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

Inspiration Is Where You Find It

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I want to talk about inspiration for a bit, because I truly do think inspiration is where you find it.

Consider, please, that when you go outside, you see small animals. Birds. Squirrels. Rabbits. Assorted critters of various sizes along those lines.

Observing wildlife, just watching them, gives you the idea that the struggles we face aren’t a patch on what they do.

In the middle of fall, as we are now in much of the Northern Hemisphere, a squirrel is storing away food to make it through the winter. A bird is figuring out where it’s going to nest, or perhaps lighting out for warmer climates. A rabbit…well, who knows what’s going to happen to it, as there are many competitors for that rabbit, and most do not indicate a long life.

Yet they continue to get up, move around, and do whatever they can to extend their lives. It’s instinctual, sure…but it’s also inspirational.

None of us know the future. None of us have any idea what will happen tomorrow, or the day after that either. Yet we continue to get up and do what we can, in the hope that it’ll matter down the line.

All we can do is our best. Every day. In every way.

If we realize that, and if we are observant, we can find many things to inspire us and also to give us hope, even during the darkest time of the year. (As Ned Stark put it in Game of Thrones, “Winter is coming.”)

The most important thing to do, though, is the hardest.

Believe in yourself. Believe in your talents and abilities. Give them a chance to flower, no matter how rocky the ground is, and no matter how much fertilizer you have to put on that ground in the meantime.

If you can do that, you’re one step closer to where you want to be.

Written by Barb Caffrey

October 4, 2022 at 12:17 am

Former President Jimmy Carter Turns 98 Today

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When I woke up, I realized it was Jimmy Carter’s birthday.

I’ve always admired the former president, as he is an exemplary human being. He’s kind, gracious, funny, wise, smart, prescient, and constant in his affections (as he’s been married for 75 years to the love of his life, Rosalynn). He’s also hard-working, honest, a philanthropist (he’s built many houses for Habitat for Humanity, which helps people in need with sustainable housing), taught Bible study at his local church for many years (only stopping due to his health woes of the last few years), and has done everything in his power to improve life on this Earth.

I was quite young when Jimmy Carter was elected. (I know, I know; some of you who read this blog were not even a glimmer in your parent’s eyes at that time. Bear with me.) I was with my grandma, and we’d stayed up to watch the election returns all night. It was a hard-fought contest, but Carter prevailed.

His presidency was fraught with difficulty and even peril. There was trouble in the Middle East, as hostages had been taken. (They only were released after Carter lost his bid for a second term.) There was stagflation — inflation combined with no increases in wages, so everything had stagnated. I even remember that my parents had to think ahead in order to get gas for their cars, as you could only fill up on even or odd numbered days depending on the last digit in your license plate.

(Things were that bleak.)

Jimmy Carter was mocked, at the time, for wearing a sweater and having a fireside chat. He discussed troubles the way a good man does: directly, honestly, with sympathy and with understanding. This was not a man who believed he was exalted above all others (as so many of our other previous presidents believed, most especially Richard Nixon). Instead, he believed he was one of us, and as such, he could lead by example.

While some don’t appreciate his presidency, most do appreciate him as a person. He’s been called “the most successful ex-president who’s ever lived” (at least, that’s what my grandma called him, and I think she was right), due to his belief in human dignity and kindness.

I admire Jimmy Carter. He has lived his faith, you see, and he has helped others. He has done everything he can, often with little fanfare, to make things better for those who have little to nothing. He has remembered the downtrodden (see his work, again, with Habitat for Humanity), and he has done everything he can to help raise them up.

This is why I urge you all to raise a glass to celebrate Jimmy Carter’s 98th birthday, and to wish him continued good health.

We need more men like him in this world, to remind us that people — even those in power — can still be good, kind, solid human beings.

Remembering Del Eisch, My First Band Director

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Folks, last week, my first truly good band director died. (In all senses.)

Delbert A. Eisch — or Del, as he urged everyone to call him — was eighty-five, and had lived a good, long life. In that life, he’d done many things as a conductor, a trombone player, as an activist for live music, and much, much more. He taught in Racine for thirty-six years, and also conducted over 640 concerts while the conductor of the Racine Concert Band (previously named the Racine Municipal Band).

Much of this information can be gleaned from his obituary, which you can find here, but I wanted to summarize it before I got into what Mr. Eisch meant to me.

As I said, he was the first good band director I’d ever known. When I joined the Racine Municipal Band (not yet called the RCB), I was only fourteen. I played the oboe, then; I hadn’t picked up either the sax or the clarinet as of yet. I’d played in the Kiwanis Youth Symphony as an oboist and had played in my junior high school band and orchestra at Gifford (it’s now a K-8 school, but back then it was solely a junior high — our term for middle school at the time). But the junior high band was limited to what most of the performers were able to play, meaning I didn’t get a chance to play high-level pieces, nor did I get much sense at that time of what good band literature was all about.

Mr. Eisch knew how to program for his band, though. I figured that out immediately. We played marches — John Philip Sousa, Henry Fillmore, etc. — as nearly all bands do, but we also played more. We played show tunes. We played overtures. We played incidental pieces composed to be heard behind ballerinas, or with movies (as we certainly played selections from movie soundtracks). And we played the big pieces for concert band, including the two Gustav Holst Suites for Band, as well.

Mr. Eisch was extremely encouraging to me when I was a young musician. This was essential, as at the time I felt completely lost in my life. I loved music, loved to play, but otherwise I was a misfit. I read too much. I enjoyed talking with people much older than myself. I studied history and geography and some mathematics along with reading everything I could get my hands on, because I’d started to write stories and poems and wanted to be knowledgeable about my chosen subjects.

I loved science fiction and fantasy, of course, even back then. I was fortunate that my local TV station regularly played episodes of Star Trek (now called “The Original Series”), and I was even more fortunate that my junior high’s library had an excellent selection of SF&F books along with copies of Downbeat Magazine and other musically oriented magazines such as Rolling Stone. (That dealt with commercial music, sure. But things were applicable across all disciplines, and I tried to learn whatever I could, wherever I could.)

Anyway, I think Mr. Eisch knew, from all his years teaching at Gilmore School, that I was a bit of an odd duck. (Or at least that I felt like one.) He was gentle, kind, and patient with me as I learned the music — which wasn’t too hard for me, as even then I was quick on the uptake and an excellent sight-reader — and how to get along with the people in the band.

He encouraged my talents, to the point that I played oboe solos in front of the band, then later a clarinet duet, a saxophone solo, and finally a clarinet solo before I was off to my first undergraduate school. (Me being me, and more importantly being married to a guy who was then an Army Reservist and later in the active-duty Army, I needed to go to three different colleges/universities to finish my degree.) He also added in twelve bars for an improvised solo when I played “Harlem Nocturne” with the band, so it sounded a little jazzier and helped to give me a better experience as a musician.

My tale picks back up approximately ten years later, when my then-husband and I were back in Racine after his military service ended. Our marriage was breaking up, which I didn’t know then (but can clearly see now), and I needed music as an outlet. (I always had, so why not then?)

Mr. Eisch warmly welcomed me back to the band. (My soon-to-be-ex-husband also joined the band as a percussionist.) He had a need for an additional clarinetist, so would I mind playing clarinet?

I did not mind.

It was interesting, as I got to hear many of the same pieces in a different way than before. I learned how the various parts interrelated and asked Mr. Eisch many questions about music and conducting that he patiently answered. (At the time, I was hoping to eventually be a conductor myself. This is a dream that didn’t come to fruition, but the knowledge I gained was still invaluable.)

When I finished my Bachelor’s degree at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside, I started looking for graduate schools. (I wanted to teach in college, and that was the way forward. Plus, I wanted to learn even more about music, harmony, melody, music theory, music history, etc., as I loved everything about music.) I discussed the merits of them with Mr. Eisch, along with several other wonderful musicians in the band; eventually, I decided on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Once I finished my degree there (it took me a few additional years due to family health concerns), Michael and I married. We knew we’d go back to his home in San Francisco sooner or later, so I didn’t rejoin the band at that time.

A few years passed. Michael and I had moved to Iowa. I’d looked into perhaps going to the University of Iowa as a doctoral student, once I qualified for in-state tuition…then Michael died, suddenly and without warning.

I have to include this, to explain the rest.

I didn’t feel like playing my instruments for years. I rarely composed any music, either. It was hard to write. Hard to do anything. I barely even recognized myself in the mirror, I was so upset.

So, because of that, I didn’t attempt to rejoin the band, or even find out if they might have a use for me.

I did, however, rejoin the Parkside Community Band in October of 2011 (not too long before my good friend Jeff Wilson passed away). And doing that led me back to the Racine Concert Band, where Mr. Eisch was now the band’s business manager (and conductor emeritus).

Mr. Eisch and I had several conversations along the way, once I rejoined the band. Some were to do with the band and its need for funding and fund-raising. Others were about life, and about loss, and about faith, as well as music.

Mr. Eisch then retired as business manager, and completely stepped away from the RCB. We did see him at concerts for a few years after that…then COVID hit.

Anyway, the last time I saw Mr. Eisch was earlier this year. I was going into Ascension All-Saints Hospital for an appointment; he was coming out of there, being medically discharged. He was happy to see me, and I was happy to see him; he asked how I was doing, how my family was doing, and asked me to tell my parents that he’d said hi (as he knew them both well, too, especially my Dad as he played in the RCB for ten years, himself, as a drummer).

I didn’t know that would be the last time I ever saw him, or I would’ve told him just how much his kindness and dignity and example had meant to me, along with all of the musical knowledge he’d imparted along the way.

Mr. Eisch was a very kind man. He was also a gentle man, in the best of senses. He loved music, of course he did, but even more so, he loved his family and friends.

Good men, good people, are sometimes hard to find. But when we get a chance to be around them, we hopefully reflect the light they can’t help but give out a little brighter. Then that light goes on, and on, and still on, for as long as people last…or at least as long as our memories do.

I truly hope that his widow, Anne, will be comforted by his memory. Always.

*****

An Addendum: I wrote this today, on the eighteenth anniversary of my beloved husband Michael’s death, because I wanted everyone to know just how much Mr. Eisch meant to me.

Michael only met Mr. Eisch once, I think. We were at the grocery store, or maybe at the mall…anyway, he did meet Mr. Eisch, and told him it was a pleasure to meet one of my formative influences.

I’d like to think that Michael again met with Mr. Eisch in Heaven, Eternity, or whatever The Good Place (TM) truly is, and that Michael has passed on what I’ve just said — as he knew I felt this way, because he knew me extremely well — just in case Mr. Eisch still did not know it.

My Latest Adventure: Tire Repair at Oh-Dark-Thirty (by Good Samaritan)

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Folks, it’s taken me a bit over twenty-four hours to write about this, but I had a bit of an adventure on Wednesday evening.

I was driving back from Mom’s place about a half hour before midnight, and I heard one of my tires go “flap, flap, flap.” This is a very ominous sign; it means the tire has blown out, nine times out of ten.

Anyway, I went to the closest gas station (about a quarter of a mile away), and tried to put air in it, just in case it would hold enough air to get back home, seven miles away.

It didn’t hold air.

At this point, a Good Samaritan (who told me his name, but I was so scattered, it went in one ear and out the other) stopped at this gas station on his two-wheel pedal bike. (Not an e-bike.) I have to admit that I was startled, as I was putting air in the tire at the time. He took over trying to do that, and asked if I had a spare tire.

I’d already looked in the trunk, and I couldn’t find it. It wasn’t in the standard place — at least, not where I usually expect it to be, close to the wheel wells and underneath just about everything else in the trunk. Nope. Instead, this was closer to being underneath the backseat, in the trunk, than anything. (It still was underneath everything else, so I guess that’s something.)

I can hear at least a few of you asking why I didn’t call for roadside assistance. Well, I tried, as I do have AAA. They sent back a link to follow, which would’ve been fine if I used a smartphone; I don’t. This meant I had no way to get a hold of them whatsoever.

Anyway, after nearly an hour, the Good Samaritan (a sixty-year-old Black man) and I found my spare tire and the jack. Within the next twenty-five minutes, he’d gotten the old tire off (yes, it had blown out, and had steel belts sticking out the sides of the tire in a weird, almost retro fashion) and put the “shorty” — also called the doughnut — onto the car.

As some of you might be wondering, the police saw that me and my car were in distress and stopped by. At that time, they also saw that my Good Samaritan had things well in hand, thanked him, and drove off again. (I was happy with that, as by that time we’d found the spare tire and the jack, and the old tire was nearly off.)

I didn’t have much money to give him, but I gave him what I had, plus some of my mom’s good coupons. (Mom is what you might call an extreme coupon clipper. She usually has excellent coupons for $5 off toilet paper or $8.99 off specific brands.) I thanked him profusely (at one point, he told me to get out the baseball bat he’d seen in my trunk, just in case anyone else tried coming along who wasn’t so friendly, so I used my baseball bat as a cane while all this was going on), and then drove off.

The car felt really weird with that doughnut on. The vibrations — which I always notice, being a musician — were wrong. That’s an emergency tire only, which is why I went to get tires on Thursday afternoon…but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Back to the story.

So, I had called my father to let him know there was a problem right after I’d pulled off into the gas station, which was at least one hour and forty-five minutes before I ventured on back home. My phone decided it didn’t want to call anyone else, thank you, and lost all charge (even though I’d left Mom’s with a full charge; this phone is very strange). Once I was back, I let my father know I was OK, and we talked a little bit about the earlier Brewers game (which they lost to St. Louis).

Because of the emergency — which lasted a little over two hours — I sweated through everything. I managed to take a shower despite muscle cramps in weird places and all sorts of back and leg spasms. This helped somewhat, at least with the pain.

Anyway, I didn’t sleep all that well, or for very long. I knew I couldn’t leave that doughnut on the car, as I said before…so I started calling various places to try to find tires at a price I could afford.

Most of the places quoted two tires of the type I needed as being over $300. (As I have a 2010 Hyundai Accent, this seemed odd. A few years ago, I got tires — I think it was even all four tires — for around $175.) None of the places had these tires in stock but said they could order them.

At this point, I talked with my friend Lika (who also lives in Racine). She had found some good used tires of the same type as I needed and recommended this tire place called Mickey’s LLC on Twelfth and Washington Avenue in Racine. As my car has 130K miles on it, tires that have a good amount of tread but aren’t necessarily new are a whole lot better than having that doughnut on one side and a tire that was nearly as bad on the other. (Worst of all, my car is a front-wheel drive, and the two bad tires — the blown-out one and the other — were both on the front.)

Anyway, I was pleased with the service I received and with the tires. They were affordable, the tire repairman was quite pleasant, and he told me that my Good Samaritan had told the truth. Both tires needed immediate replacement, and one of the two back tires also needed replacement before winter starts. (The other went bad about eight or nine months ago and was replaced at that time.)

With the new-to-me tires on the car, it once again had the vibration it should. The tires were the right size and the right shape, so that made sense.

The tire repairman also told me that probably next spring, I should have someone rotate the tires and do an alignment, considering the aberrant pattern of wear on the old tires. This also made sense to me. (It was also suggested by the Good Samaritan, who said that he could tell I had a lot on my plate with various responsibilities, and that he wished my husband were still alive so this had never happened. Michael was good with cars, in the main, and having two people rather than one person checking the car before going anywhere is a sensible suggestion.)

For the moment, I have the doughnut on the top of the trunk, along with the jack, just in case that back tire goes bad before I can replace it. (The tire repairman said he may have a tire for my car tomorrow, and if not, by Monday. I intend to replace that other tire, which might make it a month or two and that’s all, ASAP. No more blow-outs for me, thanks…not even slow-speed ones.)

So, that was the entirety of the adventure. I met a very kind-hearted man who helped me a great deal in that Good Samaritan. The police came out and were friendly, kind, and made sure I was OK before leaving again. The tire repairman at Mickey’s was also friendly, kind, and helpful.

It was an ordeal nonetheless…but it was much lesser of an ordeal than it could’ve been.

There are indeed good people in this world.

Written by Barb Caffrey

September 16, 2022 at 2:45 am

Working, Working…

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Folks, I thought I’d drop in a quick bloglet to let you all know I’m hanging in there.

Mostly, I’ve been editing a few different high-priority projects. (I’m also writing some music, and trying to figure out what comes next in my novel-in-progress Keisha’s Vow with whatever mental bandwidth I have left after editing and dealing with family concerns all day.) One is a nonfiction book. The other two are both anthologies; one is a multiple-author anthology, while the other is a single-author anthology.

Against the backdrop of work, work, and more work (and happy to have it, let me tell you), I’m preparing for the eighteenth anniversary of Michael’s death later this month, AKA “the saddest of sad anniversaries.” I always become more contemplative around this time of year; in addition, I wonder more as to how I’ve managed to live all this time without the love of my life standing beside me in a way everyone can understand.

(I have to put it that way, because I don’t believe Michael’s love went anywhere. I still feel his spirit, even now, almost eighteen years later. Because I knew him so well, and knew how much he loved me, I am able to continue on, though it is very difficult. But I digress.)

I’ve thought long and hard about many things, lately. Mostly, I’ve contemplated mortality, though it’s more along the lines of, “Is there still enough time for me to finish everything I’ve got in train?” (This comprises all editing projects, all musical compositions in progress, and of course all my writing projects.)

I don’t know the answer to that. Not to any of it. But I’ll keep trying, anyway, and hope that by putting one foot in front of the other — and by doing everything I possibly can every day — I’ll make progress.

Now, enough about me…what’s going on in your life? (Tell me about it in the comments, if you feel so kind. I get tired of shouting into the void, as the void never shouts back.)

Written by Barb Caffrey

September 8, 2022 at 3:22 am

Posted in Uncategorized

A Quick Writing Bloglet

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Folks, I just wanted to let you know I’ve sent out a 5500-word story to an anthology.

For the past three or four weeks, I’d been working on this. I knew the main characters right away–one man, one woman–and their respective situations. They have to make an alliance marriage to save both of their families from extinction, but they don’t know each other (the man knows of the woman, and knows she’s a female fighter/merc type), and the beginning of it all felt like setup to me.

I don’t know about you, but setting up a story for me is like pulling teeth. I want to get to the action. Or the romance. Or the suspense. Or drama.

In this case, just as the marriage vows are sealed, bandits are spotted heading for them. The man immediately defers to the woman (which she didn’t expect), as she has much more experience than he as he’s a scholarly type.

I don’t want to give the rest away, so I won’t (bad me), but I hope the anthology editor is going to love it.

I’m also working on restarting (yet again) KEISHA’S VOW and finishing up three edits (one nonfiction).

What’s going on in your lives?

Written by Barb Caffrey

August 29, 2022 at 4:49 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Hard vs Soft Rejection (and why the difference matters)

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Jason goes into the differences between soft rejections (meaning, fix what’s wrong and send it again) and hard rejections. This is well-said and possibly the most succinct-yet-folksy way of describing the differences between the two. Listen to him. (And don’t give up.)

Jason Córdova

Getting a rejection letter is hard. Quite frankly, it’s one of the worst feelings a writer will go through in their career. That feeling of utter failure, the emotional kick to the stomach that your baby just isn’t good enough. The anguish and despair upon reading “Dear [[insert name here]], we regret to inform you…” Rejection letters are inevitable in this business and we, as authors, are expected to take that rejection letter and move on.

But… but what if… the rejection letter isn’t quite what it seems? In fact, what if the rejection letter is an invitation to resubmit said novel? The only problem is, nowhere in the letter does it say this. Wait, what? Where is the manual for this publishing business, and why is it wonkier than dating in high school? Why is the principal a werewolf? Who let a zombie teach history?!

Ahem

Sorry. I digress.

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Written by Barb Caffrey

August 28, 2022 at 6:22 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Milwaukee Bridge Opens Unexpectedly, Kills Tourist

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Folks, last week in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, there was a shocking accident.

A man, Richard Dujardin — a retired writer and religious reporter who’d covered the Dalai Lama, Pope John Paul II, Billy Graham and Jerry Falwell — was visiting Milwaukee along with his wife, Rose-Marie. They were walking over the Kilbourn Avenue bridge over Milwaukee River. Rose-Marie had safely crossed, but her husband was behind her, slowly navigating the bridge, and looking at his iPad. The bridge unexpectedly opened, Mr. Dujardin grabbed for a railing and held on for a few minutes, but then plunged over seventy feet to his death.

This is hard to fathom for many reasons.

First, when bridges open and close in Wisconsin, there are lights, sirens, and alarms. These all functioned properly and should’ve warned Mr. Dujardin. But he was 77, hard of hearing, and focused on his iPad.

In other words, he didn’t hear or see anything until it was too late.

Second, the bridge was operated remotely. More of Milwaukee’s bridges appear to be operated this way, rather than having someone directly on site who would’ve been able to see that Mr. Dujardin was still on the bridge before opening it up. No one has any idea how the poor man was missed, as far as I can tell.

(This is one reason I waited almost a week to discuss this.)

Third, the remote operator apparently didn’t see that Mr. Dujardin was still holding on to the railing for a few minutes before he fell!

This seems to be an egregious lapse, to put it mildly.

Anyway, I have felt terrible ever since I heard about this accidental death. I know how it feels to wake up a wife and suddenly, without warning, end up as a widow.

More importantly to me than that, though, was the detail that his wife had already crossed the bridge. That meant she was in front of him. She could not help him when this happened.

Longtime readers of my blog probably know this, but that’s exactly the situation I was in when Michael collapsed on the lawn at our rented duplex years ago. Normally he’d have been in front of me, or we’d maybe be side-by-side holding hands. But this one day, he was behind me…and then he fell backward.

(Yes, I rushed forward, but I couldn’t do anything to break his fall. That I would’ve dislocated both arms had I somehow been in position to catch him makes no nevermind.)

I’m now nearing the eighteenth year of my widowhood. I still see Michael falling, me unable to catch him, in blinding technicolor.

I would imagine that Mrs. Dujardin may end up having similar flashbacks.

Anyway, I’m well aware that life is short, that we have no idea whether today is our last or if we have eighteen more years of widowhood in our future. (Or whatever.) We can only do the best with every day and honor the memories and the love we shared as we continue to go forward in whatever halting way we can.

I feel bad for Mrs. Dujardin. I wish I could help her.

(I couldn’t help Eric Flint’s widow, Lucille, either, though I hope someone is. And someday, maybe I’ll get to meet her again and attempt to show kindness as well as respect, ’cause she deserves it. But I digress.)

All I can ask you, right now, are two things:

Number one: Be kind.

Why do I say that? Well, many people are on edge due to the ongoing Covid pandemic, politics seems even more brutal than usual, and folks have forgotten they have more in common with each other than not.

Some have decided as the world is bleak, they have permission to be their worst selves. They spread misery.

Don’t do it. Refuse the impulse.

Be kind, instead.

Number two: Help the widows and widowers in your life, no matter how long — or short — it’s been since their spouses died.

See, I can tell you for a fact that I still want to talk about the most important person in my life, who’s ever been in my life. That’s my husband, Michael.

Other widows and widowers have said the same.

Too often, we who are grieving are told to just “move on” and in that spirit, we’re supposed to look toward the future and either forget the past entirely or suppress it.

I’m sorry. I refuse to do either. And most widows and widowers that I’ve spoken to over the years feel the same way.

We want to speak about our favorite people. Our formative influences. Our various experiences.

We need to do that. It’s part of who we are.

Hell, even those who’ve ended up finding a second great spouse to marry have said the same things. They can love their second husband (or wife) even better because of the experiences they had with their first spouse.

Otherwise, I hope that Mrs. Dujardin finds out why the remote bridge operator screwed up. She needs to know why that was the final day of her husband’s life.

But I also hope that the people around her will be kind and support her in her hours of grief. She will need that kindness and support for the rest of her life (whether it be short or long).

My Thoughts on the Salman Rushdie Stabbing

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Folks, yesterday, in Chautauqua, NY, author Sir Salman Rushdie was about to give a speech at the Chautauqua Institution. He’d stepped up to the podium with another man, Henry Reese (the co-founder of the nonprofit City of Asylum), as they were both going to speak about the importance of freedom of speech with regards to artistic expression.

This is an important topic. It always is. Freedom of speech and freedom of expression is of paramount importance, especially in the United States of America.*

So, picture yourself there. It’s a crowded room, as Salman Rushdie is a well-known author with multiple, well-received books to his credit. Everyone there wants to see and hear him, as he’s been under the threat of persecution for a long, long time…

All except for one.

That guy, a twenty-four-year-old idiot, ran to the podium and stabbed Rushdie multiple times before he was brought down by audience members and a lone policeman. Rushdie sustained injuries in the throat, to his liver, to his arm (nerves are reportedly severed), and to one of his eyes (which he may lose). The idiot also stabbed Reese in the face**, possibly to get Reese out of the way quicker so he could go to town on Rushdie.

(As per usual, I am not going to name this guy.)

This all happened a bit before 11 a.m. EDT, and the people on the scene said the lack of security was a problem. One spoke on one of the cable news networks (I forget which) to say that they were screening out people who brought coffee and water into the auditorium (or wherever this speech was to be held); they’d have done better to screen for weapons.

And think about that lack of security for a moment. Was this a good idea, especially considering Rushdie was about to speak?

Rushdie has had a fatwa, otherwise known as a price on his head, since the late 1980s after his novel The Satanic Verses came out. The last anyone checked, the bounty for killing Rushdie was up to $3.3M.

Just writing that sickens me.

A person’s life is worth so much more than any amount of money. What one person can do, what one person’s strengths can do, what one person’s transmutation of weaknesses can do, is unable to be monetized. Because it is infinite in possibilities.

I said at my Facebook page that I understand people hating books. I understand, even, people hating authors. But leave it there. Don’t attack authors just because you hate them.

We believe in freedom of speech in this country, which might be one reason why Rushdie relocated here in the early 2000s. (He has never become a US citizen, I don’t think. Last I checked — which was last night — Rushdie is a citizen of the UK.)

So, in a nation that celebrates free speech, at a place that most especially discusses writing and writers and thoughts related to such, a twenty-four-year-old decided to stab one of the most decorated writers alive.

I don’t care about the stabber’s motivation. I care that he stabbed Rushdie multiple times, that Rushdie is said to be on a ventilator right now, that Rushdie has injuries to his arm (nerve damage is a serious thing), and that Rushdie may lose an eye.

I sincerely hope that Salman Rushdie will fully recover. I hope he won’t lose his eye. I hope his liver will heal. I hope his nerves in his arm that apparently got severed will be reattached, and that with physical therapy and time, he will be restored to himself in full measure.

But the thought that a fellow writer — albeit one that’s wealthy and well-known, unlike me — had this happen bothers me greatly.

I wrote a blog a while ago called “Where Can We Be Safe?

That rings in my mind right now, as I continue to ponder the utter wreckage this twenty-four-year-old stabber left in his wake.

————

*The way I always learned it was, “I may not like what you have to say. I may really hate it, in fact. But I will defend to the death your right to say it.” (That is, providing you’re not doing something asinine like yelling fire in a crowded theatre that’s not actually on fire.)

**In case you’re wondering about the other speaker, Mr. Reese, he was treated and released from the hospital.

My Take on the Josh Hader Trade (One Week Later)

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Last week, the Milwaukee Brewers traded their best player, relief pitcher/closer Josh Hader, to the San Diego Padres for four other players: pitcher Dinelson Lamet, relief pitcher/closer Taylor Rogers, OF prospect Esteury Ruiz, and pitching prospect Robert Gasser. This was an extremely surprising thing to do, because the Brewers were atop the National League Central division.

In other words, teams make trades like that — trades of their best player — when they don’t think they can make the playoffs.

That, of course, is not what the Brewers front office has said about it. Their take is, “We’re a small-market team, and we need to plan for the future, not just now.”

But the thing is, the players know this is wrong, for the reason I gave above.

Now, what do I think about the players the Brewers got in return? Well, Rogers is a good pitcher, but we’ll only have him until the end of the year, when he’ll be a free agent. (Rogers is not as good as Hader, mind. But he is good.) Lamet has already been waived; the Colorado Rockies picked him up. The other two, well, time will tell, as they’re both in the minor leagues.

But that’s not the entirety of what I think.

See, I view this as a slap in the face to the fans, as well as to the team as a whole. The fans want the team to do well; more to the point, they want to root for people they recognize. (A major trade like this, of a team’s best player, usually happens in the off-season, not in the middle of the season like this one.)

Josh Hader pitched for the Brewers for several years. In that span, he won three NL Reliever of the Year awards. He’s also a four-time All Star (meaning he’s been selected to go to the All Star Game), and as I said above, he’s arguably their best player.

So, the fans hate this move.

The players also hate this move, probably because it shows them that the Brewers will trade anyone — doesn’t matter how good they are — if the price is right.

Two players, pitcher Brandon Woodruff, and relief pitcher Devin Williams, said things like this a day after the Hader trade (best paraphrase from watching two Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel videos):

Williams: “Some things just don’t make any sense.”

Woodruff: “The first thing I thought, when I heard about the trade, was this: ‘Is this a joke?'”

That speaks volumes, doesn’t it?

Also, during last night’s edition of Brewers Extra-Innings (a radio talk show that happens after every Brewers game on WTMJ-AM 620 in Milwaukee), sportscaster Greg Matzek said that the entire team was still unhappy regarding the Hader trade.

(Considering the Brewers have now lost five of the last six games since the trade of Hader, that seems to be a reasonable assumption.)

So, my view boils down to this:

Ruiz had best be the second coming of Hank Aaron, for this trade to ultimately pan out. Otherwise, there is no point to this trade beyond a salary dump (as Hader was making the most of any pitcher on the staff at about $11 million dollars).

And if that’s the case, that’s flat-out disgraceful.

Written by Barb Caffrey

August 8, 2022 at 7:55 am