Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

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Moving Forward, Slowly…

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Folks, I continue to recover from the Nasty Respiratory Ailment (TM). I am much better than I was, and have completed two novel-length book edits in the past two weeks. Working on two more, too…and I have started writing a bit again, so I’m feeling much better about things overall.

That said, I wanted to talk a little bit about how sometimes being persistent means accepting the fact that you have to move more slowly than you might like. Illness does this, you see. Injury, too. And in either case, when you want to do more than you are physically capable of doing, it feels like beating your head against a brick wall.

Or maybe beating your wings against the bars of a gray, barren prison. (Whatever works as an image for you, though I definitely am more partial to the prison idea.)

It’s hard to deal with, the feeling of hopelessness. It really is. You want to be up and doing. Up and creating. Up and being the best self you can possibly be. But sometimes, to do that, you have to ration your strength and know your limits.

The way my husband put it was, “If you can’t do it today, you’ll do twice as much tomorrow. And if you can’t do it then either due to Real Life (TM), you’ll do three times as much the next day.” His view was that you had to believe you would keep moving forward, no matter how long it took, and no matter what in life stood in your way.

See, if you know your path and stay on it, good things will happen. You have to look hard sometimes to find those good things. But they will happen. You’ll meet good people, and you’ll be able to talk with them about things that matter to you. You’ll have exchanges of viewpoints, and sometimes may have your mind changed — or at least challenged — in ways you won’t expect. (Personally, I find that among life’s best of treasures, though it is woefully unappreciated by many who’d rather stay with whatever their personal status quo is. Too bad about ’em, isn’t it?)

And you will create. If you keep trying, you keep working on it, you keep thinking about it, and you do whatever is in your power on a daily basis, you will create.

That’s the hard lesson I’ve had to learn. And because I’m stubborn, I learn it over and over and over again. Because every single time, I want to be healthier than I am; I want to be stronger than I am; I want to snap back from ill health faster than I’m capable of; I want to do more, be better, create things of lasting worth…and I often wonder if I’ve failed at the lot of it.

That said, at least I keep trying. I move forward, slowly.

And that’s perhaps the whole trick of life. Find your path. Move forward on it, no matter how slowly it may be at times. Treasure the people you meet. Find common ground when you can, accept the stuff that will never be in common, try to delight in it when you can…just find whatever you can, and do that, and keep doing it as long as it makes you happy. (And, of course, hurts no one, is ethical, principled, etc.)

This is what matters. (Don’t let anyone tell you anything different, either.)

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Written by Barb Caffrey

November 9, 2018 at 1:04 am

Tiredness, Writing, and Two Quick Comments on Recent Events

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I figured I’d give you a quick health update, for those of you keeping score at home. (Someone must, after all.) I’m a lot better than I was three weeks ago. I’m back to editing on a more or less normal schedule, and I can and have resumed most daily activities, with some caution. I can do more than one thing a day now, which is very good; I can also do some more extended/difficult things, like shopping for an hour-plus (always hard for me to do, considering I walk with a cane and have some back issues), without making things any worse.

That said, the Nasty Respiratory Ailment (TM) is not gone by any means. It’s just a lot better, that’s all. Not quite down to a simple respiratory ailment (or even a capitalized Respiratory Ailment, which must be worse, right?), but still enough to get in the way if I don’t keep a running calculation of how much energy I have on any given day — and how much I can, in all actuality, do.

I’ve had some folks in the past ask me why I’m so open about my health. Mostly, I think someone out there may need to know that he or she is not alone; maybe they’re dealing with health issues, too. Or maybe they’re frustrated because they’ve been sick for weeks, and they wonder if there’s any daylight on the other side, because it’s been so long since they felt halfway decent, they can hardly remember when that was.

And I know I would’ve liked to find a blog like this when I felt my worst.

It’s because of the health issues and only because of the health issues that I didn’t blog at the time about two very big stories that upset me greatly. The first was the shooting at the synagogue in Pittsburgh; the victims were older folks, and all except for one were there to delight in the glory of God. (That last, a doctor, rushed to the scene when he heard gunfire, and was shot dead with the rest.) And the second was the unwarranted and vicious murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Saudi Arabia; this last is compounded by the problem that the United States has not taken the lead on this despite Khashoggi being a permanent resident of the U.S. at the time. Instead, Turkey has been the one to find out the most details, and to do the most pressing on the international stage to get justice for an innocent man.

Both are horrible tragedies, and are hard even now for me to write about because I hurt so badly when I think about them. I don’t understand how a bunch of innocent people in a synagogue could be shot to death (and a doctor, rushing to help, too); I don’t understand how a writer who advocated for peace in the Middle East and for greater transparency and for the freedom of the press to do their jobs could be dismembered without the formal representatives of the country he was living in at the time, the United States (read: the State Department, the President of the U.S., the Senators on the Foreign Relations Committee, etc.), being outraged.

I am outraged by both.

So while I’m very slow off the mark to write about either thing, I wanted you all to know that I did see these stories. I was saddened greatly by them. And I hope there will be justice for the victims, because what happened to all of them should not have ever occurred.

It’s hard to heal when you see such devastating things as this. But I will continue to do whatever I can to get healthier, so I can perhaps write blogs in a timely manner when I am upset, outraged, or better yet, really happy over something going on. (Hey, it could happen.)

Written by Barb Caffrey

November 3, 2018 at 2:38 am

Continuing to Battle…

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Folks, just wanted to drop a wee blog to let y’all know I’m still alive.

The last few weeks have been extremely challenging, to say the least. I don’t know why I have so little energy. Yes, I’m recovering from the Nasty Respiratory Ailment (TM), but something still seems off. My doctor doesn’t seem that worried, as there are lots of things that could be setting off Nasty Respiratory Ailment (TM), and besides, my health hasn’t always been that robust anyway.

But for the most part, as difficult as it’s been for me since my husband died, I’ve been able to muster up the energy for the absolutely essential things after the worst of the grief passed off. (Granted, that took a few years. But still.) Or at least I felt it would come back when I did get sick, as I had bigger things to do and only a certain amount of time to do them.

I no longer have that certainty.

Granted, I’m going to continue to work toward better health. I still have things I need to get done. Stories to tell, books to edit, friends to make, family and friends to support, all that…and I intend to do those things.

But Nasty Respiratory Ailment (TM) has definitely got me down. I have had to ration my strength, and cut way back on my activities because of this, and I haven’t enjoyed it. (For example, I missed the October concert with the Racine Concert Band, and I hated to do that. But I couldn’t even lift the saxophone at the time, much less play it, and I’m not all that much better off right now…though I do think I could play for a few minutes if pressed.)

Then again, if I did enjoy it, you would wonder about me, wouldn’t you? (More than you do already, I suppose.)

Anyway, I keep thinking about what my husband told me when I was sick. (Which happened often then, as now, though I felt better about it as he was there and I knew he loved me with all he had and everything he was, so I had a really good reason to get better ASAP.) His contention was that rest, at times like these anyway, was the priority.

Yes, rest is boring.

Yes, rest is annoying when you want to be up and doing.

Yes, rest doesn’t seem like it’s accomplishing anything. (And I do mean anything.)

But rest is the only way to win through to a better, brighter day. One with less illness, and more hope.

I’m in the phase of recovery now where I am really antsy for that better, brighter day. I can again edit. I can, with difficulty, compose some music, and I can write a bit, too, as you see by this blog.

It’s good to be able to do these things again.

But to do them, I still have to basically put everything else to the side, and concentrate only on one thing, whether it’s editing, helping my mother, or doing my laundry. That one thing gets done; everything else is forced to wait until the next day. And believe me, any time I move around, Nasty Respiratory Ailment (TM) lets me know it’s still there, waiting to derail me…

Ahem.

So, I will keep searching for that better, brighter day. And I will do what I can to make that happen, so I can get done what needs to be done…and maybe find some peace and happiness along the way, too. (Hey. It could happen.)

 

Written by Barb Caffrey

October 26, 2018 at 12:32 am

Six Things for Saturday

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Folks, I know I didn’t write a blog all week, and I’m sorry. So without further ado, here are six takes on six different things. (Why six? It’s Saturday. I like alliteration. It makes sense in my head, anyway…)

  • I’m very happy that my favorite baseball team, the Milwaukee Brewers, are in the playoffs. They haven’t had a team this good since 1982, and that year, the Brewers (in the American League back then) made it to the World Series. I don’t know if this year’s team can do that or not; much remains unclear at this time. But they have had a great year, and their bullpen is the main reason, along with the play of MVP-candidate Christian Yelich.
  • I’ve thought a lot about editing this past week. Some books that I’ve otherwise loved end up with odd errors in them. One such error is “fairing” instead of the proper word, faring, as in, “How are you faring?” (Meaning, how are you doing.) I don’t know why this keeps showing up in books, except that I’m guessing the authors either didn’t have good editors or they relied too much on spellcheck and/or grammar check. (No spellcheck or grammar check in the world is as good as a real, live editor.)
  • I am far from indifferent to the political situation we have going on in the US right now. I am frustrated with the descent into tribalism. We cannot get any traction if those of us in the middle are either vilified or ignored. And yet, if you try to take a middle stance on anything, that’s exactly what happens. As I’ve said before, change usually is incremental. (Mind, it may show up, all of a sudden, as a huge one, such as when same-sex marriage was legalized in all 50 states in 2015. But it took decades of progress to get to that point.) And to get that incremental change, you need people who are willing to look at the problems — take a good, hard, rational, fact-based look — and then compromise to get the best solution possible.

Now, is this hard to do? Damn straight it is. Most people do not have the wherewithal to truly serve the public rather than themselves, or worse, special interests/big moneyed interests. Maybe they want to serve the public, but can’t figure out a way; maybe they get to state capitals (or even more challenging, Washington, DC) and get blinded by the “bright lights, big city” phenomenon.

But this is what must happen to have good, positive public service. And right now, because no one trusts anyone else politically and there’s very little bipartisanship to be had at any level, those of us who just want to fix the potholes and make sensible public policy get pushed to the side. And that’s wrong.

  • Someone asked me if I believed Doctor Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony. The answer is that I did. Something definitely happened to her, and she was definitely sexually assaulted. Her behavior afterward is characteristic of that, as is the fact it took her years to put herself back together. So yes, I believed her. And yes, I believe we need to listen to sexual assault survivors, and make better public policy overall if we can in that regard, too.

(Before someone says, “But Barb! That doesn’t say Judge Kavanaugh did anything! You have no proof! She has no proof either beyond her bare word,” I will point out that I am answering only the one question. I wait for facts.)

I am very pleased Doctor Ford put herself back together, mind, and used her experiences to better inform her life, make better and more positive choices in the long run, and get her doctorate (which is a very big deal). That’s hard to do. She did it. She deserves credit for it.

And the people who are angry with her for telling her story need to show some compassion. Even if they think she’s flat wrong, they should be praying for her; they shouldn’t be doxxing her or sending death threats. (That should go without saying, but somehow, it no longer does.)

  • Weather is the last bastion of bipartisanship in the United States.

Weather is a great equalizer, you know. We all face it. We all have to deal with it. We all have to learn to live with it. And we all have to figure out ways to cope with it.

In my area in Southeastern Wisconsin, we’ve had lots of rain lately, with some of it overflowing the banks of the various rivers. That is never good. (We also are getting more rain and the ground is super-saturated already. Also not good.)

So, weather is still bipartisan, and is still a safe subject. (Hallelujah?)

  • Sixth and last, if I’ve learned anything from this life, it’s that I can’t change anyone else. I can only change me. (And that happens very, very slowly.)

Why am I talking about this? Recent events in my personal life, mostly. I have had to face the fact that no matter what I want, certain folks just aren’t going to change. I have to deal with the problem as it is (or as a golfer would say, “Play the ball as it lies”); I can’t prettify it up or hope for better.

Now, this can be depressing, if you take it one way. But it also can be liberating.

See, if you’ve done everything in your power, and nothing has affected the outcome, that just shows you’re in the wrong place. Or maybe with the wrong people.

So, going forward, I will keep working on myself, and my craft, and my art. And if I can find like-minded souls willing to walk with me on the journey, good.

If not? Well, I’m going to have to stop bending myself into pretzel-shapes, and save steps.

Any comments from the peanut gallery? (Preferably not about politics?) Let me know in the comments!

Thoughts on Regret

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Over the course of my life, there are things I wish I could’ve done differently. I regret these things, and yet, if I had them to do over again — and didn’t have the additional knowledge of hindsight, of course — I almost certainly would do the exact same things in the exact, same order.

I wrestle, often, with the idea that no matter what I do, it’s not going to be enough. And I regret, often, that I can’t do any better than this…(even though this is the absolute best I’ve got, and I know it.)

I regret when I’ve lost friends I truly care about, all because they’ve misunderstood me or I’ve misunderstood them. Sometimes there is no way back to being friendly, either, and that just makes me so frustrated, I have no words to describe it.

I’ve thought long and hard about the idea of regret, and have only come up with one conclusion.

I seem to regret so many things because I somehow,  in defiance of all logic, believe I should’ve done everything absolutely right, every time. And while wanting  of that is understandable, not to mention very human, it isn’t possible.

And I do know better than that.

I know we can’t control things beyond ourselves. We can’t control other people. We can’t control their actions. We can’t make them do anything.

(Nor would I want to control anyone but myself, either. That would not only be boring, it would be utterly pointless, and take all the joy out of living. But I digress.)

Anyway, if you are dealing with a lot of regret in your life right now, you need to remember two things.

  • One, you aren’t a bad person.
  • Two, you are almost certainly on the cusp of positive change, even if you can’t see it right now.

One final thing: as a writer, I believe that all experiences are necessary to write good stories that ring emotionally true and have depth…so even the worst experiences (and I have a bundle of those) can be transmuted into something much better. I hope knowing that makes it slightly easier to deal with the bad days, in the hope that good days will come again.

What do you think about regrets, or this blog in particular? Let me know in the comments!

Written by Barb Caffrey

September 26, 2018 at 2:00 am

“Sadiversary” Week, Fatigue, Illness…

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Folks, later this week will be the fourteenth “sadiversary” — that is, the saddest anniversary there is — of my late husband Michael’s death. I struggle with this every year; unlike some widows and widowers, I seem stuck, and think more and more about him over time rather than less and less.

Granted, I’ve also done my best to “make new memories” and have even gone on a few dates. (Two, to be exact.) And I was in a long-distance friendship with a guy for a while with that I’d hoped for more with…but it didn’t happen. So it’s not like I’ve just shut myself down cold, even though it took a long time to even get to the point where I could try to do these things.

I keep wanting to wake up one day, and find out the previous fourteen years are nothing but a bad dream. My husband, in this scenario, is alive, glowingly vibrant, cooking me meals, helping with my stories as I helped with his (and yes, while I cook, too, Michael was the better cook; I was glad to step aside for him).

Hell, my husband even would do all the laundry, knowing I have a bad back, and if I was allowed to do anything at all, it was to sit at the laundromat with him “looking decorative” and of course carrying on a conversation.

Those were the days.

Instead, I wake up and find that the stark reality is, I’m here, he’s not, all the work I’ve struggled with, everything I’ve done, is not enough. Too few people even seem to be able to find out about our work, much less like it enough to tell friends about it who might also tell others.

When I’m sick, as I am now (I am guessing a sinus issue and possibly a weak onset of the flu), it makes it harder to believe that I am doing everything I can. And yet, I know I am. There isn’t any single thing I could be doing any differently; I can only do what I can do, and if it’s not enough, and if it drives me crazy that it’s not enough, well, I just have to live with that.

I’m grateful for my family and my friends. I’m also grateful for the two guys I went on dates with, even though I’m sure they were awkward and I knew I was very awkward, too. Even the guy I crashed and burned with in the long-distance friendship taught me something…I’m not dead, and I don’t think Michael would want me to do my best imitation of a vestal virgin because he’s already on the Other Side.

Still, I look at the totality of my life since my husband died, and it frustrates me so much.

Maybe we all feel this way, when we’re sick, that we haven’t done what we set out to do, and that we are failures because of that.

And I never expected Michael, the goodness of him, the totality of his existence, the love he brought to my life, and the sly sense of humor that invigorated every conversation and interaction with him. (As I’m trying to keep this to a PG level, as I know there are at least a few younger kids who read this blog on a regular basis, I won’t talk about the rest of it — shall we say that everything, absolutely everything, about my marriage with Michael was phenomenal, and leave it at that? Yes? Good.)

All I can do now is go on. It’s hard. I haven’t been able to see the road in front of me since the day Michael died. And even at my best with the three guys who’ve put up with me long enough to want to get to know me a little better, I still didn’t see anything but glimmers.

So, that’s where I am right now. I am sick. But tonight I’m going to try to edit, and I did manage to write this blog. Tomorrow I will do laundry, and think about Michael while I do it (as that makes me feel better, as I definitely don’t enjoy doing laundry in any way, shape, or form, but I do enjoy clean clothes). I’ll get to the doctor, do what they say to do, talk with my counselor of course as this is a very highly-fraught week, and do what she says also as best I can.

And I’ll try to be as good to myself as I can, even though that’s not something I’m all that good at.

P.S. Next week, I hope to talk about fun things again, or at least current events things…something different.

 

Written by Barb Caffrey

September 18, 2018 at 10:53 pm

More Books at the Fall Book Fair…

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Folks, as promised, I’m here to let you know about some more books at Viviana MacKade’s Fall Book Fair online event…all of them are e-books priced at ninety-nine cents, and all are interesting reads. (I’ve read all the promos and have read a few of the books, and may be picking up a whole bunch of others. They just look that good.)

Along with my own AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE (which was featured today), my friend Kayelle Allen’s THE LAST VHALGENN was also featured. While I’ve often edited for Kayelle, this story predates me knowing her, much less editing for her — so I can tell you without any prejudice whatsoever that it’s a cracking good story.

3d-kl-com-tlvSee, Kayelle’s character Raik is a type of supremely loyal woman we rarely see in any stories these days. She’s not perfect, no, but she’s sexy as Hell, smart, funny in her way, loyal to a fault, and because she is a Vhalgenn — a type of super-courtesan for the highest nobles in the land, and completely unable to have children (so no bastards can be sired upon her, meaning most noble wives would probably not mind her as much as they’d mind other mistresses), she has a unique role to play.

And when she’s placed in an impossible position, what will she choose to do? (Because I want you to go to Viviana’s page, I am going to stop right there with my plot summary.)

When I read THE LAST VHALGENN a few years ago, I sat up and went, “Wow. That’s my type of woman!”

And it’s one reason why, when I had the opportunity to talk about one of my friend Jason Cordova’s books earlier this year, I also talked about one of Kayelle’s — because there’s something there that I’ve seen from both of them that I don’t get in a lot of other places. The military detailing is exceptional, and the characterization is so good, the characters almost jump off the page.  They are both Navy veterans, too, and I think that makes a big difference when it comes to authenticity. (The rest of us, who aren’t, have to work that much harder…but I digress.)

That’s why my hope was that folks who like Jason’s work but had never heard of Kayelle would go take a look at her books, most especially the two novels about Pietas (a man who you shouldn’t like, considering his violent and extremely difficult and sometimes distasteful attributes, but you can’t help but like anyway — and ultimately, come to admire). I saw a lot about BRINGER OF CHAOS: The Origin of Pietas that I thought Jason’s readers, especially those who adored the three Wraithkin books, would appreciate…maybe down the line more folks will make those cross-connections, but at least I have it out there that if you like one of these writers and their military-themed work (and yes, THE LAST VHALGENN has a military element, too, as she’s not just a courtesan; she’s also a fully trained fighter and tactician and military strategist), you will probably like the other.

61i53zmytl-_uy250_In addition to Kayelle’s excellent work, my own AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE is also featured today. It is a funny fantasy that Jason (in a quote given to me for promotional purposes) said was “quick and witty” and “straddles the line between absurdity and suspense.” (When he gave me that quote, I said, “Thank you!”) And Viviana MacKade saw that, made up a nifty little graphic with that quote, and credits Jason for it (as she should).

How did she know about this? Probably because she read the quotes I had for AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE either at my blog or at my Amazon page, and liked Jason’s the best…and as Jason’s own profile has risen in the last few years, it probably can’t hurt me any that she picked his quote. (I hope it helps. I’d like people to actually read what I’m writing, now and again. Gives me hope that they might want to see some sequels or prequels down the line, as I had a whole lot of ’em plotted out at one time.)

So, if you haven’t read AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE yet, please go take a look at it.

And of course keep an eye on Viviana MacKade’s book fair, as there’s still a few more days to go…lots of great e-books, all priced at just ninety-nine cents! (How can you go wrong?)

Written by Barb Caffrey

September 6, 2018 at 12:40 am