Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

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A Late-ish May Check-in

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Folks, I’m alive and doing the best I can.

It’s been a tough year so far around Chez Caffrey. Some years are like this; I am aware. But lately, I’ve had many thoughts of my friend, the late writer Ric Locke. His last blog post was called “This Ain’t Workin'” and sometimes I wonder what was going through his mind as he wrote that.

See, he knew his body wasn’t responding to the medications he and his doctor had tried to improve his health. He was tired of fighting, and who can blame him? He’d been through a lot, and deserved his rest…yet he was writing a sequel to his excellent novel, TEMPORARY DUTY. I’m sure he didn’t want to leave that unfinished. But there’s a time when you know there’s not much left, and it gets harder and harder to push that knowledge away.

That’s my best guess as to what Ric thought, as he wrote his final blog.

Mind, if it’s up to me, this is NOT my final blog. I have many, many things that remain to be done, and many stories to finish up, too. I don’t plan on stopping anytime soon, but as the doctors seemingly have no idea at all what’s going on with me, I just don’t know anymore. What they do know is this: exhaustion.

Yep. That’s all they know.

As the US doesn’t have a policy like most of Europe, where everyone gets a certain amount of paid time off — mind, even if we did, as an independent writer/editor I wouldn’t, but still — the best I can do to fortify myself is to read books that make me laugh while doing whatever I am able to do of a work-related and family-related nature. Observe nature in its fullness, which includes (as I live in Racine, WI) great views of Lake Michigan. Talk to people and be kind — because rudeness just doesn’t cut it with me — and hope that the exhaustion will recede, bit by bit.

So, while I’d love a vacation (fruity drinks by the seashore optional), as that doesn’t seem in the cards, I will instead continue to do the best I can.

If you’d like to drop a line below, telling me what’s going on in your life, I’d love to hear it. (I get tired, sometimes, of shouting into the void and hoping somehow that the void shouts back. Yes, a small joke, there…)

Written by Barb Caffrey

May 24, 2023 at 3:08 am

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A Brief Bloglet, May Edition

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Folks, I have been editing up a storm for the past week or so. Almost no writing has taken place, so I had no news to discuss…then my Uncle Ralph died yesterday, and everything seemed to hit the fan at once.

Mind, my uncle had lived a good, long life, been married for decades, had children and grandchildren and even a few great-grandchildren. But he was a kind-hearted gentleman of the old school, and I’ll miss him.

It’s good when someone passes away in the fullness of age, especially compared to when someone dies too soon, too young, or too suddenly. But it’s also hard, because no one wants to see their loved ones pass on.

In my uncle’s case, he was dealing with several health problems that had significantly limited his life. But when he felt well enough, he and my aunt (who has survived him) still were able to laugh and talk and love one another. There was a wealth of memories there to discuss, and I’m sure more will surface over time, as the whole phrase about “may his memory be a blessing” definitely seems to apply.

Anyway, it’s time for rest, then more editing awaits.

Oh, and as it’s May now, the only song that comes to mind is “It Might As Well Be Spring.” So here’s a YouTube video that may amuse you from Doris Day, someone I usually don’t reference even though she was a fine singer with an excellent range. She gets a lot of the feelings across that I have right now, including hope, frustration and wistfulness, which seems the perfect way to end this bloglet.

Written by Barb Caffrey

May 2, 2023 at 7:25 am

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Welcome, April Readers! (Or Something…)

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It’s April. The temperatures are rising, slowly but surely. The ground is starting to thaw. There are more birds chirping; there are more critters coming out of hibernation; there are more people getting out and about, perhaps for the first time in three years, to remind themselves that spring has sprung and the world has been made anew.

(At least, the world turns on its axis, and we only have one April per year. But I digress.)

So, welcome to you, April readers! What are you reading, and why? What are you planning to read, and why? What are you looking forward to the most, in a book or out of it?

Plus, I have the usual questions of, “What’s going on with you? What are you concerned about, this fine day?”

As for me, I continue to recover from the nasty facial bacterial infection (say that three times fast; I dare you). It’s a slow but steady climb. I’m able to do a bit more, week by week, though I would prefer to be able to do a great deal more as that would be much easier than this incremental progress.

Still, life does not work that way. We do things slowly, sometimes, or we don’t do them at all.

Same thing for my writing. I’ve been able to get a bit done, here and there, which beats nothing by a mile. But it’s not what I had hoped for at the start of this year; no, it’s not.

Still. I move, but slowly, and yet I move. (Didn’t Galileo say that? Maybe he should’ve, if not. Going on…)

As for other news, I still haven’t settled on a cover concept for the novella I told you all about several months ago (that I hoped to get out by the end of last year). I am working on it, mind you; I at least know what type of book it is, and I’m paying attention to other books that seem somewhat close in category to post-apocalyptic romantic suspense. (It actually is closer to post-apocalyptic military/romantic suspense as one of the two major characters is an Army Sergeant First Class. I hope to do justice to the military men and women I’ve met along the way, too. But I suppose that would’ve gone without saying…never mind.) I also need to finish two more Elfyverse stories so I can have five or six of them and put them in a collection; that’s on the backburner, but it’s one I return to now and again, parsing out various things, making prose notes, and then going back to my editing (already in progress) or writing the other things that are demanding to be written right now, thank you.

At any rate, I continue on. It’s slow. Sometimes I feel stuck in reverse. But I make whatever progress I can, as I can, and will continue doing so as long as I am able.

May it be true for yourself as well.

Written by Barb Caffrey

April 4, 2023 at 5:54 am

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Striving for More…

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There are some days (weeks, months, years) that are better than others. And then, there are the days, etc., that I’ve been putting up with the past few months.

This is why the bloglet for today is entitled “Striving for More.” Because that’s literally what I’ve been doing for the past six weeks, along with “working to tolerance” and “resting whenever needed.”

The trouble with all of these things is, I can clearly see what I want and need to be doing. The energy’s not there yet, but my vision of what should be has returned. I know from past experiences, health-wise, that this particular facility shows up when I’ve almost completely recovered. It does so because there’s now enough energy to realize how sick I was, and how much I need to do now to make up for the time I couldn’t help but lose to illness.

In other words, I can parse things out far better. I can compare and contrast far better, too.

So, when I get a half-formed idea for a musical composition, and then can’t seem to get it set down in a manner that makes sense, I have been reminding myself that it’s all a process. Perhaps the reason I can’t quite get the music down has to do with something about the structure of the music I’m grasping for, if that makes any sense.

The important thing is to keep after it as best I can. I know I’ll figure out how to structure this musical composition I have in mind, if I am patient and let it crawl all the way out of my backbrain.

I also know, from past experience, that writing music tends to be easier for me after an illness than writing words can be. If I can handle one, I can handle the other, as music in some ways is my first and best language. (Words are a poor second place in some ways, because music can transport you far easier than words, sometimes.)

For the moment, what I have to do is guard my health, first. Then, keep thinking about the structure of this musical composition that’s been rattling around in my head for a few weeks. Finally, get down some prose notes for the various stories in progress, in the hopes that my recovery from this point will be swift, sure, and to the point.

(Or at least not protracted anymore than it already has been…but I digress, as is always my wont.)

So, what do you do when you’re recovering from illness? What tips and tricks do you have that may help someone else along their journey?

And what books are you reading to help distract yourself, or possibly edify yourself, along the way? (Tell me about ’em in the comments, please.)

Written by Barb Caffrey

March 24, 2023 at 6:05 am

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A Quick March Bloglet

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Folks, I continue to recover from last month’s illness, so I haven’t had much to say lately.

Now, do I have opinions? Yes. Do I want to discuss some things with you all? Again, yes.

But my mind feels a bit off, and I’m using almost all of my energy to help others (there’s no alternative but me, most of the time anyway). I have edits to finish, stories to finish, poems to finish, and music to finish composing.

I don’t know about you, though…sometimes, I look at all that, and I feel completely daunted.

Then again, there is the way I generally go about taking care of these things, which is very simple: One step at a time.

So, I’ll keep taking small steps, and hope it’ll lead me somewhere wonderful.

Back to the blog in a week or so, I hope.

Written by Barb Caffrey

March 13, 2023 at 3:42 am

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Unapologetically Low-Tech…or Something…

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Folks, I’ve been thinking about many things as I continue to convalesce from the serious illness I told you about last week. (Two antibiotics, an antiviral, and prednisone are nothing to be sneezed at, after all, and that’s what I’ve been taking to get well.) One of them is about the prevalence of technology in our society.

Don’t get me wrong. The Internet is a Godsend for a writer, or for anyone who wants to do background research. It can lead you to the right books, right sources, and help you find a handy library where you can check those books and sources out without necessarily having to pay (as sometimes the library in your area only has so much, and interlibrary loan — ILL — can’t always help, either). It also is helpful for communication, for writing blogs (natch), and in disseminating information (which can be good or bad, especially if what comes out first turns out to be wrong and has to be corrected later).

But I remain split with regards to everything else.

We have smartphones. These are quite helpful and useful on the one hand, and on the other, they keep us tied to screens far more often than we should be. It’s harder to appreciate nature, or other people in our lives who live close or are personally visiting, if we stay on our phones all the time.

More problematic than that is the advent of “smart home” technology. “Hey Google,” or “Hey Siri,” or “Hey Alexa,” all have pluses in that you can do things more quickly if you have this set up (such as playing a favorite song or arming your alarm system). But look at all you give up if you have this! These things can be hacked, and when you’re asking Google to do this, that, or the other for you, while someone else is watching/listening, that’s an invasion of privacy at the very least.

Of course, our computers now seem to spy on us as well. They have “smart algorithms,” meaning they figure out what we like to usually read. (In my case, there’s a lot about Star Trek and SFF&F, a great deal about MLB and the Milwaukee Brewers, quite a bit about the NFL and the Green Bay Packers, and of course I also see a ton about the NBA and the Milwaukee Bucks.) These can be interesting, though if you want to research something else, it’s good not to be bogged down by the latest deep dive into Jeri Ryan’s character and life choices (as Seven of Nine in Star Trek: Picard).

Hey, I have to admit that I am a big fan of Jeri Ryan. Have been for years. Not picking on her. Moving on…

In addition to all of the stuff in our personal life that we choose to use that can potentially be spied upon (sorry to use that term, but with all of the various spy balloons and objects that have been shot out of the sky in the US and Canada this past week — at least four — privacy violations are on my mind), we also have seen an advent of cameras added by local municipalities to make it easier for law enforcement to do their jobs. I’m mostly in favor of this, but I do wonder at where the “slippery slope” ends.

Look. We are in unprecedented territory. There’s so much information out there about us. There’s so much that companies collect, with regards to data, that goes to attempt to shape us psychologically, personally, and otherwise that it seems like a flood that can’t be stanched with our hands alone.

That said, somehow we have to figure out how to be our authentic selves and make true human connections with others despite all the electronic noise.

I don’t know how that’s going to happen. I just know that we have to try, possibly harder than ever, to remember what the real world is as well as appreciating whatever gives us value in the virtual world. (The virtual and real worlds sometimes do collide, too, but that’s a separate issue and I’m not touching that with a ten-foot pole right now. One issue at a time.)

So, for the moment, I’m going to continue to be unapologetically low-tech, or something like it anyway, considering I use a computer at least eight hours a day and read books via Kindle often and also have a cellphone. I’m going to do my best to remember what the real world is, see the beauty in it as well as the ugliness, and keep on going.

Folks, I ask you, on the eve of Valentine’s Day, to consider what’s real in your life. Who the people are that matter in your life, too. And what you can do to promote greater and happier bonds between you, so you can not only live an authentic life, but perhaps even a happy one.

Stranger things have happened.

Written by Barb Caffrey

February 13, 2023 at 1:46 pm

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Illness. Again.

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Folks, I am ailing.

On Monday morning, I woke up and saw that half of the left-hand side of my face was bright red. It was swollen, hot to the touch, itchy, and painful. I thought I was having an allergic reaction. I thought maybe a spider bit me.

It wasn’t that (though I may have been bitten by a spider; they can’t tell as my face is too swollen). It’s cellulitis. On my face.

What I’ve found out in the two days I’ve been treated for this illness is this:

It makes you tired. It makes you unsteady on your feet. It gives you horribly high temperatures (101, 102, close to 103 at one point, despite me normally being quite a bit lower than normal). It makes it harder to think.

The worst part of it is that my left eye is a slit right now. (Not infected, according to the doc I saw yesterday afternoon.) The bottom eyelid is swollen and red. The top eyelid is fine.

So, not only do I have to deal with being sick, I also have to deal with the knowledge that I look a sight at the same time. (Why I care about this, I don’t know. But I do.)

To make matters even worse, I suffered a fall Monday night, and it was an ordeal getting back up again. Took over two hours. I made at least fifty attempts, but my right knee kept balking and did not want me to get up. So, I was telling myself, aloud, “You have to get up. You have to get up.” And I couldn’t do it until my father came to check on me. He was able to help, thank goodness.

On the plus side, I did manage a short shower today. (That made me feel a little better, and I didn’t fall. I’ll take it.)

Later today, I am going in to see the folks who do my Warfarin levels checking, as that’s important when you’re on antibiotics as they can skew the results quite a bit. I then hope I can get the meds — two painkillers — the doctor prescribed yesterday. (He said that the hydrocortisone creams, even the prescription ones, would not help at this point. I have the OTC 1% hydrocortisone cream but it’s doing nothing.) Those are the two things I absolutely must do today…anything after that is gravy.

By the way, about an hour ago, I saw another of those spiders — a fuzzy black spider, possibly a Wolf spider. It was crawling on me. I killed it without thinking.

Now, normally even though I do not like spiders, I try to avoid killing them. I’d rather put them outside than kill them.

But in this situation, there’s no way I want a spider anywhere nearby. It’s possible that a spider bite caused something else to get into the skin of my face, and that’s what caused the infection. (It is a little better at the bottom of my face on the left-hand side. I wish it had chosen to heal the eye area first, though…)

Now, when I get sick, I almost never have high temps. I can get unsteady on my feet, but I usually think better than this. My reflexes are slower — they’re still decent, but it’s not what I’m used to out of myself. I have to be deliberate when I’d rather be floating above or at least walking confidently, cane at my side and unworried about falls (except on ice).

So, everything this week — my work, my writing, my helpful efforts with my family — is going to go by the boards until much of my face has healed. (That it’s both painful and itchy at the same time is very frustrating, too. You can’t scratch it because if you do, it makes everything worse. All you can do is lightly rub it.)

This is not how I planned my week to go. But it’s what I have to deal with, so I’ll do the best that I can.

Written by Barb Caffrey

February 8, 2023 at 6:10 am

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Holiday Blahs

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In a few days, most of the major end-of-the-year celebrations — religious and otherwise — will take place, before we head into 2023. I know this, but so far, I’m not feeling any excitement or encouragement regarding the holidays.

Maybe someone out there feels much the way that I do but doesn’t want to say anything because happy/happy joy/joy is expected from us at this time of year. If so, this blog’s for you…

Anyway, I don’t know what I expected out of 2022, but I didn’t find it. Quite a bit happened this year, but most of it wasn’t remotely what I wanted. (Ending my relationship — my long, long relationship — with the Racine Concert Band was one of those unexpected and unwelcome things.)

There were some positives, mind you. I sold two stories to anthologies, one of which is available now in FANTASTIC SCHOOLS HOLS. (I still can’t tell you about the other one but will once it’s allowed.) I made significant progress on a few longer stories, including the story that I hope will come out sometime early in the near year (this being “All the News That’s Fit…”), and edited at least twenty-five books, stories, and other literary-related things. I also continued to compose (by longhand, on music staff paper) and came up with some good melodies (the rest can wait until I have more time to flesh them out).

Plus, I continued to strengthen my friendships, and did what I could to help my family as I was able.

These are not negligible things, no matter how much they may feel like it right now.

Maybe it’s just the weather that’s got me down today. It’s cold, it’s been windy on and off, and it’s just a generally unprepossessing day. But I have errands to run, and stories to write (later, after I’m warm again), and visits to make…lots of things to do, and not enough time in which to do them, as per usual.

So, today, the view from Chez Caffrey is mixed. But tomorrow, who knows? Maybe it’ll be a whole lot better. (We can always hope for better. Nothing wrong with hope, as it helps get you through some very long nights.)

Written by Barb Caffrey

December 19, 2022 at 2:25 pm

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The Transformative Power of Empathy

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A few years ago, I wrote a few blogs about what I called “transformative powers.” The first one was about writing. The second was about music. And while I am unsure right now what I’d intended the third blog to be, originally, I now know what the third power is: It’s empathy.

Now, you’re probably asking yourselves, “Why? Why empathy? How does it transform anything?”

Well, when we understand someone else’s actions, that helps us to communicate with them — even when we don’t agree, at all, as to what they may have done. You must have empathy to try to understand, and you also have to risk the fact that you may find out some things you never wanted to know…but all of that is because of how empathy can transform your life for the better.

“But, Barb,” you protest. “If I’m finding out stuff I don’t want to know, how does that help?”

We have to be willing to risk all to gain all. We must believe that we can understand someone else, if we try. Otherwise, communication would be an impossibility, and harmonious relations — however you might like to define them — would be a myth. Society would definitely have not come into being, either, without someone having empathy at some point in the process.

Empathy can transform an enemy into an ally. It can also remake the world, slowly, one person at a time. That has value, even if you can’t always see it.

Personally, I think empathy transforms your life in two ways. One, it allows you to see, for a brief instant, into the mind’s eye of another person. Two, it points out that “here but for the grace of God/dess go I.”

See, we’ve all made mistakes. Some of us survive those mistakes and in the process realize we can help others not make the same mistakes we’ve made. Wanting to help others who we may not know very well in order to help them avoid some of the pitfalls that have messed up our own lives is what empathy’s all about.

If that’s not transformative, I don’t know what is.

Written by Barb Caffrey

December 5, 2022 at 3:28 am

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Working, Working…

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Folks, I thought I’d drop in a quick bloglet to let you all know I’m hanging in there.

Mostly, I’ve been editing a few different high-priority projects. (I’m also writing some music, and trying to figure out what comes next in my novel-in-progress Keisha’s Vow with whatever mental bandwidth I have left after editing and dealing with family concerns all day.) One is a nonfiction book. The other two are both anthologies; one is a multiple-author anthology, while the other is a single-author anthology.

Against the backdrop of work, work, and more work (and happy to have it, let me tell you), I’m preparing for the eighteenth anniversary of Michael’s death later this month, AKA “the saddest of sad anniversaries.” I always become more contemplative around this time of year; in addition, I wonder more as to how I’ve managed to live all this time without the love of my life standing beside me in a way everyone can understand.

(I have to put it that way, because I don’t believe Michael’s love went anywhere. I still feel his spirit, even now, almost eighteen years later. Because I knew him so well, and knew how much he loved me, I am able to continue on, though it is very difficult. But I digress.)

I’ve thought long and hard about many things, lately. Mostly, I’ve contemplated mortality, though it’s more along the lines of, “Is there still enough time for me to finish everything I’ve got in train?” (This comprises all editing projects, all musical compositions in progress, and of course all my writing projects.)

I don’t know the answer to that. Not to any of it. But I’ll keep trying, anyway, and hope that by putting one foot in front of the other — and by doing everything I possibly can every day — I’ll make progress.

Now, enough about me…what’s going on in your life? (Tell me about it in the comments, if you feel so kind. I get tired of shouting into the void, as the void never shouts back.)

Written by Barb Caffrey

September 8, 2022 at 3:22 am

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