Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Posts Tagged ‘blogging

See My New Guest Blog for Author Lisabet Sarai…

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Folks, it’s Romance Saturday. And as such, I am extremely grateful that author Lisabet Sarai offered me a guest blogging slot today. I called it, “Putting Characters in Trouble, One Story at a Time,” and illustrated my account of same by using what I did in CHANGING FACES to explain it.

portrait in garden

First, here’s the link to the post:

http://lisabetsarai.blogspot.com/2017/03/putting-characters-in-trouble-one-story.html

And here’s an excerpt from that:

In my new contemporary romantic fantasy novel Changing Faces, I put my characters Allen and Elaine through the emotional wringer. They are deeply in love, but Elaine’s hiding a big secret from her fiancé; she is gender-fluid, and thinks she’d be better off in the body of a man. Granted, he does know that she’s bisexual, but that’s not the same thing at all as gender-fluidity, much less wanting to change outward sexes, and when he finds out, he is floored.

As most heterosexual men would be, no doubt.

Allen is a very good man, so he wants to help Elaine. He might not understand everything about her, but he wants to, and he’s willing to try anything—absolutely anything—so she’ll stay in his life.

How does that relate? Well, two angels hear him when he prays, and decide to grant his wish. But they do so in a way that is not expected, as Allen wakes up after a nasty car accident in the hospital in the wrong body. While Elaine, after the accident, is in a coma, talking to one of the two angels in the Place of Dreams and Nightmares.

Allen can’t tell anyone who he is. And Elaine can’t talk with Allen and try to apologize, much less talk with anyone except the one angel. They both blame themselves for the accident, and only Elaine knows why this happened, albeit after the fact. Allen battles all sorts of feelings that he never expected to have, while Elaine must confront her deepest terrors in order to win back to Allen and continue on with their lives—but definitely not in the same way as before.
You can see where I took the maxim “putting character in trouble, one story at a time” and used it with regards to Changing Faces, can’t you? These two are in serious trouble. They love each other, and they want to be with one another, but they don’t know how to do it. And the two quirky angels, in trying to help them, may have caused worse problems…at least in the short run.

There’s a lot more there, mind, including an excerpt from CHANGING FACES to whet your interest. So I do hope you will go check out the latest guest blog — particularly appropriate, as it is Romance Saturday — and let me know what you think. (And thanks again, Lisabet, for having me!)

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Written by Barb Caffrey

March 11, 2017 at 5:40 pm

#MondayMotivation: Figure Out What You’re Best At…

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Folks, it’s time for a Monday Motivation post. (And as I’m still — somewhat, anyway — on Twitter, I decided to use the hashtag in the title. For my sins, I guess.)

When you were young — or at least, younger, as most of us do not enjoy pointing out that we’re not as young as we used to be — your teachers, mentors, and even your parents used to say, “Figure out what you’re best at, and do it.”

But how do you do that, exactly? Especially if you’re a creative type, when creativity isn’t exactly understood?

Maybe this is where Malcolm Gladwell’s book OUTLIERS holds a few of the clues. (I reviewed this book a while back at Shiny Book Review — yes, I do plan on writing a review or two this year, thanks for asking — and I’ve never forgotten it.) Gladwell insists that to become an expert at your field, you need approximately 10,000 hours of hard work to get there. (And even more time than that to stay there, improve upon your expert abilities, and keep going at that high level after that, no doubt.)

The way I view this has to do with persistence, otherwise known as ramming your head into the wall over and over and over again until the wall falls down. It’s not an elegant solution, but it’s the only way I know to get things done.

So, when you get a story idea, or an idea for a poem, no matter how outrageous it seems, you should write it down as best you can. (If I’m pressed for time or tired or ill or all of the above, as I’ve been lately, I try to write it down in prose note format — that is, whatever I get, I write it down, sans dialogue, sans much in the way of description unless it’s absolutely essential, so the idea is not lost.) Even if you can’t do anything with it today, even if you can’t do anything with it next week either, it’ll still be there, waiting for you, when you can look at it again and develop it.

I know this method works, because I’ve had at least four stories that I’ve developed after writing them down in prose note form…and in two cases, I got halfway into the story, then had to put it aside for six months to a year before returning to it.

(What can I say? I’m like a dog with a bone. I have to finish what I start, no matter how long it takes. No excuses.)

So, to figure out what you’re great at, you need to keep working at your talents as much as you possibly can. Whatever they are, figure them out, keep going, refuse to give up on yourself, and give it your best shot. Don’t listen to anyone who tells you differently, either…because the only person who can tell you when it’s time to stop (if it ever is) is you.

Written by Barb Caffrey

January 16, 2017 at 6:23 am

The Art of the Questioner

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Sometimes, late at night, as I struggle to get words down, I ask myself the following question:

“Why, Barb, are you putting yourself through this?”

I suppose it’s because I feel I must. I enjoy writing, usually, even when it comes slowly and painfully. It keeps me amused, and focused, and allows me to question to my heart’s content.

Lately, I’ve been struggling especially hard because of whatever illness that’s laid me low this time. (I am starting to get a teensy bit better. But I say that while mentally crossing my fingers, as the last time I thought that, I was overly optimistic.) When I can’t concentrate, I can’t tell stories — period, end of discussion.

And when I can’t tell stories, I get completely frustrated, am incredibly hard to live with, and just am a major pain in the caboose.

(Hey, at least I admit it.)

But maybe this is missing the point a little bit. Because my questioning skills — whatever it is that makes me go, “Hm. What would happen if…” and then start writing down whatever comes next — are still there. Waiting for me to get healthy enough so I can use them; waiting for me to realize that even if I can’t write tomorrow, can’t write the day after that, I assuredly will write as soon as I possibly can because that is what’s inside me.

(My late husband taught me that, and he was right. As he usually was, but that’s another story for another day.)

So, maybe along with all the other things that make up my palette of writing skills and abilities, I should admit that the whole idea of questioning — or, as I put it in the title, the art of the questioner — is useful, in and of itself.

Because if you can’t question, you can’t possibly come up with a different scenario. And without different scenarios, you don’t do so well as a writer — especially not as a writer of science fiction and fantasy.

At any rate, the important thing to remember is that if you are having trouble writing today, that doesn’t make you a bad person. (I know that’s blindingly obvious, but it still needed to be said. Bear with me, OK?) Maybe you’re just stressed out. Maybe you’re sick. Maybe you’re exhausted. Maybe you’ve just had it with the world around you, and your body and mind and heart are all shouting, “Enough already!”

But whatever it is, you need to be kind to yourself. Understand that if you can’t write today, you will write tomorrow. And if you still can’t write tomorrow, you will write the day after that.

Because that is how you’re made. And that is what you’re going to do, come Hell or high water or whatever else, because you must do it or you’re not being your best self.

And in the meantime, keep asking questions!

Written by Barb Caffrey

January 10, 2017 at 5:51 am

On Reading, Writing, and Blogging

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Folks, as you know, I’m celebrating the International Authors’ Day Blog Hop, started by writer/blogger Debdatta Desgupta Sahay of b00k r3vi3ws.in and celebrated by a wide variety of writers and bloggers worldwide (including yours truly). But because time was short when I joined the blog-hop initially, I didn’t talk about something Ms. Sahay and many other bloggers in this particular hop have…and that’s about why they love books.

Now, it’s time to change that.

So, why do I love books so much? Is it because they offer different ways of thinking than my own? Is it because of the stories they provide? Or is it simply that I love to see the different ways writers put words together?

Maybe it’s all of that. Or maybe it’s all of that plus more

Early in my life, I realized that I loved to read. Maybe this is because my grandmother read to me often as a youngster, as did my parents…I remember that by age four or so, I could read books that most kids didn’t pick up until third or fourth grade. By the time I was eight, I was reading Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden mysteries; by age ten, I’d graduated to Sherlock Holmes and baseball biographies (including of Jackie Robinson, Hank Aaron, and Willie Mays, among others). By age twelve or so, I was reading about the civil rights struggles, and various histories…by age fourteen, I was reading Robert A. Heinlein’s TIME ENOUGH FOR LOVE and had read through all of the Andre Norton books I could find, including her Witch World books, the three books set on Warlock, the Time Traders saga, and more.

And with every book I read, the more things I learned. I tried not to stop myself from reading anything I felt I needed to, which sometimes got me into a bit of a pickle (when I was in my early teens, and a boy I liked saw me reading OUR BODIES, OUR SELVES, I remember flushing bright red). But mostly, it taught me that every book, every genre, every author has something to say — and that every book, in its own way, is precious.

Now, there are books that, once read, I have never picked up again. (LORD OF THE FLIES was one of those. Ugh!) I’m human, and I have things I’m partial to…which, considering I grew up to be a science fiction, fantasy, and romance writer, tends to be a little more eclectic than most.

Still. I urge people to broaden their horizons. We writers need to read all sorts of things in order to formulate our stories. And sometimes, we write characters who are nothing whatsoever like us — yet we must do so with conviction, or the reader will tune out. How do we do that unless we’re willing to listen to others who don’t sound like us? Or at least read books that challenge our assumptions, and make us think about the choices we make, and why we make them?

But even if you’re not a writer, I still urge you to read outside your comfort zone. (Writer/blogger Susan Toy has a great set of memes generated from a recent insightful blog post of hers; the memes were created by Chris Graham, of TSRA PROMO GRAPHICS & VISUALS — otherwise known as Chris the Story-Reading Ape.** Chris runs a great blog, and offers many services to indie authors free of charge; if you haven’t been to his blog yet, you really should hightail it over there.)

In fact, here is a great visual put together by Chris G. on behalf of Susan Toy, using her words:

IMG_6627

As the author of some very different-than-usual books (including AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE and A LITTLE ELFY IN BIG TROUBLE), I have to hope that more people will start doing just that. And soon.

Anyway, I love reading. I also love to write, especially when the words are flowing and the story’s making sense…and as a blogger, I’ve enjoyed getting a chance to meet people from all over the world.

That is the main reason why I signed up for the International Authors’ Day blog-hop, and it’s why I hope you’ll continue to enjoy reading my blog if it’s the first time you’ve ever stopped by.

Happy Sunday, folks! Keep hopping along…and remember, if you haven’t done so yet, you can get my military SF story “To Survive the Maelstrom” for free as an e-book from Amazon for another day or so, give or take a few.

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**I hate to admit this, but half the time, I write “Chris the Story-Telling Ape,” even though Chris Graham uses TSRA — or “The Story-Reading Ape” — as part of his own company name! Fortunately for me, Chris does not seem to mind this…one of these days, Chris, I’ll get it right. (Starting today, I hope.)

October ’12 Quick Hits, Pt. 1

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Folks, I’m trying out a new browser — Mozilla Firefox — and so far, it’s working rather well.  My previous browser, a version of IE, wouldn’t let me properly access the WordPress blogging site, which is one reason I haven’t done much with my blog in the past two weeks (I suspect a recent “upgrade” — by the way, why is it that upgrades seem to cause so much distress for all concerned no matter who’s doing the upgrading? — by WordPress was what caused me not to be able to use the site properly).

At any rate, there are a number of things to get to, so let’s get started.

First, Atlanta Braves P Ben Sheets — a long-time starting pitcher for the Milwaukee Brewers — indeed retired after pitching one inning of the 162nd and final game of the regular major league baseball season.

Second, I will write an “end of the season wrap-up” blog later this week which will point out the highs and lows of the 2012 Milwaukee Brewers season; for now, all I’ll say is that it’s obvious LF Ryan Braun (with his 41 HR and 30 SB) is the Brewers 2012 MVP and that if baseball writers were objective, Braun would be likely to have his second National League MVP in as many years.

Third, I’m rather frustrated with most politics and most politicians at the moment — aside from Racine’s state Senator John Lehman, that is, and my incoming state Assemblyman, Cory Mason (Mason represented a different area of Racine prior to this year; due to redistricting, he’s now running unopposed to represent the 61st Assembly district and the seat presently held by Robert Turner (D), as Turner has retired).  This is why I haven’t said much about politics in quite some time.

My basic beliefs, however, are unchanged; I believe that we’re not well served by our two major party system.  I think most of the candidates we get via this system are indebted to big money interests, or worse, must be insanely wealthy themselves in order to afford to run in the first place  (a la Mitt Romney of the Rs).  And while I like Gary Johnson the best (he’s the Libertarian candidate for President, and is the former Republican Governor of New Mexico), I’m still undecided as to how I’ll vote this fall in the Presidential election.

Fourth, I’m still fighting a lingering sinus issue, which is one of the main reasons I haven’t been blogging overmuch in the past several weeks (well, that and the browser situation, which I’ve now remedied quite nicely).  But I hope to write several blogs this week — maybe even one regarding the state of publishing, who knows? — and have a guest blog by novelist Stephanie Osborn in the pipeline that should be posted within the next two weeks also.

(Oh, yes — the reason this is “part one” of the Quick Hits for October is that I’m sure there’ll be more.  Because there always are.)

Stay safe, everyone.

Written by Barb Caffrey

October 7, 2012 at 5:58 pm