Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Posts Tagged ‘romantic fantasy

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

leave a comment »

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.

Advertisements

Written by Barb Caffrey

February 10, 2017 at 5:51 am

New #ParanormalLoveWednesdaysBlogHop w/excerpt from Michael’s “Columba and the Cat”

with 2 comments

Folks, this is the second time I’ve done the Paranormal Love Wednesdays Blog Hop. (The first time was last week, and was for AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE.) This time, I’m doing it in support of my late husband Michael B. Caffrey’s story “Columba and the Cat.”

Years ago, this story was available at e-Quill Publishing in Australia, but I withdrew it in 2012 after I was picked up by Twilight Times Books as an author. While I appreciated e-Quill’s interest in Michael’s work very much, I felt I could perhaps do a little better on my own…I just needed to get the skills together to do justice to his work.

Anyway, I now have more of those skills. I’ve found friends and allies over at the Marketing for Romance Writers group (do look them up if you’re a writer; they’re incredibly helpful people), and some of those authors set up the Paranormal Love Wednesdays Blog in order to showcase paranormal works a little better. Columba and the Cat coverMichael’s “Columba and the Cat” certainly qualifies.

What’s it about? As I said yesterday:

“Columba and the Cat” is about Princess Columba of Illinowa. She’s a magician, a scholar, and is currently the heir to the throne…and wants no part of it. Because she’s royalty, she’s had trouble meeting men, and she’s tired of dealing with people in search of a title rather than herself.

Into her life comes a mysterious cat. (Literally. The cat nearly gets run over while she’s out riding.) She rescues the cat, takes him into the palace, and starts having unusual dreams — dreams of a man who understands her, cares about her, and loves her. Unbeknownst to Columba, the cat is a shapeshifter. He, too, is royal, albeit from far away. And he’s the man of her dreams…that is, when he’s not in the form of a cat.

Then the dream-man shows up, and the cat disappears. Columba must decide whether or not to believe in her dreams and hope that somehow, all of the magical romance she’s found is here to stay.

I don’t yet have a link for the story as it’s not yet up. (EDITED TO ADD: Here’s a link for everyone!) But I do have an excerpt, cover art, and a banner. I do hope people will love this excerpt and will want to read the rest of the story.

First, the banner: banner Now, the excerpt (apologies in advance; it’s a bit longer than four paragraphs):

Again it seemed that Cat could understand what she was saying, as he rolled to the side and off the Princess-Royal’s body.

Columba looked at him in surprise — how had he realized that the only way he could have stood and walked on her nightdress was to dig in with his claws? And how — and why — had he figured out so quickly how to remove himself so quickly without having to use those claws?

Yes, if she could convince him to stay — and if he had the other qualities necessary — Cat was the familiar for her.

After a few minutes, she came back out, brushing her shoulder-length blond hair, and turned down the covers. She sat on the edge of the bed, brushing her hair and making inconsequential chat to Cat, constantly amused at his occasional mew or mrowr as she paused, almost as if he was truly interested in the court gossip she had picked up during the hour between the ceremony and dinner. After a bit, she finished with her hair and set the brush on the bedside table, then swung her legs under the covers and pulled them up.

A wave of her hand was enough to douse the magelights in the room, leaving only the firefly glow of a single light in the bathroom to reflect off Cat’s eyes as he gazed through the dark at her.

Mrow?” the animal inquired, an almost plaintive note in his voice.

Columba chuckled gently, then lifted the cover. It was a cold winter’s evening, after all, and Cat looked uncomfortably thin, despite his size. “If you’re cold, you can come in here with me, darling.”

With a gentle rustling, Cat crossed the short distance from his chosen pillow nest to rub against Columba’s face before crawling carefully under the covers and turning around to lay against her breast, his head under her chin and his whiskers tickling the exposed skin above the open neck of her flannel nightdress. With an uncharacteristic giggle, Columba let the sheet drop and snuggled Cat close, her eyes closing as his rumbling purr began to lull her to sleep. As she drifted off, she almost thought that she heard something stirring . . . most likely the wind was her last lazy thought before sleep claimed her.

In the night, Princess-Royal Columba had the most wondrous dreams — dreams of a strange prince, not overly handsome as many of her dream princes had been, but not totally shabby either, with hair that almost the color of her new most favorite pet’s fur, but features she could not clearly discern. The prince courted her assiduously, slowly, over the course of months in that night’s dream, obtained at last her promise that she would be his.

The first dream faded into vague images she could not recall — stallions and mares, springtime, birds in their nests with the little birds chirping for food — and a sense as if she was riding one of those stallions back and forth across a plain of short, bluish-green grass, almost the color of the sheets on her royal bed. It was a wonderful ride, this dream-gallop, farther and harder than she’d ever ridden before, with breaks to rest the horse and herself, an electric ride that sent surges of pleasure through her. Eventually, that dream faded back into her dream prince, clasping her in his arms, gently kissing her lips, then her throat . . . .

*     *     *

Note: For my friends in the Fantasy and Science Fiction Network, and for romance readers everywhere, this is as spicy as it gets. It’s somewhere between a PG and a PG-13 as far as a rating goes…Michael believed strongly in romance, but he also believed the best romances took place privately. So there should be nothing here that offends anyone’s sensibilities.

I hope that piqued your interest…now, get back to hopping, and go visit the next person up in the Paranormal Love Wednesdays Blog Hop!

1. C. Marie Bowen 3. Blaire Edens 5. Barb Caffrey
2. Margo Bond Collins 4. Erin Hayes Books
6. JoAnne’s Blog

Cover Reveal for Michael B. Caffrey’s “Columba and the Cat”

with 5 comments

Folks, I’m very excited to announce that my late husband Michael B. Caffrey’s story “Columba and the Cat” is going to be coming back out independently very soon as an e-book via Amazon Kindle — within a week if all goes well.

And now, I have a cover!

Ta da!Columba and the Cat cover

I edited Michael’s story, and I know it’s good.

“But what’s it about, Barb?” you ask.

“Columba and the Cat” is about Princess Columba of Illinowa. She’s a magician, a scholar, and is currently the heir to the throne…and wants no part of it. Because she’s royalty, she’s had trouble meeting men, and she’s tired of dealing with people in search of a title rather than herself.

Into her life comes a mysterious cat. (Literally. The cat nearly gets run over while she’s out riding.) She rescues the cat, takes him into the palace, and starts having unusual dreams — dreams of a man who understands her, cares about her, and loves her.

Now, why did this happen after the cat showed up? Well, unbeknownst to Columba, the cat is a shapeshifter. He, too, is royal, albeit from far away. And he’s the man of her dreams…that is, when he’s not in the form of a cat.

Anyway, the dream-man shows up, and the cat disappears. Columba must decide whether or not to believe in magic, believe in the dreams — and hope that somehow, all of the magical romance she’s found is here to stay.

It’s a deeply romantic story with more than a little paranormal involvement. I definitely hope people will enjoy it, and am pleased to be able to finally bring it back out again.

There are three more stories in this universe. Two are written by Michael, while one is currently being written by me from Cat’s perspective (as in, why did he go in search of Columba in the first place?) Perhaps more can be written, later, if people show interest — I think my late husband would like that.

My plan is to have “Columba and the Cat” out as an e-book at Amazon in time for my thirteenth wedding anniversary on June 24, 2015. (I think Michael would approve.)

Before I go back to my editing (an intensive project, already in progress), here’s a banner display to check out as well, courtesy of artist Kathey from the Author’s Secret. (They have ready-made covers over there, too, and offer a wide array of services. Just sayin’.)

banner

Written by Barb Caffrey

June 16, 2015 at 5:44 pm

Savory Saturday Goodness: A New Review at SBR…Plus a Book Giveaway for E. Ayers!

with one comment

Folks, this past week I was consumed with editing. (My book may be in, but the editing goes on. Which is probably just as well…don’t want to be out of a job, methinks.) So I didn’t get a chance to blog.

Now, though, I have two reasons to blog.

First, there’s a new review up over at Shiny Book Review for Mary Robinette Kowal’s VALOUR AND VANITY. This is the fourth book in Ms. Kowal’s Glamourist Histories, and I enjoyed it immensely. But please, read my review, and let me know what you think.

Blank bookcover with clipping path

Blank bookcover with clipping path

Second, for the first time ever here at the Elfyverse blog, I’m going to give away a book for a friend, E. Ayers. Her newest novel is called A RANCHER’S DREAM, and it’s a Western set in the U.S. during the Victorian Era. (Say that five times fast. I dare you.)

Ms. Ayers and I know each other through the Exquisite Quills writing group. She’s a fine writer with a keen mind and an excellent eye for detail, and I’ve enjoyed all the novels she’s written to date. (I intend to review a couple more of ’em next week for Romance Saturday at SBR, if all goes well, one being A RANCHER’S DREAM.)

All you have to do to win an advance e-book copy of A RANCHER’S DREAM is to tell me why you love romance novels. It doesn’t have to be fancy…just tell me why you love romance novels, and the first person who comments, either here on my blog or at Twitter (by time-stamp) will win a copy of Ms. Ayers’ newest novel. (You’ll have your pick of formats, too, in case you’re interested.)

promo1

Widowed and raising a young daughter by himself,
Tiago has only one goal – to work a ranch of his own and build a
future for his small family. When fate deposits a young woman in
his path, he believes he has found the help he needs to care for his child
as they journey to their new home in Creed’s Crossing.

On the run for her life, Ingrid needs to get as far
away from Texas as she can. Her brother and father have
been murdered, and those responsible would see her dead, too.
Desperate, she accepts an offer to help Tiago with his daughter,
but Ingrid’s past can destroy everything Tiago is working for.
Worse – her very presence places him and his daughter in peril.

Amid secrets and danger, a single father
and an orphaned woman on the run must fight all odds to fulfill
A Rancher’s Dream

Coming June 16, 2015

Now available for pre-order at Amazon US: http://amzn.com/B00YJP19TI

…and Amazon International: http://authl.it/B00YJP19TI

*****
So there you have it — a new review at Shiny Book Review, and a brand-new book by E. Ayers that you can win if you tell me why you love romance novels.

How’s that for some savory Saturday goodness?

Written by Barb Caffrey

June 6, 2015 at 11:15 pm

Dora Machado’s Guest Blog — “What an Editor Can Do for You”

with 7 comments

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about four current titles available from Twilight Times Books (TTB for short)  — The Curse Giver by Dora Machado, Don’t Let the Wind Catch You by Aaron Paul Lazar, Lucid by Natalie Roers and Dina von Lowenkraft’s Dragon Fire.  I worked on three of those four titles, and said so.  But I was proudest of the work I did for Dora Machado’s The Curse Giver.

When I received The Curse Giver from TTB’s publisher Lida Quillen, I quickly recognized that much of the book was very good.  Some of it was exceptional.  But there was a problem at the beginning of the book that might’ve stopped a reader cold from understanding that the hero of the story, Brennus, is actually a good guy.  (Suffice it to say that Brennus does many things he’d rather not do for the best of reasons.)  Ms. Quillen wanted me to see what I could do to help Ms. Machado’s book, and gave me ample time to think about it.

Anyway, I edited Dora Machado’s book and suggested a number of things at the beginning that I thought might help in addition to the usual comments as regards to copy-editing and consistency-reading.  I made so many comments at the beginning that I was a little worried that Ms. Machado would get upset, even though I also pointed out where I thought the story worked particularly well to balance things out.  (Unless I’m really pressed for time, I always do this.  A writer needs to know that her editor understands her book.)

Fortunately for me, Dora Machado did understand, and was appreciative of my efforts.  She thanked me publicly in her book for helping her — those of you who are editors know how rare that is.  Then, she asked if she could write a guest blog discussing the editorial process from a writer’s perspective, discussing her experiences with me in specific, and I said, “Sure.”

I hope you will enjoy this blog as much as I did, even though I blushed to read some of it.

So without further ado . . . let’s bring on the guest blog!

*********** Guest Post Separator ***********

What An Editor Can Do For You . . . If You Let Her

By

 Dora Machado

When it comes to editors, I haven’t always a believer. As a writer, part of me assumed that if you needed an editor, you weren’t ready for prime time. The smarter part of me suspected that the cocky part of me was being—well—cocky. So a few years back, I decided to challenge my assumptions and hired an editor to review my manuscript prior to submission. Wow. The mind-blowing, eye-opening experience resulted in the award-winning Stonewiser series.  I realized that, no matter how well you write, every author can benefit from having an editor, and a qualified, experienced, insightful editor can impact both a story and an author in profound and lasting ways.

Of course, the editing experience has a lot to do with the quality of the editor, the interaction between the writer and the editor, and the author’s ability to capitalize on the editor’s advice. I have been extremely fortunate to work with some of the best editors in my genre, but I have to credit my publisher, Lida Quillen of Twilight Times Books, for making this latest match. When she assigned Barb Caffrey to edit The Curse Giver, she brought together two experienced, opinionated, passionate lovers of the fantasy genre with stubborn streaks, high standards and even higher expectations. I have to wonder: Either Lida Quillen is a troublemaker or she’s the wisest publisher on the planet.

Generally speaking, an editor’s contributions range from the very simple to the very complex. Writer’s ego aside, a good editor will always remind us of the basic principles of writing and the pesky details we might overlook when submerged in our manuscript’s depths. I’m always surprised—not to mention embarrassed—by the simple finds, the nits, typos and common mistakes my editor catches. I blame writer’s myopia for those easy-to-fix bloopers. When you’ve read the same paragraph twenty-six times, the eye doesn’t see what’s before it anymore, but rather what the mind thinks the eye should see. I might be sharp and thrive at self-editing, but once the eyes go numb, self-editing becomes a delusion.

Beyond the simple contributions, an editor has a lot more to offer, not just to the author but to the story. A good editor can offer perspective and objectivity, which can often become casualties of the creative process. Objectivity is an important quality when evaluating a story. It’s not about how well the story is written. It’s about how well the story reads, how it flows—not in your author’s mind, where the movie has played so many times—but in the virgin mind, where the story runs what can sometimes be a very different course through a new geography.

This is exactly what happened when Barb Caffrey read The Curse Giver‘s manuscript. She pointed out the strengths right away—assets I immediately wanted to preserve during the editing process. But she also sensed a weakness, a kink in the story’s flow, a blind spot for the reader that didn’t exist in my author’s mind because I knew the story’s outcome all along.

Barb recommended that I add a new point of view to the story. I gasped when I got her e-mail. I imagined my word count—the bane of my writer’s existence—soaring. I thought about all the work it was going to take to integrate this new point of view into the story, the details I would have to tweak, the time and energy I would have to spend . . .

I sat on my author’s indignation for a whole five minutes before I began to consider the suggestion in earnest. I had been sort of wondering if The Curse Giver‘s first few chapters were strong enough to capture the reader’s mind and launch them into the grand adventure that awaited them. You know an editor is gifted when she jabs that needle directly into your nerve. You know she is exceptional when she answers the very question you feared asking.

“Okay, all right.” I took several deep breaths and forced my mind open. “So maybe Barb has a point.”

I had the perfect character built into the story to develop a new point of view.  As Barb pointed out, I could keep my word count down by using the new point of view sparingly in a ruthless and utilitarian approach. She kindly encouraged me to at least give it a try. It doesn’t hurt when your editor combines excellence and kindness, so I sat down, wrote out the new POV, and tested it by inserting it in the story.

I purred like a satisfied kitten when I reread the amended story. My questions were answered. My doubts were put to rest. The story flowed beautifully. The new point of view strengthened and clarified the opening chapters, supporting the early development of the reader’s trance. Added bonus? Readers loved Severo, and they routinely tell me how much they like this quirky character who got his own POV at the last minute, courtesy of Barb Caffrey.

If you are a writer, you know that writing requires continuous self-development. Our trade demands the highest standards of critical review and our stories are improved by a rigorous editing process. An editor can provide all of that and more, especially if she has tons of practical experience in the genre, is a good fit to your style, and has secured your trust with high-impact recommendations. In addition, a good editor helps you build confidence in your writing. But remember, editing works only if the author is open to changes and suggestions. Take it from me:  An editor can improve your writing and your manuscript . . . but only if you let her.

************

Thanks, Dora, for that excellent guest blog.  I truly appreciate it.

As for the rest of you, please go buy THE CURSE GIVER without delay if you love fantasy, dark fantasy, romantic fantasy, fantasies that feature complex yet realistic world building, or just are up for a great read.  Trust me — THE CURSE GIVER will not disappoint.  (Further editor sayeth not.)

Written by Barb Caffrey

September 4, 2013 at 10:20 pm

Just Reviewed Alethea Kontis’s “Enchanted” at SBR

leave a comment »

Folks, my newest review for Alethea Kontis’s ENCHANTED is up at Shiny Book Review right now, so you might want to go take a look at it.

(I’ll pause while you have your chance to click on the SBR link.)

Now, as for what I thought of it?  It’s a good book, a well-told fairy tale that mixes a number of traditional fairy tales with elements of both Patricia C. Wrede’s and Orson Scott Card’s work; while not particularly original, per se, it is charming, and I enjoyed the romance between Prince Rumbold and Sunday Woodcutter no end.

Overall, if you’re looking for a fun fairy tale that won’t demand too much from you, Alethea Kontis’s ENCHANTED will be right up your alley.  (And I’ll admit it; sometimes that’s all I want in a book, a fun read that will transport me away from the cares of the world for a few, short hours.)  I enjoyed it, and look forward to whatever Ms. Kontis writes next.

Written by Barb Caffrey

July 11, 2012 at 8:24 pm

Just Reviewed “Beauty and the Werewolf” at SBR

leave a comment »

Folks, if you’re looking for a fun, fast romantic fantasy that loves turning “the Tradition” of fairy tales on its ear, you will really enjoy Mercedes Lackey’s BEAUTY AND THE WEREWOLF.  Here’s the link to my review:

http://shinybookreview.wordpress.com/2011/11/26/mercedes-lackeys-beauty-and-the-werewolf-believable-characters-make-for-realistic-romance/

Now, as to what else to say about it?  Well, I loved the characterization, and I appreciated how the plot enhanced this rather than the reverse.  That the characterization flowed out naturally and that the romance was an extremely believable one (where the two characters had to get to know each other as friends, first, and only then did they realize they were attracted to one another) was just an added bonus.

Very good story.  Enjoyable plot.  A good way to spend two or three hours.  And I would gladly re-read this one again, which is why I gave it an A-.  (There are a few things I would’ve liked to see here that I didn’t, mostly having to do with the bad-guy character, Eric.  But they were minor quibbles, at most.)

Enjoy the review!

Written by Barb Caffrey

November 26, 2011 at 9:16 pm