Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Archive for July 2017

Mozart, and Persistence

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Folks, what comes to mind when you think about Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart?

Is it the fact that he was a gifted composer?

Is it that he was considered a virtuoso before the age of fifteen or so?

Is it that his father, Leopold, was also a composer and conductor?

Or is it that Mozart, like every other creative person on the face of this Earth (past or present), had to struggle at times, and not everyone liked what he was doing, or cared about it either?

Yes, Mozart was famous during his own lifetime. But he had struggles, too. (My conductor for the Racine Concert Band, Mark Eichner, pointed this out earlier this evening during his remarks.) For example, Mozart desperately wanted to break into the Paris opera scene; it was considered the “happening place,” back in the 1770s or so, and every composer who was anyone wanted to be known there.

So, he went to Paris. Taught some students, probably played some gigs here and there (as Mozart played any number of instruments, though he was known most for strings and piano), and managed to get a gig composing an overture for a ballet, “La Petite Riens.” (We played this piece tonight, hence Mr. Eichner’s remarks about Mozart. But I digress.) He thought that this would be his big break, as anyone who heard his music tended to adore it…but when he read the papers the next day after the ballet was premiered, he found out that his name wasn’t mentioned in the review. Nor was it mentioned in the concert’s program…

Yes, even W. A. Mozart could get treated badly, folks.

Anyway, the point here is that Mozart didn’t give up on his dreams after this setback. (It must’ve really smarted, too, considering.) He kept going. While it must’ve felt like a retreat, he went back to Germany, then to Italy, and elsewhere in Europe, and did what he needed to do in order to get his music played and published.

It may seem odd, that Mozart — the great Mozart — ran into problems. (This wasn’t his only problem, mind. He suffered money woes, health problems, problems with his kids and their health, difficulties with his wife’s family, and goodness knows what else.) But he was a human being, and as such, he had to deal with the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” like anyone else.

And it’s not like the man couldn’t compose. Anyone who’s heard any of his symphonies, or better yet, any of “The Magic Flute” (perhaps his best-known opera), knows that Mozart was an incredibly gifted and prolific composer…the large amount of music Mozart left behind, considering he died before the age of forty, testifies to that.

So, if you’ve run into problems with your creative pursuits, because you don’t think anyone cares, or you wonder what the point is, or you even wonder why you try so hard for so little of a result, remember what happened to Mozart.

Whatever has gone wrong this time, it is temporary. It doesn’t have to stop you if you refuse to let it do so.

So, remember this story…and don’t give up.

Written by Barb Caffrey

July 31, 2017 at 12:08 am

Bridges, Walls, and Transgender Rights

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This past week was a very frustrating one in many senses, folks.

First, we had the “announcement” of a transgender ban from military service by the President of the United States, Donald Trump, via a Tweet. (Something the Joint Chiefs of Staff had no idea was coming, much less the ordinary rank and file.)

Next, we had utter chaos at the White House as one of the new staffers (a guy I won’t name) decided to go on a profane rant. And rather than be fired, as anyone else would’ve been from any job anywhere, this particular new staffer was more or less praised by the President. (Or at least excused by him.)

Look. I believe in building bridges, not walls. I think we need to learn more about each other, in order to become more compassionate, much less wiser, people. And trying to understand the other person’s point of view is essential, or you can’t get anything done in that regard.

But I don’t understand the President’s point of view at all, here.

Donald Trump, in his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention, talked about how he was for LGBTQ rights. And the T in that stands for “transgender.”

Granted, if you had to ask me to ask one person whether the sun was rising in the East and setting in the West, I would pick anyone instead of Donald Trump. (I might even pick my dog, Trouble. He’d not be able to answer me, but at least he’d look cute.)

Still. Since transgender soldiers were allowed to serve openly in the military, they’ve done a fine job. No one’s seemed to have any trouble with them. They’re soldiers, like anyone else. They do their jobs, like anyone else. And no one’s ever questioned the fact that the United States military contains some of the best trained fighters ever seen.

(And make no mistake about it: I fully expected this to be the case. A trans person is a person like anyone else. And trans soldiers want to serve their country like anyone else does, too; give them credit for that fact, Mr. President. Please?)

I would’ve rather seen a bridge built here, rather than the wall of Donald Trump’s Tweet. I’d rather Mr. Trump had spoken to the transgender soldier retired from Seal Team Six, who could’ve given Mr. Trump a very solid education on the entire subject. I’d rather Mr. Trump had spoken to any soldiers, including Senators Lindsay Graham and Joni Ernst, who would’ve told him that soldiers of any persuasion, creed, color, sexuality or gender preference are worthy of care and will do the professional, thorough job that soldiers of the U.S. military are known for.

I tried to say that myself on my little-used Twitter account, but I was immediately given short shrift by a few of Mr. Trump’s more rabid followers. They believe that Mr. Trump was right to do this, because supposedly being trans is a “mental disease.” Or that it really is too expensive to give trans soldiers the care they need, which is absurd considering the immense amount of the military’s budget. (Supposedly, the military spends more on Viagra for male soldiers’ impotence than they do on the care for their trans soldiers. I wouldn’t doubt that for a minute.)

I know, myself, that as a writer and as a human being, I want to know more about people who feel marginalized and misunderstood in order to give them hope that someday, they will feel completely accepted and fully understood. That’s why I wrote my book, CHANGING FACES, and it’s why I believe firmly that we need to build a bridge to the trans community, and learn more from them, rather than exclude them out of hand as if they don’t matter — or worse, pretend that they don’t exist.

The Deity must have a reason for people coming in all sorts, shapes, creeds, sexes, genders, and yes, even differing political philosophies like Mr. Trump’s. But I don’t understand why anyone needs to be obnoxious in spreading his or her own political philosophy, especially if he hasn’t studied the subject at all, as it appears Mr. Trump has not.

For someone who said he was for LGBTQ rights, Mr. Trump had a horrible week.

But the trans soldiers had a worse one. Because they realized, perhaps for the first time, that this President does not have their back. And that is a very sad, even shameful, thing.

#CHRISTMASINJULY FETE: Changing Faces by @BarbCaffrey #ROMANCE #BOOKS #GIVEAWAY

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Here’s today’s spotlight at Mr. and Mrs. N.N. Light’s wonderful POTL blog…it’s Christmas in July! Do enter the Rafflecopter and enjoy my book, CHANGING FACES!

POTL: All Things Books, Reading and Publishing

Christmas in July Book Square - CF

Title: CHANGING FACES

Author: Barb Caffrey

Genre: LGBT-friendly inspirational fantasy-romance

Book Blurb:

Allen and Elaine are graduate students in Nebraska, have been together for seven years, and are engaged. They love each other very much, and have many things in common. Both play the clarinet, are teaching assistants, are well-respected and seem to have their lives firmly on track. In fact, their life should be idyllic, but Elaine’s past includes rape, neglect, and abuse from those who should’ve loved her—but didn’t, because from childhood, Elaine identified as transgender.

When Elaine tells Allen right before Christmas, he doesn’t know what to do. He loves Elaine, loves her soul, has heard about transgender people before, but didn’t think Elaine was one of them—she looks and acts like anyone else. Now, she wants to become a man and is going to leave.

He prays for divine intervention, and says he’ll do anything, just…

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Written by Barb Caffrey

July 27, 2017 at 3:01 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

It’s Christmas…in July?

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Folks, I’m taking part in an unusual Christmas in July celebration being hosted by the husband and wife writer team N.N. Light. Mr. and Mrs. N. have put together a Christmas in July spotlight, which I’m taking part in. And my segment will go live tomorrow (the 27th of July, 2017)…which might interest you.

Not to mention the Rafflecopter giveaway, which will continue until August 1, 2017. You can win one of three free e-book copies of CHANGING FACES, my latest novel, plus a number of other nifty prizes — with the grand prize being a $75 Amazon gift card. (How cool is that?)

(Actually, this Rafflecopter has been going on since July 1st, but I’m very slow on the uptake this month. Too much work, I guess…or not enough brainpower. Take your pick.)

Anyway, here’s a lovely graphic put together by Mrs. N. to whet your interest:

CIJF Blog Header

And here is what Mrs. N. calls a “book square” for CHANGING FACES, which may interest you also:

Christmas in July Book Square - CF

I wish in some ways I’d not gotten so far behind this month in letting you all know about this, because CHANGING FACES is actually meant as a holiday book. While it starts in July of 2015 and ends in July of 2016, most of the action occurs around Christmas. So between the fact that the book starts and ends in July, and has a very big Christmas-oriented theme to it (complete with quirky angels who want to save Allen and Elaine’s love, even if that means putting them into different bodies for the rest of their lives), I am absolutely thrilled to be a part of Mr. and Mrs. N’s Christmas in July celebration.

There are a number of other good books over at POTL being feted, mind, and I do hope you’ll take a look at them.  (Please go to https://princessofthelight.wordpress.com to learn more.) I know I picked up the four Regency novellas just now, and plan to enjoy them immensely. (I do love a good Regency novella, if I do say so myself.)

Anyway, better late than never…so do take a gander at the celebration going on over at POTL, and certainly go enter that Rafflecopter! (Tell ’em Barb sent you.)

 

Written by Barb Caffrey

July 26, 2017 at 12:51 am

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Pablo Sandoval, and Point of View

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Folks, I’m a baseball fan, so maybe this will make more sense to me than to you. But here goes…

A few years ago, third baseman Pablo Sandoval was on top of the world. His then-team, the San Francisco Giants, had won the World Series, and his power hitting was a big part of that effort. He had every right to feel proud, much less satisfied, and he certainly did.

But he also became a free agent, able to sign with any team, not too long after achieving that pinnacle. And because he was feeling buoyant, or maybe just because he was feeling “immature” (his own words now, but I’m getting to that), he got very angry with his team, the Giants, and signed with the Boston Red Sox instead.

Now, just signing with another team is not a big deal. (Yeah, it hurts as a fan when your favorite players do this, but it’s a part of the 21st Century baseball fandom experience.) But saying bad things about your now-former team is a big deal.

But at the time, Sandoval’s point of view was that he was a big power hitter. Surely, playing in Boston with the Green Monster (a very famous wall, for non-baseball fans) was going to help his power numbers. And anyway, he was frustrated with the Giants because they’d told him he had to keep his weight down. (My guess there is that the Giants wanted Sandoval on the field, and to keep him free from injury. But that’s definitely not how Sandoval took it. As a larger-sized person, I completely understand that impulse, mind you…but I digress.)

Unfortunately, Sandoval’s belief did not carry water. He went to Boston, but didn’t do particularly well. He ended up fighting nagging injuries, appeared to gain weight (which may have contributed, but may not have), and because he’d signed a very large contract, quickly fell out of favor with the Boston fans.

Then, he was designated for assignment this year, and given his outright release. Which is a very humbling thing for a baseball player…not something anyone ever wants, even though Sandoval’s contract was and remains guaranteed so he will be paid.

This story has a happy ending, of sorts, because Sandoval was re-signed by the Giants to a minor league deal. And Sandoval apologized for his previous comments, saying he was “immature” and that he really hadn’t felt that way. (My guess is, he was just angry over a wide variety of things, and didn’t know how to express himself.)

So, Sandoval adjusted his point of view, and realized that he’d had a good experience in San Francisco after all. The fans loved him there; the front office treated him well; he’d been given good medical support; and he’d played well.

That’s why he is back with the Giants farm system, and is attempting to get his hitting stroke back.

Now, what’s the lesson the rest of us non-baseball players can learn from this?

Sometimes, life is all about the point of view. And our point of view may not be accurate. We can make mistakes. And when we do, we have to own up to them.

It’s not easy, no. But if you can swallow your pride — as Sandoval did in signing a minor-league deal with the Giants — you have a chance to still achieve your heart’s desire.

I know I’ve made my share of mistakes in this life. I can’t take all of them back. (Some of them, I would not take back, because that’s the only way I learned. But again, I digress.) But one thing I have learned is that Sandoval’s reaction here was right on the money; he told his pride to take a hike, and did what was necessary to try to rejuvenate himself and his career.

More of us should be like Pablo Sandoval. (Further writer sayeth not.)

Writing and Fatigue

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Folks, the last week or so, I’ve been battling some intense frustration when it comes to writing.

Why?

Mostly, it’s because of being intensely tired. (Or fatigued, as it were.) I put a lot into my music, both during practice and at concerts, and perhaps during the summer it takes a bit more out of me than it used to.

(Yeah, this is as close as you’re going to get to the fact that I know I’m getting a wee bit older. But never old — that’s not happening.)

See, life is all about choices. I could’ve said, back in 2011, that I did not want to put out the energy to play again, but what sense would that have made? (It would invalidate my years of education, for one…and waste my talents for another. Again, not happening.) But I made that choice, to play again, and to use my talents and education to the fullest extent of which I’m capable…which means I don’t have as much energy available for everything else.

And life doesn’t stop. It never, ever stops…I have a lot of mundane things to do, like grocery shopping, errand-running, and so forth, plus a good amount of editing (as that, for all practical purposes, is my “day job”), and I’m glad I’m able to do all of those things, too.

But again, see what I said about “choices.”

Plus, I’m aware that right now, I seem to be in a fallow period when it comes to writing, most particularly when it comes to writing fiction. That doesn’t mean I’m going to stop trying. But it means that maybe, if I stop pressing, I’ll do a little better…if it feels less like sheer bloody-minded pushing boulders up the hill (like Sisyphus?), maybe I’ll be able to do more.

Creativity is one of the hardest things to harness, sometimes…at least for me. Especially when I’m overtired, and been pressing too hard for weeks, and the weather is too hot and humid to be borne, perhaps the best thing to do is rest.

But I’m not good at resting. I want to be up and doing. Resting feels like surrender.

It’s not, though. It’s actually playing it smart.

Anyway, I’m sure I’m not the only one who gets into fallow periods and wonders what on Earth will get me out of it. What gets you out of these ruts? Are you someone who believes firmly in PBICAT? (Put butt in chair and type?) Or do you think sometimes you just need R&R, as much as you can stand that’s in your price range, to recharge your batteries?

Whichever it is, let me know in the comments! (Maybe we can find some new strategies in how to combat this. Who knows?)

Written by Barb Caffrey

July 21, 2017 at 6:52 pm

Concert Over…

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Folks, I’m glad to report that I played my sax solo reasonably well last night, and the preparation that went into that worked out.

I am mostly writing this follow-up blog because of a comment I received from a fellow musician on Facebook. He isn’t aware of all of the various issues that went into me playing this solo, or even wanting to play a solo at all, and that reminded me that not everyone has read my blog for years.

And if you haven’t, you’re maybe not going to know exactly what did go into the persistent effort to play well enough to ask for a solo…much less anything else.

For longtime blog readers, this is going to be old hat to you, so if you want to skip over this post, feel free…but for the rest of you, here we go.

When my husband died in 2004, I was so devastated, I wasn’t able to do much of anything for years. Because I’d already been battling carpal tunnel syndrome (or what I thought was that, at the time), my hands became so stiff and sore, they were almost unusable — at least, when it came to playing a musical instrument. (I could still type, with effort, but I also saw problems even there.)

Then, for several years, I just didn’t play. I looked at my instruments, and grew frustrated; I’d gone through so much to get my two degrees, and now, I couldn’t do anything whatsoever?

In 2011, I finally felt able to talk with my old band director, Mark Eichner. He was still at UW-Parkside, and hadn’t yet retired; he told me when the Parkside Community Band was going to start rehearsing for their winter concert, and so, I rejoined the band. I played a solo there, within the band rather than standing up in front of it (as I did yesterday), which was difficult but worthwhile.

And not long after that, in 2012, I rejoined the Racine Concert Band as a saxophonist. They needed someone to play the second part, you see…and occasionally, I could play tenor sax or clarinet as needed. I knew playing every week in the summer, where I’d battle against my asthma as well as my hand issues, was going to be a challenge, but I appreciated being able to play again.

In a way, it took a few more years for my ego as a musician to reassert itself. (Ego is not necessarily a bad thing, mind.) By this point, I wanted to play a solo. So I asked for one, preferably on clarinet.

My conductor (again Mark Eichner, who also conducts the RCB) gave me a sax solo instead.

Note that my friend Vivian is the saxophone section leader. I’ve known Vivian for years. She’s a great person, she plays well, and she makes going to rehearsal fun. I did ask her if she had any problem whatsoever with me wanting to play a solo, and she basically said, “Of course not. Don’t be silly!”

(And she was the first person to congratulate me, too, last night. Just saying.)

So, I hope that fills in a few blanks.

As for why I said things the way I did before? It’s because I am a human being, fallible and mortal, and I really do struggle sometimes depending on what types of parts are written for the sax. (Many times, Vivian doesn’t have a good part, either. Nor does any other sax player in the section. It really depends on the arranger how well the sax section is used and/or exploited.) I have an easier time playing second clarinet or even third clarinet than I do second alto sax, because the clarinet parts in a band are based off the violin part in an orchestra — meaning that usually those parts are more interesting, or at least can be, than the second alto part. (And oft-times, they’re more interesting in my opinion than the first alto part, too. But that’s probably just me.)

I’m glad I feel well enough to play, and that I was able to do a good job last night. (And that my section leader, Vivian, puts up with me. Because I’m like anyone else — sometimes I can be a major pain in the buttinsky.)

Written by Barb Caffrey

July 17, 2017 at 8:21 pm