Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Posts Tagged ‘science fiction

More Books at the Fall Book Fair…

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Folks, as promised, I’m here to let you know about some more books at Viviana MacKade’s Fall Book Fair online event…all of them are e-books priced at ninety-nine cents, and all are interesting reads. (I’ve read all the promos and have read a few of the books, and may be picking up a whole bunch of others. They just look that good.)

Along with my own AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE (which was featured today), my friend Kayelle Allen’s THE LAST VHALGENN was also featured. While I’ve often edited for Kayelle, this story predates me knowing her, much less editing for her — so I can tell you without any prejudice whatsoever that it’s a cracking good story.

3d-kl-com-tlvSee, Kayelle’s character Raik is a type of supremely loyal woman we rarely see in any stories these days. She’s not perfect, no, but she’s sexy as Hell, smart, funny in her way, loyal to a fault, and because she is a Vhalgenn — a type of super-courtesan for the highest nobles in the land, and completely unable to have children (so no bastards can be sired upon her, meaning most noble wives would probably not mind her as much as they’d mind other mistresses), she has a unique role to play.

And when she’s placed in an impossible position, what will she choose to do? (Because I want you to go to Viviana’s page, I am going to stop right there with my plot summary.)

When I read THE LAST VHALGENN a few years ago, I sat up and went, “Wow. That’s my type of woman!”

And it’s one reason why, when I had the opportunity to talk about one of my friend Jason Cordova’s books earlier this year, I also talked about one of Kayelle’s — because there’s something there that I’ve seen from both of them that I don’t get in a lot of other places. The military detailing is exceptional, and the characterization is so good, the characters almost jump off the page.  They are both Navy veterans, too, and I think that makes a big difference when it comes to authenticity. (The rest of us, who aren’t, have to work that much harder…but I digress.)

That’s why my hope was that folks who like Jason’s work but had never heard of Kayelle would go take a look at her books, most especially the two novels about Pietas (a man who you shouldn’t like, considering his violent and extremely difficult and sometimes distasteful attributes, but you can’t help but like anyway — and ultimately, come to admire). I saw a lot about BRINGER OF CHAOS: The Origin of Pietas that I thought Jason’s readers, especially those who adored the three Wraithkin books, would appreciate…maybe down the line more folks will make those cross-connections, but at least I have it out there that if you like one of these writers and their military-themed work (and yes, THE LAST VHALGENN has a military element, too, as she’s not just a courtesan; she’s also a fully trained fighter and tactician and military strategist), you will probably like the other.

61i53zmytl-_uy250_In addition to Kayelle’s excellent work, my own AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE is also featured today. It is a funny fantasy that Jason (in a quote given to me for promotional purposes) said was “quick and witty” and “straddles the line between absurdity and suspense.” (When he gave me that quote, I said, “Thank you!”) And Viviana MacKade saw that, made up a nifty little graphic with that quote, and credits Jason for it (as she should).

How did she know about this? Probably because she read the quotes I had for AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE either at my blog or at my Amazon page, and liked Jason’s the best…and as Jason’s own profile has risen in the last few years, it probably can’t hurt me any that she picked his quote. (I hope it helps. I’d like people to actually read what I’m writing, now and again. Gives me hope that they might want to see some sequels or prequels down the line, as I had a whole lot of ’em plotted out at one time.)

So, if you haven’t read AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE yet, please go take a look at it.

And of course keep an eye on Viviana MacKade’s book fair, as there’s still a few more days to go…lots of great e-books, all priced at just ninety-nine cents! (How can you go wrong?)

Written by Barb Caffrey

September 6, 2018 at 12:40 am

Seven Things You May Not Know About My Writing

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A few days ago, author Aaron Lazar tagged me on Facebook with a new type of blog challenge: Name seven things people probably don’t know about your writing, and link back to him.

As Aaron gave his list on Facebook, I can’t link properly to his list. (I can only link to his webpage instead.) But I can write down seven things people may not know about my writing…and here they are.

  1. I’ve been a writer since age ten. My first story was about a girl who wanted to be a ballboy at Milwaukee County Stadium. (There was no such thing as a “ballgirl” in the 1980s.) She was prepubescent and looked like the guys; her parents and the team were in on the deception, and gave her a room all to herself to change in. She was OK until she started a friendship with one of the other ballboys…and then I didn’t know what to do, so I ended the story. (Hey, I was only ten.)
  2. I started writing poetry and science fiction stories when I was a teenager; I started writing fantasy in my twenties.
  3. True story: In my high school creative writing class, the teacher asked everyone to grade themselves. (We had to come up with a grade for ourselves, and defend it.) I was the only person to go in and say, “I deserve an A.” (And I got my A, too.)
  4. My first-ever short fiction was a SF story about characters from the “Star Trek” lower decks. (Yes, this was long before Star Trek: The Next Generation came out, much less the episode with the low-ranking officers.) I got a note back with my rejection, but as I was only 19, I didn’t know that meant I was doing something right. So I put my writing aside for a time.
  5. I started writing nonfiction again around age 27, and worked as an opinion and arts and entertainment reporter for the Parkside Ranger News (the student newspaper of the University of Wisconsin-Parkside).
  6. Later, I was the only non-journalism Master’s candidate to ever write regularly for the Daily Nebraskan. (This is the student newspaper of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. One of my regular “beats” was to let the arts and entertainment writers know what was available. Usually I wrote the stories myself, but occasionally someone else would be sent out to attend an opera or band performance.)
  7. The ELFY duology was not my first-ever attempt at a full-length fantasy. CHANGING FACES was my first attempt…but I couldn’t figure out how to end the story until I met my late husband Michael. And by that time, I’d started ELFY, so I put CHANGING FACES aside for a while.

Now for a few bonus facts:

  • The first writers I remember reading in the SF&F genre were Poul Anderson (especially the Dominic Flandry series), Andre Norton, and Isaac Asimov.
  • The comedic fantasy and SF writers I’ve enjoyed include Piers Anthony, Robert Asprin, Esther Friesner, Jody Lynn Nye, and Douglas Adams.
  • My late husband Michael helped me come up with the Bilre language (used by the Elfys).

So how’s that for a few interesting factoids?

Now, as for some other writers to tag? How about Jason Cordova, Chris Nuttall, and Mrs. N.N.P. Light?

Written by Barb Caffrey

April 26, 2015 at 10:09 pm

What’s Good About Science Fiction and Fantasy?

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Folks, for the past several days I have been wired for sound over this SF&F contretemps (which I referenced here a few days ago).

But I can only handle so much stress. (And make no mistake about it: watching people I respect and admire savage each other is not my idea of a good time.) Which is why when Mary Robinette Kowal put up a post a few days ago asking people to talk with her about being a fan of SF&F, it got me thinking.

What is good about science fiction and/or fantasy? What do I like about it?

At its best, science fiction and fantasy can lift you out of yourself, because both genres are about ideas. And ideas have power, and value, and can inspire…

There are so many wonderful authors out there, and so many great books. They’re full of ideas. And ideas can inspire, entertain, lift you out of yourself, maybe give you a new slant on an old problem…you never know where an idea might lead you, in short.

So what’s good about science fiction and fantasy? Plenty.

Try to remember that, amidst this current controversy. And concentrate on the stories, because it’s the stories that all made us want to be SF&F fans in the first place.

Written by Barb Caffrey

April 16, 2015 at 8:24 am

A Guest Blog from Jason Cordova — ‘How to Genre Hop Without Driving Yourself Completely Insane’

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Folks, I’m pleased to welcome fellow author Jason Cordova to my blog.  Jason and I have known each other for several years now, and have even attempted to collaborate on a novel together (maybe that’ll come to fruition one of these years, as the idea was really, really good).  Jason wrote a novel, CORRUPTOR, and has sold a number of short stories, with the most recent sale being to the anthology MENTAL WARD.  He’s currently working on a number of projects and is one of the busiest people I know, which is why I’m really pleased he stopped by.

Jason is also the owner-operator of Shiny Book Review, which means that technically, he’s my boss over at SBR.  Fortunately, he doesn’t seem to think in hierarchical terms very often, which is why he’s a very good boss.

So here he is . . . the one, the only, Jason Cordova!

*********** Guest Blog Starts Now ***********

  Barb mentioned a few weeks ago (or last week, maybe) that she was open to me doing a guest post on her blog. Since her blog has many more visitors than mine (primarily because she actually has interesting stuff going on), I figured, “Sure, sounds like fun!” Then she even gave me a subject matter to discuss, which made it, like, even easier. So take a seat, relax, and have a sip of Earl Grey. I’m about to bore you to tears.

How To Genre Hop

(without driving yourself insane)

            *cue dramatic music*

One of the hardest things for any writer to do is to write in a genre they are unfamiliar with. Most of the popular writers get labeled in one genre and stay there. This isn’t always a bad thing, no. I myself have found that when I’m searching in the horror section, I’m looking for Dean Koontz. In fantasy, usually the team of Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman catch my eye first. Science fiction? David Weber.

We mentally lump our favorite writers into their genres and keep them there. And for the most part, the authors are content to stay there. But… did you know David Weber wrote a fantasy series? I didn’t, not until someone pointed it out to me (The War God’s Own, for those of you interested). Would you read a science fiction novel by Margaret Weis? Or a romance by Dean Koontz?

Barb asked me once how I genre-hopped. You see, I write in just about every genre, and though I still think of myself as a science fiction author, I’ve published fantasy, horror, thriller, YA and alternate history. Barb’s question made me think about the difficulties of writing in various settings. How do you genre hop without tripping up? How do you keep the settings straight in your head? I then had a revelation. Perhaps that’s the difficulty with genre hopping? Perhaps the problem is that writers are focusing too much on the setting and it’s being difficult?

One of the first things I worry about when writing a story is the main character. Who are they? What are they up to? Why are they doing whatever it is that makes them worth writing about? I want them to be, well, cool. I want them to do things that I can only dream about doing (which includes, but is not limited to, being a super secret ninja warrior assassin in the 1000 BC). I want them to be funny, smart, and interesting enough that when a reader picks up the book, it doesn’t matter to them what the setting is, because they like the main character that much.

(side note/disclaimer: if Jim Butcher stuck Harry Dresden in space, fighting an alien invasion and using ray guns, I would read the sh*t out of that book.)

You see, the setting really isn’t all that important, not at first. Who your main character is, now that is important. It’s easier to build the setting around a fantastic character than it is fitting a character into a setting. Generally speaking, that is. I can already hear the clamors of “Well, that’s not how I do it, and I can hop genres fine!” If that’s the case, awesome. I’d love to review your book sometime.

Ray Bradbury had a solid piece of advice: First, find out what your hero wants, then just follow him!

So you’ve got the character set? Not yet? Okay, well, when you do, what do you do them next? For example, when I was writing Nightwalker, I had the image of a really articulate, well-dressed doctor traversing the Wild West to kill evil. I didn’t know much about where he was, but I knew all about him. A former Civil War doctor who had been injured in battle, he was cursed/possessed by an ancient demon in exchange for him life. The demon, however, is bound by oath to destroy all evil. So an internal struggle for the soul of a man. But is it horror? Urban fantasy? Something else?

Who cares? He’s an interesting character. He’ll find a home somewhere.

I think (I may be wrong here) that a lot of problems stem from a fear of writing the wrong setting. But if your character is just that awesome, does it really matter?

I can already hear people shouting about A Song of Fire and Ice (aka Game of Thrones) and how George R. R. Martin focuses on the setting and it works for him. To which I reply “Really? So you’ve never come upon a certain character’s chapter and found yourself glazing over as you read, waiting for one of your favorites to pop up?” I know I do this when I read a Daenerys chapter (what? she’s gotten boring over the past three books!)**, and I’m fairly certain I’m not alone.

So try to remember that setting (by extension, genre) is secondary when it comes to your book and that your main character is what’s going to sell it. If you can make your character interesting (and cool; never forget the cool), then your book will be a little more memorable.

            For those of you searching for my titles, I have links on both my website ( as well as an Amazon author page (


Thank you, Jason, for that excellent guest blog,  Stop by anytime!

And for the rest of you, please do check out his new story in the anthology MENTAL WARD, which is available right now.

BTW, the ** is for my agreement with Jason over Daenerys’ character in the last three books in the Song of Ice and Fire series.  She’s a strong woman.  I know this, as I’ve reviewed all five of the books over at SBR (here’s a link to all of SBR’s reviews if you don’t believe me).  But these last three books, well . . . Daenerys seems sexually obsessed to the point of near-madness, and I don’t buy it that this is all because of her link with her three dragons.  And all of that makes her predictable at best, boring at worst — and makes those the chapters I’m the most likely to skip over and never read again if I can help it.

Jason is right.  He’s not the only one wondering what’s up with Daenerys, because I am, too.  And while I know that sex sells, especially on TV (it’s doing bang-up business for HBO, words chosen precisely), it can be really, really annoying to read the same sorts of scenes over and over and over again.

Written by Barb Caffrey

October 2, 2013 at 4:48 pm

Reviewed E.C. Myers’ “Quantum Coin” at SBR

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Folks, as I originally wrote this on September 11, 2012 — and for some reason, it wasn’t published on that day — take it as read that I have had alternate universes on my mind all week.

To wit — what would’ve happened had Al Gore, not George W. Bush, been our 43rd President of the United States?  Would he have stayed on top of al-Qaeda, as he was well aware of the threat al-Qaeda posed to the United States?  Or would he have been distracted by the many other concerns that can’t help but keep every President awake at night (unless he’s a particularly sound sleeper, as it appeared Ronald Reagan must’ve been)?

I’d like to think that in another universe — even if it were still a universe where George W. Bush was President, but had different advisors, or maybe took a different path with regards to foreign policy — that the horrible events of our version of September 11, 2001, wouldn’t have happened.

Such is the belief of the parallel worlds theory, something many writers have dealt with in both fantasy and science fiction.  Because my own novel, ELFY (forthcoming from Twilight Times Books in 2013) has elements of parallel worlds in it, I have an affinity for other novels that use this particular theory; that’s one reason I enjoyed reading E.C. Myers’ debut novel, FAIR COIN, as it dealt with the multiverse, modern physics, string theory, and because of this couldn’t help but also talk about parallel worlds and how physicists believe they come about.

In FAIR COIN, when Ephraim Scott, Myers’s hero, figures out how parallel worlds work (because his love interest, Jena Kim, is a budding physicist and kindly explains it all to him) and then ends up enmeshed in them, it all made sense.  Ephraim sees the various ways the world could’ve unfolded; some places have no humans at all, some have constant war, some have already been burned up (nuclear winter), and just about any other possibility aside from alien contact or other types of life is explored.

This is different from what I do in my novel, ELFY — I treat the universes as a fact also, but there are many other intelligences that humans have to deal with — at least the magical humans, those who know we’re not alone in the multiverse.  But the theory being used is exactly the same.

Anyway, Myers’s sequel, QUANTUM COIN, will be out in early October of this year, which is why I reviewed it at Shiny Book Review (SBR)QUANTUM COIN takes up with the same main characters — Ephraim Scott and Jena Kim (and her alternate universe analogue, Zoe Kim) — has a similar premise dealing with alternate universes, and ups the ante in other ways due to how much Myers’s storytelling ability has improved from the previous novel.

To be blunt — QUANTUM COIN has more to it than fancy physics theories (nifty though that is).  It has action.  It has drama.  It has ethics, situational and otherwise.  It has great characterization.  And it has some nicely written low-key romance that’s based off shared experience and friendship, not just hormones and built-in stuff from expectations based off the other person’s analogue (one of the problems I had with FAIR COIN that wasn’t present here is that the romance between Zoe and Ephraim was too rushed; things are fast-paced, yes, but I had a far better sense that Zoe saw our Ephraim as an individual rather than as an archetype).

I enjoyed QUANTUM COIN thoroughly and believe that if you enjoy interesting science as well as a compelling story, you will really enjoy E.C. Myers’ latest effort.  It won’t be released until October 2, 2012, but you can pre-order it now — and really, what’s stopping you?

That way, you, too, can ponder alternate universes, and wonder — do they actually exist?  And if so, what will we do once we discover them?

Written by Barb Caffrey

September 13, 2012 at 7:41 pm