Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Archive for November 2014

New Author Interview (Mine) is Up at Awesome Gang

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Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Amidst the pumpkin pie and the turkey, I thought I’d tell you about something I’m thankful for — a new, wide-ranging interview of me is up at

I did this a little over a week ago in support of my novel, AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE, because it’s on sale right now for ninety-nine cents (a three dollar savings), and will be through Cyber Monday. I figured as a new author, I need to get the word out about my work, and Awesome Gang seemed like a very good place to do an interview with.

But you’re never quite sure when a website is going to put up a new interview.

Fortunately for me, Awesome Gang got right on it, and actually put it up a few days ago. (Me being me, I discovered it tonight, just in time for Thanksgiving.)

Here’s my favorite question from the interview:

If you were going to be stranded on a desert island and allowed to take 3 or 4 books with you what books would you bring?

NIGHT CALLS, Katharine Eliska Kimbriel. TWO OF A KIND, Rosemary Edghill. MIRROR DANCE, Lois McMaster Bujold. THE DISPLACED DETECTIVE SERIES omnibus, Stephanie Osborn.

But if you want to know what I’m up to right now, not to mention what’s in the works for 2015, you need to read the rest. So please, go here and have at…after reading this interview, if you want to read AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE, here are a few links that will help you do just that:

And thanks for being willing to read any — or all — of my work!

Written by Barb Caffrey

November 27, 2014 at 1:06 am

More Thoughts Re: Craig Wayne Boyd on “The Voice”

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Folks, I am glad Craig Wayne Boyd has lasted another week on NBC’s “The Voice.” I’d told myself if he made it through, I’d write about him again…but this time, try to explain just what I see in Mr. Boyd, and why I think him continuing on is a positive example for everyone — not just other singers or musicians, but everyone.

First, I believe someone who has talent should be encouraged. Mr. Boyd has talent — loads of it. He has a huge, yet smooth baritone voice, and he only rarely goes off-pitch (and then, seemingly, only for a microsecond; just long enough to let us all know he’s human, then he’s back on again). He is a consummate musician who does everything right.

Second, Mr. Boyd’s success to date on “The Voice” shows that sometimes, you just need the right opportunity.

Third, and by far the most important, is that Mr. Boyd is persistent. He refuses to give up on himself and his talent. And because of that, he’s finally getting his time to shine.

You see, persistence matters. Without it, Mr. Boyd wouldn’t finally have been able to grasp this opportunity — the right opportunity for him — and he wouldn’t be on the cusp of major stardom.

I think we all could learn a lot from Mr. Boyd’s career to date. He’s had ups and downs. He’s been an opening act, he’s toured the country (see this article for more details), he’s been little-known, and he probably wondered what he had to do to get a break.

Now, he finally has one.

As Blake Shelton, his coach, said last night during “The Voice” results (my best paraphrase, as I don’t have a transcript in front of me), “I don’t know how Craig isn’t already a star, how he was overlooked.”

I don’t, either. But I’m glad he hung in there and seized his opportunity when it finally arrived.

Because he deserves it.

Let that be a lesson to everyone in the value of persistence, along with the stalwart refusal to give up on yourself. (As far as I’m concerned, Mr. Boyd is right up there with Vinny Rottino in that regard…fortunately, music is unlike baseball, and Mr. Boyd should be able to have a long career.)

Edited to add:

I’m not the only one who feels Mr. Boyd should never have had to go on “The Voice” and should already be a major star (as I said in my prior blog on this subject).

Take a gander at Lyndsey Parker’s column over at Yahoo Music:

Craig is untouchable in this competition. He’s a pro. He’s a golden god. He should have landed a record deal years ago, and it’s almost downright embarrassing that he had to go on The Voice in the first place.

Amen, sister!

Written by Barb Caffrey

November 26, 2014 at 8:15 am

Just Reviewed Two Books at SBR…and Other Stuff

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Folks, I remain much closer to ill than well, I’m afraid. But I was able to get up a new “2-for-1 SBR Special” — that is, two new book reviews instead of one over at Shiny Book Review — a few, short minutes ago.

What books did I review this time? I picked Mercedes Lackey’s BASTION and CLOSER TO HOME, both featuring Herald Mags and his love interest, Amily, along with an interesting mix of characters and Companions.

Did I enjoy these books? Without spoilers, I can say honestly that I did. But one was far more predictable than the other.

Anyway, please go check out my reviews for BASTION and CLOSER TO HOME, and see what you think.

Aside from that, I’m gearing up for my first-ever book promotion for AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE. Because of that, the price has been temporarily dropped to only ninety-nine cents. So get your copy now, if you haven’t yet…the price will be going back to $3.99 in early December.

Finally, I wanted to pass along a bit of a wonderful new review I received for AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE at Amazon:

Fresh, innovative and daring, this story comes across as something very different from the rest. It offers new fantasy concepts, including a unique take on elves and their relationship with humans in a contemporary setting.

(Go read the rest of this rave review for yourself!)

Written by Barb Caffrey

November 23, 2014 at 1:25 am

What Auditions Are Like

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Folks, I remain more sick than well. But as I listen to my readers, and had a request a week or so ago to discuss what auditions are like, I figured, “Why not?”

Before I get started, I’d best explain something for readers who are somewhat new to me. I’m a trained classical musician; I also play jazz, have backed up pop vocalists, and understand most if not all musical forms. (I can even explain Gregorian chant to a degree, even if I cannot sing it.) I have two degrees in music performance — specifically, in saxophone performance from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and in clarinet and saxophone performance from the University of Wisconsin-Parkside. My first instrument was the oboe, and I was known for that in high school; I took up the saxophone at age 15 because I wanted to play in the jazz ensemble, and took up the clarinet at age 17 because I liked the sound of the instrument (besides, on jazz charts that needed the clarinet, I felt inadequate because I didn’t know how to play it).

All of this may give you some idea as to what my qualifications are, but in case it doesn’t, let me make it clear. I’ve auditioned for colleges, both for positions and for scholarships; I’ve auditioned for symphony orchestras; I’ve auditioned for local groups, upon occasion; I’ve auditioned for small groups, large groups, jazz groups, classical groups…you name it, I’ve probably auditioned for it.

Regardless of your instrument, there are some things every musician who auditions for a group or placement needs to consider.

First, what’s the venue? If it’s an orchestra, you’re going to need to bone up on your orchestral excerpts — and the orchestra in question will send you a list of the pieces they’re expecting you to play, so you’d best get familiar with them. If it’s a jazz band, you’ll have to prove you can sight-read a few jazz charts, and possibly show that you can improvise a jazz solo with a rhythm section (you’ll especially need to do this if you’re auditioning for tenor saxophone, bass or trumpet, but you should be prepared to improvise if needed on any instrument). If it’s a pop group, you’ll need to sight-read, show that you can play a short, tasteful improvised solo (as for the most part, pop groups play with vocalists and they are the stars, not you), and if it’s for anything else, you’ll need a familiarity with the music being played and a willingness to sight-read anything put in front of you.

Second, what instruments are you going to need to bring? I am a woodwind specialist and play three instruments — oboe, clarinet, and saxophone. But if I’m going for an audition with a symphony orchestra to become their principal clarinetist, I’ll need to bring my clarinet and an A clarinet (a clarinet tuned one half-step below a B-flat clarinet, the standard clarinet played in the United States). If I’m going to an audition with a jazz ensemble, I might need to bring my saxophone and my clarinet (only rarely will you play oboe with a jazz band). And if I’m going to an audition with a concert band, I’d best make sure what instrument they want and what additional instruments they may need me to play down the road before I go.

Third, you need to have a strategy when you audition. You need to be prepared for your nerves, for the possibility of long waits that run far over your expected audition time, and as many other problems as possible in order not to get thrown so you can perform the best possible audition you can.

My last symphonic audition for a position as a clarinetist with a symphony orchestra is a case in point (note: this was over ten years ago, but very little has changed since then). The committee was running at least an hour and forty minutes behind, it was the middle of summer and the air conditioning had conked out, and the toilets were overflowing — one of the worst possible combinations I could’ve ever imagined auditioning amidst, to be perfectly honest.

But those weren’t the only hurdles. There were the other clarinetists warming up that I couldn’t help but hear, all of whom sounded (in the moment, at least) better than me. Some had better “pedigrees” than I did — that is, degrees from more acclaimed music schools, or better-known teachers, or who were younger and/or had traveled the world with other groups and could prove it. And some had all of the very best and most up-to-date instruments with all of the optional trill keys, and of course none of their keys were sticking despite the humidity and the terrible conditions, but mine were, and then they called my name…

Under such bad conditions, it’s surprising anyone can win an audition, to be honest. (To be fair, most auditions are held under much, much better conditions. Thank goodness, or none of us would be likely to try for jobs.) You’ve practiced for hours, sure, and you have the music down cold, but you weren’t expecting any of the other stuff to occur.

In my case, I did not win that audition. I did, however, perform credibly enough that I was asked to stick around for a few hours while they made a determination (meaning I wasn’t one of the first people dismissed to go home). And under those particular conditions, I was happy with that — and secretly, I wondered if I were better off not to win this particular audition.

Now, how does an instrumental audition compare to a vocal audition? Most of what I just told you is the same. You prepare a piece or two of your own, usually, and must be ready to sight-read something or prove you can sing (or play) another style if requested. You have no control over the venue, you have no control over how long they may be running behind…the only person you can control is yourself.

That’s why I said something about audition strategies. Because thinking in advance about what the worst-case scenario could be sometimes brings peace of mind. And thinking in advance about the best-case scenario — that you are going to give your best-ever performance, that they will love what you’re doing and want to hire you on the spot — certainly does no harm, either.

Figure out which strategy works for you, whether you’re a fatalist, an optimist, or a combination of both. And use it.

That’s the best way to make sure you’ll have a good audition. Because you’ve done all the work in advance to set yourself up for success.

A Teensy Little Bloglet…

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Folks, the last week hasn’t been good for much of anything, I’m afraid. I’ve been head-down in a new project, doing my best to finish up an older project, and am working through a set of changes with regards to one of my books.

All of this means I haven’t been online much, I’m not blogging much, and aside from the Marketing for Romance Writers’ “Tweet Fest” on November 12 (this past Wednesday), I haven’t had much to say in any medium.

I’ll also admit that I’ve been fighting a case of the flu, mixed in with a little bronchitis. And that in addition to all of the work on my plate has stopped me from doing much in the way of commenting as well.

I do plan to write some more blogs soon, including a new one in my series “Learning from the Fiction Masters” and perhaps a blog dealing with something I haven’t had to do in a while, but people have asked me about: auditioning for orchestras.

Why has this last thing, in particular, been a hot topic? I’m not sure, but if someone wants me to talk about it, I’m willing to talk about it.

(Providing it’s not about snow. I really don’t want to talk about snow.)

Anyway, until then…and for those who’ve asked, yes, I do plan to review at least one book at Shiny Book Review later this week, health and weather permitting.

Written by Barb Caffrey

November 16, 2014 at 5:47 am

Posted in Editing, Writing

Country Singer Craig Wayne Boyd Tears it up on “The Voice”

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Folks, I’ve never before written a blog about NBC’s “The Voice,” but tonight, it’s warranted. After watching singer Craig Wayne Boyd sing the Hell out of the song “Some Kind of Wonderful,” I had to come straight here and discuss what I’d just heard.

For those of you new to “The Voice,” it’s a show featuring singers who haven’t yet broken through to a wide audience. Craig Wayne Boyd is a man in his prime with a great big baritone voice, a huge stage presence, and charisma to burn. He’s someone who once you listen to him, you’ll wonder why he isn’t already a huge star — because my goodness, he ought to be.

I’ve seen two good articles explaining what Craig Wayne Boyd did tonight; the first is an overview of the entire show by writer Vicki Hyman for, complete with links to the video performance, and the second is by Kenny Green for, which discusses Craig Wayne Boyd in-depth and gives this excellent quote from coach Blake Shelton (who was talking directly to Mr. Boyd) during tonight’s airing of “The Voice:”

“I am going to go ahead and call it. That was the performance of the night, dude. That was so much power and muscle in your voice and just your stage presence. You got passed around, and that was stupid on my part. I can’t believe I got the chance to have you back,” Shelton said. “You are beating the odds every time you got out here and I think America is going ‘holy crap,’ this dude is the real deal.”

I agree with Blake Shelton, though I have thought from the beginning of this year’s season of “The Voice” that Craig Wayne Boyd was a potential power to be reckoned with. I didn’t say anything until now, though, for two reasons:

1) You never know how a musician is going to perform under pressure until he goes out and takes the stage. This is the most pressure-packed gig Mr. Boyd has ever had; to boot, he was placed in the final position, which could’ve sapped his strength.

Instead, he kicked serious butt.

2) While I was extremely impressed with Mr. Boyd throughout the previous rounds, because he has been coached by two different vocalists (Gwen Stefani and Blake Shelton), I wasn’t sure what to think of that.

Now, I think Mr. Boyd actually got the better end of that deal, because he has not one but two coaches in his corner. And with both of them, Mr. Boyd impressed them with his professionalism, his attention to detail, and his willingness to take direction. (It was at Ms. Stefani’s urging that Mr. Boyd cut his hair, for example, and got rid of his fringed jacket for a more modern one in black leather instead.)

Remember this name: Craig Wayne Boyd. He’s taken what could’ve been lemons in having two different coaches with two disparate approaches and learned from both. And he’s come out the other side with an even greater and richer musical palette to work with…I just can’t say enough about this man, and I hope he continues on “The Voice” for weeks to come.


Before I forget, Adam Levine and his group Maroon 5 also performed their controversial song, “Animals” at the top of “The Voice.” (I’ve already weighed in with my take on this song previously; let’s just say I prefer the version they did on Saturday Night Live, but this one was fine, too.)

A Quick, Drive-by Excerpt…

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I wasn’t sure what to name this little blog-let, so I let my creativity be my guide. (Bad creativity! Bad!)

Anyway, Christine Amsden, author of the popular Cassie Scot urban fantasy series, graciously shared a guest slot with me over at her site, featuring an excerpt from my novel, AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE.

Note that if you read my blog a few days ago, the one that pointed you to Stephanie Osborn’s Comet Tales, you have already seen this excerpt. So you certainly do not have to go take another look if you don’t want to.

Still, it’s wonderful to get as many eyeballs on it as possible, and Christine Amsden has many more people reading her blog than I do. So it is possible that more people will realize that my book exists, and that is no bad thing.

In fact, you could see it as an early Xmas present, if you’re so inclined. (And to think that I haven’t yet managed to get Mrs. Osborn or Ms. Amsden anything…for shame!)

Written by Barb Caffrey

November 6, 2014 at 12:35 am

Voting and Disappointment

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Folks, I’m sorry to say that business as usual will continue in Wisconsin. Scott Walker won re-election, which I have to say I don’t understand…and there were some truly puzzling things going on in other races, too. (How did Douglas LaFollette only get 49% in his Secretary of State race? He should’ve won with 60% of the vote, as he always does.)

But the voters have spoken. Scott Walker remains the Governor of Wisconsin.

(In case you were wondering, I am truly disappointed.)

It’s not so much that Scott Walker has been re-elected that bothers me, though admittedly I wanted him out. It’s that I don’t see anything in Wisconsin that’s likely to improve with him as our Governor.

Definitely, nothing will improve in Racine, where crying economic needs have been unmet for the past ten years or more.

While I was not a fan of Mary Burke, as I felt she was a corporate Democrat who didn’t have any understanding of the middle or lower classes in Wisconsin, if she had been elected, there might’ve been a prayer that something, anything, might improve.

Instead, we’re going to get the same-old, same-old.

And that’s incredibly disappointing.

Because I’m a prognosticator by trade ( at least part of the time), I will point out that I didn’t think Burke was the answer for Wisconsin.

But I don’t think Scott Walker is the answer, either.

That being said, our choices right now are few. We’ll have to hunker down and endure in Racine, again, as I doubt Walker will approve the casino expansion in Kenosha (one of the few things that might create some desperately needed jobs; something Walker has stalled for the last two years or more).

But I will keep my eyes on the one, potential saving grace: the possibility that if Walker does not change, does not at least become willing to do something to promote true economic opportunity in Wisconsin, he can be recalled in 2016.

Wouldn’t that be a blow to his Presidential aspirations?

Do Your Civic Duty — Get Out And Vote!

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Folks, it’s Election Day. I’m proud to say that I voted over an hour ago.

And even though it’s nearly 5:30 PM in the Central Time Zone, there’s still time for you to get out and do your civic duty by voting if you haven’t done it already.

Now why should you do this? It’s simple. Since we live in a democratic republic, the best way we have to affect the outcome is by voting.

Now, you might be saying, “Hey, Barb. I know I should vote, but I haven’t a clue who to vote for. Can you help me out a little?”

Well, sure. Here’s a quick-and-dirty summation of how and why I vote.

If I like what’s going on in my state, I tend to vote for incumbents.

If I do not like what’s going on — and I think I’ve made it clear over the past four years that I do not — I vote against the incumbents.

(Or in plain language: Yes, I proudly voted against Scott Walker for the third time. Let’s hope the third time is the charm.)

In the other races, I used the same strategy unless there was someone I truly wanted to vote for. (In this case, as I like John Lehman and Rob Zerban, I voted in their favor for Lieutenant Governor and U.S. Representative accordingly.)

And in the referendums, I used my best judgment.

As Robert A. Heinlein once put it (this being my best paraphrase), it’s better to go vote against than not to vote at all. So please, do go out and vote.

Voting matters, you see. Even if you vote against what I think — or used what I just said as a primer in how not to vote (which is another thing RAH said, long ago) — it’s still important.

Thus concludes tonight’s public service announcement.

Written by Barb Caffrey

November 4, 2014 at 6:23 pm

Want to Read A Free Excerpt From “An Elfy On The Loose?”

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Folks, we’re coming up on the holiday gift-giving season. Because of this, Stephanie Osborn got together with a number of writers and asked them all to give her blogs and/or excerpts from their novels in an attempt to interest people who knew next to nothing about us.

Because what’s a better gift than a book?

Anyway, the upshot of all of this holiday gift-giving stuff is that she posted an authorized excerpt from my novel, AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE, on her blog Comet Tales. Here’s just a wee bit from that (a snippet from a snippet):

But he still had no idea where he was. He didn’t recognize anything, except green grass, yet he had the oddest feeling. He wasn’t sure, but he thought they somehow had made it back to the Elfy Realm after all, and the not-knowing made him dizzy.

Sarah had stopped and appeared to be weaving on her feet. Bruno jogged the equivalent of three city blocks to get to her, hoping she’d not fall before he made it.

“Bruno, I feel…sick,” she gasped when he was only a few steps away. He sprinted toward her and turned her around; her greenish-white face was alarming. He told her to let the packs fall, then gently helped Sarah lay down on the ground…

Lost on a sea of too-green grass, with no way out in sight.

Please go take a look at the excerpt from AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE, and then, if you wish to see more, you can do any or all of the following four things:

And thanks for being willing to read any — or all — of my work.

Written by Barb Caffrey

November 4, 2014 at 1:30 am