Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Archive for the ‘friendship’ Category

Musing on Sunday: Making Difficult Choices

with 6 comments

It’s Sunday, so I thought I’d try a different type of post today.

What do we do, as writers, and as people, when we have to make a difficult choice?

In our writing, sometimes we have snippets of dialogue and characterization that leap off the page, but don’t go with anything in the story. What do we do with it, then?

And in life, we never seem to get exactly what we want. The people around us — and we, ourselves, for that matter — make bad decisions from time to time. Or maybe they make good decisions for them, but bad ones for us…because they’re human, and they make mistakes. (Just as we do, but I digress.)

In writing, it’s easier to figure out what you’re going to do with a difficult decision. First, you can turn that snappy dialogue or great characterization into a new story that doesn’t conflict with the one you already have. Second, if that doesn’t work, you can simply excise it — the whole “kill your darlings” thing that all writers know, and all writers hate. And third, you can try to find a way to incorporate the good stuff into your manuscript anyway…though that last is the most difficult choice of all, as if it had been easy, that bit that stands out but doesn’t go with anything would’ve been incorporated already.

Note I said “easier.” It’s still not easy. You have to think, long and hard, about what you’re going to do, and make a choice that you have to live with.

In life, sometimes we can only react to what is put in front of us. Where we are today might not be at all where we want to be. (I think I can safely say that, under the circumstances; if I had my druthers, my husband would still be alive, we’d be about to celebrate fifteen years of marriage, and we’d have I don’t know how many books out, together and separately.) Because we’re in uncharted territory, we don’t know what to do, and we feel our way toward the best solution possible.

We have to have faith in ourselves that we can find a good answer, even when the question itself seems like it has no answer. We have to believe that we can reason our way out, think our way out, know ourselves well enough that we can stay on an even keel while everything around us feels unsteady, almost as if we’re enduring a long-lasting earthquake that doesn’t quite — quite — swallow us whole.

This is hard.

It’s especially difficult for our friends, who watch as we struggle, and give advice, and give comfort and support, and try to do their best to help you keep your body and soul together another day, so you can continue the fight.

But ultimately, the choices you make are up to you. You have to live with them.

So please, make your best decisions. Use your reason as well as your gut reaction. And then act accordingly…knowing full well that you can revisit your decision if and when the situation changes.

What do you do when you face a difficult choice, in writing or in life? Let me know in the comments.

Written by Barb Caffrey

March 12, 2017 at 4:21 pm

Getting By With a Little Help…

with 11 comments

Folks, this past week has been a whirlwind. I’ve had ups, downs, two band rehearsals, book promotion activities, all that…but one thing is certain:

I appreciate my friends, in and out of the writing community.

Friends are amazing. Having people in your life who understand you is one of the greatest blessings available on this Earth. No, it might not be up there with chocolate, or romantic love, or the Milwaukee Brewers winning the World Series (that has to be on the horizon sooner or later, right?), but friends make a huge difference in your life.

I know this, because without mine, I would be in big trouble.

This past week, I had several friends step up and help me in various ways.

First, Chris the Story-Reading Ape posted a book spotlight for CHANGING FACES, my new novel, at his very busy blog on less than three hours notice. I did not expect this at all — that he’d do it, yes. But that he’d do it in less than three hours? Um, no.

Thank you, Chris!

Next, I reached out to Jason Cushman, the Opinionated Man himself. Jason has a huge blog following of over 60,000 people over at his blog HarsH ReaLiTy, and he agreed to host a guest blog from me less than a day after I asked him.

That guest blog, Music and Love in CHANGING FACES, got a number of positive comments and I made at least one new fan out of it from India. (She thinks I should start up a YouTube channel on music, because I know so much about it. I had never considered that before, but I am now…thanks to her.)

Thank you so much, Jason!

Then, I reached out to Sally Cronin, a wonderful woman who has a solid and eclectic blog following of her own. Sally agreed to host something about me, my overall work (including my short stories and previous two novels in the Elfyverse as well as CHANGING FACES), and let people know I had a new release available within a few, short days as well; that blog also featured authors Angie Dokos and Deanie Humphrys-Dunne.

Thank you so much, Sally!

(My goodness, I am blessed with friends, aren’t I?)

And that doesn’t count the people who shared on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites, much less my friends over in the Marketing for Romance Writers group, not to mention my writer-friends Katharine Eliska Kimbriel, Mr. and Mrs. N.N. Light, Jason Cordova, and Chris Nuttall, who all gave me encouragement as I was afraid my book would just sink like a stone.

I mean, there is nothing else out there like CHANGING FACES. Nothing whatsoever. And that makes it a challenge to market. It’s about music, love, friendship, sacrifice, all that — but it’s mostly about what makes a person, her soul or her body? (Obviously, I think it’s the soul. If it were the body, why would human beings be so concerned, as a species, about a positive afterlife?)

And yet, it’s not a Christian inspirational. It’s not a NeoPagan inspirational, either. There certainly are a lot of LGBT themes in there, as it features a lesbian wedding at the beginning and a wedding between my protagonists Allen and Elaine, now both transgender, at the end, but I like to think it has broader appeal as well.

In other words, I believe that CHANGING FACES is timeless. Anyone who believes in romance, much less likes music a great deal, should find a way to appreciate it.

No, it’s not like anything else. But it is honest, it is heartfelt, and it has a lot of interesting stuff in there about music, writing, the meaning of love, and how LGBT people are just like anyone else that may intrigue you, if you only give it a chance.

I am proud to have written CHANGING FACES. And I hope that you will look for it, and buy a copy, as it’s only ninety-nine cents (or ninety-nine pence in the UK).

First, here’s a link to the sample chapters:

http://www.twilighttimesbooks.com/ChangingFaces_ch1.html

Next, here are all the links to the various places where CHANGING FACES is on sale, courtesy of Chris the Story-Telling Ape (he put it into this format, and it makes sense, so I’m going to keep crediting him — thank you again, Chris!):

Barnes & Noble

Amazon:

USA  –   UK  –  CA  –  AUS  –  IN

Finally, here’s a link to my Amazon Author’s page (at Amazon US only, sorry), which may give you an idea of other books I’ve written, to show range and all that other good stuff (note that CHANGING FACES is not yet listed there, but it will be, and soon, if I have anything to say about it):

https://www.amazon.com/Barb-Caffrey/e/B00H8EROC8

Written by Barb Caffrey

February 17, 2017 at 3:02 pm

Turning Bad Circumstances into Good Ones

leave a comment »

It’s Friday the 13th, so I thought I’d talk about how to turn bad circumstances into good ones. (Or, at least, into better ones?)

“Why, Barb, did you pick Friday the 13th for this blog?” you ask, wearily.

Well, the answer is simple. On Friday the 13th, everyone worries more about accidents, superstitions, odd events…and what’s odder than turning a bad circumstance into a good one?

Yeah, I realize that’s not how most people think of it. Instead, we think about the negative stuff going on all around us. And it’s very easy to find…we all have stuff in our lives that could be, shall we say, improved.

And it’s hard to think about improving things, when everything seems against you.

I’ve had my back to the wall at least ten times in my life. It’s not pleasant. Every time, I’ve thought whatever was going on would break me. I’ve been through deaths of loved ones (including my beloved husband Michael), divorces before I even found Michael at all, at least five major moves, job losses, and economic hardship, and I haven’t enjoyed any of it.

(If I did, though, wouldn’t you wonder what I was about? I would, in your place. But I digress.)

What you have to do when you’re at a breaking point is to keep going. Remember that you didn’t ask for this to happen. You are just doing the best you can. Maybe you’ve made mistakes, but we all have…the trick is not to give up on yourself and not to give up on your talents, no matter what is stacked against you.

And as bad as dealing with horrific events (like deaths of loved ones in particular) can be, there actually is one positive side to it that I’ve found.

Ready?

I realized  that going through all the negative experiences in my life has actually sensitized me to other people’s suffering. And along the way, I found that being able to help someone else, even if it’s only a little bit, did two great things: It helped the other person realize they were not alone, and it also made me feel better as a human being to reach out and help someone who truly needed it.

Maybe that’s why we have things like “Do unto others as they do unto you” (the Golden Rule). It’s not just that we want to be treated well; it’s that we need to treat others well for our own well-being, and to become our best selves.

Anyway, the point of this blog is, sometimes life just stinks. There are things you have to do sometimes that you never wanted to — that you never even conceived of, when you started out as a young adult — but you have no choice.

When you’re at one of those places, step back, and try to realize that you are not alone. You can come back from whatever it is that you’re facing with time, courage, fortitude, will, and effort. Best of all, you will be able to better understand yourself and others when you do…and I don’t know of any other way to turn a bad circumstance into a good one than that.

Mea Culpa, Mea Maxima Culpa…(a CHANGING FACES Update)

with 4 comments

Folks, before I get into this update, I want to tell you a story.

Years ago and far away — Nebraska, to be exact — I was at a holiday party. I was drinking a little, and as I almost never drink, I wasn’t aware of how dumb I sounded nor how hurtful I was being. Worse yet, because of this one moment of stupidity on my part, I blew an important job interview as the person I was mouthing off to was the interviewer’s sister…and I set back progress in my life by years thereby.

I’m not proud of this.

At the time, I didn’t realize what I was doing. It took me months to figure out that the person I’d talked to was the interviewer’s sister at this party, and I never did apologize to her, or to the interviewer himself, partly because I didn’t know I should.

This time, I know better.

How does that get into the CHANGING FACES update, you ask? Well, it’s simple…recently, on Facebook, someone had asked me what was going on with regards to CHANGING FACES. I turned in my copy — technically a draft, though in actuality an extensive revision that took me over a year to complete — just before Thanksgiving. I had hoped at the time that I could still maybe get CF out by the end of the year, but I knew that because of the amount of time it took me to get this done, the chances weren’t good.

Then I got the news that most likely, CF will be out in February of 2017. Which actually makes sense in a wide number of ways, but at the time — I was sick, though again, that’s no excuse whatsoever — I was thinking, “Oh, my God/dess, I’ve missed the 2016 window completely. Damn it!”

But I didn’t say that on Facebook.

Instead, what I expressed was merely my frustration. Not the cause of it, especially the cause being myself, because I thought folks on my page knew this.

That was my first error, as I’ve known for a long time to never assume anything.

Worse yet, my publisher saw this, and was hurt by this, as she’d done nothing wrong whatsoever. I like my publisher, Lida Quillen of Twilight Times Books, and consider her a friend. There’s no way in the world I’d ever want to hurt her feelings, especially considering how patient she was in waiting for me to turn in something that she could work with.

This was my second error.

But unlike my younger self, I take responsibility for the things I do and say that are wrong and hurtful, or at least woefully incomplete.

So, here’s the rest of the story.

Over the past year-plus, as I fought to keep from losing my home, as I fought to help my former house-mate, I struggled with CHANGING FACES. Every time I thought I had an epiphany, I’d get set back the next week or month with some other crises. And every time I made headway, I’d end up having yet another road block.

During this time, Lida was both encouraging and sympathetic. She didn’t have to be either of these things. But she was, which I truly appreciated.

Why did I say little about this at the time, and nothing at all about how encouraging Lida was the entire time? Because I didn’t want to dwell on the major problems I was trying to get past in this forum. I wanted to talk about something encouraging, uplifting, or at least something that was in the news that other people could relate to.

That, too, was an error.

I apologize for all of that. I know I’m better than that.

I’ve been very fortunate in my friends, and that includes my publisher, Lida Quillen. I am sorry to have not explained myself better and even more sorry I popped off during a moment of weakness. (That I further compounded my error by getting a friend of mine, doing his best to give sympathy, in trouble as well only gives me greater pain. And yes, I’ve already apologized to him, too, but that’s yet another story…and I hope that one doesn’t have to be explained in public.)

I can’t take that back now. But I can at least let you all know that Lida helped me enormously over the past difficult, challenging, and often intensely frustrating year.

So, the reason CHANGING FACES will be out in 2017 is because of me. No one else.

Now back to our regularly scheduled blogging, already in progress…

Written by Barb Caffrey

December 13, 2016 at 11:50 am

Be Yourself, Be a Friend…

leave a comment »

Sometimes, when you’re someone’s friend, it’s not easy.

Maybe that person does something you don’t like, and you don’t know what to say. Or that person has political beliefs that shock you, or least surprise you…or that person insists on going his/her own way, calmly (but not quietly) pointing out the errors in your argument. Or maybe that person, who you thought was so much like yourself, turns out to be his/her own person after all…and while you want that, because who wants to live in an echo chamber, it can be quite disconcerting.

The best thing you can do, when you’re someone’s friend, is to listen. (It’s also the hardest, but it’s necessary.) Try not to pass judgment. Try to step into your friend’s shoes, and see whether or not you can find common ground; even if you can’t, the fact that you took the time to listen and care should matter.

None of us agree all the time. (Even my late husband and I had the rare — OK, extremely rare — disagreement.) So we’re going to have times where all we can do is listen, care, and agree to disagree.

Somehow, some way, we have to learn to be fine with this. And take people as they are, rather than how we’d like them to be.

That way, when you say something to your friend that’s shocking, or surprising, or (in contemporary parlance) a “buzz-kill,” maybe you’ll get the same courtesy.

Ultimately, it all comes down to one thing: Treat others the way you, yourself, want to be treated.

So if you want understanding, dignity, common courtesy, and respect, you’d best give that to your friends — and maybe even your enemies. (Capisce?)

———

Before I go, I wanted to make sure to ask my readers to say a quick prayer (or think good thoughts, or send positive energy, whatever you do in your own, personal belief system) for SF&F author Sarah A. Hoyt. She’s being kept overnight for observation at a Colorado hospital, and while her family is around her (which you’d expect, knowing Sarah at all), she needs all the good wishes, warm feelings and positive prayers she can get right now.

Written by Barb Caffrey

December 3, 2016 at 12:39 am

Rolling with the Punches…

leave a comment »

Folks, before any of you freak out, I’m not talking literal punches, here. (No, the second coming of Muhammad Ali has not haunted my sleep, fortunately.) Just the usual stuff that tends to congregate that you’d rather not do, including minor car issues, a couple of minor medical tests, and the like.

But that got me thinking. (Ooh, a dangerous task, I know…but one I take up with abandon. Or something.)

What are you supposed to do when life throws you a curveball?

Whether it’s minor medical tests or a car problem you’d rather not have (like today’s refusal by my car’s battery to start the car, necessitating a call to AAA), you have to keep as calm as possible and solve the problem as best you can.

I don’t do well with medical tests, personally. I would rather not do any of them. (I freely admit this.) I know it’s better for my health to do them, however, so I do…grumbling all the way. (Hey, it’s not all sweetness and light around Chez Caffrey, hard though I try.)

Fortunately, I have good friends who listen to me and care enough that they’re willing to tell me when I’m being foolish or counterproductive. (Mostly they say this by omission rather than direct observation, but I’m not an idiot; I can tell if they think I’m behaving stupidly, and usually I adjust my behavior accordingly ’cause I don’t want to add to my friends’ burdens.)

To mix metaphors gleefully (the only way to mix metaphors, I can assure you), I think you have to roll with the punches life throws at you. Whether the car doesn’t start (bad battery; bad!), the doctor insists you need a medical test you’d rather not do, or anything else you’d rather not have to deal with, you have to try to remain calm.

But what do you do when you just can’t?

What I do is this: I try to envision the worst-case scenario. What is that, and can I survive it?

Since I’ve survived any number of difficult things in my life (including the deaths of my beloved husband and my best friend), if I think rationally — whether using the worst case scenario frame or not — I know that these problems, vexing though they are, are transitory.

In a week, I won’t think much about ’em. In a month, they’ll be in the rear view mirror so much, they’re barely a pinprick…so it’s all a matter of perspective.

Try to remember that, the next time you have something happen that makes your blood boil. Maybe it’ll help you maintain a cooler head, so you can think your way out of the problem. (Or at least keep your blood pressure down somewhat, which is also a win of sorts.)

Moving, Writing, Editing, and All…

with 6 comments

Folks, my move has finally been completed.

The reason this took so long is because the person I used to live with decided to go into an apartment. I helped her move, along with other friends and family members, as well as move whatever of my things that I could, downsizing where need be of course.

As you might expect, writing has been scarce. Mostly I’ve been concerned with moving, a little with CHANGING FACES (about to go in to my publisher), a little with editing, and otherwise with letting my friends and family know that I’m still alive despite all this hard physical work.

I’m partially disabled and walk with a cane, as most of you know. Carrying boxes, even boxes made intentionally light, is not easy for me. Going up and down steps over and over again to try to figure out what needs to be taken to where, what can be donated to do some good elsewhere, and what needs to be scrapped was exhausting.**

So why did I do it, if it was so incredibly difficult? Mostly it’s because to refuse to help would be beneath contempt.

When someone needs my help, I try to help if it’s in my power. (If it’s not, I do what I can to pass them along to someone who can.) I don’t say, “Not my problem” or “You made your bed; lie in it.” I don’t see the point to that ninety-nine point nine percent of the time.

Yeah, there are few people I’d go to this limit for, but there was a reason for it. (I can’t say what it is, but someday, maybe, I’ll be able to do that.) And because I saw that reason, and understood that reason, I figured I’d never forgive myself if I didn’t try as hard as I could to improve the situation and get my former housemate into that new apartment as best I could.

Anyway, my hope is that now, life will calm down a little, and I can get back to what I do best — writing, editing, playing music, and enjoying life as best I can.

Some days it’s harder to do all of that than others, but I am going to give it the best shot I can — as that’s what makes the most sense to me.

——–

**On the plus side, I guess I didn’t need a gym membership the last few weeks. (So there is that.)

Written by Barb Caffrey

November 18, 2016 at 12:14 pm