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

You Must First Try Before You Can Do

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I know Yoda said, long ago, that “there is no try,” but I disagree.

When you’re learning something new, you can’t help but try to figure out exactly how this new thing will work. For example, if you’re learning a new fingering for the clarinet (the altissimo register, or highest notes, can require some unusual fingerings), you try the new fingering out. You see if it works by itself, then you add in other notes around it to see if it works in context with the music. Then, finally, you try that fingering after playing in a lower octave (composers often write urgent things in piercing registers, or at least we can; lower registers are more about steadiness, sometimes, or at least about a rich sonority as the notes are easier to play), and make sure it works no matter what register you’d been playing in beforehand.

So, when you’re learning something new, you try it out.

Here’s another example. When you go buy a new car, you try it out. You see if it seems like something that will work well for you; you see if it’s comfortable, easy to manage, has enough room to carry your groceries or other important items on occasion, and you envision yourself in the car even as you’re taking it for a test-drive. All of the various amenities it has, or doesn’t have, don’t matter as much as what I’ve just mentioned. What does matter is how the car feels as you test-drive it — in other words, how it feels as you try the car, and put it through its paces.

Even in our personal lives, there is an example.

When I was younger, before I married for the first time, I had no idea of what I was getting into. Yes, I’d taken or at least sat in on a “Marriage and Family” course, I’d tutored some kids in high school who took similar classes also, and I thought I had a good grasp of what marriage entails.

I was wrong.

Why was I wrong? Well, I was envisioning only myself, plus the perfect husband for me, who would do everything right, all the time, without prompting, without me ever saying anything to him because he’d know everything before I mentioned it.

(Do you know how unreasonable and unrealistic this is? I didn’t, not at age twenty or thereabouts.)

See, I expected that anyone I was attracted to would be the same as myself, at least in one way. That way was regarding making the commitment to be with each other every single day. That meant that every day was a new one, where we built on what we already had while adding even more to the edifice…I know discussing a marriage like you’re building a house is an inexact metaphor, to say the least, but it’s the best I can come up with even with my additional experiences.

How did I get those additional experiences? I tried various things. I learned different, disparate things about myself along the way. And by the time I met my late husband Michael, I knew exactly what I wanted out of myself and exactly what I wanted and needed from him. I knew he could provide it, too, because he not only said the right words. He backed them up with the right actions.

(Perhaps that’s not a surprise, as Michael was a Zen Buddhist. They believe in Right Action as one of their tenets, I seem to recall. But I digress.)

I could do, by that time. But the reason I could do was because I’d tried and failed so many other times.

Here’s a final example. Musicians are told to practice often, including major and minor scales, scales in thirds (these are small jumps, for the nonmusicians in the audience; for the musicians, think C-E D-F E-G, etc.), sometimes even scales in sixths, to make playing any sort of music far easier from the technical standpoint. If we get the technique down, we can concentrate instead on other things, such as breath control (for wind musicians, this is essential!), blending with the others in the group, intonation (you don’t want to be sharp when everyone else is flat, or vice-versa, though it’s easier for people to hear “sharp” rather than “flat” for some reason), and actually making music rather than just playing a bunch of shiny little notes.

(I have nothing against shiny little notes. I use quite a lot of them as a composer. Moving on…)

What I’m saying is this: Don’t be afraid to fail. Don’t be afraid of trying multiple times before you can do something, much less do that same something well.

Persist. Keep trying. Keep motivating yourself as best you can, because it’s not likely anyone else is going to do so…and start believing that the best, in some ways, might just be yet to be.

Only then can you proceed from mostly trying, to mostly doing.

Damar Hamlin Released from Hospital, Sent Home to Recover

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Folks, I am very pleased — and relieved — to know that Damar Hamlin, safety for the Buffalo Bills, was released from the hospital in Buffalo and was sent home to recuperate. This is not an outcome I would’ve expected last week when Hamlin suddenly, and scarily, fell backward. But it’s happened, and to me at least, it seems like a miracle.

Granted, there’s a saying I’ve heard that goes like this: “Miracles can happen through human hands, with God/dess flowing through.” That is, if we’re willing to help, if we’re willing to do whatever we can, then sometimes the Deity can use us. That certainly seems to be the case with Hamlin, as the trainers went right out and started CPR, then got out the AED (auto-defibrillator) and made sure his heart was in rhythm before the ambulance came to take him away.

One of the doctors at the previous hospital in Cincinnati said this is not only a very good outcome, but the rapidity of it seems remarkable. (I am giving my best paraphrase of something I saw on TV two or three days ago, so I hope this makes sense.) It’s an outcome that no one could’ve expected to have so soon…but it is warmly welcomed.

From what I heard tonight, it sounds like Hamlin will be working with the athletic trainers for the Bills along with a bunch of other specialists to help him heal. That he can do it from home, rather than from a rehab hospital, is possibly the biggest and best piece of news I’ve heard thus far.

See, recovering at home, when you can, is by far superior to having to stay in a nursing home (rehab place). You have more freedom, more autonomy, you can make more choices, and it’s far easier to relax in your own home, besides.

When I wrote the first blog about Hamlin last week, I had no idea what would happen. Like a lot of others, I prayed for a good outcome for him, as he’s only twenty-four. (I’d have prayed anyway, mind you, no matter what his age.) I hoped he’d wake up, know himself, know his family, know his team, and what he’d been doing before he collapsed, and he’s done all of those things. In addition, in the last couple of days (since this past Sunday, for sure), Hamlin has been Tweeting, and he’s also using his entrepreneurial spirit to sell t-shirts to raise money for the first responders who helped him.

So, in the span of about ten days, he went from sudden collapse due to a cardiac arrest to resuscitated due to the quick-acting and quick-thinking first responders to waking up and asking questions (including whether or not the Bills won the game) that showed he was “neurologically intact.” (This phrase was used several times by the Cincinnati doctors.) Then, after that, the ventilator was taken out, he started talking, then he started to Tweet again, was released from the hospital in Cincinnati to be flown to a hospital in Buffalo, and now he’s been released to go home so he can rehab on his own (with a lot of helpful people on his side, to be sure).

That’s amazing.

That’s the outcome everyone I knew was hoping for.

To my mind, it’s a medical miracle that Hamlin not only is alive but seems to be thriving (as much as anyone can, ten days out from a cardiac arrest).

Again, I am very, very happy that he’s back home and doing so well. May it continue to be so.

Tuesday Insight: Love and Meanness Do Not Go Together

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Folks, I’ve thought for a while about writing something on Tuesdays that would be more introspective — similar to what I often write on Sunday, except without as much of the spiritual element. Today’s blog is the result.

Recently, love has been on my mind.

This is not much of a surprise. There is an element of romance with nearly every story I write. Furthermore, my late husband Michael also wrote romance into many of his stories — though his romances were usually subtler than mine.

So, you might be asking yourself, “Barb, what brought this on today?”

It’s simple. I started thinking about how love should be patient, kind, honest, sincere — and completely without gratuitous meanness.

Tennessee Williams’ play A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE has a line spoken by Blanche (the main female lead) that goes like this: “Some things are unforgiveable. Deliberate cruelty is unforgiveable.”**

In other words, if someone is going out of their way to hurt you, they do not love you.

You may be wondering about someone who tries to make up for their utter rudeness and complete and total lack of respect. I can almost hear you say, “Isn’t that good enough that they apologize?”

It depends on the circumstances. If someone came home from work, needed to be alone for a half-hour (or however long), and said so, but their significant other gave them no space, then I might understand why someone was curt or to the point when it wasn’t necessary.

But rude? Outright nastiness just to hurt you?

No. That should not ever be tolerated, because that’s how people start to hate one another. Or at best, treat the other with contempt — contempt being possibly the worst thing that can enter a long-term relationship — as both of you pretend to still care, but actually don’t.

Yes, one of you in that scenario can still care, and often does, for that matter. But if you both aren’t in the marriage 100%; if you both aren’t pulling together at least 95% of the time; if you both aren’t trying to “fight fair,” and instead bring up old and dead topics again just to make the other person angry…well, if you are doing any of that, your marriage (or long-term relationship) is probably doomed.

You see, I’ve been there. (Not with my late husband, obviously. But with previous exes.) And while I’m glad those relationships ended, so I could marry Michael and know what love truly is all about, I went through a lot of pain and heartache to get there.

Anyway, what you must remember about love is that it truly should be patient, kind, trustworthy, and caring. Yes, everyone has disagreements, but a loving couple fights fairly and asks, “is this what you meant?” in as level of a tone of voice to make sure you’re understanding your spouse (or partner) if there’s any ambiguity about what the other person means.

So, a relationship that’s healthy and helps both you and your spouse (partner) to live a better, happier life needs cooperation, contemplation, sharing, kindness, honesty, a willingness to communicate even on (or especially because of) tough subjects, a rock-solid commitment to doing what you say you will and saying only what you will do, and much, much more.

What it should never contain is gratuitous, willful cruelty.

Now, I figured I’d also point out that most people want to believe the best of the person they’ve chosen to spend their life with. That’s fine, providing you are being honest with yourself when you do it.

In other words, if you would not want your best friend to be treated the way you’re being treated — or a sister, cousin, aunt, uncle, etc. — why are you putting up with it?

I do have a solution for you, though. It’s counseling. That will help you learn how to fight fair and treat each other the way you want to be treated. (If your partner refuses to go, please go alone.)

If you can’t afford counseling, pick up my friend Karl Ernst’s book ROCKING CHANGE: Changing the World Through Changing Ourselves. It’s eye-opening, refreshing, and different. (I know this, because I edited it.) Read his book, think about it, and then ask yourself why you are with a person who only seems to care about themself, rather than you, your kids (if you have any), your friends, or your job (in short, anything that matters to you besides them).

Karl’s book is about $10 at Amazon as an ebook. You may think this is a steep price, but I don’t. Compared to counseling — especially if you need it badly, and don’t have insurance — ROCKING CHANGE is downright cheap.

———–

**I was reminded of this idea after reading a Washington Post chat led by main advice columnist Carolyn Hax from May 6, 2022. (The WaPo is behind a paywall, so I don’t know if you’ll be able to see my link. But if you can, read the entire chat. It’s quite insightful.)

Goodbye, Faithful Old Car

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This past week at Chez Caffrey was a difficult one, but not for a usual reason.

My old car, a 2010 Hyundai Accent — what I once called “non-working” rather than admit it was broken — was going downhill fast. Then, on a very foggy night, I drove over a curb and the exhaust system gave out. I was confused, as the muffler didn’t drag on the ground or fall off; still, it was very foggy, so I checked on the way back home to see if there were any parts of the muffler on the ground.

There weren’t.

If this had been the only repair I’d had to deal with this past fall/winter, it would be one thing. But it wasn’t. I’d had to repair several other things, including my power steering at one point.

I think I managed about two weeks’ worth of good steering before the exhaust system went out. This, after knowing the suspension needed serious work, after I’d had two tires go flat and replaced them this past October…the car had become a money pit.

I felt it was worth asking the mechanics what was wrong with the exhaust. I had hopes it wouldn’t be a tremendously expensive repair.

Wrong answer.

It would’ve been $1400 to fix, minimum. The muffler didn’t fall off because it was scored down the middle — meaning it had somehow cracked there — and all of the pipes going to it were ruined.

The Accent wasn’t even worth $1400 by this time. So, it was time to get a different car.

I felt bad about it, because I had my Accent for a bit over eleven years. I was used to my car. I didn’t care if people thought my car was ugly or too big of a mess (it wasn’t ugly, but I used to call it “the world’s messiest car”), because it was my car. It had been more faithful to me than many things, to be honest, and it was nice to have one thing I could depend on most of the time.

And it really was “most of the time,” ’cause some of the Accent’s quirks in its age were that the defroster wouldn’t always work, or the heater either (the rear-window defrost always worked, I’ll give it that), not to mention bad shocks, bad struts, and more. Yet I still loved my car. I knew what it could do, I knew exactly how much room I had to park, I knew exactly how it maneuvered in stop-and-go traffic, and I felt comfortable.

My father and I went out and found a new-used car. (New to me but used, I mean.) This car is a 2018 Hyundai Tucson. (You may be asking me why I didn’t go with a similar type of car to the Accent. This was the smallest car on the lot, and it was called a “compact SUV,” of all things.) I switched over the insurance, cleaned out my old car, and told it that I appreciated its many years of good service.

Now, you might be asking why I did this. I know a car’s not an animate thing. But whoever and whatever watched over me while I drove that car made sure I was safe. I wanted to thank whoever or whatever that was, so I just thanked the car in lieu of God/dess or angels or my late husband’s spirit or whatever.

Also, I did this because my car was going straight to the junkyard. There wasn’t enough left of it to salvage, really. So I was the last person to probably ever drive that car, unless for some reason a mechanic out there wants a fixer-upper that still has decent tires and good brakes.

In the long run, I’m going to be much better off with the new car. It’s fun to drive, it’s easier to see things (though I am not looking forward to parallel parking) because it’s a bit higher off the road, and the suspension is excellent (among many other things). The main drawback is that it doesn’t have a CD player, but that’s not standard in cars anymore. (I guess there’s a way you can hook one up, and I may look into that. While I do have a smartphone now, it’s not on any given plan, and only works on my home’s Wi-Fi, so it probably won’t work for MP3 files. Then again, I’m new to both smartphones and this car, so perhaps it will work. We’ll see.)

Because the car is larger than any car I’ve driven regularly in over twenty years, I’ve got to remember how big the car is and give more than enough room until I get used to driving it.

Even knowing all that, I’ll admit to you folks right now that I am still going to miss my old car. It was faithful. It reminded me some of my previous car, a Geo Prizm, which was the last car Michael ever drove, because it drove in almost the same way and reacted almost identically in traffic.

Even when you know it’s time to change cars, it can be bittersweet. That’s where I’m at, anyway…even as I enjoy the new car, I can’t help but miss my old car.

So, goodbye, faithful old Hyundai Accent. Hello, new-to-me Hyundai Tucson.

All that’s left to say is…drive on?

Written by Barb Caffrey

January 8, 2023 at 1:59 am

Damar Hamlin, 24, Still Alive After Collapsing on Monday Night Football (Update)

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Folks, a few days ago I wrote a post about Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin. He’s only twenty-four years old, a second-year pro football player in the NFL. He collapsed about three seconds after participating in a hard hit of Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins, and most cardiologists consulted on TV, Twitter, or elsewhere believe what happened is called commotio cordis. This occurs when at precisely the wrong time, someone gets hit directly over the heart when the rhythm is about to reset. (I am not a cardiologist, obviously, nor a doctor. I hope I’m stating this correctly, and any doctors in the audience may feel free to correct me. Or EMTs, paramedics, etc., who all know far more than I.) This causes cardiac arrest as the heart goes into ventricular fibrillation (also called v-fib).

Fortunately for Hamlin, he was given immediate CPR on the field, plus an AED — a type of automatic defibrillator — was used. This allowed him to survive and get to the hospital and gives him a fighting chance to survive this ordeal.

Surviving a few days after such a horrible thing means the chances of waking up and knowing yourself and your family, friends, teammates, etc., is far higher.

Damar Hamlin’s collapse and resuscitation feels personal to me, and not just because I’m a football fan. It’s because of how my husband Michael collapsed years ago. Michael fell backward the same way and survived only ten hours after having his first heart attack. He was in a coma after his second. He had two more heart attacks before he passed away, still at a young age, still with absolutely no explanation that made any sense to me. They put on his death certificate “acute myocardial infarction suspected,” along with the beginning of arteriosclerosis. That last part should not have been enough to kill him. (There was so much damage, I’ll never know what caused Michael’s four heart attacks.)

Michael went into v-fib for certain after the second heart attack. He was out for eighteen solid minutes before he revived. After the third, he was out for at least another ten minutes, and when he came back to life again and I was allowed to see him, I was told by the doctors and nurses that they’d never seen anything like the fight Michael was putting up for his life. They said he obviously had everything to live for, and they hoped he’d pull through.

He didn’t.

Anyway, I pray that Hamlin will continue to improve and that he’ll be able to wake up soon. At that point they can figure out what to do next, as there are a number of outcomes — some really good, such as no memory damage due to oxygen deprivation — and some that aren’t. I want Hamlin to fully recover, even if he never plays another down of pro football.

Some of you may wonder how Hamlin’s GoFundMe for Xmas toys is doing. It’s up now to over $7M in donations. (No misprint.) Famous sportsmen like Tom Brady and Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay have donated, along with tons of other football players including the Bills’ next opponent, the New England Patriots. (As a side note, Russell Wilson, former quarterback at Wisconsin and now a member of the Denver Broncos, and his wife Ciara donated, along with Wilson’s foundation.). But the majority of the donations have been from regular people. They’ve donated $5, $10, $13, $23, $33, etc. (Hamlin’s number is 3), because they want to do something, anything, that’s positive.

If Hamlin can wake up and know himself, eventually he can administer all these funds and help needy kids the way they deserve to be helped.

That is my hope. Hamlin is a good man, who set up that GoFundMe before he even was drafted and is someone who’s tried hard to help others by from what everyone has said since he was in his teens (if not sooner). He deserves to wake up and make a full recovery if any of us do.

I also want people to lay off Tee Higgins, who did nothing wrong whatsoever. What happened was a freak accident. This could’ve happened to Hamlin on any football play, if the heart was at the wrong point of its cycle. Football is a tough, violent, hard-hitting sport, but this particular risk usually is miniscule. It had never happened before in NFL history, and I pray it never will again.

So, at this hour (1 a.m. Central Standard Time), I continue to pray for Hamlin, his family, his team, the Bengals (the opposing team), Higgins because he’s being unfairly blamed, and the entirety of the NFL. I also pray for those who, like me, have watched loved ones die from sudden heart attacks and could do nothing about it.

For those people in my situation, I urge you to do your best to remember that so long as you are alive, at least a part of your loved one is also alive. It isn’t enough. I know it’s not. But it’s something, and it may at least give you a way to go on.

Monday Night Football Game Suspended After Bills Safety Damar Hamlin Collapses

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Sometimes, we forget that life is far more important than sports.

Tonight, however, is not one of those nights.

Late Monday night, during the scheduled Monday Night Football game on ESPN, second-year pro Damar Hamlin, a safety playing for the Buffalo Bills, collapsed on the field. He’d just taken part in a hard hit, and he’d stood up…then collapsed. CPR was performed, and an AED — a type of auto-defibrillator — was used to restart his heart. He was unconscious and not breathing for what appeared to be over nine minutes. (I can only say “appear” because a wall of players, coaches, and staff surrounded Hamlin while the EMTs worked on him desperately to keep Hamlin alive.)

Hamlin is only 24. Previously healthy. No heart issues indicated.

So how did this happen? Why did it happen? How is it that a 24-year-old man is in a Cincinnati hospital tonight, with football fans and others around the country praying for him and hoping he makes a full recovery?

No one knows yet, or if they do, they’re not saying. There are theories, some given by MDs, about types of heart conditions that could’ve possibly occurred. I believe these theories have been postulated because so many people are very upset. Any of them could be right. Or none of them could be right.

We must wait for facts, here. And we must hope that Hamlin wakes up, as the last word given was that he was intubated and in critical condition. No one’s said if he’s regained consciousness, and no updates are going to be given until morning (probably at least 8 or 9 a.m. Eastern Standard Time).

All we can do, as decent human beings, is pray that Hamlin recovers.

You may be wondering what happened to the game. Well, it’s been postponed. No one has any idea when it will be played, or even if it’ll be played, as of this hour (12:30 a.m. Tuesday morning, Central Standard Time).

That’s as it should be. Lives are more important than football.

As a side note, a charity Hamlin started before he became a member of the NFL that gives toys to kids has raised almost 3 million dollars as of this hour. It had a stated donation goal of $2500. (Yes. Twenty-five hundred dollars.)

I believe this is happening because fans want to do something as they pray. Some have said in their comments that they want Hamlin to wake up so he can distribute all the toys his fund will buy, while most are just commenting that they continue to pray for him, his family, his team, and for the entire NFL.

I, unfortunately, am in between paychecks right now. I can’t contribute to Hamlin’s fund, though I will keep it in mind the next time I’m paid. But if you want to donate to help bring toys to needy kids in Hamlin’s name, that would be wonderful.

All I can do, as a football fan and as a human being, is to pray that Hamlin recovers. I am doing that partly because a 24-year-old man should have many years left, and partly as the widow of Michael B. Caffrey, who died in a similar way after fighting for ten hours to stay alive. Michael was no football player, but he did stand up, then collapse backward…an AED was not there when Michael needed it, but CPR was started right away by a neighbor EMT, and Michael had the best of care for the remaining ten hours of his life.

I don’t want the Hamlin family to have to see anything like what I saw.

I want him to live. To fully recover. To distribute all those toys. To enjoy his life, and know himself, and be happy with who he is, even if he never plays another down of football again.

Please. Pray for Damar Hamlin, his family, his teammates, and the entire NFL, most especially the players who risk their lives every single week to give enjoyment to millions.

Please.

Introducing “The Conjuring Man” by Chris Nuttall

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Folks, it may seem quite odd to discuss a new book I’ve edited on Christmas Day. That said, I wanted to discuss it ASAP because I enjoyed working on it and feel that it’s one of Chris Nuttall’s best novels to date. (Below is the cover, which is a particularly nifty piece of artwork by Brad Fraunfelter. It gets pride of place for obvious reasons.)

As you see, this novel is called THE CONJURING MAN. It’s the third book in a series that started with THE CUNNING MAN, and features Adam, a nonmagician who’s studied theoretical magic his whole life but wasn’t sure what he could do with it until he went to Heart’s Eye University. Adam starts off as somewhat of a callow youth; though he was always well-meaning and treated most people the way he wanted to be treated, he has typical teenage angst going on. Because of that, Adam was manipulated unwittingly by a guy who called himself “Arnold” who claimed he, too, had no magic…but actually was a combat sorcerer (meaning he not only had a lot of magic, he had studied to become particularly good at magic used expressly in combat; since “Arnold” is evil, he also uses his combat magic for personal gain). Arnold is a running foil in all three books of this series, which is a spinoff from the Schooled in Magic universe featuring Emily, a young woman from Kansas in our world who was grabbed from our world by a nefarious magician, saved by an enigmatic one who then sends her to magic school (as Emily has a ton of magic), and has all sorts of interesting magical adventures. Emily’s the one who set up the first-ever university on Chris’s Nameless World (names have power, you see) at Heart’s Eye, which had been a magic school until it was overrun by a necromancer, then liberated after Emily and a few friends destroyed the necromancer, and you need to know that because Adam kind of has a crush on Emily. (He’s never met her and wouldn’t be able to pick her out of a lineup unless she’d introduced herself, but Adam reveres Emily due to the innovations she’s brought to the Nameless World, including Arabic numerals.) It’s not a romantic crush, but it’s still present, and must be considered as a main driver of how Adam behaves throughout all three novels.

Got all that? (I know it’s lengthy but at the moment, it’s the best I can do to sum things up.)

Anyway, Adam grows, changes, and becomes a much more well-rounded, interesting person throughout this trilogy. His girlfriend is a powerful magician named Lilith (yes, that’s her on the pitchfork, flying), and the two of them, along with several others, have come up with a new field: magitech. (How magic and technology intersect, and how both can benefit each other, in short.) Adam, like Emily, has changed the world, but Adam doesn’t see it that way; he still sees himself as just a normal, average guy who loved magic but had none in his blood, so apprenticed originally to an apothecary as that was the closest he could come to his goals. He was sent to Heart’s Eye by his first master at the apothecary, which proves to be the making of him…and that’s where this blurb comes into play for THE CONJURING MAN, as it’s about where Adam is at the start of the third book, much less the problems he and Lilith still continue to face.

Adam has come far.

From a lowly apprentice, and a powerless one at that, he has discovered a whole new field of magic, combining magic and technology into one, and become the leading light of the university.  His innovations have made many other things possible, from powerful magics anyone can use to hot air balloons and flying battleships.  And the world has changed beyond hope of repair.

And yet, the war is not yet over.  King Ephialtes of Tarsier may have lost one army, but he has others – and secret weapons, capable of keeping his aristocrats in check and eventually destroying the university.  As his own people rise in revolt, and Adam and the rest of the university’s population are drawn ever further into the fighting, an old enemy plots his final moves …

… And the final battle between the old world and the new is about to begin.

At any rate, I loved working on this novel, and I hope you’ll enjoy it as well.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you all! (Holiday blahs aside, of course.)

Written by Barb Caffrey

December 25, 2022 at 2:57 am

Holiday Blahs

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In a few days, most of the major end-of-the-year celebrations — religious and otherwise — will take place, before we head into 2023. I know this, but so far, I’m not feeling any excitement or encouragement regarding the holidays.

Maybe someone out there feels much the way that I do but doesn’t want to say anything because happy/happy joy/joy is expected from us at this time of year. If so, this blog’s for you…

Anyway, I don’t know what I expected out of 2022, but I didn’t find it. Quite a bit happened this year, but most of it wasn’t remotely what I wanted. (Ending my relationship — my long, long relationship — with the Racine Concert Band was one of those unexpected and unwelcome things.)

There were some positives, mind you. I sold two stories to anthologies, one of which is available now in FANTASTIC SCHOOLS HOLS. (I still can’t tell you about the other one but will once it’s allowed.) I made significant progress on a few longer stories, including the story that I hope will come out sometime early in the near year (this being “All the News That’s Fit…”), and edited at least twenty-five books, stories, and other literary-related things. I also continued to compose (by longhand, on music staff paper) and came up with some good melodies (the rest can wait until I have more time to flesh them out).

Plus, I continued to strengthen my friendships, and did what I could to help my family as I was able.

These are not negligible things, no matter how much they may feel like it right now.

Maybe it’s just the weather that’s got me down today. It’s cold, it’s been windy on and off, and it’s just a generally unprepossessing day. But I have errands to run, and stories to write (later, after I’m warm again), and visits to make…lots of things to do, and not enough time in which to do them, as per usual.

So, today, the view from Chez Caffrey is mixed. But tomorrow, who knows? Maybe it’ll be a whole lot better. (We can always hope for better. Nothing wrong with hope, as it helps get you through some very long nights.)

Written by Barb Caffrey

December 19, 2022 at 2:25 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

What Holiday Books Are Your Favorites?

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Folks, we’re close to the Winter Solstice/Yule, to Christmas Eve and Day, to Kwanzaa, and to Hanukkah. (The last starts tomorrow, in fact.) Because of these pending holidays, I’ve been thinking a lot about holiday books.

I have some favorites of my own — which I’ll get to in a moment. But I’d really like to know what your favorite books are, and why? (If they’re books you first read on a holiday, that would also fit in this category.)

The books I’m about to mention are uplifting, hopeful, meaningful, and — at times — joyous. These are books I tend to read and re-read, and not just at the holiday season. The only criteria, other than it either invoking Xmas or another winter holiday and/or somehow lifting moods and spirits, is that the book must be published as an ebook. (In other words, if the book is only published in paperback, the book doesn’t qualify.)

So, without further ado, it’s time for some books.

First, if you have kids (of all ages) in your home, you owe it to yourself to go buy — and read — two books. The first is Katharine Eliska Kimbriel’s KINDRED RITES. The second is Jason Cordova’s A CHRISTMAS SURPRISE. The latter deals directly with Xmas, and with a young girl getting a present she didn’t want but finds out she absolutely adores. (No, I will not say anything more. Go read the book, will you?) The former starts out with our heroine, Allie (short for Alfreda), reflecting on Christmas and how the spirit is eternal. Both are fun reads, and neither book hits you over the head with an excess of preachiness.

Next, I thought a nonfiction book might fit the bill. The first one of those I thought of was the riotously funny THE SCREWTAPE LETTERS by C.S. Lewis. While it’s not specifically about Xmas, it is about temptation and how to either wallow in it or rise above it. (Note that this is the most expensive ebook you’ll see in this list.) It’s satirical, but it’ll make you laugh, howl, cry, cheer, and perhaps even wonder how hypocritical life — and yourself — have become.

Next, I thought of some Xmas romances I’ve enjoyed. The first two I thought of were Anna D. Allen’s MISS PRITCHARD’S HAPPY, WANTON CHRISTMAS and Victoria Alexander’s HIS MISTRESS BY CHRISTMAS. The former is a book set in the Regency era about a thirty-eight-year-old woman who believes life and romance have passed her by. She gets stranded in a snowstorm with an eligible, good-looking man of about her age and experience, and comes to know him better than she’s ever known anyone else. Then there’s a whole bunch of circumstances that keep these two lovers away from each other for quite some time, until… (it’s a romance, so you have to assume a happily ever after unless otherwise stated). The latter is about an independent widow in the Victorian era meeting up with a famous explorer. She’s looking for laughs and good times; he’s looking for marriage. (I loved this inversion of the particular romantic tropes.) Why is she doing that? Well, in the Victorian era, unless you were widowed, it was hard to stay independent. Once you had a taste of independence, especially if your previous marriage wasn’t what you’d hoped for, it was hard to give it up. So, he wants it all; she wants it just for now. Who’s going to win, and why? (I leave it to you to read, but if you enjoy any romances at all, you’ll love these two books.)

Finally, I couldn’t let this column go by without mentioning my all-time favorite of author Kayelle Allen’s books, A STOLEN HEART. Luc is a sexy, immortal badass, high up in the Thieves Guild, and has done and said seemingly everything. But when he meets a three-year-old child, and fosters said child, his life changes in just about every way imaginable. This is a marvelous book about fatherhood, all unlooked for, and the choices that a new father must make…including some that are exceptionally difficult, frustrating, and draining. (There is a “foil” character for Luc who more or less shows what Luc could’ve been, had he gone bad, which also makes this book perfect for the holiday season.)

Best of all, Kayelle’s book is free right now! (Who can resist free? Not I.)

Anyway, what are you reading during the holiday season? What makes you feel uplifted? What has caused you to re-think your life in a good way? Tell me about your favorite holiday (or holiday-related) books in the comments!

Discussing Two Deaths: Postal Worker Aundre Cross, and Dancer Stephen “Twitch” Boss

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Stephen “Twitch” Boss was a dancer, performer, husband, and father. He’d come to prominence partly due to So You Think You Can Dance, where he finished second. He met his wife Allison there as well. And over time, he met many people, including former First Lady Michelle Obama and former talk show host Ellen DeGeneres (he was her DJ, and eventually an executive producer also, for her show).

He also — though it didn’t seem like it due to his bubbly, effervescent nature — suffered from depression.

The public didn’t know that until he took his own life yesterday at age 40.

Aundre Cross was a 44-year-old postal worker in Milwaukee. He was killed by random violence; as he was delivering the mail around six p.m., someone shot him. The police do not yet have any suspects, and it’s been about a week since Cross’s death.

Now, you may be wondering why I’m pairing these two men in death. The main reason is, Cross, like Boss, was the same type of person by all accounts. Cross was someone everyone liked. He could go into a funeral home — as he often did, delivering the mail — and make people smile. He also didn’t shirk from the tough times his friends had; he was always a shoulder to cry on, or a person who could uplift you when you needed it.

Both of these men encouraged others to feel better about themselves and what they were doing. They understood setbacks, they understood how difficult life can be, and yet they went out of their way to be one of “the helpers” that Mr. Rogers used to talk about all the time on “Mr. Rogers’ neighborhood.”

When people like this go out of this world, it hurts us, whether we know it or not. That’s ’cause we all need to believe more in ourselves and our talents; we need to know that someone “gets” us, all the way through, and understands why we are trying so hard when it seems like nothing will ever break our way. These were men willing to talk, willing to help, willing to overcome, and willing to persevere. Their lives were both inspirational and educational, and while Cross wasn’t anywhere near as well-known as Boss, Cross shared light wherever he went — just as Boss did by all of the various tributes pouring in via social media and elsewhere.

If you are struggling with depression, please don’t wait. Speak to a friend. Speak to a crisis line. Speak to someone — a doctor, even. Do it for the memory of Twitch Boss, if you can’t do it for yourself.

And if you see someone shooting an innocent mail carrier and leaving him to die, please report this and stand ready to testify in whatever way you can.

People should not have to live in fear, whether it’s from themselves as in depression, or of others as in the traumatic and tragic case of the death of Mr. Cross while working and delivering the mail.