First Page Trepidation

I’ll be the first (and not the last *ahem, agents*) to say it, my first page and pretty much my first chapter of Capacitance blows. It really sucks. There is too much exposition, it lacks any immediate grip to draw the reader to turn the page, and it contains a confusing flashback.

I’m somewhat embarrassed that it is included here on this blog, bar the fact that I hope to one day post a marvelous revision that will showcase my growth and effort as a writer. Someday.

For now, all my attempts at re-writing my first pages have been second rate at best. At worst, they haven’t even happened and have resulted in me staring obstinately at the computer screen refusing to mutilate the first stirrings of life in the brain-child that is my book.

There is a huge mind block for me in revising my first pages. In fact, there is a block in writing them in general. Each of my three books (perhaps with the exception of Inductance) the beginning is very weak. The writing is insecure and it’s obvious that I am just trying to get past that blank page anxiety and get my words on paper. Fast forward to the middle of the book and the prose is clean and engaging, things are moving much more quickly.

However, even if I am in this great writing style flow, the moment I go back and try to write the first chapter in the same style, my brain freezes up. I wish this post could turn from the struggle to the solution, but as of yet I have not been successful in revamping my shoddy first chapters. Does anyone out there have tips?

Processes.

I’ve been off my writing grind for awhile, caught up in a busy time for my other job (driving grain trucks for harvest, believe it or not). It has given me time to realize, in a much more prolonged way, the processes I go through as an author. It was nearly a year ago that I made the big step which started me on the transition to “someday I will do this” to “I will do this now.” Over the past year I have learned a lot–to say the least! A lot of this learning has been about the industry, but much more has had to do with myself.

I go in cycles with my work. It starts out in trepidation, a lot of doubt and not much self confidence. But the need to write builds up and eventually I put words out there and feel an immense sensation of mental release.

Then I go back and read the words. This is an essential part of my process. When I’m writing I get so involved in the flow that I scarcely remember all the details the story accumulates. Thus, when I go back not only does it remind me of the plot twists, but it also builds my self confidence. I read my own words and my mind allows a not so humble thought (“hey, this doesn’t suck!”) to emerge.

This gives me confidence to write more. In my most confident moments I will go on a writing spree, accomplishing a chapter a day. I am high on the feeling of actually accomplishing my goals, and doing them well. This is how I got two manuscripts (rough drafts admittedly!) done in only six months.

After the high necessarily comes the low. For me, this comes with the denials, and the frustration of being stuck in the plot. When the writing isn’t flowing, I feel like it never will. When denial after denial flows into my inbox, I despair that is the only response my work will ever get. This is a recipe for sluggishness, a part of the process where I shy away from my Word document.

Thus, I’m back to trepidation and lacking self-confidence. Square one of my process. However, it is fascinating to inspect this circular way I work, and it is heartening to know that the next step is one in the right direction. Happy Friday!

New Week, New Strategies

This week I am starting off with some new strategies for querying agents. Referring to my post on writing dystopian, I feel like it is going to be difficult to find the agent that is searching for that particular genre. However, they are out there, I just have to find them!

Today I googled “literary agent dystopian,” and got some hits. While I didn’t check out many links today, I did find an agent who loves dystopian worlds and immediately made out a query letter for her. I think this is a better strategy than I have had previously where I would search good agencies and then go to whatever agents were available there, regardless of whether they specifically said dystopian. I also plan to use this strategy with the New Adult category. Since that is a growing genre, surely I will be able to find agents specifically searching for it.

Another new strategy I am using quite frequently is the Writer’s Digest new literary agents spotlight. I am on the fence about new agents. For one, they have less experience than more established agents. However, they are more actively building their client base. For me, it’s definitely worth a shot. I am a young writer with little experience and if a similarly young agent wants to take a chance on me, I’ll take a chance on them. I will definitely be referring to the new literary agent spotlight list from now on. Not only for the agent information, but also because it leads me to other agencies to explore. For instance I clicked on a new agent profile, then linked to her agency website and from there ended up querying another agent and heading over to a new agency’s website that was listed in the bio of the agent I queried.

Using these new strategies, I am looking forward to heading into a productive week of querying and writing. Happy Monday!

Updates in Life and Writing

Hello all! I have been gone for quite an extensive amount of time as I was on my family vacation to Colorado. It was a great time and my Dad, Uncle and I ended up summiting nine 14ers (mountains over 14,000 ft. high!). While I did not get any writing done during the trip as my time was spent either climbing, eating or sleeping, the trip was great for meditative purposes. Being in Colorado was also interesting for exploring more of my setting. This is a fact that I tried to make rather subtle in the books, but the setting is based on a post-apocalyptic Denver area. I have always loved Colorado and the mountains, so I wanted my book to be set here in this MidWest/Rocky Mountain region. I don’t digress down this line of thought often as I like readers to engage with the characters rather than the history of their setting. However, I like to think that the Midwest would be the obvious place for a post-apocalyptic world to be set in–a major world crisis or war would wipe out the coastal metropolises, thus people who survived would be centrally located. This is about as far as I will go right now on that line of thought as I do want the history and what happened to create the world Mara and Runey live in now to maintain an aura of mystery so readers can ask and fill in their own questions.

While my thoughts on the trail didn’t focus specifically on Resistance itself, now that I am back I feel like some ideas and themes have really settled themselves in for me. Taking a break from the story was definitely a good thing; as I have mentioned, it has gotten very dark and getting away from that for a bit was good mental relief. However, I would be lying if I didn’t say this book is causing a lot of pressure for me. Resistance is the last book in the trilogy and i feel like there are a lot of loose ends to tie up in a powerful, elegant and gripping way. This is a trifecta that is hard to achieve. However, by setting the scene of the first few chapters as so dark and heavy, I think I have done the first step in giving the right tone for an elegant yet gripping finish. Now I just need to get back in the swing of writing! This is my first year of being a serious author, and I have learned a lot so far. One of the most important things I have learned is that I am definitely going to be a writer who has “seasons.” There will be times of the year (summer!) where I don’t get as much written, and I need to accept this. It doesn’t make me a better or worse author and it doesn’t make me lazy. Finding a balance between life and writing is a delicate process and I am gradually learning to realize that my winter page output is simply going to be more than that of my summer output.

Finally, I did contact the agency who had requested my full manuscript. Their submission guidelines said to do this if two months had passed without a response after a manuscript request. I have heard that you aren’t supposed to be too hasty with follow-up as it takes agents a long time to get through their piles of slush, so I was very glad the agency website had such specific guidelines about when to touch base. I haven’t gotten a response yet, so the waiting continues! Some things in my personal life are starting to come together for me, so I am hoping the agent hunt can be another thing falling into place! Wish me luck! 🙂

Friday Updates

I am a little ashamed of this edition of Friday updates as it is not as successful a report as I would like to convey! Once again I am struggling with the pressure to write very quickly but still attending to my other obligations. Nonetheless, I am trying not to judge myself on the lack of chapters written (in the meantime wondering why I set these goals for myself when I know they probably won’t happen).

I wanted to get Resistance done through Chapter 10 by the end of this week as I leave for Colorado tomorrow. It was a rather achievable goal as it required me to write one chapter per day for each day of this work week (my usual pace). However, things got hectic, as I fully knew they would. I had social obligations pop up, an out of town appointment yesterday, and general French Bulldog disasters most days. Plus, I still haven’t packed for my trip (a usual procrastination). Resistance sits calmly waiting for me to pick up and write Chapter 8, and with the to-do list I have for today I’ll be lucky if I get even that done.

All that being said, I still feel good about the manuscript. It is very dark this time around and thus it is harder to submerge myself in the material. The characters are going through some experiences that are hard to write about, but their emotions after these experiences have happened are even harder to convey. I don’t want to stereotype their reactions, or worse (in my opinion) archetype their reactions. I want these characters to be genuine and authentic; while there is, to some extent, an archetypal element in all forms of human behavior, it is important to know about it but still deviate from it in some way that is unique and speaks to your characters. That has been a struggle, but a rewarding one as it forces me to think deeply about the characters as a whole. This third book has a very different feel; I wanted it to be purposefully disorienting both to give the readers a sense of how much Runey and Mara are going through and also to give the book a sense of desperation and urgency. Throughout the trilogy the threat has been veiled and that veil has been sliding off slowly but surely throughout the series–now it has been yanked off to reveal the horrible things it was covering before. It’s a hard thing to deal with as a writer. Gravity and urgency makes for a difficult balance to maintain. And that, friends, is the best I can do to explain myself and lake of prolific-ness with this MS.

Agent updates: Nothing really new to report. I am hearing back from a few queries in the form of denials. The agent who requested my full manuscript has not gotten back to me yet and we are nearing the two month mark in which either she promised to respond and if not I am supposed to drop her a line reminding her. This deadline makes me both nervous and excited. What if I email her only to find out she never got the manuscript as it went to spam or whatnot and thus I have to wait another two months after re-submitting?? Lots of “what-ifs”! I continue to have nothing but great things to say about the agents I met at the WLT Conference. One of them dropped me a quick line to say he got my query and would respond again soon (unheard of!). And another emailed me to say the work wasn’t for him, but he would pass it on to someone in his agency who he thought might be a better fit. So impressed! They are actually real people, you guys! 🙂 Once I get back from vacation, I plan to start another round of querying. I want to try and challenge myself to write one query per day, every weekday. Let’s see if that goal goes by the way of my finishing Chapter 10 this week goal…haha.

I hope everyone has a great weekend! I am going to try and see if I can be technologically savvy enough to set up an automated post for Chapter 10 on Monday. I apologize in advance if I am not bright enough to figure that out. Adios!

Chapter 8 & 9 Musings

Before I write these author responses to my posted chapters of Capacitance, I always go back and re-read the chapter for a refresh (it’s hard to remember what I wrote nearly two books ago!). When I went back and started reading Chapter 8, I didn’t get through the whole thing because there is a point that I really wanted to make in response to my saying that some people aren’t perceiving Mara as a likable character. In Chapter 8, we see Runey making an effort towards Mara (despite his own mental distress). Although she is standoffish towards him, he still sticks up for her with the other group members, then even in his own mind he finds her strengths behind her weaknesses. While Mara may not be the most likeable person in these first few chapters, Runey’s perceptiveness allows the reader to perhaps view her differently than their first impression. Not only does it shed light on the potential for connection (another “Capacitance” term reference!) between the two, but it also demonstrates how perceptive Runey is–Runey’s inner monologue helps build strengths for both characters.

Chapter 8 is all about people’s imperfections. Runey explores Mara’s flaws and finds the strength behind them, and then he betrays a weakness of his own. How can we blame Runey for taking Juleia into his room when he finds her in his dorm hall? Runey’s response lends a human element to his mission to get to Mara–to be human is to err, and Runey becomes more complex as he is not completely perfect. The imperfections continue in Runey and Juleia’s exchange in bed. Here we see why their relationship might not have been perfect even were it allowed to continue. Juleia harbors jealousy–a fact that is not new to their relations as Runey is well versed in dealing with it. Through this exchange the reader is invited to go back in time and imagine how Runey and Juleia were before the story began, and hopefully they begin to wonder if Juleia was truly good for Runey in the first place. The questions brought up by Chapter 8 are many that we as humans are familiar with, and as always, it is great to lend more humanity to one’s fictional characters.

Chapter 9 is a nice parallel to Chapter 8 as we see Mara thinking about Runey now instead of vice versa. It is easy to see the correlation and differences. Runey and Mara are both fascinated with the others’ physical appearance and physical imagery is what dominates their thought processes at this time. However, whereas Runey is having to train his mind to focus on Mara, Mara’s mind is wandering to thoughts of Runey of its own free will–much to her consternation. The differences continue as we compare Runey and Juleia–clearly two people who crave a relationship in their life–to Mara’s feelings on the matter. When she meets Langdon in the elevator, the scene drives home for the reader even more that Mara is not interested in dating and sees the whole business as trivial. Possibly the reader is anticipating that, given Mara’s viewpoint on love, Runey will have a hard time achieving his mission.

Now I am going to switch gears entirely for one final train of thought–Mara in her lab. People have asked me how I make the lab scene sound so convincing and wonder if I have taken science classes or spent time in a lab myself. While I am very flattered that my prose comes off so convincingly, I must say that my best preparation for writing these scenes was from watching a lot of movies, reading a lot of books, and perhaps a Biochemistry 110 class during my college years (although the associated lab was much below Mara’s standards!). Imagination came into play as well. Writing science fiction, a writer has a certain amount of license. While I didn’t want my story to be too “tech-y” or futuristic, I did want it to contain some speculative elements. Thus we have slide drives, DNA sequencing programs, etc. Perhaps why this sounds so “convincing” is because the technology is not too outlandish, and I try not to lose readers by launching into an epic exposition bit where I explain the history, implementation, and meaning of all devices used. Last note: I nearly passed out writing the sequence where Mara draws her own blood. LOL. But seriously, I do not do well around needles/blood/hospitals in general. A fact which kept me out of the fascinating field of medicine, but allowed me to pursue writing instead. 🙂 Book review coming tomorrow, stay tuned!

Surprise! Capacitance: Chapter 8

Happy Friday, everyone! Scrolling through my Facebook feed, I saw that it is National Cousins Day and National Tequila Day (yay!!), so I thought why not make it Surprise Chapter Post Day since I have been off the grid for awhile! This will be followed by a Chapter 9 post on Monday! I have a lot of writerly posts lined up for next week–including a review of an absolutely incredible literary fiction book I just finished–so stay tuned next week for blog filled excitement, and hopefully Chapter 8 makes your Friday an even sweeter end to the week.

Chapter 8

Runey stood and watched Mara retreat up the hill for a few seconds, then jogged back toward Design Block A, and back down the steps to Studio 76 to do some damage control. He opened the door slowly and saw Vance and Elba engrossed in conversation just as he had left them; Elba was laughing heartily with Vance and giving him a look of glowing admiration—at least someone’s charms have worked their magic today, Runey thought. He also hoped the friendliness between Elba and Vance would stay just that—friendship—as he knew his plans for the group and particularly for Mara would work best if each other member was a separate unit, a pawn so to speak, for him to use to his advantage. As he stepped further into the room Elba and Vance finally noticed his presence. “We didn’t expect to see you back. What happened to her?” Vance asked, concerned.

“Well, I caught up and talked to her. Long story short she has an important deadline, and needed to get to work on it. Already cleared and ok with the profs. Guess we are going to have to learn to work around the mysteries of the Science Department. Since it didn’t take me very long to talk to her, I figured I would come back and finish the meeting out with you guys,” Runey explained with a smile and a shrug.

“Hopefully we get to know her more next time,” Vance said heartily, “Is she going to have drinks with us this weekend?”

Runey recalled the cold demeanor Mara presented so far as an overwhelming whole and laughed as he said, “Vance, I highly doubt that is going to happen, but I wouldn’t worry about it too much. I think she will come around, eventually. Now, let’s just hang out and take advantage of the fact classes have been cancelled for the day!” With that, the three sat around the table in the messy studio exchanging stories and telling jokes at the same moment as Mara was coming to her horrible discovery in her lab far across campus.

The group meeting broke up around four o’clock, and Runey realized he was glad to finally have some solitude. His emotions were getting ragged around the edges, and he was starting to become acutely aware that he wouldn’t have Jules to curl up with in his dorm bed and discuss the events of the day. He sighed and laid his head down on the studio table, unlike Mara, not worried about its state of cleanliness. His mind lazily drifted back to a montage of times with Juleia—sketchbooks open, laying side by side on the grass by the lake in the sun; the time they had snuck onto the roof of the dormitories huddled in blankets and sat under the stars; even the littler moments that he usually passed over flashed in his mind in perfect clarity. This has got to stop, he realized. The solution to the problem was insanely simple to explain, but infinitely hard to implement—every time my mind wants to think about Juleia, I must think about Mara instead. Painfully, slowly, he began to try the new process. Juleia and the sketchbooks in the golden light was replaced by the light ring of gold on the outer edge of Mara’s green iris when he caught her staring at him a fraction of a second too long. The night of the blankets and stars was replaced with the deep night-black of Mara’s hair.

Runey figured the task would get even easier when he had more experiences than just physical appearance to go off of; after all, she had not given him much opportunity for character exploration today. However, even though she had tried to be stand offish, Runey realized that he had gotten to learn quite a bit about her. Certainly he could see an overwhelming sense of dedication in her; whatever her project in Science was, she made it very clear to the group today that it was more important than them. Even though she had been rude, she had stuck to what she thought was important—that showed determination, loyalty and a brutal streak of honesty. Runey suddenly realized how much he liked those qualities. He also liked that it had taken his brain so long to process and uncover those traits about her. She is a challenge, and I like challenges. However, the other side of his ever-ticking mind sensed that her inscrutable nature might inhibit his mission to make her fall in love with him. He shook that thought away; just letting his mind delve the mystery that was Mara had blotted out all pain associated with Juleia, and that was more valuable to him than any worries about the easiness of the mission. After all, if there was one thing Runey wasn’t afraid of, it was a challenge.

The sun was setting as Runey finally ended his musings in Studio 76. The atrium of Design Block A was empty, and he assumed all the students were now in the mess hall. He did not relish the idea of running into Juleia in the cafeteria, so he walked across the foyer of Block A, past the rainbow staircase to a grouping of various sized purple sofas and bleached wood tables. Vending machines lined the back wall, and Runey purchased a sandwich and chips from one, and an iced tea from another. He sprawled out on one of the sofas to eat his meal as the light through the glass wall faded and the interior lights automatically powered on, casting a warm, artificial glow over the lobby. As he ate, Runey continued his exercises in thinking of Mara, not Juleia. Then his late night with the Professor and slight hangover caught up with him and he dozed off dreaming of green eyes and deeply held secrets.

When he awoke, it was pitch black outside the windows. He wondered how long he had been sleeping and checked his phone clock. 9:30 PM. He needed to get back to his dorm and call it a night. He unlocked his phone and keyed a quick message to the same girl friend who had taken Juleia down to the Campus Green that morning, “Jules all good and in her room?” He gathered up the wrappers and trash from his supper as he waited for the response. It didn’t take long before his phone buzzed and he read, ”Yeah, she’s in her dorm. I wouldn’t call her ‘all good’ though. What happened between you two??” Runey pocketed the phone without replying; clearly Juleia had chosen not to divulge the details of her and Runey’s break up, and Runey was not about to help her friends gain gossip she had not wanted aired. Satisfied that Juleia was securely out of his way, he headed out of Block A and walked the short distance to his dormitory.

The dormitory for Design students, or Block D, as it was simply called, was an unremarkable up and down structure with the only aesthetic accents being the multi-colored windows. Runey had always thought it rather ironic that aesthetically-minded Design students should live in a building which was so banal to the eye. However, tonight he did not give it much thought as he pushed through the glass doors into the rather shabby dorm lobby which boasted nondescript gray linoleum floors and dilapidated old couches which looked suspiciously secondhand. At the front desk a tired looking student with a greasy mohawk hairdo and three thick lip rings sketched intently on a pad, headphones deep in his ears, totally disinterested in who came in and out the front door. Runey gave a compulsory nod to the unwatchful warden of the front lobby and opted for the stairs rather than the elevator. As he made his way up the terra cotta colored tile stairs, he began to hatch the formulations of a plan to see Mara again. With each step he took up the stairs, he listed in his head another step he needed to take to ensure the success of his mission.

First step, communicate with her; send her a message. I have her contact information since we are all in a group together now, so I can message her and ask to meet, he thought. Runey was sure Mara would ignore or reject this contact, but he refused to stop there. If she refuses to see me, I will go find her, he decided. The point was he needed to establish contact—persistence was key, and if he succeeded, he felt sure she would start to warm to his charms. Once I do finally get her one-on-one, I need to play it very casual, and above all appear extremely interested in her work—but not so interested as to cause suspicion. Runey resolved to be a Mara-enthusiast, feeding her with compliments and support until she trusted him enough to tell him the secrets of her work on her own volition. Aside from this fawning tactic, Runey had a strong suspicion the girl was in need of a friend; her independent attitude she had exhibited today showed that she was used to going through life solo. Even the most independent person, however, craved a confidant—Runey was going to get close enough to be the confidant Mara didn’t even know she needed.

His musings had brought him up to his ninth floor level. He was satisfied with the plan and resolved to message Mara first thing in the morning, feeling it was better to give her a bit of space before he butted into her life again. Shuffling through his pocket for his keys, he felt another twitch of annoyance—the Design dormitory wasn’t even important enough to warrant keyless entries like every other room on campus. Finally he found the key, a relic of the past, and was inserting it into the door of room number 906 where he called home, when suddenly she was there. Her hair was lank and unkempt and her eyes and nose were red and puffy from crying—it was Juleia. Runey cursed vehemently, then quickly twisted the key, jammed the door open, grabbed Juleia’s arm and forced her inside. He glanced left and right in the hallway to make sure no one had seen them, cursing under his breath and hoping the two security cameras at each end of the hall had not managed to capture the scene. If they did, the Professor would uncover the situation, and at the very least it would discredit Runey and his dedication to his new assignment. But he knew there were eyes and ears everywhere in this old building, with students stacked on top of each other, crowded and milling for gossip—the Professor would find out.

Runey was infuriated, yet a flaming comet of excitement surged through his body unexpectedly. He hurriedly came through the door of his room and twisted the lock. Juleia sat miserably on his bed, biting at her tiny gold lip ring nervously. Runey looked at her with a pained expression, “Jules, you know you can’t do this…” he said in a voice that was both soft and firm.

“I know. I just…needed to see you. I needed to,” Juleia collapsed into sobs that wracked her whole body, burying her face in her hands as she shook with sadness. Runey couldn’t take it anymore, he was at her side in an instant, his strong arms were wrapped around her; Juleia’s sobs at first got even louder as he took her in his arms, but then they lessened and quieted to a mere tremor, as he knew they would. He felt her body loosen into him, seeming to conform to his shape; then her hands were around him, running their way down his back, sliding under his dark green t-shirt insistently. He let her continue, even though a voice in the back of his mind—the voice he had been training all day to take over, to replace thoughts of Juleia with thoughts of Mara, to create a plan and stick to it—screamed at him to stop immediately. Juleia leaned up and kissed him, and all other voices in his head were drowned out as he tugged off her shirt and kissed her back as he pushed her down onto the bed.

Later, they lay in bed talking, just as they always had every night. “So how was your group today?” Runey asked her, pushing a strand of brown hair off her face.

“Ha, terrible; I was too upset to pay attention to any of it. It’s me and two other chicks, from Politics and Science; and then one guy from Tech. I don’t know whether to feel bad for the guy or whether he is lucky. The girl from Politics is pretty stuck up and bitchy, but the girl from Science seems nice—and is perfect ten gorgeous, of course,” Juleia said.

“Really? The Science girl was nice?” Runey said, laughing to himself as he remembered Mara’s venomous words on the hill about what a waste of time the group meeting was.

Juleia immediately perked with interest, sensing that Runey was comparing the girl from Science in her group with the girl from Science who had caused them so much trouble, “Yeah, she seemed really excited about getting a chance to work with other people; they don’t get out much up there on that hill,” Juleia said, then added in an overly casual voice, “What about your girl from Science?”

Runey tensed; he could sense the danger note both from Juleia’s exaggerated casual manner and from the emphasis on the word “your;” he needed to pick his next words carefully. “Well, she seemed very into her research or whatever,” he said lamely, sensing that banality was his best defense.

Juleia rolled her eyes, “Fine, Runey, don’t tell me anything about her. Whatever, I guess I shouldn’t care about the girl who’s going to replace me,” she huffed and turned her back to him.

Runey groaned, rolling over onto his back and putting his hands on his head. This was a classic Juleia move; a certain level of passive aggressive behavior coupled with her resistance to let go of an issue—it always led to a fight unless Runey very carefully maneuvered his way through the choppy waters. He was mentally exhausted from this day, but that very fact gave him inspiration he hoped might save him from Juleia’s impending storm, “Look Jules, today was the worst day of my life; I love you, but I have been told I have to live without you. Today wasn’t about anyone but you and me; I know the Professor has a task he wants me to accomplish, but today nothing was possible because all I could think of was you. Do you know I woke up this morning and it actually felt uncomfortable to be alone in bed? Even though I always used to tease you and complain there wasn’t enough room for two in here. Every place I walked today, everything I saw reminded me of some memory of you, and each time I felt a throb of pain in the empty place you used to fill. So let’s not talk about the girl from Science or anyone else, because today there has been no one else, it has been all you. And you’re here now, so come here and be with me in this moment,” Runey whispered, feeling only slightly guilty—it hadn’t been all lies; he had learned over the years that an embellished form of the truth was very effective in certain cases. And it was effective in this case; Juleia turned back over towards him and wrapped herself around him. Runey pulled her towards him and once again he was lost to Juleia—the cinnamon mint of her breath, the floral musk of her hair, the way her tiny lip ring pushed against him as they kissed. Thus, he didn’t hear the volley of pings and beeps emanating insistently from his phone; all thoughts of plans, of Mara from Science—even of the next morning—were erased from his mind.