Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Archive for the ‘romance’ Category

Want to Read Some of My Books, Free? (Here’s How…)

leave a comment »

Schooled in Magic; Read an eBook Week 2019Folks, we’re almost into Read an E-Book Week, which is held from March 3 to March 9, 2019. Two of my books will be given away by Twilight Times Books if you go to their site here, one on the third (tomorrow!), one on the fifth.  So, if you have ever wanted to read something by me but have not had the money to do it, now is the chance to check out what I’m doing.

For nothing.

(Nada. Zero. Zilch. You get the point.)

At the Twilight Times Books freebie site (again, the link is here), AnElfyontheLoose_medyou can download my first novel, AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE, on March 3. (Again, that’s tomorrow, though you may be able to get it now if you’re reading late on Saturday night as the links appear to be open and active.) You will have your choice of a PDF file, a .mobi file (that’s for Kindle), or an e-pub file (that’s for just about everything that’s not Kindle). I’ve talked a good deal about AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE here at my blog, so I’ll only say this about it: It’s funny fantasy with two young kids who aren’t what they seem, and there are layers and layers to it. You may meet a few ghosts, too…

Anyway. There are other folks also giving things away that you should know about.

For example, you also can download my friend Loren K. Jones’ first book in his story about Stavin DragonBlessed, ALL THAT GLITTERS, on March 3. I edited Loren’s book, and it is a lot of fun. If you give it a chance, you’ll enjoy it, especially if you like military realism with your fantasy.

And that’s not all. Loren is giving away his book STORIES OF THE CONFEDERATED STAR SYSTEMS as well, and not just on March 3…but all week long.

And as if that weren’t enough, you also can download my friend Chris Nuttall’s first novel in his Schooled in Magic series, also titled SCHOOLED IN MAGIC, all week long. I also edited this book, and am happy to point people to it as I believe it’s one of Chris’s best books to date. (Though I am also partial to several others, this is the one that started it all.)

“But Barb,” you say. “What about your second book? The one you’re giving away on March 5…what book is that?”

That book is CHANGING FACES. It is a contemporary fantasy/CHANGING FACES coverromance between a straight male clarinetist in graduate school, his bisexual (and, secretly, gender-fluid) girlfriend, also a clarinetist and in graduate school, and two meddling, but mostly good-hearted angels. They mix in because the female half of the pair (and yes, despite being gender-fluid, she uses female pronouns to describe herself all the time) is afraid to tell her boyfriend that she is gender-fluid and wants to explore a more masculine self-image. This isn’t what he signed up for, and while he loves her desperately, he doesn’t know if he can handle her presenting as male, or possibly even going as far as having surgery later to confirm her believe in her masculine side. (She is more than a little confused, herself, about all this, at least how to describe it. She knows how it feels to be who she is, but living her truth is not easy.) So, she’s going to leave her boyfriend, even though she loves him, and he prays that he will do anything, absolutely anything, so long as he gets another chance with her.

That “anything” ends up with him in her body, now a straight man in a woman’s body (definitely transgender), and her in his body in a coma is also not what he expected. And he can’t tell anyone what happened…while she’s forced to deal with herself and her demons, as only that way can she wake again and try with her boyfriend, this time with the outward masculine identity she felt she needed (even though she’s always going to be who she is).

The angels are funny. The music is inspired. And the two main characters, Allen and Elaine, are deeply in love, but aren’t too good at communicating with each other…and yet, they both want to try. So the angels give ’em this chance…can they realize that even though their faces have changed, their love remains?

I hope you will remember to go to the TTB Freebies site often this week, and download as many books as you want. Every day, new books will be given away, to let people know we’re here, we have good books to offer, and we hope folks will give us a chance.

There’s also a general site (not run by TTB) for Read an E-Book Week on Facebook here. More publishers will be giving things away there…lots of stuff to choose from, so maybe you can mix and match?

Enjoy!

Written by Barb Caffrey

March 3, 2019 at 12:01 am

Well, blast…

with 2 comments

Folks, I don’t know what happened, but the link for my blog about CHANGING FACES for the Marketing for Romance Writers’ BookHooks promotion vanished into the ether.

As I said on Twitter a few minutes ago, sometimes I think my writing is cursed, and that folks will never find it.

The good news is, I don’t think that for very long, and I keep trying anyway…(that is good news, right?)

Anyway, I have Tweeted, and maybe some folks will find the blog who didn’t before. And my hope is that someone out there will find CHANGING FACES, enjoy it, and realize that while I probably didn’t get everything right about the transgender and gender-fluid experience, I at least took it seriously. Love is love, and I would rather take risks and take chances than not.

(Of course I talked with trans friends, and had a couple of trans beta readers. I did everything I could to get it right.)

Sometimes, in this world, I think we’re afraid to try to say something because we’re afraid we’ll get it all wrong. So we stay silent. And that’s not good.

I’ve vowed that if I can add to the conversation, I’m not going to stay silent. There are still some things I may not talk about, because other writers have covered the same angles I thought about…but I refuse to muzzle myself because I may get something wrong.

That’s no way to live. And it’s no way to learn anything, either.

 

Written by Barb Caffrey

February 13, 2019 at 3:06 pm

A Little CHANGING FACES for #MFRWhooks and #MFRWauthor RT Day!

with 4 comments

Folks, it’s Wednesday, February 13, 2019. We’re one day away from Valentine’s Day, and as it’s also Marketing for Romance Writers ReTweet Day, I’ve decided this week to take part in another MFRW promotion, that being Book Hooks…the two together should help to get the word out about CHANGING FACES, my most unusual LGBT-friendly romance…

mfrw-book-hooks400First, a bit about the Marketing for Romance Writers organization. It is made up of a bunch of writers who work together, for free, to help learn about effective ways of book promotion. In that vein, MFRW sponsors both Book Hooks (short snippets of books to whet your interest, and as it’s a blog-hop, you should find something you like from one of the writers if you just keep hopping about the ‘net) and a once-a-month #MFRWauthor ReTweet Day. As I’ve been a member of MFRW for umpty-ump years, I’m happy to take part in this whenever I can…and what better day than the day before Valentine’s Day to talk about the enduring power of romance?

So, without further ado, here’s a bit from my own CHANGING FACES:

CHANGING FACES coverWhen we got back to our building, instead of going up to our apartment, we went down into the underground parking garage. We got into my old, reliable Ford Escort, and I put the key into the ignition; traitorously, the engine turned over on the first try.

As we sat in the frigid air waiting for the car to warm up, I turned to Elaine. “I am glad you told me what upset you so much, even though I don’t understand it. I’ve known something was wrong for months.”

“I tried to say something, but I didn’t know how,” she said in a very small voice. “I just feel all wrong, inside.I don’t know how to explain it.”

“There’s nothing wrong with you at all, love,” I told her. “You’re a good person; the best. You didn’t deserve what happened to you in Florida. And not all men are like those jerkwads.”

“You know, you can say asses, if you need it.” Elaine puffed a laugh. “I’m not that much of a prude.”

“Asses isn’t strong enough for them. And I’m trying to be polite,” I said through clenched teeth. Then I tried again. “Look, love. You are the same person regardless of what you look like, whether you present as male or female. I will always love you. I’m not about to abandon you. I just don’t understand why, if Ruby Rose can stay in her body as a gender-fluid person, you can’t stay in yours.”

Elaine’s gloved hand reached out, but before we actually touched, she drew back. “I wish I could explain it, Allen. It’s like a compulsion; now that I’ve told the truth about myself, I need to find out where that truth leads. And I’m not sure where that path is going to go.” Her deep brown eyes filled with tears. “I don’t want to deceive you. I love you too much for that.”

“Honesty is important,” I agreed. “Even so, how do you know that it’s not just your depression talking?”

“I am depressed,” Elaine admitted. “But it’s mostly because I don’t feel right in this body. I have never felt right in this body, and the longer I go on in this body, the more wrong I feel!”

The car had warmed up enough now, so I couldn’t delay this any longer. “Just-don’t leave me, Elaine. Let’s try to talk this out.” I turned onto the dimly-lit street, and started to drive.

Elaine sat, silently, next to me, for blocks. Then, she said, “If you can’t accept me as myself, in whatever body I might have down the road, how can we stay together?”

“All I’ve said is that I don’t know if I can accept you in a male body. I would find it hard to make love to another man.” I swallowed hard, adding, “I’ve tried to put myself in your place, and I can’t do it. I don’t know how it feels to be transgender. I do know how it feels to be in love with you. I don’t want to lose you. I’ll do whatever it takes. But I want you to go to counseling-isn’t there a very long period of counseling you have to go through, before you change sexes outwardly?” I seemed to remember that from Chaz Bono’s story; that had been discussed often, a few years back. “And you don’t like going to counseling as it is!”

“I’ve not run into good ones, thus far.” Elaine turned her head to look out the window.

I glanced that way, and saw ice hanging from the trees just off the street. Was that a rainbow prism at the edge of my vision? I told myself I was just seeing things, and kept driving.

“Mind, Jolene asked me the very same thing, earlier.” Elaine said, sounding very far away. “I told her I’ll start counseling after Christmas.” Then, she smiled wryly, a brief twist of her lips. “She told me to marry you and stop putting you off, too.”

“I knew I liked Jolene.”

We shared a laugh. Then I blurted out what I’d been thinking all the while.

“Elaine, please-I need you in my life. I love you so much. I don’t care what you look like; I care that you’re you. Please don’t leave me.”

###

If you enjoyed that–and I sincerely hope you did–here’s a bit more for you about CHANGING FACES plus a few links to help you buy an e-book copy (which, BTW, is only ninety-nine cents in the US, ninety-nine pence in the UK):

Allen and Elaine are graduate students in Nebraska, and love each other very much. Their life should be idyllic, but Elaine’s past includes rape, neglect, and abuse from those who should’ve loved her—but didn’t, because from childhood, Elaine identified as transgender.

When Elaine tells Allen right before Christmas, he doesn’t know what to do. He loves Elaine, loves her soul, has heard about transgender people before, but didn’t think Elaine was one of them—she looks and acts like anyone else. Now, she wants to become a man and is going to leave.

He prays for divine intervention, and says he’ll do anything, just please don’t separate him from Elaine…and gets it.

Now, he’s in Elaine’s body. And she’s in his. They’ll get a second chance at love.

Why? Because once you find your soulmate, the universe will do almost anything to keep you together—even change your faces.

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Changing-Faces-Barb-Caffrey-ebook/dp/B01N3CQKWJ

Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Changing-Faces-Barb-Caffrey-ebook/dp/B01N3CQKWJ

Barnes and Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/changing-faces-barb-caffrey/1125707044

Now, please take a look at these other authors, also a part of #MFRWorg, and see if anything there interests you, too!

Powered by Linky Tools

Click here to enter your link and view this Linky Tools list…

Written by Barb Caffrey

February 13, 2019 at 6:00 am

“Changing Faces,” the Fall Book Fair, and Transgender Men…

with 6 comments

Recently, at the Washington Post, I read an article about how transgender men have seen differences in how they are treated based on their outward appearance. Born in a woman’s body, and then becoming the male they feel themselves to be inside, causes them to see the world in a completely different way than others.

When I read this, it reminded me of my character Elaine Foster from CHANGING FACES.

Why? Well, here’s a quote from that article.

From Zander Keig, a trans man from San Diego:

Prior to my transition, I was an outspoken radical feminist. I spoke up often, loudly and with confidence. I was encouraged to speak up. I was given awards for my efforts, literally — it was like, “Oh, yeah, speak up, speak out.” When I speak up now, I am often given the direct or indirect message that I am “mansplaining,” “taking up too much space” or “asserting my white male heterosexual privilege.” Never mind that I am a first-generation Mexican American, a transsexual man, and married to the same woman I was with prior to my transition.

So, you’re the same person. You have only changed how you look, outwardly. And now, you’re accused of “mansplaining.” Or worse, “asserting (your) white male heterosexual privilege,” even when you aren’t anything of the sort (as Zander isn’t).

And Alex Poon (only 26 to Zander’s 52) says in this same article:

My voice has started cracking and becoming lower. Recently, I’ve been noticing the difference between being perceived as a woman versus being perceived as a man. I’ve been wondering how I can strike the right balance between remembering how it feels to be silenced and talked over with the privileges that come along with being perceived as a man. Now, when I lead meetings, I purposefully create pauses and moments where I try to draw others into the conversation and make space for everyone to contribute and ask questions.

What Alex seems to be doing is trying to strike a happy medium, but admits there are privileges here and that he’s not used to them.

portrait in gardenHow does this relate to my novel CHANGING FACES? Well, Elaine is transgender because she’s always felt wrong in her body. And yet, she’s also gender-fluid, so if she became male, what would happen to her? Would it be easier, harder, or what? And how would you be the same person — as you are the same soul — in a different body?

The way I solved this (and created more problems) was to put Elaine and her heterosexual boyfriend Allen in each other’s bodies due to a car accident. Now they’re both transgender, but as Elaine was deeply damaged due to early abuse and rape before she ever met Allen, she’s in a coma, talking with a higher being who may as well be an angel. (This being, Moe, is neither male nor female, and comes from a long line of Amorphous Masses. So Moe can be anything Moe wants to be…more or less.)

This article in the Post reminded me that the person you are stays, regardless of how you are perceived. But that perception of who you are can change everything for you on the outside…and that can be a gift, or a curse, depending. (One of the other men, who’s African-American, has said it’s much harder to be a man in some ways than a woman, due to how African-American men are treated by the police.)

I had an interesting time with Allen, once he ended up in Elaine’s body. He still wanted to be with Elaine, no matter what body she was in (providing she wakes up from the coma, of course). But being seen as a beautiful woman rather than a geeky heterosexual male was a real problem for him; he’d never had to worry before about half the things he now must, and it all but precipitates a nervous breakdown in the poor man.

My hope in writing CHANGING FACES was that people would maybe understand each other a little better after reading this. But I especially hoped, as a woman, that other women would read about Allen’s struggles and feel his plight…and be able to put themselves in Allen’s shoes. (That I hoped a few would do this for poor Elaine, too, was a given. But don’t forget about Allen, as they come as a set.)

Yesterday, Viviana MacKade’s Fall Book Fair (which I’ve talked about all week) finished up with several young adult and new adult books, including CHANGING FACES (which counts as new adult as we’re dealing with college students). All of them are ninety-nine cent e-books. And at least one of them may tickle your fancy, even if my own quirky take on LGBTQ relationships does not.

(Though I hope it’ll do some good for someone out there. Or I’d not have written it at all.)

So do take in the Fall Book Fair, even though it’s now — technically, at least — over. The post is still there. The books are still there. And there are fifty books from the entirety of the week to choose from, all priced at just ninety-nine cents.

Romance, Short or Long, is Worthwhile

leave a comment »

I thought tonight about how being with someone truly good for you is worthwhile, whether you get a long time with that person, or a short one.

Why? Because it helps you feel better about yourself. You know you’re doing whatever you can to help another person, and he’s doing whatever he can for you. And if you both truly care, and do the best you can for one another, that is an amazing thing.

It really is.

And it can change your life for the better, even after that person has died.

The important things to remember, if you want to build a life with someone else, are these:

  • Communication
  • Caring
  • Concern
  • Attentiveness
  • Appreciation
  • Sticktuitiveness

If you have these things, and are willing to work hard every single day and commit, every single day, to being with that special someone, you will have a successful marriage. One that’s based on mutual respect and liking as well as sex appeal (nothing wrong with the latter, but that will not carry you past the rough spots that invariably come). One that’s based on reality, tempered perhaps with a bit of optimism that you two can, and indeed will, find a way to make a better life together.

That’s what worked for me, and it’s why I celebrate the time I had with my husband every single day.

Written by Barb Caffrey

August 7, 2018 at 4:34 am

N.N. Light Review of CHANGING FACES Live at New Blog

leave a comment »

Folks, the husband-wife writer team of N.N. Light have a new blog. It’s called NNLight’sBookHeaven, and as such, they decided to post (or re-post) books they’ve enjoyed reading that have any connection at all to the LGBTQIA community.

Enter my book, CHANGING FACES.

portrait in garden

CF didn’t make much of a dent last year in the marketplace, but I’m still proud of it.  And Mrs. N. (female half of the team) enjoyed CF quite a bit, as this review shows. Here’s a bit from that:

In this ground-breaking novel, Caffrey explores gender fluidity, love and coming to grips with self-identity. I was emotionally attached to both characters from the beginning and watching their love for each other grow through the most trying circumstances changed me. The plot moved at a good pace, although there were places where it lagged. The idea of gender fluidity portrayed accurately in this novel with honesty and heart stayed with me love after I finished reading. Being a romantic at heart, I highly recommend this book to everyone.

Thanks for enjoying CF, Mrs. N!

One of the reasons I was so happy to write and finish CF was because both my late husband Michael and my late best friend Jeff believed strongly in this premise. Love matters, you see. What your outer shell looks like doesn’t matter, so long as your soul is strong. And if two people are drawn to each other, why should they have to be anything but themselves?

I was fortunate enough to be a female person, born into a female body. And I realized early that I carried my differences internally, rather than externally…but coming to grips with that still took me quite some doing.

I don’t know how I’d have dealt with Elaine’s conundrum, mind. I do think I’d have been like Allen, and first panicked — but then said, “Hey, it doesn’t matter. I love you and I don’t want to be separated.” (That Elaine can’t accept it very well…? It’s the life she led. But I digress.)

Anyway, I want you to read what I wrote. (At least a little of it.) So you can get a feel for what I’m talking about.

And as I’ve never done this before, not at my blog anyway, I would like to share the first chapter of CF with you…in the hopes that you’ll like it so much (even if you’ve never read a novel quite like CF before), you’ll run over to Amazon and get an e-book copy, stat. (Hey. It’s only ninety-nine cents. Live a little, right?)

So, here we go! (Excerpt follows.)

#

Chapter 1

It was the middle of July in Nebraska. Sweat started dripping down my back even before I’d stepped foot outside my apartment. My hair was already sticking to my neck, and I didn’t know how I was going to play my clarinet. And I had to do that, because my best friend Jolene Harris was marrying her long-time partner Paula Adelson today.

You see, this was a very special wedding. Paula and Jolene had waited for years to get married, and until recently, they couldn’t. But the Supreme Court of the United States made up their mind a short time ago that same-sex couples are like anyone else-if they want to marry, legally, they should be able to do so. Of course I agreed with this. Anyone who ever saw Jolene with Paula and their son, Adam, for longer than two minutes would agree, if they had any sense at all.

Fortunately for me, my boyfriend, Allen, completely understood. He was coming with me-and playing his clarinet, too. (He was going to play Ave Maria at Jolene’s request.) Allen, unlike me, identified as straight, but he’s no bluenose-he’s even walked with me in Lincoln’s Gay Pride parade.

Yes, I knew I needed to tell him.everything. And soon.

But not today, as that might spoil Jolene and Paula’s wedding.

The sun was shining. The birds were chirping. We’d even seen a rare double rainbow last night, after a brief but intense thundershower. Most people probably would’ve thought that today was absolutely perfect for a wedding, if they didn’t mind having to stand outside in 90-plus degree weather.

Allen and I made it to the car, we stored away our clarinets and music stands, and started driving. Considerate as always, he turned the air conditioning on and let me bask in it a few minutes before he spoke.

“I wish it were our wedding,” he said wistfully.

Oh, no, not that again, I couldn’t help but think. I loved Allen-truly, I did-and I wanted no one but him. But.

“I’d rather get married in the winter than the summer,” I told him, trying to keep it light. “It’s way too warm right now for my liking.”

“Are you sure you’re from Florida?” he half-joked back.

“Hey, it’s humid there, but it rarely hits the triple digits.” At his cocked eyebrow, I added, “That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.”

He laughed, as I’d intended, and the subject was defused. For now.

Somehow, I had to tell him what I really was. But I didn’t have the words just yet.

* * *

Allen:

I snuck a peek at Elaine as we set up our music stands. She looked gorgeous, as usual, though by her standards she was a bit dressed-down for such festivities in a burnt orange blouse, dark slacks and low heels, with an orange flower in her hair for the sake of whimsy. Chestnut brown hair cut short for the summer, bright brown eyes with flecks of gold only I could see, when she was particularly happy, high cheekbones.a beautiful woman, inside and out.

Who cared that she, like me, had been known to look at women from time to time before we met? Not I. (And no, I’ve never had that whole threesome fetish thing going on, thank you. I’ve always refused to share.)

Because it was hot, I’d worn dark slacks, a long-sleeved white dress shirt, and a tie with musical notes on it. (Jolene had told Elaine it was to be a less formal wedding, so what I wore would be more than good enough.) My glasses were starting to slide down my nose-occupational hazard, on a day as hot as this-but I knew the music well. Even if my glasses fell off, I’d be able to play and no one but Elaine should notice.

The caterers were still fussing with the food, and neither Jolene nor Paula was anywhere to be seen. It was an hour and a half until the ceremony, so this wasn’t entirely a surprise. Elaine and I liked to be early, to get ourselves acclimated, whenever we played a gig-not that we’d played a ton of weddings, but we’d certainly played at enough other places that this should not be much of a stretch.

We started with the Telemann Canonic Sonatas, easy enough pieces to play as they hadn’t been designed for the clarinet’s three-octave range. They were fun, though, and suited the day well.after a while, I noticed Adam, Jolene’s son and a burgeoning clarinetist, watching us avidly. His two-toned blond head bobbed to the music, and he seemed to be enjoying himself immensely. But he wasn’t dressed for a wedding; instead, he wore a t-shirt and ratty old jeans with shoes that looked two sizes two big.

When we took a break, I nodded toward him and asked Elaine, “He seems happy, don’t you think?” Of course, I wanted to say, What on Earth is he wearing? But I was far too polite.

“He’s probably glad I didn’t assign him to play these pieces,” she said with an arched eyebrow.

I stifled a laugh. “He’s still a beginner, so he doesn’t need to worry about that yet.”

“Ah, but does he know that?”

After we put our clarinets down, Adam came over and handed us each an ice-cold bottle of water. “You two sound great!”

“Thanks, kiddo.” I resisted the urge to ruffle his hair, taking a sip of water instead. “Are you wearing that to your mothers’ wedding?”

Adam shrugged. “They’re worried about what they’re wearing. I didn’t think they’d care what I wore.”

“Try again,” I said kindly. “I’m sure they’ll have someone taking pictures, as they’ve waited a long time to get married.”

“I don’t see what the big deal is. They’ve been together since I was a baby. Do they really need a piece of paper after all that?”

Before I could say anything, Elaine jumped in. “Yes, having the relationship matters more than the piece of paper. But they want that piece of paper. They’ve dreamed about having that piece of paper. And you, Adam, are going to go in the house and find yourself something to wear that shows you made an effort, or I’ll give you five extra scales next week.”

“And if you don’t find something better than that,” I added, “I’ll have to come in and help you.”

Adam shuddered dramatically. “Okay, okay already.” He went into the house.

The minister had arrived, a cheerful, fortyish woman. The food had all been brought out. The guests were starting to assemble, so Elaine and I played some more duets. The music flowed out of me, and I became so caught up in that that I didn’t care how hot it was. It was just me, Elaine, and the music.

Life was good.

By the time I looked up again, it was fifteen minutes until the ceremony. Jolene, tall and resplendent in a bright blue satiny long dress, was chatting with the minister, but Paula was nowhere to be seen. Then Jolene came over to us, murmuring, “Paula’s nervous. Says she can’t find anything to wear. And we went over this yesterday-I can’t believe this is happening.” She bit her lip, adding, “Maybe she wants to back out.”

“I’m sure it’s not that,” I put in, trying to settle her down. “She loves you to distraction.” My words were absolutely true. I’d never seen a more devoted couple.

Elaine sighed. “Let me guess. She won’t let you see her, because of that old superstition about brides-even though I’m sure you don’t care-”

“Got it in one,” Jolene said, nodding.

“And I can’t go to her,” I put in.

Both women looked at me like I’d grown a second head. “Of course you can’t,” Elaine snapped. Then, her eyes silently apologized.she must’ve realized I’d been joking. “I’ll go.”

“Would you?” The look Jolene gave her would’ve melted an iceberg-that is, if it hadn’t already melted due to the heat.

Elaine touched my hand, and was gone.

I turned back to my clarinet, and started playing the Miklos Rosza Sonatina, ideal for today as it required no accompaniment. Before I immersed myself fully in the music, I prayed that Elaine’s errand would not take too much time.

I didn’t get nearly enough time with Elaine as it was.

* * *

Elaine:

I went down the hall to Paula and Jolene’s bedroom, and knocked.

Paula let me in without saying a word. She wore a bra and a half-slip, but nothing else. The last time I’d been here, the bedroom had been painfully neat but a bit cluttered; now, though, it was as if a tornado had hit the place. Black pants were draped over the wooden headboard along with a shiny silver bolero; a red dress was covered by a bright yellow swath of something in the middle of the carpet-had I ever seen either Jolene or Paula wear yellow? I didn’t think so-while I saw green, brown, white, and checkered blazers, pants and skirts all over the place.

And a lonely light blue dress sat in the middle of the bed, crumpled as if Paula had thrown it.

Before I could say anything, Paula beat me to it. “Feeling femme today, Elaine?”

I blushed. “You two are marrying. It doesn’t matter what I feel like.”

“Then why the flower in your hair?”

Paula was the only person who’d guessed that I wasn’t simply bisexual, though I was certain Jolene knew something was off, too. Paula knew what I was in its entirety-I’m a gender-fluid person, and some days I feel female, others male. But I’ve never felt fully comfortable giving in to my impulses, not the way I was raised.

I realized I was woolgathering. “Who cares why? I’m here to help you. Jolene’s a mess. I think she’s afraid you’re going to call off the wedding.”

“No, never,” Paula said with a faraway smile. “But I have to have something to wear. And the blue dress that I was going to wear must’ve shrunk at the cleaners.”

“Are you sure this isn’t just bridal jitters?”

“Jitter me this,” Paula snarled, and put on the blue dress. Despite Paula’s tiny frame, the dress didn’t fit over her slender hips, much less meet in the middle of her back. “Could anyone wear this?”

“Maybe a dwarf could, but certainly not you.” I shook my head, and sighed. “You didn’t want to try it on yesterday, why again?”

“It’s a tradition in my family that we don’t wear our wedding dresses between the time we try them on and actually are about to get married. My parents are out there, and I figured they’d know-” She looked like she was about ready to cry.

“I understand that you want to be as traditional as possible,” I said gently. “But isn’t it more important that you wear something that you might actually feel good in on a day like today?”

“Point.” Paula smiled ruefully. “I certainly can’t wear this. And everything else, except for one outfit, I’ve already worn.and that isn’t very festive.”

“Show me the outfit,” I told her.

Paula pulled a charcoal grey sleeveless top with a bit of shininess to it out from under the pile of clothes on the floor, and grabbed a grey pair of pants. “I’d intended to wear this to dance with Jolene later. But it’s not good enough to wear now!”

“Put it on, and let’s see.”

After shrugging off her slip, Paula got into the outfit. The top fit well, but wasn’t too snug; considering it was at least ninety-five degrees in the shade, I didn’t see a problem with it. And the grey pair of pants looked comfortable and easy to move around in.

“To my mind,” I said, “this is the right outfit. Wear your best black shoes, and maybe add a black or white scarf? Or do you have a statement necklace, something that will visually draw the eye?”

“Who knew you knew this much about fashion?” Paula teased, as she got out her shoes and a white, fringy scarf. Once the scarf was draped, she added a chunky pearl-and-onyx brooch that went perfectly with the outfit, almost as if it had been designed for the thing.

“Don’t tell anyone,” I advised her. “It might ruin my reputation.”

As we laughed, I took her arm, and escorted her outside to her waiting father.

“Dad, this is Elaine,” Paula told him.

“I saw you playing the clarinet before, didn’t I?” But before I could answer, he added, “Thanks for your help.” He took my place at Paula’s side, and walked her down the flower-strewn path toward Jolene and the minister.

Allen started to play Ave Maria. Before he got four measures in, I saw people dabbing at their eyes.

Of course, Jolene and Paula both looked beautiful, Jolene tall and buxom in blue, Paula petite and dainty in grey and white. So that might’ve been it.but I still think Allen’s playing had a great deal to do with it, too.

I went to Allen, unnoticed in the crowd, and squeezed his shoulder. He put his clarinet down, and grabbed my hand; as I had been about to hold his hand, I had no problem with that at all.

We could barely see Paula’s blonde head back here, due to the crowd, but it didn’t matter. We were ready to play again long before Paula and Jolene shared their first kiss as a married couple, and before the audience had finished applauding, we were playing recessional music-Mendelssohn, I thought-that Allen had arranged for two clarinets.

After a while, everyone had gone toward the refreshment table but us. But before we could go get something, Jolene came up to us and insisted that we get our pictures taken. I hate having my picture taken, as my outer self doesn’t always match my inner self.and even on a day like today, where I felt more feminine than not, I still hated having the flower in my hair memorialized for all time.

Still, Allen’s kiss on the cheek was nice, and my smile at him was genuine. He was truly a good man, the best person I’ve ever known.someday soon, I’d have to tell him the truth about me.

And if he still wanted to marry me then, I’d let him.

* * *

Allen:

Later on, after we’d stored our clarinets away and the food had been cleared out, I took Elaine back out to the yard again. Toward the back, there was a patch of green grass near the fence that I didn’t think anyone had stood on today; an untrammeled bit of grass, if you will. The sky was breathtaking, all bronzy red and pinkish orange, fading into the deep twilight blue I’d only ever seen in a Nebraska summer sky. It was a sky Maxfield Parrish might’ve painted, had he the chance.

“Such beauty,” Elaine breathed.

“What better omen for a wedding,” I added.

For once, Elaine didn’t give me a reproving look. Instead, she looked soft, touchable, feminine in a way I rarely saw.I knew I couldn’t waste this moment.

As Jolene and Paula were saying goodbye to their guests, we were quite alone. Our temporary solitude suited me well.

I went down to one knee on the grass, and said, “Elaine Foster, will you marry me?”

Elaine bit her lip, which wasn’t the response I wanted.

So before she spoke, I tried again. “Look, Elaine. We are meant for one another. I love you to distraction. I want you to become everything you have always wanted-a great writer, a great educator. You’re already a great person, and the only woman I want to be with. Will you please put me out of my misery and say yes?”

At that, Elaine laughed, pulled me up, and kissed me. When I broke away again, I looked down at her shining eyes and said, “So, is that a yes?”

“It’s a yes,” she murmured. “But.”

Before she could say anything more, Adam came barreling out into the yard. “My mothers told me to come and find you.”

As we went inside, I thought, This is the happiest day of my life.

* * *

Elaine:

I loved Allen. So I said yes, when he asked me this time-hoping I’d be able to explain just who and what I really was, after. And it made Allen so happy, for a time, I basked in his reflected happiness, and felt transformed.

If only we could’ve stayed in that moment forever.

# End Excerpt #

Want more?

You’ve got two choices.

If you’re still not sold, but you at least want to continue without any worries about payment, go here to the Twilight Times sample chapter page for CF, and keep going.

Or if you are sold, please go to Amazon, get yourself a copy, and keep going! (Then, do let me know what you think. This is not a stereotypical LGBT romance at all…nor is it “SJW fluff” as one non-fan called it, once. Not if I did it right.)

 

Written by Barb Caffrey

June 6, 2018 at 7:00 pm

Little Things Matter (in Relationships, Too)

with 3 comments

In a way, this is part two of my last post about how little things matter. But it also stands on its own…enjoy!

Recently, I read something about what makes interpersonal relationships work, whether they’re friendships or something of a romantic nature. I’d expected something profound — yes, even me, someone who’s experienced a successful and happy marriage — but that’s not what the writer talked about.

Nope.

What this writer — whose name escapes me — said was that the way to predict whether a friendship or romantic relationship was going to work well was whether or not you shared the little, mundane, ordinary things with your friend or partner.

And my jaw dropped. (Seriously. It did.)

Maybe this idea, that all the little things — the petty annoyances, the grievances, the frustrations, not to mention the small victories (like remembering to pick up the milk when you’re dead tired, so your partner can have it for her cereal in the morning) — add up to something major may not strike you as earth-shattering.

But here’s the reason it struck me as exactly that.

We’re told all the time that little things like that don’t matter. That we’re supposed to talk about profound things instead. And that if we can’t or won’t talk about deeper issues, there’s no point to being there.

There’s a certain amount of truth to that last part, mind, insofar as you have to be able to talk over deep and difficult things, too. That shows you trust the other person, and without trust, you cannot have intimacy, whether it’s emotional, physical, or any other way there is.

But the reason the little things matter just as much, if not more, than the big revelations that we trust our friends and partners with, is because they show our vulnerability.

See, when we’re willing to talk about how much our feet hurt, or how the traffic on the road was, or any other thing that seems piddly on its face, it all adds up to something much more profound.

Talking about things like that, when taken in their totality, say, “I trust you” to the other person. And as I said before, trust is absolutely essential to any form of intimate, interpersonal contact.

So, when you share your vulnerabilities, you promote deeper connection between yourself and someone else you care about. And you do that not just by the ‘big reveals” of the stuff you don’t trot out on the first date (or even the fiftieth); you do that by showing every day who you are, why you care, and what on Earth you’re doing spending any of your time with your loved one (or friend).

That’s why the little things do matter, in relationships, just as they do in anything else.

What little things do you do to show your friends (and/or loved ones) that you care? And what little things did you never, ever, in a million years think would be important, but maybe actually are? Tell me about them in the comments!

 

Written by Barb Caffrey

May 30, 2018 at 3:42 am