Hi guys, we have Karen Bovenmyer popping in today with her upcoming debut novel Swift for the Sun, we have a brilliant guest post and a great new excerpt, so check out the post and enjoy! <3 ~Pixie~
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.
Maintaining Your Meat Blimp: Endurance and Novel Writing
by Karen Bovenmyer
When I’m writing a novel, I demand a high level of performance from my heart, mind, and body. Maintaining BICFOK (butt in chair, fingers on keyboard) for long hours of creating, researching, and editing is demanding. I use a variety to tricks to maintain my creative energy and forward momentum, many of which boil down to what I call “meat blimp maintenance,” or, understanding how my physical health relates to my writing.
Exercise and Food
My easiest-to-enact solution has the most immediate effect. If I get around ten thousand steps a day (and by “around” I mean at least eight thousand) while writing to a deadline, my neck and shoulders hurt less from typing, my back and kiester hurt less from hours of sitting, and I come up with better ideas. I’m not a sporty person, so walking works very well for me, but if you have other kinds of exercise you like, my advice would be to try and get up and do at least a little something every two hours or so. That’s when I walk a thousand steps down the sidewalk and then turn around and come back home. Motion can shake free great ideas.
Speaking of shakes, it’s easy to continuously eat while writing/editing for long hours. I manage to hold the calorie count down by keeping several kinds of herbal tea ready for brewing. The act of heating the water and preparing the tea gives me a moment to think through some of my ideas, and sipping it keeps me from continuously eating sugary snacks. I find if I lay off the caffeine and sugar, my brain works a lot better. I read a study in high school that bananas and tuna boost brainpower, so I always ate both on days I had tests. Lots of fruits and veggies, whole grains, and protein at regular intervals will help you complete your writing marathon with flying colors.
Transitions and Meditation
When I’m exercising and eating well, I generally also sleep well, which helps me transition throughout my day, but not always. I work a full time job, and a long, hectic day with lots of stress and interaction can be quite taxing. When I come home limp and worn out, but I’ve still got to BICFOK for a few hours before bedtime to stay comfortably ahead of deadline, I’ve found meditation an indispensable tool.
If you’d told me as a young person that I’d one day do meditation, I would have laughed. I have always had difficulty sitting still for long periods of time—my mind is always racing, thinking through my day, or the challenges in my story I need to address. So I started small, with ten- and fifteen-minute guided meditations that helped me focus on different areas of my body. Then I discovered something that changed my life—qigong. “Small universe” sitting meditation is thirty minutes of cyclic breathing in and out of chakra points along the central body. Performing one of these meditations can make up for lost sleep, help me key down from a stressful situation, and transition my brain into a mind ready for creative labor.
Self-care and Accountability
This may sound counter-intuitive, but sometimes aggressive self-care calls for accountability with other people. It’s all well and good to understand that exercise, food, sleep, and mediation help us create, but when a deadline is looming, and our heads are wrapped up in our stories and characters, we sometimes need extra help to stay vigilant with our self-care.
I tell my immediate family and close friends my goals and am clear about my need to stay way from Netflix, go on frequent walks, be prevented from baking cookies, and, when I’m laying on the living room floor, I’m meditating, not passed out in a fit of creative angst. I find that younger family members in particular enjoy making sure I’m doing my “homework” and ushering me out for walks. A writing partner who has similar goals can also be inspiring, and, failing that, setting timers that indicate when you should take a break and when break time is over.
If you’re struggling to maintain creative energy, transition between work and writing, and invest in self-care for the long run marathon of writing, I hope these “meat blimp maintenance tips” are helpful.
Chapter 2. The Hunter
I CROUCHED, hiding among the rocks, as if the skull peak could see me and by seeing me, inflict its curse upon me. When Satan himself failed to come and gather me to his bosom, I regained my wits and applied logic to my predicament. No matter how much blood, a body, alive or dead, did not simply disappear. I slowed my breathing, calmed my mind, and looked carefully for tracks. There were, in fact, drag marks, which I followed cautiously down the slope on the other side. The trail led off into the mangroves. A rational man I was, but not an armed one. Following whomever or whatever had taken my shipmate away into the dark forest seemed foolhardy at best, suicidal at worst, so I returned to the beach and rooted among the smithereens for a likely weapon.
My thirst only grew as I searched for a weapon in the sun. So, finally armed with a belaying pin, I made my way back up the beach to hunt for freshwater, looking before and behind, keeping a careful eye on the dark edges of the forest, prepared to defend myself if anyone attacked.
The feeling of being watched by a silent observer intensified—from time to time, a faint sound echoed from the forest, as though something as large as a man was moving through the undergrowth.
Now and then, I walked through the surf to cool my burning feet. Miles of wreckage lay scattered along the sand, and by standing atop another rocky dune, I spotted a large piece of what looked like a forecastle far out to sea, spearing up from the water. I thought I made out what was left of the figurehead on the broken prow—a battered swift, missing one wing. My ship. Nothing moved on the wreckage, so my brief hope for survivors was dashed. The prow, perched on the crest of some unseen shoal, rocked with the waves. It was too far to swim, especially in my thirsty, hungry, rapidly weakening state, so I continued on.
I found nothing but more rocks and sand as I walked. It was afternoon by the time I rounded the north shore and started following the west, Dread Island’s mountain skull a far less threatening green-and-brown cone from this side. Yet the feeling I was being watched lingered. At times the shore had no beach but only sheer mountainside, and that was when I swam against an alarming undertow, past mysterious rents and fissures in the stone—partially submerged caves that echoed with pounding surf—until I was once again on the beach. There was no undertow in the lakes and streams of North Carolina, where I’d learned to swim. I cursed myself for not deciding to walk the other way round the island, because the sun followed me down the western shore, and for relief, I had to walk closer than I liked under the shade of the trees, where I was now convinced the lurking watcher waited.
I found no freshwater, not a river, not a stream, not even a small runoff from the recent storm. I dared not go too far under the canopy, but at last I could not resist the relative cool the shade offered. I managed to gain some freshwater from pools collected in wide leaves of undergrowth, but it was barely enough to wet my lips and did little to quench my thirst.
Something moved in the jungle, sending ferns and a wide-leafed plant I could not name swaying. I readied the belaying pin and put my back to the sea, in case it was the watcher. A bright green anole scurried across the leaf I’d drunk from a moment before and leaped onto the neighboring mangrove, disturbed by whatever moved deeper in the shadows.
“Who goes there?” I shouted. The rustling grew louder, but it moved fast away from me, lost in the gloom. I felt a little better having frightened it away, whatever it was, but clutched my makeshift weapon nevertheless, despite my battered hands.
When nothing else happened, I continued my circuit of the island. By dusk, I was back at my camp of piled wreckage, and none the wiser. I’d flushed birds and lizards from the trees, watched a speckled turtle glide through the clear blue water, taken note of several varieties of fish, but saw no other men nor a source of freshwater. I was too weak to put together any defenses, not even a small perimeter of standing boards, but I did wrap a piece of torn sailcloth over myself as my bed—the sand still held the heat of the day, but the wind coming off the sea was cold after my exertions. I fell into a fitful sleep, my belaying pin ready, and I woke for every small sound, shivering as the night slowly stole all warmth from the sand.
Karen Bovenmyer earned an MFA in Creative Writing: Popular Fiction from the University of Southern Maine. She teaches and mentors students at Iowa State University and serves asthe Nonfiction Assistant Editor of Escape Artists’ Mothership Zeta Magazine. She is the 2016 recipient of the Horror Writers Association Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley Scholarship. Her poems, short stories and novellas appear in more than 40 publications and her first novel, SWIFT FOR THE SUN, an LGBT romantic adventure in 1820s Caribbean, will be available from Dreamspinner Press on March 27, 2017.