Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Posts Tagged ‘Dark Fantasy

Introducing…”Kaitlin’s Tale” by Christine Amsden

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KAITLIN’S TALE is the latest urban fantasy novel by award-winning author Christine Amsden. It features Kaitlin, a strong-willed heroine with a self-deprecating sense of humor…just my type of woman! She’s a young mother who’s made some bad choices, and now is on the run from some vampires — including her baby’s father, Jason. She meets up with a powerful, telepathic magician, Matthew Blair…and sparks fly in every possible sense.

Can these two basically good, but deeply flawed people find a way to make common cause against the vampires? And will they ever realize that they were made for each other?

KAITLIN’S TALE has my highest possible recommendation, folks…I edited it, and I know it’s an excellent novel that made me tear up in spots. Kaitlin is definitely one heroine who deserves her happy ending, most especially because she doesn’t seem to realize exactly that. And her son, Jay, is one cute little guy, too…all the way around, I loved KAITLIN’S TALE, and I hope you will give it — and Christine Amsden’s work as a whole — a try. (Read the first three chapters for free, here.)

Now, on to what Christine wanted to say about why she wrote Kaitlin’s story!


Christine Amsden says:

Who is Kaitlin?

I love Kaitlin. As I wrote the book, I sometimes thought to myself that I loved her more from the outside! She’s nothing like me. My inspiration for Kaitlin came from an experience I had as a sophomore in high school, shortly after one of those school-wide assemblies about sex and sexual abuse. They told me that one in three people had been sexually abused. I couldn’t believe it! One in three? I looked at the two friends I’d come with, wondering which one of them it had been since it wasn’t me (thankfully). To my surprise, I got the answer as we were leaving. She told me and she made me swear I wouldn’t tell a soul.

I didn’t, and it is the single biggest regret of my life. At the time I mistakenly believed that a real friend would keep a confidence. My only excuse is that I was fifteen and had precious few friends. Now I know that a true friend would have risked the friendship to do the right thing and get her friend help.

Over twenty years later, I give you Kaitlin, and I get her help. Not the sort you’re likely to get in real life (telepaths being vanishingly rare), but I wrote it for my friend, who I haven’t seen since high school, and for anyone else out there who knows what it’s like. Though I cannot truly know your pain, I have imagined it in this book.

If you do know the pain, and if you’ve never faced it, I urge you to seek help because there are no telepaths in real life. But there are people who understand.

Written by Barb Caffrey

May 28, 2016 at 5:00 am

Two New Reviews Up at SBR Over the Weekend

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Folks, I had a busy weekend with regards to reviews, which is one reason I wasn’t able to write an after-action report right away with regards to Friday’s review of Sharon Lee and Steve Miller’s newest novel in their ongoing Liaden Universe, TRADE SECRET.

You see, my latest review, up as of a few, short minutes ago, is for Vera Nazarian’s haunting and compelling COBWEB EMPIRE, the second in her Cobweb Bride series. Her series is dark fantasy, yet there’s somehow an underpinning of optimism that carries you through nearly unimaginable suffering . . . in Ms. Nazarian’s conception, Death needs a bride and has refused to go on taking souls until he gets one. But he can’t have just any bride . . . oh, no. He needs a specific bride he calls the “Cobweb Bride” (hence the name of the first book of the series, COBWEB BRIDE, and the series itself, natch), and nothing else will do.

This universe is unlike anything I have ever seen. It is rich, dark, menacing, yet there are plenty of good people who populate it, including the couple at the heart of all the chaos, Persephone “Percy” Ayren and her own dark knight, Duke Beltain Chidair. (Note that Beltain hasn’t yet accustomed himself to being the Duke as his father is undead and certainly doesn’t wish to give up the title, being as distressing a personage as can be imagined . . . at least until an even worse one, Sovereign Rumalar Avalais of the Domain, shows up.)

I have enjoyed reading Ms. Nazarian’s conception thus far, and can’t wait to dive into COBWEB FOREST . . . which is why I plan to read and review it this week. (I’ve already skimmed it, but there’s many, many more things to discover by reading it multiple times.)

At any rate, I also enjoyed Sharon Lee and Steve Miller’s TRADE SECRET quite a bit. It’s told in an unusual way that I likened to a mosaic, as nothing really fell into focus for me until right before the end — then I understood it completely.

Why a mosaic? Well, with a lot of mosaics, you can’t really tell what’s going on until you can stand outside and ponder them. And as that was definitely the case here, it seemed to fit.

So there you have it: Two new reviews are up at Shiny Book Review for two interesting and thoughtful books that both delighted me enormously, albeit in radically different ways.

Hope you’ll enjoy the reviews — then, if they intrigue you anywhere near as much as they did me, go buy the books. (Hours of reading enjoyment await. And the re-reads . . . did I mention the re-reads yet?)

Dora Machado’s Guest Blog — “What an Editor Can Do for You”

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A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about four current titles available from Twilight Times Books (TTB for short)  — The Curse Giver by Dora Machado, Don’t Let the Wind Catch You by Aaron Paul Lazar, Lucid by Natalie Roers and Dina von Lowenkraft’s Dragon Fire.  I worked on three of those four titles, and said so.  But I was proudest of the work I did for Dora Machado’s The Curse Giver.

When I received The Curse Giver from TTB’s publisher Lida Quillen, I quickly recognized that much of the book was very good.  Some of it was exceptional.  But there was a problem at the beginning of the book that might’ve stopped a reader cold from understanding that the hero of the story, Brennus, is actually a good guy.  (Suffice it to say that Brennus does many things he’d rather not do for the best of reasons.)  Ms. Quillen wanted me to see what I could do to help Ms. Machado’s book, and gave me ample time to think about it.

Anyway, I edited Dora Machado’s book and suggested a number of things at the beginning that I thought might help in addition to the usual comments as regards to copy-editing and consistency-reading.  I made so many comments at the beginning that I was a little worried that Ms. Machado would get upset, even though I also pointed out where I thought the story worked particularly well to balance things out.  (Unless I’m really pressed for time, I always do this.  A writer needs to know that her editor understands her book.)

Fortunately for me, Dora Machado did understand, and was appreciative of my efforts.  She thanked me publicly in her book for helping her — those of you who are editors know how rare that is.  Then, she asked if she could write a guest blog discussing the editorial process from a writer’s perspective, discussing her experiences with me in specific, and I said, “Sure.”

I hope you will enjoy this blog as much as I did, even though I blushed to read some of it.

So without further ado . . . let’s bring on the guest blog!

*********** Guest Post Separator ***********

What An Editor Can Do For You . . . If You Let Her


 Dora Machado

When it comes to editors, I haven’t always a believer. As a writer, part of me assumed that if you needed an editor, you weren’t ready for prime time. The smarter part of me suspected that the cocky part of me was being—well—cocky. So a few years back, I decided to challenge my assumptions and hired an editor to review my manuscript prior to submission. Wow. The mind-blowing, eye-opening experience resulted in the award-winning Stonewiser series.  I realized that, no matter how well you write, every author can benefit from having an editor, and a qualified, experienced, insightful editor can impact both a story and an author in profound and lasting ways.

Of course, the editing experience has a lot to do with the quality of the editor, the interaction between the writer and the editor, and the author’s ability to capitalize on the editor’s advice. I have been extremely fortunate to work with some of the best editors in my genre, but I have to credit my publisher, Lida Quillen of Twilight Times Books, for making this latest match. When she assigned Barb Caffrey to edit The Curse Giver, she brought together two experienced, opinionated, passionate lovers of the fantasy genre with stubborn streaks, high standards and even higher expectations. I have to wonder: Either Lida Quillen is a troublemaker or she’s the wisest publisher on the planet.

Generally speaking, an editor’s contributions range from the very simple to the very complex. Writer’s ego aside, a good editor will always remind us of the basic principles of writing and the pesky details we might overlook when submerged in our manuscript’s depths. I’m always surprised—not to mention embarrassed—by the simple finds, the nits, typos and common mistakes my editor catches. I blame writer’s myopia for those easy-to-fix bloopers. When you’ve read the same paragraph twenty-six times, the eye doesn’t see what’s before it anymore, but rather what the mind thinks the eye should see. I might be sharp and thrive at self-editing, but once the eyes go numb, self-editing becomes a delusion.

Beyond the simple contributions, an editor has a lot more to offer, not just to the author but to the story. A good editor can offer perspective and objectivity, which can often become casualties of the creative process. Objectivity is an important quality when evaluating a story. It’s not about how well the story is written. It’s about how well the story reads, how it flows—not in your author’s mind, where the movie has played so many times—but in the virgin mind, where the story runs what can sometimes be a very different course through a new geography.

This is exactly what happened when Barb Caffrey read The Curse Giver‘s manuscript. She pointed out the strengths right away—assets I immediately wanted to preserve during the editing process. But she also sensed a weakness, a kink in the story’s flow, a blind spot for the reader that didn’t exist in my author’s mind because I knew the story’s outcome all along.

Barb recommended that I add a new point of view to the story. I gasped when I got her e-mail. I imagined my word count—the bane of my writer’s existence—soaring. I thought about all the work it was going to take to integrate this new point of view into the story, the details I would have to tweak, the time and energy I would have to spend . . .

I sat on my author’s indignation for a whole five minutes before I began to consider the suggestion in earnest. I had been sort of wondering if The Curse Giver‘s first few chapters were strong enough to capture the reader’s mind and launch them into the grand adventure that awaited them. You know an editor is gifted when she jabs that needle directly into your nerve. You know she is exceptional when she answers the very question you feared asking.

“Okay, all right.” I took several deep breaths and forced my mind open. “So maybe Barb has a point.”

I had the perfect character built into the story to develop a new point of view.  As Barb pointed out, I could keep my word count down by using the new point of view sparingly in a ruthless and utilitarian approach. She kindly encouraged me to at least give it a try. It doesn’t hurt when your editor combines excellence and kindness, so I sat down, wrote out the new POV, and tested it by inserting it in the story.

I purred like a satisfied kitten when I reread the amended story. My questions were answered. My doubts were put to rest. The story flowed beautifully. The new point of view strengthened and clarified the opening chapters, supporting the early development of the reader’s trance. Added bonus? Readers loved Severo, and they routinely tell me how much they like this quirky character who got his own POV at the last minute, courtesy of Barb Caffrey.

If you are a writer, you know that writing requires continuous self-development. Our trade demands the highest standards of critical review and our stories are improved by a rigorous editing process. An editor can provide all of that and more, especially if she has tons of practical experience in the genre, is a good fit to your style, and has secured your trust with high-impact recommendations. In addition, a good editor helps you build confidence in your writing. But remember, editing works only if the author is open to changes and suggestions. Take it from me:  An editor can improve your writing and your manuscript . . . but only if you let her.


Thanks, Dora, for that excellent guest blog.  I truly appreciate it.

As for the rest of you, please go buy THE CURSE GIVER without delay if you love fantasy, dark fantasy, romantic fantasy, fantasies that feature complex yet realistic world building, or just are up for a great read.  Trust me — THE CURSE GIVER will not disappoint.  (Further editor sayeth not.)

Written by Barb Caffrey

September 4, 2013 at 10:20 pm

Just Reviewed Rosemary Edghill’s “Vengeance of Masks” at SBR

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Folks, if you haven’t read Rosemary Edghill’s writing yet, you should.  She’s one of the best writers working in any genre, and her books never disappoint.

That’s why I find it so hard to believe that she had to self-publish the entirety of her interesting, surprising, different SF/F hybrid novel THE VENGEANCE OF MASKS, especially as this novel contains many elements that are traditional in dark fantasy epics — which means there are cognates out there (in other words, if you’ve read any of Cathrynne M. Valente’s dark fantasy, or Michaele Jordan’s, or Jane Lindskold’s, or most especially Jacqueline Carey’s, you will enjoy THE VENGEANCE OF MASKS.)

I’ll tell you what — if you aren’t reading every single thing Rosemary Edghill writes, if only to figure out why and how she puts stories together, you are missing out.  (Big-time.)  And when you consider that she writes cracking-good adventure stories, great and realistic romances (even under uneasy and often off-putting situations), and that she never disappoints, it is beyond me why she doesn’t have a far greater readership.

That said, her novel THE VENGEANCE OF MASKS  is excellent, as I said in my review tonight at Shiny Book Review (SBR).  Constantly surprising, always engaging, and compulsively readable, this is one novel that should be bought, read, and re-read as it is excellent in every particular.

Seriously.  Go to Lulu right now and buy THE VENGEANCE OF MASKS.  Then read it, enjoy it, and recommend it to your friends — because trust me: if you like dark fantasy and/or sword and sorcery epics and/or science fiction/fantasy romance, you will love THE VENGEANCE OF MASKS.