Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Archive for November 2010

My uncle Wayne died today at 74.

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With great sadness I pass along this news . . . my uncle Wayne, who was a brilliant man who’d been a husband, a father, a psychologist, a military veteran, and much more, died today at the age of 74.

Two-plus months ago, my uncle went into the hospital for a heart operation.  It was thought that if he had the operation, and it was successful, it would buy him a few more years of comfortable living.  At the time, my uncle was suffering from congestive heart failure and a number of other ailments, and he wasn’t enjoying being slowed down by illness (as he’d always been active, before), so he felt he had nothing to lose and everything to gain.  So he had the operation.

At any rate, he was on the operating table for twelve to fourteen hours, I believe (I may be misremembering), and it took him nearly two weeks to come out of the coma he was in after surviving that operation.  I know my aunt was told he might not come out of the coma and if he didn’t, they needed to talk with her about “pulling the plug” — that is, ending his life — but fortunately he did come out of the coma.

When he did, though, he didn’t always know his wife, and he was paralyzed on one side of his body.  Physical and occupational therapy was started, which made my uncle very tired — I heard all of this from my Mom, his sister, who heard it directly from my aunt himself — and he had some good days and some bad (the worst being when he was diagnosed with MRSA in his lungs, which caused pneumonia and worse).

They tried a lung procedure a few days ago to see if that would give him some ease of breathing, because he wasn’t able to breathe without the respirator and even with it, his breath came short and fast.  (Once again, I was not there — this is all third-hand, but seems accurate.  I truly wish I were not among the vast numbers of America’s unemployed or I’d have found a way to take my mother to see her brother, as he lived in another state that was over 600 miles away.)  The procedure did not work.

My Mom got the call from my aunt yesterday that the doctors had told my aunt that my uncle Wayne could endure no more, and that his death was imminent.  Then we waited, while I did my best not to disrupt my father’s 74th birthday celebration (my parents are long-divorced) because while he knew and liked my uncle, he wouldn’t have appreciated hearing anything bad on his birthday.  (Trust me.  This was for the best.)

And today, the news came a bit past 12:00 noon that my uncle Wayne had died.

I feel numb, maybe because I was hoping for a miracle.  Wayne had rallied at least twice before and I knew he wanted to live, very strongly.  But in this case, he just wasn’t able to do any more . . . he had to leave his wife, and his children, and his grandchildren, and his sister (my Mom), and his nieces and nephews, etc., behind.

My uncle was not religious, though he went to the Unitarian Universalist church for the fellowship it offered.  He was agnostic, and as such I’d not want to wish him to be in a positive afterlife if that’s truly not what he wanted.  (Some people just want to end after this life, and not have an afterlife of any sort, and I believe that my uncle was most likely in this category.)  So my usual well-wishes, hollow though they tend to be, are not adequate to this occasion in any case . . . all I can do is wish my aunt well, which I have done, and pray that somehow, some way, all the distress she endured over the past ten-plus weeks will be worth it to her.  Somehow.

I am a widow and I would never, ever wish this state on anyone else.  It is incredibly difficult to wake up every day, alone, wishing like fire that my beloved husband, Michael, will somehow be beside me, alive again, and that everything I’ve endured is a horrible dream.  I’ve even wished, at times, that I were in a coma and that I was dreaming all of this — that he’s alive, somehow and in some way, and that I will rejoin him and everything will be as it was.

But because I do believe in a positive afterlife, I at least have that to hope for, while my aunt, it seems to me, may not be able to hope for that (though I hope in her case that I’ve misread my uncle and that she can — she knows him far, far better than I ever could).  And I do wish for that positive afterlife, for more long walks with my husband, for more conversation, for more thoughts on books and baseball and “life, the universe and everything,” what I was blessed to have for the three years I knew Michael and the two years, two months and twenty-eight days we had of marriage on this plane of existence.

Life is short, folks.  It truly is.  And that’s why I wish those of you who still have your spouses or significant others to enjoy them to the fullest and appreciate them as much as you possibly can even on the bad days.  Even though the economy is bad, and you may be suffering financially like never before, try to be grateful for the love you have all around you, and store up those memories.

I’ve found that you can live a long time on them, if need be . . . .

Written by Barb Caffrey

November 27, 2010 at 8:07 pm

New Book Review up at SBR — Connie Willis’s “All Clear” is Lucid, Enjoyable, and Highly Recommended.

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As the heading says, I wrote a book review today at Shiny Book Reviews for Connie Willis’s excellent ALL CLEAR.  It is a book about time-travelers who are stranded during World War II, and how they observe that ordinary people matter in war-time.  Not just the big shots, like the Generals and the world leaders and the diplomats.  Ordinary people.

Please go read the blog post/review and let me know what you think.


Written by Barb Caffrey

November 22, 2010 at 11:43 am

Posted in Book reviews

More on the War Poetry Contest at

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Folks, I wrote to the kind folks at and asked for a link that would work so I could talk more about the War Poetry contest than I had, and Adam Cohen wrote back to me this morning with a link that will work:

Now, let’s talk about the top three poems since I have a good link to the contest that y’all can use.  (By the way, if you are a poet or a writer or want to know more about what is available out there to read and to try for as far as contests go, the Web site is an outstanding place to start your research.  I’ve been getting their free newsletter for at least a year and a half and I’ve found it very helpful.)

The Grand Prize winner was Gerardo “Tony” Mena with his poem, “So I was a Coffin.”  (He won $2000.)  He is a veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, and his poem was written for his friend Corporal Kyle Powell.

This poem is searing in its imagery, and goes through a series of steps — we first see a spear, and when that doesn’t work, we see a flag.  When that isn’t quite right, we see a bandage — and this is where the poem really starts to hit between the eyes — and when the bandage doesn’t work, then the poem talks about coffins.  And about how finally, at long last, he’s a “good coffin,” when he’d been inadequate as a spear, a flag, and a bandage.

This poem stands one step away from heartbreak from the beginning, and its imagery is stark in its simplicity.  Knowing it was written for Mr. Mena’s friend just adds another layer to what makes this personally moving, but even had I not known that (had Mr. Mena not said anything about it) I believe this poem would’ve had similar emotional intensity.

The second place winner, Bruce Lack, sent in three poems entitled “FNG,” “Get Some” and “Hadji.”  Mr. Lack is a former member of the United States Marine Corps, and it’s obvious he’s used his military service as a springboard for his poetry.  All three of these poems are searing, and there’s bad language in two of ’em — understandable bad language, to be sure.  (I mention this in case anyone wants to read these with their children; adults, please check these out by yourselves just in case.)  He won $1200 for his poems, but as with Mr. Mena, it appears far more important to Mr. Lack that his poetry be read and understood than that it earned money.  (I’m sure neither of them are adverse to the money; it’s just that these poems do need to be read and understood by as many as possible.)

Specifically, “FNG” is about a soldier’s duty and how you’re supposed to keep yourself “shipshape and Bristol fashion” at all times.  (That’s not how Mr. Lack puts it, mind you.)  “Get Some” is all about a soldier who saw one of his friends die, and how he can’t put that image out of his mind no matter how hard he tries to resume his life.  And “Hadji” is about war, and about what he thought he’d see but didn’t — yet what he saw was far more than he could deal with.

All three of these poems work as a set, but they’d work by themselves, too.  But as a set, they show that even the most mundane tasks a soldier deals with daily can be difficult to deal with because all of them — all — lead to the soldier’s ultimate duty, that of war and how he (or she) must learn to deal with what they’ve seen and done, not to mention wanted to do.

The third place winner is Anna Scotti, and is the only non-veteran in the top three winners.  Her poem is called “This is how I’ll tell it when I tell it to our children,” and it’s about “prettifying” the war so what the soldiers did to the protagonist doesn’t seem as terrifying as it actually was.  Ms. Scotti won $600 for this poem, and it is a nice counterpart to the four other poems written by Mr. Lack and Mr. Mena in that it’s quieter, but no less intense.  This is the one poem of the five that takes some effort to read, but once you figure out she’s talking around the subject rather than about it,  it becomes just as heart-rending as the others.

I believe that this War Poetry contest is extremely important to highlight, which is why I’ve written this second (and far more comprehensive) blog about it.   The two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have fallen out of the public consciousness to a degree because for whatever reason the media isn’t covering it as much as it used to — maybe they’re bored with it.  Or maybe they just don’t think it’s “sexy” to talk about people dying in a far-away place for an undetermined objective.  (Or, rather, an objective that the media would rather not discuss; trying to undermine al-Qaeda or the Taliban is very important, but it’s something that can’t be conveyed in a quick “sound-bite.”)

I’ve known many veterans in my life; my husband Michael was a proud Navy veteran, my father is a proud Navy veteran, my uncles served in the Army and Marines, my cousins have served in the Marines and the Army, and my friends have served in all branches (Army, Navy, Coast Guard, Marines, and Air Force).  I believe that serving our country is extremely important — my own health would never allow me to serve (I tried, in my youth) — but we can’t forget what our fine men and women see when they’re dealing with war and death.  We can’t “prettify” it — that’s why Anna Scotti’s poem is so moving — or “gussy it up” so it’ll be more acceptable in a conversation.   And we certainly cannot ignore it, because that also ignores the huge sacrifices our military men and women have made for us over the years and is damned cruel, besides.

Those fighting the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq deserve our support, and our understanding.  And the first part of giving our support and our understanding is to listen, to read, and to understand — not to shut out the soldiers who’ve given everything of themselves in order to derail the al-Qaedas and Talibans of this world so perhaps fewer innocents will die than would’ve died had our soldiers not given everything they have in the attempt.

The War Poetry contest is a good way to keep the conversation going, and to understand exactly what is going on with our returning soldiers and how hard it is to deal with what most of us see as “normality” after dealing with things that no man, or woman, or child should ever have to see.  It also is a way to affirm the sacrifices of our men and women in a positive, life-affirming way.  

But the War Poetry contest really needs more people to go and read these fine poems (including the honorable mentions and the published finalists — I didn’t see a bad poem in the lot) and reflect upon what our veterans have done for us, as shown by the many veterans (and non-vets) who’ve written outstanding poetry about war for this contest.

So please, go to the Web site — go to the link that was provided — and read these poems.  Then think about them, and talk about them, and pass them on to your friends and neighbors.  Because maybe we can get the conversation going that seems to have been woefully absent in Washington, DC, and in all of our state legislatures besides — and a “maybe” in this case is far better than the “Hell, no!” our servicepeople have been getting to date in their personal re-writing of history in order to make it more palatable to their children, to their spouses, and to their friends.

Written by Barb Caffrey

November 21, 2010 at 2:34 pm

A Round-Up of Thoughts: Bristol Palin, War Poetry, and more

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The last few days, I’ve been under the weather, so I have more than one subject I’d like to talk about today.

First, if you haven’t been to yet, now’s the time to go.  They have a War Poetry contest every year and the winners have been announced; I read the top three winners’ poems along with several of the finalists and honorable mentions, and can say without equivocation that they contain some of the most harrowing imagery I’ve read in quite some time.  Two of the top three poets are veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, while the third is not . . . if you enjoy poetry but think there’s nothing new under the sun, nor that there’s any way for poetry to convey war in any sort of meaningful or relevant way, I urge you to go to and check out the winners of the War Poetry contest.  (The links will not work unless you’re a member, I found out with an earlier version of this blog, which is why I have not posted links.)

Second, and far less serious: what on Earth is Bristol Palin still doing on “Dancing with the Stars?”

(While it may seem a travesty to have the erudition of war poetry and Bristol Palin in the same blog, these have been the two major things that have gone through my mind in the past two days, thus this blog.)

Listen.  I have nothing against Ms. Palin.  She was asked to be on “Dancing with the Stars,” has competed to the best of her ability, and has shown improvement.  She’s done what she’s supposed to do, but something has gone wrong with both the voters at home (voting by e-mail or telephone or text) and the judges panel of DWTS.

Put simply, Ms. Palin is not up to the level of previous finalists, and while she’s been compared most to Marie Osmond or Kelly Osbourne or even Warren Sapp (all of them being finalists that were good performers, or in the case of Mr. Sapp, a good performer and a professional athlete, being a retired football player, but not necessarily outstanding dancers), I don’t really see that in her because Ms. Osmond was beloved by most of the audience because she was over 45 during her season on DWTS, was out of shape and overweight when she started, and while she’d had an extensive performing career (and still does) as a singer, she’d never danced much beyond some very basic moves on stage with her brothers (most particularly her brother Donny).  And Kelly Osbourne was overweight and not exactly in shape when she started her “journey” on DWTS (by the way, the word “journey” has been so overused by DWTS and other reality shows; I’d prefer a different word such as “struggle,” or “toil” or “Labor”), so she won the hearts of the voters by how hard she tried.  And of course Warren Sapp was out of shape and also overweight when he started DWTS; all three of these contestants, Osmond, Osbourne and Sapp, lost significant amounts of weight and thus their hard work was able to be seen and measured.

I hate to stress the “they were all out of shape and overweight” part, but they were — the other thing that binds Osmond, Osbourne and Sapp together were that none of them were expected to go to the finals, yet you could tell how much they enjoyed being on DWTS.  To be blunt, the only competitor this season who engenders any of the feelings Osmond, Osbourne or Sapp did is Kyle Massey (whose professional partner is the inestimable Lacey Schwimmer), not Bristol Palin.

Ms. Palin is at a disadvantage, yes, because she’s not a performer, is not an actress, not a model, not a professional athlete, yet she is athletic — she played volleyball, softball and other sports in high school and hikes and bikes and does all sorts of athletic things for fun in her off-hours.  So in that sense, she’s certainly healthy enough to do well at DWTS, and as I said before, she has improved.

So why am I upset about it?  Well, there is evidence that many people who follow her mother, politically, have power-voted for Ms. Palin using fake e-mail addresses, exploiting a bug in that other power-voters have apparently done before (I’ve followed this show since the second season, and never knew about this; I’ve always used only my legitimate e-mail addresses to vote).  This has skewed the voting somewhat in Ms. Palin’s favor because apparently more people have done this for her than have ever done it for anyone else in the past, plus, they’ve done it publicly.  (There are multiple stories online about this at the moment; I prefer the LA Times one which has timed out for me — apparently it’s getting many hits.  Type in “Bristol Palin voting scandal” into Ye Olde Search Engine and you will find it, though.)

Because of these “power-voters,” Ms. Palin has outlasted better contestants — five of them, to be precise.  She’s taken out Brandy (this week), Kurt Warner (last week), Rick Fox (the week before that), Audrina Patridge (the week before that) and Florence Henderson (the week before that).  All of those — all — danced better than Ms. Palin does right now at the time of their elimination, and considering Florence Henderson is over 70 years old, that’s saying something.

Ms. Palin can’t help who votes for her, or the method in which they’re doing it.  But she can ask that people who don’t watch the show refrain from voting; that would be a classy move and would take away some of the negative publicity she’s been getting since Brandy, and not Bristol Palin, went home this last Tuesday night.

Now, as for the judges?  They’ve been giving Ms. Palin marks she doesn’t deserve for weeks now, and that has to stop.  Ms. Palin has improved, yes, but she’s improved from a three on Len Goodman’s scale (he gave an explanation of how he votes a few weeks ago during the results show) to probably a six on a good day.  She has no natural rhythm and no performance skills, and at some level she must know this because her body is stiff and her face has almost no expression on it much of the time.  She does not look happy while she’s dancing and she does not look like she enjoys herself; instead, it looks like dancing is a struggle for her (which I sympathize with; I’d do very poorly on that show, which is why I’d never be a contestant even if I were famous), and that she’d rather be anywhere else than dancing in front of millions of people (hundreds in person, the rest via television, of course).

The judges must score her honestly; if she only gives a dance that’s a six on Len’s scale, that’s what they should give her — not nines, like she got last week, or eights, or sevens — sixes.  And if the others are not giving ten-worthy performances (it’s very hard to get a perfect score in the real world), don’t give them tens, either!  (How tough is this, judges?)

I’ve been thinking about this for the past two days now, and while it’s probably a waste of my time and energy, I can’t help but to dissect the problem.  Ms. Palin didn’t ask for anyone to use fake e-mail addresses to vote for her, and she’s done what she’s needed to do — dance, improve, and have fun (I’ll take it on faith that she’s had some fun as for the most part I’ve not seen it).  But that doesn’t mean she’s learned to dance well enough to become a DWTS finalist, and she would’ve been better off in many respects to have gone home this past Tuesday.

It’s time for DWTS to realize that their voting system has been subverted and deal with it, openly, honestly and in a completely above-board manner.  Only in that way can I have any hope as a longtime viewer of DWTS that whoever wins this season’s “coveted mirror-ball trophy” is the true and legitimate winner.

** Note: Host Tom Bergeron recently said in a long interview that if you don’t vote, you shouldn’t complain.  I did vote — though my five votes can’t help Kyle Massey and Lacey Schwimmer much compared to the “power-voters” for Bristol Palin and Mark Ballas, I did vote.

Written by Barb Caffrey

November 18, 2010 at 1:46 pm

My poem, “No Rest,” accepted at Midwest Literary Magazine

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I found out a few days ago that my poem, “No Rest,” has been accepted at Midwest Literary Magazine and will be in an anthology from them called “Due North” along with their November issue.  Here’s their press release, which only gives my name — but does prove my work was accepted so I’m printing it:

I wrote “No Rest” two years ago, kept revising it (I have at least seven different versions, which isn’t uncommon for poets — Dylan Thomas used to work and re-work his poetry constantly, and so did Byron and so did many others like Coleridge and Keats), and finally placed it this year toward the end of 2010.  This is my third poetry sale; the first was to the Written Word online magazine in 2006 with my poem “A Love Eternal,” then sold my poem “Break the Dark Lens” to Joyful! Online magazine in December of 2009.

The writing life is fraught with peril, financially, and is extremely difficult to deal with mentally as there’s far more rejections than acceptances involved for any writer — much less someone who’s not well-known like me.   But days like this are good ones; I wrote a lot this morning (see my earlier blog of today’s date for details) and placing “No Rest” at the Midwest Literary Magazine helps give me encouragement.  I’d badly needed it after having possibly the best story I’d ever collaborated on rejected by the Writers of the Future contest as I’d reported last Friday.

The best thing you can do as a writer is to persist, while the second best thing you can do is to keep your work out there as best you can.  I believe submitting stuff is very important, but refusing to give in and continuing to work on your craft however you can is the absolute most important thing when it comes to writing, bar none.   So don’t let the rejections stop you, my friends; keep on keepin’ on, as that’s literally the only way to succeed in this business at any level.

Written by Barb Caffrey

November 15, 2010 at 7:25 pm

When Writing flows, Life is Good.

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I know the title of this blog has to be an odd one, folks, but any writer will get the meaning — when we can’t write, we feel awful even if everything else is going right, while if we can, even if everything else is going to Hell in a hand basket, life is good.

This morning I woke up very early with one line of dialogue in my head, and started writing — about two and a half hours later, I had 3600 words of a new Elfyverse short story and was very well-pleased with myself.  I had no idea the one line I had was going to lead to all that creativity, and yet what I have makes sense — I was able to set up the story well, get my characters going, and they’re chatting nicely.  I’m unsure if this is a character study or if something’s going to actually happen, but whatever ends up being included in this story, I’m glad that my writing is flowing well.

How’s your writing going?

Written by Barb Caffrey

November 15, 2010 at 6:01 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

New book review(s) up at Shiny Book Reviews.

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Earlier this morning, I wrote a review of all four of Sherry Thomas’s books to date — they are PRIVATE ARRANGEMENTS, DELICIOUS, NOT QUITE A HUSBAND, and HIS AT NIGHT — and they are up at Shiny Book Reviews.

Please go to this link to read the review(s):

Written by Barb Caffrey

November 14, 2010 at 12:50 pm

Posted in Book reviews

Writers of the Future bounces 3rd quarter story.

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Folks, some nights are beyond frustrating, and this is one of them.

The story I sent to WotF in the 3rd quarter is a Joey Maverick tale set in my late husband’s universe, with mostly his characters — this is the second tale, and for this one I’d added a great deal of things (more plot layers, a few new characters, deepening of the characters already there, some internal monologue).  And were Michael alive, it would’ve been Michael who’d sent this in (providing he wrote all this in, of course), and I’d have been the one checking the MSS — meaning I’d have caught stuff that apparently got by me this time.

All I was told was that my story (based on Michael’s “Maverick” universe) “didn’t go in double-spaced” (I thought it had; I know they want traditional MSS format, which is what I use constantly) and I noticed on the page they sent back (which indeed wasn’t double-spaced, though I haven’t a clue why at this remove) that it had the wrong header — which I know I fixed.  I was on my Mom’s computer at that point, not mine (Mom has air conditioning, and I don’t), and I know Mom’s computer can do some odd things to formatting.  That’s probably what happened to the headers  (I checked, but probably saw what I wanted to see; this is a failing).  But as for the double-spacing, I haven’t a clue.  Because I do know better.

At any rate, this is probably the best story I have ever sent them, and because of these two things, the story itself wasn’t considered.   I don’t blame them for this, because they get so many stories, they’re going to have to kick stuff out however they can — they once bounced “Trouble with Elfs” because they said the “protagonists’ ages (were) too young,” because they were teens, even though I’ve seen stories about teens in the WotF anthology before and probably will again.  That one frustrated me even more than this one, because it was perfectly formatted; fortunately, the story eventually sold in 2007.  (I sent it to WotF in 2004, long before Michael passed away.)

I sent them something for the September 30th ending quarter, but I have no hopes for that story (which means it’ll probably be the one that finally breaks through, right?) — this was the one I had the hopes for, not that one.

It frustrates me beyond belief to be thought of as someone who didn’t do her homework; I always double-space my manuscripts, from the start, and when I got the print-out off the printer, I looked at it — I’d checked.  It printed out double-spaced fine, for me.   I still have the copy I printed out, for comparison; it is double-spaced throughout.

Mind, I believe I will place “Joey Maverick: On Westmount Station” quickly, so all is not lost. 

But for a writer who’s doing her damndest to be professional in all her dealings, stupid crap like this bugs me.  It truly does.   And the only good thing stuff like this does is to remind me to check the formatting four or five times in short stories, and perhaps wait on the story a day if I have that time; you can call this a hard-won insight if you’d like, though I’m still mad as Hell at myself for not seeing this when I sent it in.

Written by Barb Caffrey

November 12, 2010 at 7:23 pm

Realms of Fantasy bought . . . UPDATED

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. . . by Damnation Books LLC.

UPDATE:  Preditors and Editors does not recommend Damnation Books LLC; please see their Web site for further details:

Preditors and Editors is a highly reputable site that monitors agents, book publishers, and more.  If they say this market is not recommended, I’d steer clear unless and until Damnation Books LLC proves they will be much more responsible and reliable than they’ve apparently been in the past.

Jason Cordova, in the comments section, said that he knew Damnation Books LLC wasn’t reliable; perhaps he’d checked Preditors and Editors.

The other things I found out about Damnation Books LLC with a quick search is that they do something rather odd; their e-book prices go up .05 per copy until 119 sales are reached, at which point they stay at $5.95.  This is not author-friendly, to put it mildly, and is a very unusual business concept — I don’t see how it’d pay anyone to do it that way.  (Please see this thread, here:)

Worse yet, it appears from this thread that Damnation Books LLC makes their “real” money by the illegal use of what’s called a “kill” fee, where they do something wrong with your manuscript — bad editing, bad cover, bad whatever — then you end up paying them to get out of your contract.  This is a horrible business practice, and it is one I cannot support.

Note that it’s not only unethical to do something  like this (the whole “kill fee” issue), but it is illegal unless it’s actually in the contract.  Even there, it probably won’t hold up in court because it’s not a normal business practice, so if for some reason anyone reading this blog has had bad dealings with Damnation Books LLC, they should go to a lawyer and find out their rights pronto.

The publisher pays the writer.  It’s not supposed to be the other way around, and whenever you see writers paying the publisher instead, that is not a good sign.

It’s too soon to know whether they will behave at Realms of Fantasy the way Damnation Books LLC has behaved so far in their two years of professional existence.  But since they have a history that’s bad, I’d not submit there until or unless I heard they had profoundly altered their business practices for the better.

Now, back to the link, and the original post.  (BC)


Here’s the link:

The substance of the press release states that all subscriptions will be honored by the new publisher; there’s a new address to submit stories, and the April 2011 issue will be a dark fantasy issue to commemorate the World Horror Convention.  Damnation Books LLC will host a party there, and will have a booth in the press area, according to this press release.

Only time will tell how the new publisher does, much less the type of stories the new publisher buys; as for the editors of Realms of Fantasy, no official word is forthcoming.

Written by Barb Caffrey

November 9, 2010 at 10:43 pm

It’s NOT a Mandate, Folks; Rather, a Repudiation.

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The election is over, but the bloviating goes on.  Today on WTMJ Radio (AM 620 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin), both Governor-elect Scott Walker (Republican) and Senator-elect Ron Johnson (R) used the word “mandate” while presumably wearing a straight face.

Yes, what happened last night is a slap-down for the people presently in power, the Obama Administration and many Democratic Senators and Representatives who followed their lead — along with some who didn’t, but were Democratic incumbents, and got washed out with the tide.

But it’s not — repeat, not — a mandate.  Rather, this is an exercise in the Republicans framing the narrative: they’re doing their level best to show voter rage at not being listened to as a “mandate” for themselves, which shows them to be completely ignorant of recent history.

So I’m going to educate them.  Starting right now.

What happened in this election is what my friends among the Hillary Clinton Democrats (some also under the name PUMA Democrats, with PUMA meaning either “People United Means Action” or “Party Unity My A**”) have been predicting since Barack Obama was named the Democratic nominee over Mrs. Clinton — and that is, many Democrats who were shut out by the Democratic National Committee on 5/31/2008 at their Rules and Bylaws Committee meeting were angry, and joined with the angry Republicans and angry Independents who didn’t feel they were being listened to — and that’s why we have an incoming Republican Speaker of the House (presumably John Boehner from Ohio, though it’s remotely possible the Republicans may select someone else) and a Senate that’s only nominally Democratically-controlled after the election results were known.

What people need to understand is that the Democratic Party fissured as of that moment, 5/31/2008, between those who felt what happened on that day — Barack Obama getting delegates he didn’t earn from Michigan, where he wasn’t on the ballot, and Mrs. Clinton having delegates she fairly earned (because she was on the ballot, and very popular in Michigan) taken away — was OK, and those who felt it was absolutely reprehensible.  Also be reminded that on 5/31/08,  Floridians were told to be happy that their representatives to the Democratic National Convention would only get 1/2 a vote, each — both of those things set badly with over half of the Democratic Party, including many who liked Obama and had voted for him, but could not get behind such blatantly slanted and non-voter-representative tactics.

You see, the DNC (most especially member-and-CNN-analyst Donna Brazile) believed “rules are rules,” and they didn’t care that the voters went out to vote and believed their votes would be respected.  They hid behind fig-leafs such as Florida supposedly voting “too early” when several other states moved up their primary dates as well but no one said word-one to them (most of those were states Obama won handily in), or saying from the beginning, “Oh, that primary doesn’t count because they moved it up without our approval,”  even while Michigan residents were voting in record numbers in their January primary.

Excuse me, DNC, but the voters voted.  They did what they were supposed to do: they voted, and in record numbers.  And they did not care about your rules.  They were told to vote, and they did.  They clearly expressed a preference, one you definitely didn’t like, for Hillary Clinton — and thus, you managed to mute the impact of her historic primary victories.  (Mrs. Clinton was the first woman to ever win a primary in the United States, much less a whole bunch of them.  And she won the most votes from primaries, too; we know that.  Mr. Obama won most of his victories in the caucuses, where many vote totals were disputed; please see Gigi Gaston’s excellent documentary “We Will Not be Silenced” for further details.  Here’s a link: — this should help.  I know the movie, in four parts, is available on YouTube.)

The ill-feeling the DNC caused by refusing to listen has not dissipated in the last two years; instead, it’s simmered and boiled over in many cases.  I know that I am still angry and will always be angry at what happened at that meeting, because it showed that the DNC — the governing board of the Democratic Party, more or less — did not care one whit about the voter’s intentions or the voters themselves.  Instead, the DNC decided they knew better than we did, than what the polls were telling them — than what their own common sense should’ve told them if it hadn’t been taking a coffee break.

I know that while many Hillary Dems did what I did — vote for competent, qualified people wherever possible, including Democrats — some were so angry due to what happened on 5/31/08 (where we were told that we did not count, that our votes did not matter, and when our massed voices crying out for justice went unheard) that they voted a straight Republican ticket.

So the Republicans — including those in Wisconsin, where they won control of both the Assembly (the lower house) and the Senate (upper house) — are wrong when they think they have received a “mandate” to do anything.  What they received was the gift of many Democrats who are angry at how Obama was selected in the first place, along with many who were flat-out frustrated at the policies of Harry Reid (who, inexplicably, held his seat in Nevada) and Nancy Pelosi (easily re-elected, but almost assuredly to retire as former Speakers rarely stay in the House after they lose their Speakership).

So if the Republicans think this is a mandate, they are wrong.

What this was, instead, was a repudiation of the tactics of the DNC on 5/31/08, along with a repudiation of Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and the entirety of the Obama Administration in particular.

If the Republicans take the wrong message from this, and start cutting unemployment benefits, start cutting health care benefits that are already extant, and mess with Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, Food Stamps, or any of the “social safety net” programs that are so vitally needed with the country as a whole having over 9% reportable unemployment (and more like 17% functional unemployment throughout the USA, with some areas having far more), they will be voted out in turn.

Personally, I am disgusted that Wisconsin voted out Russ Feingold, an 18-year veteran of the Senate.  Feingold is an honest, ethical and principled politician; the only thing he’d ever done that I fully disagreed with was backing Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton in 2008 (though he did not like what the DNC did on 5/31/08 any better than anyone else — such was the impression I received).   I voted for Mrs. Clinton in the Wisconsin Primary, and am as disgusted as anyone I know — and enraged, too — about what the DNC did on 5/31/08, but I cast my vote anyway for Feingold because unlike many politicians, he actually explains himself and has taken it upon himself to visit every county in Wisconsin every single year.  (Plus I looked at it this way, as a HRC supporter: Hillary Clinton is a centrist/pragmatist.  She’d want Wisconsin to have the best possible person representing the state, who in my opinion was Russ Feingold, whether or not she gets along with him.)

What we have now in Ron Johnson, the Republican Senator-elect, is a man who is independently wealthy, has no compassion whatsoever (or at least has evinced none), and believes in TANSTAAFL — an abbreviation for what Robert A. Heinlein called “There Ain’t No Such Thing as a Free Lunch.”  Which in general is a maxim worth living by — and is one of the most Libertarian philosophies around — but at a time where there’s 17% “real” unemployment in the country and where employers are not adding jobs, so many are getting by with unemployment checks while praying for a miracle (including myself), TANSTAAFL has to be modified, or a whole lot of people are going to end up dead on the streets as if the US of A had become a Third World country overnight.

Now, is that what Ron Johnson wants?  Probably not, but he hasn’t examined his beliefs too closely, either, by all objective analysis — his only two stated “platforms” were to cut taxes (whatever question he was asked, he’d say he’d cut taxes, even if it was something about Medicaid or getting our troops out of Iraq or Afghanistan) and to repeal Obama’s health care overhaul.  And while many in Wisconsin are very nervous about the Obama health care plan because of Ms. Pelosi’s blithe “we won’t know what’s in the bill until we pass it” comment (one of the worst things a sitting Speaker of the House has ever said, and definitely a factor in this election), that doesn’t mean all of it is bad.

Simply put, the main reason businesses go overseas is because of our health care costs — Ron Johnson is right about that.  But sometimes they go to Europe, which has nationalized health care, or China, which has something similar, or Canada, which definitely has nationalized health care, and that’s because the state is paying for the health care — the business is not.  That’s what Obama was trying — and fumbling — to say, and why he seems to feel that an overhaul is necessary because way too many people are falling through the cracks now, and it’ll just get worse if the businesses like HMOs or PPOs keep running healthcare as a for-profit business.

Perhaps Barack Obama’s idea (which may as well be called Nancy Pelosi’s idea) wasn’t the best one.  I definitely think it wasn’t.  But it was at least a small step in the direction our country needs to go in, though to my mind encouraging more low-income clinics to be built and forgiving new-doctor debt if they work in those for a few years seems to be a far better option all the way around.

People are suffering in this country.  I am one of those afflicted, and I am telling you right now that if the Republicans believe this was a “mandate” for anything, they are as wrong today as Barack Obama was wrong in 2008 after he was elected President of the US that his election was a “mandate” for anything whatsoever, except the mandate “we don’t like who we have, so we want someone else, and pray for a miracle.”  But I don’t think that counts.