Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

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Computer Change Blues

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This past week, I had to change computers again.

As one of my Facebook friends said, this is a First World problem. That being said, it is still difficult to deal with, and I am not at my best in the first place due to the summertime exacerbation of my asthma and allergies.

Anyway, I have hopes of blogging about George Phillies’ new novel, STAND AGAINST THE LIGHT, later this week. It’s a very good young adult story about a young girl, Eclipse, who has superhero-type powers, and is the only one who can save two different worlds. (While her world understands superheroes, to the point there are many of them at various strengths and levels, very few have her level of gifts or compassion for the less fortunate.) Eclipse has faced adversity, has survived it, but now faces the toughest test of all. And the question isn’t so much “will she survive it” as “if she doesn’t survive it, will the world last long enough to matter?”

Putting a twelve-year-old girl into a situation like that isn’t easy, but I thought George managed it very well. This is the third book in his series about Eclipse, and I can’t wait to read the fourth. (If I’m very lucky, I hope to edit again for him, too.)

So, that’s all I can tell you. I’m dealing with “computer changeover” woes, to the point I want to tear my hair out and start throwing things (well, not really; I’m more mature than that, I hope), and my own writing remains mostly stalled out. But I can still help a friend or two…and I will continue to do what I can, as I can, for as long as I can.

As always.

Written by Barb Caffrey

August 1, 2021 at 3:50 am

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Too Warm, Too Humid…

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Folks, the weather in Wisconsin is brutal right now. Way too hot. Way too humid.

I have asthma. (I don’t normally talk much about this.) This weather is particularly bad for me, especially as we’ve had high ozone/poor air quality days recently.

All I know is, when I can’t breathe well, I can’t write or edit. Nor can I play music, compose music, or do much of anything other than endure.

That said, I hope to be able to write something more substantial than “I do not feel well at all” in a few days, as I have managed to get to some air conditioning.

Take care, be safe, and I hope to blog again soon about something inspiring…or at least something different.

Written by Barb Caffrey

June 5, 2021 at 10:43 pm

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Fantastic Schools 3 is out…and my newest Elfyverse short story is included

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Sorry about the long title, there, but I couldn’t figure out any other way…ahem.

As the title says, FANTASTIC SCHOOLS 3 is out. This is an anthology about magical schools — things that happen in them, around them, to people who go there, etc.

“But what about your story, Barb?” I can picture some of you asking, plaintively. “You haven’t had any stories, books, or anything come out in the last two years. Why didn’t you tell us sooner you were going to have one come out right now?”

Well, the main reason for that is, I’d hoped to have this story finished in time for the previous book in the series, FANTASTIC SCHOOLS 2. It wasn’t, though…still, I didn’t give up on my idea, as I knew it would work.

“Details, Barb! What idea? What would work?”

My story is called “How Jon Came to Put Chickens on the Ceiling, as Told by Master Magician Roberto the Wise.” Roberto, you may recall, is Bruno’s mentor in the two Elfy books, AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE and A LITTLE ELFY IN BIG TROUBLE. Roberto obviously knew more than he was letting on about Bruno’s ability, and I’d always wondered why that was. I’d also always wondered just how Bruno (Jon, as he was, then) figured out how to put chickens on the ceiling…and now, I know!

See, I knew Bruno (born as Jon) was stifled, as a child. He was stifled at the magical school he was at — St. Robin Goodfellow’s School for Scions of the Nobility and Other Unfortunates — because most of the teachers, except for Roberto of course, were afraid of Bruno’s potential power.

But how was it that Roberto gave Bruno just enough help to figure out what and who he was? This story will tell you that.

Here’s a quick excerpt:

“You have a gift, Jon. You can do things by instinct that other people can’t no matter how long they study. And what you just did proves that.”

Jon still didn’t seem to understand.

Roberto tried one more time. “I’m betting if I gave you something to transfigure, you could turn it into bird seed, too. Couldn’t you?”

Jon looked at the apple, held it, held some bird seed, closed his eyes…and magically, the apple became more bird seed.

“See? I could not have done that.”

Jon’s eyes were round behind his thick glasses. “I did that?”

“You certainly did. And there’s more where that came from, too.”

I hope you enjoyed that excerpt, and will head on over to Amazon to get the ebook right now. Many hours of reading await, with lots of excellent stories from authors J.F. Posthumus, George Phillies, Emily Martha Sorensen, and more!

Oh, yes…and don’t miss Chris Nuttall’s latest novella from his Schooled in Magic universe, “The Cunning Man’s Tale.” (I keep trying to get him to turn that story into a novel. Maybe he will, one of these years.) That one will surprise you (in a good way), especially if you haven’t been keeping tabs on his blog lately.

Written by Barb Caffrey

May 27, 2021 at 11:09 pm

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Still Alive, Part the Nth

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Folks, I have continued to struggle with my health, so my blogging has been more sporadic than not.

Of course, I’ve also had quite a few edits to work on, too. A few of these books have come out, too, and recently — DRAKE’S DRUM by Chris Nuttall, and RING OF THE DRAGON by Kayelle Allen being just two. (Kayelle has three recent books, and all are excellent. Chris, as is his wont, has at least six recent books, and all are interesting, with different facets of life illuminated.)

So, I’m living life as best I can.

You see, life doesn’t stop after it’s thrown you a curveball. Instead, it watches to see if you can hit the curveball, miss the curveball before it hits you, or adapt to the curveball so you’ll eventually hit it. (Or at least look good while you flail away and miss.)

But I’m still alive. Still in there, fighting. Still doing what I can. And resting when need be, so I can get some writing in along with the editing and other necessary things (like laundry; when someone finally invents self-cleaning clothes, the world should rejoice).

What’s going on with you? (Tell me about it in the comments!)

Written by Barb Caffrey

May 26, 2021 at 3:16 am

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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

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