Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Posts Tagged ‘pandemics

Sunday Musings: One Step at a Time…

with 4 comments

Well, it’s Sunday again, so I figured I’d better write something. Here we go…

Lately, I’ve been struggling with a number of issues. The world at large seems stifling…the fact that Covid-19 rages on, and that “real life” remains so constrained, definitely does not help.

A week or so ago, my father told me, “So, what’s the big deal? Your life hasn’t changed that much since the pandemic.” His view was that I mostly do everything I’ve always done, except for wearing a mask while I do it.

Maybe that’s true. But it doesn’t feel that way.

As a writer, I observe things more keenly than most. And what I’ve observed is that societally speaking, we seem to be in a free fall. We’re tired, we’re frustrated, we’re angry, we’re definitely not happy…and the few who usually try to find bright spots mostly seem to be muzzling themselves. (Except maybe for posting various cat and dog pictures; they’re nice, but don’t make up for everything else.)

I know I usually try to concentrate on something positive, or uplifting, or at least interesting. And the past few months, I’ve been in a rut of my own that has made it hard for me to do any of that.

Why? Well, I think part of it is because 2020 has been so difficult. Everything I’d wanted to accomplish has been slowed significantly. And that’s extremely vexing.

One of my writer-friends sent me an essay that I wish I could find right now. The essay pointed out that sometimes, rage is your friend. It may stop you from writing in the short-term, but providing you do not give up, the rage can give you enough energy to keep going until you can write again.

But in case rage doesn’t do it for you, consider it from a different angle.

A book I read years ago called THE QUOTIDIAN MYSTERIES discusses just how these fallow periods in our lives can lead to greater creativity in the end. We seem to need these empty spaces with regards to our creativity for some reason, just as fields need to be left fallow every so often.

In other words, we have to trust the process.

And speaking solely for myself, I have to believe that this fallow season will come to an end, and my creativity will reassert itself as soon as it possibly can. And providing I stick it out, the words — and the stories — will come back full-force just as soon as they possibly can.

What are you doing during the pandemic to best utilize your creativity? Or at least keep yourself from running around, screaming? Tell me about it in the comments!

Written by Barb Caffrey

October 25, 2020 at 3:02 am

Alleviating Stress During Covid-19 (and Beyond)

with 3 comments

Folks, as the Covid-19 pandemic rages on and on, and as the stay-at-home orders in Wisconsin continue (as they do in many places around the world), I thought I’d take a different tactic today.

To wit: What can we do to alleviate stress during this difficult and stressful time? And what may work to alleviate stress down the road, once we’ve finally done with the Covid-19 pandemic?

The main things I do to alleviate stress include reading (what a surprise, no?), writing music, listening to music, sometimes taking a drive (which is still allowed in Wisconsin even under the pandemic rules, providing you stay in your car), and doing word puzzles/word games. I also play some non-word-game related puzzles, and enjoy playing various video games (I’m quite partial to Crazy Cakes 2, a game at I enjoyed the original Crazy Cakes; the updated version is just as good.)

Mind, I didn’t list “writing” in there — as in, writing words. That’s because lately it hasn’t been alleviating stress for me to write, as I haven’t felt very well in months. (I don’t think that’s much of a surprise, if you’ve been following along with my blog at all.) I still am able to get some words in, here and there, and I’m glad to do it; however, thinking about how I am not able to do as much writing as I want to do tends to give me stress rather than alleviate it.

When I get on a roll with writing, though, there’s nothing better at alleviating stress. Because I can get caught up in the story, and want to know what happens next (if only my pesky characters will tell me!), and it takes me out of my head and my worries for a while when that happens.

For the moment, though, the other things I listed above will have to serve instead. And for the most part, they are helping…though I wish I could write up a storm and truly advance on my various projects, as I think that would help me feel far, far better overall.

What is helping you during this time of crisis and travail? Let me know in the comments!

Written by Barb Caffrey

April 29, 2020 at 8:08 pm

A Post About Hope for #MFRWHooks

with 20 comments

Hope. It’s in short supply right now, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet we need it, or we’re going to have an even harder time digging our way out of the mess we’re now collectively in.

I’ve said before, here at my blog, that I wonder how Bruno and Sarah, my characters in the Elfy duology (comprised of AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE and A LITTLE ELFY IN BIG TROUBLE), would do in this situation. And I’m writing a story now about exactly that, so eventually I hope I’ll know.

But what came to me, tonight, is that I actually do have a bit of an answer already.

In A LITTLE ELFY IN BIG TROUBLE, my hero Bruno and my heroine Sarah are trying to save Bruno’s teacher and mentor, Roberto the Wise. Roberto’s been taken and tortured by a Dark Elf, Dennis; worse yet, he’s being tortured in public as a sort of Mystery Science Theatre 3000 exercise as most of the people in the crowd are under the influence of psychedelic incense, poisoned ground, or worse.

So, Dennis is doing what he is — an evil act, or even worse, a series of evil acts — in plain sight.

Sarah is a strong empath. Eventually, she hopes to be a doctor (in Bruno’s parlance, a Healer), like her grandmother was years ago. She can’t help but feel what’s going on with Roberto; Roberto is dying, and may not even live to be sacrificed, as far as she knows. And while Bruno knows this, and can feel some of it, too, it doesn’t hit him directly as hard. Not anywhere as hard as it’s hit Sarah, anyway.

But watching Sarah suffer hurts him.

So, without further ado, here’s that scene from A LITTLE ELFY IN BIG TROUBLE:

He turned to Sarah and took her wrist, feeling her pulse bounding against his too-cool hand. “Are you all right, my love?” he asked softly. “Are you sure you don’t want to get out of here? Someone could be spared to take you away from all this…”

“No, Bruno,” Sarah said. She looked like she wanted to say more, but instead started coughing as if her throat was as dry as any of Bruno’s old textbooks. She continued to look pale, waxen, and ill; only her dark eyes showed any trace of her usual force of spirit. “I have to stay here. I’m Roberto’s only hope.”

“Well, he has other hopes, dear,” Bruno replied, contradicting her last statement almost as a reflex, “but yes, you’re his best hope.”

See, Sarah, despite being gravely ill now (an illness of a spiritual nature), is there because she is needed. Just as our doctors, our nurses, our pharmacists, our grocery workers, our police/fire/EMT emergency responders, and our postal workers — among others — are there now despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sarah believes in hope. So does Bruno. Because at this point, neither of them knows how they’re going to rescue Roberto. The situation is bad. While they do have allies, their allies can’t do all that much to help…or worse, their allies can only help in certain ways. And every one of their allies is also at risk from the Dark Elf, who’s as evil a creature as has ever lived in the multiverse. (At least, as far as Bruno and Sarah understand.)

I think we all need to believe in hope right now, too.

We don’t know the end of the story, right now, with COVID-19. We don’t know much, except that it can be deadly and that we don’t have any cure for it. We don’t have a vaccine, either. And all we can do is our best to stay home; when we’re not at home, or doing essential things like getting food (rarely) or medicine or exercising, we must be careful and cautious if at all possible. (Don’t get me started about what the Supreme Court of the United States did yesterday in saying that people who didn’t get their absentee ballots for today’s Wisconsin election in time to get them in the mail today must go to vote in person despite this pandemic, or I will be so furious I can’t even type.)

Anyway. We have to hope. We have to believe we will come out the other side of this and recognize ourselves. We have to hope against all odds that we will get past the COVID-19 pandemic; we have to hope that we’ll be able to live through it, and somehow find a way to make better public policy in the future so other pandemics don’t catch the United States flat-footed as we were this time.

Just as Bruno and Sarah somehow found hope in a horrible situation, we must, too.

That’s why I wrote this BookHooks post, on behalf of my fellow Marketing for Romance Writers authors and anyone else who needed to read it. And I do hope it helps you.

Written by Barb Caffrey

April 7, 2020 at 8:25 pm

Staying Healthy in the Age of Covid-19

with 4 comments

Folks, I have been thinking about this all week. How can we stay sane during this onset of the illness known as Covid-19? (Otherwise known as either the “coronavirus” or the “Wuhan flu.”)

This is a serious question, mind you. Even folks who haven’t had Covid-19 have been affected due to aggressive measures of social distancing, quarantine, and stay-at-home measures. These things, I believe, will help to lessen the amount of deaths we’d have otherwise seen…but it’s hard to prove a negative like that. And it’s even harder to alter our lives, day after day, in so many small ways.

Consider this: Before Covid-19, you didn’t worry about going to get gas. That there might be germs on the pump that could kill you. (I know this sounds alarmist, but I’m talking “worst-case scenario” here. Yes, you can wash your hands often, and you should.) You didn’t worry about going to the grocery store, either. Nor were there YouTube videos out there showing clueless teens and others touching or licking food in the store, as if Covid-19 isn’t a serious issue. (Those who do this need to be stopped and punished. If they’re under a certain age — say, twelve — their parents need to take care of it, and if the parents can’t, then it may be up to the courts.) And you didn’t worry that anyone you might come into contact with could get infected by you, even if you show no symptoms…because in the U.S., there’s a shortage of tests, and only the highest-priority (or, perhaps, the very wealthy who can jump the line) are able to get tested.

All of this promotes a heightened state of anxiety. It can’t help but do this. And nearly everyone feels it, whether they say so or not; if they aren’t sick, that’s great, but they’re still cooped up in the house, unable to perform any part of their normal routine, and that in and of itself is wearying. (Not to say anything about those who are in unsafe, unstable situations who are now sheltering-in-place with abusers. Which is scary as Hell, too. The shelters are still open and can still help you, if you are in such a situation, but how many people are going to be able to think past their fears to go when it’s hard to leave an abusive situation in the first place?)

I have pondered what my characters Bruno, Sarah, and Lady Keisha (from the Elfy series) would do in such a time. Lady Keisha is a healer/priest, so she’d certainly be ministering to the sick. Maybe she’d be much less at risk because of her magic; maybe not. But she’d be out ministering anyway. And Sarah, who’s more or less a de facto apprentice healer due to her strong skills of empathy even at an early age, would be right there with her.

But what about Bruno, you ask? I’m not sure what Bruno would do. He’d probably make masks, as there’s a shortage of them. (With his magic, and being able to make something out of nothing, he’d be able to make them a lot faster than the rest of us.) He’d probably go and sterilize equipment as fast as he could. He’d probably ready all the available mages in the area, and get them into positions to do the same things at whatever levels they could…in other words, I can’t see him being silent, or sitting on the sidelines, or accepting this passively.

As for Allen and Elaine of Changing Faces, who have no magic? I think they’d be making YouTube videos of their music to comfort people. Maybe playing duets, as they liked to do that anyway…they’d be sheltering-in-place at home, and they’d be telling people in every situation to enjoy life as much as possible, because time and health are not expendable.

I think we need to be like Allen, Elaine, and Bruno, even if we can’t be like Lady Keisha and Sarah at this time because we don’t have the proper training.

What that means is, we have to do what we can, even if it’s small. If we can make masks, we should. If we can’t, we should try to find a way to donate materials to those who can. We should lobby our legislators to get more ventilators for the hospitals and clinics that need them. We should do everything in our power to keep states from having to bid against each other, much less against FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency), and get a national clearinghouse to get and send out the ventilators to the critically affected areas first and everyone else after — an effective national clearinghouse — in place, stat, so this never happens again.

But most of all, we need to be kind to each other. Be especially kind to those who are still out there working, like the grocery store clerks, and the pharmacists, and the medical personnel. Thank them for what they do as often as you can. Try not to be short with them no matter what your stress level.

Why? They’re the ones who are going to get us through this. And we need to help them as much as we can in any way we can, even if it’s just by appreciating what they do at this especially difficult time. (Appreciation and kindness matter. Especially now.)

Finally, if you’re in an area that as yet is unaffected by Covid-19 in a major way, don’t think you’re immune to this. It’s just slower to get to you, that’s all.

Don’t be tempted to do what the stupid kids did in Florida by going to the beach for Spring Break as usual; many of them got sick, and not all from Covid-19 either, because of their stupidity. (All of ’em should be up for Darwin Awards for that, in my not-so-humble opinion.)

Don’t be tempted to resume your normal routine too soon, either.

Those of you in small communities in mountainous areas are probably safer than many at this time, because fewer people congregate around you in the first place. But all it takes is one person who doesn’t know they are infected to bring it to your community. And this was out in the United States for a good two to three weeks before we took any notice of it; that’s just the facts.

We have no immunity to this. It’s worse than the flu. The death rates are higher than the flu. And we as yet have no vaccine for it, and likely won’t for at least eighteen months no matter how fast the medical researchers work (and I’m sure they’re working feverishly).

So please. Be kind. Be cautious. Be safe. Wash your hands, and often.

Live through this. (Please?)

Written by Barb Caffrey

March 27, 2020 at 4:51 pm

Mass Hysteria and the Coronavirus

with 4 comments

Folks, I have read any number of articles and seen any number of TV programs (and internet programs, for that matter) regarding the coronavirus. It is an infectious disease with no cure; it is a virus; the only way to deal with it is by living through it and taking palliative measures that you’d take if you were dealing with any illness at all.

This is all true.

But the hysteria around the coronavirus — the “we’re all gonna die” feeling — is not helpful. It scares people for no reason. It worries them to the point they go out and buy all the toilet paper in the store, all the bottled water, all the Lysol and disinfecting bleach…and they do this because it’s the only thing they can control.

Illness isn’t fun. I know this, as I’m battling Ye Olde Mystery Illness.

But you can deal with it. You can make sure you have Tylenol on hand. You can get extra rest. You can make sure you have some soup in the house, or something easy to eat, if you are too ill to make something. And you can make sure that you stay mentally healthy, refusing to give in to the hysteria, while you take these preventive measures.

Yes, get more bleach, if it makes you feel better. (I know I’ve bought some extra for both my Mom and myself. But it’s just one bottle with the groceries, not the whole section.) Get Lysol, as you should have that on hand anyway. Get cleaning products (which you should also have on hand). Make sure you wash your hands thoroughly with hot water (by preference; cold water beats nothing). And remember that washing your hands is by far preferable to hand sanitizer, but if all you have is hand sanitizer for some reason, use it as it’s better than nothing at all. (The good ones have alcohol in them. The not-so-good ones that don’t do much at all don’t.)

Now, all of this is just common-sensical stuff. This is what most of us can do about anything when it comes to our health.  And when we think about it that way, there’s no reason to panic.

But the reason people are panicking is very simple: Coronavirus is new. People don’t know what’ll happen to them. It is infectious. It is dangerous to people who are dealing with respiratory issues or are older adults (I don’t like the word “elderly,” so I’ll just say “older adults,” OK?).

And “new viral illness” that’s killed people, and shut down most of the country of Italy, is scary. The progression of the disease, how fast it moves, and how it can kill people — that, too, is scary.

So I’m not saying to take it lightly.

All I’m saying is, don’t give in to the hysteria. That gets you nowhere. It wastes your energy to no purpose.

Instead, be prepared — moderately so (don’t buy all the toilet paper on the shelves, OK?) — and do whatever your doctor tells you to do if you get it.

That’s all you can do with these unknown illnesses. (Or really, anything unknown at all.)

Written by Barb Caffrey

March 10, 2020 at 8:47 am