Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Posts Tagged ‘SF/romance

Flu, Day 5, and Newest Guest Blog

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Folks, I start to slowly improve.

My voice is better. I have a teensy smidgen of energy. My temperature is down and stays down, providing I don’t do very much…still can’t write much, still can’t edit, and thinking is slow, but I’m a whole lot better than I was over the weekend and am grateful for that.

Anyway, I have another guest blog up today at Confessions of an Eccentric Bookaholic…doesn’t that seem like a good place for me to be appearing? (Hey, eccentric is one of the nicer things I’ve been called in my life. Something about being a SF&F writer makes most people say, “What?” and sidle away, slowly…)

This, of course, is in support of CHANGING FACES, my newest novel, a LGBT-friendly contemporary fantasy/romance.

Here’s a bit from that guest blog:

Mayra Calvani: Please tell us about Changing Faces, and what compelled you to write it.

Barb Caffrey: Changing Faces is all about the power of love regardless of outward form. I wrote it because I saw two people in love—Allen Bridgeway, a heterosexual man of thirty, and Elaine Foster, a bisexual and transgender woman of twenty-eight—who were about to make a major mistake. Elaine felt that Allen could not understand her being transgender, you see, as she has just told Allen and he’s floored. (She uses “she” as the default pronoun, is a feminist scholar, and there’s absolutely no way he could’ve known this.) Allen wants to marry Elaine, but doesn’t know what to make of these revelations; Elaine is so upset that despite a nasty winter storm, she demands to be taken to a hotel. So Allen drives her, inwardly praying that they not be separated.

And his prayer is answered.

They will get a second chance at love, but with conditions. He’s now in her body. And she is inside his, but in a coma, speaking with an alien/angel known as an Amorphous Mass (a type of shapeshifter). He can tell no one he’s Allen; she cannot speak with anyone except the alien/angel. Both still want to be with each other, but how can they get past this?

Thus, Changing Faces.

M.C.: What is your book about?

Barb Caffrey: The power of love, and the realization that LGBT people are just like anyone else. They want love, and happiness, and understanding, and to be desired for themselves. And that if someone can see inside you—see your soul, rather than the outward form of your body—that’s what true love is all about.

Allen truly loves Elaine. The outward form doesn’t matter that much to him, even though at first he is absolutely thrown when she tells him, at long last, that she is transgender. She feels she’d be better off in a male body, but she’d still want to use “she” as her pronoun, and that is just deeply confusing to him. He loves her, and wants her, and desires only her…even when he’s confused, and doesn’t understand what she’s telling him, he does know that much.

Which is why he prays, and is answered…

In case you think this is giving short shrift to Elaine and Elaine’s wishes, though, don’t. Elaine, too, actually wanted the same thing. (These aliens/angels do not exist in our linear time, exactly. So one of them knows that Elaine, on her deathbed, after becoming outwardly male, wanted another chance with Allen and felt she’d made a bad mistake in refusing to stay with him.)

That’s why the aliens/angels do this. They believe in love. And they want love to have its day, even if it means both Allen and Elaine must change their faces so they can have another chance.

As I’ve been saying, I think CHANGING FACES is an important story for our current political climate, especially considering the Trump Administration’s recent reversal of the previous Obama directive regarding transgender students and bathrooms. (I wish we didn’t need a federal policy on this; my friend Kamas Kirian commented a few days ago about this, in fact. But there are some states that are less forward-looking than others, and it’s in those states in particular that the LGBTQ community needs its rights protected.) Reminding people that folks who aren’t straight are the same as everyone else and want love, compassion, personal satisfaction, and happiness is important right now.

Did I write this as a message novel? No, I didn’t. I wrote it as a romance, period. But if you want to see a message there, beyond the fact that I think souls are a whole Hell of a lot more important than bodies could ever be, I’m not going to stop you from seeing it.

Beyond that, if you’ve already read CHANGING FACES, please go and leave a few words about it. I have no reviews, currently, and am having trouble finding anyone to review it at all…to spend nearly fifteen years on a book without any reviews (and not the sales I was hoping for, though the year is young and all that) is very difficult.

Granted, I’m still dealing with the flu, so maybe it seems worse than it is. Still, I urge you to please read my sample chapters at Twilight Times Books if you haven’t yet checked out CHANGING FACES, then go pick up a copy as an e-book as it’s still just ninety-nine cents.

Now, I’d best get back to resting, so I can kick the remainder of this flu.


Written by Barb Caffrey

February 28, 2017 at 5:42 pm

Reviewed Grant Hallman’s “IronStar” and “Upfall” Last Night at SBR

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Folks, this past week has been a nightmare.

Why? Well, I’ve been dealing with a sinus infection. The hot water heater decided it had had enough, too . . . and even the cheapest and lowest-rated hot water heater is currently beyond my reach, though of course I’m working on that.

Anyway, I’d hoped to review Grant Hallman’s novel IRONSTAR and novella UPFALL a few weeks ago. But I knew I couldn’t do them justice, which is why I’d delayed . . . at any rate, I have reviewed them now over at Shiny Book Review (SBR, as always).

Now, why was I worried about doing two science fiction stories justice, when I’m a SF writer myself?

Simple. IRONSTAR incorporates some metaphysics into the mix (as you’ll see if you go over and read my review), and I was unsure at first how to discuss this without giving too much of the plot away. And, while IRONSTAR is military SF, I was worried about describing the many other parts of the diverse plotline . . . but it all came into place once I realized I could review both stories on Saturday.

You see, I’ve reviewed many books that have a romantic component on Saturday for SBR’s “Romance Saturday” promotion. And Hallman’s novella, UPFALL, is an unabashed romantic SF story of the old school . . . lots of good science, lots of intelligent romance, and a crowd-pleasing ending, so what’s not to like about that?

When you put UPFALL together with IRONSTAR, which also has a romance along with the military SF going on, it seemed a natural fit for Romance Saturday.

Anyway, I hope you will enjoy my review. So have at . . . and enjoy your weekend. (As for me, while I do intend to watch the Brewers play the Reds, I have a whole boatload of editing to get done by Monday morning.)



Written by Barb Caffrey

May 3, 2014 at 6:14 pm

Just Reviewed K.E. Kimbriel’s “The Fires of Nuala” at SBR

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Folks, if you haven’t read any of Katharine Eliska Kimbriel’s novels before, you need to go find them and read them immediately.

I don’t often say this.  In fact, I’ve said this with regards to maybe two other authors in my entire life, those two being the novels of Rosemary Edghill (in any genre) and the novels of André Norton.  These two authors — one extremely well-known and a Grandmaster, the other who should be much better known than she is — are must-reads in any genre.

So far, I’ve read the three books in Ms. Kimbriel’s The Chronicles of Nuala, but only reviewed the first, THE FIRES OF NUALA, this evening over at Shiny Book Review (SBR).  (The second two books will be reviewed next week.)  What I’ve read  has shown me that Ms. Kimbriel knows what she’s doing, as she’s developed a complex world with a mythos all its own and characters who are vital people who demand attention at all times.

THE FIRES OF NUALA came out in 1988.  Somehow, I missed it back then.  The reissued** version came out in 2010 courtesy of Book View Cafe.

I’m glad I read it now, as it’s a first-rate novel that combines space opera, mystery, romance, epic world building and a complex plot into something that’s even more than the sum of its parts.  (I didn’t call it “…a book that should be in every science fiction library as it is complex, engrossing, interesting, compelling, and outstanding” for nothing, folks.)

THE FIRES OF NUALA should’ve won every award there was, as far as I’m concerned, unless the 1988 version was radically different than this one (something I find extremely hard to believe).  But due to the nature of the e-book revolution, at least it’s back out there and available to captivate new readers.

Seriously.  Read my review, then go read the novel.  Then ask yourself, “What happened back in 1988 that I missed this?”  (Unless you’re too young, of course, for this to apply.  In which case, just go grab the book and save steps.)


** Upon further review, I’ve been reliably informed by Ms. Kimbriel that THE FIRES OF NUALA that I just read is the very same, exact version put out in 1988.  I really do not understand how a book like this one could be completely overlooked by the Hugo and Nebula Awards, but then again, I don’t run in those waters and never have.

However, I do know quality when I see it, or read it.  This book is quality with a capital “Q.”  So go out and read it, if you haven’t already.  (If you have, great!  But if you want an e-book, $4.99 for a book of this length and excellence is, as previously stated over at SBR, an absolute steal.)

Written by Barb Caffrey

March 30, 2013 at 7:20 pm

Just reviewed Stephanie Osborn’s 3rd Novel in Her “Displaced Detective” Series

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As the title says, I just reviewed Stephanie Osborn’s THE CASE OF THE COSMOLOGICAL KILLER: THE RENDELSHAM INCIDENT at Shiny Book Review.  This is a worthy third book in her “Displaced Detective” series featuring Sherlock Holmes, hyperspatial physicist Skye Chadwick, and some new problems that need to be solved by the team of Holmes and Chadwick.

Now, as this is a third book, I’d been expecting there to be some drop-off — not of quality, per se, but maybe a little bit less inventiveness or freshness.  But that didn’t happen; the “slow” section here contains a number of important plot-points, plus deepens and broadens the romance of Holmes and Chadwick markedly.  And the plot contained more than enough bells and whistles to hold my interest — not that I need such, but nevermind — while the book ends on a rather gentle cliffhanger.  (That last seems like a contradiction in terms, but isn’t; while I can’t explain things better than this without blowing the plotline out of the water, suffice it to say that the last we see of Holmes and Chadwick, it’s obvious that they’re still working hard to solve the various mysteries.)

Anyway, please go read my review, then go grab Ms. Osborn’s book!  (Anyone who can come up with a plot that features both physics and Sherlock Holmes is a winner in my book.)

Just reviewed Koch’s “Alien in the Family” at SBR

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Folks, if you’re looking for a funny, light book about love between a human and an alien from Alpha Centauri, you might want to read Gini Koch’s ALIEN IN THE FAMILY.  This book amused me to the point I read it three times; I thought the romance between Katherine “Kitty” Katt and Jeff Martini (AKA “the alien” who looks and acts like any human, except he has two hearts and can move at hyperspeed) was quite good.  I liked Kitty’s friends, especially her BFF, international male model (retired) James Reader.  And I thought the stuff about the A-Cs (what Koch calls her aliens) made sense, was well thought out, and added greatly to the book.

Before I forget, here’s the link to the review:

Now, back to the commentary.

So with all that, you might be wondering, “Why did Barb give this book only a B-plus?”  (Not that this isn’t a good grade; it is.)  Simple — every person in there is just too good-looking for words.  And that’s not plausible.  Not even in SF/romance.

Here’s the deal, folks; Koch says her A-Cs are mind-bogglingly, stunningly gorgeous.  I buy that; they’re aliens.  (Who knows how much genetic engineering they’ve been through in the recent or not-so-recent past?)  But then, all of the people Kitty’s around are great-looking, too, including CIA agents, her sorority sisters from college, etc. — and I just do not buy this at all.

Further, it weakens a romance when there’s even the hint of the thought that normal-looking people  (or those like me, attractive but “big, beautiful women”) maybe don’t have the right to fall in love.  Or at least in this capacity, Kitty would rather not see them fall in love, or have anything to do with them — which is really quite distasteful, if you think about it overmuch.

That being said, this is a humorous SF romance so of course it’s not to be taken overly seriously.  (That is, if Kitty really were in the CIA or affiliated with them, she’d have to expect that a few of them wouldn’t be stunningly gorgeous; actually, most of them would probably be nondescript sorts, all the better to blend into the background.)  But as it was something that just kept hitting me across the face as there aren’t any normal-looking (or under) people that Kitty references in ALIEN IN THE FAMILY at all — certainly not among the primary, secondary, or even tertiary leads — I had to mention it.

If not for this really odd quirk (something I wish more romance writers would get beyond, especially if they’re writing SF/romance like Koch; she needs to study Lois McMaster Bujold for a while, who’s succeeded brilliantly at writing quirky characters who aren’t drop-dead gorgeous, but have extremely strong and believable romances anyway — I’d say “in spite of this” except that it’s because of who they are, warts and all that the romances work), this novel would’ve been an A-plus.  But because of it, the best I could do is a B-plus, as it strains credulity way past the breaking point when there aren’t any characters who are worth a damn in a book that aren’t at least average looking (or below).

Mind you, Koch understands that her characters are must be extraordinary on the inside and have inner beauty, otherwise we won’t care about them no matter how glitteringly gorgeous they’re supposed to be on the outside.  But her over-reliance on external beauty is extremely puzzling, not to mention off-putting; that I could get beyond this problem and enjoy her book so much anyway speaks to the fact that she really does write extremely well.


One final thought: for those of you writing romance of any sort, please remember that ordinary-looking people can be great characters, too.  Ordinary-looking people deserve great love stories, especially as it happens all the time that people meet, fall in love, and get married — with most people looking completely ordinary on the outside, but being completely extraordinary on the inside.

In other words, please try to let art imitate life, at least in this one, small degree.  OK?

Written by Barb Caffrey

June 9, 2012 at 11:22 pm