Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

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Quick Health Bloglet

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Folks, I had written a longer blog today, but WordPress ate it…and I’m too sick to write it again.

That said, I have been reading a lot, thinking a lot, and resting a lot. It’s all I can do, while I continue to take care of whatever it is that’s got hold of me this time. (Flu flaring to bronchitis, I think.)

For now, as I wait upon recovery, I urge you to read all the books you can, in as many subjects as you can, and to learn as much as you can.

That’s the best way to spread truth and light, and maybe to find some sort of understanding in this world.

I’ll be back as soon as I can.

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Written by Barb Caffrey

January 14, 2018 at 5:09 pm

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Jason Cordova’s DEVASTATOR Is Out — And It Is Good…

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Folks, this is the review I just tried to post on Amazon for Jason Cordova’s DEVASTATOR, and couldn’t manage to get it there. (With my luck, though, it’ll post after I put this up here at my blog.)

Mind, I discussed DEVASTATOR, along with Kayelle Allen’s Bringer of Chaos series, last week here at the Elfyverse. So if you haven’t read that post yet, it might be nice to start there…ahem.

(Thus ends today’s try at self-promotion. I’d rather promote someone else anyway!)

So, without further ado, I figured I’d post it here, and I do hope you’ll go read Jason’s newest as soon as you can if you like YA, S/F, or any stories having to do with near-future virtual reality simulations. (Or if you just like Jason’s writing. I mean, really…what’s not to like?)

It’s great to see Tori back in action again in Jason Cordova’s newest novel, DEVASTATOR. She’s a tough customer, albeit a tough customer who’s only seventeen…she’s already had to fight her way out of an insane situation in her favorite virtual reality game known as The Warp in CORRUPTOR (book one of this series), and now been asked to re-enter The Warp to keep an eye on some anomalies no one can quite figure out.

See, things are happening in The Warp that make less sense than usual. For a fully programmed environment to do things that no one understands is just plain wrong; it’s even worse than the previous contretemps Tori defused in CORRUPTOR, as at least there once highly paid programmers were made aware of the issues, they were able to fix them. (What Tori had to do before was to defeat the bad guys wherever possible, evading the rest until she could be rescued and brought out of V/R.) And Tori is possibly the foremost expert on how The Warp actually acts, as opposed to how The Warp is supposed to act, so of course she’s asked to lend her expertise to the problem.

(Lending her expertise sounds nice, doesn’t it? But it’s code words for “murder and mayhem are about to break out here,” really…though I digress.)

Anyway, Tori gathers a bunch of others who are known to her as solid individuals (or at least solid players of The Warp) and all are made referees, more or less glorified Moderators. There’s a tourney going on that will cloak their actions, as the folks who make The Warp absolutely, positively do not want to cause trouble for themselves. And as no one can understand, much less explain, the anomalies that have been observed, discretion is of the essence…thus this subterfuge.

So, they go in there. They have a whole lot of problems. (No, I’m not going to tell you what they are. You need to read DEVASTATOR for yourself, preferably sooner rather than later.) And Tori, her boyfriend Dylan, and many others who’ve risked so much up until now will find their world spun on end, as there are a few plot twists here that I absolutely refuse to spoil.

Great things about DEVASTATOR include an age-appropriate romance (Tori’s a badass, but she’s a more or less innocent badass, which is a refreshing change), a lot of Kaiju-inspired fight scenes, an interesting V/R take on Ragnarok, and much, much more.

Tori’s a fun character, and I rooted for her the whole way. I can’t wait to read the next novel, OBLITERATOR — write quickly, Jason!

———- (Review ends here)

And then, I gave the novel five stars, said it was highly recommended, and tried to point out I’d received it as an ARC, downloaded it right away via KU and read it again, and will be making a point to buy it to put it in my permanent collection, too, down the line. (What else can I do to point out I enjoyed this book?)

Written by Barb Caffrey

January 11, 2018 at 7:11 am

Beating Sequel-itis…DEVASTATOR and BRINGER OF CHAOS: FORGED IN FIRE

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How many times, as a reader, have you come across sequels that are better, deeper, and richer than the original novels?

You probably can count them on one hand, can’t you?

In fact, there’s a term for the second book in a series that’s rather derogatory, and much worse than what I called “sequel-itis” in my title above. (No, I’m not going to name it. This is a family blog, after all.) And there’s a reason for that. Most books in this position are halfway between the old story and whatever the culminating story is going to be in the next book.

I’m pleased to say that I’ve read two books, DEVASTATOR by Jason Cordova, and BRINGER OF CHAOS: Forged in Fire by Kayelle Allen, that beat this problem. Both take their original characters (Tori and Pietas, respectively) and give them new and more difficult problems to solve that follow from the previous novel, but could possibly be read alone and still be understood. (You’d want to go back and read Jason’s CORRUPTOR and Kayelle’s BRINGER OF CHAOS: The Origins of Pietas anyway, though. They’re extremely good.)

It’s hard to come up with new and more challenging things for characters when they’ve been put through the wringer in the first book of a series. Tori, for example, was brutally raped while trapped in a virtual reality simulation of her favorite video game, and had to fight her own way out to survive, finding a truly good person to care for in young Dylan despite it all. (Is there more to that, plot-wise? Yes. But that’s all I’m giving you.) And Pietas literally was killed day after day after day before being marooned on a distant planet — being a genetically engineered immortal, he could not permanently die. And had to accept help from the most unlikely source imaginable, a human being marooned along with him called Six. And Six is so worried about what Pietas can still do, Six refuses to let Pietas know what Six’s real name actually is…but becomes friends with him anyway.

boc2-200

Both, in short, are bildungsromans. (Can you put an -s on the end of bildungroman? Well, I just did.) And both show characters in flux, searching for meaning even though their lives have come to crashing ruins around them. Jason tells his story one way; Kayelle tells it hers. But they both have a lot of good points that show how strong people can be when the chips are down, and how being reduced to your bare-bones essence and being forced to be vulnerable can be an asset as well as a festering liability.

And as good as Jason’s CORRUPTOR and Kayelle’s first book about Pietas were, their respective sequels are even better. Tori’s story gets twisted in new ways, as she’s forced to confront a brand-new evil that’s found a way to infest its tendrils into her favorite game despite the safeguards and upgrades put into place due to the last mess she was in. And while her boyfriend is still there to support her and remains a very good guy, he may not be able to help much as she does her best to defuse this evil and win through to another day. (In this case, I can’t give you much more than that, as Jason threw in a major plot-twist I didn’t see coming.) And Pietas is reunited with some of his old friends — and enemies — finding out that he and Six were not marooned alone. Having to deal with his father and mother, not to mention his obnoxious (slightly) younger sister, is not easy. But being reunited with his old lover, Joss, while forcing the other immortals to show Six courtesy (as they’re all into blaming the humans for their species being exiled and marooned), is incredibly tough. Pietas must build a new society out of basically nothing but his will and his wits, and he needs Six, Joss, and his sister’s help, while he needs his parents to stay out of the way. (There is another big issue for Pietas, but again, I don’t want to spoil it. So I’ll stop there.)

These stories both touched me in different ways. Mind, both main characters are survivors, and I admire that. Tori is a lot easier to relate to, being a teenager and a kind-hearted soul, than Pietas, an immortal whose word was once law (and will be again, knowing him, just you wait), but both are at heart strong, yet flawed characters who are dealing with coming-of-age issues and moral ambiguities that defy description sometimes, yet remain very real nonetheless.

Of the two stories, Jason’s has more foreshadowing, while Kayelle’s has more romance. Both have good dollops of science (different types, but still, science), great characterization, fine scene setting, interesting plots, and are stories you will not forget once you’ve read them.

Jason’s DEVASTATOR won’t be out until next week, but I urge you to get it as soon as it’s out. Kayelle’s BRINGER OF CHAOS: Forged in Fire is out now and is just $2.99 as an e-book, and again, I urge you to get it right now. (And yes, do read the previous books, CORRUPTOR and BRINGER OF CHAOS: The Origin of Pietas, too. You’ll enjoy them. And they’re all available on Kindle Unlimited, so what do you have to lose?)

Edited to add: Yes, I was Kayelle’s editor, and am happy she trusts me with her work. I’ve also been Jason’s friend for many years — not even sure how many at this point — and proofread CORRUPTOR back in its first iteration. I’m happy to stand behind what I’ve said, as these are wonderful books and I want you to read ’em — if you like SF&F, you owe it to yourselves to give these books a try. (Like, now.)

Written by Barb Caffrey

January 5, 2018 at 3:46 pm

Alassa’s Tale–Snippet

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I loved this, and just had to share it…enjoy!

The Chrishanger

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Written by Barb Caffrey

October 15, 2017 at 4:04 pm

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Out Now–The Zero Curse

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This is Chris’s newest novel. I edited this book and know it’s an outstanding YA adventure, second in a series (the first is the excellent THE ZERO BLESSING). Go read his blog, check out the free sample, and grab the book!

The Chrishanger

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Written by Barb Caffrey

September 15, 2017 at 9:37 pm

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The Quest for Self-Acceptance, Part 2…

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Folks, I wrote about how damned hard I find the quest for self-acceptance to be a few days ago. But yesterday, I had a very odd experience that I’d like to share with you…and then, I’m going to give you the links to all the other wonderful bloggers who were part of the Collaboration for a Purpose — Self-Love/Acceptance blogging circle. (Yeah, I should’ve done this earlier, but I hope you’ll see why it took me a bit of doing this time.)

Collab with a purpose Self Love

I’d like to set the scene a little bit, if I may.

I was in my car, and it was quite early (for me, at least). I hadn’t had anything to eat yet, and I’d just dropped a family member off for an important appointment. She’d asked me if I could go shopping for her while she was at this appointment, and of course I said yes.

Anyway, I pulled into a parking spot. (No biggie, right? We do this all the time, we with cars.) And another car parked very, very close next to me, so close that I knew if I got out, my door would almost certainly bump the other car a little no matter how hard I tried. (This is partly because I walk with a cane, and I don’t know about you, but I can’t get out of the car easily with that cane nine times out of ten.) And this is exactly what happened, but my car door did not leave a mark of any sort as far as I could tell.

Most people, of course, are forgiving. But I happened to run into the one person in all of Southeastern Wisconsin who just wasn’t…and she was very belligerent and rude.

This woman (a passenger sitting in the car; the driver had already gone into the store) would not let me walk away, would not leave me be, and I just had it…and I ended up having a panic attack, right there in the parking lot.

I am not proud of this.

Yeah, this other woman was horrid. There’s no question about it. But I could not love this person, and I could not love myself either as I couldn’t figure out how to de-escalate the situation other than walking away, which I eventually did. (The woman continued her verbal abuse all the way into the store, mind.)

What I can tell you is that this story has a happy ending of sorts. I found the driver of the car, and she told me it was fine. She even gave me a hug, and she told the passenger (from what I could tell, as I stayed inside the store to keep away from that older woman) to get back in the car and stop it. (Bless her for that, too.)

I know we all have days like this, where Murphy’s Law rules the day and nothing at all seems to go right. But all we can do is try to get past it, and in my case, the way I did this was to talk to a couple of my best friends. They helped me put this into perspective. And they gave me hope that my horrible, no good, very bad day didn’t mean I was a horrible person.

It does make me wonder, though, about context. And about some of the stuff I’ve seen over the years that weren’t good things to do, but perhaps actually would’ve been comprehensible in context…such as parents yelling at their kids in public (something no parent ever wants to do, but sometimes does anyway). It makes me wonder what happened before that point that made it all escalate to the point of yelling.

And if any of these other people actually were having panic episodes, rather than just being downright rude…

Anyway, that’s today’s follow-up regarding the quest for self-acceptance. I will keep working on it, and remind myself that (as a good friend put it), “Your blooper reel is not a fair comparison to someone else’s glamour shot.”

Now, please go see these other lovely people’s blogs, as they’re all worthwhile and interesting in their own right:

Camilla Motte at Moms on the Go

Mylene Orillo

Divyang Shah

Ipuna Black

Manal Ahmad

Sonyo Estavillo

Nicolle K. (Nicolle also created the picture for this round’s Collaboration with a Purpose that you see above, and I think she did a fantabulous job)

Sadaf Siddiqi

Tajwar Fatma (she who started this whole shebang)

Joel A. Scott (he’s new this time around, so make sure to give him a warm welcome!)

Jane Love

Jothish Joseph

Addison D’Marko

Written by Barb Caffrey

September 7, 2017 at 3:47 am

Communication — Not Just for Breakfast Anymore…

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Folks, I keep thinking about communication. What does it mean, and how can we improve it?

Communication, to me at least, means that someone is saying to me, “I am listening. I am paying attention to what you’re saying. What you are talking about matters even if I don’t understand it, but I do want to understand.”

We see a real dearth of communication these days, and not just in our personal lives. (The lack of communication in Washington, DC, these days is startling. Even by non-communicative DC standards.) And yet, no one seems to know how to improve it, to make things any better…and the bad communication (or worse, complete lack of communication whatsoever) just keeps going on and on, dragging down everything it touches.

If you are having communication problems with someone else, try to listen. If you can’t do that because you are swamped with work, at least tell that person you will listen as soon as you can and that you do care. (Yeah, is this a personal message to someone? Maybe. But maybe not. There are a lot of people in my life I’d tell this to, if I could get them to sit down and listen.) And then, make some time and listen. Don’t judge — listen.

Communication isn’t just for breakfast anymore. (Who knew?)

Anyway, the only way to fix bad communication is to actually try. Refuse to be afraid of confrontation; just make sure that you are as respectful and calm as you can be, or if you can’t be either, apologize for your lack of same and then get on with trying to understand each other.

This is harder to do with some than others, granted. But if you are friends, or family, or have common interests, or work together, you have to try to do this even when you don’t want to, or the problems that will result from same will just keep snowballing…

And there is no point to that. At all.

***Note: I am fortunate that nearly everyone I know can and does communicate. But my goodness. I am tired of the non-communication in this world…beyond tired. Thus, this post.