Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

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Words of Wisdom from Lee and Miller’s “Trader’s Leap”

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Folks, as you know, I have been battling a mystery illness for quite some time. (Several months, minimum.) So when I read something recently in Sharon Lee and Steve Miller’s newest Liaden Universe ™ novel TRADER’S LEAP that applied, I knew I had to come here and let you all know about it.

Here’s the quote that resonated so much with me, I’ve read and re-read it several times (along with the entire book, of course) over the past few days:

“You will pursue all necessary tasks tomorrow,” Lute told him. “Nothing will be lost by caring for yourself. Learn some little wisdom while you sleep. You endanger all and everything by ignoring your hurts.”

TRADER’S LEAP, Sharon Lee and Steve Miller, p. 124

Now, you might be asking, “Barb, why did that quote resonate with you so much? It’s not just about your health, is it?”

I think it resonated so very much because I’ve been attempting to juggle five different edits for the past several weeks. Every time I finish an edit, it seems like two more pop up. And while this is wonderful from a work perspective — it means my edits are gaining some small notice, and that people are in general happy with my work — it can be challenging to listen to my body and rest when it tells me to, even when I’m not sick.

When I read this anew, several days ago, I’d just been diagnosed with another sinus infection. This one was bad enough that it had set off several wicked migraines (worse than usual), and I was given prednisone along with antibiotics. (Prednisone is a steroid that’s intended to help you breathe easier. It also ups your appetite and allows you to have a bit of energy, as for the moment your illness is muted by its effects.) I needed to read, just in that moment, those words of wisdom from Sharon Lee and Steve Miller.

See, fiction can still illuminate our present problems, and sometimes offer viable solutions. (Even if, as in this case, the solution is to rest.) We can see ourselves, reflected. And though it is entertainment — how not? — it also can give you heart’s ease, solace, a few good laughs, and divert you from your pain and problems for a few, short hours.

Many people, due to complications from Covid-19 or other illnesses exacerbated by the global pandemic of the last year-plus, are hurting right now. Some of us, myself included, do not want to rest, even when we need it. I know that I, myself, am afraid that if I rest, I’ll make matters even worse. (It’s not logical, no. But it’s very human.)

That’s why reading the page above, and being reminded that resting is essential in order to fully heal up, made me want to stand up and cheer.

Written by Barb Caffrey

April 15, 2021 at 8:30 pm

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Happy Easter! Remember Your Lessons…

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Folks, every year I try to write something around Easter. I believe in forgiveness and love, and I especially want to believe in hope…and Jesus’s resurrection after three days of being dead ticks all three boxes.

How, you may ask?

First, if Jesus hadn’t forgiven those who killed him — nailed him to the cross and let him starve in agony and pain — he’d not have risen. (Or, for my Pagan friends who are more NeoPagan than myself, we’d not have this particular legend/belief system. I think Jesus lived and came to help us figure out how to love one another. But I digress.)

Second, if Jesus hadn’t loved his friends, family, and by extension everyone else, he’d never have let himself be nailed to that cross at all. He could’ve easily avoided that fate from everything we know in the Bible. He chose to do this, and he also chose to raise up after three days, to let his loved ones (friends, family, and again by extension everyone else) know that his soul was alive, well, and at peace.

Third, the three women at Jesus’s gravesite (or cave, if you will), were there out of love for Jesus. They had no idea that he’d rise from the grave. They had absolutely no expectation of that at all. But they were there to honor their friend and loved one, and to pay witness to his life.

Jesus rising from the dead, being resurrected, told them that what they did was the right thing. (They didn’t need to know that, perhaps, but it was still nice to know.) And it gave them hope that no matter what happened in our lives, we could still be redeemed.

There’s more to the hope than that, of course. The three women had hoped Jesus, on the Other Side (however they thought of the afterlife), would not forget them. They also had assuredly hoped that Jesus would be out of pain.

Their hopes — all three of them — were rewarded.

And there’s a lesson in that, which goes like this: sometimes, no matter how bad things look, you have to keep hope alive. You have to believe that what you’re doing matters. And you have to also believe that caring, love, honor, etc., are all worthwhile in and of themselves.

“But Barb,” you protest. “Easter is about much more than that!”

So it is. But this is the best way I have to explain how I think of it.

I am more NeoPagan than not, in case you haven’t figured that out. But I still honor Jesus, because he and his example were necessary for this world. We needed to be led out of darkness. And he is among several others in various faiths and belief systems who has helped over time to give us as a species the belief that we can become kinder, wiser, gentler, and more observant in our faith/belief system.

So, this Easter season, do your best to be kind. Even if you feel those around you don’t deserve it. And if you’re able, forgive your trespassers/debtors, too…because releasing the anger you have at them will free up more positive energy for you to do something with, if nothing else. (Hey, self-centeredness works as a reason if nothing else does. But eventually, I hope you can come to see everyone as a person — no matter what they’ve done — and worthy of redemption and care.)

Written by Barb Caffrey

April 4, 2021 at 6:28 pm

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Yes, I’m Alive (Really)…

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Folks, the last few weeks haven’t been much fun at Chez Caffrey.

First, I’ve been dealing with some sort of digestive issue, so it’s not easy to eat much or keep it down. No one has any idea what this is about as of yet, though they did find out I have gallstones. (However, the surgeon I consulted said he felt it was an “incidental finding” and the gall bladder should remain inside my body rather than yanked.)

Second, because I haven’t been able to eat as well as I’d like, my energy has been affected. This means the five — yes, five — editing projects on the table have all been slowed. (I haven’t stopped, though. I am still working on them, and two are close to completion, while the others are all in various stages.)

Third, because of all this, my online time has been much less than usual. And that time mostly has gone into reassuring my clients that I’m not dead and am doing the best I can.

I legitimately have felt too awful to even write a short bloglet for you all, to let you know what’s been going on. Everything seems like it’s been a big blur since I was in the ER a week-plus ago, when they found the gallstones.

But that’s only a rationalization. And I think you, my readers, deserve more than that.

When I started this blog nearly eleven years ago, I vowed to myself to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth (so help me Deity) even when I felt rotten. I wanted others out there to know that they weren’t alone if they were battling physical illnesses; I wanted others to know that I, too, understood.

In that vein, I am openly admitting that my health has been rock-bottom bad for the last three weeks or so. I have no answers for what’s wrong. And it’s been all I can do to get out of the house a few times a week, go see my Mom and her dog as per usual, and carry on.

I am extremely frustrated by this as-yet unknown illness. If I had my druthers, I would wake up tomorrow free of it, with boundless energy, and be able to spend many hours editing, then going over to see my Mom, then come back and do many more hours of editing. I pride myself on getting things done, dammit, and this is no way to get stuff done.

That said, I am alive. And where there’s life, there’s hope.

I hope to be back writing more blogs about books, life, the universe, and everything ASAP. But for now, I’d best go back to rest a bit, so I can edit and get a few of these projects out the door. (My clients depend on me. I’d better step up and get it done, no matter what.)

Written by Barb Caffrey

March 29, 2021 at 6:23 pm

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Recommendation: The “Kayla’s Honor” Series by Elizabeth Demaziere

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The three stories about Kayla Warden in the “Kayla’s Honor” series by Elizabeth Demaziere are well worth reading.

Why? Well, they’re full of kick-butt action, for one…Kayla is a former Army intelligence operative, and has kept her skills sharp. This is a good thing, under the circumstances, as she uses those skills to help cowed and/or scared women whenever she can. She has no truck with abusive men, and will do whatever she can to right the scales. If that takes beating them up, so much the better.

For another, Kayla, herself, is well-rounded. She’s smart, driven, well-educated, and while she hates her day job — she’s a data analyst for an expensive law firm — it pays her enough to do most of what she wants. That, fortunately for us, includes helping the aforementioned women.

The only thing I don’t like about these stories is Kayla’s boyfriend. His name is Bradley, he’s an ass, and I don’t know what she’s doing with him. She’s actually engaged to the lout, too, and I just don’t get it. Bradley is a stuffed shirt. He also has no idea what Kayla really did in the military (as much of it was classified); he apparently hasn’t realized the muscles Kayla has aren’t for show, either.

In fact, in one of the stories, Kayla has a flirtation with another man. (I said, “You go, girl!” That’s not my normal reaction, but it fits, here.) I kept hoping she’d run off with that guy, or any other guy, rather than return to stuffed-shirt Bradley and his foolishness.

That I felt so deeply about this says something about the skill of the writer, mind. Which is why I decided to come here, tonight, when I’m not all the way healed up, and let you all know about this fun series of fast, yet compelling reads.

I don’t know Elizabeth Demaziere, but I have definitely enjoyed her stories. (Thus this blog.) So far, there are three of them — Kayla’s Impulse, Kayla’s Decision, and Kayla’s Rescue. I definitely hope there will be more of them, and that we’ll either figure out what the Hell she’s doing with stupid Bradley, or that she breaks up with the bastard altogether. (Can you tell I don’t like Bradley? But as always, I digress. Moving on…)

If you have Kindle Unlimited, you can read them for free. If not, each story is under $3.

Do check them out, OK? If you’re anything like me, you’ll enjoy them and want more.

Written by Barb Caffrey

February 13, 2021 at 1:00 am

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Under the Weather (Again)

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Folks, I have been sick for the better part of three weeks.

I wish I didn’t have to write this sort of update, mind. I’d rather talk about what good things are going on than talk about my health cratering again. But I’ve had people ask me what’s going on, and I wanted to put you all at ease on one score, at least.

I do not have Covid.

That said, what I do have is an upper respiratory infection — bronchitis, basically — along with a nasty sinus infection that spread to both ears despite being on antibiotics. The antibiotic was changed, and I think things are getting better…but I have to take things far more slowly than I want, or they could get worse.

The polar vortex the Midwest is enduring right now is also a factor. (Excessive cold can and often does set off my asthma.)

So, what I’m trying to do is get healthy (or at least healthier) so I can do some writing, do some editing, and live my life on my own terms. (As I always do.)

I hope you all are staying safe, eating well, and resting appropriately. (Stay hydrated, too. Am I forgetting anything?) Oh, yes…and read good books!

Written by Barb Caffrey

February 7, 2021 at 6:19 pm

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Holiday Blues

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Folks, I know I haven’t been around online (so to speak) in a few weeks. Some of that is because I’ve been busy editing. Some of that is because of the time of year. And some is because of health-related reasons (as per usual for winter).

As I’ve said over the years, holidays are hard for me. I miss my husband, and my best friend Jeff, and my grandma, and my aunt and uncle…along with many other friends and family members who’ve gone before me. It’s also been just over a year since I lost my canine companion, Trouble, and I miss him a lot, too.

I know the holidays aren’t just about getting and giving stuff. You’re supposed to express your appreciation for others. You’re supposed to let other people know that you care. And you’re supposed to feel grateful that you made it through another year.

I suppose I do feel all those things, but 2020 has been one Hell of a year. Between the coronavirus (Covid-19), the U.S. election and its aftermath, the lack of help forthcoming from most of the various governments (city, state, and federal — though to be fair, the city is hamstrung by the state’s lack of response, and the state is hamstrung by the federal lack of response in its turn), and the general feeling of malaise, 2020 is one year I’ll be happy to put in the rear-view mirror.

Sometimes, it’s difficult to get up, get moving, keep trying, and doing whatever I can. But I will continue to do just that, in the hopes that it makes a difference down the line.

I will tell you one resolution I’ve already made, pre-New Year’s Day: Somehow, in 2021, I am going to find a way to write more. (Not just blogs, either.) Doing that should help me feel more positive, motivated, and focused.

And even if it doesn’t, it will remind me that I’m not all about drudgery, hard work, sacrifice, and more of the same. Though there’s nothing wrong with any of those things (well, maybe drudgery), that’s not the sum total of who I am.

Anyway, in case I don’t post again before the New Year, may you and yours have a festive holiday season (whatever you celebrate). Enjoy the good times, and store them up in your heart, even if they need to be held virtually for the time being due to the pandemic.

Written by Barb Caffrey

December 22, 2020 at 7:16 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Bemusement City

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The past week or two at Chez Caffrey have been a period of much bemusement (hence the title, above). Or, to put it another way, much of what I’ve seen and heard hasn’t made much sense.

A friend — and her family — came up with Covid-19, for starters. This was awful. So far, they haven’t had any huge problems, but as most in the family have additional health concerns (as most of us do when we get past our teen years; don’t judge), this has concerned me quite a bit.

The reason this doesn’t make much sense is because in many ways, this family did everything right.

Of course, masks can only protect you so much. (And that “so much” isn’t nearly enough, no matter what the experts might say, if a family that mostly does everything right can still get Covid.)

The election angst is still with me, too. As of this writing, many states still have ballots outstanding, and my own Wisconsin is one of them. This prolongs the agony, and makes me worry that we still may see possible unrest here. (As Wisconsin is a true purple state, if there’s going to be unrest anywhere in the U.S. over this election, it’s likelier to be here than many other places.)

So, we may have just had a blue moon — could this be why my friend’s family all came down with Covid? — but much of the world remains the same. Much of the U.S. remains the same, too…deeply divided, with too many people thinking ill of too many other people to find common ground anywhere, or so it seems to me.

I want to hold on to hope, mind you. I believe hope matters. (Granted, I’m not the only one by far to believe this. Otherwise, why would Pandora’s Box contain hope?)

Anyway, that’s where I’m at right now: doing my best to hold on to hope, and concentrate on the things that have gone right, no matter how small those things might be.

But I’d be lying if I told you that I see a sea change on the horizon, because I don’t.

Written by Barb Caffrey

November 4, 2020 at 2:17 am

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Writing, the Universe, and Everything…

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…or something like that.

I’ve not blogged much the past few months, and I thought I should come over here and try to explain why as best I can. (As I do have regular readers, and some do ask me, “Barb, what’s up with your blog? Don’t you have anything to say these days?”)

Well, it’s a combination of things.

First, my health kind of took a nosedive at the beginning of the year, and I haven’t fully regained my strength. This has affected me with everything except my editing, because I need more energy to write (either music or words) than I do to edit. (Why? I don’t know. It just seems to be that way.)

Second, I have been editing a lot. This is a very good thing, and I’m happy to have the work. However, I have a tendency while editing of blocking out nearly everything else, including my own writing, as the manuscript I’m working on takes priority.

Third, the crises — plural of crisis — in the United States have made me furious at times, frustrated at many times, despairing some of the time, and wondering what the Hell is going on nearly all of the time. I can’t help but notice that there’s all sorts of unrest, and I wonder if we’re going to be able to have a peaceful and quiet election due to some of the things that have happened. (The latest being a plot to kidnap the Governor of Michigan, Gretchen Whitmer, by a right-wing militia group that seemed to believe she was a traitor. Why they believed this is beyond my comprehension. And even if they believed this fervently, they should’ve let the authorities handle it, not taken matters into their own hands.)

Then, there’s the pandemic–where my state of Wisconsin continues to be among the worst in the nation for community spread of the coronavirus. My family is on edge. There’s a lot of anxiety. Hospitals are near capacity or at/above capacity in many places. A sort of “tent city” has been set up again in Milwaukee for overflow Covid cases…and the only reason Wisconsin hasn’t been quarantined, I think, is because of the obstructionists among the Republicans in our heavily gerrymandered state legislature. (Wisconsin is a true purple state, where it’s closely split among Democrats and Republicans. But somehow, the state assembly — our lower house — is 2/3s R, while our Senate is also controlled by the Rs but not with as much of a margin.) These folks among the Rs do not want to do anything, at all. Except sue over the mask mandate, or sue because they don’t like something the governor is doing, or sue because they want to block vote-by-mail if it comes in after the day of the election (which some of it will, considering how the mail service has been bollixed lately).

I can’t help but see all that, and be appalled.

I think our duly elected representatives should be able to do better than this. Yet they can’t. Not in the state, not at the federal level (where the Hell is the second stimulus bill? Sitting on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s desk again, no doubt…and him a Republican. Somehow I sense a theme there. But I digress.)

Then there was that debacle of a Presidential debate a bit over a week ago, which also didn’t give me any feeling that the current President, Donald Trump, took his job seriously. (He certainly didn’t take that debate seriously, interrupting and sounding like a petulant child as much as he could. And going off on tangents, as often as he possibly could, some of which made no sense whatsoever.)

With all that going on, maybe it’s not that surprising that my writing has been slowed way, way down.

That said, I recently have been able to do more writing. I have finally figured out how to prioritize my writing — something that has eluded me for years — and I’m getting more done, both with writing music and words. I’ve told myself that maybe my writing will never matter to anyone but me — as my sales record, thus far anyway, is (for lack of a better term) dismal. But as it does matter to me, I am going to keep trying.

And as I’ve said before, writing — whether music or words — helps me function. I feel better when I write. And I also feel better when I take my own needs seriously, and prioritize them, as I ought…another theme here, huh?

Anyway, the point of this blog is mostly to tell you that I’m alive, I’m still writing, and that I do have hope. I’m not sure why I have hope. I’ve seen and done and lived through so much stuff, and am continuing to see and do and live through even more stuff, that there have been times I’ve thought, “Where is that light at the end of the tunnel I’ve heard so much about? And why the Hell can’t I find it?”

Still. I have hope. And hope matters to me, as does my writing and any creative pursuits I’m able to pursue at the moment (obviously, playing any concerts is out for the foreseeable future due to worries/fears about Covid-19 and how it could allow audiences to more easily contract the virus).

I’m still here. I’m doing what I can. I’m looking for as many positives as there might be, from enjoying a drive-thru hamburger to hearing some of my favorite music, quite unexpectedly, when I’m out and about. In this way, I will overcome as many obstacles as possible.

So, the state of the Elfyverse — or at least writing, the universe, and everything — is stable. And I will try to blog more often, honest…at least to let you all know I’m alive.

Written by Barb Caffrey

October 9, 2020 at 5:45 am

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Do the Work, Even if You’re Suffering?

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The title of today’s blog is meant somewhat tongue-in-cheek. Our contemporary society, especially in the United States, says that no matter how bad things are, you should always do your work.

This ethos means that if your area was recently hit by an inland hurricane known as a derecho, and suffered enormously, and you don’t have water, food, or shelter — well, tough noogies, because you still have to do your work.

This area, BTW, that I’m referring to is the state of Iowa. They are in dire straits, and haven’t yet been sent any federal help. People are going through tremendous hardship, and the American government doesn’t seem to care.

Obviously, my tongue-in-cheek blog title makes no sense. (And yes, I did it on purpose. Thanks for asking.) If you don’t have food, if you don’t have water, if you don’t have shelter, if you don’t have any help coming…what in the Hell are you supposed to do?

This is an extreme example, mind. But it fits the message I’m trying to convey.

We all have periods of suffering in our lives. You don’t have to take damage from an unusual event such an an inland hurricane to hurt, and to need succor. Most, if not all, of us will suffer from something in our lives, whether it’s worry, fear, loss of loved ones, loss of jobs, loss of income…you name it, we’re likely to have to endure something terrible at some point, because it’s part of being human.

You can’t do the work under such circumstances. You just can’t.

What should you do instead? It’s simple: do the best you can. Remember to go easy on yourself when you’re suffering; treat yourself the way you’d treat others, and don’t expect miracles. (Let’s hope you understand that you’re not supposed to spread vitriol when you’re hurting, or this thought won’t help you much.) And of course you should try to help others with your time, effort, and care whenever possible.

Finally, if you’re in as desperate situation as my fellow Americans in Iowa are now dealing with, raise as much (polite) Hell as you can. We pay taxes for a reason, and disaster relief is part of that reason. These people need help now. And as such, the Congress needs to reconvene in a hurry so they can get some help to these people before they starve.

Written by Barb Caffrey

August 16, 2020 at 6:31 am

Deifying the Flawed Man

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Jason makes some interesting points here. I think you should read his blog, think hard about it, and then wonder if you’re doing any of this unnecessary deification of flawed people in your own lives.

Jason Córdova

Cancel culture is rampant throughout the world right now as we know it. If a person isn’t 100% in line with the “flavor of the week” cause they are ruthlessly culled from the ranks of the “good” and instantly cast as wicked, evil, and on the “wrong side of history”. That last phrase is one I particularly dislike because unless our descendants place us upon pedestals to be worshiped, history should remember us for both the good and the bad we do in our lives.

But how does this work? Any historian can tell you that George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Martin Luther King, Jr., et al, were flawed men. They meant well and set in motion events which would change human history as we know it. Human history which is wealthier, healthier, and safer than it ever has been. They brought about true change to society and should rightly be…

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Written by Barb Caffrey

June 19, 2020 at 10:13 pm

Posted in Uncategorized