Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Archive for October 31st, 2011

Totally Unnecessary: House Will Vote on “In God We Trust” as Official US Motto

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I’m sorry; I thought I’d seen it all from this bunch of do-nothings we currently have in the United States Congress, but now they’ve topped themselves.

Tomorrow, they will be voting to “re-affirm” the “In God We Trust” motto in the United States House of Representatives.  Really.

Which begs the following question: do we really need to have this vote, considering all the real problems that this Congress isn’t facing?

See this article from Raw Story, if you don’t believe me . . . this is just absolutely, totally nonsensical, and probably the worst action I’ve yet seen out of this bunch of yahoos that are currently wasting our money and time in the House of Reps.

How can Speaker of the House John Boehner have the nerve to schedule a vote on “In God We Trust,” of all things?  “In God We Trust” has been our official motto since 1956, so this vote isn’t even original legislation — so what on Earth is the justification for it, except for the Republicans to point out to voters the many Democrats out there who will vote “no” on it (as they should as it’s an unnecessary time-waster).  Then these self-same Rs will tell voters, “Oh, no!  Those Dems don’t believe in God!  See?  They voted against ‘In God We Trust’ — aren’t they bad, evil, and vicious people?  They must go!”

There are people who are genuinely hurting in this country — many, many people.  Yet this is the best the House can do for anyone?

I’d not care about this sort of petty-politicking so much except we have genuine anger out here, for good reason.  (See the “Occupy” movement for further details.)  We have a national unemployment figure standing firm at 9% or more, with some areas (including my own) way above that.   There are many real problems in the United States that this Congress won’t do anything about.  Instead, they’d rather waste our time with garbage like this.

No wonder so many of us are in a “throw the bums out” mood, considering our elected leaders (starting with Boehner and moving on down) would rather play stupid power-games than actually legislate and do their jobs.

My Take on Hallowe’en DWTS Episode

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Well, Chaz Bono is gone, but in my opinion, “Dancing with the Stars” could’ve used him and his partner, Lacey Schwimmer tonight during their Hallowe’en episode.  They would’ve been a great help, as they always brought the entertainment first, last, and always.

This was a Hallowe’en episode, so the hair and make-up and song choices all reflected that, with the song choices actually hindering several couples.  Still, it was a show that mostly entertained, with a few really low spots.

Here we go, first with the “solo” dances (as two group dances followed at the end of the show):

David Arquette and Kym Johnson:  He did OK.  Arquette is a bit manic for my tastes and he got ahead of his choreography; if he were a musician, I’d tell him he was rushing and to stay behind the beat rather than in front of it.  (Johnson, of course, was great, as she always is.)  ** Edited to add: Score was a 24.

Rob Kardashian and Cheryl Burke:  Surprisingly good tango, though they drew a fairly easy song for it, the theme song for “The Addams’ Family.”   Kardashian’s form was good and he stayed in character.  (Burke, of course, was wonderful, as she always is.)  They scored a 25.

Derek Hough and Ricki Lake:  They danced a paso doble to the song “Dream (or a Beautiful Nightmare),” and the choreography was excellent.  (Hough’s always is.)  Lake is hurt, and it showed; Hough did a lot of dancing around her.  They were given a 27, the best score of the night for the solo dances, which probably was deserved as no one really danced up to his or her potential.

Maksim Chmerikovskiy and Hope Solo: Danced a samba, of all things, to “Werewolves of London.”  Decent samba.  Solo looked more relaxed this week; she was helped in rehearsal by one of the “Troupe” dancers, Teddy (he often dances on Tuesday evenings with other pro dancers) because Chmerikovskiy has a broken toe.  (Note that I enjoyed Bono and Schwimmer’s samba much better than this, and yet this got a better score.)  They scored a 24.

Nancy Grace and Tristan MacManus:  They drew an impossible song, “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.”  They had to try to do a jive.  Grace is OK with a slower tempo in most disciplines, but her jive was really awful.  It scored a 21, which was far too high; really, it deserved something like a 15.  (MacManus was cute, and competent, and I enjoyed watching him.  He does not out-dance his partner and tries hard to showcase her.  May he be back next season with someone who has more dancing talent than Grace.)

J.R. Martinez and Karina Smirnoff:  They had the nearly impossible task of dancing a tango, of all things, to the “Ghostbusters” theme.  Smirnoff’s choreography was inventive, but Martinez didn’t look right as he danced — his back was out of position, I think, and his legs were too bent.  That said, he still danced better than any of the non-pros this evening and did more actual work than anyone else, too . . . they scored a 25, and were underscored.

Next, it was time for the team dances.  First, they had to pick teams; “Team Tango,” which featured Martinez and Smirnoff, picked Grace/Rogers and Arquette/Johnson.  The team choreography here was really good — better than I’ve seen in many a season for these team dances — but every solo was a bit off.  (Martinez, again, was the best of the three, by a lot.)  Arquette rushed, again, and was visibly ahead of Johnson most of the way.  Grace looked better at this than she did in the jive even though she’s not yet danced a tango, and may not if she goes home tomorrow as she should (being the weakest celebrity dancer left).  They scored a 23, which was added to the individual scores for all three couples.

Then, there was “Team Paso,” which was led by Lake and Hough.  Hough actually did the picking here, and chose Solo/Chmerikovskiy (to avoid Chmerikovskiy having to dance with Smirnoff, his ex-fiancée) and Kardashian/Burke.  Solo, predictably, had trouble learning the choreography, and Hough stepped in to help her learn it when Chmerikovskiy was too frustrated to teach it to her.  (This was one of the few times in quite a number of seasons that I’ve seen Hough do anything of the sort.  Solo learned it when Hough taught it to her; this makes me think at least some of why Hough has such a high opinion of himself is due to knowing he has great skill in teaching and choreographing — which indeed is the case, though I wish he could be a little humbler about it.)  The individual routines here were the highlight; all three couples did their best in those (Kardashian looked a bit lost, but up against two pros like Hough and Chmerikovkiy, that means Kardashian actually did very well and the judges knew it; they even said so), though to be fair, I don’t think these dances between the pairs were as difficult for both partners (in the tango, both partners must dance well or it looks awful; in the paso, only one partner — the male — must dance well or it looks awful).  This dance scored a 26, which was added to each individual dance team’s total.

My predictions for definitely safe:  Martinez and Lake

Probably safe:  Kardashian and Arquette

My predictions for bottom two: Grace and Solo, though Arquette, if he lands in the B2, probably goes home as it seems to me he has a lesser fanbase than either Grace or Solo.

Written by Barb Caffrey

October 31, 2011 at 9:52 pm

The Writing Life — and a “Changing Faces” Update

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Folks, once again, I had a promising story bounce out of a market.  I have tried this particular story, “Sounds of Nightfall,” at every major market and most of the minor markets . . . sometimes it gets good comments, and other times, it has drawn a “huh?” reaction.

Anyway, I’d found a jazz magazine that does a short fiction contest, so I decided to try “Sounds” there, as it’s about a jazz musician who’s been helped by the spirits of two deceased saxophonists — Charlie Parker and Art Pepper — and I hoped for the best.

Unfortunately, it didn’t win a prize there — they have first, second, and third prizes available — and it bounced out after about a month and a half.

I write urban fantasy, mostly.  (Every once in a while, I surprise myself and write space opera.  Or even hard SF, when I can wrap my mind around the concepts.)  This was a story that was in the queue for the magazine Dreams of Decadence when it suddenly went under about a year ago; that’s probably as close as “Sounds” has been to actually getting published.

I’m starting to think that I should put together a bunch of my short stories that have drawn good comments, or, “I nearly bought this, but . . . ” types of things, and put them at SmashWords and at  I don’t know how well they’d sell, of course, but at least they’d be out there and off my computer.

See, this is how the economy affects writers.   Mainstream magazines, even in the SF/F genre, have to be cognizant of the “bottom line” — how much profit, or at least as little of a loss as possible, can they make during this economic downturn?  With the digital realm affecting print magazines in various ways, that means there are more markets available than before — but most do not pay very much.  And all of them want to find people who have sales, and a following, and/or have gifts of self-promotion if at all possible, all in order to drive sales and page-views.

Now, this is perfectly understandable from an economic perspective, but it hurts newer writers — or unknown ones, like me — because we don’t necessarily have names.  We don’t necessarily have enough of a Web presence to drive page-views.  All we have are good stories that we want people to read, and sometimes, that doesn’t seem to be enough.  (But I shall persevere.)

So that’s about it, as far as a short story update; a few stories and one poem are out at various markets — and I did get a story into the Writers of the Future contest last quarter, for whatever that’s worth — but my main strengths as a writer tend to come out when I’m writing novels, not short fiction.   That’s why I work on my novels more, even though they take more time and thought to write . . . but I also work on the shorter forms (short story, novelette, novella) because I want to master them, too.  (We’ll see how long that takes, or if I ever get there.)

My general advice for other writers is this: go out there and write whatever you can.  Then try to sell it — is one of the best places to go to find markets, while is another good one (both are free, but take donations if you’re able to help them out) — however you can.  Some of my fellow writers have discussed how they use spreadsheets; they mark off which magazines they’ve tried, and when, and where, so if you find this a useful tool, go for it.  And don’t let rejection get you down; just keep trying, because you never know when someone’s going to like your work.

As for the “Changing Faces” update, I’m happy to report I managed about 1800 words (the first words written on this project, at all, since last year sometime) and believe I have a good starting point for chapter 20.  We’ll see how it goes, but I’m cautiously optimistic at this time.

Figure it this way: if I get any words in during this time of great stress (with the bad economy, many personal issues including the ill health of my very good friend Jeff, and other things), I’m ahead of the game.  Which is why when I turn on my computer later tonight, and see what else I can get with regards to this MSS, I hope to be able to better develop the nascent “I think I know what’s next” feeling and get it actually down on the page.  (Here’s hoping.)

Written by Barb Caffrey

October 31, 2011 at 7:14 pm

Posted in The Economy, Writing