Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

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“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.

 

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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

It’s Fall Book Fair Time…

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Folks, over at Viviana Mackade’s blog this week, she’ll be featuring all sorts of books that are on sale right now (as e-books) for ninety-nine cents.  And the first set of authors are up now — ten books, ten authors — so I figured I’d write a little bloglet and let you know this is going on.

Note that later this week, my booksAN ELFY ON THE LOOSE and CHANGING FACES will be part of the fair…so I will be promoting this book fair, and I hope you will check it out also.

Now, back to your regular programming, already in progress…

Written by Barb Caffrey

September 3, 2018 at 11:54 pm

Posted in Books, Writing

Yes, We Need Freedom of the Press

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Folks, today is a day for action. As a writer, I feel it’s important to let you know that hundreds of newspapers have written and published editorials about the importance of the freedom of the press, due to constant verbal battering by President Donald J. Trump calling any news he dislikes “fake news.” (If you want to know more about it, take a look at the New York Times editorial from today, and then click on a few of the associated publications that are listed. And those aren’t all of them; those are just the ones the Times knows about, as far as I can tell.)

See, the 45th President of the United States complains that all news is fake. Or at least all news that he doesn’t like must be fake. And he constantly proclaims this from the highest mountaintop, letting everyone know he hates the press, he hates everything they say (unless they fawn over him, of course, as they often do on Fox News’ morning programs), and that supposedly the press is “the enemy of the people.”

Um, no, Mr. President. They aren’t.

As a writer, I want you to know where I stand on this.

We need the First Amendment to hold, and as such, we absolutely must have freedom of the press to operate as they will, to find out what they can, and to hold the powerful accountable. (Is that emphatic enough? Do I need to add emojis? GIFs? Frowny faces? Or will this do?)

(Moving on…)

I’ve written for a few newspapers in the past. (Two college papers, and freelance articles in a few other places, to be exact.) We took what we did seriously. We researched. We wrote. We edited. We checked our facts. And then we wrote and edited some more…yes, sometimes errors were still made, but we did our best to correct them. (Something President Trump doesn’t seem too worried about doing, if you ask me. But I digress.)

As today’s Kenosha News‘ editorial put it (this being the closest paper to me that’s taking part in the nationwide effort; my hometown paper, the Racine Journal-Times, did not, which shames me):

Presenting news that you disagree with is not “fake news.” We work hard to inform, serving as watchdogs of government and institutions, while also celebrating the good in the community. This has been going on for decades.

Absolutely correct. And without watchdogs, what would we learn except spin, spin, and more spin?

Here’s why we need the free press: They find stuff out everyone needs to know when the bigwigs in state, local, or federal government (or, perhaps, the very, very wealthy corporations) don’t want anyone to find out.

How would we have learned about big problems that led to the meltdown of Three Mile Island’s nuclear reactor without the press? (Wouldn’t the government have just spun everything, and said everything was fine?) How would we have learned about the Flint water crisis, and all the problems with the pipes, without the press? (Especially as the Governor of Michigan, Rick Snyder, did his best to obfuscate and “happy talk” the problems away until they got so big, they had to be dealt with publicly? Not that they’re over by any stretch, but at least we know about them now.) How would we have known at all about the problems of Senator Joseph McCarthy (who was from Wisconsin), if not for the press? (Wouldn’t Senator McCarthy have continued his reign of terror, accusing people of being Communists willy-nilly, and ruining even more people’s lives, reputations, and livelihoods thereby?)

And those are just three examples. There are many more. (For my conservative friends, think about how Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky would’ve been covered up if there were no journalists. Linda Tripp could’ve spoken until she was blue in the face, but if there was no one to publish what she had to say, other than the folks in her limited circle, who else would’ve known?)

This is why I urge you to please remember that the press is not the “enemy of the people,” no matter who says it, no matter how many times that person says it.

And start thinking about why someone who holds the highest office in the US of A keeps nattering on about “enemies of the people,” hm? Because shouldn’t he have bigger fish to fry, like North Korea? Or better yet, trying to make sure hackers don’t shut down our power grid in the middle of winter?

———–

P.S. And yes, dammit, the Russia investigation needs to be fully investigated, if for no other reason than to find out once and for all what happened. We need to know.

And if nothing happened, well, we need to know that, too. (I wait for facts. But the way this President has behaved, including his atrocious behavior in Helsinki alongside Russian President Vladimir Putin, makes me wonder just what he’s trying to hide. Surely I can’t be the only one?)

Thoughts on Forgiveness

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It’s Sunday, so it’s time for another bit of reflection…enjoy.

The topic today is deceptively simple: How do you forgive, especially when you’ve been badly hurt by someone’s actions (or, perhaps, deliberate inaction)?

I’ve thought a lot about this over the years. Because when you refuse to forgive someone else, you’re potentially holding your hurts way too close to you. And those hurts can poison you, if you let them; at best, they hold you back and make you less than what you need to be.

The thing is, how do you forgive someone who either doesn’t ask, won’t ask, or can’t ask you for your forgiveness?

I don’t know the answer to this, and I wish I did.

My husband Michael told me any number of times that it’s impossible to fully forgive someone if you’ve not been asked for forgiveness. While I agreed with him at the time, and still mostly agree with his assertion now, I think it’s better to try — and, potentially, fail — to forgive someone, even if he can’t or won’t ask.

“Ah, but you didn’t say anything about someone who doesn’t ask!” you cry.

That’s because I am still working on that particular problem.

Someone who can’t ask, or won’t ask, is someone who fully realizes that problems have occurred between you, nine times out of ten. So there is an awareness there of wrongdoing, or at least of a significant disagreement that led to a major falling out. But someone who doesn’t ask may be willfully ignorant of what he or she has done, and that willful ignorance will get in the way of anything you try to do on the forgiveness front.

The reason Michael and I talked about this issue with regards to forgiveness is because we had some folks we knew who would make the same mistakes, over and over again, ask forgiveness, and then go out and make the same mistakes again and not care about hurting the same people. They felt they could ask for forgiveness over and over, and that they should automatically be granted forgiveness, without any work on their part, or any true remorse, or any acknowledgment of the pain and suffering they’d caused over the years.

That sort of person does not deserve forgiveness, at least until some hard thought goes into why this pattern repeats over and over again, and effort is made to reduce — or better yet, eliminate — that pattern by the person in question.

I do think most people realize that they will make mistakes. (I know I’ve made my share.) And that sometimes, those mistakes cannot be undone; even if forgiven, the hurt is there, and will always be there, unless both people work to eliminate that pain and figure out how to deal with each other on a more even footing.

So, forgiveness. It’s tough. Sometimes you can’t do it unless someone asks. And even then, you may be unready to forgive, or perhaps unwilling…sometimes, as I’ve said before in this blog (and elsewhere), all you can do is admit that you can’t forgive and leave it up to the Deity.

But I do think you should try, especially if asked. Because holding unnecessary pain inside will poison you, and no one needs that.

What are your thoughts on forgiveness? Share ’em in the comments, and let’s discuss!

Written by Barb Caffrey

August 5, 2018 at 3:02 am

Still Writing (A Brutally Honest Essay)

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Sometimes — especially lately — I’ve wondered why I write.

Writing, like any creative pursuit, takes a lot of energy to do it well. And if you know anything about me, you know I take as an axiom “whatever’s worth doing is worth doing well.” (I didn’t say that first. Neither did Lois McMaster Bujold, though her character Cordelia Naismith Vorkosigan is famous for saying this. Nope, Philip Stanhope, Fourth Earl of Chesterfield, said it first as far as anyone can tell.)

This past year, I haven’t been able to devote as much time to my writing as I wanted. There were various reasons for this. But the upshot was that life got in the way of my writing, and because life was so all-pervasive, all-emcompassing, and extremely difficult, I lost my belief in myself for a while.

Now, I’m working on getting it back.

The easiest way to get back to work is open up an old MS that you believed in once, and still believe in now, if you can just figure out what else to do. If you open it back up, and don’t judge yourself as you fix a little here, and add a little there, before you know it, you’re back to writing every day.

Or at least every other day.

What complicates matters for me is that I thrive on audience participation. (Maybe that’s the musician in me, the musical training; I don’t know.) And for a writer, the only way for an audience to participate is to share your works-in-progress and talk it out with someone who’s as knowledgeable and as skilled as you are.

(Or at least is working on it and has a keen interest in doing so.)

There are a few ways for me to do this with stories that are further along than what I have, in various private forums I know about. But I haven’t felt confident enough to do just that. And as I always tended to work best alone, but with copious amounts of discussion between a trusted person (my husband, then my best friend, then a few other friends when they had time), I don’t want to put myself out there when I’m still building on the idea that it’s OK for me to put myself first, and my need for writing first as well, over what I’d been doing before.

In other words, I feel fragile. Almost as if what I’m doing won’t stand up, if I look at it too hard. Or that I am perhaps being too emotional about it all, as it means so much to me that it’s almost easier to bury it and leave it alone than get it out, face it, and move on with my creativity intact.

I’m not the only one who’s ever faced this. Most of us do, whether we realize it or not. But most don’t talk about it, because it feels like an illness, something to be hidden away, something shameful, maybe…something others won’t understand, unless they’re writers.

And they, my friends, figure they know what it is, so why talk about it?

I am working on it, and doing what I can to write my way, in my time, however I feel I must, and do what I have to do to feed my creativity. Because that’s undoubtedly where my soul resides; my husband knew it, my good friends have known it also over the years, and while they don’t say much about it, they know when I’m not writing, I’m not happy.

So that’s where I stand right now. Continuing onward, though the road seems dark and the scenery rather depressing. But the sun could come up tomorrow for me, and I want to wait it out, all the while scribbling madly (or typing, rather), to get down my impressions of where I am and where I hope to go.

That’s my strategy. But I would like to know what yours is, especially if you’ve dealt with disappointment, frustration, or “life, interrupted.” The floor is open…comments, anyone?

 

Written by Barb Caffrey

July 28, 2018 at 6:47 pm

Why Friendship Is Important

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Some days, it’s hard to get by. The world seems like it’s gone crazy. Politics make no sense. Current events show that people are overstressed, overstrained, and are getting into arguments–some deadly–seemingly at the drop of a hint.

It’s on days like that I definitely need the help of my friends. (Hey, it wasn’t just the Beatles who believed they’d get by, providing they had the help of their friends.)

Why? Well, they help keep me grounded, for one…for another, I value their perspectives, their voices, and themselves so much, it takes me out of my own head and makes me realize I’m not all alone in the world.

To me, being someone’s friend means more than “I care about you.” It means, “I care, so I’m going to tell you what I can. Show you what I can. Help you all I can.”

Anything less than that is not enough.

Now, are there different levels of friendships? Sure. You have folks you’re just getting to know, you have folks you’ve known a long time, and you have folks somewhere in between that continuum.

But with all of them, the point remains: if I care, I will do everything I possibly can do to show that I care. And that means if they have a problem, I listen and try to help. If they have a success, I rejoice with them. If they are frustrated, I let them vent; if they are buoyant, I allow myself to be lifted up by them, even if it’s been a horrible day on my end.

See, you have to try to see the other person’s viewpoint, or you’re not truly a friend.

Will my friends and I have differences of opinion? You’d better believe it. But we’ll at least try to agree to disagree because that is what friends do.

(No, they aren’t clones of you. If they are, you’re doing it wrong.)

Lately, I’ve been battling a great deal of frustration. My friends know this. They try to give me hope, or at least give commiseration, understanding, and support…they listen, they empathize, they care, and they make a huge difference thereby.

But I’ve also had to come to the realization — one I truly didn’t want to come to, mind — that there are some people in this world who will profess friendship, but honestly do not mean it. Or they maybe mean it some of the time, but not all of the time, and when the chips are down, they will not listen, they will not help, they will not empathize, and they will not understand.

There’s nothing I can do about people like that. The only thing I can do is remove myself from their consequences, and keep on going, with the friends who’ve proven true and trustworthy by my side.

So, on this Sunday morning, ask yourself the following question:

How can I be a better friend today? (I ask this question of myself all the time.)

Then, when you come up with an answer, go ahead and do whatever you need to do to be that better person.

Because you can choose to do better. You can be that better person, living up to the Golden Rule and treating people the way you, yourself, want to be treated.

And when you make mistakes, as you inevitably will?

Admit to them. (Even when it’s hard.) Apologize for them. (Even when it’s almost impossible.) And be determined to do better, and at least make different mistakes the next time.

That way, your friendship can go forward. And that way, your mistakes won’t weigh you down forever, either…so it’s a win/win.

Written by Barb Caffrey

July 15, 2018 at 2:06 am