Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Archive for January 2021

Remembering Henry Aaron

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Last Friday morning, baseball Hall of Fame great Henry “Hank” Aaron passed away in his sleep. Aaron was many things in his lifetime: a phenomenal player, a good husband, a wonderful father, a great friend, and possibly most of all a humanitarian.

I never met Aaron, personally, but I remember going to one of his last games when I was quite young. This was in 1976. Aaron was 42 years old and a designated hitter for my hometown Milwaukee Brewers team, and it was cold, a bit rainy, and windy…when Aaron hit the ball over the fence, no one was sure if he had hit it fair or foul. To me, where I was, it looked fair. (No instant replay in the stadiums, back then.) But the umpire called it foul (no way to challenge that, back then, either), and that was that.

Aaron already had 755 home runs at that point, making him at that time the greatest home-run hitter in Major League Baseball history. But that near-miss home run is what sticks with me, mostly because Aaron didn’t complain. He didn’t yell at the umpire. He may have shaken his head a little, but he went back into the batter’s box and finished up his at-bat. (I think he struck out.)

Put simply, Henry Aaron was a class act.

Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel wrote an article today about a service held in Atlanta earlier today, where many different people spoke. (Some spoke by Zoom, some by recorded messages, and a few in person, as is proper during a pandemic.) Here’s one of the salient quotes from that article from Atlanta Braves chairman Terry McGuirk:

“He will always be known as our home run king,” McGuirk said. “For our organization, Hank was much more than those stats, much more than the greatest ballplayer of all time. He helped guide our organization ever since his playing days ended.

“Doing things the right way was one of his mantras. The saying on the front of today’s program, which is also on one of the pillars here, reads, ‘What you do with your life and how you do it, is not only a reflection on you, but on your family and all those institutions that have helped make you who you are.’”

I think that quote sums up what most of us are trying to understand in this lifetime. Think about it a little bit: “What you do with your life and how you do it is not only a reflection on you, but on your family and all those institutions that have helped make you who you are.” This, in one pithy saying, gets to the heart of the matter: we are who we are because of what we’ve learned, because of the people we’ve come into contact with, and because of our own efforts (the phrase “have helped make you who you are” is key in that).

Henry Aaron was 86, and lived a good, long, honorable life. He was a tremendous player — even in 1976, his final year as a player, it was obvious that everyone on the field had great respect for him. The stats can’t possibly show his value and worth as a human being, though…only those who knew him, and of his philanthropic nature, and of his wish to lift others up as he, himself, had been lifted along the way, can fully know that.

But what I know is this: We lost a wonderful person when Henry Aaron passed away.

We truly did.

Now, all we can do is remember his mantra (as stated, above, by McGuirk) and live every day the best way we can. (Or, to go back to my blog about the John Wesley saying, “Do all the good you can, for as long as you can, for as many you can.” That’s my paraphrase, but I hope it works.)

And if you’re able, do one small thing every day to better someone else’s life…just ’cause it’s the right thing to do. I think Henry Aaron would approve of that — and I, myself, definitely do.

Last Week’s Insurrection Attempt in Washington, DC, Continues to Trouble Me

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I’m still trying to comprehend the events of the last week-plus in Washington, DC. I never thought I’d see anything like that in the United States. 

I just do not understand how so many people could go inside the Capitol building, riot, deface and vandalize things, in addition to building nooses outside and apparently wanting to kill the VP, the Speaker of the House, and perhaps anyone else they could get their hands on.

How can otherwise reasonable people do such terrible things?

Because while there were many in that mob that were not reasonable, and had intended from the get-go to do awful things (thus the zip ties, the makeshift battering ram, the rappelling equipment, etc.), there were still quite a few people caught up in the mob that probably had never intended to do anything like that in their lives.

And I just don’t get it.

To those who honestly believe the 2020 election was stolen, I urge you to get the facts. Look at what the judges — many Republican appointees, including a good number of Trump appointees — have said about the various challenges. Look at the actual briefs of the lawsuits that were thrown out. And then ask yourselves, how could so many Republicans down-ticket get elected if there was supposedly so much fraud?

And by “down-ticket,” I mean state legislatures as well as the US Senate and House of Representatives.

In Wisconsin, it was a close, tough vote, but Joe Biden prevailed. How do I know it wasn’t rigged? Because every single one of the Republican legislators in my area — which is purple, meaning it can be D some years and R some years — were re-elected. Every single last one.

I don’t know about you, but if I were going to rig an election, I’d want to throw all of the opposing party out. Not just one guy. But every single last one of them.

And if you’re saying something like this: “Barb, they were smart about their theft! They wouldn’t try to take everyone out! You’re being foolish!”

Well, my reply is this. I believe that many of the US Senators running for re-election had tough races, and obviously the Democrats wanted to take some seats. It looked like there would be quite a few Republican US Senators getting turfed out, but instead, most of the Republicans running for re-election (even in those tough races like Maine or Kansas or Iowa, to name three places where the Democrats thought they had an excellent shot to pick up a Senate seat) won their seats back.

I can’t believe that at least a few of those seats wouldn’t have had different results if there truly was a theft of the election.

Nor can I believe that in Wisconsin, a place that elected a liberal judge to the state Supreme Court in 2019, would return all but two Republicans to the Assembly (lower house), and have more Republican state Senators than Democratic state Senators, if there truly was fraud and theft going on.

So, either the fraud and theft here was so deftly done that I — someone who worked on a state judicial recount years ago — can’t detect it, or there was no fraud and theft.

Which means this: You, the angry Trump-supporting Republicans, are in the same place I was in 2016. I was frustrated, hurt, upset, angry, and didn’t know how Donald Trump could win an election. And right now, you are frustrated, hurt, upset, angry, and don’t know how Joe Biden could win.

I can’t tell you what to do about this, but I will tell you what I did. I made sure to vote. And I worked on campaigns — at least a few, now and again — for candidates I believed in. I called my Senators and Representatives to let them know what I thought, and was polite throughout. And I did my best to educate myself, so I could make informed choices as best I could.

In addition, over time, I have peacefully protested. I have worked on a state recall for the sitting Wisconsin governor. And as previously stated, I have participated in a statewide judicial recount.

I did these things because I felt they were important.

And after things didn’t go my way, what did I do? I continued to educate myself, vote, work for candidates I believed in, etc.

I certainly didn’t commit acts of violence. That thought never entered my mind, because it’s utterly wrong.

But you get the point by now, so I’ll leave you with this: The best way to overcome any obstacle is to work hard, keep your eye on the prize, and accept setbacks graciously.

Anything else is useless, pointless, and unnecessary.


Written by Barb Caffrey

January 14, 2021 at 1:41 pm

A Writing Snippet from KEISHA’S VOW (Elfy prequel set in 1954)

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Folks, I didn’t forget my promise. So without further ado, here’s chapter 1 from KEISHA’S VOW, the work-in-progress prequel to the Elfy novels that’s set in 1954.

Here we go:

Chapter 1 from Keisha’s Vow, a work-in-progress from Barb Caffrey (yours truly):

The Master waited, exultant. Soon they’ll be here, he thought. He had prepared for this day, dreamed of it, shaped his will toward it, and now…wait, was that a car in the distance?

No, not them, he thought as he made one last pass around the campsite. The runes were all inscribed, but blended into the rock as to be well-nigh invisible; his followers, innocents all, shouldn’t suspect a thing. He had already paced out the boundaries of his chosen ground, and he’d — well, he couldn’t really call it a blessing, could he? But by whatever name anyone cared to call it, he had imposed his will upon the land underfoot. It lay, quiescent, its power dormant as was proper for this time of the year; only thus was he able to command it. If this had been high summer he wouldn’t have been able to do anything on an unprepared field, even on a night like this, when the moon was at its darkest.

That was why he’d had to start laying the preparation now for what he planned to do later, because in the summer, he knew he would have to make his stand. How or why he knew this, he wasn’t sure, but only a fool refused to listen when the Dark Mother whispered into his ear.

And the Master was no fool.

But there was no more time for preparation: his followers were beginning to arrive. They came from far and near, from both directions on the small, rutted dirt road, in cars, estate wagons, and even a conveyance that looked like it had only recently been released from service as an Army ambulance. Anyone spotting them would not see anything other than a bunch of unusually late picnickers; his people looked no different from anyone else. And this was California; didn’t people always do strange things here? The Master knew that if any of them had been stopped, they’d have had a tight tale for the authorities.

Before they got close enough to him to see his face, he donned his hood and mask. They would expect that: their leaders had always gone cloaked (no one with any real power — political, social, economic — came openly to a meeting in this company). Despite the wards on his dusky robe, the power radiating from him, nobody took the slightest alarm. He wasn’t sure if they couldn’t feel the power, or if they misunderstood it; he smiled, knowing they could not see him, and waited for his prey as calmly as he possibly could.

He was satisfied; he’d told them to come here, a rural place nearly untouched by mankind, and they had obeyed him. Even though this place wasn’t close to anything, and some of them had to be fearful at dusk, they’d still come.

Ah, the poor, brave, deluded fools, he thought contemptuously. Still, they were his, and that’s all that really mattered.

He didn’t worry too much about anyone happening along; there were no farms or houses within a mile of where he stood, and the nearest town, a very small place called Knightsville, lay about five miles to the east by road. He lit his beacon fire with confidence and waited for his flock, even though time seemed to crawl…surely, he wasn’t that difficult to spot?

Men, women, and even a few children straggled from their cars. At least twenty, thought the Master. A good harvest. And the children — especially the children… They took out their robes and hid under them, as he had, partly to emulate him, partly because they knew it was required. Then they gathered together around the small fire he’d made, and lit their candles. Black, of course; what other candles were there?

It was February, and nothing stirred. The land was his to command, more dormant than he’d ever known it to be; perhaps it had really died this time. The Master did not know or care; the fact was that Dark of the Moon was nigh, and it was as close to Imbolc as they were going to get…the timing was right for their ritual.

He reached out with his mind and felt their commitment; only the youngest wondered what they were doing here, as was to be expected. He touched their young, small minds as lightly as possible, telling them without words that what they were doing was necessary and right. Their reservations dulled, faded.

Only then did the Master call out: “My children, hear me.” He spoke in a near-whisper, trying to make his words sound sacred rather than profane. These others didn’t have the will to understand the truth of what they did. But he did, and he was the leader.

He went on in his lowest tones, “We must work our Will upon the land this night, that its powers awaken to aid our betters afar.” He grimaced inwardly; he hated having to sound like such a simpleton. But it was required — his followers were almost childlike in their naïveté, and needed child-simple ideas to satisfy them — and it did work: his “disciples” nodded, the hoods of their robes flapping like so many bobbing ravens’ heads.

One of his followers — he knew and cared not which — produced a cage in which a plump, white rabbit lay amidst the remains of a bunny banquet: a few well-chewed stalks of celery, scraps of lettuce, and what was left of a carrot. That, too, had been his plan from the start: treat the creature well, until…

He focused his will upon the rabbit, and it slept. Such a small thing didn’t need to be aware of what they did; its innocence, even unto how it went out of its life, was enough. Silently, he pulled the rabbit out of its cage; it was gravid, as he’d hoped, meaning other, smaller lives would go unborn. Surely the Dark Mistress would be pleased; surely the death of innocents, more than one, would help Her cause… he laid the rabbit on a small, dark rock he’d prepared earlier. The runes, written in charcoal around the rock, blended into its natural coloration; only he could see them, wreathed in a dark, reddish fire visible only to astral sight. None of these had any astral sight to worry about; their mage gifts were marginal to nonexistent.

They would not understand what they were doing, and that, too, was part of his plan.

He took out his athame, black-hilted as was proper, with the blade looking just as black in the light of the fire, but actually encrusted with the remains of many a bloody sacrifice before this. He held it up so the light from his followers’ candles would reach it, then silently motioned them to their places. Without a word, they formed a semi-circle around the rock, facing toward him in the place of honor — naturally — on the other side of what was now their altar. Then he took the knife and did what was necessary, neatly severing the rabbit’s head and holding it up for all to see.

“Touch it; it’s dead, it’ll never harm you,” he said warmly, now in more normal, conversational tones. A few of the more daring souls indeed did this, but most shrank back.

Ah, yes. Time for the sermon.

“It is our will that we will have dominion over all the beasts of the field, from the last to the littlest, to the greatest and most able. We must show our dominance; we must not be afraid. Fear is a weapon in the hand of those who oppose us, those who would impose their ways on us.” His eyes caressed his followers; so pure, so noble-seeming did he make it sound. Some were afraid; he drank in their fear. But most were nodding again, willing tools to do his bidding.

He put down the head, then skinned the rabbit, saving for last the delicate and difficult task of scraping out the unborn pups. They’d nearly made it to life, poor things, he thought as he went about his work.

But these would not be the last sacrifices, he told his audience. They would meet again at the next dark-of-the-moon, and the one after, and on into the summer if necessary, until further notice. They had made a good beginning, he told them, but it was only a beginning, and they had to expand upon it and continue on in this way in order to do their betters’ work in the world. He tried to make it sound noble, but even he couldn’t make blood sacrifice sound all that much better than it was, so he concentrated instead upon necessity, and how all of this would eventually help them all.

His flock acquiesced, as he’d known they would; these were sheep, not really people, but in these times, even sheep like these were better than no one at all.

This place was now sealed to him, to do his bidding, even as he did the will of the Dark Mother…he bade his flock to dip their fingers in the blood he had spilled atop the makeshift stone altar; this they did, then put that blood to their lips.

Thus were innocents consecrated to the Dark.

The gathering dispersed, all but the Master returning to their vehicles and driving off the way they had come. The Master faded into the darkness and waited until everyone else was gone.

Only then did he take off his robes and mask, donning in their place a set of ordinary working man’s clothes and putting the symbols of his mastery away in an old surplus rucksack. There would be a reckoning, he knew; soon, somehow, there would be a reckoning. Soon he wouldn’t have to go veiled to the world; everyone would know that he, Victor Mundy, was the Master!

Then, rucksack on his back, he set off across the fields toward his small home on the outskirts of Knightsville, whistling in the dark.

Let the powers of Light try to stop me. If they dare.

*****

Do you want more? Tell me in the comments!

Written by Barb Caffrey

January 3, 2021 at 6:09 am

Thank the Deity, 2020 is Over…and Other Stuff

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Folks, I wanted to start the New Year off right with a blog, but as you see, it took me a few days to write.

Why? Well, as I said in my last blog, I had a ton of editing to do in December. This is highly unusual but very welcome. (Publishing as a whole tends to take December off, I’ve found. Though the pandemic more or less uprooted everything, of course. As it does.)

I also am dealing with yet another sinus infection. This is frustrating me because it’s already getting in the way of the one meaningful 2021 New Year’s Resolution (TM) I have: to write more. Sinus infections sap my strength. They definitely get in the way of my creativity. And I wish there was a way to stop them, so I could be considerably healthier in the wintertime.

That said, so far, no Covid. (Thank the Deity.)

And of my friends who’ve come down with Covid, they’ve all recovered. (Again, I give thanks to whatever the Deity is.)

I have a jam-packed January planned, too, editing-wise. At least five books are planned by my various author-clients. And I want to work on all five. So I’ll figure it out, and shoehorn some writing in there now and again, too. (Just as soon as this sinus infection leaves me be, that is.)

Years ago, I read a short story by Rosemary Edghill in her excellent anthology PAYING THE PIPER AT THE GATES OF DAWN. In that story, one woman more or less confronts her fate. She either writes, or edits. If she writes, she does little to no editing; if she edits, she “confidently works on a novel she has no intention of finishing.”

This does come to mind, often, with my editing schedule as it stands.

However, there has to be a way to do both. Ms. Edghill herself has done both for most of her career, and done it brilliantly. So I just have to find my own way toward the same end…

Of course, Covid did change everything in 2020. And not just my writing to editing time-ratio.

For example, the Racine Concert Band, which I play in and have for years, could not perform any concerts for obvious reasons. And we’re not sure what will happen to the upcoming year, as it all depends on how well the vaccine rollouts go, much less how well they’re tolerated. (I think I can say this without breaking any confidences, as it’s all common sense.)

I haven’t managed to practice very much or very often since mid-2020. My energy had to be kept for things I absolutely needed to do for much of the year. Anything else — even things that give me heart’s ease from pain — was put on the back burner.

Did I want to do this? Of course not. But I’m an adult. Adults figure stuff out, as best they can, and try not to get too frustrated about things that do not go their way.

Writing-wise, I’m still battling two demons, which are:

  1. How to turn off “Editor Voice” long enough to get a first draft (so I can manipulate things as needed later), and
  2. The thought that none of my writing will ever matter to anyone, so what’s the point? (That last is an existential issue.)

The first is a technical thing. And since my friends who are good editors have found a way to do this, I should eventually be able to find my own way through that thicket, too. And as far as the second thing goes, it’s a matter of telling myself it’s OK if no one cares about my writing but me and a few of my friends.

Plus, there’s a strategy I can use to try to get my next series out there, and that’s putting out at least two books in the same series in the same year. That builds anticipation and excitement, or at least can do the same…plus, writing short stories in that milieu to get your name recognized by readers can’t hurt anything, either.

For that matter, I have a good friend who sells a ton more than I do who’s told me for the last three years he wants to write a book with me. The reason I haven’t done it yet is because he writes over ten full-length novels a year, and my writing time has been limited to maybe 35K in 2020 and 60K in 2019 (all projects). I don’t want to slow him down, in short, and I can’t figure out how to make our writing time issues palatable to him. (Unless he looks at it as a side project for him, with it being a main project for me. Perhaps that’s the way?)

Anyway, my hope is that 2021 brings joy, peace, happiness, creativity, and all good things to you and yours.

What are you hoping to accomplish in 2021? Leave me a note in the comments!

Written by Barb Caffrey

January 3, 2021 at 6:00 am

Posted in Editing, Writing