Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

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#AuthorsinBloom Blog-Hop: Why I Don’t Garden

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Folks, I’m taking part in the sixth annual Authors in Bloom Blog Hop. And as such, I had to choose between writing about gardening, or writing about recipes.

See, gardening is something people start doing a whole lot more of, when we get into the spring. And making meals from our own gardens, or from fresh produce bought at a Farmer’s Market stall, seems to dovetail with that.

So, let’s get started on why I, personally, do not garden…after I show you this lovely graphic blog-hop starter Dianne Venetta came up with:

So, as I said above, I love this time of year. There’s all sorts of good veggies growing, there’s the promise of spring and new life and second chances…and I love gardens.

But no, I do not garden myself.

Why? Well, it’s a combination of three reasons.

First, I would rather stay away from the great outdoors during spring because bees and wasps wake back up along with everything else…and I am very allergic to them, so allergic that I’ve had to be rushed to the hospital a couple of times after being stung.

Second, I seem to have what’s commonly known as a “black thumb,” meaning I don’t seem to grow anything very well…and things others start in the garden and I try to finish die, too, no matter how much fertilizer I use or how well I follow the instructions of the previous gardener.

And third? Well, my hands are not that wonderful, as I deal with carpal tunnel syndrome on a daily basis. Dealing with hands that cramp up or drop things seemingly at random is not pleasant at the best of times, and it’s much more unpleasant in the garden when you’re using things like gardening shears, hoes, rakes, spades, etc. (Picture the stubbed toes, the long scratches cutting through my sturdy pants from the gardening shears as they fall, always toward my legs or arms or some vitally important place…and then say, “No, thanks.”)

So, that’s why I don’t garden. But it’s why I do enjoy getting food from the local Farmer’s Market, and trying all sorts of new veggie dishes…because half the fun of that is letting someone else do the work.

Before I go, here’s a bit about me that you might like to know:

BARB CAFFREY is a musician, composer, writer, and editor from the Midwest. She loves science fiction, fantasy, and romance, and tends to write some combination thereof nine times out of ten…her latest books are the YA urban fantasy/romance A LITTLE ELFY IN BIG TROUBLE and the LGBT-friendly contemporary romance CHANGING FACES.

As to what I’m going to give away? I figured I’d give the lucky winners various books and stories, ’cause I am a writer and that’s what I do. If you love romance, I’ve got something for you; if you love SF&F, I have something else for you; if you love it all, well, I definitely, decidedly, one-hundred-percent have something for you!

Now, it’s best for you to get to hopping, and find the next blog…lots of interesting stuff awaits!

http://www.linkytools.com/wordpress_list.aspx?id=276327&type=basic

Written by Barb Caffrey

March 27, 2017 at 12:19 am

Reflections on Funerals — and Lives Well-Lived

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Folks, this last week was not an easy one around Chez Caffrey.

Why? Well, my aunt Laurice passed away suddenly last week, and this week was her funeral. I saw many of my relatives for the first time in years, talked with my cousins and others, and paid my respects to my aunt’s memory.

My aunt was a very good woman, you see. She lived her faith, and believed strongly in the goodness of others. She was a kind person, she cared, and I remember her fondly for many reasons — but most particularly because she went to many of my concerts, sitting proudly besides my parents (and sometimes my grandmother as well).

My aunt didn’t have to do that. But she loved music, and she loved family. Going to concerts for one of her nieces — or later, two of ’em, as my sister and I played in many groups together over the years — was not a hardship for her.

Remembering that helps to temper the grief I feel. And knowing that my cousins have it far, far worse than I do — as do their own kids, no doubt — doesn’t help much.

Grief shared is supposed to be grief halved. And maybe it is. But when you first lose someone special, you can’t feel that your grief has been halved, because the grief is so overpowering, even half of it feels like more than you can bear.

Still, we all are born into this life knowing we’re here for a short time. It’s what we do while we’re here that matters; those actions will live on in others, and help to keep our spirit and memories alive.

If you think about it, a person’s spirit and the memories you shared with that person is vitally important. Because it’s those things that determine how you think about them, how often you think about them, and what you do when you think about them…

My aunt was a special woman. She cared about others. I’m glad that I remember that, and will do my best to honor her memory in the best way I possibly can…by caring about others, and thinking about her while I do it. (I think she’d like that.)

Written by Barb Caffrey

March 24, 2017 at 7:30 pm

Musing on Sunday: Making Difficult Choices

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It’s Sunday, so I thought I’d try a different type of post today.

What do we do, as writers, and as people, when we have to make a difficult choice?

In our writing, sometimes we have snippets of dialogue and characterization that leap off the page, but don’t go with anything in the story. What do we do with it, then?

And in life, we never seem to get exactly what we want. The people around us — and we, ourselves, for that matter — make bad decisions from time to time. Or maybe they make good decisions for them, but bad ones for us…because they’re human, and they make mistakes. (Just as we do, but I digress.)

In writing, it’s easier to figure out what you’re going to do with a difficult decision. First, you can turn that snappy dialogue or great characterization into a new story that doesn’t conflict with the one you already have. Second, if that doesn’t work, you can simply excise it — the whole “kill your darlings” thing that all writers know, and all writers hate. And third, you can try to find a way to incorporate the good stuff into your manuscript anyway…though that last is the most difficult choice of all, as if it had been easy, that bit that stands out but doesn’t go with anything would’ve been incorporated already.

Note I said “easier.” It’s still not easy. You have to think, long and hard, about what you’re going to do, and make a choice that you have to live with.

In life, sometimes we can only react to what is put in front of us. Where we are today might not be at all where we want to be. (I think I can safely say that, under the circumstances; if I had my druthers, my husband would still be alive, we’d be about to celebrate fifteen years of marriage, and we’d have I don’t know how many books out, together and separately.) Because we’re in uncharted territory, we don’t know what to do, and we feel our way toward the best solution possible.

We have to have faith in ourselves that we can find a good answer, even when the question itself seems like it has no answer. We have to believe that we can reason our way out, think our way out, know ourselves well enough that we can stay on an even keel while everything around us feels unsteady, almost as if we’re enduring a long-lasting earthquake that doesn’t quite — quite — swallow us whole.

This is hard.

It’s especially difficult for our friends, who watch as we struggle, and give advice, and give comfort and support, and try to do their best to help you keep your body and soul together another day, so you can continue the fight.

But ultimately, the choices you make are up to you. You have to live with them.

So please, make your best decisions. Use your reason as well as your gut reaction. And then act accordingly…knowing full well that you can revisit your decision if and when the situation changes.

What do you do when you face a difficult choice, in writing or in life? Let me know in the comments.

Written by Barb Caffrey

March 12, 2017 at 4:21 pm

See My New Guest Blog for Author Lisabet Sarai…

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Folks, it’s Romance Saturday. And as such, I am extremely grateful that author Lisabet Sarai offered me a guest blogging slot today. I called it, “Putting Characters in Trouble, One Story at a Time,” and illustrated my account of same by using what I did in CHANGING FACES to explain it.

portrait in garden

First, here’s the link to the post:

http://lisabetsarai.blogspot.com/2017/03/putting-characters-in-trouble-one-story.html

And here’s an excerpt from that:

In my new contemporary romantic fantasy novel Changing Faces, I put my characters Allen and Elaine through the emotional wringer. They are deeply in love, but Elaine’s hiding a big secret from her fiancé; she is gender-fluid, and thinks she’d be better off in the body of a man. Granted, he does know that she’s bisexual, but that’s not the same thing at all as gender-fluidity, much less wanting to change outward sexes, and when he finds out, he is floored.

As most heterosexual men would be, no doubt.

Allen is a very good man, so he wants to help Elaine. He might not understand everything about her, but he wants to, and he’s willing to try anything—absolutely anything—so she’ll stay in his life.

How does that relate? Well, two angels hear him when he prays, and decide to grant his wish. But they do so in a way that is not expected, as Allen wakes up after a nasty car accident in the hospital in the wrong body. While Elaine, after the accident, is in a coma, talking to one of the two angels in the Place of Dreams and Nightmares.

Allen can’t tell anyone who he is. And Elaine can’t talk with Allen and try to apologize, much less talk with anyone except the one angel. They both blame themselves for the accident, and only Elaine knows why this happened, albeit after the fact. Allen battles all sorts of feelings that he never expected to have, while Elaine must confront her deepest terrors in order to win back to Allen and continue on with their lives—but definitely not in the same way as before.
You can see where I took the maxim “putting character in trouble, one story at a time” and used it with regards to Changing Faces, can’t you? These two are in serious trouble. They love each other, and they want to be with one another, but they don’t know how to do it. And the two quirky angels, in trying to help them, may have caused worse problems…at least in the short run.

There’s a lot more there, mind, including an excerpt from CHANGING FACES to whet your interest. So I do hope you will go check out the latest guest blog — particularly appropriate, as it is Romance Saturday — and let me know what you think. (And thanks again, Lisabet, for having me!)

Written by Barb Caffrey

March 11, 2017 at 5:40 pm

Interview Today at The Writer’s Life eMag, plus…

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Folks, I’m happy to let you all know about my latest guest appearance/interview, which is up today at the Writer’s Life eMagazine.

This, of course, is in support of my novel, CHANGING FACES. I’m doing as much as I possibly can to help get the word out about my book, and I would appreciate as much support with sharing across Twitter, Facebook, and other such social media sites as possible as I need all the help I can get. (No fooling, that.)

The Writer’s Life talks more about the writing process than not, so if you’re a fellow writer — no matter at what stage you may happen to be, from beginner to expert — you should enjoy today’s interview.

Here’s a bit from that:

What do you do on those days you don’t feel like writing? Do you force it or take a break?

I don’t do well when I have to force myself to write. I don’t know why this is, but what tends to happen is that I’ll get maybe a little writing, maybe just barely enough to get me to a good part of the manuscript/story in question…and then I block. Hard.

So I’ve learned that if at all possible – if I’m not on a hard and fast deadline – it’s best to take a break for an hour, or maybe even a day.

That seems to help.

Any writing quirks?

There’s one group I tend to listen to, when I need to write something emotionally powerful. That group is Stabbing Westward.

What would you do if people around you didn’t take your writing seriously or see it as a hobby?

Actually, many of the people I know tend to see it that way, because I haven’t made much money with it as of yet. But that doesn’t concern me all that much, because the people who matter to me, as well as those who mattered but have passed on – my late husband and my late best friend among them – definitely understand (or understood) why I do what I do.

And if anyone who doesn’t understand it wants to tell me what to do, it’s not going to harm me any. I’m not about to listen to them, so let them natter on all they want.

There’s lots more there, so please do go take a look at this interview, and share it far and wide.

Now, as to the “plus” part of this post? Well, tomorrow is International Women’s Day, and I plan to write a blog tomorrow that will talk about various women writers who’ve influenced me. (Yes, I will mention CHANGING FACES and the guest appearance of the day. I have to. It’s part of proudly promoting my book. But I want to remind you all that I have more to offer, too…)

The plan right now is, I hope to about four or five other female writers I know, and give links to their books and blogs. I figure that way, I’m helping to pay some of the help I’ve received forward a little.

So, do take a peek at that tomorrow, OK?

Otherwise, I hope to talk more about baseball, maybe a little about politics (as I remain incredibly frustrated by many of the actions of the Trump Administration, but as I am still recovering from that nasty case of the flu, and have some lingering bronchitis to deal with, I have decided to de-emphasize it in many respects until I am completely well), and any current events that may strike my fancy, too.

In other words, business as usual. (Insert big, evil grin here.)

Otherwise, what’s on your mind? What would you like me to talk about next? Give me a yell in the comments, would you?

Written by Barb Caffrey

March 7, 2017 at 8:12 pm

New Interview at SheWrites, Plus Updates

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Folks, before I get into today’s updates, I need to direct your attention to the latest interview I did, which is now up at SheWrites.com. There’s lots of good stuff there that you probably haven’t seen before, including this bit right here:

M.C.:  What themes do you explore in Changing Faces?
Barb Caffrey: The power of love, mostly. Love can transcend everything, if you give it time; it doesn’t matter what you look like, providing who you are matches up with who the other person is. Your gender, even, doesn’t matter that much, providing both of you can look past that and see what’s important: Do you love each other? Do you understand each other? Do you want what’s best for one another? Do you care enough to live with this one person for the rest of your life, forsaking all others?
Allen and Elaine learn more about each other and Allen in particular learns a great deal about LGBT issues he never thought of before his face gets changed. But the love they have for each other never wavers; that much is set in stone, even if they’re not sure how they can go on from here.
That’s what life is about, you know. You overcome all sorts of obstacles. You have no idea what most of them are going to be when you start off on your life’s journey. Some will be absolutely unprecedented, but you have to trust that with faith and will and understanding and love, you can and will overcome everything, with the right person.
Of course, the trick is in finding that right person…one nice thing about Changing Faces is, there’s no doubt Allen and Elaine are meant for one another, even if Elaine doesn’t always feel worthy of it or if Allen doesn’t immediately “get” that Elaine is both trans and gender-fluid (sometimes feeling male, sometimes feeling female, but always, always using “she” as the default pronoun).
M.C.:  Why do you write?
Barb Caffrey: The quick and flippant answer would be that the stories just do not let me alone until I tell them. But the longer answer is because I have to; if I don’t, I feel like I’ve wasted my time and potential on this Earth. And I can’t abide that, so I continue to do my best at telling the stories I need to tell…and hope that someone else, along the way, may also find some meaning from them, too. (Or happiness, or understanding, or at least a few hours’ worth of diversion from their troubles. If I’ve done any of that, I’ve done my job.)
There’s a lot more there, mind, including my happiest moment as a writer (hint: it has something to do with my late husband, Michael), when I’m most creative, and how picky I can be regarding language…so please do head over there and check the interview out, then check out the sample chapters for CHANGING FACES.
Mind, if you’d rather buy it directly, the links are right here, given in the format Chris the Story-Reading Ape suggested (thank you so much, Chris, for that):

Barnes & Noble

Amazon:

USA  –   UK  –  CA  –  AUS  –  IN

Now, as for updates? I have a few.

First, regarding my Elfyverse short story, “Trouble with Elfs.” I’ve been asked when this will be put back out as a short story for e-book. I hope to have this back up later this year; I’ve decided to add a second Elfyverse short story, to sweeten the pot a little (and keep long-time readers motivated), but that’s just getting started.

Figure a few months, minimum, for that. (Maybe something out by July?)

As far as Michael’s Columba stories go, I am stalled. (I admit it.) I have also been busy with CHANGING FACES, plus editing, plus more editing, plus even more editing…not to mention getting over the bad case of the flu. (Let’s put it this way. I’m glad to be in demand as an editor. But getting sick did not help.) But I hope to get back to this soon. (Maybe I’ll have something ready to go by the end of the year?)

And I’m about to restart working on the Elfyverse prequel set in 1954, KEISHA’S VOW. That’s closer to dark fantasy, and it may slot better into some genre than any of my previous work has to date…when you write the way I do, with all the cross-genre stuff, it’s harder to find readers because they don’t necessarily know you exist. So my hope is that one of my books will break out, and then people will like what I’m doing so much, they’ll go read everything else…(Hey, it could happen. And it beats yelling at the sky and shaking my fist, doesn’t it?)

So, there you have it.

Mind, before I forget, if you wish to support my writing, BTW, I do have a Patreon page. I haven’t written much there. I do have five patrons (Goddess bless them forever), and I have reward levels starting at just a dollar a month. So if that’s something you’d like to do, I would appreciate your support…anything you can do, whether it’s buying my books, writing reviews, supporting me at Patreon, or anything else, is extremely beneficial right now.

Written by Barb Caffrey

March 6, 2017 at 5:16 pm

Flu, Day 4, Plus Latest Guest Blog

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Folks, I remain mired in the flu.

Granted, it’s a little bit better than it was yesterday. But my voice remains awful (a friend called last night and was absolutely appalled at how much of a croak it sounds like right now), I’m still coughing more than not, am incredibly congested, and can actually point to each one of my ribs because each individual one hurts like fire.

Mind, it’s not as bad as it could be. So far, I don’t seem to have bronchitis or pneumonia, and as I’ve had both before, I think I’d know. And I am getting a little better; this is the second day in a row I’ve been able to get online and put up some form of a blog — though that’s probably more because of sheer cussedness on my part than anything else.

(Hey, at least I admit it.)

Because I have a new book out, CHANGING FACES, which I’ve talked about a great deal already, I hope I don’t have to give you all the links and all the blurbs and all that today.  (Scroll down and hit the back arrow if you want that, just this once. OK?)

Instead, I’d rather just give you this link, to a guest blog I did at Straight from the Author’s Mouth, and give you a bit of that to whet your interest:

This is for pet lovers. If you don’t own a pet, skip this question, but do your pets actually get their food on time or do they have to wait until you type just one more word?

BC: That’s a tough one! (Laughs.) My dogs mostly do get their food on time, but it’s because about an hour before they’re usually fed, they come and put their heads on my lap, and give me the big, huge, puppy-dog eyes. I usually am working away, and I tell them, “It’s too early!” But they keep coming back, and keep nagging me, so they do tend to get fed on time.

This is for plant lovers. If you don’t own a plant, skip this question, but if you do, are they actually still alive?

BC: I’ve been nurturing one plant now for several years; it was planted in remembrance of my deceased Cocker spaniel, Blackie. I try to water it every couple of days, and tell it that Blackie would be pleased…I’m sure that plant is quite bemused with me, too! (Yes, I’m weird.)

In writing your book, how did you deal with the phone ringing, your family needing dinner or your boss calling you saying you’re late?

BC: I got annoyed when anything took me out of the creative process, to be honest. It takes me a while to be fully immersed in the worlds I create, and anything that gets in the way of that feels like a full-on assault of the creative process. But after my initial annoyance, I usually apologize, because it’s not the fault of whoever interrupted that I’ve picked this career (or it picked me, rather).

Anyway, please go take a look at the latest guest blog, as there’s a lot more good stuff to read about there. Note that I can’t comment or do much other than let you know about it because Firefox and Google still aren’t playing well together, and no matter what I do to get rid of cookies out of the cache (isn’t that a lovely word, cache?), I just can’t share anything from that page.

So if you can, please do. And also, do let people know that my book is out…maybe some will see it as utter nonsense, but I hope most won’t. Love is love, and who cares about the outer packaging, anyway? (I sure as Hell don’t.)

Written by Barb Caffrey

February 27, 2017 at 6:05 pm