Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

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Rolling with the Punches…

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Folks, before any of you freak out, I’m not talking literal punches, here. (No, the second coming of Muhammad Ali has not haunted my sleep, fortunately.) Just the usual stuff that tends to congregate that you’d rather not do, including minor car issues, a couple of minor medical tests, and the like.

But that got me thinking. (Ooh, a dangerous task, I know…but one I take up with abandon. Or something.)

What are you supposed to do when life throws you a curveball?

Whether it’s minor medical tests or a car problem you’d rather not have (like today’s refusal by my car’s battery to start the car, necessitating a call to AAA), you have to keep as calm as possible and solve the problem as best you can.

I don’t do well with medical tests, personally. I would rather not do any of them. (I freely admit this.) I know it’s better for my health to do them, however, so I do…grumbling all the way. (Hey, it’s not all sweetness and light around Chez Caffrey, hard though I try.)

Fortunately, I have good friends who listen to me and care enough that they’re willing to tell me when I’m being foolish or counterproductive. (Mostly they say this by omission rather than direct observation, but I’m not an idiot; I can tell if they think I’m behaving stupidly, and usually I adjust my behavior accordingly ’cause I don’t want to add to my friends’ burdens.)

To mix metaphors gleefully (the only way to mix metaphors, I can assure you), I think you have to roll with the punches life throws at you. Whether the car doesn’t start (bad battery; bad!), the doctor insists you need a medical test you’d rather not do, or anything else you’d rather not have to deal with, you have to try to remain calm.

But what do you do when you just can’t?

What I do is this: I try to envision the worst-case scenario. What is that, and can I survive it?

Since I’ve survived any number of difficult things in my life (including the deaths of my beloved husband and my best friend), if I think rationally — whether using the worst case scenario frame or not — I know that these problems, vexing though they are, are transitory.

In a week, I won’t think much about ’em. In a month, they’ll be in the rear view mirror so much, they’re barely a pinprick…so it’s all a matter of perspective.

Try to remember that, the next time you have something happen that makes your blood boil. Maybe it’ll help you maintain a cooler head, so you can think your way out of the problem. (Or at least keep your blood pressure down somewhat, which is also a win of sorts.)

Writing During Stressful Times

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Folks, I’m glad I can post something a little happier today.

During all this upheaval, I’ve continued to work on CHANGING FACES, and occasionally, other stories as I’ve had them. (CF is obviously the priority, though.) Sometimes, it’s slow-going. Other times, it flows out like water, and makes so much sense, I look at it and go, “Did I really write that?”

I think we all feel that way, as creative people. Whether you’re a writer, or a musician, or a cake-baker, or any other creative pursuit, there are times when creation is difficult. And there are times when it seemingly comes as easy as breathing.

Right now, I’m dealing with a lot of stress. Yet I must write, and I must finish CF as fast as I can, but also as well as I can. A hasty effort after all this time and energy put in would waste what I’ve done already.

I know what I need to do, you see. These stressful times may slow me up, but damn it, they’re not going to stop me.

So, last night I worked on chapters 46 and 47. And I’m proud of that, as it’s not easy to believe in something better right now…but I did it, and I’m glad.

As for how others get through stressful times in their lives but still write, I don’t know. In the past, I’ve written prose notes (what I think is going on with the story, without dialogue) if I have nothing else, just to make progress; I’ve also looked at the work-in-progress and meditated on what I’ve already done, to remind me that I don’t have to give in to the fear that the stress will keep me from completing my work in a timely fashion.

And sometimes, I go back and read other things I’ve written, just to remind myself I have a long baseline. I’ve created before and will create again, and just because I have an off night or a series of off nights, that does not at all mean I’m done and can’t do anything else, ever. (That is melodrama, and I need to stop that, cold.)

If anyone else has any tips for writing while under great stress, though, I’d love to hear ’em!

Written by Barb Caffrey

October 20, 2016 at 1:10 pm

Housing End-Game

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Folks, I really didn’t want to write this blog. But things have gone sour, again…and my blogging is likely to be interrupted for a few days or weeks, so I figured I’d explain why.

As I said months ago, my housing situation went critical. I can’t fully explain this because it’s not my story to tell; all I can tell you is that I knew, at that time, I’d not have much longer where I was.

That was back in April, and I’m still in the same place. It was like being in limbo, and it certainly slowed up my creative efforts. But I have been warm, and safe, and with my dogs.

Now, the housing situation is about to be radically different. I will be put out of my home of the last five years within the next seven to ten days, as something called a “writ of assistance” has been requested. Once that’s executed, I will be put out of this situation, and am not sure what will happen afterward.

For a time, I know I will go to my father’s house. But long-term, that is likely to drive him and I both nuts. I won’t be able to bring the dogs, and that worries me greatly, because I don’t know what will happen to them — and they’re good dogs. They don’t deserve this uncertainty.

And that doesn’t resolve the rest of the situation, that I can’t explain, that I wish I could explain (except it’s not my story to tell, yada yada yada).

Over the past six months, I’ve had various friends ask me why I haven’t left already when things have been so up in the air. It has to do with caring about my family, and wanting to make sure they are safe and happy and well. I’ve also been worried about the dogs. One of my friends told me a long time ago she could take me, but not the dogs; another can take one dog, if need be, but she has cats. A third friend lives in Canada and I’d not be able to bring any of the dogs there, if I could somehow miraculously get to him…this is a big, fat, freakin’, unruly mess. (Insert string of profanity here, if you feel the need. I know I certainly do. I’m just too polite to subject you to it.)

And, if I’m honest, a lot of why I haven’t left has to do with CHANGING FACES. I’m so close to finishing up that novel — the revised and final version, after editing — and I just didn’t want to have to uproot my entire life as moves tend to do if I could somehow hang on until the novel was finished.

I am about three chapters, perhaps less, from the end. But I don’t know if I can finish up what I need under all this stress. I’m having a number of unusual stress reactions already, and I have to be careful, or I’ll land in the hospital and I’ll be even slower to finish things up…dammit all.

Anyway, all I know is that it is likely I will be put out in the next seven to ten days. I can’t get a hard date as to when I will definitely be put out. I have already moved some stuff to my father’s across town, and will be moving more in the upcoming days as I’m able, but I remain worried.

If for some reason you feel the need to help me, I do have a Paypal account. Type Barb and Caffrey together (as all one word, lowercase) AT Yahoo DOT com (take out the at and dot, of course), if you want to help at all with the frustrations and vexations of this move. Because in some ways, this couldn’t happen at a worse time…honestly.

Written by Barb Caffrey

October 19, 2016 at 1:14 pm

Death and the Miami Marlins

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Folks, before I begin this post, I figured I’d explain where I’ve been the past four-five days. (No, I didn’t fall off the face of the Earth, nor did my in-progress novel CHANGING FACES swallow me up.) It’s a simple explanation — my computer adapter fried — but it’s the third or possibly the fourth time in the past year my adapter has done this. I have a new adapter now, thankfully, and am back online…and will be looking for a way to purchase a backup adapter soon. (Can’t yet, but it’s at the very top of my priority list.)

Now, to the blog.

When the news broke on Sunday that Miami Marlins pitcher José Fernandez had died in a boating accident, I was stunned. Fernandez was only twenty-four years old, and was having an outstanding year…his personal story of escaping from Cuba (he had to try multiple times before he successfully got out), his infectious joy, and his youth all touched my heart.

For several hours on Sunday, I had a hard time thinking about much else, other than Fernandez’s early death. Bad enough to die at twenty-four, but worse yet when your girlfriend was pregnant with your child.

It was a devastating loss on every level, that Fernandez was gone, suddenly and without warning. And the Marlins clearly felt it, postponing Sunday’s game.

After that, on Monday evening, the entire team wore Fernandez’s jersey number (16) as a tribute. Leadoff hitter Dee Gordon stepped into the opposite side of the batter’s box to honor Fernandez, and took a ball. (Opposing team New York must’ve known something like that was likely, I’m guessing.) Then, after stepping into the batter’s box  the usual way, Gordon did something he hadn’t done all year long.

He hit a home run.

The Marlins romped to a win, but that wasn’t why Gordon’s HR was so meaningful. It was the way he did it. He made it clear from the get-go that Fernandez was on his mind, and so did the rest of the Marlins, including all the coaches (manager Don Mattingly was particularly teary-eyed) and front office personnel.

And the classiness didn’t end there.  Even the Mets’ players cried after Gordon hit the homer, and during the seventh-inning stretch (where a trumpet played a solitary version of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” in a muted, moody tone). And they, along with many other teams around major league baseball, hung Fernandez’s jersey up as a show of support.

The Marlins win on Monday night was cathartic for fans, players, the management, and around baseball. It helped ease the pain a little, and helped honor Fernandez the best way the Marlins had to offer — by winning, and talking about their lost teammate, and wishing he were back with them.

All that said, I want to say a few words about the two others who died during that tragic accident, Emilio Macias and Eddy Rivero (both twenty-five). They had gone to Fernandez’s boat late at night because according to this article from Fox News Latino, Fernandez and his girlfriend had argued that evening. No one’s talking much about Macias and Rivero, but they were doing what good friends are supposed to do during a time of crisis — they were supporting their buddy, and they were trying to calm him down.

Their friendship mattered, and I honor them.

I do not understand why these three young men died that evening. I wish I could do something, anything, to bring them back. But it’s good that people are remembering Fernandez’s life and career.

Now, my hope is that people will also remember Macias and Rivero.They both have GoFundMe pages (go here for Macias and here for Rivero), as their families need help with burial expenses. If you can help them, please do it — and if you can’t, say a prayer for them, and for the loved ones they left behind.

Because that helps, too. Even if it’s not nearly enough.

Struggling authors, please read.

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I found this blog via Chris the Story-Reading Ape, and was glad to come over, read it, and now recommend it myself via this reblog. Kyle has some interesting insights as to why writers need to keep writing and I enjoyed his blog immensely.

Author Kyle Perkins

By Kyle Perkins.

So lately I have heard from a few people that they feel like they should just give up on writing because for whatever reason, they are feeling like it just isn’t worth it anymore. Whether they feel like they aren’t getting enough attention, don’t have enough fans, or whatever the case may be, they are wrong, and here’s why.

Writers and authors have a gift, and because we have that gift, we have an obligation, a responsibility to use it. We may “just” arrange words in such a fashion that people enjoy reading them, but a heart surgeon “just” transplants hearts, and astronauts “just” go to space. We need to stop treating writing like it is simply a hobby that “anyone” can do, because that’s not the case. We “just” take people to places they can’t go on their own, and give them a form of escapism…

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Written by Barb Caffrey

August 28, 2016 at 4:40 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Listen Tomorrow to Dellani’s Tea Time for my First-Ever BlogTalkRadio Interview!

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Folks, it gives me great pleasure to announce that I’ll be a guest of author Dellani Oakes tomorrow (Monday, August 8, 2016 to be exact) during her Dellani’s Tea Time BogTalkRadio show, part of Red River Radio. It starts at 3 PM Central time and will run for two hours. Here’s a link:

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/rrradio/2016/08/08/red-river-radio-presents-dellanis-tea-time-with-two-barbaras-and-an-eric

Dellani and I met during the recent Christmas in July event, and she kindly invited me to be on her show. I’ll be the third of three guests; the other two are author Barbara Ehrentreu (I also met her at Christmas in July) and author Eric Williams.

Please make a note of this, and make sure to listen to the show! (Who knows. Maybe you’ll have a question for me, or Barbara, or Eric, or even Dellani herself?)

 

Written by Barb Caffrey

August 7, 2016 at 1:58 pm

A Flattering, Appreciative Comment Can Do Wonders, Sometimes…

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…whether it’s about you, personally, or, as in this case, about you as an editor.

(What, you thought I’d be talking about something else? For shame…the summer romance bug hasn’t bitten me in a long, long time. Though I suppose it’s still possible…but I digress. Back to the blog.)

Folks, I’m very happy to pass along the following link from an interview author Kayelle Allen did with authorsinterviews (a WordPress site). Kayelle kindly mentioned me, and especially my editing. She didn’t have to do that. The interview was all about her, and about her excellent book, BRINGER OF CHAOS: THE ORIGIN OF PIETAS.

In response to the interviewer’s question about “one entity who supported you outside of family members,” Kayelle discussed her friend, writer Houston Havens, and then said this:

And Barb Caffrey, my editor. She’s a brilliant writer in her own right, but she sees details that I would have missed. She suggests slight changes that make all the difference in a scene. Often, simply the change of structure in a sentence can put an all new slant on a scene. I recommend her as both author and editor.

Thank you, Kayelle!

As I have said before, if you haven’t read Kayelle’s book yet, you should. It’s a military SF/action-adventure/bromance like no other. I said once to Kayelle that Pietas starts out almost like the ultimate bad guy, but he’s not; he’s complex, multifaceted, multi-layered, and in some ways, very human despite his genetic engineering and overall socialization/conditioning. That he makes common cause with Six, a guy who amounts to a Special Forces operative in the far future — reanimated, ’cause hey, it’s SF and you can get away with that (and why not?) — and has to learn that at least one human being is worthy of his friendship is…startling. That Pietas can be friends and admit to vulnerability and loss and frustration like anyone else despite all of his abilities at regeneration and immortality is, in an odd way, extremely moving. Pietas wants no pity. But he does want, ultimately, your understanding…hoping there may be one other human out there like Six who’s worth one iota of his time.

Why his people, the Ultras, feel this way toward non-altered humans is for you to read. But I think you will want to read it, if you enjoy milSF/action-adventure.

Now, as to what I did for Kayelle as an editor? She’s a very accomplished writer who turned in a sparkling-clean manuscript. A copy-edit, in her case, was more, “How can I help you make this section over here stand out a little more?” or “Did you ever consider X instead of Y” in a different place. I tried to give her a few options, and did my best to smooth out the (very few) rough spots.

My whole editorial philosophy, in a nutshell, is to help my client strengthen his/her authentic voice. If I make every book I edit sound like my style, that is doing my clients a disservice. And if I make every book I edit look and sound like something I’ve already seen — even if it’s from a widely acknowledged SF/F master writer like Stephen R. Donaldson or Lois McMaster Bujold — that, too, is doing my clients a disservice.

The trick in editing is to figure out what your client’s voice is, then strengthen it. That’s what works best.

Yes, fix all the typos and the grammar and punctuation, address all the stylistic concerns**, all that. But make the book better. Don’t just put in the hours…figure out what that book’s story actually is, and enhance it.

Otherwise, what are you doing?

Now, considering I am an independent editor, I can only suggest the changes rather than require them. But I’m reasonably persuasive in my arguments, and usually can point to various books or stories of my own or others and say, “What I’d like you to consider is X. What you did is Y. Maybe you don’t want to do X, but can you do Z instead?”

Anyway. I appreciate what Kayelle said. She’s the third editorial client I’ve had who’s publicly said she appreciates my editing. (The others, by the way, are Chris Nuttall and Dora Machado.) Most of the time, editors are treated more like furniture than an essential part of what goes into a book, so I’ve appreciated it immensely when someone recommends me as an editor…it means more than I can possibly say.

———–

**Sample stylistic concern: “You give Doctor Evil ‘s title as ‘Doctor’ in one section, but ‘Dr.’ in another. I don’t care which one you pick, but for ease of reading, it’s usually better to pick only one.” (This seems picayune, but can make all the difference to a self-published novel in looking professional — or looking like you just fell off the turnip truck.)

Written by Barb Caffrey

July 27, 2016 at 9:14 am