Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Archive for March 2015

My Writing Adventure Continues (Slowly)

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Just a quick update here, folks, as I’m in the process of trying to get a new story out to the Writers of the Future contest as their quarter ends at 11:59 PM PDT on 3/31/15 and my story is, at best, three-quarters finished.

Once that’s done, I hope to be able to blog about a few subjects near and dear to my heart, including baseball, my opposition to Indiana’s new “Religious Freedom and Restoration Act” which looks to me like anti-LGBT legislation (and thus needs to be either rescinded or amended, stat), and some discussion about words, their meanings, and whether or not some words should ever be off-limits (whether in baseball or in politics) because they’re considered overused, hackneyed, trite, and/or politically sensitive.

But for now, I’m alive, and I’m writing. Recovery is in process, and while it continues to be slow, I’ve been able to gain a little ground in regards to my final edit of A LITTLE ELFY IN BIG TROUBLE and with regards to this proposed story, which I fully intend to send to the WotF contest if I can only finish it…

Anyway, back to work.

Written by Barb Caffrey

March 31, 2015 at 12:36 am

The Revenge of C.diff — and Other Stuff

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Folks, I’ve been dealing with a nasty intestinal illness for the past several weeks. It’s called C.diff, and it came on suddenly after I’d finished a course of antibiotics for a sinus infection.

Because of this, I haven’t blogged, I haven’t written much, and I haven’t been able to do as much editing as I wanted, including the final touches to my novel A LITTLE ELFY IN BIG TROUBLE, the sequel (or continuation) to AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE. (Or, as I put it to myself — and for long-time readers — the second half of ELFY.)

I’ve been put on a very strong medicine to combat this C.diff, and while it seems to be working, it has left me weak and tired.

That said, I will persist…as I said a while back, I may be slowed, but I haven’t stopped.

And I won’t stop.

Admittedly, I am frustrated. I want to be doing so much more than this. (“Outrunning time,” as Lois McMaster Bujold put it in A CIVIL CAMPAIGN.) Being sick for weeks or months on end is certainly not my idea of an endgame, and I hope I will somehow be able to regain my health soon.

That said, I continue to work on my final edit of A LITTLE ELFY IN BIG TROUBLE. I hope to have it to my publisher within a few weeks’ time, and then start work on my final edit of CHANGING FACES. I also hope to finish up a few short stories and attempt the Writers of the Future contest again this quarter if at all possible — though with the quarter end rapidly approaching, that might not be doable.

As for an update with regards to the Joey Maverick series started by my late husband Michael, I remain stalled there also. I am working on a novelette or possibly a novella in that universe, but it’s going extremely slowly — possibly because of how little energy I’ve had to work with due to the present nasty illness, already in progress.

Now, why am I telling you all of this, when I’d rather be discussing anything else? Partly because I believe in being honest. Partly because I think we need to talk more about what troubles us. And partly because I know there are people who follow my life and career — God/dess help them — and have asked me what the status is with regards to my writing and my health.

My weekend plans are to do some editing, both for myself and for a client who’s been patiently waiting, and to see if I can get any writing done. I also plan to finally review Dick Button’s interesting book on figure skating, PUSH DICK’S BUTTON, over at Shiny Book Review later today for Nonfiction Friday. (Edited to add: review is up.)

So I’ll continue to do what I can, and hope that things will pick up from here. (I can’t remember now if the phrase is “We live in hope” or “We live and hope,” but either way, that’s what I’m doing right now.)

And thanks, as always, for coming to my blog. I do appreciate it.

Written by Barb Caffrey

March 27, 2015 at 3:49 pm

A Frustrating Wednesday Update, Already in Progress…

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Folks, you may have noticed that I haven’t blogged at all since last week Monday.

There’s a reason for that. I’ve been ill, first with a nasty sinus infection, and then with a suspected case of food poisoning on top of that.

I hate giving these sorts of updates, mind you. They annoy me. I want to be doing things. I want to be writing, editing, reviewing books, even putting in job applications…but instead, I’ve been having to rest, eat bland food, and rest some more.

Needless to say, I’m not a happy camper.

I’ve managed to do about two hours of editing and zero writing in the past four days (not including reading manuscripts for evaluation, which I agree is work but isn’t nearly as taxing). I’m about to go stir-crazy, because I’d hoped to use this week as a springboard to get back on track with my edit for A LITTLE ELFY IN BIG TROUBLE…and it’s just not happening. (At least, not yet.)

My husband used to tell me that if I rested when I needed to rest, I’d come back stronger. His advice was always good, and I’m trying to take it now. But it’s incredibly difficult because I want to be up and doing, and instead am confined to baby steps.

I’ve been told that the food poisoning (or whatever it is that’s severely irritated my stomach) should be gone by the weekend. I sincerely hope so. As it is, all I can do now is plan to get things done just as soon as I’m physically able to do them.

And that’s not a position I like being in.

Written by Barb Caffrey

March 18, 2015 at 2:27 pm

Monday Inspiration: How “The Grit Factor” Can Work For You

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Recently, I read “The Grit Factor” by Bob Carney in Golf Digest. “The Grit Factor” talks about many qualities that are needed for self-improvement, including mental toughness, resilience, and a willingness to work on all parts of your game — not just the easy stuff that you already know you can do, but the toughest things, too.

After I read this, I had one of those “aha!” moments similar to when I read The Inner Game of Tennis years ago. “The Grit Factor” has many of the same precepts, to wit:

  1. The real struggle is inward, with yourself, rather than outward against other players.
  2. Your principal obstacles are self-doubt and anxiety; once you can get a handle on those, or at least are prepared to deal with them, you can concentrate better on what you’re doing.
  3. You must believe that everything you do, no matter how long it takes, leads toward your goals.

Mind, there’s a lot more going on with “The Grit Factor” than that, but those principles seemed to make the most sense in a writing and editing context.

Consider that writers spend a great deal of time lost in thought, working either outwardly or inwardly on our works-in-progress. Because we don’t have a way to measure how well we’re doing at any given time, it can be easy to give in to self-doubt (“Is what I’m doing worth anything?”) or anxiety (“Will releasing my next book make any difference?”). So it seems obvious that managing these things is essential…or at least acknowledging these things exist could be beneficial.

Why?

Well, if you think that you’re the only writer on the face of the Earth who sometimes struggles with anxiety or self-doubt, it’s easy for that self-doubt or anxiety to stay inside you. Internalized, it sabotages your creative process at a deep level, and it can be hard to get away from that.

What I’ve found that works for me is to admit that yes, I’m anxious about certain things. (For example, right now I’m worried about how long it’s taking me to go over my final edit and come up with a revised first chapter for my second book, A LITTLE ELFY IN BIG TROUBLE.) But so long as I’m making any progress, even if it’s very slow and I can’t necessarily always see it, I have to count that as a win.

Providing I can admit that I’m nervous, I’m able to do a great deal more than when I try to shut it off and just refuse to talk about it. And that’s something I learned way back when I first read The Inner Game of Tennis.

Mind, that doesn’t mean “everything is awesome” (hat tip to The Lego Movie) when it comes to writing. There is a need for honest criticism. Without that, you can’t improve. (“The Grit Factor” discusses how just giving people ego-gratification all the time doesn’t help, though the author puts it a completely different way.) But you don’t need to beat yourself up while you’re working your heart out to improve, either.

If you take away one thing from today’s post, please remember this: As I’ve said before, writing a book is a marathon, not a sprint. Be resilient, be persistent, don’t give up, and keep working on your weakest areas.

That’s the best way to win, as a writer or at life.

Written by Barb Caffrey

March 9, 2015 at 6:43 am

Enter the Wined, Dined and Read Blog Hop!

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Folks, a while back, Aaron Lazar over at the excellent writer’s website Murder By 4 invited me to the Wined, Dined and Read Blog Hop. This particular hop discusses food in the context of our favorite characters…and is possibly the most unusual blog hop I’ve ever taken part in, to boot.

a0bb9-anelfyontheloose_medAre you ready to read more about my tastes in wine and food, much less my main characters from AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE, Bruno and Sarah, and their taste in food? (As they’re too young to drink much wine as of yet?) If so, read on…

If your main character were a glass of wine, which one would he be?

Bruno would definitely be a merlot, as like a merlot, Bruno is much more complex than he seems at first.

Describe your book in one meal:

What Aaron Lazar did here was to mention a meal his characters in BETRAYAL actually had instead. As that seemed to work well for him, I’ll do the same thing and discuss a meal Bruno and Sarah have in AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE (extra word added by me for the sake of clarity):

After a quick survey of the (refrigerator’s) contents, they realized ham, cheese, grapes, apples, and juice were readily available.

“Sarah, we can’t carry all of this at once. We’ll spill it and make a big mess.”

“We’ll be fine, Bruno,” she said reassuringly. “Let’s take it one step at a time.”

Bruno took one step and asked, “Like this?”

She laughed so hard her shoulders shook. After she’d recovered a bit of sobriety, she said, “I suppose if we each took one step, it would take forever.”

“Yeah,” he said. “But at least I made you laugh. I missed you, Sarah.”

“I missed you, too,” she said quietly. “But for now, let’s eat. Then we can catch up.”

“All right,” he agreed, wondering why girls always stated the obvious.

“I have an idea, though,” she said.

“Oh?”

“Why not take a little at a time into my bedroom, as we took the bowls and the crackers before?”

“Ah! That makes a great deal of sense,” Bruno agreed.

“I thought you’d see it my way,” she said dryly. Then, smiling, she picked up two apples plus the grapes and went into her room. Bruno picked up the ham and cheese and followed her.

“See? We’re halfway done,” she said brightly.

“Won’t we need glasses, too?” he asked as he followed her back out into the kitchen.

“You worry too much.” She took the step-stool, went to the appropriate cabinet, ascended to the right level, got the glasses and handed them down to Bruno. “See? No problem.”

Bruno took the glasses into Sarah’s bedroom, holding the door open for Sarah as she carried in the orange juice. “Is that heavy?” he asked.

“No, it’s not too bad,” she said. “Besides, it won’t be as heavy to carry back because we’ll drink a lot of it!”

“Well, that’s one way to look at it.”

“That’s what I thought,” she nodded, satisfied.

Other than Sarah having to run into the kitchen to get a knife to cut the ham and cheese, the breakfast wasn’t too bad.

Or in other words, Bruno and Sarah will eat whatever is readily available, as they’re in a crisis situation. (Clear as mud, no?)

What candy would your book be?

Deep, rich, dark chocolate, preferably with hazelnuts in it. Bruno is partial to it, and he believes the chocolate in the Human Realm (our Earth) is far superior to the chocolate made in the Elfy Realm.

What does your book smell like?

Like springtime, where the birds are chirping, the small animals are coming out of hibernation, and everything seems fresh and new. (But no flowers, please. Bruno is allergic.)

Your book’s snack would be:

Chocolate chip cookies. (Again, Bruno’s partial to them.)

Describe your most memorable meal:

On Christmas Day in 2002, my husband Michael cooked chicken kebabs along with roasted potatoes and — because he knew I liked them — some zucchini and some rutabagas. (The last is my family’s favorite holiday food. Michael didn’t like either one, but he made them just for me.) The kebabs were particularly flavorful, while the potatoes, squash and rutabagas were just the right accompaniment. This, by far, was the best meal I’ve ever eaten.

One food word to describe your writing style:

Appetizing?

What will someone find you eating/drinking when you’re really into a good book?

A diet soda over ice, some tortilla chips and salsa (which probably negates any good I’ve done with the calorie-saving diet soda), and possibly some dark chocolate for dessert.

Sweet or salty?

It depends on my mood. Usually I’d reach for something salty over something sweet…but I might just reach for a sweet something-or-other just to be contrary, too. (I’m like Sarah, that way.)

That concludes my part of the Wined, Dined and Read blog-hop…maybe a few other authors will want to chime in? I’m tagging Jason Cordova, Chris Nuttall, and N.N. Light as authors who might be intrigued enough to give this one a go down the line…but whether they do or not, go check out their sites and do read their books!

Written by Barb Caffrey

March 2, 2015 at 4:25 am

Get “An Elfy on the Loose” for Free on March 1, 2015

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Folks, if you’ve wanted to read AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE but haven’t had the money to do so, listen up.

On March 1, 2015 — that’s just a few minutes from now — AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE will be free at the Twilight Times Books website.

Yes. Free.

Why? Well, it’s “Read an e-book week.” There will be a number of excellent Twilight Times Books offered this week for free, including Stephanie Osborn’s THE CASE OF THE DISPLACED DETECTIVE: THE ARRIVAL, Chris Nuttall’s SCHOOLED IN MAGIC and Aaron Paul Lazar’s DON’T LET THE WIND CATCH YOU. All you have to do is bookmark this page for the next week, and you can be reading excellent free books all week long.

I’m not exactly sure when my book AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE will be available for free, mind…but it will happen sometime on March 1, 2015, and will stay free for 24 hours.

Once I know for certain that it’s available as a free e-book, I’ll be Tweeting about it and probably writing something on Facebook as well. But for now, all I know is that it will be free on March 1…

And the clock is ticking. (Are you ready?)

Written by Barb Caffrey

March 1, 2015 at 12:52 am