Friday, November 21, 2014

Break the Rules Before You Learn Them

I think I’ve told this story before, but I’m telling it again. No, I’m not running out of material.

Once upon a time there was a guy in my writers’ group who was writing his memoir about running marathons. (Now come on, guys. I’m sure it’s much more interesting than it sounds. Be cool.)  This was not unusual because my writers’ group was mostly older people talking about their lives. It wasn’t a great fit for a speculative fiction writer, I’ll admit, but it was one of the few options I had, and on a rare positive note, I got something from it.

Anyway, here’s our conversation.

Him: Do most science fiction books have prologues?

Me: Yeah. I guess.

Him: Well, I’ve read a few and I didn’t see any.

Me: It’s not like a staple or anything.

Him: What does that mean?

Me: You don’t have to have one.

Him: Oh. Well, I was asking if you had to have one.

Me: …

Him: You should read other science fiction books and see how they do their prologues.

Me: …

Him: You have too much hook and too much tension right now.

Me: Like I’m trying too hard?

Him: No. It’s just exhausting.

It was a dialogue I puzzled over for a while until, after being attentive to what he was saying to other people, and adding in information as he continued to give me feedback at later dates, I decided he’s white noise and stopped thinking too hard about him.

The issue between us was actually about our priorities and how we understand the world. He believed you should do things like they were supposed to be done. You shouldn’t have a prologue unless you were supposed to have a prologue, and then you definitely needed one whether or not it actually helps your story. Being that I am of the opposite opinion—you should experiment until it doesn’t work—it explained why our conversation initially seemed a bit on the gibberish side.

Some people believe you should learn the rules to learn to break them. I believe you should break the rules first before they can infect your analytical skills. It’s after you start to understand yourself, your writing, and are seeking solutions that you turn to the old formulas.

1) You learn the rules best by breaking them.

I had a college professor who insisted that his class was “oh so hard” and “training us for grad school.” On paper, this seemed true. We had to read three plays for every class, often four hours in duration, and write a paper about them. His exams were extremely long with impossible questions about literally hundreds of plays (some we read, some we just talked about), as well as demanding three essays at the end.

It seemed hard, but the truth was, it wasn’t. I mean, it was the easiest class I’ve taken. Why? Because he never actually graded anything. He may have expected us to fill out a six page test, but he certainly wasn’t going to read it. Truth was, he’d never give you anything below a C because that’s when you might contest it. As long as you didn’t look like you were cheating and participated in class, you didn’t actually have to any of the work. Like, at all.

You know who didn’t know that? The typical A students. The ones who did everything they were told to maintain their 4.0 average. It was the people who tested their boundaries, the usual D and C students who knew the truth the best.

I always say don’t judge an expert by his accolades, but rather by how well he understands his mistakes. The person who understands when to follow the rules and when to break them is the person who’s broken them more than he’s followed them. The “rules” are actually contextual. They don’t always work, the mistakes they solve won’t always occur, and while they may be a safe choice, they’re rarely the best choice. Someone who has broken the rules a great deal has a pretty good idea of all the myriad of reactions breaking them can cause. Someone who follows the rules only knows what he’s doing now works, not what other options exist.

If you constantly follow the rules, you won’t be as aware what happens when you don’t follow them.

2) When you establish the problem before introducing the solution, you won’t wonder if the problem actually exists.

Let’s talk outlining.

Susie tells Johnny, “You must outline. Real authors outline.”

To which Johnny says, “Fuck that,” and proceeds to never outline out of spite.

So he doesn’t outline and doesn’t outline and doesn’t outline until, lo, one day, he does outline, and he realizes how much easier it makes certain aspects of writing.

He proceeds to turn around and say to Jimmy (knowing full well that Jimmy must be of the same stubborn mindset as he, and so needing to press the importance of it), “You must outline. Suck it up and outline like a real author.”

And we know what happens from there.

The first issue with the writing rules is they’re usually saying you’re doing something wrong. You did something wrong, this is the right way, and no you shouldn’t be feeling like you now have to prove that you’re right.

No matter how open minded the author wants to be, stubbornness will set in. “Don’t use adverbs.” “Don’t use said.” “Show, don’t tell.”

You’re not my mom!

Even when the author is fully aware he’s being spiteful, if this is the first time he’s had the rule exposed to him, he won’t be able to truly tell if and when the rule is stupid/true. His desire to prove this person wrong feels very similar to his gut telling him it is wrong. Meaning that even when the rule actually isn’t appropriate, he’s not sure if he doesn’t just want to believe that.

If the author is inexperienced and doesn’t have a solid judgment on his writing, the advisor has to prove three things: One, there is a problem. Two, he should care about the problem. And three, this really is the best solution for the problem.

However, when an author first reads and then actually takes the time to judge his own writing, determines there’s something wrong with it—even if he’s not clear on what specifically—and then takes it to someone else to help him find the solution, the advisor’s job is a thousand times easier. He doesn’t have to prove there’s a problem, he just has to prove this is a viable solution.

And let’s face it, even the most diplomatic person is going to have a hard time getting the author to not hear “You are wrong.” If the writer has already decided he hasn’t done something up to his own standards, then he’ll be more willing to focus on the solutions, not whether or not this guy is being an ass.

It is pretty useful for the writer to see a problem first. And if you’re thinking that knowing the rules will help him do that…

3) Don’t think of an elephant.

I’m going to be overt about my cynicism here and say that one of the dumbest things I’ve read was when someone tried to prove whatever they were saying by suggesting, “You may not think this is important now, but after I’ve said it it’s going to stand out like a zit on a beauty queen.”

Why is that stupid? Because you can persuade people to be hyper-attentive to anything.  All I need to do is give you the slightest inclination that maybe, just maybe, it’s true, and ta-da! You will not be able to feel natural using whatever it is I suggest.

It’s easy to psyche yourself out as a writer, to question everything a little too much. The main issue with learning the writing rules, especially before you start to understand how you are naturally inclined to write, is you will have a hard time shaking them off. You will notice every time you use an adverb or the word “was.” You’ll question if it sounds funny. And just by focusing on it, it will sound funny no matter what.

After someone tells you you are not to use the word said, you are going to have a hard time trying to figure out when you can because it will always stand out.

HOWEVER, when you’ve started to understand the way you write, what you like, and what you don’t like, it’s easier to put other people’s opinions in perspective. When you decided you don’t like your word choice, there’s something ineffective how you describe things, and someone explains that you use adverbs a lot, it becomes about not using adverbs in hopes to improve uninspired sentences you’ve already identified. Problem first, solution second. Instead of—how people normally tackle it—telling you to find adverbs to find the uninspired sentences. Now every time you see an adverb, you’re not sure if the sentence is uninspired or not.  By being conscious of what you think you’re more likely to curb the absolute influence of your stubbornness/gullibility and access the truth of what someone is saying better.

4) When you learn a way that always works, you don’t want to try new things.

Now that I’ve spent so much time talking about the pratfalls, let’s talk about the good parts.

Most writing rules work in many contexts. They are repeated for a reason, and not just because they’re quick and easy to remember. The majority of them are about not drawing attention to themselves, i.e. allowing for attention to be drawn to allegedly more important things. Meaning that even if they don’t actually solve a problem, it is unlikely they will become distracting.

Not using adverbs, not using passive sentences, whether or not to always use said or never use it, is all about not sidetracking the reader to your word choice. By not using certain realms of your palate, you are allowing the (supposedly) more important things to take focus.

But, at the same time, you will never be extraordinary by playing by the rules.

No one in the entire world thinks a great book follows all the rules. It can’t. It would be contrived, false, and predictable if it did. You want to do something amazing, you have to do something noticeable, which is not what the rules are about. (They are about drawing attention to something amazing, but they can’t do that if you’ve followed all of them.)

If you need a work to be decent quick, the rules are the way to go. They’re safe, they rarely backfire, and they cover up issues well. But they’re limiting, in-the-box, and never amazing or inspiring.

Many people get good at writing by doing what they’re “supposed to,” but then they hit a plateau. They write these manuscripts that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with, but sparks no interest. They need to step it up, take it to the next level, take more risks.

Unfortunately, it’s common they don’t know how to break the rules. As I said, you learn when not to use an adverb after using an adverb badly. After this plateau, a lot of writers (and all kinds of artists) see a drop in the quality of their writing. That’s because thinking outside of the box requires risk taking, and risk taking often fails, especially when you haven’t practiced doing it.

Meaning they’re experiencing the sucky, over-the-top writing most writers have already grown out of, after they’ve already been able to write in a way that doesn’t make them cringe. When you blindly experiment at the beginning of your career, you develop more control before becoming extremely aware of how well/badly you’re doing. When you start experimenting for the first time in the middle, you’re going to be very conscious about it, and it will be nearly impossible to not just go back to what works.

Why write weird when I can do what works?

Because what “works” might get you accepted, but what’s weird makes you a commodity.

5) Your “breaking the rules” will be more motivated and organic.

There isn’t much to this one. If you break the rules before you knew they existed, you had your reasons for doing it. They may not be good ones, and you may decide that they’re exactly what makes you look like an amateur (it’s pretty common in fact), but they are sincere and natural.

If, however, you start breaking the rules after you know they exist, there’s a good chance that you’ll be forcing it—and it sounds like you are. Even if you have pure motivations outside of, “Look at me ignoring all the rules! Aren’t I creative?” your awareness of the boundary will make you react to it. It’s just like the elephant thing again.

Even though I think the rules are great tools and unavoidable standards an author should be aware of, the writer who focused on uninhibited writing first, judged that writing, and understood it will be able to retain some of his true motivations prior to becoming aware of the imposed limitations. Meaning that when you wrote a bunch of stories before you learned you aren’t supposed to have a prologue, you can look back on them and have a better idea why they were there in the first place and if they worked or not. All the prologues after that won’t be free from ulterior motivation.

6) Making something safer is a thousand times easier than making it weirder.

Directors will, in most circumstances, cast an over the top actor instead of a little too subtle one. Why? Because it’s much easier to reign people in than it is to push them bigger.

Something old, something new, something borrowed, something true. These are the ingredients to… Well, getting slapped. But also to making a good story. (Don’t hit me. I have a cat on my lap.)

Every story needs to have some expected parts as well as unexpected. It needs to be relatable enough, yet surprising enough. It needs to follow standards so as to not overwhelm the audiences with new stimuli, but not overexpose them to things they’ve already grown immune to. If a manuscript is just weird, breaks all the rules, is entirely unpredictable, it’s not going to have a good grasp on its readers’ attention. They won’t have anything to associate with it, will be overwhelmed, and won’t know what to focus on. They probably won’t care because if it’s too original, it has nothing to do with their life (i.e. what they’ve seen before.) If it is standard, hackneyed, and “technically correct,” they’ll just zone out. The brain says, “Already got this information, thank you.”

The correct balance, on the other hand, is complicated. It depends on the tastes of the author, the tastes of his audience, and what else the audience is being exposed to at that time. But, no matter how much or little, it still requires elements of both the typical and the weird.

A manuscript needs to take some sort of risk if it wants to stand out. That risk is what the author should focus on; questioning standards, trying things that no one else is doing should take first priority—for the simple reason that it’s harder than making a script do what it’s “supposed to.”

The rules are pretty easy to find, and not that hard to implement. The most difficult part of using them is not overdoing it. It is a thousand times easier to start with something that doesn’t fit in and make it conform than to take something typical and make it organically something new, because there are thousands of ways to be different, but only a few to be the same.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Knock the Grammar Nazis Down and Make Them Think

Yesterday, I was writing.

Ha, I jest. Yesterday I was considering writing while really reading about writing. Because that’s pretty much the same thing.

Anyway, while “writing” I came across this article by a screenwriter coach who diplomatically entitled his article, “Why Your Screenplay Sucks,” or something equally poetic.

It was a typical blog with the usual hackneyed advice, yet despite the tone of the title, I almost got all the way through it before I found something to complain about—as I am wont to do.

I finally read this passage:

It’s all too obvious when I’m entering virgin territory as a reader.  If mine are the first eyeballs (other than the writer’s) to scan the pages, invariably they’re peppered with typos, incorrect usage of apostrophes, wrongly used words, random character names, formatting errors, confusing sentence structure, and all manner of monstrosities that disrupt my engagement with the text and have me wanting to claw my own cheeks off.

Yeah, these are not problems that come from not getting outside feedback, these are problems that come from not doing a second draft.

“Does it matter?” you say. “You’re agreeing there’s a problem. So what if he’s suggesting a symptom of having no one read it? He’s not directly saying it’s the cause. He’s just offering up (in an offhanded manner) a solution,” you say.

Blah, blah, blah. Yes, that is exactly the problem, I say.

In physics, the definition of probability means that anything is possible, just to an insignificant degree. Therefore, there is a chance that the molecules in my hands will align with the molecules in my keyboard and I’ll fall right through it. If that’s possible, then it is certainly possible to make a great first draft. I’m just not saying we should bank on it.

I don’t think the theory of “all first drafts suck” is a good one, but on the flip side, I think it just makes sense that nothing bad comes from revisiting your work. In most occasions, there’s going to be something an author wants to change, and even if—on the off chance—it is just magically perfect, the writer needs to refresh his memory. A book takes at least several weeks to write, if you are damn fast. For most of us it can be months or years. No one remembers everything they did, and I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve gotten advice I thought was good until I actually reread and reunderstood my work.

What annoys me is not that Screenwriting Coach judges a book by its typos (I do too. And while misspelled words aren’t directly correlated the author’s inability to satisfy me, it is statistically a good sign that he won’t) but that he says it’s obvious no one else has read the script because of these typos. To which I say, bunk.

You don’t need anyone else to read your script to get rid of typos. And in fact, most of these problems should be solved before we get the beta readers involved.

Here’s what happens when you give out a fresh-out-of-the-mind draft of a story.

1) There will be typos.

How many, however, depends on how much you write. My first drafts now have far less than my earlier novels. The more you write, the more you practice writing correctly, and the more you learn about grammar rules, the less you make mistakes the first time out. But they will exist.

2) People will give all their attention to the easiest, most obvious mistakes. Which will be typos, because you have them.

See the case of Mr. Screen Coach par example. He has every right to complain about typos and is correct in suggesting they’re distracting. The issue is him insisting that “If mine are the first eyeballs (other than the writer’s) to scan the pages, invariably they’re peppered with typos.”

Nope. Catching typos is easy. It’s not fun. It’s tedious for many, but it’s not a complex issue. Sure, it’s inconsistent enough that the computer can’t do all the work, but there’s a reason we have a spell check and not a break in continuity check on Word.

I assure you not only can an author fix his own typos, he should. If only, at least, in a cursory glance sort of way.

As a Grammar Nazi Card Holder since 1999, and yet the least precise person in the world, I can attest to both sides of being annoyed by poor grammar and being a hypocrite therein. Spelling was not my forte when I started writing, and neither is closely checking to see if the words I think I wrote are the ones I actually wrote.

What I learned from my haphazard turning in English essays without checking them is that you will never get in-depth feedback when there’s typos to discuss.

Now, I know that wasn’t Mr. Screen Coach’s point. But the suggestion to get a second pair of eyes to fix “typos, incorrect usage of apostrophes, wrongly used words, random character names, formatting errors, confusing sentence structure, and all manner of monstrosities that disrupt my engagement with the text,” is exactly what some people do. And I think it’s a mistake. He’s implying that you need outside feedback to make sure you didn’t make these cut and dried mistakes, where as I argue these aren’t the mistakes your second pair of eyes should even be seeing. It also bypasses the real reasons we want feedback and exactly what I (at least) don’t want.

Again, I’m good at knowing the rules, and I’m decent at implementing them as I write them. But I do slip up, and when it comes to mistakes that have already been made, I’m really really terrible at finding them. It’s not that I don’t want people to point them out for me—that’s great. You’re sitting there, reading through it, you notice it, it makes my life all kinds of easier—it’s that I don’t want that to be the focus of your criticism.

I’m not getting a second pair of eyes to tell me about my spelling errors. I believe it’s harder to get someone to read your damn manuscript then it is to fix your own typos, no matter how inattentive to detail you (re: I) are. While it’d be stupid to not say something, what I’m looking for is information. More importantly information that I can’t get for myself.

I cannot have a first impression of my own work, even if I let it sit for years. I can’t strip the knowledge of what I actually meant to say to see what I actually said. I can’t see how the order in which I put the information together is confusing, or stop filling in the blanks when I left something out. I don’t know what is unique to me (like laughing at menstruation jokes) until you tell me it’s not funny to you. I also don’t know that most people don’t know what “chagrin” means, or know that most people do know what it means, but my one beta reader was especially sheltered.

If I manage to get someone willing to read my book for free the last thing I want from them is a series of impersonal red lines telling me I need a comma. Or that I spelled “coma” wrong.

I want people point out, “I don’t know what the hell is going on.” Or “I don’t like that character.” Or “I totally thought the community and the union was the same group.”

In my experience, people don’t see past the typos. When a writer gives someone a first draft, the feedback is often what he could have seen for himself after a first read through. And if the author’s lazy enough or has enough friends, maybe that’s what he wants. But getting someone to read the same book once, let alone over and over is difficult.

So, yeah, yeah, ScreenCoach was really saying don’t have typos. And he’d probably agree with me in saying you should get rid of as many of them as you can before giving it out. I’m just saying we shouldn’t perpetuate that’s what second pair of eyes are for.

There are a lot of Grammar Nazis out there with far more interesting opinions rather than not ending a sentence in a preposition. Force the bastards to think for themselves and not allow them to focus on the easy marks, question or otherwise.



I just finished the quilt I will be giving away for the launch of my serial short stories this December.

Here it is:

Edgar and I will set up a raffle in early December. If you are interest in winning this beauty, all you will have to do is find your way back here and confirm you’re following me via Twitter, Facebook, or my blog. It’s free, and it’s a pretty good prize.

If you’re interested in keeping updated when I actually start the raffle, I will be announcing it on my social networks.

So bookmark this page, follow this blog, follow me on Twitter, or like my Facebook page!

(I do reciprocate.)

Friday, November 7, 2014

So I’m Writing This Novel: Do You Believe in Soul Mates?

My friend likes to annoy me by being in love. Now, I have to clarify that by insisting normal love isn’t irritating. I like asking people about their relationships, and I enjoy seeing happy couples. But she takes it above and beyond the call of duty, which, honestly, annoying each other is kind of the foundation of our relationship, so who can blame her?

She has continuous long-term relationships—lasting years, and very limited in the space between them. She’s fun, pretty, and supportive, making guys flock to her like the damn bugs to my iPad. When she falls in love, she falls hard. Completely head over heels, ready to commit, she gives over to it wholly to whoever’s she’s with.

And so, whenever I ask her if she believes in soul mates, she answers (in a deliberately flighty, dreamlike voice) “Of course. I mean if I hadn’t found BLANKETY BLANK…”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah. But besides him.”

Despite my airs of great misanthropy, I’m a big romantic. I have always loved romance and the honest truth is I rarely find a story without it remotely interesting. I don’t begrudge my friend for being in love, I begrudge her because I’m looking for the truth:

Is love about finding someone you connect with, have fun with, and care about inherently?

Or, is true love about finding someone you’re willing to try for?

I know damn well there is some intangible connection, some electricity, some feeling, some unreasonable desire to just be with them—in so many ways—that you can’t control. It’s a connection you can’t force, you can’t logic into yourself. I felt it once, for one person. And it was that feeling that helped me get hurt when it went to hell. After that, I knew that I couldn’t love someone without it. And, honestly, I didn’t want to love anyone without it. I wanted that feeling back more than anything—I still do—and I’m not willing to settle.

So where does it come from? Is the feeling a sign that you’re meant for each other? That you should try harder to make it work? Or is it just a random act of the universe? Did I feel that way because I let myself, without thinking too hard? Or is it just something that you feel for some and not others? How seriously should you take it? And am I wrong? Can that feeling be created over time?

When I first started writing THE PLANE, I knew there would be a male and female character.

(Pronouns, baby. So much easier to write a scene between a girl and a guy.)

But also because of the romance angle. I’ve never written a book without one yet. Despite that, even as I developed the characters, imagined scenes in my head, and began plotting out the book, they never felt right together. They got along—in the sort of constantly bickering and loving it kind of way—but I couldn’t really see them together. Not as a couple. I couldn’t see them in love.

Why? Well, for Soel’s part, he’s not in the right place for love. For Sanya, Soel isn’t supportive enough.

Soel has developed into being a fairly selfish character. I don’t think that makes him unlikeable, (entirely) because he is, at least, not entitled. But sometimes he does and says things that really make me cringe. Unlike many of his male counterparts before him, each of whom have some sort of chip-on-his-shoulder, it’s-me-against-the-world attitude, Soel is the only one who is truly angry. He’s resentful. He’s struggling to keep his head above water, and he wants society to accept him. Most of my protagonists before were trying to escape it.

He’s not lonely. It doesn’t propel him. Security does, feeling safe—financially, physically—is his main priority. He doesn’t even seek pleasure, and I’m not just talking sex. All he wants is freedom, to not have to struggle anymore.

Normally I’d call bullshit on the “not being in the right place for love” crap. I know damn well when you like someone, the sensibility of it all goes right out the window. I believe not being in the right place can make something not work, but I don’t believe it can prevent you from falling in love. But I feel like love wouldn’t make Soel happy. Not now, anyway.

As for Sanya, I’m not entirely sure what she needs, but a part of it is unconditional acceptance. Soel is, considering how important status is for him, a judgmental whore. He cares too much about getting what he wants to truly accept her. He can accept her as a friend, as someone who understands him, who he can talk to, but as a committed life-long companion, I just don’t see it. She’s insane, she has baggage, she has severe impulse control. She’s hard to take. Soel doesn’t have the patience. And honestly, neither does she.

I’m seeking other avenues for love (in my book we’ll say), and I’m not ruling out that maybe when they get their shit together they might fit right. But as of right now, there’s a reason they’re not working, and I’m not going to force it. Maybe it’s because, though I’m doing great, I’m still not entirely over my last heartbreak. Maybe it’s me that can’t get them together. Or maybe it’s them.

We’ll say it’s them. That it’s just not meant to be. It seems to make things easier.

A Scene between the Two “Lovebirds”

Soel eyed the woman without hesitation, not even bothering in the slightest to be subtle. She raised her brows, but he didn’t stop. She turned back to the ocean.
            The sound of the water lapping on the deck beneath them seemed louder than normal. Soel finally glowered at Mavich, the bastard taking his time reading through the paperwork. He did this on purpose—to torture them both. Soel knew his first impression on Galdin was not a great one, and that Mavich was the sort to not tolerate the scum of the earth anyway, so combine the opinion of lapdog and master, the lapdog was going to bite twice as hard.
            But he couldn’t help blame this Sanya for her part in it. A part of him wanted to kill her too, and he didn’t give a shit if she worked for Galdin or not.
            She took a long breath from her cigarette before glancing to Soel. “Fine weather we’re having.”
            “Don’t talk t’me.”
            She held up her hands, amused. “Alright then.”
            “Hey, Mavich,” Soel shouted. “What y’doing? Can we get on with this?”
            “Cram it, mud.”
            “Why’re we here?”
            Mavich ignored him, pulling the paper up closer to his face.
            Soel crossed his arms.
            “We’re here,” the woman said in a demure manner, “Because they are trying to convince us that they own us.”
            He just gave her a dirty look.
            “You do own us. You have me by the nuts and y’know it. Just come on. What do y’want? Who is this lady?”
            “Sanya,” she said, holding out a hand.
            He stared at her incredulously. She withdrew it.
            “Sanya, this is Soel of Green Shore. Soel, this is Sanya,” Mavich said carelessly.
            The woman smiled at the pilot next to her.
            “What? You a transient? Ain’t got a hometown?”
            “I do. But I don’t see a reason to tell you.”
            “You could probably bribe it out of her,” Mavich muttered, not looking up.
            Soel looked to her for confirmation, hoping to legitimize his judgment.
            “A million drakma.”
            He rolled his eyes.
            “I can’t imagine what someone such as y’rself could be hidin’.”
            She stood tall, back arched, energy contained within her form. She was controlled, every movement intentional, else her body sat completely still. The way she gestured, arched a graceful brow, smiled only when she chose, suggested a woman of class, of one of the higher isles. But her dirt stained black pants and long leather jacket—patched in places—ruined the effect. Her long black hair glistened in the sun, clean and maintained. She wore thick make-up around the eyes, she had, at least, tried to maintain her appearance. Again, Soel knew nothing about guns, but the shotgun strapped one her back was obviously finer than most of what he’d seen. He was talking to someone of the greater stations, but, for whatever reason, she hid it. It gave him more reason to be mad than just his hatred of the situation.
            “If I told you why then it would just explain away the what.”
            “Y’don’t need t’explain anything to me,” he muttered.
            “Oh, but I want us to be friends. I have a feeling we’re going to be very close in the near future.”
            She and Soel looked to Mavich. The man pretended to ignore them for a moment, but finally raised his head.
            “Oh fine,” he sighed. “Yes. You both know that we are entering into contract, correct?”
            “Well, it would be foolish of us to send you off without a full arsenal.”
            “Oh, please tell me you’re giving me a gun,” Sanya moaned.
            Mavich’s eyes narrowed. “Maybe,” he said. “It’s a possibility. You will have to ask him.”
            “Oh, I will.”
            “Alright,” Soel snapped. “But what does that have to do with Trigger Happy over here? She’s not comin’ with right? I’m not gonna have t’be in the same space as her, right?”
            “We will be giving you everything you need to ensure the trip’s success. Food, gasoline, any weaponry Galdin deems fit.”
            “And so what? “You’re givin’ me a whore?”
            Sanya gave him a dismissing look. “You’re a lovely person, Soel. Don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise.”
            “You will need a gunman. Sanya here is the best possible option you can have. You should be grateful.”
            She nodded at Soel in agreement. He scowled at her.
            “We have been trying to tie her down for a good while now. You should be happy.”
            He looked away, but he realized they were right. He’d seen what she could do, and he knew damn well that trying to shoot while flying had almost killed him several times before. He needed to suck it up and quit pissing off the one person who might be the difference between life and death.
            He just glowered at the dock.
            Meanwhile, Sanya glanced back to the plane behind them then to the scrawny man next to her.
            “Gunman, huh?” she said. “So I take it you think that I’ll be getting into that death trap.”
            “You will do what you are told,” Mavich explained, exhausted.
            “There’s nothin’ wrong with my plane!” Soel snapped.
            “Oh, I believe you. But it doesn’t matter. I’m not going to be a pilot’s gunman. I have never been a pilot’s gunman, and I will never be a pilot’s gunman.”
            Soel eyed her up and down. Mavich kept his eyes on the page.
            “And why’s that?” the lapdog asked.
            She shrugged. “I’m scared of heights.”

            Soel nearly tossed himself to the ground.