Bring Your Character To Life…Literally

This post is approximately 350 words.

In April, my colleagues Christi and Michael were discussing Hero Forge, a website that allows you to design your own gaming miniature and have it 3D-printed. Being a Warhammer fan, the conversation put me into nerd overdrive. Design my own character and play with hold it in my hand? Gaming nirvana, my friends.

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To be honest, I enjoy gluing, painting, and basing Warhammer miniatures more than the game itself. In some future post, I’ll write about the similarities between the painting and writing processes. But I digress.

As I spent hours designing fun figures, it occurred to me that I could bring my novel’s main character, Tildy, to life. Imagine having your own character sitting on your desk, thought-made-real. But not just one! Oh man, the possibilities are nearly endless. I wrote briefly about it hereContinue reading

Writing Exercise #1: Be Uninspired

This post is about 500 words and was originally posted on LinkedIn.

If you like to write (or like the idea of writing but hate the difficulty of it), I have an exercise for you to try. I used it to create this article.

Many of us have had those glorious days where the words are flowing to your fingertips faster than you can type. It’s effortless. It’s a wondrous feeling that re-establishes your faith in your abilities and confirms that The Great American Novel is just a few sessions like this from being completed.

Upon your return to the computer, the black reality sets in. There’s nothing. No inspiration at all. In fact, there are days where I’ve been certain that banging my head against the keyboard would produce better prose than the barely-coordinated tapping of my fingers.

This is where my exercise comes in. Trust me, it works. Continue reading

Leap outside your comfort zone

This post is about 400 words.

Two summers ago, I posted a selfie from a marina on Lake Michigan. Accompanying the image was this statement: “When life gives you the opportunity to go Great Lakes salmon fishing, you jump into that adventure, even when you have a fear of drowning.”

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It’s true. I’m deathly afraid of being underwater without enough air. Floating on it is fine, but sometimes, staring down into my distorted reflection, it’s hard to keep at bay the black thoughts of my watery demise. Now imagine the crushing embrace of all the water of the third largest lake in North America. Perhaps you begin to understand my trepidation.

That might be enough to keep a rational person off the boat. But let’s add to it my fish allergy. Yes, eating fish turns me into an exploding biological disaster. As such…I haven’t taken an interest in fishing.

So why in the world was I on this expedition?

On the other side of the coin, I’ve always considered myself an agent of chaos. It’s probably the scientist in me. I like to disassemble things to see how they work. I like to push the limits of software to see what breaks. I love chasing the worst-case scenario to discover where things ultimately land. I love dumb luck, jumping in with blind faith, and rolling the dice to see what happens.

Here’s why I took the trip: This chance invite was an opportunity to do something I never would have pursued on my own. When it came down to it, I really wanted to see how I’d face this challenge.

I had faith that I could handle it.

Continue reading

Writing update: June 21, 2016

This post is about 450 words. But the word ‘the’ appears 31 times.

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Life in the asphalt stars

In my last writing update, I spoke briefly about my morning walking routine. It’s a way to clear the mind – really focus – on portions of the book that need more concentration or thought.

I’m pretty happy with this morning’s session. I got closer to a resolution on a pretty challenging portion of the book (more on that in a second), but I also conceived a nice bit of conflict for the protagonist of the next book.

I know, I know. That writing update specifically mentioned the importance of sticking to the book at hand. But what can I say? Like a swift river, sometimes the story carries you along. If it didn’t interweave three important characters within the Prince’s storyline, I might have let the thought pass me by. But since all three characters will appear in his first and last books, it seemed worth the extra attention this morning.

So, a little more information about this morning’s session: Continue reading

Welcome to Empyrelia

This post is pinned to the top of the page.

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The Book of the Lost Royals is a massive tome of two million words in a realm of nearly as many peoples. Hidden from time in a secret vault that knew no decay, it promises to recount an unknown history from an age of wonders. And now, a meticulous translation has begun.

Starting from the front and reading toward the center, the Book tells of Amethestra Straverian, lost princess of the Kingdom of Evereign. A baby abandoned in the wilds, she was found by the unlikeliest caretaker, the one person in all of Empyrelia who might protect her from those dark forces that sought to destroy the world. Under this mysterious witch’s careful, if unusual tutelage, the girl known as Tildy will discover the world beyond the protective borders of the Garden of Dappledown.

Astute observers might find themselves compelled to flip the book over, finding there the start of the tale of Prince Adamantin Straverian, her brother. His story progresses also toward the middle, recounting how he was smuggled to safety under a dead child’s name, by an adoptive mother who would never love him as equally as the child he replaced. The boy known as Samor has grown up behind the walls of the remote ice fortress Yrrengard, being tutored and trained to recover the crown he is unaware he has lost. Continue reading

Writing update: June 18, 2016

This post is about 350 words.

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This morning, it came to me. And I love when that happens.

Recently, I’ve started taking longer walks with the dogs. I prefer mornings for the relative quiet, which allows me to work on my novel in my head as we go. Every day, I have between 30 and 60 minutes of concentration time, not factoring in doggie clean-ups, where I can work through segments of the book. I’ve seen incredible productivity improvements from this new routine and I’d recommend it if you’re looking to expand your own writing process.

Anything is game, though some days I have specific sections on which I want to focus. This morning, my mind was wide open, wandering aimlessly, while my feet followed a specific path in the park. Then the title for a future book came out of nowhere, putting me into a quandary.

For a series planned to span thirteen books, I generally force myself to stay on the book at hand. If I don’t, there are just too many possibilities to consider at once. You’ve probably experienced something similar if you’ve been to a restaurant with an enormous menu: there’s too much to chose from, making the decision that much harder. I refer to this as ‘paralysis of choice’, and for writers, I believe it’s a significant factor in story abandonment, something that’s plagued my previous attempts at fiction.

When anything is possible, nothing is possible. Continue reading

Writing update: June 17, 2016

This post is about 250 words.

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A quiet house tonight put me in the exact frame of mind to crank out a few thousand words: mostly new, but some came from light editing. Over the last few weeks, I’ve been filling in some gaps (intros, transitions, chapter ends), and tonight saw more of the same.

I also worked on the intro to the final conflict with the primary antagonist, shifting and re-shifting sections as I tried to find the right sequence of information delivered by the dialogue. It’s a complex section that recaps information from earlier in the book, parts of which are not fully fleshed out yet.

Then I saw the word count pass 90,000 words.

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I’ve exceeded my word count range (though I expect to cut a number of things in the second draft). It’s now twice as long as anything I’ve ever written, which feels pretty good. But as I find myself beyond the self-imposed deadline of the first draft, I wonder how much more fleshing-out is required before the draft is done. I might have to stop at 100,000 words because that’s a pretty long book for a first-time author, as well as for the audience I’m trying to reach. I’m not one to limit a story to satisfy a metric like word count, but compromises are sometimes required. We’ll see.

–Michael

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© Michael Wallevand, June 2016, except images from Superman: The Animated Series and Clue.

Homage vs. Plagiarism #1

This post is about 650 words. It should also be noted that book and images discussed below were copyrighted by TSR Hobbies in 1982.

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This is a book from my childhood, entitled Return to Brookmere. It’s #4 in the Dungeons & Dragons Endless Quest series. As you’ve probably guessed from the worn cover, it is a beloved, multiple-read, go-everywhere favorite. While not high literature, its influence on me as a reader and writer cannot be overstated. It’s likely to make multiple appearances on this site, btw.

As such, I wanted to do it proper homage as a way to say thank you to author Rose Estes, as well as D&D itself.

I hadn’t read the book in a few years, though it had a place of honor on my bookshelf. One element that stuck with me for more than three decades is the magical amulet, named the Mouth of Mimulus, or simply Mim. Shaped like a dragon’s head, this animated charm offered advice and commentary on the adventure. I don’t recall much backstory being written, however.

Mim 1In my own story, I was looking to create another advisor for Tildy, someone to serve as a counterpoint to the witch, Tildy’s adoptive mother. I also wanted a way to have Tildy work through some of her own concerns without always relying on inner monologue. I didn’t want to add another companion on their journey, but if the advisor was also a secret, this could lead to future conflict. When I recalled Mimulus, I knew I had the inspiration I needed.

Thus, the magnificent amulet Mumnambulen came to life. Mum, for short. Continue reading

Excerpt – June 6, 2016

This post is approximately 600 words. A newer version of this section lives here: Spring in Dappledown.

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I’ve had several requests to start sharing some passages from the book. This is flattering, yet somewhat terrifying due to the personal nature of the work. This might seem counter-intuitive, I mean, isn’t the point of writing a novel to have it published?

Well, yeah.

But since I’m working on the first draft, there’s the challenge of sharing something that’s not quite ready for eyes other than my own. To be clear, the following excerpt needs some polish and additional detail. Many artists, myself included, want to give you a specific experience, something an unfinished work doesn’t necessarily do. Also, if the draft passage sucks (technical term), you might be under-presenting your abilities. Hopefully.

I think that’s enough caveats and deprecation for now. Here is the introduction of the main character, Tildy, the girl who lost her family, her kingdom, and even her name.

Spring in Dappledown

Tildy sat upright so quickly, her head swam. Eyes blinking slowly in the dim morning light, her fuzzy brain struggled to comprehend where she was. Trying to calm her heaving breaths, she closed her eyes. She was in bed. In her room on the second floor of the cottage.

She was glad to be awake. It was the dream again—that shadow in the tall tower. It thrilled and terrified her in a way that meant it was not an unwelcome recurrence. But she always woke up exhausted, as though it were less dream and more reality. She focused on the last image in her mind: had there been a crying baby? As usual, the details scattered like butterflies in a storm. Continue reading

Writing update: June 6, 2016

This post is about 400 words.

 

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If I type any faster, I’ll get a cramp.

It’s been about a month since the last official update. To me, it feels like I didn’t make much progress. Some progress, yes, but not a ton. A quick check of the word count tells me I added about 12,000 words or 24 Word doc pages.

Which surprises the heck out of me.

Many writers will tell you that it’s a struggle at times. You’re practically squeezing blood from a philosopher’s stone. And sometimes, it’s effortless and you’re living the writing dream. I must have been experiencing the latter, which I’ll attribute to three things.

number 1The writing was broken into smaller chunks. I’ve found my frequency increasing, which means I’m finding more opportunities during the day to sit down and do some writing, even if it’s only a few dozen words. Additionally, since the first draft is nearly done, I’m filling in some small holes (e.g. transitions, intro paragraphs, and conclusions). I’d previously been equating progress to the number of marathon writing sessions I’d have. Lesson learned.

number 2It’s getting easier. Not that I know much about working out, but we all know that exercise increases strength and endurance. The same is true for your brain, as well as those nimble typing fingers. I’m quite certain I’m not the first to say something like, “The more you write, the more you write,” but it’s true. Over time, you’re changing the way your brain works, which is both awesome and somewhat unnerving. And perhaps an idea for an interesting short story.

number 3I’m having fun. It’s feeling less like work, which is great because this novel is like a part-time job where I’m not getting paid…yet. I’m getting up early and staying up late. I’m investing so much of my personal time that, were this to feel like a slog of a job, I’d probably never complete the thing. To be a couple hundred hours into this project and having more fun each day, well, I think that says something about the subject matter, as well as the improvements to my work ethic.

For those of you keeping track at home, the first draft is nearly 84,000 words or 173 Word pages. This probably begs the question, “When do we get to see some of this writing?” I’m working on an excerpt right now.

–Michael

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© Michael Wallevand, June 2016; except for the Shining image