Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

New Review Up at SBR, and my Writing Journey Continueth…

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Folks, before I forget, go read my review of Deborah J. Ross’s epic fantasy THE SEVEN-PETALED SHIELD. (You’ll be glad you did.)

Why did I want to start with that? Well, it’s rare to see a strong, yet quiet and scholarly woman as the heroine of an epic fantasy. Yet Tsorreh, heroine of THE SEVEN-PETALED SHIELD, is exactly that — and I loved reading about her.

In fact, I enjoyed reading about her so much that I delayed reviewing THE SEVEN-PETALED SHIELD for several months. I was afraid I would not do justice to it, because when you reduce the plot to its bare bones, it sounds like many other epic fantasy novels.

But it’s nothing like them. It isn’t predictable (except that Tsorreh’s son Zevaron is young, impetuous, and you want to kick some sense into him, but isn’t that the way of younglings everywhere?). It’s quite spiritual. And the writing, editing, and presentation of Tsorreh’s journey is so good that I wasn’t sure anything I said would come close to matching it.

I don’t often feel quite this overawed by fiction, mind. (Not even by someone with the stature and longevity of Deborah J. Ross in the field of science fiction and fantasy.) In fact, me feeling like this is quite rare…and I wasn’t sure what to do about it.

Anyway, I’ve now reviewed it over at Shiny Book Review (SBR for short, as always), and I even wrote a review (a different one, earlier this evening) over at Amazon. I think very highly of this book, and I hope that if you like my work and trust in what I say, you’ll give it a try. (Trust me — it’s different. And it’s even better than my words have made it out to be.)

Now, as for my writing journey?

Most of you know that I’m going to put out my late husband Michael B. Caffrey’s Columba Chronicles again. (They were briefly available in 2010 and into 2011 via E-Quill Publishing in Australia.) But I realized on my re-reads that there was more that needed to be added.

It’s kind of like what I’ve tried to do with Michael’s military science fiction. I know there is more to the story. I try to add it, and remain faithful to Michael’s words; then, as I feel more confident, I write in Michael’s milieu and do what I think he’d do if he were still alive. (Or at least what I want to do, because I believe he’d trust me enough to know what that is.)

So right now, I plan to write a story about Cat, Columba’s husband the shapechanger. (We find out about Cat and his unusual courtship of Columba in the “Columba and the Cat” novella, available now.) I’ve called this “The Quest for Columba,” and I’m even mentioning it in the “coming soon” part of all of the novellas currently out there (including the two earliest, “A Dark and Stormy Night,” and “On Westmount Station“).

You see, I figure Cat’s story is vital to understanding why he went after Columba in the first place. Michael only hints at it. But I know how he worked, and I think he would’ve written about it if he’d only had time.

There also was another story on the way that Michael did not get a chance to finish called “Columba and the Cromlech.” I have tried a few times over the past several years to get into that. My problem was always that I didn’t completely get where Cat was coming from, and because of that, I only could write Columba. (And my version of Columba was always a little more in-your-face than Michael’s.)

However, once I finish “The Quest for Columba,” I think I will again turn my attention to “Columba and the Cromlech,” and will have a much better idea as to where that story is going.

That being said, my version of the second story Michael wrote, “Columba and the Crossing,” will be different than the version E-Quill Publishing put out in 2010. I’m adding in more romance, as I think it’s needed — Michael left a lot in subtext, and I think at least some of it needs to be brought out.

Furthermore, I’ve gotten much better at matching Michael’s writing style even though it’s a thousand times different than mine. And because of that, I feel far more confident in adding my own touches. I knew my husband very well, and I believe that he would want me to do this — since he’s not able to bring these stories to their complete fruition, I believe he’d trust me enough to add what I know must be there.

Maybe this sounds strange to you. Perhaps it is strange. I haven’t a clue as to how other writers do this, though I’ve read what Brandon Sanderson said about his collaboration with Robert Jordan (facilitated by his widow the editor), I’ve read what Ursula Jones said about collaborating with her sister Diana Wynne Jones after the latter passed away, and I’ve done my best to figure out what these authors did and why they did it after the fact.

But no one has collaborated with their deceased spouse when neither of them was well-known. That means there’s no road map to what I’m doing, and no one can give me much in the way of advice other than “Trust yourself” or “You’re a better writer than you think” or even “Michael trusted you, so why can’t you believe in yourself more than this?”

All of these things are good to hear, mind. (Don’t get me wrong about this.) And I have listened.

Still, this is my path. I chose it years ago after Michael unexpectedly passed on. I didn’t know how I would do it, but I said I would find a way — and I am.

I only hope that readers will enjoy what I’m doing, and know that there’s a method to my madness. Because I really believe that Michael would be trying to do exactly what I’m doing…even though I can’t prove it.

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Written by Barb Caffrey

July 9, 2015 at 5:47 am

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