No, no

Do you have any idea how many plans, both well-planned and highly productive, I had for this period of self-isolation while I would be stuck at home? Let me tell you—many and various. Including but not limited to: a consistent posting schedule for my blog; a poem for Easter; a hymn competition submission; at least two stories (“Whistler” and “AJ Burnes is a Double-Crossing Weasel”), perhaps even three (“The Drs. MacWitts’ Contribution to Overpopulation”); a significant start on the illustrations for “Apples Are Apples.”

But then I fell in love. So what can you do? Enjoy it, even while the rest temporarily falls by the wayside. Fortunately, I’m only planning on doing this once; these days and this season in my life will flow forward and become my new normal and I’ll return to my writing.

So just for the moment, I’m setting my personal projects aside. I’ll pick them back up again in due time. But not this month, and probably not the next. In the meantime, I’m still writing. Mostly by hand in my personal journal these days, but I’ve pecked at my keyboard a few times too and added a sentence here, a piece of dialogue there, to my stories.

I’ll never be able to lay them down to sleep for good. They’re simply enjoying a nap for now.

Yes, yes

Here I am, sort of quarantined, still officially working full time but with fewer interruptions than normal, and I don’t have anything to show for all the extra hours I’ve discovered in the day on my blog. I should by all rights. But it turns out if you’re lazy before a pandemic, you’re still lazy during it.

I have actually written more on some of my [short] stories in an attempt to finish something before the world comes screaming to its inevitably fiery end, but I can’t show any of it off as it’ll be far more compelling within an actual completed story. So instead, here’s a piece of a scene written long ago, for a story I will tackle later:

“Oh Scott,” she said, looking past his shoulder at Fitz. “I assumed you’d be the one with the criminal record.”

It was so unexpected that it took a moment for Scott to understand. He caught up suddenly, and whipped his head around to take in Fitz, expression neutral save that he’d gone an awful white. He seemed unaware of the entire room gaping at him, but pretty clearly wasn’t.

“It’s a part of the public record,” he said, tone just the slightest bit strained.

“Oh my,” Claypoole continued, reading the sheet of paper in her hand as though she had just discovered it. “Trespassing and assault? My my, I never thought you were the type.”

“It was a mistake,” Fitz said, looking at Scott now as John accepted the sheet from the witch. Terry forced him to set it down on the table so they could both read it, and Amanda came over to join them.

“A mistake?” she interjected mockingly. The paper – a printout from a California government website, Scott could see – was now making its way over to Hal’s table by way of Dawn.

“A crime,” he amended, turning back to her. “I made a very foolish decision, and I paid for it.”

“What—”

“And that’s all that needs to be said about it,” he said, picking the absolute worst way to try and shut down gossip.

Scott was still gaping at him, and trying not to. “Does work…”

“Of course they know,” Fitz snapped. “I had to put it on my application. I don’t get work easily, let me tell you.” He seemed to realize he’d lost his temper and reined it back in so badly that Scott – not in the least perturbed by Fitz’s criminal record, though certainly intrigued by the unknown story behind it – almost laughed. “As well I deserve. I’m sure.”

I also love this story, as I love all my stories that fall under the category of “later.” But in the meantime I’m working on “Whistler,” which begins with the smartest man in the universe about to be executed and, naturally, at some point devolves into an argument between navy personnel about the proper use of English grammar. Excellent stuff, I assure you.

But until then: Hal Schultz signing off, yo.

OUTBREAK OUTBREAK OUTBREAK

Magnificently low trailer voice:

IN A REMOTE AFRICAN JUNGLE.

A SMALL MONKEY.

IS CAPTURED.

THE GREATEST MEDICAL CRISIS OF ALL TIME.

(We can’t stop it!)

BEGINS.


Hahahaha, I miss the dramatic narration so ubiquitous in 90’s movie trailers. I need this guy to follow me around in real life.

IN A LARGE TOWN IN INDIANA.

A GIRL SITS OUT QUARANTINE.

IN HER APARTMENT.

ALONE.

WONDERING IF SHE SHOULD GET LUNCH NOW OR WAIT ANOTHER 10 OR 15 MINUTES.

Top Three: Favorite Movie Scenes

I love movies. I have long loved them, and even though I like to pick and pull (and complain) about their narratives too, there’s almost always something to love in every movie, no matter how stupid, insulting, or ideologically infuriating. I could give you a long list of my favorite movies, but I certainly couldn’t rank them because my favorites swing wildly across genres and change according to my mood and age.

That said, I do have a short list of my top three favorite scenes of all times. Some of these come from my favorite movies, but not necessarily. So here they are, beginning with:

#3: If I Could Save Time in a Bottle

I slowly started to lose interest in the X-Men series after the first couple of movies, but for awhile I still watched every new iteration because they’re almost always guaranteed to be fun, even if not always tightly told. X-Men: Days of Future Past sits near the top of the pile for the sheer fact that they came up with an entertainingly direct way to just retcon away the movies that annoyed everyone. While that doesn’t push it onto my massive list of favorite movies, this two and a half minutes featuring Peter Maximoff (Quicksilver, for you nerds out there) officially ranks as my third favorite scene of all time. It’s visually pretty, strategically clever, and solves several problems over a Jim Croce song while highlighting a (still mostly unknown) character’s abilities and temperament.

It worked so well, in fact, that immediately after this scene they had to come up with a reason to dump him from the main plot. Their remaining problems would have been solved in a quarter second if they’d had him on reserve. Speaking of: why didn’t we ever get that movie? Writing a good script for a character that is almost impossibly powerful would have made a fantastic film. I’m thinking general cockiness would be his downfall at about the midpoint of the movie and through to the climax, with some well thought-out superhero mumbo jumbo to add more surface tension to a deeper character flaw.

Oh, and extra shout out to the music. Not just because I like 60s/70s folk rock, but because of the way they stuck it right into the middle of a dramatic score by pairing it with his headphones. The song enters almost casually, even naturally, but by cutting it mid-bar at the end (leaving no music over the sound of pots and pans hitting the floor), we’re brought immediately back into the other characters’ perspectives. We suddenly understand how absurdly and incomprehensibly abrupt these powers look to everyone else, before the silence eases into the resolution of the tense action score. So cool.

#2: Let Us Go and Fly a Kite

Saving Mr. Banks is my favorite kind of drama: sad in a quiet way but ultimately offering resolution and hope. This was such a tightly written script – even the title is a puzzle that comes together at exactly the right moment – and seeing Mrs. Traver’s feet begin to tap and fly upwards with the music is visually small but, to the overarching plot up this point, huge. To then have a character not only notice but actually extend his hand to this bitter old woman, reaching out with the kindness that she has never shown anyone else, makes my feelings swell. I love redemption stories, and this one is so beautifully told. Never melodramatic nor embarrassing to watch, which melodrama can be—I can barely stand watching obviously fake characters recite prepared speeches at each other and respond like no one, in the history of sad, bitter pasts, have ever responded to a cringily overdramatic speech in their life. It’s just about the smaller kindnesses and happiness that we grant to one another, even when we don’t deserve it.

So yes, while this ranks as my second favorite movie scene, Saving Mr. Banks is also one of my favorite drama movies. This scene encapsulates why.

#1: Two Beautiful Birds

Tim Robbins tricked me into liking him forever (despite the actor’s insultingly loud opinion of people like me, which I only discovered after the fact thank goodness) with this portrayal of Andy Dufresne from The Shawshank Redemption. He plays a very quiet character whose feelings run deep; watching him act mostly through facial expression will now and forever thrill me. I’m a sucker for every action hero cliché (particularly any violent, vulgar, and/or clever defiance of the bad guys), and yet the moment where Andy Dufresne leans forward to turn off the music, only to realize he’s still got the freedom of choice – even in a prison – and then pointedly decides that the consequences are worth it, beats any one liner in history. There’s an attest to the directing and camera work there too as it literally moves with the music, but I have never heard a louder, more triumphantly resilient “Make me,” than in this scene where the actor doesn’t speak a word.

As you may have noticed, The Shawshank Redemption is also one of my favorite movies. But this scene could exist in a vacuum and I would still love it, which is why it ranks in at first.


Looking at these gathered in a single place, I’m realizing that I have a type: great character moments shaped by and around a distinct piece of music. You’d think I’d have noticed before, but somehow I didn’t. Also, it isn’t necessarily the music itself, just like it isn’t necessarily the movie itself (though that helps). Opera will never rise high in my favorite music genres, but its use here just *kisses fingers dramatically* Mamma mia.

Honorable Mentions

(Culled from thousands more and listed in no particular order)

“The King and I” isn’t my favorite musical (though there’s a lot of fascinating history and cultural pride around why the Thai people, a famously cheerful and easygoing culture, banned this movie from their country), but watching Yul Brynner throw Deborah Kerr around the floor will never get old. She practically flies when she jumps into her turns, but that’s Yul using inertia and gravity to his advantage with one magnificently strong arm.

(Also, they never so much as kiss in this movie and yet, holy bananas, that romantic tension.)

Good heavens, Katharine Hepburn. Overall, the 1960s version of “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” is interesting but not ranked among my favorite movies. There are standout scenes with standout acting throughout, but the film kind of careens from scene to (occasionally bizarre) scene, starting at about the midpoint. (Though what’s really interesting about this movie is realizing that it isn’t actually about race but the tension between the generations.) But this rake down – woo baby – is simultaneously the classiest and yet most brutal “You’re fired,” I’ve ever had the pleasure of watching.

 

This bit of dialogue from the original Overboard plays in my head every other week, usually around dinnertime. Specifically:

“I thought you might be hungry.”

“Oh that’s excellent, excellent…well I was hungry.”

Oh yeah. And of course, this:

Half-Finnished: PMTK

If you want to start something, start at the beginning. Then go to the middle, get to the end, and stop. I’m misquoting a movie line (about Scheherazade and the art of storytelling), but it’s solid advice nonetheless.

I have long meant to start up a memoir series, despite the fact that I dislike the word “memoir.” I use it because everyone knows what I mean, but the word comes off as snobbish, like it’s implying something deeper than “stories about myself.” I took a Memoir Writing class in college*, and every published author we read in that class had to hit you across the face with a theme or driving core to their autobiographical story, which just comes off as gimmicky. Nobody’s life is cleanly structured around an overarching (and marketable) philosophy.

I just want to tell stories—in this case about my life. Not because my life is particularly interesting but because I know it inside and out, which means I can’t put off writing it by claiming I need to do more research. Also, I need blog fodder.

For the longest time I was going to call this series PMTK, and it was going to start like this:

I am a Pastor’s/Missionary’s/Teacher’s Kid. On their own, each of these titles comes with a reputation; naturally, my mother and father decided to saddle me and my two older siblings with all three.

An even older version of this has been in my head for a long time. I have a Word document titled “PK,” last saved on 3/15/2017 2:20 PM, which reads:

I am a pastor’s kid. I try not to admit this right off the bat – not because I’m ashamed, but because everyone’s got an opinion, most of which are negative. (The wildest people I’ve ever met were pastor’s kids! Well. Thank you for noticing). I definitely don’t admit this to my hairdressers; rookie mistake, because every single time they respond by shamefacedly confessing that they don’t go to church like they should and then forget how to talk to me like a normal person. My mother has it worse, because while most people don’t ask what my father does, “what does your husband do?” is a standard small talk question, at which point my mother has to admit that she’s a pastor’s wife and they immediately cross themselves, like they’re either proving their worth or just straight-up trying to ward her off.

The fact is, pastor’s kids tend to fall into two camps: goody two shoes or angry rebellion. I have a theory about this, and it all comes back on our fathers.

The .doc file contains one additional sentence, but we’ll get to that later.

At this point, having come up with a plan to write my memoirs stories about my childhood, I put it off. Yes, there is a category tag that has collated a number of blog posts labeled “Memoirs” here on TheStoryFolder, but there’s no plan or chronology to that madness. A third of them are complaints about United Airlines. Another third is photocopied homework from elementary school and college. And one post is titled: “There is no entry in Microsoft Word’s thesaurus for the word ‘snot.’”

But here I am at last, because I came up with an even better title: Half-Finnished. PMTK may serve as the straight stake for my growing years, but I’m still a work in progress and half Finnish on my mother’s side. If you’re going to start your story, start with the roots. And with a play on words.**

As to the final sentence of that old Word document, it pretty well sums up Half-Finnished’s prologue:

This was actually just a really long and unnecessary setup for the actual story I wanted to tell today.

 


* Also, my professor insisted that you can tell when someone has made up their memoirs, especially via fake dialogue. Here’s the thing: not necessarily. While poorly written dialogue does stick out like a hack Photoshop job, write something well, call it true, and people will believe it. At that point it takes research – or consternated family and friends – to prove you’re a con.

**And after trying out Halfinnished, HalfFinnished, HalFinnished, until you reluctantly admit to yourself that the hyphen keeps the title from looking like you’re writing about some guy named Hal Finnished. My brother already makes jokes about my author name being Al Schultz.

Bonus

Not to mention the rest of yesterday’s search history:

  • stereotypes of turkish moms
  • duck emoji
  • human trafficking
  • easter 2020
  • cat asthma attack
  • gold teeth caps
  • gold teeth cap history
  • what causes broken teeth
  • history seeling teeth
  • history selling teeth
  • starvation
  • history common diseases associated with starvation
  • measles
  • pneumonia
  • cat wheezing and swallowing
  • pneumonia historical treatments
  • tooth infection
  • what happens if you ignore a tooth abscess
  • historical sinus infection
  • did old boarding schools have nurses
  • boarding schools hospital wings
  • cupping
  • total color blindness
  • cone monochromacy
  • cerebral achromatopsia
  • is cone monochromacy genetic -blue
  • france

Well, well, well, Mr. Bond. Someone’s main character is in big trouble.


For the record, I was almost in bed by 11 p.m. last night. But then I figured I’d better prep a blog post instead real quick before my thoughts faded and badabingbadaboom it was 12:58 a.m.

Barbarians, Castles, and (naturally) the History of the Toilet

I spent about six hours today reading up on British history, only to realize that I should have been researching central Europe. I’m working on a fairy-tale-based series of short stories (and novellas because this is me we’re talking about), and the longer it sits in my head the more I realize that I want it to vaguely follow history. While I do have another series idea that’s just retellings of fairy tales in a different world, this one instead takes elements of fairy tales – magic, curses, trolls, elves, witches, and other elements of Grimm folklore – and applies them to real time periods.

This wasn’t the plan when I woke up this morning. I’d decided that that all sounded like too much work and/or a good excuse to never get around to writing the series, so I was just going to go with the Brother Grimm style of setting, where you have a basic idea of time period but you apply whatever historical and or made-up details as they pleaseth you. And then the six hours happened. All because I asked Google “when did castles and kingdoms start to be a thing.”

But really, I just can’t let go of the idea of eventually writing a story that takes place between the industrial revolution and WWI, in which part of the debate of the age is whether science has surpassed magic. But I want to start off earlier in history with castles and princesses, so of course I had to look up when castles were a thing, and discovered they were later than I thought and also power was too centralized for the stories I have in mind.

(Of course I forgot that die Brüders Grimm were German folklorists and so their collection is naturally predisposed to the more scattered nature of power in Central Europe. But that’ll be tomorrow’s  research.)

The search started and then six hours later ended in the Primary Homework Help website, a collection of 90s-esque web pages of historical facts collected and written by a teacher for British elementary/middle school children. Naturally, I fit right in. But seriously, because it’s written for kids, she summarizes 2,000 years of British history (sometimes I forget how old the rest of the world is) in an easy-to-pick-up manner. Who were the Celts? What did they eat? What did they wear? What weapons did they use? And all the violent stuff is brilliant: “They beheaded their enemies and stuck them on spikes outside their gates!” she writes with an enthusiastic exclamation point because, let’s be honest, anyone on this site is going to be more excited by the death toll than anything.

Anyways, it’s the everyday stuff that I need. In every single age, insane stuff has been happening, but most of us are just plebes living our lives while the battles rage elsewhere, only occasionally sweeping through to cut multiple branches off our family tree. I’m not going to write this series around major historical events. I just want to make sure I understand the general political landscape going on behind the scenes, that I describe their houses correctly, that I don’t have them digging latrines when they should be pooping into the moats (looking at you 11th /12th centuries), that I know when kids started going to school, and that they’re eating the proper food and getting married at the right times.

[That said, my goal is to stay out of the weeds. I’ll look as far as I need to and wave the hand of imagination over the rest. There’s no point in 100% accuracy because it’s impossible in English. So much of culture is wrapped into language; I already know I’m going to be using idioms and phrases that didn’t show up until the 19th or 20th centuries because it’s more important that your readers understand a character/setting/plot point (and the feelings attached to them) than it is to be 100% accurate to the details. In Old English the sea was called a swan road (swan-rad), a spider was a gangelwaefre (walking weaver), and your body was a ban-cofan. Bone cave. This stuff thrills me to no end, but there’s no time for the linguistics lesson in your story, unless that’s the point of it.]*

With that aside aside, let’s talk about the fact that the Romans conquered Britain, built the settlement Londinium (you can still find Roman structures in London), introduced flushing toilets, central heat, heated floors, built a 73-mile wall across the UK to keep the Scottish out, and then left in 410 AD to protect borders closer to home. The Angles and Saxons rolled in and just stomped the Britons, because the natives had no professional soldiers of their own, Rome having kept the doors locked and guarded for the previous 350 years. The Saxons didn’t bother raiding as they had in the past, just attacked, burned out who they wanted like cockroaches, and settled in.

What’s fascinating is that the Romans, though they were there for nearly 400 years, hadn’t really bothered with roots. They inserted Latin into the language and introduced the Roman calendar, their legal system, and coins, but when they left the culture went with them. Their economic system broke down within 40 years. By 450, the Britons were back to trading goods, having punched holes in their coins to wear as jewelry. By then only squatters remained in London and pretty much every other Roman town and villa had been abandoned. Goodbye, too, Christianity. Welcome back paganism.

From a different site: “The loss of Christianity in this part of what had once been the Roman Empire is very bad for historians because with the disappearance of Christianity goes the disappearance of literacy as well, and the disappearance of written records. What we know about Anglo-Saxon England and this period is derived almost entirely either from archaeology or from accounts written after Christianity is reintroduced, and often dating hundreds of years from the events they purport to describe, or from Celtic authors living in Scotland or, perhaps, Ireland who were somewhat removed in time and space from Anglo-Saxon England.”

And that, as I understand it, is why they’re called the Dark Ages. Talk about a dystopian collapse. The entire country just dissolved into darkness. What happened? Who knows! Maybe some Irish bloke a hundred years later can tell us.

From there I read over another 1,030 years of history before I quit, which was long enough to realize that I want the chaos of the multiple kingdoms from the dystopian age of the Anglo-Saxon takeover but also the aesthetic of castles, which, in England, came about 600 years too late to the game. William the Conqueror introduced those at the same time he introduced the feudal system (oh yeah, and England became a French-speaking country for 300 years), making him head honcho by renting out all the land to his nobles in exchange for soldiers whenever he needed them, rather than operating as autonomous kingdoms allied with one another.

I’m pretty sure ye olde German barbarians – those tribal, pagan Anglo-Saxons who collapsed Britannia into the Dark Ages – have got my back on this one. With fingers crossed that I stay out of Eastern Europe. I think that’ll keep me clear of the Huns.


*Admittedly, “Bone Cave” is probably going to be the name of one of my stories someday. Or my band. Or used in the sentence: “Don’t believe that myth about the seven gangelwaefres and your ban-cofan, which are swallowed before uht**.”

**Uht = the time of day just before dawn when the last few stars are still out and the mist hangs heavy over the fields and lakes.

The Week in Review, Season 33 Episode 1

I own a ridiculous looking notebook that is decorated with about forty line drawings of cats surrounding the words “Live. Laugh. Meow.” I’ve taken to writing the best points of my day before I go to bed, and though I don’t actually manage it every night, I’ve done it enough this past week to gather some shareable highlights:

  • What a joy to sing among Lutherans, good voices and bad joined together as the harmony breaks out.
  • Had the rest of the afternoon to myself. Love the quiet after a nice brisk walk in the freezing rain.
  • Found my favorite brand of conversation hearts at Walmart. Ate 1/3 of a bag within the course of an afternoon. I love chalky sugar.
  • Bought a new exercise game for my VR and now I can’t lift my arms.
  • LSB 740
  • Played soccer. Remembered why I liked it.
  • Feb. 5: I should do something for my birthday. I always tell myself I’m not going to bother, and then I change my mind at the last minute.
  • My legs ache so good after playing soccer both Wednesday and Thursday. There is no pain so satisfying as that of micro-tears in your muscles healing stronger.
  • Feb. 7: Never bothered to make plans or even tell anyone about my upcoming birthday, but my parents succeeded in tipping off my coworkers to the fact that my birthday is tomorrow anyways, by sending flowers to my workplace. Likely to make doubly-sure, Mom ordered the bouquet shaped like a birthday cake. Look at this absurdly pink thing—it has candles. As my niece would say: I LOVEIT. 
  • (But seriously: I LOVEIT.)
  • Consequently, I now have birthday plans for tomorrow. Dinner followed by a Komets hockey game with one of my favorite families here in Fort Wayne.
  • Feb. 8: the Komets (down all their best players due to either injury or fighting-induced suspension), finish at a dismal 3-6 against the Oilers, but the Johnsons and I laughed through and spent the time we didn’t grumble about the Komets making fun of the row behind us, who showed up in the second period and filed out five minutes into the third, taking their 90 decibel rated voices with them. (FYI: 60 dB is normal for conversation; they conversed at the approximate volume of lawnmowers.)
  • Happy 33rd birthday to me! What a satisfying day.

Writing accomplishment of the week:

  • Johnson looked like a dad. He had the wife, the kids, and the dad bod, and though he rarely told jokes he always enjoyed them; the subtler the better. He was also the only member of the team whose entire family history didn’t hail from Europe, and it hurt Patty’s misplaced sense of advocacy every time Hench called him Token Black Guy, which was why Johnson sometimes called himself Token Black Guy too.

Bonus points this week awarded to best spam:

First place: “You should be a part of a contest for one of the greatest websites on the net.” I will take it under advisement, totally not fake username ΝΤΕΤΕΚΤΙΒ.

Runner-up: The spammer who copied and pasted “âàæíî” into a comment 54 separate times, which, naturally, made me think of a cartoon character falling over a cliff.

(Admittedly, not the best example, though a magnificent dub. UUUUUUGGHHHHHHH. A better representation for AIEEE!!!: Sid from Ice Age.)