Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Archive for March 2012

Just reviewed Jasper Fforde’s “Shades of Grey” at SBR

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Folks, if you are looking for a good novel of the dystopian sort, one that’s set in a world I’ve never seen before (except when looking into a mirror, dimly), you should go pick up a copy of Jasper Fforde’s SHADES OF GREY.  It’s a very fine novel of the satirical, dystopian sort; it features the disquietingly mundane Eddie Russet, and his struggles to figure out what he’s for, what his society is all about, and what he wants to do with himself, all in a world that seemingly has gone stark, raving mad.

Here’s the link:



Written by Barb Caffrey

March 22, 2012 at 6:19 pm

Three Judge Federal Panel Rules; Only Assembly Districts 8 and 9 Must be Re-Drawn

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Folks, I am disgusted.  After all the extra time the three-judge federal panel took — and all the really strong language the judges used in their past rulings — the only two districts the judges want re-drawn are those of Assembly Districts 8 and 9 — which are in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  All of the other problems with the districts, while “unnecessarily secretive” according to the judges, do not qualify for a judicial (legal) remedy — so we’re stuck with horrible districts, thanks to the Wisconsin Republicans who controlled all three branches of government throughout 2010.

(Thanks a lot, WI Rs.  Really.)

Here’s a link to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel story:

Here’s a quote from the judge’s ruling, quoted in the same MJS article:

The judges – two appointed by Republican presidents and one appointed by a Democratic president – said the maps were clearly motivated by partisanship, and contrasted that with the almost even divide in the state between Republicans and Democrats.

“Regrettably, like many other states, Wisconsin chose a sharply partisan methodology that has cost the state in dollars, time and civility,” the court said. “Nevertheless, our task is to assess the legality of the outcome, not whether it lived up to any particular ideal.”

This also means that the people who’ve been moved from one state Senate district to another, where the Senator is an incumbent, may end up having to wait six years to vote for their new Senator due to the way the WI Rs re-did these maps.  The judges, while they obviously don’t like this problem, have said in their above comments that this isn’t something they can fix.

While many of the high-profile Dems now want the entire map-process to be re-done, there isn’t any wherewithal in Madison to do such a thing; the judges didn’t require it (all they required, as I said before, is that Assembly Districts 8 and 9 must be re-drawn), and as the Assembly is still solid red, nothing is going to get done.  The state Senate, even though at the moment is split 16-16 due to the recent retirement of Senator Pam Galloway (R-Wausau), also doesn’t have enough oomph behind it to force the Rs to come to the table for the other districts; all they can do is fix Assembly Districts 8 and 9.  That’s it.

And as you might imagine, the Wisconsin Rs are crowing today about their “big victory.”  Scott Fitzgerald, who was on WTMJ-AM 620 in Milwaukee this afternoon, was almost oozing satisfaction as he said that the Rs “had done nothing wrong.”  (This is my best paraphrase of what Fitzgerald actually said; he went on and on for at least five minutes talking about how wonderful these maps are, how they’re not gerrymandering — please!, etc.  These were unctuous self-serving platitudes, and certainly didn’t make me think this process has been completed by any means.)

So that’s it; many people are still in districts they don’t understand, didn’t want, and don’t even know who their new legislators are going to be.  Many others who hold seats now either have to move districts (like Robert Turner, who will run in district 66 though he’s been the sitting district 61 Assemblyman for many years) or have to acquaint themselves with their newly-drawn one (Cory Mason from Racine is in this situation; he only has 10% of his original district after the new maps were fundamentally approved today by the federal judges), then get to know their new constituents in a big hurry.

And the judges’ decision left intact one of the biggest problems I’ve seen all along — that is, how the maps were drawn to benefit three sitting state Republican Senators, including my own Van Wanggaard.  District 21, where I now reside, has been re-drawn to include the rural parts of Racine and Kenosha Counties, which for the most part tend to vote Republican.  District 22, which I will now be in, has most of the Cities of Racine and Kenosha, which tend to vote for Democrats.  This means rather than two competitive districts, there will now be one district tilted heavily toward Democrats, and one district tilted heavily toward Republicans; I am not in favor of such a thing even though I strongly approve of District 22’s Senator, Bob Wirch (to the point that I worked to help him withstand recall last summer).

At any rate, I was hoping the judges would see this was wrong and do something about it.  They appear to have seen that it’s wrong, but decided that they couldn’t do anything about it.  What a sad, sad day in Southeastern Wisconsin . . . and what disgust I have for just about every last one of the Republican legislators — at least, for every one of them who signed a “non-disclosure” agreement which kept the public out of the redistricting process, as that was strongly against Wisconsin’s history of open and transparent government.

In other words: we in Wisconsin look like a bunch of ignorant hicks, mostly because of a bunch of jumped-up Republicans in the WI Legislature.  And we now can’t fix their mess until 2020, minimum — why should I be happy about this?  And why should any Wisconsin voter, as we’ve been shafted twice now — once by the Rs, and now by the courts?


Written by Barb Caffrey

March 22, 2012 at 5:29 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Still Waiting for Federal Judges’ Ruling in WI Redistricting Lawsuit

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Believe it or not, folks, the three-judge federal panel has still not come out with a ruling on the Wisconsin redistricting case.  The longer they stay out, the more complex things are likely to get; right now, candidates must register to run in the proposed new districts by early April, but if the judges’ ruling says that the redistricting done by the Wisconsin GOP legislators is unconstitutional, all bets are off regarding candidates, their districts, and filing for elections in the fall.

So every day the federal judges delay their ruling is another day that the legislators have to wonder, “Which seat am I supposed to run for again?”

This isn’t a trivial issue, folks; using my own Assembly district as a model, right now I am in district 61.  My Assemblyman is Robert Turner, a highly respected legislator — and a Democrat.  But the re-districting “drew” me into a new map; I’m now in district 66.  Robert Turner says that is now going to be his district (providing the maps hold up), per his office’s correspondence; you can see where this could be a major problem, considering how many districts got changed (including the district numbering), right?

I haven’t a clue what most of the legislators plan to do if the new proposed district maps get struck down by the federal judges; I do know that if the judges uphold the maps, there will be likely be further lawsuits, which will further cloud the issue. 

Of course, if the judges strike down the new districts, the Wisconsin GOP is very likely to immediately appeal to the United States Supreme Court, which is bound by law to take the case in an expedited fashion.  So either way, it seems to me the federal judges lose — but the Wisconsin voters, like me, lose even more.

As always, I’ll keep you posted.

Written by Barb Caffrey

March 20, 2012 at 11:30 pm

Just Reviewed Michaele Jordan’s “Mirror Maze” at SBR

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Folks, if you are looking for an exceptional dark fantasy by a new and major talent, look no further than Michaele Jordan’s MIRROR MAZEMIRROR MAZE is an excellent Victorian-era “erotic romance” that combines historical accuracy, romantic depth, excellent characterizations, and a superb plot into one highly compelling narrative.  This is Jordan’s debut novel, and you’d never know it by her skill.

This is really great stuff, so go read my review, available here  — then go grab a copy of her book, MIRROR MAZE.

Written by Barb Caffrey

March 17, 2012 at 10:43 pm

Posted in Book reviews

UAB Fires Coach Mike Davis

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Competitive sports are all about one thing, and one thing only: “What have you done for me lately?”  Otherwise, 2011’s Conference USA’s Men’s Basketball Coach of the Year, Mike Davis, would not be looking for a job.

The Associated Press (according to Yahoo Sports) is reporting that University of Alabama-Birmingham has fired their head coach — Mike Davis — despite UAB winning 20 games last season and going to the NCAA tournament for the first time in UAB’s history.  But here seems to be the reason why, according to AP sports writer John Zenor:

A heavily depleted UAB team fell to 15-16 last season and lost six of its first seven games. The Blazers posted the same record in Davis’s first season, but followed that up with 23 victories to start the program’s first four-year run of 20-win seasons.

Zenor goes on to say that UAB returned only two starters from its 2010-11 squad; no other returning player averaged more than 3.9 points per game.  This makes it sound as if Davis was in a no-win scenario; he had a predominantly young team with little experience, and he knew he’d have a down year.  That UAB went 15-16 — one game below .500 — is a credit to Davis under the circumstances.

But Davis’s firing is odd in another sense; it seems that Davis is very well-known in Alabama.  Also from Zenor’s article (referenced above):

Davis, a Fayette, Ala., native, was the state’s Mr. Basketball and then played for the University of Alabama, where he was known for his tough, scrappy defense.

And then, this is the second time Davis has been fired by a major university for what seems to be questionable reasons; he famously took over at Indiana University after Bobby Knight, and spent six years as IU’s head coach under incredibly trying circumstances.

Davis had one year remaining on his $625,000 a year contract; his record as UAB’s head coach stands at 122 wins and 73 losses, which shows that overall, he was an outstanding coach for UAB.

I am sure Davis will find another job, but I have to say that UAB’s decision here doesn’t make much sense.  I doubt anyone would’ve done any better than Davis did with the players he had, and most would’ve done a great deal worse.

With regards to UAB’s perplexing decision, the only thing that comes to mind is the truism that “coaches are hired, only to be fired.”  And considering all Davis did for UAB’s basketball program, that is just not right.

Written by Barb Caffrey

March 16, 2012 at 4:41 pm

Periodic State of the Elfyverse (2012 Version)

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Folks, I just realized I hadn’t given a status update regarding the Elfyverse in a while — for shame.  So, here we go:

ELFY is complete, hasn’t found an agent, and while I’ve had a few nibbles, most want me to split the book sight unseen as it’s 240,000 words long.  That just doesn’t feel right; if someone read it and felt there were good split points, that would be different.  But not reading it, then saying it should be split three ways (that’s what I’ve heard; two, I could almost see)?  Why should I do this if someone isn’t willing to read a synopsis, much less the first chapter or two of ELFY, before they say it must be split?  (I know it’s not the ideal length for a debut author to get a book over, that’s for sure.  But I do want someone to know what they’re dealing with before he or she tells me the “only way to go.”)  By the way, if you’re wondering what ELFY is about, please go here and read more about it.

Now, the sequel to ELFY, AN ELFY ABROAD, will definitely need to be split as it’s grown to a humongous 320,000 words.  (Yikes!)  But I do see a good split point halfway through, there . . . also, the final edit obviously hasn’t been done as I haven’t completed the work yet.  (I’ve known about where I’m going for the last year and a half, but it’s proven to be quite elusive.  I don’t get a chance to talk writing much with anyone these days, much less someone who completely understands what I’m trying to do; that doesn’t help.)

Anyway, the good news there is that I’ve written about ten thousand words into EA since the last time I mentioned anything about the Elfyverse (when was that?  November of ’11, I think; a bit before my friend Jeff died).

As for KEISHA’S VOW, which is an ELFY prequel set in 1954, I’ve written a new chapter there and am at work on the next one.  KV now stands at about 50,000 words, plus some deleted scenes.

Now, in case anyone here was waiting for a CHANGING FACES update (more about CF is available here) — a non-Elfyverse urban fantasy, which I was working on in November (I had to put it aside for a while after my friend Jeff died quite suddenly) — I’ve written a couple thousand new words there in the New Year (how odd that sounds to write in March!).  I’ve also planned out the next chapter, and believe I have an ending that just might work.  Things are looking up in that quarter.

Novellas?  I have one in progress; it’s called “The Gift,” and it’s a spiritual romance/urban fantasy.  I have looked at it, realized it needs to be restructured, but can’t figure out what would serve me best.  So aside from planning, not much has been done there since November of ’11.  But I’ll keep working at it.

Short stories?  I have a few in the works, but nothing that I’ve started since January 1, 2012, is anywhere near completion.

Otherwise, I do intend to enter the Writers of the Future contest again if at all possible; the next quarter’s deadline is March 31 (end of this month).  (I guess this is my way of saying I haven’t given up on short story writing, even though I find it much, much more difficult than writing a novel or even writing a poem.)

That’s about it; still writing and working away, as per usual.  (And you?)

Written by Barb Caffrey

March 15, 2012 at 9:47 pm

WI Recall Election Dates Set

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Folks, it’s official: the 2012 Wisconsin recall elections have been set on the calendar for May 8, 2012 and June 5, 2012, the dates the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board (GAB) wanted.  The Senate elections are likely to all take place on May 8 unless the Wisconsin Republicans again run “fake Democrats” to primary the Democratic candidates in the four Senate races up for grabs, as they did in 2011.  All four Senators being recalled are Republicans; two of the four being recalled are Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, and my own state Senator, Racine’s Van Wanggaard.  

The recall petitions that were turned in to recall Governor Scott Walker and Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch haven’t yet been certified by the GAB, so it is unclear at this time whether or not Walker and Kleefisch will be among those who will have to run in elections on one or the other of these dates.  There will definitely be a Democratic primary — a real one this time — for the gubernatorial contest, as there are three Democrats who have declared they’re running for Governor: former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk, Democratic state Senator Kathleen Vinehout, and Secretary of State Douglas LaFollette.  That would mean, tentatively, that it’s likely Walker will have to defend his seat on June 5.  (It’s possible that Kleefisch may have to defend her seat sooner than Walker, which will be really interesting.)

Now, let’s take a moment to consider the difference between 2011 and 2012 with regards to the recalls.

In the 2011 drive to recall the Republican Eight, recall petitions had to be delivered no later than April; elections were set for June, July and August.  Two Republican Senators, Mary Lazich and Glenn Grothman, were not recalled; signatures were not able to be filed against them.

In the six other recall elections pertaining to the original Republican Eight, most were artificially delayed by the Republican maneuver of entering “fake Democrats” into the primaries against the real Democrats running against them.  This tactic allowed the Rs to raise more money, as under Wisconsin law, any incumbent may raise unlimited money to defend his (or her) seat.  This sizable monetary advantage helped four of the six who were recalled, as they retained their seats.  Only Dan Kapanke (R-La Crosse) and Randy Hopper (R-Fond du Lac) ended up losing their seats (to Democratic challengers Jennifer Shilling and Jessica King, respectively).

In 2012, the Republican incumbents have had nearly a year to raise money, and since November 15, 2011, have been able to raise unlimited amounts of money to defend their seats.  This has given them a significant advantage over their 2011 brethren.  This huge monetary advantage is one reason why I wish the GAB had prioritized the Senate elections. **

There’s no excuse for the elections to have been set so far after the petitions were hand-carried in on January 15, 2011.  The GAB surely could’ve set the Senate recall elections earlier, as they worked far more speedily last year to schedule nine Senate recall elections (the three Dems who were recalled and had to stand for new elections were retained); this time, they only had four to deal with.  So why the delay?

At any rate, the recalls have been scheduled, at least for the state Senate; we’re now on the clock.  Keep watching this space, as I’ll give you whatever updates I can as soon as I receive them.


** I am well aware that over 900,000 signatures, the revised and corrected total, were turned in to recall Walker, and over 800,000 to recall Lt. Gov. Kleefisch.  The four Senators, between them, amassed around 65,000 signatures to force their recall elections.  That’s why I used the term “prioritized.”  (Hold your fire.) 

Written by Barb Caffrey

March 15, 2012 at 9:26 pm