New Book – Many Savage Moons

First things first. I’ve written a novel entitled Many Savage Moons. It’s available now on Amazon in paperback. You can also read it on Amazon Kindle.

Curious what the book is about? Here you go:

In the space of an autumn afternoon, Nathaniel falls hard for Winter York, the beguiling, tattooed woman he meets at the local bookstore. The fact that she is avoiding another man only increases his interest. The perfect day ends on Winter’s couch, where a newly tattooed Nathaniel is entranced by Winter’s enigmatic sophistication. But then the man Winter is avoiding invades her home. When Nathaniel fights him off, he is sure the worst is over. Winter, however, insists that the man is capable of a strange and dark magic: once he touches someone, he can write them into dreams, dreams where that person can die. How does Winter know? She is the inspiration for the man’s fantasy book series, and she has seen her friends perish at the stroke of his pen.

Many Savage Moons is an unconventional love story full of literary references and haunting tattoos, set in a world where a writer wields fantastical powers over those who inspire his work. Straddling the literary and fantasy realms, Many Savage Moons is a genre-bending work.

As for the cover:

In one last bit of news, going forward I plan to post most of my updates about my writing life over on Ben Spencer Writes, my Substack newsletter. I will update the website every few months to keep it fresh. If you’re looking for more consistent news, I suggest signing up for the newsletter.

Thanks everyone!

The Octopus in All of Us

On my writing desk, I keep an octopus pin that my wife gave me as a gift a few years back. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it my sigil, ala George R.R. Martin and his famous turtle pin, but I do love what the octopus calls to mind when I try to tap into the deep, dark places of my subconscious where my best fiction resides.

               Octopuses—that’s right, not octopi!—are fascinating for a great many reasons, but to me what makes them especially compelling are the contrasts that define their character. They are intelligent creatures who live solitary lives; they are playful problem-solvers who relish the opportunity to retreat to their dens for hours on end; they are life-loving introverts with the capacity to both play and kill. Furthermore, they embody both the beauty and horror of existence in their colorful, amorphous, shape-shifting forms, and can appear, depending on the framing, to represent life’s awe-inspiring pageant or the unsettling dread at the heart of our existential plight.

               Years ago, I was struck by a dreamlike image that informed a short story I tried—and ultimately failed—to write. The image was of a giant octopus that had risen from the ocean floor to take into its tentacles a cruise ship that had blotted out the sun. In the octopus’s mind, this wasn’t an evil act. The octopus was merely sating its curiosity: a curiosity that grew evermore piqued when small, two-legged creatures began spilling from the vessel. But eventually, the octopus’s curiosity turned to shame. When that occurred, the octopus drug the ship to the ocean floor, to hide its sin from the sun.

               Last year, sometime after abandoning the aforementioned short story, my wife and I watched My Octopus Teacher together on Netflix. For the unassociated, the movie documents the bond a South African diver/filmmaker forges with a common octopus living in a kelp forest. Theirs is a bond predicated first and foremost on curiosity: both the filmmaker’s for this intelligent, alien-like creature of the deep, and the octopus’ for the strange being that returns day after day with an underwater camera. Part of the tension that drives the film’s narrative is the viewer’s understanding of the risks and rewards inherent to crossing the interspecies divide. Both are grasping at the others’ true nature, and, in doing so, both are risking the unintended consequences that their curiosity might bring.

               Curiosity isn’t the only factor that compels me to write, but it’s certainly one of the primary ones. I try, at least in some part, to evoke a sense of childlike joy in my writerly attempts. What’s interesting about curiousness, is that it is, by its very nature, a stumbling sort of process, a de facto admission that one isn’t fully knowledgeable about the subject one is curious about. But as one obtains knowledge, the potential for evil grows, be it in the intentional application of knowledge for one’s personal benefit at the expense of others; or in the application of imperfect knowledge for the purpose of benefitting others, leading to unforeseen and unintended consequences. While I’m often horrified by the malicious nature of those who use their knowledge to harm others, I’m no less disturbed by those who believe their knowledge is perfect, and, guided by that certainty, wreak all sorts of well-meaning havoc on the world.

               I love writing that is aware of—and alive with—this tension, writing that captures the moral ambiguity inherent to being a living, breathing being on this planet, beings driven by imperfect intellects. I’ve tried to bring that tension to life in my own work. Right now, I’m sitting on quite a few completed projects that are trying to find their way into the world. My hope is that when readers get a chance to spend time in my books, they will experience the same feelings that I do when I think of the octopus: a sense of wonder, a sense of fear, and the sense that the two feelings are inextricably bound together.

Substack Newsletter/Why I Write

Hello all,

I have a writing newsletter over at substack, which you can find here: https://benspencer.substack.com/. As time goes on, I intend to publish my blog posts on the website and over at substack, so there’s no need to subscribe to both. But my substack feed was looking a little lonely, so I decided to write something for anyone who happened by. There’s a link to my first post down below if you’re interested.

In other news, I’m nearly finished with the epic fantasy novel that I’ve been working on for years. I’m 95% confident that it will be done by Christmas. That has little bearing on when it will actually appear in the real world, but, once it’s finished, I do plan to put the wheels in motion to carve out a space in either the traditional or self-publishing realms, come what may. I have a ton of finished work in the bag, and I’m eager to share it.

Best,

Ben

https://benspencer.substack.com/p/why-i-write?sd=pf

News News News

I have signed with a literary agent. I am now working diligently to get the manuscript in the best possible shape before we submit it to publishers. I know I don’t update the website often, so I thought I would share the news. It’s been an exciting few weeks, and I’m eager to begin this new phase of my writing life. Hopefully I’ll have more news to share in the coming months.

Wait For It

My wife has often told me that one of the fundamental things she understood about me from the time that we were first together was that she knew, in order for me to be happy, I would have to live a life where I was engaged in the act of creation. Early on in our relationship, that involved writing songs and trying to put together a band, but, from the age of twenty-three till the present day, I have happily dedicated myself to the craft of writing.

What a ride it’s been. In 2015, after a year of struggling on a long-abandoned literary novel, I made the transition to writing works of a more, shall we say, fantastical nature. It ended up being one of the best decisions of my life. But that doesn’t mean it hasn’t had its fair share of ups and downs. I’ve long been a perfectionist, just as I’ve long understood that my perfectionistic mindset serves as both one of my biggest strengths and biggest weaknesses. In order to break free from the rigid writing structure that my perfectionistic mindset often trapped me in, for the first time in my life I allowed myself to work on multiple projects simultaneously, and to set projects aside for long stretches of time if my inspiration waned. This being antithetical to my general modus operandi, I have spent parts of the last six years battling the guilt I felt from leaving certain projects uncompleted. But instead of giving into the guilt and forcing the work, I’ve tried to accept the discomfort while continuing to work on multiple projects with a sense of play. Over time, the multiple projects have come into shape at varying speeds. At no point in my life have I ever accrued such a backlog of creative work.

Last month, I completed the first of my multiple WIPs. It’s a novel, the original side project of all my side projects. I’m proud of it. I don’t know when it will see the light of day, but I’m excited about the prospect of getting it in front of the eyes of some industry folk to see what they make of it. Depending on the outcome, I’ll decide upon the next steps in my writing life.

I have felt for a long time that my decision to work on multiple projects at once may result in my finishing multiple projects close together. But instead of predicting what the future holds, I will simply say for now that I’m happy to have finished one, and I hope in the (near?) future to be able to share some of what I’ve been working on.

Now, back to it….