Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Archive for May 2021

Monday Meanderings, AKA The Interminable Pandemic Blues

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This past year-plus, since Covid-19 hit, has been frustrating and confusing. While I’ve continued to edit, and have done a little writing (you can see it if you have Kindle Unlimited and borrow Fantastic Schools 3, then look for my story; you also could just straight-up buy Fantastic Schools 3 if you’d like), mostly I just feel stalled out.

Of course, there are reasons for that.

Life got turned upside down by Covid-19. So many different things happened, most of them bad, because of the pandemic. It’s been harder to concentrate on my writing — which embodies hope, to me at least — and it’s been harder to concentrate on my music or musical composition as well. (Possibly for the exact, same reasons.)

Even knowing that the United States is doing much better when it comes to the pandemic (we have vaccines, we no longer have to always wear masks, and sporting events now have crowds again) has not kick-started my creativity.

Mostly, I just feel tired. Wrung out. As if I’ve been Sisyphus, pushing the same boulder up the same, damned hill day after day after day, with no conceivable progress and no change on the horizon to make all my struggles make sense.

I wonder how many others feel this way. (Surely it’s not just me, right?)

That I’m suffering with yet another sinus/ear issue is not helping. Nor is the pain-spike I’ve been dealing with due to two rapid weather changes in the past week.

Anyway, the important thing is that I’m still alive to do my best in all available areas. (Yes, even though I admittedly feel like Sisyphus. A tired, achy Sisyphus, who can barely stand up, much less push that damnable boulder up the damnable hill.)

I’ll keep doing it for as long as I possibly can.

What are you doing during this interminable pandemic? What makes you feel better on gloomy days? Does anyone else who reads this blog feel like Sisyphus from time to time? Tell me in the comments!

Written by Barb Caffrey

May 31, 2021 at 6:39 am

Fantastic Schools 3 is out…and my newest Elfyverse short story is included

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Sorry about the long title, there, but I couldn’t figure out any other way…ahem.

As the title says, FANTASTIC SCHOOLS 3 is out. This is an anthology about magical schools — things that happen in them, around them, to people who go there, etc.

“But what about your story, Barb?” I can picture some of you asking, plaintively. “You haven’t had any stories, books, or anything come out in the last two years. Why didn’t you tell us sooner you were going to have one come out right now?”

Well, the main reason for that is, I’d hoped to have this story finished in time for the previous book in the series, FANTASTIC SCHOOLS 2. It wasn’t, though…still, I didn’t give up on my idea, as I knew it would work.

“Details, Barb! What idea? What would work?”

My story is called “How Jon Came to Put Chickens on the Ceiling, as Told by Master Magician Roberto the Wise.” Roberto, you may recall, is Bruno’s mentor in the two Elfy books, AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE and A LITTLE ELFY IN BIG TROUBLE. Roberto obviously knew more than he was letting on about Bruno’s ability, and I’d always wondered why that was. I’d also always wondered just how Bruno (Jon, as he was, then) figured out how to put chickens on the ceiling…and now, I know!

See, I knew Bruno (born as Jon) was stifled, as a child. He was stifled at the magical school he was at — St. Robin Goodfellow’s School for Scions of the Nobility and Other Unfortunates — because most of the teachers, except for Roberto of course, were afraid of Bruno’s potential power.

But how was it that Roberto gave Bruno just enough help to figure out what and who he was? This story will tell you that.

Here’s a quick excerpt:

“You have a gift, Jon. You can do things by instinct that other people can’t no matter how long they study. And what you just did proves that.”

Jon still didn’t seem to understand.

Roberto tried one more time. “I’m betting if I gave you something to transfigure, you could turn it into bird seed, too. Couldn’t you?”

Jon looked at the apple, held it, held some bird seed, closed his eyes…and magically, the apple became more bird seed.

“See? I could not have done that.”

Jon’s eyes were round behind his thick glasses. “I did that?”

“You certainly did. And there’s more where that came from, too.”

I hope you enjoyed that excerpt, and will head on over to Amazon to get the ebook right now. Many hours of reading await, with lots of excellent stories from authors J.F. Posthumus, George Phillies, Emily Martha Sorensen, and more!

Oh, yes…and don’t miss Chris Nuttall’s latest novella from his Schooled in Magic universe, “The Cunning Man’s Tale.” (I keep trying to get him to turn that story into a novel. Maybe he will, one of these years.) That one will surprise you (in a good way), especially if you haven’t been keeping tabs on his blog lately.

Written by Barb Caffrey

May 27, 2021 at 11:09 pm

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Still Alive, Part the Nth

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Folks, I have continued to struggle with my health, so my blogging has been more sporadic than not.

Of course, I’ve also had quite a few edits to work on, too. A few of these books have come out, too, and recently — DRAKE’S DRUM by Chris Nuttall, and RING OF THE DRAGON by Kayelle Allen being just two. (Kayelle has three recent books, and all are excellent. Chris, as is his wont, has at least six recent books, and all are interesting, with different facets of life illuminated.)

So, I’m living life as best I can.

You see, life doesn’t stop after it’s thrown you a curveball. Instead, it watches to see if you can hit the curveball, miss the curveball before it hits you, or adapt to the curveball so you’ll eventually hit it. (Or at least look good while you flail away and miss.)

But I’m still alive. Still in there, fighting. Still doing what I can. And resting when need be, so I can get some writing in along with the editing and other necessary things (like laundry; when someone finally invents self-cleaning clothes, the world should rejoice).

What’s going on with you? (Tell me about it in the comments!)

Written by Barb Caffrey

May 26, 2021 at 3:16 am

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2021 Baseball Oddities, or, The Baseball Curmudgeon’s Rant

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Folks, it’s no secret that I am a huge baseball fan.

I have followed the Brewers almost since their inception in 1970. (I was quite young, but I remember Hank Aaron’s final games as a Brewer in 1976.) They have never won the World Series, but they have played in one (in 1982); they have come close, since switching to the National League, to getting to the World Series again, but have not actually gotten there. I say all this to explain why I am so irritated with 2021’s version of Major League Baseball (MLB).

First, there are the rules changes that happened last year during the height of the Covid-19 crisis. These are meant to shorten games, which made sense then — but doesn’t, now, considering there is a vaccine — and they are profoundly vexing.

What are they, and why do they frustrate me so much? Simple.

It used to be, in extra innings, that no one started on base to start the inning. This made sense. An extra inning was just like every other inning, and of course no one should be on base when they haven’t gotten a hit or taken a walk or gotten hit by a pitch, or any number of other legal baseball plays that would put them on base in a normal fashion.

But now, there’s a rule that starting in the tenth inning in normal games that the last person who made an out in the ninth inning gets to stand on second base. If that person scores. it’s an unearned run against the pitcher.

That rule reminds me of Little League.

Remember, these are MLB players. They are used to the grind of a 162-game season. They do not need to start on second base to shave off time from a game now that there is a vaccine.

But that’s not the worst rule.

The worst rule is that if a doubleheader is now played, the game will only be seven innings long.

Yep. You saw that right. Only seven innings.

That means that the eighth inning is when that stupid rule about putting someone on second base who doesn’t belong there and shouldn’t be there happens in a doubleheader. It also means that someone can pitch a complete game (which up until now was defined as a full, nine-inning game unless shortened by weather or other problems) and only go seven innings.

This reminds me of preschool ball, before the kids even get to Little League.

Again, these are pro players we’re talking about, used to the grind of a full season of baseball. They don’t need games to be shortened to only seven innings, and they definitely don’t need to start putting people on second base if they’re going to insist on that stupid rule until the tenth inning.

As a fan, these things irritate me quite a bit, as I’m sure you’ve figured out. But I have one, final piece of news to impart that’s even more infuriating than that.

I walk with a cane. I say this because I am considered to be a disabled person.

How does this relate, you ask? Well, in 2020, major league baseball decided to change the name of the list of players who can’t play from the disabled list (DL) to the injured list (IL).

Did they really think I can’t tell the difference between me, a truly disabled person, and someone who went on the DL?

To my mind, changing it was the height of political correctness. And it did not need to be done, at all.

So, to reiterate: we now have three different changes in MLB since last year. None of them make any sense in 2021. I definitely do not like any of them. And I wish they’d change them back.

P.S. The other night, I was frustrated when the Brewers lost, 6-1, in 11 innings to the St. Louis Cardinals. My mother and I had watched the game in its entirety together. The announcers, who were fill-ins from the usual pair of Brian Anderson and Bill Schroeder, didn’t seem to understand that we and other fans had actually watched the whole game, and reiterated that the Cards had scored five runs in the top of the 11th several times before we even got to the bottom of the 11th.

I actually wrote in to the Brewers Facebook page to say how upsetting this was to both me and my mother.

I mean, I can count to five. Can’t everyone?

Sunday Surprise: Kayelle Allen’s blog Romance Lives Forever features my #LGBTQ novel CHANGING FACES

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Folks, I woke up to a lovely Sunday surprise.

Author Kayelle Allen — who is one of my editorial clients, and a good friend — has a blog called Romance Lives Forever, where she features all sorts of books and authors. As she writes #LGBTQ science fiction, she was one of the first people I told about my novel CHANGING FACES back in 2016 (when I was finishing it up, and struggling mightily to do my two lovers — Allen and Elaine — justice). And she never forgot this.

Today, I opened my email to see that she’d posted a blog about CHANGING FACES. To say I hadn’t expected this is the understatement of the day, but I am greatly appreciative of it. (Who wouldn’t be?)

She did this once before, back in 2017, too, as she loved CHANGING FACES and thought more people should read it. If I remember correctly, she thought this was a timeless romance about two young souls who loved each other regardless of form (even if it does take Allen a bit of time to work it out, and Elaine a bit of time to figure out — while in a coma — that she’s worthy of Allen’s love).

It’s a body-switch romance, yes. Elaine’s terrified of telling Allen that she’s trans and gender-fluid; Allen’s terrified of Elaine leaving him. He prays for help, and gets it in the form of a car accident. While they’re both unconscious, two beings — call them angels, if you want — change their forms expeditiously by putting Allen in Elaine’s body, and Elaine in his (but in a coma, so one of the beings/angels can talk to her — and yes, Elaine sees herself as “she” even when she’s at her most male-feeling, so go figure. People asked me why I did that, and I replied, “Human beings are complex, and not easily pigeonholed.”)

Anyway, I also figured I’d give you just a taste of their story, just before the car accident…so here goes:

I sighed. Everything inside me was a jumbled mess right now. How could I explain this to Allen when I didn’t fully understand it myself?

“Look, Allen. Even though I’m very happy with you, I don’t know for certain that I can stay in this body. I’ve never felt right in it.” Yes, this was what I had to say. I just hoped he’d understand. “I’ve spent twenty-eight years of my life in this body.” I indicated my womanly form, and grimaced. “I’ve tried to be as normal as I can be, for your sake–“

“It’s not for my sake. Don’t lie to yourself.” He looked at me, evenly.

“Listen, Allen. Our love for one another doesn’t have to change, no matter what my body looks like. You’ve said before you’d love me no matter what; if I gained weight, or lost it, changed my hair color, pierced my navel…why does changing sexes have to be different?”

“It’s very different!” Allen shook his head so hard I was afraid his neck would snap. “You’d be a man, and I’d be…what? Wouldn’t I have to change sexes, too?” Allen put his narrow hand through his wiry brown hair, and pulled it. “I’m confused!”

“You wouldn’t have to change. I love everything about you.” I stopped pacing, and went to hug him. He hugged me back, but tentatively–almost as if I were made out of spun glass.

That wasn’t the reaction I wanted.

CHANGING FACES by Barb Caffrey, published by Twilight Times Books

Anyway, you can see that they both love each other. Allen’s confused. Elaine’s worried Allen can’t accept her, and Allen’s initial reaction — I’m not going to lie — is not at all what she had hoped for. This promotes an initial misunderstanding that is tough to get past, but an unusual boost from the beings that may as well be angels should help get them through. But they must have the courage to both change how they see the world and themselves, and to understand that their souls — their intrinsic selves — have not changed regardless of form.

CHANGING FACES is priced at just ninety-nine cents as an e-book. I hope you will enjoy the story.

P.S. Allen and Elaine are clarinetists. If you love music, you’ll enjoy CHANGING FACES even more. (That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.)

Written by Barb Caffrey

May 2, 2021 at 12:48 pm