Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Archive for August 2022

A Quick Writing Bloglet

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Folks, I just wanted to let you know I’ve sent out a 5500-word story to an anthology.

For the past three or four weeks, I’d been working on this. I knew the main characters right away–one man, one woman–and their respective situations. They have to make an alliance marriage to save both of their families from extinction, but they don’t know each other (the man knows of the woman, and knows she’s a female fighter/merc type), and the beginning of it all felt like setup to me.

I don’t know about you, but setting up a story for me is like pulling teeth. I want to get to the action. Or the romance. Or the suspense. Or drama.

In this case, just as the marriage vows are sealed, bandits are spotted heading for them. The man immediately defers to the woman (which she didn’t expect), as she has much more experience than he as he’s a scholarly type.

I don’t want to give the rest away, so I won’t (bad me), but I hope the anthology editor is going to love it.

I’m also working on restarting (yet again) KEISHA’S VOW and finishing up three edits (one nonfiction).

What’s going on in your lives?

Written by Barb Caffrey

August 29, 2022 at 4:49 pm

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Hard vs Soft Rejection (and why the difference matters)

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Jason goes into the differences between soft rejections (meaning, fix what’s wrong and send it again) and hard rejections. This is well-said and possibly the most succinct-yet-folksy way of describing the differences between the two. Listen to him. (And don’t give up.)

Jason Córdova

Getting a rejection letter is hard. Quite frankly, it’s one of the worst feelings a writer will go through in their career. That feeling of utter failure, the emotional kick to the stomach that your baby just isn’t good enough. The anguish and despair upon reading “Dear [[insert name here]], we regret to inform you…” Rejection letters are inevitable in this business and we, as authors, are expected to take that rejection letter and move on.

But… but what if… the rejection letter isn’t quite what it seems? In fact, what if the rejection letter is an invitation to resubmit said novel? The only problem is, nowhere in the letter does it say this. Wait, what? Where is the manual for this publishing business, and why is it wonkier than dating in high school? Why is the principal a werewolf? Who let a zombie teach history?!

Ahem

Sorry. I digress.

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Written by Barb Caffrey

August 28, 2022 at 6:22 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Milwaukee Bridge Opens Unexpectedly, Kills Tourist

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Folks, last week in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, there was a shocking accident.

A man, Richard Dujardin — a retired writer and religious reporter who’d covered the Dalai Lama, Pope John Paul II, Billy Graham and Jerry Falwell — was visiting Milwaukee along with his wife, Rose-Marie. They were walking over the Kilbourn Avenue bridge over Milwaukee River. Rose-Marie had safely crossed, but her husband was behind her, slowly navigating the bridge, and looking at his iPad. The bridge unexpectedly opened, Mr. Dujardin grabbed for a railing and held on for a few minutes, but then plunged over seventy feet to his death.

This is hard to fathom for many reasons.

First, when bridges open and close in Wisconsin, there are lights, sirens, and alarms. These all functioned properly and should’ve warned Mr. Dujardin. But he was 77, hard of hearing, and focused on his iPad.

In other words, he didn’t hear or see anything until it was too late.

Second, the bridge was operated remotely. More of Milwaukee’s bridges appear to be operated this way, rather than having someone directly on site who would’ve been able to see that Mr. Dujardin was still on the bridge before opening it up. No one has any idea how the poor man was missed, as far as I can tell.

(This is one reason I waited almost a week to discuss this.)

Third, the remote operator apparently didn’t see that Mr. Dujardin was still holding on to the railing for a few minutes before he fell!

This seems to be an egregious lapse, to put it mildly.

Anyway, I have felt terrible ever since I heard about this accidental death. I know how it feels to wake up a wife and suddenly, without warning, end up as a widow.

More importantly to me than that, though, was the detail that his wife had already crossed the bridge. That meant she was in front of him. She could not help him when this happened.

Longtime readers of my blog probably know this, but that’s exactly the situation I was in when Michael collapsed on the lawn at our rented duplex years ago. Normally he’d have been in front of me, or we’d maybe be side-by-side holding hands. But this one day, he was behind me…and then he fell backward.

(Yes, I rushed forward, but I couldn’t do anything to break his fall. That I would’ve dislocated both arms had I somehow been in position to catch him makes no nevermind.)

I’m now nearing the eighteenth year of my widowhood. I still see Michael falling, me unable to catch him, in blinding technicolor.

I would imagine that Mrs. Dujardin may end up having similar flashbacks.

Anyway, I’m well aware that life is short, that we have no idea whether today is our last or if we have eighteen more years of widowhood in our future. (Or whatever.) We can only do the best with every day and honor the memories and the love we shared as we continue to go forward in whatever halting way we can.

I feel bad for Mrs. Dujardin. I wish I could help her.

(I couldn’t help Eric Flint’s widow, Lucille, either, though I hope someone is. And someday, maybe I’ll get to meet her again and attempt to show kindness as well as respect, ’cause she deserves it. But I digress.)

All I can ask you, right now, are two things:

Number one: Be kind.

Why do I say that? Well, many people are on edge due to the ongoing Covid pandemic, politics seems even more brutal than usual, and folks have forgotten they have more in common with each other than not.

Some have decided as the world is bleak, they have permission to be their worst selves. They spread misery.

Don’t do it. Refuse the impulse.

Be kind, instead.

Number two: Help the widows and widowers in your life, no matter how long — or short — it’s been since their spouses died.

See, I can tell you for a fact that I still want to talk about the most important person in my life, who’s ever been in my life. That’s my husband, Michael.

Other widows and widowers have said the same.

Too often, we who are grieving are told to just “move on” and in that spirit, we’re supposed to look toward the future and either forget the past entirely or suppress it.

I’m sorry. I refuse to do either. And most widows and widowers that I’ve spoken to over the years feel the same way.

We want to speak about our favorite people. Our formative influences. Our various experiences.

We need to do that. It’s part of who we are.

Hell, even those who’ve ended up finding a second great spouse to marry have said the same things. They can love their second husband (or wife) even better because of the experiences they had with their first spouse.

Otherwise, I hope that Mrs. Dujardin finds out why the remote bridge operator screwed up. She needs to know why that was the final day of her husband’s life.

But I also hope that the people around her will be kind and support her in her hours of grief. She will need that kindness and support for the rest of her life (whether it be short or long).

My Thoughts on the Salman Rushdie Stabbing

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Folks, yesterday, in Chautauqua, NY, author Sir Salman Rushdie was about to give a speech at the Chautauqua Institution. He’d stepped up to the podium with another man, Henry Reese (the co-founder of the nonprofit City of Asylum), as they were both going to speak about the importance of freedom of speech with regards to artistic expression.

This is an important topic. It always is. Freedom of speech and freedom of expression is of paramount importance, especially in the United States of America.*

So, picture yourself there. It’s a crowded room, as Salman Rushdie is a well-known author with multiple, well-received books to his credit. Everyone there wants to see and hear him, as he’s been under the threat of persecution for a long, long time…

All except for one.

That guy, a twenty-four-year-old idiot, ran to the podium and stabbed Rushdie multiple times before he was brought down by audience members and a lone policeman. Rushdie sustained injuries in the throat, to his liver, to his arm (nerves are reportedly severed), and to one of his eyes (which he may lose). The idiot also stabbed Reese in the face**, possibly to get Reese out of the way quicker so he could go to town on Rushdie.

(As per usual, I am not going to name this guy.)

This all happened a bit before 11 a.m. EDT, and the people on the scene said the lack of security was a problem. One spoke on one of the cable news networks (I forget which) to say that they were screening out people who brought coffee and water into the auditorium (or wherever this speech was to be held); they’d have done better to screen for weapons.

And think about that lack of security for a moment. Was this a good idea, especially considering Rushdie was about to speak?

Rushdie has had a fatwa, otherwise known as a price on his head, since the late 1980s after his novel The Satanic Verses came out. The last anyone checked, the bounty for killing Rushdie was up to $3.3M.

Just writing that sickens me.

A person’s life is worth so much more than any amount of money. What one person can do, what one person’s strengths can do, what one person’s transmutation of weaknesses can do, is unable to be monetized. Because it is infinite in possibilities.

I said at my Facebook page that I understand people hating books. I understand, even, people hating authors. But leave it there. Don’t attack authors just because you hate them.

We believe in freedom of speech in this country, which might be one reason why Rushdie relocated here in the early 2000s. (He has never become a US citizen, I don’t think. Last I checked — which was last night — Rushdie is a citizen of the UK.)

So, in a nation that celebrates free speech, at a place that most especially discusses writing and writers and thoughts related to such, a twenty-four-year-old decided to stab one of the most decorated writers alive.

I don’t care about the stabber’s motivation. I care that he stabbed Rushdie multiple times, that Rushdie is said to be on a ventilator right now, that Rushdie has injuries to his arm (nerve damage is a serious thing), and that Rushdie may lose an eye.

I sincerely hope that Salman Rushdie will fully recover. I hope he won’t lose his eye. I hope his liver will heal. I hope his nerves in his arm that apparently got severed will be reattached, and that with physical therapy and time, he will be restored to himself in full measure.

But the thought that a fellow writer — albeit one that’s wealthy and well-known, unlike me — had this happen bothers me greatly.

I wrote a blog a while ago called “Where Can We Be Safe?

That rings in my mind right now, as I continue to ponder the utter wreckage this twenty-four-year-old stabber left in his wake.

————

*The way I always learned it was, “I may not like what you have to say. I may really hate it, in fact. But I will defend to the death your right to say it.” (That is, providing you’re not doing something asinine like yelling fire in a crowded theatre that’s not actually on fire.)

**In case you’re wondering about the other speaker, Mr. Reese, he was treated and released from the hospital.

My Take on the Josh Hader Trade (One Week Later)

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Last week, the Milwaukee Brewers traded their best player, relief pitcher/closer Josh Hader, to the San Diego Padres for four other players: pitcher Dinelson Lamet, relief pitcher/closer Taylor Rogers, OF prospect Esteury Ruiz, and pitching prospect Robert Gasser. This was an extremely surprising thing to do, because the Brewers were atop the National League Central division.

In other words, teams make trades like that — trades of their best player — when they don’t think they can make the playoffs.

That, of course, is not what the Brewers front office has said about it. Their take is, “We’re a small-market team, and we need to plan for the future, not just now.”

But the thing is, the players know this is wrong, for the reason I gave above.

Now, what do I think about the players the Brewers got in return? Well, Rogers is a good pitcher, but we’ll only have him until the end of the year, when he’ll be a free agent. (Rogers is not as good as Hader, mind. But he is good.) Lamet has already been waived; the Colorado Rockies picked him up. The other two, well, time will tell, as they’re both in the minor leagues.

But that’s not the entirety of what I think.

See, I view this as a slap in the face to the fans, as well as to the team as a whole. The fans want the team to do well; more to the point, they want to root for people they recognize. (A major trade like this, of a team’s best player, usually happens in the off-season, not in the middle of the season like this one.)

Josh Hader pitched for the Brewers for several years. In that span, he won three NL Reliever of the Year awards. He’s also a four-time All Star (meaning he’s been selected to go to the All Star Game), and as I said above, he’s arguably their best player.

So, the fans hate this move.

The players also hate this move, probably because it shows them that the Brewers will trade anyone — doesn’t matter how good they are — if the price is right.

Two players, pitcher Brandon Woodruff, and relief pitcher Devin Williams, said things like this a day after the Hader trade (best paraphrase from watching two Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel videos):

Williams: “Some things just don’t make any sense.”

Woodruff: “The first thing I thought, when I heard about the trade, was this: ‘Is this a joke?'”

That speaks volumes, doesn’t it?

Also, during last night’s edition of Brewers Extra-Innings (a radio talk show that happens after every Brewers game on WTMJ-AM 620 in Milwaukee), sportscaster Greg Matzek said that the entire team was still unhappy regarding the Hader trade.

(Considering the Brewers have now lost five of the last six games since the trade of Hader, that seems to be a reasonable assumption.)

So, my view boils down to this:

Ruiz had best be the second coming of Hank Aaron, for this trade to ultimately pan out. Otherwise, there is no point to this trade beyond a salary dump (as Hader was making the most of any pitcher on the staff at about $11 million dollars).

And if that’s the case, that’s flat-out disgraceful.

Written by Barb Caffrey

August 8, 2022 at 7:55 am

Moving on, again (Plus: Answering the Q, “How Can You Still Edit?”)

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As my last blog said, I am no longer a member of the Racine Concert Band.

It’s been a couple of very strange weeks, I must say. Every time there’s a rehearsal, I keep thinking I need to go (until I correct myself); every time there’s a concert, I feel how wrong it is that I’m not there.

All I can do, though, is move on.

I’ve had many experiences lately where I’ve had to move on when I wasn’t ready to do it. It never gets easier. But I will keep working at it, because as I know well, much of life and life’s experiences remain out of my control.

Let’s move on to something else.

One of my friends asked me why I was so forthcoming in regard to admitting I had a pulmonary embolism in 2020 and haven’t been the same, health-wise, since. She was afraid I might mess up my editing prospects, as there are a lot of folks out there who don’t want to deal with anyone who admits to illness, much less chronic illness.

(To put this in perspective: my friend also deals with chronic illness and has for years.)

So, I figured I’d discuss the elephant in the room, which is this: “Barb, if you’re not able to play your instruments right now, how can you edit?”

Simply put, they are two different things.

Yes, both are creative pursuits. However, there are many ways to edit once you get past the grammatical aspect, and I tend to be as creative as possible while making my points to various clients.

As most of you no doubt know, music is usually performed with other people; even if you’re playing a recital with a pianist, you still must play with another person at a scheduled time and place. (Yes, sometimes there are late cancellations for different reasons, but then you have to find a makeup date.)

Editing is done by me and can be scheduled at any point in any given day. (I tend to edit at night, when there are fewer distractions, but I’ve proven I can edit at any time of any day if need be.)

I hope this answers the question as to how I can continue to edit despite all that’s gone on in my life since 2020.

In conclusion, I appreciate my clients. They are all great people, and many of them have become my friends, which is something that pleases me greatly. I enjoy their company, I enjoy their manuscripts, and I appreciate the work.

Oh, one final, thing (I know I sound like Lt. Columbo from TV, years back): My Elfyverse “holiday” story was accepted into the Fantastic Schools: Holidays anthology. Thank you all who asked me privately about this and reminded me to come say something about it.

What’s going on in your life, writing or otherwise? Tell me about it in the comments!