Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Archive for the ‘Persistence’ Category

#MondayMotivation: Write for You

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Folks, I’m going to take a time-out on my book promotion activities with regards to CHANGING FACES (if you want a copy, just follow the pages backward and you’ll be able to get one) and talk about one of the things that motivates me, it being Monday and all.

So, without further ado…what motivates Barb Caffrey as a writer?

So many things, actually. I want to tell stories with heart, that matter, that feel real, that have empathy, that maybe shed light on the human condition in new ways…of course, all of that sounds quite profound, doesn’t it?

Really, I write for me.

(Picture my big, evil grin here.)

Seriously. I write for me. I’ve done this since I was small, on and off…I wanted to read stories that I didn’t see anywhere, but knew had power and resonance. And the only way to read those stories, under the circumstances, was to find a way to write them myself.

I think a lot of writers are that way, actually. We have a need to read stories that aren’t out there yet. We get a germ of an idea, and we keep going until the idea is finished.

Yeah, it seems to take me longer than some novelists to finish my ideas. (If I had to judge myself against my friend Chris Nuttall, for example, and how fast he can write a novel, I’d quail at ever writing another word.) But I’m not the only one out there who takes a bit of time with a concept to get it right.

For example, I know two writers very well who have had to take long periods of time to finish a novel, albeit for different reasons. In one case, my friend needed to take time out for health concerns, but she had a third novel in her in a series and she wanted to tell it. It took her a number of extra years to do this, but she didn’t let her health concerns defeat her; in the end, her novel was published, to wide acclaim, and now there is hope that she’ll have a fourth book (or at least novelette) in the series available soon.

In the other, my friend tried for years to get his novel to come clear for him, but for whatever reason it didn’t quite feel right. He published several other things, including a couple of acclaimed short stories and several co-written novels along with some other solo works, but he kept coming back to this particular novel because he needed to tell that story and wanted to get it right. And now, that book is out, and he’s got a contract for a couple more in the series, with readers saying, “More, please…” and not understanding he has a day job.

But I digress.

Or am I?

This is Monday Motivation, after all, and me talking about two of my friends and how they’ve persisted in telling the stories they need to tell does matter. They didn’t give up, and they got out books that readers love, that are helping to build their names and careers, and are continuing on with their efforts to write more stories that they absolutely have a burning need to tell.

Good for them.

I know I have tried to do that, too. The Elfy novels took over ten years to find a publisher, but I didn’t give up. CHANGING FACES went through at least five major revisions and a late-round revision and updating I’ve gone into multiple times in the past year before it finally came out earlier this month, over fourteen years after it was started.

See, if you have a story that is inside you, you have to tell it. Or you aren’t being true to yourself.

So write for you. Tell that story. Don’t give up, no matter how long it takes, nor how many revisions you need to go through, nor even whether it seems like it won’t matter ’cause sales aren’t brisk and you aren’t making a dent.

Do it anyway.

Do it for yourself.

Written by Barb Caffrey

February 13, 2017 at 11:21 am

Out Now in e-book: Changing Faces

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Folks, it’s been a long time coming, as most of you know, but my third novel, CHANGING FACES, is now out as an e-book and is available at Amazon. (Further links will be added as they become live; there will be a Barnes and Noble link later, and possibly one at AllRomance/OmniLit as well.) And best of all, the book is priced at only ninety-nine cents for the first week or so!

So, without further ado, here’s the links:

Amazon:

And in case you want a few sample chapters, here’s a link to that:

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

Now, because it’s important, I want to say a few things.

First, I’m glad that I have good friends in the writing and editing community and appreciate the support I’ve received during the last tumultuous year or so.

Second, I hope that CHANGING FACES, a book about a couple in love that looks “normal,” but actually isn’t as the feminine half of the couple, Elaine, is gender-fluid and identifies as transgender, will help spread some light and understanding about #LGBT individuals.

See, people are people. They want love, affection, understanding, all that. The gender and sexuality really doesn’t make that much difference, when it comes to these universal truths.

But it’s hard, sometimes, to make things work in a romance, even if you both are what society understands. We make mistakes, we people, and it’s hard to communicate even when you desperately love someone and want only what’s best for him or her.

Allen and Elaine’s story of love, frustration, misunderstandings, major changes, and ultimately more love and better understanding, was deeply personal to me. I hope it will matter to you as well, and that you will see it as a transcendent love story that matters to every living human soul.

Because that’s how I see it.

Written by Barb Caffrey

February 8, 2017 at 8:09 pm

Keep Trying, No Matter What

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Folks, the above title — “keep trying, no matter what” — is my personal philosophy.

But sometimes it’s much harder to do that than others. When that happens, I have to realize that I’m human, fallible, mortal, all that…and try again the next day, and the day after that. And the day after that, etc.

What’s caused me to write this blog at this time is very simple. I’ve struggled now for about a month with an illness that started as a cold and flared into something akin to bronchitis. My asthma is acting up, and my energy is much lower than it should be.

I try to be positive, as much as I can, but I’m not into this nonsensical “happy happy joy joy” stuff, either. I am a realist. Right now, being a realist, but also being optimistic, means I have to say, “OK, today I can’t do much. But tomorrow, if I am careful, I can do more…so I will be as careful as I can.”

Of course, this isn’t the only thing I’ve got to deal with. I have a number of physical limitations that I deal with daily that I work around, including bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome, arthritis bad enough in my back and knees that I walk with a cane, and more.

But I get up every day, and I deal with it the best I can. I try to think about what I can do. Not what I can’t. Because thinking about what I can’t do is self-limiting and self-defeating.

And thinking about what I can do is life-affirming. It reminds me that as bad as things can be, as lonely as I am and have been since my husband Michael died, there’s still something I can do that’s creative and fulfilling.

Besides, something in me says about writing, editing, and music, “Yes, you should do it.”

Why? Well, it seems to me that even if the world seems against me, even if no one else seems to care, I have to do what’s inside me or I’m not being my best self.

Why does that matter? Well, as a creative person, I try hard to be my best self. It’s where the words come from, I think…or maybe the music of the words, if my late husband was right. (Michael, as you might recall, believed that I thought music first, and then only translated those musical notes and chords into words. And who am I to say he was wrong, especially as I do compose some music as well?)

I want to be attuned to whatever it is that makes me a creative person. It may not be easy to be creative. (In fact, it’s often as difficult as all get-out.) But I know who I am, and I want to keep doing whatever I can to maximize my talents and abilities the best I can.

So, the journey has been tough. (That I’m still struggling, due to the recent illness, to concentrate well enough to wrap up the last little bits for CHANGING FACES so I can turn it in to my long-suffering publisher and get it placed firmly on the schedule drives me batty, too, I must admit.) It probably will not get much easier, either.

But I will do it. I will get up every day, and keep trying.

No matter what.

See that you do the same.

 

Written by Barb Caffrey

January 18, 2017 at 6:12 pm

#MondayMotivation: Figure Out What You’re Best At…

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Folks, it’s time for a Monday Motivation post. (And as I’m still — somewhat, anyway — on Twitter, I decided to use the hashtag in the title. For my sins, I guess.)

When you were young — or at least, younger, as most of us do not enjoy pointing out that we’re not as young as we used to be — your teachers, mentors, and even your parents used to say, “Figure out what you’re best at, and do it.”

But how do you do that, exactly? Especially if you’re a creative type, when creativity isn’t exactly understood?

Maybe this is where Malcolm Gladwell’s book OUTLIERS holds a few of the clues. (I reviewed this book a while back at Shiny Book Review — yes, I do plan on writing a review or two this year, thanks for asking — and I’ve never forgotten it.) Gladwell insists that to become an expert at your field, you need approximately 10,000 hours of hard work to get there. (And even more time than that to stay there, improve upon your expert abilities, and keep going at that high level after that, no doubt.)

The way I view this has to do with persistence, otherwise known as ramming your head into the wall over and over and over again until the wall falls down. It’s not an elegant solution, but it’s the only way I know to get things done.

So, when you get a story idea, or an idea for a poem, no matter how outrageous it seems, you should write it down as best you can. (If I’m pressed for time or tired or ill or all of the above, as I’ve been lately, I try to write it down in prose note format — that is, whatever I get, I write it down, sans dialogue, sans much in the way of description unless it’s absolutely essential, so the idea is not lost.) Even if you can’t do anything with it today, even if you can’t do anything with it next week either, it’ll still be there, waiting for you, when you can look at it again and develop it.

I know this method works, because I’ve had at least four stories that I’ve developed after writing them down in prose note form…and in two cases, I got halfway into the story, then had to put it aside for six months to a year before returning to it.

(What can I say? I’m like a dog with a bone. I have to finish what I start, no matter how long it takes. No excuses.)

So, to figure out what you’re great at, you need to keep working at your talents as much as you possibly can. Whatever they are, figure them out, keep going, refuse to give up on yourself, and give it your best shot. Don’t listen to anyone who tells you differently, either…because the only person who can tell you when it’s time to stop (if it ever is) is you.

Written by Barb Caffrey

January 16, 2017 at 6:23 am

The Art of the Questioner

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Sometimes, late at night, as I struggle to get words down, I ask myself the following question:

“Why, Barb, are you putting yourself through this?”

I suppose it’s because I feel I must. I enjoy writing, usually, even when it comes slowly and painfully. It keeps me amused, and focused, and allows me to question to my heart’s content.

Lately, I’ve been struggling especially hard because of whatever illness that’s laid me low this time. (I am starting to get a teensy bit better. But I say that while mentally crossing my fingers, as the last time I thought that, I was overly optimistic.) When I can’t concentrate, I can’t tell stories — period, end of discussion.

And when I can’t tell stories, I get completely frustrated, am incredibly hard to live with, and just am a major pain in the caboose.

(Hey, at least I admit it.)

But maybe this is missing the point a little bit. Because my questioning skills — whatever it is that makes me go, “Hm. What would happen if…” and then start writing down whatever comes next — are still there. Waiting for me to get healthy enough so I can use them; waiting for me to realize that even if I can’t write tomorrow, can’t write the day after that, I assuredly will write as soon as I possibly can because that is what’s inside me.

(My late husband taught me that, and he was right. As he usually was, but that’s another story for another day.)

So, maybe along with all the other things that make up my palette of writing skills and abilities, I should admit that the whole idea of questioning — or, as I put it in the title, the art of the questioner — is useful, in and of itself.

Because if you can’t question, you can’t possibly come up with a different scenario. And without different scenarios, you don’t do so well as a writer — especially not as a writer of science fiction and fantasy.

At any rate, the important thing to remember is that if you are having trouble writing today, that doesn’t make you a bad person. (I know that’s blindingly obvious, but it still needed to be said. Bear with me, OK?) Maybe you’re just stressed out. Maybe you’re sick. Maybe you’re exhausted. Maybe you’ve just had it with the world around you, and your body and mind and heart are all shouting, “Enough already!”

But whatever it is, you need to be kind to yourself. Understand that if you can’t write today, you will write tomorrow. And if you still can’t write tomorrow, you will write the day after that.

Because that is how you’re made. And that is what you’re going to do, come Hell or high water or whatever else, because you must do it or you’re not being your best self.

And in the meantime, keep asking questions!

Written by Barb Caffrey

January 10, 2017 at 5:51 am

The True Meaning of Christmas, and Brandon Burlsworth

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Folks, last night I watched the movie GREATER, which is about Brandon Burlsworth, a young man who with faith, optimism, hope, and hard work transformed himself into not just a football player, but a starting guard with the Arkansas Razorbacks. Burlsworth even got drafted by an NFL team, the Indianapolis Colts, and everything looked bright…

Then, he was in a car accident, not too far from his home. He died at age twenty-two, just three weeks after being drafted by the Colts.

Despite Burlsworth’s life being incredibly short, he was a truly inspirational figure. He realized early what he wanted to do, didn’t have the natural talent or stature to do it (a late growth spurt helped with the last), but worked harder than anyone else. He listened to his coaches, who appreciated his hard work and dedication; he listened to himself when others told him he couldn’t do something, and he listened to the Higher Power, and trusted that what he believed in — what he wanted to do — was the right thing.

Did every day go well for him? Of course it didn’t. Did he have days where he wondered why he was doing what he was doing? Of course he did. Did he have ups, downs, and frustrations like the rest of us? Of course he did.

But every day, he got up, and he did what he could to work toward his goal.

And he achieved it. He went from walk-on to three-year starter at Arkansas, he became an All-American, and he was drafted by the Colts.

Of course it would’ve been better had he lived longer. Burlsworth was the type of person others respected, and because of his own unshakeable faith and hard work, who knows what he could’ve become over time?

But his was a truly remarkable and inspirational life. This was a bookish, overweight kid with very little (if any) athletic talent, but he had a dream and he worked hard every day to achieve that dream.

And he did.

What does this have to do with the true meaning of Christmas, you ask?

It’s simple.

The story of Jesus’s life is powerful, partly because of his humble beginnings. Everything seemed stacked against him from the start. His family was not wealthy or powerful. He grew up in a hostile environment (what else can you call the persecution of King Herod, anyway?), was different from everyone he knew in many ways, and had a quiet, unshakeable faith that he would find his path and make a difference.

And he did.

We still remember Jesus, two thousand plus years later. We remember the power to make a difference, to love one another, to be good to one another, to appreciate one another, to work hard and not let anyone stop you — not even yourself.

Every single day will not be easy for you. It wasn’t for Jesus. (It wasn’t for Brandon Burlsworth, either. Read more about his inspirational life here at the blog Sports on Earth.) But it’s worth it if you get up every day, work hard, have faith (yes, even when it’s difficult or nigh on to impossible), and believe that tomorrow will be better than today.

That, to my mind, is far more the spirit of Christmas than anything commercial. Because it boils down to just a few things:

Love one another.

Treat others with respect and kindness. (Yeah, the first kind of implies that, but why not spell it out? Can’t hurt.)

Work hard.

Have faith.

Keep trying.

Don’t give up.

And if you can believe in the Higher Power — whatever and however it manifests for you — good. Because that may allow you to tap into more optimism, and that’s all to the good.

Written by Barb Caffrey

December 25, 2016 at 1:50 pm

Driving Adventures in Winter

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Folks, if you live in the Northern Hemisphere — especially if you live in the Upper Midwest, as I do — you know that driving conditions right now tend to range from “iffy” to “downright bad.”

It’s because of this that I decided to share a few tips I’ve learned about winter driving…in the hopes that maybe, just maybe, it’ll help you to know them as well.

First, before you go out on the road, make sure your car is in the best repair possible. If you’ve been putting off buying tires, now is the time to get them…if you’ve been putting off replacing your windshield wipers, definitely replace them now (or possibly suffer the consequences — more about this anon).

Second, make sure that whenever you’re going out in the cold weather that you have a full gas tank, especially if you have a smaller car (as I do). Don’t assume that half a tank, or worse yet, a quarter of a tank, will do, because you’re only going across town. You have to plan for the worst-case scenario here, which means you need a full tank (or at minimum, three-quarters of a tank).

Third, don’t assume that the roads will be plowed, sanded, or salted. (Worst-case scenario, got it?) That way, you’ll be less stressed out if they aren’t.

Fourth, if your car does skid, you need to turn into the skid and lay off the brake pedal if at all possible — brake lightly and gently, else. That way, you may not go into the ditch, and can get off the road in one piece. (If you go into what would’ve been oncoming traffic except for the snowstorm, so what? Providing no one is there, no harm, no foul. So keep your cool, get the car turned back around, and go on your way again, thanking your lucky stars that you didn’t hit anyone today, and that no one hit you, either.)

Fifth, if you do land in the ditch — I have, though not in many years — don’t panic. That is what your cell phone and/or AAA or whatever roadside assistance you have is for. If you don’t have that, call a tow truck. (And if you are between paychecks and just don’t have any money at all, it’s time to call a friend who can tow you out.)

I say all this after surviving some of the worst driving conditions I have ever faced last night. There was black ice, then snow on top of that, then rutted ice on top of that…at least six inches of snow on the ground, and I saw no sand or salt trucks out. And the only plow I saw showed up just as I got into my driveway…which means that plow didn’t exactly help me much.

As I’m an intelligent person, I definitely did not enjoy these horrible driving conditions whatsoever. But what I did to survive them was to do one thing: find a line, and stay on it.

“But Barb,” you protest. “What in the world does that mean, anyway?”

It means that if the roads are so bad you can’t possibly see the lane lines, and no plows have been by, and there are ruts everywhere, pick the best line you can in order to stay out of the ditch. Adjust your speed accordingly; I went only fifteen to twenty miles per hour on city streets that were rated thirty, thirty-five, or forty…not because I am a nervous Nellie (though I can be, sometimes), but because I was more concerned with preserving my own skin and getting home in one piece than in how long it was going to take me to get there.

When you get to a stop sign or a stoplight, know that you may not be able to stop in such horrible conditions, too. Plan to skid around other cars, if you must. Try to avoid any obstacles…but yes, try to brake gently and lightly first, before you take evasive action.

That’s one of the reasons you go more slowly, mind, so you have a hope in Hell of actually stopping in such dreadful conditions. But you have to realize you still may not be able to do so, and figure out what you’re going to do in the worst-case…it’s the only way to be safe, truly.

Two more things before I go:

If you are in a four-wheel drive vehicle, truck, or SUV, don’t assume that you’re going to have any better traction than I do in my little car. Chances are in conditions like that, you don’t. Try to take your additional car’s mass into account, and be as safe as you can; don’t believe that your bigger car or truck will save you if you don’t use your head as well.

And finally…remember what I said about windshield wipers, before? Well, last night as I got into my own driveway, my driver’s side wiper actually fell off. Both wipers had more or less stopped functioning during the snowstorm as the snow and sleet mix continued to come down, and were badly iced over. The roads were so bad, I didn’t trust going to an auto parts store and getting back out again, so I took a calculated risk and made it all the way home instead.

Could I do it over again, I’d have made sure I had enough money in my pocket to buy two new wipers. (By the way, I did that today. I got the teflon-coated ones, too…they won’t stick to the windows, and it’s going to be far less likely that they’re going to stick to the windshield and thus be inoperable.) And I’d have bought them before that snowstorm hit, considering how bad it was.

I was very, very fortunate last night to make it home in one piece, not get into an accident, and avoid the three-four accidents waiting to happen that I clearly saw in the process.

What I want you to do is learn from my almost-mistake, all right? Make sure you have good wipers on the car if at all possible. And if you are between paychecks, treat your wipers gently and hope like fire they’ll make it until you do get paid…because that’s the only way you’re going to be safe. (And safety is the name of the game, in winter. Trust me.)

Written by Barb Caffrey

December 17, 2016 at 6:26 pm