Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Archive for June 2011

Violence in the workplace — is it ever right?

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Folks, it’s 2011, and I thought the answer to my title/question was always, “No” unless we were talking about something like World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE).  Yet now I’ve heard the wildest array of excuses made on behalf of Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice David Prosser, who may have grabbed fellow Justice Ann Walsh Bradley by the neck on June 13, 2011.

Here’s a link to the first story that broke in the Wisconsin area:

And here’s a link to the story regarding the two, ongoing investigations into what, exactly happened:

A relevant quote from the latter:

Two agencies are investigating a claim by Supreme Court Justice Ann Walsh Bradley that Justice David Prosser put her in a chokehold earlier this month – an allegation Gov. Scott Walker on Monday called extremely serious.

Ah, but Scott Walker refused to say what, if anything, should be done just a bit further into the article:

Asked if the reports about Prosser’s behavior, if true, merited his resignation, Walker said: “I don’t even want to go down that path . . . other than to say that just based on the allegations that were made, I can’t overemphasize how serious I think the situation is there. Until we know what happened, I don’t think it’s best for anybody for me to comment on what the next step is.”

Now, I can guarantee that if the countervaling story that the Republicans have put out (that Justice Bradley somehow came at Justice Prosser and that’s why he put hands around her neck; this is the, “The victim is always to blame!” argument, in a nutshell, which I find both revolting and disgusting) is true, Gov. Walker would be calling for Bradley’s head on a platter and impeachment proceedings against her would probably already be underway in the Legislature.  But as we’re talking about another Republican here — Prosser, as we all know, was once the Republican Speaker for the Assembly (Wisconsin’s lower house) before former Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson appointed Prosser to the bench — they’re going to proceed with caution in order to keep Prosser there as long as they possibly can.

Mind, nothing has been proven yet, and Prosser is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law — but if the facts are as Bradley has alleged (that Prosser put his hands around her neck in a chokehold), then Prosser should resign and seek immediate medical treatment for his anger management problem — bare minimum, that’s what he should do.

Now, as for a little political commentary: I am astonished and disgusted that anyone, ever, would try to say that violence in the workplace could be condoned due to a “hostile work environment” — that is, the Republicans don’t like it that much of the public is angry over what’s happened since Walker took office and instituted his new unpopular program (which he didn’t campaign on and didn’t warn anyone about beforehand).   And the Wisconsin Supreme Court, though it has four Republicans/conservatives to only three Democrats/liberals, apparently feels the heat of this even though the Rs have the advantage — so apparently, because it’s such a difficult work environment, to some, what Prosser did in “defending himself” was justified, even though no one as of yet has all the facts in this case.

So, I want to ask this question: is it ever right to allow violence in the workplace?   If so, under what circumstances would you allow it?   Does political ideology really make that much of a difference to you as to whether or not someone should put hands on another inside the workplace, much less a man allegedly trying to choke a woman?  (When most men are much taller and heavier than most women?)

I’ll be interested in any logical response to this — because so far, I’ve heard absolutely nothing that makes any sense with regards to defending Prosser’s alleged conduct except the rather weak, “It’s not like you think.”  That’s just not good enough, unless we want to turn back into a nation of brutish thugs — and if that’s what you really want, as Yogi Berra once famously said, “Include me out.”

Written by Barb Caffrey

June 27, 2011 at 11:09 pm

Just reviewed Marvelle’s frustrating “The Perfect Scandal” for SBR

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Folks, I’ve rarely read a more uneven book than THE PERFECT SCANDAL by Delilah Marvelle; Marvelle’s a pro, someone with many books to her credit (over ten, assuredly), and this romance has some strengths to it.  But it’s marred by a huge weakness, which you’ll see once you wander on over and read my review, which is located at:

Have at!

Written by Barb Caffrey

June 25, 2011 at 11:50 pm

Posted in Book reviews

Just reviewed “Unnatural Issue” for SBR — and a few thoughts

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Folks, I just reviewed Mercedes Lackey’s “Unnatural Issue” for Shiny Book Review and I hope you’ll enjoy it.  Before I forget, let me give you the link to this review:

Now, as for everything else . . . it’s June 24, 2011.  That means it’s been nine years since my husband Michael and I married, which is a wonderful thing — but it’s been seven years that I’ve now observed my wedding anniversary alone due to his untimely passing, which is awful.  The dual nature of this day makes it a difficult one to get through, yet somehow I’ve made it to this point and I’m glad.

Remembering my husband Michael, his bright mind, his kind heart, his lively wit, his incredibly sensitive and spiritual soul, is a joy no matter what day it is.  I’ve never met anyone else like Michael, not in all my life, and I doubt I ever will again.  Truly, Michael was a Renaissance Man in every single possible respect and I’m grateful we were able to meet and then, later, to marry.  Because being with him for even a short time was worth it.

All that said, reading “Unnatural Issue” was difficult because it was about a widower who takes his grief way too far.  Because he has magical talent, he’s able to raise the dead if he wants and since he misses his wife so much, he’s resolved to do just that — more than that, he’s willing to end his daughter’s life in order to do this, because his daughter means nothing (his wife died giving birth to her) and his wife meant everything.

Mercedes Lackey is a pro, and she knew what she was doing in setting up the story this way.  She wanted to show that grief can sometimes be a horrible thing.  Richard Whitestone (the father in this tale) has forgotten his wife’s bright spirit and only wants her back because he sees her as a possession, or maybe a bit more accurately, a part of himself that’s missing.  And while that’s true that in marriage “two become one,” it’s wrong to bring back someone who has died, especially in the way Richard Whitestone tries to do it.

I believe, very strongly, that Michael’s spirit is alive.  And I am glad of that, because I would not be able to handle believing that everything he ever was has gone out of this universe — it would be anathema to me that any Deity figure I would care to follow would do this, and even if we don’t have a Deity to have to deal with, I refuse to believe that someone as extraordinarily good and special as Michael could arise due to a cosmic accident.

I see love as something that is eternal.  And I look forward, someday, to rejoining him in eternity.  But I cannot and will not hasten that day, as I know Michael will always be there and I’m certain would want me to get whatever good I can out of this life.  And there’s still our stories to write and edit and do my best to publish, and editing to do for other people . . . and to play on occasion when my hands will let me.

Anyway, I will continue to do my best to see Michael for what he was and what I believe he still is — a force for good, whether in this world or the next.  And a profoundly creative and spiritual individual, besides, someone I was proud to call “husband.”

Written by Barb Caffrey

June 24, 2011 at 4:03 pm

Writing and Editing — some Helpful Books

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Folks, over time I’ve probably read just about every book on writing and editing there has ever been — or at least it seems that way.

Now, you might be asking yourself why I’ve done this.  Simple.  I enjoy picking the brains of other writers and editors, and the easiest way to do this is by reading about their particular processes as written down in various books.  Some are dry as dust, yes — but the best ones make you laugh, and think, and you’ll come back again and again to ’em in order to find some pearl of wisdom that you’d perhaps overlooked before.

The first, and best, of the three books I recommend is Carolyn See’s MAKING A LITERARY LIFE.  Ms. See has fun with her subject; she uses witty commentary and true-to-life examples, but what I’ve gotten out of her book most is the value of being polite.  (This is something my late husband Michael would’ve appreciated, I think.  He felt people often were impolite for no reason whatsoever and had no patience with it.  I have to agree that most of the time, I share his oft-expressed viewpoint.)  Because being polite is the way to build literary friendships — expressing your appreciation now and again doesn’t hurt, either.  (Ms. See believes you should write what she calls “charming notes” to other writers and editors because life is too short not to express praise when warranted.  Though she also believes you should write these notes when you’ve received rejection letters, as a way to turn a negative into a positive — those types of notes are, “I’ve received your rejection and I will be sending you back something else in X time,” which also is a way to keep yourself on track and focused on the long-term goal.)

The second book is Anne Lamont’s BIRD BY BIRD.  The title comes from something Ms. Lamont’s father once told her brother after he’d procrastinated about an assignment (this one on birds); it’s a way of saying, “Take things one at a time,” no matter how many things there might be in an assignment (or in this case, a book).  Ms. Lamont’s wisdom, similar to Ms. See’s, has a great deal to do with real-life examples.  Ms. Lamont admits her first drafts are very far short of perfection (she calls them a synonym for “crappy” that I won’t use here at my family-friendly site) and says the only thing good about them is that you’ve gotten something on the page — anything at all — and that a first draft is not supposed to be perfect so we writers shouldn’t beat ourselves up about that.

This is a very interesting attitude, because we all seem to have the tendency to say, “Oh, no!  This is terrible!  Why do I write, anyway, if all I can do is this trash?”  But as Ms. Lamont says (and Ms. See does, too), the purpose of the first draft isn’t to be perfect — it’s to get it out there, so you can start working on what it will eventually be — good prose, a compelling story, you name it — and get on with the job.

Finally, there’s Sol Stein’s STEIN ON WRITING, which actually is more helpful as an editing primer because Stein explains what he does when he edits.  The reason he does this is to help writers catch their own mistakes before they ever get to the editor, but I know that it’s very difficult if I’m in “editing mode” to shift out of that and just write because they’re markedly different things (writing a first draft is messy, as both Ms. Lamont and Ms. See pointed out).  And if I think too much about editing while I’m writing, I don’t get much done because I think it’s “all crap, so why bother?” and that’s not good.  (Instead, it’s counterproductive to say the least.)

So, read these three books, and see what you can get out of them — and don’t say I’ve never done anything for you.

Written by Barb Caffrey

June 20, 2011 at 11:32 am

John Nichols said it best: in WI, no checks, no balances, exist.

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Folks, all week I’ve resisted the impulse to post anything after the recent “victory” by Scott Walker and his allies on the Wisconsin Supreme Court.  Please see this article from John Nichols at the Capital Times, who agrees with me that after this week’s decision, no effective checks or balances to the power of Gov. Scott Walker (R) may be seen to exist.

Then, see this extraordinary decision by the WI state Supreme Court, along with the incendiary dissents of Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson and learned, scholarly judge N. Patrick Crooks.

Now, as for what I feel about all this?

After several days of reflection, I’m spitting mad.   I believe that the four Rs on the court — including two who seem heavily tainted, Michael Gableman and the recently re-elected David Prosser  — have not done the people’s business here.  Further, they’ve made a mockery out of the whole “separation of powers” that is inherent in the United States Constitution and re-affirmed in the Wisconsin state Constitution — these four Justices appear to remember, always, that they are conservative Republicans first, and Supreme Court justices second.  And, apparently, being a conservative R seems to trump everything else.

Justice N. Patrick Crooks, a renowned legal scholar, said on p. 11 of his dissent that:

The ready availability of a direct appeal by aggrieved parties makes this all the more puzzling. The majority does not really come to grips with the obvious fact that an appeal is an available remedy here. As many of the parties to these cases have argued, it would be a simple matter for an aggrieved party to intervene in this matter and file an ordinary appeal, which would proceed the usual way.

In other words, there was no need to create a precedent here, but the four Rs on the court did just that; they set aside Dane County Circuit Court Judge Maryann Sumi’s ruling in total, because they felt Sumi had overstepped her authority — yet her ruling was detailed, thorough, and took months to decide.  Whereas the Supreme Court of the state of Wisconsin took only a few days.

Abrahamson’s dissent (most relevant parts quoted in Nichols’s article) is stinging, but Crooks’s dissent is even worse in a scholarly, non-argumentative way.  Crooks seems completely dismayed with what’s occurred here; he doesn’t get it, and if people as knowledgeable about the court as Abrahamson, Crooks, and Justice Ann Walsh Bradley don’t get it, I suppose it’s not too surprising that I don’t get it, either.  (Nor does Nichols seem to understand why the four Rs did this, except for purely political, rather than legal, reasons.  While I hope that isn’t the case, it surely doesn’t look good at this time for those four conservative Justices.)

* * * * *

UPDATE:  Blogger Rick Ungar of conservative Forbes magazine agrees with Nichols, and me, that this ruling is seriously messed up. 

Relevant (unfortunately rather lengthy) quote:

While the State of Wisconsin has a lot on its plate in the recall department, I’m afraid they now have little choice but to consider taking a look at some of their Supreme Court Justices for similar action.

Not because the court handed down a ruling that will make people unhappy – but because the people of Wisconsin now have every reason to believe that their Supreme Court has been corrupted and their opinions subject to invalidation.

Make no mistake. This is not about a judicial philosophy with which I might disagree. Reasonable, learned judges can – and often do – apply the law to a fact situation and come up with different opinions and they do so in the utmost of good faith and their best understanding of  the law.

However, the minority opinion issued yesterday in the Wisconsin Supreme Court did not charge mistaken application of law. The opinion charged perversion of the facts and the law to meet a desired result.

If this is true, this is court corruption at its absolute worst and the people of Wisconsin cannot permit this to stand.

Amen, brother!

* * * * * end update * * * * (Now, back to our regularly scheduled posting.)

Really, there was no need to create a precedent here; the Supreme Court should’ve taken its time and decided this case solely on the narrow merits — did the Fitzgerald Brothers (Jeff in the Assembly, Scott in the Senate) break the Open Meetings Law, or not?  Justice Sumi said they did; the three Supreme Court dissenters appeared to believe Sumi had done her job thoroughly and that more time needed to be given, by them, to figure out whether or not Sumi’s judgment was inherently flawed.   But those four Rs apparently believed there was no need for deliberation; Scott and Jeff Fitzgerald said the case needed to be decided by Tuesday night, and thus, perhaps not so coincidentally, those Justices decided that case by Tuesday night.

This is why the recall elections are so important.  Right now the Court (judicial branch) is in the hands of the Republican Party, the Governorship (the executive branch) is in the hands of the Republicans, and the Legislature (legislative branch) is also in the hands of the Republicans.  This is too much power for any given party, and it must not be allowed to stand.

That some Republican Senators, like Alberta Darling (who will face a recall election on July 12, 2011) and my own R Senator Van Wanggaard, seem to think this was a good result and have said so, quite loudly and vociferously, just shows how out of touch they are.  And how badly they need to be recalled, because they just aren’t listening to their own constituents, the people of the state of Wisconsin.

We know that times are tough.  There would have been hard choices to make, economically, this year for any Governor, and any Legislature.  But the choices being made thus far have disproportionately affected the low-income folks, the disabled, children, senior citizens, and the unemployed.  This is no way to run a government, and it is not the Wisconsin way to throw people out just because right now they are ill, or injured, or have no money, or can’t give you a campaign donation.

Whoever our elected representatives are, regardless of their respective offices, they should be trying to do the best they can for all the people of Wisconsin.  Writing a budget that cuts $800 million from the public schools and gives tax breaks to rich people so they can send their kids to private schools is plain, flat wrong — yet people like Darling and Wanggaard believe that’s the right way to go.

The only thing we can do, as voters, is educate ourselves as to what our representatives are doing.  And then, if we disagree with them, as we have the power to recall our duly elected representatives in Wisconsin if we feel they are failing to do their jobs by listening to us and acknowledging our concerns in some way — then, it’s time to first recall them, then vote them out.

Those of you who have a Republican Senator, if you disagree with him or her, kick your Senator to the curb.  And if you have a Democratic Senator who is up for recall, and you don’t agree with him — then you also have the right to vote him out.  But I’d rather you concentrated on the folks who have proven they aren’t listening — the Republicans, who control all three branches of Wisconsin state government at this time — and re-install the checks and balances we depend upon by voting in someone new in those races against the six Republican Senators.

Voting the Rs out is the only way — the only way — to guarantee that your representatives, Dem or R, will start to listen.  Because if the people of Wisconsin send a message by voting out those who aren’t listening, that should finally make the others listen, or be voted out in turn.  (And yes, Van Wanggaard, I’m looking squarely at you.)

Just reviewed Pam Uphoff’s “Lawyers of Mars” for SBR

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Folks, you really should take a look at Pam Uphoff’s new novella LAWYERS OF MARS, which is available at Naked Reader Press,  if you enjoy original, quirky stuff.  Better yet, if you enjoy original, quirky satire/action-adventure, you will love Uphoff’s new novella just as much as I do.

Check out my review at:

Mind, I keep wanting to call it “Lawyers from Mars,” which is flat wrong, but that isn’t Pam Uphoff’s fault in the slightest.  (It’s funny how the mind wants to keep calling something the wrong thing, though.)

Written by Barb Caffrey

June 18, 2011 at 6:20 pm

Posted in Book reviews

New Review at SBR — for Hirsh’s “Capital Offense”

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Folks, if Robert Rubin, Hank Paulson, Alan Greenspan and Timothy Geithner (among others) had one-tenth Michael Hirsh’s mental acuity, we wouldn’t have had the financial crises of 2007 and 2008.

Unfortunately for them — and for the world as a whole — Michael Hirsh wasn’t then aware of the huge mess that was about to occur, but fortunately, once he became aware, he turned his weather eye onto financial markets and the major players behind them and came out with the outstanding book CAPITAL OFFENSE: HOW WASHINGTON’S WISE MEN TURNED AMERICA’S FUTURE OVER TO WALL STREET.

Please read my review at SBR to find out why I say you must read this book right now (then be prepared to throw major quantities of china, etc., as you watch these folks spend money like there was no tomorrow, no regulation, and no sense):

Written by Barb Caffrey

June 17, 2011 at 10:00 pm

Posted in Book reviews

Cell Phone Etiquette and Other Stories

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For this Friday’s blog, I want to talk about something completely different: cell phone etiquette.

Why this particular subject, you ask?  Because I’ve run into more ignorant people this week than I can shake a stick at, all of whom did — or more importantly, said — something stupid while on their cell phone.

First up was the gentleman at the local pharmacy who was jabbering away on his cell as his three kids rampaged through the store.  I felt like saying, “Hey, buddy!  Watch your kids!  Keep ’em from stealing the pharmacist blind!” as the kids were running up and down the aisles, throwing candy at each other, knocking over displays, and generally behaving worse than my Mom’s three dogs.

Now, this guy was probably talking to someone from his workplace, as his expression was grave and he was using a calculator in his other hand to add up figures as he aimlessly walked through the store.  But that does not excuse him; he still must supervise his children, lest he end up with an unexpected bill in the hundreds of dollars (if not thousands) after his three kids under the age of ten wrecked the store without his cognizance or knowledge.

Next, there was the jerk at the gas station who was yelling at the top of his lungs into his cell about his bodily functions.  Apparently he was trying to make his much-younger girlfriend blush — his GF looked to be in her low-to-mid 20s, while this guy had to be in his upper 30s at the very least — and he definitely should’ve known better than to talk about his hernias, his latest bowel movements, and how many times he threw up the night before in public, much less as loudly as possible.

Finally, there was the guy who was swearing profusely as he took money out of the ATM at the grocery store.  Was it because he couldn’t get money out?  No, it wasn’t — instead, it was because something had gone wrong at home (or maybe with his job) and he was using every profane word he could (plus making up a few new ones) to express his displeasure.   All while he either thought no one could hear him (not likely), or didn’t care.

Look.  I understand how it is when you must take a phone call, even if you’re out.  But when that eventuality does occur, you need to be polite to others.

In these three situations, what should these men — and note, they all were men (as women in general tend not to behave this badly in public for whatever reason) — have done?  Well, the first guy should’ve taken his phone call in the car and his kids should’ve sat there quietly (or as quietly as they could) until he was done.  Then he should’ve bought them all lollipops (or whatever small treat they wanted) for behaving in the car — or he should’ve then proceeded to take the kids home and punish them if they hadn’t behaved.  In no way, shape, or form should he have taken the call in the store and let those kids run up and down the aisles screaming, whooping and hollering as they were — much less making a huge mess, as last I saw they were in the process of doing.

 As for the second guy, this may seem overly obvious, but here goes:  Don’t talk about your bodily functions in public, period.  Really, we don’t want to hear about it.   And if you are that hard-up to embarrass your girlfriend, well, it’s either time for you to get a new girlfriend or, better yet, for her to trade you in for a better-behaved model, someone who might actually appreciate her for a change.

As for the third gentleman (using the term loosely, of course)?   Try not to swear in public.  If you do need to swear, do it quietly, because yelling the “f-word” at the top of your lungs is rude.

And remember, guys, this very basic thing — it’s more than likely that your side of the conversation on your cell is going to be overheard.   Use your common sense and see this as the public conversation it is, and treat it accordingly.  Or prepare to suffer the consequences as more and more people realize what a completely unlettered jerk you’ve turned out to be, just because they’ve been the unwitting victims of your poor cell phone etiquette.

Written by Barb Caffrey

June 17, 2011 at 8:22 pm

Just reviewed Yu’s “How to Live Safely in a SF Universe” for SBR

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Folks, here’s the latest review; for those of you who’ve read my review from last year, this goes into a little more detail about the plot and gives a short snippet from page 213.  (I loved HOW TO LIVE SAFELY IN A SCIENCE FICTIONAL UNIVERSE last year; that is unchanged.)

Now, as to why I reviewed it again?  It’s a good book that makes me laugh and think — rare, that combination — and it’s about to come out in trade paperback (meaning it’ll be a little cheaper to buy — $11 versus $16 or thereabouts).

So if you somehow missed this book last year, and you like SF, philosophy, and humor — because philosophy doesn’t have to be dry as dust nor boring as Hell — you will love Charles Yu’s book.

Check out the review at:

Written by Barb Caffrey

June 15, 2011 at 7:54 pm

Posted in Book reviews

Periodic state of the Elfyverse Update

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Folks, tonight’s update will be short and sweet — the state of the Elfyverse is as follows:

300,000 + words on AN ELFY ABROAD (ELFY sequel; this book will be split down the line, once I have a good ending — I’m about 8 chapters from the end there).  Working on part 46 (revision) and part 47 (first draft) at this time.

45,000 + words on KEISHA’S VOW (ELFY prequel set in 1954) — working on part 31 (revision) at this time.

Considering a new beginning — the same events, but told differently and more directly — for ELFY.  Still in the planning stages.  ELFY remains at just under 240,000 words and may well be split down the line.

Otherwise, as far as writing goes — got a new poem completed, which I’ll sit on for a few days before asking my first readers to take a good look at that (and one other I wrote a while back about observing the judicial recount).  Looked over KEISHA’S VOW last night (revised for over three hours).   Have a short story idea or two in process . . . 1/2 of the fourth “Columba” story has been written (though it’s in first draft form, so there’s a lot of work left to go there) . . . and, finally, another “Joey Maverick” story is in the works, but so far it’s more planning than actual writing going on.  (I’ll have to write almost all of this one, then retrofit what I can from Michael’s novel MAVERICK, LIEUTENANT, to fit.)

Because the last two stories were Michael’s — I’m doing my best to finish them (there was a bit of a start for the fourth “Columba” story, but that’s all — less than 2K words were there, almost all of which come _later_ in the story than I have written; I have about 5K words written there) — it takes more energy and effort to complete them.  But I know I can’t leave these stories be; when I get an idea there, I like to write it down and do what I can with it when the energy and time are available. 

I realize I cannot bring back my husband this way, but at least the worlds he created remain alive so long as I keep trying — no matter how long it takes.

That’s about it, writing-wise, though I’m also hoping to re-start another novel that’s post-Civil War steampunk (with Fae elements).

In other words, I still have plenty of projects, which is just as well — it’ll keep me from being bored.

Written by Barb Caffrey

June 11, 2011 at 10:18 pm

Posted in Elfy, Elfyverse, Writing