Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Posts Tagged ‘romance

Book Recommendations, Just ‘Cause…

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Folks, it’s Friday. I’m preparing to go to my friend and mentor Tim Bell’s funeral. So I need diversion.

Fortunately, I have a number of books I’ve been meaning to recommend anyway…and today seems to be the day.

So, I’m going to divide my suggestions into fantasy, science fiction, and romance. (Yes, I have a romance to suggest, this time around.)

First, the science fiction. I’ve read two anthologies lately that I have enjoyed; one is A FISTFUL OF CREDITS, edited by Chris Kennedy and Mark Wandrey. It’s a tie-in to the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse universe, but I had no problems reading these stories without having any prior knowledge at all.

So, if you like lots of adventure, along with intrigue, drama, wordplay, and don’t mind some violence with your military SF, this is the anthology for you. (Note that two of my friends, Chris Nuttall and Jason Cordova, have stories in this anthology. If you haven’t read either of ’em yet, you should.)

The next one is FORGED IN BLOOD, edited by Michael Z. Williamson. This is set in Williamson’s Freehold universe, and all of the stories revolve around one rather bloody-minded sword. You don’t need to have read any of Williamson’s stuff before to understand these stories; all you need is some time and a love for military adventure. (Again, I have two friends in this anthology. This time it’s Chris Smith and Jason Cordova. Jason’s been busy with his short-story writing lately, and that’s a particular strength of his. But Chris Smith’s story was a revelation…you should enjoy those two stories, guaranteed. And the rest are quite intriguing, too.)

As far as novels go, I like Becky Chambers’ A LONG WAY FROM A SMALL, ANGRY PLANET. This was a joy to read, and there’s some great stuff about how people change, make choices, and endure difficult and sometimes extremely painful events in their lives. The prose is effervescent, and the characterizations all worked well. (No, I don’t know Becky Chambers at all. More’s the pity.)

The fantasy? Well, you can’t go wrong with Patricia C. Wrede. I’ve been re-reading her Enchanted Forest Chronicles, along with Katharine Kimbriel’s Night Falls series…these are uplifting books with heart and humor. (More humor in the Wrede, granted.) They may seem like lighter reads, but you’ll go away from them with more purpose and a heart that seems positively buoyant. (In other words, it’s great stuff.)

And the romance? I’ve been reading Adele Clee, Jillian Eaton, and Alina K. Field in Regency romance. I like all of these authors, but I have to say the best romance I’ve read lately is Anna D. Allen’s MISS PRITCHARD’S HAPPY, WANTON CHRISTMAS (and the consequences thereof).

Anyway, if you like uplifting fantasy, military SF, “regular” galaxy-spanning SF, or romance, check some or all of these books out. You will enjoy them. And they will give you a few hours away from your problems…guaranteed.

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Written by Barb Caffrey

October 27, 2017 at 3:53 pm

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!)

Written by Barb Caffrey

March 11, 2017 at 5:40 pm

Two New Guest Appearances, Plus Health Update

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Folks, I’m starting to feel a little better. My voice is almost all the way back. And I have a teensy bit more energy than yesterday…I kind of think I might actually be able to write something soon, and I have managed to evaluate something for a friend of mine (read a synopsis and commented), which is all good.

Anyway, there are two guest appearances I need to tell you about today.

First, N.N. Light and her POTL blog featured CHANGING FACES last week, and because of me being sick, I almost missed it. This is a chapter excerpt (from chapter 3, I think) plus longer blurb; I think you will enjoy it.

Second, over at the Mom’s Blogger’s Club, there’s a chapter reveal for the first chapter of CHANGING FACES.

So, the book promotion goes on, and I’m still alive to do it…progress?

Stay well, folks.

Tomorrow, perhaps, I’ll be able to blog about something else — maybe Brewers Spring Training or something. (I want to stay away from politics as much as I can until I’m all the way better, because I really don’t need to raise my blood pressure right now.)

 

Written by Barb Caffrey

March 1, 2017 at 5:20 pm

Flu, Day 5, and Newest Guest Blog

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Folks, I start to slowly improve.

My voice is better. I have a teensy smidgen of energy. My temperature is down and stays down, providing I don’t do very much…still can’t write much, still can’t edit, and thinking is slow, but I’m a whole lot better than I was over the weekend and am grateful for that.

Anyway, I have another guest blog up today at Confessions of an Eccentric Bookaholic…doesn’t that seem like a good place for me to be appearing? (Hey, eccentric is one of the nicer things I’ve been called in my life. Something about being a SF&F writer makes most people say, “What?” and sidle away, slowly…)

This, of course, is in support of CHANGING FACES, my newest novel, a LGBT-friendly contemporary fantasy/romance.

Here’s a bit from that guest blog:

Mayra Calvani: Please tell us about Changing Faces, and what compelled you to write it.

Barb Caffrey: Changing Faces is all about the power of love regardless of outward form. I wrote it because I saw two people in love—Allen Bridgeway, a heterosexual man of thirty, and Elaine Foster, a bisexual and transgender woman of twenty-eight—who were about to make a major mistake. Elaine felt that Allen could not understand her being transgender, you see, as she has just told Allen and he’s floored. (She uses “she” as the default pronoun, is a feminist scholar, and there’s absolutely no way he could’ve known this.) Allen wants to marry Elaine, but doesn’t know what to make of these revelations; Elaine is so upset that despite a nasty winter storm, she demands to be taken to a hotel. So Allen drives her, inwardly praying that they not be separated.

And his prayer is answered.

They will get a second chance at love, but with conditions. He’s now in her body. And she is inside his, but in a coma, speaking with an alien/angel known as an Amorphous Mass (a type of shapeshifter). He can tell no one he’s Allen; she cannot speak with anyone except the alien/angel. Both still want to be with each other, but how can they get past this?

Thus, Changing Faces.

M.C.: What is your book about?

Barb Caffrey: The power of love, and the realization that LGBT people are just like anyone else. They want love, and happiness, and understanding, and to be desired for themselves. And that if someone can see inside you—see your soul, rather than the outward form of your body—that’s what true love is all about.

Allen truly loves Elaine. The outward form doesn’t matter that much to him, even though at first he is absolutely thrown when she tells him, at long last, that she is transgender. She feels she’d be better off in a male body, but she’d still want to use “she” as her pronoun, and that is just deeply confusing to him. He loves her, and wants her, and desires only her…even when he’s confused, and doesn’t understand what she’s telling him, he does know that much.

Which is why he prays, and is answered…

In case you think this is giving short shrift to Elaine and Elaine’s wishes, though, don’t. Elaine, too, actually wanted the same thing. (These aliens/angels do not exist in our linear time, exactly. So one of them knows that Elaine, on her deathbed, after becoming outwardly male, wanted another chance with Allen and felt she’d made a bad mistake in refusing to stay with him.)

That’s why the aliens/angels do this. They believe in love. And they want love to have its day, even if it means both Allen and Elaine must change their faces so they can have another chance.

As I’ve been saying, I think CHANGING FACES is an important story for our current political climate, especially considering the Trump Administration’s recent reversal of the previous Obama directive regarding transgender students and bathrooms. (I wish we didn’t need a federal policy on this; my friend Kamas Kirian commented a few days ago about this, in fact. But there are some states that are less forward-looking than others, and it’s in those states in particular that the LGBTQ community needs its rights protected.) Reminding people that folks who aren’t straight are the same as everyone else and want love, compassion, personal satisfaction, and happiness is important right now.

Did I write this as a message novel? No, I didn’t. I wrote it as a romance, period. But if you want to see a message there, beyond the fact that I think souls are a whole Hell of a lot more important than bodies could ever be, I’m not going to stop you from seeing it.

Beyond that, if you’ve already read CHANGING FACES, please go and leave a few words about it. I have no reviews, currently, and am having trouble finding anyone to review it at all…to spend nearly fifteen years on a book without any reviews (and not the sales I was hoping for, though the year is young and all that) is very difficult.

Granted, I’m still dealing with the flu, so maybe it seems worse than it is. Still, I urge you to please read my sample chapters at Twilight Times Books if you haven’t yet checked out CHANGING FACES, then go pick up a copy as an e-book as it’s still just ninety-nine cents.

Now, I’d best get back to resting, so I can kick the remainder of this flu.

 

Written by Barb Caffrey

February 28, 2017 at 5:42 pm

When Love Disappoints, What is the Point?

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img_8906The title, above, is the main question at the heart of CHANGING FACES, my new fantasy romance set in modern-day Nebraska featuring a bisexual and gender-fluid woman, Elaine Foster, and her heterosexual boyfriend, Allen Bridgeway. These two have overcome much to find each other, fall in love, and now want to get married — but Elaine’s been keeping her gender-fluidity secret, as she’s desperately afraid Allen will not be able to understand it.

The problem is, when you don’t have open communication, love has no way to grow and becomes less sustaining and fulfilling. Ultimately, if you are holding a big secret inside, as Elaine is at the start of CHANGING FACES, it starts to poison your relationship…that secret has to come out, or you end up with the question I posed above: when love disappoints, what is the point?

See, you need to share all of yourself, when you’re in love with someone else. The good stuff, the bad stuff, the in between stuff…it all has to come out, or you aren’t truly joining with someone else. (That “two shall become one” Bible verse is not just about children, after all.) You have to be willing to be vulnerable, to open yourself up to potential ridicule — though someone who truly loves you isn’t going to do that, we are all human and we all worry about such things — and to hope that your love will grow, change, and flourish over time.

In the case of CHANGING FACES, Elaine is worried that Allen can’t possibly understand her gender-fluidity, as she barely understands it herself and she’s lived with it her entire life. She also was a child of the foster homes, as was Allen…while Allen was able to find a loving adoptive home after a while, Elaine never was, and worse, Elaine was raped while resident of her last foster home by five young men. It’s because of this atrocious act that Elaine can only barely accept Allen’s love for her in the first place, and it adds stress to an already stressful situation.

You might be wondering why Allen keeps trying, hey? Well, he truly is in love with Elaine. He sees who she is, even if he doesn’t know about her gender-fluidity (he doesn’t care about her bisexuality at all; he figures he looks at women, she looks at women too, and they only go home with each other so that’s fine), and he loves her indomitable spirit. He sees her, entire, sees her soul, and loves her for who she is.

But of course, when she finally tells him about her gender-fluidity (and how she believes she’d rather live as a man, maybe get the surgery down the line to become a man outwardly, even though she’d always think of herself as a woman — did I mention that Elaine is a feminist scholar? No?), Allen is completely thrown.

Who wouldn’t be?

I mean, you live with someone for seven years, right? You love that person wisely and well, knowing how much she’s been hurt, appreciating that despite it all, she’s willing to turn to you and give you everything she has…and then you find out this secret.

Allen’s a very good man. He wants to be with Elaine so much, even though he doesn’t understand any of this, he prays that she won’t leave him (as she’s confused, hurt, and upset, and is about to do that very thing even though she still loves him every bit as much as before).

And his prayer is answered by two quirky, shapeshifting angels…

Look. My view of love is very simple. Love matters, period. You have to have communication and trust and honesty, or love can’t flourish as it should. (I think it dies, personally, if you don’t have those things, but maybe that’s just me.) The right person at the right time in your life can work wonders — refer back to everything I’ve said about my late husband Michael if you don’t believe me (I have a category for it, even, if you haven’t read anything about Michael before, on the side of the blog) — but you have to be open and vulnerable and real and tell the truth about yourself, or love will be ultimately less than fulfilling and highly disappointing.

Telling the truth and being vulnerable is a big risk. That’s why it’s so hard to do. And it’s even harder when you’re someone like Elaine who’s been badly hurt and who doesn’t really know how to explain who and what she is…she’s not lying to Allen, but she’s not able to tell him everything, either, and thus, a wedge grows between them.

A wedge that can only be fixed by the two quirky angels and their solution of changing Allen and Elaine’s faces (that is, putting Allen in Elaine’s body, and Elaine in Allen’s, so they’re now both, in effect, transgender in every sense).

As I’ve said in the past several days, I believe in love. I believe in honesty. I believe in miracles, faith, optimism, second chances all unlooked for, and I think we need more of it in this world.

I’m proud to have written CHANGING FACES, and I hope you will enjoy it as well. Do let me know what you think…especially about how you, yourself, have transcended the disappointments you’ve found in your own love relationships (as trust me, every single one of us has been disappointed in a love relationship one way or another — it seems to be part of the human condition).

********

Edited to add:

Here are all the places you can find CHANGING FACES…Chris the Story-Reading Ape put it in this format (so thank you again, Chris!):

Barnes & Noble

Amazon:

USA  –   UK  –  CA  –  AUS  –  IN

Written by Barb Caffrey

February 12, 2017 at 12:35 am

Romance, “Changing Faces,” and Valentine’s Day

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Folks, as most of you know, Valentine’s Day rapidly approaches. V-Day is one of those times that men mostly hate, some women (such as myself) mostly hate as well, and most people in relationships can also dread because the social significance of the day is murky, at best.

See, we’re told over and over again to get our loved ones things. Lots and lots of things, whether it’s jewelry, Pajamagrams, teddy bears, or, if you have enough money to do so, a new car…all of those things are going to be hawked to you, or anyone in a relationship, as needed and necessary for V-Day.

The meaning of what love is, much less what Valentine’s Day should be about — the celebration of love, and those who dare to keep loving despite the longest of odds — seems to get more lost by the day.

I’d rather talk about what true love is.

True love is caring. Sacrifice for your partner, if needed (and sometimes, it will be needed, in one form or another). Compassion. Paying attention to what matters to you, and trying to alleviate the worst of what brings you down…that is what love is about.

Love is unselfish, too. It’s all about the other person, caring more for them than you do about your own self, and about making that other person happy.

Yeah, you should get something out of it. You should be happier, wiser, kinder, a better person, and certainly if your lover is not asexual, you should have a happy romantic life ahead of you for as long as you two are together on the face of this Earth…what you get, if you are smart, is a better and more meaningful life, all because you dared to care about someone else more than yourself, and threw out what society assumes is “normal” behavior.

So, how does my new novel, CHANGING FACES, come into this conversation? (Other than the fact that it’s a love story, that is?)

First, read the blurb, as that may help:

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.

You see, Allen loves Elaine more than he loves himself. He’s confused by her, because she’s trans, because she has gender-fluidity in her makeup, all that…but he loves her. Passionately. And he’ll do anything to stay with her…even become trans himself (albeit through the auspices of two meddling angels), if that is what it takes.

Why does Allen do this? Well, when you’re in love, you care more about the other person than you care about yourself. You want that other person to feel better, and be her best self…you want, in essence, to help that other person become whatever that person needs to be in order to feel good about herself, because doing anything less weakens your love and regard for your partner.

Note that you should never, never, never become less than you are, with someone you love. (I have to point this out, because I know it’s something I wish had been explained to me before I married young. Instead, I had to find out the hard way, and it took years before I found my late husband and realized what true love really was about. But I digress.)

Instead, you should become more yourself. More creative, if that’s what you are. Kinder. More compassionate. More aware of the world and what’s around you. More willing to fight suffering, even if all you can do is give someone a handkerchief when she’s crying and wish you could do more…

You should care, in other words.

No matter how hard it is, no matter how difficult it seems, so long as you and your partner both care, and try, and communicate, and are willing to keep caring and trying and communicating, you have a shot.

(But see what I said before about the limitations of love, especially if you’re with someone who doesn’t care about you…that is the type of person who is only about materialism or what you can do for him/her, and should be avoided at all costs.)

Anyway, I think anyone — straight, gay, lesbian, transgender, gender-fluid, or Martian — should enjoy CHANGING FACES if you enjoy romance at all. It has a fantasy element (how not, me being me?), is quirky (again, me being me, you have to expect that), and it has music and musicians and all sorts of good stuff…but the main thing to remember is, it’s about love. Communication. Compassion. Self-sacrifice. Honesty. And hard work.

Because without compassion, self-sacrifice, honesty, communication, and hard work, love isn’t worth very much. But with them? It’s priceless.

Guaranteed.

Written by Barb Caffrey

February 10, 2017 at 5:51 am

Out Now in e-book: Changing Faces

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Folks, it’s been a long time coming, as most of you know, but my third novel, CHANGING FACES, is now out as an e-book and is available at Amazon. (Further links will be added as they become live; there will be a Barnes and Noble link later, and possibly one at AllRomance/OmniLit as well.) And best of all, the book is priced at only ninety-nine cents for the first week or so!

So, without further ado, here’s the links:

Amazon:

And in case you want a few sample chapters, here’s a link to that:

http://www.twilighttimesbooks.com/ChangingFaces_ch1.html

Now, because it’s important, I want to say a few things.

First, I’m glad that I have good friends in the writing and editing community and appreciate the support I’ve received during the last tumultuous year or so.

Second, I hope that CHANGING FACES, a book about a couple in love that looks “normal,” but actually isn’t as the feminine half of the couple, Elaine, is gender-fluid and identifies as transgender, will help spread some light and understanding about #LGBT individuals.

See, people are people. They want love, affection, understanding, all that. The gender and sexuality really doesn’t make that much difference, when it comes to these universal truths.

But it’s hard, sometimes, to make things work in a romance, even if you both are what society understands. We make mistakes, we people, and it’s hard to communicate even when you desperately love someone and want only what’s best for him or her.

Allen and Elaine’s story of love, frustration, misunderstandings, major changes, and ultimately more love and better understanding, was deeply personal to me. I hope it will matter to you as well, and that you will see it as a transcendent love story that matters to every living human soul.

Because that’s how I see it.

Written by Barb Caffrey

February 8, 2017 at 8:09 pm