Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Archive for March 2020

Homebound Ramblings

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Today, I just wanted to write here so you’d know two things about me that are still relevant to the discussion:

1) I’m alive.

2) I’m keeping as busy as I can. I’m writing music. I’m doing some editing. And I have some ideas for stories about Bruno and Sarah, but they need to get out of the gestation stage so I can write ’em down. (Still, I’m thinking and I’m whipping up plots. It’s not all bad.)

Now, the reason for doing this is, of course, Covid-19. It is rampaging its way through Wisconsin, and the numbers we have are far lower than the actual ones because of the difficulty in getting tests.

So, I stay home and do all of the above I mentioned in #2.

What’s strangest of all about my experiences thus far with Wisconsin’s shelter-in-place order (excepting the above reasons) is how dislocated I feel from everything. It’s the end of March. Baseball season would normally be underway, but because of Covid-19, it’s not. When I drive anywhere, the roads are much less crowded than usual, which is both a blessing and a curse; when I go into any place besides the grocery store, the sense of quietude is almost overwhelming.

Of course, I’ve been abiding by the Wisconsin shelter-in-place order as much as I possibly can. I have gone out to shop, to see my mother (I shop for her, too), to go to the doctor, to visit the lake (I see that as an almost spiritual exercise), and I’ve done a little walking here and there, too. I’ve also visited a friend, sitting six feet away from her, and chatted; this has helped me feel a bit better, even though maybe it’s not as strict of a social distancing as some would wish. (I have limited myself to just this, though. Everything else, and I do mean everything, has been done over the phone or the computer.)

All of this feels wrong, though. It sounds wrong, too. It’s like I went to bed one night, and woke up in another universe. It’s one I hardly know, and can barely understand.

And I can’t stand it.

I didn’t expect to feel this way. I am an introvert. (Granted, I’m an introvert who enjoys people and likes to talk to them, one-on-one.) The jobs I do in music and writing and editing are ones you have to be solitary-minded to appreciate. (Or, in the case of playing in a band with others, you have to be able to fit in with how the rest of the group is playing the music or your own music won’t make any sense.) And I’m used to being at home, because I work from home.

Still. I do not like being cooped up in the house. It is very frustrating to not have the opportunities to go out and do things, even though at this particularly stressful time I realize social distancing and flattening the curve means I need to stay home as much as possible.

I realize that if you’re a parent of young children, you’ve got it way worse than I do. (Most especially if they were in a traditional school, but now have to be de facto homeschooled for the rest of the semester with only the teacher’s guiding prompts.) And I have great sympathy for you, as I do for anyone who is frustrated with the Covid-19 pandemic and wonders when, if ever, it will end.

As I’ve said before, I think we all need to do whatever we can to help others. But I also think we need, somehow, to keep our spirits as high as possible. Read books that make us think, or laugh, or better yet, both; watch movies and shows that enlighten us, entertain us, or at least amuse us; listen to music that makes us think, makes us feel, makes us care, and makes us understand that we’re all human and we’ll all get through this.

That said, I wish I could do more. Say more. Be more. Listen more. Help more. And again, do more…because people are hurting right now, and I hate it that I can’t fix what is broken. (Only the epidemiologists, scientists, and other medical personnel can do that right now.)

But I’m here to listen. And if you want to talk, chime in and let me know…the floor is open. (Or at least, the blog’s comment section is.)

Written by Barb Caffrey

March 30, 2020 at 4:31 am

Staying Healthy in the Age of Covid-19

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Folks, I have been thinking about this all week. How can we stay sane during this onset of the illness known as Covid-19? (Otherwise known as either the “coronavirus” or the “Wuhan flu.”)

This is a serious question, mind you. Even folks who haven’t had Covid-19 have been affected due to aggressive measures of social distancing, quarantine, and stay-at-home measures. These things, I believe, will help to lessen the amount of deaths we’d have otherwise seen…but it’s hard to prove a negative like that. And it’s even harder to alter our lives, day after day, in so many small ways.

Consider this: Before Covid-19, you didn’t worry about going to get gas. That there might be germs on the pump that could kill you. (I know this sounds alarmist, but I’m talking “worst-case scenario” here. Yes, you can wash your hands often, and you should.) You didn’t worry about going to the grocery store, either. Nor were there YouTube videos out there showing clueless teens and others touching or licking food in the store, as if Covid-19 isn’t a serious issue. (Those who do this need to be stopped and punished. If they’re under a certain age — say, twelve — their parents need to take care of it, and if the parents can’t, then it may be up to the courts.) And you didn’t worry that anyone you might come into contact with could get infected by you, even if you show no symptoms…because in the U.S., there’s a shortage of tests, and only the highest-priority (or, perhaps, the very wealthy who can jump the line) are able to get tested.

All of this promotes a heightened state of anxiety. It can’t help but do this. And nearly everyone feels it, whether they say so or not; if they aren’t sick, that’s great, but they’re still cooped up in the house, unable to perform any part of their normal routine, and that in and of itself is wearying. (Not to say anything about those who are in unsafe, unstable situations who are now sheltering-in-place with abusers. Which is scary as Hell, too. The shelters are still open and can still help you, if you are in such a situation, but how many people are going to be able to think past their fears to go when it’s hard to leave an abusive situation in the first place?)

I have pondered what my characters Bruno, Sarah, and Lady Keisha (from the Elfy series) would do in such a time. Lady Keisha is a healer/priest, so she’d certainly be ministering to the sick. Maybe she’d be much less at risk because of her magic; maybe not. But she’d be out ministering anyway. And Sarah, who’s more or less a de facto apprentice healer due to her strong skills of empathy even at an early age, would be right there with her.

But what about Bruno, you ask? I’m not sure what Bruno would do. He’d probably make masks, as there’s a shortage of them. (With his magic, and being able to make something out of nothing, he’d be able to make them a lot faster than the rest of us.) He’d probably go and sterilize equipment as fast as he could. He’d probably ready all the available mages in the area, and get them into positions to do the same things at whatever levels they could…in other words, I can’t see him being silent, or sitting on the sidelines, or accepting this passively.

As for Allen and Elaine of Changing Faces, who have no magic? I think they’d be making YouTube videos of their music to comfort people. Maybe playing duets, as they liked to do that anyway…they’d be sheltering-in-place at home, and they’d be telling people in every situation to enjoy life as much as possible, because time and health are not expendable.

I think we need to be like Allen, Elaine, and Bruno, even if we can’t be like Lady Keisha and Sarah at this time because we don’t have the proper training.

What that means is, we have to do what we can, even if it’s small. If we can make masks, we should. If we can’t, we should try to find a way to donate materials to those who can. We should lobby our legislators to get more ventilators for the hospitals and clinics that need them. We should do everything in our power to keep states from having to bid against each other, much less against FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency), and get a national clearinghouse to get and send out the ventilators to the critically affected areas first and everyone else after — an effective national clearinghouse — in place, stat, so this never happens again.

But most of all, we need to be kind to each other. Be especially kind to those who are still out there working, like the grocery store clerks, and the pharmacists, and the medical personnel. Thank them for what they do as often as you can. Try not to be short with them no matter what your stress level.

Why? They’re the ones who are going to get us through this. And we need to help them as much as we can in any way we can, even if it’s just by appreciating what they do at this especially difficult time. (Appreciation and kindness matter. Especially now.)

Finally, if you’re in an area that as yet is unaffected by Covid-19 in a major way, don’t think you’re immune to this. It’s just slower to get to you, that’s all.

Don’t be tempted to do what the stupid kids did in Florida by going to the beach for Spring Break as usual; many of them got sick, and not all from Covid-19 either, because of their stupidity. (All of ’em should be up for Darwin Awards for that, in my not-so-humble opinion.)

Don’t be tempted to resume your normal routine too soon, either.

Those of you in small communities in mountainous areas are probably safer than many at this time, because fewer people congregate around you in the first place. But all it takes is one person who doesn’t know they are infected to bring it to your community. And this was out in the United States for a good two to three weeks before we took any notice of it; that’s just the facts.

We have no immunity to this. It’s worse than the flu. The death rates are higher than the flu. And we as yet have no vaccine for it, and likely won’t for at least eighteen months no matter how fast the medical researchers work (and I’m sure they’re working feverishly).

So please. Be kind. Be cautious. Be safe. Wash your hands, and often.

Live through this. (Please?)

Written by Barb Caffrey

March 27, 2020 at 4:51 pm

Read More, or, How to Stay Sane in a Global Pandemic

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Folks, I wrote a week ago or so about the mass hysteria over the corona virus. Since then, more information has come out, and it appears the only thing that can mitigate the damage from this previously unknown virus is “social distancing” — in other words, trying to stay away from people who aren’t members of your nuclear family (or are exceptionally good friends you’ve seen in the past week or two).

Social distancing doesn’t necessarily mean isolation, mind. You can still talk with your friends, even those who you haven’t seen in the past week or two, by phone or by using an internet app like FaceTime or Skype. And if you do go out with someone you’ve seen recently, you can probably walk next to them as per usual; still, to be safe, we’re told to keep six feet apart in public if at all possible.

The hope by doing this is that it’ll give the virus a chance to die out. But no one knows if it’ll work.

But this post is about how to stay sane during this difficult time. And I intend to tell you what helps me the most: Reading books.

In fact, I splurged and bought Sharon Lee and Steve Miller’s newest Liaden Universe book, ACCEPTING THE LANCE. And I enjoyed it immensely. There’s a lot in that book that seems to apply right now — people who’ve been upended by life, having to re-establish themselves, having to learn how to go on in drastically altered circumstances. And the new consensus that comes out of the chaos is a much better one than the previous; it allows for people of great diversity to find ways to talk to one another, and to find ways to help everyone become their best selves.

Yes, it’s only a book. A bit of entertainment, if you will. But there’s a lot of truth in it.

That said, here are some other books I absolutely adore, and believe may help you if you are a SF&F reader (or just want to broaden your horizons).


This is the Night Calls trilogy, and it is exceptionally good. Alfreda “Allie” Sorensson is a smart young lady in a frontier version of America that includes magic. And she has a good deal of it. But she’s a practical soul, is Allie, and she knows being strong in anything can scare people. How she finds her own balance and equilibrium during a number of harrowing tests is well worth reading, again and again.

The stories of Stavin Kel’Aniston, starting with ALL THAT GLITTERS — Loren K. Jones

Stavin is my favorite of Loren’s many characters (thus far). He is quite short, feels he’s not attractive or smart or worth anything…then he takes up a dare, meets a dragon, and the dragon is impressed. (Note that Stavin was far too smart to try to kill the dragon.) He’s much more intelligent than he thinks he is, but Stavin is also a young man with a young man’s faults. Who he meets, the challenges he faces, who he loves, and what happens to him are well worth reading about. And you’ll love his wife, Sharindis (or Shari); she knows just what to say to bring him down a peg or two, whenever needed.

Mind, if you want to read something else by Loren, I’m all for it; I’d just start with Stavin, as he’s so much fun.

Finally, I also recommend the stories by Chris Nuttall. He has several great universes going on, but my favorites are his Schooled in Magic universe (featuring Emily, a young lady from Kansas who must learn her magic quickly or she won’t survive) and his Zero universe (where most people have magic, some have a ton — but the people who may have the most power of all are, paradoxically, the Zeros who have none as they’re the only ones who can forge truly awesome weaponry).

So, to find these stories, go to Amazon and look first at Katharine’s page. Then at Loren’s. And finally, at Chris’s…you can’t go wrong, and it may help you deal with this crisis to be reminded that resilience and pluck come in all shapes and sizes.

Mass Hysteria and the Coronavirus

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Folks, I have read any number of articles and seen any number of TV programs (and internet programs, for that matter) regarding the coronavirus. It is an infectious disease with no cure; it is a virus; the only way to deal with it is by living through it and taking palliative measures that you’d take if you were dealing with any illness at all.

This is all true.

But the hysteria around the coronavirus — the “we’re all gonna die” feeling — is not helpful. It scares people for no reason. It worries them to the point they go out and buy all the toilet paper in the store, all the bottled water, all the Lysol and disinfecting bleach…and they do this because it’s the only thing they can control.

Illness isn’t fun. I know this, as I’m battling Ye Olde Mystery Illness.

But you can deal with it. You can make sure you have Tylenol on hand. You can get extra rest. You can make sure you have some soup in the house, or something easy to eat, if you are too ill to make something. And you can make sure that you stay mentally healthy, refusing to give in to the hysteria, while you take these preventive measures.

Yes, get more bleach, if it makes you feel better. (I know I’ve bought some extra for both my Mom and myself. But it’s just one bottle with the groceries, not the whole section.) Get Lysol, as you should have that on hand anyway. Get cleaning products (which you should also have on hand). Make sure you wash your hands thoroughly with hot water (by preference; cold water beats nothing). And remember that washing your hands is by far preferable to hand sanitizer, but if all you have is hand sanitizer for some reason, use it as it’s better than nothing at all. (The good ones have alcohol in them. The not-so-good ones that don’t do much at all don’t.)

Now, all of this is just common-sensical stuff. This is what most of us can do about anything when it comes to our health.  And when we think about it that way, there’s no reason to panic.

But the reason people are panicking is very simple: Coronavirus is new. People don’t know what’ll happen to them. It is infectious. It is dangerous to people who are dealing with respiratory issues or are older adults (I don’t like the word “elderly,” so I’ll just say “older adults,” OK?).

And “new viral illness” that’s killed people, and shut down most of the country of Italy, is scary. The progression of the disease, how fast it moves, and how it can kill people — that, too, is scary.

So I’m not saying to take it lightly.

All I’m saying is, don’t give in to the hysteria. That gets you nowhere. It wastes your energy to no purpose.

Instead, be prepared — moderately so (don’t buy all the toilet paper on the shelves, OK?) — and do whatever your doctor tells you to do if you get it.

That’s all you can do with these unknown illnesses. (Or really, anything unknown at all.)

Written by Barb Caffrey

March 10, 2020 at 8:47 am

Read an E-Book Week Continues. More Freebies for You Await!

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Folks, as I said yesterday, it’s Read an E-Book Week. And my publisher, Twilight Times Books, is giving away multiple books — but only at its website

Schooled in Magic; Read an eBook Week 2020

As stated above, my publisher, Twilight Times Books, is offering quite a few free e-books during 2020’s Read an E-Book Week — including two of mine (in the first two days of the promotion, no less), plus a few from my friends Chris Nuttall and Loren Jones. Not to mention other TTB authors I’ve worked with, like Ken Lizzi and Christine Amsden…really, you can’t go wrong with any of these e-books.

And best of all, they’re free.

All you have to do is go to this website, and pick what type of file you want. (That’s it!)

Note that they are only available at the Twilight Times Books website’s freebies page, not at Amazon, not at Barnes and Noble; you must go to this link to get your free books. (Now back to our regularly scheduled post, already in progress…)

By the time you read this, AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE probably won’t be available. But CHANGING FACES, my third and most recent novel, will be…and I hope you will go there, download the book, and give it a try.

All I ask, folks, is that you download books you like and want. (I hope mine are among them, of course. But there are so many other good ones there, as I’ve said before.) Then, go review them at Amazon, or at Barnes and Noble, or anywhere you see them listed; say you received a complimentary copy if you like, even.

But do go there, and do download the stuff. And then do read, read, read!

Anyway, the site, again, is at Twilight Times Books. It’s their “freebies” page. And it’s right here, in case you need the link (again).


Written by Barb Caffrey

March 2, 2020 at 5:18 am

It’s Read an E-Book Week, and I Have Giveaways…

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Folks, as promised, I am returning today to let you know about Read an E-Book Week (2020 version).

Schooled in Magic; Read an eBook Week 2020

My publisher, Twilight Times Books, is offering a good number of free e-books — two of mine (in the first two days of the promotion, no less), plus a few from my friends Chris Nuttall and Loren Jones. Not to mention other TTB authors I’ve worked with, like Ken Lizzi and Christine Amsden…really, you can’t go wrong with any of these e-books.

And best of all, they’re free.

All you have to do is go to this website, and pick what type of file you want. (That’s it!)

Note that they are only available at the Twilight Times Books website’s freebies page, not at Amazon, not at Barnes and Noble; you must go to this link to get your free books. (Now back to our regularly scheduled post, already in progress…)

So, today’s offerings include my own AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE. You can get it as a Kindle/mobi file, as a PDF, or as an e-Pub version. And to get it, all you have to do is go here, scroll down the page, and find my book’s name (and the versions you can get for free).

Do check this out, will you? Because there are so many good offerings there, all for free…and I’d hate for you to miss it.

Until tomorrow…(insert evil chuckle here).


Written by Barb Caffrey

March 1, 2020 at 5:45 am