Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Archive for November 2022

A Post of Quiet Contemplation

with 4 comments

The last few weeks, I’ve needed to take a breather.

I’ve been doing what I can to watch nature as the weather starts to turn. There is a plethora of birds to see at this time of year in Wisconsin, and many are small and cute. While I’m no ornithologist, I enjoy bird-watching, as it reminds me that troubles are mostly transitory. Eventually, we fly away from our cares.

(BTW, jazz saxophonist Charlie “Bird” Parker had a song called “Ornithology.” That’s how I learned the word — and if you don’t know who Charlie Parker is, shame on you.)

I try to be aware of the various animals around at this time of year. We often have ducks crossing the road, or sometimes a pack of squirrels (with maybe one or two laggards)…there are some folks with outdoor cats that I’ve seen, too, along with a number of geese (rare at this time of year, as they usually like much warmer surrounds than Wisconsin in November).

When I see an animal wounded or dead on the road, I say a prayer for them. (I know that has to sound ridiculous, but it’s true.) They remind me of something that happened a few years ago now, you see.

There was a duck in the middle of the road with its feet up. It was only a two-lane road, and it was a county highway. There was no way for me to get off the road as there was no shoulder (road construction, I think, at the time); I couldn’t do anything except hope and pray my wheels would not hit the duck in its throes.

Unfortunately, I ran over the duck. I felt terrible about it. I kept wondering if there was anything I could do. (My bird-loving friends said no, there wasn’t.) I wanted to go back and get that duck and bring it to the side of the road, so it could die in peace, rather than perhaps getting run over by even more cars (I don’t think mine was the first car to hit the poor thing).

While I couldn’t do that then, I have tried to do similar things with other animals in the road. I haven’t found any live animals since that duck, but I have been able to get a few cats off the road and one poor little dog (no tags on any of them, and no collars, either). If all I can do is pick them up with a bag or some paper toweling to put them on the side of the road, at least I feel slightly better for it.

I wonder, sometimes, if we are like those poor things. Most of the time, no one knows what we’re doing while we’re doing it, and we seem to only be appreciated in retrospect. We mostly hurry, scurrying here and there, not watching the road very much as we just try to keep going about our business in our daily lives.

What I believe, mostly, is that we owe it to all of the Deity’s creatures to respect them and do our best to love them, if possible. (I have a hard time loving a flea or a mosquito, so when I see one, I mostly hope it goes somewhere else. But that’s probably a flaw in my faith.)

So, if you are out and about this week — and many will be in the US, as it’s the week of Thanksgiving for us — you owe it to yourself to fully partake in nature’s surroundings as best you can.

Look at the trees. See how they keep growing, changing, yet somehow keeping their essence the same despite all the seasons of their lives.

Look at the few flowers that have made it through the frost (if any are left); otherwise, look at the evergreens, and ponder how shrubbery makes it through all the seasons more or less unscathed.

Look at the animals, including rabbits, geese, ducks, birds of all sorts, and squirrels. See how they just go about their business, preparing for winter, but enjoying what they have in the meantime (even if it’s just a stray bar of sunlight now and again).

Don’t forget these things. Let them ground you, motivate you, or maybe both…but no matter what, keep an eye on them.

These are the things that matter, you see. Everything else, save love and faith, is extraneous. The animals know it.

We should know it, too.

Written by Barb Caffrey

November 21, 2022 at 2:49 pm

2022 Election Musings

with 23 comments

Folks, I nearly titled this “Why can’t we get along?” But I decided to go with the above title, in the hopes that someone out there will attempt to civilly answer the questions I’m about to raise.

Anyway, here are my questions.

#1: Why, in Wisconsin, were we unable to vote out Senator Ron Johnson? Is it because Mandela Barnes was seen as too liberal? Is it because some folks apparently split their vote between Tony Evers (D, who retained his position as Governor) and Johnson?

Johnson acts like a buffoon. He says and does things that just don’t make any sense at all. He’s made Wisconsinites look like a bunch of hicks for the past twelve years, and apparently we’re about to be stuck with him for another six years in the US Senate providing the upcoming canvass (where results are finalized; it’s a recount, roughly) doesn’t hold any major surprises. (Usually it doesn’t.)

I’ve watched Johnson and what he does now for twelve years. He’s a very wealthy man who seemingly doesn’t care about anyone’s opinion but his own, and that’s poisonous when it comes to being a public servant. What the state of WI voters want seems irrelevant to him, and that’s why I voted against him.

#2: Why did we end up with a status quo election? Is it because voters were worried that chaos would ensue if we didn’t send back the same — or mostly similar — bunch of folks that were already there?

#3: How can we get along with one another — Democrat, Independent, Republican — if we can’t agree on what the facts are anymore?

This last is very worrisome to me, and it’s bothered me ever since former POTUS Donald Trump’s advisor Kellyanne Conway used the term “alternative facts.”

There is no such thing. There are just facts, and non-facts. (Lies, errors, call it what you will.)

Look. I am all for diversity of opinion. I don’t mute people unless they’ve done/said something so egregious, there’s no way I can possibly put up with it. (Some have called me “too nice for my own good.” That’s almost certainly true.) I listen to people because I want to know what they think. (If I just wanted to know what I thought, well, I’d be like Senator Johnson. No thanks.) I want to know, in other parts of the country, what the big issues are. What is vexing other folks? Why? How can they be helped, or is there anything I can do, as a citizen, to help them?

That’s what I try to do.

But when a man complained that I supposedly don’t call out “hate speech” from Democrats…as someone did on my Facebook page recently…I don’t know what the Hell to do about that.

Now, let’s talk about “hate speech” for a moment. Is it stuff that puts down Republicans that this person was upset with? (If so, that’s not hate speech. That’s just a different opinion.) Is it discussions about how “all” R voters are a bunch of hicks? (I’d disagree with that assumption.) Is it discussions that some folks continue to not abide the former POTUS Donald Trump (also called 45, also called “the former guy”) that are upsetting this gentleman? (Again, people have a right to their opinion.) Is it when people get upset that a bunch of folks who continue to believe the 2020 election was “rigged” ran for office and campaigned that if they won, there’d never be another Democrat winning an election again, that people got upset about it? (We saw this in Wisconsin with former gubernatorial candidate Tim Michels.)

I’ve said in various places that I disagree when a politician says something stupid, much less something actively hateful. That’s because I don’t like hate.

I think we are on this Earth to somehow get above that. We’re supposed to learn, change, and grow, and we can’t do these things if we won’t talk to one another.

I also think it’s very, very sad that I must spell this out. But that’s where we are.

My view is very simple, here. I can’t stand dishonesty or deceit. I’ve seen some elections I’ve deeply questioned, that have troubled me. But what I did, at the time, was to be one of the folks observing the recount. That allayed my fears considerably, and I suggest this to anyone who continues to have doubts about what their own local election officials are doing.

I believe in “trust, but verify.” (Ronald Reagan said this, and it’s true.)

So, I understand why someone is angry, at least in part, when their candidate loses. (I understand how frustrating it is to still be represented by Ron Johnson, as I said before.) I understand why someone would feel that the worst excesses of any given party need to be called out…and even why someone wouldn’t like it when all of one particular party seem tarred with one brush.

Let me make it plain. I do not believe every R voter out there is a racist. (That’s stupid.) I also don’t believe that every R voter out there is an election-denier, or someone who thinks elections should be “overseen” by just one party. They definitely shouldn’t be, because the temptation there would be far, far too great to do whatever the Hell that one party liked, and the good of the overall populace be damned.

That way lies autocracy, folks. I am against that with every fiber of my being.

I am against gerrymandering for the same reason. That allows one party to get an “edge” over another party — in this state, it’s the Rs over the Ds, but in IL, it’s more the Ds over the Rs as I understand it — and again, that does not serve the voters whatsoever.

When you can’t vote people out because the district they “represent” is overloaded by one party or another, that’s a recipe for disaster. That’s why I support independent boards doing the redistricting instead (as they do in California and used to do in Iowa). That way, if you have a politician who’s not listening and worse yet isn’t doing the people’s business, you can get them the Hell out of there.

But more on the frustration, as that’s important.

There’s a good reason as to why people are angry, frustrated, and deeply upset: they don’t think their voices are being heard. That doesn’t matter if you live in South Dakota, say, or Illinois, or New York City, or Timbuktu. Every single person I’ve spoken to, regardless of party, does not believe they are being heard.

I read, recently, about something called the “Greater Idaho” movement. There are voters in Oregon who are deeply frustrated that they are never listened to about anything. These are farmers, ranchers, fishermen, etc., who feel they have no voice in the Oregon Legislature. So what they’ve done, instead, is start this “Greater Idaho” movement. They’re willing to see if Idaho will admit their counties, which are all right-leaning, so they can actually be heard by a state Legislature.

The last time anyone tried something like this was the late 1980s/early 1990s. There were four counties in Kansas who had never voted to join the state, but were annexed anyway. These four counties were considering becoming part of Colorado, at the time…it ended up as a stalemate, but the frustration was real.

My guess is that the “Greater Idaho” movement will end up the same way, but it was started for the same reason I’ve already given above: these people are not being heard, and they’re tired of it.

I don’t blame them at all for that. I hope their state will start listening to them.

Anyway, my point is very simple. I believe in diversity, freedom of thought, free and fair elections, and I believe in the ideals that founded the United States. I wish we were feeling better about ourselves as a nation, and as a people, so I didn’t actually need to state these very things.

P.S. On a wholly separate note, I continue to recover — very slowly — from what I think is the flu. Responses may be slowed due to that reason.

Written by Barb Caffrey

November 13, 2022 at 4:54 am

Will Be on Dellani Oakes’ BlogTalkRadio Show This Monday (November 14)

with 2 comments

As the title says, I’ll be on writer Dellani Oakes’ BlogTalkRadio show this upcoming Monday, November 14, 2022, between 3 and 5 Central Standard Time.

You might be wondering what I’m going to talk about. I figured I’d discuss writing the two Elfyverse short stories that have been sold to the Fantastic Schools anthologies; one is in Fantastic Schools 3, while the other is in Fantastic Schools Hols. Both feature Bruno the Elfy (my main character from the two Elfy novels), but before he knew he was an Adept. (Actually, the second story features him both before and after he found out, because of my own sense of whimsy.)

I plan to read from the second story, mind you. It’s called “Jon and Leftwich have a Holiday Adventure.” I do hope you’ll join me and the others, because I think you’ll enjoy yourselves if you do.

At any rate, talking about that isn’t long enough for a blog, so I figured I’d discuss a few other things.

While I still love writing Elfyverse stories, and plan to get out a collection of Elfyverse stories soon (it may not be the end of the year as I was hoping, as I’m battling significant flu issues right now), I wonder sometimes if I’ll ever hit my market squarely. I know it’s there. The folks who loved Robert Asprin’s comic novels or love Jody Lynn Nye’s funny stories or Esther Friesner’s work should enjoy what I’m doing. (If I were truly lucky, I might even tap into some of the folks who clamored for Douglas Adams’ work, but I doubt I’m that lucky. Plus, I’m not British, and lack that sort of edge to my humor. Still, my daydreams sometimes work that way…and if it keeps me writing, why not?)

The state of the Elfyverse is better than it was, mind you. I do have those two stories in the FS anthos, I’m working on two other new ones (for the upcoming collection), and I have restarted the long-delayed novel KEISHA’S VOW and have figured out at least in part what had been stopping me cold.

Thing is, I must get over this flu. (It’s not Covid. Tested negative.)

I rarely have fevers. So when I have them, I don’t really know what to do. When I get a few good hours, I need to use that to finish up the edits in progress, which of course is sensible. But it’s knocked me out of a band I was hoping to play in (I may still be able to play in another one soon, but I must get better fast), it’s delayed my writing more than it was already (and that’s been considerable), and because I have to push all the time, it seems to stop my creativity cold.

Music lives in me. But when I’m ill, the notes escape before I can write them down. (Playing is not an option today. Maybe it will be soon.) And my stories live in me, too. But it’s hard to write down music or words when I can’t concentrate worth a hill of beans.

The stories I have in progress are various. One’s about an Amazon who’d settled down and was teaching young warriors (men and women) how to fight…but while she was away, her whole family (including her beloved husband) was killed. She goes to his family to let them know, and before she can tell them, finds out that most of them are dead also. Only her sister-in-law is alive, and she’s like a mental vegetable. So what’s gone wrong there?

I have an inkling, but I also think somehow I lost my way. Still, this remains one of several stories that are vexing me.

The second is a good friend’s favorite story. It’s called “All the News That’s Fit,” and is about the US post-apocalypse of some sort. There’s now a bunch of divided states rather than a United States, and while one part of it still calls itself the US, it’s now centered around St. Louis, Missouri. (The South split off by itself. Texas, I think, is alone. The West Coast is now The Republic of the West.)

But the reason my good friend loves it is due to the romance between a newsreader (technology has backslid, to a degree, so the Army shepherds newsreaders around to various hamlets to tell ’em whatever the official story is) and an Army NCO. Newsreaders go into doing this to save their families, mostly…to get good medical care now is even more expensive than it is now in the US, and if you aren’t affiliated with some sort of public service, you can’t get it. But if you do an important job like newsreading, you can get your family the treatment they need…and that’s important for my heroine, Chloris, whose sister has cancer.

The guy in the tale is Sergeant James Carter. I didn’t consciously name him for the former POTUS, if you’re wondering; instead, I named him because I knew a very good, female Sergeant Carter years ago. She was competent, tough as nails, and yet very kind to me as I tried to work my way through becoming a military wife. She was a Reservist, and as I said, I truly appreciated her.

My Sergeant Carter is close to retirement age. He’s in his late thirties. He’s been through a lot. And because of his training, skills, and service, by the time he meets Chloris, he’s pretty much off women and off the idea of getting married someday. (That newsreaders rarely marry doesn’t help, because the duty is grueling, and newsreaders have to be hypnotized after a while to remember what to say and how to say it. As I said, it’s a messed-up world they live in.) But there’s just something about her that appeals to him, and the better he knows her — away from her job, and he’s thrown together with her due to his own — the better he likes her.

Then her sister goes missing…and all Hell breaks loose.

The third one is a YA story featuring a young version of Commander Ryann Creston, who features briefly in my story “To Survive the Maelstrom.” Here, she’s been taken captive at 14 along with a whole bunch of would-be cadets — stolen on the way to the military academy — and is put to work by a cult at some sort of out-of-the-way space station. She finds one person who’s willing to help — the doctor, who’d also been shanghaied years earlier — but in the meantime, she’s forced to endure many indignities…including the gropings of a young man named Derrick. There’s no actual sex here, and there’s more the threat of violence than anything…still, Ryann’s in a bad spot and needs to get the Hell out of there.

Now, why am I stalled? It’s very simple. I can’t figure out where the Hell the ships would dock on this station. It’s an old one, so it might actually have to use some sort of manual locks or shuttles or something to deal with how to get on and off. Ryann can’t move about the station unless there’s a power outage, because she’s watched nearly every minute of every day. (This station is old, so it does have some power outages, thank goodness.) And if Ryann can’t figure out where to go, how can she lead everyone else off that station and get back to the Academy where she belongs?

Those aren’t all the stories I have in progress, but those are the three that vex me the most. Somehow, I have to get them done…and while in some ways “All the News” is closer to it than the others, the best ending I’ve found relies on a cliffhanger and I don’t want to do that to readers (hoping they find me in the first place, I don’t want them then to throw down their e-readers in disgust).

So, that’s what’s going on.

What’s going on with you? (The comments, as always, are open.)

Written by Barb Caffrey

November 11, 2022 at 6:04 am