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.”


“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.


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.

What SAY you?!

Behold: a piece of meat headed for the discard folder. Not because it isn’t well written, but because it doesn’t have a home within the beats of the larger story. The context you’ll have to make up for yourself.

There was a window you had to work around with Jonesy. Too early into his drinking and he was surly—as competent as he got, but also ruthlessly efficient, if you could talk him into helping you. Push him too hard and he’d try to make it painful. Too late and he was too drunk to be of use. But if you hit that sweet spot right in between, where Jonesy was still basically capable but loose enough to be easy about it, you could talk yourself in and out with a slam, bam, thank you ma’am. Brutus had developed a keen knack for the timing over the years.

“Jonesy,” he said, standing as close to the vet’s shoulder as he dared, “my arm?”

He knew immediately that he had waited too long. Jonesy wasn’t swaying where he sat, but as he turned the gesture was just slightly too large.

“My arm, my arm,” the vet mimicked. “You need something?”

Blast it, Kliner had gotten him riled with his expansive jokes about his skills – or lack thereof – in animal medicine. Brutus wasn’t sure there had been a sweet spot today. Unfortunately, he needed a working arm if he wanted to get his equipment packed up while the rest of them were still here to help.

“It’s dislocated,” he explained.

“I know that,” Jonesy snapped, though Brutus couldn’t tell if he actually did or not. “Let me see.”

He stood up as he spoke, nearly tripped over the picnic table bench, and Brutus abruptly changed his mind about how badly he needed his arm working right at this moment. He could probably get a lot done even with it tucked up inside his suit. “Never mind, I can catch you later.”

“Oh no you don’t,” Jonesy snarled. “Kliner, grab him.”

Kliner, not often drunk but cheerful when he was, enthusiastically grabbed a loop of Brutus’s tool belt, still seated as he was at the table and too far away to grab anything else. Brutus should’ve shoved him off immediately but, trained not to touch anyone for any reason, put his hands – or his one hand, anyways (the other tried to twitch upwards and he remembered what had brought him over here to Jonesy in the first place) – up and out of the way, like he might scald the farmer.

“Hold him,” Jonesy ordered as Kliner – nearly pulling off the belt – clambered heavily to his feet.

Realizing that this was happening whether he wanted it to or not, Brutus snapped, “No one needs to hold me. I can take it.”

“You can take it because I can make you take it,” Jonesy answered, eyes bright with anger at what he undoubtedly took as Brutus’s doubt in his skills. Brutus cursed his own temper; he could never keep it in check when he most needed to.

Still, they were starting to attract attention and Brutus’s self-respect was on the line, so he turned to Kliner, now gripping both arms – and yeah, it hurt, if he’d bothered to ask – and insisted, “I’m fine. We’ve done this before, I can stand on my own.”

“Hold him still,” Jonesy said.

Kliner did as he was told – Jonesy snapped at him to remove his hand from Brutus’s right shoulder, so at least he’d spotted which one it actually was – and Brutus braced himself, deeply embarrassed. Randy’s table had turned to watch the proceedings, and it hurt his pride to think they thought he needed someone to hold him in place, like he was cattle getting branded.

Jonesy grabbed his shoulder and oh yeah had he missed the window by about a mile today.

Muffing the insertion on the first try, the veterinarian tried to grind his arm into its socket like it was an engine part just one size too big. Everything dropped away – Randy’s table, the gnawing hunger in his stomach, the dizzying exhaustion that had been crowding in on his forehead – except for the howling agony. A second later he realized he was depending solely on Kliner’s grip to stay upright, and that brought back Brutus’ pride, which was infinitely more powerful than any pain. He hung onto that, bracing himself again to stand his ground, though he couldn’t remember at the moment why that was so important.

“—get off him! Can’t—”

“—watch it you sonna—”

“—said get—”

“—take another swing at my face I’ll—”

The grip on his arm was suddenly ripped away, but it was immediately replaced, almost like Kliner had switched positions. A voice spoke right in his face. “Brutus? Brutus, c’mon, you with me?”

“Sit him down,” someone else ordered, farther away. “I don’t know how he’s still standing. I’d swear he passed out thirty seconds ago.”

“I’m fine,” Brutus thought he said, but the person right in front of him replied with, “I think those might have been words. You want to try that again, buddy?” so apparently he hadn’t.

He realized he was sitting. Someone started to take off his mask, but this was so deeply wrong that Brutus’s vision abruptly cleared and he grabbed the wrist – Randy’s wrist, he recognized suddenly – before he could finish the job.

“Right,” Randy said, tone surprised. “Better not.”

“Is my arm in?” Brutus asked, still too muzzy – and in too much pain – to tell.

“I don’t think so,” Randy said. “We pulled Dr. Mengele off you before he could finish the job.”

“Okay,” Brutus said, not entirely taking in the answer, though he was pretty sure he’d gotten the gist of it. No, he was almost certain. “Okay,” he repeated, dropping Randy’s wrist – which he’d just realized he was still holding – to gingerly take hold of his own dislocated arm. His face tightened. “Okay, I can do this.”

Randy grabbed his wrist this time. “What in the world do you think you’re doing?”

And that, too, is all she wrote. As to today’s writing report, I did not forget Pine&Meyer Ch.6 at home. I put it on my flash drive and decided to ignore it. Poked at the Florists for about five minutes instead and then spent the next hour on The Sister’s favorite story of all time: Nelson Hoag and the Cursed Young Adult Novel.

We all float down here.


“Dear Beth,” Cole read, “Today’s raid went pretty well. I came back with four Lessingers and a belt of Colby-style grenades, though I think Sanderson’s starting to get a feel for my tricks. I’ll have to surprise him next time. When—”

“Wait a minute,” Sauers interrupted. “What was the date on that?”

[etc. etc., keep on reading bits and pieces of Dear Beth letters, laughing at each other over some of the stuff he says. Why didn’t he ever send them? Maybe she’s dead, maybe she dumped him, maybe the postal service doesn’t get out this far, maybe…etc.]

“Oh, no, here we go,” Jessop said, getting to the bottom of one letter. “She left him.” He started back towards the central room, reading as he walked. “’Dear Beth, The ammunition went for about…’ okay, blah blah blah, there’s a bunch of stuff in here about his trade with Card’s people, and then: ’I wish you had told me you were unhappy. I probably wouldn’t have been able to change your mind, but at least I could’ve tried.’”

He looked up, grinning, as he finished, and was greeted with the sight of Cole, Sauers, and Hartman kneeling on the ground, gags in their mouths and hands zip-tied behind them. They were frantically trying to get him to look behind him with their eyes, but Jessop could already feel the muzzle of what he guessed was a P-180 rifle on the back of his head. He closed his eyes and sighed.

“Dear Beth,” Barnaby said. “Today I captured three Balustan soldiers. It would’ve been four, but the fourth tried to run away and I shot him in the back of both knees. He bled out on the floor.”

Jessop tried to turn and look at him but Barnaby used the gun to keep his head facing forwards. “You wouldn’t,” he said, in a voice that meant he was kind of afraid that he would.

“Look on the bright side,” Barnaby said. “If you don’t bleed out, I’ve crippled you and you go home as a war hero. On your knees.”


From “The Last of the Pellosian Imperials.” This isn’t what I was working on today (some fussing with my old work, plus a couple of paragraphs on something I’ve very tentatively titled “The Stay Behind/i.e. the one with mental illness and alien takeovers”), but this chunk works to a certain extent as a full piece. Or at least a fuller one–ignoring those [brackets], which indicate any scene progression I’m skipping past for the moment. I’ll get back on track with my writing tomorrow, but this will do for now.

[And as a random aside, for those who spot them: the names of my relatives occasionally make it into my stories, as one of my uncles has undoubtedly discovered with another in-progress project. This one borrows from someone else. I used to try and keep the names of people I knew out of my stories, but then I realized that the more people I met the more annoying it got, so I just gave it up and went whole-hog–straight to the family names. Call them homages, tributes, or just an inside wink-and-a-nod, but know they’re never representative. And that there will always exist the chance that the rest of you will quietly show up over the years, uncredited. And occasionally evil.]

Brick, but mostly mortar

Because I spent the evening putting off “Pine & Meyer: Chapter 5,” I’m going to throw everything I have at the wall to see what sticks.

First off:

A snapshot of Thomas the Tank Engine’s downward spiral into convoyeurism. I boxed up the toys I had borrowed from the Seminary’s version of Goodwill with plans to return them tomorrow (now that my sister is back on the road and her children no longer need entertaining), and holy bananas this about gave me a heart attack the first time I caught him peeping at me from across the room; I’m only just now realizing that his name is actually Tom, appropriately enough. Even better, I somehow repressed the memory each time, and it kept on startling me every time I walked past my front door this afternoon.


This is the first time I’ve ever agreed to a put together a logo project (not counting the graphics from the law firm), and only because my church was the one asking. Though I ultimately find drawing frustrating, I have to admit that the end product is satisfying, especially since it was a way to help out my church using those talents I am tempted to bury in the ground.

[And on a semi-related note, my next picture book is still nearly five months out. I will not publish a new one until December, followed — finally — by a properly illustrated version of “Apples are Apples” in May/June (around Trinity Sunday), with very tentative plans for a currently unwritten piece called “Thunk, Whunk, Ker-CHUNK” for release in the Fall of 2019.]

And finally, two paragraphs of an introduction I will never develop:

The sixteen-year-old hung upside down from the tree, thick auburn hair reaching for the ground, thinking about life, the future, where he was going, where he had been, and wishing someone came this way more often.

He was a round-faced boy, several inches below six feet (and currently twenty feet above it), cheerfully aware of the fact that he could afford to lose ten pounds and as equally unconcerned about doing so. Though his current predicament had him rethinking both his weight and height. He was either too tall, too short, too fat, or too skinny, and either way it meant that he was exactly the wrong shape for getting out of the tree, and precisely the right shape for getting stuck in it.

I do not know where I was going with this; despite the fact that I remember writing this in college. I had a very vague idea that one of the popular girls in his class was going to wander by (if the follow-up line underneath [He wasn’t sure he’d been stuck in the tree long enough to warrant ruining-his-life-forever.] is anything to go by — and it is, I don’t forget where my bits and pieces fit into my schizophrenically organized story-building easily), but then…nothing. I have no compelling reason to continue this.

In fact, have one more glob of noodles to throw at the wall (a trick my dad actually tried once with spaghetti, mostly to entertain his three children that also totally worked — not to mention the unfortunate stain it nearly left on the wall; as he scrubbed at it with a washcloth he told us not to tell mom, who was at her father’s hospital bedside, four states away, at the time):

The Mad Earl

There was nothing in young Haversham’s face to indicate why he ought to be trussed up in a rather alarming vest of belts and bound to the chair in the yellow room, which, according to family history, had belonged to the first Earl’s daughter some hundred years back. He was a gentle looking young man, not above twenty three years old, with a shock of strikingly dark hair that may have looked dashing on a different man; on Ferdinand it only made his face more pale and drawn, which lent itself to his resigned, if strangely decisive, meekness. In truth he looked a trifle foxed, but he wasn’t; his Uncle, who stood watching his batman and a man from the stables tighten the clasps that bound Haversham to the chair, had forced his nephew, under a watchful eye, to take what he felt was an appropriate amount of laudanum, under the circumstances.

Lord Belling strode into the room, paused at the doorway for a moment, and then entered with an oath. Haversham graced him with a tired smile and said, “There’s a young woman on the bed.”

As there was no such person – indeed, only the young Earl and the Lord Belling appeared to be in the room – this was a rather alarming statement. Belling, however, only pursed his lips, a rather tight expression flickering across his face, and said, “Tell her to go away, Ferdy.”

Ferdy’s smile grew slightly larger. “I’m not mad, Bell.”

Belling, who knew perfectly well that he was but believed just as strongly that his cousin was no danger to himself or anyone else, said, “I know.”

You can absolutely tell I had just read fifteen Georgette Heyer novels before I wrote this piece of Regency era, I-see-dead-people shenanigans. Which is also the reason I will never write it. Only plagiarize less distinctive styles, kids.


Have I mentioned how much I hate rewrites? Because I hate rewrites. This is why it takes me forever to write anything. I spend years carefully planning every nook, cranny, twist, turn, and character in a story, because there is nothing that will kill my momentum like realizing I have to scrap large pieces of a scene that are interwoven with the threads that I need to keep as I re-weave the scene into something better. “On the Corner of Pine and Meyer” will be all the better for it, but because I hate to redo what I feel has already been done, I am very, very good at coming up with other things to do rather than sit-down-and-write. Work provided a decent excuse, considering the hours I had to put in last week and the week before, but since then I’ve just been putting off what I don’t want to do.

Because I feel guilty, here’s a piece of something I am not currently working on, written like three years ago now because I have no focus. A story about space welders, which I’ll be tackling sometime in the next three years.

Data packets came every two weeks, when The Voltron made the trip to the outskirts of the farside. They received videos from home, missives from the company, and, in this last transmission, their six-month evaluations. Yancey had thought little of his (a five-page packet filled with inane questions like “What can we do to improve your experience?” as though he were on vacation or something), right up until he realized that he was the only one who’d received that particular form. Everyone else’s was a frank criticism of everything they were doing wrong, some rather pointed insinuations regarding their abilities, and an edict to pick up the pace or else. When they’d started grumbling about it (“Or else what? They’ll send us to the other side of the moon?”), Vladski had only laughed.

“Just wait until the year mark. That’s when they get really mean. Anyways, what you really don’t want is one of the happy packets.”

Someone had, like Vladski clearly intended, asked what those were. He’d proceeded to describe the exact form Yancey had received.

“If you get one of those,” he’d explained, “your psych evals aren’t exactly coming up roses. You might complete your contract, but you’ll never be back. Sort of the One Stop Shop guarantee.”

Yancey had sat on his hands and said nothing. He needed another contract if he wanted to keep his promise to his grandfather.


In other news, I found this quote on a YouTube video, which gives me a good laugh every time I read it:

my prince is not riding in on a white horse he must be riding a turtle


Grammar is true to form (or [sic], as the bracketed indication of correct quotation of an original goes). I couldn’t even tell you what the context for this was at this point. I had it copied and pasted it into the middle of Chapter 4 of Pine & Meyer so that I wouldn’t forget.

Finally, FYI: I just installed a spam blocker on my WordPress. I was getting absolutely pounded with this crap, so much so that I was starting to dread checking my website – which is not how I’m supposed to feel about TheStoryFolder. Please let me know if you have any problems leaving comments or if you run into any other issues.

Sharing in delicious

I know, I know. It’s been over two weeks since I’ve posted anything. I’d like to say it’s because I’ve been busy, and while that’s technically true, it has nothing to do with producing creative content for either my website or my portfolio. I designed a layout that I don’t like for my next picture book project, but other than that I’ve played my way through eight or nine Nancy Drew point-and-click adventure mysteries in my spare time. Yes, I’m still on that kick. Fortunately, I ran out of Nancy Drew games last night, which means I might have the time to start working on my novel. Again.

The one consistent duty I perform for my website is daily spam-trashing. Despite my radio silence I keep on receiving comment notices from the seventeen thousand spambots that have not yet figured out that I will never approve their comments for public consumption. Still, If I didn’t have 70+ comments to delete every day, then I would never have received this gem:

Wonderful site. Plenty of useful information here. I’m sending it to a few buddies ans additionally sharing in delicious. And certainly, thanks in your sweat!


In honor of this rousing endorsement, here’s some of my delicious sweat, first perspired out sometime during either my sophomore or junior year in college:

“He’s not…connected right.”

The man looked over at Yola sharply.  She was sitting calmly on the couch, no sort of chains or ropes in sight, though he knew she was bound with several of the strongest seals in the world.  Any other person (besides her two older siblings) and the binders themselves would have killed her.  He shuddered.   Unnecessary or not, he’d still feel better if they’d tied her to the chair.

“Not connected right?” he said with a frown, ignoring his orders not to speak with her.  What could she do?  “You mean he’s crazy.”

No!” she said angrily.  “Well, yes.  But no!  What I mean is…well.” She huffed to herself, trying to get the right words to come.  “Okay,” she finally said.  “You’ve heard that I have the most power, right?” He nodded. “Good,” she stated with a nod.  “And that I also have the least control?”

He nodded again. It made sense.  The girl wasn’t even a teenager yet.  She had little experience.  But her conversation was obviously leading him somewhere else… “You mean I’d be wrong?”

“No,” she said.  He saw her neck muscles strain for a second, the only sign that she was trying to break free. “You’d be right. And completely wrong too.”

He frowned, willing her to go on.

“I have the most usable power, but I screw up because I don’t quite know how to control it all.  It’s hard,” she added defensively, as though he had admonished her. He had done nothing of the kind, and would thank her to remember it. “Like holding electricity in your palms and trying not to let it escape while at the same time you’re using it to light a light bulb.  Sometimes you put too much in and the light bulb just blows up.”

He eyed her nervously, remembering suddenly what she was and wishing, again, that they had at least tied her up, if only for his peace of mind. She grinned suddenly and he got the feeling that Yola knew exactly what was on his mind.

“You’re really dumb,” she said cheerfully, “if you think blowing up a light bulb is the same as being able to escape the Flamish binds.”

Anyways,” Yola continued, and he missed the way her fingers twitched because some idiot, she thought with an amused crinkling of her nose, had bound her with her hands behind her back where they couldn’t see what she was doing with them, “it’s…it’s hard to explain properly. It’s like he has it, but no access to it.  Like, he has more power than me and Bethla combined, but he can’t use it like me and Bethla because…well, because he’s not connected right.”

The man frowned.  Again with this “not connected right” business.  Was he loony or not? That’s what he wanted to know.

“Just…don’t push my brother.” For the first time she looked afraid, and that freaked him out.

“What?” he demanded, with all the false bravado he could muster. How long ago had he lost the lead in this conversation? “You’re afraid he’ll kill me?  Kill my boss?”

“Oh no,” she said, her face calmly serious. “I’ll kill you myself as soon as I have the chance.”

Mouth dry, he tried not to step backwards, though it would do him no good.

“Funny.” She smiled and bared her teeth at him, suddenly amused again.  “You guys always forget that we’re not really human.  Kael tried his best,” she continued with a mock frown that didn’t reach her eyes, “but you can’t teach someone to care about a species that isn’t your own.  Funny thing is, he cares the most out of all of us.” She made a small movement with her head, indicating “loose connections,” which she should not have been able to do, but the man didn’t think such a small movement really mattered.  Yola smiled, glad her small slip had gone unnoticed.  Stupid.  Who put a guy who obviously had no experience with strong elemental binds in charge of guarding her?  They were so dumb.

The smile slid from her face. “No,” she said again, eyes darkly serious.  “I’m saying that if you push my brother, he’ll kill us all.”

In the meantime…

I’ve been taking a break from not-writing my novel in order to not write my novel; it’s amazing how much time it takes to do the five thousand small chores I’ve been putting off for the better part of a year, now that my upcoming move has forced a deadline. This morning I went downtown to the county courthouse to take care of some car business, mailed a letter and a package, and bought the world’s second largest cat litter box. I almost bought the largest one (with actual built-in garbage bag and scooper slots), but it cost $44 at Petco and goodness knows my cat would somehow get urine in the handy organizer anyways. While my cat not only loves me to death but is currently the closest thing I have to a husband, I’ve also seen her pee on the wall while aiming for the back corner of her box. Thus the new litter box, which has three plastic walls that come up over her head and a fourth, shorter wall to act as an entrance. Chances are she’ll start aiming for that side of her new prison bathroom (and/or will kick litter out of the sides while straight-leaping the fence-line of Auschwitz), but I’m just hopeful enough to optimistically anticipate how my $20 purchase will play out.

In vaguely related news, I clearly don’t have a whole lot of anything to say. And yes, I’m just now remembering that I admitted that last week, but there’s nothing like confessing twice to really get more bang for your buck. Once I’ve moved and started my new schedule (but more on that later), I plan to begin working on updates that actually include stories for the story folder. In the meantime, here is the first page of a prologue to the darkest story idea I have cluttering my word document folder, because I’m seriously scraping the bottom of the barrel:

When Adam Zoloff was nine, he charged Charlie Wickes twenty-two dollars to talk to his dead grandfather.

It was a lot of money – more than Charlie had, at any rate – but Adam had chosen it because it worked out to two dollars per classmate. Even that had been a little outrageous, but Charlie’s grandfather hadn’t been dead long and Adam, even then, was canny enough to know that everybody liked a good show. They’d pay, if they wanted to watch.

They’d paid. And for twenty-two bucks he made it look good. No actual dead grandfather (he couldn’t have raised him if he’d wanted to – which he hadn’t, there were easier ways to fleece his classmates – as Mr. Wickes had had a Christian burial, his grave warded with water blessed by his pastor), but that hadn’t stopped Adam before and it didn’t now. The light show was enough to scare a bunch of fourth graders, who’d gone screaming back into Paradise, thrilled and frightened and CERTAIN that they’d seen a real ghost.

Adam made out much worse than twenty-two dollars. He’d been young enough that his cousin Byron still awed him, and in his excitement not only bragged to him about that money but the two additional dollars he’d earned fake-raising three canaries and one very dead cat earlier that week. When he went to school the next day, twenty-four dollars poorer, he discovered exactly how serious the charge of necromancy actually was.

“Do you have any idea what I can do to you?” the Sheriff demanded. He was a large man, especially to a nine-year-old that was decidedly small for his age, and he didn’t wait for an answer. “If you think I’d waste the resources keeping you locked up in jail for the rest of your life, think again. I can do much, much worse.”

When Adam still didn’t answer the Sheriff leaned in closer, the smell of pipe tobacco and the hamburger patties from Gould’s Diner heavy on his collar. It was an achingly good smell to Adam’s empty stomach, but the nine-year-old kept his eyes downwards, like he was bored.

The lawman grabbed his chin and jerked upwards. “Do you understand me?”

Adam did. He always did, but he looked past the Sheriff’s left ear and just kept on picking away at the scab on his knee like he couldn’t hear, let alone understand, because most days it was easier to pretend he was stupid.

The Sheriff sighed, releasing him. He’d wasted most of the morning trying to track down one of the family to come in and answer for their Zoloff leavings, but it was nearly lunch now and Adam was still sitting in the jail by himself (not in an actual cell, just in a chair next to the sheriff’s desk, but it was a terrifying lesson nonetheless), a sullen look on his face. There’d been an impromptu town council meeting about him, mostly because necromancy was a hanging offense.

Awhile ago I was trying to feel out how the protagonist fits into the fabric of this particular reality, and thus managed to not-write my other novel for an entire afternoon. This is only a piece of the ground rules I’ve laid for his overly dramatic character arc, but since it’s book number seven on my list of novels-I-am-eventually-going-to-get-around-to-writing, I figured you may as well enjoy it. Makes for a decent blog update anyways.

Streeeetch that clothing dollar

I was looking for a way to squeeze blood out of a rock this morning (in lieu of writing any original content – particularly since I keep forgetting to borrow that poem from IT Guy), and came up with this:

  • DUNA Mining Corp
  • Guttersnipe
  • Mr. and Mrs. Fox Come Calling
  • Selective Mutism 1
  • Selective Mutism 2
  • Sir George and the Dragon Lady
  • Sleeping Beauty
  • The Art of the Catapult – Series idea
  • The Fools
  • The MacWitts
  • The Marquis of Fools

These 11 documents currently reside in a folder called “_WIPs” which is, in turn, hiding in my “Short Stories” file. I’m working on a novel (I’m always working on a novel, however, so this is hardly remarkable) but that doesn’t stop the ideas from coming. I’ll throw a bunch of thoughts into a Word document – occasionally packed around a few descriptive paragraphs and a handful of dialogue – and then let them percolate in the back of my mind for upwards of three years. I have a very vague plan to keyboard mash these short stories into existence once my young adult novel is finished, if only to check them off my mental to-do list. But as today is not that day, feel free to admire these working titles.

The shortest of these documents is “The Art of the Catapult – Series idea” with 217 words, and at 5,186 words “The MacWitts” clocks in as the longest. Most of the rest of them sit between 2,000 and 3,000 words, and because I really wanted to stretch what little I had to say, I pulled out my calculator and came up with 23,218 words for the entire lot. Have I mentioned lately that I’m terrible at keeping my short stories short? Because I’m terrible at keeping my short stories short.

I wasn’t kidding about needing to work on my focus. That’s over 20,000 currently unusable words, which is 19,500 more words than I have written for my novel. If you don’t count the following:

  • 15 versions of chapter 1
  • 4 versions of chapter 2
  • 2 versions of chapter 3
  • 26 paragraphs from a long discarded chapter 4
  • 3 versions of a prologue – also long discarded
  • 5 Word files acting as a repository for both notes and lines
  • 2 paper-and-pen notebooks filled entirely with unreadable cursive
  • and a document that is literally titled “Waste of Time”

Fortunately, my picture books are heading forward at a more productive speed. I’ve inked eleven two-page spreads for “The Bump Under the Bed” since Saturday, with six left. I should have the inks done by next week and, though coloring is a much slower process, I actually have a decent chance at making my self-inflicted deadline by the end of the month. That gives me another week to mess around with backgrounds and text, which should leave me with three more for ordering proof copies in time to make any edits. If I don’t make my September 1st deadline, I should, at the very least, be close.

Finally, I watched “Little Shop of Horrors” last night with my parents and had some barely conceived notion of using today’s post to talk about the differing psychological impacts between movies and plays, but that’ll keep for another time. I have a novel to put off write.