Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

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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:

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.


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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A Quick Bloglet for the end of March

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I figured I’d better drop in and say a few things, just so y’all know I’m still alive.

I’ve had my ears rechecked, and the infection is gone. Unfortunately, it takes a while for fluid in the ears to go away, so my balance remains a bit off (as does my hearing). Still, things are a little better in that regard.

Otherwise, I’ve been reading and re-reading some of my favorite books, while contemplating doing some writing just as soon as I have the energy for it.

As per usual, I’m working on several editing projects and am planning to make good progress this week.

Other than that, I continue to feel a bit unsettled and off-center, probably because of the ear issues. In addition, I remain deeply concerned about the ongoing humanitarian disaster in Ukraine (I truly hope Russia pulls its troops back, and soon, so Ukraine can start the rebuilding ASAP).

There are so many things I can’t do much about, and Ukraine is one of them. That said, I’m glad they’re still fighting. And I was happy to see that some of the Ukrainian figure skaters made it to the World Championships in France last week, even though none were even close to being medal contenders.

But that wasn’t the point of them being there, not under these circumstances. The point was that they refused to give up.

The crowds at the World Figure Skating Championships understood this, too, and gave the skaters a standing ovation.

So, while I was happy to see the American pairs team win the gold medal (and a second American pairs team was in medal contention before the female half of the pair suffered a hard fall, forcing them to withdraw), and glad to see that the rest of the American team did well in dance, men’s skating, and women’s skating, it was more important to me that the Ukrainians were there doing what they could.

Their perseverance, as well as their joy in skating despite all that has befallen their country, is what resonated with me. And I hope that next year, the Ukrainian skaters will have a much easier time of it. (Once the war’s over, I’d imagine it will be much easier to find time to skate. Hoping the ice rinks haven’t been completely bombarded, that is.)

How are you doing this week? What’s going on in your neck of the woods and/or corner of the internet? What did you think about, hope for, or pay attention to last week? Let me know in the comments!

Written by Barb Caffrey

March 30, 2022 at 2:39 am

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Monday Musings: What Makes You Smile?

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I figured I’d take a different tactic this week, and talk about something that will make me smile. Or maybe it’ll make you smile, too…who knows?

Anyway, Mom’s dog, Brat, has taken to getting her food out of the can the hard way. (Picture about a ten-pound dog full of mischief for this.) Rather than wait for my Mom or for me to get the food out, Brat goes straight for the can, then throws it with her mouth as far as she can. (This isn’t very far, granted.) She does this until there’s enough food loosened in the can so she can get on with the act of eating.

I can’t help it; I smile every time she does this.

There are other things that make me smile, too. Rainbows, sometimes. Cat pictures. (Who doesn’t love cat pictures?) A funny turn of phrase in the manuscript(s) I’m editing. (Right now I have two, and both have some great comedic moments.) Re-reading my favorite passages in various books also makes me smile, as I get more and more out of them as time goes by.

At any rate, I wanted to ask you what makes you smile, because this world has seemed cold and bleak lately. We’ve got the War in Ukraine to worry about (#StandWithUkraine), we still have the never-ending Covid pandemic, gas prices are going through the roof (partly due to the War, partly because the oil companies use any excuse possible to run up the price), it’s cold and dreary outdoors (with the occasional sunny day mixed in for variety)…


Other things that have made me smile recently are thinking about road trips, wondering if the Milwaukee Brewers will ever get back to baseball (this is after I start figuratively throwing things, as I do not understand the owners and their machinations in locking out the players), listening to Milwaukee Bucks games, sunsets, Lake Michigan in all its various moods, and ice cream.

There’s more than that, too, but that’s just to get you all started on thinking about what makes you smile.

Tell me about it in the comments, please, as the world needs as much smiles right now as it can get. (And yes, do #StandWithUkraine.)

Written by Barb Caffrey

March 7, 2022 at 3:56 am

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When Love Disappoints, What is the Point?

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How could it be five long years since CHANGING FACES came out?

Well, it has been, and I wanted to highlight that fact. Plus, this post talks about what love is, at its base value, so what could be better for Valentine’s Day?


Barb Caffrey's Blog

img_8906The title, above, is the main question at the heart of CHANGING FACES, my new fantasy romance set in modern-day Nebraska featuring a bisexual and gender-fluid woman, Elaine Foster, and her heterosexual boyfriend, Allen Bridgeway. These two have overcome much to find each other, fall in love, and now want to get married — but Elaine’s been keeping her gender-fluidity secret, as she’s desperately afraid Allen will not be able to understand it.

The problem is, when you don’t have open communication, love has no way to grow and becomes less sustaining and fulfilling. Ultimately, if you are holding a big secret inside, as Elaine is at the start of CHANGING FACES, it starts to poison your relationship…that secret has to come out, or you end up with the question I posed above: when love disappoints, what is the point?

See, you need to share all of yourself…

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Written by Barb Caffrey

February 11, 2022 at 1:30 pm

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Enough is Enough I was Sexually Assaulted at Work

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I am sharing this to boost the frequency. This poor teacher was assaulted by a student, didn’t get any help at all, and many students filmed this. (I said in a comment that I hope this will get her some sort of vindication.)

Teachers have a tough job. When they get assaulted, the police need to get there. (Whether they are upset at the school board for removing the police in the schools or not, what does that have to do with this poor woman?) When they file a report, the report should be filed properly. And when they tell their higher-ups (school principals and vice principals, probably), they should not only be believed, but should be helped so this will never happen again.


Yesterday I texted a fellow union representative to ask how she was doing. I had heard there was a pretty big assault at her building and wanted to lend support. I was stunned when she replied. “I am not ok, I was sexually assaulted.” I told her that I would do anything I could to help her, and offered my blog as a way to share what happened. These are her words. This is her story.

On Friday, October 8, 2021, I was sexually assaulted at work.

After calling 911 repeatedly, reporting in person to the Public Safety Building, and waiting 7 hours to file my police report, I’ve been told that it’s now missing.

I was failed by my workplace and again by my city.

I have nowhere left to turn.

This is my story.

I am a high school English teacher in Rochester, New York.

I work in…

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Written by Barb Caffrey

October 21, 2021 at 11:36 pm

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