Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Archive for February 2011

Odds and Ends

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Today’s post is going to be a catch-all of various things.

First, I had been pursuing a job in Madison, WI; it was a writing/editing gig and I felt I could really help the particular company in question, and that it would be something I could do that would not set off my particular round of health issues (I am partially disabled, physically, though there’s nothing wrong with my mind or work ethic).  But this job has said “no” even though I apparently got to the very last round . . . this might be considered a triumph after eighteen months of unemployment (I’m certain my late husband Michael would find it so), but it’s hard to see it that way now as I’m still among the ranks of the unemployed, nor do I have a job that’s right up my alley as I’d truly hoped this job would be.

So back to the drawing board, there.

As for the Wisconsin protests against sitting Governor Scott Walker and his atrocious “budget repair bill” that would strip public employee unions of their collective bargaining rights and would drastically cut Medicaid and our low-income health program Badgercare (I’m on the Badgercare waiting list as I qualify, but last I knew there were nearly 100,000 on the waiting list before it was frozen last September), they are still happening.   There are protests all over Wisconsin; there was a protest in Racine a few days ago that I unfortunately was unable to attend that netted two hundred or so in the freezing rain, while in La Crosse a bunch of university professors joined the local teacher’s union (perhaps the one their teaching assistants belonged to; I’m unsure on that — note that when I was a graduate teaching assistant at Nebraska, we were not unionized, though my brother, who is a teaching assistant at Indiana, is) even though they didn’t need to do so for their jobs in solidarity with the protestors.  There have been protests in Superior, which is across the Mississippi River from Duluth, MN, against this “budget repair bill” of Walker’s . . . there have been protests in Oshkosh, Green Bay, Eau Claire, and elsewhere along with the usual places to protest, Madison (our state capitol) and Milwaukee.  In addition, many Republican legislators homes are being picketed, including my own newly-elected state Senator, Van Wanggaard (it’s not a constant thing, but it has happened in the last ten or eleven days more than once, and with more than one person) . . . the state remains opposed to Walker’s union-busting provisions while being divided on whether or not Walker’s budgetary proposals are good or bad for the state.

However, many commercials are being aired by the so-called Wisconsin Club for Growth, which is no such thing — that is a front group funded by the wealthy Koch brothers (they of the infamous “prank call” fame, where Gov. Walker admitted he was trying to bust the unions along with many other things that may get him into hot water with the Government Accountability Board here in WI), and is headquartered in Washington, DC — to recall state Senator Bob Wirch of Burlington/Kenosha.   These commercials are obnoxious, and offensive, aping the “All Points Bulletin” of a policeman’s call to his dispatcher . . . when I heard them, I immediately wrote a letter to Wirch expressing my support for his position and told him I’m glad he’s sticking up for Wisconsin’s voters because goodness knows, aside from the “WI 14” Democratic Senators, no one else is.  (That they’ve had to flee the state in order to avoid a quorum is the only thing they could do to slow this process down.)

I truly hope Bob Wirch isn’t recalled, mind, but even if he is, it’ll take time.

Speaking of recall, I know I’m already planning on recalling Van Wanggaard in a year’s time, the first permissible date as he’s newly-elected, because he obviously does not represent Racine voters — according to a recent article in the Racine Journal-Times, Racine Assemblyman Cory Mason has had 1057 calls against the “budget repair bill” of Scott Walker’s, while he’s had 97 for it, and Racine Assemblyman Robert Turner (my particular Assemblyman) has had over 1000 calls against while only 20 in favor as of earlier this week on Monday.  (What does that tell the rest of you about what Racine thinks about this, hmm?  Do you really think Wanggaard, who’s said he’ll vote “yes” on this bill, is properly representing Racine on this issue?  I know I sure don’t.)

In sports news, Milwaukee Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy has had surgery on his right pinkie finger (his throwing hand) and may miss the start of the season as he’s not supposed to throw for a month.  They put a pin into his right pinkie finger and Lucroy says he will catch (but supposedly not throw; how is that supposed to work again?  Will he have a coach sitting there who will take the ball out of Lucroy’s glove, then toss it back to the pitcher in question in the bullpen before the pitcher throws again?) and that he doesn’t plan to miss any time whatsoever.

What is a little bit frustrating about Lucroy’s assertion is that he’s a very young man.  He needs to be careful of his health.  If he tries to come back too soon, he’ll be hurting himself, long-term.  He seems to be worried he’ll lose his starting position, or maybe he’s even worried about being sent back to Triple A (AAA) ball due to injury, but I think that’s highly unlikely.  If Lucroy rushes himself now, he may end up worsening this injury down the line and perhaps even shortening his overall career (as throwing arms are important, and messing with your motion due to an injured finger is very common) if he over-does.  I hope the Brewers new training staff (with a new manager came new coaches and staff) will “sit” on him and get him to back off working so hard; it’ll be difficult for Lucroy to sit and watch, but it’ll be much, much better for his team overall if he just lets this heal without hindrance.

Other than that, in Brewers’ news, Zach Greinke said he’s having issues with his new medicine for Social Anxiety Disorder (or SAD) and the sports talkers in Milwaukee seem concerned about it as Greinke said that the new med makes him “more tired” but didn’t really clarify in what way; some talkers seem to believe that means he’ll have trouble with his stamina on the mound, but I doubt this . . . I’ve never had SAD, but my grandmother needed anxiety medicine in her last years of life — I know this isn’t exactly the same thing, mind you — and changing a medicine’s dosage, even, can make you feel more tired at the end of the day, or perhaps when you wake up.  These feelings wear off after a little bit, but can get in your way if you don’t know what’s going on at first . . . anyway, Greinke probably meant that he’s getting used to the new dosage, doesn’t like it, and would rather not have to deal with it, but not that he’ll have any trouble pitching.

At any rate, the way Wisconsin is going right now, I’ll be glad to see the Brewers in action.  I know that I’m ready for some baseball, and I’m more than ready for some healthy interest in something beyond the asinine behavior of our current, sitting Governor.

E-Quill Publishing Features Michael’s Stories

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Cover Page for "On Westmount Station"

I’m very pleased to announce that my late husband Michael’s work is being featured at the e-Quill Publishing Web site.  Please see this link for further details:

Here’s the press release in its entirety:

Michael B. Caffrey is an eBook author from the USA. Due to the tireless devotion of his wife and fellow author, Barb Caffrey, Michael’s works continue to live on even though he passed away suddenly of an illness in 2004.

Much of what Michael wrote has been edited, and in some parts, co-authored by his wife Barb, who has succeeded in capturing the essence and ‘feel’ of Michael’s style. Not an easy accomplishment but one she achieved well, given her intimate knowledge and understanding of her husband’s style.

Titles released through e-Quill Publishing

Among those works listed through e-Quill Publishing, are included the popular Columba series, a fantasy magical series written for his wife Barb. The titles include

Columba and the Cat (2002)

Columba and the Committee (2002)

Columba and the Crossing (2004)

Columba Collection of short stories (2010).

Michael also wrote science fiction, creating the Joey Maverick series, a series set in an alternate far future setting. 

A Dark and Stormy Night (2001)

On Westmount Station (2010)

***** End Press Release *****

Please note there are more stories on the way, at least four more in the “Joey Maverick” universe, at least one more in the “Columba” fantasy universe, and of course there are many, many more stories in my Elfyverse, which Michael helped me start and without his influence wouldn’t be the same place.

Michael’s work deserved to live; so did he, but unfortunately despite my fervent wishes (and, I’m sure, his), that did not happen.  That his stories live on is a blessing, though never as much a blessing as was his presence in my life.

Know that I will work as fast as I can to get more stories written or finished.  I’m very pleased that there has been demand for these stories, and I want you all to know that as long as I’m alive, I will continue to work on all of this along with my own Elfyverse and all other stories that were in progress at the time of Michael’s death but for a time had to be set aside until I was once again ready to deal with them.

Written by Barb Caffrey

February 21, 2011 at 10:03 pm

Time to de-stress

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After the tumult of the past week, I badly needed a day to get away from it all and de-stress.

You see, I get very worked up about politics.  I don’t see it as “political theatre,” or at least not just that . . . I see it as extremely important.  And sometimes, the importance of the political moment can crowd out everything else.

I don’t know about anyone else, but what I do to de-stress is to read my favorite “comfort books” (as I discussed a few blogs ago), rest, then meditate after I’m a bit calmer.  Because things are usually neither as bad as they first appear, nor as rosy as they can look in our best moments — they’re like people, period, and have elements of both.

That we can have the seed of hope in a truly despairing day is one of those conundrums philosophers have been trying to solve for millenia, and I know I certainly don’t have the answer to it.  But that does seem a saving grace, now and again.

Yesterday, the hope I saw despite all the tumult was an unusual picture — on MSNBC’s “The Ed Show,” starring disc jockey and humanitarian Ed Schultz, he had a member of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgendered (GLBT) community in Madison right alongside a member of the pro-life community in Madison.  This is rarely seen; even more rare, they got along, and agreed that what the protestors are fighting about (the right to have their voices be heard through collective bargaining) is extremely important.

But I couldn’t take in that hopeful picture just then; I was too wracked by the suffering I could see, easily, if the current Governor of Wisconsin, Scott Walker, gets his way.

Therefore, what this blog is about is simple: sometimes we need to take a step back when we’re too emotionally involved in something — particularly if it’s an external event.  (I’m not saying you should step back from your love relationships; far from it!  Though sometimes sleeping on a decision helps you, so the principle does apply somewhat even to this example.)  Only when we de-stress a bit can we actually figure out that there are hopeful things going on all around us, big and small . . . and that life isn’t as bad as it first appears.

My late husband Michael often used this axiom — just get through the day, or as he put it, “sufficient unto the day are the needs thereof.”  (I know he’s quoting someone but I haven’t been able to figure out who said this first.)   It helps to remember that not everything in the world is awful, hopeless, bleak beyond belief or worthless, even though stupid things do keep happening (today, in Madison, some probably well-meaning doctor handed out fake “I am really ill” slips to anyone who asked, including a Fox News producer) that make my teeth grind.

Now, I’m going back and watching some more of “The Maury Show,” which is yet another way to de-stress that I find extremely helpful.  I hope you find your way to relax, get away from it all — at least mentally if you can’t physically — and remember to enjoy whatever you can of your life.

Written by Barb Caffrey

February 19, 2011 at 10:45 pm

Gov. Scott Walker Miscalculates over “Budget,” Tries to Bust Unions — Battle Ongoing

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Folks, I’ve never seen anything quite like what’s going on in Wisconsin this past week.

I’d said last November, right after Scott Walker won the right to be incoming Governor, that if he and the Republicans believed him being elected was a “mandate” to do anything other than what he’d said he’d do — that is, govern wisely and well, with consensus — he had another think coming.   The Democrats had miscalculated their position in 2008, which is what led to the 2010 elections going so much in the direction of the Republicans . . . and now, with Scott Walker’s insistence on getting rid of the collective bargaining rights for state public employee unions as part of his “Budget Repair Bill,” he, too, has miscalculated.

When Scott Walker campaigned in Wisconsin, he said he was a centrist, who wanted a balanced budget, who would do modest and effective things — and how that was interpreted was that he wouldn’t change very much (trust me, changing whether state public employee unions are allowed to collectively bargain with the state is a huge change, especially as we’ve had these provisions in place for well over fifty years).  Yet Walker’s view of “modest” is exactly what he put up — a bill that would strip all public employee unions of their right to collectively bargain; a bill that would force unions to re-certify every year; a bill that has caused massive unrest throughout the entire state of Wisconsin, massive protests (over 35,000 today was estimated; 30,000 on Thursday; 25,000 on Wednesday; 15,000 to 20,000 on Tuesday, in Madison alone, with additional protests outside Republican lawmakers’ homes throughout the state and at least two protests at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire campus andthe University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh campus, with over 2,000 people showing up to protest at Eau Claire and an unknown number in Oshkosh), and 56% of the state being against Gov. Walker’s so-called “modest proposal.”

Here’s a link to the most recent story, where the Wisconsin Assembly (our lower house) was going to take a vote without the Democratic members even being present; when the Dems showed up and demanded their rights to be heard, the vote was “rescinded” — meaning it’ll have to be taken again, with the Dems present.  That vote will take place next Tuesday, as President’s Day is Monday.

And that’s not all; our Democratic state Senators (upper house) have walked off the job, all fourteen of them, and have gone to neighboring states (currently, they are supposed to be in Illinois) so the Senate will not have a quorum and cannot pass this bill; here’s a link to that story:

There also are many, many stories about how Gov. Walker insists this is a “modest” proposal which shouldn’t “shock anyone,” and a story was aired tonight by Greta Van Susteran on Fox News that quoted Wisconsin’s Lieutenant Governor, Rebecca Kleefisch, as once again calling this a “modest” proposal that “shouldn’t have taken anyone by surprise.”

Yet this is a surprise, folks, precisely because Walker and Kleefisch didn’t explain what they planned to do to balance Wisconsin’s budget.  They certainly didn’t say that they planned to de-certify unions, public or private; they certainly didn’t say anything about that in this particular state, where unions have a rich history, the state that gave the United States as a whole the forty-hour work week, vacation pay, worker’s compensation and a form of Social Security for retirement.  (Yes, Wisconsin was first in the nation for all of those things.)  Because if they had, I can assure you, they would’ve lost.  Big-time.

At this point, Walker and Kleefisch are on the “recall road,” because Wisconsin taxpayers truly didn’t expect this out of their elected officials and are protesting in record numbers against this bill.  The Wisconsin constitution allows for government officials to be recalled if they’ve been in office for one full year; right now, Walker and Kleefisch have been in office only about five weeks, so we have a long way to go before we can recall.  But protests like this will not be forgotten, not in a year, not in five years . . . not ever.

All I can say, aside from the fact that I am against Gov. Walker’s proposal because he didn’t campaign on it and it looks like a naked power-grab to me, is that soon, the (R) in back of both Walker and Kleefisch’s name will not stand for Republican.  Instead, it will stand for “recall,” or better yet, “recall and replace.”

I’m telling you now, and for the record — unless Gov. Walker backs down with the demands to disallow collective bargaining in the state of Wisconsin for public unions, he can and will be recalled.  (Lt. Gov. Kleefisch, too.)   Guaranteed.

So I urge you, please do not believe the hype, or Gov. Walker’s attempt to frame the narrative.  The non-violent, peaceful protests here are because of one thing and one thing only: because Gov. Walker overstepped his authority.   Wisconsin’s voters do not like what Walker has done here even if they think he has a point about the budgetary shortfall. **


** Note: I am in this category.  I also believe that anyone who supported the Tea Party’s right to protest should support these folks’ right to protest against a Governor trying to take too many rights away, too quickly, without a public debate. 

** Gov. Walker proposed this “budget repair bill” last week Friday.  And in a week’s time, the state is up in arms.  (Does that really tell anyone out there the state supports Walker?  How about that survey saying 56% are against him I talked about before?  Were those 56% all in error?)

Valentine’s Day — for Love, not Conspicuous Consumption.

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I’m tired of these jewelry companies, et. al., framing the narrative of Valentine’s Day and turning it into a purely commercial event.

Every year around this time I grit my teeth and want to scream after seeing all the ads for jewelry, flowers, Vermont Teddy Bears, the Pajamagram, and anything else that can be sold as “a unique testament to your love” on what’s purported to be the most romantic day of the year: Valentine’s Day.

But Valentine’s Day should mean more than an evening out (lovely though that is); it should mean more than a bouquet of flowers, any piece of jewelry (no matter how lovely, or expensive, it may be); it should mean more than sending a Pajamagram or a Vermont Teddy Bear (cute as the latter is, and practical as the former can be).

No.  Valentine’s Day should be about your love for your partner.  Period.

I don’t know why this isn’t discussed more; I know I’m not the only person in the world to feel this way.  But when I see these commercials, I just get so disgusted, so irate, and so frustrated.  Many people believe exactly what these advertisers tell them to believe: that it’s important to spend money on Valentine’s Day, to have a “unique testament” to your love (in the form of the advertiser’s choice, of course), rather than to do what’s truly important — spending time with your loved one.

Take it from me: no one wonders at the end of his or her life if you should’ve given your lover (wife, husband, soulmate) another gift, or wonders if the gifts you’ve given of a monetary nature were big enough.

Instead, what people wonder about is this: “Did I spend enough time with my husband/wife/significant other?”  (Much less the ancillary questions of:  “Did I show how much I care enough?” and ” Did I love (him/her) enough?”)  Or, put another way, people wonder whether or not they fully expressed their love for their partner, and sometimes have regrets that they didn’t say or do enough emotionally.  But they certainly do not worry about whether or not they did enough financially, in the sense of gift-giving, years later!

So, please, for those of you who truly love another, do your best to concentrate on what you have that you can’t quantify with money because it’s priceless — each other.  Spend time with one another, and love each other, and have fun because you’re so jazzed to be in each other’s presence . . . and stop “counting coup,” financially.  Please!

Written by Barb Caffrey

February 14, 2011 at 9:16 pm

Just Reviewed “The Agent Gambit” by Lee and Miller

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Folks, if you haven’t read Sharon Lee and Steve Miller’s speculative fiction yet, you really and truly should.

But in case I haven’t convinced you yet by my several previous blogs and reviews upon the subject, here is my latest review for THE AGENT GAMBIT, an omnibus put out by Baen Books that combines Lee and Miller’s very first Liaden Universe novel, AGENT OF CHANGE with their third novel (and direct sequel to the former) CARPE DIEM


Written by Barb Caffrey

February 14, 2011 at 6:33 pm

Persistence is Key

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Nothing gets done in this world without one, simple truth: persistence.

Without persistence, we wouldn’t have one of our greatest American Presidents, Abraham Lincoln — admittedly an exalted example — because what most people fail to remember from the 1858 Lincoln-Douglas Debates is that Abraham Lincoln was then a candidate for the United States Senate from Illinois.  And he lost, which ultimately was a great thing for the country (how could Abraham Lincoln have become President in 1860 if he’d been a sitting Senator?), yet he couldn’t have known this in 1858.

In the writing field, the career path of Sharon Lee and Steve Miller has already been discussed, extensively, by me, as they are shining examples of what persistence, faith in yourself and genuine talent can do to keep dreams alive. 

In the music field, the career of Art Pepper (1925-1982), alto saxophonist, is an insightful example.  Pepper had major drug problems, and ended up in prison for over ten years in the 1950s, just as he was starting to make a name for himself.  He resumed his career after that ten years only after he met his third, and last, wife, Laurie; some of his best work was recorded between 1975 and 1982, the year of his death.  In his autobiography (transcribed by Laurie Pepper), STRAIGHT LIFE, Pepper described the difficulty he had in believing he could still make great music, and credited his wife, Laurie, for her faith and belief in him until the end of his life.  (Sometimes, behind every great man really is a great woman.)

And not everyone becomes famous or appreciated his or her lifetime; Charles Ives (1874-1954) is a famous example in music (he was a composer, but was known more for being an insurance executive than as a composer or musician).  Ives’s best-known composition, “Variations on America,” features bitonality and polyrhythms, and was far ahead of its time in how melody and harmony were conceptualized.  Ives, in general, was at least fifty years ahead of his time in how he conceptualized harmony and melody.  (This is partly why Ives’s music wasn’t much appreciated until he was near death, and afterward.)

Going on with this theme, Emily Dickinson (1830-1886) was barely-known during her lifetime; she’d written thousands of poems, but only a dozen were published during her lifetime, often altered by publishers to “fit the rules of the times.”  (Haven’t we all heard this, writers?)  She was known for writing poems without titles; for using “slant rhymes,” or close-to rhymes (like “ill” and “shell”); for short sentences, and for unconventional capitalization and punctuation.

All of these examples — every single last one of them — shows the importance of continuing to do whatever the person (or people) in question was good at, because by doing so, that was eventually what caused the breakthrough in every single life.  It wasn’t always noticeable at the time — I’m sure Sharon Lee and Steve Miller had no idea their Liaden Universe (TM) books had become so popular before the advent of the Internet (they’ve said so, in other places) — but that was what did it for them.

In other words, PERSISTENCE IS KEY.  Because we cannot force a breakthrough; we might not even recognize a small breakthrough when it happens.  But we can persist, and keep on going; we can continue to believe in ourselves, and keep up “the good fight,” while refusing to surrender our creativity to anyone for any reason.   And being married to a good person — as Sharon Lee is to Steve Miller, as Charles Ives was, to Harmony Twitchell, as Art Pepper was, to Laurie Pepper — can really and truly help.

It is that last quality that I tend to highlight, being fortunate enough to marry the right man for me, Michael B. Caffrey, and I do my best to remember, every day, how much faith and belief he had in me.  But all of the other qualities — talent, self-belief, drive, honest ambition, a willingness to “do your thing” regardless of what anyone else thinks about it — are just as important; in some cases, like Emily Dickinson’s, if a person was relying on finding and marrying the right person to propel him or her to greatness, it just wasn’t going to happen.

So I urge you, once again, to keep on trying.  Refuse to give up, no matter how long it takes.  Give yourself a chance, even if no one else will . . . and do your best to let your dreams take shape.

Written by Barb Caffrey

February 13, 2011 at 11:34 pm

My favorite “comfort books”

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After several extremely trying days, I read some of my favorite “comfort books” in order to feel better and be able to keep going.   And that got me thinking about what, exactly, is a “comfort book?”

To my mind, a “comfort book” is one that will give you a positive feeling time and time again.  It’s a book that gets your mind off your troubles, or at least diverts you from them somewhat.  And it’s a book that you tend to admire for some reason — maybe due to how well the writer in question uses language, maybe because the characters “speak” to you, maybe because it has a bright and lively feel to it, or maybe just because these characters have survived something terrible but have lived to tell the tale.

These books all inspire me to do more, be more, and to keep trying, no matter how hard it gets and no matter how long it takes.  Though the plotlines are disparate, and the situations all over the map, they all have in common one thing — they reach me, no matter how awful I feel, and no matter what sort of chaos is going on all around me.

So in no particular order, here are my favorite books that I turn to again and again when I’m feeling the most down and out:

MIRROR DANCE, Lois McMaster Bujold — Mark Vorkosigan’s story goes from anti-hero to full-fledged hero, has huge peaks and miserable valleys, and contains some of the best writing of Ms. Bujold’s career to date.

CORDELIA’S HONOR (omnibus of SHARDS OF HONOR and BARRAYAR), Bujold — Cordelia Naismith Vorkosigan’s story is humane, interesting, revealing, and engaging.  Cordelia makes her own life her own way, yet realizes she’s as fragile down-deep as anyone else.   Finding a mate as extraordinary as she is in Aral Vorkosigan is half the fun — watching what they accomplish together is the rest.  This is my favorite of all Ms. Bujold’s novels/novel compilations; it also was my late husband Michael’s favorite work by Bujold.

Poul Anderson, the “Dominic Flandry” series (two outstanding novels in this series are A KNIGHT OF GHOSTS AND SHADOWS and A STONE IN HEAVEN) — Flandry is an interstellar secret agent, a literate and erudite man with impeccable taste who still manages to be a flawed human.   He’s also a bon vivant with an alien valet and a romantic heart buried beneath his cynical exterior.  If you haven’t read any of these stories yet, you should.

André Norton, FORERUNNER FORAY and ICE CROWN — Note that Miss Norton wrote many, many outstanding novels in the science fiction, fantasy, romance and historical romance fields; these are my two favorites.  The former novel has a heroine in Ziantha who goes from unwanted child to highly-trained psychic, albeit in thrall to the latter-day version of the Mafia; how she breaks free and finds friends and companions is well worth the read.  The latter features Roane Hume, an unwanted cousin forced to do her uncle’s will on a backward planet that knows nothing of space travel or advanced societies; Roane finds her own inner strength and throws off her shackles while finding the right man for her (more alluded to than delineated, but there), proving that knowledge indeed is power.  (Note that André Norton was Michael’s all-time favorite SF&F writer.  He had good taste.)

Stephen R. Donaldson — A MAN RIDES THROUGH.  This is the second book of the “Mordant’s Need” duology and is a rousing tale of romance, mistaken motivations, political intrigue, and contains an unusual magic system dealing with the shaping and control of various mirrors.  The two main protagonists, Terisa and Geraden, go from not knowing anything to being supremely powerful and confident in and of themselves while maintaining their fallible, undeniably human nature in a realistic way that reminded me somewhat of medieval epics (albeit with magic).  Excellent book that works on all levels, and as always, Donaldson’s command of language is superb and worth many hours of study.

Rosemary Edghill, TWO OF A KIND and THE SHADOW OF ALBION (the latter written with André Norton) — the first is a hysterically funny Regency romance, the second is an “alternate Regency” with magic.  Excellent books.

Mercedes Lackey, BY THE SWORD and Vanyel’s trilogy (MAGIC’S PAWN, MAGIC’S PROMISE, MAGIC’S PRICE) — both emotional and well-conceived, these books draw you in and don’t let go.  Ms. Lackey is one of the most popular novelists in fantasy literature, and it’s easy to understand why.

KRISTIN HANNAH, WHEN LIGHTNING STRIKES — I go back to this book again and again because of the strength of its romance between contemporary woman Alaina “Lainie” Constanza and the outlaw John Killian in 1896; this is a paranormal, time-traveling romance that gets everything right.  The characters are engaging though deeply flawed, and have had terrible things happen to them in the past but manage to overcome all difficulties by believing in the power of their love — but taking time to get there, which makes things far more realistic.

Linnea Sinclair, AN ACCIDENTAL GODDESS.  I enjoy all of Ms. Sinclair’s work, but it’s the story about psychic priestess Gillaine “Gillie” Davré in the far future (she’s a Raheiran, is also a soldier and member of the Raheiran Special Forces) that always draws me back.  Gillie is a complex heroine that, despite her special abilities (of which she has many), still remains a flawed human being.  (The Raheirans think of themselves as human.  Other types of humanity, such as the Khalarans Gillie works with, tend to think of them as lesser Gods and Goddesses, which discomfits Gillie no end.)  Her love story with Khalaran Admiral Rynan “Make it Right” Makarian, a man as complex and interesting as she is, holds my interest time and time again.

Jane Austen, EMMA and MANSFIELD PARK — these are my two favorite novels of Miss Austen’s output, partly because the first is a biting satire and the second a morality play in addition to the “comedy of manners” Miss Austen seemingly could write in her sleep.   I appreciate Miss Austen’s work more and more as I get older; her craftsmanship was outstanding and her eye for detail even better.  (Note that Jane Austen, like André Norton, was one of Michael’s favorite writers.  It was because of Michael’s insistence that I re-read EMMA and realized the fluffy nature of it concealed biting wit and savage satire, then I went on to re-read everything else.)

Finally, there’s the writing team of Sharon Lee and Steve Miller and their entire “Liaden Universe” series.  I can’t say enough how much I admire these two writers, how much I appreciate their fine series of books (twelve or so to date), and how much I’m looking forward to GHOST SHIP, the sequel to both SALTATION and I DARE.

These books are all emotionally honest, they get the issues right, they don’t play games with the reader and the way these writers use the English language is superb.   I gain more every time I turn to these authors and their books, and I believe you will, too, if you give them a chance.

Dug out, but . . . (today’s status report)

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Folks, Mom’s driveway is now mostly dug out.  I say “mostly” because while it was dug out enough to get my car out earlier, some of the snow fell back onto the driveway and I only barely got back in after I went to check on Dad earlier this evening.

Dad’s fine, by the way; shaken up, but fine, after yesterday’s ordeal.

As for what was stolen — three pieces of jewelry, one with a $9.99 K-mart sticker still attached.  (I really don’t know why the robbers took that.)  Two were set with good quality aquamarines, one ring and a matching necklace; the total value of what was stolen, replacement-cost, was about $150.

I’ve already talked with the police about this.  But I didn’t tell them the worst part — these creeps actually went through my late husband’s ashes, which I keep in a box.  Apparently they thought this was a good hiding place for jewelry or some such; bad enough that they went through every bag in my Dad’s house, all my clothes and books and personal possessions of all stripes, but they had to violate my late husband’s ashes, too?

Note that the only reason I didn’t bring this up was that the policeman was talking to me and my father.  I didn’t want him to feel worse than he already did.  But I will point it out in the near future, guaranteed.

I’m glad my father was not hurt and that all the things that I value greatly because Michael gave them to me, or they were Michael’s, are all there, intact.  (Michael’s ashes, though disturbed, were still intact as best I could discern.  But it’s really terrible these unprintable unprintables went through Michael’s ashes.)  I’m glad it’s no worse than it was.

But as far as I’m concerned, these creeps aren’t even good enough for Hell.

Written by Barb Caffrey

February 4, 2011 at 1:36 am

Status: Partially Dug Out

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It’s been a stressful few days here due to the tremendously bad snowstorm we experienced (that I alluded to in the previous post).   My Mom’s house suffered seven to eight foot drifts all the way up to both doors; yesterday all we could do is to clear the furnace vent (for safety’s sake) and get a little bit in front of both doors removed (mostly by throwing hot water on it, then using a broom to brush everything else off).

Mom’s friend Roy came over today and first made a path to the garage, then cleared a pathway in the back for the dogs to go out.  This took two hours.

We are still plowed in, and cannot leave, but it’s now possible for an emergency vehicle to get close enough to help — so it’s progress.  I’ll take it.

If you’re wondering why my Mom and I could not do any more than this, it’s because we are both considered disabled, walk with canes, and have substantial other health problems that make shoveling snow contraindicated.  We both had to figure out a solution to get to the furnace vent, then work very hard to clear enough snow off the back stoop (and down the wheelchair ramp) , and that’s all we were able to do with two hours of backbreaking work.

Mom just had another friend stop by, and he’s cleared a bit more, bless him.  He said he’ll try to come back later to do more.   (God bless him, and my Mom’s friend Roy, for help.)

I called my friends who live in the area and they were all snowbound, too — roads were impassable even when they were able to get out of their house, and many were drifted in as we were (with six to eight feet high drifts).

We suffered nearly two full feet of snowfall here, with extensive blowing and drifting.  But we didn’t lose power, we were able to clear the heating and dryer vents for safety, and we’ve been able to keep going.

But my father was robbed by con-men after he’d been out shoveling for several hours (his property line is bigger); he was unhurt and nothing of his was taken.   I’m grateful for this.

I have many things at Dad’s house and as far as he knows, my instruments, computers and other personal effects were undamaged but things were thrown around in major disarray.  He doesn’t know what might be missing, and obviously, I can’t get out to check on him.

I don’t want to call my father to ask for his help right now, partly because of the unconscionable, reprehensible people who robbed him, and partly because he’s older now and has a great deal of property of his own to clear first.  But once I can get out — and it does look likely I will be able to get out today — I’ll go to check on him, and in the process will inventory my belongings there and try to figure out what might need to be reported to the police as stolen.

I don’t like discussing all this, at all.  But I figured I’d let you know why my discussing other, worthy topics just isn’t there right now — we’re still in crisis mode around here.

Written by Barb Caffrey

February 3, 2011 at 1:39 pm

Posted in Snowstorm Update