel All that Glitters:

http://www.equillpublishing.com/all-that-glitters.html

Loren also has available another very strong novel, this one through Amazon Kindle’s wireless e-book program.  This novel is called Inadvertent Adventures and is also right around the 100K mark.  Inadvertent Adventures is space opera/humor; Sterling Silver is a veteran who’s been cashiered from his job due to spurious reasons, and now must make shift for himself.  He finds space on a tramp freighter and learns the ropes, all while missing his ex-wife, Ann . . . in the process, this middle-aged man re-learns how to enjoy his life, and that no matter how boxed in he might feel himself to be at the start, there are more options and opportunities available than he’d ever dreamed.  This novel, too, is highly recommended; please follow this link in order to buy Inadvertent Adventures:

http://www.amazon.com/Inadvertent-Adventures-ebook/dp/B0042P5F1I/ref=sr_1_4?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1287536667&sr=1-4

A bit about how I know Loren:  my late husband and Loren were very strong Internet friends and writing critique partners, and after Michael died, I continued working with Loren (and Loren returned the favor with my stuff).  Loren is a good man and a very fine writer; his writing has been compared to David Eddings and L.E. Modesitt, Jr., as it has freshness, authenticity, and the ability to effortlessly carry the reader into another place.  If the science fiction and fantasy community were not so difficult to break into with all the closed book markets, requiring agents to help you find a way in for the most part, and the few “opens” like Tor, Baen, DAW, etc., being overloaded with manuscripts on the one hand and being understaffed on the other (meaning no disrespect to anyone — it’s simply a fact of life), Loren would’ve broken in years ago.  And so, no doubt, would’ve my late husband, Michael, me, Jason Cordova, and many other good writers without major publisher book contracts I have the privilege to know.

Please do not let the fact that Loren does not have a major book publishing contract fool you, in short.  This man can write.  Give him a chance, and you will enjoy your reading experience.  Thus ends today’s public service announcement.

Written by Barb Caffrey

October 19, 2010 at 8:10 pm

Jason Cordova’s “Corruptor” now available in “sneak preview” PDF format from Twilight Times Books

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My friend Jason Cordova’s excellent Corruptor is finally available — albeit in PDF only and as a “sneak preview” — from Twilight Times Books.

A bit about Corruptor: it’s a near-future thriller that has everything — action, adventure, intrigue, corporate politics, games theory, and even some romance.  It features a teenage girl as its main character, and the main problem she has is getting trapped in a computer game — but don’t let that fool you, as the game she’s trapped inside has multiple ways of losing, and only a few ways of winning, especially due to some in-game and out-of-the-game bad guys.

I read Corruptor a year ago and enjoyed it immensely; please go check out the PDF “sneak preview” at Twilight Times books.

Here’s the quote from their Web site:

Twilight Times Books is offering a sneak preview of several upcoming releases: Corruptor, SF/F by Jason Cordova

(rest snipped out, BC)

The above titles are available for purchase now as pdf arcs.

And here’s the link to the page you need so you can order Jason Cordova’s magnum opus:

http://twilighttimesbooks.com/ttb_arc_order.html

The link to Corruptor is about halfway down the page.

So what are you waiting for?  Check it out already!

Written by Barb Caffrey

October 16, 2010 at 10:46 pm

“The Fair at South Farallon” up at e-Quill Publishing.

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Well, Lawrence got that story up in less than two days; he wrote the blurb himself, which I might have to tweak but am not going to worry about just yet . . . the story is a satire, and is about aliens, an odd contest that says it’s all about “story-telling” under a vague machine, but isn’t, and is most of all about friendship in the oddest of senses.

Betty and Karen are good friends, the type who’ve seemingly known each other forever.  Yet Karen’s behaving out of character, and nothing at the Fair occurring on South Farallon Island out in San Francisco Bay is as it seems . . . will Betty figure out what’s going on before it’s too late?

At any rate, it’s fantasy/satire, mostly on the subject of unemployment and how many people are out there who are able to do much more than life gives ‘em a chance to do.  Note that I write a lot of satire, though this is the first piece I’ve written that has anything to do with the employment issue in this country.  

This story isn’t as humorous as “Trouble with Elfs” or most of my stories, to be frank, but it’s definitely a satire — maybe that’s why I had so much trouble getting this sold.  I tried at least 75 publications over the years, with two — two! — holding the story for a month or two, then releasing it when there was “no room” for it or they changed their mind about the story.

Here’s the link to “The Fair at South Farallon,” and I hope that you’ll give it a chance.  If you do, I believe you’ll enjoy it.

http://www.equillpublishing.com/the-fair-at-south-farallon.html

Whatever you think, please come back and drop me a line, here, or at my Yahoo e-mail address which is barbcaffrey (all one word) AT Yahoo DOT com.  I’d love to know people are reading my stories!

Written by Barb Caffrey

October 13, 2010 at 9:09 pm

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