Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

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Dog Days of Summer…

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Why do they call it the “dog days of summer,” anyway?

I mean, not everyone has dogs. And those who do mostly worry about how well their dogs will do in the heat.

But perhaps that’s why…the heat is notoriously bad for most dogs, and it’s also notoriously bad for humans with asthma (raise your hands in solidarity, people), or heart issues, or those with any long-term illnesses whatsoever.

Dogs, mind you, are very cute, heat or no heat. They always let you know they love you. They want to be petted and coddled. And they certainly love their food, as unlike most humans in the heat, dogs do not care when it comes to their dinner. (Wink.)

Anyway, if you live in much of the United States this week, you know the heat is dreadful, and the humidity is worse. But if you live in Southeastern Wisconsin, you may be pardoned if you think this weather is closer to the tropical rain forests of Brazil, or maybe Malaysia, than Wisconsin.

Why? Well, our heat index is very high at the moment. That’s because the humidity is exceptionally high for this area, and it adds to the misery of high temperatures something fierce. (They may as well call it “heat misery index,” as that would be truth in advertising. But I digress.)

All we can do is wait this bad weather out. Pay attention to it, of course. Pay attention to your animals, too, and make sure they always have cool water.

And if you’re asthmatic, make sure you know where your rescue inhaler is at all times.

But for all of you dealing with the high heat/humidity mix right now, just remember this: be good to yourselves. Don’t expect miracles, as the heat scatters thought and makes it harder to follow through, physically, on any number of things.

That said, you can still do things, even in this horrible heat, if you are careful and plan well and take breaks. So do be careful, do plan well, and do take many breaks…and stay as cool as possible, OK?

How do you stay cool in the high heat? Tell me about it in the comments!


Written by Barb Caffrey

July 19, 2019 at 3:41 am

Michael’s Two “Joey Maverick” Stories Available at Amazon

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Folks, it’s official — both of my late husband Michael’s two “Joey Maverick” stories — “A Dark and Stormy Night” and “On Westmount Station” — are available at Amazon as of 9:07 CST Sunday December 1, 2013.  These stories both previously appeared at e-Quill Publishing (one in 2010, the other in 2011), and in addition “A Dark and Stormy Night” appeared at the Written Word Online Magazine in May of 2005 (but was not archived).

This means “A Dark and Stormy Night” has been published three times, and “On Westmount Station” has now been published twice.  (I know, I know; it’s boring and mundane to count it up this way.  But these are the only stories I’ve worked on thus far that have actually been republished, and I like to think that my husband would be happy with my efforts on his behalf.)

If you’re wondering what I actually did with these stories (as in: Did I edit them?  Did I write anything into them?), here’s a brief rundown:

For “A Dark and Stormy Night,” I added about 1400 words, mostly dealing with internal monologue (what Joey’s thinking about as he acts) or beefing up a few (romantic) scenes to make it a little clearer as to Joey’s motivations.  I also edited the final version, proofread it, did my best to format it, actually sent it out to two different people to format it for me, and after all of that ended up posting the file I’d started with anyway . . . just a little work, all told.

For “On Westmount Station,” I did a lot more writing, as I added at least 5000 words to the story, doubling its original size.  This included writing subplots, adding additional interior monologue for several characters (as “On Westmount Station,” unlike the first Joey Maverick adventure, has multiple POV so multiple characters are sharing the storytelling load), came up with several all-new characters and gave a completely different spin on what Joey is doing while he waits to ship out at Westmount Station than what Michael had to begin with.  I also edited it, again tried to format it, again sent it out to two different people and again ended up using the file I started with as I just liked it better.  (I still intend to do something nice for the people who tried hard to help me.  Just haven’t figured it out yet, that’s all.)

Now, for those of you who read any of Michael’s work years ago — this means the Baen’s Bar crowd, as Michael showcased his novel MAVERICK, LIEUTENANT there many moons ago — you’re obviously going to know what I did.  But you might not know why.

The main reason I added subplots and action and characters to “On Westmount Station” is because of something Jim Baen said to Michael on Baen’s Bar.  What Baen said was very succinct: “Where is your plot, sir?”

And, of course, Michael took grave exception to this.  (Had Jim Baen said instead, “Where is your action, sir?” Michael would’ve understood.  Sometimes communication hinges on these tiny things.)  Because Michael’s novel had plenty of plot — but after the opening novella (“A Dark and Stormy Night”), there wasn’t a whole lot of verifiable action to be had.

Even though Michael was quite distressed by Baen’s comments — I remember this clearly — he took them to heart once he understood (via another friend of ours, a professional writer and editor) that what Baen actually meant was action.  And that while our friend felt Michael could still sell his novel as it stood, perhaps it might be a good idea to look for places action could be added.

As Michael had a very strong belief that many military men and women often had careers consisting of “quiet heroism” — that is, they did important things, but most of the time the public either didn’t know or care what they’d done — this action had to take place in such a way that it wouldn’t call attention to Joey Maverick.  Because Michael’s further conceit was that Joey Maverick’s one known piece of heroism was going to be during “A Dark and Stormy Night” (where Joey takes command of the low-tech sailing ship he’s been crewing on during an emergency, and rescues a whole lot of people and not-so-incidentally meets the love of his life in the process), that made it tough to figure out where to add some action in.

Michael and I were still brainstorming and trying to figure this out at the time he passed away, very suddenly, in September of 2004.

So here I was, a newly-made widow, desperately and deeply grieving the loss of my husband, and I had what I knew to be an excellent novella.  I added 1400 words to it mostly to make it a legal collaboration so I could more easily sell it — but “A Dark and Stormy Night” probably would’ve been just fine as it was.  (I’ll be honest.  I like the version I’ve worked on better, but the original is quite good.)

But figuring out what to do with Chapter 1 of Michael’s novel was much harder (yes, this is my roundabout way of saying this is where I got much of the backbone of “On Westmount Station”).  All Michael had Joey doing was picking up his ship assignment and forming up his temporary troops, admittedly with great flair and elan.  But it would be hard to make a stand-alone story out of that, which is why I thought long and hard about what to do next.

Over the course of a year, I added material, came up with new characters, and figured out just what could threaten a space station (at least in part) but be kept quiet enough that no one would hear about it but a few of the higher-ups in Joey Maverick’s command . . . and, of course, the men and women who helped Joey stop whatever the problem was in its tracks.  Once I had all that, I wrote the scenes, integrated them into what Michael had, sent it to my first readers (my long-time writer’s group, Barfly Slush) and then tried to sell it.

But I couldn’t find any buyers.

I even tried the Writers of the Future contest with “On Westmount Station,” as I felt it was the best work I’d ever done.  (I made sure, of course, that it was OK to submit it despite it being a collaborative work with my deceased husband.)  But it sank like a stone there, just as everything else I’ve ever sent to Writers of the Future has always done.

Soon after “On Westmount Station” was rejected, I offered it to Lawrence at e-Quill Publishing and it was accepted.  And there it stayed until I dissolved my relationship with e-Quill in 2012.

Now, as to why I brought them back out?  It’s simple.  They’re really good stories.  Michael worked hard on “A Dark and Stormy Night,” and it consists of some of his finest work.  And I’m extremely proud of what I did with “On Westmount Station,” as I feel it’s exactly what Michael would’ve done . . . if he’d have only had time to do just that.

Some people have told me over the last few years that I shouldn’t waste my time on keeping Michael’s stories alive.  He’s dead, I’m not, and if Michael were still alive he probably wouldn’t be still trying to get these stories published — whether it be independently (as I have now) or through a publisher.

I disagree — and disagree very strongly — with that assessment, mostly because I know how persistent Michael was.  I also know that Michael, like myself, would never give up on his stories.  And finally, I know that Michael wrote very well and deserved to get a chance for his stories to find their audience.

All of that is why I kept trying to get the stories back out and available for sale.

And now, they are.

Please, do go take a gander at ’em.  Let me know if you enjoy them.  And spread the word . . . ’cause if you can do all that, I plan to bring out more  of Michael’s other stories in the years to come.  (Promise.)

Written by Barb Caffrey

December 1, 2013 at 10:48 pm

Are we _really_ supposed to want to work at Wal-Mart? A rant.

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Folks, I have grown tired of these “people who work at Wal-Mart” commercials, and as I just saw (and heard) another of these, I need to discuss why I do not appreciate them in the slightest.

First off, I am really surprised by the tone of these commercials.  The Hispanic woman who’s proud — very, very proud — of her work at Wal-Mart because it “got her off welfare” and now she’s even gotten her son a job there — far be it for me to say, but shouldn’t she have aspired to a bit more than this?

Look.  I worked as a cashier for three-plus years and a grocery stocker for a few more.  I do not look down on people who do these jobs; I know they’re valuable and that many very smart, capable people work in these jobs for a time, or maybe for their entire life.

But for someone who was basically lost, by her own admission, before she started working for Wal-Mart . . . either this is TMI (too much information) or she’s dissembling a little bit to be polite.  Either way, I dislike it very much and wish she’d stop.

Where you work is only part of who you are; I realize that and respect it.  And I recognize that this Hispanic lady, along with the others who are proud to work at Wal-Mart and have been trumpeting it to the skies for at least three months now, are smart people who would seem to have more than one option.

So why is it, then, that whenever I think about Wal-Mart, I have the Saturday Night Live skit in my head where Wal-Mart comes in and takes over everyone, so the folks who used to have independent thoughts or were independently opposing Wal-Mart are now subsumed into its inexhaustible matrix?

These “people who work for Wal-Mart” commercials, to my mind, are sad.  Just sad.  Because I don’t for one minute buy that Wal-Mart is a “hip and happening” place, or one where people often go and grow . . . that some do is undeniable, but that most do?  Unlikely at best.

All I can do is shake my head and change the channel when I see the “people who work at Wal-Mart” commercials, because it just rings so hollow.  And false.

I cannot believe I am the only one, either, which makes me wonder why these commercials are still on the air.

If this is an attempt at framing the narrative, Wal-Mart corporate board, it’s utterly failed, because I just don’t see how pointing out a bunch of people who happen to work for you who are uncommonly cheerful about it helps get people to spend money at your stores.  (If the thought behind this narrative framing failure was that if we saw the people who work at Wal-Mart that we might realize they’re just like the rest of us, well, all I can say is, “I see your point but that doesn’t mean I’m going to spend any more money in your stores.”  In other words, it’s a non sequitur of major proportions.)

So with all of that being said, all I can do is hope these “people of Wal-Mart” commercials will soon go off the air.  Because all I can think of when I see these bright, amiable people talk about their Wal-Mart experiences is this:  “Why?  Why?”

Written by Barb Caffrey

January 18, 2011 at 6:01 pm