Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

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Check out #FSFNet’s Blockbuster End of the Year Sale!

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Folks, please bookmark this page from now until December 31, 2015.

Why? Well, the Fantasy and Science Fiction Network — a group I’m proud to be a member of — has come together in order to offer a number of books for ninety-nine cents or less. All of these books will be on sale until the end of the year, too…so if you’ve been waiting for prices to come down in order to pick up a new book, now’s your chance.

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Here are the five books/stories I contributed to this sale:

AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE, book 1 of the Elfy duology

To Survive the Maelstrom,” a novella about Space Marine Peter Welmsley.

Columba and the Cat” (my late husband’s story, which I edited and finished), a romantic fantasy novella.

and both extant novellas of Atlantean Union officer Joey T.Z. Maverick, “A Dark and Stormy Night” and “On Westmount Station.”

All are ninety-nine cents. And the latter four are all available on Kindle Unlimited, so if you are subscribed to that, you can read them for free right now.

There are many great authors in Fantasy and Science Fiction Network, mind; we all write books that are appropriate for ages thirteen on up, and keep to a PG-13 rating or less.

So do, please, take a note of this sale…and let me know what you think of it!

Written by Barb Caffrey

December 19, 2015 at 11:18 pm

Marketing for Romance Writers’ Blog Features “To Survive the Maelstrom” as part of #Thursday13

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Folks, I’d asked to be part of the meme known as #Thursday13 at Marketing for Romance Writers’ busy blog a while ago. I thought letting some folks know about “To Survive the Maelstrom” would be interesting. And all they wanted was for me to post up to thirteen lines of the manuscript…so what could be simpler?

Maelstrom3So if you’ve not read any of “To Survive the Maelstrom” yet, please go over there and read a bit about Command Sergeant-Major Peter Welmsley of the Atlantean Union. Peter was once my late husband Michael’s character, and I found his story so compelling, I wanted to know more.

That’s why I decided to write the story of how Peter meets his empathic companion, a sentient, sapient being known as a weremouse. I knew that someone who’d been so damaged as to need a complete epidermal regeneration must have a story to tell. And fortunately, I was able to figure out what, exactly, that story was.

Peter’s dilemma, you see, is one of many soldiers who come home, realizing the world around them has changed. Or at least the way they perceive the world around them has changed. They are ill in spirit, even if they might’ve been healed in body, and most of them aren’t fortunate enough to find something as accepting, loving and nurturing as a weremouse.

In fact, Peter’s struggles with his own family are alluded to, because they truly don’t seem to understand just how bad he feels. He’s lost nearly everyone he worked with; he lost his fiancée; he lost his best friend. And underneath it all, he feels guilty for surviving — and yet, if he didn’t survive, who would remember his friends? Who would remember Hunin? Who would remember to tell their stories as well as his own?

As a widow, I felt powerfully driven to write this story — not just to complete my late husband Michael’s work (which admittedly is a compelling motivation all on its own), but because I empathized with Peter.

No, I don’t have post-traumatic stress disorder, as Peter almost certainly does. No, I’ve never served in the military (though I was a military wife at one time, and they make enormous sacrifices that mostly go unnoticed). No, if Michael had lived, I probably wouldn’t have done more than edit for my husband, and talk with him about the possibilities here.

But as my life has changed profoundly due to being widowed too young, I understood where Peter was coming from. He’s a full adult. He had his life all planned out. He knew what he wanted, and he knew how to get it.

Then, in one day, everything changed. And he had to pick up the pieces.

Fortunately for Peter, a weremouse is about to change his life for the better. But that does not at all mean Peter doesn’t still have scars — many in places that do not show.

Anyway, I hope you will enjoy my story. (If you’re really sharp, you might even figure out what parts Michael wrote, and what parts I did. Though they’re not obvious…at least, I hope not.)

It’s available now at Amazon, and I hope in a few months’ time to have it up also at Smashwords and BN.com. Do let me know what you think of it.

Some Good News, Some Bad News…

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Folks, I have the proverbial “good news, bad news” update to foist upon you today.

First, the good news. A LITTLE ELFY IN BIG TROUBLE will definitely be out in mid-September of 2015 — meaning a month from now — and a small blurb has been put up at the Twilight Times Books site reflecting what A LITTLE ELFY IN BIG TROUBLE is all about:

http://www.twilighttimesbooks.com/News.html#publishing_notes

As the blurb says:

Young Bruno the Elfy and Sarah, his mostly-human teenage girlfriend, are in deep trouble. Bruno’s Elfy mentor Roberto the Wise is about to be sacrificed by Dennis the Dark Elf, with Sarah’s parents’ help. Things look bleak, but Bruno and Sarah have a few allies no one could possibly expect – human, Elfy, and ghosts. Can young love and desperation win out despite it all?

And before you ask — no, I still don’t have cover art.

The bad news? Well, my second quarter story at the Writers of the Future contest, despite being out longer than any other story I’ve ever had, didn’t do anything. It came up with a flat rejection after 137 days.

This particular story is close to my heart in many ways; it is post-apocalyptic military SF with romance.

Now, there is a bit of interesting byplay here, in that I’m reasonably convinced I will be able to sell this elsewhere. (If not as a novella, as a novel.) So my efforts with this story haven’t been wasted…but of course I’m not happy that I’ve come up with yet another rejection at the WotF Contest.

Look. I’ve been trying submissions there for fourteen years now. (Does this mean I don’t know when to quit? I don’t know. It’s just how I am.) I’ve tried just about everything. I’ve tried magical realism. I’ve tried straight SF. I’ve tried fantasy. I’ve tried fantasy/romance. I’ve tried military SF — which is where my two honorable mentions come from — and now I’ve tried this one.

Which got me nowhere.

I do have a submission in already for Quarter 3. I can’t tell you what it is. I can tell you I’d be utterly astonished if this story does anything…not that it’s not a good story, because I think it is, but I don’t think it’s right for the market.

“So, Barb, why did you send it there, then?” you might be asking.

Because I like to submit something to the WotF Contest, just on the off-chance that lightning strikes. I need the boost to my career that the WotF Contest often provides. It seems to provide instant name recognition, which as a small press/indie author I need very badly…and it also gets your name in front of agents and bigger publishers. (Though even so, you still have to be very careful about whatever contracts you might sign. The reputable publishers will tell you that, but in case you’re not sure of the difference between a reputable pub and a disreputable pub, try either Writer Beware or Preditors and Editors. They’ll set you straight.)

Other than that, I wanted to mention that the Racine Concert Band’s free summer concert series at the Racine Zoo is coming to an end later tonight. Show starts at 7 p.m., and soloists this week are Greg and Kathy Berg (vocalists) and Nancy Quist, trumpet.

Hope to see you there!

Written by Barb Caffrey

August 16, 2015 at 2:19 am

Don’t forget — Novella Promos Start #Today!

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As promised, folks, I have two novellas that are on discounted promotions starting today (I think at eight a.m. Pacific Daylight Time — don’t ask me why Kindle did this, ’cause I really don’t know) and ending on Monday morning at roughly the same time.

So for the next five days, you can get my novella “To Survive the Maelstrom” for just ninety-nine cents, and you can get my late husband Michael’s novella “A Dark and Stormy Night” for free.

(Yes, I said “free.”)

A quick check shows that “Dark and Stormy” is already available for free. But “Maelstrom” is still listing at $2.99 — since I did both at the same time, I find this bizarre. But hopefully within an hour, this will have corrected itself…

“But Barb,” you ask, “both of your names are on both stories. What’s going on there?”

Ah, you must be new to my blog.

But to answer this question: “A Dark and Stormy Night” was written by my late husband Michael before he died. I added about 1500 words to it to make it a legal collaboration, and sold it in 2007 to an online magazine (which was not archived). I sold it again to the now-defunct E-Quill Publishing in 2010, withdrew it from E-Quill in early 2012, and offered it again in 2013 independently as an e-book via Amazon Kindle. (Thus why I’m credited second, and also why I took an editing credit there.)

And before you ask again, I wrote “To Survive the Maelstrom” based off 2000 words of Michael’s about how Peter met his weremouse companion. But I knew there had to be more to that story, so I decided I had to write the story for myself. It is a true posthumous collaboration, but I wrote over three-quarters of the story, which is why I’m credited first.

Both are military science fiction stories, of a sort.

I say “of a sort” because “Dark and Stormy” deals with Ensign Joey Maverick’s “low-tech” sailing adventures while on leave before he ships out for space. (His low-tech sailing equals roughly late 20th Century or early 21st Century tech. So if you love sailing, you will not be thrown by anything in this novel despite it being a futuristic piece.) And “Maelstrom” deals with space marine Peter Welmsley’s struggles with PTSD after losing nearly everyone he cared about during the battle of Hunin, including his fiancée and best friend. (Peter does meet up with his weremouse companion, as Michael had envisioned, though I changed a few of the steps to get there.)

Anyway, I truly hope you will enjoy these stories! (Come back and let me know, OK?)

Book Promotions Coming from July 23 to July 27, 2015

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Before I forget — and I’ve got so much going on right now, that’s a real possibility! — I will have two book promotions going on starting on July 23 and ending on July 27, 2015.

Maelstrom3First, I’ve put my military SF story “To Survive the Maelstrom” on a ninety-nine cents deal. (It’s normally priced at $2.99.) It is set in my late husband Michael’s Atlantean Union universe, and thus he is credited second.

What is “To Survive the Maelstrom” about, you ask?

Here’s the blurb:

Command Sergeant-Major Sir Peter Welmsley of the Atlantean Union has lost everything he holds dear. He wonders why he lived, when so many others died at Hunin — including his fiancée, Lydia, and his best friend Chet.

Into his life comes Grasshunter’s Cub, an empathic, sentient creature known to those on Heligoland as a “weremouse.”

Weremice are known for their ability to help their bond-mates. But how can this young weremouse find a way to bring Peter back from the brink of despair and start living again?

Next, I’ve decided to offer Michael’s “A Dark and Stormy Night” story for free during July 23 to July 27, 2015.

Barb1-v2What’s “A Dark and Stormy Night” about, you ask?

Here’s the blurb:

Joey Maverick, a young Ensign in the Atlantean Union, takes part in a low-tech sailing regatta right before he’s supposed to ship out for space. A storm hits, causing Maverick to take command of his ship and mount a rescue mission. Along the way he picks up stranded nurse Belinda Simpson, along with many others. Sparks fly while the tension mounts . . . what will be the outcome of this dark and stormy night?

Note that both are novellas. I added about a thousand, maybe 1500 words to finish off “A Dark and Stormy Night,” but it is substantially Michael’s story.

Anyway, I figured I’d give you all a heads-up about these book promotions — otherwise, why bother running them? — and now, I have.

Enjoy your Monday, folks!

Written by Barb Caffrey

July 20, 2015 at 6:17 am

Time for a July #MFRWhooks Blog Hop, Atlantean Union-Style!

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OK, OK…WordPress did something weird here, and posted this a full day earlier than I scheduled it.

I’m still very happy to do the #MFRWhooks Blog Hop for this novella, set in my late husband’s Atlantean Union milieu.

Now, back to my original post.

Folks, I am a proud member of the Marketing for Romance Writers organization. They do a lot of good for authors, most particularly small press and indies…and they’ve given me many tips that I’ve found quite useful.

One of the other things they do is on every Wednesday, they open up something called “BookHooks.” It’s an opportunity to “hook” new readers, something no writer can do without.

As I have two new releases out — and as I’ve already done a paranormal blog hop or two in previous weeks for Michael’s “Columba and the Cat” novella — I figured I’d rather take part this week with my new military science fiction novella, “To Survive the Maelstrom.” (My late husband is credited, because I wouldn’t have written this story at all without the two thousand words he left behind.)

Maelstrom3Here’s the blurb:

Command Sergeant-Major Sir Peter Welmsley of the Atlantean Union has lost everything he holds dear. He wonders why he lived, when so many others died at Hunin — including his fiancée, Lydia, and his best friend Chet.

Into his life comes Grasshunter’s Cub, an empathic, sentient creature known to those on Heligoland as a “weremouse.”

Weremice are known for their ability to help their bond-mates. But how can this young weremouse find a way to bring Peter back from the brink of despair and start living again?

And now, a few sentences from “To Survive the Maelstrom” that explain exactly what Peter’s emotional state is before he meets up with his destined weremouse:

How long had it been since he’d smiled? Three months, perhaps? Surely the six months he’d spent in a medically induced coma while his skin regrew didn’t count . . . did it?

Even the pleasant heat of the spring couldn’t keep him away from his thoughts any longer. Why hadn’t the damned pirates left Hunin the Hell alone? Nine times out of ten, they ran; the tenth time, like Hunin, they stood and fought. And this time, they’d landed a lucky shot on HMS Niobe, where Peter had served as a platoon sergeant. Peter had quickly assumed command in the emergency as the senior NCO, considering all of the officers were dead or incapacitated.

But it hadn’t been enough.

Why was he alive, when so many good people were dead?

Now, in case you were intrigued by this sample, go to Amazon forthwith and get yourself a copy. (Right now, Amazon is the only place that has it, though in 90 days I hope to get “To Survive the Maelstrom” up at Barnes and Noble and Smashwords as well.)

And do check out the other participants in this week’s blog hop, will you? They’re all wonderful authors, and you might just find yourself a new favorite if you only give ’em half a chance.

Written by Barb Caffrey

June 30, 2015 at 5:00 am

Free Novella Promo Ongoing, and Other Stuff

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Folks, today is my thirteenth wedding anniversary.

On this day in 2002, Michael B. Caffrey and I married, in front of a small group of family and friends. At the time, we didn’t know we could write together, and the Elfyverse wasn’t even on the horizon. (I was, however, writing CHANGING FACES, in earlier draft form.)

It’s because of the deep love I shared with Michael that I’ve continued to keep our writing alive, as best I can. Whether he started it or not, it’s all come down to me…and I keep my promises.

Especially to my husband.

This is why I decided last week, when I knew I’d be able to get the two stories up (“To Survive the Maelstrom,” and “Columba and the Cat,” both novellas), that I’d put our co-written novella “On Westmount Station” up as a free e-book in honor of that love. (It will be free until the end of June 27, 2015. So do go grab it, while you still can get it for nothing.)

Note that I added subplots here. Wrote a good half of it, in fact. But I wouldn’t have done this without what Michael left behind…and I think Michael might just like what I’ve done, even though had he lived, I would never have touched his stuff unless he’d asked.

Now I need to talk about something else…something that has worried me for quite some time. Especially as it was something near and dear to Michael’s heart as well.

You see, as a science fiction and fantasy writer, I’ve watched for months — nay, years — as our community continues to eviscerate each other. Some of this is over the Hugo Awards (who should nominate, and why); some of it is much deeper and far more worrisome.

I have friends in the Sad Puppies community, those who believe the Hugo Awards should be nominated on by all SF&F fans willing to pay the WorldCon membership fee.

And I have friends in the traditional publishing community, those who mostly believe the Hugo Awards have been tainted because the Sad Puppies (and Vox Day’s unrelated group, the Rabid Puppies) decided to get into the mix.

I have continued to stand in the middle of this mess, as I am convinced that Michael would’ve also done the same thing.

That being said, I have more sympathies with the Sad Puppies than not. I think if you have read SF&F stories, and you’ve grounded yourself thoroughly in what’s available (including the newest releases from all the various publishers, including small presses and indies), you have a right to nominate if you want to pay the WorldCon membership.

I also want to point out that neither the Sad Puppies nor even the Rabid Puppies have said anything bad to me at all. They seem to respect my principled stance. And I appreciate that.

Whereas I’ve lost at least one good friend from the traditional publishing community, all because I had the temerity to support my friend Jason Cordova as he’s been nominated for the John W. Campbell Award.

I can’t do anything about that, though I hope down the line my friend will realize I’m the same person I’ve always been.

Look. I, personally, would’ve tried to get Katharine Eliska Kimbriel nominated, if I had my druthers. I think her book SPIRAL PATH is outstanding; by far the best YA book I read in 2014, and by far the best book I read in any genre in 2014. Period.

But she gained no traction, partly because her book was put out by the author’s consortium Book View Café.

I think this is a travesty.

I also would’ve tried to get Emily St. John Mandel’s book STATION ELEVEN on the ballot. It is an excellent post-apocalyptic novel that actually is inspirational in spots, and contains some dark but welcome humor amidst the gloom.

Note that Mandel was an indie author for a time, and only now is breaking through to traditional publishing.

Both of these books deserved to be on the Hugo Award ballot.

There are other authors I support, and support strongly, including Stephanie Osborn and Jason Cordova. (I like his short stories in particular. But MURDER WORLD is also good, though very violent as you’d expect due to it being a Kaiju novel.) My friends at Twilight Times Books, including Chris Nuttall, Dora Machado, Scott Eder, Dina von Lowenkraft, Heather McClaren, and Aaron Lazar are interesting writers who give full value for the money spent on their books.

And that’s just a start of the authors I support. Because I’ve maintained an avid interest in Kate Paulk, Sarah A. Hoyt, Amanda S. Green, Mrs. N.N.P. Light, E. Ayers, Sharon Lee and Steve Miller, Julia London…the list goes on and on.

Why is enjoying all of these disparate authors’ work a bad thing?

Folks, there are some very good books out there being published by both indie and small press authors. (For the purposes of this conversation, Book View Café will be viewed as a small press.) These books should not be overlooked.

“Yay,” my friends in the Sad Puppies are saying.

And just because the Big Five publishing houses seem to be putting out more derivative stuff than ever, that doesn’t mean everything they put out has no value. (Witness Mary Robinette Kowal’s excellent Glamourist history series, which combines Regency Era historicity with excellent fantasy underpinnings along with a very fine and believable romance.)

“Yay,” my friends in the traditional publishing community are saying.

Why can’t we all get along? At least in part?

Because supporting each other, even as we all do slightly different things, is the best way to go.

I don’t blame my friends in the Sad Puppies for being upset. They’ve been vilified. Sometimes unfairly so. And they’re tired of it.

I also don’t blame my friends in the traditional publishing community. Some of them have been vilified. Sometimes unfairly. And they, too, are tired of it.

But a rapprochement does not seem possible between these groups.

Which truly saddens me. And would’ve deeply upset my husband.

I keep hoping that the SF&F community will remember that we do have more in common with each other than not. And that what we’re writing matters, even if it doesn’t seem like it at the time.

Anyway, my anniversary message for you all is a plea that somehow, the SF&F community will start pulling together again.

I believe that’s what my late husband would want. And I know it’s what I want, too.

Commentary on Charleston, plus cover reveal for “To Survive the Maelstrom”

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Folks, I’d planned to do this cover reveal today for my forthcoming short story, “To Survive the Maelstrom,” before the events in Charleston last night.

Because this story deals with loss, grief, and a soldier with PTSD finding a way to continue on with his life, I decided to go through with it anyway. I plan to release this story sometime next week in time for my thirteenth wedding anniversary.

But before I do that, I’d like to comment a little on the Charleston shooting.

My heart is heavy. I don’t understand why anyone would sit through an hour’s worth of Bible study, then calmly and coldly shoot nine people to death.

I know that the man who’s been ID’ed as the shooter is a self-proclaimed racist. I know that he wanted to “kill black people,” and left one person alive to explain just why he did this. I also know the shooter is only twenty-one years old…because I don’t like talking about someone so evil, so twisted, and so bizarre, I’m not going to give this perpetrator the dignity of having a name. (I think he lost that when he took those nine people’s lives in cold blood.)

Anyway, while I cannot understand the shooting in Charleston at all — a church, of all places, should be safe, even in times like these — I do understand how it feels to live after grief. And overpowering grief is very difficult to bear.

This is why I wrote “To Survive the Maelstrom.”

Note that Michael, my late husband, is credited for two reasons. One, I’m playing in his Atlantean Union universe. And two, I found the story of how Peter, my hero, met his weremouse (an empathic, sentient creature), to be uplifting and inspiring — and Michael had the bare bones of it in one of his unfinished manuscripts.

The blurb for “To Survive the Maelstrom” will go something like this:

Maelstrom3Command Sergeant-Major Sir Peter Welmsley has lost everything he holds dear and now suffers from PTSD. He wonders why he lived, when so many others died at Hunin — including his fiancée, Lydia, and his best friend Chet.

Into his life comes Grasshunter’s Cub, an empathic, sentient creature known to those on Heligoland as a “weremouse.” Grasshunter’s Cub is nearly adult, and knows he doesn’t fit in with the rest of the weremice in his tribe.

Weremice are known for their ability to help their bond-mates. But how can this young weremouse find a way to bring Peter back from the brink of despair and start living again?

Ultimately, “To Survive the Maelstrom” is a story of hope and faith, told in an unusual way. I hope readers of military science fiction will enjoy it.

I also hope that showing someone who’s lost everything and found a way to claw his way back will be inspirational, maybe even heartwarming.

Because we need stories like this right now.

Written by Barb Caffrey

June 18, 2015 at 7:30 pm

Reviewed Grant Hallman’s “IronStar” and “Upfall” Last Night at SBR

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Folks, this past week has been a nightmare.

Why? Well, I’ve been dealing with a sinus infection. The hot water heater decided it had had enough, too . . . and even the cheapest and lowest-rated hot water heater is currently beyond my reach, though of course I’m working on that.

Anyway, I’d hoped to review Grant Hallman’s novel IRONSTAR and novella UPFALL a few weeks ago. But I knew I couldn’t do them justice, which is why I’d delayed . . . at any rate, I have reviewed them now over at Shiny Book Review (SBR, as always).

Now, why was I worried about doing two science fiction stories justice, when I’m a SF writer myself?

Simple. IRONSTAR incorporates some metaphysics into the mix (as you’ll see if you go over and read my review), and I was unsure at first how to discuss this without giving too much of the plot away. And, while IRONSTAR is military SF, I was worried about describing the many other parts of the diverse plotline . . . but it all came into place once I realized I could review both stories on Saturday.

You see, I’ve reviewed many books that have a romantic component on Saturday for SBR’s “Romance Saturday” promotion. And Hallman’s novella, UPFALL, is an unabashed romantic SF story of the old school . . . lots of good science, lots of intelligent romance, and a crowd-pleasing ending, so what’s not to like about that?

When you put UPFALL together with IRONSTAR, which also has a romance along with the military SF going on, it seemed a natural fit for Romance Saturday.

Anyway, I hope you will enjoy my review. So have at . . . and enjoy your weekend. (As for me, while I do intend to watch the Brewers play the Reds, I have a whole boatload of editing to get done by Monday morning.)

 

 

Written by Barb Caffrey

May 3, 2014 at 6:14 pm

Heard from the WotF Contest . . .

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Folks, I didn’t expect that I’d still be able to send off my story — the one I told you about a few days ago that I carefully did not identify — to the Writers of the Future contest (WotF for short).  (Please see my last post for further details; just hit the “back” button.)  But I heard from the Contest Administrator, Joni, who said that under the circumstances, she’d accept my entry.

(Perhaps I wasn’t the only person who had this problem?)

At any rate, the story is away.  We’ll see what happens . . . it’s possible that sending it today (as I just received the e-mail today) is too late to be entered into the WotF contest for last quarter.

If so, I’ll send it to Fantasy and Science Fiction (F&SF), as previously planned.

But if they do accept it, I hope this will be the entry that finally gets noticed.  It truly was my final attempt after eleven long years of trying.  And as it’s based off an unfinished story of my late husband Michael’s — though I did much rearranging to suit myself, and wrote over two-thirds of it in the process — it has even more meaning.

Speaking of stories of my late husband’s, I’d appreciate it if you’d go to Amazon and check out Michael’s Adventures of Joey Maverick series.  (Please go here and here for further details.)  They’re both tales of military science fiction, one set on a low-tech sailing vessel, the other at a space station.  I edited these stories and completed them to the best of my ability . . . if you want to support my and Michael’s writing, this is the best way to do so.

But there are two other ways if you would rather read something else . . . my story “On the Making of Veffen” is included in HOW BEER SAVED THE WORLD, while my co-written story with Michael, “Bright as Diamonds,” is included in BEDLAM’S EDGE.  (Even though I have been led to believe that the latter anthology never earned out, it’s possible it may someday, and if so, I’d perhaps get some more money out of it.  But  even if it never does, I’m proud of our story and I want people to read it.)

If you’re waiting for ELFY, though, I guess I can understand that . . . though really, I’d prefer it if you’d buy everything I ever wrote, just because it makes it a little easier to keep going in this crazy business.

Anyway, the story is off and I’ve done what I can . . . now to figure out what else I can send to F&SF.