Swift for the Sun
Benjamin Lector imagines himself a smuggler, a gun runner, and an all-around scoundrel. A preacher’s son turned criminal, first and foremost, he is a survivor.
When Benjamin is shipwrecked on Dread Island, fortune sends an unlikely savior—a blond savage who is everything Benjamin didn’t know he needed. Falling in love with Sun is easy. But pirates have come looking for the remains of Benjamin’s cargo, and they find their former slave, Sun, instead.
Held captive by the pirates, Benjamin learns the depths of Sun’s past and the horrors he endured and was forced to perpetrate. Together, they must not only escape, but prevent a shipment of weapons from making its way to rebellious colonists. Benjamin is determined to save the man he loves and ensure that a peaceful future together is never threatened again. To succeed might require the unthinkable—an altruistic sacrifice.
Guest post with Author Karen Bovenmyer...
Where Do You Look for Inspiration? An Extrovert’s Guide
A question I hear frequently asked by non-writers at conferences is “Where do you get your ideas?” This question is always hard to answer—ideas come from the most unlikely places. Today a chemical engineer explained to me Shizuo Kakutani’s Random Walks theory. A drunk person can randomly wander in two dimensions and eventually cover all potential space. However, a drunk bird flying in three dimensions could fly forever and never get home. I spent the next several minutes mentally on a space ship with an impaired AI unable to get home, flying randomly, confused, endlessly searching. I filed the idea away in that corner of my hind brain that tumbles over and over while I’m doing other things. Sometimes ideas emerge on the page when I sit down to write, other times they sink and recombine with other things and come out when I least expect it. The brain, and creativity, seems to be at constant work under the surface. I think this is true for everyone—the trick is learning how to access where you’re storing these things and recombine them on the page in ways that are personally currently relevant to you.
Many writers carry a journal with them everywhere they go and write these ideas down for later processing. I’ve always got some paper with me, and I do scribble down the too-good-to-forget ideas, email them to myself, or go ahead and schedule a titled appointment on my calendar “write the one about the cadaver feet coming to life and the graduate student who has to walk them on leashes.” Sometimes the act of writing a note banishes the desire to write and it’s better to store the idea mentally until it’s “done cooking.” But what happens when you’ve used all your good ideas, or the ideas coming to you don’t seem to fit, or everything you write feels dumb?
The standard advice: Write your way out.
For just about every writer, extrovert or introvert, experienced or new, writing until an idea comes is the most often recommended solution. The motion of “word swimming” can jar things lose and get you going again. I’ve found this to be effective sometimes, but other times I can write for hours and feel like nothing I’ve written is salvageable and I could have more productively used the time watching Star Trek reruns. Stephen King says in On Writing that some days the words come easily to him and others he feels like he’s shoveling excrement from a seated position. Then, when he rereads his work, he can’t tell which days were which.
I’m not Stephen King.
However, when I’m doing a long project, like SWIFT FOR THE SUN, I occasionally struggle to get more words on the page, but I know where I’m going and that I’ll get there eventually—I have an overall plot in mind and, barring that, the characters tell me where they’re going to go and what they want to do next. I just have to keep grinding.
But short fiction, or the beginning of a story, is different for me.
I need a great idea, or a compelling character’s voice, or an impossible situation. A song lyric I can’t get out of my head. Or something I’m angry about and I either need to write about my feelings or write something to distract myself from those feelings. That’s just to get going—to keep going, I must have an inherent sense of “goodness.” Basically, this boils down to the gut feeling that the work I’m doing is going to result in something someone else will publish. Like Ira Glass says, I’m narrowing the gap between my taste and my ability so I can more quickly tell what stories are going to produce something worthwhile and which ones I should probably set aside and return to later, if at all.
But sometimes there is nothing in the world that can make a good idea happen. I’ve sat down to write and then found myself all over the house, doing every chore from cleaning the toothpaste speckles off the bathroom mirror to scooping the litterboxes. I’m searching for a chore that I want to do less than the pain of creating that will drive me back to my keyboard. This can work, sometimes, the act of getting moving knocks something loose.
Other times I’m stuck so deep I need to consciously employ an understanding of my creative process and self-knowledge. I am an extrovert. Every personality test, from the MBTI to the Clifton Strength’s Finder, reminds me of this fact. Mixed in with the necessary hours and hours alone talking to imaginary people is a need for real human contact. If you’re an extrovert too, some of these may help you:
· Drive a friend somewhere. If they are trapped in the car, they can’t escape you talking about your current project (I’m only partly kidding! A captive audience is quite valuable).
· Text or call a writing buddy for help. Explain you’re stuck and need some motivation and let their devious or supportive genius decide how to encourage you with punishment or reward for reaching your goal.
· Schedule a write-in at a coffee shop (or via video conference) and invite friends you either love to be with or love to compete with.
· Look at your work in progress and think about different editors or friends whose taste you know that you could send it to. What might they like the story’s tone or ending to be? How would you rewrite it with them in mind?
· Create a deadline and people who will be disappointed if you don’t meet it.
Each of these have been great motivators for me to get going with a story even when I seem to be down to my very last idea. Extroverted or extrinsically motivated writers seem to be a more rare breed, so these tips might not be applicable for you. However, if you find yourself wandering like Kakutani’s drunk bird, stop flying, meditate on what kind of person you are, and see if you can shift from three dimensions back into two. Sometimes the fastest way to do this is a sober friend. Other times it’s cleaning the gunk out from under the treadmill. Whatever gets you writing.
Karen Bovenmyer was born and raised in Iowa, where she teaches and mentors new writers at Iowa State University. She triple-majored in anthropology, English, and history so she could take college courses about cave people, zombie astronauts, and medieval warfare to prepare for her writing career. After earning her BS, she completed a master’s degree with a double specialization in literature and creative writing with a focus in speculative fiction, also from Iowa State University. Although trained to offer “Paper? Or plastic?” in a variety of pleasant tones, she landed an administrative job at the college shortly after graduation. Working full-time, getting married, setting up a household, and learning how to be an adult with responsibilities (i.e. bills to pay) absorbed her full attentions for nearly a decade during which time she primarily wrote extremely detailed roleplaying character histories and participated in National Novel Writing Month.
However, in 2010, Karen lost a parent.
With that loss, she realized becoming a published author had a nonnegotiable mortal time limit. She was accepted to the University of Southern Maine’s Stonecoast MFA program with a specialization in Popular Fiction and immediately started publishing, selling her first story just before starting the program and three more while in the extremely nurturing environment provided by the Stonecoast community, from which she graduated in 2013. Her science fiction, fantasy, and horror novellas, short stories, and poems now appear in more than forty publications including Abyss & Apex, Crossed Genres, Pseudopod, and Strange Horizons. She is the Horror Writers Association 2016 recipient of the Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley Scholarship. She serves as the nonfiction editor for Escape Artist’s Mothership Zeta Magazine and narrates stories for Pseudopod, Strange Horizons, Far Fetched Fables, Star Ship Sofa, and the Gallery of Curiosities Podcasts. Her first novel, SWIFT FOR THE SUN, an LGBT pirate romantic adventure set in the 1820s Caribbean, will be published on
March 27, 2017.
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