The Dog Days of Summer

Well, it's August... and that means jungle-like heat and humidity here in southern coastal Virginia, broken only by booming, torrential thunderstorms every few days. The only relief to be found lies in escaping to the cool(er) mountains, diving into the ocean at the beach, or finding the pleasant slices of evening that are like this view from the Warwick River at the edge of my neighborhood! Early mornings ain't bad either, but those are for running. :)

How's your summer? I'd love to hear about your adventures during the dog days (especially if they include dogs!).
- Nalin

Writing Update

Progress on the first draft of Rassam's Eye was slow in the last month, as predicted. A flurry of travel, house maintenance, and marathon training has kept me busy... But I'm happy to report that I've recently been getting in more word count. And, lucky you, there's an early-draft excerpt in this very newsletter if you scroll down a bit...

The first draft is currently at about 23,000 words, and at a rough guess is about 20% complete. I'm basing that completeness estimate off of the fact that I *think* I've hit "Plot Point 1" in the Three-Egg Structure. It's just a guess, that framework is more accurate (and possibly more useful?) applied retroactively in my experience. If you're curious, I recently posted about the Three Eggs and how I use them on the blog.

Craft-wise, I took a short seminar on "How to Self-Publish Your Book" from The Muse, to see if I would learn anything knew or if it might connect me to resources I was previously unaware of. The short summary is: Yes. More on that perhaps as Rassam's Eye gets closer to being a real thing, but I did find the seminar useful. Now I just have to sit down and finish the damn thing.

My short story Anpo (The Dawn), which was rejected a couple months ago with suggestions from the editor, has been revised and resubmitted to a new SF magazine. I hope to have good news to report next issue! Fingers crossed...

Fiction Consumed This Month

  • Literally maybe 100 pages or less away from finishing Gardens of the Moon, by Steven Erikson. I wanted to finish it last night, but it was getting late... hoping to finish tonight. The "WOW" I provided as commentary last month stands. Unique, complex, and possibly my favorite fantasy novel... I might post a full review on the blog later this month. Same caution as last month though: not for the faint of heart in terms of information density, or for those seeking a light beach read.
  • Next up is likely City of Brass, by S.A. Chakraborty... anyone want to book club?
  • Finished Season 1 of Shadow and Bone on Netflix. Great aesthetic and concept, and the YA vibe is perfect for dinnertime watching. I actually got several D&D character ideas based on the characters! It has a very engaging world without being hard to follow.
What have you been reading or watching? Any recommendations for me?

Excerpt from Rassam's Eye

Below is from the opening chapter of my novel-in-progress, Rassam's Eye. It's early-draft stuff, but I'd love to know what you think and if it hooks you in to wanting to read more!
Nimasha awoke from deepest sleep into complete blackness. Her body gasped before she could think, her chest straining against a cool, sticky padding that felt shrink-wrapped around her whole body like a mummy. She couldn’t move and tried not to panic. She blinked — or thought she did, it was hard to tell in the absolute dark — and for a moment wondered if she were dead.

But then a faint, yellow-orange light glowed in the corners of her vision and she remembered where she was, like a drunk remembers the last image of her room before collapsing into bed.

She wasn’t dead. She was going home.

The sun-like glow crawled brighter, mirroring and assisting her sense of awareness. Feeling was coming back. Her skin tingled. Something cold, flat and worm-like was plastered against her left cheek, snaking down to her neck. Her whole body tensed in vain, trying to grab it, shake it off, itch it, will it away, anything — but she was securely immobilized. Three more seconds and she thought that she would go insane.

Then the cylinder cracked open and Nimasha lay blinking stupidly in clinical, white light. She reached up to her face and clawed. The cold flatworm parted from her face and hung flaccidly from her forehead.

My hair. My own motherfucking hair was stuck to my face for over a year,. Couldn’t someone have caught that back at Dharum?

She could just imagine the oily black mess that her hair probably was right now, slowly growing, entangling unattended over the course of months. Well, it couldn’t be helped. No one claimed interstellar flight was comfortable, healthy, or even hygienic. Starchaser crews simply promised to get you from Sun A to Sun B, very probably alive, and then they took your money up front.

She reached up again to her cheek. The furrow on the left side of her face felt like a canyon to her still-tingling fingertips.

Gingerly, her abdominals straining from the slight exertion, she sat up in her cylinder and sloughed off the wrapping that had cushioned her body against the gut-squeezing forces that had propelled her across the three-point-eight light years from Dharum to Iskaria in any sort of reasonable human time frame. The matte-black padding came away reluctantly like a snake’s dead hide, leaving a sticky yellow residue against her naked brown skin. She wasn’t sure if it was the residue or her own body that was the source of the odor wave that suddenly hit her, but either way she wanted to scrape off her entire outer layer of body in a hot shower.

She shuddered off the last of the padding and looked away, if only to look at anything else but her body right now. Around her, the rows of cylinders were all hatching awakening passengers as robotic equipment hummed between them, shepherding their charges. The hundred or so other passengers in this compartment were also emerging — some just beginning the process, others already headed towards the main door in plain white paper robes.

Sensing her awakened status, a mobile medical stand came to her side and did several things at once, so quickly she couldn’t track them all in the moment with her still-foggy brain. It pulled some IVs, unhooked some straps, injected something viscous into her arm, and proffered her very own plain white paper robe, all before she could complete her yelp of surprise at the needle prick.

Whatever was in that injection worked. The fog in her brain started rapidly clearing. She grabbed the robes and, suddenly self-conscious, dressed as quickly as she could. Likely no one else was watching anyway. They were all trying to do the same thing: come back from the near-dead, and look upon a planet orbiting another star with their own eyes.
Thanks again for reading, and see you in the next issue!