Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

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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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A Quick Writing Bloglet

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Folks, I just wanted to let you know I’ve sent out a 5500-word story to an anthology.

For the past three or four weeks, I’d been working on this. I knew the main characters right away–one man, one woman–and their respective situations. They have to make an alliance marriage to save both of their families from extinction, but they don’t know each other (the man knows of the woman, and knows she’s a female fighter/merc type), and the beginning of it all felt like setup to me.

I don’t know about you, but setting up a story for me is like pulling teeth. I want to get to the action. Or the romance. Or the suspense. Or drama.

In this case, just as the marriage vows are sealed, bandits are spotted heading for them. The man immediately defers to the woman (which she didn’t expect), as she has much more experience than he as he’s a scholarly type.

I don’t want to give the rest away, so I won’t (bad me), but I hope the anthology editor is going to love it.

I’m also working on restarting (yet again) KEISHA’S VOW and finishing up three edits (one nonfiction).

What’s going on in your lives?

Written by Barb Caffrey

August 29, 2022 at 4:49 pm

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Hard vs Soft Rejection (and why the difference matters)

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Jason goes into the differences between soft rejections (meaning, fix what’s wrong and send it again) and hard rejections. This is well-said and possibly the most succinct-yet-folksy way of describing the differences between the two. Listen to him. (And don’t give up.)

Jason Córdova

Getting a rejection letter is hard. Quite frankly, it’s one of the worst feelings a writer will go through in their career. That feeling of utter failure, the emotional kick to the stomach that your baby just isn’t good enough. The anguish and despair upon reading “Dear [[insert name here]], we regret to inform you…” Rejection letters are inevitable in this business and we, as authors, are expected to take that rejection letter and move on.

But… but what if… the rejection letter isn’t quite what it seems? In fact, what if the rejection letter is an invitation to resubmit said novel? The only problem is, nowhere in the letter does it say this. Wait, what? Where is the manual for this publishing business, and why is it wonkier than dating in high school? Why is the principal a werewolf? Who let a zombie teach history?!

Ahem

Sorry. I digress.

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Written by Barb Caffrey

August 28, 2022 at 6:22 pm

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A Requiem for Willkomm’s Mobil

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Folks, one of my favorite places to go in Racine has closed as of June 30, 2022. That place was Willkomm’s Mobil station, which had a drive-thru, a pet wash, and a car wash. The drive-thru was extremely convenient, and I often got lottery tickets and small amounts of food, milk, or other items.

Now, why did this wonderful place close?

Partly, the expansion of Kwik-Trip’s gas stations in the Racine area is to blame. Kwik-Trip serves food, and though it doesn’t have a drive-thru or a pet wash, it has a car wash. Kwik-Trip stations, besides the food, are much comparable to any other gas station.

But partly, I fear, is because the owner of Willkomm’s Mobil felt he could do better with a Rocket Wash (where you get your car washed in two minutes or less via various automated processes).

We already have another Rocket Wash in Racine, and it’s also operated by the same owner. (We used to have another Willkomm’s Mobil station in that place, but he closed that and kept the Rocket Wash instead.) I don’t know if this area can sustain two Rocket Wash stores.

Anyway, I wrote to the owner about six weeks before the station closed. I told him that the clerks were very friendly, that I enjoyed going to Willkomm’s Mobil, that it was among my favorite places, and that I truly hoped he would not close the store.

While the automated form says the owner will respond to all comments, he didn’t respond to mine. (I wonder why. /sarcasm intended)

My feeling was that if Willkomm’s Mobil’s owner was willing to actually promote the drive-thru aspect, as it was the only drive-thru of its type in all of SE Wisconsin to the best of my knowledge (and assuredly the only one in Racine County), he would not have needed to close the store.

And if he’d been willing to do some minimal things like adding hot dogs or microwaved meals that were hot and fresh for people who walked into the store to get as an impulse buy, he also would not have needed to close the store.

Anyway, I drive by my favorite place, now shuttered forever. It angers me. It was one of the few places that helped me, as I could save my energy, talk with friendly people through the drive-thru, and get gas without having to worry about anything. If I was having a poor day with regards to energy, I didn’t have to get out of the car, and that in and of itself was a major blessing.

I hope everyone who worked at Willkomm’s Mobil station has found a better job. (Some were going to stay with the company in other capacities. Some weren’t.)

I wish I could write references for every single one of them, as I felt they all were kind-hearted as well as being good cashiers and overall knowledgeable people.

Thus, this post.

I wish I could write a requiem for Willkomm’s Mobil in music. As of yet, I can’t.

This blog will have to stand, at least for the moment, as the incomplete requiem for one of my favorite places, ever, to exist in Racine County.

Written by Barb Caffrey

July 7, 2022 at 2:30 pm

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Story Complete and Off to Anthology

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Folks, I promised I’d come back and let you know how my plan for writing this past week worked out.

I wish you could see the broad smile on my face, because for once I was able to write a story in about ten days. I had an idea for a few weeks before that, and did write down some prose notes; however, the story only existed in my head until I wrote everything down.

The story, as it stands now, is just under 4800 words. It’s off to the anthology’s editor now, and I’ll know what she thinks within a matter of days. She told me she was looking forward to it (as I gave her updates every time I wrote another 1K words, then when I finished it up), so I hope I haven’t disappointed her.

What this proves to me is, if I have enough time and thought and health, I can still write at a decent clip. (I took two days off, but otherwise wrote 1K or wrote/revised 1K every day last week.) Five days a week at 1K is 5000 words; 5000 words times 52 weeks is 260,000 words, which is roughly two novels and/or one novel, a novella or two, a couple of novelettes, and some short stories.

Now, why haven’t I been writing as much as this up until now?

Bluntly, I have had too many demands on my time. I’ve got ill family members to keep an eye on. I’ve also built a decent career as a freelance editor.

However, I’ve been looking for a way to write more for the past year. Now, I think I’ve found it; I have to do it when I either am just getting ready for the day, or before I edit late at night. Providing I have that block of time, I can edit and do whatever else is needful without wiping out all of my energy.

Now, will this work with the upcoming concert season with the Racine Concert Band? I sincerely hope so. But as always, it’s a work in progress…

Anyway, that’s all I know. Just figured I’d give y’all an update.

What’s going on with you and your writing? Or with your other creative pursuits? Let me know in the comments!

Written by Barb Caffrey

June 28, 2022 at 4:36 am

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Thinking Hard, Still…an Update

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Folks, I am still pondering, processing, or otherwise have much of my thinking ability engaged elsewhere. I think it still is because of the dual tragedies of the shooting in Buffalo at the supermarket by a white supremacist, and the bizarre awfulness that went into the Uvalde, TX, school shooting and its aftermath. (I will never understand what the Uvalde police thought they were doing there. Never.)

That said, I have a bit of an update.

I have written twenty-three bars of music, and I added 800 words to “Keisha’s Vow.” (I am now up to approximately 50K words, which is half of a standard novel for me, or maybe 2/3 of a short novel.) So I am being at least slightly creative, which makes me feel a bit better.

The other thought I had this week was this: We can’t live in fear all our lives. (Hey, I didn’t say it was an original thought, as many have had this thought before.)

None of us know the future.

This is perhaps our saving grace, as well as a source of immense frustration. We don’t know how our actions will change the future; we don’t know if they’ll change anything at all. (Who said “most lives are full of quiet desperation?” Henry David Thoreau, though I’m paraphrasing it.)

Still, we live. We all have to find our own purpose or reason for living. (As Lois McMaster Bujold’s character Cordelia Naismith Vorkosigan says, “Find your own meaning, because the universe surely isn’t going to supply it.” Best paraphrase from LMB’s book BARRAYAR.)

I also know that nearly everyone at any time has thought their time was the worst era to live in. The Regency Era had the French Revolution. The dawn of the USA had the US Revolution (needed and necessary to become independent). Then in the 1860s we had the Civil War (or the unCivil War, if you’d rather). In all cases, young men were dying (and a few young women, as there have always been some women fighters and nurses). In all cases, families were forever transformed.

So, this time to live — where we’ve seen wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the Ukraine, where the 1970s had “stagflation” and drivers who could only fill up on alternate days depending on the last digit of their car’s license plate, and the 1980s had “greed is good,” and the 1990s had rampant unemployment, and the 2000s had the Great Recession and even more unemployment — maybe is nothing new, compared to previous eras.

Maybe every time to live is equally dangerous.

What I do know is, we have more education now than the Regency Era had. We have more information available now to the vast majority of people than at any time prior to the advent of the personal computer. We have instantaneous communication, which is good; we have lots and lots of folks who seem to enjoy being rude and obnoxious on the internet, which isn’t.

So, there’s no excuse for ignorance anymore. Maybe there never was.

Still. There’s a type of person who’d rather remain ignorant, who’d rather believe that his garbage doesn’t stink, who’d rather believe he (or she) is unique, precious, and everyone else is lower than dirt and deserves nothing at all.

I work against that type of person. And I hope you do, too.

Anyway, I’ll keep doing what I can to create. (You do the same, eh?)

Written by Barb Caffrey

June 16, 2022 at 8:15 pm

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Thinking Hard…

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Folks, the events of recent days — especially all of the various awful things such as the two people wounded while attending a funeral in Racine, WI, last week, and of course the distressing events of Uvalde, TX — have brought my creativity to a screeching halt.

I am thinking very hard right now, but unfortunately it doesn’t translate into creativity.

There are so many difficulties in this world right now, with the never-ending pandemic, the seemingly everyday violence of mass shootings, the war in Ukraine, the fact that we Americans can’t seem to talk to one another anymore, and that it seems impossible to build a life that’s better than our parents’ lives before ours.

As I’ve said before, I don’t have the answers. I just have questions.

My best guess as to when I’ll be able to write, or compose music, or do much creative work besides editing, is that it’ll probably still be a few more days to a few more weeks.

The last time I felt this stupid-stunned over everything was after the storming by the FBI of the Branch Davidian compound just outside of Waco, TX, back in 1993. 75 people died, including little kids. The FBI wanted to arrest the leader of the compound, David Koresh, but were unable to get to him. After 51 days, the FBI threw tear gas into the compound, which somehow started several fires.

Only nine people — nine — lived through that.

Once I got my creativity back, I wrote a piece I called “Lament.” To date, it’s the only one of my compositions that has been performed, albeit in practice, by anyone except for myself. (I write many things as solos for the clarinet or saxophone, so I can at least hear my own compositions played. I have written other larger-scale works, but not many.) It echoed exactly how I felt at the time, and it had a spooky eeriness I liked.

I don’t know what’ll emerge from me and my well of creativity once I finish thinking so hard. But I do know that eventually I will again create, and I hope on that day that someone, somewhere, will hear my music and think to themselves, “Wow. How did she sum up what I was feeling in music rather than words?”

(Maybe that’s too hubristic. If so, I’m sorry.)

My late husband Michael once said that it didn’t surprise him that when I was very, very upset, I composed music first, and only after that could I write in words. His view was that music was my first, best language, and that everything I wrote in words was translated from the music I heard first.

As I felt that rather poetic, even though he denied it and said it was just common sense, I never forgot it.

I do hope he was right.

Written by Barb Caffrey

June 7, 2022 at 5:51 am

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Read SF Giants Manager’s Important Words — Do It Today #MustRead

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Tonight, I read an exceptionally well-written article about gun violence from former Milwaukee Brewers player and current San Francisco Giants manager Gabe Kapler. He explored this topic through the issue of a moment of silence on the field before every major league baseball game, and points out that’s not enough.

Here is the article: https://kaplifestyle.com/2022/05/27/home-of-the-brave

And a relevant quote:

When I was the same age as the children in Uvalde, my father taught me to stand for the pledge of allegiance when I believed my country was representing its people well or to protest and stay seated when it wasn’t. I don’t believe it is representing us well right now.

This particular time, an 18 year old walked into a store, bought multiple assault rifles and hundreds of rounds of ammunition, walked into a school with an armed resource officer and its own police district and was able to murder children for nearly an hour. Parents begged and pleaded with police officers to do something, police officers who had weapons and who receive nearly 40% of the city’s funding, as their children were being murdered.

We elect our politicians to represent our interests. Immediately following this shooting, we were told we needed locked doors and armed teachers. We were given thoughts and prayers. We were told it could have been worse, and we just need love.

But we weren’t given bravery, and we aren’t free. The police on the scene put a mother in handcuffs as she begged them to go in and save her children. They blocked parents trying to organize to charge in to stop the shooter, including a father who learned his daughter was murdered while he argued with the cops. We aren’t free when politicians decide that the lobbyist and gun industries are more important than our children’s freedom to go to school without needing bulletproof backpacks and active shooter drills.

GABE KAPLER, “HOME OF THE BRAVE?” ESSAY
https://kaplifestyle.com/2022/05/27/home-of-the-brave

When I see something as well-written as this, whether I agree with it or not — and here, I obviously do agree with it! — I try to pass the words along.

I realize there are people who regularly read my blog who will not appreciate this post. But I urge you to read Gabe Kapler’s words anyway, in the same way I read George Will’s writing or Max Boot’s, because while I don’t often agree with either Will or Boot, I appreciate how they use language to make their points.

One, final word: Gabe Kapler articulated all of this better than anyone I’ve yet seen. Read his important words.

Read them NOW.

Written by Barb Caffrey

May 27, 2022 at 7:14 pm

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Very Quick Monday Update

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Folks, the last week or so, I’ve been running on empty.

Why? Well, as I said, I had priority edits to work on. One has been completed, and I plan to discuss it as soon as the book comes out. Four more are in process with various authors, and one of those nears completion also.

But of course that’s not the only reason.

Last week, Friday, I walked into the urgent care clinic. I knew I felt lousy. My throat hurt so much, I couldn’t sip water without pain. I was using either Chloraseptic or Sucrets (both of which have mouth-numbing properties) to be able to swallow, and most of the food I’d eaten in the previous week consisted of soup, oatmeal, and rice.

Anyway, the rapid strep test came back negative. But as I had red spots at the back of my throat that were not consistent with a sinus infection (these people have seen me many times, possibly as much or more than my regular physician), and as I wasn’t feeling well whatsoever, I was prescribed antibiotics.

The antibiotics, in short, have kicked me in the teeth.

Perhaps that’s what I need, in order to get better. I know the next few weeks will be hectic, as the Racine Concert Band will have rehearsals before our May concert, and I know it’s very difficult for me to allow myself to rest when I have so much work left to do. (And that’s not even talking about the writing I need to do for my own purposes, much less the music composition. I was in the middle of writing a march for a good friend of mine, and that has to stay on hold, too.)

But that does not mean I enjoy feeling like I’ve been run over by a bus. (Then again, if I did, wouldn’t you have to wonder about me?)

I’ve done everything I can toward helping my family as I was able during the past week. I think things are set up well enough that I can rest and hopefully heal without having to expend too much energy. I also think it’s possible that if I do this, I can go to the rehearsal on Thursday for the RCB and enjoy playing music with them.

That said, I’m trying to rest, heal, edit when my body lets me (may it please let me today, later, as I do have that priority project waiting for a few good hours of my time and concentration), and think good thoughts.

One final thought: There is a lot of outright despair at the moment. Folks are very angry, and it isn’t getting better (the divisive issue of abortion isn’t helping in the US; for the record, I believe in “safe, legal, and rare” as desperate women used to use Lysol as an abortifacient and that was extremely hazardous). We seem to have forgotten that we’re all human, and we have more in common than not.

I urge people to find their empathy, fast.

In the case of abortion, I’ve known some very good pro-life folks who worked hard for women’s rights. One, a clarinetist I knew in Nebraska, would drop everything and go at a moment’s notice to bring one of her pregnant friends food, take her to the doctor, and helped her through her grief (giving birth when you don’t want to is not only physically difficult and frustrating, but has all sorts of other things come into play). She did this because she and her friends believed abortion was murder.

I also note, for the record, that she did not shun people who were pro-choice. She knew I was. She had no problems with me, because we both wanted what was best for the women. And we absolutely, positively agreed that women who were poor but wanted to raise their kids should get all the help they needed to find good jobs, get excellent child care, and have the nutrition they needed to help raise their families.

If we could agree, back in the mid-1990s, that these things are important, why can’t people do so now?

Life is too short for division and strife.

Written by Barb Caffrey

May 9, 2022 at 9:44 am

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A Sunday Update

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Folks, I’ve been doing one of three things the past few weeks. These are, in no particular order, helping family, editing, and resting. (Yes, I include fighting migraines and other health problems as “resting.” I don’t think that’s how most people would see it, but if I’m not up and doing, I’m resting.)

I’ve also been concerned about a number of things in the news, as per usual.

The War in Ukraine continues, though the focus on it in the American media is less. It seems to have become a proxy war between Vladimir Putin and everyone else. I admire Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelensky, and believe he’s done as much as he can to save his country from annihilation. But if we take our eyes off that war, we run the risk of making things worse for ourselves.

In other words, reality must be faced. Even if we don’t like it. Maybe especially when we don’t like it…but reality must be faced.

That’s the only way to do anything about it.

Anyway, on to other things.

One clickbait video I saw a few minutes ago is about Amber Heard and a disgusting, disturbing “prank” she played on her then-husband, Johnny Depp. She put “poo” (feces/poop) in his bed, and called it “a prank gone horribly wrong.”

What kind of woman does this?

(No, I didn’t click on the video. No point.)

For those of you who have had weird things happen during the course of your relationships, or worse, your marriages, I want to urge you to think of this: Not everyone behaves this way. Not everyone is as disturbed as Amber Heard seems to be (and/or anyone else who thinks this is a good idea). Most people do not and will not ever behave this way.

As I’ve said before, my two marriages before I met and married Michael were awful. I dealt with a lot of stupid, petty crap, and my second marriage in particular could’ve easily been annulled. (Michael was the only keeper, and he always said that as far as he was concerned, he was my only husband. I tend to agree.)

But even my ex-husbands did not behave like Amber Heard did in this instance.

There are some lines, folks, that you should not cross. What Amber Heard did is one of them.

Anyway, I must return to my editing. Do take care and have a great week ahead. (I’ll check in at some point, with whatever is on my mind most at the time, as per usual.)

Written by Barb Caffrey

May 1, 2022 at 2:00 am

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