Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Archive for September 2019

OUT NOW – Favour The Bold (The Empire’s Corps XVI)

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I edited this, and I know it’s excellent. Try it!

The Chrishanger

An all-new story of The Empire’s Corps!

Earth has fallen.The Core Worlds have collapsed into chaos.War is breaking out everywhere as planetary governments declare independence, entire sectors slip out of contact and warlords battle for power.The remnants of the once-great Empire are tearing themselves apart.

In the shadows, the Terran Marine Corps works to save what little they can to preserve civilisation and build a better tomorrow.But powerful factions are competing with them, determined to establish their own order.If they cannot be stopped, if the marines cannot hold the line, the galaxy will fall into a new dark age.And there may only be one chance to nip their scheme in the bud.

Does fortune favour the bold?  The marines are about to find out.

Download aFREE SAMPLE, read theAfterword, then purchase from the below links:

Amazon US.Amazon UK.Amazon Canada.Amazon Austrilia.

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Written by Barb Caffrey

September 28, 2019 at 12:44 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Who Do You Want to Be? A Meditation

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Normally, at this time of year, I write about my late husband, Michael. He was the most wonderful person I have ever known, and thus I want to keep my memories of him — and his bright, lively, and fun-loving spirit — alive.

But today, I want to talk about a different side of Michael. And, therefore, of me, too.

One of the questions he and I pondered quite often was this: Who do you want to be?

Too many people out there don’t develop their talents, partly because they don’t know they have any. Or they repress their talents, because they need to make money and their talents don’t seem to be useful toward that end. Or, maybe, they’re just frustrated with trying to work with their talents (guilty!), and don’t know what to do with themselves.

The thing is, our talents are only part of us. They’re not everything.

We humans are a complex lot. We have so many different things inside us, and so many different things we can do.

That said, the question “Who do you want to be?” has particular resonance for me for a different reason, too.

There’s a well-known axiom, “Know thyself.” To know yourself should be the first step in figuring out what you want to do, what you need to do, and what you must keep doing to make not only your life-circumstances happy, but your immortal soul happy as well.

(Yes, I went there. Michael believed, too. But it’s OK if you don’t. Moving on…)

But again, knowing yourself can be fraught with peril. People go down paths they shouldn’t be on, all because they convince themselves the ones they need to be on aren’t good enough. Or that they will never be accepted for who they are, so they’d rather “fake it ’til they make it” or worse, pretend to be someone else.

(Yes, I know some of you live by the “fake it ’til you make it” philosophy. If it works for you, and you still know yourself, good. If you don’t, and are on the wrong path, go meditate for a while and figure yourself out. But I digress.)

To me, the most important thing to do every day is to help others. Whether it’s by music, writing, a gentle (or sometimes, not-so-gentle) word, or running an errand, I try to help others as much as I possibly can.

Why? Because I can’t live with myself if I don’t. And because to my mind, if you can help someone but refuse, you aren’t worthy of very much.

“But Barb,” you say. “You can’t help everyone. You know that.”

True. But as Lois McMaster Bujold’s character Mark Vorkosigan says in MIRROR DANCE (my best paraphrase as the book is not in front of me): “Everyone always says they can’t do it all, so they won’t do any. And they don’t.”

In other words, you should try to help others as much as you can.

Because really, what else are we here for? (Surely it’s not to ascend to our own one-person Heavens.)

Back to Michael, though. He believed in helping others as much as he could. He ran errands. He rebuilt other people’s computers. He fed feral cats. He listened and helped as much as he could.

And, oh yes, he reached out to a lonely woman suffering her second divorce and wondering, “Why, God/dess, why?” And the result of that was the richest, deepest, most rewarding, and by far the best relationship I have ever had with anyone in my entire life.

So, just for today, be like Michael. (And, maybe, like me.) Help someone else. Be there, even if they don’t expect it.

You could find a friend. (Or more.)

And if you do, toast Michael in The Good Place (TM), as it’s because of him and his love that I still stand. And still write.

 

Written by Barb Caffrey

September 21, 2019 at 6:00 am

When People Disagree: A Rant

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Folks, if you’ve been following my blog for the past few days, you may have noticed that there was a disagreement between me and a long-time reader of my blog. Over politics, of all things…the most fraught subject in the United States, partly because everyone seemingly has made up his or her mind already. Worse yet, most of the folks I know of any political persuasion won’t change whatever their initial snap judgment was in the first place, and thus we stay stalled out.

Nothing gets done, because we can’t even agree on the basics anymore.

I don’t know what to say about this, except that it saddens me.

In this case, my former reader was a Trump supporter. I am not, and never have been. That said, I do read George Will (a conservative columnist) regularly, watch Shep Smith regularly (the best newsman on TV, and he works on Fox News), and sample a number of conservative blogs every week, including Hugh Hewitt’s (a Trump supporter and radio host).

Do I agree with much of what any of them say? Hell, no, I don’t**. But I owe it to myself to find out what they’re saying, because sometimes I do agree with a little here and there. (And every great once in a while, I find myself in agreement with someone like longtime Republican strategist Rick Wilson. Granted, he’s a #NeverTrump guy. But he still is a true conservative, and thus doesn’t have a ton in common with me in some ways.)

And one thing I do know we all agree on, whether it’s Hewitt or Will or Wilson, is that we need to believe our government works for us. Rather than them doing whatever the Hell they want (or don’t); rather than our Congresscritters (and other governmental folks) acting like pigs at the trough and getting all they can, as long as they can; rather than them acting like complete and utter idiots, out of touch with people in the middle and lower classes (so they can’t possibly make decent laws, having no idea of what the true issues are).

The way to find consensus is to read exactly what’s written, and not impart what we think the other person is writing instead. The former reader decided no matter what I said about politics that I hated Trump so much, “Trump was Hitler.” (He said this in several comments.) And I said no such thing.

In fact, what I did say was, “I don’t like Trump. I don’t trust him. I don’t think he’s a good POTUS (president of the United States). But he’s not Hitler.”

I should’ve gone further, though. Which is why I’m writing this right now.

Many dictators and authoritarian-types who’ve come to power shut down the freedom of expression as the very first thing they do. Whether they are from China or Chile, Venezuela or Uganda, or anywhere else that’s featured dictatorial rule in the past century (including Cuba), the one thing a dictator can’t handle is the freedom to say, “I don’t like that guy, and here’s why.”

With all of Trump’s faults — and he does have many — he has not done that. He’s not even tried to do that. And I think one of the reasons the hard-core Trump supporters out there (including the former reader of my blog) get so frustrated is that some members of the media have worried incessantly that Trump will do that. And worse, some of the most loudmouthed members of the chattering class believe it’s only a matter of time, and have already decided Trump is guilty of suppressing freedom of the press right now.

Know, please, that I am not among those folks.

But back to the matter at hand. It isn’t fair to impart motives to my writing that do not exist. That frustrates the Hell out of me. As a writer, I try to be as blunt and to the point as I can, and make it blindingly obvious what I think when I’m writing my blogs or anything of a nonfiction nature. (Fiction, by definition, is different. And you have to take different tactics there as a writer to do the job. But I digress.) I do that on purpose, because I do not want to be misunderstood.

What I do know, though, is this: If we can’t agree even on how to disagree, we’re in big trouble.

I realize many people, myself included, are worried about all sorts of things, big and small; that said, we have to at least be willing to agree to disagree sometimes, and be civil about doing it. And not just storm off in a huff when you’re not getting your point across, or you don’t particularly want to agree to disagree, either. (That’s something the US Congress does very well. We, as people, should not.)

My belief, overall, is that you don’t have to agree with me. (In fact, I hope you don’t always agree with me. How boring would it be to have a bunch of echo chambers around all the time?) But you do have to be civil about your disagreement, and you really should try to see what the words actually are, rather than what you think they are.

End rant.

——–

**I like Shep Smith’s newscasts, and I agree with how he presents the news. He is objective and principled. I like that. I wish we had a lot more of it.

 

Crossroads and Current Events

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There are times in life you know you’re at a crossroads.

For me, the most recent one was when my late husband Michael proposed to me. I’d been burned in two previous marriages, so taking that leap of faith again was hard. I did, though, because Michael was the best person I’d ever known — and I was right to take that leap of faith.

But there were others, and most of them had nothing to do with relationships.

For example, when I was in graduate school, I had the opportunity — or at least the desire — to transfer into the journalism school. I didn’t do it, because I didn’t want to start all over again with a new program. And I worried that my student loan debt — already formidable — would get even worse if I started a new program midstream.

I think I did the right thing to stay in the program I was already in, mind. But there were a few months where I wondered, “Am I doing the right thing? Would I be better off in the J-School?”

Anyway, the crossroads I sense now is different than both, but has elements of both. I need to take a leap of faith, and I need to trust that I’m already on the right course even if it doesn’t feel that way.

But perhaps I need to take a step back, and explain what the Hell I’m talking about. (Especially as this post is titled “Crossroads and Current Events.”)

I realized earlier this evening that over the past year, I’ve written mostly inspirational posts. There’s nothing wrong with that. But it’s not what I would prefer to be talking about, and yet…it seems almost like I’m shying away from the stuff that’s more controversial, or difficult, or noteworthy, because to put myself out there in such a way requires more energy than I have some days.

For example, I am frustrated at what I see in the news. Here are three stories that just have bugged me, over the past couple of weeks:

  • Some people from the Bahamas lost everything, including their passports. But the US isn’t letting them in, even though there’s an agreement with the Bahamian government to help in times of crisis or tragedy.  Refusing to help an ally is not a good look for the United States in the first place; refusing to help an ally when they’ve endured a life-threatening event like a severe hurricane is unChristian and uncivilized.
  • There’s a policy from the Trump Administration that’s awful, and it has to do with children — some on legal visas from the get-go, some allowed in for humanitarian reasons — who have been told to leave the country. Even if their home country does not have the life-saving treatments these folks need, the Trump Administration does not care. Again, this is unChristian, and uncivilized; it makes the people of the US look like fools, that we’d have “leaders” like this putting sick children out of the country for no good reason.
  • Finally, I am appalled at the story having to do with the Air Force being told to refuel and rest at Turnberry in Scotland, all because POTUS Donald Trump has a hotel there that needs business. This is not the policy of the Air Force, nor of any of the Armed Forces; they usually — rightfully — go to military bases to refuel (and rest, if needed). This is the cheapest way, and it is the safest way. It also doesn’t financially enrich the sitting President of the United States, and since we have a Constitution that forbids such things, we should follow it. Or admit that the Constitution has no meaning in the 21st Century.

So, these are the three burning issues that have vexed me for the past week. But there have been others.

Why am I telling you about them now, though? It’s simple. My crossroad here is, “Do you want to be silenced, or do you want to be yourself?”

As I’m not interested in being silenced, I am going to be myself. I’ll still pick my spots to chime in, because I do have to save my energy for other things (or I’ll never get back to writing fiction).

So, my leap of faith tonight was to tell you what’s bugging me.  I hope you understand why I pointed out these three horrible issues.

As for my friends on the right, I pray they will understand my disgust and anger even if they (for some reason) don’t share it. (Personally, I would hope refugees needing help, kids being sick needing to stay in the country rather than being forced to go home to die, and the Air Force putting in at military bases to refuel are things we can all agree on. But in case I’m wrong, be civil in your disagreement.)

 

 

Teensy, Tiny Personal Update

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Folks, I can’t recall if I had mentioned this here at my blog or not, but in July I sprained my right ankle. I did so just before I played my clarinet solo with the Racine Concert Band, but it got worse rather than better over the next week to week and half.

Then, one day, I put my foot wrong somehow, and my ankle’s ligaments felt like they were going to tear. My leg buckled. I caught myself with my other leg (as I’d been trying to go up a steep stoop), went the long way around to get my stuff (don’t ask), then hightailed it to the doctor, where I found out I had a severe sprain. I had ligament damage, too. They could feel it. And the whole area was a big mess.

So, they gave me an ankle brace that laced up (so I could still drive, natch), and sent me on my way.

Until yesterday, I wore the ankle brace every single day for many hours a day. (Whenever I had to go out, or walk around more than a few steps in the house, that brace was on.) Slowly, the limp associated with the sprain went away; the pain lessened; the swelling lessened significantly; the ligaments quieted down.

In short, I healed. Properly, for a change.

My hope now is that I will be able to do more blogging in the not-so-distant future, as well as more actual work on my stories beyond “hey, wouldn’t it be great to do that when I actually had some energy and time, and wasn’t injured?”

So, what’s going on with you? Tell me about it in the comments!

 

Written by Barb Caffrey

September 7, 2019 at 5:52 am