Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Archive for May 2020

Compartmentalization Vs. Alienation

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I’m worried about the state of the world. I truly am.

As I write tonight, there are many cities in the United States that have protests — some peaceful, but most not — over the senseless killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer. That now-former officer knelt on Mr. Floyd’s neck for six minutes, and the other three police officers around him did nothing. Mr. Floyd was black; the now-ex officer was white. It was a non-violent crime that Mr. Floyd was alleged to have committed — he may have passed a counterfeit $20 bill — and he was not resisting arrest in any way.

We have every right to be angry over this. It was reprehensible behavior by the now-ex officer. (I will not name him, as per my long-held beliefs that bad actors should not be named.) Mr. Floyd should not be dead.

But watching the protests is deeply disconcerting. People are rioting, and often burning their own neighborhood businesses; that only hurts themselves down the line, along with the innocent business owners. People are letting their anger, their justifiable rage, spill over to the point it almost seems as if the world is on fire.

And that doesn’t even go into half of what’s going on in the world, as Covid-19 is still rampant. In the U.S., we have had over 100,000 deaths, as I’ve said before. In three months! And many people who’ve been changed for the worse for life, who will live with lifelong health ailments…the hospitals in this area continue to be overloaded, the medical professionals are stressed to the max, and everyone’s on edge.

I think these two things are part of why cities are burning tonight. People are alienated, and people are scared. They don’t know what to do. They don’t think anyone cares. They don’t think anyone is listening. And they wonder what in the Hell the point is.

I get it. And I am worried.

“But Barb,” you ask. “You said something about compartmentalization in your blog title. What the Hell is that about?”

Well, I don’t know about you, but I still have to get my day-to-day stuff done despite the background of chaos that seems to be everywhere. That I can’t shut out. That I wish I could help, but for the most part can’t do anything about other than be as upset as everyone else (but hopefully in a more constructive way than burning everything to the ground).

The only way I can get stuff done — whether it’s writing, editing, or anything else — is to compartmentalize my brain. To say, “OK, I’m going to do whatever I can do right now on this one, small thing. I am going to keep trying, and keep my head up, and do positive things, even if they don’t matter to anyone but me.”

I think this is all I, or anyone else, can do right now.

But yes. I remain deeply concerned. And I wish I knew what else to do, as the world — or at least the United States — continues to burn.

Written by Barb Caffrey

May 30, 2020 at 8:32 pm

Getting On With Getting

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I figured I’d check in with y’all to let you know I’m still alive. (Thus the “getting on with getting” title, above.)**

Now, what have I been doing? Mostly, other than avoiding Covid-19 and staying as cool as possible (as we’ve been dealing with a heat wave, and I have no air conditioning at all), I’ve been able to write a little fiction and I’ve of course been editing (as per usual). I’ve also been taking care of family responsibilities, and petting Mom’s surviving dog Ms. Brat as needed. (Hey, a dog named Ms. Brat needs as much care as possible, if to avoid getting any brattier. Not that she’s all that bratty. But it’s her name ’cause she answers to it; we did try several others, but that was the one she liked. Go figure.)

I’ve also tried to help a few friends here and there, too. Because I got help when I needed it the worst, and I want to pay it forward if at all possible.

At any rate, I hope you’re a) staying safe, b) staying cool (if you’re in the Northern Hemisphere) and c) enjoying life as much as possible.

After all, Covid-19 can’t last forever. (Can it?)

Let me know how you’re doing in the comments. OK?

————

Edited to add: I realized I had left out half of what I’d wanted to talk about, and I’m sorry.

The United States hit 100,000 deaths from the coronavirus yesterday. 100,000. And that’s a terrible milestone.

Worse yet, I didn’t see anything from our President regarding it. Just nothing at all. Crickets, radio silence…call it whatever you want, but ignoring such a thing is unPresidential (to put it mildly). The President is supposed to be the consoler-in-chief along with everything else, and that isn’t happening at all.

When we’re having to take our cues from Democratic Presidential candidate Joe Biden, a former Vice President, because Biden’s the only one willing to talk about these poor people who’ve died, well…the mind reels.

My attention is split between the coronavirus and trying to get anything done. And because I was happy I actually have been able to get stuff done despite it all, I wanted to write this post.

But I didn’t want to forget about the 100,000 people who’ve died. And I didn’t want anyone to think that I ever would forget about them, either…because these were real people with real lives, and Covid-19 has ended it all for them.

Somehow, some way, we must eradicate Covid-19 from this Earth.
And remember the fallen, as long as we possibly can. (This is a war we must win.)

Written by Barb Caffrey

May 28, 2020 at 12:57 am

Posted in Writing

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Sunday Meditation: Learning to Let Go

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It’s no secret that over the years I’ve had a hard time letting go of things, good and bad. The best I can do with certain things is agree that I’m going to go on with my memories intact, and do the best I can with them. With my late husband’s death, that’s the level best I can do — letting go is not an option, because that would also let go of all my hopes, dreams, aspirations, and anything else positive that I still wish to obtain.

But maybe I can let go of how angry I am that he died too early. (I’m not angry at him. I’ll never be angry there.) And maybe I can let go of some of the nonsense I saw immediately after my husband died, including some of the rudest comments any widow could ever get. (Including one idiot who said that I would be just fine because I was young, and could still remarry. Um, what?)

So I’m not great with letting go, but I’m working on it.

This becomes more imperative with other things in my life, though. Things I regret doing, that I cannot change now. People I wish who had been different, or better, or less toxic; again, I can’t change that now either. And things that frustrate the Hell out of me…again, if it’s not an ongoing occurrence, why waste any more time on it?

So just for today, I’m going to do my best to let go of all the negative emotions I feel and focus instead on whatever good I can find in the midst of this pandemic, including the love of friends and family who’ve stayed in my life (not to mention good books and good music).

While I know it’s going to be a work-in-progress, I have to do what I can to keep going and give myself a chance to find happiness. Or at least fulfillment. Or peace. Or all of the above.

If you are like me, and you need to let go, try to tell yourself, “Just for today…” and see what happens. (Then do let me know about how it went for you in the comments, OK? I care.)

Introducing “A Stolen Heart” by Kayelle Allen

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Folks, I’m always glad to talk about my friend and fellow author Kayelle Allen. I’ve edited at least six of her books (maybe more; I’ve lost count), and I’m always happy to work on them because they’re well-detailed, well-organized, and a lot of fun.

But A STOLEN HEART, which is all of the above, is even more than that. It’s about optimism, in the face of great loss. It’s about the blessings of family, even when you don’t think you deserve it. It’s about personal growth, and self-sacrifice, and finding your own way in the world…most of all, it’s about figuring out how to love yourself, warts and all, even when you’ve done something so horrible you have nightmares about it many years after the fact.

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Kayelle’s hero in A STOLEN HEART is the enigmatic Luc Saint-Cyr, a nearly immortal man from a race of genetically engineered humans called Ultras. Luc, thousands of years ago and under another name, was sent while he’d been a soldier to kill, and he’d done just that. But when he found out that the people he’d killed this time were children, he was so appalled he confronted his superiors. They told him to basically “stop being a wussy” (not in so many words), and that he’d been engineered to kill, thank you, so why was he complaining about killing children? What’s the big deal?

Luc wasn’t having any of it, and for many years — and lives — he’s tried to atone for that. (It’s not that he won’t kill if he has to; it’s that he will not kill innocents ever again.) He’s believed that he is unworthy of love. And he’s become almost ossified in his beliefs to the point that even when he takes lovers, he gets physical relief from it but no more — and expects nothing more, either, because who could love him, pariah though he is?

And because Luc’s past comes with a very attractive ex-boyfriend who’s also immortal, well…let’s just say that adds some complexity to the mix. (Remember what I said about Luc not feeling lovable? That definitely hasn’t killed off his sex drive. Though there really isn’t any sex in this book, just attraction…ahem.)

ab-ash-bnr-pietas-pi-chart

Anyway, Luc’s now a financier and merchant. He’s also one of the heads of the Thieves Guild, which is a quasi-legal enterprise in the galactic empire he lives in. But he still thinks of himself as a pariah, and while others (including his ex) see him as calm, cool, and collected, he knows his life is empty.

Because he is more or less immortal (Ultras can be killed, but it takes a Hell of a lot of doing), he has borne this shame for many years. But into his life comes a young half-human boy, Senthys Antonello (called Senth by everyone but Luc; Luc insists that “nicknames lack dignity”). Senth is only three when Luc runs across him running from a nasty teacher in the Thieves Guild; unbeknownst to Luc, the rules have recently changed and now young children (providing they are not fully human) can be sold as slaves. This disgusts Luc, and so he determines to do something about it…but first, he takes Senth home with him as a foster child.

And this changes his life for the better in so many ways, it’s almost incalculable.

Because I don’t want to spoil the read, I’ll stop there with the plot summary. But I do hope you’ll read what Kayelle has written, as I found it both enlightening and pertinent. Yes, Luc’s very long-lived, yes, he has an immortal ex, but inside he’s just like the rest of us. And until he meets Senth, he has no idea what the love of family actually is. Much less the type of love known as agape,  which is selfless by nature.

In previous books (including one about Senth as an adult), Luc was shown to be almost sinister at times. But A STOLEN HEART shows Luc to be like anyone else: he wants to be loved for who he is, doesn’t necessarily he believes he deserves it (in fact, he often doesn’t think he deserves it at all), and is trying to find his way despite many life challenges he didn’t make. And while he may have been created to kill, initially, that isn’t what he is now — or at least, that isn’t all he is.

That’s why I was so pleased to work with Kayelle as her editor for A STOLEN HEART, and it’s why I wholeheartedly recommend this book to you now.

——

BTW, here’s the blurb Kayelle wrote for Amazon, in case you need any more:

When he rescues a half-human orphan, a glorified space pirate turned entrepreneur sets in motion a chain of events that threatens to topple the powerful Thieves’ Guild he once led.

Multiple layers of conspiracy unfold, reaching all the way to Luc’s immortal ex–the king. Behind each solved mystery looms an unseen foe, undoing the good Luc accomplishes. For the sake of this child, Luc must postpone his own freedom and master his desire for revenge or he will violate an ancient vow. Worse, he’ll put the toddler at risk.

At war with his compassion for the vulnerable child, loyalty to the king, duty to the Guild, and the bright lure of freedom he’s coveted for centuries, Luc seeks the right path. Will he choose liberty and unparalleled success, or restore the Thieves’ Guild to its former glory while overseeing the child’s training?

A hard choice for any man.

For an immortal whose inner monster can destroy on sight? Impossible.

A pirate with a monstrous past can never be trusted with an innocent child. Luc must ensure the child is protected, safe, nowhere near danger. Nowhere near him. Even if this little boy has already stolen his heart…

Written by Barb Caffrey

May 18, 2020 at 2:18 pm

Forgiveness and Mother’s Day

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It’s Mother’s Day in the United States. Time to celebrate our mothers, and others who’ve contributed a deeply maternal presence in our lives. And that’s a good thing.

But I was wondering about how some people handle Mother’s Day when they’ve had big problems with their mothers. Mothers who have been arrested, say, for child abuse. Mothers who have put their children in harm’s way, whether they’ve been arrested for child endangerment or not. Mothers who’ve been unremittingly hostile to their children, and refuse to make any amends for their behavior.

I’ve had friends in the past, and still have some to this day, who have had these issues. And what happened to them was a violation of their trust, their humanity, and their core selves.

I feel bad for these friends. Because on a day like today, it has to be harder for them to deal with their memories. And even rising above everything that they’ve been put through (most of the time through no fault of theirs) is only a partial consolation as you watch other people celebrate their relationships with their mothers.

I’m fortunate that I didn’t have to deal with anything like that. While my mother and I have had periods of time when we didn’t get along at all, most of the time we’ve been able to rely on each other for support and care. It isn’t always easy on either side. But I think I’ve been able to learn a lot from my relationship with my mother, and from my mother herself — a strong, intelligent, hard-working woman who did her best through many different personal crises.

I wish my friends had been able to have better experiences with their mothers. Because it’s hard to forgive something like that. And as I’ve said before, many times on my blog, if someone can’t or won’t ask for forgiveness, how can you be able to forgive them?

What my advice is in these situations is to forgive yourself for being there. Try to love your younger self, as best you can. (Which still lives within you, and always will.) And do what you can so you can live with yourself, and be happy with yourself, and realize how far you’ve come from those awful days of despair and agony.

On a day that celebrates mothers everywhere, in short, try to realize that you’ve managed somehow to raise yourself despite it all. And gives yourself some peace…while hopefully leaving some room for those of us fortunate enough to have a decent mother-child relationship to celebrate that as best we are able.

 

Written by Barb Caffrey

May 10, 2020 at 7:18 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Stupid People Doing Stupid Things, Part the Nth

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Folks, today I felt like writing a blog. But the only things that I saw all day today were dumb things. People driving badly — as I had essential business today, I got to see the bad drivers in all their non-existent glory — was just the start of it.

There’s so much stuff in the news these days that’s just awful to behold. Whether it’s the death toll from the ongoing Covid-19 health crisis, the nonsense being spewed at various political briefings in Washington, DC, the nonsensical decisions of various governmental departments (why did the SBA decide to limit loan applications to $150K? That shuts out nearly every business that needs help!), it seems like there’s just nothing going on that’s any good.

I know that’s an illusion, mind you. There are so many good people in this world. And there are so many good things out there, too, including music, art, good books, word games, video games…all of those have worth and value and are worth far more than the bad drivers of the world. Or the bad politicians of the world. Or the bad decisions from otherwise sensible people, for that matter.

But today, I saw the dumbest thing I’ve seen in a while now. And I figured I had to come talk about it.

I was in line at the bank (did I mention I had essential business today? Yes?), and had just finished my transaction. As I started to drive off (as all banks in the US that I know of are still doing drive-thru banking only), the next car drove up — but a pedestrian somehow darted in front of the driver. This pedestrian had been in my blind spot, and I had no idea the guy was there. It was very bright out, and I was under an overhang; so was the next driver in line. So that guy really took his life into his own hands darting out like that, to put it mildly.

I know I would’ve hit the guy, had I been the next person in line. And I’m surprised the driver behind me didn’t hit him, too.

I call people like this “self-selectors for the Darwin Awards.” Because really, there’s no excuse for that. If you are a pedestrian and you have to do your banking, and for some reason you can’t use an ATM (which at the branch I was at was conveniently located on the side of the building; best of all, it was not under the overhang so no one in their right mind could miss a pedestrian there), you should get in line behind all the other cars and you should keep a healthy distance. Carry a flag, or something anyway, to get other drivers’ attentions, if you need to. But definitely go to the back of the line like everyone else and stand there; don’t dart in and out of traffic and act like an idiot.

This isn’t the first person I’ve seen to do this, either. And while I have sympathy if you don’t have a car or a bike or a motorcycle and you have to get food (which for the most part is done through drive-thrus these days) or go to the bank (ditto) or do anything at all that requires you being in a line outside, you have to be cautious and sensible.

While I can’t do a whole lot about many things these days (what am I going to do about Covid-19, anyway? Tell the virus to go away? Ha!), I can at least implore you to take care when you’re doing your banking business. Or going through a drive-thru anywhere at all if you are on foot, because it’s dangerous to do that — and if you’re going to do it anyway, you need to be cognizant of other drivers and pay attention to your surroundings.

Otherwise, you’re an accident waiting for a place to happen. (Or, as I put it above, a self-selector for the Darwin Awards.)

What stupid things are you seeing these days? Tell me about them in the comments!

Relationships and Covid-19

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Folks, I’ve been thinking about this for a few weeks now, but here goes: I think people’s relationships are being tested in many unexpected ways by Covid-19.

I have some sympathy for this, even though my husband has been dead now for quite a number of years. Early in our marriage, we had a period of time where we were flat broke. Neither of us was working steadily, and that meant we were home most of the time. With each other, trying not to get in each other’s way…doing whatever we could to keep each other’s spirits up.

I think of that time when I think about people in long-term relationships, shut in with each other, and Covid-19 now. Because providing neither of you are ill — and God/dess forfend, I hope you aren’t — that’s what you’re enduring right now. You have 24/7 companionship, you’re unable to leave the house very often (if at all), and you must be trying to keep each other’s spirits up.

(If you’re not, I’d wonder about you. But again, as per usual, I digress.)

Because Michael and I found each other a bit later than many couples, we had already faced a number of challenges before we had to deal with our marriage being tested by being home, together, nearly every minute of every day. This made it a bit easier for us, as we had committed to talking things over before we ever got engaged, much less married…and we had also agreed before ever getting married that we’d make the commitment to stay together every single day, too.

What this meant, in practical terms, is that we talked things out often. The way he did things wasn’t necessarily the way I did things. But we both enjoyed each other’s company so much that we were able to compromise, or at least agree to disagree. And it led to some of the most delightful hours of our marriage, those hard times — all because we let ourselves talk to one another.

Well, refusing to deny what we felt was part of it, too. If one of us was having a bad day — and I admit, that person usually was me — being able to say I was having a hard time and get reassurance that it was perfectly acceptable to dislike the situation we were in helped me go on. And on the rare occasions Michael needed the same thing from me, I of course willingly gave him the same thing.

Now, as to how you can apply what I just discussed in your own situations, being trapped at home 24/7 and disliking the fact you can’t go out intensely? My best advice is to talk to one another. Admit that you feel bad, at least some of the time, that you can’t go out and do what you’d normally do. Admit that you are frustrated with the current situation, because no one has any idea when Covid-19 is going to let up; there’s still no vaccine (obviously), there’s no idea yet as to whether plasmaphoresis is going to work; there are very few drug treatments that have shown any ability to shorten the course of illness (if any at all); and because of the shadow of Covid-19, you don’t know when one of you is going to get sick!

See, all of this is scary stuff. But if you can admit to it, you’re ahead of the game.**

Anyway, I do understand how difficult it is right now for those of you in relationships. And while I don’t know if what I just said helps much, I figured saying it can’t hurt anything, either.

Just remember that eventually we’ll get back to some semblance of normal. But until then, treat each other gently.

———

**And guys, I know what you’re thinking. Trust me: being vulnerable to the one you love is sexy as Hell. (Got it?)