Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Archive for the ‘Inspirational stuff’ Category

Strength: A Follow-up

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Folks, I am glad to be able to talk to you a little bit more about what strength is, what it isn’t, and how important it is in your daily life.

Strength-Blog-Collaboration

Last week, I wrote a post about strength, along with eleven other bloggers as part of the blog event Collaboration with a Purpose. We all came up with variations on the same theme: what is strength? Why is it important? Why should we care about it? What are we supposed to do about it? And what’s the meaning of it, anyway?

To me, it’s all about the power the mind, heart, and spirit. You have to believe that you can get past anything, even at your darkest times, or you just can’t function.

It’s really hard sometimes to believe that you can do just that, mind. Life can be overwhelming and stressful and frustrating and all-encompassing and exhausting.

Sometimes it’s tough to believe in yourself. Nothing seems to be going right. Everything seems to be stacked against you. And you wonder what the point is.

I’ve been there. Done that. Bought the t-shirt, burned it, buried the ashes, all that.

The important thing is, don’t give up. Keep trying, and refuse to allow whatever it is to bring you down.

Instead, learn from it. Grow because of it. And maybe, just maybe, at the end of the darkest hour, you’ll find peace — and it won’t just be from exhaustion.

Now, I’d like it if you’d go check out my fellow Collaboration with a Purpose bloggers, and see their takes on the subject of strength. Please check out the following links:

1. Addison D’Marko’s Post.

2. Ajibola Sunday’s Post.

3. Nicolle K’s Post.

4. Tajwar Fatma’s Post.

5. Camilla Motte’s Post.

6. Ipuna Black’s Post.

7. Jothish Joseph’s Post.

8. Jane Love’s Post.

9. Mylene C. Orillo’s Post.

10.  Sonyo Estavillo’s Post.

11. Manal Ahmad’s Post.

Written by Barb Caffrey

July 13, 2017 at 10:56 am

Mistakes? Or Stepping Stones?

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Folks, have you ever wondered if mistakes are merely stepping stones?

And the worse the mistake, the bigger the stepping stone?

I know most of us (myself included) tend to think a mistake is a life-altering event that you can’t go back from. You’re not the same person as before you made the mistake, and you don’t know what you’re going to do. Sometimes you don’t have any good choices, and that’s frustrating in the extreme.

But I’m here to tell you that I’ve rebounded from most of my past mistakes. They did turn out to be stepping stones, though I didn’t necessarily know that at the time. And I learned from them, and became a more informed person (if not always a wiser one).

Consider that when you write, sometimes you have to tear up a whole chapter, maybe even start over ten or fifteen or more times before you get a sentence right. (Or a paragraph, or a story, etc.) A start is just that: a start. It doesn’t have to lead where you think it’s going to lead, not and still be worthwhile to you.

Life is like that, too.

If you’d have told me after I fought so hard to get my two college degrees in music that I’d end up as an independent writer and editor, I’d probably have looked at you like you had two heads. I’d planned my whole life to be a performing musician, and to teach music. That’s what I wanted to do from the time I turned ten years old, and I worked really hard to do just that.

But life threw me a few curveballs, and so, here I am.

And as my character Bruno says (in the as-yet unpublished AN ELFY ABROAD), “I am who I am. I refuse to apologize for it.”

My mistakes did turn out to be stepping stones, for the most part. The ruins of my first two marriages were necessary so I could find the right guy, at long last, and build a strong and sturdy marriage that satisfied me in all senses. (That it ended too soon, because he died too young, is not Michael’s fault. Nor mine, but I digress.) And my hands not allowing me to become the musician I had dreamed of becoming turned my creativity in an alternate direction.

Maybe, had I not gone in this direction, I wouldn’t know the writers, editors, and yes, the musicians I know now. Maybe, just maybe, I’d not have learned as much about life either.

And I can’t be unhappy with any of that, even though my life in a lot of ways didn’t turn out the way I’d hoped.

(Maybe it’s the same with you.)

Anyway, just the thought that your mistakes might someday turn out to be stepping stones may do you some good today. Because mistakes aren’t always as bad as they seem. They often can lead to good outcomes, even if you can’t see it now; even if it makes no sense; and even if you have to fight like Hell to get there.

For one moment, try to step outside yourself and treat yourself the way you’d treat your best friend. Be kind, be compassionate, and give yourself a break.

That way, you can accept what comes, and keep fighting.

For a creative person (writer, musician, editor, or what-you-will), that’s the only way to live.

Written by Barb Caffrey

July 10, 2017 at 4:52 pm

What Is Strength?

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Folks, this is a special post for the blogging event Collaboration with a Purpose. I hope you’ll enjoy it.

Strength. What is it, why do we covet it, and why should we care about it?

Strength-Blog-Collaboration

I think strength is one of the more underappreciated of human virtues. Without strength, no one would live through famine, dearth, wars, or anything profoundly traumatic.

Actor Kevin Sorbo knows this. In his book TRUE STRENGTH (which I reviewed a few years ago over at Shiny Book Review), Sorbo discusses his brush with a catastrophic, life-threatening health condition that robbed him of his physical endurance and what he’d thought of as his strength — that is, everything he could do, physically. At the time, he was known mostly for his work as Hercules, and as such, he had to be strong, cool, confident, and portray someone who could break heads without breaking a sweat, then go to the tavern afterward with his buddy Iolaus and crack jokes.

But this illness changed things. He learned what he was really about; it wasn’t his physical attributes that mattered, as they weren’t what made him strong.

What mattered was his mind. His heart. His spirit. His desire to live, to get better, to take up the mantle of his life again on his terms…and to not give in, until he’d found a way back to the life he was meant to live.

Sorbo credited much of this willingness to continue fighting with faith, along with the love of his wife, Sam. And there is no doubt that’s all true.

Still, I tend to think that it’s the person he was, annealed in fire (or at least forged in illness) that shows exactly what strength is — and what it isn’t.

See, most of us only see the outsides of things. We don’t see the inner workings. We can’t, or we won’t, or maybe we’re afraid to be vulnerable and to admit that we’re all frail in some respects. That we can all make mistakes. And that our lives can change in an instant, whether it’s due to a life-threatening illness, the death of a spouse, or other catastrophic events.

Who we are is often shown in starkest relief after we’ve lived through something incredibly painful. The fact that we endured this, that we came out on the other side and lived to tell about it, is what strength really is.

Now, as to why we should covet it? I think that’s more because some of us are afraid that we may not be everything we think we are. When the chips are down, will we convert on our promise, or will we roll over and play dead?

Granted, being strong means you have to admit that sometimes you’re weak, vulnerable, and not at your best. You have to know that in your darkest moments, even when you’ve lost all hope that things will ever improve, that somehow you’re going to survive, and keep trying, and refuse to give up.

Why we should care about strength is obvious. It’s what makes us who we are. It taps into our souls, into our innermost selves, and demands that we be true to ourselves, or else.

Providing we are, and give it our all, that strength, that innermost drive to survive and do our best will get us through many dark periods of time in our lives. (As well as a few good ones here and there; maybe more than a few?)

At any rate, that’s what I think of, when I think of what strength truly is (and isn’t). What do you think about? (Let me know in the comments.)

(Later today, I’ll add links to all the other bloggers taking part in today’s Collaboration with a Purpose event. I was showing my strength — or at least my bullheadedness — in writing this down now, during a migraine headache. But even my strength has limits; I’ll have to add the links to the other bloggers later, and hope they’ll forgive me down the line.)

Written by Barb Caffrey

July 5, 2017 at 4:36 am

Time Waits for No One…

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Folks, I’ve had it up to here with mortality.

I’ve lost my husband. I’ve lost my best friend. I’ve lost my grandmother, my uncles, my aunt, and numerous other good friends way too early.

But I’m not the only one.

Other friends of mine have lost sisters, mothers, fathers, brothers, best friends, you name it.

We’re all here for a short time. I’m not entirely sure what we’re supposed to do with that time, other than love one another and develop our gifts and talents as much as we possibly can.

So please, remember that time doesn’t wait for anyone.

That’s why you have to make the most of today.

Don’t wait. Use your talents, use your mind and heart and body and spirit, and cherish your family, your friends, and all your loved ones as much as you possibly can.

Do everything you can to make a positive difference, while you still have time. Don’t let anyone put you off; don’t let anyone tell you that the small things you can do on your own won’t ever matter.

Because that is a lie. And you need to remember that.

Mind you, there’s a lot about life that really frustrates me. But one thing I know is true:

Time waits for no one.

So do your best today. Love your best today. Create your best today.

And never stop trying, loving, or creating. (Because the day you stop is the day you lose. Guaranteed.)

Written by Barb Caffrey

June 6, 2017 at 4:04 pm

Preparation Is Key

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Folks, I recently played a concert with the Racine Concert Band, and I was struck by the difference good mental preparation made in my performance.

When I was younger, I never thought about this at all…I figured if I’d done the work, learned the pieces, my instrument was in good repair and I had a good reed, that’s all I needed to do. But preparation doesn’t stop with the mechanics of playing music; it actually starts there.

Because I have hand problems now, I have to think a great deal more about what I’m going to do, whether it’s with music, writing, or anything else. And what I’ve found is that if I put myself into a calmer frame of mind and tell myself I’m going to do the best I can, and not beat myself up beforehand because I can’t do what I once was so easily able to do, I come pretty close to being able to do what I used to do so effortlessly.

Now, I did prepare for big moments on stage, of course. I mentally played through solos, recitals, various high-profile gigs…so this mindset is not totally alien to me.

I’d never thought about it with a run-of-the-mill concert before, though.

So, as I was thinking about this, I wondered if it might help my writing, to stay in that same mindset as best I can. Just the belief that I can do it may make a difference on a bad day…and we all need that, whether we realize it or not.

Granted, I write on different days for different reasons. Sometimes I am writing an intensely emotional scene and I need to be able to feel that. Staying detached under such a circumstance won’t work.

But the belief that I can affect my own outcome a little…that is worth having.

You see, the biggest threat to creativity is the belief that it doesn’t matter. That who you are, that what you create, won’t ever make a difference to anyone.

We creative types have to have at least a small bit of an ego to take up a creative profession; otherwise, we’d get ground to powder quickly, as creating against strong headwinds is not for the faint of heart.

So, just for today, I want you — and me — to believe one thing:

It does matter.

What you do, what you create, what you are, all matters.

Don’t let anyone tell you different. And keep doing whatever you need to do, in order to be your best self.

Written by Barb Caffrey

May 25, 2017 at 10:36 am

Sunday Reflection…about CHANGING FACES?

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Folks, over the last month or so, I’ve told you a lot about my new novel, CHANGING FACES. I’ve told you some of what I was about when I wrote it, and about my process in writing it, and about all sorts of other stuff…but as it’s Sunday, I thought I’d tell you the real reason I kept going.

After my husband Michael died in 2004, I was absolutely devastated. (I think everyone who regularly reads my blog knows this.) For a while, I didn’t recognize myself, at all…I was in so much pain, I could not create, could not write, could not play music, and saw no purpose to my life at all.

In the middle of 2005, one of my good friends asked me to come to Kansas City for a convention, ConQuesT. I had another friend offer to pay for my expenses while I was there; she and her family put me up in her house. It was the first time I’d tried to go that far away since Michael died, and because I was worried about the length of the drive, I took the Amtrak train from Chicago.

Little did I know that doing that would change my life. But it did.

I went to the convention, stayed with my friends, talked with my other friend (who was also at the convention), met some writers, all that. I felt a little better, being around people who were more like me; they didn’t see me as inherently flawed, inherently broken, or inherently irredeemable, just because my beloved husband was dead.

But that was not what changed things. (I’m getting to that, trust me.)

On the way back to Chicago, I met a minister and his wife. His name was Reverend Evans, and was an older black gentleman. He told me about his life, and his work, but mostly listened to me as I told him about everything going on — my frustration, pain, anger, rage, all that. And about how I couldn’t write, but had two novels in progress — ELFY, and CHANGING FACES. And that I wondered if there was any reason, any reason at all, I was still alive.

Rev. Evans could’ve easily thrown platitudes my way. But he didn’t.

Instead, he said that God is love, and that I knew that, because I’d seen it. Reflected in the eyes of my husband, for one; and in every word I wrote, and had ever written, for another.

This all made sense to me.

And he talked a great deal about CHANGING FACES. He said he thought I was still here to finish it. Because the world needed to know that we all need love. Regardless of race, creed, sexuality, gender preference, love is what matters.

And finding love, reflecting that love, is what’s most important.

But believing in yourself, and your talents, is also important.

Why?

Because that’s how we best enhance the Godhead.

See, our creativity comes from the Higher Power, and as such, when we are creative, we are reflecting that love and faith…and it gives back to the universe, which gives back to us.

I view talking to Reverend Evans as one of the most pivotal moments of my life. He reminded me that I still had things to do. And that even though Michael had been embraced by God/dess, and was no longer here for me to embrace, I could still be a testament to that love, so long as I kept trying.

And I’d like to think that in getting ELFY published (albeit in two parts, as AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE and A LITTLE ELFY IN BIG TROUBLE) along with CHANGING FACES, I have done some of what I was put here to do.

*****

There are two guest blogs I’d also like to point you to, before I go. The first is new today, and is up at Kayelle Allen’s blog…it’s about writing bisexual characters. (Or at least a bisexual character.)

Here’s a bit from that:

Now, as to why (Elaine) still couldn’t accept herself as gender-fluid easily? Well, as a society, we’re only beginning to learn about people who don’t always feel male or female. Sometimes they feel one way, sometimes another, maybe a third time they have a mix of both traits. Gender preference is not the same thing as sexuality; not by a mile.

So, Elaine has dated women and men. She sees the worth of a person and is not automatically attracted only to one sex. In a way, Elaine isn’t attracted by anyone, sexually. She’s only attracted mentally and emotionally, and then, much later, sex comes into the picture. But that’s not that strange, considering she’s a scholarly sort. She can see into a person, and evaluate who that person is, in a way most people don’t. She doesn’t even think to do this because how she views people is part of who she is.

Ultimately, love is love. Who you love is far more important than what gender your love happens to be. Seeing a person’s soul, seeing a person’s heart, seeing a person’s worth, is far more important than whether that person is straight, gay, bisexual, or Martian.

Obviously, I believe this. (So did Reverend Evans. So did my late husband, Michael.)

And the second is an interview with Mayra Calvani; here’s a bit from that about my favorite authors (hint, hint — I mention Katharine Kimbriel, Jason Cordova, and Chris Nuttall here, so do tell your friends):

First, Lois McMaster Bujold is one of the best writers working today. She combines humor, scientific expertise, world building, romance, characterization, heart, and much more in a package that is incredibly appealing. She’s considered one of science fiction and fantasy’s modern masters by many, and for good reason.

Second, the work of Katharine Eliska Kimbriel is phenomenal. She has written three hard SF books in her Chronicles of Nuala series, and three alternate history/fantasy books in her Night Calls series. They are all excellent books with great writing, wonderful characterization, world building to spare, humor that arises from the characterization…just can’t say enough about her books. (And that she isn’t as well-known as LMB just vexes me. Writing of this quality should be celebrated far and wide, methinks.)

Third, I’m fond of Linnea Sinclair. She combines romance and SF in a way I find very appealing.

Fourth, my early mentor, Rosemary Edghill, writes exceptionally well in a wide variety of genres, from detective stories to Regency romance to urban fantasy (and beyond). The way she uses language is wonderful, and I always learn from her work, whenever I pick it up. (It’s like meeting an old friend.)

“But Barb,” I hear you protest. “What about the male authors?”

Oh, I have a number of favorites there, too. Robert A. Heinlein, Stephen R. Donaldson, David Weber, Dave Freer, Eric Flint…and don’t discount my friends Chris Nuttall or Jason Cordova, either. (Chris is so prolific, he’s put out at least ten books a year in various genres for five years running. Chris has gotten so good, he just might end up with one of those major awards like the Hugo or Nebula one of these years. And Jason can write anything…just give him time, and he’ll figure out a way to write it and sell a ton of books. That’s just how he is.)

So, there you have it.

Have a good Sunday, folks.

Written by Barb Caffrey

March 19, 2017 at 4:17 pm

Great New Review for CF, Plus It’s International Women’s Day!

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Folks, before I forget, I’m going to give you this link to the great new review I just received for my novel, CHANGING FACES:

https://www.amazon.com/gp/customer-reviews/R3MR1UA67D6K0Z/ref=cm_cr_dp_d_rvw_ttl?ie=UTF8&ASIN=B01N3CQKWJ

I enjoyed that so much. It made my day!

Now, as I promised yesterday, here’s a post for International Women’s Day.

There are many women in the past and present who’ve inspired me. Some are writers, like Rosemary Edghill, Katharine Eliska Kimbriel, Lois McMaster Bujold, Andre Norton, and Stephanie Osborn (just to name a few). Some are politicians, like Hillary Clinton, Elizabeth Warren, Barbara Jordan and Shirley Chisholm. Some are well-known political spouses, like Betty Ford, Ladybird Johnson, and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis (whose “second career” as an editor was also one to emulate). Some are musicians and singers (Rosemary Clooney, Diana Krall, Billie Holliday, Ella Fitzgerald), while others are people you might not know anything about, but are inspirational all the same.

International Women’s Day is about celebrating the power of women to get things done. All over the world, in every country, women are doing remarkable things. From young women like Malala to more mature women like Angela Merkel, there are so many different women in this world who’ve made a positive and inspirational difference.

So, who are your heroes? Who do you look at, when it comes to inspirational women? Is it your mother? Sister? Friend? Mentor?

All of the above?

I’d like to know, because that’s the best way to celebrate International Women’s Day overall.

But for female writers, such as myself, what are we supposed to do to celebrate International Women’s Day in particular?

My idea is simple. I’d like to encourage you to go buy a female writer’s books today. Whether you buy something by Bujold, Kimbriel, Edghill, Osborn, Kayelle Allen, Sherilynn Kenyon, Deborah J. Ross, Yasmine Galenorn, or any other female writer of your choice, you will be supporting the work of a strong, confident, and determined woman.

And don’t forget about writers who work in concert with their husbands, such as Debra Doyle (who writes with her husband, James D. MacDonald), Mrs. N. Light (part of the husband-wife writer team of N.N. Light) and Adriana Kraft (a husband-wife writer team). They, too, deserve to be celebrated, appreciated, and admired for their hard work.

That, to my mind, is the best-possible way to celebrate International Women’s Day. At least, for this writer.

Written by Barb Caffrey

March 8, 2017 at 4:18 pm