Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Archive for April 2016

How to Keep Writing when the World Seems Against You

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Folks, it’s no secret that the last few weeks for me have been difficult, complex, and frustrating.

In other words, they’ve been a long slog.

How are you supposed to keep writing when the world seems against you? When life circumstances jump up, and impede your work, and derail your progress…how can you keep going anyway?

Today’s blog is about how to get through one of these fallow periods, as a writer. (Or at least what I try to do to keep my head in the game, even when most of the rest of me can’t do much.)

What I try to do, with my writing, is to make prose notes. If nothing else, I usually can write one-sentence ideas, and that allows me to continue making a small amount of progress.

See, every day you have to make a little progress, if you can. It may be tiny. It may even be infinitesimal. But if you make that small amount of progress — even during difficult times — it gives you the confidence to keep trying.

Sometimes, I think creativity is all about confidence. Or at least all about the thought that if you try, if you think hard, if you are able to continue, then you can create with a whole heart.

It’s not easy to find time to write when you’re in the crux of a crisis, mind. But take a few minutes here, a few minutes there — I like using the minutes before going to bed, personally, but my late husband was a morning person; whatever works for you — and keep writing.

In other words…the only way through a long slog is forward.

————–

As for me? I’m still hanging in there…but I still don’t have a clue where I’ll end up. I’ll keep you posted. (If you want to help me, see this post and act accordingly.)

Written by Barb Caffrey

April 27, 2016 at 4:33 pm

An Update to the Frustrating Situation, Already in Progress…

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Folks, bless you all for caring. I need to say that before anything else.

I am extremely fortunate in my friends, especially in the writing community. I am astonished by the outpouring of love and support in my direction. I appreciate that so much.

Now I need to get into some “weeds,” I’m afraid.

Next Tuesday, the house I live in will be sold. I can do nothing about this. I have tried everything I know to avoid this fate. And it has not worked.

Because much of this story is not mine to tell, I can’t say much more than this.

I don’t know what will happen next Wednesday at all. I’ve never been through this process before. I’ve heard, from a friend who’s been through it, that they usually give you at least thirty days to get out — but as I’ve not been through it, I’m very, very worried about what will happen next. And about what will happen to Trouble, too.

I do have some tentative good news, though. My father has said he will help. I can stay with him temporarily. He may even help me find an apartment, for me to live independently…if he does, that would be wonderful.

And my mother believes she will be able to find a way to keep both Trouble and her dog, Brat, together. If so, that would be a good outcome.

My sister, who is a huge dog lover, has also said she’ll make sure that Trouble and Brat will be fostered in an emergency situation, so they will not go to the pound. (She already has a dog, and is in a subdivision where they do not allow multiple animals.)

I believe my family has the best of intentions. But I remain very worried and extremely upset.

This is not a place I’d ever expected to be. That’s why I decided finally to talk about it, and to tell you I’m in trouble…as much as my family dislikes me saying it, what I’m telling you is my truth.

Because I have caring, deeply concerned friends, they are trying to help in all sorts of ways. I appreciate this, more than I can ever tell you.

One of them, knowing how hard I’ve tried over the years, got so frustrated over this situation that he said my family had “abandoned” me. That isn’t true. They are difficult in their ways, as I am difficult in my ways, and sometimes we don’t mesh well. I love them, they love me, we have some serious disagreements, but they usually will help me when push comes to shove.

Do they have a lot of means to do that with, though? No, they don’t. Which is why I decided to do a Patreon appeal. And it’s why I reopened my GoFundMe account as well.

I don’t want my father to be wholly responsible for what happens to me. He’s in his “golden years.” He should not have to do this.

I don’t want my sister, or my mother, or anyone else in my family to have to give all that they have, just to keep me going.

My family deeply dislikes it that I have “put my troubles on the Internet.” My mother in particular is very angry that my concerned and caring friend said that my family has “abandoned” me, and views the fact that I have these two appeals as somehow deceitful, or at least distasteful.

But I’m telling you the flat truth. I do not know what will happen next Wednesday (the day after the house is sold at auction). And that terrifies me.

If you want to help, you have three ways to do it right now.

First, I have a number of books and stories out there — go to my Amazon page, and also to my late husband Michael’s Amazon page, and pick a story. Everything is $2.99 or less; most are only ninety-nine cents. They are all good reads, and I hope might make you feel better. (That’s why Michael and I wrote these stories. Life is too short for doom and gloom.)

Second, I still have the Patreon appeal going. This is a new way to do something very old-fashioned — support an artist, writer, or other creative type. That’s why I was drawn to it, especially because I can give back a little to those who help (by offering stories, etc.)

Third, I still have the GoFundMe appeal going. This is to give me options, in case I can find a job out-of-state. (No matter what, I will have moving expenses.)

I appreciate anything you can do. Thank you.

————–

Oh, one more thing:

As I am trying my best to make a better life for myself, I am looking into Americorps VISTA jobs. They don’t care what your age is. They only care about your ability. And I like the idea of public service, along with what I’m already doing with my writing, editing, and occasional music-making.

If I can find one of these jobs, I could be much better off in a few months than I am right now. (Here’s hoping.)

Written by Barb Caffrey

April 21, 2016 at 5:24 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

ReLaunched GoFundMe to Help with Moving…

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Folks, as you know, I’m going to have to make an emergency move next week. I’ve set up a Patreon account (I’ll have to figure out how to add a button for that here, I suppose), and now I’ve updated my old GoFundMe Account as well and changed the URL so it’s easier to find:

https://www.gofundme.com/barbcaffrey

It is dispiriting to have to do this. But it is also gratifying that so many other writers and friends have stepped up to help me get the word out.

My hope is that I’ll be able to move and then get back to what I do best: Writing. Editing. Playing music. And living life.

Thank you for reading, and for supporting me during this trying time.

Written by Barb Caffrey

April 20, 2016 at 2:09 pm

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Need Immediate Help Here with Relocation

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Folks, one of the reasons I’ve been cagey for months here at my blog is because I’ve been enduring hardship. I can’t go into that many details as most of them are not mine to tell; all I can tell you is that in seven days, I am going to lose my home. And I need immediate help to relocate, get set back up on my feet, and to continue to create — because my goodness, CHANGING FACES is due shortly.

All of this upheaval is not conducive to creativity, to put it mildly. But I need somehow to get it done anyway.

Of course, I don’t know how I get all this done. Right now, I feel overwhelmed, overmatched, and extremely frustrated. I have tried very hard in my current situation to make everything right, and yet I could not do it.

I’m hamstrung in many ways trying to explain what’s going on right now. It’s a crisis situation. In seven days, the place I’m living will be sold…and I can do nothing whatsoever about it.

That much, I think I can say.

As anyone who regularly reads my blog knows, my health isn’t tiptop. I manage a number of health conditions, including carpal tunnel syndrome, asthma, allergies, and at least six others. I also must bring along with me my thirteen-year-old dog Trouble, as he’s my true friend and I refuse to leave him behind…he’s not always the best-behaved dog (thus his name), but I love him, and he loves me.

Anyway, I’ve set up a Patreon page. I’m asking for $4400 for help in relocating; this is a three-month projection of what I will need. Over time, I figure I’ll need about $1200 a month to live as my needs are small…an internet connection, a safe space to work, write, and edit, a good place for Trouble to take a walk perhaps…some serenity, because I surely don’t have any right now.

At Patreon, people offer things in exchange for support called “rewards” — I assume so we artists, writers, and creators don’t have to feel bad about asking for help. I’ve offered four things: “Trouble with Elfs” for anyone who helps me; if you pledge $5 per month, the reward is Michael’s original versions of “Columba and the Committee;” if you pledge $10 per month, the rewards is Michael’s original version of “Columba and the Crossing;” if you pledge $25 per month, I’ll send you the original version of Michael’s novel MAVERICK, LIEUTENANT…I don’t think he’d mind.

I intend to keep on writing, keep on creating, keep on doing the best I possibly can. But what I’m faced with right now is a disaster…I need to keep mind, body and soul together while I figure out what my next move is.

I implore you, please help me to do just that. Go to my Patreon page. Anything will help.

I’d also appreciate your prayers, good thoughts, warm wishes, and any job leads you think may be beneficial. I am an excellent editor with references; I am a solid writer who tells entertaining stories; I know how to research, to do administrative work, understand most computers to a certain extent…I’m hard-working, dedicated, resourceful, and persistent.

Thank you for reading, and I wish I hadn’t had to write this whatsoever.

———-

Edited to add: I’ll keep you updated on what’s going on as best I can…and I still intend to write about baseball in a few days. (Why not? I need a diversion, too. And I still love baseball.)

Written by Barb Caffrey

April 19, 2016 at 1:52 pm

New Guest Blog Is Up…and Other Writing Stuff

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Folks, before I forget, I wrote a new guest blog for the Opinionated Man (who’s doing some book promotion for me; I like him, and his audience, and so far it seems to be a good situation). It’s called “Why I Wrote the Elfy Duology,” and if you’re interested in more thoughts about why I do what I do (or at least some of what I’ve done), please go take a look at it.

I appreciate getting a chance to write about my favorite characters Bruno and Sarah. I want them to have more adventures. But I have to know that someone out there likes what I’m doing…and wants maybe to see more of it?

That is the hope for all writers, of course. We write our stories because we need to tell them. We hope that others will enjoy what we do, and maybe tell more people — it’s like a nicer version of a pyramid scheme, except everybody wins.

Right now, I’m still stuck in the weeds of CHANGING FACES, trying to figure out how to give Allen and Elaine the happy ending they deserve. As most of you probably know (especially if you’ve been following my blog for any length of time), my book is due soon, and yet there’s something that is eluding me. And when I feel like I can’t get at whatever it is that I need to get at, I’m like anyone else.

In other words, I get frustrated. I think a lot about what I’m doing. I try to write other stories, when possible…but right now, my attention is riveted by CHANGING FACES on the one hand and my Elfyverse on the other as I’ve had a long-simmering situation going on there, too. (I have both a prequel and a sequel set up — the sequel will have to be split into three parts, while the prequel can go as one book.)

What I’d tell anyone else, in this situation, is simple: Relax. Take a breath. Take two. And I’d tell them that the story will come to them.

I know all this. But I’m still having trouble believing it, at the moment.

Anyway, wish me luck with this, will you?

———-

Also…I intend to talk a little baseball soon, if possible. I’ve had some questions about what Vinny Rottino’s doing (that one’s easy; he’s in AAA for the Chicago White Sox, and is currently on the disabled list, poor man), and about what I think about the Milwaukee Brewers season thus far, and whether or not I think the Chicago Cubs will win it all.

So, look for that in the not-so-distant future, along with a book review or two over at Shiny Book Review (SBR).

Written by Barb Caffrey

April 18, 2016 at 1:10 pm

Two New Books from Friends to Share…

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Folks, it’s Saturday. Time turns to reading, at least for me…sometimes to book reviewing, too (though I’m way behind on that, I do intend to get back to it sooner or later).

Today, I have two great books to share with you, especially if you enjoy military science fiction/adventure stories.

ConfederatedStarSystems_medFirst, my friend Loren K. Jones’s second e-book from Twilight Times Books is out; it’s a short story collection called STORIES OF THE CONFEDERATED STAR SYSTEMS. I edited this book, and it’s a fun, fast read with a lot of great stories…right now, it’s only ninety-nine cents, too! (That won’t last long.) I grabbed my e-book copy right away, and hope you will, too.

Edited to add: If you want a copy from OmniLit, go here; if you want a copy from Barnes and Noble.com, go here. I now return you to your regularly scheduled blog post, already in progress…

“But Barb,” you protest. “I want to know what I’m getting into, before I buy this book, even for ninety-nine cents.”

Ah. Well, I have you covered…there is a free sample of Loren’s newest up right now at the Twilight Times Books website.

“So, who’s your other friend, Barb, that you’re ‘pimping’ today?”

Hmmm. I’d not use that word, quite…it’s more of an informative thing, really.

“Spit it out, Barb.”

OK, OK. My friends Jason Cordova and Chris Smith recently released KRAKEN MARE as an e-book. It’s about a disillusioned former Marine, who stumbles onto a mystery after taking a job on Titan’s moon. But it’s not a benign mystery; oh, no. (That would be too easy.) Instead, it’s a mystery that will “shock the foundations of the universe…something out of a nightmare,” as the book description says.

I don’t have a picture to add to this one…but I can tell you I’ve read several chapters already, and am enjoying it quite a bit. (No one does military SF/horror hybrids quite like Jason Cordova. And Chris Smith’s influence is felt in myriad ways…this book will not disappoint.)

Hope you enjoy them!

Written by Barb Caffrey

April 16, 2016 at 11:29 am

To Survive the Maelstrom by Michael B. Caffrey + @BarbCaffrey #bookreview #99cents #ASMSG

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Very happy with this new review for my and my late husband Michael’s story “To Survive the Maelstrom.” Mrs. N.N. Light read it, reviewed it, loved it…what’s to say, except I’d better keep working on more of Peter’s story? (Michael wrote enough that I can finish it. Which I will do, after CHANGING FACES is done and in the can.)

Written by Barb Caffrey

April 11, 2016 at 4:37 am

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Writing Community: Please Act to Help a Fellow Author

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Folks, I read about author Arianne “Tex” Thompson’s friend Kristen at Tex’s blog post of April 5, 2016. If you haven’t read Tex’s moving post yet, please do…then come back here, as I have some words.

OK. I’m going to take it that you’ve gone there, read Tex’s post, and are ready for my thoughts.

Tex’s friend Kristen Coster is a fellow writer. She’d worked hard to get several degrees, and had found a job she’d loved, teaching classics to kids. Then, one day, a classroom projector casing fell on Kristen, and her life inextricably changed.

So, one day, Kristen was poor but hard-working, writing up a storm, teaching the classics, petting her cat (when her cat would let her, anyway, as it sounds from Tex’s post that Kristen’s cat is one of the world’s worst-behaved cats imaginable). And the next, Kristen was unemployed, with disabling headaches, having to walk with a cane, no longer being able to drive, and worst of all, being unable to read most of the time much less write.

This could happen to any one of us, folks. And even those of us, like me, who are struggling mightily in this economy have to find some way to help Kristen right now.

Because she is one of us.

She’s a fellow author. She is creative. She needs to regain her strength, and her health, and her life. She needs to keep her ill-tempered cat by her side, be able to afford her needed medicines, be able to stay in her apartment, be able to do everything she needs to do to keep mind, body and soul together in the hopes that she can claw all the way back from this terrible tragedy that has befallen her.

No, you may not have heard of Kristen before. No, you may not have heard of Tex Thompson, either. But you probably have heard similar stories from friends, and maybe quietly helped them in their hours of need with food, medicine, shelter…most people have good hearts, and want to help those who most deserve it.

Kristen obviously is in this category. She needs your help.

So, writing community: Will you help her now? Will you act?

If so, go right now to Kristen’s Patreon page and help her. Anything will do.

Do it for yourself, for your friends, for your fellow writers. And remember — just because this world is often cold and cruel, that doesn’t mean we need to be. (Now, I’m hoping that someone out there can recommend a good lawyer to Kristen who lives in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Because it surely seems like she needs one!)

——

Author’s Afterword: In case you’re wondering, I plan to give Kristen a little money just as soon as I get another paycheck in. Being a little-known writer and editor, those can be few and far between. But I will help Kristen financially down the road, just as I’m doing my best now to let the wider writing world know that she’s there, she’s in great need, and someone should help her. Right. Freakin’. Now.

Written by Barb Caffrey

April 10, 2016 at 6:18 am

A “Changing Faces” Update…or Persistence is Key, Part 2

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Folks, back in 2011 I wrote a blog called “Persistence is Key.” While I’d reword a number of things differently now, I feel much the same way…which is why I’m writing another blog about why persistence is key. (Calling it “Part 2” hopefully links it in your mind that this is a recurring theme. And themes work well for writers. Right?)

Edited to add: Yes, there’s a CHANGING FACES update here. Bear with me. Now, back to your regular blog, already in progress…

Now, why do I feel that the quality of persistence is so important? Simple. Without a rock-solid belief in yourself and your abilities, and the willingness to continue to work hard at whatever they are, nothing of any substance is likely to get done.

Consider, please, that writers often take up to a year to finish writing a book. (OK, OK. Some write faster than this. Some, like my friend Chris Nuttall, write so enormously fast, they put out at least six books a year. But I digress.) We first think about it, which to some involves outlining and/or writing prose notes explaining just what you intend to do. (This would predate a formal synopsis, mind. It’s your formative thoughts about what you think you’re about to do. Clear as mud, no?) Then, after thinking about it for a while, we sit down to write…and after a time, the first draft is done.

Now, do we writers rest on our laurels after the first draft? No, we don’t. We can’t, because the first draft of a story may not be anything close to the final version.

I’m running into that right now with my transgender fantasy romance novel, CHANGING FACES. (See, I told you I’d get to it.) I’ve had one of the characters, Allen, down cold for years. But the other one, Elaine, is continually surprising me with her insight, her biting wit, and the enormity of her challenges. (That she’s a gender-fluid person who prefers the pronoun “she” all the time is only one of those challenges.) And then there are the nonhuman characters to worry about, too (as I did tell you it’s a fantasy romance, right?) — they’re like angels, except they’re a completely different conception than any angel I’ve ever read about before.

Now, I’ve been working on CHANGING FACES, off and on, for at least the last fifteen years. It’s gone through multiple revisions. The way I “see” my characters has evolved over time. And the way I describe them, and show their story as best I can, has also evolved as I’ve gained skill as a writer.

That is what persistence is all about. (Well, that and sheer cussedness. But that’s another blog subject entirely.)

So, while I continue to fight it out to finish this final version of CHANGING FACES for publication later this year via Twilight Times Books, I want you all to remember something Malcolm Gladwell said in his book OUTLIERS. (I reviewed it at Shiny Book Review years ago; here’s a link.)

It takes people an average of 10,000 hours to become skilled in his/her field. That means you have to keep working at your craft, or you’re just not going to be very good at it by definition. Very few, if any, of us come fully formed out of our mother’s womb and know exactly what we’re going to be…and even when we do know where our skills are strongest, it still takes at least 10,000 hours to be able to use them well.

It’s not easy to amass this many hours doing something in this day and age. Those of us who don’t have much in the way of money have to be extremely stubborn in order to persist, work on our craft, persist some more, work on our craft some more, etc., until we achieve some measure of success.

And that success may not always be worldly success. Gladwell talks about genius Chris Langan, who has not managed thus far in his life to break through to worldwide fame and fortune despite his scientific gifts. Then again, Langan doesn’t seem to care about that overmuch; he just wants to use his gifts productively. (He has come up with something called a Cognitive-Theoretic Model of the Universe, so all his thinking has come up with something different and original. Good for him!)

Are we supposed to give up if we don’t make a financial success of ourselves immediately after doing all this work? I say, “Hell, no!” to that.

Why?

We can’t control the market, you see. We can’t control how we’re received in that market, either. But we can control whether or not we’re still in there fighting, to give ourselves the chance to break through — and in the process, let our voices be heard. (And our books be read, too!)

That is why I say that persistence is key. Because gifts and talents are not enough without sheer, hard work to back them up.

So work on your craft. Keep trying. Refuse to give up. And learn as much as you can along the way.

That’s the way to become a true success in any field of endeavor.

Written by Barb Caffrey

April 8, 2016 at 5:57 am

Scott Park’s Story Explains Why We Must All Challenge Our Assumptions

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About a year ago, college basketball fan Scott Park was gaining notoriety for missing a million dollar half-court shot. As he looked healthy, perhaps it wasn’t surprising that Mr. Park was mocked by thousands upon thousands of people after he missed that half-court shot.

But there was much more to this story, which ESPN found out. They made a video for their E:360 program, which was also aired yesterday on ESPN’s Outside the Lines…and because I saw that, I felt the need to discuss it further. (While I haven’t figured out how to link directly to OTL’s feed, I can send you in the direction of OTL’s “extra” footage discussing why both Bob Ley and reporter Ryan McGee found Scott Park’s story to be both relevant and inspirational.)

Granted, once I saw the story myself, it’s obvious why Scott Park’s story is inspirational. This is a man who has nearly died — not once, but twice. (See McGee’s article from March of this year for further details.) He suffers from a condition called CAPS — otherwise known as catastrophic antiphospholipid syndrome — and because of it, he’s already endured a kidney transplant and suffered serious and life-threatening consequences.**

Scott Park’s story is inspirational. (We need more stories like this in this world.) But we’d not know about it except for two things: first, Scott Park missed that half-court shot, and because he looked healthy people made fun of him for doing so. And second, the reporter who posted the clip of Mr. Park missing that shot wrote a follow-up story to explain just why we should be ashamed of ourselves for jumping to conclusions. That got other writers, including ESPN’s Ryan McGee, interested in Scott Park and following along with Mr. Park’s story of persistence, faith, hope, and chronic struggles against his disabling conditions — though the way Scott Park carried himself during the E:360 piece (shown on OTL yesterday), it’s obvious that he is emphasizing the “half-full” part of the equation.

Simply put: While he may be disabled today, he is a lucky man. He has a caring, loving, and devoted wife and family, and many good friends (one who donated his kidney in order to give Scott Park more time on this Earth). He loves college basketball, even now. He holds no animus toward anyone, including the reporter who posted the clip of Park’s abortive half-court shot effort. And no one should feel sorry for him, even with his health challenges, physical therapy, and all…because he’s had a good life, he’s still in there fighting, and — maybe this is leap of faith on my part — life is all about what you do with it.

Scott Park has done a great deal with his life. And that’s what no one knew when the clip of him missing the half-court shot was taken.

Fortunately, we did learn “the rest of the story” with regards to Scott Park. But we don’t always know everyone’s stories, and there’s an awful lot of assumptions going on. We live in a world where it seems everyone rushes to judgment, and sometimes, that judgment is plain, flat, utterly wrong.

So, the lessons I would like you to take away from this are these:

  1. Challenge your assumptions. Challenge them often.
  2. Try to put yourself in other people’s shoes.
  3. Be as charitable and forgiving as you can. Because some day, you may just need some of that charity and forgiveness for yourself.
  4. Do not assume that the initial narrative framing is correct.
  5. And, finally — DO YOUR RESEARCH.

If you do all that, you are much less likely to be an obnoxious, uncaring, unfeeling butthead. (End rant.)

————

**At the moment, Mr. Park is in the hospital, recovering from a series of strokes. He is alert, aware, in good spirits, doing physical therapy, and hoping to regain the use of his right arm and to walk again. Wish him well, will you?