Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Archive for the ‘Elfyverse’ Category

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

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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

Fantastic Schools Hols Just Released — Look for my Newest Elfyverse Story There!

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As the overly long title to this blog says, Fantastic Schools Hols has just been released.

Now, as to why I explicitly put “look for my newest Elfyverse story there” into the headline…there lies a (brief) tale.

See, as I’m not well-known, I’m not among the named authors on the front of the book. (I’m instead part of the “many more.”) Amazon has something weird going on where only nine authors in addition to Chris Nuttall (the biggest name here, and by far the draw as well) were able to be listed…I don’t understand this. Maybe it was just a quirk in the system.

The upshot of that is, if you don’t know my story is in there, you won’t find it very easily. Not unless you go to my Amazon Author Page, which does have it included. (Amazon’s customer service there was outstanding; the customer service rep fixed it within two hours, I think, and got it on my page.)

So, you might be wondering what the story is about. (Ha! It’s time to tell you…insert not-so-evil Halloween crackling voice.)

It’s called “Jon and Leftwich Have a Holiday Adventure.” As every story had to deal with a holiday from magical school, mine dealt with Bruno (then named Jon) and his best pal, Iarlait Leftwich, who goes only by his last name as Iarlait is just too silly of a name to be borne (so Leftwich has told me, and I’m not messing around with that…ahem.) It’s Ba’altinne there, or Beltane as we’d have it; they have an important religious ceremony there called Blessing of the Beasts. Every single animal has to be blessed by someone…the high muckety-mucks get Lady Keisha Madhrogan (the equivalent of our Pope), who is an important character in the two Elfy novels. But Joe Schmoes like Bruno and Leftwich are at this point in their lives get postulants, not full priests.

The adventure starts when Leftwich’s dog, Annbess, decides she doesn’t particularly want to be blessed today. She takes exception (or at least is fascinated by) the necklace the postulant, Karenna, is wearing; it looks like a map of the stars, and as such, it means the owner plans on committing a great deed that’s worthy of such an important gift.

Well, Annbess somehow gets the necklace off the postulant and runs off. The two boys have to somehow find Annbess, hope she has the necklace still (or at least get some idea as to where else it might be), and they only have their wits plus their magic (mostly Bruno’s magic, as Leftwich is too scattered by all of this to help much) to get the necklace back before Karenna’s Reverend Mother gets involved.

At any rate, I hope this little blurb (or synopsis, or call it what you will) has whet your appetite for downloading Fantastic Schools Hols and reading all the stories there (not just mine). If you have Kindle Unlimited, it is free to read…and I don’t know about you, but “free” in this economy is one of my favorite words, ever.

Before I go, I’ll explain where the chronology of this story is. It would be the first story about Bruno (again, then named Jon) doing anything of a magical nature, but it’s told as a frame story from after the rousing events of the two Elfy novels. (“Hey, do you remember when Annbess ran off…?”) So it’s both first and last, chronologically…which suits me fine, as I tend to be silly like that.

I do hope you will read the story, you’ll get a few chuckles out of it, and that you’ll start reminding me of my promise to finish up an Elfyverse collection and get it out by the end of the year. (Still working on it, honest!)

Come back and let me know if you’ve read it, hey?

Written by Barb Caffrey

October 21, 2022 at 2:17 am

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

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

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

All I can do, though, is move on.

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

Let’s move on to something else.

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

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

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

Simply put, they are two different things.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Sunday Roundup: Cain DFA’d, Car Oddities, and Some Writing Achieved

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Folks, I thought long and hard as to whether I wanted to write one bigger blog, or three short blogs. As I’m pressed for time, I decided to go with the longer blog…so, here we go.

The Milwaukee Brewers, my favorite baseball team, designated CF Lorenzo Cain for assignment yesterday (or DFA’d for short). Cain was an outstanding offensive and defensive player before Covid-19 hit; he sat out 2020 (the truncated first Covid year), came back last year and dealt with injuries but still showed flashes of his old form, and then this year he never quite got on track.

Personally, I blame the owners’ lockout for that. Any athlete has his routine to go through, and Spring Training is as much about routine as anything. When Spring Training got disrupted by the owners’ lockout, that meant spring games were not played; at-bats were not taken; players were not able to do anywhere near what they’d usually do for several weeks until the owners and players finally came to an agreement, and the owners’ lockout ended.

Why does that matter? Well, an older athlete — and Cain is now thirty-six, ancient for a baseball player — needs more time to get in the groove. (Maybe some don’t when it comes to defensive play, but most do when it comes to hitting, pitching, and fielding.) It seemed to me that Cain was doing as well as anyone in Spring Training pre-lockout…but after, he wasn’t quite right.

Cain was hitting only .179 when the Brewers designated him for assignment. Considering his lifetime batting average is .283, that’s a significant drop-off.

Cain’s defense was still sharp, for the most part. He was still an exceptionally fast runner, as outfielders tend to be (they need to, in order to cover so much ground). He was taking extra batting practice, and doing everything he could to get his hitting in gear…but it just didn’t work.

Both Cain and the Brewers were classy about this. Cain said it was “a mutual decision” according to what I heard on TV and via radio. The Brewers waited until Cain had ten full years of major-league service time (that day being yesterday) to designate Cain for assignment, making sure that Cain was fully-vested with regards to MLB’s pensions for retired players down the line.

As WTMJ-AM announcer Brian Dee said on the “Brewers Extra Innings” program after the Brewers game yesterday, “The Brewers did Cain a solid.” I agree.

I will miss Lorenzo Cain. His energy was infectious. He had a huge smile, and obviously loved to play (even in the last few weeks, where it seemed like he couldn’t buy a hit). He was smart, savvy, and did everything right, even when he wasn’t hitting. (He said he wished things were going better, making no excuses for himself.)

I think it’s likely Cain will retire. But if he does continue to play, I hope he’ll find his hitting stroke again and enjoy baseball as much as he ever has.

Anyway, now we’re on to the “car oddities” part of the blog. And it really is an odd story…so, here I go with that.

I was parked in one of the lots at the apartment complex where my Mom lives. That lot is dark after 8:30 p.m. in the summer (and no better in the winter, either; in fact, in the winter it is hard to see probably after 4:30 or 5:00 p.m.), which matters. And when I parked, I was the only person in the lot with a 2010 Hyundai Accent Blue. (Yes, this matters, too.)

When I walked out to leave, there was an identical car parked next to me. I only realized it once I got in the wrong car, realizing that I didn’t have an air freshener (this car did), that the car was far too neat to be mine, and the seat was also in the wrong position.

So, I got out of the car, and automatically locked the driver’s door and the passenger side door behind me (as I always do), after I got my hand-cart out of the back seat.

Anyway, I then realized I did not have my purse. I had left it in the wrong car!

Fortunately, the passenger side doors were open (as the driver’s side ones had been, too). I reached in, got my purse, and got the Hell out of there.

However…I left my cane in that car, and I didn’t realize it until I was all the way home.

My brother is visiting right now and saw my agitation over it all. (I hate being stupid, and I really felt stupid with this.) He drove me back to the lot, exclaimed about how dark that lot is, and said anyone could’ve made that mistake with two cars, identical makes and models, in almost no lighting. And yes, he opened up the passenger side door (which fortunately I hadn’t locked), and indeed, my cane was in that wrong car.

I don’t know what the owner of that car is going to think when they go back out to their car, mind you. (I have no idea who this is. Until now, I had no idea that anyone in the complex or among the people who regularly visit had a car identical to mine.) The seat is in the wrong position for them, as I pushed it all the way back. The driver’s side doors are locked, while the other two are not, and they’d left them all unlocked.

I considered leaving a note, but I had no idea what to say.

My brother said that I should leave well enough alone. If I figure out who that person is, I’ll apologize; otherwise, he said I should leave it be as it was an honest mistake.

He drove me back home, where my father wasn’t too happy over the whole affair. (Dad has never seen that lot at night. Jim tried to tell him, but Dad still didn’t understand how this could happen. At all.)

Now that I know there is another car with the same paint job (light blue), the same make and model, the same wheels, all that, I will look at the license plate before I get into the car. (Other distinguishing features of my car were unable to be seen in that light.)

As it was, my brother had to park the car in such a way — half in and half out of the spot — and shine his headlights on the wrong car (as I had driven my own car back and left it at home) before he could see well enough to figure out if the cane was in the car. (His phone has a flashlight. My phone with a flashlight was back at home, of course. But even his flashlight app couldn’t tell him whether the cane was in there or out, and he didn’t want to open the car door unless he was sure the cane was in there.)

I don’t know if anyone else has ever had this happen before — two cars, both identical in dim light, same make, same model, same paint job, and all — but it is truly strange. (Thus, “car oddities.”)

Finally, after I’d gotten back home again, and talked this out with a few friends who live overseas in different time zones (as my good friends who live here were all asleep, as they should’ve been), I managed to write one thousand words into a new Elfyverse short story. I’d wanted to write all week long, and the time got away from me…but I figured that as I was back, and was too scattered to edit, I should do something creative in the hopes that it would help me calm myself a little.

It worked.

At any rate, I will try to schedule time to write over the next few days and see how it goes.

What’s going on with you? Anything new this Sunday? How is your writing going, for the writers out there? Let me know in the comments…especially about the car oddity.

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

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!

A Writing Snippet from KEISHA’S VOW (Elfy prequel set in 1954)

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Folks, I didn’t forget my promise. So without further ado, here’s chapter 1 from KEISHA’S VOW, the work-in-progress prequel to the Elfy novels that’s set in 1954.

Here we go:

Chapter 1 from Keisha’s Vow, a work-in-progress from Barb Caffrey (yours truly):

The Master waited, exultant. Soon they’ll be here, he thought. He had prepared for this day, dreamed of it, shaped his will toward it, and now…wait, was that a car in the distance?

No, not them, he thought as he made one last pass around the campsite. The runes were all inscribed, but blended into the rock as to be well-nigh invisible; his followers, innocents all, shouldn’t suspect a thing. He had already paced out the boundaries of his chosen ground, and he’d — well, he couldn’t really call it a blessing, could he? But by whatever name anyone cared to call it, he had imposed his will upon the land underfoot. It lay, quiescent, its power dormant as was proper for this time of the year; only thus was he able to command it. If this had been high summer he wouldn’t have been able to do anything on an unprepared field, even on a night like this, when the moon was at its darkest.

That was why he’d had to start laying the preparation now for what he planned to do later, because in the summer, he knew he would have to make his stand. How or why he knew this, he wasn’t sure, but only a fool refused to listen when the Dark Mother whispered into his ear.

And the Master was no fool.

But there was no more time for preparation: his followers were beginning to arrive. They came from far and near, from both directions on the small, rutted dirt road, in cars, estate wagons, and even a conveyance that looked like it had only recently been released from service as an Army ambulance. Anyone spotting them would not see anything other than a bunch of unusually late picnickers; his people looked no different from anyone else. And this was California; didn’t people always do strange things here? The Master knew that if any of them had been stopped, they’d have had a tight tale for the authorities.

Before they got close enough to him to see his face, he donned his hood and mask. They would expect that: their leaders had always gone cloaked (no one with any real power — political, social, economic — came openly to a meeting in this company). Despite the wards on his dusky robe, the power radiating from him, nobody took the slightest alarm. He wasn’t sure if they couldn’t feel the power, or if they misunderstood it; he smiled, knowing they could not see him, and waited for his prey as calmly as he possibly could.

He was satisfied; he’d told them to come here, a rural place nearly untouched by mankind, and they had obeyed him. Even though this place wasn’t close to anything, and some of them had to be fearful at dusk, they’d still come.

Ah, the poor, brave, deluded fools, he thought contemptuously. Still, they were his, and that’s all that really mattered.

He didn’t worry too much about anyone happening along; there were no farms or houses within a mile of where he stood, and the nearest town, a very small place called Knightsville, lay about five miles to the east by road. He lit his beacon fire with confidence and waited for his flock, even though time seemed to crawl…surely, he wasn’t that difficult to spot?

Men, women, and even a few children straggled from their cars. At least twenty, thought the Master. A good harvest. And the children — especially the children… They took out their robes and hid under them, as he had, partly to emulate him, partly because they knew it was required. Then they gathered together around the small fire he’d made, and lit their candles. Black, of course; what other candles were there?

It was February, and nothing stirred. The land was his to command, more dormant than he’d ever known it to be; perhaps it had really died this time. The Master did not know or care; the fact was that Dark of the Moon was nigh, and it was as close to Imbolc as they were going to get…the timing was right for their ritual.

He reached out with his mind and felt their commitment; only the youngest wondered what they were doing here, as was to be expected. He touched their young, small minds as lightly as possible, telling them without words that what they were doing was necessary and right. Their reservations dulled, faded.

Only then did the Master call out: “My children, hear me.” He spoke in a near-whisper, trying to make his words sound sacred rather than profane. These others didn’t have the will to understand the truth of what they did. But he did, and he was the leader.

He went on in his lowest tones, “We must work our Will upon the land this night, that its powers awaken to aid our betters afar.” He grimaced inwardly; he hated having to sound like such a simpleton. But it was required — his followers were almost childlike in their naïveté, and needed child-simple ideas to satisfy them — and it did work: his “disciples” nodded, the hoods of their robes flapping like so many bobbing ravens’ heads.

One of his followers — he knew and cared not which — produced a cage in which a plump, white rabbit lay amidst the remains of a bunny banquet: a few well-chewed stalks of celery, scraps of lettuce, and what was left of a carrot. That, too, had been his plan from the start: treat the creature well, until…

He focused his will upon the rabbit, and it slept. Such a small thing didn’t need to be aware of what they did; its innocence, even unto how it went out of its life, was enough. Silently, he pulled the rabbit out of its cage; it was gravid, as he’d hoped, meaning other, smaller lives would go unborn. Surely the Dark Mistress would be pleased; surely the death of innocents, more than one, would help Her cause… he laid the rabbit on a small, dark rock he’d prepared earlier. The runes, written in charcoal around the rock, blended into its natural coloration; only he could see them, wreathed in a dark, reddish fire visible only to astral sight. None of these had any astral sight to worry about; their mage gifts were marginal to nonexistent.

They would not understand what they were doing, and that, too, was part of his plan.

He took out his athame, black-hilted as was proper, with the blade looking just as black in the light of the fire, but actually encrusted with the remains of many a bloody sacrifice before this. He held it up so the light from his followers’ candles would reach it, then silently motioned them to their places. Without a word, they formed a semi-circle around the rock, facing toward him in the place of honor — naturally — on the other side of what was now their altar. Then he took the knife and did what was necessary, neatly severing the rabbit’s head and holding it up for all to see.

“Touch it; it’s dead, it’ll never harm you,” he said warmly, now in more normal, conversational tones. A few of the more daring souls indeed did this, but most shrank back.

Ah, yes. Time for the sermon.

“It is our will that we will have dominion over all the beasts of the field, from the last to the littlest, to the greatest and most able. We must show our dominance; we must not be afraid. Fear is a weapon in the hand of those who oppose us, those who would impose their ways on us.” His eyes caressed his followers; so pure, so noble-seeming did he make it sound. Some were afraid; he drank in their fear. But most were nodding again, willing tools to do his bidding.

He put down the head, then skinned the rabbit, saving for last the delicate and difficult task of scraping out the unborn pups. They’d nearly made it to life, poor things, he thought as he went about his work.

But these would not be the last sacrifices, he told his audience. They would meet again at the next dark-of-the-moon, and the one after, and on into the summer if necessary, until further notice. They had made a good beginning, he told them, but it was only a beginning, and they had to expand upon it and continue on in this way in order to do their betters’ work in the world. He tried to make it sound noble, but even he couldn’t make blood sacrifice sound all that much better than it was, so he concentrated instead upon necessity, and how all of this would eventually help them all.

His flock acquiesced, as he’d known they would; these were sheep, not really people, but in these times, even sheep like these were better than no one at all.

This place was now sealed to him, to do his bidding, even as he did the will of the Dark Mother…he bade his flock to dip their fingers in the blood he had spilled atop the makeshift stone altar; this they did, then put that blood to their lips.

Thus were innocents consecrated to the Dark.

The gathering dispersed, all but the Master returning to their vehicles and driving off the way they had come. The Master faded into the darkness and waited until everyone else was gone.

Only then did he take off his robes and mask, donning in their place a set of ordinary working man’s clothes and putting the symbols of his mastery away in an old surplus rucksack. There would be a reckoning, he knew; soon, somehow, there would be a reckoning. Soon he wouldn’t have to go veiled to the world; everyone would know that he, Victor Mundy, was the Master!

Then, rucksack on his back, he set off across the fields toward his small home on the outskirts of Knightsville, whistling in the dark.

Let the powers of Light try to stop me. If they dare.

*****

Do you want more? Tell me in the comments!

Written by Barb Caffrey

January 3, 2021 at 6:09 am

Facing the Pressure of Illness

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Folks, I’ve been under the weather for quite a while now. But I think I’m recovering, albeit slowly.

Now, as to what this is? I don’t know. But I have to treat it as an ongoing illness, and work around it.

I am tired of being sick, but apparently sick isn’t tired of me; because of that, I have to do whatever I can to get past the illness.

Mind, I put a lot of pressure on myself when I’m sick. I want to be well, so badly, and yet it takes time to get better. I go back to work just as soon as I possibly can, and I almost certainly do too much too soon because I worry about all the stuff I wasn’t able to do while at my most ill.

In that way, I try to make strides forward. It can be difficult. And the additional pressure probably doesn’t do me any favors.

Today, I’ve managed to write 700 words of fiction, done a little editing (as I just finished up a major project, I have to take it slowly for a few days to gear up for the next major project’s completion as I have more than one in train), talked with the doctor’s office, talked with the medical supply company, and have gotten all my laundry together. After that, my plan is to do some food shopping, then my laundry, and perhaps edit more tonight providing I have any energy left after that.

In other words, I tend to have two speeds. Full throttle, or all-in. (And the last is not good, because if I’m “all-in,” that means I’m tired out of my mind and have nothing left to give, in case you’re not familiar with that Midwestern idiom.)

Still, I’m working at things, slowly. I’m doing what I can.

Now, onto other things, very briefly:

This ongoing pandemic is not fun by any means. I am worried about my friends, far and near. I am especially worried about estranged friends, people who won’t talk to me but I still care about; I can do nothing for any of them, but I still worry, and I still want to help. (It is a particular quirk of mine, I guess.)

I hope you will all stay as safe as you can.

And I’d wanted to write something bracing about the Nova Scotia shootings, but I still have no words. Everything seems hollow to say, and yet, those folks have to feel like no one cares about them whatsoever due to the ongoing coverage of Covid-19 and almost nothing else.

If you have a spare moment today, say a prayer, think good thoughts, send positive energy, or do whatever your particular spirituality or religion advises when trying to comfort distant friends and allies. And aim that squarely at Nova Scotia, if you can, or at least at the broader target of Canada. Those folks are hurting, scared, and need to know they haven’t been forgotten.

Finally, I hope we’ll all remember that we’re human. We have good in us, even though it doesn’t always show; we can help others, even when it doesn’t seem like it.

Try to do something to help someone else today, even if they don’t know it. The universe will thank you.

 

 

Written by Barb Caffrey

April 24, 2020 at 12:10 pm

Posted in Elfy, Elfyverse, Writing

A Post About Hope for #MFRWHooks

with 20 comments

Hope. It’s in short supply right now, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet we need it, or we’re going to have an even harder time digging our way out of the mess we’re now collectively in.

I’ve said before, here at my blog, that I wonder how Bruno and Sarah, my characters in the Elfy duology (comprised of AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE and A LITTLE ELFY IN BIG TROUBLE), would do in this situation. And I’m writing a story now about exactly that, so eventually I hope I’ll know.

But what came to me, tonight, is that I actually do have a bit of an answer already.

In A LITTLE ELFY IN BIG TROUBLE, my hero Bruno and my heroine Sarah are trying to save Bruno’s teacher and mentor, Roberto the Wise. Roberto’s been taken and tortured by a Dark Elf, Dennis; worse yet, he’s being tortured in public as a sort of Mystery Science Theatre 3000 exercise as most of the people in the crowd are under the influence of psychedelic incense, poisoned ground, or worse.

So, Dennis is doing what he is — an evil act, or even worse, a series of evil acts — in plain sight.

Sarah is a strong empath. Eventually, she hopes to be a doctor (in Bruno’s parlance, a Healer), like her grandmother was years ago. She can’t help but feel what’s going on with Roberto; Roberto is dying, and may not even live to be sacrificed, as far as she knows. And while Bruno knows this, and can feel some of it, too, it doesn’t hit him directly as hard. Not anywhere as hard as it’s hit Sarah, anyway.

But watching Sarah suffer hurts him.

So, without further ado, here’s that scene from A LITTLE ELFY IN BIG TROUBLE:

He turned to Sarah and took her wrist, feeling her pulse bounding against his too-cool hand. “Are you all right, my love?” he asked softly. “Are you sure you don’t want to get out of here? Someone could be spared to take you away from all this…”

“No, Bruno,” Sarah said. She looked like she wanted to say more, but instead started coughing as if her throat was as dry as any of Bruno’s old textbooks. She continued to look pale, waxen, and ill; only her dark eyes showed any trace of her usual force of spirit. “I have to stay here. I’m Roberto’s only hope.”

“Well, he has other hopes, dear,” Bruno replied, contradicting her last statement almost as a reflex, “but yes, you’re his best hope.”

See, Sarah, despite being gravely ill now (an illness of a spiritual nature), is there because she is needed. Just as our doctors, our nurses, our pharmacists, our grocery workers, our police/fire/EMT emergency responders, and our postal workers — among others — are there now despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sarah believes in hope. So does Bruno. Because at this point, neither of them knows how they’re going to rescue Roberto. The situation is bad. While they do have allies, their allies can’t do all that much to help…or worse, their allies can only help in certain ways. And every one of their allies is also at risk from the Dark Elf, who’s as evil a creature as has ever lived in the multiverse. (At least, as far as Bruno and Sarah understand.)

I think we all need to believe in hope right now, too.

We don’t know the end of the story, right now, with COVID-19. We don’t know much, except that it can be deadly and that we don’t have any cure for it. We don’t have a vaccine, either. And all we can do is our best to stay home; when we’re not at home, or doing essential things like getting food (rarely) or medicine or exercising, we must be careful and cautious if at all possible. (Don’t get me started about what the Supreme Court of the United States did yesterday in saying that people who didn’t get their absentee ballots for today’s Wisconsin election in time to get them in the mail today must go to vote in person despite this pandemic, or I will be so furious I can’t even type.)

Anyway. We have to hope. We have to believe we will come out the other side of this and recognize ourselves. We have to hope against all odds that we will get past the COVID-19 pandemic; we have to hope that we’ll be able to live through it, and somehow find a way to make better public policy in the future so other pandemics don’t catch the United States flat-footed as we were this time.

Just as Bruno and Sarah somehow found hope in a horrible situation, we must, too.

That’s why I wrote this BookHooks post, on behalf of my fellow Marketing for Romance Writers authors and anyone else who needed to read it. And I do hope it helps you.

Written by Barb Caffrey

April 7, 2020 at 8:25 pm

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

with 5 comments

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