Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Just in Time For Halloween, New Poems and Stories at the TTB e-zine!

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OK, sometimes I just have to rhyme…

Folks, do you want some new and absolutely free reading material? Especially from me? (As you’re here at my blog, I’m going to assume the answer is an enthusiastic “yes.”)

Well, look no further. I have a story, “To Exist within Memory,” and a poem, “Break the Dark Lens,” up at the Halloween 2017 edition of the Twilight Times e-zine. (I abbreviated it above as TTB e-zine because it’s part of Twilight Times Books.) In addition, there’s also a chapter reveal for my most recent novel, the LGBT-friendly CHANGING FACES, and there’s an author interview by Mayra Calvani as well — so if you have ever wanted to know more about me or my writing, here you go.

portrait in garden

Mind, if you like what you have read with regards to CHANGING FACES, you can go to Amazon or Barnes and Noble and pick up an e-book copy for just ninety-nine cents…and I do hope you’ll consider doing just that.

So go check out the TTB e-zine. Read some free stuff. Then go pick up your copy of CHANGING FACES today, and get to getting…who said every treat on Halloween has to be full of calories, hey?

Written by Barb Caffrey

October 31, 2017 at 8:33 pm

Now Available in E-Book: A LITTLE ELFY IN BIG TROUBLE

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Folks, I’m very happy to be able to finally report that my second novel — and the second novel in the Elfy duology — A LITTLE ELFY IN BIG TROUBLE has been released. It’s available right now at Amazon and OmniLit…the latter will be most useful if you need an e-pub version of the file.

Edited to add: Barnes and Noble link is now live as well. Now returning you to your regularly scheduled post…

ALittleElfyinBigTrouble_medIf you have never seen anything at all about the Elfyverse — or read book one in the Elfy duology, AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE — this little blurb may help you with what’s going on:

Young Bruno the Elfy and Sarah, his mostly-human teenage girlfriend, are in deep trouble. Bruno’s Elfy mentor Roberto the Wise is about to be sacrificed by a Dark Elf, and Sarah’s parents have decided to help the Elf rather than the Elfy. Things look bleak and are getting worse by the minute, but Bruno and Sarah have a number of allies — human, Elfy, and ghosts — that the Dark Elf can’t possibly expect. Can young love, desperation, and great unexpected power win out despite it all?

And here’s a short excerpt — note, it first appeared here, as part of the Marketing for Romance Writers Book Hooks blog hop:

Bruno took Sarah’s hand and led her back outside. He looked with his mage senses, and felt nothing; no Elfy magic, no Human magic, and as far as he could tell, no Elf magic, Dark or Bright.

He put up a light shield that should help conceal their voices, and decided it was safe enough to talk for a bit.

“Tomorrow is Baaltinne, Sarah.” Bruno rubbed his fingers through his hair and tried not to look too hard at Sarah. Goddess, she was beautiful. But he had to stay on topic. “That’s your May Day. Tomorrow.” He shook his head and tried not to frown. “How can we get everything together in time to stop Dennis the Dark Elf?”

“I have faith in you,” she said. Her eyes darkened. Bruno felt as if he were falling, before she gently brushed her lips against his.

————————— End Excerpt ————————————-

If this has intrigued you (and of course I hope it has), but you aren’t sure you will like my book yet, I also have three sample chapters available at Twilight Times Books’ website — here’s the link for that: http://www.twilighttimesbooks.com/ElfyinBigTrouble_ch1.html

A LITTLE ELFY IN BIG TROUBLE continues to make me laugh. I’ve enjoyed writing about Bruno, Sarah, Reverend Samuel and his family, Lady Keisha, even Dennis the Dark Elf…and I hope to write more about them, ’cause I have a hunch their stories are not over.

At any rate, most of you know the labor of love that kept me working on Elfy for years. I’m ecstatic that both halves of my novel have now been published, and I hope you’ll enjoy reading them as much as I’ve enjoyed writing them.

Anyway, both novels are available now as e-books. So what are you waiting for? Go grab a copy — or copies — today! (And be sure to tell your friends. ‘Cause, really…how can you go wrong?)

Written by Barb Caffrey

November 21, 2015 at 7:22 pm

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 over 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 over five 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 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 first 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

2021 Baseball Oddities, or, The Baseball Curmudgeon’s Rant

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Folks, it’s no secret that I am a huge baseball fan.

I have followed the Brewers almost since their inception in 1970. (I was quite young, but I remember Hank Aaron’s final games as a Brewer in 1976.) They have never won the World Series, but they have played in one (in 1982); they have come close, since switching to the National League, to getting to the World Series again, but have not actually gotten there. I say all this to explain why I am so irritated with 2021’s version of Major League Baseball (MLB).

First, there are the rules changes that happened last year during the height of the Covid-19 crisis. These are meant to shorten games, which made sense then — but doesn’t, now, considering there is a vaccine — and they are profoundly vexing.

What are they, and why do they frustrate me so much? Simple.

It used to be, in extra innings, that no one started on base to start the inning. This made sense. An extra inning was just like every other inning, and of course no one should be on base when they haven’t gotten a hit or taken a walk or gotten hit by a pitch, or any number of other legal baseball plays that would put them on base in a normal fashion.

But now, there’s a rule that starting in the tenth inning in normal games that the last person who made an out in the ninth inning gets to stand on second base. If that person scores. it’s an unearned run against the pitcher.

That rule reminds me of Little League.

Remember, these are MLB players. They are used to the grind of a 162-game season. They do not need to start on second base to shave off time from a game now that there is a vaccine.

But that’s not the worst rule.

The worst rule is that if a doubleheader is now played, the game will only be seven innings long.

Yep. You saw that right. Only seven innings.

That means that the eighth inning is when that stupid rule about putting someone on second base who doesn’t belong there and shouldn’t be there happens in a doubleheader. It also means that someone can pitch a complete game (which up until now was defined as a full, nine-inning game unless shortened by weather or other problems) and only go seven innings.

This reminds me of preschool ball, before the kids even get to Little League.

Again, these are pro players we’re talking about, used to the grind of a full season of baseball. They don’t need games to be shortened to only seven innings, and they definitely don’t need to start putting people on second base if they’re going to insist on that stupid rule until the tenth inning.

As a fan, these things irritate me quite a bit, as I’m sure you’ve figured out. But I have one, final piece of news to impart that’s even more infuriating than that.

I walk with a cane. I say this because I am considered to be a disabled person.

How does this relate, you ask? Well, in 2020, major league baseball decided to change the name of the list of players who can’t play from the disabled list (DL) to the injured list (IL).

Did they really think I can’t tell the difference between me, a truly disabled person, and someone who went on the DL?

To my mind, changing it was the height of political correctness. And it did not need to be done, at all.

So, to reiterate: we now have three different changes in MLB since last year. None of them make any sense in 2021. I definitely do not like any of them. And I wish they’d change them back.

P.S. The other night, I was frustrated when the Brewers lost, 6-1, in 11 innings to the St. Louis Cardinals. My mother and I had watched the game in its entirety together. The announcers, who were fill-ins from the usual pair of Brian Anderson and Bill Schroeder, didn’t seem to understand that we and other fans had actually watched the whole game, and reiterated that the Cards had scored five runs in the top of the 11th several times before we even got to the bottom of the 11th.

I actually wrote in to the Brewers Facebook page to say how upsetting this was to both me and my mother.

I mean, I can count to five. Can’t everyone?

Sunday Surprise: Kayelle Allen’s blog Romance Lives Forever features my #LGBTQ novel CHANGING FACES

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Folks, I woke up to a lovely Sunday surprise.

Author Kayelle Allen — who is one of my editorial clients, and a good friend — has a blog called Romance Lives Forever, where she features all sorts of books and authors. As she writes #LGBTQ science fiction, she was one of the first people I told about my novel CHANGING FACES back in 2016 (when I was finishing it up, and struggling mightily to do my two lovers — Allen and Elaine — justice). And she never forgot this.

Today, I opened my email to see that she’d posted a blog about CHANGING FACES. To say I hadn’t expected this is the understatement of the day, but I am greatly appreciative of it. (Who wouldn’t be?)

She did this once before, back in 2017, too, as she loved CHANGING FACES and thought more people should read it. If I remember correctly, she thought this was a timeless romance about two young souls who loved each other regardless of form (even if it does take Allen a bit of time to work it out, and Elaine a bit of time to figure out — while in a coma — that she’s worthy of Allen’s love).

It’s a body-switch romance, yes. Elaine’s terrified of telling Allen that she’s trans and gender-fluid; Allen’s terrified of Elaine leaving him. He prays for help, and gets it in the form of a car accident. While they’re both unconscious, two beings — call them angels, if you want — change their forms expeditiously by putting Allen in Elaine’s body, and Elaine in his (but in a coma, so one of the beings/angels can talk to her — and yes, Elaine sees herself as “she” even when she’s at her most male-feeling, so go figure. People asked me why I did that, and I replied, “Human beings are complex, and not easily pigeonholed.”)

Anyway, I also figured I’d give you just a taste of their story, just before the car accident…so here goes:

I sighed. Everything inside me was a jumbled mess right now. How could I explain this to Allen when I didn’t fully understand it myself?

“Look, Allen. Even though I’m very happy with you, I don’t know for certain that I can stay in this body. I’ve never felt right in it.” Yes, this was what I had to say. I just hoped he’d understand. “I’ve spent twenty-eight years of my life in this body.” I indicated my womanly form, and grimaced. “I’ve tried to be as normal as I can be, for your sake–“

“It’s not for my sake. Don’t lie to yourself.” He looked at me, evenly.

“Listen, Allen. Our love for one another doesn’t have to change, no matter what my body looks like. You’ve said before you’d love me no matter what; if I gained weight, or lost it, changed my hair color, pierced my navel…why does changing sexes have to be different?”

“It’s very different!” Allen shook his head so hard I was afraid his neck would snap. “You’d be a man, and I’d be…what? Wouldn’t I have to change sexes, too?” Allen put his narrow hand through his wiry brown hair, and pulled it. “I’m confused!”

“You wouldn’t have to change. I love everything about you.” I stopped pacing, and went to hug him. He hugged me back, but tentatively–almost as if I were made out of spun glass.

That wasn’t the reaction I wanted.

CHANGING FACES by Barb Caffrey, published by Twilight Times Books

Anyway, you can see that they both love each other. Allen’s confused. Elaine’s worried Allen can’t accept her, and Allen’s initial reaction — I’m not going to lie — is not at all what she had hoped for. This promotes an initial misunderstanding that is tough to get past, but an unusual boost from the beings that may as well be angels should help get them through. But they must have the courage to both change how they see the world and themselves, and to understand that their souls — their intrinsic selves — have not changed regardless of form.

CHANGING FACES is priced at just ninety-nine cents as an e-book. I hope you will enjoy the story.

P.S. Allen and Elaine are clarinetists. If you love music, you’ll enjoy CHANGING FACES even more. (That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.)

Written by Barb Caffrey

May 2, 2021 at 12:48 pm

Sunday Musings: Do You Recognize the Person in the Mirror?

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Folks, it’s Sunday. That means it’s time for me to write something with a bit more depth, perhaps…or at least something more elliptical, as suits my mood.

Enjoy!


After my husband Michael died, for a few years I did not recognize myself in the mirror. That’s just a fact.

“But Barb,” you ask. “Why are you talking about this now?”

I wonder how many of us have had times where we didn’t recognize ourselves, as I can’t be the first (and probably won’t be the last, alas) to have had this phenomenon happen. And I wonder, too, if that fuels my need for stories. Because every story I’ve told has dealt with a realization, or a transformation, or sometimes both…and the person who starts the book has had to realize his or her inner truths by the end, or else.**

See, the thing about humans is, we often don’t confront problems until we absolutely have to. This is especially dicey when the problem is something you couldn’t have ever foreseen, such as the coronavirus (COVID-19), or the way-too-early death of your spouse. The latter hits you like a ton of bricks, and you literally aren’t exactly the same as you were before due to your grief and rage and hopelessness, though the essentials of you are still there and can be dug out again in time

But there’s the former group of people out there — I have occasionally been among them, too — where we know there are problems in our lives, but we don’t have a clue how to fix them. Maybe we’re trying to fix them. Maybe we aren’t. But we procrastinate, hoping that circumstances or perhaps a miracle from the Deity high above will bring clarity…and our problems don’t get solved.

Sometimes the consequences of refusing to solve problems — mostly because we don’t like the solutions we come up with — are worse than just dealing with the problem to begin with.

The easiest example I have of this phenomenon is with a non-working toaster. If you try to keep using that toaster, when you know it’s sparking from the elements being exposed (the wiring, perhaps, has gone bad), you’re going to blow up your house. It’s a lot easier to just go buy a new toaster than to keep using the old one, no matter how much you liked that old one because it always toasted the bread perfectly every time…at least, until the wires got messed up and started sparking energy off all over the place.

Of course, human relationships are much more difficult most of the time than this above problem. Still, as Mark Manson has put it — and many others before him — there’s something called a “sunk-cost fallacy.” The quickest way to explain this is, “I’ve been with my husband for seven years. Yeah, things are bad. But I love him, and I think he can change…”

(This example is drawn from my life. My first husband, later my first ex-husband, was a good man in many ways but utterly wrong for me. Just as I was utterly wrong for him. We eventually both figured that out and got out of the marriage, which was just as well. I found Michael later, and he was the right man for me. And my ex found the right person for him, so it all, eventually, worked out for the best.)

Now, I did go to counseling the whole time. I tried to learn more about myself, and why I had picked my ex in the first place. I also figured out, due to counseling, that while people can change, it’s up to them to do it. You can’t make them do it. You can’t even assist them in doing it. They will either do it, or don’t, on their own.

I’ve had friends married to alcoholics who’ve learned the same thing, mind. They know it’s not up to them to stop their spouse from drinking. They can’t. All they can do is control their own behavior.

So, what I learned there is, no matter what good points your spouse may have, it’s up to him to use them. Or not.

And sometimes, we love people who aren’t good for us. Or who once were, but stopped being so, and now have no intention whatsoever to grow with you in a long-term relationship or marriage, mostly because they can’t help being themselves.

The good news is, if you are in a situation where you don’t recognize yourself in the mirror because of your own choices, or because life hit you like a ton of bricks, you can feel better about yourself. Over time, if you keep working on yourself, and read books, and educate yourself, and learn more about who you are and what you truly want (rather than what you think you want), you should find people who will want to grow with you. And who will appreciate your uniqueness, just because they know they, themselves, are appreciated by you for their uniqueness in turn.

It does take a while. It’s not a quick fix by any means. But living your life, and continuing to be your best self, and remembering what it was about yourself that you liked before life hit you like a ton of bricks — or before you stayed in your marriage too long after it had clearly died (and everyone knew it but you) — that’s the best way to go about it.

If you can do that, you can find some inner peace. You will know you’ve done your best in whatever situation you find yourself. And you can pick up the pieces again, and start over (or at least afresh), because you have learned over time that you, too, matter.

Not just your significant other.

_________

**(Before you start on my gender-fluid heroine Elaine from CHANGING FACES, Elaine liked the pronoun “she” even when she was feeling male. There are people who like pronouns that don’t seemingly go with their outward selves, too, in this world, including a growing number who prefer “they” as they prefer not to be categorized for various reasons. Non-binary people, mostly, are in this category; gender-fluid people also can easily be in this category, though Elaine herself is not.)

Words of Wisdom from Lee and Miller’s “Trader’s Leap”

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Folks, as you know, I have been battling a mystery illness for quite some time. (Several months, minimum.) So when I read something recently in Sharon Lee and Steve Miller’s newest Liaden Universe ™ novel TRADER’S LEAP that applied, I knew I had to come here and let you all know about it.

Here’s the quote that resonated so much with me, I’ve read and re-read it several times (along with the entire book, of course) over the past few days:

“You will pursue all necessary tasks tomorrow,” Lute told him. “Nothing will be lost by caring for yourself. Learn some little wisdom while you sleep. You endanger all and everything by ignoring your hurts.”

TRADER’S LEAP, Sharon Lee and Steve Miller, p. 124

Now, you might be asking, “Barb, why did that quote resonate with you so much? It’s not just about your health, is it?”

I think it resonated so very much because I’ve been attempting to juggle five different edits for the past several weeks. Every time I finish an edit, it seems like two more pop up. And while this is wonderful from a work perspective — it means my edits are gaining some small notice, and that people are in general happy with my work — it can be challenging to listen to my body and rest when it tells me to, even when I’m not sick.

When I read this anew, several days ago, I’d just been diagnosed with another sinus infection. This one was bad enough that it had set off several wicked migraines (worse than usual), and I was given prednisone along with antibiotics. (Prednisone is a steroid that’s intended to help you breathe easier. It also ups your appetite and allows you to have a bit of energy, as for the moment your illness is muted by its effects.) I needed to read, just in that moment, those words of wisdom from Sharon Lee and Steve Miller.

See, fiction can still illuminate our present problems, and sometimes offer viable solutions. (Even if, as in this case, the solution is to rest.) We can see ourselves, reflected. And though it is entertainment — how not? — it also can give you heart’s ease, solace, a few good laughs, and divert you from your pain and problems for a few, short hours.

Many people, due to complications from Covid-19 or other illnesses exacerbated by the global pandemic of the last year-plus, are hurting right now. Some of us, myself included, do not want to rest, even when we need it. I know that I, myself, am afraid that if I rest, I’ll make matters even worse. (It’s not logical, no. But it’s very human.)

That’s why reading the page above, and being reminded that resting is essential in order to fully heal up, made me want to stand up and cheer.

Written by Barb Caffrey

April 15, 2021 at 8:30 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Happy Easter! Remember Your Lessons…

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Folks, every year I try to write something around Easter. I believe in forgiveness and love, and I especially want to believe in hope…and Jesus’s resurrection after three days of being dead ticks all three boxes.

How, you may ask?

First, if Jesus hadn’t forgiven those who killed him — nailed him to the cross and let him starve in agony and pain — he’d not have risen. (Or, for my Pagan friends who are more NeoPagan than myself, we’d not have this particular legend/belief system. I think Jesus lived and came to help us figure out how to love one another. But I digress.)

Second, if Jesus hadn’t loved his friends, family, and by extension everyone else, he’d never have let himself be nailed to that cross at all. He could’ve easily avoided that fate from everything we know in the Bible. He chose to do this, and he also chose to raise up after three days, to let his loved ones (friends, family, and again by extension everyone else) know that his soul was alive, well, and at peace.

Third, the three women at Jesus’s gravesite (or cave, if you will), were there out of love for Jesus. They had no idea that he’d rise from the grave. They had absolutely no expectation of that at all. But they were there to honor their friend and loved one, and to pay witness to his life.

Jesus rising from the dead, being resurrected, told them that what they did was the right thing. (They didn’t need to know that, perhaps, but it was still nice to know.) And it gave them hope that no matter what happened in our lives, we could still be redeemed.

There’s more to the hope than that, of course. The three women had hoped Jesus, on the Other Side (however they thought of the afterlife), would not forget them. They also had assuredly hoped that Jesus would be out of pain.

Their hopes — all three of them — were rewarded.

And there’s a lesson in that, which goes like this: sometimes, no matter how bad things look, you have to keep hope alive. You have to believe that what you’re doing matters. And you have to also believe that caring, love, honor, etc., are all worthwhile in and of themselves.

“But Barb,” you protest. “Easter is about much more than that!”

So it is. But this is the best way I have to explain how I think of it.

I am more NeoPagan than not, in case you haven’t figured that out. But I still honor Jesus, because he and his example were necessary for this world. We needed to be led out of darkness. And he is among several others in various faiths and belief systems who has helped over time to give us as a species the belief that we can become kinder, wiser, gentler, and more observant in our faith/belief system.

So, this Easter season, do your best to be kind. Even if you feel those around you don’t deserve it. And if you’re able, forgive your trespassers/debtors, too…because releasing the anger you have at them will free up more positive energy for you to do something with, if nothing else. (Hey, self-centeredness works as a reason if nothing else does. But eventually, I hope you can come to see everyone as a person — no matter what they’ve done — and worthy of redemption and care.)

Written by Barb Caffrey

April 4, 2021 at 6:28 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Yes, I’m Alive (Really)…

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Folks, the last few weeks haven’t been much fun at Chez Caffrey.

First, I’ve been dealing with some sort of digestive issue, so it’s not easy to eat much or keep it down. No one has any idea what this is about as of yet, though they did find out I have gallstones. (However, the surgeon I consulted said he felt it was an “incidental finding” and the gall bladder should remain inside my body rather than yanked.)

Second, because I haven’t been able to eat as well as I’d like, my energy has been affected. This means the five — yes, five — editing projects on the table have all been slowed. (I haven’t stopped, though. I am still working on them, and two are close to completion, while the others are all in various stages.)

Third, because of all this, my online time has been much less than usual. And that time mostly has gone into reassuring my clients that I’m not dead and am doing the best I can.

I legitimately have felt too awful to even write a short bloglet for you all, to let you know what’s been going on. Everything seems like it’s been a big blur since I was in the ER a week-plus ago, when they found the gallstones.

But that’s only a rationalization. And I think you, my readers, deserve more than that.

When I started this blog nearly eleven years ago, I vowed to myself to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth (so help me Deity) even when I felt rotten. I wanted others out there to know that they weren’t alone if they were battling physical illnesses; I wanted others to know that I, too, understood.

In that vein, I am openly admitting that my health has been rock-bottom bad for the last three weeks or so. I have no answers for what’s wrong. And it’s been all I can do to get out of the house a few times a week, go see my Mom and her dog as per usual, and carry on.

I am extremely frustrated by this as-yet unknown illness. If I had my druthers, I would wake up tomorrow free of it, with boundless energy, and be able to spend many hours editing, then going over to see my Mom, then come back and do many more hours of editing. I pride myself on getting things done, dammit, and this is no way to get stuff done.

That said, I am alive. And where there’s life, there’s hope.

I hope to be back writing more blogs about books, life, the universe, and everything ASAP. But for now, I’d best go back to rest a bit, so I can edit and get a few of these projects out the door. (My clients depend on me. I’d better step up and get it done, no matter what.)

Written by Barb Caffrey

March 29, 2021 at 6:23 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

“Stay Calm” — A Message From the Past

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Folks, last year about this time I wrote the following message on Facebook, and I continue to stand by it:

Try to stay calm. This has thrown people for a loop, having their lives upended this way. Remember to do whatever you can to stay on an even keel (or as even as possible). Reach out to your friends and loved ones. Care, and keep on caring…never stop trying. That’s my advice.

(Of course, I was referring to Covid-19 when I said “this.”)

Most of us, for the past year, have struggled mightily due to the various restrictions and changes that Covid brought into our lives. Depression has been on the rise. People have been cut off from one another, been unable to touch each other or even stand within six feet of each other unless you’re all in the same household.

Human beings aren’t meant to live this way, which is partly why we’ve in general felt disconnected, anxious, and fearful. (I call ’em as I see ’em.)

But we can still help each other. We can let others know we care. We can reach out, as often as it takes, to let our loved ones hear the love in our voices. (Or, I suppose, our online presences.)

For my friends battling depression, my hope is that you will read this little bloglet today (or whenever) and realize that sometimes, the best we can do is the best we can do. Refusing to give up, refusing to believe that everything is always going to be bleak (or worse, black), and refusing to succumb to despair are all within our grasp. We just have to tell ourselves things will improve. Or at least that they can improve, and we have to stay around to find out just how they’re going to do that.

I also have one suggestion that may do you some good, especially if you’re battling depression.

Remember the Zen Buddhist trick I believe I’ve mentioned before (that my late husband Michael taught me)? Take fifteen minutes, and feel everything: all the pain, all the anger, yes, even all the despair. Whatever you’re feeling, go ahead and wallow in it for fifteen minutes. Then, after that, tell yourself, “Self, I have heard you. I appreciate what you’re saying. But it’s time to get on with everything else.”

Sometimes, that little trick has saved my sanity. Maybe it’ll save yours, too. (Here’s hoping.)

Written by Barb Caffrey

March 15, 2021 at 8:13 pm

Friday Reading Fun: Chris Nuttall’s Two Newest Fantasy Novels Are Out…

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Folks, I have to admit that I am biased in favor of Chris Nuttall. I often edit for him, and indeed edited the two newest books I’m about to talk about here at my blog. (One, THE RIGHT SIDE OF HISTORY, I co-edited with author and editor Christine Amsden, and of course Twilight Times Books publisher Lida Quillen also keeps an eye on things, so it’s like having three editors for the price of two.) But as with Kayelle Allen’s newest book SURRENDER LOVE, these books are just so much fun that I have to write about them.

First, take a look at this gorgeous cover by artist Brad Fraunfelter:

THE RIGHT SIDE OF HISTORY is the 22nd book in the Schooled in Magic series, and stars Emily, a young woman from our Earth’s Kansas who was translated to the Nameless World in her mid-teens. Emily was bookish to a fault before she was brought over; unfortunately, she was originally meant to be a human sacrifice to a necromancer. She was saved, at the last minute, by an enigmatic man who goes by the name of Void. (I have to put it that way, as true names are seen as more powerful than not, so most sorcerers and sorceresses go by use-names or partial names like a nickname.)

In the intervening twenty books since the original SCHOOLED IN MAGIC novel, Emily has grown, changed, and developed. She’s unquestionably powerful, and as Void’s surrogate daughter (he’s more or less adopted her; the people in that world think she’s his true offspring), she’s recently been on an extended internship with Void learning about the roots of magic. She’s also killed six or seven necromancers along the way, not to mention several people who wished her ill. And during most of the novels, she’s had a running adversarial relationship with a young woman named Nanette…and yes, that’s relevant to the discussion. (Trust me.)

So, Emily starts off THE RIGHT SIDE OF HISTORY by fighting off a posse of corrupt magicians in the pay of one of her adversaries, Master Lucknow. (Chris would tell you I’m skimming over a lot of stuff, here, but I’m trying to highlight the best without getting unduly bogged down in details. That’s hard in a twenty-two-book series.) Void helps her at the last minute, as he often does, then Emily is taken into custody by Lucknow under the eyes of Void and Emily’s mentor, Lady Barb. (Yes, she’s named after me. But she has blue eyes, for one…I definitely don’t. Going on…) That way, Emily can have as close to a fair trial as possible, while Void goes and rallies her other allies (of which Emily has many.)

Now, how did Void know Emily was in trouble again? This time, her boyfriend — a young sorcerer by the name of Jan — went to go get him. This was a real problem for Jan, because he had been an apprentice of Master Lucknow’s. (When you work against your master, that effectively ends your apprenticeship nine times out of ten.) Jan isn’t as engaging as Emily’s two previous boyfriends, Caleb and Cat, nor have we seen as much of him as we’ve seen of Caleb and Cat. (Emily has a talent for keeping her friends close, even if they once were her boyfriends.) But he did the right thing here, and that’s all that counts.

Anyway, a deal is brokered by another of Emily’s allies, Queen Alassa of Zangaria. (Emily is a Baroness there, though she truly doesn’t like it.) Alassa and Emily are old friends (to the point Emily does not have to say Your Majesty except in public), and the deal brokered is for Emily to go to Alluvia — a place that’s in massive unrest, partly because the peasantry there have risen in Emily’s name.

Of course Emily had nothing to do with that, but that was one of the justifications Master Lucknow was using to get her arrested, tried, and jailed. So it has to be mentioned as a plot point.

What is Emily going to find there? How does Nanette play into this mess? And will Jan lose his apprenticeship, or not? All of these questions, along with some truly shocking plot twists, will be answered by the end of THE RIGHT SIDE OF HISTORY.

You may have noticed that I haven’t mentioned Void much since the beginning. There is a reason for that. He is key to the end, in such a way that I can’t talk about it unless I want to give the whole game away. (And I truly don’t want to do that; what’s the point in you going to read the book if I do?)

Next, it’s time for another lovely cover, again by artist Brad Fraunfelter:

In THE FAMILY NAME, we have two equally compelling stories going on at the same time.

First is Akin Rubén, the Heir Primus to the Rubén Family (a huge family that is wealthy, well-run, and overly proud of its descent from nobles from the old Thousand-Year Empire). Akin is engaged to a young woman, Caitlyn Aguirre (known as Cat; note that Cat in this series is a very capable woman, while Cat in the Schooled in Magic ‘verse is a very capable man). Technically, they’re betrothed, and have been since about age twelve; this was done to broker a peace deal at the time as the Aguirre family is also extremely wealthy and powerful. The two of them together can perhaps steer a more peaceful course, but there’s infighting within and without both families that’s been causing distress since they were betrothed. Fortunately, Akin and Cat have grown to love one another, and truly want to be married.

Second is Isabella Rubén, the disgraced twin sister of Akin. If you read THE FAMILY SHAME (and I truly hope you have; it’s a marvelous book), you know that Isabella has dealt with major changes in her life that were brought on because she’d taken part in an attempted coup with a disgruntled member of the Aguirre family, Stregharia. Only the fact that Isabella was just twelve at the time saved her life, and she was packed off to remote Kirkhaven to deal with a mad warlock named Ira. She did that, but along the way met a young man, Callam, who has similar talents as Akin’s fiancée Cat does. They both have these talents (Callam and Cat) because they have no magic at all, which is rare in that world, but necessary for the forging of powerful Objects of Power. (Think of it as blacksmithing and you’re not too far wrong.)

Anyway, Isabella and Callam have become engaged because of a true bond, same as Cat and Akin. However, when Isabella at long last is recalled to her home, she finds much trouble brewing. Will she be a factor in the instability, or will she back her brother? And what will Callam think of it all?

As for Akin, what will he do when the faction in his family tries to interrupt his plans to marry Cat? Will he stick with the family? Will he run? Will he back his sister in her schemes (if she indeed has any)? And what will he think of Callam?

All of this, plus a whole lot more, is in store for you as you read THE FAMILY NAME.

I’m proud to have worked on both of these books, and urge you to read them without delay if you love young adult fantasy (mixed with romance more so in THE FAMILY NAME). They’re fun reads, both of ’em, yet they have a lot of questions for you to ponder once they’re done. And as both series have progressed, Chris gets better and better at telling a full story, yet always leaving people to want much more. (Further editor sayeth not.)

Written by Barb Caffrey

March 5, 2021 at 4:44 am

Why You Need to Read Kayelle Allen’s SURRENDER LOVE (Especially if You Love Romances)

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My friend Kayelle Allen just released a new book called SURRENDER LOVE. And this book is so much fun, I just had to write a blog about it.

So, what is SURRENDER LOVE about? (Yes, I can hear you asking that question.) It’s about the healing power of love, and about how universal love can be, regardless of who the lovers are or what species they come from. The book is set in the far future, where humanity has spread out to twenty-two planets and other groups, including the Kin (Felinoids who can breed with humans/humanoids), have been discovered.

In this case, SURRENDER LOVE is a male/male romance (between two men) featuring Luc Saint-Cyr, a nearly immortal man who’s lived many lifetimes but has never found true love, and Izzorah Ceeow, a young man from the Kin race. Izzorah, also known as Izzy, is a drummer for a successful rock band. But he’s not in the best of health despite his young age (he’s a legal adult, but only by a year or two), and has had to grow up fast due to his homelife. (More on that in a bit.)

First, here’s a banner for you…I love the purple color, and the stars in the background.

Anyway, Luc is a very complex man.** He’s had many relationships with men, women, and other sentients of various types (as Luc is pansexual), but Luc has never found true happiness. He’s mostly blamed himself for this, though the fact that humans live so much shorter of lives than he does as a quasi-immortal Sempervian (his planet of origin, roughly) has made it extremely difficult for Luc as he usually can’t tell his lovers who and what he is. (Why? Well, there’s a society of immortals that are hiding in plain sight. But that’s not important to know at the start; just know that’s part of the background.)

Izzy, on the other hand, is an open book. He is a kind, empathetic, and smarter than he thinks. And yet because he’s “sahnamay,” (which means gay in the Kin language), he had to run from his home planet because it’s matrilineal and gay men there can be put to death by the women in power.

I mentioned Izzy’s homelife before. He has great parents who understand him, but they either don’t realize he’s gay or don’t know what to do about it. They have brokered a marriage to a woman who leads a powerful clan, and Izzy’s heard horrible things about that woman. (She’s a sociopath, to put it bluntly.) He decides to run for it, despite the fact that he’s all but blind due to a childhood illness. And he manages to make it to the spaceport, and makes his way to Tarth (where Luc resides). Once there, he auditions for and is accepted by the rock band, and becomes wildly popular. But he hasn’t told anyone he’s gay for obvious reasons…

…then he meets Luc. (Play some happy music behind this. Preferably rock, in Izzy’s honor. But I digress…)

In the excerpt that follows, Luc’s coming off a bad breakup with a human man. He and Izzy are talking privately, and Izzy’s talent for understanding smells at a deep level comes in handy (as you’ll see):

“You didn’t know what to do when he left, did you?” Izzorah played with one of Luc’s buttons. “Should you forget him? Try to win him back?”

“I tried making him jealous by having an affair with a Kin male named Jawk.” A tinge of lavender and bitter nutmeg sparked, showing Luc’s regret. “What a pointless attempt that was. I doubt anything I did would have kept Wulf from leaving. He was already in love and we were finished.” Luc faced Izzorah. “Pardon me for rambling. I shouldn’t have burdened you with that.”

“No, you needed to tell it. You’re glad it’s over, but it still hurt.”

“It did. I tried telling myself it wasn’t happening. That I didn’t love him anyway, but–” Luc stopped. “I did. Wulf and I lived in the same house but led separate lives. It was pitiful, the way things ended. No final conflict. No big blowup. More like air leaking from a balloon. I let him go. Gave him my blessing. Then moped because I was alone. I was pathetic.”

“No. You’d never be that. Breakups are a kind of death. The loss aches. Slowness doesn’t make it less painful.”

“True.” Luc’s focus made Izzorah’s mouth go dry. But then the man smiled, and it warmed Izzorah’s soul. Luc leaned his head against the wall. “You have incredible insight. And you’re right about the pain. With you, I’m at peace. Last thing I need is to fall in love with another heartbreaker. I’m hoping you don’t turn out to be that, because it’s too late.”

The truth was in Luc’s scent, a faint smell of sweet grass, along with fresh linen, showing respect. The mixture meant what Luc felt surprised him.

“I don’t understand.” Izzorah understood all right, but Luc needed to admit it to himself. That was in his scent too. And Izzorah wanted to hear the words. “Too late for what?”

“Too late for me to turn back. I’ve already fallen for you.”

Izzorah scooted closer to Luc. “I promise.”

Luc shifted a bit, allowing Izzorah to fit against him. “Tell me what you mean by that.” He looked down.

Holding Luc’s dark gaze, Izzorah smiled. “That I’ll be what you need.”

“Will you, now?” Patience and amusement eddied through Luc’s scent in an appealing mixture. With one hand, Luc stroked Izzorah’s hair and then he coiled a strand around one finger. “Suppose you tell me what you think that is.”

Izzorah curled up against Luc’s chest and wrapped one arm over Luc’s waist. “A shelter for your heart.”

——— End Excerpt ——–

SURRENDER LOVE is a wonderful book about the healing power of love. I urge you to read it ASAP, especially if you love your romance with a healthy dose of SF&F.

Note: If you haven’t read A STOLEN HEART yet, about Luc’s adventures with Senthys “Senth” Antonello at age three, you need to read that book…yes, you will understand SURRENDER LOVE without it, but you’ll have so much better of a reading experience if you’ve read A STOLEN HEART first.

Written by Barb Caffrey

March 3, 2021 at 11:15 pm

Thinking Hard…Or Something Like That

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The last few days, I’ve been thinking hard about a manuscript I’m editing. While I do this on a regular basis, I don’t always have to stop and think for several days in a row. But that’s why I decided to write this blog, as I thought it might interest someone out there…and at least it’s something different.

When I am editing a manuscript, I tend to narrow down to a laser-like focus. (An actual laser, of course, would wreck my computer.) There are many things I look for, including continuity issues, clarity of thought, whether there’s enough description (or, very occasionally, if there’s too much that has to be pruned away), and much more.

But the one thing that always makes me stop and think about a book in a lengthy series is this: Will this book represent the series to date as it stands? And if it doesn’t, what does it need in order to do so?

When you’re in a series, readers have an expectation of how well-known characters are going to act. Even if the characters are doing something completely different — as they should, or you’re just writing the same book over and over (and what in the Hell is the point of that, anyway?) — the way a character acts has to ring true.

Right now I have two different series books by two different authors on the table. One, right off, I told the author I loved it and I thought she got her characterization down cold. For the second book with the second author, I said that I enjoyed the book, but it needs more in several places to flesh it out some in order to make it truly shine.

Mind, when I realize a book is missing something, sometimes it takes me a few days to figure out just exactly what that is, much less what I can suggest to fix it. Here, I saw some of the issues right away, but not necessarily all. And until my mind figures out enough that I can go back to the manuscript with, I have to leave that manuscript alone until it does.

It’s most vexing, trust me.

Anyway, I once read an interview with a writer who said that her subconscious mind blocks her if she is missing something in a plot. I sometimes wonder if that is what’s going on with me with regards to editing someone else’s work in a situation like this.

What I’m going to have to do is, with that second author/second book I’m talking about, is hope that I can sleep on the problem and wake up with a solution. (With the first book/first author, it’s just a matter of me finishing up the second editorial pass, then sending it on its merry way.) The author in question is very good with making changes, so once I figure it out I’m sure my input will be understood and taken into account.

(When you edit independently, as I often do, all you can do is suggest. You can’t insist, as that won’t get you anywhere. If your suggestions are cogent, usually an author dealing with you is going to try his/her/their best to address your editorial concerns.)

So, at the moment I’m thinking hard, but coming up empty.

Other than that, I did want to clue you in on an interesting blog I intend to write later today or tomorrow on behalf of writer Kayelle Allen. Her newest book is called SURRENDER LOVE, and it’s a far-future male/male romance. I loved working on this, as one of the two men in the relationship, Izzorah (or Izzy for short) is just a sweetheart. Izzy has empathy to burn, and I enjoy seeing that in my romances. The far-future stuff is all well-done, too. And the other man in the relationship, Luc, is complex, sometimes difficult, but takes on new dimensions once he gets involved with Izzy. (If you think you’ve seen me talk about Luc before, you’re right. He’s also the hero of A STOLEN HEART, a lovely story about an alienated man fostering a three-year-old half-human, half-alien child, and how that relationship between them changes Luc for the better.)

So, look for me to talk more about that later. (I still have plenty to say about Luc, Izzy, and their milieu.)

What did you think of this blog? Do you have any tips or tricks you use when editing either for yourself or someone else when you get stalled? Tell me about it in the comments!

Written by Barb Caffrey

March 2, 2021 at 5:05 am

Posted in Editing, Writing

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