Clearing away cobwebs in my writing shed

I am working in the shed for the first time a month, and I literally had to take my little whisk broom and clear away cobwebs before I could start — spider friends, you don’t need to be QUITE so industrious in pointing out my lacks! A student asked to interview me yesterday, an informational interview about how she might make her way forward as a writer, and one thing she asked was how I balance writing and the rest of my life. I’m pretty sure ‘occasionally, I don’t write for a solid month’ was not one of the answers she was looking for!

Aryabhata has chosen to curl up literally at my feet under the blanket, which is slightly awkward, but I can manage. It’s drizzly outside, with an autumn chill, and with the candles and incense going, and the flowers still blooming outside, it’s rather perfectly hyggeligt. I could stay here all day. (I can’t, as I have other commitments running from noon to 9 p.m., but let’s pretend for a few hours, shall we?)

Here’s the new scene I sleepily drafted last night, just because. I needed a bunch of names, so I may have thrown in a few you’ll recognize. 

I’m coming back to my big SF novel after more than a year away (mostly spent revising Liminality, the small SF novel which is currently in the hands of my agent, working through his queue, fingers crossed he likes it).

This book honestly scares me a little, because it’s clear that to do it properly, it’s going to be multiple books, with a sort of Outlander pacing. Slow build of characterization, etc. Will SF readers be patient with that? You don’t even get into space until the second chapter; I fret.

But I’m trying to walk a line between writing it in the way that feels natural, and writing it in a way that will be engaging and build tension. This particular scene is fairly light, but it does, I think, set up something that might be of use later. Maybe. We’ll see if it stays.


She came home late and flushed, but her mother didn’t notice, with Gowri demanding milk in a piercing wail, and Harish tugging so hard on her sari that was about to fall down. Tharani swooped in and picked him up, swinging the toddler up into the air, tossing him until it was Amma shrieking – “Tharani, I’ve told you to stop that. You’re going to drop him!”

“I never do, Amma,” Tharani replied cheerfully, but she took pity on her mother and hoisted Harish onto her back instead, dropping to the ground to play elephant. Swinging her arm like a trunk and heedless of the dirt on her knees. Amma sighed, but also settled back into her favorite chair with relief, eyes closing. Tharani knew what that meant – she was in charge now, and once she’d exhausted Harish enough to settle him down, Tharani rose to her feet and walked through their home, gathering children as she went.

“Jayanthi, Kamatchi, Pallavi! It’s homework time. Sripati & Aryabhata – if you don’t get your hands off each other this instant, you’ll be feeling my hands on you, and you know you don’t want that.” She wouldn’t actually beat them, but they didn’t need to know that, and her drill sergeant voice was enough to put the fear of Acca into all of them. “SuchethaYudhanjaya – dinner in an hour; do you need anything? A cup of tea? Some milk toffee?” The two older boys had their heads bent down over their exam books, and Yudha just waved a dismissive hand at her. Too aware of his own brilliance, that one, and all the neighborhood praising him for it.

Such was her favorite, and when he raised his head enough to smile and say, “Tea, please, Acca,” her heart melted a little. Tharani would’ve liked to stay and talk to him, but that would only earn her a scolding for distracting him from his studies. She brought him tea and then went on; she had six more siblings to corral. When she’d finished, settling them all to work or quiet play or helping with dinner, a rare and blessed silence fell over the house. Amma’s eyes opened and she whispered, not disturbing the baby now asleep at her breast, “I don’t know how you do it, mahal. They all listen to you.”

‘Maybe because I actually listen to what they need, and try to provide it, instead of dictating terms and screaming at them?’ Tharani didn’t say that; her natural snark smothered under a warm and fuzzy blanket of sweetness. Still dizzy at the memory of Narayan’s touch, his fingers slipping under her skirt, sliding along her naked thigh… Tharani had been a little tense when walking in the door, but she’d gotten away with it all, it seemed. Her heart beat a little faster. Tomorrow. She’d see him again tomorrow.



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