Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Archive for July 2015

Why Caitlyn Jenner’s ESPY Award Speech Matters

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Even though I’m a sports fan, I rarely watch the ESPY Awards. But I made a point of it this evening, as I knew Caitlyn Jenner would receive an award for courage (the Arthur Ashe Award, to be exact).

Some have given Jenner a very hard time since she came out as transgender months ago. This mostly is because of two things: One, the former Bruce Jenner has been a high-profile athlete and media personality since he won the Olympic gold medal in the decathlon in 1976. And two, Jenner was married to Kris Jenner — matriarch of the Kardashian clan — for quite some time. (They are now apparently on the road to divorce and seem to be living separate lives.)

I said months ago when then-Bruce Jenner admitted that he saw himself as “she” that many people were missing the point. Whether Jenner is outwardly male or female, the soul inside is still the same. And we need to start understanding that people are a diverse bunch, and stop condemning people for being different.

I know, I know. Most people don’t condemn people. (Thank goodness.) It’s only a vocal minority that does. But as Jenner said tonight at her ESPY Award speech (my best paraphrase), she can handle criticism. But the young transgender children out there cannot…they are being bullied, shunned, and treated worse than their peers for the simple fact that they carry more of their differences on the outside.

I wrote about Leelah Alcorn a while back, too. She was a young girl who had a family that totally did not understand her, and parents who were so rigid, they only would refer to her by her birth name of Joshua. Not by the name she knew herself as, Leelah.

The Alcorns did everything they could after their child’s suicide to show that “Joshua” was a normal boy in interviews. They also said they “didn’t believe in that” when any reporter tried talking to them about their biological son’s transgender identity. And they made the funeral service private, kept away Leelah’s closest friends, and took down Leelah’s final note asking for acceptance and tolerance for others (as they had that right, ’cause Leelah was underage).

So I am certain that Caitlyn Jenner understands what’s at stake for transgender youth.

I’m also certain that Jenner understands just how important it is for the entire LGBT community to have positive role models.

Much is made of what Jenner wears nowadays — the hair, the clothes, the shoes, the makeup, etc. And I understand why. The Kardashian clan is widely followed; they are famous for being famous, the lot of them, and the paparazzi cannot help themselves whenever any of them are around. (Why that is, I haven’t the foggiest. But it is undeniably true.)

But I would rather there was more focus on what Caitlyn Jenner is saying rather than what she wears, who she goes out with, whether her divorce is in train or whether or not her family agrees with her decision to be open about her new life as a woman.

What Jenner said tonight about acceptance, about trangender people needing to be respected, was vital. So if you haven’t seen her ESPY speech yet, you really should seek it out. (If you need a quick read, check out this one from Yahoo Celebrity.)

I’m very glad that someone has finally said what needed to be said, though if you’d have asked me a year ago, the last person I thought would ever say it would be Caitlyn (formerly Bruce) Jenner.

Please read these words, ponder them, and then ask yourself this question:

What can I do today to be more tolerant, more accepting, and more nurturing?

My Fifth Blogiversary — and a Great New Review for “To Survive the Maelstrom”

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Folks, this is my fifth “blogiversary” — that is, the fifth anniversary of my blog, affectionately known as the Elfyverse. (Or Barb Caffrey’s Elfyverse, if you prefer.) Here, I’ve talked about everything that interests me, whether it’s baseball, politics, current events, music, writing, or something else — whatever it is, I’ve probably discussed it.

(Writers do that, y’know.)

Anyway, today I have a special treat for you, in that Pat Patterson of Papa Pat Rambles reviewed my story “To Survive the Maelstrom” over at Amazon — and he gave it five stars. (Thank you, Pat!)

Maelstrom3Here’s the blurb for “To Survive the Maelstrom,” which was written in my late husband Michael B. Caffrey’s Atlantean Union universe (and thus he is credited):

Command Sergeant-Major Sir Peter Welmsley of the Atlantean Union has lost everything he holds dear. He wonders why he lived, when so many others died at Hunin — including his fiancée, Lydia, and his best friend Chet.

Into his life comes Grasshunter’s Cub, an empathic, sentient creature known to those on Heligoland as a “weremouse.”

Weremice are known for their ability to help their bond-mates. But how can this young weremouse find a way to bring Peter back from the brink of despair and start living again?

So if you want to read “To Survive the Maelstrom” in honor of my fifth blogiversary — or just because you like solid military SF — please go to Amazon and grab yourself a copy. (I do intend to get this story to Barnes and Noble and Smashwords within the next ninety days, somehow, but for now it’s on KDP Select. So if you have Kindle Ultimate, you can read “To Survive the Maelstrom” for free — right now.)

Written by Barb Caffrey

July 10, 2015 at 2:21 pm

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.

Written by Barb Caffrey

July 9, 2015 at 5:47 am

Patriotism, Band Music, and July 4th

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Folks, earlier today I took part in one of the most patriotic things any non-United States veteran can do on July 4th: I played in the City of Racine parade with the Racine Concert Band.

Now, why is this patriotic?

Mostly, it’s because we play marches while sitting on the parade float. (Today’s three, for the record, were “Liberty Bell” by John Philip Sousa, “South,” an arrangement of various tunes by Hal Leonard, and an arrangement “God Bless America” by someone whose name I’ve already forgotten.) And in case anyone forgets marches are usually intended to be patriotic, we had flags all over our float, while most of us wore additional bits of red, white and blue on our uniforms (or, in some cases, in temporary tattoos on arms, faces, or hands).

The fun thing about playing in the parade is to see how people respond to this music. People of all ages clap their hands, bob their heads, wave at the band (we usually wave back when we’re not actually playing), some of ’em dance in the street, and a few even pretend to conduct the band (waving an imaginary conductor’s baton in the air).

Some of these folks on the Racine parade route may not see the Racine Concert Band (henceforth shortened to RCB for ease of reference) at any time during the rest of the year, though we play free concerts at the Racine Zoo in July and August and have three winter concerts for minimal prices at the three Racine high schools (Case, Park, and Horlick). So playing the parade does more than a few things…it helps remind Racinians that the RCB exists, and that we can still bring joy to people, just by sharing a bit of music with them.

The RCB’s first free Zoo concert of the year is July 5 (that’s today, as it’s ticked over past midnight since I started writing this). There’s a trombone soloist, a trumpet trio, lots of marches and patriotic arrangements…people will know nearly all of the songs that we play, and the ones the audience don’t know right off, they probably will by the time we’re done playing it for them.

See, there’s something about marches, show tunes, and patriotic arrangements that really hits people, emotionally. Even folks who don’t think they know “Liberty Bell,” once they hear it, ask, “Isn’t that the music from Monty Python’s Flying Circus?” (At which point, I reply, “Why, yes. Yes, it is.”)

And seeing a free concert in the park can be inspirational…which is one reason I’m glad my hands are doing well enough that I have resumed my chair in the RCB.

If you live in Racine, Kenosha, other parts of Southeastern Wisconsin or Northern Illinois, I urge you to come see the RCB tomorrow at the Racine Zoo for our first free summer concert of the year. The show starts at 7:30 p.m., and free parking is available.

Because, really…what’s more patriotic than a John Philip Sousa march or two on Independence Day weekend?

Written by Barb Caffrey

July 5, 2015 at 12:20 am