Barb Caffrey's Blog

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More Authors and Books for My “Best of Fantasy” List

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Folks, I wrote a blog two days ago about the very odd and unrepresentative “50 Best Fantasy Books” list from Esquire magazine. Those fifty books were closer to “50 Best Right Now” than anything else, but even there, I didn’t find most of them to be of lasting interest.

While there’s one or two I would still like to read, I can tell you for a fact that I’ve tried at least six of the novels I didn’t think were among the “50 Best Fantasy Books” of all time. (No, I won’t tell you which ones.)

Also, every list is subjective, and every list is going to leave someone out who deserves to be there.

That said, I had some more thoughts, and wanted to put them down. (If you haven’t yet read my earlier blog, here’s the link to it.)

The first author that came to mind when I woke up yesterday that I’d forgotten to add was Elizabeth Moon. Her writing is stellar, and her first three books about Paksenarrion, had she written nothing else, would’ve been more than enough to put her on this list.

The next one I forgot to add was Jack L. Chalker, who wrote Midnight at the Well of Souls and The Return of Nathan Brazil, among others. He also wrote a stellar short story called “Dance Band on the Titanic” that I urge you to read, if you haven’t already. (I didn’t find a link to it on Amazon, but it is available in public libraries as “Dance Band on the Titanic and Other Stories.”)

I mentioned Jack Vance in my comments underneath my previous blog, but I wanted to talk a bit more about him here. Vance was a prolific storyteller in the “Grand Old Man” mode. His first novel, The Dying Earth, was considered ground-breaking in its time. But the easiest way to get to know Jack Vance’s work is with The Jack Vance Treasury, which collects a number of his stories and is a good representation of what he was about as a writer.

The one thing I’d like modern readers to keep aware of is this: Vance was a product of his time. This means he didn’t have as many women in these stories, and most of the women who you will meet there are not protagonists or antagonists, but rather meant as set pieces to better limn the background for the purposes of authenticity.

Anyway, I had mentioned Clifford Simak at some point when I was discussing this with my friends (I still can’t get over how deeply unrepresentative that Esquire list was for the history of SF&F; it’s almost as if they wanted to say that SF&F started last year, and here are the books that appealed to them). Simak was an enormously talented writer, and he wrote several books and oodles of short stories that still speak to me today. The book I liked the most when I was younger was City, about a race of canines telling stories about their forefathers, known as “men.” I also like his short stories, and have been intrigued by another of his novels, Time is the Simplest Thing, about a telepath on the run from corruption and greed (among other things).

Then there is C.M. Kornbluth, who also was not mentioned by Esquire. Kornbluth is one of the most iconic and quirky writers SF&F has ever had, and if you ever read any stories by him, even if co-authored with someone else like Judith Merril or Frederik Pohl, you’ll most likely remember them. They are full of imagery that sticks with you long after the reading is done.

My recommendation is to take a look at this short story collection, edited by Pohl, as it should give you a good idea what Kornbluth was all about.

I’d mentioned David Weber and David Drake yesterday in my comments, and wanted to add them to the list.

Weber hasn’t written a ton of fantasy, but what he has written is excellent. (My late husband loved Weber’s writing, including the long-running Honor Harrington series, which is space opera at its best.) Weber’s War Gods series starts with Oath of Swords (which is absolutely free; you can’t do better than that), and will introduce you to Bahzell, a most unusual warrior who keeps getting into scrapes and is a gruff man with a good heart who’s been badly misunderstood by most (including himself) for years.

As for Drake, he has a wonderful book called Old Nathan (which again is absolutely free) which is about a man who’s both woodsman and wizard, defending humanity as best he might during a series of travails that both horrify and delight. Drake is better known for “Hammer’s Slammers” and the space opera series about Lt. Leary (who, of course, grows in rank and abilities, as good officers do in real life). Drake is every bit as good of a writer of fantasy as he is of space opera and science fiction, and I think you’ll enjoy his writing.

At any rate, these are the authors that came to mind that needed to be added. There are more that I want to talk about, including Sharon Shinn, Leigh Brackett (a pioneer of SF&F, and one of the first women writers of same), additional books by Rosemary Edghill and Katharine Eliska Kimbriel I want you to take a gander at…so, I’m going to list some of the books of these folks below, in the hopes that you’ll find yourself a new favorite author or three.

Sharon Shinn’s books include Archangel, The Shape-Changer’s Wife, and Jenna Starborn. Everything I’ve read by her — and I’ve tried to read it all — is worthy, interesting, and moving.

Rosemary Edghill’s classic Hellflower (first book in the Hellflower trilogy) has recently been reissued as an ebook. While it’s not fantasy — it is SF — it deserves to be on this list as it’s something I picked up as soon as it was back out and available. (Now I’m savoring it, like fine wine.) Everything about this book screams of authenticity, and if you don’t take to the heroine Butterfly (short for Butterflies-Are-Free-Peace-Sincere), I’ll be astonished.

Katharine Eliska Kimbriel has six novels out. Three are in the Night Calls series (I mentioned Night Calls yesterday), while three are in the Chronicles of Nuala space opera/SF/spiritual series. The first book of the latter is Fires of Nuala, and I urge you to read it.

Kimbriel’s work in the Nuala series reminded me of Dune by Frank Herbert. (Yes, that’s another novel that should be on that Esquire list but wasn’t.) It is complex, multi-layered, and very well thought-out.

Leigh Brackett was one of SF&F’s pioneers, as I said before, and was so prescient she wrote a book about a post-nuclear holocaust America in 1955. This book is called The Long Tomorrow.

And I just thought of another fine writer not mentioned by Esquire, that being C.J. Cherryh. I read Downbelow Station when I was a teenager and enjoyed it so much I looked up everything else Ms. Cherryh had available at the time. Over the years, whenever I’ve seen her books (in the library, or when I’ve had enough money to buy one), I’ve done my best to pick them up, read, and recommend to others.

That brings me to another writer I absolutely adore, Janet Kagan. Ms. Kagan put out two original novels, Hellspark and Mirabile, and one Star Trek novel (Uhura’s Song) along with a number of short stories. Hellspark is notable because it discusses kinesiology as well as verbal tics/styles (to speak another language well, you must know how people who speak that language move). Uhura’s Song is just plain fun (and is only ninety-nine cents right now).

That brings to mind another writer that I very much appreciate, that being John M. Ford. The Dragon Waiting was perhaps his best-known book, but I learned about him mostly because I read The Final Reflection (along with Uhura’s Song and Diane Duane’s My Enemy, My Ally and The Wounded Sky, those being excellent representations of SF in their own right).

And speaking of Ms. Duane, what on Earth was Esquire about to leave her out of the mix for classic fantasy? Her Door into Fire and Door into Shadow featured LGBTQ protagonists at a time most people didn’t want to talk about it, with well-defined characters, deadly and difficult situations, and much derring-do done quite well. But most people know her more for the Young Wizards series, which starts with So You Want to Be a Wizard.

My favorite book of hers is called Stealing the Elf-King’s Roses. It’s a great book about various Earths, justice, humanity in all its forms, and peace.

Anyway, I’m sure I’ll think of some more writers after I finish this blog, but these additions should keep you interested. (I hope?)

Let me know who else I forgot, and I’ll do my best to add to the list in another blog.

Neither Fish Nor Fowl

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I don’t know about you, but I sometimes don’t feel much like anyone else.

In general, this is a good thing. I have no doubts about my individuality or individualism. I know who I am; I am self-aware; I work on being my best self, especially as I know full well what my worst self is (and want no part of it, thank you).

Mind, I don’t want my worst self to dominate. And I’m not the only one who has ever thought of this, as we shall see.

In a classic Star Trek episode, Captain Jim Kirk was split into his two biggest “parts.” One half was good but weak. The other half was evil but strong. The good half waffled and could not make a decision as his compassion was so strong, every decision felt like the wrong answer. The bad half made snap decisions, tried to pretend he was something he wasn’t (that is, the full Jim Kirk, when he was only half), and had no remorse even after making the wrong judgment calls. Obviously, both halves of Jim Kirk were necessary for the full Jim Kirk to be able to be decisive–yet moral–at the same time.

So, the worst self I have, that can be ruthless and even cruel at times, has to be taken into account as part of who I am. Suppressing it isn’t the right answer, either, as too much suppression of part of ourselves has difficult and sometimes unwieldy consequences.

That’s why I often feel like I’m neither fish nor fowl.

Of course, the conception of an author’s blog usually is to explain more about why the person writes what they write than explain the person themselves. My answers are huge, sometimes elliptical, yet they boil down to one thing: This is who I am.

So, when I write a romance like Bruno’s and Sarah’s in the two Elfy books, it’s because I believe that romance is–or at least can be–vital to people’s well-being. When I write a romance like Allen’s and Elaine’s in CHANGING FACES, it’s because I believe love can indeed conquer all, even though there will be unforeseen difficulties, and even if the people in question have lots of work to do on themselves to be good partners.

Even in the short stories I’ve written, there usually is a romantic component. In “Baseball, Werewolves, and Me,” psychic Arletta James is a huge baseball fan, married to a werewolf, and has been brought in to consult for a major league baseball team due to unforeseen events. Her husband Fergus is her perfect foil, smart, dedicated, and not willing to take any crap from anyone. The two of them make an excellent team. (I also have a second story about them in the works, for those who’ve asked.)

The two stories about Marja and Tomas, the first a shapeshifter and the second a telepathic Troll, are also in the same vein. They found romance where it was least expected. They both feel like outcasts. (For that matter, so do all the others I’ve mentioned already, particularly Bruno and Sarah of the Elfy books and Elaine of CHANGING FACES.) But together, they thrive, and they use their talents to their best advantage.

I have other short stories that have no romance, mind. And I have a few others that do have at least the glimmering of a romance. But I think you get my point, which is that life should be shared with those you love.

If you’re fortunate enough to have a romantic partner who understands you, celebrate that every single day.

If you’re not, but you have friends who understand and love you for who you are, celebrate that.

And if you’re the most fortunate of all in that you not only have a living romantic partner to stand beside you but have good, caring and decent friends as well, recognize that you live in a bounty of riches. Do not take that for granted, ever. And do what you can for everyone you know, because life is fleeting.

So, while I continue to feel as if I’m neither fish nor fowl, I recognize that my skills and talents can still be effective.

I do hope this blog will give someone the hope they need, or at least some points to ponder. (Let me know that you’re reading, will you? I’m still smarting over that “comment” from Malwarebytes about how “lightly trafficked blog sites often carry viruses and malware.”)

Written by Barb Caffrey

October 15, 2021 at 4:31 pm

A Brewers Update, a Personal Update…and a word about Chris Nuttall’s newest, THE CUNNING MAN

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Folks, I am fighting yet another sinus infection. I am beyond tired of these sinus infections, to put it mildly. But all I can do is rest to tolerance, drink lots of fluids, get more rest, and work to tolerance after I regain enough energy to do so.

As far as music or writing goes (aside from this blog), nothing is getting done. (I did write 32 bars of music last weekend, though.) This is frustrating for me as a creative person, as when I can’t create things get bottled up inside.

The only solution I have is to rest. Again, I hate not being able to do much of anything. But I have to be smart, and I have to realize that my body is extremely worn out right now. Otherwise, I’ll just get sicker, and what good will that do for me or anyone else?

Never mind that. I want to talk about baseball, and I want to talk about books now.

Baseball first.

As I’m sure most of you are aware, my favorite baseball team is the Milwaukee Brewers. They have won the National League Central division, and will be going to the playoffs that start next week. (This week, they’re finishing the regular season, but they’re already locked in for the playoffs as it is. Nothing will change for the team as a whole.)

This has been a season of first, in some ways. There was a combined no-hitter, just the second no-hitter in Brewers baseball history (Corbin Burnes pitched eight innings, and closer extraordinaire Josh Hader pitched the ninth). The Brewers have been good at home but astonishingly good on the road, which almost never happens. And, oddly enough, the usually homerun-hitting Brewers have had to rely on outstanding pitching rather than offense as their offense has been downright offensive at times. (Sorry about the pun, but I couldn’t resist.)

So, the Brewers have better defense and better pitching than most of the rest of the National League. But their hitting is average or below for the most part, and their clutch hitting (hitting with runners in scoring position) isn’t as good as it should be.

What all that means is, when a player like shortstop Willy Adames needs time off to rest a nagging injury, that hurts the Brewers’ offensive capability as a team. When Lorenzo Cain takes a day off to rest, it also hurts for the same reasons. And while the highly-paid former MVP, Christian Yelich, continues to scuffle offensively, he does take walks and uses his speed to some effect…meaning he’s not a black hole, offensively speaking, but he’s not a shining light, either.

The Brewers offense, in short, needs every player to fire on all cylinders. If they don’t, the only way they can win is to rely on their pitching. With three starters among the top ten in ERA (Earned Run Average) as adjusted for time and innings pitched, and outstanding relievers Hader and Devin Williams, the Brewers have put together a formidable pitching staff.

Now, Williams found out he’d busted his hand while celebrating the Brewers division-clinching win over the New York Mets on Sunday. This means he’ll not be available, at best, for three weeks. And as that’s when the World Series is likely to be played, the Brewers will have to worry about it later while focusing on the first opponent (likely to be the Atlanta Braves, though the Philadelphia Phillies still have a mathematical shot to win their division instead and face the Brewers).

It won’t help the Brewers to have Williams sidelined. (He has apologized, according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, to his teammates.) But they’ll have to do the best they can as he heals up.

I’m looking forward to watching them in the postseason, and I do hope they’ll hit (for a change) as well as pitch well.

Shifting gears, let’s talk about books. Or at least one, specific book, that being Chris Nuttall’s THE CUNNING MAN, which is now out in e-book format. (Disclaimer: I edited this book and know it quite well.) He’s having some trouble with his website right now (though his blog is up), and thus he can’t get the word out in his usual ways. I figured I could perhaps help just a tad by letting you know it’s out.

Of course, you probably are wondering what the book is about. (It is entitled as a “Schooled In Magic” spinoff, but that isn’t a lot to go on if you haven’t read the Schooled in Magic series to begin with.) It stars Adam, a young man without the magical gift who has become quite interested in studying alchemy and magical theory. Thus, in many ways, he’s a man without a home. The magicians mostly disregard him, and the nonmagicians (“mundanes,” in Chris’s concept, as it is in many fantasy novels) don’t understand him.

Anyway, there’s one place that will take him as a possible apprentice. That place is Heart’s Eye University. A university is a new concept in the Nameless World (Chris’s environs; it has that name because for the most part magicians believe they should use use-names rather than real ones, as your real name being known can give someone unscrupulous power over you; this does not apply to nonmagical people, as there are plenty of ways to get power over a nonmagician already), and they are trying to blend mundane and magical solutions to good effect.

Once he’s there, it’s not a bed of roses, to put it mildly. He meets Lilith, who’s in an apprenticeship she hates (for reasons Adam doesn’t understand at first), and doesn’t know why anyone would want to study magic when they don’t have magic at all. So, as most people can’t stand Lilith, she falls in with Adam. And at first, the unlikely pairing does not do very well, as you might expect.

However, as both Adam and Lilith have adventures, they slowly start to realize they have more in common than not. (They both have ethics and principles, for example.) And Lilith’s worldview (that of magicians being on top because they have magic, AKA “magical supremacy”) starts to change quite a bit (as it should).

I’m going to stop there with a plot summary, but I hope that has intrigued you.

Otherwise, I have several edits in train, I am hoping to write some fiction somehow in the next few days, and I’ll be focusing on healing up so I can do all of these things as quickly as possible.

What are you all doing this week? Let me know in the comments! (And what books are you reading?)

Written by Barb Caffrey

September 30, 2021 at 3:48 am

What Makes a Good Story?

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Recently, I wrote about Milwaukee Brewers relief pitcher John Axford, and I said that the way his story ended was not the way his story was supposed to go.

This begs the question: What makes for a good story, anyway?

By contemporary standards, what would’ve made Axford’s story much better would’ve been him coming into the game, striking out the side (or at least getting three outs), getting the save, and having the stadium rain cheers upon his head. (The crowd did cheer him when he came in — I think he may have even received a standing ovation — and cheered him on the way out, too, which is not usual when a pitcher is unable to get out of the inning. This last happened because we Brewers fans knew Axford well from his previous service with us, and knew he was deserving of such approbation due to how well he’d done before.)

In previous eras, though, they had stories such as MADAME BOVARY that sold a ton. Those stories would have characters put through the wringer and they’d never be able to come up for air; instead, even their children would be put through the wringer for no purpose, and would never be able to get ahead.

Why audiences appreciated such stories is beyond me, but that was the fashion at that time. The would-be heroine (or hero) had a tragic flaw (or two, or five), and because of that flaw would taint herself and everyone around her beyond any hope of redemption.

The fashion now tends more to happy endings, but well-deserved happy endings. Characters still get put through the wringer (see Lois McMaster Bujold’s MIRROR DANCE, or Katharine Eliska Kimbriel’s NIGHT CALLS, or any of Robert Jordan’s novels in the Wheel of Time series, among others), but they live to fight another day. They learn from their mistakes, too. And they continue on, having learned much more about themselves in the process.

Of course, the Harry Potter novels also exemplify this sort of story. Harry grows up to be a powerful magician, but he’s put through the wringer and must fight the big, bad, nasty, evil, and disgusting Lord Voldemort (and yes, I meant all those descriptions, as Voldemort is just that bad) in order to become the magician he needs to be. He and his friends Hermione and Ron are put through all sorts of awful things, but they eventually prevail.

My friend Chris Nuttall’s novels about Emily, starting with SCHOOLED IN MAGIC and continuing through to FACE OF THE ENEMY (with CHILD OF DESTINY coming soon), also have a plot that shows Emily being thrown into awful situation after awful situation, but she finds a way to prevail every time through hard work, effort, and a talent to get along with people even if they’ve crossed her (or she’s crossed them). Emily scans as a real person, and we care about her because she faces things most of us face even though we’re not magicians.

What are those things, you ask? Well, she has to learn from her own mistakes. She has to realize that she can’t fix everything and everyone. She has to find out that her snap judgments are not always correct. And she has to reevaluate people and situations, even when she doesn’t want to.

Of course, my own stories about Bruno and Sarah (AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE and A LITTLE ELFY IN BIG TROUBLE) have many of the same lessons. There are things Bruno can do, and does, once he realizes he’s been lied to about nearly everything. Sarah is in much the same boat, except she has different talents — complementary ones, in most cases — and the two of them have to find that they’re stronger together than they could ever be alone. But there are still things they can’t do, and they must make their peace with that (as every adult does), while continuing to work on the things they can.

In other words, they can control what is in their power to control. But they can’t control other people. (It would be wrong to do so, anyway. They have to make their own lives meaningful in whatever way they can, too. And make their own mistakes, as we all do…but I digress.)

Anyway, the stories I love best are those with happy endings. People sometimes start out with situations they don’t deserve (such as my friend Kayelle Allen’s character Izzorah, who went through a childhood illness that damaged his heart and nearly blinded him), but they get into better positions and find the people who can help them — maybe even love them the way they deserve. (Izzorah, for example, finds a treatment for his heart — it’s not a standard one, by any means, but it works in the context of the story — and finds love along the way in SURRENDER LOVE.)

So, to go back to the beginning of this blog, as we love happy endings and we want to see deserving people find good luck and happiness, the true ending we wanted for John Axford was to get the outs, get the cheers, bask in the glow of achieving his dreams once again at the baseball-advanced age of thirty-eight, and stay with the Brewers the rest of the season as they continue to make their run at postseason play.

That Axford was unable to achieve this happy ending was distressing. But all the hard work and effort he put into his return to the big leagues should still be celebrated. And my hope, overall, is that he will still be with the Brewers in one way or another after this season ends.

What makes for a good story? Do you agree or disagree with me, and if so, why? Tell me about it in the comments!

Introducing STAND AGAINST THE LIGHT, a Great YA Novel by George Phillies

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Folks, I’m happy to introduce you to George Phillies’ newest novel, STAND AGAINST THE LIGHT. It’s a book about young superheroes, in a world where they know about such things; more specifically, it’s a book about twelve-year-old Eclipse, one of the baddest twelve-year-old girls you’re ever likely to meet (in the best of senses.) It’s an excellent book, the third in the “Eclipse: The Girl Who Saved the World” series, and I enjoyed editing it immensely.

(Note that I didn’t edit books one and two, but they are also excellent. You can get book one, ECLIPSE: THE GIRL WHO SAVED THE WORLD here for only ninety-nine cents, and book two, AIRY CASTLES ALL ABLAZE, here.)

Take a look at this gorgeous cover art by Brad Fraunfelter:

But you are probably wondering by this point, “Who is Eclipse, anyway?” Well, as I can’t do any better than George’s own blurb, take a gander at that:

Eclipse:
World’s greatest tween superhero.
World’s most terrifying tween supervillain.
Opinions differ.

She’s twelve. She’s hardworking, bright, self-reliant, good with tools,
vigorously physically fit, tough as nails, still young enough to
disguise herself as a boy. Since arriving she’s only blown up one
mountain range.  And she knows that when she faces the final doom, win
or lose, she will die trying.

I just loved working on this book, loved Eclipse, thought she was such a great character, and enjoyed everything about the milieu with the superheroes (called “personae” in their own universe). The best part of the book, though, were the friendships between Eclipse and the other young superheroes, most particularly with a girl named Trisha (persona name: Comet). And because I enjoyed the book so very, very much, I asked George for an excerpt, so you’d have some idea of just what you’re getting into — only in the best of senses! — and he obligingly sent the following:

Cloud stared at the wall clock.  Eclipse was supposed to appear in their
base in a few minutes.  Where was she?

“We’ll be ready in a moment, Cloud,” Comet said. “Just so soon as all
five of us are here.” Her wait was interrupted by the hitherto-unseen
Eclipse, who materialized in the room’s center. Her garb was freshly
washed and ironed.  Silver curls were precisely combed.  Her face was
the image of tranquility.

Star almost made a comment about girls needing to do their hair before a
fight, then bit his tongue.  When Eclipse walked, she left a trail of
power that rippled the space behind her. She moved her hands.  The air
through which her fingers passed curdled, warped by eddies and whorls
from half-called gifts. Looking near her was like staring at hot
pavement on a sunbright day. The slightest hint of screens flickered
above her garb, violet spiderwebs tracing the pattern of her motif.

“Sorry if I needed a little longer.” Eclipse’s voice was remote, as
though she no longer lived only in the here and now. “Calling the deeper
levels is more safely done through slowness and tranquility. Is all else
prepared?  Aurora?  Comet?”

The younger girl posed, arms outstretched, fading behind the pyramid and
eye that marked her powers’ manifestation. *Eclipse?  They’re a mile
down, spread along that mountain range, except that city. Their
tunnels…that mountain range is hollowed out, with barely enough rock
left to keep it from collapsing.  There! That’s all of them in Tibet,
`cept relay stations.  [Images of rock tunnels, a tracery penetrating to
the roots of the Himalayas.]  Rock’s laced with screens!*

Eclipse’s screens appeared, bright as a magnesium flare as they enfolded
her and Comet, burning the violet usually reserved for morning glories.

“We’re invisible…Now!” Comet shouted.  The two girls vanished.

“You’re invisible,” Star confirmed.

Eclipse’s teleport transported the two of them.  They hovered in the
upper air over the Tibetan High Plateau.

“How can you do this?” Comet asked. “Those mountains are huge.”

Eclipse smiled grimly. *I cheat.* This is Pickering’s world, she told
herself, not even understanding what they’re facing.  Saving them all
depends on me.  She shuddered at the name of the levels she would need.
*Lucky for us, I find breaking things real easy.* She reached into the
core of her being, deeper than the Fall of Crystal, deeper than the
Tomb, deeper than the Hall of the Lidless Eye. Deeper.  Deeper.  Beyond
the Straight Circle.  Beyond the warm touch of the Solid Rainbow.  All
the way to the bottom of the Well of Infinity.

A column of pure energy stabbed downwards from her right hand, piercing
thousands of feet of stone and tens of intertwined defense screens like
a surgeon’s needle lancing a troublesome boil.  Hidden chambers carved
from living rock were brilliantly lit, their contents transformed in
microseconds into incandescent gas.

Tibetan Empire defenses engaged. Colossal explosions shredded the air
around Eclipse and Comet.  Shock waves rolled out in all directions. 
Superheated fireballs, blindingly bright, rose through the stratosphere,
punching a hole in the sky above as they rose far into the ionosphere. 
Comet, frightened, leaned into Eclipse’s shoulder.

*Trisha,* Eclipse thought, *Don’t be afraid of these clowns. We’re
good.  Give me a little more space, please?*

Comet drifted back.

Eclipse summoned the full depth of her gifts.  For tens of seconds her
plasma torch probed through granite, a torrent of power momentarily
absorbed by the enormous mass of the mountains.

The Himalayan massif exploded.  A column of superheated gas burst
skywards, carrying with it an entire line of mountains transformed to
incandescent ash.  Steep cliff sides, crushed to white-hot sand, blew
out in all directions.  Shock waves tore through the bedrock, the ground
of the surrounding valleys rolling in great waves as majestic as the
swells of the distant Indian Ocean.

Eclipse focused her thoughts on holding her own screens against the
geological catastrophe she had created.  Her own attack lanced down,
deeper and deeper, striking to the ultimate core of the fortress beneath
her.

Comet managed a last glimpse of the doomed City of the Sun, a city whose
rigidly mathematical lines blurred under the impact of impact of earth
shocks, then disappeared behind falling rocks and clouds of glowing
ash.  She squeezed her eyes shut, knowing that her last images of the
City, architecture crumbling like a matchwood ship hurled against the
coast by gale-driven waves, would be with her until her life’s end.

From Chapter Forty-Four, Waging Peace Through Unlimited Firepower, STAND AGAINST THE LIGHT by George Phillies

At any rate, I hope you’ve enjoyed the excerpt, the cover art, and my blog…now, go to Amazon and get the e-books! (Again, book one, ECLIPSE: The Girl Who Saved the World, is only ninety-nine cents today.)

Chris Nuttall’s Newest Book, STUCK IN MAGIC, Is Out…

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Folks, Chris Nuttall is a good friend of mine, and also an editorial client. I lead with that, because I recently edited his newest novel, STUCK IN MAGIC, for the reinvigorated Henchman Press.

This book is a spinoff of Chris’s popular Schooled in Magic universe (which so far has spawned 23 full novels, at least five novellas, and a few other short stories). Instead of starring Emily, a girl from Kansas in our world who finds out she has magic (and thus can change her new world), it stars Elliot, also an American from our time and place. He is a military man, describes himself as “big, black, and beefy,” and one day he’s driving along the Interstate, very angry at his cheating wife. Before he knows it, his car is wrecked, he’s in the middle of a primeval forest, and a young woman — not Emily — has worked a spell so he can understand the local language.

Mind you, Elliot quickly figures out there has to have been someone from our world who’s shown up there, as books use English letters and numbers use Arabic numerals. There also are “new” inventions — new to the Nameless World, anyway — of muskets, flintlocks, and steam engine-driven trains. (All of these are thanks to Emily, but of course Elliot cannot know that.)

Elliot has no magic at all. What he has are his quick mind, his military knowledge (including knowing a great deal of military history), and how to fight insurgents bent only on his destruction. (No, he’s not faced actual magicians before. But he has faced insurgents galore in “the Sandbox,” i.e., Afghanistan, Iraq, and quite possibly Pakistan as well.)

So, what would you do, if you ended up stuck in magic? How would you deal with the wrenching sense of loss, of losing everything including that of the world of your birth, when you don’t have a major talent (as Emily does)? Would you be able to adapt?

At any rate, the ebook came out at lightspeed, and is out now. (Here’s a link from Amazon, in case you’re interested.) And the cover art is spectacular. You have to see this. (Thank artist Lydia Kurnia for coming up with this great cover.)

So, go forth, and read this! (You’ll be glad you did.)

Introducing “A Stolen Heart” by Kayelle Allen

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Folks, I’m always glad to talk about my friend and fellow author Kayelle Allen. I’ve edited at least six of her books (maybe more; I’ve lost count), and I’m always happy to work on them because they’re well-detailed, well-organized, and a lot of fun.

But A STOLEN HEART, which is all of the above, is even more than that. It’s about optimism, in the face of great loss. It’s about the blessings of family, even when you don’t think you deserve it. It’s about personal growth, and self-sacrifice, and finding your own way in the world…most of all, it’s about figuring out how to love yourself, warts and all, even when you’ve done something so horrible you have nightmares about it many years after the fact.

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Kayelle’s hero in A STOLEN HEART is the enigmatic Luc Saint-Cyr, a nearly immortal man from a race of genetically engineered humans called Ultras. Luc, thousands of years ago and under another name, was sent while he’d been a soldier to kill, and he’d done just that. But when he found out that the people he’d killed this time were children, he was so appalled he confronted his superiors. They told him to basically “stop being a wussy” (not in so many words), and that he’d been engineered to kill, thank you, so why was he complaining about killing children? What’s the big deal?

Luc wasn’t having any of it, and for many years — and lives — he’s tried to atone for that. (It’s not that he won’t kill if he has to; it’s that he will not kill innocents ever again.) He’s believed that he is unworthy of love. And he’s become almost ossified in his beliefs to the point that even when he takes lovers, he gets physical relief from it but no more — and expects nothing more, either, because who could love him, pariah though he is?

And because Luc’s past comes with a very attractive ex-boyfriend who’s also immortal, well…let’s just say that adds some complexity to the mix. (Remember what I said about Luc not feeling lovable? That definitely hasn’t killed off his sex drive. Though there really isn’t any sex in this book, just attraction…ahem.)

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Anyway, Luc’s now a financier and merchant. He’s also one of the heads of the Thieves Guild, which is a quasi-legal enterprise in the galactic empire he lives in. But he still thinks of himself as a pariah, and while others (including his ex) see him as calm, cool, and collected, he knows his life is empty.

Because he is more or less immortal (Ultras can be killed, but it takes a Hell of a lot of doing), he has borne this shame for many years. But into his life comes a young half-human boy, Senthys Antonello (called Senth by everyone but Luc; Luc insists that “nicknames lack dignity”). Senth is only three when Luc runs across him running from a nasty teacher in the Thieves Guild; unbeknownst to Luc, the rules have recently changed and now young children (providing they are not fully human) can be sold as slaves. This disgusts Luc, and so he determines to do something about it…but first, he takes Senth home with him as a foster child.

And this changes his life for the better in so many ways, it’s almost incalculable.

Because I don’t want to spoil the read, I’ll stop there with the plot summary. But I do hope you’ll read what Kayelle has written, as I found it both enlightening and pertinent. Yes, Luc’s very long-lived, yes, he has an immortal ex, but inside he’s just like the rest of us. And until he meets Senth, he has no idea what the love of family actually is. Much less the type of love known as agape,  which is selfless by nature.

In previous books (including one about Senth as an adult), Luc was shown to be almost sinister at times. But A STOLEN HEART shows Luc to be like anyone else: he wants to be loved for who he is, doesn’t necessarily he believes he deserves it (in fact, he often doesn’t think he deserves it at all), and is trying to find his way despite many life challenges he didn’t make. And while he may have been created to kill, initially, that isn’t what he is now — or at least, that isn’t all he is.

That’s why I was so pleased to work with Kayelle as her editor for A STOLEN HEART, and it’s why I wholeheartedly recommend this book to you now.

——

BTW, here’s the blurb Kayelle wrote for Amazon, in case you need any more:

When he rescues a half-human orphan, a glorified space pirate turned entrepreneur sets in motion a chain of events that threatens to topple the powerful Thieves’ Guild he once led.

Multiple layers of conspiracy unfold, reaching all the way to Luc’s immortal ex–the king. Behind each solved mystery looms an unseen foe, undoing the good Luc accomplishes. For the sake of this child, Luc must postpone his own freedom and master his desire for revenge or he will violate an ancient vow. Worse, he’ll put the toddler at risk.

At war with his compassion for the vulnerable child, loyalty to the king, duty to the Guild, and the bright lure of freedom he’s coveted for centuries, Luc seeks the right path. Will he choose liberty and unparalleled success, or restore the Thieves’ Guild to its former glory while overseeing the child’s training?

A hard choice for any man.

For an immortal whose inner monster can destroy on sight? Impossible.

A pirate with a monstrous past can never be trusted with an innocent child. Luc must ensure the child is protected, safe, nowhere near danger. Nowhere near him. Even if this little boy has already stolen his heart…

Written by Barb Caffrey

May 18, 2020 at 2:18 pm

Read More, or, How to Stay Sane in a Global Pandemic

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Folks, I wrote a week ago or so about the mass hysteria over the corona virus. Since then, more information has come out, and it appears the only thing that can mitigate the damage from this previously unknown virus is “social distancing” — in other words, trying to stay away from people who aren’t members of your nuclear family (or are exceptionally good friends you’ve seen in the past week or two).

Social distancing doesn’t necessarily mean isolation, mind. You can still talk with your friends, even those who you haven’t seen in the past week or two, by phone or by using an internet app like FaceTime or Skype. And if you do go out with someone you’ve seen recently, you can probably walk next to them as per usual; still, to be safe, we’re told to keep six feet apart in public if at all possible.

The hope by doing this is that it’ll give the virus a chance to die out. But no one knows if it’ll work.

But this post is about how to stay sane during this difficult time. And I intend to tell you what helps me the most: Reading books.

In fact, I splurged and bought Sharon Lee and Steve Miller’s newest Liaden Universe book, ACCEPTING THE LANCE. And I enjoyed it immensely. There’s a lot in that book that seems to apply right now — people who’ve been upended by life, having to re-establish themselves, having to learn how to go on in drastically altered circumstances. And the new consensus that comes out of the chaos is a much better one than the previous; it allows for people of great diversity to find ways to talk to one another, and to find ways to help everyone become their best selves.

Yes, it’s only a book. A bit of entertainment, if you will. But there’s a lot of truth in it.

That said, here are some other books I absolutely adore, and believe may help you if you are a SF&F reader (or just want to broaden your horizons).

NIGHT CALLS, KINDRED RITES, SPIRAL PATH — Katharine Eliska Kimbriel

This is the Night Calls trilogy, and it is exceptionally good. Alfreda “Allie” Sorensson is a smart young lady in a frontier version of America that includes magic. And she has a good deal of it. But she’s a practical soul, is Allie, and she knows being strong in anything can scare people. How she finds her own balance and equilibrium during a number of harrowing tests is well worth reading, again and again.

The stories of Stavin Kel’Aniston, starting with ALL THAT GLITTERS — Loren K. Jones

Stavin is my favorite of Loren’s many characters (thus far). He is quite short, feels he’s not attractive or smart or worth anything…then he takes up a dare, meets a dragon, and the dragon is impressed. (Note that Stavin was far too smart to try to kill the dragon.) He’s much more intelligent than he thinks he is, but Stavin is also a young man with a young man’s faults. Who he meets, the challenges he faces, who he loves, and what happens to him are well worth reading about. And you’ll love his wife, Sharindis (or Shari); she knows just what to say to bring him down a peg or two, whenever needed.

Mind, if you want to read something else by Loren, I’m all for it; I’d just start with Stavin, as he’s so much fun.

Finally, I also recommend the stories by Chris Nuttall. He has several great universes going on, but my favorites are his Schooled in Magic universe (featuring Emily, a young lady from Kansas who must learn her magic quickly or she won’t survive) and his Zero universe (where most people have magic, some have a ton — but the people who may have the most power of all are, paradoxically, the Zeros who have none as they’re the only ones who can forge truly awesome weaponry).

So, to find these stories, go to Amazon and look first at Katharine’s page. Then at Loren’s. And finally, at Chris’s…you can’t go wrong, and it may help you deal with this crisis to be reminded that resilience and pluck come in all shapes and sizes.

Read an E-Book Week Continues. More Freebies for You Await!

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Folks, as I said yesterday, it’s Read an E-Book Week. And my publisher, Twilight Times Books, is giving away multiple books — but only at its website

Schooled in Magic; Read an eBook Week 2020

As stated above, my publisher, Twilight Times Books, is offering quite a few free e-books during 2020’s Read an E-Book Week — including two of mine (in the first two days of the promotion, no less), plus a few from my friends Chris Nuttall and Loren Jones. Not to mention other TTB authors I’ve worked with, like Ken Lizzi and Christine Amsden…really, you can’t go wrong with any of these e-books.

And best of all, they’re free.

All you have to do is go to this website, and pick what type of file you want. (That’s it!)

Note that they are only available at the Twilight Times Books website’s freebies page, not at Amazon, not at Barnes and Noble; you must go to this link to get your free books. (Now back to our regularly scheduled post, already in progress…)

By the time you read this, AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE probably won’t be available. But CHANGING FACES, my third and most recent novel, will be…and I hope you will go there, download the book, and give it a try.

All I ask, folks, is that you download books you like and want. (I hope mine are among them, of course. But there are so many other good ones there, as I’ve said before.) Then, go review them at Amazon, or at Barnes and Noble, or anywhere you see them listed; say you received a complimentary copy if you like, even.

But do go there, and do download the stuff. And then do read, read, read!

Anyway, the site, again, is at Twilight Times Books. It’s their “freebies” page. And it’s right here, in case you need the link (again).

Enjoy!

Written by Barb Caffrey

March 2, 2020 at 5:18 am

It’s Read an E-Book Week, and I Have Giveaways…

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Folks, as promised, I am returning today to let you know about Read an E-Book Week (2020 version).

Schooled in Magic; Read an eBook Week 2020

My publisher, Twilight Times Books, is offering a good number of free e-books — two of mine (in the first two days of the promotion, no less), plus a few from my friends Chris Nuttall and Loren Jones. Not to mention other TTB authors I’ve worked with, like Ken Lizzi and Christine Amsden…really, you can’t go wrong with any of these e-books.

And best of all, they’re free.

All you have to do is go to this website, and pick what type of file you want. (That’s it!)

Note that they are only available at the Twilight Times Books website’s freebies page, not at Amazon, not at Barnes and Noble; you must go to this link to get your free books. (Now back to our regularly scheduled post, already in progress…)

So, today’s offerings include my own AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE. You can get it as a Kindle/mobi file, as a PDF, or as an e-Pub version. And to get it, all you have to do is go here, scroll down the page, and find my book’s name (and the versions you can get for free).

Do check this out, will you? Because there are so many good offerings there, all for free…and I’d hate for you to miss it.

Until tomorrow…(insert evil chuckle here).

 

Written by Barb Caffrey

March 1, 2020 at 5:45 am