Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

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Good News, (Redacted Not-So-Good) News

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Folks, there has been a ton of things happening in Chez Caffrey the last few weeks. Most of them, I can’t talk about yet…and I have to say I wish I could, because they’re very frustrating and worrying things. Because of my late Uncle Ralph’s passing, I’ve been reminded of mortality more than usual — and I’m already more aware of mortality than most due to my late husband Michael’s way-too-early death.

That said, I do have a piece of good news to share that kind of got lost in the shuffle with the news of my uncle’s passing.

“C’mon, Barb,” you say. “Spill it, already.”

Well, I think — I hope, anyway! — that I remembered to tell folks here at my blog that my story “A Cold, Bleak Day in the Hellers” had been accepted into the latest Darkover anthology, this being JEWELS OF DARKOVER. Well, the anthology is now out, and that means you can read my story.

“What’s your story about?”

My story’s about two people who would seem to be the most mismatched on Darkover put into a situation where they must make an alliance marriage and make the best of it. That said, they have some unusual strengths, partly because the man is a scholar and the woman is a swordswoman of the Sisterhood of the Swords. Both are literate. Both are strong, settled personalities. So, they might not have expected to fall in love, and maybe even were worried about “falling in like,” but things shake out in such a way that both can play to each other’s strengths.

I’m very proud of this story. I hope you will enjoy it.

“Who else is in this antho, Barb?” you ask.

From the back cover:

Evey Brett + Barb Caffrey + Margaret L. Carter and Leslie Roy Carter + Lillian Csernica + India and Rosemary Edghill + Leslie Fish + Shariann Lewitt + Marella Sands + Deborah Millitello + Diana L. Paxson + Rhondi Salsitz

(OK, I listed myself in there.)

Now for the not-so-good (redacted) news.

I can’t tell you about this yet. I wish I wouldn’t have to tell you about this at all. But as my extended family is already grieving, I am trying to keep a lid on this news (it’s not about my health, though mine is no better, in case you’re wondering).

I don’t like doing this. I feel as if a gag and a blindfold were put on me, and not for any good purpose, either.

That said, until (redacted) happens — if it does — I can’t say anything publicly, especially as I hope (redacted) will get better.

Even saying this much possibly may cause trouble around Chez Caffrey. So be it.

Otherwise, all I can tell you on this Mother’s Day is to do two things:

If your mother is still alive, do whatever you can to show that you love her. Things are far less important than actions. Do what you can, as you can, because life is way too damned short sometimes.

If your mother isn’t, or if you are grieving (as my extended family is right now), think about those you love, and have loved. Do whatever you can to honor their memories. Do what Disturbed’s song “Hold on to Memories” says to do:

“Go do the best things in life. Take a bite of this world while you can. Make the most of the rest of your life. Make a ride of this world while you can.”

So, in that spirit, I will keep doing whatever I can to remind myself that I am a creative person with many different, disparate abilities. That I can’t do much to help with (redacted) is not my fault.

I can only do my best, and if that’s not enough…well, then it isn’t.

I do wish I had better news to share than this on a personal level. But I will continue to do the best that I can, for as long as I can, to the depth and breadth of my soul.

Star Trek: Picard Ends in Two Days…and Other Stuff

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Folks, over the past few months, I’ve been flummoxed by something that’s happened here at my blog. Namely, my posts about the TV show Drop Dead Diva have had hundreds of page views, despite being several years old — and despite Drop Dead Diva going off the air in 2014.

Look. I’m glad folks are finding any of my writing. Truly, I am. But these are folks who, in general, come to read those two posts, and then take off again.

I hope that something else here at my blog interests my long-time readers. I do try to talk about a wide variety of things, from TV/film, to sports, to politics (though I’ve been doing less of that lately, as there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot to say except to double-down on previous stances), to current events (I’m so sickened by all of the shootings, and have no more words to say than that).

So, today I thought I’d talk about other TV shows that I’ve enjoyed besides Drop Dead Diva (which I loved, and still miss to this day). Ready?

I’m a huge Star Trek fan. Always have been. (It’s one reason why I found it too difficult to write about the pioneering Nichelle Nichols’ death. I also found it exceptionally difficult, in a different way, to write about Rene Auberjonois’s death.) A good friend recommended Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, which is a prequel to the original Star Trek series starring William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, and the rest. It is excellent, and I can’t wait for season two to start this summer.

In fact, I loved that show so much, I went back to look at the second season of Star Trek: Discovery, which shows the previously unknown foster sister of Spock, Michael Burnham, as she rises in the ranks after a huge personal tragedy, because I wanted to know more about Anson Mount’s portrayal of Christopher Pike, plus see more of Ethan Peck’s version of Spock. I was pleasantly surprised with season two of Discovery, though I didn’t like season one all that much except for Michelle Yeoh’s performance as Mirror Universe Emperor Philippa Georgiou. (Goodness, she’s amazing. Best actress alive, anywhere. hands-down. There’s nothing she can’t do, and she somehow nails the essence of every character she plays within seconds. I am riveted by her.)

Paramount Plus has all sorts of stuff to watch, but so far I’ve been concentrating on the Star Trek shows. The original Star Trek, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Star Trek: Voyager…and the show that ends tomorrow, Star Trek: Picard. (You may be asking, “What about Star Trek: Prodigy and Star Trek: Lower Decks?” I like both, but I kind of think I’m not the target audience for the first, while wanting the second to move faster…don’t ask me why, because that show moves with a rapidity as it stands.)

I’m someone who adored season two of Picard. I thought it was amazing. The depth of Patrick Stewart’s acting was truly stellar. I loved Allison Pill as Agnes Jurati (and eventually the Jurati/Borg hybrid). I enjoyed all of the characters so much, and did I point out yet that Michelle Hurd’s Raffi and Jeri Ryan’s Seven of Nine were phenomenal? (Please, Paramount, give those two their own series!)

But season three is even better. Picard is now much frailer; he’s retired completely, and at the beginning of the show, he’s preparing to leave Earth and move to another planet with his love, Laris. However, the universe needs him again, and off he goes…(I hope we see Laris again, as I loved Orla Brady. I keep saying that, too, but all of these characters are so good, and the acting so stellar, it’s hard not to gush about them all.)

I’ve been waiting for a few weeks now for the end of Star Trek: Picard. I hope to see Allison Pill again (surely the Paramount execs won’t be so rude as to refuse us to see her one, last time?), as there’s a huge evil Borg plot going on (and as the Borg of season two, once Agnes Jurati got a hold of them, had become much kinder/gentler, it would seem that as the crew of the Enterprise-D needs allies, Allison Pill’s “Borgrati” would show up as part of the cavalry. Hey, everyone needs allies! Really, they do. No one can do it alone, either, no matter how phenomenal you may be — that has to be the message, if you need one, of Star Trek: Picard, at least with regards to seasons two and three.)

Anyway, that’s what I felt like writing today, hoping that someone out there who’s a new reader will actually, you know, stick around a bit and figure out I write other things, too. (If you are exceptionally diligent, new readers, you can go to the About Barb page and find links to my three novels. That’s the best way to support me, you know; read my books! End shameless plug.)

Persistence is Key, Part the Nth

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This morning, I woke up and tried to do something pressing. I figured I’d start with the easiest thing on my agenda, which was calling to figure out exactly what is needed to keep my medical benefits (which I think most of us would agree is the most necessary thing to do in this world, ’cause if you don’t have your health, you don’t have anything). And while I called, I wasn’t able to get anywhere, mostly because the office I need to speak with is only open limited hours on Friday.

I blame myself for not knowing things like this, even though it’s something I’ve never needed to know about before.

OK, I’ll admit it: I want to do everything right, the first time. And no one’s capable of doing that in this world. We have to try, try, try again, and maybe on the fourth or fifth try we’ll finally get it right. Then on to the next thing, and the next, where we still have to make every effort to do whatever we can to get everything right, no matter how long it takes.

There’s an old saying that applies here, that goes like this: “Don’t let perfection be the enemy of the good.”

Now, how does this apply? Simple. We want to be perfect, which is impossible. But we can be good — nay, excellent, even — though it may take is multiple attempts and we may get a whole lot wrong along the way.

My goal for years now has been to finish every piece of music, every bit of writing, and everything else I can as best I can, which includes my late husband Michael’s universes. I don’t write in the same way he did, so I’ve found coming up with my own characters and plots is a whole lot easier than grafting on to already established characters…though of course I’m also trying to finish what he started, in the few minutes here and there I can take from an already overcrowded life.

I said once that if all you have is two hours in a month to write, make the most of it. I still believe that. (It’s the whole point of “don’t let perfection be the enemy of the good,” after all.) But if you only have two hours, it’s easier by far to work on stories in the universe that you alone created. (Or, in the case of the Elfyverse, that Michael and I created together.)

Over time, I’ve started the same stories, stopped them due to “life interference” (other things that must be done to help myself and others), started again, stopped again, ad nauseum, until I got so frustrated that I wanted to give up. Mind you, I don’t give up; I merely wait for a better opportunity in most cases.

How does this go back to health, you ask? (Well, maybe you didn’t ask, but I’m going to tell you anyway.) It’s because of recent ill-health that I had to put a lot of my writing on the back burner. I also had to put finding cover art for a novella that is finished on the back burner, too. This latter thing has really bothered me, because it’s hard enough to finish a story. Why must it be even harder not to have decent cover art to attract new readers (something I desperately need), so the story can’t be put out there?

The goal right now is to slowly, haltingly, sometimes painfully regain my health so I can figure out what cover art I need and get it so that novella — called “All the News That’s Fit…” — can be released into the wilds of the Internet. “All the News” is a dystopian look at what happens to the US after a catastrophic event that’s left the US so divided it’s split up into multiple countries. How people survive in worst-case scenarios, and how they find love despite it all, is possibly the major theme of my writing, and it’s the main point of “All the News” because the two who fall in love with each other never would’ve been likely to meet in a different, better world.

Then the next goal is to finish up the other stories I have in progress, including a novella called “In Harm’s Way” about a young woman, Ryann Creston, who was just off to go to space academy but got taken by space pirates to a deserted space station and told to work for her supper by raising hydroponic food. She’s only fourteen. Was an early entrant to the academy due to her brilliance, even…and it’s all up to her to figure out how to get herself and all the other kids (most in their late teens and early twenties) off that space station. No one knows where they were taken, and she only has one ally she can trust: the space station’s doctor, who also was shanghaied and wants out. This story is set in Michael’s Atlantean Union universe, and is about a character I inserted into the finished novella “To Survive the Maelstrom,” which used some of Michael’s completed writing.

In case you’ve read “To Survive,” Michael wrote all the stuff about the weremice and the direkittens, plus the scene of how his hero Peter Welmsley finds his own weremouse companion — or, rather, how the weremouse finds him. The stuff about Peter losing his first love, and about how the ship he’s on gets heavily damaged so he must fight, much less why he’s even on the same planet as the weremice and direkittens at all (which is due to needing convalescence after all of that), was all me. One of the officers presumed lost due to the encounter was an older Ryann Creston…but after writing so much about her, I now think she found a way to get off that ship before it (nearly) died and is working her way toward rescue even as we speak. (Backbrains are funny that way.)

Anyway, the phrase “it takes as long as it takes” seems to apply in this case. I believe in these stories. I want them to succeed. It’s taken me much longer than I believe it should’ve to get these completed (or in the case of “In Harm’s Way,” nearly completed). But because I do believe in them, and in my talents, I’m going to keep doing whatever I can to make them the best they can possibly be.

So, I’ll keep doing whatever I can on multiple fronts: the health front, the creativity front, the “life” front. That’s all I know how to do.

Written by Barb Caffrey

April 14, 2023 at 2:09 pm

State of the Writer, February 2023 Edition

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Folks, I figured as it’s been a little over a week since I last blogged, I’d better give y’all an update.

(BTW, someone asked me a while back why I, as a Midwesterner born-and-bred, use “y’all” so much. It’s because of my German teacher in high school. He said English needs this word. I agreed with him then and I still do. Moving on…)

My health is a little better. My face is again my own; the swelling has gone, most of the redness has gone, and I look like I never had that nasty bacterial infection at all.

So, you may be asking why it’s only a little better. The main reason is that I’ve been exhausted for a long time. This is partly because I have fibromyalgia and osteoarthritis, among other ailments, and having both means I get tired more quickly and need more rest periods. (This is the best way I have to explain it, especially when I’m in what’s known as a “fibro flare.”) Both of these things cause pain, and dealing with pain is tiring enough. Then add in some sleep disturbances (nothing like having a swollen, messed-up face to help you sleep, hey? Sarcasm is a wonderful thing…), and voila!

The secondary reason is because the infection was so bad, and took so much out of me, that here’s how I’ve lately had to do things:

  1. Rest
  2. Small Errand (milk/eggs/butter/bread)
  3. Rest
  4. Drive
  5. Rest
  6. Get food inside and repeat as needed.

Is this normal for me? No. It’s not.

But the last few days, I’ve been able to cut out some of those rest periods. I still have to move slowly and cautiously. I know my energy is not right, and won’t be probably for several more weeks, and I’m still ramping up my editing and writing again accordingly. Yet I have been able to do a bit more without becoming quite as exhausted, so I’ll take it.

(As if I could do anything else, right?)

My hope is that if I am cautious enough, I can finally get a few pending edits out the door, or at least back to the client if changes need to be made (and if they wish me to review them). That way, I can resume my life as best I can without getting laid low by something else.

Also, I am still talking about cover art with a good friend for my post-apocalyptic romantic military suspense novella. (Say that five times fast.) It’s done, at least in the novella form. (I want to write a sequel to it and eventually hope to have enough for a conventional sized novel.) I want to get it out there, because I haven’t released anything by myself since early 2017.

Yes. Six years ago.

That’s too long.

Yes, I have short stories in several recent anthologies (most recently in Fantastic Schools: Hols). Yes, I’m still a working writer as well as a working editor.

Still. Something needs to go out under my own name, by myself, so folks maybe can find me and appreciate what I do. (Even if they don’t, I have to do it for me.)

Oh, I almost forgot: I have a YA story (novella length) set in Michael’s Atlantean Union universe that’s almost ready to go, too. That may be out by the end of the year if all goes well.

And, finally, I still plan to get an Elfyverse short story collection out but need at least two more finished Elfyverse stories to make it happen. (For those of you who’ve read the Elfy duology, what stories would you most like to see? Maybe I can make it happen…)

Written by Barb Caffrey

February 28, 2023 at 5:24 am

Discussing Two Deaths: Postal Worker Aundre Cross, and Dancer Stephen “Twitch” Boss

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Stephen “Twitch” Boss was a dancer, performer, husband, and father. He’d come to prominence partly due to So You Think You Can Dance, where he finished second. He met his wife Allison there as well. And over time, he met many people, including former First Lady Michelle Obama and former talk show host Ellen DeGeneres (he was her DJ, and eventually an executive producer also, for her show).

He also — though it didn’t seem like it due to his bubbly, effervescent nature — suffered from depression.

The public didn’t know that until he took his own life yesterday at age 40.

Aundre Cross was a 44-year-old postal worker in Milwaukee. He was killed by random violence; as he was delivering the mail around six p.m., someone shot him. The police do not yet have any suspects, and it’s been about a week since Cross’s death.

Now, you may be wondering why I’m pairing these two men in death. The main reason is, Cross, like Boss, was the same type of person by all accounts. Cross was someone everyone liked. He could go into a funeral home — as he often did, delivering the mail — and make people smile. He also didn’t shirk from the tough times his friends had; he was always a shoulder to cry on, or a person who could uplift you when you needed it.

Both of these men encouraged others to feel better about themselves and what they were doing. They understood setbacks, they understood how difficult life can be, and yet they went out of their way to be one of “the helpers” that Mr. Rogers used to talk about all the time on “Mr. Rogers’ neighborhood.”

When people like this go out of this world, it hurts us, whether we know it or not. That’s ’cause we all need to believe more in ourselves and our talents; we need to know that someone “gets” us, all the way through, and understands why we are trying so hard when it seems like nothing will ever break our way. These were men willing to talk, willing to help, willing to overcome, and willing to persevere. Their lives were both inspirational and educational, and while Cross wasn’t anywhere near as well-known as Boss, Cross shared light wherever he went — just as Boss did by all of the various tributes pouring in via social media and elsewhere.

If you are struggling with depression, please don’t wait. Speak to a friend. Speak to a crisis line. Speak to someone — a doctor, even. Do it for the memory of Twitch Boss, if you can’t do it for yourself.

And if you see someone shooting an innocent mail carrier and leaving him to die, please report this and stand ready to testify in whatever way you can.

People should not have to live in fear, whether it’s from themselves as in depression, or of others as in the traumatic and tragic case of the death of Mr. Cross while working and delivering the mail.

Actress Kirstie Alley dies at 71

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It’s taken me a day since I heard about actress Kirstie Alley’s passing to figure out what I wanted to say.

Alley was almost an icon, in some senses. Whether it was weight loss, taking on tough challenges later in life (she was on Dancing with the Stars in 2011, when she was 59 going on 60), discussing difficult subjects (she once asked a reporter from my best recollection, “Are you a chubby chaser? Shouldn’t you be?”), or being outspoken in nearly every aspect of life, Alley was an American original in the best of senses.

I first saw Alley in STAR TREK II: The Wrath of Khan. She played Lieutenant Saavik, who was Spock’s mentee and almost his foster daughter. Saavik was half-Vulcan, half-Romulan, so she had more emotions than most Vulcans, yet she’d grown up more in the Vulcan way and did her best to follow logic rather than give in to her emotional side. The body language of Saavik was quite different than any other character Alley played later on; it was fluid in the lower body but restrained in the upper body. (She’d said this is how she viewed Leonard Nimoy’s performance as Spock, so she was emulating that the best she could as far as body language went.) This “mirroring” made it clear, without speaking, that she was deeply attached to her mentor, Spock.

Later, Alley was in Cheers, one of the longest running comedies ever on the “small screen” (aka television). She played the difficult and demanding Rebecca in such a way that you kind of liked her even though Rebecca threw out verbal jabs as easily as she served up a drink to the bar’s regulars. She won an Emmy for that performance.

In everything she did, Alley was memorable. Quotable.

Alley’s dance partner from Dancing, Maksim Chmerikovskiy, left an emotional tribute to Alley on Instagram. He said, in part, “You were one of the most unique people I have ever met and easily one of the brightest moments of my personal and professional life.” He wished her “the most peaceful rest,” and said he loved her and wished he’d spoken to her more often.

People who have huge hearts and spirits like Alley should be celebrated (which is exactly what Maksim C. did, above). They are unafraid to be themselves. They are unafraid of censure, because they know for the most part it’s meaningless and won’t matter in the end. They are more interested in self-improvement and being good to others than they are about anything else except their work, where they usually excel…and they are people who live full lives because they know that’s the only way to be true to themselves.

Alley’s life, especially after age fifty, seemed more like Auntie Mame (from the 1958 movie) than anything else. She was eccentric, outspoken, interesting, funny, yet had her vulnerable side as well. She was exactly the type of woman that I, in my midlife, hope to become someday.

May her memory always be a blessing.

Written by Barb Caffrey

December 6, 2022 at 11:24 pm

Will Be on Dellani Oakes’ BlogTalkRadio Show This Monday (November 14)

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As the title says, I’ll be on writer Dellani Oakes’ BlogTalkRadio show this upcoming Monday, November 14, 2022, between 3 and 5 Central Standard Time.

You might be wondering what I’m going to talk about. I figured I’d discuss writing the two Elfyverse short stories that have been sold to the Fantastic Schools anthologies; one is in Fantastic Schools 3, while the other is in Fantastic Schools Hols. Both feature Bruno the Elfy (my main character from the two Elfy novels), but before he knew he was an Adept. (Actually, the second story features him both before and after he found out, because of my own sense of whimsy.)

I plan to read from the second story, mind you. It’s called “Jon and Leftwich have a Holiday Adventure.” I do hope you’ll join me and the others, because I think you’ll enjoy yourselves if you do.

At any rate, talking about that isn’t long enough for a blog, so I figured I’d discuss a few other things.

While I still love writing Elfyverse stories, and plan to get out a collection of Elfyverse stories soon (it may not be the end of the year as I was hoping, as I’m battling significant flu issues right now), I wonder sometimes if I’ll ever hit my market squarely. I know it’s there. The folks who loved Robert Asprin’s comic novels or love Jody Lynn Nye’s funny stories or Esther Friesner’s work should enjoy what I’m doing. (If I were truly lucky, I might even tap into some of the folks who clamored for Douglas Adams’ work, but I doubt I’m that lucky. Plus, I’m not British, and lack that sort of edge to my humor. Still, my daydreams sometimes work that way…and if it keeps me writing, why not?)

The state of the Elfyverse is better than it was, mind you. I do have those two stories in the FS anthos, I’m working on two other new ones (for the upcoming collection), and I have restarted the long-delayed novel KEISHA’S VOW and have figured out at least in part what had been stopping me cold.

Thing is, I must get over this flu. (It’s not Covid. Tested negative.)

I rarely have fevers. So when I have them, I don’t really know what to do. When I get a few good hours, I need to use that to finish up the edits in progress, which of course is sensible. But it’s knocked me out of a band I was hoping to play in (I may still be able to play in another one soon, but I must get better fast), it’s delayed my writing more than it was already (and that’s been considerable), and because I have to push all the time, it seems to stop my creativity cold.

Music lives in me. But when I’m ill, the notes escape before I can write them down. (Playing is not an option today. Maybe it will be soon.) And my stories live in me, too. But it’s hard to write down music or words when I can’t concentrate worth a hill of beans.

The stories I have in progress are various. One’s about an Amazon who’d settled down and was teaching young warriors (men and women) how to fight…but while she was away, her whole family (including her beloved husband) was killed. She goes to his family to let them know, and before she can tell them, finds out that most of them are dead also. Only her sister-in-law is alive, and she’s like a mental vegetable. So what’s gone wrong there?

I have an inkling, but I also think somehow I lost my way. Still, this remains one of several stories that are vexing me.

The second is a good friend’s favorite story. It’s called “All the News That’s Fit,” and is about the US post-apocalypse of some sort. There’s now a bunch of divided states rather than a United States, and while one part of it still calls itself the US, it’s now centered around St. Louis, Missouri. (The South split off by itself. Texas, I think, is alone. The West Coast is now The Republic of the West.)

But the reason my good friend loves it is due to the romance between a newsreader (technology has backslid, to a degree, so the Army shepherds newsreaders around to various hamlets to tell ’em whatever the official story is) and an Army NCO. Newsreaders go into doing this to save their families, mostly…to get good medical care now is even more expensive than it is now in the US, and if you aren’t affiliated with some sort of public service, you can’t get it. But if you do an important job like newsreading, you can get your family the treatment they need…and that’s important for my heroine, Chloris, whose sister has cancer.

The guy in the tale is Sergeant James Carter. I didn’t consciously name him for the former POTUS, if you’re wondering; instead, I named him because I knew a very good, female Sergeant Carter years ago. She was competent, tough as nails, and yet very kind to me as I tried to work my way through becoming a military wife. She was a Reservist, and as I said, I truly appreciated her.

My Sergeant Carter is close to retirement age. He’s in his late thirties. He’s been through a lot. And because of his training, skills, and service, by the time he meets Chloris, he’s pretty much off women and off the idea of getting married someday. (That newsreaders rarely marry doesn’t help, because the duty is grueling, and newsreaders have to be hypnotized after a while to remember what to say and how to say it. As I said, it’s a messed-up world they live in.) But there’s just something about her that appeals to him, and the better he knows her — away from her job, and he’s thrown together with her due to his own — the better he likes her.

Then her sister goes missing…and all Hell breaks loose.

The third one is a YA story featuring a young version of Commander Ryann Creston, who features briefly in my story “To Survive the Maelstrom.” Here, she’s been taken captive at 14 along with a whole bunch of would-be cadets — stolen on the way to the military academy — and is put to work by a cult at some sort of out-of-the-way space station. She finds one person who’s willing to help — the doctor, who’d also been shanghaied years earlier — but in the meantime, she’s forced to endure many indignities…including the gropings of a young man named Derrick. There’s no actual sex here, and there’s more the threat of violence than anything…still, Ryann’s in a bad spot and needs to get the Hell out of there.

Now, why am I stalled? It’s very simple. I can’t figure out where the Hell the ships would dock on this station. It’s an old one, so it might actually have to use some sort of manual locks or shuttles or something to deal with how to get on and off. Ryann can’t move about the station unless there’s a power outage, because she’s watched nearly every minute of every day. (This station is old, so it does have some power outages, thank goodness.) And if Ryann can’t figure out where to go, how can she lead everyone else off that station and get back to the Academy where she belongs?

Those aren’t all the stories I have in progress, but those are the three that vex me the most. Somehow, I have to get them done…and while in some ways “All the News” is closer to it than the others, the best ending I’ve found relies on a cliffhanger and I don’t want to do that to readers (hoping they find me in the first place, I don’t want them then to throw down their e-readers in disgust).

So, that’s what’s going on.

What’s going on with you? (The comments, as always, are open.)

Written by Barb Caffrey

November 11, 2022 at 6:04 am

Halloween Musings

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Folks, as I write this, it’s two days until Halloween. Three days until All Soul’s Day. And the official Day of the Dead ceremonies go from October 31 to November 2, 2022.

As this is a time where we’re not quite to winter, yet it’s colder more days than not, there’s an awful lot of personal reflection going on. (I don’t think I’m alone in this.) What have we done this year? What would our loved ones on the Other Side be proud of, and maybe not-so-proud of?

When I was young, I was like everyone else. I wore cute costumes (I think I went one year as a pink fairy; Mom and Grandma helped me make a “wand” with aluminum foil that looked a bit like a Star of David), went out to get Halloween candy, and possibly went to a few minor parties. (They were all very tame parties. A “lock-in” at the local Aladdin’s Castle, a place to play a ton of video games, was one of them. Another was at a good male friend’s house; I knew he was gay, but we didn’t talk about it then, and I had a huge crush on him anyway.)

As I got older, I read a great deal about the significance of Halloween. It started out as Hallowe’en — as in, the evening before All Soul’s Day. (All Hallow’s Eve got contracted to Hallowe’en.) It was a Christian religious observance that happened around the same time as Pagan Samhain (“Sow’en” is the pronunciation), and it’s possible — I think likely — that the early Christian church kept the day and most of its rituals in order to help people convert without having to “convert” people by taking up arms against them.

Of course, Samhain this year is on October 31. (Many years, it coincides. But not always, to the best of my recollection.) It is celebrated from dusk to the dawn of November 1. It is thought by many, particularly those in the NeoPagan community, that Samhain is when the veils between this world and the next are the thinnest. (Note the similarity with the Day of the Dead celebrations. I’m sure it’s not accidental.)

For me, as a NeoPagan, what I do is very similar to what I did as a Catholic, earlier in life: I light a candle, and think about my loved ones. I have several that I think about in addition to my beloved husband, Michael…I think a lot about Grandma, great-grandma on my father’s side (called “Aiti”), my uncle Carl and aunt Laurice, my best friend Jeff Wilson, my good friend Larry (dead for over thirty years, now, via suicide, but not forgotten), and more.

If I can find it, I will buy a Mountain Dew (diet, even though that’s not what my husband drank; he drank the regular stuff, thank you very many, and he preferred Code Red or the orange Livewire if he could find them), and sip it slowly. (I don’t know what foods would appeal that much to any of my relatives or to Jeff, but I know for a fact that Mountain Dew and a few specific candy bars and such are what Michael would like, if he could taste them through me.)

But most of all, it’s about reflection. What have I done? What can I still do? Would my loved ones approve of what I’ve done or what I’ve at least tried to do?

So, yeah. It’s not all about the candy and the costume parties for me. Not anymore.

What are you planning to do this year for your Halloween/Samhain/Day of the Dead festivities? Let me know in the comments…and if it’s that you’re going to a costume party, that’s good (so long as I don’t have to go!)

Fantastic Schools Hols Just Released — Look for my Newest Elfyverse Story There!

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As the overly long title to this blog says, Fantastic Schools Hols has just been released.

Now, as to why I explicitly put “look for my newest Elfyverse story there” into the headline…there lies a (brief) tale.

See, as I’m not well-known, I’m not among the named authors on the front of the book. (I’m instead part of the “many more.”) Amazon has something weird going on where only nine authors in addition to Chris Nuttall (the biggest name here, and by far the draw as well) were able to be listed…I don’t understand this. Maybe it was just a quirk in the system.

The upshot of that is, if you don’t know my story is in there, you won’t find it very easily. Not unless you go to my Amazon Author Page, which does have it included. (Amazon’s customer service there was outstanding; the customer service rep fixed it within two hours, I think, and got it on my page.)

So, you might be wondering what the story is about. (Ha! It’s time to tell you…insert not-so-evil Halloween crackling voice.)

It’s called “Jon and Leftwich Have a Holiday Adventure.” As every story had to deal with a holiday from magical school, mine dealt with Bruno (then named Jon) and his best pal, Iarlait Leftwich, who goes only by his last name as Iarlait is just too silly of a name to be borne (so Leftwich has told me, and I’m not messing around with that…ahem.) It’s Ba’altinne there, or Beltane as we’d have it; they have an important religious ceremony there called Blessing of the Beasts. Every single animal has to be blessed by someone…the high muckety-mucks get Lady Keisha Madhrogan (the equivalent of our Pope), who is an important character in the two Elfy novels. But Joe Schmoes like Bruno and Leftwich are at this point in their lives get postulants, not full priests.

The adventure starts when Leftwich’s dog, Annbess, decides she doesn’t particularly want to be blessed today. She takes exception (or at least is fascinated by) the necklace the postulant, Karenna, is wearing; it looks like a map of the stars, and as such, it means the owner plans on committing a great deed that’s worthy of such an important gift.

Well, Annbess somehow gets the necklace off the postulant and runs off. The two boys have to somehow find Annbess, hope she has the necklace still (or at least get some idea as to where else it might be), and they only have their wits plus their magic (mostly Bruno’s magic, as Leftwich is too scattered by all of this to help much) to get the necklace back before Karenna’s Reverend Mother gets involved.

At any rate, I hope this little blurb (or synopsis, or call it what you will) has whet your appetite for downloading Fantastic Schools Hols and reading all the stories there (not just mine). If you have Kindle Unlimited, it is free to read…and I don’t know about you, but “free” in this economy is one of my favorite words, ever.

Before I go, I’ll explain where the chronology of this story is. It would be the first story about Bruno (again, then named Jon) doing anything of a magical nature, but it’s told as a frame story from after the rousing events of the two Elfy novels. (“Hey, do you remember when Annbess ran off…?”) So it’s both first and last, chronologically…which suits me fine, as I tend to be silly like that.

I do hope you will read the story, you’ll get a few chuckles out of it, and that you’ll start reminding me of my promise to finish up an Elfyverse collection and get it out by the end of the year. (Still working on it, honest!)

Come back and let me know if you’ve read it, hey?

Written by Barb Caffrey

October 21, 2022 at 2:17 am

Recapitulation or Reversal?

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Folks, I’ve come to a fork in the road.

Earlier this year, I discussed what it felt like to be dismissed from the Racine Concert Band. I’d been in that band on and off since I turned fourteen, played three different instruments in it at various times, soloed on all three instruments in front of the band, and done everything I possibly could to represent the band well.

Being told I was no longer welcome was a major reversal.

Suddenly, a bedrock of my life was no longer there. Even though I’d had previous experience with bedrocks not being there (what else could I call widowhood, except that?), it stung to know that people I’d known most of my life had no compassion or understanding.

When you’re hurting, whether it’s from physical illness, depression, protracted grief, or anything else, you need both of those things in order to heal. You also have to learn how to be compassionate toward your own self — something I’ve found incredibly difficult — as you struggle with it all.

“But Barb,” you ask. (Yes, I can hear you.) “What’s this bit about recapitulation about?”

In music, recapitulation is a statement of the main theme, usually toward the end of a movement or piece. (For the musicians in the audience, yes, I know full well I’m oversimplifying.) In writing, a recap is restating the main points of whatever your argument is, and a recap often summarizes that selfsame argument.

Basically, I’m trying to figure out what my life means now that my time in the RCB is over.

As my Facebook motto says, I’m a writer, editor, musician and composer. I am all these things, and I will always be all of these things.

Eventually, I hope to play again in some sort of band or orchestra. Music feeds the soul (as my friend Lika has put it so well), and right now my inner self feels very far from fed.

For now, though…I continue to work, slowly, on my various musical compositions. (I write melodies first, and fight with harmonies later. I know that sounds odd — harmony isn’t supposed to be a struggle! — but the melodies come very easily to me, while the harmonies don’t.) I continue to work on my writing, too, while also editing, proofreading, or doing whatever I can to aid another writer and/or editor providing it won’t drive me straight into the ground.

I guess, if I had to pick one of the above — reversal or recapitulation — I’d go for the recap instead. At least with the recap, you’re hitting the high points…and if you’re talking about yourself, in your own life, sometimes reminding yourself there have actually been high points is necessary.

Especially when you’ve dealt with too many reversals, too quickly, to be borne.

What have you done, when you’ve come to a fork in the road? Or when you’ve had too many reversals hit you, all at once? Please tell me, in the comments…as at the moment, I feel akin to someone shouting into the void.

Written by Barb Caffrey

October 18, 2022 at 4:06 am