Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Archive for the ‘friendship’ Category

Unsettled Times

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Folks, the times, they are unsettled. (OK, Bob Dylan, it isn’t. But it does happen to be true.)

We have unrest here in Wisconsin, as there’s an important trial going on in Milwaukee that, depending on its outcome, may set off another round of riots and looting and fires. (Last year, I wrote a post called “Milwaukee Burning” about that, I believe.)

We have unrest throughout the United States for various reasons. Some comes down to how our politicians continue to make the same mistakes, whether they’re Republicans or Democrats (right now, the GOP is in the barrel over their mishandling of Trumpcare, otherwise known as the AHCA), some because of the bombastic nature of our current President, Donald Trump (a man Hillary Clinton quite correctly called “unfit” due to Trump’s willingness to shoot from the Tweet at any hour of the day or night). Some is because we’ve possibly forgotten we have more in common with each other than not…

But I think a lot of it is because too many people are working jobs that are below their ability levels. They’re not making the money they need to pay their bills, much less have any sort of decent quality of life. Way too many people work so many hours, they barely see their children, spouses, or any of their friends, all because they’re trying hard to stay ahead of their bills.

This is called “income instability.” It is not easy to deal with. At all.

Historically, when things like this happen — too many people either out of work entirely or working too many hours for too little money — we end up with a great deal of unrest.

Or, as I put it above, unsettled times.

It’s not easy to live in such times. There’s a lot of inequality out there, whether it’s income inequality, racial inequality, the fight for LGBTQ rights…and then, so many people are so very, very exhausted, they come home, aren’t able to think as well as they would if they had enough time to see their family and friends and decompress a little.

I’m wondering if this — the overarching inequity people can’t help but see —  is why the folks in our society seemingly are more likely to get angry and stay angry.

And then, we have a media that likes to push sensationalism, and only rarely talks about what binds us together. (That does not sell papers. Or buy ads for TV programs, either.)

So we hear only that people don’t agree. That they don’t get along. That maybe we shouldn’t, that our “tribe” doesn’t get along with theirs…that only Democrats/Republicans/Libertarians/Independents/fill-in-the-blank are worth talking to, and no one else need apply.

What I know, though, is different.

I have friends from all walks of life. They are all interesting, funny, special people, who have something worthwhile to say, and worthwhile to share.

Yeah, to some of them, I’m a “token liberal,” one of the few they can tolerate. And to some, I’m too conservative for them, not nearly liberal enough.

But I’m always, always myself.

That got me to thinking…if I can handle all these different people doing different things, saying many different interesting things, why is it that we can’t get it together as a society? Are we too big, too monolithic, to admit to individuality any longer?

I don’t know.

What I do know is, whether we live in unsettled times or not, we have to keep doing our best. And since we’re here on this Earth for some reason, we may as well try to learn from one another rather than insist ours is the “one, true way” (hat tip to author Mercedes Lackey).

So, this week, try hard to listen to someone you don’t normally think is worthwhile. See if there’s even one grain of anything you can agree with, and then talk civilly and with amity about the rest.

Who knows? You may make a new friend.

Written by Barb Caffrey

June 20, 2017 at 7:27 pm

Missed Connections

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Folks, earlier tonight I heard from a friend that another of our circle had died. I felt terrible about this for many reasons, and I still do — but much of why I feel so awful may surprise you.

See, I think in some ways I dropped the ball with this individual. She was a bright, funny, caring woman, and I liked talking to her when I saw her online, but for a long time, I wasn’t completely able to reach out or let anyone else reach in.

After my husband Michael died, it took years to get to the point where I could again have reasonably normal friendships where grief didn’t completely overwhelm me (and my friend). And while I knew this woman a little bit before Michael died, I actually got to know her better afterward…when I wasn’t exactly at my best.

Now, I feel like I missed a connection somewhere with regards to this woman.

See, she tried — and several times, if my memory is not mistaken — to reach out to me after Michael died. This wasn’t an easy thing to do considering the depths of my grief, but I was in no shape to be able to appreciate her efforts.

Then, as I got more accustomed to widowhood, I was still withdrawn in many ways. Because of that, I never told her that I did appreciate her efforts. That they did mean something to me, and that partially because of her, I did keep trying and did eventually find a way out of my grief long enough to realize that I still had something worthwhile left to share with others.

This particular lady was someone that I think I could’ve really had a solid and strong friendship with, rather than be on the fringes of each other’s lives, had I been less withdrawn due to grief.

But it didn’t happen, partly because of circumstances…and partly because when she made her overtures of friendship, I wasn’t ready to receive them.

When I was ready, time got away from me. I never circled around and told her I appreciated that she’d tried to reach me, and that she did her best to support me emotionally at a difficult time.

Worse yet, when she needed help (she’d started a GoFundMe appeal recently), I wasn’t aware of it so I couldn’t help. She’d made it public, but I hadn’t gone to look at her Facebook page in a while, and the algorithms Facebook employs didn’t put her posts front and center on my feed…so I flat missed it.

Granted, I didn’t miss it out of malice aforethought. But I did miss it, and the help I could’ve provided wasn’t forthcoming.

All because of missed connections.

Because I’m now mourning her loss, I would like to tell you all something.

Do your best to tell those who help you that you appreciate what they’re doing. Even if it’s hard; even if you’re afraid it’ll sound wrong; even if you don’t really know how to tell them. Do your best, and let them know that you care.

Don’t assume that you’ll have tomorrow to do it, either. Because time has a funny way of getting away from you. And then, you’ll think, “Oh, that was years ago, she won’t care, and anyway, she’s got different people to talk with now…what difference would it make if I told her I appreciated things back then, anyway?”

Maybe it wouldn’t have. But maybe it would. And if it would’ve, who knows what sort of deep friendship might’ve occurred?

Now, all I can do is ask that you tell those you care about that you care about them today. Don’t wait.

And if you want to thank someone for something they did years ago that meant something to you, do it. Even if they don’t remember, or if it wasn’t a big deal to them, do it anyway — because it matters, and it’s good that you know it.

As for my friend, I hope she is being feted in the afterlife by all her friends and loved ones who passed before her. She was a lively, well-read woman with talent and wit and integrity, so I’m sure there are many on the Other Side waiting to greet her. (Probably including my husband, for all I know. It’s the type of thing Michael would’ve enjoyed doing, so I’d like to picture him there.)

Still, as I mourn her loss, I also mourn the loss of possibility. And wish very much that I could go back, just a few days, even, and tell her that I really did appreciate her.

But now, it’s too late.

And I hate that.

Written by Barb Caffrey

June 15, 2017 at 1:44 am

Good News for a Friend…

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Sometimes, it’s fun to be an author. And to have friends.

(And an author with friends…priceless? But I digress…let’s get to the good stuff.)

I’m very happy to let you know that my friend, Jason Cordova, and his co-writer Eric S. Brown have sold their entire Kaiju Apocalypse trilogy to Takeshobo, a major Japanese publisher. They are both incredibly excited about this.

Plus, as Eric Brown said on Facebook, “Personally, I think it’s awesome that we sold KAIJU to the birthplace of kaiju.” (And he put four smiley faces after it. which gives you an idea of how jazzed he is about this.)

Jason’s comment on Facebook was this: “This is a big deal. We’re talking print run that makes people notice. This is huge for Eric and I, and we’ve been forced to sit on the news for months.”

So, I’m very pleased to let you know that Jason and Eric are expanding their world domination to Japan. (And I’m not even being sarcastic.)

But if you want to read their Kaiju series now, you should take a look at this following link to the three-book set of e-books from Amazon, and go get them for yourself:

So, there you have it! (Go forth and multiply, or something.)

Written by Barb Caffrey

April 27, 2017 at 1:44 pm

Musing on Sunday: Making Difficult Choices

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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…

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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

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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)

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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