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Concert Aftermath, Etc.

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Well, as promised, here’s a report on my latest concert with the Racine Concert Band, which was held at Horlick High School in Racine, Wisconsin, on February 26, 2019. I’m going to give you my general impressions of each piece, in the hopes you’ll appreciate the music even without hearing any of it.

The band played four pieces, which started with Richard Rodney Bennett’s Farnham Festival Overture. Overtures, along with marches, are traditional to start a band concert with; they have a known structure and pacing that audiences are accustomed to. The main difference between Bennett’s version and other overtures I’ve played had to do with how well Bennett understood how to write for symphonic band, and exactly what instrument could do which thing the best. A part written for euphonium was meant for exactly that instrument, rather than being a part that could’ve been given to a tenor saxophonist in a pinch; a part written for the tuba was idiomatic for the tuba, and worked perfectly with the rest of the orchestration.

In other words, it was a cute little piece that did exactly what it ought: it started the concert out well.

The second piece was an arrangement of Joseph Haydn’s St. Anthony Divertimento, which is known predominantly for its second movement (a chorale). This piece has four short movements, and is a staple of classical music because of its form and feeling. There is some dispute as to whether Haydn wrote this himself or whether one of his students, Pleyel, wrote it instead; what there isn’t a dispute about is how pretty the music is, how measured, and how much it embodies the feeling of stately grace.

The band seemed to enjoy this one. It’s another sweet piece that audiences enjoy, and it helped the concert move along nicely.

The third piece was an unusual work by Ottorino Resphigi called The Huntingtower Ballad for Band. Written in 1932, it was commissioned by the American Bandmaster’s Association to be played at a memorial concert after the death of John Philip Sousa (composer and bandmaster legend). Respighi is known for big orchestral works like The Pines of Rome, and he brought that sensibility with him into this piece. According to my conductor, Mark Eichner, who looked into the writing of this piece at a deeper level, Respighi had only six weeks to write this piece before the concert, and that made it perhaps shorter than it needed to be.

But what was even more interesting was the story behind why Respighi wrote it in the first place. It was meant to be programmatic, as it was about a historical love story (and nearly everyone can get behind those!), and there were three definite sections: the first being a lead-in to the main section, which is about the two young lovers trying to figure out a solution to their seemingly doomed love affair, and the third, quiet section where it’s obvious the lovers got away and have started a new life free from anyone getting in their way.

I’ll be honest, here; this particular work was challenging to put together. Not because any part was all that difficult, mind; it’s that the harmonies were not what you usually hear and the phrase lengths were either shorter or longer than most. (I know this isn’t very concise of a description, but describing music in words is quite difficult. Please bear with me.) The horns and low brass stood out in the Respighi, and they made this piece shine.

And the fourth and final piece of the band’s solo part of the program was the Malcolm Arnold English Dances. This is another four-movement work, but it’s a difficult one because it’s both lively and technically challenging. This was the one piece I had a solo part on, and I hope I did it justice.

The Arnold, for me, was by far my favorite piece of the night, and not just because I managed to snag a solo part. There were melodies, counter-melodies, and outstanding orchestration (Arnold was known for his orchestrational abilities). They were immediately accessible to the listener.

In short, you don’t have to love classical music to have enjoyed our program on Tuesday night. You just have to keep an open mind and listen, and hear…”those who have ears, let them hear,” as the Bible said. (I may be misquoting this.)

Our coda, concert-wise, was the Moorside March by Gustav Holst. We played that alongside members of the Horlick High School band. It’s a very short, English march (short in Holstian terms, anyway, as Holst is known for pieces like The Planets, First Suite for Band, and Second Suite for Band.) The Horlick members did a fine job on this work, and the audience seemed to enjoy it.

My reminiscences here wouldn’t be complete without saying a few more things.

First, I played this concert through a very bad back strain. Afterwards, I was down for about a day and a half. (Right now, with the physical limitations I struggle with, anything I do, I’m going to pay for in pain. It’s just the way it is.) Because of this, I wasn’t in that great of a mood either on the night of our dress rehearsal or on the concert itself.**

Second, I have to admit that it was difficult, again, to go to a concert, play the concert, and have no one there to listen to me play it. Sometimes, I’m fortunate and my Mom is well enough to go; that wasn’t the case this time. Other times, my sister can go, which also wasn’t the case. Still other times, my good friend who lives in town can come hear me play…but again, that wasn’t possible this time.

It’s at times like these, when my back is out, I must play the concert anyway, and I have no help whatsoever to get in (though I did have help on the night of the dress rehearsal, as one of the horn players helped me in and out of rehearsal when she realized I was in distress — bless her forever for doing this!), that I start feeling extremely frustrated.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m glad to play music. I hope the audience enjoyed what we did. And I was happy to get a solo, and as I said before, I hope I did it justice.

Because of my physical limitations, I am now among the first to get to rehearsal (to make it easier for me to get settled and put my horn together) and the last to leave. This was definitely the case on Tuesday with my back being as painful as it was; my conductor, Mark Eichner, and his wife Esther, were waiting patiently for me to finish getting my winter boots back on (as I brought dress shoes along for the concert, of course), get bundled up, and get out. They couldn’t leave until I did, as the room had to be locked behind me…sigh.

That said, the only way I got through that concert was to pretend my husband, along with my best friend Jeff, were in the audience. They both loved music. They would’ve enjoyed seeing me play. And I can’t imagine, had they lived to see this day, that they wouldn’t have been there. So it made me feel a little better to picture them there, and made me feel far less alone in the bargain.

And yes, in case you’re keeping score, I also pictured them waiting for me as I was the last to leave. And tried to think about what they’d say, while I drove home, in great pain.

I was fortunate when I got back, because my father helped me get inside with my saxophone (he carried it, and my purse, too, as he knew I was in agony). He didn’t ask much about the concert, though, as the Badger basketball game was on, and he really wanted to know how that game would end.

So, that’s my wrap-up. I hope you enjoyed it, even with my additional conversational fillips regarding my bad back and the difficulties I had playing this concert. If I did my job correctly on that stage, the audience never knew thing one about it…and that’s as it should be. Because music, like any form of art, should speak for itself.

————

**And in case the person at Horlick High School who was in charge of moving the chairs, etc., for the band to sit on sees this, I want to apologize to him. I was curt there, when I realized a whole row of chairs was missing. (We needed eight more chairs for the saxes and the French horns.) Normally, I wouldn’t be as short (I hope I wasn’t rude, and I didn’t use any foul language, but still), because I do understand how difficult it can be for one person to try to set up and strike a stage after a concert.

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

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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!

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Written by Barb Caffrey

February 13, 2019 at 6:00 am

Sunday Inspiration: Find Your Path

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Folks, I thought a great deal about what I wanted to write this week.

Then, just a few minutes ago, I finished reading this article, about a young man named Mats Steen with substantial disabilities who found his way forward as a character in World of Warcraft named Ibelin. There, he could be himself, the man he wanted to be but was prevented from being…there, he found friends, and is still mourned to this day. (He died in 2014.)

His parents didn’t understand until after Mats’ passing just how much Mats had made an impression on others. The people he gamed with came to his funeral, even though they’d never met him in person (that would’ve been quite difficult, for obvious reasons). And they spoke about the person they knew: the warmth, the humor, the silly jokes, it was all there.

Mats cared about others, you see. And he was best able to express it as Ibelin. He found his path, and he lived the way he wanted to live despite all odds.

Why does this hit a powerful chord in me?

Well, one of the things Mats said on his blog, according to his father, was that the computer screen wasn’t just a computer screen to him. (This is my best paraphrase, and the article says it better.) Instead, it was a gateway to whatever Mats wanted and needed it to be.

Modern technology is a blessing that way. We can have friends from all over the world, and get to know them as if they live next door. Perhaps even better, as they get to know who we are inside, rather than who we are on the outside. Without masks. Without filters. Without any preconceptions.

Just us.

Learn from Mats’ life, and take what you need from the story now being told accordingly. If he could do it — and he surely did! — you can do it also.

No, it may not be traditional. No, it may not be what you expected.

But it still has rewards beyond measure, if you only try.

Written by Barb Caffrey

February 10, 2019 at 2:46 pm

Continuing to Battle…(Dealing with Adversity, Part the Nth)

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As the title says, I’m hanging in there. My health is no better, but it’s no worse, either. And I have been able to do a little writing, even a bit of fiction writing, over the past several days. I also was able to help a friend out with a novella, and that gave me a great amount of personal satisfaction.

So that’s a positive step. And I’ve needed those, as temps fell to fifty below zero with wind chill factor for most of the past week in much of the Midwest — including where I live.

I don’t enjoy being shut in the house. (I don’t think most of us do.) While the work I do is internal and creative, it helps to be out and about at least a few times a week. I enjoy being around people (and dogs, and cats), for the most part.  And it gives added richness to my life to do more things, competently, than to just sit in the house and figure out why I’m not writing. (Or sit in the house and wonder why the current story isn’t speaking to me; what have I missed?)

But I have tried to look at it positively, or as positively as I can under the circumstances.

What’s helped me most is to realize that every day, I get to make another attempt. It’s like what former President Jimmy Carter said about spirituality and being a better person: every single day, you can choose to do better. Be better. Or at least do more with what you have. (This is my best paraphrase. But I do encourage you to seek out articles and books about the former President and his beliefs on faith and spirituality. They are definitely worth reading.)

The obstacles I have in my path are different from others. And they’re different from what they were before my husband passed away. But if I am careful, and try not to put undue pressure on myself (always difficult, as I am a perfectionist; you may have gathered this?), I can do a little at a time.

And those small things can add up to bigger things, over time, if you don’t get frustrated with the lack of instant satisfaction, the lack of instant creativity (ha! is there such a thing?), or your own lack of patience.

For those of you facing long-term health issues, way too much stress in your lives, or simply wondering whether or not what you do makes any difference at all: It does. Keep doing it. And try not to question your need for creative solace, if you can…because that’s one of the things that makes life worth living.

What are your tips on dealing with adversity of a health-related nature or anything else that takes away from your writing time? Tell me about it in the comments.

Written by Barb Caffrey

February 2, 2019 at 7:17 am

How You Treat Cashiers Says A Lot About You…(A Rant)

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I decided to write this, to explain what I saw, as an exercise in narrative framing…and I hope it will make sense to all of you.

Folks, I was out shopping a few days ago, laying in supplies for myself and my Mom due to the incoming snowstorm. And I witnessed a terrible man lighting into a cashier for no reason at all…so I thought I might talk about this, and why it showed so much of this man’s negative personality.

First, it was busy in the store. The shelves were bare in some places. It was cold outside, we were anticipating snow in the next six to eight hours, and most folks with any planning sense at all were in the store. Which means the cashiers were overworked, harried, and tired.

How do I know this? I’m a former cashier. I also have some common sense. And I know that if you’ve been dealing with a lot of people with big orders for hours, you are tired, you are stressed, and you haven’t had any down time to even grouse to fellow cashiers about how cold the weather is, how worried you are that your car won’t start, or that you won’t make it home until the storm is well underway.

But you can’t help but think this. You do what you can to shove it away, and give the best customer service you can. You tell yourself that no one can control the weather, and that it’s not your fault all these people are cranky (oft-times, crankier than you are), and you do your best to be ultra-polite and get them out of the store as fast as you can.

Anyway, I was in line, paying for a large amount of groceries (especially by my standards), and heard a man behind me yelling at a cashier in the next lane over. (I turned to get a description. He was fortyish, with graying-brown hair, rather short, with a combative expression.) He’d just asked her if anyone had called in sick; she said no, and had turned her light off as she was about to go home. (I know this because the manager had just been over telling her to go home a minute or so prior.) He apparently took great exception to this, and started yelling at her about her “unprofessional behavior,” “bad attitude,” and suchlike. All he did was rant at this poor young woman, who did nothing wrong, and then insisted that a manager be called. All delaying her in going home, and souring her experience of working hard and well during a difficult day.

This guy had no reason at all to do this. She had tried to de-escalate the situation after he started yelling, asking if there was anything she could do. He said he wanted a manager, and he kept yelling and making an ass out of himself.

Look. I know it’s frustrating when the weather is bad, and you’re worried about driving, and you have kids (he had two, I think), and maybe you couldn’t find everything you needed. But yelling at a cashier who did nothing wrong says more about you than it does about her.

And none of it — none — is flattering.

As I am a former cashier, I decided to stick around and talk with the folks at the service desk to give them a better idea of what had happened. I didn’t have to do this. But I didn’t want them thinking this young woman had done anything wrong. (She was probably under twenty.)

I wanted to give that angry man a piece of my mind. But by the time I got out of my line, he was already with the manager. Then he stormed out, his kids in tow…there was no point to engaging with him, not under those circumstances.

Had he not been the final person in this cashier’s line, and had I been behind him, I might’ve asked him why he was getting all upset over nothing. (Then again, I might’ve just waited and then told the cashier she did nothing wrong, and that I was sorry she had to put up with asinine people like that.)

But he was. And he behaved very badly, so badly that he gave his two kids a lesson in bullying. Not to mention rudeness, completely misunderstanding the situation, and a show of just how obnoxious this particular individual can be on any given day.

I did what I could to repair the situation for the cashier. (She’d already gone home by then, or at least was counting her drawer somewhere I couldn’t see her.) But I don’t know how many other patrons would do that.

So I am here to ask you: If you are in a bad mood, please do not take it out on an innocent person like a cashier. Do not make a spectacle of yourself in public, and give bad examples for your kids (or other people’s kids).

And if you have a legitimate beef, be calm. Be courteous. Be respectful. Treat others the way you would want to be treated.

That’s the only way to be an adult. And don’t you want to be one? Especially if you have two kids looking up to you, trying to learn decent behavior from you?

Finally, I will tell you this: Any guy who behaves like this to a blameless cashier is not one I want to spend any time with whatsoever. Period.

Written by Barb Caffrey

January 29, 2019 at 1:36 am

Word Counts: Don’t Believe the Hype

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Folks, lately every time I’ve turned around, I’ve seen writers bragging about how many words they’ve written in a day. And while telling people once in a while is just fine–or telling ’em every day when your readership knows full well you have a book due for turn-in Really Soon Now (TM)–some of these counts seem, well, excessive.

I tend to believe the following maxim, which I’ve already stated above: Don’t believe the hype.

Yes, some writers can and do write thousands of words a day when they’re on a roll. And there are a few who can do this for week after week, month after month, maybe even year after year until there’s some sort of major crisis in their life where they can’t. (Because we’re all human, and we all face various difficulties and crises, I can’t help but say that.)

But  here’s the thing. If someone is pushing how many words she’s written, and does so constantly, you have to ask why. (Unless it’s the issue of your book is due in, and readers are clamoring to know what the hold-up is, of course.)

Is it to reinforce their own self-image of a hard-working writer?

Is it to let their publisher and/or readership know they’re working as hard and fast as they can?

Or is it just to brag, because no one can say you’re wrong because writing is an individual activity?

Look. I know there are writers–many of them, in fact–who write faster than I do. But it’s not a competition. Or, rather, it’s a competition only with myself, as to what I can do creatively despite the obstacles in my path.

Someone else may have different things going on. He or she may have a supportive spouse. (Or not.) He or she may not have any bill problems. (At least, for now.) He or she may be in robust health, and has never missed a day at work, whether it’s at the keyboard or at a day job…

And none of that, not any of it, applies to me as a writer.

I can only do what I can do. My best is my best. And while I’m glad to see my friends happy and fulfilled with their word counts when they’re on a roll, I usually can tell by other means that they’re on a roll other than the “4800 words completed today” cryptic little posts on their Facebook or Twitter or Instagram pages.

They may well be telling the truth. But they may have other reasons to say what they’re saying, too–see above reasons for a starting point.

And again: None of it applies to me, so I don’t have to believe the hype.

The most important thing to take away from this blog is this: Do what you can do. Not what anyone else can do, or worse, what anyone else is saying they’re doing (without any proof at all, most of the time).

Anything else is time-wasting persiflage, at best.

Written by Barb Caffrey

January 22, 2019 at 6:49 pm

Very Small Steps, Continued…

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I figured it was time for another small bloglet, letting you all know how I’m doing.

The last few weeks have been a trial, to put it mildly. I still can’t edit for more than a few minutes at a time, and I can’t write much at all. (Note how infrequent my blogs have become, for example. And no fiction — none — since mid-December.) I have ideas galore, for both words and music, but my energy level is so low that when I try to write them down, they fly away into the ether.

One of my best friends told me that if these ideas are good ones, they will return when I am feeling better. I sincerely hope she’s right.

Yesterday, I fought off a nasty migraine that took out the entire day. Every plan I’d made went out the window as soon as that showed up — which is what migraines do, granted. And I mostly suffered, hurting but unable to sleep, and wondering when I’d be able to return to what I like to call “baseline functional.”

I remind myself daily — and sometimes more often than just once — that I am not this illness. I am not defined by it, and it does not have to make me feel useless, or valueless, or stuck.

We all face illnesses, either our own or that of our loved ones, and we all have to deal with this from time to time. I am reminding myself of that, too.

Mostly, though, it’s taking a series of very small steps, one after the other, to try to shake this illness off and return to what I need to be doing: writing, editing, playing music, composing music, maybe writing a few poems here and there…and helping others.

I will keep taking these small steps, even though on days like yesterday, it feels like ten of the small steps got wiped out, and I’m starting from way behind.

Still. I will continue to do the best I can, and I will find a way to get better. That’s all that I know how to do, and it’s all I can do right now.

Thanks for bearing with me during these struggles.

Written by Barb Caffrey

January 11, 2019 at 12:05 pm

Posted in Informational Stuff, Writing

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