Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Archive for the ‘Informational Stuff’ Category

Word Counts: Don’t Believe the Hype

with one comment

Folks, lately every time I’ve turned around, I’ve seen writers bragging about how many words they’ve written in a day. And while telling people once in a while is just fine–or telling ’em every day when your readership knows full well you have a book due for turn-in Really Soon Now (TM)–some of these counts seem, well, excessive.

I tend to believe the following maxim, which I’ve already stated above: Don’t believe the hype.

Yes, some writers can and do write thousands of words a day when they’re on a roll. And there are a few who can do this for week after week, month after month, maybe even year after year until there’s some sort of major crisis in their life where they can’t. (Because we’re all human, and we all face various difficulties and crises, I can’t help but say that.)

But  here’s the thing. If someone is pushing how many words she’s written, and does so constantly, you have to ask why. (Unless it’s the issue of your book is due in, and readers are clamoring to know what the hold-up is, of course.)

Is it to reinforce their own self-image of a hard-working writer?

Is it to let their publisher and/or readership know they’re working as hard and fast as they can?

Or is it just to brag, because no one can say you’re wrong because writing is an individual activity?

Look. I know there are writers–many of them, in fact–who write faster than I do. But it’s not a competition. Or, rather, it’s a competition only with myself, as to what I can do creatively despite the obstacles in my path.

Someone else may have different things going on. He or she may have a supportive spouse. (Or not.) He or she may not have any bill problems. (At least, for now.) He or she may be in robust health, and has never missed a day at work, whether it’s at the keyboard or at a day job…

And none of that, not any of it, applies to me as a writer.

I can only do what I can do. My best is my best. And while I’m glad to see my friends happy and fulfilled with their word counts when they’re on a roll, I usually can tell by other means that they’re on a roll other than the “4800 words completed today” cryptic little posts on their Facebook or Twitter or Instagram pages.

They may well be telling the truth. But they may have other reasons to say what they’re saying, too–see above reasons for a starting point.

And again: None of it applies to me, so I don’t have to believe the hype.

The most important thing to take away from this blog is this: Do what you can do. Not what anyone else can do, or worse, what anyone else is saying they’re doing (without any proof at all, most of the time).

Anything else is time-wasting persiflage, at best.

Advertisements

Written by Barb Caffrey

January 22, 2019 at 6:49 pm

Very Small Steps, Continued…

with 2 comments

I figured it was time for another small bloglet, letting you all know how I’m doing.

The last few weeks have been a trial, to put it mildly. I still can’t edit for more than a few minutes at a time, and I can’t write much at all. (Note how infrequent my blogs have become, for example. And no fiction — none — since mid-December.) I have ideas galore, for both words and music, but my energy level is so low that when I try to write them down, they fly away into the ether.

One of my best friends told me that if these ideas are good ones, they will return when I am feeling better. I sincerely hope she’s right.

Yesterday, I fought off a nasty migraine that took out the entire day. Every plan I’d made went out the window as soon as that showed up — which is what migraines do, granted. And I mostly suffered, hurting but unable to sleep, and wondering when I’d be able to return to what I like to call “baseline functional.”

I remind myself daily — and sometimes more often than just once — that I am not this illness. I am not defined by it, and it does not have to make me feel useless, or valueless, or stuck.

We all face illnesses, either our own or that of our loved ones, and we all have to deal with this from time to time. I am reminding myself of that, too.

Mostly, though, it’s taking a series of very small steps, one after the other, to try to shake this illness off and return to what I need to be doing: writing, editing, playing music, composing music, maybe writing a few poems here and there…and helping others.

I will keep taking these small steps, even though on days like yesterday, it feels like ten of the small steps got wiped out, and I’m starting from way behind.

Still. I will continue to do the best I can, and I will find a way to get better. That’s all that I know how to do, and it’s all I can do right now.

Thanks for bearing with me during these struggles.

Written by Barb Caffrey

January 11, 2019 at 12:05 pm

Posted in Informational Stuff, Writing

Tagged with

Sick at the Holidays…

with 12 comments

Folks, I have meant to write a blog or at least drop in a little bit of something for the past week-plus. But I have been quite ill.

I’ve been to the doctor twice and a third visit is in the offing. All I know is, I have had two ear infections (one in both ears, or a double ear infection), a bad sinus infection, an upper respiratory infection, and all of this happened more or less at the same time. As I have asthma, too, and other health issues already, none of this has helped me feel productive or like I have a place in the world.

Being ill is hard enough, but being sick at the holidays is even worse. I don’t know why that is, but it seems to add insult to injury somehow…and adds a bunch of stress to an already stressful situation.

I have so much stuff to do. Stuff to write. Stuff to edit. Stuff to read, even…and I can do none of it right now. I can’t even help my family members when they need help, as I usually do. Because I can’t get out to do anything for them right now. And that adds to my feelings of stress, not to mention that “do I have a place in the world?” thing I discussed above.

All I know is, I have to somehow heal up. That means another trip to the doctor, to figure out what happened this time, and how to fix it. Maybe I didn’t respond to the last bit of antibiotics? Maybe I caught something else on top of all the other stuff? Maybe something else is going on and I haven’t a clue what?

This is what’s running through my mind, as I write this.

So, folks: Don’t get this, whatever it is. And if you do somehow get something like it, get your rest as fast as you can, and don’t insist — as I unfortunately did — on trying to do any of your normal activities. As bad as it is to feel useless, it’s even worse to feel useless and sick…so pick the best of your available bad options, and rest/heal as best you can.

Oh, and try to laugh, too. That does help.

Written by Barb Caffrey

December 31, 2018 at 1:46 am

Announcing…”Citadel of Fear”

with 3 comments

Folks, a few months ago, I teased you all about a short story I’d sold. I couldn’t tell you much about it at the time, but I promised to come back and let you know when I could…then time got away from me. Work intervened. Real life (TM) got in the way of me talking about one of my few triumphs in 2018.

But now, I can discuss it, and actually have the time to do so. (What a luxury time can be. But I digress.)

The story “Citadel of Fear” was written for the latest Darkover anthology, itself titled CITADELS OF DARKOVER. The citadel in question could be metaphorical, could be literal; we just had to have our characters overcoming something major, something that could be a citadel of some sort. The editor, Deborah J. Ross, gave us wide latitude in what we chose as a citadel, and that helped me out enormously.

In “Citadel of Fear, my character, Miralys n’ha Camilla, is a Renunciate trail and mountain guide. (Think “Free Amazon,” and you’re not far wrong.) She is loyal to her Renunciate sisters, to her clients, and has built a life for herself doing what she enjoys the most: being in the outdoors, guiding clients up and down the perilous Darkovan mountains in all sorts of weather.

When the story opens, she’s guiding yet another client, a young woman, Jenella. It seems like any other day to her. She’s happy, she’s focused, she’s doing what she loves…

And then an avalanche drops on her. Literally.

How she overcomes her fear and takes up her job again is the focus of the story. Because it’s for the Darkover universe, I was able to use a weak psi-talent (called laran) to help her out a bit. But mostly, Miralys can only overcome her citadel of fear by using her mind, heart, and spirit; if she refuses to give in, she can keep going, and reclaim herself as best she can.

It took me somewhere between six or eight drafts to write this 4500-word story. Miralys was a tough nut to crack. She was incredibly closed at the start of this story (well, once the avalanche dropped on her, at any rate). She was not in a good place. And she didn’t have any idea what she was going to do next, or how she was going to do it.

She takes up the mantle of living again because she has to guide five young women down the mountain, as the price for her extensive healing. (Yes, she’d normally do it anyway, but without having to do it under these circumstances, she’d have balked.) She isn’t well. But she has to help, and so she does her best, until a very bad situation–one somewhat reminiscent of what she’s lived through in certain respects–arises.

Because I want you to read this story, I can’t tell you more than that. But I can say this: if you like stories with heroes or heroines who realistically overcome their fears, you will enjoy “The Citadel of Fear.” Guaranteed.

So, because I’m very proud of writing this story, I’m going to give you the table of contents for CITADELS OF DARKOVER now…and hope that in a few months, when it comes out, you’ll remember to look for it. (Of course, I will be talking about it then, too, but there’s nothing wrong with “priming the pump” now, is there?)

Table of Contents

DANCING LESSONS

By Evey Brett

SACRIFICE

By Steven Harper

BANSHEE CRY

By Marella Sands

THE KATANA MATRIX

By Lillian Csernica

SIEGE

By Diana L. Paxson

SEA-CASTLE

By Leslie Fish

FIRE STORM

By Jane M. H. Bigelow

THE DRAGON HUNTER

By Robin Rowland

FISH NOR FOWL

By Rebecca Fox

DARK AS DAWN

By Robin Wayne Bailey

CITADEL OF FEAR

By Barb Caffrey

THE JUDGMENT OF WIDOWS

By Shariann Lewitt

***

So, there you have it! And I do hope you’ll enjoy the story, and the rest of the anthology, when it comes out next year.

Written by Barb Caffrey

December 18, 2018 at 4:08 am

Holidays Are Hard, AKA Christmas Ramblings

leave a comment »

So, the holidays are coming. And they’re tough to take.

You see all the folks rushing here, rushing there (sometimes literally; today I saw a horrific car accident on the Interstate, and was very spooked by it), and you wonder what all that rushing is all about.

Then, there are the Christmas movies. The Christmas music, everywhere you go. (Even at the casino/hotel last night, where I was enjoying a rare night of R&R, I heard all Xmas music, all the time. I actually would’ve rather heard the 149th rendition of Britney Spears’ “Toxic,” which is not exactly my favorite song in the world, than that…because at least Britney is being honest.) The Christmas sales. The Pajamagrams. The Vermont Teddy Bears. And all the other ads you see, most especially for jewelry…

Everything is about conspicuous consumption. (Gag.)

Or about the assumption that every family is perfect (news flash: they aren’t), and that Christmas can make miracles happen out of even the most dysfunctional situation (and dysfunctional people). And while I want to believe that’s true (I know miracles can and do happen, for example), I don’t think it’s as easy as the movies make it out to be.

Look. Call me a curmudgeon. (Please.) But as I’ve said before, holidays are not about presents. They’re about presence.

As in, showing up, paying attention, making memories. Those are the only things that matter. Not how much you spend.

So, this may be an obvious take, but holidays are hard. We’re confronted with all we’re not, and we’re told we must aspire to be things other than what we are.

When you see stuff like that, or hear stuff like that, or think things like that, step back and take a breath. Then, realize that all you can do is take it moment by moment, give yourself permission to have human feelings (and human failings), and keep trying to do whatever good you can, wherever you can.

That’s what I’m going to try to do this year.

Written by Barb Caffrey

December 8, 2018 at 12:53 am

The Duties of Friendship

leave a comment »

When you want to have good friends in your life, you need to be one yourself.

This seems like a truism, something so obvious that no one could ever possibly mistake it. But I have seen, lately, some folks I care about very much being treated exceptionally poorly by their friends…and it makes me wonder if these so-called friends understand that truism above.

Without naming names, I’ll give you an example.

One of my friends recently had to have emergency surgery. She reached out to her friends, as people do when they’re in a crisis. The problem is, some of her friends just didn’t get it, while one of them — shockingly — decided to “ghost” and just not return any of her messages, text or otherwise.

Now, I got it. And I talked with her every day, sometimes many times a day, as we usually do. Because I know how it is to have a crisis and feel like no one cares.

Apparently, this one person either didn’t know that, didn’t care, or just figured it didn’t matter.

What do you think of that, hm? Is that palatable in 2018? Have we come so low as that, where we can’t even reach out to those who need help and give them any support at a time of crisis?

See, friendship has duties and responsibilities. We don’t like to think that, because it sounds transactional. And being a friend should not be about anything transitory or transactional.

But you owe your friend kindness, respect, comfort when you can give it, a sympathetic ear, caring…honesty? And you owe it to them during the bad times, as well as the good.

You should never, but never, “ghost” out of the picture. That’s just wrong.

I’m sorry. Someone who does this, who “ghosts out” at a time like this, is not worth your time. They are not your friend. They have just shown their ill worth, their lack of understanding, their lack of empathy. And you don’t need them.**

So, what should you do instead?

Even if you are under major stresses yourself, you should at least tell your friend you are rooting for her. (Or him.) And that you care. And that you want to know how the surgery goes.

Anything less is ridiculous.

What other duties do friends have? Tell me about them in the comments!

————

**If someone does this to you, I can only hope that this person, down the line, will have that happen to him as well. (Karma can be a mother.)

**And if you have done something like this, and didn’t realize it, you should make amends. Pronto. (‘Nuff said.)

Written by Barb Caffrey

November 29, 2018 at 10:35 am

More Musing About Editing

leave a comment »

Most of my life, I’ve worked hard at being a reliable, steady person.

(My family might laugh at this, but it’s the truth.)

A big part of that is embodied by the phrase “finish what you start.” And I try to do that with everything I do, even if it takes me longer as a writer to finish things than I’d like…even if my overall writing process has changed drastically since my late husband died, and I’ve never quite regained my fluidity or facility since.

It’s easier with editing, mind. For whatever reason, my mind goes into a mode there where I can see the story, manipulate the story (or at least ask the author to manipulate it for me), fix what needs fixing, suggest what needs suggesting, and try to do the best job I possibly can for my editorial clients.

Working hard is important. Even if I’m the only one who knows how hard I’m working, I still want to work hard, do everything possible, and make a positive difference in someone’s life. Even if it’s “just” in helping them realize their own artistic vision a little better, with a bit more clarity and sharpness…because these things are important, too.

A good friend, years ago, told me that when I started editing, I’d see manuscripts — even my own — differently. It’s a hard thing to turn off, Editorial Vision (or as I call it, “Editor Voice”), and that can get in the way of my own writing.

Mind, I do appreciate Editor Voice. I can do many things with it that others can’t. Including, of all things, being able to look at a manuscript as if I’ve never seen it before, even if I’ve seen it several times in the past. This ability seems unusual; the other good friends of mine who are editors don’t report having this type of track, though they have other things that work just fine for them.

(I also see, at the same time, what I’ve done, what I want to do, and what the author hopes me to do if I haven’t already figured out a way to do that, which makes it a way of looking at a story in two ways: with great knowledge, and with almost no knowledge. I call it a “dual-level ability.”)

I take what I do seriously. (Maybe too seriously, at times. Though I also try to be humorous when I can…or at least laugh, as life is too short to live it without laughter. Really.) I give everything I’ve got, and then some, toward helping others find their unique voices, and give them (in the buzzword of the moment) “agency.”

I’m glad to do whatever I can to help my clients, most of whom become good friends in the process, tell the best stories they need to tell, in the clearest and most distinct manner they can possibly tell their stories.

And otherwise, when I write? I try to tell myself I don’t have to do everything today. If I get down at least some of what I need, I can add to it tomorrow. Refine it. Maybe reimagine it, if need be…work with what I have, and make it as strong and resilient a story as I can make it. And tell the stories I need to tell, too, so I can say with good grace to clients that I know exactly how they feel, as I, too, have been there. (Been there, done that, bought the T-shirt, etc.)

That’s what I’m thinking about, now, as I continue my journey forward.

Oh, one more thing…next week, I’m going to tell you about the newest anthology I’ve placed a story in. So don’t go anywhere…I’ll have a table of contents, even, to pass around. (Yes, I am a working writer. Thank God/dess.)

What’s going on with y’all? (Tell me in the comments.)