Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Archive for the ‘romance’ Category

Thoughts for Valentine’s Day: What Love Is…and Is Not

with 5 comments

I keep meaning to write this, every single Valentine’s Day. And then I never do. So I guess today’s the day…enjoy?

In my writing, I’ve tried to show what I believe love is.

In the Elfyverse (so far comprised of AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE and A LITTLE ELFY IN BIG TROUBLE; more to come), it’s care, compassion, support, loyalty, friendship, and many other things that lead to intense romantic feelings for the young Bruno and Sarah. Bruno had a good marriage modeled for him by his late parents; Sarah’s parents did not give her good models, but her grandmother at least gave her someone to love who was worth the time.

Mind, even with that, love is a work-in-progress for the two of them. And I think that’s something we all deal with, as we go. It’s not like being in love waves a magic wand over you and says, “Now, everything will be wonderful.”

Instead, what love does is to make any problems that befall you far more bearable to deal with. Because you’re not alone anymore. You are supported. You are appreciated. And you are understood. (Or it’s not the love you’ve been looking for…but more on that, anon.)

Problems come to everyone, you see. And it’s how you communicate that helps you deal with them. Or not.

Bruno and Sarah, despite their tender ages, both know that. And they’ve made the commitment to stand by each other, to love one another, to appreciate each other’s differences as well as each other’s things in common…they’ve done what they need to do, in order to forge a strong bond between them.

But that’s not my only take when it comes to love. Far, far from it.

In CHANGING FACES, my stand-alone LGBTQ-friendly fantasy romance, Allen and Elaine’s plight is different. They know they love each other, and they can communicate well…except for one issue, that being Elaine’s gender-fluid nature. Allen knows Elaine considers herself bisexual (and monogamous! She’s not about to sleep with anyone but Allen, regardless of what her outer self looks like.) But he doesn’t know that Elaine considers her gender to be fluid, especially as Elaine likes the pronoun “she” and is a feminist scholar. And when he finally finds out, both he and Elaine don’t know how to handle it. But eventually, they find a way. (I hope that’s not too much of a spoiler for you, but if you are a long-time reader of romances, you know most of ’em go for happily-ever-afters. So why can’t mine?)

What I was trying to get at, in CHANGING FACES, was that love can conquer anything. But that you have to be willing to be vulnerable. You have to be willing to tell your partner, “Hey, I’m like this. Can you deal with it?” And if you’re really ambitious, you can be even more vulnerable and admit, “I’m not so sure I can always deal with it. But I appreciate that you have my back while I try.”

These are hard things to do. They’re very adult things.

So, while Bruno and Sarah are young adults and are finding their way — fortunately! — through a meaningful and deep love, Allen and Elaine are older and yet still have some of the same issues going on. I did that on purpose, because I think no matter what your age is, you’re going to have issues. And it’s how you deal with them that matters.

Either way, though, they show what love is. Commitment. Shared sacrifice. Honesty. Communication. Vulnerability. Loyalty. The willingness to laugh at yourself when needed, or with your partner as needed. The ability to say to yourself, “I don’t have to be perfect every day,” and of course that your partner doesn’t have to be perfect either, in order to be loved for who you are. To keep trying to communicate, even when it’s hard. To keep doing whatever you can, as long as you can, as often as you can, to let your partner know that you care, you appreciate them, you want them in your life, and you are going to do whatever you can to facilitate that so long as they feel the same way.

As I’ve heard it said, a romantic commitment takes 110% from each partner. I think that makes sense. (Though if you are a mathematician and are pointing out that it can’t be more than 100%, that’s OK, too. Just so long as you give your all, and your partner gives his/her all, that’s what matters. Not the number we put to it.)

Before I go, I want to talk about what love decidedly is not.

It’s not about gifts. It’s not about wealth, or fancy cars, or how big the bouquet of flowers is on any given day. It’s not about fancy restaurants (though I’m all for them, when possible); it’s not about what you can get from your partner.

Instead, it’s about what you give.

I hope most of you realize by this point that love is a two-way street, one you both want to be on at the same time and in the same place. And that anything else is not worth the price.

But if you’re doing all the giving in your relationship, and your partner is doing all the taking, that is not a love-relationship I’d want to have.

Anyway, I hope this has helped you figure out what’s worth it in a relationship, and what isn’t. And why I still think love matters more than anything…even though aside from the love of friends and family (predominantly agape love), I haven’t had it in over fifteen years.

Written by Barb Caffrey

February 14, 2020 at 10:33 pm

Survivors Heal at Their Own Pace

with 9 comments

Folks, I read a Facebook post from a friend I’d like to know better earlier tonight. It was from two years ago, and I missed it at the time.

Without any privacy violations, my friend had gone through an ordeal while in middle school (once upon a time called junior high school; whichever works). A teacher had abused him for over a year, and he ended up with PTSD and other problems.

While I left as supportive of a message as I could now, albeit two years late, I wanted to say more about this.

Many of us have suffered wounds that take years, if not decades, to heal. And because we have had these problems, we think we’re less than we are; we think that maybe, just maybe, we deserved to be abused, or mistreated, or assaulted, or even molested.

I’m not saying we do this consciously. But we still do it.

How do I know this? Because I’m a survivor of sexual assault, that’s why. It happened in my teens. And for years after, I felt I wasn’t good for anyone, and never would be.

It took me over seven years to get any sort of a handle on it. I went to counseling. I read as many books as I could. I tried to forgive the person who’d assaulted me — which I found to be impossible, setting back my healing for a few more years.

And then, I found The Courage to Heal Workbook. That, along with a good counselor who knew how to use it, was my salvation. It taught me that I did not have to forgive the person who’d assaulted me. Instead, I could leave it up to the Higher Power.

Best of all, I learned that I was not to blame for any of it. And that I was stronger because I’d survived.

All of that helped me heal.

After I did all that hard work, I eventually found my late husband, Michael. He and I found a fulfilling life together in all aspects. He wasn’t afraid of my flashbacks, and would hold me until I was better; he had empathy, and knew how to use it. (I wish all people did. But empathy is still an exceptionally rare quality, it seems…but I digress.) And our sex life was second to none, because we both understood each other, loved each other unconditionally, and wanted to make each other feel that love every minute of every day.

Why am I’m sharing this now, rather than at the height of the #MeToo movement? Well, it’s mostly that I want my friend, who has found a good woman at long last and will be married soon, to know that he, too, can have a fulfilling relationship and that his past — the stuff that was inflicted on him — doesn’t have to derail anything.

The right person, you see, will be there for you no matter what. That’s what unconditional love is all about. And once you find that person who loves you, no matter what, hold on to him or her — because that’s a person whose worth is above rubies.

If you are reading this, live in the United States, and have suffered from rape, incest, molestation, or other forms of sexual violence and need to talk with someone, call RAINN at (800)656-HOPE. They are free, confidential, and open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. And if you can’t call now, but need to find out more about how you’re not alone — as indeed, you aren’t — and that people do care (as we do!), go to https://www.rainn.org and read at your leisure what they’re doing to combat sexual violence in the United States.

Love Matters. (Really.)

with 2 comments

The most powerful force in the universe is love.

This may seem simplistic. But it’s the flat truth. There is nothing more powerful than love in its purest form; there’s nothing that can motivate you more, make you try harder, make you want to be better, or give you more joy than love.

When we run into life’s difficulties — and oh, aren’t there a bunch of them! — love helps smooth the way. Knowing that you are cared for, needed, appreciated, and loved for yourself without any preconditions and without any need to be anything other than what you are is the most phenomenal feeling in the world.

I write this today mostly because a good friend of mine, in New Zealand, is struggling. He just got married — only a few, short days ago — and his wife is ill. (As in, in the hospital.) He and his wife found each other online, she flew to meet him and spend a few weeks with him, she flew home, they became engaged, and she flew back out to be with him. They have been very happy together despite all that life has thrown at them thus far, but I wish very strongly that my friend’s wife were not ill and that they’d been able to have the first few days as a married couple without so much stress and strain.

That said, they love each other deeply and well. I know they can and will come through this, precisely because of the love they bear for each other.

While I don’t know much else with a great deal of exactitude at the moment, I do know this: If you find true love, nurture it, work with it, and let it heal you…as much as it possibly can. (It may not heal you physically. But it can heal you every other way.) And celebrate it, every day of your life.

I know my friend and his wife have done all that, are doing that now, and will keep doing that. And I am certain they will continue to appreciate each other, for as long as they both shall live.

That is what is truly important, in life. (Don’t let anyone else tell you anything different, either.)

Written by Barb Caffrey

May 6, 2019 at 6:42 am

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.