Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

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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

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Forgiveness and Mother’s Day

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It’s Mother’s Day in the United States. Time to celebrate our mothers, and others who’ve contributed a deeply maternal presence in our lives. And that’s a good thing.

But I was wondering about how some people handle Mother’s Day when they’ve had big problems with their mothers. Mothers who have been arrested, say, for child abuse. Mothers who have put their children in harm’s way, whether they’ve been arrested for child endangerment or not. Mothers who’ve been unremittingly hostile to their children, and refuse to make any amends for their behavior.

I’ve had friends in the past, and still have some to this day, who have had these issues. And what happened to them was a violation of their trust, their humanity, and their core selves.

I feel bad for these friends. Because on a day like today, it has to be harder for them to deal with their memories. And even rising above everything that they’ve been put through (most of the time through no fault of theirs) is only a partial consolation as you watch other people celebrate their relationships with their mothers.

I’m fortunate that I didn’t have to deal with anything like that. While my mother and I have had periods of time when we didn’t get along at all, most of the time we’ve been able to rely on each other for support and care. It isn’t always easy on either side. But I think I’ve been able to learn a lot from my relationship with my mother, and from my mother herself — a strong, intelligent, hard-working woman who did her best through many different personal crises.

I wish my friends had been able to have better experiences with their mothers. Because it’s hard to forgive something like that. And as I’ve said before, many times on my blog, if someone can’t or won’t ask for forgiveness, how can you be able to forgive them?

What my advice is in these situations is to forgive yourself for being there. Try to love your younger self, as best you can. (Which still lives within you, and always will.) And do what you can so you can live with yourself, and be happy with yourself, and realize how far you’ve come from those awful days of despair and agony.

On a day that celebrates mothers everywhere, in short, try to realize that you’ve managed somehow to raise yourself despite it all. And gives yourself some peace…while hopefully leaving some room for those of us fortunate enough to have a decent mother-child relationship to celebrate that as best we are able.


Written by Barb Caffrey

May 10, 2020 at 7:18 pm

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Dennis the Dark Elf does #WickedWednesday at Brenda Whiteside’s blog…

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I know that’s a long title. But hey…sometimes  you just need long titles.

Author Brenda Whiteside offered me a guest shot during her Wicked Wednesday promotion, and I chose to talk about Dennis the Dark Elf as he’s wicked enough for any three others. Here’s a bit from that:

Sometimes, we all like to be wicked.

Really. We do.

The thing is, we don’t necessarily like to admit to it. Not when we’re out paying bills, or being responsible, or making sure the kids in our lives get their teeth brushed.

When my late husband and I worked on the Elfy duology together (at that time one book; now, it’s AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE and A LITTLE ELFY IN BIG TROUBLE), we knew that everyone loved a villain. But we weren’t sure at first what to do in order to get that villain across.

Enter Dennis the Dark Elf Priest. (Soon shortened to Dennis, the Dark Elf, as writing “Dark Elf Priest” all the time became too much for us to bear.) Dennis was a nasty cuss who hated anyone who wasn’t a Dark Elf, but was masquerading as a human priest in order to stir up as much trouble as he could. (If you’re thinking, “That Dennis really is a menace,” you’re right. I even said so at one point in the book!) He planned on sacrificing at least one Elfy (a race of short magicians, none above four feet two inches tall) at Beltaine, otherwise known as May Day, because he wanted power. And he didn’t care about any repercussions – for example, the fact that most humans know nothing about magic, and would be upset to find out about it, after he’d killed someone in cold blood in front of them at a major church festival, didn’t even enter his mind.

Of course, if you’ve been at my blog before, you know that Bruno the Elfy is my hero, he’s the equivalent of a teenager, and the love of his life, Sarah, is in danger because of Dennis and his perfidious ways.

(I’ve always wanted to use the word perfidious. I guess today’s the day. Moving on…)

I also picked an excerpt showing Dennis at his worst, and Sarah at his mercy, with Bruno trying to figure out how to get her the Hells out of there. (As the Elfys believe there must be more than one Hell, it is “Hells” with an -s in their worldview.)

I do hope you’ll stop by Brenda’s blog and check out my offering. I was glad to do the guest shot, glad to talk about Dennis, and I definitely was glad to talk about something other than being sick for a change. (I am beyond tired of that. But still working on it, alas.)

And do give Brenda’s blog a look-see every so often, OK? She features many writers. (I hope to have her over here myself one of these days.) She is a generous person with her time, and I truly appreciated her letting me share her space today.

Moving Forward, Slowly…

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Still dealing with some respiratory distress, as I was during this blog I wrote in 2018. My feelings remain the same. I’m glad that I am able to do what I can when I’m healthy enough to do it.

Barb Caffrey's Blog

Folks, I continue to recover from the Nasty Respiratory Ailment (TM). I am much better than I was, and have completed two novel-length book edits in the past two weeks. Working on two more, too…and I have started writing a bit again, so I’m feeling much better about things overall.

That said, I wanted to talk a little bit about how sometimes being persistent means accepting the fact that you have to move more slowly than you might like. Illness does this, you see. Injury, too. And in either case, when you want to do more than you are physically capable of doing, it feels like beating your head against a brick wall.

Or maybe beating your wings against the bars of a gray, barren prison. (Whatever works as an image for you, though I definitely am more partial to the prison idea.)

It’s hard to deal with, the feeling…

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Written by Barb Caffrey

January 20, 2020 at 4:56 am

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Happy New Kindle – a 0.99 cents Book Fair

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It’s not too late to check these books out. I have several listed, but there are any number of interesting books here, including at least one that’s SF…give this a try!

Viviana MacKade

If you found that brand new Kindle under your Christmas Tree, or the stockings was filled with Amazon Gift Cards, this Fair is just for you. Lots and lots of books on sale at 99 cents, and believe me, there’s something for any taste!

Scroll down to fill that hungry Kindle with new stories!

Please, share this post!

Happy New Kindle – a 0.99 cents Book Fair #bibliophile #bookclub #bookworm #bookblogger #bloggerstyle #bookstagram #bookislove #99cents #kindleunlimited #IReadRomance #MFRWauthor

Happy New Kindle – a 0.99 cents Book Fair #bibliophile #bookclub #bookworm #bookblogger #bloggerstyle #bookstagram #bookislove #99cents #kindleunlimited #IReadRomance #MFRWauthor

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Written by Barb Caffrey

January 11, 2020 at 11:40 pm

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10 Quick New Year’s Resolutions for 2020

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It seems like everyone in the known universe is doing a “New Year’s Resolutions” post. So, I decided to do one myself…here goes!

In 2020, I resolve to…

1) Be kind, no matter what life throws at you. Life is too short to spread vitriol.

2) Forgive, but don’t necessarily forget. Forgiveness is essential for self-healing, but if you forget what someone has done and they just do it over and over again, what’s the point of that?

3) Get more quality sleep.

4) Write more, somehow.

5) Take time to enjoy nature whenever possible.

6) Speak truth to power.

7) Understand that good people can sometimes disagree, and that’s fine.

8) Enjoy the differences as well as the samenesses.

9) Laugh hard and often.

10) Watch the Brewers go deep into the playoffs. (Hey, I have no control over the last, but I figured I’d add it anyway!)

What are your New Year’s resolutions? Tell me about ’em in the comments!

Written by Barb Caffrey

January 1, 2020 at 3:32 pm

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Book Review: “The Night of Blind Ambition”

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As I said in my previous review, I never know how long Amazon will take to put up a new book review. And it’s too important these reviews don’t get lost. I don’t want Mr. Wardlaw to suffer the same fate I have, of being way too little-known, putting out books that are damned good but no one reads.

So I’ve done my best here to let people know Mr. Wardlaw’s books exist. And I do hope that’ll make some sense.

Now, onto my review of Mr. Wardlaw’s second book, THE NIGHT OF BLIND AMBITION, cut and pasted from my Amazon review:

As I said in my review of A BLOODY ARROGANT POWER, it astonishes me to find a work of such superior quality as THE NIGHT OF BLIND AMBITION, Malcolm J. Wardlaw’s second book in his “Sovreigns of the Collapse” series.

Indeed, this is the story of Lawrence, the younger brother of Donald’s (from the first book in the series). Lawrence is a former military officer who did unspeakable things, but that’s not what got him exiled to the “Night and Fog” (slave labor camps, roughly). Nope, ’cause in Wardlaw’s dystopia, unspeakable things are just part of the game for competent military officers. Instead, what got Lawrence exiled was noticing a scheme of graft and corruption, wanting no part of it, reporting it…and instead being tagged with the crime himself and exiled, because the higher-ups in Lawrence’s chain of command didn’t want to deal with Lawrence’s allegations (probably profiting from the graft themselves).

Worse even than the Night and Fog is when Lawrence is sent to something called “The Value System.” This is an all-male penal colony that does things so disgusting, I hesitate to say. (Let’s put it this way: the man who came up with this system, Prentice Nightminster, is a piece of work and a half.) They are forced to labor for long hours, almost as if they lived in a Siberian gulag. But now and again they get days off, can listen to music, think about their plight, and remember their real names and their real lives.

Most of them get dead drunk during these times. And who can blame them?

Anyway, Lawrence is made of stern stuff. He was indeed competent, as a military officer, and he learned how to survive, strike, and evade. He has a gift of knowing when, exactly, to fight, but also when, exactly, to bide his time.

And when Prentice Nightminster, also known as The Captain (and yes, that’s how Nightminster wants it styled), gives Lawrence an opportunity to get out of the Value System penal colony, Lawrence realizes it’s a poisoned chalice and escapes. (The friend he escapes with was a very learned man, high up in one of the enclaves of high society before his fall. That this learned man helped Lawrence realize this is important; that Lawrence again seizes the gift of knowing when to escape, on a night of raucous merriment for the slaves at the penal colony, is highlighted.)

It’s hard to know when to stop giving a plot summary, especially when much of this book concerns Lawrence’s escape. (We know he does escape from the first book, mind you, so me telling you that is not exactly a spoiler.) So I will stop there, except to say that Lawrence’s exploits are harrowing. And his realizations of who he used to be, coupled with who he now is, are well worth the price of admission.

Honestly, you need to read this book, as well as A BLOODY ARROGANT POWER. This is a very thorough society Mr. Wardlaw is depicting (that is, when he’s not skewering it to a fare-thee-well), and the full immersion within it is total.

All I knew was, after I finished A BLOODY ARROGANT POWER, I had to read this book, THE NIGHT OF BLIND AMBITION. And I’m glad I read both.

Five stars, highly recommended to all SF fans, but most particularly those who enjoy military SF and escape stories.

Barb Caffrey

P.S. Write faster, Mr. Wardlaw! I can’t wait to see what happens to Donald, Lawrence, and Sarah-Kelly next.

Written by Barb Caffrey

November 9, 2019 at 1:39 am

A Brief Bloglet

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Last week I finished up another edit, and had intended to come back here and write another blog. But the best laid plans sometimes do not come to fruition, and thus, the blog is now.

I’m dealing with an unusual situation here, health-wise. I don’t really understand fibromyalgia at all. It does seem to have elements of chronic fatigue to it, which means I’ll have to come up with strategies, and fast, to continue my life on my terms.

In addition, I’ve dealt with an unpleasant infection/abscess. (Or infected abscess? Is that a contradiction in terms?)

More difficulty, less energy. That’s where I’ve been at.

Now, am I completely unable to do anything? No. But I did just spend two days down at home, doing nothing other than sleeping. (Trust me, that is the most boring thing in the world to do. But some days, that’s all that’s possible.)

I have hopes that the rest of the week will be better. I have an appointment with a new doc later today, and we’ll see if he has any ideas. And I’ll talk with my friends, and my family, and see if there’s anything I can do to make things any better.

I get tired of the feeling that all I can do today is “not collapse.” I want more out of my life than that.

But for now, as I continue to struggle, that’s where I am.

Let’s hope I’ll be able to write soon. (I can still edit, thank God/dess.)


Written by Barb Caffrey

October 23, 2019 at 5:11 am

Posted in Uncategorized