Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Archive for September 2013

Electronic Oddities

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Sometimes, folks, I just need to vent.  And what better thing to vent at than our electronically driven lives?

I’ve had four things happen lately that are really vexing, but in a very slow-burning sort of way.  The first one was when I took an online exam for a place of employment — this is something many employers do these days — and was told after I took it that I “must be a computer” because I’d “gone too fast to be a human being,” and was immediately disqualified from that particular job!

I still don’t know what to think about that one, with one exception: I’m obviously not a computer.  No matter what that particular program thinks.

The second thing was back in August, when I played the contest “Beat the Streak in a Day” through’s fantasy page.  In case you don’t know about the whole “Beat the Streak” contest, it’s named after Joe DiMaggio’s legendary 56-game hitting streak.  Fans pick 57 players (over time in the regular Beat the Streak contest, but in one day for BTS in a Day) who we hope will all get hits.  You can pick any position player (it won’t let you pick pitchers), providing they’re not on the disabled list, the suspended list, or are otherwise unavailable.

I saved all my picks, did everything the program said to do — and then seven of my picks somehow were not updated even though the site said they were.

When I compared notes to the picks I knew I had made, I had 43 out of 57 right.  This would not be enough for a prize.  It certainly does not beat Joe D’s streak, and many others came closer than I did to getting all of the players they’d picked to get hits right.  But I was annoyed with this program for saying I’d only gotten something like 35 out of 57 right rather than the 43 I know I had right.

When this happened again with the BTS in a Day contest this past Friday — where I couldn’t even check to see how my picks had done because the site glitched, though I checked twice before all the picks were locked and made sure of my actual picks (I wanted no repeat of the August issue, thanks) — I was extremely frustrated, and did write to the contest to ask for an explanation.

This time, the results page said I got 36 right.  I don’t have any idea if this is correct because I cannot check it; I can basically go over every player I know I picked, painstakingly (which is what I did last time), but my rough estimate had me getting around 44 or 45 right rather than 36.

I don’t know if I’ll get an answer.  I don’t know if they’ll actually get my real picks right — the “results page” I got was for the earliest BTS in a Day contest back in June, I think, because some of “my picks” were Ryan Braun (who I used to pick before his suspension), Yasmani Grandal (same) and a few others like Paul Konerko who I know I didn’t pick this last time.

So that’s two and three — which means you might be wondering what the fourth vexing issue is.  (Even if you aren’t, I’m going to tell you anyway.  Lucky you, huh?)

It’s simple.  An e-mail to me got trapped somehow in the ISP aether, and I didn’t get it until five full days after it was apparently mailed.  As it was a professional e-mail — meaning it has bearing on one of my joint careers (music and writing) — this was not good.

Obviously, I couldn’t answer the e-mail until I saw it.  But I didn’t see it in my inbox for five full days — and then, it showed up only as spam, which it wasn’t.  (I check my spam folder every day, and I know it was not there all that time before it finally did show up.)

Because of this electronic glitch, I wasn’t able to answer this professional e-mail.  And it was a time-sensitive e-mail, to boot, which makes me appear less than professional — all because of my ISP doing something really bizarre.

Mind you, this sort of thing happens far less than it used to.  But e-mail, reliable though it usually is, can still go astray . . . I just have to hope that my explanatory e-mail will make sense, and that they’ll believe me that this really did happen.

Anyway, that’s four solid things that have something to do with computers, computer programs, or otherwise electronically driven oddities.  And while I understand how programs can get messed up from time to time, I’m beyond tired of it.

Let me know if I’m the only one these weird things are happening to, OK?  Because I’m starting to wonder if Murphy has my number on speed dial.

Written by Barb Caffrey

September 30, 2013 at 12:22 am

Just Reviewed “Brave Genius” at SBR

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Folks, I’ve rarely read such an entertaining, interesting, thought-provoking piece of nonfiction as Sean B. Carroll’s BRAVE GENIUS: A Scientist, a Philosopher, and Their Daring Adventures from the French Resistance to the Nobel Prize, which is why I reviewed it this evening over at Shiny Book Review (SBR for short, as always).  Carroll’s conception is this — if not for the French Resistance, would we even know about Albert Camus or Jacques Monod?  Would they be the same men?  Would they have the same drive?  And without them, would the Resistance have been anywhere near as effective?

Everything else in BRAVE GENIUS, including Camus’ sterling accomplishments as a writer and philosopher and Monod’s work with enzymes (and Monod’s later accomplishment as the writer of perhaps the most unlikely bestseller in the history of mankind, CHANCE AND NECESSITY), is subordinate to this premise.  And Carroll makes a very good case as to why this was so, to the point that I compared his case a few times to Malcolm Gladwell’s OUTLIERS.

Here we have two men who were at the beginning of their careers in 1940 when the French government fell to the Nazis.  (Carroll calls this “leading ordinary lives,” but I don’t really think any life is ordinary.  I’d rather say that they were still important, driven men who hadn’t yet found their voices.)  They were forged in the fire of the French Resistance, and without their efforts — Monod as “Malivert,” one of the top fund-raisers and activists in all of the French Resistance, and Camus as the then-unknown editor of the influential underground newspaper Combat — would everything have taken the same course at the end of World War II?

The World War II historicity here is palpable.  The suspense is still there, sixty-plus years after all of Monod’s and Camus’s efforts.  And it’s by far the standout part of the book, which it needs to be as this is Carroll’s central premise.

Overall, I think BRAVE GENIUS is one of the most interesting, most compelling pieces of nonfiction I’ve read all year.  It’s not 100% perfect (which is why I gave it an A rather than an A-plus), but it’s riveting, especially in those World War II sections.  Literally, if you open this book up and start reading, you won’t want to stop, even though some of Camus’s ideas (not to mention Monod’s research) takes more than a bit of thought to plow through.

That said, I think you definitely should continue on with BRAVE GENIUS no matter how long it takes you to finish it, precisely because those ideas are so important.

Really, if you’ve ever cared why existentialism as a philosophy matters (even though there’s evidence Camus hated the term and probably would’ve come up with another one, given time), or wondered what the French Resistance actually did during the Vichy appeasement besides the simple term “resist,” this book is for you.  And if you want to know why Monod’s research was so important, or more about Monod’s book CHANCE AND NECESSITY (not an easy read to get through, but a book with more compelling ideas per capita than most), or simply want to know more about what these two important, influential men were like as people, this book is for you.

I couldn’t recommend this book more highly, in short . . . so go grab a copy of BRAVE GENIUS (from your local library, if nothing else) and start reading as soon as you can.  Then come back here and let me know what you thought.

Written by Barb Caffrey

September 29, 2013 at 12:20 am

A September ’13 Catchall Post

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Folks, I’m in one of those places right now where I have a lot to talk about and very, very little time to do it in.  So let’s get started.

First off, Carlos Gomez was suspended yesterday and fined for one game due to his part in the bench-clearing incident in Atlanta.  Brian McCann, who to all intents and purposes precipitated that incident more than anyone else, did not get suspended, but did get fined.  Freddie Freeman got fined, too . . . still not sure what Freeman did that was so egregious . . . and Reed Johnson, the guy who actually threw two haymakers at Gomez before ducking down behind much more brawny fellow players to avoid retribution, also got a one-game suspension and a fine.

I think the suspensions for Gomez and Johnson were fair.  I think McCann not getting suspended, not to mention failing to get thrown out for blocking the plate and refusing Gomez to even touch home plate after hitting a booming home run, was utterly ludicrous.  McCann was the instigator there as much as Gomez or Braves pitcher Paul Maholm (who’d thrown at Gomez back in June, thus creating bad blood), and all he gets is a piddly fine?

What’s up with that?

Next, I wanted to update you all about what’s going on with Michael’s two “Joey Maverick” stories.  The files mostly tested out well after being converted, but there were a few minor bobbles.  Because of that, I’m going to take the opportunity to go over them one last time as I found a few minor issues after the file was sent off (why, oh why, does it always seem to happen that way?) before my good friend ends up reformatting the files for me to get the extraneous code out.

The reason the formatting is so important is because these files are over ten years old.  (At least, parts of them are.)  Michael and I used to use Word Perfect exclusively; I still like it better than just about any word processing program I’ve found, but these days I mostly use Word 2002 or, if pressed, Word 2010, because everyone has these programs and they’re the easiest for other writers and editors to deal with.

Anyway, because these files are older, there are artifacts in them that are not compatible with newer software.  Thus when converted into an e-book, odd things can happen.  As I try to present myself as a professional no matter what — even though I’ve been sick often this year, even though I’m not well known — I want to put out files that are as close to clean as possible.  Partly because that’s what I demand as a reader and partly because that’s what I demand from myself, but mostly because they are Michael’s stories and I want to do right by them.

Speaking of illnesses, I’ve been fighting a bronchial infection, again, for the past ten days or so.  I can think again, my chest is no longer really tight, and I feel much better than I did.  But because of this, I haven’t been able to play in the University of Wisconsin-Parkside Community Band since the second week of rehearsals for the first concert, and I’m still not really up to playing.  It’s very difficult to be in this position, but I have to think long-term, both about my music and about my overall health.

A quick update regarding the status of my book, ELFY . . . I’m working on the final edit, and have an editor working with me who I trust.  I may start writing quick blogs as to what my progress is with regards to going over it one, final time, as that has seemed to help a number of my fellow writers (most particularly the excellent Katharine Eliska Kimbriel).  So my health has slowed the progress there, significantly, but it hasn’t completely stopped it — and if I can just shake off the last of this nasty bronchial stuff soon, I should be able to get it done within another few weeks to a month.  (Sooner is better than later, obviously, and you wouldn’t believe the pressure I’m putting on myself to get this done, even though I know that this sort of pressure is counterproductive at best.  I just want ELFY out so people can read it, that’s all . . . just have to do what’s required and believe it’ll get done.  I’m way too close to the goal to quit now.)

As far as the writing and editing goes, I have talked much about what I can’t do this past year.  I haven’t talked much about what I can do.  I am a good editor, an excellent proofreader, I can handle conceptual editing just fine and can still bring something to the table if someone wants to work with me no matter what my health is like.  And I can write . . . I’ve kept up this blog now for over three years, I’ve done many, many book reviews both at Shiny Book Review (SBR) and at Amazon, and I’ve actually sold a science fiction story this year to HOW BEER SAVED THE WORLD.

Mind you, I’ve also been turned down by the Writers of the Future contest (again), so it’s not all a bed full of roses, but I’m trying my best and have made some slow progress.

And any progress beats none . . . right?

Anyway, over the next week, I will have a guest blog by fellow author and book reviewer Jason Cordova, and I hope to have an end of the year summation about the Brewers 2013 season.  So please, do stay tuned for that . . . and thanks for bearing with me during one of the most fractious, difficult years of my life.

Milwaukee Brewers Win Wild One in Atlanta

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Only the 2013 Milwaukee Brewers could start a game with a bench-clearing brawl after, of all things, a home run — but end up with a 4-0 shutout over the Atlanta Braves behind the golden arm of starting pitcher Kyle Lohse.

The Brewers started out Wednesday night with a home run in the first inning by CF Carlos Gomez. However, Gomez didn’t actually end up touching home plate due to Braves C Brian McCann standing in the middle of the baseline — in effect, impeding Gomez’s progress toward home plate.  Words were exchanged, the benches cleared, and after that somehow McCann stayed in the game but Gomez and Braves 1B Freddie Freeman both ended up ejected.

Why Freeman was ejected rather than McCann remains a mystery, especially as Freeman didn’t really do anything.  Reed Johnson came off the bench and threw two haymakers at Gomez, at least one of which actually connected, but Johnson wasn’t thrown out, either.

Anyway, as odd as that start was, none of it mattered once Lohse took the mound in the bottom of the first.  Lohse was fully in control of the game, threw only 89 pitches, and gave up only two hits in completely shutting down the Braves.  The 4-0 win brought Lohse’s season to a close; he finished with a 11-10 mark and a 3.35 ERA.

As a Brewers fan, watching Gomez hit a home run, then get thrown out, then have the umpires figure out whether or not Gomez should get credit for a HR or a triple as Gomez did not touch home plate (eventually, they gave Gomez the HR, probably because of being impeded by McCann) . . . all of that was quite wearying. The last thing I was expecting was for Lohse to come out and pitch his best game of the year after all that drama.

Yet Lohse did exactly that.  Which is why this particular win was one of the wildest ones of the season — yet also one of the most satisfying.

Personally, I’m glad that Lohse was still with the Brewers to pitch in this game. Lohse was a hot commodity at the trade deadline, precisely because he’s a solid pro with a good playoff record.  When he wasn’t traded — probably due to his three-year contract — I breathed a sigh of relief.

Tonight, Lohse proved, as if he needed to, that he’s still a big money pitcher.  But he also showed heart.  He was not fazed by what happened in the first inning.  He just went out, did his job, and shut down the Braves.

Every Brewers fan should tip his or her cap to Lohse tonight, precisely for reminding us all what the game is all about.  And reminding us that with just a few different breaks (Corey Hart not needing a second knee surgery, for example, or Ryan Braun not being suspended for 65 games), maybe the Brewers could’ve been a contender after all.

Written by Barb Caffrey

September 25, 2013 at 11:31 pm

Just Reviewed Katharine Eliska Kimbriel’s “Night Calls” at SBR

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Folks, today’s review of Katharine Eliska Kimbriel’s NIGHT CALLS is up over at Shiny Book Review (SBR for short) and it’s something special.

You might be wondering why that is.  Well, today is the ninth anniversary of my beloved husband Michael’s death.  It’s not easy for me to do much of anything on days like this, so if I feel strong enough and competent enough and capable enough to review a book, right there — in and of itself — you should realize I feel very strongly about it.

But more to the point, NIGHT CALLS is a heartwarming book that should delight all lovers of fantasy.  It features a strong, capable young woman in Alfreda Sorensson who’s no one’s plaything; unlike the meek and mild female characters in Stephanie Meyer’s conception, Alfreda does for herself, thank you.  And in taking on responsibility slowly, we can see how Alfreda grows and changes and learns . . . all good, all life-affirming, all an excellent message if you need one, but done in such a way that it’s subordinate to the story itself.

To write a novel that’s more than the sum of its parts is very difficult.  Now, I’ve reviewed four of Katharine Eliska Kimbriel’s novels, and all four have been able to do this to one degree or another, in two different genres, no less — an outstanding record that I’ve rarely seen out of anyone not named Rosemary Edghill.  And best of all, to my mind, is this — NIGHT CALLS is a comfort book in that there’s so much good in it, so much meaning in it, that it’s something that I can see myself turning back to read and re-read many times over the years — just as I’ve done with Rosemary’s TWO OF A KIND and MET BY MOONLIGHT and all her shared work with Mercedes Lackey, not to mention Rosemary’s excellent “Hellflower” series (written as eluki bes shahar) and her three novels in the “Twelve Treasures” series.

That’s the highest praise I can possibly give.

Now, why would I want to write all this on one of the most difficult days of the year?  Well, it’s simple.  Michael and I both loved to read young adult novels.  We found them to be interesting, in the main, because seeing a coming of age story done well is, in and of itself, life-affirming.  If you can do it with some humor and heart — as Patricia C. Wrede did in CALLING ON DRAGONS, say, or as Diana Wynne Jones did in her “Chrestomanci series” — so much the better.

And trust me, Ms. Kimbriel did exactly that in NIGHT CALLS.

It was reading books like Ms. Kimbriel’s that inspired me to start writing ELFY in the first place.  Which is why I’m very glad to be able to read and review her work, even though until this last year I hadn’t a clue it was available.  The good part about that is that I’ve read four of her excellent books this year, and all four of them — the three in her “Chronicles of Nuala” series and NIGHT CALLS — are likely to be on my “best books of 2013” list.

This makes me wonder how many other excellent writers are out there that I don’t yet know about.  (“More writers left to explore?” I say.  “Whee!”)

And it also gives me some hope that my own writing career is not yet dead, even though my health this year has been terrible and I’ve been slow off the mark to get things done despite all the good will in the world due to that.

Anyway, that’s why I reviewed Ms. Kimbriel’s excellent NIGHT CALLS today.  For hope.  For inspiration.  For the belief that despite bad things happening, good people can still win out.

And I think that if you give Ms. Kimbriel’s work a try, you, too, will be favorably impressed.

A Guest Blog by Stephanie Osborn, Author of the ‘Displaced Detective’ Series Featuring Sherlock Holmes

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Folks, I feel like that guy on the José Cuervo ads (the most interesting man in the world): I don’t often have guest blogs, but when I do, I feature the most interesting, passionate writers writing today.

The Arrival coverCase in point is today’s guest blog for Stephanie OsbornShe’s previously discussed her “Displaced Detective” series here at my blog, but wanted to discuss the origins of her excellent series today, especially as her book THE CASE OF THE DISPLACED DETECTIVE: THE ARRIVAL is on sale right now over at Amazon for ninety-nine cents (yes, only $.99!) in e-book form.

In case you haven’t read her wonderful novels yet, here’s some links to my reviews of THE CASE OF THE DISPLACED DETECTIVE: THE ARRIVAL, THE CASE OF THE DISPLACED DETECTIVE: AT SPEED and THE CASE OF THE COSMOLOGICAL KILLER: THE RENDELSHAM INCIDENT over at Shiny Book Review.  (Because I’m now a Twilight Times Books author, I cannot review the fourth book, THE CASE OF THE COSMOLOGICAL KILLER: ENDINGS AND BEGINNINGS, via SBR as it would be a conflict of interest and we frown on such things.  I do plan to review it soon here at my blog and over at Amazon.)

Stephanie’s written mystery, fantasy, children’s stories, hard science fiction, soft science fiction, speculative fiction — in short, she’s a writer.  She’s also been a rocket scientist, which makes her novels about Sherlock Holmes as brought to the modern day by hyperspatial physicist Skye Chadwick all the more realistic.

Stephanie’s novels deserve a wider audience, which is why I’ve again turned my blog over to her.

Now, without further ado . . . here’s Stephanie Osborn!

*************** Drum Roll Sounds Here **************

A note from Stephanie Osborn:  It is my great pleasure to make another guest appearance in the Elfyverse. Barb is an amazing writer and editor, and I am so happy to have made her acquaintance through her review of several of my novels; she has become a special friend. We’ve been able to help lift each other up at times when things were down, and that’s so much better than trying to haul oneself up by one’s own bootstraps! I hope you enjoy my little cameo.


The Origins of the Displaced Detective

By Stephanie Osborn,

The Interstellar Woman of Mystery


I suppose the first thing you should know about me is that, well, I really AM one of those rocket scientists you hear about. With degrees in four sciences and subspecialties in a couple more, I worked in the civilian and military space industries, sitting console in the control centers, training astronauts, you name it; and I lost a friend aboard Columbia, when she broke up over Texas. So yeah, I’m the real deal.

The second thing you need to know about me is that I’ve been a Sherlock Holmes fan… aficionado, whatever word you prefer… since I was a kid. Someone gave me a copy of The Hound of the Baskervilles for my birthday one year. I was in, what, third grade? With a hyperactive imagination. Scared me to death when I read it. But I loved Holmes immediately. If I could have done away with the scary story about the Hound, I’d have adored that book even then. It’s one of my favorites now.

By the time I was in high school, I’d discovered that big, single-volume compendium ― you know, the one with the rust-and-mustard dust jacket? If you’re a Holmes aficionado, you know the one I mean. If you don’t, go find it! I read it cover to cover. Wagged it around to every class with me, and every time I had 2 consecutive spare minutes, my nose was in it. Oh, I was devastated when I read The Final Problem. No, really: I went into mourning, like I’d lost family! And I could have turned handsprings for joy when I read The Empty House! Many years later, I acquired that same rust-and-mustard volume and placed it on my own shelves, where it has been read cover to cover many more times. I picked up what are known as “pastiches,” too, efforts by other authors to carry on the adventures, or create entirely new ones, or fill in gaps. (What did Holmes and Watson do when the Martians invaded? What about Jack the Ripper, and why did Watson never chronicle an adventure about him? Didn’t Holmes go after him? What really happened with the Giant Rat of Sumatra?) I watched television and movies ― to this day, I watch the BBC’s Sherlock, and CBS’ Elementary, and even the Guy Ritchie film franchise starring Robert Downey, Jr. And I have the complete set of the Grenada series starring Jeremy Brett, and a bunch of the Basil Rathbone films. Good, bad, or indifferent, they’re all Holmes!

Now, back in Arthur Conan Doyle’s day, they didn’t have all the breakdown of literature into genres that we have today. Today we have science fiction (or SF, with its many subdivisions), fantasy, horror, and such. But all those, in the Victorian era, were lumped together and considered speculative fiction, or “specfic” as it’s known today. As it turns out, many if not most of the Holmes adventures would be considered as specfic ― and I started thinking…

…Other people have “done” Holmes in Victorian-era science fiction…

…But I want to be different. If I write Holmes, I want to do something that’s never been done before…

…Aha. What if, somehow, I could manage to drag Holmes into the modern world to go adventuring?

How to do it…how to do it…

I researched and I studied. And then it hit me.

What if I use the concept of alternate realities, which more and more scientific data indicates are real, and I combine that with something called M theory in order to be able to access them…

…And I was off!

I already had several novels written but unsold by that point, and there was publisher interest in my first one, Burnout: The mystery of Space Shuttle STS-281. (Yes, I like to mix science fiction and mystery. It seems to come naturally to me; I’ve always thought a good SF story has a distinct element of the mysterious. That’s why I got dubbed The Interstellar Woman of Mystery by certain media personalities.) So I knew about writing novels: See, it isn’t about page count, it’s about word count.

Different genres define book length by different word counts. YA is relatively short, say 50,000-80,000 words. The romance genre generally defines a novel at roughly the same word count. But SF and mystery, for instance, consider a novel to run from about 80,000-110,000 words, maybe a smidge more. (Think about the thinness of a typical Harlequin Romance as compared to, say, a Baen military SF novel.) There’s an arcane formula that ties word count to final page count, and another that determines the list price from the page count. So these are important numbers, these word counts.

Now that’s not to say that you can’t go over; you can… provided your last name is something like King, Weber, or Rowling. Because publishers know those names will sell books regardless of length. Everybody else? Don’t be too short OR too long.

So I sat down to write The Case of the Displaced Detective, the first story in what has become my Displaced Detective series, described rather aptly as, “Sherlock Holmes meets the X-Files.”

Two months ― yes, you read that right, months, not years ― later, I’d completed the rough draft… and it stood at 215,000 words. Writing that manuscript was kinda like tryin’ to hold a wide-open fire hose all by yourself. I ate at the computer. I all but slept at the computer. That story just came pouring out. I couldn’t stop until it was all written. By the time I’d polished it, it had ballooned up to around 245,000 words, and I managed to whack it down to about 230,000.

But it was too big for a single book. And nobody could figure out how to cut it down without cutting out essential parts ― not me, not agent, not editor, not publisher. See, it was really two stories in one: it was an “origin story” of sorts, how Holmes came to be in the 21st century, AND it had a mystery. It needed all of those 230,000 words to tell the story properly.

In the end, my publisher and I decided to make two volumes of it. That’s why, when you look at the covers, you don’t just see The Arrival, or At Speed. You see The Case of the Displaced Detective: The Arrival, and The Case of the Displaced Detective: At Speed. There’s not a hard and fast break between the origin story and the mystery; in fact the mystery starts within days of Holmes landing in the 21st century in The Arrival, and he is still trying to come to terms with everything in At Speed.

Then I went on to write the next story, The Case of the Cosmological Killer.

And durned if the same thing didn’t happen! Only this one took a smidge longer, because it was interrupted by an illness. All told I think it took about a year or so. And so books 3 & 4 are The Case of the Cosmological Killer: The Rendlesham Incident, and The Case of the Cosmological Killer: Endings and Beginnings.

I swear they’re not all going to be two volumes! In fact I just turned in A Case of Spontaneous Combustion, and it’s one volume only! I’ve started on book 6, A Little Matter of Earthquakes, and book 7, The Adventure of Shining Mountain Lodge, is mostly finished and awaiting the publication of 5 & 6. And I’m planning for adventures beyond that.

So in a manner of speaking, I suppose I’m still adventuring with my old pal Sherlock Holmes… only now he’s investigating mysteries that are more on MY turf! And I plan to do so until we both retire to the Sussex downs to keep bees!

* * * * * * * * * * * * (Insert hearty round of applause here.) * * * * * * * * *

Once again, thank you, Stephanie. I greatly appreciated your second guest blog, and I hope it will help you find a few more readers for your excellent books.

And if you haven’t read Stephanie’s books yet, take a gander at chapter one of THE CASE OF THE DISPLACED DETECTIVE: THE ARRIVALchapter one of THE CASE OF THE COSMOLOGICAL KILLER: THE RENDELSHAM INCIDENT, or if you’re just not in the mood for Sherlock Holmes today, take a look at the first chapter of BURNOUT.  (Then, for heaven’s sake, go buy her books.)

Just Reviewed “The Lady Most Willing” at SBR

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Folks, I was busy this past evening-into-morning, as along with my earlier blog about Johnny Weir and his anti-Sochi boycott stance I also wrote this review of THE LADY MOST WILLING . . . , a comic English historical romance written by three authors — Julia Quinn, Eloisa James and Connie Brockway — over at Shiny Book Review (SBR for short, as always).

Since I’m pressed for time, all I want to say right now is that I enjoyed THE LADY MOST WILLING . . . very much.  If you’re in the mood for a fine and funny English historical romance with more than a few moments of outright farce — and really, who isn’t from time to time? — you will enjoy THE LADY MOST WILLING . . . , too.

Written by Barb Caffrey

September 14, 2013 at 5:52 am

Posted in Book reviews

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Johnny Weir Goes on ‘Olbermann,’ Gets Blasted by GLBT Critics Over Anti-Sochi Boycott Stance

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It’s not every day that you see someone as articulate, passionate and honest as figure skater Johnny Weir go on Keith Olbermann’s new show (called simply “Olbermann,” natch), then get blasted.

You see, Weir appeared on Olbermann this past Monday to discuss why he is against boycotting the 2014 Sochi Olympics over Russia’s official anti-gay laws.  Weir, a proud American, a former Olympian, and a three-time United States National Champion (not to mention a World Bronze medalist), believes it’s far more important to go to Sochi and “represent” than to stay home.  Weir spoke with authority on this issue because he’s gay and married to a Russian-American lawyer, Victor Voronov, and has been known as a Russophile from the beginning of his career.

Mind you, Weir is far from the only athlete to stand against any proposed boycott of the Sochi Olympic Games.  There are a number of NHL athletes who are prepared to go to Sochi and perhaps get arrested due to their open opposition to these laws.  Former USSR pairs figure skaters Lorisa Selezneva and Oleg Makarov, now American citizens, also are opposed to this boycott**, as are Greg Louganis, Martina Navratilova and Blake Skjellerup.

All of these men and women have said what amounts to the same thing as Johnny Weir — that it’s much more important to go to the Sochi Games and participate than to stay home.  Going to the games will help highlight the problems that Russia’s outrageous, shocking and offensive new laws have brought into being, while staying home will do not one bit of good for anyone (save, perhaps, for Vladimir Putin).

Yet only Weir has brought condemnation down on his head by saying so, perhaps because during his recent appearance on Olbermann’s show Weir had the temerity to wear a Russian military uniform.  (Technically, I think it’s a Soviet-era military uniform, but I’m not up on contemporary Russian military uniforms.)  Why is this?  Well, it mostly seems to be more about how Weir looked than by what Weir actually said, though at least one commentator is more hung up over Weir’s language choices (calling his marriage a “union” rather than a marriage, for example).

I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m far more interested in the substance of what Weir’s said than by what Weir looked like while he said it.  Boycotting the 2014 Sochi Games would be fruitless, just as Weir said, because it harms Olympic athletes while failing to help the Russian GLBT activists who truly need it.  Whereas if the United States and other countries’ athletes — some of whom are GLBT — do take part in the Sochi Games, perhaps that will do some good.  Watching GLBT athletes win medals will do more to make it clear that GLBT people deserve neither condemnation nor fear merely because of being what they are than any boycott could ever do.

Look.  I’m not gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered.  I am also not an athlete.  I don’t know any Russians personally, whether Russian-American or not.  And all of that can’t help but make my own opinion be less important and less informative than someone who is any of those things.

However, Johnny Weir’s opinion should be heard and appreciated (regardless of appearance) precisely because he has so much credibility in this particular area.  Weir is married to a Russian-American man, has competed in Russia many times, and took lessons in Russian so he could better speak with his coach, Galina Zmievskaya.  Because of all this, Weir has to understand just how harmful these new laws have been in Russia.  Weir has said firmly that he is opposed to them##, but he also doesn’t understand how boycotting the Sochi Games would help anything — and this is a stance I can’t help but agree with.

You don’t have to like how open Johnny Weir is now about his sexuality after years of telling everyone that it was none of their business.  (Personally, I understand both stances.  But not everyone does.)  You don’t have to like how Weir dresses.  You don’t have to like how Weir does anything at all, in fact, if you don’t want, because this is a free country and we’re allowed to speak our minds without hindrance.

But you should agree that Weir has a right to say what he wants.  And in this particular case, where Weir’s far from alone (Athlete Ally is also against a proposed boycott, as is the LGBT Sports Coalition), it seems really odd that Weir would be condemned while all the other voices saying the same thing would be ignored.


** Some people would probably say that a straight, married pair of retired figure skaters — even if they’re from Russia and know intimately the problems Russia has — have nothing to say about a proposed Sochi boycott.  For those people, I have nothing but contempt.

## In August of 2013, Weir said he will not wear a rainbow flag pin in Sochi, while Skjellerup said he definitely will wear one.  Weir not being willing to wear a rainbow pin at this time may be what’s really upsetting people in the GLBT community.  But if so, I’d rather that they just came out asked Johnny Weir directly, “Why won’t you wear a rainbow pin?”

Because really, anything would be better than the current, nasty Internet flame wars going on right now.  Especially among people who are normally reasonable.

High Heat, Humidity in WI Weighs Me Down

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Folks, I have many topics to discuss (including figure skater Johnny Weir’s great appearance on Keith Olbermann’s new show on ESPN2 Monday night), but the high heat and humidity that Wisconsin has been visited with over the last few days has been difficult for me to bear.

Worse yet, we’ve had next to no rain for a week.  This is really bad, because without rain washing the pollution out of the air, the air quality gets that much worse — whether the official indicators actually pick it up or not.

I have asthma, which acts up more under these conditions.  (The temperature was 97 F on Tuesday.  Yikes.)  So maybe that’s why I’ve not been able to write much, on or off my blog, in several days . . . instead, I’ve spent my time going over my novel, ELFY, and editing other people’s manuscripts.  (Except for Tuesday, where I spent the whole day resting.  97 is just too hot to be borne.  Seriously.)

Anyway, I keep telling myself that even on days like these — where I struggle to breathe and think — it’s important to hold a positive thought.  I may have to take some time out for ill health now and again.  But if I keep trying, eventually I will succeed.

And I’ve worked far too long, and far too hard, to allow this little setback to keep me away from my computer for too long.  (Guaranteed.)

Once this weather gets a little easier for me to deal with, I plan on talking more about Weir’s important and interesting talk with Olbermann regarding the 2014 Sochi Olympics and several other subjects, including a look at the Milwaukee Brewers’ September call-ups (and other assorted rookies).  Plus, I still have a romance to review at Shiny Book Review (THE LADY MOST WILLING . . . ) — which is why I plan to take up the gauntlet again in a few days.

But for now, the sensible path is to rest.  So I will do that, and hope to discuss more in a few days once the insanely hot weather is supposed to finally work its way out of here.

Written by Barb Caffrey

September 11, 2013 at 1:04 am

SF Writer Ann (A.C.) Crispin Has Died

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Science fiction and fantasy writer Ann (A.C.) Crispin has died at 63 due to cancer, numerous sources have confirmed.  (Here’s an obituary from  Ms. Crispin wrote numerous novels, many of them being media tie-ins with emotional depth and resonance (such as her two Star Trek novels, YESTERDAY’S SON and TIME FOR YESTERDAY); she also wrote two excellent novels with André Norton, GRYPHON’S EYRIE and SONGSMITH, and several in her own STARBRIDGE series.

Ms. Crispin was an excellent writer, but she also was very interested in helping newcomers navigate the world of publishing.  Alongside this blog is a list of links, one being to a site called Writer Beware.  That site was co-founded by Ms. Crispin and Victoria Strauss because they both wanted writers to arm themselves with knowledge and to know what a reasonable, honest contract from a publisher should look like — and what one definitely should not look like.

I never met Ms. Crispin personally, never talked with her in any depth online, but I still feel a debt is owed to her due to all of her advocacy through Writer Beware.  And as I read and enjoyed many of her twenty-four complete novels (much less her numerous short stories), but never reviewed any of them (some of them predate my excursions into reviewing; others were printed in the years right after my beloved husband Michael’s passing, where I rarely reviewed anything or had much of an online presence, either), I wish I had said something while there was still time.

Others who did know Ms. Crispin personally have shared at least some of their experiences, including Crispin’s best friend, Victoria Strauss a few days ago (Crispin had posted a message saying she knew her time was short, and Ms. Strauss posted a wrap-around message with a picture of the two of them together, walking along the beach — it’s a beautiful shot).  As Ms. Strauss said today, “Please honor Ann’s memory, and her work, by reading her books and spreading the word about Writer Beware.”

I agree.

On a personal level, I wanted to mention that my late husband, Michael, was also a fan of Ms. Crispin, partly because he was a huge fan of Andre Norton and knew about Crispin’s two collaborations with Norton.  He started reading Ms. Crispin’s work because of those collaborations, as did I, then read her Star Trek novels and the entire Starbridge series, among others.  We also recommended her books to our friends, though we found that most of them had already read her books before we got a chance to recommend them.  (Strange how we all tended to read the same books, but that is a subject for a different blog than this one.)

In case you haven’t read Ann Crispin’s work, here’s a link to her available books on Amazon.  Take a look.  Then buy something, and look forward to a great read with emotional depth and poignance.

Because that’s what Ms. Crispin was best at, whenever she wasn’t over at Writer Beware helping out other writers.

My condolences to Ms. Crispin’s family, especially her husband, writer Michael Capobianco, her best friend, writer and Writer Beware co-founder Victoria Strauss, and to all of her fans, everywhere.  She will be greatly missed.


Note: Earlier this week, the SF&F community lost another great writer — a pioneer in the field, no less — Frederik Pohl — at the age of  93, and the world at large lost writer and television broadcaster David Frost at 74.  Supposedly, it’s a myth that noteworthy passings come in threes . . . yet here, that myth has proven out.  (Strange, that.)

Written by Barb Caffrey

September 6, 2013 at 3:20 pm