Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

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!

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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

“Changing Faces,” the Fall Book Fair, and Transgender Men…

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Recently, at the Washington Post, I read an article about how transgender men have seen differences in how they are treated based on their outward appearance. Born in a woman’s body, and then becoming the male they feel themselves to be inside, causes them to see the world in a completely different way than others.

When I read this, it reminded me of my character Elaine Foster from CHANGING FACES.

Why? Well, here’s a quote from that article.

From Zander Keig, a trans man from San Diego:

Prior to my transition, I was an outspoken radical feminist. I spoke up often, loudly and with confidence. I was encouraged to speak up. I was given awards for my efforts, literally — it was like, “Oh, yeah, speak up, speak out.” When I speak up now, I am often given the direct or indirect message that I am “mansplaining,” “taking up too much space” or “asserting my white male heterosexual privilege.” Never mind that I am a first-generation Mexican American, a transsexual man, and married to the same woman I was with prior to my transition.

So, you’re the same person. You have only changed how you look, outwardly. And now, you’re accused of “mansplaining.” Or worse, “asserting (your) white male heterosexual privilege,” even when you aren’t anything of the sort (as Zander isn’t).

And Alex Poon (only 26 to Zander’s 52) says in this same article:

My voice has started cracking and becoming lower. Recently, I’ve been noticing the difference between being perceived as a woman versus being perceived as a man. I’ve been wondering how I can strike the right balance between remembering how it feels to be silenced and talked over with the privileges that come along with being perceived as a man. Now, when I lead meetings, I purposefully create pauses and moments where I try to draw others into the conversation and make space for everyone to contribute and ask questions.

What Alex seems to be doing is trying to strike a happy medium, but admits there are privileges here and that he’s not used to them.

portrait in gardenHow does this relate to my novel CHANGING FACES? Well, Elaine is transgender because she’s always felt wrong in her body. And yet, she’s also gender-fluid, so if she became male, what would happen to her? Would it be easier, harder, or what? And how would you be the same person — as you are the same soul — in a different body?

The way I solved this (and created more problems) was to put Elaine and her heterosexual boyfriend Allen in each other’s bodies due to a car accident. Now they’re both transgender, but as Elaine was deeply damaged due to early abuse and rape before she ever met Allen, she’s in a coma, talking with a higher being who may as well be an angel. (This being, Moe, is neither male nor female, and comes from a long line of Amorphous Masses. So Moe can be anything Moe wants to be…more or less.)

This article in the Post reminded me that the person you are stays, regardless of how you are perceived. But that perception of who you are can change everything for you on the outside…and that can be a gift, or a curse, depending. (One of the other men, who’s African-American, has said it’s much harder to be a man in some ways than a woman, due to how African-American men are treated by the police.)

I had an interesting time with Allen, once he ended up in Elaine’s body. He still wanted to be with Elaine, no matter what body she was in (providing she wakes up from the coma, of course). But being seen as a beautiful woman rather than a geeky heterosexual male was a real problem for him; he’d never had to worry before about half the things he now must, and it all but precipitates a nervous breakdown in the poor man.

My hope in writing CHANGING FACES was that people would maybe understand each other a little better after reading this. But I especially hoped, as a woman, that other women would read about Allen’s struggles and feel his plight…and be able to put themselves in Allen’s shoes. (That I hoped a few would do this for poor Elaine, too, was a given. But don’t forget about Allen, as they come as a set.)

Yesterday, Viviana MacKade’s Fall Book Fair (which I’ve talked about all week) finished up with several young adult and new adult books, including CHANGING FACES (which counts as new adult as we’re dealing with college students). All of them are ninety-nine cent e-books. And at least one of them may tickle your fancy, even if my own quirky take on LGBTQ relationships does not.

(Though I hope it’ll do some good for someone out there. Or I’d not have written it at all.)

So do take in the Fall Book Fair, even though it’s now — technically, at least — over. The post is still there. The books are still there. And there are fifty books from the entirety of the week to choose from, all priced at just ninety-nine cents.

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

Fighting Disappointment, and Moving On…

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Folks, I’ve written about disappointment before. (Many times, in fact, with my most recent example being here.) But it seems to be a good time to write about it again, and I have a different take on it…so why not?

I have known some other authors besides myself to have intense struggles getting their work before the public. They’ve put their books out there, and gotten no response at all. They’ve slaved over their creations, taken care of the edits, the book covers, tried to get reviewers interested, all that…and still, nothing happened.

Some of success is being in the right place at the right time. I know one author rather well — Loren K. Jones — who put out several novels in late 2009 and early 2010. None of them did much. He was, I believe, extremely frustrated at the time, and thought no one cared about his writing.

Fast-forward to 2018.

Now, Loren has a thriving career as a novelist. He has ten books out, with more on the way. His six books in the “Stavin DragonBlessed” series did exceptionally well, and put him on the map as a fantasy novelist. (Don’t believe me? Go read ALL THAT GLITTERS for yourself; it’s only ninety-nine cents for the e-book version.)

Loren’s not the only one I know who’s had this sort of thing happen, but he’s possibly the best example right now.

So why am I talking about him, when the theme is disappointment? Well, sometimes you have to learn how to roll with the punches, keep your chin up, and keep trying.

That is what Loren did.

It’s what I’m trying to do, too.

Do your best to fight on, no matter what odds you face. Believe in yourself, and your dreams. Work hard, learn much, and keep fighting.

Sometimes, that is literally all you can do. (Because you can’t control the market. You can only control yourself.)

 

Written by Barb Caffrey

September 2, 2018 at 9:22 pm

Why Can’t We Communicate?

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Over the past few weeks, I’ve been quite frustrated, I will admit.

It seems like the world has forgotten how to communicate. Left can’t talk with right, centrists like me trying to find common ground are ostracized, and it seems impossible to just talk with someone — even with the assumption we’ll disagree about nearly everything, but civilly — most of the time.

I don’t know why we can’t communicate. And it bothers me.**

The cultural assumption in the United States used to be that anyone could say anything (except yell “fire” in a crowded theatre, of course), and we’d agree they could do this. So long as people were peacefully protesting, that was just fine.

That’s what we are supposed to be about, in America. Free speech, yes, and peaceful protests, yes.

But we’re now looking at a scenario I’d never envisioned.

Instead of people agreeing to disagree, we’re mostly staying in crisis mode and assuming our neighbors will hate us unless they agree with us in every respect. (Which, by the way, is impossible, but I digress.) And the threat of violence seems so large, even the current President of the US has talked about it — though mostly in his terms, and because he seems afraid he will lose his grip on the power he has.

I live in a “purple” state. We are split down the middle, more or less, between people on the left and people on the right. Centrists, who just want to get the potholes filled and work out the remaining problems civilly and non-violently, are present, but keeping their heads low ’cause centrists are the only ones who get yelled at by all.

(“Blessed be the peacemakers,” indeed. But again, I digress.)

So, if there’s going to be violence if one side or the other doesn’t get their way, my home state of Wisconsin seems a likely target.

I don’t have any answers, mind you. But I do at least know what the right questions are, and the first one, as I said before, is “Why can’t we communicate?” Learning how to civilly disagree, without violence, used to be the first thing people learned, after all. So why is it that we can’t seem to remember that now?

————

**I do hope that people will stop getting so upset that they can’t even talk with their neighbors and/or friends about the things that matter. Politically, you can disagree with someone, but that doesn’t mean personally, morally, spiritually, or ethically that you disagree…and yet, we’ve become so tribally oriented for some reason, it seems like if you disagree at all, you’re just a non-person.

I find that so upsetting, I don’t have words to describe it. Thus this post.