Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Archive for February 2023

State of the Writer, February 2023 Edition

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Folks, I figured as it’s been a little over a week since I last blogged, I’d better give y’all an update.

(BTW, someone asked me a while back why I, as a Midwesterner born-and-bred, use “y’all” so much. It’s because of my German teacher in high school. He said English needs this word. I agreed with him then and I still do. Moving on…)

My health is a little better. My face is again my own; the swelling has gone, most of the redness has gone, and I look like I never had that nasty bacterial infection at all.

So, you may be asking why it’s only a little better. The main reason is that I’ve been exhausted for a long time. This is partly because I have fibromyalgia and osteoarthritis, among other ailments, and having both means I get tired more quickly and need more rest periods. (This is the best way I have to explain it, especially when I’m in what’s known as a “fibro flare.”) Both of these things cause pain, and dealing with pain is tiring enough. Then add in some sleep disturbances (nothing like having a swollen, messed-up face to help you sleep, hey? Sarcasm is a wonderful thing…), and voila!

The secondary reason is because the infection was so bad, and took so much out of me, that here’s how I’ve lately had to do things:

  1. Rest
  2. Small Errand (milk/eggs/butter/bread)
  3. Rest
  4. Drive
  5. Rest
  6. Get food inside and repeat as needed.

Is this normal for me? No. It’s not.

But the last few days, I’ve been able to cut out some of those rest periods. I still have to move slowly and cautiously. I know my energy is not right, and won’t be probably for several more weeks, and I’m still ramping up my editing and writing again accordingly. Yet I have been able to do a bit more without becoming quite as exhausted, so I’ll take it.

(As if I could do anything else, right?)

My hope is that if I am cautious enough, I can finally get a few pending edits out the door, or at least back to the client if changes need to be made (and if they wish me to review them). That way, I can resume my life as best I can without getting laid low by something else.

Also, I am still talking about cover art with a good friend for my post-apocalyptic romantic military suspense novella. (Say that five times fast.) It’s done, at least in the novella form. (I want to write a sequel to it and eventually hope to have enough for a conventional sized novel.) I want to get it out there, because I haven’t released anything by myself since early 2017.

Yes. Six years ago.

That’s too long.

Yes, I have short stories in several recent anthologies (most recently in Fantastic Schools: Hols). Yes, I’m still a working writer as well as a working editor.

Still. Something needs to go out under my own name, by myself, so folks maybe can find me and appreciate what I do. (Even if they don’t, I have to do it for me.)

Oh, I almost forgot: I have a YA story (novella length) set in Michael’s Atlantean Union universe that’s almost ready to go, too. That may be out by the end of the year if all goes well.

And, finally, I still plan to get an Elfyverse short story collection out but need at least two more finished Elfyverse stories to make it happen. (For those of you who’ve read the Elfy duology, what stories would you most like to see? Maybe I can make it happen…)

Written by Barb Caffrey

February 28, 2023 at 5:24 am

My Thoughts on Linkin Park’s New Song, “Lost”

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Folks, the other day, I was listening to the radio in the car (102.9 the Hog, in Milwaukee), and heard a new song from Linkin Park called “Lost.” It’s an extra track they worked on during the time they were recording their second album, Meteora (2003), but never released.

Before I discuss it, I want to first give you the link to the official music video. It’s quite good, even for Linkin Park (which has always been known for its savvy when it comes to videos); there’s a great deal of anime references, along with animated versions of the musicians in Linkin Park…including their late lead singer, Chester Bennington.

I’ve written about Chester before, as I was extremely saddened by his death. Chester was friends with Chris Cornell, the lead singer of Soundgarden and Audioslave (among others); Cornell died about two months before Chester did, and I wrote about his passing at the time.

Anyway, the song “Lost” showcases Chester’s vocals, and is a beautiful rendition of someone trying to find his way out of the morass of despair that life has sent his way. It has at least one odd quirk in that the backing vocals don’t necessarily seem to go with the rest of the song. (If this had been solely Chester with everyone else playing instruments, etc., I think it would be even better, similar to the triumph that was Linkin Park’s single “One More Light” on the same-titled album. Video link for the latter is here.) In hearing these backing vocals with earphones, I found them far less distracting than I did in the car.

Now, why is that? I think it’s because of the mix that went out to the various stations (including the Hog in Milwaukee). Car radios, though they’ve become far more sophisticated in the past fifteen years, still can’t adequately reproduce songs to the same level as a home entertainment system.

Anyway, Chester Bennington was someone everyone in the music business liked. He had a strong work ethic, a gift for music and lyrics and expression and style, and he was generous with his time and friendship. He’d experienced highs and lows and was someone that Limp Bizkit frontman/singer Fred Durst paid tribute to back in 2017 at Spin magazine. “He had a way of making anyone he spoke to feel heard, understood and significant. His aura and spirit were contagious and empowering. Often those types of people have so much pain and torture inside that the last thing they want is to contaminate or break the spirit of others.

He would go out of his way to make sure you knew he truly cares. As real and transparent as our conversations would be, he was always the one projecting light on the shadows. In my last conversation with him, he was holding his two cute puppies and giving me the most selfless and motivational compliments in regards to Limp Bizkit and myself and thanking me for paving the path for bands like Linkin Park.

Going down the rabbit hole that is the Internet, I found a video by Disturbed that features pics of Chester along with Chris Cornell. Disturbed lead singer David Draiman knew Chester well and wrote a song that was partly due to both Chester and Chris Cornell’s influence called “Hold on to Memories.” (Video for that is here.) It’s a beautiful song about loss, memories, and how at least in part the person or people you love who’ve passed are never completely gone, so long as you remember. It also discusses how the people you’ve loved/lost would want you to go on and live your best life.

I firmly believe that “Hold on to Memories” is the plain, flat truth. Our loved ones who have passed to the Other Side only wish for our good. (Of course, I can’t prove it. But that’s what faith is all about.) Yes, remember them, but not to the point of crippling yourself.

I mention that because it took me years to figure that out. Over a decade, really…and some days are still harder than others. All I’ve got to fight with, against despair and darkness and frustration and illness, are the bright memories I have with my husband Michael, along with others I’ve truly cared about like my late teacher and mentor Tim Bell, my Aunt Laurice and Uncle Carl, my grandmother, and my good friend Jeff Wilson, as these were the people who understood me the best.

I’m fortunate in that I have good friends, still, that care enough to ask every single day how I’m doing, how I’m recovering from the illness that’s preoccupied my life for the past few weeks (I’m much better, but still ailing/convalescent), and that my family continues to care about what happens to me also. I can’t take these things for granted, because every person’s life is different, and every single one of us finds a different path out of despair and hopelessness as best we may.

Anyway, these songs, from “One More Light” to “Hold on to Memories” and now the new “Lost” single as well, all encapsulate what I know to perfection. What we do in this life, the memories we make, the people we meet, the folks we help, maybe even the folks we hinder sometimes, matters. (It depends, that last, on whether hindering actually does any good, but that’s a side issue. Moving on…) How we build on the knowledge and care and concern and love we find is possibly the best reason for humanity’s existence, and doing what we can to help others — along with refusing to spread vitriol, as I’ve discussed many, many times here at my blog — is essential to our soul’s growth.

So, please. Do yourself a favor and listen to these songs. Contemplate them. Yes, miss Chester Bennington — he was one Hell of a singer and musician — but also appreciate the gifts he shared with the world, along with his bandmates (most especially co-lead singer Mike Shinoda). Appreciate that Disturbed, known far better for their hard rock up-tempo songs (which are also great), has written more than one excellent down-tempo song (this is the best, IMHO, but it’s not the only one). Know that many of us have more talents and abilities than we give ourselves credit for, and that on even our worst days, we’re worthy.

There’s no better tribute to Chester Bennington, Chris Cornell, or other great fallen musicians than that.

Unapologetically Low-Tech…or Something…

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Folks, I’ve been thinking about many things as I continue to convalesce from the serious illness I told you about last week. (Two antibiotics, an antiviral, and prednisone are nothing to be sneezed at, after all, and that’s what I’ve been taking to get well.) One of them is about the prevalence of technology in our society.

Don’t get me wrong. The Internet is a Godsend for a writer, or for anyone who wants to do background research. It can lead you to the right books, right sources, and help you find a handy library where you can check those books and sources out without necessarily having to pay (as sometimes the library in your area only has so much, and interlibrary loan — ILL — can’t always help, either). It also is helpful for communication, for writing blogs (natch), and in disseminating information (which can be good or bad, especially if what comes out first turns out to be wrong and has to be corrected later).

But I remain split with regards to everything else.

We have smartphones. These are quite helpful and useful on the one hand, and on the other, they keep us tied to screens far more often than we should be. It’s harder to appreciate nature, or other people in our lives who live close or are personally visiting, if we stay on our phones all the time.

More problematic than that is the advent of “smart home” technology. “Hey Google,” or “Hey Siri,” or “Hey Alexa,” all have pluses in that you can do things more quickly if you have this set up (such as playing a favorite song or arming your alarm system). But look at all you give up if you have this! These things can be hacked, and when you’re asking Google to do this, that, or the other for you, while someone else is watching/listening, that’s an invasion of privacy at the very least.

Of course, our computers now seem to spy on us as well. They have “smart algorithms,” meaning they figure out what we like to usually read. (In my case, there’s a lot about Star Trek and SFF&F, a great deal about MLB and the Milwaukee Brewers, quite a bit about the NFL and the Green Bay Packers, and of course I also see a ton about the NBA and the Milwaukee Bucks.) These can be interesting, though if you want to research something else, it’s good not to be bogged down by the latest deep dive into Jeri Ryan’s character and life choices (as Seven of Nine in Star Trek: Picard).

Hey, I have to admit that I am a big fan of Jeri Ryan. Have been for years. Not picking on her. Moving on…

In addition to all of the stuff in our personal life that we choose to use that can potentially be spied upon (sorry to use that term, but with all of the various spy balloons and objects that have been shot out of the sky in the US and Canada this past week — at least four — privacy violations are on my mind), we also have seen an advent of cameras added by local municipalities to make it easier for law enforcement to do their jobs. I’m mostly in favor of this, but I do wonder at where the “slippery slope” ends.

Look. We are in unprecedented territory. There’s so much information out there about us. There’s so much that companies collect, with regards to data, that goes to attempt to shape us psychologically, personally, and otherwise that it seems like a flood that can’t be stanched with our hands alone.

That said, somehow we have to figure out how to be our authentic selves and make true human connections with others despite all the electronic noise.

I don’t know how that’s going to happen. I just know that we have to try, possibly harder than ever, to remember what the real world is as well as appreciating whatever gives us value in the virtual world. (The virtual and real worlds sometimes do collide, too, but that’s a separate issue and I’m not touching that with a ten-foot pole right now. One issue at a time.)

So, for the moment, I’m going to continue to be unapologetically low-tech, or something like it anyway, considering I use a computer at least eight hours a day and read books via Kindle often and also have a cellphone. I’m going to do my best to remember what the real world is, see the beauty in it as well as the ugliness, and keep on going.

Folks, I ask you, on the eve of Valentine’s Day, to consider what’s real in your life. Who the people are that matter in your life, too. And what you can do to promote greater and happier bonds between you, so you can not only live an authentic life, but perhaps even a happy one.

Stranger things have happened.

Written by Barb Caffrey

February 13, 2023 at 1:46 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Illness. Again.

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Folks, I am ailing.

On Monday morning, I woke up and saw that half of the left-hand side of my face was bright red. It was swollen, hot to the touch, itchy, and painful. I thought I was having an allergic reaction. I thought maybe a spider bit me.

It wasn’t that (though I may have been bitten by a spider; they can’t tell as my face is too swollen). It’s cellulitis. On my face.

What I’ve found out in the two days I’ve been treated for this illness is this:

It makes you tired. It makes you unsteady on your feet. It gives you horribly high temperatures (101, 102, close to 103 at one point, despite me normally being quite a bit lower than normal). It makes it harder to think.

The worst part of it is that my left eye is a slit right now. (Not infected, according to the doc I saw yesterday afternoon.) The bottom eyelid is swollen and red. The top eyelid is fine.

So, not only do I have to deal with being sick, I also have to deal with the knowledge that I look a sight at the same time. (Why I care about this, I don’t know. But I do.)

To make matters even worse, I suffered a fall Monday night, and it was an ordeal getting back up again. Took over two hours. I made at least fifty attempts, but my right knee kept balking and did not want me to get up. So, I was telling myself, aloud, “You have to get up. You have to get up.” And I couldn’t do it until my father came to check on me. He was able to help, thank goodness.

On the plus side, I did manage a short shower today. (That made me feel a little better, and I didn’t fall. I’ll take it.)

Later today, I am going in to see the folks who do my Warfarin levels checking, as that’s important when you’re on antibiotics as they can skew the results quite a bit. I then hope I can get the meds — two painkillers — the doctor prescribed yesterday. (He said that the hydrocortisone creams, even the prescription ones, would not help at this point. I have the OTC 1% hydrocortisone cream but it’s doing nothing.) Those are the two things I absolutely must do today…anything after that is gravy.

By the way, about an hour ago, I saw another of those spiders — a fuzzy black spider, possibly a Wolf spider. It was crawling on me. I killed it without thinking.

Now, normally even though I do not like spiders, I try to avoid killing them. I’d rather put them outside than kill them.

But in this situation, there’s no way I want a spider anywhere nearby. It’s possible that a spider bite caused something else to get into the skin of my face, and that’s what caused the infection. (It is a little better at the bottom of my face on the left-hand side. I wish it had chosen to heal the eye area first, though…)

Now, when I get sick, I almost never have high temps. I can get unsteady on my feet, but I usually think better than this. My reflexes are slower — they’re still decent, but it’s not what I’m used to out of myself. I have to be deliberate when I’d rather be floating above or at least walking confidently, cane at my side and unworried about falls (except on ice).

So, everything this week — my work, my writing, my helpful efforts with my family — is going to go by the boards until much of my face has healed. (That it’s both painful and itchy at the same time is very frustrating, too. You can’t scratch it because if you do, it makes everything worse. All you can do is lightly rub it.)

This is not how I planned my week to go. But it’s what I have to deal with, so I’ll do the best that I can.

Written by Barb Caffrey

February 8, 2023 at 6:10 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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