Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

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N.N. Light Review of CHANGING FACES Live at New Blog

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Folks, the husband-wife writer team of N.N. Light have a new blog. It’s called NNLight’sBookHeaven, and as such, they decided to post (or re-post) books they’ve enjoyed reading that have any connection at all to the LGBTQIA community.

Enter my book, CHANGING FACES.

portrait in garden

CF didn’t make much of a dent last year in the marketplace, but I’m still proud of it.  And Mrs. N. (female half of the team) enjoyed CF quite a bit, as this review shows. Here’s a bit from that:

In this ground-breaking novel, Caffrey explores gender fluidity, love and coming to grips with self-identity. I was emotionally attached to both characters from the beginning and watching their love for each other grow through the most trying circumstances changed me. The plot moved at a good pace, although there were places where it lagged. The idea of gender fluidity portrayed accurately in this novel with honesty and heart stayed with me love after I finished reading. Being a romantic at heart, I highly recommend this book to everyone.

Thanks for enjoying CF, Mrs. N!

One of the reasons I was so happy to write and finish CF was because both my late husband Michael and my late best friend Jeff believed strongly in this premise. Love matters, you see. What your outer shell looks like doesn’t matter, so long as your soul is strong. And if two people are drawn to each other, why should they have to be anything but themselves?

I was fortunate enough to be a female person, born into a female body. And I realized early that I carried my differences internally, rather than externally…but coming to grips with that still took me quite some doing.

I don’t know how I’d have dealt with Elaine’s conundrum, mind. I do think I’d have been like Allen, and first panicked — but then said, “Hey, it doesn’t matter. I love you and I don’t want to be separated.” (That Elaine can’t accept it very well…? It’s the life she led. But I digress.)

Anyway, I want you to read what I wrote. (At least a little of it.) So you can get a feel for what I’m talking about.

And as I’ve never done this before, not at my blog anyway, I would like to share the first chapter of CF with you…in the hopes that you’ll like it so much (even if you’ve never read a novel quite like CF before), you’ll run over to Amazon and get an e-book copy, stat. (Hey. It’s only ninety-nine cents. Live a little, right?)

So, here we go! (Excerpt follows.)

#

Chapter 1

It was the middle of July in Nebraska. Sweat started dripping down my back even before I’d stepped foot outside my apartment. My hair was already sticking to my neck, and I didn’t know how I was going to play my clarinet. And I had to do that, because my best friend Jolene Harris was marrying her long-time partner Paula Adelson today.

You see, this was a very special wedding. Paula and Jolene had waited for years to get married, and until recently, they couldn’t. But the Supreme Court of the United States made up their mind a short time ago that same-sex couples are like anyone else-if they want to marry, legally, they should be able to do so. Of course I agreed with this. Anyone who ever saw Jolene with Paula and their son, Adam, for longer than two minutes would agree, if they had any sense at all.

Fortunately for me, my boyfriend, Allen, completely understood. He was coming with me-and playing his clarinet, too. (He was going to play Ave Maria at Jolene’s request.) Allen, unlike me, identified as straight, but he’s no bluenose-he’s even walked with me in Lincoln’s Gay Pride parade.

Yes, I knew I needed to tell him.everything. And soon.

But not today, as that might spoil Jolene and Paula’s wedding.

The sun was shining. The birds were chirping. We’d even seen a rare double rainbow last night, after a brief but intense thundershower. Most people probably would’ve thought that today was absolutely perfect for a wedding, if they didn’t mind having to stand outside in 90-plus degree weather.

Allen and I made it to the car, we stored away our clarinets and music stands, and started driving. Considerate as always, he turned the air conditioning on and let me bask in it a few minutes before he spoke.

“I wish it were our wedding,” he said wistfully.

Oh, no, not that again, I couldn’t help but think. I loved Allen-truly, I did-and I wanted no one but him. But.

“I’d rather get married in the winter than the summer,” I told him, trying to keep it light. “It’s way too warm right now for my liking.”

“Are you sure you’re from Florida?” he half-joked back.

“Hey, it’s humid there, but it rarely hits the triple digits.” At his cocked eyebrow, I added, “That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.”

He laughed, as I’d intended, and the subject was defused. For now.

Somehow, I had to tell him what I really was. But I didn’t have the words just yet.

* * *

Allen:

I snuck a peek at Elaine as we set up our music stands. She looked gorgeous, as usual, though by her standards she was a bit dressed-down for such festivities in a burnt orange blouse, dark slacks and low heels, with an orange flower in her hair for the sake of whimsy. Chestnut brown hair cut short for the summer, bright brown eyes with flecks of gold only I could see, when she was particularly happy, high cheekbones.a beautiful woman, inside and out.

Who cared that she, like me, had been known to look at women from time to time before we met? Not I. (And no, I’ve never had that whole threesome fetish thing going on, thank you. I’ve always refused to share.)

Because it was hot, I’d worn dark slacks, a long-sleeved white dress shirt, and a tie with musical notes on it. (Jolene had told Elaine it was to be a less formal wedding, so what I wore would be more than good enough.) My glasses were starting to slide down my nose-occupational hazard, on a day as hot as this-but I knew the music well. Even if my glasses fell off, I’d be able to play and no one but Elaine should notice.

The caterers were still fussing with the food, and neither Jolene nor Paula was anywhere to be seen. It was an hour and a half until the ceremony, so this wasn’t entirely a surprise. Elaine and I liked to be early, to get ourselves acclimated, whenever we played a gig-not that we’d played a ton of weddings, but we’d certainly played at enough other places that this should not be much of a stretch.

We started with the Telemann Canonic Sonatas, easy enough pieces to play as they hadn’t been designed for the clarinet’s three-octave range. They were fun, though, and suited the day well.after a while, I noticed Adam, Jolene’s son and a burgeoning clarinetist, watching us avidly. His two-toned blond head bobbed to the music, and he seemed to be enjoying himself immensely. But he wasn’t dressed for a wedding; instead, he wore a t-shirt and ratty old jeans with shoes that looked two sizes two big.

When we took a break, I nodded toward him and asked Elaine, “He seems happy, don’t you think?” Of course, I wanted to say, What on Earth is he wearing? But I was far too polite.

“He’s probably glad I didn’t assign him to play these pieces,” she said with an arched eyebrow.

I stifled a laugh. “He’s still a beginner, so he doesn’t need to worry about that yet.”

“Ah, but does he know that?”

After we put our clarinets down, Adam came over and handed us each an ice-cold bottle of water. “You two sound great!”

“Thanks, kiddo.” I resisted the urge to ruffle his hair, taking a sip of water instead. “Are you wearing that to your mothers’ wedding?”

Adam shrugged. “They’re worried about what they’re wearing. I didn’t think they’d care what I wore.”

“Try again,” I said kindly. “I’m sure they’ll have someone taking pictures, as they’ve waited a long time to get married.”

“I don’t see what the big deal is. They’ve been together since I was a baby. Do they really need a piece of paper after all that?”

Before I could say anything, Elaine jumped in. “Yes, having the relationship matters more than the piece of paper. But they want that piece of paper. They’ve dreamed about having that piece of paper. And you, Adam, are going to go in the house and find yourself something to wear that shows you made an effort, or I’ll give you five extra scales next week.”

“And if you don’t find something better than that,” I added, “I’ll have to come in and help you.”

Adam shuddered dramatically. “Okay, okay already.” He went into the house.

The minister had arrived, a cheerful, fortyish woman. The food had all been brought out. The guests were starting to assemble, so Elaine and I played some more duets. The music flowed out of me, and I became so caught up in that that I didn’t care how hot it was. It was just me, Elaine, and the music.

Life was good.

By the time I looked up again, it was fifteen minutes until the ceremony. Jolene, tall and resplendent in a bright blue satiny long dress, was chatting with the minister, but Paula was nowhere to be seen. Then Jolene came over to us, murmuring, “Paula’s nervous. Says she can’t find anything to wear. And we went over this yesterday-I can’t believe this is happening.” She bit her lip, adding, “Maybe she wants to back out.”

“I’m sure it’s not that,” I put in, trying to settle her down. “She loves you to distraction.” My words were absolutely true. I’d never seen a more devoted couple.

Elaine sighed. “Let me guess. She won’t let you see her, because of that old superstition about brides-even though I’m sure you don’t care-”

“Got it in one,” Jolene said, nodding.

“And I can’t go to her,” I put in.

Both women looked at me like I’d grown a second head. “Of course you can’t,” Elaine snapped. Then, her eyes silently apologized.she must’ve realized I’d been joking. “I’ll go.”

“Would you?” The look Jolene gave her would’ve melted an iceberg-that is, if it hadn’t already melted due to the heat.

Elaine touched my hand, and was gone.

I turned back to my clarinet, and started playing the Miklos Rosza Sonatina, ideal for today as it required no accompaniment. Before I immersed myself fully in the music, I prayed that Elaine’s errand would not take too much time.

I didn’t get nearly enough time with Elaine as it was.

* * *

Elaine:

I went down the hall to Paula and Jolene’s bedroom, and knocked.

Paula let me in without saying a word. She wore a bra and a half-slip, but nothing else. The last time I’d been here, the bedroom had been painfully neat but a bit cluttered; now, though, it was as if a tornado had hit the place. Black pants were draped over the wooden headboard along with a shiny silver bolero; a red dress was covered by a bright yellow swath of something in the middle of the carpet-had I ever seen either Jolene or Paula wear yellow? I didn’t think so-while I saw green, brown, white, and checkered blazers, pants and skirts all over the place.

And a lonely light blue dress sat in the middle of the bed, crumpled as if Paula had thrown it.

Before I could say anything, Paula beat me to it. “Feeling femme today, Elaine?”

I blushed. “You two are marrying. It doesn’t matter what I feel like.”

“Then why the flower in your hair?”

Paula was the only person who’d guessed that I wasn’t simply bisexual, though I was certain Jolene knew something was off, too. Paula knew what I was in its entirety-I’m a gender-fluid person, and some days I feel female, others male. But I’ve never felt fully comfortable giving in to my impulses, not the way I was raised.

I realized I was woolgathering. “Who cares why? I’m here to help you. Jolene’s a mess. I think she’s afraid you’re going to call off the wedding.”

“No, never,” Paula said with a faraway smile. “But I have to have something to wear. And the blue dress that I was going to wear must’ve shrunk at the cleaners.”

“Are you sure this isn’t just bridal jitters?”

“Jitter me this,” Paula snarled, and put on the blue dress. Despite Paula’s tiny frame, the dress didn’t fit over her slender hips, much less meet in the middle of her back. “Could anyone wear this?”

“Maybe a dwarf could, but certainly not you.” I shook my head, and sighed. “You didn’t want to try it on yesterday, why again?”

“It’s a tradition in my family that we don’t wear our wedding dresses between the time we try them on and actually are about to get married. My parents are out there, and I figured they’d know-” She looked like she was about ready to cry.

“I understand that you want to be as traditional as possible,” I said gently. “But isn’t it more important that you wear something that you might actually feel good in on a day like today?”

“Point.” Paula smiled ruefully. “I certainly can’t wear this. And everything else, except for one outfit, I’ve already worn.and that isn’t very festive.”

“Show me the outfit,” I told her.

Paula pulled a charcoal grey sleeveless top with a bit of shininess to it out from under the pile of clothes on the floor, and grabbed a grey pair of pants. “I’d intended to wear this to dance with Jolene later. But it’s not good enough to wear now!”

“Put it on, and let’s see.”

After shrugging off her slip, Paula got into the outfit. The top fit well, but wasn’t too snug; considering it was at least ninety-five degrees in the shade, I didn’t see a problem with it. And the grey pair of pants looked comfortable and easy to move around in.

“To my mind,” I said, “this is the right outfit. Wear your best black shoes, and maybe add a black or white scarf? Or do you have a statement necklace, something that will visually draw the eye?”

“Who knew you knew this much about fashion?” Paula teased, as she got out her shoes and a white, fringy scarf. Once the scarf was draped, she added a chunky pearl-and-onyx brooch that went perfectly with the outfit, almost as if it had been designed for the thing.

“Don’t tell anyone,” I advised her. “It might ruin my reputation.”

As we laughed, I took her arm, and escorted her outside to her waiting father.

“Dad, this is Elaine,” Paula told him.

“I saw you playing the clarinet before, didn’t I?” But before I could answer, he added, “Thanks for your help.” He took my place at Paula’s side, and walked her down the flower-strewn path toward Jolene and the minister.

Allen started to play Ave Maria. Before he got four measures in, I saw people dabbing at their eyes.

Of course, Jolene and Paula both looked beautiful, Jolene tall and buxom in blue, Paula petite and dainty in grey and white. So that might’ve been it.but I still think Allen’s playing had a great deal to do with it, too.

I went to Allen, unnoticed in the crowd, and squeezed his shoulder. He put his clarinet down, and grabbed my hand; as I had been about to hold his hand, I had no problem with that at all.

We could barely see Paula’s blonde head back here, due to the crowd, but it didn’t matter. We were ready to play again long before Paula and Jolene shared their first kiss as a married couple, and before the audience had finished applauding, we were playing recessional music-Mendelssohn, I thought-that Allen had arranged for two clarinets.

After a while, everyone had gone toward the refreshment table but us. But before we could go get something, Jolene came up to us and insisted that we get our pictures taken. I hate having my picture taken, as my outer self doesn’t always match my inner self.and even on a day like today, where I felt more feminine than not, I still hated having the flower in my hair memorialized for all time.

Still, Allen’s kiss on the cheek was nice, and my smile at him was genuine. He was truly a good man, the best person I’ve ever known.someday soon, I’d have to tell him the truth about me.

And if he still wanted to marry me then, I’d let him.

* * *

Allen:

Later on, after we’d stored our clarinets away and the food had been cleared out, I took Elaine back out to the yard again. Toward the back, there was a patch of green grass near the fence that I didn’t think anyone had stood on today; an untrammeled bit of grass, if you will. The sky was breathtaking, all bronzy red and pinkish orange, fading into the deep twilight blue I’d only ever seen in a Nebraska summer sky. It was a sky Maxfield Parrish might’ve painted, had he the chance.

“Such beauty,” Elaine breathed.

“What better omen for a wedding,” I added.

For once, Elaine didn’t give me a reproving look. Instead, she looked soft, touchable, feminine in a way I rarely saw.I knew I couldn’t waste this moment.

As Jolene and Paula were saying goodbye to their guests, we were quite alone. Our temporary solitude suited me well.

I went down to one knee on the grass, and said, “Elaine Foster, will you marry me?”

Elaine bit her lip, which wasn’t the response I wanted.

So before she spoke, I tried again. “Look, Elaine. We are meant for one another. I love you to distraction. I want you to become everything you have always wanted-a great writer, a great educator. You’re already a great person, and the only woman I want to be with. Will you please put me out of my misery and say yes?”

At that, Elaine laughed, pulled me up, and kissed me. When I broke away again, I looked down at her shining eyes and said, “So, is that a yes?”

“It’s a yes,” she murmured. “But.”

Before she could say anything more, Adam came barreling out into the yard. “My mothers told me to come and find you.”

As we went inside, I thought, This is the happiest day of my life.

* * *

Elaine:

I loved Allen. So I said yes, when he asked me this time-hoping I’d be able to explain just who and what I really was, after. And it made Allen so happy, for a time, I basked in his reflected happiness, and felt transformed.

If only we could’ve stayed in that moment forever.

# End Excerpt #

Want more?

You’ve got two choices.

If you’re still not sold, but you at least want to continue without any worries about payment, go here to the Twilight Times sample chapter page for CF, and keep going.

Or if you are sold, please go to Amazon, get yourself a copy, and keep going! (Then, do let me know what you think. This is not a stereotypical LGBT romance at all…nor is it “SJW fluff” as one non-fan called it, once. Not if I did it right.)

 

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Written by Barb Caffrey

June 6, 2018 at 7:00 pm

Timing, and Jason Cordova’s DARKLING

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I read Jason Cordova’s hotly awaited new novel, DARKLING, over the course of three weeks. (Normally I would’ve devoured it in one sitting, but the fact that I had a crisis going on with a family member’s health made me put it to the side for a time.) It is absorbing, intelligent, fast-paced, dark, depressing, menacing, and in its way a damned good read — but the timing of my life and reading this book were not fully aligned.

Darkling

I submitted a review to Amazon, as per usual, but because I am much more scattered/distracted than usual, I didn’t make a copy of it before I left their page. (Edited to add: After waiting for nearly a full day, I gave up and reviewed the book at Goodreads.) Because of that, I can’t quote the review I’ve already written; all I can do is tell you to go read DARKLING, as it’s very good dark military SF with some absorbing political machinations. (Yes, you should read WRAITHKIN, the first book of Jason’s “Kin Wars” series, first. But you’ll easily understand DARKLING whether you do or not, providing you’ve read any military SF or dark SF at all.)

The rest of this blog is going to talk about aspects of the book that were tough for me to handle, due to the timing. If you don’t want your reading spoiled (though I will try to avoid the worst of spoilers), go do something else and return for the next blog, will you? (I won’t be offended. Promise.)

We have three brothers in DARKLING: Gabriel Espinoza, a Darkling soldier and second-class citizen dealing with dehumanizing treatment due to all soldiers of this type being recruited from the Imperfect class (meaning they could develop cancer, or have some other “genetic defect” that’s been rooted out by the galactic civilization they live in); Andrew Espinoza, a spy (a damned good one) who’s acted in many regards as a chameleon mole; Kevin Espinoza, a politician and born diplomat. Gabriel is a brooding hot mess from an emotional standpoint (it’s understandable, though; the love of his life is dead, he had to give up his daughter due to his line of work and because he didn’t want her tainted by the knowledge of his “imperfect” father, and he’s cut off from his family due to various considerations, even though his family wanted nothing of the sort. I can’t explain this fully because of spoilers, and also because much of it is explained at the very end of WRAITHKIN as I have written before, so I hope you can take this as read.) Andrew, as a chameleon mole, has other issues with trying to maintain his inner self, and also has been cut off from his family due to completely other concerns (again, his family certainly doesn’t want this, but with his job, there’s no other way). And finally, Kevin is a good guy, the only brother attuned to his emotions and fighting hard for the Imperfects as he views his society as closed-minded and hypocritical (and rightfully so). But he’s mostly there as a foil, to explain what the other two brothers should’ve been if not for the circumstances that led them to fight a war in their disparate ways…and that’s a conscious author’s decision that I can’t fault Jason for, as he needed that foil desperately due to the darkness of everything else.

Now, as to the circumstances of my life, and how it applies to how I saw DARKLING.

First, I was reading along, and enjoying the book immensely despite its darkness. (I knew what I was getting in for, as I read and enjoyed WRAITHKIN, and I really wanted to see what would happen next to the Espinoza clan.) Then, my family member’s health crisis arose, and suddenly the world stopped meaning much. I had to put DARKLING down, and deal with immediate realities; my blogs dried up for a bit (which I’ve already explained); I went to “work, sleep, go to hospital/rehab center” mode, rinse and repeat.

Finally, I was able to get back to DARKLING and realized two things; one, I hadn’t forgotten anything in the intervening time since I’d last been able to read and concentrate on anything. (This is the sign of a good writing and an absorbing read, that you don’t forget anything even in the midst of a crisis like this.) And two, the fact that these brothers are put through the emotional and physical wringer was all of a sudden more visceral, more immediate, than before, due to the circumstances of what was going on all around me.

See, writers are observers by nature. We have to be, or we can’t explain or show any of the stories we tell with any verisimilitude at all.

So, I was observing everything that happened around me, as per usual, whether I was picking up on that observation consciously or not. And all of that — all — hit me as I restarted my read of DARKLING. The injuries these men suffered were almost overpowering in their intensity, in this context, and it was difficult for me to keep reading despite the quality of the writing. (Jason keeps getting better and better, and tells a damned absorbing story, as I have said before.)

To my mind, DEVASTATOR is more my cup of tea (as I wrote here). I like Tori so much as a character, and her relationship with Dylan (the shy, almost innocent love she has for him) helps to enliven even the darkest of moments.

But DARKLING is quite good. Quite, quite good, in fact.

I just had a hard time reading it due to what’s been going on. So I tried to say that, without getting into personal details, in the review at Amazon (that still isn’t up as I type this, though if it does go up anytime soon I’ll add a link to the review so you can read it directly).

I do think Jason’s created a new genre, or at least fused a few, in DARKLING. I call this “grim-dark military SF.” (If you read it, you’ll understand why.) There is a palpable sense of menace in even its quieter moments; everyone is on edge, everyone is waiting for the next shoe to drop (or axe to fall, depending), and Gabriel in particular seems like a bomb waiting for a place to go off.

The writing is stellar, though, and if you know going in — as you should, providing you’ve read WRAITHKIN — that it’s going to be grim, you should be able to handle DARKLING just fine.

Just don’t read it before going to sleep if you have a weak stomach or are prone to nightmares. As this book will give you more than a few, else.

Written by Barb Caffrey

April 13, 2018 at 9:59 am

Great New Review for CF, Plus It’s International Women’s Day!

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Folks, before I forget, I’m going to give you this link to the great new review I just received for my novel, CHANGING FACES:

https://www.amazon.com/gp/customer-reviews/R3MR1UA67D6K0Z/ref=cm_cr_dp_d_rvw_ttl?ie=UTF8&ASIN=B01N3CQKWJ

I enjoyed that so much. It made my day!

Now, as I promised yesterday, here’s a post for International Women’s Day.

There are many women in the past and present who’ve inspired me. Some are writers, like Rosemary Edghill, Katharine Eliska Kimbriel, Lois McMaster Bujold, Andre Norton, and Stephanie Osborn (just to name a few). Some are politicians, like Hillary Clinton, Elizabeth Warren, Barbara Jordan and Shirley Chisholm. Some are well-known political spouses, like Betty Ford, Ladybird Johnson, and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis (whose “second career” as an editor was also one to emulate). Some are musicians and singers (Rosemary Clooney, Diana Krall, Billie Holliday, Ella Fitzgerald), while others are people you might not know anything about, but are inspirational all the same.

International Women’s Day is about celebrating the power of women to get things done. All over the world, in every country, women are doing remarkable things. From young women like Malala to more mature women like Angela Merkel, there are so many different women in this world who’ve made a positive and inspirational difference.

So, who are your heroes? Who do you look at, when it comes to inspirational women? Is it your mother? Sister? Friend? Mentor?

All of the above?

I’d like to know, because that’s the best way to celebrate International Women’s Day overall.

But for female writers, such as myself, what are we supposed to do to celebrate International Women’s Day in particular?

My idea is simple. I’d like to encourage you to go buy a female writer’s books today. Whether you buy something by Bujold, Kimbriel, Edghill, Osborn, Kayelle Allen, Sherilynn Kenyon, Deborah J. Ross, Yasmine Galenorn, or any other female writer of your choice, you will be supporting the work of a strong, confident, and determined woman.

And don’t forget about writers who work in concert with their husbands, such as Debra Doyle (who writes with her husband, James D. MacDonald), Mrs. N. Light (part of the husband-wife writer team of N.N. Light) and Adriana Kraft (a husband-wife writer team). They, too, deserve to be celebrated, appreciated, and admired for their hard work.

That, to my mind, is the best-possible way to celebrate International Women’s Day. At least, for this writer.

Written by Barb Caffrey

March 8, 2017 at 4:18 pm

Just Reviewed “Ty Cobb: A Terrible Beauty” at SBR

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Folks, I wanted to point your attention toward my latest book review of Charles Leerhsen’s TY COBB: A Terrible Beauty, which is up right now over at Shiny Book Review (SBR for short, as always).

Now, why am I so proud of this review?

I think it has to do with two things. One, Mr. Leerhsen’s baseball scholarship is superb. And two, I was pleased to realize, after reading Leerhsen’s  book, that Cobb was not at all the virulent racist he’d been portrayed to be.

See, all of the stuff I thought I knew about Cobb was wrong — well, except for the actual baseball facts. (I knew Cobb hit .367 as a lifetime batting average, for example, and was the all-time hits leader until Pete Rose moved past him in the mid-1980s.)

Basically, Ty Cobb, since his death in 1961, has been the victim of a shoddy narrative. Apparently his “biographer” Al Stump was no such thing; instead, Stump invented the wildest flights of fancy about Cobb, figuring that as there was almost no film or still pictures or even radio accounts of Cobb’s play, Stump could do as he liked and no one would be the wiser.

Besides, monsters sell. So Stump made Cobb a monster.

Leerhsen proved just how fallacious Stump’s account actually was by going back and reading all of the various newspaper reports, which were readily available in the archives. (Thank goodness for archives, eh?) Stump made so many erroneous assumptions that it’s hard to believe Stump didn’t know what he was writing was dead wrong; in fact, Cobb himself was in the midst of a lawsuit at the time of his death, because he’d gotten wind of what Stump was about to do to him in the guise of Cobb’s “autobiography” (which was ghost-written by Stump), and wanted no part of it.

The most egregious fallacy of Stump’s was to paint Cobb as a racist. Cobb was anything but — in fact, according to Leerhsen, Cobb used to sit in the dugout with players like Josh Gibson and Satchel Paige during Negro League games, and famously remarked that “The Negro (ballplayer) should be accepted, and not grudgingly but wholeheartedly.” And Cobb was a big fan of Roy Campanella’s, plus he enjoyed Willie Mays and Jackie Robinson.

And as far as being a mean, nasty, vicious old cuss — well, how mean, vicious and nasty could Ty Cobb have been if he was willing to help the young Joe DiMaggio out when Joe D. signed with the Yankees? (Cobb understood baseball contracts, and young Joe didn’t.) How mean was Cobb when he helped Campanella and his family out after “Campy” became paralyzed? And how vicious was Cobb when, after his playing days were over and he had nothing at all to gain by it, he and Babe Ruth became fast friends?

Leerhsen has dozens of stories about Cobb, and very few of them depict anything close to the man Stump portrayed (and Tommy Lee Jones later masterfully acted in the movie version, Cobb).

While Cobb was a difficult man to know — he was prickly, quick to anger, and settled things with his fists more than once — he was not a monster.

Instead, Cobb appears to be the victim of one of the worst narrative frames in the history of all narrative-framing.

So do, please, read my review of Charles Leerhsen’s book TY COBB: A Terrible Beauty. Then please, if you have any interest whatsoever in early 1900s to the “Roaring Twenties” Americana, baseball history, or just want to find out what’s actually the truth about Ty Cobb, go read his masterful book for yourself.

My Fifth Blogiversary — and a Great New Review for “To Survive the Maelstrom”

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Folks, this is my fifth “blogiversary” — that is, the fifth anniversary of my blog, affectionately known as the Elfyverse. (Or Barb Caffrey’s Elfyverse, if you prefer.) Here, I’ve talked about everything that interests me, whether it’s baseball, politics, current events, music, writing, or something else — whatever it is, I’ve probably discussed it.

(Writers do that, y’know.)

Anyway, today I have a special treat for you, in that Pat Patterson of Papa Pat Rambles reviewed my story “To Survive the Maelstrom” over at Amazon — and he gave it five stars. (Thank you, Pat!)

Maelstrom3Here’s the blurb for “To Survive the Maelstrom,” which was written in my late husband Michael B. Caffrey’s Atlantean Union universe (and thus he is credited):

Command Sergeant-Major Sir Peter Welmsley of the Atlantean Union has lost everything he holds dear. He wonders why he lived, when so many others died at Hunin — including his fiancée, Lydia, and his best friend Chet.

Into his life comes Grasshunter’s Cub, an empathic, sentient creature known to those on Heligoland as a “weremouse.”

Weremice are known for their ability to help their bond-mates. But how can this young weremouse find a way to bring Peter back from the brink of despair and start living again?

So if you want to read “To Survive the Maelstrom” in honor of my fifth blogiversary — or just because you like solid military SF — please go to Amazon and grab yourself a copy. (I do intend to get this story to Barnes and Noble and Smashwords within the next ninety days, somehow, but for now it’s on KDP Select. So if you have Kindle Ultimate, you can read “To Survive the Maelstrom” for free — right now.)

Written by Barb Caffrey

July 10, 2015 at 2:21 pm

New Review Up at SBR, and my Writing Journey Continueth…

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Folks, before I forget, go read my review of Deborah J. Ross’s epic fantasy THE SEVEN-PETALED SHIELD. (You’ll be glad you did.)

Why did I want to start with that? Well, it’s rare to see a strong, yet quiet and scholarly woman as the heroine of an epic fantasy. Yet Tsorreh, heroine of THE SEVEN-PETALED SHIELD, is exactly that — and I loved reading about her.

In fact, I enjoyed reading about her so much that I delayed reviewing THE SEVEN-PETALED SHIELD for several months. I was afraid I would not do justice to it, because when you reduce the plot to its bare bones, it sounds like many other epic fantasy novels.

But it’s nothing like them. It isn’t predictable (except that Tsorreh’s son Zevaron is young, impetuous, and you want to kick some sense into him, but isn’t that the way of younglings everywhere?). It’s quite spiritual. And the writing, editing, and presentation of Tsorreh’s journey is so good that I wasn’t sure anything I said would come close to matching it.

I don’t often feel quite this overawed by fiction, mind. (Not even by someone with the stature and longevity of Deborah J. Ross in the field of science fiction and fantasy.) In fact, me feeling like this is quite rare…and I wasn’t sure what to do about it.

Anyway, I’ve now reviewed it over at Shiny Book Review (SBR for short, as always), and I even wrote a review (a different one, earlier this evening) over at Amazon. I think very highly of this book, and I hope that if you like my work and trust in what I say, you’ll give it a try. (Trust me — it’s different. And it’s even better than my words have made it out to be.)

Now, as for my writing journey?

Most of you know that I’m going to put out my late husband Michael B. Caffrey’s Columba Chronicles again. (They were briefly available in 2010 and into 2011 via E-Quill Publishing in Australia.) But I realized on my re-reads that there was more that needed to be added.

It’s kind of like what I’ve tried to do with Michael’s military science fiction. I know there is more to the story. I try to add it, and remain faithful to Michael’s words; then, as I feel more confident, I write in Michael’s milieu and do what I think he’d do if he were still alive. (Or at least what I want to do, because I believe he’d trust me enough to know what that is.)

So right now, I plan to write a story about Cat, Columba’s husband the shapechanger. (We find out about Cat and his unusual courtship of Columba in the “Columba and the Cat” novella, available now.) I’ve called this “The Quest for Columba,” and I’m even mentioning it in the “coming soon” part of all of the novellas currently out there (including the two earliest, “A Dark and Stormy Night,” and “On Westmount Station“).

You see, I figure Cat’s story is vital to understanding why he went after Columba in the first place. Michael only hints at it. But I know how he worked, and I think he would’ve written about it if he’d only had time.

There also was another story on the way that Michael did not get a chance to finish called “Columba and the Cromlech.” I have tried a few times over the past several years to get into that. My problem was always that I didn’t completely get where Cat was coming from, and because of that, I only could write Columba. (And my version of Columba was always a little more in-your-face than Michael’s.)

However, once I finish “The Quest for Columba,” I think I will again turn my attention to “Columba and the Cromlech,” and will have a much better idea as to where that story is going.

That being said, my version of the second story Michael wrote, “Columba and the Crossing,” will be different than the version E-Quill Publishing put out in 2010. I’m adding in more romance, as I think it’s needed — Michael left a lot in subtext, and I think at least some of it needs to be brought out.

Furthermore, I’ve gotten much better at matching Michael’s writing style even though it’s a thousand times different than mine. And because of that, I feel far more confident in adding my own touches. I knew my husband very well, and I believe that he would want me to do this — since he’s not able to bring these stories to their complete fruition, I believe he’d trust me enough to add what I know must be there.

Maybe this sounds strange to you. Perhaps it is strange. I haven’t a clue as to how other writers do this, though I’ve read what Brandon Sanderson said about his collaboration with Robert Jordan (facilitated by his widow the editor), I’ve read what Ursula Jones said about collaborating with her sister Diana Wynne Jones after the latter passed away, and I’ve done my best to figure out what these authors did and why they did it after the fact.

But no one has collaborated with their deceased spouse when neither of them was well-known. That means there’s no road map to what I’m doing, and no one can give me much in the way of advice other than “Trust yourself” or “You’re a better writer than you think” or even “Michael trusted you, so why can’t you believe in yourself more than this?”

All of these things are good to hear, mind. (Don’t get me wrong about this.) And I have listened.

Still, this is my path. I chose it years ago after Michael unexpectedly passed on. I didn’t know how I would do it, but I said I would find a way — and I am.

I only hope that readers will enjoy what I’m doing, and know that there’s a method to my madness. Because I really believe that Michael would be trying to do exactly what I’m doing…even though I can’t prove it.

Written by Barb Caffrey

July 9, 2015 at 5:47 am

Savory Saturday Goodness: A New Review at SBR…Plus a Book Giveaway for E. Ayers!

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Folks, this past week I was consumed with editing. (My book may be in, but the editing goes on. Which is probably just as well…don’t want to be out of a job, methinks.) So I didn’t get a chance to blog.

Now, though, I have two reasons to blog.

First, there’s a new review up over at Shiny Book Review for Mary Robinette Kowal’s VALOUR AND VANITY. This is the fourth book in Ms. Kowal’s Glamourist Histories, and I enjoyed it immensely. But please, read my review, and let me know what you think.

Blank bookcover with clipping path

Blank bookcover with clipping path

Second, for the first time ever here at the Elfyverse blog, I’m going to give away a book for a friend, E. Ayers. Her newest novel is called A RANCHER’S DREAM, and it’s a Western set in the U.S. during the Victorian Era. (Say that five times fast. I dare you.)

Ms. Ayers and I know each other through the Exquisite Quills writing group. She’s a fine writer with a keen mind and an excellent eye for detail, and I’ve enjoyed all the novels she’s written to date. (I intend to review a couple more of ’em next week for Romance Saturday at SBR, if all goes well, one being A RANCHER’S DREAM.)

All you have to do to win an advance e-book copy of A RANCHER’S DREAM is to tell me why you love romance novels. It doesn’t have to be fancy…just tell me why you love romance novels, and the first person who comments, either here on my blog or at Twitter (by time-stamp) will win a copy of Ms. Ayers’ newest novel. (You’ll have your pick of formats, too, in case you’re interested.)

promo1

Widowed and raising a young daughter by himself,
Tiago has only one goal – to work a ranch of his own and build a
future for his small family. When fate deposits a young woman in
his path, he believes he has found the help he needs to care for his child
as they journey to their new home in Creed’s Crossing.

On the run for her life, Ingrid needs to get as far
away from Texas as she can. Her brother and father have
been murdered, and those responsible would see her dead, too.
Desperate, she accepts an offer to help Tiago with his daughter,
but Ingrid’s past can destroy everything Tiago is working for.
Worse – her very presence places him and his daughter in peril.

Amid secrets and danger, a single father
and an orphaned woman on the run must fight all odds to fulfill
A Rancher’s Dream

Coming June 16, 2015

Now available for pre-order at Amazon US: http://amzn.com/B00YJP19TI

…and Amazon International: http://authl.it/B00YJP19TI

*****
So there you have it — a new review at Shiny Book Review, and a brand-new book by E. Ayers that you can win if you tell me why you love romance novels.

How’s that for some savory Saturday goodness?

Written by Barb Caffrey

June 6, 2015 at 11:15 pm