Today I am so pleased to welcome Starlight Barque to Joyfully Jay. Starlight has come to talk to us about her latest release, Service to the State: A literary seduction. She has also brought along an exclusive excerpt and a giveaway. Please join me in giving her a big welcome!
The Road to Nanowrimo: A New Author’s Experience
I’ve been hearing about Nanowrimo for most of my adult life; one of my best friends has been part of it for 20 years. It was just something writers did, and she had been a proud writer for a lifetime. Our first interaction took place during an outdoor a fire drill in middle school. It lasted a long time, and she regaled me with plot twists and interesting characters from her latest story. I was a captive audience, but I enjoyed it. She said she never knew what the characters would do next, and I didn’t understand how that was possible. I do now.
Every year, she’d fret about choosing a project and swear she wouldn’t make the word count, but she always did. I didn’t think much about the goal. 50k words is a nice round number, and I assumed it wasn’t too daunting if so many people could finish it in only a month.
And then I began writing.
I started with fanfiction. I’m a proud Star Trek nerd, and my college roommate had VHS tapes of all the episodes of tng. The dominion war took place during my college years, and watching the last season of ds9 cemented a lifelong friendship. “What you leave behind” aired right after graduation, and in the midst of my own personal goodbyes, I bawled like an angsty teenager when the crew said their final farewells to one another.
I’ve never been a visual person, in fact, you could say I often listened to TV rather than watched it. This worked just fine for a dialog-heavy show like Star Trek, except that I missed things. Big things.
Somehow I’d been completely oblivious to the subtext between Julian Bashir and Garak during my first and second viewings of DS9. When another friend did a rewatch, I sat with her and we talked and I was fascinated by the body language and acting choices.
And that was it. I jumped into tumblr and a03 and began consuming garashir fiction at an alarming rate. My first read was “Fairy Tales in Deep Space” by airandangels (https://archiveofourown.org/works/217092/chapters/326479 if anyone is looking for an adorable, witty story).
A few months later, I had a story idea and pitched it to a writer friend, who convinced me instead to write it myself. The last time I’d tried my hand at creative writing had been in high school, and that story is still unfinished (and awful). But I gamely wrote my first short story and posted it.
It was 1,356 words, and it took hours to complete. The first comment had me over the moon because it referenced my favorite line in the story, maybe my favorite line in any of my stories. I counted every kudo, and was surprised and delighted to know that people would read and enjoy my work.
I was hooked. I wrote mostly for Garashir, but did a TNG holiday seder vignette, and penned some steamy scenes with Dax/Worf/Kira/Leeta. I posted tidbits on tumblr as I wrote, and interacted with more cool people in the fandom. It was immensely fun, and it got easier and faster. The longest story I finished was 5k words.
About 18 months ago, I decided to scrub one of my favourite fanfiction stories and run with it. It took months of work to construct original characters, world-build, and complete the story. I fell in love with the characters and led them from adorable awkwardness to a steamy romance and a well-deserved happy ending. Carnation Books published it in July.
It was 17k words. And just like that, my conception of 50k words was transformed. It was an enormous commitment. Another friend did Camp Nanowrimo that same July and completed a 50k word sequel to her first published work, and I decided boldly that I would do the same. I needed a good kick in the behind to get moving on that sequel anyway.
The first few days were fantastic. I brought my laptop everywhere, set up a workstation in the living room, and hit my goal every day. I updated my word count every three minutes, and it was so satisfying to see it reflected as my required word count fell for the day.
I wrote every day. The end of the story came first; I love my characters and wanted to get to their happy ending as soon as possible. It was sweet and touching, filled with friends and family and a little spice during their honeymoon.
When that was finished, I turned to the beginning. I started with some basic world-building — the sequel takes place in a new setting — and introduced some new characters. The setup to the main story needed some work, and relations between my two guys were a little strained from the new circumstances. Eventually, I had a workable beginning and ending, and I was at 20k words.
Every day I’d study the graph of my progress on the Nanowrimo site. I love numbers, and as a math geek, wasted way too much time comparing the slope of the “suggested progress” — basically a straight line — to my actual progress, which was a complete mess of a curve. Most days I was ahead of my word count, but my rate of completion fluctuated, and when the graphs finally intersected, I was behind. I’d written the ending, and the beginning, and what was left was… the middle. Could I really find 30k words of pure plot? I’d have to.
I wrote every day for an hour or two after work, and came up with some good scenes I could flesh out later. I eeked out enough words to get to 22k, then 25k, then 26k. My friend told me sagely that getting from 20k to 30k was the most challenging part, and I believed it.
Eventually I crossed the 30k mark and, amazingly, I had about ? of my story written, and most of the rest plotted in my head. By the end of week 3, I was at 35k words, and that, as they say, is all she wrote. The holidays made it impossible to finish; there were friends and family to see and travel to plan.
Do I regret falling short? A little. I wanted that badge. Would I do it again? In a heartbeat. It helped me write the better part of a novel, and though it wasn’t finished in November, it will be soon.
I checked my friend’s status on the plane and she was at 45k words on November 29. She’d make it. She always does.
Next year, that’ll be me.
A short excerpt from the sequel:
Anchorage, Alaska, 2191
Galen Jayr stood by the nurse’s station in the small hospital, searching for his patient’s chart.
It was busy as always, but the ER residents had things under control, and the attendings were dealing with paperwork and catching up on the latest gossip. There hospital was the only facility for 30 miles that treated refugees fresh over the border. Anchorage was one of the last places in the US left standing after two centuries of climate change, and they had a steady steam of refugees from western Canada and British Columbia, both of which had fared less well in the past few decades.
“Are you whistling?” asked Dr. Arlington, turning to look at him and grinning, “you clearly had a good weekend. I guess someone got lucky last night”
“Are you kidding,” said the resident behind the desk, “when doesn’t he? I think Nav spends more time at Galen’s house than he does at work. Speaking of which, is there a reason he’s cut down his hours?”
Galen smiled and said, “Our place. Nav moved in last month. And to answer your question, he’s getting more involved in local relief efforts. I think it’s possible he’s going to run for city council in the spring. It’s nice to see him using his talents for more than just emptying bedpans. It’s honest work, but it really wasn’t fulfilling for him. I’m glad he’s getting more involved in the community.”
The resident, Wyatt Johnson, leaned in, “We wondered about his tendency towards solitude. He’s never come out for drinks or even joined us for coffee in the cafeteria. To be honest, we all thought he’d dealt with some early trauma. I mean, the scarring on his face is pretty severe. Was it an accident, or some kind of abuse?”
Galen tried to mask his expression. He knew exactly why Nav’s face was scarred to that degree. Nav was an explorer, a military man from the planet Milosia. He’d been sent to collect data on Earth, but the government on his planet had abandoned him there. After over a decade, he’d come to terms with his situation and was only now accepting that he’d have to build a life on Earth, but he was still an alien. The scars and the high necklines were designed to hide the thick ridges that adorned his upper body.
“I’m sorry,” Johnson said quickly, seeing Galen’s discomfort, “shouldn’t have asked. It’s really not our business. I just have a weakness for hospital gossip.”
Galen nodded in response and ran his hands through his long, thick hair. It had been quite some time since he grew it out, but Nav was partial to long hair, and Galen loved the feel of feeling of those fingers running through the long strands.
Wyatt handed him a file and said, “I think this is the one you’re looking for,” and Galen grunted in appreciation. He covered his mouth to stifle a yawn, turning away to avoid the usual cracks about what kept him up all night. He had to admit, he was pretty lucky these days.
“So what sorts of projects are on the table for our esteemed city council?” asked Arlington, a little warily. Galen knew he didn’t think much of the local government, and he didn’t blame him. It was one of the reasons Nav was considering a run for a local seat.
He cleared his throat and coughed a little. They still called them seasonal allergies, but for most it hit year-round. It was always damp and rainy.
“Same old story,” said Galen, “too many motions and not enough action. Nav’s got some good ideas though, and I think he’s pitching them this afternoon. Larger scale action, more investment in wind or hydraulic power — we certainly have the weather for it — and expanding the committee that oversees refugee transfers from Canada. Open up a few temporary medical tents to deal with the overflow.”
As usual, his hands flew as he spoke, palms reaching out to deliver the most important points. Nav said his hands moved so much when he talked that he might as well learn sign language.
Arlington shook his head and sneezed into his arm. He caught his breath and continued.
“Well if he call pull that off, he has my vote. I think they’ll steamroll right over him, though. Decisive action isn’t really their thing. But I’m glad he’s fighting the good fight.”
Galen shook his head and said confidently. “Personally, my money’s on Nav. He can be very persistent when he wants to be. It’ll just take some time. Anyway, I’ll be in my office if anyone needs me. I’m behind on charting this week.”
Wyatt gave him a sympathetic look as he walked by, then smirked as he heard him whistling under his breath again. Galen caught him watching and grinned sheepishly before disappearing into his corner office.
The decor was warm and bright, an enormous change from the stark walls that had lined it in previous years. There were paintings they’d picked out from street vendors, soft lighting, and designer lamps that Nav had picked up at the local thrift shop. Nav had insisted on finding a second-hand couch and dressing it up with throw pillows, then building an extension to his desk with space for his supplies and computer. Nav was good with his hands. He shivered as he remember just how clever they’d been last night.
Galen forced him thoughts back to his work. He’d be damned if he brought any charts home tonight, even if it meant working until midnight. Looking at the giant stack before him, he realized that it just might.
At about 8pm, he was still at the clinic tending to his notes. The other attending physicians were long gone, and only a few residents were on the night shift. The night nurse was half-awake and he understood the feeling. He would do anything to avoid paperwork. Which was, of course, why it was piled up on his desk, untouched for the past wee
A few minutes later, one of the ER nurses came to find him, looking mildly stressed. He turned to face her expectantly.
“Dr. Jahr, we have a burn victim in the ER,” she said urgently, striding quickly towards him.
Galen raised his eyebrows, a bit taken aback. Nurse Abide was normally quite calm, even in dire situations.
“Alright,” he said easily, “have the on call resident check him out, and I’ll be along in a few minutes.”
She smiled kindly and insisted, “I’m afraid you need to come now. The patient is Navojan. He’s fine, it’s just his hand, but he refuses to let anyone touch him but you, and he does need immediate treatment.”
Galen leapt to his feet and followed her back to the ER. It must be more than just a small burn to bring him to the hospital, because he prided himself on his ability to deal with pain. Nav sat nonchalantly in the ER, talking to the resident as if nothing had happened. His hand was badly burned, and Galen wondered if they had given him pain meds to calm him down.
Probably not. I bet the burn barely phased him. Military men were the worst patients.
He took Nav’s good hand in his and stroked it with his thumb. “What happened, love?”
Nav smiled wryly. “Aurora got hold of the teapot. She dumped it in the sink while I was getting a drink”
Galen shook his head. The woman was a disaster waiting to happen. How the council treasurer could be so careful with numbers and so oblivious to her surroundings was a mystery to him. In any case, he turned his attention back to Nav. Steam burns could be severe.
“Did you give him anything for the pain?” he asked the resident, who shook his head and said, “he won’t take anything.”
Sighing, Galen began to debride the wound, and Nav gasped from the pain, looking almost white.
“WIll,” he said, “give him a shot of morphine please,” and the young man moved to comply.
Nav started to object but stopped when he saw the stern look on Galen’s face. Galen took his time cleaning the burn, removing the necrotic tissue and applying some antibiotic ointment. At least it wasn’t his dominant hand.
Finally he applied a sterile bandage and said, “This needs to be changed daily. I hear your boyfriend has some medical training. You should have him help with that.”
Nav grumbled under his breath but took the bandages, ointment, and bottle of antibiotics that he was offered and gave Galen a one-armed hug.
“It’s good to see you, at any rate. You’ve been working late every night this week,” he groused.
“Give me a few minutes to put some things away,” Galen said gamely, “and I’ll take you home. I think that burn needs a little TLC.”
“I don’t know about that,” Nav smiled wickedly, “but the rest of me definitely does.”
In the year 2190…
Brilliant surgeon Galen Jayr has given up on love and moved halfway across the world to escape heartbreak. While working at a relief hospital in Alaska, Galen meets and befriends Navojan, an alien living on Earth but hiding his true identity as a being from another planet.
Over the course of their unlikely friendship, Galen and Navojan spend their days working and spending time together, often discussing their favorite books. It never occurs to Galen that Navojan has a flair for writing himself, until one day he happens upon Navojan’s open tablet and his unfinished romance novel.
The steamy contents of the novel activate Galen’s imagination, sending his feelings for Navojan into overdrive. Could the human character in Navojan’s book be a stand-in for Galen himself? Galen is completely distracted by dreams and fantasies of his friend, whose physiology feels pain as pleasure, and whose features–among them, a tail–are so very alien.
This short read is full of passion and sensuality, exploring the relationship between pleasure and pain, and detailing an alien/human love affair that is a bit sweet, a bit strange, and extremely, delightfully sexy.
Starlight Barque has been dabbling in the creative arts for most of her life. When not writing gay erotic fiction, she can be found tinkering with her impressive collection of musical instruments, stopping to pet strange dogs on the street, and pondering tidbits on tumblr such as “when robots take over the world, will the revolution be fought in captchas?“ She plays a mean game of classic 80s mario brothers, binge-watches science fiction like a pro, and is hopeless at cards against humanity. Service to the State is her first work for Carnation Books, and she is hard at work on a sequel.
Starlight Barque is the author of Service to the State, available through Carnation Books at: getbook.at/service.
She can be found on social media at:
- A03: https://archiveofourown.org/users/boldlygowherenodoghasgonebefore/works
- Tumblr: https://www.tumblr.com/dashboard
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/StarlightBarque?s=09
Starlight has brought three copies of Service to the State to give away to lucky readers. Just leave a comment at the end of the post to enter. The contest ends on Wednesday, February 5th at 11:59 pm ET.
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