BORING STUFF

This update is going up much later than planned – also, it’s more boring. My two excellent excuses are: 1.) the internet at the public library was down this morning, and 2.) that even with the extra allotted time from the internet fail, I still didn’t manage to finish the short story I’ve been wanting to complete and post since March.

(Blog tip #5,491: Always start with your justifications, and never offer any apologies. In other news, I’m sorry about this.)

I wasted some time scouring through my old homework from college, but I just cannot convince myself that any of the old short story assignments I have are worth posting. They’re okay, but they’re just not good enough. This collection is meant to showcase the writing I actually want to share with people. As it turns out, I really have gotten better since University. Annoying, but a comfort in its own way.

Still, what I’d really like to do is finish up the many short stories in my head; partly so that I’ll have something to show off and put to use on my nefarious marketing scheme website, partly because it would be a relief to remove them from my head where they’re taking up the space I should be using for newer (and potentially more lucrative) projects. Unfortunately, I have a very bad habit of stretching out short stories into semi-long ones, and though that allows me to create serial pieces, it also means it takes that much more time to complete them. I waste a lot of time trying to think around my desire to flesh out my ideas as fully as I’d like. Which will never work and, honestly, if I just wrote instead of thinking about getting around to it eventually, I’d have a lot more to show for it. Ah well. One of the things I’m working on this summer.

Jumping ship from that topic (transitions are hard), I’d like to take this opportunity to throw up (gross) a shout-out and related thank you to Mary Moerbe at “Meet, Write, & Salutary.” She’s a Lutheran wife and mother whose own time for writing has shrunk (that whole mother thing does it, I think), and so has taken it on as her mission to use her blog to encourage other Lutheran writers (or perhaps writers who happen to be Lutheran, as is more my case) instead. She wrote an awesome post about “The Hatastrophe” as well as “Small Town Super Nobody,” which you can read here:

The Hatastrophe

I also took the opportunity to work on my art portfolio. I’ve created galleries for several projects, and if you would like to admire all of the illustrations for “The Hatastrophe” you may do so at your pleasure, by hopping over here to my “Art Portfolio” page. The print copy of the picture book has a border frame around each illustration (as well as, you know, words), but these are the graphics on their own. I meant to put together a “For Sale” tab this afternoon as well – as a place to gather everything I’m selling (only two projects so far, but I should have a couple more by time the summer is over) – but I’ll have to do that another day. It took me two hours just to organize the art portfolio tab into something worth looking at, and I’m officially late for dinner at my brother and sister-in-law’s house. On my way, guys!

What a Deal, What a Buy!

For 99 cents you can now download a copy of “Small Town Super Nobody” as an ebook, available through Amazon! What a deal! What a buy! You can officially own a 99 cent novella that you are still welcome to read for free here on TheStoryFolder! For this amazing offer, click on this SLOW, SUPERKIDS AT PLAY sign:

(Or type this into the URL bar: https://www.amazon.com/author/alschultz)

I’m calling it a convenience fee, though really the charge is there because it’s the lowest price I can set for an ebook through Amazon. The ebook market is another avenue for me to explore in my attempt to get my name out there and my stories read; whether or not I make money is, at this point, secondary. Certainly I hope to (and, let’s be honest here: need to), but I’m still building a niche, and publicity is worth its weight in gold.

In preparation for the ebook release, I’ve re-read “Small Town” approximately five hundred times this past week, editing as I go. While I’m opposed to making any major changes to an already published work (even one that’s only been published on my website), I ran “Small Town Super Nobody” a bit more stringently through the wringer than I’d originally planned. It feels like cheating to make too many changes (a la George Lucas), but it’s a good lesson to me to be more meticulous about my online postings in the future. I just wanted to make sure I was putting my best foot forward, and breaking apart some of my seventy-word sentences into two – or even three – complete thoughts seemed like a good editing decision. Hopefully I haven’t fussed anything my original audience liked into oblivion.

It was also a chance to ctrl+f my most commonly used descriptive words to make sure that I hadn’t worn them out. Subsequently, I discovered that “clearly,” “suddenly,” “realized,” and “immediately” topped the list. Clearly, characters in my stories suddenly realize a lot of things. Immediately. While I replaced some with synonyms, I was able to drop a number of the adverbs completely. According to a number of my former writing teachers, clarifying your verbs is a poor way of “telling” when you should be “showing.” Personally, I like clarifying my characters’ actions. I want readers to know when an action is supposed to feel sudden, rather than to have them miss it. In my defense, many of my works are written from a character’s somewhat direct viewpoint, so when something happens suddenly or seems clear, it’s actually the character saying so. In this case, Jeremiah simply has a penchant for the word “clearly” (having used it a whopping thirty-six times; I got him down to eleven).

Also, there are not that many great synonyms for “realized.” Understood, comprehended, apprehended, grasped, gathered, recognized; all excellent words, but none of them with that vague feeling of “Eureka!” that I too often want to invoke.

Of course, my enthusiastic overuse of adverbs would go a long way towards explaining how you get 28,000 words out of this, the original outline for “Small Town Super Nobody”:

Broken into six scenes: six conversations

  1. Grayson
    1. Jeremiah hadn’t meant to bring up Teddy.
    2. Jeremiah vs. Teddy. Awesome normal kid vs. goof-off (and goof-up?) super one. Mrs. Grayson is the college advisor (among other things), but somehow they got to talking about Teddy joining a hero association. Not where Jer meant to go with the conversation, but he has to roll with it. Moves the conversation (subtly) into supers with minor or no powers. She figures him out. “What would happen if Theodore punched you in the face?” Mortified.
  2. Hanging out at the dive (where he works). Early out for school but they have practice soon. Somewhat chaos. Old lady with a crush on him, girlfriend there? His buddy laughs – we’re nobody. Someone like Teddy has a chance, but not us.
  3. Almost Dad. Trying to bring it up with him. Interrupts him: has Teddy talked to you? Mentions Jeff the sheriff, his dad’s friend and the guy who recommended they keep Teddy for a few days. Jer still has no idea why they adopted him. Trying to hang on to his temper.
  4. Argument. She’s dismissive, he catches Teddy eavesdropping. Reams him out, dad is not impressed. Flood warning.
  5. Flooding, they get stuck together, and Teddy brings up “I always knew you were going to be a hero.” Jer is very good at organizing people and getting them moving. He really is heroic, though he’d get his face smashed in if he tried to go toe to toe with a supervillain. Brings up story of drunk when they were children. You weren’t scared at all.
  6. Grayson. Jer has decided to double major in pre-med and engineering/robotics. Teddy’s going to be a superhero. He doesn’t have a choice.

Three hundred words, kids. Did I actually increase my word count by over 9000%?

WAIT JUST A MINUTE.

Hahaha, I just made my own day.


Some housekeeping notes: I just updated the Amazon, Facebook, and RSS feed icons at the top and bottom right of the page. If you click on the RSS feed (the orange one) you can actually subscribe to it, which I think means that you can have the feed send you notices when I update my website. I might look into creating an actual email subscription method on the website, so I’ll undoubtedly be talking about this more later. Just FYI for now.

24 – 72 Hours

Well…this was supposed to be a more significant update, but I have to wait 24 – 72 hours while Amazon is reviewing the ebook version of “Small Town Super Nobody” before I can offer it for sale to anyone who’d like the convenience of downloading the story on their kindle. I did actually suspect that they had a review process, but my many* attempts to somehow find secure internet yesterday were foiled (which mostly involved me looking like a creeper, sitting in the parking lot of my place of employment). My IT guy is willing to let me yoink internet from his house (which I actually tried to do on Tuesday, only to fail, again; my batting average is not great), but I was in a bad mood by my second thwarting and didn’t feel like facing anybody. So I went home and finished watching “Band of Brothers” instead.

In related news, my original plan for today’s post probably wasn’t going to be enormously exciting for my two watchers anyways, as they’ve already read “Small Town Super Nobody” here. I’ll get into why I’m charging money for a novella that I plan to keep freely available on my website later (say, in 24 – 72 hours).

In the meantime, I spent twenty minutes staring at the completed cover of the ebook (which can be found under the “Store” tab) because I was so absurdly pleased with myself over how it came out. I even researched road marker fonts to make sure I had it accurately depicted, and found out that here in America we use a font called Highway Gothic, developed in the 1940s by the United States Federal Highway Administration. This was the standard for decades, until about ten years ago when they switched to Clearwater; only for someone in the Highway Administration to roll it back about a year ago. There’s a debate raging among civic engineers about why and whether they should (I started to read an article that offers a big, resounding “NO!” – apparently the “e” and “a” in Highway Gothic are hard for old eyes to differentiate after sundown), and that’s about as far into the subject as I got. This is Highway Gothic, as “Small Town Super Nobody” takes place before Clearwater became a thing.

Follow-up confession: it was longer than twenty minutes.


*Two

TODAY IS NOT THAT DAY

I did not leave you guys in a particularly fun place last update, so here’s a couple of pieces of happier nothing, from the folder in my writing documents I call “Idea & Misc” – because I have thousands of words and sentences and half-scenes I’d like to get around to using sometime in the future, which does not do me any particular good in the present. The first two pieces are about a couple of kids you’ve met before: Johanna and Tom. I have a vague idea of visiting them again someday, but since TODAY IS NOT THAT DAY, here they are instead:

“That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard,” Johanna said flatly.

“I doubt that,” Tom answered. “You have Miss Cattin for art.”

That was disrespectful. A good point, but still disrespectful. She told him so, leaving off the “good point” part.

~*~

“Why do girls always have to define everything?” he asked. He jumped suddenly into girl-voice: “Oh no, she’s my GOOD friend, not my BEST friend, and that girl over there we’re frenemies but only until tomorrow when we go back to being ACQUAINTANCES.”

Johanna frowned a little, unsure if it was because of his tone or because she had to think about it. “We just like to know where we stand,” she finally said.

He gave her a look. “Right. That never hurts anyone’s FEELINGS.”

She huffed, annoyed by the thought that he might have a point even if she didn’t like the disdainful way he said feelings. “Well what do guys do?”

Tom folded his arms, sized up an invisible dude, and then said in a flat monotone: “Hey cool let’s hang out.”

This next bit belongs to a scifi story about a captured mathematical genius who spends most of his time acting like an idiot. I like him, but I have so many other stories that are closer to existence than his. It’ll be years before I flesh him out (if I ever do).

“I haff decided,” he announced to Victoria. “I am going to marry you.”

“That’s nice,” she said. “Could you hand me that packet of burn-all?”

Whistler found what she wanted, and continued as she took the ointment from his hand. “Debbie is much too fat. Lorna too skinny. You are just right size for man who likes comfort at night but not suffocation.”

“I am SO glad your English is improving,” Victoria said in a voice that did not mean the words it was saying.

Couple of extra pieces of art for all the good children out there in the audience today. On the right is my new bio picture for the “About” page, which I plan to use as the back-of-the book author photo for my picture books. Below is the sad remains of my recently abandoned plan to create small chapter illustrations for “Small Town Super Nobody.” I’ll be posting Jer there, perusing his “options,” on the title page for the novella. However, I do still have a cover illustration in the works, but more on that later.

That’s a wrap, folks. I plan to regurgitate something more substantial on Thursday.

Where do Your Ideas Come From? Small Town Super Nobody

Back in high school, I was a big fan of the TV show Smallville, especially in the early seasons when it worked by a standard freak-of-the-week formula. Superman has always been my favorite superhero (you could count on him to save the day, no fuss no muss, no hand-on-forehead drama), so a show about a teenaged Clark Kent saving the day from that week’s villain was right up my alley. Especially when he looked like this:

“He looked like a TV show teenager, the kind played by twenty-five year-old underwear models, with strikingly dark hair and a rare but truly arresting smile.” Three guesses as to what inspired Jeremiah’s description; the first two don’t count.

I loved the show: impossibly handsome teenager (the actor, Tom Welling, was twenty-four when season 1 aired), last-minute rescues, and enormously fun villains to fight off week after week. But for years I wondered what it would actually be like if a fourteen-year-old had super powers in a small town. The two main conclusions I came up with were as follows:

  1. It almost certainly couldn’t be kept secret, especially if he’d grown up there. How on earth would you stop a toddler from accidentally using his powers? And how would you later stop him from wanting to show off to his friends? One mistake, and that would be it.
  2. Teenagers are teenagers. Give him super strength, give her the power to fly, and at the end of the day they’re still going to spend 90% of their time worrying over pimples and homework and the fact that they’re not popular or no one is ever going to like like them. I don’t mean this to make fun of teenagers (I like the age group a lot; I used to be one, after all) and taking small social disasters extremely seriously is exactly what equips us with the tools to deal with the heavy responsibilities of adulthood. But the juxtaposition of a super-powered being who may one day stave off the literal end of the world crying at the end of an awful dance because they were sure that that was the end of the world has always struck me as comedy gold.

This has lived in the back of my mind since high school. Many of my ideas stew for years before they become of use to me, and this one finally careened off another idea – or more like careened off a minor character in one of the worlds I created back in college. Megalopolis is the center of my almost-parody super world, where powers are common and heroes and villains clock in and out to fight each other. The series I have planned for this world swings back and forth between near-parody and serious storytelling, and Mr. Roboto happens to be a bit player in the grand scheme of the city. He’s an up-and-coming hero on the verge of recognition from the League, an android with super strength, a plethora of robotic attributes, and a penchant for disaster relief.

What most people don’t realize is that Mr. Roboto is actually a two-man team. Teddy does the legwork but Jer runs the missions. They’re both young men in this story, still in their twenties, though Jer is out of college and Teddy is still taking classes, though not full-time. They run an auto repair shop in the city, which is the unofficial hangout spot for all the young heroes and sidekicks who are trying to make it into the Leagues as pro heroes.  Plans changed somewhat, between Jeremiah’s last conversation with Mrs. Grayson and now: Jer never did end up getting his medical doctorate (he worked as an EMT for awhile instead of going through the whole rigmarole of medical school, sacrificing a deeper understanding of medical treatment for the less time-consuming option of hands-on emergency care experience), and he didn’t worry so much about his eventual degree as what he was learning from the classes. He’s got enough schooling for a doctorate, but I’m not sure his studies were ever focused enough to get there – he went at his University with intense focus and practicality, taking whatever he thought might teach him something useful. On Ted’s part, he gets his ASE certification, but I’m not sure that he ever manages an official degree.

At the time of my series, Ted has actually received an invite to one of the Leagues – his first. Unfortunately, the invite only included Teddy. Jeremiah wants him to take it, but Ted’s being stubborn and absolutely refuses anyone who doesn’t recognize that they’re a package-deal. This ticks off Jeremiah, who thinks his little brother ought to be practical and knows they’ll never recognize someone who doesn’t have powers, but Teddy’s right this time: he does much better when his older brother runs the team. Though Teddy has certainly come into his own in the ten years since “Small Town Super Nobody,” he’s a follower and knows it; he’d just as soon sit around and play video games all day. He does much better when he has a boss.

Honestly, I’m not sure any of this is going to make the cut into the series (I’d like it to, just because it’s sort of a fun insight into how the “business” of saving the world works) but I’ve got a lot of other things to accomplish. At the very least I’m glad I took a time-out here on The Story Folder to tell their story. Major or minor, all of my characters have backstories – first because giving weight to even minor characters makes them talk and act more believable, and second because its fun and easy to do. The hard part is writing it down.

And last of all: the name “Mr. Roboto” is, of course, an inside-joke between the two brothers. It is also absolutely hilarious to the Banner High football team, who – once the Dunn brothers break into the big-time – like to tell their wives and children that they named the city’s most popular* hero.


*Debatable. Banner, NJ thinks so, and will argue into the ground anyone who suggests otherwise.

The ULTIMATE Update

Pieces of myself and my family end up in everything I write. That’s my dad when I was a moody teenager, asking over and over again “What’s wrong?” until I finally gave in and told him. There’s my brother growing up with sisters, getting used to bras hanging from the shower rod and frank discussions about monthly visits from Aunt Flo. My mom’s in the way these boys so easily ask and receive forgiveness from one another. But the biggest piece of this particular story belongs to my sister, who simultaneously loved me and loathed me, because she had no idea that I purposefully made her mad just because it meant she’d pay attention to me. I thought she was the coolest human being on the planet, and it only took me seventeen years to wear her down into a malleable wreck of a human being that could admit that she was my best friend too.

So here is the culmination of way too many months of work, and at least 20,000 too many words. I couldn’t write a legitimately short story to save my life.

7. In Which a Young Man Has a Discussion About the Future

I’ll get into where this story came from in another blog post, but I wanted to tackle a few character notes on Teddy*. Though it absolutely irritates me when a show or book about superheroes (or at least specially-abled people) makes their protagonist spend 90% of his or her time whining about oh woe is me, I’m not normal (as though people wouldn’t just be like oh who freaking cares, I can FLY), naturally I ended up writing a short story novella about someone whining about oh woe is me, I’m not normal. In my defense, Teddy normally loves, enjoys, and shows off his powers like any fourteen-year-old almost certainly would. I just picked one of the lowest points in his life to craft a story around, one in which he is facing what it means to be – not super-powered – but simply not human. It hasn’t been a good week for him.

On a more egregious note, I realized that Teddy had pulled out his powers for his friends half an hour after his doctor’s appointment and again a couple of days later while showing off at the football game, which makes his insistence that nobody see him act super-human (or, more accurately, robotic) in chapter 6 pretty inconsistent. I was about three-quarters of the way through writing it, and about had an aneurism trying to figure out how to fix it. And then I remembered that he’s fourteen years old, he gets to be inconsistent. Also, the longer he had to stew, the deeper he felt it.

In related news, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Finally, I suspect that Sunnyside shouldn’t have still been standing after all that but LOOK OVER THERE.

*dodges away*


*Please note that this is totally unprofessional. Anything I have to say about these characters ought to be said in the story itself. But in the words of the delicately sensitive Miss Brittany Lewis: Well whatever.

The Andrea Schultz Method of Untightening Prose

This is the biggest pie piece by far. For a scene that consists entirely of a conversation between two people, this chapter takes its sweet time about it. I’d edit it down, but then I’d have to cut out something, and what a tragedy that would be. When I revise a document I always end up with a higher word count than when I started.

6. In Which a Boy Tells a Story

The last and final chapter (and now that I read over that, let’s throw in a few more adjectives that mean the same thing: concluding, closing, end, and, my personal favorite from Microsoft Thesaurus’s options, ULTIMATE) will be up next Thursday. And by next Thursday I mean next Friday. I’d say next Friday, but then it would be up on Saturday. We are tricksy hobbitses who has to tricks our own selves into nasty update scheduleses.

(What were you doing? Sneaking.)

You know. Six or seven. Whatever it takes.

A note on the last chapter of Small Town Super Nobody: did Jer really tell his (ex) girlfriend to her face that she was dead inside? For implying something about his little brother that wasn’t a quarter as pointed as what he says to him five minutes later?

Absolutely. He’s mature for his age, but he’s still his age. That and he’s dealing with 1.) a sibling who knows that he not only has buttons, but how to push them, and 2.) the second most devastating blow life has ever served him. He’s eighteen years old, and sure that his life is over. In summary, this is a story about a boy who is not as old as he thinks he is.

On a side note – because I’m overly fond of discussing the way I think – as I was perusing through the last few chapters, making sure I had my details lined up, I realized that “Small Town Super Nobody” operates on a 2:1 ratio of backstory to present story. Which is kind of ridiculous considering that it’s already 100% backstory for a minor character in a series I haven’t even started yet. My story planning has depth, but I mean that in a chronologically unphilosophical way.

A whole lot of nothing to say about chapter 5, except that it’s up and quite excellent:

5. In Which a Boy Takes Charge (Because Someone Has To)

P.S. Oh yeah, and that “Small Town Super Nobody” is now a seven chapter story.

P.P.S. And to preempt the accusations that I’m padding this story (yes, I see you over there oh Great and Powerful Oz; go back behind your curtain), I can assure you that increasing the number of chapters won’t make this story any longer than a six-chapter version. I got halfway through the scene and realized that I had hit upon not only an effective break point, but a way to make this chapter a more manageable size. I’m just cutting the same pie into a greater number of pieces.

The Many Faces of the Lernaean Hydra

Do you know what I’ve done? I’ve UNCHANGED MY MIND. By this I mean that chapter 3 is back up in its original form, chapter 4 has been added to keep the angry hordes from throwing my body from the castle carapace, and this is once again a six chapter story. Links have already been fixed in any previous posts and pages, but here they both are anyways, for your convenience:

3. In Which a Boy Almost Has a Talk with his Dad

4. In Which a Boy Breaks Up with his Off-Again-Off-Again Girlfriend for the Last Time

The fact is I’m still right – this would be a much tighter story if I merged chapters 3 and 4. However, I found that I could not bear to un-write what has already been written. While I could inject all the important bits of the almost-talk with his dad into this (an even more uncomfortable conversation with his girlfriend), I would lose too many things that I’m proud of: Teddy being an absolute pill to his big brother in front of his friends, the quiet way that Jeremiah and his dad interact, Jeff’s unstated mother-henning since he missed the chance to have children of his own; basically, all the background noise that lives in the subtleties of chapter three.

Also, I can’t stand moving backwards. The thought of taking two steps back just to take one step forward rankles.

And finally, a shout out to the Great and Powerful Oz, who didn’t believe that I would have this up today like I promised. Mind you, I understand. I promised I’d have it up by last week. It should’ve been up a month ago. I have many excuses, some of them quite excellent, but if we get down to brass tacks it’s laziness with a heavy dose of perfectionism.*


*A great excuse to lament over a single sentence for hours, which only leads to more crying later when I wonder why I never finish anything.

** In other news (and don’t look for the sentence this footnote is attached to; there isn’t one), “sunk into the love seat cushions” sounds dirtier than it ought to. Enjoy reading.

Bada bing, Bada boom

Happy New Year! I have nothing of real interest to post, but I’m posting anyways because I’ve been neglecting my short story, as you may have noticed. In other news, I really was kicked where it counted when it came to my illness over the Christmas/New Year break (a cold on top of influenza, if I’ve categorized my symptoms properly; I felt miserable, if that garners me any sympathy), but I’m finally on the mend and back to thinking about what tops my priority list for projects. Here’s a quick rundown, for those curious about my plans:

  • Chapter 4 of “Small Town Super Nobody.” Did I change my mind about the reorganization of this story? Like a woman, I changed my mind, but more on that later. I haven’t re-posted chapter 3 yet because that would take actual effort and you know me: I’m more about putting off actual effort, rather than putting it in. We all have our talents.
  • I’m looking into self-publishing one of my children’s books. I’m tired of waiting for the almighty hand of subjective interest/opinion to swing in my favor, and instead of throwing more query letters at uninterested parties I’m going to make my own chances. With the print-on-demand options available out there there isn’t a significant amount of monetary risk attached to this, which is good as I do not have a lot of monetary resources to, you know, risk. I currently only have dummy sketches for the book, so the next step is to illustrate a professional looking product. I’ll be getting on that very shortly, and will also likely illustrate a promotional version of “The Bump Under the Bed” to share online.
  • Since I’ll be working on and self-promoting my picture books, I may do a little bit of reorganization to the site. It’ll probably be nothing more significant than adding another tab to the top of my homepage, but I have to decide whether I want a spot specifically set aside for picture books, whether I should add one for an art portfolio (to collect my illustrations and any sketch samples in one place), and…well, so on and so forth. I don’t want to clutter the navigation bar, but on the other hand this is supposedly the Story Folder, which entitles me to slap as many tab dividers up as I want and treat it as such. I’ll deal with it as I come to it.
  • I’m also working on my novel, as always. Which novel – I won’t tell you. Mostly because it changes day-to-day. I really should learn how to focus.

And since I feel bad about giving you pretty much nothing with this post, here’s a sample of my illustration style for “The Bump Under the Bed.” I will not be using this page in the final product as it was sized incorrectly and colored using a batch of very expensive markers (oh, how I love and hate thee, Michaels). I’m going to attempt to illustrate the entire project digitally instead, which will be its own kind of fun. Still, it gives me something to soothe the masses wondering where I’ve been the past couple of weeks, so here it is:

And again: Happy New Year! Hello to anyone that was directed here by the Annual Schultz Family Christmas Letter! You are welcome, and gladly.