Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Welcome to the Elfyverse…

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Thank you for stopping by my blog, which is called either “Barb Caffrey’s Blog,” or “the Elfyverse.”

Why two names? Well, I figured it would be easier for people to find me if they used my name. But I’ve been writing about Elfys, Elfs, Dwarves, and more for 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 almost 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 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

Just Reviewed “Station Eleven” and “Timebound” at SBR — and more Hugo Awards Commentary

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Folks, I’m happy to report that I finally got a couple of book reviews up today for both Emily St. John Mandel’s STATION ELEVEN and Rysa Walker’s TIMEBOUND. This took me a little extra time, so I decided to make them a 2-for-1 SBR special (with SBR meaning “Shiny Book Review,” as per usual).

Now, why did I like both of these novels so much? It’s simple. There’s hope there. Desperate situations, yes — two very different ones. But there’s legitimate hope, and there are people doing the best they can to foster that hope.

I am very happy I was able to review both of these today, and I do hope you will go check out my review forthwith.

This has been a very difficult week in many respects. It saw the shooting of two young journalists while on the air, which is by far the worst thing I’ve seen in many years. It also saw a lot of SF&F infighting due to the fallout after the Hugo Awards because of five categories (including the two that normally reward editors) giving out “No Awards” instead.

I prefer to talk about good things that inspire me rather than talk about distressing things that upset me. Yet it’s often the distressing things that seem to draw people to my blog for whatever reason. And the Hugo Awards controversy has drawn people like nothing else in recent memory. Only my posts on the Wisconsin recall elections rivaled the attention my little post on editing and how I felt the Hugo Awards should not have given out “No Awards” in those two editing categories received.

I wish I knew what the answers were to help heal the divide in SF&F right now. Life is so short — we saw that earlier this week in Roanoke, VA — and we need to make the most of it. Do positive things. Do creative things. Enrich ourselves. Maybe even make the world a better place because we were here.

I fail to see how the SF&F controversy does any of that.

There are good people on both sides of this who have their backs up something fierce. But to even say that, I get dismissed by the long-term SF&F cognoscenti — not the Sad Puppies, not even the Rabid Puppies, but those who’ve been in publishing the longest.

Those are the ones who seem to be taking the gleeful attitude of, “If you aren’t with us, you’re against us. Nyah, nyah, nyah.” And that is just not acceptable for adults.

Edited to add: Before anyone else says it, I know Vox Day is also gleeful over the five “No Awards” at the Hugos. He believes he’s won. Which, if true, means this is possibly the unholiest alliance ever…but I digress.

As SF&F authors, we want people to read our books and be inspired, or taken out of their lives for a small instant so they can reflect on something else. Space travel. Worlds where Elfys, Trolls and Dwarves get along (much less Humans). Post-apocalyptic worlds. Time-travel. Machinery gone wrong. Machinery aiding space travel. What happens to the human condition when advanced biology allows a ninety-year-old woman to give birth via something akin to Lois McMaster Bujold’s uterine replicator. And so forth and so on.

I’d rather talk about what’s uplifting. Positive. Meaningful. Even educational, as bad of a rap as that gets.

Instead, I’m still talking about the Hugo Awards, because I know so many who’ve been hurt badly by this mess. (Most of them are on the Sad Puppy side. A few are on the traditional publishing side.)

I’m little-known. It may always be this way. But I write, too. I edit, too. And I have a perspective on this.

No one should be getting death threats for his or her opinion on this matter. No one should be gleeful that so many people are angry and frustrated. And no one should be happy when a bunch of authors who are skilled with words end up having to defend themselves or their positions rather than creating interesting new worlds for readers to discover.

All of this takes energy, folks. All of this takes time. And while I believe in creative dissent — how not? — I am very tired of the childishness I’ve seen from some in the long-term, traditionally published community.

While I still do not align myself with the Sad Puppies (and will never be a Rabid Puppy), I think it’s time to admit that at least some of what the Sad Puppies were talking about was the truth.

And that truth — insular authors shutting out fans or other authors they don’t particularly like or get along with — is extremely heartbreaking to see.

Written by Barb Caffrey

August 29, 2015 at 1:16 pm

Marketing for Romance Writers’ Blog Features “To Survive the Maelstrom” as part of #Thursday13

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Folks, I’d asked to be part of the meme known as #Thursday13 at Marketing for Romance Writers’ busy blog a while ago. I thought letting some folks know about “To Survive the Maelstrom” would be interesting. And all they wanted was for me to post up to thirteen lines of the manuscript…so what could be simpler?

Maelstrom3So if you’ve not read any of “To Survive the Maelstrom” yet, please go over there and read a bit about Command Sergeant-Major Peter Welmsley of the Atlantean Union. Peter was once my late husband Michael’s character, and I found his story so compelling, I wanted to know more.

That’s why I decided to write the story of how Peter meets his empathic companion, a sentient, sapient being known as a weremouse. I knew that someone who’d been so damaged as to need a complete epidermal regeneration must have a story to tell. And fortunately, I was able to figure out what, exactly, that story was.

Peter’s dilemma, you see, is one of many soldiers who come home, realizing the world around them has changed. Or at least the way they perceive the world around them has changed. They are ill in spirit, even if they might’ve been healed in body, and most of them aren’t fortunate enough to find something as accepting, loving and nurturing as a weremouse.

In fact, Peter’s struggles with his own family are alluded to, because they truly don’t seem to understand just how bad he feels. He’s lost nearly everyone he worked with; he lost his fiancée; he lost his best friend. And underneath it all, he feels guilty for surviving — and yet, if he didn’t survive, who would remember his friends? Who would remember Hunin? Who would remember to tell their stories as well as his own?

As a widow, I felt powerfully driven to write this story — not just to complete my late husband Michael’s work (which admittedly is a compelling motivation all on its own), but because I empathized with Peter.

No, I don’t have post-traumatic stress disorder, as Peter almost certainly does. No, I’ve never served in the military (though I was a military wife at one time, and they make enormous sacrifices that mostly go unnoticed). No, if Michael had lived, I probably wouldn’t have done more than edit for my husband, and talk with him about the possibilities here.

But as my life has changed profoundly due to being widowed too young, I understood where Peter was coming from. He’s a full adult. He had his life all planned out. He knew what he wanted, and he knew how to get it.

Then, in one day, everything changed. And he had to pick up the pieces.

Fortunately for Peter, a weremouse is about to change his life for the better. But that does not at all mean Peter doesn’t still have scars — many in places that do not show.

Anyway, I hope you will enjoy my story. (If you’re really sharp, you might even figure out what parts Michael wrote, and what parts I did. Though they’re not obvious…at least, I hope not.)

It’s available now at Amazon, and I hope in a few months’ time to have it up also at Smashwords and BN.com. Do let me know what you think of it.

Tragedy in VA as Disgruntled Newsman Kills Two Journalists — On Air

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Folks, words like “tragedy,” ” horrific,” “horrendous,” and even “heinous” are overused in today’s day and age. But they’re the only words that come to mind right now after viewing, and hearing, about the cowardly shooting of two journalists at WDBJ channel 7 in Virginia this morning while they were broadcasting on the air.

Both journalists — 24-year-old Alison Parker and 27-year-old Adam Ward — died at the scene. The person being interviewed at the time, Vicki Gardner, was shot in the back and is said to be in surgery.

The reason for this senseless killing remains a mystery. Only cryptic hints have emerged thus far, as the gunman, a disgruntled former employee of WDBJ who I refuse to name, decided to film these brutal executions and put them on Facebook.

Apparently, this individual was in a white-hot rage about something. So he took his anger and frustration out on Ms. Parker, who was interviewing Ms. Gardner at 6:45 a.m. local time, and on Mr. Ward, who was filming the interview.

Irony of ironies, Mr. Ward got one last shot of his killer before he died.

What’s even sadder than the fact these two young journalists died is this: They were in the middle of a “puff piece.” Something about tourism, and the local Chamber of Commerce.

No one should die for something like that.

In addition, anchor Carol Costello of CNN — visibly shaken — reported that Ms. Harper was on her final day at WDBJ.

For whatever it’s worth, the latest news from CNN is that the gunman has been captured after apparently shooting himself. He is currently alive, in police custody, and is supposedly being taken to a hospital, condition unknown.

It is unfathomable to me that this happened.

I probably don’t need to say this to anyone, but I’m going to anyway: If you are so angry that you want to kill a former co-worker (as Mr. Ward apparently worked with the shooter), you need to get yourself some psychiatric help. Fast.

And if you have any room in your heart, please remember the friends, family, and coworkers of Ms. Harper and Mr. Ward. Pray that they find peace, if you can. Because many of them saw Ms. Harper and Mr. Ward in their final moments, during the middle of that puff piece, just another ordinary day in broadcasting.

Until it wasn’t.

And no one — but no one — should ever have to see anything remotely like that on the air.

——-

Here’s a quote from Mr. Ward’s alma mate Virginia Tech (via CNN) that sums up my feelings completely:

 “It is shocking and deeply saddening for this community to be again struck by gun violence. We deplore this senseless violence, now seemingly commonplace in our society.”

Written by Barb Caffrey

August 26, 2015 at 12:01 pm

Tuesday Morning Roundup…and “Changing Faces” Update

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Folks, I have been astonished by the number of visitors to my blog over the past few days.

Who knew that writing a blog about editors winning no awards whatsoever at the Hugo Awards would be so popular?

That said, I figured I’d give you an update as to where I’m at with CHANGING FACES, and maybe talk about a few other things.

CHANGING FACES coverMy final edit/rewrite of CHANGING FACES is in train. I hope to have it back to my publisher in a month’s time. (It may go longer. It’s hard to say right now.) I hope to hit my publishing window of late October…we already have great cover art, the blurbs have been written, and now it’s up to me to make all changes.

As for why I didn’t do this before? Simple. Two books came up needing changes at the same time. One had a release date before the other. So, naturally, I took care of the book with the earlier release date first.

I’ve been told that A LITTLE ELFY IN BIG TROUBLE will soon have cover art. (Yes, that’s the book I took care of first. I’d hoped that it would come out this past spring, or maybe early in the summer, but the timing just hasn’t aligned thus far.) So I should hit my mid-to-late September window there.

It’s been interesting to do the last-minute touch-ups on A LITTLE ELFY IN BIG TROUBLE, which is of course a young adult urban fantasy novel, and also the intensive work on CHANGING FACES — a transgender romance with alien entities that may just be angels. (So, technically, a fantasy romance. But a transgender fantasy romance. Clear as mud, yes?)

Plus, I finished up a short story for an anthology, I looked over another few stories (as I am pondering what, if anything, I can try at the Writers of the Future contest, as I remain eligible and hope springs eternal), finished up the summer season with the Racine Concert Band, finished an intensive edit for a client…

In other words, the usual.

“So, Barb, when are you going to get back to reviewing over at Shiny Book Review, hmm?”

I hope to have something later this week. I’ve had three or four books ready to go for a while now–but while I was working on both novels, I just didn’t have any time whatsoever for it.

Now that I’m back down to working on one novel, I hope I’ll be able to carve out a bit of time.

Anyway, that’s my update…stay tuned.

Written by Barb Caffrey

August 25, 2015 at 5:43 am

Nightmare at the Hugo Awards: No Award “Wins” Five Times…including for Best Editor Categories

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Folks, right now, I’m not happy. As a writer and editor, I look forward to the Hugo Awards ceremony every year to see what other people active in science fiction and fantasy think of other writers and editors.

This year, apparently the other active writers and editors in my field think that no awards at all should be given out to editors. Because that’s what “won” at the Hugos this year — No Award — in both “best editor, short form” and “best editor, long form.” (These were two of the results of the 2015 Hugo Awards; go take a look at the rest if you are so inclined. I’ll wait.)

Look. I understand that the SF&F community has been rent asunder over the past few years. But one thing I thought everyone could all agree on was that books do not produce themselves.

To have a book that reads well, you need not only a good writer with an interesting plot and some excellent characterization, but a highly competent editor to pull the story into its best-possible form.

Why? Well, the best writers in the world can and often do make mistakes, and it’s up to your handy-dandy, trustworthy, hard-working editor to fix them.

The people who were nominated for Hugo Awards all have a great deal of experience as editors behind them. None of them were people who just came in off the street and started editing yesterday; most have edited for at least ten years, and some a great deal more…even the casual fan is aware of Toni Weisskopf of Baen Books and Sheila Gilbert of DAW Books, to name two fine editors who were passed over for “no award” in the long form category, because these two ladies have had long and successful careers as editors to date.

How “No Award” can be voted for by anyone in good conscience over either of them bothers me.

Quite frankly, even though I’ve not been a fan of Vox Day as an editor or a writer, I don’t see how “No Award” can come before him, either. His authors have all sworn blind that he is as hard-working as any of the other editors who were nominated, and he’s been in the SF&F field for quite some time.

Editing awards are about simply that: editing…and who’s good at it.

And speaking of Vox Day solely as an editor — solely for the work he has done — if he’s been nominated for an award, dammit, he deserves to come in ahead of “no award” just like all the other hard-working editors in these two categories.

As a hard-working, lesser-known editor, let me be the first to say, “Boo, hiss!” to the Hugo Award voters who decided to turn the editing awards into a mockery — all because some respondents apparently did not like the Sad Puppies and/or Rabid Puppies, and decided to throw their votes away rather than vote for any of the people who’d actually done the work to help put high-quality books and magazines up for sale.

Hugo Awards committee people, I don’t blame you for this nonsense. You did your best with a bad hand, and I appreciate the hard work and effort you put in.

I do blame the campaign in the media, that has done its best to devalue the hard work of people of various races, creeds, ethnicities, and sexuality/gender preferences. Because I am tired of the narrative framing already, that somehow voting for “No Award” has brought back the “integrity” of the Hugo Awards…as that is simply hogwash.

Written by Barb Caffrey

August 23, 2015 at 5:15 am

Historic Moment for MLB: Brewers’ 1B Prospect David Denson Comes Out as Gay

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Folks, this year has been a historic year for organized baseball.

Earlier this year, Sean Conroy, a pitcher for the Sonoma Stompers of the independent Pacific Association, came out as gay.

And now, Milwaukee Brewers’ prospect David Denson, a first baseman currently playing for Helena in the Rookie League, has also come out as gay. Denson is the first person in organized baseball — major or minor leagues — to ever come out while still an active player.

Here’s a link to the story. Denson, quoted by Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel baseball beat writer Tom Haudricourt, said this:

Before he knew it, Denson was making the emotional announcement he yearned to share, and the group around him expanded to the point that he soon was speaking to most of the team. Much to Denson’s relief, when the conversation ended he was greeted with outward support and understanding instead of condemnation.

“Talking with my teammates, they gave me the confidence I needed, coming out to them,” recalled Denson. “They said, ‘You’re still our teammate. You’re still our brother. We kind of had an idea, but your sexuality has nothing to do with your ability. You’re still a ballplayer at the end of the day. We don’t treat you any different. We’ve got your back.’

“That was a giant relief for me,” Denson said. “I never wanted to feel like I was forcing it on them. It just happened. The outcome was amazing. It was nice to know my teammates see me for who I am, not my sexuality.”

The more Denson thought about it, though, the more he came to realize that a clubhouse confession wasn’t going to be enough. Until he came out publicly as gay and released that burden, Denson didn’t think he could truly blossom and realize his potential on the field.

The Milwaukee Brewers have had a disappointing season in many respects. But they made up for it, at least in my eyes, when two players were quoted (again by Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel) as saying that Denson would be welcome in their clubhouse any time.

Both Ryan Braun and Scooter Gennett have publicly gone on the record as saying they would warmly welcome Denson. Here’s a few quotes for you from Haudricourt’s additional article:

“I think everybody is supportive,” said rightfielder Ryan Braun. “Overall, we realize it’s a courageous decision by him, to come out and embrace his true self.

“I’ve never met him but I hope baseball as a whole is at a point where we judge people by their ability and not their race, religion, ethnicity or sexuality. I can’t speak for everybody on our team but he would be accepted and supported by me. And I would hope all of my teammates feel the same way.”

Brewers second baseman Scooter Gennett does know Denson and spent time in a team clubhouse with him. When Gennett was sent to Class A Wisconsin on minor-league rehab earlier this season while recovering from a hand injury, Denson was playing for the Timber Rattlers.

Denson, 20, a power-hitting first baseman, later was sent to the Brewers’ rookie club in Helena, Mont., and came out as gay to teammates there a month or so ago.

“He’s a great guy, an awesome guy,” said Gennett. “He has great tools. Now, he’ll be able to focus on playing and not focus on all the other stuff. This will be less clutter for him.

“I think it’s a great thing when people can clear their mind and just be honest with people around them. It’s an awesome thing. I think that will allow him to focus more on baseball and go out and have fun now.

“Would he be accepted here? Absolutely. Why wouldn’t he be? He’s a baseball player and a great guy. Anybody that goes out and plays hard every day is going to be accepted. Everybody has something to deal with. Baseball is such a mental sport. When you can just focus on the game, it’s amazing how much more fun it is.”

The Brewers as an organization are supportive of Denson, from GM Doug Melvin to manager Craig Counsell to the major league players on down. And that’s wonderful to see.

That said, I hope someday that it will not matter whatsoever what a person’s sexuality is — gay, lesbian, transgender, Martian, whatever.

Because a baseball player is simply that: a baseball player. Regardless of sexuality.

I’m glad the Milwaukee Brewers as an organization have figured this out.

Written by Barb Caffrey

August 16, 2015 at 5:45 pm

Some Good News, Some Bad News…

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Folks, I have the proverbial “good news, bad news” update to foist upon you today.

First, the good news. A LITTLE ELFY IN BIG TROUBLE will definitely be out in mid-September of 2015 — meaning a month from now — and a small blurb has been put up at the Twilight Times Books site reflecting what A LITTLE ELFY IN BIG TROUBLE is all about:

http://www.twilighttimesbooks.com/News.html#publishing_notes

As the blurb says:

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 Dennis the Dark Elf, with Sarah’s parents’ help. Things look bleak, but Bruno and Sarah have a few allies no one could possibly expect – human, Elfy, and ghosts. Can young love and desperation win out despite it all?

And before you ask — no, I still don’t have cover art.

The bad news? Well, my second quarter story at the Writers of the Future contest, despite being out longer than any other story I’ve ever had, didn’t do anything. It came up with a flat rejection after 137 days.

This particular story is close to my heart in many ways; it is post-apocalyptic military SF with romance.

Now, there is a bit of interesting byplay here, in that I’m reasonably convinced I will be able to sell this elsewhere. (If not as a novella, as a novel.) So my efforts with this story haven’t been wasted…but of course I’m not happy that I’ve come up with yet another rejection at the WotF Contest.

Look. I’ve been trying submissions there for fourteen years now. (Does this mean I don’t know when to quit? I don’t know. It’s just how I am.) I’ve tried just about everything. I’ve tried magical realism. I’ve tried straight SF. I’ve tried fantasy. I’ve tried fantasy/romance. I’ve tried military SF — which is where my two honorable mentions come from — and now I’ve tried this one.

Which got me nowhere.

I do have a submission in already for Quarter 3. I can’t tell you what it is. I can tell you I’d be utterly astonished if this story does anything…not that it’s not a good story, because I think it is, but I don’t think it’s right for the market.

“So, Barb, why did you send it there, then?” you might be asking.

Because I like to submit something to the WotF Contest, just on the off-chance that lightning strikes. I need the boost to my career that the WotF Contest often provides. It seems to provide instant name recognition, which as a small press/indie author I need very badly…and it also gets your name in front of agents and bigger publishers. (Though even so, you still have to be very careful about whatever contracts you might sign. The reputable publishers will tell you that, but in case you’re not sure of the difference between a reputable pub and a disreputable pub, try either Writer Beware or Preditors and Editors. They’ll set you straight.)

Other than that, I wanted to mention that the Racine Concert Band’s free summer concert series at the Racine Zoo is coming to an end later tonight. Show starts at 7 p.m., and soloists this week are Greg and Kathy Berg (vocalists) and Nancy Quist, trumpet.

Hope to see you there!

Written by Barb Caffrey

August 16, 2015 at 2:19 am

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