Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Writing tools #8

Okay, today, I want to talk about part of the brainstorming process!

brainstorming blog

Brainstorming can be a tedious process for some and a nonexistent one for others. For me, brainstorming happens over eight stages after the initial idea.
-Initial idea expansion.
-magic system revision.
-character revision.
-conflict revision.
-another character revision.
-another magic revision.
-ending with an outline and synopsis revision.

I want to discuss one of the brainstorming techniques: The sample scene. I don't do character interviews, though this may change in the future. For me, the sample scene gives me everything I need to know when I skeleton my world and my characters.

The sample scene allows a writer to put the characters into the world and see how they react.

When an idea comes to me, it's generally not just a standalone idea. It has hazy figures in my head using or interacting with the idea. Sometimes its a character, opening or even a society, but generally it's a magic system. This is my inciting idea. As soon as it comes, I pull out my Ipod touch and write everything I can think of about the idea.

The more I write down about it, the clearer the sample scene in my head becomes. Below the lines of raw idea, I write out the scene that came with the system. Save it and put it away. I have a huge file full of these lol.

The initial draw of the sample scene gives me a good idea as to how everything can fit together, but other than that, it gives my brain something to latch on to when I come back to the idea at a later date. Some ideas will never be fleshed out while others will be absorbed or combined. Though, every so often, a gem comes along and stands alone.

So, why is it important?

That's simple! You get to rip the idea in motion from your head while it's still fresh.

That sounds good, but what about after that?

Well, this is actually where the sample scene is king.

While I'm going through my ideas and one excites me, I go over it a few times. Jot down a few cool things about the world and characters before thinking of the awesome points that could come in the story. Of those points, I take the one I'm most excited about and write out the scene.

This allows me to rework the world and magic system to better fit into this world. It gives me a better idea of who the characters are and what they want.

From here, update the magic system then go through my important scenes and add/pick one where a ton of magic is flying around. I write out this scene, and it allows me to see the magic through a much clearer lens. I update my notes on the magic system. This is a sample scene from WATCHING at this point in my brainstorming process.

Next is the characters. For every POV character, I try to come up with a scene where they are interacting with their friends/coworkers/enemies where there is a lot of dialogue.

During this scene, I try to immerse myself in the character, but I take notes while I go. On the notes, I list each character's "Ten words" that they use in dialogue and direct thoughts. This helps as a reference guide later and helps to keep your characters' voices from sounding the same.

I also record five descriptive words they would use, two to five special mannerisms/body language tells they would use, and things they like/dislike. This gives me an idea of their style, job and hobbies which are added to the file.

Now that I've got all this wonderful information, I write out a one paragraph chapter outline and a one page synopsis.

I get people to look over the synopsis and get their opinions on it. Generally the good folks of Critique Circle. Then I let it sit and fester.

About a month later, I come back doing sample scenes for characters again them magic. I finish by revising the outline any synopsis.

Key points to remember.
-I never actually use the initial scene written as it is a throwaway so don't be afraid that it won't fit later on. Sometimes the idea for the scene will work, but not the scene itself. Chances are that no matter how good it is, it won't fit.
-Take notes as you write the scene. The flow of the scene from your mind to the page is important, but the fresh notes generated while writing are more important.
-Finally, rewrite each sample scene. Not for editing purposes, but to see if combing through it again will help you pull out more enlightened ideas about your story.

Well, that's the basics of how I use sample scenes. I hope this helps to improve your writing.


Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Writing update #23

Well, I'm slogging along through the second draft of BURNING and working to stay a chapter a head of my critiquing partners for PAINTING, but that really drives me crazy lol. Double edits, DOH! So, every so often, I've been brainstorming for the third stand-alone book in my urban fantasy world. It introduces the third magic system in the world.

Part of my brainstorming process is the 'sample scene.' Check out this sample scene from WATCHING where I'm trying to get a feel for the magic system.

            Kirara reached out with her mind and tasted her necklace’s Orbs.
            Of the seven that touched her skin, only two contained spirits. An ant. And, a cat.
            A lump caught in her throat, and her knees trembled. What am I supposed to do?
            The three Legal Enforces fanned out around her. The bare warehouse shrunk. Was she in a closet? Why was it so hard to breathe?
            She took a step backwards, and the cold wall pressed against her back. Her chest heaved. Am I going to die?
            The air thickened in front of both female Legal Enforcers. With his arms crossed, the male in the group sneered. A haze warped the area around the two women, the sign that they had Socketed a spirit. A monkey appeared over the left shoulder of the woman with purple lipstick, and a hawk materialized behind the red-haired woman’s right leg.
            Fuck me. Kirara clenched her fists before swallowing the spirit of the cat. She forced the spirit into her Pelvic-Socket, and an ethereal cat pranced around her waist as if the air were sold ground.
            The two women blinked.
            Kirara’s leg muscles tightened, and small energy claws grew from her toes. Her senses heightened.
            The flickering light became as bright as the sun. The wisps of mildew stung her nose, and the cold stone at her back turned into ice.
            “Why do you keep following me?” She edged to the left. If I could get a running start … . Her eyes flickered towards the open window half way up the wall across the room.
            “You know why.” The man’s dark brown eyes sparkled in the low light, and when he stepped forward, his blue overcoat rustled. “And you know I won’t let you out of here without returning the prime minister’s device that you stole.”
            “What I stole?”
            “Don’t play dumb.”
            “If I trusted you not to be perverted, I’d let you pat me down to prove I don’t have it.”
            “You think I lured you here to do perverted things? With two other Legal Enforcers? Who both happen to be women?” He narrowed his eyes.
            No, but it may put off guard enough to let me slip past you. “Why else would you trick such a young, sexy girl like myself into an abandoned warehouse?”
            The man started. “I can’t believe —”
            Kirara bolted forward and sprang over the man’s head. Her spirit-enhanced legs pushed her up the far wall. Yes —
            Something approached from the side. Smack! It slammed into her head and sent her crashing into the ground.
            The air left her lungs, and she gasped. As her body rolled across the ground, her head spun. I was … so close. She sprang to her feet.
            The monkey-spirited woman stood nose to nose with Kirara and grinned. “You could have made this easy on yourself.” Like lightning, her arms shot forward and wrapped around Kirara’s shoulders.
            A squeal escaped Kirara’s mouth. Her stomach clenched. “Stop!”
            When the woman gritted her teeth, a heavy pressure contracted around Kirara’s shoulders. Soon, strength fled her muscles, but the woman continued to squeeze.
            The man walked over and flicked Kirara in the nose. Then, he patted her down. “What?” A deep inhalation later, he lifted her chin. “Where is it?”
            “I don’t know what you’re —”
            The monkey-spirited woman shook Kirara like a dog’s favorite rope.
            Vomit burned the back of Kirara’s throat. While shrieking, she puked all over the two Legal Enforces.
            The woman screamed and released Kirara.
            Now … is my chance. Kirara shredded the muscles of the man’s legs and sprinted towards the window. Three steps, a bound and a clawed scramble later, she was falling towards freedom.

 Thanks for reading, 

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Writing tools #7

Today, I want to talk about the greatest editing tool ever! The red pen! Any old red pen will do, but a great red pen with the right weight will make your edits come to life because you will stop thinking about what you are writing and focus on 'stabbing' your work until it bleeds to death and is reborn as a better piece of writing.

This is the most recent chapter I've been editing for PAINTING. I'm updating a chapter a week for my critiquing partners while I go through BURNING's second draft (Which has like twice as much red lol).

First of all, let's start with the pen itself. I use the Coupe, clicking ballpoint pen made by Pilot. This pen has a really good weight, has cheap ink refills that come in every color (including red!!!) and has a good thickness to wrap your fingers around for long hours of editing. The grip itself is so so, but it's the weakest part of the pen (if you like grips that is, and I don't). For that, you can just buy one of those slide on grips and put it on yourself. The pen ran me about eleven US dollars over here in Japan (1,100 yen) and should be about the same in the US or whatever country you live in. I like clicking pens, but this model does have a cap version.

Now, why red? Well, red is seen as the standard, so what's new about using red? Why not green like some people suggest, so I can think about money? Money may be good for a later draft, but what your work really needs is blood. Not money. You need to make your characters, world and story bleed. You need to stab every chapter, every paragraph, every sentence and every word until you have cut the life from it, and it has no choice but to die. Because a story can only be reborn if it has died first. And, while there are creative ways to kill things with money, it just isn't as effective as a blade. Red is also much easier (Unless you are red-color blind) to see on the paper when typing your edits up than green, blue, etc.

For the writing out edit, there are several ways to do it.

Personally, I like to print the entire second draft in Times New Roman and work from there. After having a few people look over key points of the second draft, I take notes and make a few changes.

Then I like to change the font to Garamond and print the entire novel for the third draft.

Once the third draft is finished, the piece needs to set for at least 2 or 3 months. As a writer, this should be the easy part! We are all super busy, so get to work on your next project, an older project or visit those people who keep distributing you. I think they're called your family and friends.

After that, you print it out in Times once again, do a fourth draft and let readers go all the way through it. I correct each chapter by chapter as the readers make their way through it and once they're done, I print out a final draft and start to do my final blow, trimming down every word I can.

I use a red pen all the way through five drafts. I like the blood and using a pen instead of a real knife makes the cleanup much easier.

Anyway, I hope this helps your writing process improve.

Thanks for reading,

Next: Sample Scene

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Writing resources #16

Today, I wanted to share another writing resource called Edit Minion, and how I use it for writing.

Edit Minion is an awesome resource for writers. I use it before running my chapter/scene through grammarly and text-to-speech. It allows me to pick out the words I overuse as well as my sentence structure. It helps pick out said-book-isms, though I don't really use them. The cliches counter and weak word features are nice. Above it all though, I love the Tricky Homonym feature, because grammarly doesn't always catch them all.

The best part about Edit Minion? It's free! Try it out! Run your scenes and chapters through it and see if you can tighten you pros.

Keep writing!

Next: Body language cheat sheet 3

Monday, February 3, 2014

Writing update #22

Been so busy recently that I can't even get the critiques in for my critiquing partners. I've almost finished with the reads for Krexen-Fed and Disease and will post them for free on my blog later. I have also rearranged PAINTING's opening structure. ... Again. lol. It's now 12 chapters with a few small ones to start. I've decided, since rearranging them, that I need to put BURNING's second draft on pause and give them a quick edit. I've combined a lot of paragraphs and reworked some the structure, trying to add more internal reactions to the POV. Anyway, I hope you enjoy reading.

Chapter 1 (Cutting to the fire)

            The sharp sound pulled Zack from the recesses of sleep.
            What’s going on? Zack opened his eyes.
            Sena, the Japanese woman he began dating seven years ago, stood beside the bed, looming over him in blue jeans and a pink T-shirt. She held part of his suit jacket in her left hand and a pair of scissors in her right.
            A jolt of energy zipped down Zack’s spine, and he screamed. Then, he scrambled to the other side of the bed. His hand slipped over the edge. Thunk! He crashed into the floor. “Sena! What the fuck?” After rubbing his head, he clambered to his feet.
            While Sena’s brown eyes followed his every motion, her long, untied, jet-black hair swayed back and forth. “How many times do I have to tell you?” Sena’s shrill voice ground the English language like coffee beans. Her flat chest heaved.
            “What the fuck are you talking about?” Zack glanced down at his favorite suit that he had accidently fallen asleep in.
            Several holes and entire sections of the jacket were missing. The pants had been cut to ribbons.
            A stampede of blood collided with his brain. His teeth ground together, and he clenched his fists until his knuckles turned white. “How could you do this? Why would you do this?”
            Sena climbed atop the queen-sized bed and strode towards him.
            Thump. His heart leaped into his throat, and he swallowed. Before he lost control of his temper, he took a deep breath. “Fuck it! I don’t care.”
            Sena took another step forward. She screamed. The high-pitched screech bit into his ears like fingernails sliding down a blackboard.
            Zack’s toes curled. “Shut up!” He backed up to the sliding glass doors that led to the back-porch. What’s her problem today? Everything was so nice yesterday.
            The stomach turning screech died out. Sena blinked, and the scissors trembled in her grasp.
            From behind him, bits of sunlight shined through the drawn blinds.
            His left leg began tapping.
            A boiling sound rolled from the kitchen and into the bedroom.
            Zack sniffed.
            The delightful scent of curry floated on the air.
            Zack’s brow wrinkled. “Are you cooking?”
            “I was!” A feral growl rumbled through her thinned lips, and despite being over a foot shorter than him, her presence filled the room. “Before you fucked up again!”
            What did I do? Zack sighed. “I don’t care what set you off! What you did to my favorite suit —” He gestured to the holes and exposed flesh. “— is unforgivable!”
            Sena lunged forward.
            Zack grabbed her by the wrist and lifted her into the air. I need to get out of here and calm down before I do something I regret.
            While squirming in his arms, Sena squealed. “You’ll regret this!”
            I already do. Zack tossed her out of the bedroom and slammed the door shut.
            The door handle raddled.
            With a firm grip, Zack locked the door.
            Thunk! The scissors stabbed through the door.
            Zack’s eyes bulged. What the fuck did I do?
            Stomping sounds moved away from the bedroom.
            After taking a deep breath, Zack removed his ruined suit and then put on a new one with pinstripes. Once he grabbed his favorite pink tie, wallet and cellphone, he unlocked the door. A long moment later, he opened it and peeked outside. “Sena?”
            Zack stepped into the kitchen then looked around the corner into the living room.
            Sena stood in the center of the living room with a torch lighter in one hand and his precious sketchbook in the other.
            His breath caught. Thump! His heart slammed into his chest like one of the jackhammers making noise outside of his apartment.
            That sketchbook contained his best work: a lifetime of final drafts that he had spent months and months perfecting on blank pieces of paper. There were art collectors who wanted to buy some of his sketches, yet he turned them down because they were his babies.
            Zack’s blood turned into ice, and he shook his head. “Sena … .” He held his hands out towards her. “Think about what you’re doing.”
            A smirk split her face. “I have.” Sena ignited the lighter.
            Tears rimmed Zack’s eyes. “Don’t —”
            “If I don’t teach you a lesson now, you’ll never learn.” Sena placed the flame against the sketchbook.
            Zack dashed forward.
            The fire engulfed the dry paper in an instant.
            When she dropped the burning ashes onto the floor, Zack froze. His lower-lip quivered, and his knees weakened. Then, he gritted his teeth and cocked his fist back. His muscles trembled.
            Sena snarled.
            Thump. His heart fell into his stomach, and Zack turned away from her. While tears flowed down his cheeks, he sniffled.
            Smack! Sena slapped him in the side of the head.
            A wince scrunched his shoulders together. He rubbed at the spot she had hit then glanced at her.
            Sena raised her hand. “How many —”
            Zack spun and pushed her away from him. He rushed down the hallway, and after shuffling into his shoes, burst out the front door. I can’t believe she did that. As if walking through the desert, he trudged away from his apartment and into the gravel-filled parking lot around the twelve-story mansion — a large Japanese apartment building.
            The morning light of the noon-day sun reflected off of the three cars in the large parking lot.
            Zack shuffled up to one of the cars and rubbed at his bloodshot, hazel eyes while they looked back at his disheveled, blond hair. I have to get it together before —
            From behind, a door clicked open. Thud! The door crashed into a wall.
            “Get your lazy ass back here right now!” Sena’s voice echoed across the near empty parking lot and into the construction site next door.
            Zack froze in place then swallowed. “No.” You can do this, Zack. His hands trembled. Just stand up to her. “I’ve Stop thinking and do it! “— had enough of you … for one day.”
            “You’ve had enough of me? Me?”
            Smack! Something hit him between the shoulder blades.
            Zack’s knees buckled, but he caught himself before falling. He glanced down.
            A high-heeled shoe.
            “Sena —” Without turning, Zack ducked. Too predictable.
            A second high-heeled shoe whizzed overhead. Thud! The black high-heel slammed into the car beside him.
            Zack spun then glared at her. His jaw tightened, and he balled his hands into fists. “Stop throwing things at me!”
            Stop leaving the toilet seat up!”
            “You burned my sketchbook and cut up my favorite suit for that?” His voice rolled from the parking long and into the alley beside the Love Hotel. He bared his teeth. “Every day, you get crazier and —”
            Sena spat before marching forward in her purple house slippers. She grabbed him by his pink tie. “I swear that if you ever do it again —”
            By inhaling through the nose and exhaling out the mouth, Zack relaxed the tension in his muscles.
            Using her free hand, she grabbed him by his hair and jerked his head back.
            Zack yelped.
            “— I will stab you with a knife and make you clean up the blood.” Sena stared into his eyes.
            Zack gulped.
            A snarl wrinkled her forehead. Sena pulled at his hair again. “Are we clear?”
            “That’s not the correct answer.” Sena tugged on his hair once again.
            While fighting the urge to strike a woman, Zack set his jaw. “Fine! I understand! Now let me go before I do something we both regret!
            Sena released his hair. “As long as you —”
            “Short-tempered bitch.” Zack straightened his pinstriped jacket.
            With incredible speed, Sena’s hand shot forward.
            Zack knocked it away. “I’ll come back when you calm the fuck down.”
            Sena growled.
            After retreating to the sidewalk, Zack walked down the road towards Nishi-Funabashi station. Why is she always like this?
            The rotten squid-like smell from the Love Hotel’s open dumpster on the left and the clanging sounds of construction from the right intermingled. Together, they pushed him down the road in a haze. With each step, loose gravel shuffled under his feet. A pair of garbage trucks rumbled past. The stink of hot garbage moved with the wind and slammed into his face like a tsunami.
            Zack gagged. Acidic bile climbed up and burned his throat.
            The world turned, and a dizzy spell twisted his stomach.
            Zack wobbled up to the dreaded overpass and grabbed onto the rail. He paused for a long moment. Whoever thought putting one step where there should be two is an asshole.
            On the other side of the overpass, the walkway forked to the left and right. Small apartments cluttered the area with a few trees here and there. The tiny road to the left led towards a large highway while the path to the right took him through a graveyard — the quickest way to the train station.
            After walking past a pair of large, Japanese gravestones, Zack glanced in the direction of his apartment and sighed. I should go back and tell her I’m sorry. Maybe — He shook his head. No! I won’t go running back to her this time! No fucking way! I … . He hurried down the walkway. Must … be … strong.
            Around the station, people milled about in an undulating mess. They pushed back and forth, going in every direction. Several independent conversations filled the air more than the heavenly scent of yakitori — Japanese chicken on a stick that smelled like barbeque cooked on a mesquite grill.
            Zack’s mouth watered. He stepped up to Yaki-NJ’s yakitori stand and licked his lips.
            The old man, Yaki-NJ, looked at Zack and arched a gray-haired eyebrow. “Have another fight with Sena?” he asked in Japanese before tightening his white bandana.
            Zack nodded. “Today,” he said in his best Japanese accent, “she cut up my favorite suit and then burned … my sketchbook.”
            A train rumbled down the tracks to his right. A block further, the yellow-striped train stopped at Nishi-Funabashi station.
            After shaking his balding head, Yaki-NJ pulled out a pair of basic yakitori, dipped them in sauce and then slapped them onto the grill. He wiped his hand on the greasy towel tied to his belt then pulled on the collar of his white T-shirt. “If the two of you keep fighting like this, I don’t think you should stay together.”
            “I know … .”
            “Then why haven’t you broken up with her?”
            “I have before, but whenever I try to meet new girls, they only want to fuck. None of them are ever interested in a relationship.” Zack swallowed. “The worst part is, the longer me and Sena are apart, the more I feel guilty. I often think that maybe I deserved the beating despite how petty her reasoning was.”
            How long have the two of you been together?”
            More than seven years.”
            Yaki-NJ whistled. “Wow. Was she always abusive?”
            “No. While we were in college together over in the US, she was an angel.” Zack picked up the yakitori and took a bite. “But when I moved to Japan —
            A tingling sensation itched at the back of his neck.
            Shivers raced down his legs. What’s going on? Zack glanced to his left.
            Nothing but the usual sea of people
            After taking another bite, Zack looked to the right.
            Among the crowd between Zack and the train tracks, a large, Japanese man strode up to a blond-haired, Japanese woman. For some odd reason, it felt like Zack, the man and the women were the only people in the area. A white oval appeared in the air beside the man, and he reached into it. His hand and forearm vanished into the picture-like object. A moment later, he drew a small white-knife from it.
            Zack’s eyes bulged, and his breath sputtered. What just happened?
            Yaki-NJ peered in the same direction. “What is it?”
            Zack pointed at the man amid the milling crowd. “He looks like he’s about to stab her.”
            “With what? His fist?”
            No, the knife.”
            Yaki-NJ narrowed his eyes. “I can’t see a knife from here. Is it in his pocket or something?”
            How can you not see it? Zack ground his foot into the pavement. “Never mind. I guess I’m just —”
            The man slashed through the straps of the woman’s Louis Vuitton purse and snatched it from her grasp.
            The woman screamed.
            The man pushed through the crowd and sprinted towards Zack.
            Not a single Japanese person lifted a finger to stop the man.
            Adrenaline raced through Zack’s body. I have to do something
            In his mind, Sena said, “How many times have I told you not to cause trouble? I won’t bail you out of jail again!”
            Zack’s muscles froze. He swallowed then stepped aside.
            When the man ran past, he met Zack’s eyes. A snarl crossed the man’s lips, but he didn’t stop.
            Zack blinked. “Huh?” Where did the knife go?
            Yaki-NJ sighed. “Are you okay, Zack? You could have gotten hurt if you didn’t move.”
            Zack’s hands trembled. “I’m … fine.” He munched the yakitori down and placed two-hundred yen onto the counter. “Thanks for the chat, but after all of that, I need to drink.”
            Yaki-NJ laughed. “Try not to pick up too many girls.”
            Zack’s heart sank. “What good would it do?”
            “I’m sure you’ll find someone to spend the rest of your life with.”
            “I have … and I’m miserable.” Zack trudged towards the Daily Yamazaki — a convenience store.
            “You know what I mean,” Yaki-NJ said from behind. “One day, a good woman will come along and not treat you like shit!”
            I wish. After stumbling into the Daily Yamazaki, Zack grabbed a couple of Chu-Hais. He wanted to get drunk but wasn’t in a beer mood, and the lemon-flavored Shochu Highball packed quite the punch.
            The freckle-faced high school girl behind the register rang him up, but she never bothered looking at anything other than his eyes. A grin the size of Mt Fuji grew across her face.
            Zack paid the three-hundred and twenty yen before breaking eye contact. Then, he moved towards the door.
            She made kissing sounds.
            Zack ignored her.
            Back outside the Daily Yamazaki, police spoke with the woman who had her purse stolen as well as Yaki-NJ.
            Zack cracked open one of the Chu-Hais and downed it on the way into Nishi-Funabashi station. A warm sensation filled his body, and the heavy weight disappeared from his shoulders. He touched his Suica — a train card — to the electronic receiver at the ticket gate and walked through it. After working his way down to the Chuo-Sobu-line platform, he stretched.
            Farther down the platform, a large man stared at Zack.
            Zack swallowed. Shit, shit, shit! I shouldn’t have pointed him out to Yaki-NJ.
            The large thief — Thiefsy as Zack now called him — grinned.
            “A train bound for Chiba is arriving,” the automated male voice said over the intercom. “Please stand behind the yellow line.”
            Maybe … . Zack dashed across the Chuo-Sobu-line platform and hopped on the train heading towards Chiba.
            Thiefsy followed.
            Thump-thump. Zack’s heart pounded against his chest. As if someone were tickling him, his neck tingled once again. Wait for it … . He pretended to sit down.
            Thiefsy sauntered towards the train-car Zack was in.
            Beep-ding, beep-ding, beep-ding. The doors began to close.
            While holding his breath, Zack bolted out of the train.
            The doors shut.
            Thiefsy slammed his fist against the door. That strange white-dagger glowed in his grip.
            The train took off.
            Zack sighed before stumbling across the Chuo-Sobu-line platform and onto the yellow-striped train bound for Tokyo.
            Only one place could take his mind off of Sena and that psychotic thief. Well, in one of her bipolar-like rages, Sena was probably more psychotic one.
            Twenty-seven minutes later, Zack walked out of Akihabara station. A few Long-Islands from the Hub will make the world right.
            Buzz-buzz. In his pocket, his cellphone vibrated.
            Zack ignored the phone call and stepped onto the sidewalk where the late afternoon sun blazed overhead.
            With neon lights attached to every towering building, bargains were easy to find. Despite that, screaming solicitors covered the streets of Akihabara — or Electric City as most in the Kanto region called it. Loud music blasted from every storefront. The stink of week-old socks hung in the air.
            Bile rumbled up Zack’s throat, and he gagged. After swallowing, he took a deep breath through his mouth. At least the smell is not as bad as it usually is.
            A cute solicitor in the ace-contact uniform approached him with a coupon. Her orange hat and tight, white vest whistled whenever the wind brushed past it.
            Zack leaned in close, almost nose to nose with her and winked. “Sorry, I have perfect eyes.”
            The solicitor stared into his deep, hazel eyes like every other Japanese woman did and blushed. “I … agree.”
            Oh god. While smiling, Zack cracked open his second Chu-Hai. I better get out of here before —
            Who the fuck is calling me? Zack reached into his pocket and pulled out his cellphone. “Sorry, little lady, I have to take this.” I guess that’s as good an excuse as any not to do something with her that I’d regret.
            Sena’s name flashed across the display.
            Is she calling to bitch at me again? Zack took a big gulp of his Chu-Hai and strolled over to a random storefront’s loudspeaker. I hope this works.
            Vibrations rolled over his skin while an automated voice talked about the day’s sales. Some J-pop tune played in the background.
            Making sure the receiver faced the speaker, Zack flipped open his cellphone and placed it to his ear. “Hello?” he asked, switching back to English.
            “Why is it so loud?” Sena’s words snapped like a whip.
            “Just a loud area.”
            “Fine, what? I’m the one who’s pissed off!
            Sena sniffled.
            Fuck, I can already feel the guilt washing over me. With an iron grip, Zack squeezed the can of Chu-Hai. “What is it, now?”
            “I-I … I never want to see you again.”
            Zack’s heart stopped for a long moment. Fuck me with a knife. Thump. The heartbeat hit him in the chest like a sledgehammer. He gasped. His stomach clenched. To keep his lower-lip from quivering, Zack bit into it. Then, he swallowed. I must have misheard. He stumbled away from the loudspeaker. “Sorry, I didn’t catch that.”
            “It’s over.” Sena’s voice cracked. “For real this time. I’m going to stay with my parents until you get your stuff out of here.”
            This is new. Tears rolled down Zack’s cheeks. “Fine … but I’m not moving out until I can find a place I like.” He pressed his toes against the souls of his shiny black, dress shoes.
            “Fine, but you better start looking!” Crack! Sena ended the call by slamming her cellphone shut.
            The can of Chu-Hai slipped from his grasp. Thwap. It hit the ground. Chu-Hai fountained out onto his legs.
            Despite the fact that this suit was dry-clean only, Zack trudged through the carbonated beverage. His vision blurred.

Next: WATCHING sample scene