Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

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

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

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

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

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

But no, I do not garden myself.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by Barb Caffrey

March 27, 2017 at 12:19 am

Reflections on Funerals — and Lives Well-Lived

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by Barb Caffrey

March 24, 2017 at 7:30 pm

Sunday Reflection…about CHANGING FACES?

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Folks, over the last month or so, I’ve told you a lot about my new novel, CHANGING FACES. I’ve told you some of what I was about when I wrote it, and about my process in writing it, and about all sorts of other stuff…but as it’s Sunday, I thought I’d tell you the real reason I kept going.

After my husband Michael died in 2004, I was absolutely devastated. (I think everyone who regularly reads my blog knows this.) For a while, I didn’t recognize myself, at all…I was in so much pain, I could not create, could not write, could not play music, and saw no purpose to my life at all.

In the middle of 2005, one of my good friends asked me to come to Kansas City for a convention, ConQuesT. I had another friend offer to pay for my expenses while I was there; she and her family put me up in her house. It was the first time I’d tried to go that far away since Michael died, and because I was worried about the length of the drive, I took the Amtrak train from Chicago.

Little did I know that doing that would change my life. But it did.

I went to the convention, stayed with my friends, talked with my other friend (who was also at the convention), met some writers, all that. I felt a little better, being around people who were more like me; they didn’t see me as inherently flawed, inherently broken, or inherently irredeemable, just because my beloved husband was dead.

But that was not what changed things. (I’m getting to that, trust me.)

On the way back to Chicago, I met a minister and his wife. His name was Reverend Evans, and was an older black gentleman. He told me about his life, and his work, but mostly listened to me as I told him about everything going on — my frustration, pain, anger, rage, all that. And about how I couldn’t write, but had two novels in progress — ELFY, and CHANGING FACES. And that I wondered if there was any reason, any reason at all, I was still alive.

Rev. Evans could’ve easily thrown platitudes my way. But he didn’t.

Instead, he said that God is love, and that I knew that, because I’d seen it. Reflected in the eyes of my husband, for one; and in every word I wrote, and had ever written, for another.

This all made sense to me.

And he talked a great deal about CHANGING FACES. He said he thought I was still here to finish it. Because the world needed to know that we all need love. Regardless of race, creed, sexuality, gender preference, love is what matters.

And finding love, reflecting that love, is what’s most important.

But believing in yourself, and your talents, is also important.

Why?

Because that’s how we best enhance the Godhead.

See, our creativity comes from the Higher Power, and as such, when we are creative, we are reflecting that love and faith…and it gives back to the universe, which gives back to us.

I view talking to Reverend Evans as one of the most pivotal moments of my life. He reminded me that I still had things to do. And that even though Michael had been embraced by God/dess, and was no longer here for me to embrace, I could still be a testament to that love, so long as I kept trying.

And I’d like to think that in getting ELFY published (albeit in two parts, as AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE and A LITTLE ELFY IN BIG TROUBLE) along with CHANGING FACES, I have done some of what I was put here to do.

*****

There are two guest blogs I’d also like to point you to, before I go. The first is new today, and is up at Kayelle Allen’s blog…it’s about writing bisexual characters. (Or at least a bisexual character.)

Here’s a bit from that:

Now, as to why (Elaine) still couldn’t accept herself as gender-fluid easily? Well, as a society, we’re only beginning to learn about people who don’t always feel male or female. Sometimes they feel one way, sometimes another, maybe a third time they have a mix of both traits. Gender preference is not the same thing as sexuality; not by a mile.

So, Elaine has dated women and men. She sees the worth of a person and is not automatically attracted only to one sex. In a way, Elaine isn’t attracted by anyone, sexually. She’s only attracted mentally and emotionally, and then, much later, sex comes into the picture. But that’s not that strange, considering she’s a scholarly sort. She can see into a person, and evaluate who that person is, in a way most people don’t. She doesn’t even think to do this because how she views people is part of who she is.

Ultimately, love is love. Who you love is far more important than what gender your love happens to be. Seeing a person’s soul, seeing a person’s heart, seeing a person’s worth, is far more important than whether that person is straight, gay, bisexual, or Martian.

Obviously, I believe this. (So did Reverend Evans. So did my late husband, Michael.)

And the second is an interview with Mayra Calvani; here’s a bit from that about my favorite authors (hint, hint — I mention Katharine Kimbriel, Jason Cordova, and Chris Nuttall here, so do tell your friends):

First, Lois McMaster Bujold is one of the best writers working today. She combines humor, scientific expertise, world building, romance, characterization, heart, and much more in a package that is incredibly appealing. She’s considered one of science fiction and fantasy’s modern masters by many, and for good reason.

Second, the work of Katharine Eliska Kimbriel is phenomenal. She has written three hard SF books in her Chronicles of Nuala series, and three alternate history/fantasy books in her Night Calls series. They are all excellent books with great writing, wonderful characterization, world building to spare, humor that arises from the characterization…just can’t say enough about her books. (And that she isn’t as well-known as LMB just vexes me. Writing of this quality should be celebrated far and wide, methinks.)

Third, I’m fond of Linnea Sinclair. She combines romance and SF in a way I find very appealing.

Fourth, my early mentor, Rosemary Edghill, writes exceptionally well in a wide variety of genres, from detective stories to Regency romance to urban fantasy (and beyond). The way she uses language is wonderful, and I always learn from her work, whenever I pick it up. (It’s like meeting an old friend.)

“But Barb,” I hear you protest. “What about the male authors?”

Oh, I have a number of favorites there, too. Robert A. Heinlein, Stephen R. Donaldson, David Weber, Dave Freer, Eric Flint…and don’t discount my friends Chris Nuttall or Jason Cordova, either. (Chris is so prolific, he’s put out at least ten books a year in various genres for five years running. Chris has gotten so good, he just might end up with one of those major awards like the Hugo or Nebula one of these years. And Jason can write anything…just give him time, and he’ll figure out a way to write it and sell a ton of books. That’s just how he is.)

So, there you have it.

Have a good Sunday, folks.

Written by Barb Caffrey

March 19, 2017 at 4:17 pm

In Memoriam: My Aunt Laurice Dies at 85

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Folks, I’m going to put a temporary moratorium on book promotional posts, as something far more important happened today.

My Aunt Laurice, my father’s oldest sister, died today at age 85 in her sleep. This was not expected in the least; she was waiting for one of my cousins to take her to physical therapy, and apparently had nodded off in a chair (according to what my father told me).

There are worse ways to go than in your own home, quietly and peacefully. But I still feel terrible about this. My Aunt was a very kindhearted woman, and perfectly epitomized the phrase “the salt of the Earth.” She truly cared about people, loved music (sang in an all-women’s choir called Opus 2000, originally known as the Sweet Adelines), played the piano, taught kindergarten…loved family gatherings.

And I haven’t even touched the surface of the memories I have regarding Aunt Laurice. Because in retrospect, I was fortunate; I grew up in Racine, and my aunt lived here also…so I got to know her very, very well.

What I can say right now is that I truly admired my aunt. She was an intelligent woman who loved her family and believed in the Golden Rule. She was married for nearly sixty-two years, which is a testament to her belief in the power of love and family. She loved kids, all kids…she read widely, loved deeply, and appreciated life as much as she possibly could.

While I mourn her death, I am doing my best to remember to celebrate her life. Because it was remarkable…it was a tapestry that in its way will never end, so long as we remember her.

Written by Barb Caffrey

March 16, 2017 at 7:01 pm

Posted in Remembrance

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Two New Guest Appearances, Plus NCAA Tourney Thoughts

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Folks, before I get to my NCAA Tournament thoughts, here’s the links to two more guest appearances…one an interview, one a blog “meet and greet” sort of deal.

The first is for the influential Blogcritics.org…Mayra Calvani interviewed me, and the interview is posted here.

And here’s a bit from that, talking about some of the difficulties I had while writing CHANGING FACES:

What type of challenges did you face while writing this book?

Quite a few, actually. First, when I started writing this book over ten years ago, there wasn’t as much known about transgender people in popular culture as there is now. In addition, there was almost nothing about gender fluid people, which is what Elaine actually is…sometimes she feels male, sometimes she feels female, and either way she doesn’t feel particularly comfortable in her body.

Second, because I am not LGBT myself, I wanted to be faithful to the issues LGBT people face. I read a great deal, talked with some friends who are LGBT, and tried to think about Elaine the same way I’d think about a good friend. How can I help her be easier with herself? (As Elaine resolutely likes the female pronoun, even later, after her face is changed, she still goes by “she” in private.) How can I help her accept the love that’s offered, even if it’s not the way she’d ever expected it?

Third, I wanted to make sure that Allen and Elaine were both well-represented. I had Allen’s character down early. But Elaine was far more elusive. She’s prone to making sarcastic cracks, and hides her vulnerability because of problems in her past. And she thinks if she tells Allen who and what she is, he’ll run away…but that’s because she doesn’t trust herself enough to believe that she’s made the right choice in Allen as much as anything else.

There’s much more, mind, including questions regarding how I define success, how I deal with writer’s anxiety, advice for new authors. So please, do, check out the interview at Blogcritics.org, up now.

The second guest appearance is a type of blog meet-and-greet, where folks who haven’t yet seen anything about me are invited to “meet Barb Caffrey.” This post is up at the Book Marketing Network, and here’s a bit from that, again talking mostly about my new novel, CHANGING FACES:

Q: Setting is also quite important and in many cases it becomes like a character itself. What tools of the trade did you use in your writing to bring the setting to life?
A: I lived in Nebraska for three years when I went to graduate school. I felt the heat, I saw the vivid colors of the sunsets and sunrises, I felt the scorching cold, and I knew exactly how to describe it.

It’s hard to explain, otherwise, but I’ll do my best.

If you’ve experienced something, that helps you to describe it. And I experienced Nebraska. I even met some LGBT people in Lincoln, when I lived there; there weren’t many, but there were some, and most of them, at the time (this being the late 1990s/early 2000s) did not want to call attention to themselves. The goal at that point was for civil unions to be accepted in various churches, and there were many disagreements about this.

So, it was important to me to set this story in Nebraska. These are two people who could live anywhere. They have talent in music, they are creative, they are honest, they love each other. But one of them is transgender and gender-fluid, and yet their love is like anyone else’s, and their communication problems are like anyone else’s, too.

It’s important that society as a whole comes to realize that people are people, and regardless of gender expression or sexuality, they are deserving of love and happiness and care. Whatever form that love and happiness takes (providing it’s consensual, preferably monogamous, and with people who are adult so they can make their own choices and take their own risks) ultimately does not matter.

Only the love matters. And that’s why I set this story in Nebraska in the first place, because it showcases just how much times have changed…and yet, remained the same.

Anyway, I hope you will check both of those guest appearances out, and enjoy them. But now, it’s time for some NCAA Tourney thoughts…especially as it is that time of year again.

Being from Wisconsin, it’s almost impossible to miss the NCAAs this year, as there will be two rounds held in Milwaukee at the Bradley Center (home of the Milwaukee Bucks NBA team). Here are the eight teams that will be playing in Milwaukee:

Winthrop

Middle Tennessee State

Butler

Minnesota

Purdue

Iowa State

Vermont

Nevada

Notice something interesting there? Aside from the two Big Ten teams (Minnesota and Purdue), and Iowa State, most of these teams will not be likely to have big contingents of people traveling with them. (From the fan perspective, I mean. All of them will have entourages of coaches, physical therapists, players, players’ families, etc.)

And the only reason the two Big Ten teams plus Iowa State will be likely to have more of a presence from the fan side of it all is because all three of those teams are within fairly easy driving distance. So fans can drive down to Milwaukee, take in the game, stay overnight, and drive back without too much distress.

Basically, Milwaukee did not get the “sexy Regional.” But we may have received some very solid teams that will play good, interesting games…Minnesota, for example, is known for playing a good brand of team basketball that could do well in the NCAAs, if they get past their first-round opponent.

As for the rest of the NCAAs, there are the usual suspects — Duke, Louisville, Kentucky, etc. — along with some intriguing newcomers (like Middle Tennessee State, which just so happens to be in the Milwaukee Regional). I don’t know what to make of this particular bracket, mind, because there are a lot of teams that are either completely unknown to me — I’ve never seen them, not on TV, not in person, not ever — or are ones I know to be evenly matched on paper (such as the Wisconsin-Virginia Tech game on Friday).

Bluntly, I don’t plan to fill out a bracket at all. I never do that well anyway, unless a bunch of upsets do well for a change…which means my (former) brackets look good for a minute, before they crash and burn.

So my plan is to watch good basketball. And root for the underdogs.

What’s your plan? Tell me about it in the comments!

Written by Barb Caffrey

March 15, 2017 at 6:28 pm

Two New Guest Appearances Highlighting my new #LGBT-friendly Novel, CHANGING FACES…

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Folks, I’m very happy to let you know about my two newest guest appearances on the Web, as I continue to promote my newest novel, CHANGING FACES. (Still just ninety-nine cents as an e-book, or ninety-nine pence for UK readers; grab it while it’s cheap, eh?)

portrait in garden

First, I have an unusual dual character interview up at N.N. Light’s blog POTL (formerly Princess of the Light). I, the author, interviewed Elaine and Allen (in their original bodies), and asked them a number of questions. Here’s a bit from that interview:

“What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?” Then I look at them both, and ask, “Can Elaine answer this first? Allen, you always jump in…”

Allen mumbles something, and motions with his hand to Elaine.

“Ah, I like it when he goes first,” she says playfully. “It gives me more time to consider my answer.” Then she turned serious. “I am often hasty, and while I try to think things through, sometimes I just don’t. This causes trouble, but I can’t seem to break the habit.”

“I like all your habits,” Allen said, giving her a sidelong look. Then, focusing on me, he added, “I am reserved. This makes it harder for me to open up to people, and it takes a long time for me to make new friends. That’s caused me a lot of trouble in my life, especially as musicians are supposed to be gregarious sorts and I’m just not.”

“Who you are is just fine with me, love,” Elaine put in loyally.

I raised an eyebrow, and told them, “I like you both. So stop all this nonsense and just answer the questions, will you?”

“But it’s so much fun to tease you,” Elaine said.

Allen just laughed.

There are a number of other questions Allen and Elaine answered, including who their favorite person is (Hillary Clinton for Elaine, Nelson Mandela for Allen) and who their least-favorite person is (Donald Trump for both – my Hillary Clinton friends should love that, especially as many of them are LGBT and thus might be interested in a LGBT-friendly romance like CHANGING FACES).

So do, please, go take a look at that interview. I think you’ll most likely enjoy it (even if you politically do not agree with me, Allen, or Elaine).

The second guest appearance up today is over at The Story Behind the Book. It’s my reasoning behind why I wrote CHANGING FACES…as some folks have asked me, “Barb, why did you write something as strange as this, especially as you aren’t LGBT yourself?,” well, now you’ll have an answer.

Here’s a bit from that:

Years ago, and far away, I had an idea for a story. I saw, briefly, in a dream, two lovers—a man and a woman, even—arguing. I didn’t know why they were arguing. But I saw them. Then I saw two otherworldly beings above them. The lovers had suffered a car accident, and the beings did something bizarre, first binding the man’s soul into the woman, then the woman’s soul into the man. I wondered what had happened to cause all this, and set down to write what I’d seen even though I didn’t understand it.

That was the germination for my new novel Changing Faces.

As I wrote, I realized the man, Allen Bridgeway, had been a foster child, adopted late by a childless couple. And the woman, Elaine Foster, had also been a foster child, but she hadn’t been nearly as fortunate as Allen; instead, she’d been raped by five teenage boys while supposedly safe in her final foster home. Due to that awful event, she became an Emancipated Minor, graduated high school early, and went to college at the age of sixteen…where she met Allen and became friends with him.

Note that Allen knew from the start that Elaine was bisexual, and mostly dated women. So while he was attracted to her early, he never made a move…not until years had gone by, and he’d considered Elaine to be his best friend in the world.

The problems started when he asked her to marry him.

So, if you still haven’t bought a copy of CHANGING FACES as an e-book, but want to do so — and of course, it being my blog and all, I do hope you want to do so — here’s all the links I have, so you can go buy one right now:

Barnes & Noble

Amazon:

USA  –   UK  –  CA  –  AUS  –  IN

 

Written by Barb Caffrey

March 13, 2017 at 6:16 pm

Musing on Sunday: Making Difficult Choices

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is hard.

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

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

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

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

Written by Barb Caffrey

March 12, 2017 at 4:21 pm