Category Archives: Updates

Summer Writing Plans

The school year is finally over.

I hadn’t written a word of real prose in months. Though I’ve had time to write in the literal sense, it feels as though I can never find time to write. Maybe that’s an excuse. But sometimes I think that teaching strongly forces a mindset antithetical to writing. On average, I work ten to twelve hours per day during the school year. Most of these hours I need to be in a mental space that demands constant attention to a thousand competing concrete tasks. Even in the evenings and on the weekends, I struggle to get back into a mindset of out-of-the-box thinking, imagining the fantastic, and unstructured creativity.

But now that changes! Over the last few days I’ve been trying to emerge from writer hibernation, get my bearings, and choose a project for the summer.

Red Soil Through Our Fingers, released last January, is doing better than I hoped for a first novel. I’m far from breaking even on it financially, but profit certainly isn’t the only metric for a book. I was able to get through the whole writing, revision, and publication process successfully, and get my work out there. About two hundred copies are out in the world by my count, and the few reviews that have come in so far are almost all positive.

I’ve attempted the sequel to Red Soil Through Our Fingers a few times, but it has been difficult to gain traction on it. To be honest, I feel overly constrained by the pre-existing narrative and characters, as well as the very Hard-SF tack of the first novel. I’ve been itching to do something a little more imaginative, with new characters to explore. So I’m tabling Red Soil for now.

I broke ground this week on a new novel, which takes place in a fictional star cluster somewhere in our galaxy. The book is as-yet untitled, of course, but I can say that I want to explore how conflicts between strong, wealthy nations can steamroll over the less-powerful caught in between. I’m also directly facing an element I avoided in Red Soil: religion and its interplay with science and society. I’ll post updates later in the process when I have something concrete to share.

 

 

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I’ll be at Arisia 2015!

I’m excited and honored to be appearing on four panels at this year’s Arisia 2015 science fiction convention, coming up this January 16-19. I plan to be there for every day of the con, and I’ll post a list of panels that I will be attending as an audience member later, once I’ve had a chance to digest the program.

Below are the panels I’ll be appearing on as a panelist.

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Ok, so on the last day of Camp NaNoWriMo, my word count is pretty sad. (I’m currently at 26385). BUT! I plead giddiness, as for the past week or two most of my free time thought bandwidth has been taken up by the subject of the photo below.

Larissa_ring

I’m engaged!

(And yes, I do intend to continue trying to finish the novel).

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Summer Writing Plans

I’m back from a very refreshing week in Vermont and Maine, the latter with other writers (and a lot of fried clams and beer on the beach). Compared to the day to day survival stance that first-year teaching forces on the mind, how I feel now is nothing short of fantastic.

I’m ready for a summer of writing.

I had a chance to parse through and reflect on the year or so of work I’ve put into Vihara, the novel I had in progress. I realized that I’m trying to say too much with it. I had at least three major premises: 1) the sociopolitical consequences of corporate control of space, 2) the idea of what Buddhism looks like in a spacefaring society, and 3) an exploration of quantum graphity as a cosmological theory.

In other words, there isn’t really any one particular thing that Vihara was about, just an overlay of ideas that I find interesting. That doesn’t mean that the work was wasted — it helped me think through these ideas and the characters.

So a few things are happening. I pulled out the first layer and refined it: What happens to ordinary people if a weak public space policy allows corporations to run the show in space colonization? Then I “zoomed in” within the Vihara worldspace and fleshed out one particular location: a Mars colony situated near the Hellas Planitia. I defined three new main characters (using a cool new method I’ll talk about in a later post), and feel like I am in a good position to make a character-driven (as opposed to world-driven) story.

Finally, to give myself some fun motivation, I’ve signed up for the Camp Nanowrimo summer writing challenge with my writer friend Brian. We’re both aiming for a 50,000-word rough draft by the end of July.  Working title: Red Soil Through His Fingers.

An interplanetary homesteader accepts a deal with a Mars colonization company to start a new life on humanity’s bold new frontier in the solar system. But staunch idealism turns to unease when the fine print becomes more than it seems. To what lengths will a private corporation go in the balance between human lives and profit? An exploration of the consequences of weak public space policy during this, our dawn of the private space age.

(And if you’ve seen George Lucas in Love, yes, this is actually an agricultural space tragedy.)

I’ll put up a widget or something to help track progress.

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Emerging from Hibernation

When I logged into the blog this evening and saw all the red notifications, I thought yup, it’s been awhile. When I saw that the last post was dated September 30th, I actually laughed out loud. It’s a sad thing, but being a first year teacher in an urban public school really does suck the life out of you. I don’t think I’ve ever known levels of exhaustion like those I have experienced this year.

So, that’s what happened to my writing these last seven months.

The good news is that it’s getting better, and looks to stay that way. Next school year shouldn’t be nearly as bad, since I won’t be rolling so many lessons from scratch. And for now, it’s Spring Break, with summer hot on its heels, so I’m optimistic that the long winter of no writing is over.

On the front burner: I’ve got a short story in progress for the Ploughshares 2014 Emerging Writers Contest, which I also see as part of an identity novel that’s been percolating in my head for a few years now in various forms. This story marks the first actual prose that I’ve written on the theme of South Asian American identity, and so far it’s flowing well at about 3,000 words so far. I hope to have a draft of the story done by the end of the week for a writer’s group meeting on Friday, feedback from which I hope I can incorporate by the May 15th deadline.

Apropos of the writer group… it’s been great to make a few writer friends here in Boston. Actually, it would be more accurate to say that I have been discovering that several friends are also writers, and on that basis forging closer friendships with them. Exciting news: my girlfriend and I, both writers, have made plans with another writer couple for our own little writer retreat up to Maine this summer! Details in a later post.

Vihara remains in progress, and I have vague plans of finishing it by the end of this summer. In terms of word count, its over two-thirds of the way toward my target, but there are much deeper problems than that. I’ve been finding that I really need to work on characterization.

I have plenty of premises, social systems, technologies, and such bouncing around in my head, and I don’t think my prose is too shabby. But almost universal feedback from submissions and friends is that, in general, my protagonists tend to feature too much narrative distance and not enough character arc to really be as meaningful as they could be. In response, I’ve been working hard on writing exercises and re-framing how I approach writing ideas. I hope it pays off!

Lastly, I want to congratulate a new lit mag I’ve been keeping an eye on.. Jaggery just released its second issue of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and artwork by or about the South Asian homeland and diaspora. I’ve been intrigued by its content anyway, but especially now that I am starting to write more identity fiction, I want to keep tabs on the literary conversations running though this magazine.

That’s all for now! I hope to be better about updating this blog (and writing more fiction of course) over the next few months.

 

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Our Pale Blue Dot

In this rare image taken on July 19, 2013, the wide-angle camera on NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has captured Saturn’s rings and our planet Earth and its moon in the same frame.

This gorgeous photograph of our planet Earth, was taken by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft, which is orbiting the planet Saturn almost 900 million miles away. Puts everything in perspective right?

From this distant vantage point, the Earth might not seem of any particular interest. But for us, it’s different. Consider again that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there – on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that in glory and triumph they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner. How frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity – in all this vastness – there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

The Earth is the only world known, so far, to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment, the Earth is where we make our stand. It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.
—Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space, 1997 reprint, pp. xv–xvi

If I’m ever hard up for writing ideas, for thinking about the stories that need to be written, I think I will stare at this photograph for awhile.

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