Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Quick Health Bloglet

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Folks, I had written a longer blog today, but WordPress ate it…and I’m too sick to write it again.

That said, I have been reading a lot, thinking a lot, and resting a lot. It’s all I can do, while I continue to take care of whatever it is that’s got hold of me this time. (Flu flaring to bronchitis, I think.)

For now, as I wait upon recovery, I urge you to read all the books you can, in as many subjects as you can, and to learn as much as you can.

That’s the best way to spread truth and light, and maybe to find some sort of understanding in this world.

I’ll be back as soon as I can.

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Written by Barb Caffrey

January 14, 2018 at 5:09 pm

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Jason Cordova’s DEVASTATOR Is Out — And It Is Good…

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Folks, this is the review I just tried to post on Amazon for Jason Cordova’s DEVASTATOR, and couldn’t manage to get it there. (With my luck, though, it’ll post after I put this up here at my blog.)

Mind, I discussed DEVASTATOR, along with Kayelle Allen’s Bringer of Chaos series, last week here at the Elfyverse. So if you haven’t read that post yet, it might be nice to start there…ahem.

(Thus ends today’s try at self-promotion. I’d rather promote someone else anyway!)

So, without further ado, I figured I’d post it here, and I do hope you’ll go read Jason’s newest as soon as you can if you like YA, S/F, or any stories having to do with near-future virtual reality simulations. (Or if you just like Jason’s writing. I mean, really…what’s not to like?)

It’s great to see Tori back in action again in Jason Cordova’s newest novel, DEVASTATOR. She’s a tough customer, albeit a tough customer who’s only seventeen…she’s already had to fight her way out of an insane situation in her favorite virtual reality game known as The Warp in CORRUPTOR (book one of this series), and now been asked to re-enter The Warp to keep an eye on some anomalies no one can quite figure out.

See, things are happening in The Warp that make less sense than usual. For a fully programmed environment to do things that no one understands is just plain wrong; it’s even worse than the previous contretemps Tori defused in CORRUPTOR, as at least there once highly paid programmers were made aware of the issues, they were able to fix them. (What Tori had to do before was to defeat the bad guys wherever possible, evading the rest until she could be rescued and brought out of V/R.) And Tori is possibly the foremost expert on how The Warp actually acts, as opposed to how The Warp is supposed to act, so of course she’s asked to lend her expertise to the problem.

(Lending her expertise sounds nice, doesn’t it? But it’s code words for “murder and mayhem are about to break out here,” really…though I digress.)

Anyway, Tori gathers a bunch of others who are known to her as solid individuals (or at least solid players of The Warp) and all are made referees, more or less glorified Moderators. There’s a tourney going on that will cloak their actions, as the folks who make The Warp absolutely, positively do not want to cause trouble for themselves. And as no one can understand, much less explain, the anomalies that have been observed, discretion is of the essence…thus this subterfuge.

So, they go in there. They have a whole lot of problems. (No, I’m not going to tell you what they are. You need to read DEVASTATOR for yourself, preferably sooner rather than later.) And Tori, her boyfriend Dylan, and many others who’ve risked so much up until now will find their world spun on end, as there are a few plot twists here that I absolutely refuse to spoil.

Great things about DEVASTATOR include an age-appropriate romance (Tori’s a badass, but she’s a more or less innocent badass, which is a refreshing change), a lot of Kaiju-inspired fight scenes, an interesting V/R take on Ragnarok, and much, much more.

Tori’s a fun character, and I rooted for her the whole way. I can’t wait to read the next novel, OBLITERATOR — write quickly, Jason!

———- (Review ends here)

And then, I gave the novel five stars, said it was highly recommended, and tried to point out I’d received it as an ARC, downloaded it right away via KU and read it again, and will be making a point to buy it to put it in my permanent collection, too, down the line. (What else can I do to point out I enjoyed this book?)

Written by Barb Caffrey

January 11, 2018 at 7:11 am

Welcome, 2018! New Year’s Resolutions, Anyone? (A Collaboration with a Purpose Post)

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Folks, this is the first Collaboration with a Purpose post of 2018. And thus, our group of bloggers decided what would be better than New Year’s resolutions?

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My view of resolutions, mind, is probably not like many of the other bloggers. I figure, you need to first change your attitude, and only then make a resolution to keep that change active. (This is directly opposite how most people approach this.)

Why do I take that tactic? Well, I’ve seen too many people crash and burn when they make a grandiose resolution (or two). Here’s a few resolutions I’ve seen others make that definitely have not worked out:

  • Vowing to take more cold baths (I mean, who does this?)
  • Exercising more (Too broad; what counts as exercise?)
  • Eating less (Too broad; you can eat less, say, of veggies and more chocolate cake, and you’re still technically keeping this resolution)
  • Taking up veganism (Nice idea, in theory, but very difficult in practice. Besides, it’s incredibly expensive for most people to do properly, and money is in short supply ’round here.)
  • Becoming a vegetarian after being a lifelong meat eater (Again, nice idea. Hard to do. Easier than veganism depending on what type of vegetarian you want to become, providing it’s not vegan.)

Now, what resolutions do I think are possible, after the requisite change in attitude? Here we go:

  • Trying to see the other person’s point of view once in a while, even if it’s difficult and seemingly makes no sense. (The mental exercise is good for you. Kind of like taking brisk medicine you really don’t want, granted…but still, good for you.)
  • Eating one serving more of fruit or veggies a day. (Starting small is the best way for your change in attitude to work.)
  • Finding an hour a day to spend either writing, meditating, or some combination of the two. (This is a good idea and again, it’s starting reasonably small. In my life, usually my paying job of editing takes over, or taking care of my family may take over, or perhaps my health will act up. But trying for one single hour is sensible, even though of course I want much more than that over time.)
  • Spending ten minutes a day doing some sort of physical activity (probably walking; maybe if I’m lucky, swimming)

See? The last four resolutions are doable. They require a slight shift in attitude, and to try just a little bit harder. And aren’t flat-out impossible, which is what tends to stop too many people from keeping any of their New Year’s Resolutions in the first place.

Now, I know that some people swear by cold baths. (Seriously.) And yes, some swear by veganism. (Yeah. Really.) And some swear by both at the same time — which sounds a bit odd, but whatever floats their respective boats.

But that isn’t me. I believe in incremental change. I know I can make the effort if it’s small. And small things add up over time to big results, if we only believe those results are possible….and maybe that, ultimately, is what New Year’s resolutions are all about — reminding us that change is indeed possible, if we’re only willing to work for it.

Now, take a look at my fellow bloggers’ views on the subject! Here are links to their blogs…more specific links will be added later, once their posts are up:

 

And do let me know what you think of this post…especially as we of the Collaboration are looking for more topics to discuss of an inspirational (or at least interesting) nature in 2018.

 

An Interview from Sarah’s Perspective Is Up at Romance Lives Forever

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Folks, if you haven’t read either of my Elfy books, you’re probably wondering what in the world I’m talking about with my title. But Sarah — the heroine and love interest of POV character (and hero) Bruno the Elfy — was “interviewed” by me, and Kayelle Allen enjoyed it so much she put it up at her busy blog, Romance Lives Forever.

Now, Sarah and Bruno’s romance is a fun one to write. They’re young. They’re both badly misunderstood. He’s an orphan. She may as well be one, as her parents are useless and have hidden a great deal from her, plus they seem bent on torturing Elfys. (Bruno manages to get away, but that’s partly because his teacher, Roberto the Wise, takes his place. Long story…go read AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE for more details, hey? It’s only ninety-nine cents USD.)

So, they meet. She’s short for our culture, but very tall for his at four feet even. (Yeah. I know. But Elfys are short.) She doesn’t care that Bruno is not tall, and is short even for an Elfy at only three feet even. All she cares about is that he’s a good guy, he has a sense of humor, he genuinely cares about her, and wants to go forward with her in his life. (Yes, there’s a whole lot more to it, but I want to preserve just a little mystery so if you haven’t read A LITTLE ELFY IN BIG TROUBLE yet, you might just go get it as an e-book.)

And they have to defeat a Dark Elf, a nasty cuss who’s corrupted Sarah’s parents and is going to do his damnedest to sacrifice Bruno’s mentor Roberto — the only person who made any effort while Bruno was in what amounts to an orphanage (the Elfys called it “School for Scions of the Nobility and Other Unfortunates”) to care about Bruno for himself. (In other words, Roberto is like a foster father, in a way.)

My hope is that you’ll go read the character interview for yourself over at Kayelle Allen’s Romance Lives Forever blog. I did enjoy writing it, and “interviewing” Sarah (that is, writing from Sarah’s perspective). She had some interesting insights, and her bucket list (things she wants to do before she passes from this life) is rather intriguing, if I do say so myself.

But to whet your interest…hm. How about this from the character interview?

What are two places you would like to visit before you die, and why?
I’d like to go to Paris. It’s the city of love, right? I think Bruno would enjoy the history, and I’d enjoy watching him go into paroxysms of rapture over it. (He does love his history, especially cross-species history.)
Otherwise, I think I’d like to go somewhere a bit closer: Vancouver, British Columbia. I’ve heard that’s an interesting place. We could walk around, look at the flora and fauna, and just be by ourselves for a bit. That sounds really attractive right now.
Where is a place you would never like to return, and why?
God knows, I can’t stand Bruno’s home, the Elfy Realm. (Earth in a parallel universe.) Those people frighten me. They all have magic, and most of ’em waste it. And they all wanted Bruno dead because they felt he had “too much power,” whatever that means.
Anyone who wants Bruno dead is someone I definitely don’t want to know or be around. Because he’s the best and kindest and most decent person I have ever known, by far.

So, there you have it! I hope you’ll enjoy the interview, and will check it out forthwith…go forth, and multiply. (Or something. And do read a good book today, even if it’s not one of mine. The world needs more readers.)

Written by Barb Caffrey

January 9, 2018 at 7:36 pm

A Meditation on Forgiveness

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Sunday tends to bring some serious thoughts out in me, so I thought I’d discuss something that’s been on my mind lately. Namely, forgiveness…why is it so hard, and what are we supposed to do when it seems nigh onto impossible?

I was thinking about something Jesus apparently said any number of times, as quoted in the Bible. “Go, and sin no more.” Usually this was after someone had asked Jesus to absolve him (or her) of a sinful action. (Sometimes, it may have been because it was expected of Jesus, for all I know.) Which means the people who went to Jesus were looking for divine forgiveness, just showing that forgiveness has always been somewhat of a difficult art.

I don’t think you need to be as good of a soul as Jesus Christ was to forgive someone, mind. But Jesus helps to point the way when times are hard, bad, and it seems nearly impossible to forgive. (Mind, my late husband used to make the point all the time that someone has to ask for forgiveness, otherwise it doesn’t mean much. Without someone asking, there’s no acknowledgment from the transgressor that there was a problem in the first place, making any proffered forgiveness a moot issue.) Jesus pointed out that we should do our best to forgive, and hopefully that person would “sin no more” against us.

I would imagine it wasn’t all that easy for people to go to Jesus and ask for forgiveness or any sort of help. People don’t change that much over time, and we’ve always been a stiff-necked lot, we humans. As affable, as warm-hearted, and as caring a personage as Jesus undoubtedly was — without those qualities, the Twelve Apostles never would’ve followed him — it still took courage for people to go to Jesus and ask for help, especially at first when Jesus was not known as a prophet, healer, or Son of God.

So, why did they do it anyway?

My best guess is that people, then and now, want to be absolved of guilt. They may have hurt someone, without wishing to do so. They may have coveted another’s wife or goods — in this day and age, we don’t seem to worry about that as much so long as people don’t act, but back then, coveting was definitely seen as halfway to action. They may have had a horrible fight with a loved one, and now want to know how to come back from that mess and let their loved ones know that was an aberration, something they’re going to try to get past…

Something they don’t intend to repeat, if they can help it.

Maybe they tried to go to the person they hurt, and the words came out wrong. Maybe the person they hurt wouldn’t listen. Maybe they were so injured in spirit, they didn’t hear the remorse…or perhaps the person now seeking forgiveness truly doesn’t know how to ask, so it came out sounding like mockery instead.

I don’t know about you, but I have tried to ask for forgiveness in the past, and that is exactly how I sounded. And I’m sure I’m not the only person among all the human beings who’ve ever lived on Earth to sound this way.

That’s where Jesus came into play. He was willing to listen, and people were willing to go to him and confide, because of two things: Sometimes, people are more willing to tell a stranger their troubles than a loved one, because the stranger doesn’t matter as much in the long-term scheme of things nine times out of ten. And if you’re lucky, that person you’re confiding in, that stranger, is a good person who truly wants to help you, and will point the way toward a better resolution for you and the person you have hurt without injuring your pride too much in the process.

See, that’s another thing about we humans. We are also a prideful lot. And half the time, we get our backs up precisely because of pride.

Yet another thing that gets in the way of asking for forgiveness is our unwillingness to admit to making mistakes. (As a perfectionist by nature, I understand this one, too. But we aren’t called upon to be perfect; we can’t be. As the old bumper sticker used to say, “I’m not perfect. Just forgiven.”)

So, we need to get past our pride. We need to admit to making mistakes. And we somehow have to keep from getting our backs up when we need to ask for forgiveness — or when we actually do our best to forgive someone.

Now, that’s the next layer in this forgiveness onion that makes it tough. Too many people say they’ll forgive someone, and then they mouth the words but don’t actually feel the actions. They don’t feel their heart get lighter. They don’t try to put themselves in the other person’s shoes. They don’t try at all to do anything other than go through the motions, maybe because they don’t know that forgiveness is a verb — or at least, it should be.

So, if you decide you’re going to forgive someone — after they’ve no doubt asked for forgiveness — you need to make damned sure you’re actually going to do that very thing. It may not be easy. It may take a while for you to forgive. But you should search your heart, and your soul, and do whatever you can to empathize with those who’ve transgressed, because that’s the best way forward overall.

Anyway, I don’t know if I, or anyone else, can “Go, and sin no more.” But what I do know is that I can do my best to care. And try to rectify any mistakes, while being humble enough to admit I do not know everything and cannot know everything.

None of us can, except the Almighty/Higher Power. And that personage (of which Jesus is surely a part of) is not telling us everything, probably because that takes half the fun out of living.

And yes, making mistakes, and having to ask for forgiveness (as humbling as that is), is also part of living. So if you can’t “Go, and sin no more,” keep doing your best.

Because life, as we know it, is a work-in-progress. And we forget that at our own peril.

Written by Barb Caffrey

January 7, 2018 at 5:08 am

The Zero Curse — Chris Nuttall’s Excellent Middle-Grade Sequel

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Folks, yesterday I talked about two books that I felt had beaten sequel-itis — that is, the fate of books that don’t live up to its potential after a great first book. And after I talked about Jason Cordova’s DEVASTATOR and Kayelle Allen’s BRINGER OF CHAOS: FORGED IN FIRE, one of my other good friends pointed out yet another book that beats sequel-itis, hands-down.

That book is Chris Nuttall’s THE ZERO CURSE. It takes the wonderful character of Caitlyn Aguirre (also known as Cat) from THE ZERO BLESSING and gives her new challenges, while upping the previous stakes in the process. And the fact that Cat is just twelve years old, and isn’t an idiot savant, isn’t even necessarily a genius — just a reasonably normal smart kid with an unusual ability for her world, that of having no magic at all — makes things all the more poignant.

Chris’s work just keeps getting better and better. And these particular stories are close to my heart for many reasons, most particularly because I got to see them early (as I am one of Chris’s editors), and enjoyed seeing them come to fruition.

Why? Well, I flat-out love Cat. She’s a self-sufficient girl to root for, being without magic in a magical world. And first, she has to figure out how to make her way without having any magic, while finding a way to make her lack a blessing, in THE ZERO BLESSING…before Chris ups the game entirely in THE ZERO CURSE, where Cat starts to realize that the other side of a blessing is a curse, so must start to figure out how to minimize the ways her unusual status as a “Zero” (that is, without magic) can be exploited by evildoers.

Zero Cursed Cover FOR WEB

Once you read about Cat, along with her odious sister Alana and her slightly nicer sister Bella, you’ll never forget her, her world, the school she goes to (Jude’s), her friend and fellow forger (kind of like a magical blacksmith) Akin Ruben, and her best friend, Rose, you’ll never forget it. (Cat’s great-aunt Stregharia in particular is a major piece of work, and you’ll enjoy booing and hissing whenever she shows up, guaranteed.)

So Chris’s book also beats sequel-itis, and is a great book to read on a cold day. (Or any day!) And I, for one, can’t wait until I read the third book in the Zero series, which even I haven’t seen yet. (But I will. Even if I have to find a way to tickle Chris until he says “uncle” to do it.)

Tell me about more books that beat sequel-itis in the comments! (I love hearing from y’all.)

Written by Barb Caffrey

January 6, 2018 at 12:05 pm

Beating Sequel-itis…DEVASTATOR and BRINGER OF CHAOS: FORGED IN FIRE

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How many times, as a reader, have you come across sequels that are better, deeper, and richer than the original novels?

You probably can count them on one hand, can’t you?

In fact, there’s a term for the second book in a series that’s rather derogatory, and much worse than what I called “sequel-itis” in my title above. (No, I’m not going to name it. This is a family blog, after all.) And there’s a reason for that. Most books in this position are halfway between the old story and whatever the culminating story is going to be in the next book.

I’m pleased to say that I’ve read two books, DEVASTATOR by Jason Cordova, and BRINGER OF CHAOS: Forged in Fire by Kayelle Allen, that beat this problem. Both take their original characters (Tori and Pietas, respectively) and give them new and more difficult problems to solve that follow from the previous novel, but could possibly be read alone and still be understood. (You’d want to go back and read Jason’s CORRUPTOR and Kayelle’s BRINGER OF CHAOS: The Origins of Pietas anyway, though. They’re extremely good.)

It’s hard to come up with new and more challenging things for characters when they’ve been put through the wringer in the first book of a series. Tori, for example, was brutally raped while trapped in a virtual reality simulation of her favorite video game, and had to fight her own way out to survive, finding a truly good person to care for in young Dylan despite it all. (Is there more to that, plot-wise? Yes. But that’s all I’m giving you.) And Pietas literally was killed day after day after day before being marooned on a distant planet — being a genetically engineered immortal, he could not permanently die. And had to accept help from the most unlikely source imaginable, a human being marooned along with him called Six. And Six is so worried about what Pietas can still do, Six refuses to let Pietas know what Six’s real name actually is…but becomes friends with him anyway.

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Both, in short, are bildungsromans. (Can you put an -s on the end of bildungroman? Well, I just did.) And both show characters in flux, searching for meaning even though their lives have come to crashing ruins around them. Jason tells his story one way; Kayelle tells it hers. But they both have a lot of good points that show how strong people can be when the chips are down, and how being reduced to your bare-bones essence and being forced to be vulnerable can be an asset as well as a festering liability.

And as good as Jason’s CORRUPTOR and Kayelle’s first book about Pietas were, their respective sequels are even better. Tori’s story gets twisted in new ways, as she’s forced to confront a brand-new evil that’s found a way to infest its tendrils into her favorite game despite the safeguards and upgrades put into place due to the last mess she was in. And while her boyfriend is still there to support her and remains a very good guy, he may not be able to help much as she does her best to defuse this evil and win through to another day. (In this case, I can’t give you much more than that, as Jason threw in a major plot-twist I didn’t see coming.) And Pietas is reunited with some of his old friends — and enemies — finding out that he and Six were not marooned alone. Having to deal with his father and mother, not to mention his obnoxious (slightly) younger sister, is not easy. But being reunited with his old lover, Joss, while forcing the other immortals to show Six courtesy (as they’re all into blaming the humans for their species being exiled and marooned), is incredibly tough. Pietas must build a new society out of basically nothing but his will and his wits, and he needs Six, Joss, and his sister’s help, while he needs his parents to stay out of the way. (There is another big issue for Pietas, but again, I don’t want to spoil it. So I’ll stop there.)

These stories both touched me in different ways. Mind, both main characters are survivors, and I admire that. Tori is a lot easier to relate to, being a teenager and a kind-hearted soul, than Pietas, an immortal whose word was once law (and will be again, knowing him, just you wait), but both are at heart strong, yet flawed characters who are dealing with coming-of-age issues and moral ambiguities that defy description sometimes, yet remain very real nonetheless.

Of the two stories, Jason’s has more foreshadowing, while Kayelle’s has more romance. Both have good dollops of science (different types, but still, science), great characterization, fine scene setting, interesting plots, and are stories you will not forget once you’ve read them.

Jason’s DEVASTATOR won’t be out until next week, but I urge you to get it as soon as it’s out. Kayelle’s BRINGER OF CHAOS: Forged in Fire is out now and is just $2.99 as an e-book, and again, I urge you to get it right now. (And yes, do read the previous books, CORRUPTOR and BRINGER OF CHAOS: The Origin of Pietas, too. You’ll enjoy them. And they’re all available on Kindle Unlimited, so what do you have to lose?)

Edited to add: Yes, I was Kayelle’s editor, and am happy she trusts me with her work. I’ve also been Jason’s friend for many years — not even sure how many at this point — and proofread CORRUPTOR back in its first iteration. I’m happy to stand behind what I’ve said, as these are wonderful books and I want you to read ’em — if you like SF&F, you owe it to yourselves to give these books a try. (Like, now.)

Written by Barb Caffrey

January 5, 2018 at 3:46 pm