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!

Writing for a “Dead” Market?

I’ll admit it, I’m writing dystopian. The first step is admitting you have a problem. While many people still thoroughly enjoy this genre, the market for it from a publisher’s perspective is (as far as I can tell) pretty dead. The number of denied queries I am amassing speaks to this fact. So what does a frustrated writer do in this situation?

First of all, it’s even more frustrating because I understand the situation completely. Knowing the principles of basic supply and demand as well as the way trends go, it makes total sense that savvy literary professionals such as agents and editors are not jumping at the chance to grab more titles that boast corollaries to the wildly popular (currently) Hunger Games and Divergent. Instead agents and editors want to snatch up the next big craze, which will certainly be in a totally different and unexpected genre.

So I get it. But I don’t want to stop writing the story I am trying to tell. I didn’t decide to write about Mara and Runey because I wanted to write the next Hunger Games. Despite what the genre may suggest, I am not writing for a trend. The story came to me and clamored to be told, so I am telling it, despite its marketability with literary professionals. I have read many articles and blog posts that say “shelve your dystopian/paranormal projects,” but I disagree. Personally, I don’t like to leave work unfinished. Especially something as near to my heart and soul as my writing. It would feel like more of a failure to shove Mara and Runey in a drawer than even if they never make it to the bookshelves.

Thus, the writing goes on. So does the querying. I have nowhere near exhausted my list of possibilities for getting published. Somewhere out there is surely an agent who will be as enthusiastic about my project as I am. I just have to be persistent until I find that person. Writing novels and querying is also good practice. Should this project end up shelved once it’s finished, at least I got the great experience of writing a trilogy and getting to know the professional side of the business. It will be great experience for my next book. 🙂

There is hope when writing in a “dead” genre. One of my friends that I met at the Las Vegas conference wrote a paranormal romance novel (the same genre as the supposedly played out Twilight sensation), and she just landed a book deal with publication coming in 2016. Read about her story here: http://linkis.com/www.cmmccoy.com/blog/p4Ia8 . And if you’re writing in one of these hard to sell genres, I would love to hear your story/strategy! Above all, never give up on your self as a writer or your story.

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! 🙂

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!

Capacitance: Chapter 9

Back to back Capacitance  chapter posts? Lucky, lucky followers! 🙂 I just hit 200 likes on my Facebook page over the weekend!! Thanks for all the support, I truly appreciate it! As always, if there are any comments or suggestions you have regarding Capacitance, I would love to hear them! Enjoy your Monday, and enjoy Chapter 9!

Chapter 9

As one who was not a frequent drinker, Mara was feeling the effects of the previous nights’ wine in the form of acute pain in her stomach and head the next morning. On top of that, she felt even more pessimistic about her lab discoveries; Travers’ words came floating back to her like some kind of horrid nightmare, “In this kind of hostile takeover mutation, we are talking death within days or maybe a week…” and “it could be possible for cells to mutate on so many levels that the Meditrinum would be unable to catch up with the repairs…” Mara knew her mind was mincing what Travers had said into a tabloid-hysteria, worst case scenario summation, but she couldn’t shake the impending sense of danger, and the enormous sense of pressure she felt to find and solve the problem immediately. A small voice in the back of her mind coyly whispered that maybe she would go to investigate the mutation and find that it was nothing serious, and all this panic was for nothing. Mara knew she couldn’t take that voice seriously, but she let it play in her mind, providing some sort of floodgate to the rising panic.

As if he was able to read her mind, Mara suddenly received a message from Travers, ”Hope you’re doing ok today, and I’m not just talking about the after effects of the wine! Remember, Mara, you can always come to me about anything. I’m here for you. –P.T.” Immediately after receiving that message, another one from Travers—an afterthought—dinged into her inbox,
“Oh, and, Mara, don’t forget what I said about Runey. –P.T.”

Mara sighed; the last thing she needed to think about in the wake of this crisis was unprofessional, arrogant Runey with his interesting combination of olive gold skin and red hair, deep blue eyes, and that infuriatingly distracting half smile—cursing, Mara shook her head in frustration. Without even meaning or wanting to, she had been distracted by Runey; Travers did not understand that this was a very bad thing. She had no time for distractions, especially now. Whatever Runey’s elusive allure was—which she still couldn’t wrap her mind around just what it was—she needed to avoid it at all costs. This was one piece of advice from Travers she simply couldn’t follow at the moment.

She pulled on the jade green silk robe once again as she padded across the deep, snowy shag of her bedroom rug and through to the cool, gleaming hardwood of the kitchen. She depressed two slices of bread into the toaster, and poured herself a glass of orange juice from the well-stocked stainless steel refrigerator. Once the toast popped up, she buttered it liberally to soothe her aching stomach. After allowing herself a leisurely amount of time for breakfast, considering the circumstances, she went to her bathroom to prepare for the day; she quickly emerged, imperceptibly less put together than the day before as she was on a time budget but still well dressed in an ensemble of rich burgundy and taupe. She neatly packed her lab files into a matching chocolate brown leather tote and headed towards her door. She had just twisted the knob when she faintly heard the loud ping of her phone back in the depths of her apartment. Mara walked back in scanning the shining black kitchen countertops, checked the white marble surfaces in her bathroom, and was becoming very frustrated when she finally found the phone submerged in the dove gray silk of her sheets. She tapped to open the messages and was very annoyed to read one from Runey, “Hey, Mara. I know we didn’t get much of a chance to talk yesterday. How about we meet up this evening? –R.”

She absolutely refused to message him back; she quite frankly did not have time to socialize with the distraction. Mara realized she had not responded to Travers either in her foggy, slightly hung over waking moments. Exasperated with herself and with Runey, on top of being anxious to get to her lab, she decided to put a moratorium on communication for the day. Tossing her phone back into the pile of twisted, shining sheets she thought wryly, Take the day off, buddy; wish I could too. Feeling slightly more liberated and focused without her phone, she strode purposefully out of her apartment to the elevator terminal. Her sense of focus was quickly shattered as Langdon entered the elevator terminal at the same time as Mara; there was no way to avoid him, and Mara cringed inwardly as he pressed the down button with a flourish and flashed his brilliantly perfect smile at her.

“Morning, Mara,” he said, awkwardly attempting to touch her arm at the same time as Mara instinctively moved away, “How was yesterday? As bad as you thought it would be?” he smirked, feigning a casual stretch in attempts to pass off his attempted pass at Mara.

Mara smirked back at him—he looked ridiculous trying to play it casual, “As a matter of fact, it was worse,” she said truthfully.

“Worse? Come on Mar,” Langdon said, having recovered his composure, “Yeah I know it is like we talked about, and they’ve tied up a lot of our time with this group thing; but it’s not all bad. I actually think it is going to be helpful in my future career to make connections. Plus, my group and I already started talking about our project ideas—we are going to strongly incorporate biochem, so in a way it is like I will have two projects to present upon graduation. Sure, I will have to buckle down and work some late nights to get my individual project done, but I think this group thing will put me way ahead of the game,” he continued as they stepped into open elevator.

“Congratulations,” Mara said shortly, pressing the ground floor button impatiently and then staring resolutely at the closed doors.

“That’s not the only good thing. There’s this girl from Design in my group—strawberry blonde hair down to here,” Langdon said slyly, touching Mara in the small of the back, “She has tattoos of a school of koi fish on her shoulder blade and down her back. I wonder how far down they go?” Langdon continued, assessing Mara coolly.

“Langdon, what is it about elevators that makes you lose every ounce of professionalism?” Mara asked, rolling her eyes.

“Jealous, are you? Well I have to get it somewhere, since I can’t have what I really want,” Langdon said jokingly, but Mara could sense the icy edge in his voice. At that moment she realized Langdon was actually serious about his feelings towards her—it was a strange sensation. She had always assumed that everyone saw love and relationships as she did, just a triviality and a distraction, not to be a serious consideration in one’s choices through life. Maybe I do need to open my mind to other perspectives, she thought. However, she wouldn’t be opening herself to Langdon’s perspective anytime soon. Even if she was interested, she was sure she would still find his approaches a little uncouth. The elevator softly settled on the ground floor and the doors slid open. Langdon was obviously unnerved by Mara’s prolonged silence as he said, “I’m just joking around, Mara. Why don’t we go get some coffee before labbing down?”

Mara was sorely tempted by coffee—she had forgotten to fill a thermos before she left her apartment, and she knew a hit of caffeine would chase away her last traces of the wine hangover. However, the thought of sitting down with Langdon—tedious in itself—and wasting precious lab time was not palatable, so she made a compromise, “How about we just grab some from the café on the way out of SciSky and take it to go? I really have a lot to do today and I need to get to it.”

Langdon visibly brightened that he got anything but a flat denial, “Sure! My treat!” The two walked across the atrium of SciSky; early morning light splashed across the various shops, salons and gyms and the calming splash of trickling water on the abstract glass and stone water feature filled the air. The busiest portion of the atrium was the coffee shop where the most ambitious Science students were already grabbing their coffees before starting their day. Langdon ordered for both Mara and himself (Mara shuddered internally when he knew her standard latte order without having to ask), and soon the two were out the wide glass doors and on their way to the labs. It didn’t take long to reach The Portal from SciSky, and Mara was glad of the short walk, and the fact that Langdon took a different elevator to get to his lab—she was growing tired of his double-edged small talk. After thanking Langdon for the coffee, Mara was glad to sip it in solitude as the elevator sunk slowly to her lab level.

Mara once again walked down the familiar hallway, punched in the familiar code and swiped her palm. She flicked on the lights in the lab and powered up the computers. By the lab’s entrance, there was a double-sided hatch in the wall where laboratory dispensary materials were placed when they were delivered; the techs from LabLink would prepare the materials, and send them with a courier to the various labs that had requested them. When Mara ordered the materials she had to assign a PIN code to her order and then program her drop box with that code. When the courier brought the sample, he keyed in the PIN code on a small keypad in the hall which opened the exterior door to receive the sample. The hatch was also climate controlled so the operator could set the interior temperature to sample specifications if necessary. Now Mara went and keyed in the code she had assigned to her LabLink dispensary order of Meditrinum blood samples; the metal door of the hatch slid open and cool air pooled out slowly onto Mara’s face as she reached inside and removed the plastic rack containing ten vials of deep red blood samples.

She reset the hatch to shut off the refrigeration and wipe the code, and then took her fresh samples to her main refrigeration unit. Now she had to prepare the samples to go through the sequencing program. Walking to the far wall of her lab, Mara threw on her long white lab jacket, opened a stainless steel cabinet and removed a box labeled “Blank Slide Drives” which she brought over to the main lab work station. The main lab work station was a counter height table on which sat a microscope and several racks of instruments. Mara sat the box of blank slide drives down next the microscope, and went to get the blood samples. The task at hand was to draw a sample of each blood type and insert it carefully into the slide drive. Slide drives were small, fragile devices made of glass and metal which contained a tiny computer chip; when this was inserted into the computer portal, data on the current state of the specimen could be seen and many different tests could be run on the sample. First, Mara inspected each slide drive carefully under her microscope, checking for cracks or defects—these were rare in slide drives used at the University, as the equipment here was of the highest quality, but it was important to check all the same as a crack could lead not only to the waste of a sample, but would also cause computer malfunction if inserted into the device.

The next step was to insert the sample into the slide drive. Mara used a syringe with an ultra-fine needle to remove a sample from one of the test vials of Meditrinum blood, and then, looking through her microscope, stuck the point of the needle into a minutely marked spot on the slide drive. This special entry point could only be punctured once, as it would self-seal infallibly after one initial puncture; slide drives had to be soldered shut in their earlier days, but the self-seal invention did away with that—Mara supposed she had the people in the school of Technology to thank for that. All in all, the process of preparing the slide drives was quite simple if one had a steady hand and sharp eyes; Mara had both of these skills, so quite rapidly she had slide drives from all ten blood samples. But she was not finished yet.

She didn’t know when she had decided to do it—she didn’t even know she had fully planned it until that moment—but suddenly she knew. She had to test a sample of her own blood. It’s not a huge matter, really, she thought, just another slide drive in the mix. But her feet seemed to drag as she made her way to the cabinet where she kept the sterilized biohazard equipment. I have to know. I just have to. This isn’t sinking in as real enough to you, Mara; you’re walking around in a daze, not treating this with as much a sense of urgency as you should. Once you see your DNA sequencing projection has a mutation, then it will be real. She grabbed a syringe out of the box of sharps and tore off its hygienic seal as she sat back down on the stool in front of her microscope. She found the vein and slid the needle in with a detached manner—needles had never bothered her, and if they ever had she was sure the fear would have ceased after a monthly injection since the age of four. The syringe filled slowly with her own Meditrinum blood sample; Mara waited until she had the same amount as the other vials, then smoothly pulled the needle out of the vein.

She deposited her sample into an empty vial, labeled it with an “M,” and tossed the used syringe in the biohazard waste can. Using a clean fine tipped needle, she drew some of her own blood and inserted it into an eleventh slide drive. She placed the slides into a special rack which she then inserted into a titration device. Five minutes of titration and the samples were ready to be processed into the DNA sequencing program. She brought the rack of slide drives over to the computer, opened the slide drive program and set up a report containing current blood data, current DNA sequencing, and projected DNA sequencing over a span of five years. Then she inserted the first slide drive containing one of the random samples from LabLink. The sample with her blood was purposely placed at the end of the queue. The computer could only process one report at a time, so it would take all day to collect all the results. She would have to be on hand to switch out the slide drives as the tests concluded; each test could take upwards of two hours, but Mara had never been one to be daunted by the prospect of a long lab stint. As the tests on the first slide drive began, Mara spun her chair over to the far left computer which was used for databases and research resources—she would spend her day combing the vast academic research files for all the available knowledge on genetic mutations and how to combat them, free of her phone, shut off from Runey and Travers and all other distractions.

World Building: A Daunting Task

As I move into my third manuscript (more thoughts on progress tomorrow), world building is on my mind. My characters have moved out of their initial setting, into the world beyond–thus, by default the world is getting bigger and more complex. When I started out writing Capacitance, I, of course, knew much more about the world my characters live in than the reader did (or even than some of the characters themselves knew!). Some people who read my story found this frustrating. I may have spoken about this in a post before, but it is worth mentioning here again; the reactions some readers have to the slow introduction to the world of Mara and Runey. They want to know it all from the beginning–the why, the how, the who… However, inundation is simply overwhelming to the reader. My answer to those readers who wanted answers and specifics and even an entire history of how the world came about is, “Be patient.”

My series is not a hard science fiction or a high fantasy. It is soft science fiction, speculative and a little dystopian. Thus, there are differences between the world of my characters and the world we live in today, but there are also many similarities. This makes it tempting for readers to want to ask how did we get there from here (being the present day). I love the fact that my work and the world the characters live in may bring up these kinds of deep questions. Any SF or Fantasy book whose fictional worlds can cause a reader to question or think deeply about the world they actually live in is, in my opinion, doing a fantastic service to the world of literature. However, how much of the reader’s questions we as authors will answer is a tricky line to tread. How much do we reveal without inundating readers while still satisfying their curiosity?

The answer, for me, lies in a micro to macro approach to the characters and their world. Capacitance starts on the micro level; readers meet the main characters on their campus and don’t know much else at first. As the story progresses, readers learn factors about the larger scheme of things bit by bit. I wanted Capacitance to be mainly about getting to know and connecting to the characters. It isn’t until the end of the novel that the reader really begins to see the true scope of the world. The word ‘capacitance’ means the potential for energy, and the first novel is all about building the spring board that is character development.

Inductance springs the characters off into the world. The second installment was much more about world building. ‘Inductance’ means the flow of energy, and in book 2 the characters are moving out into the world and becoming involved in more action. It was a real struggle for me to make this shift into less character developing and more wold developing. Some of the best world building I did was off the page. Sitting down and taking notes about your world can be a very helpful exercise. Many of these thoughts will never reach the MS page–in fact, many of them shouldn’t–this exercise is more about becoming familiar with your world. That way when you write about it, you have command of your subject. You know things about your world that no one else does. You have secrets, and you’ll keep many of them. The point is to not be didactic in your story. Let the characters make discoveries, let details come out naturally, let nothing be forced.

I am now on the third MS in the series and I am sure that all the questions the more impatient readers had in the first book have still not been answered–maybe they never will be! However, world building remains on my mind as each book goes a little bit deeper into it all. Getting deeper into my world means more serious character development, more new places to be described, more serious themes to face. I’ll leave off on that note as it provides a great segue into what I will be posting about tomorrow. 🙂 Happy Thursday!

Dealing With Dialogue + Chapter 6 Thoughts

Every week when I post a sample chapter I go back and re-read it. Every time I do this, I learn something new about the chapter and think a little deeper about my process as a writer. My initial thoughts from Chapter 6–aside from the impression that I need to go back and weed out some adverbs!–was that the dialogue stuck out to me in this chapter.

Chapter 6 was one of the first chapters that is heavy on the dialogue. We have Runey, Elba, Vance and Mara together for one of the first times and I am just starting to give them their voices. Traditionally, I have always found dialogue a little challenging. If you have even skimmed some of my former blog posts, you will know that I find exposition very compelling, so it is hard for me to break from that and let the characters–literally–speak for themselves. Since I wrote a lot of critical essays in my English literature major in college, I was constantly writing pages of solid prose with no dialogue involved. Thus, dialogue did not come easy to me. I say this in the past tense, because after completing two manuscripts, this is simply not true anymore. While I do love my exposition, my characters’ conversations are easily implemented as well. So this is one area of improvement I have seen in myself as a writer since I composed Chapter 6 of Capacitance.

One other area that I have seen improvement is that my characters’ voices are perhaps a little bit cleaner now. It is a fine balance between giving each character a genuine voice and excluding some of the filler words which are natural in spoken conversation, but can be distracting in a written work. I am talking here about Elba’s “Um”s, Vance’s “Well, you know”s and things like that. We say them all the time in normal conversation, but the characters in a story don’t necessarily need to. As the story goes on, I do clean some of that up. I leave bits like that in if I think it really adds to the voice or the situation, but I think these fillers got a little overboard in Chapter 6.

My biggest insecurity about voice is that I am not going to differentiate it enough between characters and they will all end up sounding the same. It is a huge challenge to attempt to have one’s own voice as a writer and then have to balance the individual voices of all the characters in the novel. I think specifically Elba’s and Vance’s voices are two places I need to watch in Capacitance because I have a sneaking suspicion they may change just a bit as the book goes on, simply because I became more comfortable and in tune with them as characters. However, that’s another round of edits for another day as I am still knee deep in the initial edit of Inductance. With that being said, I am back to editing!

Writer’s League of Texas Conference #WLT2015

I just returned from my fabulous weekend in Austin–I seriously could not have had a better experience at this conference! I would definitely recommend this conference to any author because of its professionalism and awesome selection of agents. 🙂

The location for the conference was amazing; Austin is a wonderful city and the conference was held at the downtown Hyatt. This made it easy to sight see during down time as many shops, bars and restaurants were within walking distance. However, there was not much downtime because the weekend was packed full of action for writers at the conference! Friday afternoon kicked off with genre meetings where writers of the same genre got together and had a Q&A session with published genre authors. This was a great way to get acquainted with fellow attendees and hear what they were working on. My favorite part of Friday was the evening cocktail reception–and, no, not just because of the wine! Rather, this informal gathering was set up for conference goers to meet the agents and editors that were present. All the agents and editors that were featured in the program WERE present at this cocktail reception, AND they were willing to talk and be pitched to by writers. After attending the Las Vegas conference, I realize how great and important this was. In Vegas, agents were never present during the informal times; they were either hearing pitches, teaching a session, or even hiding in their rooms. The agents at WLT2015 were always there and willing to listen to writers, even though authors were veritably swarming the poor agents! Thanks to this well facilitated reception, by Friday night I already had an agent request pages of my work.

Saturday, I ran into rather the same problem that I had at the Las Vegas conference–most of the sessions and workshops presented information I already was aware of. Thus, the Saturday sessions were more about listening to variations on a common theme. Most sessions were geared towards the business side, and I (once again) went a little heavy on those, but I think it is important to see agents in action, telling you their opinions. It makes them seem like more of human beings and less of heartless entities of rejection. The best part about Saturday were the pitch sessions. Each conference attendee could have two sessions, so I got the chance to pitch to two agents, both of whom were interested in my project and asked to see pages. The first agent I pitched to  was extremely nice and–although he wasn’t sure if he would be taking on a New Adult project–still wanted me to send him material that he would pass on to someone else in his agency who would lean more towards that. My second pitch was great because the agent took a great deal of effort to give me some very helpful tips for getting my pitch down into one line–she then said when I had that one line, I should send it to her along with pages. I thought that was a great opportunity as it gives me the opportunity to prove to her that I took her advice to heart and worked at it. However, possibly my most valuable agent experience was when I ran into an agent from the agency who requested my full manuscript a few weeks ago. I met this other agent by the elevator and casually mentioned that her boss had requested my full manuscript. She was super nice and said she would give Miriam (agent I’m on submission to) a nudge and tell her she had met me.

The best session of the weekend was on Sunday morning when I went to a first page workshop. I absolutely LOVED the advice that was given during that session. The session leader led us through several very successful first pages and pointed out some key elements of writing a good first page. If you have been reading my blog, you know that the first page/chapter of Capacitance has been a struggle, so this class was great for me and has inspired me to maybe give my first page another try before sending it out to more agents. Add to this the fact that even though most of the agents were trying to get to the airport, but they still stopped by the luncheon for last minute connections, and you have the perfect end to a great weekend.

In conclusion, this conference was great and I did learn a few words of advice that I will pass on to fellow writers who might be considering a conference. First of all (and this is most important), DON’T BE NERVOUS when pitching to agents!! Your words come out stilted, you forget things, and–worst of all–you don’t seem sure about yourself or your story. Agents are, at the end of the day, just people and they are nothing to be scared of. If they like you, they are more willing to like your work, so keep it on even ground when talking to them–trust me, they will appreciate it after a day of endless stammers and groveling from the majority of authors. Second, let the experience give you confidence, but don’t let it go to your head. Chances are at a conference, if you have a manuscript finished, you will get asked for material. Yes, that is thrilling, but it doesn’t mean you’ve “made it.” I made that mistake last conference–everyone asked for pages, so I came home with this enormous boost of confidence. However, from my (albeit limited) experience, if you are taking the effort to be at a conference, agents see you are one step ahead of the query slush pile, and thus, they will put you one step ahead and ask for pages almost by default. No matter what, when an agent asks you for pages, you should feel good, but don’t let it get to your head! Finally, don’t feel obligated to go to all of the sessions–this isn’t high school! If something doesn’t appeal to you, or even if you just need a nap, then by all means go take a break. You won’t burn out that way and you will be fresh and ready to make new connections. Now that you have all this advice, keep the Writer’s League of Texas Agents & Editors Conference in mind for next year! 🙂

Capacitance: Chapter 4 & 5

I apologize for the lack of posts this week! My desktop Internet is back up and running now, so things can get back to normal. To make up for the delay on Capacitance chapters this week AND to celebrate my finally finishing Inductance I am posting both Chapter 4 and Chapter 5! Enjoy!!

Chapter 4

The morning of the meeting of all the students on the Campus Green, consciousness gradually trickled through the cells of Runey’s brain, and with this he became increasingly aware of a sense of something missing. Slowly, then all at once, the loss of Juleia bore down on him; the immediacy he missed her with was a physical pain as he remembered how most mornings she was there with him, wedged into his narrow dorm bed, encircled by his arms. This morning there was an uncomfortable space in his bed which his limbs were not used to stretching out into. After a few drinks with the Professor last night, his evening had been therapeutically fogged, but this morning he missed Juleia—and he had a headache. At the exact moment of the latter discovery, the sun pierced through the window which was divided into several randomly placed rectangular panes of colored and clear glass, sending rainbows of painful light into Runey’s deep blue—and right now rather bloodshot—eyes. Sighing, he dragged himself to a sitting position on the edge of the bed and once again became lost in thoughts of Juleia.

They had met during understudy school. Both were talented artists and were thus preparing for their eventual entry into the University College of Design. He had first encountered her at a party one Friday night and was intrigued by her witty, sarcastic humor and his ability to see through the hard exterior she presented when he looked into her soft brown eyes. Drunk and uninhibited, the pair had ended up in bed together that night. The next morning, Runey was already preparing several excuses and ways to avoid future encounters with her, but then she rolled toward him, the sunlight playing on her messy chocolate hair and tiny gold lip ring, and somehow she was suddenly a visceral part of his life from that moment on. Runey meshed with Juleia effortlessly; his innate sense of perceiving moods and feelings in other people was the perfect implementation for the deep moods of Juleia. She was prone to jealousy, sadness and irritability, but Runey knew how to navigate those deep waters and just how to temper her worst spells and tease out the elements he loved—her immense capacity to love, her devoted loyalty, and her wild imagination.

However, as a perceiver of people, Runey was also quite aware that he was less invested in Juleia than she was in him; he could truly see that she would find it hard to live a fulfilled life without him, as he provided a weight to her lofty dreamer’s character. Runey subconsciously knew, and was finding out in that present moment, that life without Juleia would leave a part of him injured, but would not render all of him broken. This realization had always set him a bit on edge about the relationship as a whole, but it was a train of thought that he stowed away in his ever-processing mind. There were too many exciting things happening being a student at the University, and he loved sharing them with Juleia—it was easy and comfortable to banter back and forth about new project ideas, what professors they liked and which they didn’t, anything and everything else. They always laughed together and dreamed together, and that was what he loved about her, so he locked away the chiding voice of criticism in his mind and took no notice of it day by day.

He wished the voice was there now; a sprig of doubt in his mind could blossom into a full state of acceptance of his new situation—helping him prepare mentally for this assignment he had been given. Runey knew why the Professor and other in the Restorationists had chosen him for this task. It was for the very reasons that he had such a successful relationship with Juleia; Runey was very perceptive of people—he always had been. He barely had to be in a room with a person for a minute before he could tell more about them than they ever would have guessed. Body language and an inexplicable intuitiveness could tell him if a person was stressed or sad, happy or distracted; it was a very useful tool in building relationships, but it could also be used for manipulation. Runey could not see this falling in love business as anything but a manipulation, but that didn’t soften his resolve that he could accomplish it. His determination in the face of a challenge was the second factor that had landed him the assignment. Fiercely competitive and extremely motivated, Runey was more likely to put his full effort behind something that was labeled “a challenge.” This was why he was so successful with Juleia—she was a complicated puzzle of a person, and Runey enjoyed finding out how the myriad pieces fit together.

Finally, there was the fact that he was very personable. He had been courted extensively by the College of Politics as he had a way of getting people to like him (mostly due to his great ability to read people). However, he had eschewed that idea firmly to stick with his passion for art—and to stick with Juleia. Yes, Runey thought as he finally got off the bed and made his way into his bathroom, it is pretty obvious why they chose me…people skills, dedication, determination. He understood the why, but he still did not like the implementation which required the severance of his tie with Juleia; frustrated and wanting to clear his mind, he stuck his head under the faucet of cold running water. Coming up for air, he grabbed a towel and examined in the mirror one last reason he had most likely been chosen; a strong, chiseled jaw line gave a masculine authority to his fine featured, handsome face—Juleia had often likened it to the faces seen on ancient statuary, such as Michelangelo’s David, a comparison which Runey felt was quite excessive. However, surmounted by a messy crop of auburn hair and deep, brooding blue eyes, Runey’s face was admittedly one that would make many girls fall in love with him on its own merits. Runey was sure Mara from Science would not be so easily swayed, but nonetheless he was certain the Professor and others had taken his looks into consideration when choosing their man for the assignment.

For the first time that morning, he thought not about Juleia but about Mara from Science—the girl he was supposed to fall in love with. It sounded absurd in Runey’s mind, like some sort of twisted fairytale, or archaic arranged marriage. However, he could definitely see the benefit; day after day he walked through campus and looked up on the tall hill at the imposing Science building and wondered just what it was that they were all doing up there. The other members of the Restorationists maintained a fairly good idea of what went on, but they could never be entirely sure. Whatever this Mara from Science was working on, it must be something with a potentially sinister bent, or the assignment would not be such a high priority. It was a challenge, and Runey felt the tentacles of curiosity weave through his mind and latch on to the cause—he wanted to find out, he would make it his life to find out since he didn’t have Juleia to ride comfortably through the motions with anymore.

The thoughts continued to ebb and flow through his mind as he walked out of the Design compound, its arched entry tunnel of the same rectangular colored glass as his dorm room windows swirling above him like a flurry of butterflies. He was the only one walking out; he had intentionally left late so that he would run no chance of meeting Juleia. He had sent a message to some of their mutual girl friends late last night telling them they needed to make sure she got to the meeting on time this morning—he knew Juleia well enough to know that the events of last night were enough to send her spiraling into a period of despondency that could see her not leave her room for days, regardless of her other obligations. Thus, he strolled out of Design and over the path towards Campus Green a mere five minutes before the meeting was scheduled to begin, the curiosity and thrill of the challenge thrumming through his efficient brain and beginning to drown out the low resonant ache of losing Juleia. He once again considered Mara from Science, but found all the as-yet unknowns too overwhelming for him to process. At least he knew one thing, and he was grateful for it—when they gave him this assignment to fall in love with a stranger, at least the stranger was remarkably good looking. Chuckling and smiling his rueful crooked smile to himself, Runey slid on his sunglasses and continued on to the Campus Green, and his next love, Mara from Science.


 

Chapter 5

Campus Green was a sprawl of human movement as all the students from all the different colleges milled about and crammed into the common quadrangle. Although unintentional, the colleges had inadvertently separated themselves into their four respective groups as friends and classmates mingled amongst one another, making small talk under the ease of familiarity. So far, the assimilation of all the groups was not coming naturally. None of it was coming naturally for Mara as she stood under the dappled shade of an enormous oak, out of the way of the early fall sun which was gradually becoming too hot. It was ten past nine (she kept sliding her slim silver phone in and out of her pocket, compulsively checking the time), and as the remainder of the students packed onto the green, the noise level spiked with jocularity. In the center of the crush was a platform; the crowd suddenly parted way and a group of professors took this makeshift stage and stood above the large group. Mara saw Beliz and four other professors she did not know, and assumed they were from other colleges. She was delighted to see her favorite professor, Professor Travers, on the stage as well; a gentleman of indistinguishable age, his face was only slightly lined in a way that did not mar but rather enhanced its strong features—best of all were his warm brown eyes which would light up with interest and pride whenever Mara spoke of new ideas with him. They had spent many long hours together in her lab or in his faculty suite of lab and office; Mara allowed him a rare sentiment that was more than that of a professional colleague—she thought of him as the father she had never truly known.

Many students in the College of Science, unlike the rest of the students and population in general, were selected at a young age upon showing exceptional promise in the field of Science and then removed to live amongst one another and assume a life entirely devoted to training—Mara was one of these students. Now, seeing Travers on the stage, Mara had a brief flash of a vague and fuzzy memory, frayed around the edges, flit through her mind. She remembered the warm cinnamon smell of cookies baking, and a strong voice reading to her from a story book. The memory was gone as soon as it came, and left Mara with no feeling; she had long since accepted that she had once had a family, but they were no longer important. Her work was all she needed; any sentimentality she attributed to Travers was a topic she considered superfluous and vaguely embarrassing. However, it was still nice to see him up on the stage today. He would understand her annoyance at this interruption to work—especially once she told him the newest and most pressing of her discoveries. For the past week, she had been trying to arrange a private meeting with him, but he had been busy and rather obscure as to what was occupying his time. As recently as last night she had tried to set up a meeting and her message had been bluntly ignored. She felt slightly mollified seeing him on stage now—he must have been too busy to reply due to business with this meeting today.

One of the professors began to speak—a woman Mara did not know. She was very tall with a figure that could best be described as sharp. Her black hair was cut short and this added to the overall severe impression she made as she began in a loud voice with a razor’s edge, “Hello everyone, thank you for being here today. For those of you who don’t know me, I am Miranda Hall—head of the University Board of Directors. Today is a milestone in the history of the University, and I, as well as the rest of the faculty, board and surely you students, am very excited to see what this collaboration will bring. I will keep this short as it will take quite some time to gather into your new groups. In a few minutes, you will be receiving a message on your phones with the names of the other three members of your group as well as a location somewhere on campus. Once you receive the message, go to the location you have been sent. This is where you will meet your fellow group members. More information about the project will be messaged to you once everyone has dispersed.” With a brisk nod, Miranda Hall turned and gave the floor over to a professor from Design who began to speak of his excitement for the collaboration and to give an overview of the aims and philosophy of the College of Design.

Mara could see that the remainder of the speakers’ words on stage were going to be wasted on their intended recipients, as students all around whipped out their phones almost in unison and were trained to the messages application in high anticipation of finding out their new assignment. Mara got out her phone as well and covertly accessed some of her research files and did some remote checks of some lab tests she was running back in the Science compound. Time passed quickly as she scrolled through her personal files; out of the corner of her eye she caught a glimpse of Beliz gesticulating colorfully on the stage and speaking fervently about her passion for the new project. Mara chuckled to herself as she noticed some of the students from other colleges had been distracted from their phones by the shocking neon orange pantsuit Beliz had chosen to wear for the occasion. Soon, she noticed around her students were starting to slowly thin off the green. Then Mara’s messages made an almost inaudible ping and buzz. She flipped through to messages, and touched to open the new arrival which read:

Group 407: Vance, 674309, Politics

Elba, 554981, Technology

Runey, 912768, Design

Report to Studio 76, Design Block A

The location assignment was linked in the message, so when Mara tapped the words on the display, a map of the University appeared complete with a glowing green marker denoting her current location. The way to Studio 76, Design Block A was highlighted on the map. Mara began to follow the route assigned, realizing this would be the first time she had ever ventured to the Design compound. She wondered if other groups got to meet in Science, and suffered an absurd qualm that someone might be assigned to her lab. You’re the only one who knows the lock code, Mara, don’t be ridiculous…she thought, flicking the errant thought out of her mind. The highlighted route on her phone screen led her diagonally across the Campus Green towards the Design compound. Whereas the Science building was up on a high precipice, the Design compound was recessed, and the area was entered by walking through a sloping half tunnel with rainbow blocks of glass on one side that seemed to be suspended in mid-air instead of continuing down to the other side of the walkway. At the bottom of the hill was a large glittering lake, surrounded by a lush green on which Mara could see several student groups of four were already gathered, meeting for the first time.

Design Block A, as the name would suggest, turned out to be the first of four multi-level buildings which were flowing constructions of pale red brick and more of the multi-colored glass like in the entrance tunnel. Mara approached Block A and pushed open the heavy glass door, checking her phone as she entered; as expected the screen on the phone automatically zoomed in and switched from a map of the entire campus to a detailed map of just Design Block A, and the highlighted route now traversed through hallways and floors, showing Mara where to go. As far as Mara could tell, the room numbering system in the building made no logical sense as room 76 appeared to be in the basement of the building; instead of leading her up the inviting spiral staircase of thick sheets of colored glass suspended in the foyer, the route suggested she needed to go down the hall and then descend a flight of much less fanciful stairs with utilitarian well-used rubber treads and a metal handrail which felt disturbingly sticky to the touch.

Wiping her hand disgustedly on the new blue silk of her tunic, Mara felt a fresh wave of annoyance as she arrived in front of Room 76; pushing open the door, she entered a very cluttered, very dirty space. Well worn hardwood and a distinct layer of dust covered the floor; shelves along the wall were absolutely crammed with papers, pencils and various other drawing supplies; easels stood at arbitrary positions throughout the room, sheathed in paint-stained sheets; light wooden chairs and tables were arranged at haphazard angles to one another. Despite all this clutter of stuff, the room was devoid of the key elements Mara expected to find in it—namely Vance from Politics, Elba from Tech, and Runey from Design. She tapped back through the messages on her phone to double check her location, and rolled her eyes when she saw that she was indeed in the right place, yet she was expected to work with idiots who couldn’t even get to a meeting expeditiously and on time.

Bestowed with the professional habit of being habitually early, Mara selected a moderately clean rag from the wide assortment splayed on the floor and tables, and gingerly brushed off one of the wooden chairs. Sitting down, she deposited her leather briefcase on the dirty floor—cringing internally—and once again pulled up her lab files on her phone to pass the time waiting for her already most unimpressive group partners. She did not have to wait overly long; five minutes of work on her phone had not elapsed before the creaky, dark wood door opened slowly and ushered a very small girl into the room. Standing at a height that would rival the brevity of even Professor Beliz’s form, Elba from Technology entered the room timidly. Her pale skin and eyes made her seem smaller than she already was; her hair hung down nearly to her hips in a long, neat, white-blond braid and the worn gray satchel she carried over her shoulder was nearly as large as she was. “Hi,” she ventured timidly, in a voice that was just as small and pure as her physical appearance, “You must be Mara. I’m Elba, first year Technology.” Jostling the immense bag to her other shoulder, she held out her hand and Mara slipped her phone away to a pocket and returned the gesture of greeting with a guarded smile.

“Nice to meet you, Elba. Do you have any idea how long this is supposed to take today?” Mara asked, not caring if her question came off as rude—she had seen something in her mobile lab results that warranted immediate looking into; labbing down late into the night looked like all-too-likely possibility.

With effort, Elba heaved her gray satchel onto one of the long wooden tables where it landed with a heavy thud. Mara supposed it was full of computer equipment, and began to muse briefly on how lucky it was that Technology students could carry their computers—essentially the equivalent of her lab—around with them everywhere. Her straying thoughts were interrupted by Elba’s answering her question, “Well, there was a command on the server last night prompting pre-generated emails to be sent out to all students at two different times. I’m assuming the first email was the one with directions to here, and the second is scheduled to arrive in…” she trailed off as she checked the time on her phone, “Five minutes. I don’t have a clue what the second message is about; my friends and I couldn’t get that far into the system…although we tried,” she said, raising her light eyebrows conspiratorially at the last, and then developing a rosy blush on her pale face when Mara simply eyed her dismissively, not eager to take part in the gossip of the computer hacking world.

“Well hopefully our partners make it here soon, then, so we can make quick progress once we get the next message,” Mara clipped, glancing again at the door. Elba only nodded back, still blushing from Mara’s none-too-warm reception.

At that moment, the door burst open and the increasingly awkward silence was filled with a loud, rich voice, “Hello, hello! I am so sorry for being late; I should have been here much sooner, but I got caught up talking to so many people on the way over,” his straight white teeth glowed against his dark warm skin with a smile that reached his almost black eyes. “However, I must be ok, because I see I’m not the last one to arrive. That makes me feel a little bit better, at least! Let me introduce myself, then. I’m Vance; and as you probably already know, I am representing the Politics portion of our little group. It’s so exciting to finally get to meet you, what a great opportunity!” He held out his hand first towards Mara.

“Mara, Science, first year,” she said with a genuine smile; not immune to the charm of Politics students, she found Vance instantly compelling and likeable.

“Mara, very nice to meet you; I don’t know much about what we will be working on as a team, but I am sure you as a Science student will be a truly valuable asset,” he shook her hand with a firm, practiced grip and moved on to Elba.

While Vance was greeting Elba (and once again making her blush), the door creaked on its hinges to allow the final member of their group into the room. Vance and Elba had quickly lapsed into a conversation—carried on mostly by the former—so it was Mara who first noticed the very tall young man with a striking slim, yet muscular, figure saunter in through the door. Runey from Design had a golden olive complexion that was incongruous to his deep red hair which was straight, kept a bit longish towards the front and messy. Mara, being only human, could not help but note the strong jaw line and deep marine blue of his eyes. He carried himself with a comfortable assurance, and unabashedly met Mara’s stare, and—she could clearly tell—made his own visual appraisal of her. In the few seconds since his entry, Mara had decided she didn’t like him. She was one to take note of good looks, but not one to be swayed by them (otherwise her encounter with Langdon in the elevator would have gone quite differently), and Runey’s casual demeanor which he demonstrated by being quite late to this meeting coupled with his unapologetic manner upon finally showing up, did not sit well with Mara’s constant adherence to her tasks and overall professionalism.

Runey seemed to have garnered quite the opposite impression of Mara, because, after his unchecked visual sweep of her body, he grinned widely and stepped towards her, “Hey, you must be Mara; nice to meet you! I’m Runey.”

Noting the lack of apology for being late, Mara remained blank-faced and shook Runey’s hand without bothering to stand up from her chair. “How did you know my name already?” she asked him.

“Watered silk tunic perfectly matched to leather leggings—all custom tailored. Designer bag. Hair which I am sure feels just as much like silk to the touch as it looks to the eyes. All around flawless. The way you look has ‘Science Student’ written all over it,” Runey said, clearly enjoying Mara’s growing consternation. He then leaned towards her conspiratorially and whispered, “Plus the other guy is literally talking her ear off. Bet he hasn’t stopped talking since he came in, right? And the other girl is pale as the moon and is sitting right by a giant computer bag—a bag which is made out of canvas, not vachetta leather, see?” Runey’s face was now very close to Mara’s as he said this, and she got the vague impression he was trying to flirt with her, but moreover she noticed distinctly that Elba and Vance had stopped talking and were looking at Mara and Runey with curiosity.

“Do you guys know each other?” laughed Vance as he strode over to greet Runey, shaking his hand and adding in a back clap in an apparent gesture of masculine bonhomie.

“Well, we do now,” Runey said, flicking a sly half-smile at Mara (who just stared back inscrutably), and then turning to Vance and returning a back clap as if the two had known each other for ages rather than a few minutes. “And you must be Elba,” he said, giving the Technology student a very warm smile and shaking her hand quickly.

“You must be pretty familiar with our meeting place, Runey, since this is your college,” Vance said as the four assembled themselves in the light wooden chairs at one of the long tables (Runey did not sit beside Mara, which initially relieved her until it became apparent that his position directly across from her made looking at him unavoidable).

“Yeah, I’ve spent lots of time down here,” Runey replied, “A lot of time in this very room, actually. This is where general art classes are held. First year students, like me, have to take a bunch of general art classes—like sculpture, painting, drawing, drafting. Gets us a feel and a familiarity with all aspects of design. Next year we get to start specializing more. I want to do drafting; it’s more like technical drawing than, say, doing a painting. Now my…uh, friend, she,” Runey tripped up awkwardly, then quickly said, “Well I am getting off topic. Not to mention stealing the spotlight. We haven’t gotten any further instructions on what we are supposed to do today, have we?”

Elba piped up, “No, but we are supposed to get some literally any minute now,” as she once again referred to the clock on her phone.

“Excellent,” Vance said, “I am very curious as to what the purpose of this all is. However, it is great just getting to mee—” he was cut off by the eerily simultaneous buzzing and dinging of all four of their phones.

“Guess we are about to find out,” Runey said, with an easy half-smile on which Mara found herself spending entirely too much time trying to decide if she found it charming or nauseating.


Capacitance: Chapter 3

Hi everyone, hope you all had a good weekend! Mine was laid back weekend spent in the sunshine; now it is raining, so I am back indoors again writing happily. I am pretty sure I have a good frame for ending out the last portion of Inductance, so I’m excited to see those words hit the page. For the mean time, to brighten up everyone’s Monday, here is Chapter 3 of Capacitance! I will post my thoughts on writing this chapter tomorrow. Enjoy!

Chapter 3

 

The next day dawned with the crisp clarity so common to late September mornings. Through the expansive plate glass windows of Mara’s penthouse apartment, the whole University could be seen, gilded by the fresh sunlight. Situated as it was on its hilltop promontory, the Science compound afforded a magnificent view of the sprawling colored glass and light brick Design compound, the classic pillared architectural style of the Politics compound and the utilitarian concrete sparseness of the Technology compound. These three other college units ringed the Campus Green—a lush, natural park area interspersed with walkways, benches and cleverly landscaped nooks. It was not a place Science students frequented. The stately glass and richly veined granite of the Science buildings up on their hill were confines its students did not venture out of often, as their research and deadlines kept them “labbed down,” as many Science students affectionately termed the amount of time they had to devote to their own independent research.

There was nothing Mara wished for more than to be labbed down for the rest of the day; when her alarm went off, the panoramic glass of her bedroom window filtered from the overnight opaque setting to crystal clear, spilling light across the deep ivory mohair rug, over the pearl gray satin bedclothes, and onto Mara’s prostrate form. As she opened her pale green eyes to the new morning sun, she felt all her frustrations from the previous day come flooding back to her. A whole day wasted, she thought, No one realizes there is going to be a very serious problem very soon and I am trying to find a solution to it. Shaking her head, she twitched on a jade green silk robe which matched her eyes, and headed to the bathroom. One of Mara’s guilty pleasures—easily indulged as a Science student—was her personal appearance. She took consolation for her botched day as she combed through her shining jet hair and then wound it perfectly into an elegant top knot. She then applied just the right touch of makeup to her smooth, ivory complexion; winged eyeliner and mascara made her light green eyes stand out like jewels. Donning a dusty blue flowing tunic of watered silk, matching leggings of soft leather, and knee high suede boots with a low heel, Mara felt much more prepared to take on the days’ novel plans.

On her way out of SciSky, Mara felt a fresh surge of annoyance as she walked straight down the hill rather than turning in the usual direction of the labs. Instead of descending the stairs to their underground private lab spaces, all the Science students were now milling down the hill. To Mara’s shock, some were even assuming a holiday air about the whole business. Then again, she thought with no trace of humility, I doubt any of them are researching anything near the scope of what I am endeavoring to do. Her train of thought, which was rapidly turning toward the pessimistic, was interrupted by the appearance of a truly Adonis-like male figure. It was Langdon, the top student in the third year class, who lived in one of the penthouse apartments, like Mara. He gave good justification to the saying that the best looking people were in the field of Science—standing six feet, six inches tall, blonde and muscular, he looked like he should have been an athlete, not a scientist, but in truth he was making great advances in the field of biochemistry. Mara respected him as a colleague and neighbor, but right now she was not in the mood to chat, and her gray suede boots clicked faster down the hill as she sped up in hopes of avoiding Langdon.

“Mara, hi…hey, wait!” Langdon broke into a near jog as he struggled to catch up to her.

Reluctantly, Mara slowed down, “Good morning, Langdon,” she greeted flatly.

In return, Langdon flashed a brilliant display of dental advancement as he smiled at Mara amusedly, “Let me guess, you’re ticked off because this meeting thing is interrupting your top secret lab work. You heard Beliz, it’s all about togetherness today, so why don’t you finally tell me what you’re working on? It’s got to be good if it’s so important you can’t even miss one day of work!”

Mara sighed inwardly; Langdon was always trying to uncover the nature of her work, and she found the third year’s persistence unsettling. “I told you no; my work is my business,” Mara snapped at him, “Plus, how do you know it’s only one day they are putting us out of? Beliz made it sound like it was a long-term thing. Surely you, mister top of your class, biochem genius, third year would have worked that out.”

“I don’t know anything for sure—I just assumed it would only be one day…” Langdon trailed off, a concerned look developing on his face.

“See, now you’re starting to worry too!” Mara rounded on Langdon, allowing herself a small smile.

“Well, as you so kindly pointed out, I am a third year—time is of the essence for me! But you…you have years to go, no reason to cram now. At least that’s what I assume, considering I have no idea what it is you’re working on,” Langdon prodded.

“I’ve said no to you before, and I’ll tirelessly say it to you however many times it takes to get you to stop asking!” Mara countered, giving him a pointed look and an arch raise of her eyebrows.

“Well that’s not the first time I’ve heard ‘no’ from you. One of these days, that will change,” Langdon said with his own returning lift of eyebrows and a knowing smile. And, with that, he spotted one of his third year colleagues and abruptly walked off to join him. A slight blush crept into Mara’s cheeks. The reference Langdon made was not lost on her; as well as being tenaciously persistent on uncovering the nature of her work, Langdon was also very interested in Mara herself and made no secret of the fact. Last week, he had propositioned her very bluntly while they were in the private penthouse elevator, riding up to their apartments together. Mara was ambivalent to his advances; she simply had no time for the type of distraction Langdon would bring to her life. Especially now that this forced gathering with the other colleges had limited her time even further. As Mara advanced down the hill, into the tree-lined Oak’s March—the main thoroughfare of the Campus Green—she could see the mass of students gathering, milling about, shaking hands…wasting time, Mara thought.