Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

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

with 2 comments

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

with 33 comments

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…

with 4 comments

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

with 12 comments

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

Neither Fish Nor Fowl

with 4 comments

I don’t know about you, but I sometimes don’t feel much like anyone else.

In general, this is a good thing. I have no doubts about my individuality or individualism. I know who I am; I am self-aware; I work on being my best self, especially as I know full well what my worst self is (and want no part of it, thank you).

Mind, I don’t want my worst self to dominate. And I’m not the only one who has ever thought of this, as we shall see.

In a classic Star Trek episode, Captain Jim Kirk was split into his two biggest “parts.” One half was good but weak. The other half was evil but strong. The good half waffled and could not make a decision as his compassion was so strong, every decision felt like the wrong answer. The bad half made snap decisions, tried to pretend he was something he wasn’t (that is, the full Jim Kirk, when he was only half), and had no remorse even after making the wrong judgment calls. Obviously, both halves of Jim Kirk were necessary for the full Jim Kirk to be able to be decisive–yet moral–at the same time.

So, the worst self I have, that can be ruthless and even cruel at times, has to be taken into account as part of who I am. Suppressing it isn’t the right answer, either, as too much suppression of part of ourselves has difficult and sometimes unwieldy consequences.

That’s why I often feel like I’m neither fish nor fowl.

Of course, the conception of an author’s blog usually is to explain more about why the person writes what they write than explain the person themselves. My answers are huge, sometimes elliptical, yet they boil down to one thing: This is who I am.

So, when I write a romance like Bruno’s and Sarah’s in the two Elfy books, it’s because I believe that romance is–or at least can be–vital to people’s well-being. When I write a romance like Allen’s and Elaine’s in CHANGING FACES, it’s because I believe love can indeed conquer all, even though there will be unforeseen difficulties, and even if the people in question have lots of work to do on themselves to be good partners.

Even in the short stories I’ve written, there usually is a romantic component. In “Baseball, Werewolves, and Me,” psychic Arletta James is a huge baseball fan, married to a werewolf, and has been brought in to consult for a major league baseball team due to unforeseen events. Her husband Fergus is her perfect foil, smart, dedicated, and not willing to take any crap from anyone. The two of them make an excellent team. (I also have a second story about them in the works, for those who’ve asked.)

The two stories about Marja and Tomas, the first a shapeshifter and the second a telepathic Troll, are also in the same vein. They found romance where it was least expected. They both feel like outcasts. (For that matter, so do all the others I’ve mentioned already, particularly Bruno and Sarah of the Elfy books and Elaine of CHANGING FACES.) But together, they thrive, and they use their talents to their best advantage.

I have other short stories that have no romance, mind. And I have a few others that do have at least the glimmering of a romance. But I think you get my point, which is that life should be shared with those you love.

If you’re fortunate enough to have a romantic partner who understands you, celebrate that every single day.

If you’re not, but you have friends who understand and love you for who you are, celebrate that.

And if you’re the most fortunate of all in that you not only have a living romantic partner to stand beside you but have good, caring and decent friends as well, recognize that you live in a bounty of riches. Do not take that for granted, ever. And do what you can for everyone you know, because life is fleeting.

So, while I continue to feel as if I’m neither fish nor fowl, I recognize that my skills and talents can still be effective.

I do hope this blog will give someone the hope they need, or at least some points to ponder. (Let me know that you’re reading, will you? I’m still smarting over that “comment” from Malwarebytes about how “lightly trafficked blog sites often carry viruses and malware.”)

Written by Barb Caffrey

October 15, 2021 at 4:31 pm

Friday Oddities…and a Brewers Playoff Series Starts

with 2 comments

Folks, it’s Friday. And as this week has been full of odd things, I figured I’d mention a few of ’em before getting to the main event (that being the Milwaukee Brewers playoff series, starting today).

A few days ago, I got an “urgent alert” warning me to stay in my home due to heavy police presence in the area. It turned out that I was on the far edge of this, and the police presence was due to a federal agent getting shot while serving a warrant. I didn’t see any extra police, but followed the updates on my computer once I figured out what was going on.

Anyway, these things do not happen often in my neck of the woods. I did find it strange, and I hope the federal agent will recover promptly. (Last I read, the agent was in stable condition. The person being served the warrant apparently committed suicide.)

Next, my Malwarebytes software decided that my own blog was spam. I had a Hell of a time getting in, to the point I seriously thought about uninstalling Malwarebytes. (It had the nerve to say “lightly trafficked websites run the risk of blah blah blah, blah blah blah.” I felt like pitching my computer out the window.) I had to tell it five times that I wanted to continue to the site before I could get in here, and every time it did the same, damned thing.

Anyway, the good oddity — if you can call it that, considering they’ve been to the playoffs now four years running — is that the Milwaukee Brewers are playing the Atlanta Braves today in the National League playoffs. This Brewers team is known for its pitching far more than its hitting, as it has the NL’s ERA leader (for lowest amount of earned runs per nine innings pitched) in Corbin Burnes along with two other starting pitchers who’d probably be aces for most of the other teams in Brandon Woodruff and Freddy Peralta. They also have an outstanding closer in Josh Hader, and many other good relievers, besides. The Braves team is more traditionally balanced, and definitely has more hitters with playoff experience than do the Brewers.

I’m hoping the Brewers will play very well, that they’ll hit surprisingly well, and that their pitching will perform up to standard. If so, it should be an exciting series, and fun to watch for this fan.

Anyway, what’s going on for you on this Friday? (I hope you haven’t been having to deal with the same crap as I have with regards to getting Malwarebytes to recognize my own blog as a safe and protected site, mind you.) Let me know in the comments!

Sunday Thoughts: We Are All Works in Progress

with 7 comments

Lately, I’ve had one very important thought running through my head. That thought is, “We’re all works in progress.”

Think about it, please, for a moment, and perhaps you’ll understand.

Our lives are happening right now, all around us. We are a part of history, whether we understand it or not. Whether our lives feel important or not, we partake of something akin to an infinite tapestry…our shades of thread are different from anyone else’s, and what we do with our gifts and talents is up to us.

Yes, there are obstacles. Yes, there are frustrations, and pain, and problems, and many times we wonder if what we’re doing makes any sense. Yes, there are issues with getting along with others, even those you are most motivated to understand. Yes, there seems to be more and more difficulty, the older you become (in experience, if not in age), of how to put yourself first or at least get it into the equation (rather than automatically putting yourself last, which does not work and only adds to the frustration, pain and problems accordingly).

Every day we get up, though, we can accomplish something.

Even if we’re sick, we can get up and take care of ourselves the best we can. Get our rest. Eat whatever we can tolerate. Save our strength.

And if we’re lucky, even on the bad days, even on the sick days, and even on the least encouraging days, we can find that spark of creativity that lies within us.

I live for creativity. (No, it’s not just for pointing out Michael’s memory to people who didn’t get a chance to know him. Though that’s important to me too, as I’m sure you know if you’ve spent any time at my blog at all.) So when I can’t create, it stifles me.

The only thing I know is that as a work in progress myself, every day brings a new chance to do something good. Something creative. Something positive.

Or at least to help a friend and/or loved one feel a bit better about the burdens they’re enduring.

We can do something to help the world around us. We can do something to become our authentic selves.

On this Sunday, reflect upon what you can do to make the world a better place. Then, perhaps, call a friend if you’re up to it, or write, or cook up a storm, or crochet, or do whatever you can that feeds your spirit and gives you positive reasons for living.

That, to my mind, is the winning strategy. And it helps us fill in our own works in progress with more beauty, delight, and joy, too.

Written by Barb Caffrey

October 3, 2021 at 10:08 am

A Brewers Update, a Personal Update…and a word about Chris Nuttall’s newest, THE CUNNING MAN

with 25 comments

Folks, I am fighting yet another sinus infection. I am beyond tired of these sinus infections, to put it mildly. But all I can do is rest to tolerance, drink lots of fluids, get more rest, and work to tolerance after I regain enough energy to do so.

As far as music or writing goes (aside from this blog), nothing is getting done. (I did write 32 bars of music last weekend, though.) This is frustrating for me as a creative person, as when I can’t create things get bottled up inside.

The only solution I have is to rest. Again, I hate not being able to do much of anything. But I have to be smart, and I have to realize that my body is extremely worn out right now. Otherwise, I’ll just get sicker, and what good will that do for me or anyone else?

Never mind that. I want to talk about baseball, and I want to talk about books now.

Baseball first.

As I’m sure most of you are aware, my favorite baseball team is the Milwaukee Brewers. They have won the National League Central division, and will be going to the playoffs that start next week. (This week, they’re finishing the regular season, but they’re already locked in for the playoffs as it is. Nothing will change for the team as a whole.)

This has been a season of first, in some ways. There was a combined no-hitter, just the second no-hitter in Brewers baseball history (Corbin Burnes pitched eight innings, and closer extraordinaire Josh Hader pitched the ninth). The Brewers have been good at home but astonishingly good on the road, which almost never happens. And, oddly enough, the usually homerun-hitting Brewers have had to rely on outstanding pitching rather than offense as their offense has been downright offensive at times. (Sorry about the pun, but I couldn’t resist.)

So, the Brewers have better defense and better pitching than most of the rest of the National League. But their hitting is average or below for the most part, and their clutch hitting (hitting with runners in scoring position) isn’t as good as it should be.

What all that means is, when a player like shortstop Willy Adames needs time off to rest a nagging injury, that hurts the Brewers’ offensive capability as a team. When Lorenzo Cain takes a day off to rest, it also hurts for the same reasons. And while the highly-paid former MVP, Christian Yelich, continues to scuffle offensively, he does take walks and uses his speed to some effect…meaning he’s not a black hole, offensively speaking, but he’s not a shining light, either.

The Brewers offense, in short, needs every player to fire on all cylinders. If they don’t, the only way they can win is to rely on their pitching. With three starters among the top ten in ERA (Earned Run Average) as adjusted for time and innings pitched, and outstanding relievers Hader and Devin Williams, the Brewers have put together a formidable pitching staff.

Now, Williams found out he’d busted his hand while celebrating the Brewers division-clinching win over the New York Mets on Sunday. This means he’ll not be available, at best, for three weeks. And as that’s when the World Series is likely to be played, the Brewers will have to worry about it later while focusing on the first opponent (likely to be the Atlanta Braves, though the Philadelphia Phillies still have a mathematical shot to win their division instead and face the Brewers).

It won’t help the Brewers to have Williams sidelined. (He has apologized, according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, to his teammates.) But they’ll have to do the best they can as he heals up.

I’m looking forward to watching them in the postseason, and I do hope they’ll hit (for a change) as well as pitch well.

Shifting gears, let’s talk about books. Or at least one, specific book, that being Chris Nuttall’s THE CUNNING MAN, which is now out in e-book format. (Disclaimer: I edited this book and know it quite well.) He’s having some trouble with his website right now (though his blog is up), and thus he can’t get the word out in his usual ways. I figured I could perhaps help just a tad by letting you know it’s out.

Of course, you probably are wondering what the book is about. (It is entitled as a “Schooled In Magic” spinoff, but that isn’t a lot to go on if you haven’t read the Schooled in Magic series to begin with.) It stars Adam, a young man without the magical gift who has become quite interested in studying alchemy and magical theory. Thus, in many ways, he’s a man without a home. The magicians mostly disregard him, and the nonmagicians (“mundanes,” in Chris’s concept, as it is in many fantasy novels) don’t understand him.

Anyway, there’s one place that will take him as a possible apprentice. That place is Heart’s Eye University. A university is a new concept in the Nameless World (Chris’s environs; it has that name because for the most part magicians believe they should use use-names rather than real ones, as your real name being known can give someone unscrupulous power over you; this does not apply to nonmagical people, as there are plenty of ways to get power over a nonmagician already), and they are trying to blend mundane and magical solutions to good effect.

Once he’s there, it’s not a bed of roses, to put it mildly. He meets Lilith, who’s in an apprenticeship she hates (for reasons Adam doesn’t understand at first), and doesn’t know why anyone would want to study magic when they don’t have magic at all. So, as most people can’t stand Lilith, she falls in with Adam. And at first, the unlikely pairing does not do very well, as you might expect.

However, as both Adam and Lilith have adventures, they slowly start to realize they have more in common than not. (They both have ethics and principles, for example.) And Lilith’s worldview (that of magicians being on top because they have magic, AKA “magical supremacy”) starts to change quite a bit (as it should).

I’m going to stop there with a plot summary, but I hope that has intrigued you.

Otherwise, I have several edits in train, I am hoping to write some fiction somehow in the next few days, and I’ll be focusing on healing up so I can do all of these things as quickly as possible.

What are you all doing this week? Let me know in the comments! (And what books are you reading?)

Written by Barb Caffrey

September 30, 2021 at 3:48 am

Seventeen Years Later…

with 21 comments

Folks, the last few weeks I have been very quiet. There was a reason for that.

If you’ve read my blog for any length of time, you’ve probably read about my late husband Michael. I’ve never stopped talking about him and his manifold talents. He was a writer, editor, contracts administrator, and overall Renaissance Man. He was my equal, my partner, my best friend, my co-writer, and so much more. By far, Michael was the most important person ever to be in my life, and by far, his loss seventeen years ago was the most devastating loss I’ve ever suffered.

Mind, I had been married before I met him. He, too, had been married before he met me. We both knew what we wanted when we finally found each other, and we both vowed to do everything we could to make our marriage work and to support each other to the limit our human bodies would allow…and maybe a bit more.

And we both lived up to those vows.

There’s no way I will ever be able to forget Michael’s life, but around this time I also am bombarded with images from Michael’s untimely death.

I remember the EMTs, and their idiocy. (One asked if I was Michael’s daughter, and I snapped, “No, I’m his wife. Now please get him into the ambulance already!”)

I remember the doctor at the hospital asking why I didn’t catch my husband as he fell from the first heart attack. (He was behind me, I told them, and he fell backward. I would’ve surely tried, though I’m sure I’d have dislocated both arms had I managed, if I’d been behind him.)

I see that. I can’t help but see that. And the only thing I know that will get me away from seeing that is to work as hard as I can and hope I’m too tired to worry about it, else.

That means over the past week I’ve finished two full-length edits.

So, when I’m working hard on the one hand, and am seeing all this other stuff due to the sad anniversary on the other, I don’t blog much.

I’ll try to blog more, though, now that I’ve officially gotten past the sad anniversary of my husband Michael’s death. I want to talk more about writing, more about editing, and because the world is what it is, probably other things I see or hear that drive me batty.

So, do keep dropping by, will you? And I’ll try to keep you all in the loop. (Promise.)

Written by Barb Caffrey

September 22, 2021 at 8:29 pm

On Getting Your Work Noticed (Just an Observation)

with 2 comments

This is an excellent summation of the various things writers think about when they put their work out there. (Especially when they work hard and don’t get noticed. I have to admit a lot of my writing has fallen into this category as well.)

The best point here, IMHO, is that what you do is meaningful not just to you, but to posterity. (No, it’s not vanity if you want to make your mark. Even if your mark gets lost in all the other marks out there.)

Writing Despite Computers and Programmes

The end of an edit / re-write beckons; approximately 11.5% of some 248,000+ words left to ‘listen’ to and ponder over. Word is not happy with the weight I have placed upon it, pretending to lose the Dictionary additions, altering margins and spacing at random intervals, changing the Spellcheck to another language, failure to comprehend any literary constructs apart from business speak; the usual protests against an unprofessional artistic use of its programmes. BUT my trusty memory stick is ever at my side reminiscent of a faithful hound, lest Word pulls its most evil of tricks and crashes the whole work (which it dallied with back in July).

Thus this will conclude a work in three parts which will in total tally up 600,000 + words and has taken somewhere around six years to complete. A time in which edits, proof-reading and re-writes were all done within my own bubble…

View original post 989 more words

Written by Barb Caffrey

September 7, 2021 at 1:12 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Sunday Thoughts: Reject Hate

with 5 comments

Lately, I’ve been very worried about how the United States — and the world around us — has given in to both tribalism and despair.

I understand despair better than I wish, but I don’t understand tribalism.

Why? Well, it seems to be a conduit for hatred. And we need to reject hate, in all its forms, as best we can.

We are all human. It can be hard to remember that, with some of the awful things that people do. But we are all human, and we are neither the least of our actions nor the best of our actions.

Instead, we are the sum total of our actions.

Where I live, we’ve seen an uptick in senseless violence in the past several years. Last week, some guy with a long gun ran out into the middle of a busy highway, and carjacked not one, but two people. He wrecked both cars, and was killed by the police before he could do any more harm.

I don’t know what caused this man to run out into the middle of the street with a long gun, much less carjack two different people. But I do know that he gave them nothing but pain. Their cars are wrecked. Their finances will take a hit in trying to get new ones (and in this area, the public transport is so spotty, you absolutely need to have a car), their mental health will take a hit in that they were hostages, and their emotional health will take a hit because they were helpless to affect their own lives in those moments.

I don’t know if this man hated everyone, or hated himself, or hated his situation. But he spread nothing but vitriol in the last hours of his life on this Earth.

I also don’t know what the answer is to people like this, except for trying to be a better person myself. As I said above, I know we’re not either our lowest moments (what my good friend calls our “blooper reel”), and we’re also not our highest moments (what she calls our “glamour shots”). But I can try, the best I can, to help others, to understand them, or at least make that effort in trying to understand.

That matters, even when I think it doesn’t. (Does this make sense? If it doesn’t, blame the lateness of the hour.)

I don’t know about you, but I often wonder if I am making a difference. After all, the Earth is huge. The amount of people living on Earth is staggering. And it’s only possible to get to know a few, select people most of the time. That means there are so many others we don’t know, that we can’t ever know, and yet we have to act as if we know them all.

Or at least as if we want to know them all.

Anyway, I know that any given human being (myself included) can only reach so many people, whether it’s emotionally, or mentally, or (even fewer people) physically. If we’re fortunate, it’s also possible affect them in a spiritual sense, too. (Hopefully for good, and not for ill. But I digress.)

And every little bit does help. Every time you can help someone, even if it’s just smiling at them and actually seeing them, or if you can listen for a while without judgment (very tough to do, if you do it right, but necessary), or if you can run an errand for someone who’s shut-in, or if you can be good to a stray animal and find that animal a home…every little bit helps.

When I’m depressed, or worse, despondent, I think that everything I’ve done has no meaning. I am honest about this, which I guess is unusual in and of itself.

I know it does have meaning, though. Even if I don’t exactly know what that meaning is, I know it does.

So, I will continue to do my best to reject hate in all its forms. I will continue to do my best to help others, as best I can. And I will continue to live my life on my own terms, and hope I can affect others’ lives for the better in the process.

May we all choose to reject hate. (Please?)

Hey, #MLB: What’s With the Terrible Umps?

leave a comment »

This year in baseball, I’ve seen more awful calls by umpires than ever before.

I know this seems hyperbolic, but it’s true. The umps have made bad call after bad call after bad call. I don’t know who’s supervising them, but something has to be done.

Why am I saying this, other than the fact that I’m annoyed with the umps? Because over the weekend, my Milwaukee Brewers had a series with the Minnesota Twins in Minnesota. The umpires, led by crew chief Brian Gorman, made plenty of bad calls, most having to do with the strike zone. (For non-baseball fans, the strike zone is generally from the batter’s knees to the top of the letters on his jersey. The pitch also has to be reasonably close to the batter. Pitches that hit the zone but are in the opposite side’s batter’s box are balls, not strikes, because they’re too far away.)

But the most egregious thing was this: Bench coach Pat Murphy brought a lineup card out on Saturday night, and somehow managed to get ejected before the game even started. As Murphy is not known to be a hothead, and seems for the most part to be a rather calm and collected person, this made absolutely no sense whatsoever.

Now, you may be asking, “So, Barb, they have instant replay now. Why aren’t these calls being fixed by the instant replay folks?”

First, there is no such thing as an instant replay of a ball or strike count. No matter how bad it is, it can’t be challenged by instant replay.

Second, on the plays that can be challenged (such as a close play at first base, say), the instant replay people seem to get it wrong at least 40% of the time.

Third, sometimes it seems like all of the umpires have no idea what they’re doing in a major league baseball stadium. (And I say this being a fan of former umpire Ron Luciano, who was one of the most ebullient and charismatic umps to ever work a major league game.)

I know that major league baseball (MLB) has procedures to grade umpires on what they’re doing and what they’re not doing. But I have no idea if MLB realizes just how bad some of these umps are, as they don’t tell us anything about these evaluations.

Now, I will admit that I am especially frustrated because there have been not one, not two, but three umpires — female umps — in triple-A baseball in the past thirty to forty years that were every bit as good as the male umps, but never got a chance to umpire in a major league, regular season game.

Yet we have these yahoos out there, who are willing to throw out a bench coach before a pitch is ever thrown, and before a game has even started.

My solution would be to make the umpire evaluations public. (At least that they’re doing them. Please!) And take another look at the current female umps in the minor league system, if you would, ’cause I can’t believe they’d be any worse than some of the idiots we have up here now. (All apologies to the good umps, as I know there are still some in MLB. But really, this is just wrong.)

Written by Barb Caffrey

August 29, 2021 at 8:23 pm

Kindness Matters

with 10 comments

Folks, the last week has been often frustrating. The news — particularly the airlifts from Afghanistan after the collapse of their government, and the pullout of American troops — has been depressing in the extreme. And it’s seemed that nothing I can do — or that anyone could do — will matter.

That is an illusion. (Granted, one that’s particularly difficult to fight.)

Why?

Well, kindness matters. And one action — one kind thought, word, or deed — can change things for the better.

For example, some of the folks airlifted from Afghanistan are being housed, temporarily, at Fort McCoy up in Sparta, WI. (It’s actually kind of in between Sparta and Tomah. Both are smallish communities.) There are opportunities there to help the Afghani refugees; money is already being collected, I read at the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, to help them acclimate to the United States. (I saw $50 increments, perhaps as gift cards to Target or Walmart, being suggested. But I’d imagine smaller amounts of money will also help, and I’m actively looking for ways to put my small amount of money with other people’s small amounts of money…again, I digress.)

These are kind acts for people who’ve lost everything, including their own culture and language.

(Yes, Americans are also being airlifted from Afghanistan, along with at-risk Afghani people such as former translators and others who worked with the U.S. government. But the Americans know how to acclimate. The Afghanis don’t.)

There are other kind things that you, or I, can do today.

“Barb, what are they? Since you won’t get off this subject, I may as well ask,” you say, in resignation.

Well, they start with talking to a friend you don’t often get to spend time with. (I did that last night. My friend and I chatted as I did laundry at the laundromat, by phone. Too bad I couldn’t do laundry by phone. Ah, well. Better get back to the blog…) Or, if you’re in the grocery store, helping someone who is a bit short with buying groceries to get what they need. (Only do this if you, yourself, can afford it.) Or maybe even something as simple as opening up an umbrella, and letting a stranger share with you, in a downpour…the options are endless, providing you keep an open mind and vow to do unto others as they’d do unto you. (Or as the Wiccans say, “An ye harm none, do what thou wilt.” It’s much the same philosophy.)

Ultimately, kindness is one of the strongest forces in the universe. It may not seem that way, with endless bad news happening day after day, from the never-ending pandemic to the Afghanistan mess to various state legislatures contemplating their own navels rather than trying to do anything productive. But without kindness, what would be the point?

After all, love starts with an act of kindness most of the time, doesn’t it? (It would be very, very odd if love started with acts of indifference. Or worse, outright hatred.)

Love is the strongest thing there is. But kindness, charity toward others, and the willingness to care even when all seems lost — as those poor Afghanis still undoubtedly care, up at Fort McCoy, getting used to a place they’d never before envisioned — is a close second.

So, whatever you do today, do it with kindness. Try to help a friend. Or even a stranger. But do it, because it’s the right thing to do.

Further the writer sayeth not.

Written by Barb Caffrey

August 23, 2021 at 5:03 am

Posted in Uncategorized

What Makes a Good Story?

with 9 comments

Recently, I wrote about Milwaukee Brewers relief pitcher John Axford, and I said that the way his story ended was not the way his story was supposed to go.

This begs the question: What makes for a good story, anyway?

By contemporary standards, what would’ve made Axford’s story much better would’ve been him coming into the game, striking out the side (or at least getting three outs), getting the save, and having the stadium rain cheers upon his head. (The crowd did cheer him when he came in — I think he may have even received a standing ovation — and cheered him on the way out, too, which is not usual when a pitcher is unable to get out of the inning. This last happened because we Brewers fans knew Axford well from his previous service with us, and knew he was deserving of such approbation due to how well he’d done before.)

In previous eras, though, they had stories such as MADAME BOVARY that sold a ton. Those stories would have characters put through the wringer and they’d never be able to come up for air; instead, even their children would be put through the wringer for no purpose, and would never be able to get ahead.

Why audiences appreciated such stories is beyond me, but that was the fashion at that time. The would-be heroine (or hero) had a tragic flaw (or two, or five), and because of that flaw would taint herself and everyone around her beyond any hope of redemption.

The fashion now tends more to happy endings, but well-deserved happy endings. Characters still get put through the wringer (see Lois McMaster Bujold’s MIRROR DANCE, or Katharine Eliska Kimbriel’s NIGHT CALLS, or any of Robert Jordan’s novels in the Wheel of Time series, among others), but they live to fight another day. They learn from their mistakes, too. And they continue on, having learned much more about themselves in the process.

Of course, the Harry Potter novels also exemplify this sort of story. Harry grows up to be a powerful magician, but he’s put through the wringer and must fight the big, bad, nasty, evil, and disgusting Lord Voldemort (and yes, I meant all those descriptions, as Voldemort is just that bad) in order to become the magician he needs to be. He and his friends Hermione and Ron are put through all sorts of awful things, but they eventually prevail.

My friend Chris Nuttall’s novels about Emily, starting with SCHOOLED IN MAGIC and continuing through to FACE OF THE ENEMY (with CHILD OF DESTINY coming soon), also have a plot that shows Emily being thrown into awful situation after awful situation, but she finds a way to prevail every time through hard work, effort, and a talent to get along with people even if they’ve crossed her (or she’s crossed them). Emily scans as a real person, and we care about her because she faces things most of us face even though we’re not magicians.

What are those things, you ask? Well, she has to learn from her own mistakes. She has to realize that she can’t fix everything and everyone. She has to find out that her snap judgments are not always correct. And she has to reevaluate people and situations, even when she doesn’t want to.

Of course, my own stories about Bruno and Sarah (AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE and A LITTLE ELFY IN BIG TROUBLE) have many of the same lessons. There are things Bruno can do, and does, once he realizes he’s been lied to about nearly everything. Sarah is in much the same boat, except she has different talents — complementary ones, in most cases — and the two of them have to find that they’re stronger together than they could ever be alone. But there are still things they can’t do, and they must make their peace with that (as every adult does), while continuing to work on the things they can.

In other words, they can control what is in their power to control. But they can’t control other people. (It would be wrong to do so, anyway. They have to make their own lives meaningful in whatever way they can, too. And make their own mistakes, as we all do…but I digress.)

Anyway, the stories I love best are those with happy endings. People sometimes start out with situations they don’t deserve (such as my friend Kayelle Allen’s character Izzorah, who went through a childhood illness that damaged his heart and nearly blinded him), but they get into better positions and find the people who can help them — maybe even love them the way they deserve. (Izzorah, for example, finds a treatment for his heart — it’s not a standard one, by any means, but it works in the context of the story — and finds love along the way in SURRENDER LOVE.)

So, to go back to the beginning of this blog, as we love happy endings and we want to see deserving people find good luck and happiness, the true ending we wanted for John Axford was to get the outs, get the cheers, bask in the glow of achieving his dreams once again at the baseball-advanced age of thirty-eight, and stay with the Brewers the rest of the season as they continue to make their run at postseason play.

That Axford was unable to achieve this happy ending was distressing. But all the hard work and effort he put into his return to the big leagues should still be celebrated. And my hope, overall, is that he will still be with the Brewers in one way or another after this season ends.

What makes for a good story? Do you agree or disagree with me, and if so, why? Tell me about it in the comments!