Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Archive for November 2011

Just Reviewed two “Wheel of Time” books at SBR

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Folks, I reviewed THE GATHERING STORM and TOWERS OF MIDNIGHT, both written by Robert Jordan (and continued by Brandon Sanderson after Jordan’s death in 2007) this evening at Shiny Book Review.

Take a gander:

Here’s the upshot: Sanderson writes very well.  I enjoyed what he did, and think he did an excellent job — I know how hard this is because I’m trying to finish Michael’s novels and he wrote in a completely different style from me.  (When he helped me with my novel, ELFY, Michael wrote in my style.  Writing in Michael’s style is much tougher for me than Michael writing in mine was for him, apparently, as it doesn’t come naturally.  I leave it up to the reader as to whether or not Michael was more advanced as a writer/editor at the time of his death, though I know I think he was.)

Both books are good.  I liked TOWERS OF MIDNIGHT better.  I think that book was more humane and made more sense.  But both are good and if you’ve read the previous eleven books in the WoT series, you will enjoy them.  (But if you haven’t, please go out and read the first eleven or you will be hopelessly lost.)

Written by Barb Caffrey

November 30, 2011 at 11:03 pm

Posted in Book reviews

Part 22 of “Changing Faces” in progress

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Folks, I take my victories where I see ’em. And writing CHANGING FACES is definitely one of those, because I’ve persisted writing this novel over the past ten years.  It’s gone through revisions, the death of my husband Michael, and now the death of my best friend, Jeff . . . and yet I persevere.

I hope that once I am finally done with this MSS, it will find its audience; I may have to self-publish it but I will try it, first, at a few places as it’s, in essence, a Christian-derived fantasy romance.  Not my usual thing, and of course it has some New Age sentiment in it — but there’s nothing in it that is inaccessible, either.

I can also only hope that both Michael and Jeff, who were big fans of my writing in general and CHANGING FACES in particular (both wanted to see this finished and published in their lifetimes), will be happy with the final result.  I know they’d be happy with me continuing onward, though I can’t do anything but that and be me . . . at any rate, getting a thousand words of writing in tonight into the next chapter (part 22) of this work is something to celebrate.

So let the happy dance commence.

Written by Barb Caffrey

November 30, 2011 at 2:25 am

Posted in Writing

Walker Recall Petitions hit 300,000 Sigs . . . Walker Recall Petitioners Harassed in Racine

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With the statewide Wisconsin recalls of Governor Scott Walker (R), Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch (R), and our local recall of district 21 Senator Van Wanggaard (R), have come problems.  But first, the good news . . . statewide organizers from and the Democratic Party (two separate things) have both reported that over 300,000 recall signatures have been gathered in the first twelve days.

As the story from the Racine Journal-Times says:

People have signed the recall petitions at the rate of about 1,040 per hour, according to United Wisconsin. The group says signatures have been collected from people in all 72 counties in Wisconsin, including:

• 10,033 residents from Columbia County.

• 4,713 in Pierce County.

• 3,698 in Oneida County.

• 16,845 in Eau Claire and Chippewa counties.

• 8,540 in Portage County.

Racine County numbers were not available.

Now, note these numbers; Racine County is more populous than any of those other counties.  Also, all of those counties are known as Republican-leaning or heavily Republican districts . . . which is bad news for Scott Walker and his backers, for sure.

This may be why recall advocates and petitioners, even in Racine County, are now having trouble with people harassing them, stealing signs, and in one case even driving straight at a crowd of people attempting to gather signatures.  (See this story from the Racine Journal-Times for further details.)  As Kelly Gallagher said in the recent Journal-Times article:

Kelly Gallaher, the organizer for the local progressive group Community for Change, said when she was with a group of people on Friday near a laundromat by River Run Family Restaurant, 3616 Northwestern Ave., someone sped directly at a group of organizers. People ran out of the way, she said. “It was that close,” Gallaher said.

Also on Saturday, a driver deliberately backed his vehicle toward people collecting signatures outside All Sports Pub, 3458 Rapids Drive, Gallaher said. That same day, Gallaher said someone threw a big glass of soda or some other drink at a man collecting signatures outside the Social Security Office, 4020 Durand Ave.

“It’s concerning,” Gallaher said. “My biggest fear is that someone is going to get hurt.”

And what have the local Republican Party folks done about this?  Not a whole lot.  While condemning incidents like this (without admitting they actually have happened, mind you), Racine Republican Party Chairman Bill Folk was more concerned about the recall petitioners getting signatures outside local businesses.  From the Journal-Times article (the same one that quoted Gallagher):

While Folk has not heard directly about people harassing people collecting recall signatures, he said he has heard complaints about people collecting signatures on property where they shouldn’t be, which concerns him.

“If they are not getting permission from the business owners, it’s exposing the business owners to a political segment they may or may not agree with,” Folk said. “They are putting a business owner in an awkward situation politically.”

Of course, Gallagher pointed out that at the three businesses she knew of where inappropriate and scary things had happened, the recall petitioners did have permission to be there.   So this was just another attempt by Folk and his Republican colleagues to divert attention from what’s really going on — and that’s sad.

Now, as for some commentary from the peanut gallery (or at least me):
Because I am left-leaning, politically, that doesn’t mean I have lost my right to free speech.  As Lieutenant Gary Larsen of the Caledonia Police Department said in the Journal-Times article, you must leave people’s stuff alone if it’s on their property.  And you certainly don’t have the right to drive at a bunch of protestors to “scatter” them — you could hurt someone badly by doing this.
I have always advocated that anyone, providing he or she is peacefully going about his or her business, has a right to protest.  I don’t care if it’s the TEA Party or if it’s Occupy Wall Street or if it’s the Walker/Kleefisch/Wanggaard recall petitioners; we all have a right to peacefully protest without having things thrown at us or without having someone aim a car at us for trying to exercise our rights of free speech and freedom of assembly under the United States Constitution.
See, this is what we’ve endured in Wisconsin since the Scott Walker administration got into power in January of 2011.  This is why many people of all stripes — all creeds, sects, nationalities, genders, and political persuasions — want Walker and his Republican allies, including Van Wanggaard, out.
And it’s definitely why I want them out.  Which is why I’m once again exercising my right to free speech under the U.S. Constitution by pointing out that what’s happened to the petitioners is wrong.  It is shameful.  It should not be allowed to stand.
Recall Walker.  Recall Kleefisch.  Recall Wanggaard.  And for the love of God/dess and little green apples, stop harassing the recall petitioners.

Written by Barb Caffrey

November 29, 2011 at 10:16 pm

Just Reviewed “Beauty and the Werewolf” at SBR

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Folks, if you’re looking for a fun, fast romantic fantasy that loves turning “the Tradition” of fairy tales on its ear, you will really enjoy Mercedes Lackey’s BEAUTY AND THE WEREWOLF.  Here’s the link to my review:

Now, as to what else to say about it?  Well, I loved the characterization, and I appreciated how the plot enhanced this rather than the reverse.  That the characterization flowed out naturally and that the romance was an extremely believable one (where the two characters had to get to know each other as friends, first, and only then did they realize they were attracted to one another) was just an added bonus.

Very good story.  Enjoyable plot.  A good way to spend two or three hours.  And I would gladly re-read this one again, which is why I gave it an A-.  (There are a few things I would’ve liked to see here that I didn’t, mostly having to do with the bad-guy character, Eric.  But they were minor quibbles, at most.)

Enjoy the review!

Written by Barb Caffrey

November 26, 2011 at 9:16 pm

Post-holiday illness

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Right now I’m more sick than well.  I seem to have the flu, or something close to it . . . all I was able to do last night, writing-wise, is open up my current work-in-progress, CHANGING FACES, and look at it.  (Sometimes that will prompt something; sometimes, not.)  Which is better than nothing, of course, but not what I wanted.

I did practice my saxophone today for about forty-five or fifty minutes, so that’s something positive.

Otherwise, I finished up the book I’ll be reviewing for Shiny Book Review tomorrow, Mercedes Lackey’s BEAUTY AND THE WEREWOLF, re-read one of my all-time favorite books, Rosemary Edghill’s TWO OF A KIND (more people should write like Rosemary does; she can write any genre, any style, anything at all and does it with flair), and am now working my way through Rosemary’s ILL-BRED BRIDE (another fine book).

Now, you might be wondering how I can read anything while I feel so lousy, or practice my saxophone, either.  This is partly because I have to do something that makes me feel better; right now, I am grieving the loss of my very good friend, Jeff Wilson, and yet I know he’d not want me to cry all day long.  (Sometimes I do cry for a while, but it passes.)  That’s not what he was about; he was about doing whatever it took to feel better, and books often helped him feel better when he was down.  So reading, in a strange way, is honoring his memory — and as it also honors my late husband Michael’s memory (who was the same way Jeff was in this regard), it’s a doubled blessing.

So, I read a bit, I practiced a bit, and now Mom and I are watching a movie, LEAP YEAR, a comedy starring Amy Adams as a control freak wanting to get married.  (I have yet to see or hear any man who could put up with someone drawn the way Adams has been in real life, but I suppose it could happen.  We all have our quirks.)  And later, I’ll read a bit more, try to write some music, and maybe some words will come to me also . . . hey, it could happen.

More tomorrow, one way or another . . . though right now, saying that reminds me of the Shakespearean quote (from “Macbeth”), “Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow, creeps in its petty pace from day to day . . . . “

Written by Barb Caffrey

November 25, 2011 at 10:07 pm

Posted in Writing

WI Rs sue to put Recalls in “New” Districts: Ds countersue

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Folks, this takes the cake.

I live in Wisconsin — more specifically, I live in District 21, which is comprised of the City of Racine and most of Racine County.  We are recalling our state Senator, Van Wanggaard, who was voted into office in 2010, took office in January of 2011, and has served as my state Senator for eleven months.

However, the state’s Republican Party has decided that the recall of Wanggaard should be held in the “new” District 21 — which is comprised of the vast majority of Racine County and Kenosha County, while the cities of Racine and Kenosha are lumped together into the “new” District 22.  There is a federal lawsuit that is pending in this case, because the “new” map amounts to gerrymandering on the part of the Republicans — most particularly with regards to Van Wanggaard’s district.**

Or, to be more blunt, Wanggaard is helped more by this new map than is any other candidate facing a recall election — the other three Senators facing recall at this time are Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau), Pam Galloway (R-Wausau), and Terry Moulton (R-Chippewa Falls) — and that’s the main reason why the Rs want the “new” map rather than the old one in place.

See this link for further details:

A relevant quote from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel article referenced above:

A group of Republicans has asked the state Supreme Court to require any recall elections for state legislators to be conducted in new districts, a move that would favor their party.

Republicans who control the Legislature drew new legislative and congressional maps this year to account for changes in population, and they explicitly wrote in the law that the maps were not to take effect for elections until November 2012.

Now, Democrats are trying to recall four Republican state senators, and Republicans want any recall elections to be held in the new districts, which would make it easier for them to hold onto their 17-16 Senate majority.

Going on, this article points out that the new R plaintiffs are being represented by Michael Best & Friedrich — or as the Journal-Sentinel puts it:

. . . the same firm that helped GOP lawmakers draw the maps and write the law that said they were not to go into effect until November 2012. In all, taxpayers paid $400,000 to Michael Best and the Troupis Law Office for their work on the maps.

So, did you catch all that?  The Rs are trying to “have their cake and eat it too” by filing this lawsuit, and are doing so under the auspices of the people who made up the terrible maps (that are now in litigation) in the first place.

I view it this way, folks: my own District 21 voted Wanggaard into office in 2010.  We are the only people who should have the right to recall and/or retain him — not the people in the “new,” largely ruralized District 21 that may or may not ever come to be (as there are some really big problems with that map).  And we are the ones who should make this choice — no one else.

For the Wisconsin Republican Party to do something like this isn’t just disingenuous.  It’s downright disgraceful. 

Because think about it, just for one moment; if the Rs were that confident in themselves, or their message, why would they be resorting to political trickery like this? 

Short answer?  They wouldn’t.

This is yet another reason why we must recall and replace Van Wanggaard.  Because if he were an honest and ethical person, he’d not want this lawsuit; instead, he just wants to hold on to his job.  And that’s just not a good enough reason to be a Senator to my mind — not at all.

Instead, this lawsuit is yet another reason as to why I keep saying, “Throw the Wisconsin Rs out!”  (Or if you use Twitter, the shorthand form #ThrowWIRsOut works quite nicely, too.)


** Thus far, there are at least two lawsuits in progress.  One was started by the Latino advocates Voces de la Frontera, and is a federal lawsuit.  And the Ds have vowed to countersue in both state and federal court over these “new” maps . . . all I know is, most of the time in WI, the only way maps get drawn is by impartial observers to do it because the process is just too contentious, else.  That’s why I am for a similar process to the one used by the state of Iowa, where the political theatre is absent and the work gets done without all this sturm und drang.

Author Anne McCaffrey, 85, has died

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Just a quick note to express my condolences to the family of author Anne McCaffrey, who passed away today at the age of 85.  Ms. McCaffrey was world-renowned for her Dragonriders of Pern series and published in the fields of science fiction, fantasy, romance, science fiction/romance and the “blended” field of speculative fiction that mostly contained her best-known and best-loved series, the aforementioned Dragonriders of Pern.

I never met Ms. McCaffrey, save through her books, but I always felt like reading one of her books was like greeting a long-lost friend.  Some of my favorites included the novella NERILKA’S STORY, the first three books in the Dragonriders of Pern Series (those being DRAGONFLIGHT, DRAGONQUEST, and THE WHITE DRAGON), and the Harper Hall trilogy DRAGONSONG, DRAGONSINGER, and DRAGONDRUMS.

She will be greatly missed.

Written by Barb Caffrey

November 23, 2011 at 10:52 pm

Just Reviewed “The Spiritual Brain” at SBR

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Folks, I was impressed with Mario Beauregard and Denyse O’Leary’s THE SPIRITUAL BRAIN: A NONMATERIALIST’S LOOK AT NEUROSCIENCE.  Authors Beauregard (the neuroscientist) and O’Leary (the journalist) have created an engaging, thought-provoking book that deals with what they call RSMEs — Religious, Mystical, and/or Spiritual Experiences.  They also excoriate promissory materialism and all its works, and point out that many scientists, not to put too fine a point on it, worship at the altar of Science — leaving much room for doubt with regards to their worldview completely out.

Anyway, here’s a link for y’all:

Have at!

Written by Barb Caffrey

November 23, 2011 at 10:38 pm

Posted in Book reviews

Migraine today . . . and Story Ideas

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Folks, I suffer from migraines, as my late husband Michael also did . . . and what I’ve found over time is that out of my migraine-induced haze, I often get some really interesting story ideas out of it.

Take ELFY, for example.  I had been reading an anthology the night before and someone had been describing the worst of the urban fantasy genre — the mincing Faeries that seemed like human courtiers rather than anything alien or Other, that humans always outwitted these lesser-minded sorts, and so on and so forth — and all of that mixed up in my mind while under the influence of my migraine.

The next day (or maybe evening), I realized I had a character in my head: Bruno the Elfy.  He liked to wear black, unlike his compatriots who wore all sorts of wild colors; he didn’t like to rhyme, unlike the rest of the Elfys.  And he was stuck in the Human Realm — our Earth — because he’d been told one thing but the truth was something else again.  Unraveling what the truth was took me a good year’s worth of work and a whole lot of conversations and editing done by my late husband and co-conspirator, Michael, before we had a completed book.

So even though I really don’t enjoy migraines, I do sometimes receive ideas of worth and value . . . and I look at it like this: make lemonade from whatever lemons you might be handed, if at all possible.  (Sometimes it’s not.)

At any rate, am I all alone in this phenomenon?  Or has anyone else come up with a good story idea or two on the way back out of a migraine headache?

Written by Barb Caffrey

November 20, 2011 at 11:07 pm

Jeff’s Memorial Service, and Why I Can’t Go

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Folks, this is a terrible thing.  I’ve been struggling all week with the fact that my friend Jeff Wilson is dead, that I’ll never be able to help him again, that I’ll never hear his voice again . . . and now, I can’t go to his memorial service, either.

The problem is very simple: the money isn’t there.  I really want to go.  I feel terrible that I can’t go.  I want to be around people who knew Jeff at least a little bit — people who will understand why I feel so awful that he’s gone in a way my family can’t, my friends can’t (except for the very few who knew Jeff at all) — and it’s not going to happen without a major miracle (like winning $500 tonight in the state lottery; while I do have a ticket — I always played my numbers when Michael was alive, and I’ve continued to play them — I know how unlikely it is that I’ll win just the amount needed to go to Colorado at the absolute last minute).

Now, I suppose a major miracle is still possible and if so, I will be glad to come back here and say that if it happens.  I know I prayed all week and hoped that somehow, in some way, I’d be able to get to Jeff’s memorial.  But it’s in Colorado; I live in Wisconsin, and that’s the only reason I hadn’t already found a way to get out there and visit Jeff during the last five weeks of his life — while he fought a major medical crisis, looked to all concerned as if he’d turned the corner, was getting better and was sent to a nursing home for long-term rehabilitation and care — and then he died.

I know that Jeff wouldn’t care where I mourn him.  That’s not the point.  The point is that I wanted to be there so others who didn’t see Jeff in the same way I did would know to look for his good qualities.  As I’d said before, Jeff’s personal situation was far less than stellar.  Some people only view life in materialistic terms and don’t see that a life well-lived, where there’s a great deal of personal growth going on and a deeply spiritual outlook to boot, is one that’s worth living.

Jeff was poor in material things, except for books and his cats.  But he was rich in everything else.  That’s why I wanted to be there, so I could counter some of the materialism I was likely to find at his memorial service; Jeff wasn’t someone who had a big career or job or any money at all, but he was a wonderful person.

At any rate, I will never forget Jeff Wilson.  Never.  And I guess that’ll have to be enough for me, even though it surely doesn’t feel like it right now.


Edited to add:  Jeff’s memorial service has been called for 3 p.m. on Monday in Fort Collins, CO.  He will be cremated, which was his wish . . . and the memorial service is to be held on what would’ve been Jeff’s 48th birthday.  That’s yet another reason why I wanted to go, even though I have a plethora of reasons as it is.  (As I’m sure you saw.)

Written by Barb Caffrey

November 19, 2011 at 9:58 pm