Writing Exercise: Morning Routine

I have a new routine to start my work day. It’s a chance to center my mind, while doing a little mental stretching to prepare it. Sometimes, the exercise relates to the office job; others, my personal writing. On Monday, it was the latter.

It a last bit of preface, I’ll segue to a common question writers get: “Where do you get your ideas?” Usually, I haven’t a clue, but I know exactly where this piece originated. I looked at the window and the word “a’sliver” came to mind as a creative synonym for “ajar”. Mundane origin? Perhaps. Occasionally, the magic in writing is simply a curtained alcove in Emerald City with an old man hiding there*.

*Even then, when you look carefully, you might see the trailing remnants of real magic as they flee from prying eyes

Anyway, I challenged myself to work it into a little something, and as I sat in my office listening to the sounds of morning and watching the world through a window, the following flowed out. Less stream-of-consciousness writing….and more of a leak. (how’s that for a sales pitch?)

Window sits a’sliver just enough
For filtered birdcalls to enter the room
But perhaps not the heat

A whispered wind whistles in
Squeezing through a narrowed crack
It cannot force wider open

Sun chases behind them
Sending shadowed wings to dance upon my wall
Wafted air disturbing doldrum days

Trees glow in verdant hues
Awash with shadow and light
Dancing brightly fro and to

Asphalt rhythms drone in time
Rubbered wheels, frictioned warm
Click-kicking out stones

The staccato bark of greeting dogs
Heedless of rhyme or melody
A mixed meter only they measure

Stylistically, it’s a bit of a mess.

  • I went back and added some punctuation. Then I deleted most of it because the Reader probably doesn’t need it. There’s a reason that lonely country roads don’t have traffic signs.
  • There’s no consistency of rhyme or rhythm. I’m not talking about A-B-A-B structure or anything like that. But structure, like punctuation, is a guide to the Reader that helps make reading easier.
  • Should this piece be leading to something—does it have a point? Or is it simply a bunch of description in search of action? <shrugs>

And yet, style doesn’t matter here. It’s just an exercise. An experiment really, and one with two purposes. First, to try some interesting (to me) ways to write. There are the made-up words (a’sliver, click-kicking), the reversal of common phrases (fro and to), and alliteration (mixed meter only they measure). It’s a little like adding a new ingredient to an old recipe. Sometimes the flavor improves.

Second, provide evocative phrases that stimulate the senses: specifically sight and hearing. I wanted to see what I could accomplish in brief phrases. I particularly liked the idea of the wind failing to force a window open, as well as car tires “Click-kicking out stones”.

It’s a quick exercise, and one that brings a little peace and joy to my day. And that’s enough. I encourage you to find something similar to keep that writing brain engaged. Good luck with your writing!

Mike


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© Michael Wallevand, June 2021

Editing Exercise – Help that stumbling sentence

My various lives (personal, work, writing) have been busy for the last couple months, so blogging took a back seat for a bit. However, while doing some writing over lunch, I was struck by an idea that led to this post.

Many writers will tell you not to stop for proofreading or editing while you’re writing. I generally agree. It interrupts the momentum, and in many cases, drives that wonderful idea right out of your head. Anyways, a little separation from the act of writing and the act of editing is a good thing, especially when you’re looking to be more objective.

But sometimes, a clumsy sentence keeps stumbling through your brain until you put it out of its misery fix it. Today, I wrote such an example.

Samor smirked, but he was unable to extricate himself as the jostling of people propelled them forward at greater speed to the dining hall.

If that sentence were a person, it would be trying to keep its balance while blundering down a hill. Let’s take a closer look. “Forward” is redundant since in the greater context of the passage it’s clear they were going to the dining hall.

Samor smirked, but he was unable to extricate himself as the jostling of people propelled them at greater speed to the dining hall.

“Propel” indicates a force to the motion, so “at greater speed” is unnecessary.

Samor smirked, but he was unable to extricate himself as the jostling of people propelled them to the dining hall.

“Of” is unnecessary in this context. It reads the same without it, though changing “people” to “crowd” is more evocative.

Samor smirked, but he was unable to extricate himself as the jostling crowd propelled them to the dining hall.

Much smoother. I only eliminated 5 words, but I believe my sentence-person is now surefooted in their descent of the hill. Are there other ways to tighten up that sentence? Of course! Spending a few more minutes, I could probably rework it completely. There’s also a case to be made for the addition of words to add flourish or pizzazz! Either way, that’s what the editing process is for: get the idea out now; refine it later.

For now, I’m happy with the change and I’ll let it simmer. You can do the same. With a few simple cuts, a tortured sentence is no longer a tongue-tangled torment for your Readers. Good luck with your writing!

Mike


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© Michael Wallevand, June 2021

Word Casualties #5

A fun bit of self-deprecation based on typos I’ve found in my manuscript. Rather than immediately correct them, I’ve collected them for your enjoyment and added humorous definitions. If you can’t guess the intended word (ahem, not surprising sometimes), further down you’ll find the correct spellings. If you enjoy the list, more can be found here.

CASUALITIES

  • Enchancement – a possible improvement; a magic spell that might work.
  • Consiren – the klaxons at a prison
  • Unstanding – describes one who is sitting down
  • Diffanta – difruity soda I disometimes drink
  • Definity – the assuredness of knowing something will last forever
  • Writh – a ghost missing its front teeth (this word must have lost its E to the next entry)
  • sarcasme – the fancy British spelling of ‘sarcasm’
  • Vommunication – drenching another person with the gagging vehemence of your words
  • Catapostrophic – exceptionally poor use of apostrophes
  • Legilimate – mind reading done to determine a person’s authenticity

CORRECT SPELLINGS

  • Enhancement
  • Considering
  • Understanding
  • Different
  • Definitely
  • Writhe
  • Sarcasm
  • Communication
  • Catastrophic
  • Legitimate

Tpyos happen to the best of us. Better to have a little fun than to dwell. Good luck with your writing!

Mike


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© Michael Wallevand, March 2021

Support Your Friends’ Art: Moshi Moshi

Pardon a word of preface before I get to the album I’m going to review. Few in the world are lucky enough to be recognized for the art they create, whether in paints or stone, music or poetry, or movies or books. I believe we can always use more art in the world and that each of us can do our part simply by sharing the things we like. Even if you do not do this, even if you disagree, you still benefit from the artists in the world who are working every day to do something they love. So why not make a meaningful contribution and share something you like? Even better, pay money for something you love.


Moshi Moshi by Ryan and Pony

This post is a review of the album Moshi Moshi, the debut album by Ryan and Pony, friends of ours. And while our relationship predisposes me to support them, I really do enjoy this album. It’s been in my rotation since I bought it.

They fuse dream pop, post punk, brit rock, EDM, and good ol’ fashion rock and roll for a sound all their own,” their website says. I agree. And here’s my impression: It sounds like a synthesis of all the rock and pop music I loved through the 80s and 90s, and it creates something new. The music feels like a natural evolution of that time period, both familiar and fresh. Perhaps I phrase it this way because that’s what I try to evoke in my own writing.

I enjoyed all the songs on the album, but here are the four that have stuck with me from the first spin.

Track 3: Fast As I Can – This is their first single and it tells you everything you need to know about them. Solid production, catchy-as-hell hooks, and great harmonies. It’s even got a little bit of what I affectionately call “80s sax”, which will always have a special place in my musical heart. The video is cool, too!

What really resonates with me, however, are the lyrics that tell of a protagonist who will do whatever it takes to help someone; additionally, “all the love you bring, every little thing you do: it matters.” This song is practically the anthem of my hero, Tildy, so I’ve added it to my “hero playlist”. I’ll write about that in a future post.

Track 7: First Night – Opens with a sweet bass line from Pony (we need more of this in music), and then – what is that, Ryan – surf guitar? Don’t mistake me, this isn’t a Dick Dale song, but it’s got that cool guitar sound throughout. And in the back half of the song, the guitar also evokes Tom Petty, which is an interesting thematic transition. This song drives forward relentlessly. It’s dense, in that there’s so much in here, I’m surprised it’s only 2:28 long.

Track 9: Low – Is this one pure pop, is it going to be a rock song? It’s a little of both; it’s something different than both. The thing that strikes me in this one is Ryan’s vocals: you can tell it’s him, but it’s yet another style from his repertoire. This song is a great example of how a band can deliver several different musical styles in a single album without deviating from the core of who they are.

Track 12: I Would Die 4 U – I wasn’t looking at my phone when this came on, so I didn’t know I was about to hear a cover of one of Prince’s best songs. As it opened, I found myself listening to something that was familiar, yet I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. It turned out to be a a new arrangement that offered a fresh take on the intro of a song we all know. And in a way that some covers do so well, they’ve taken this song and made it their own. It’s got the pieces of the original we love, but with new things that keep it from feeling like just another rehash. Great example of the band’s musical chops.

I think we’re all predisposed to enjoy the things our family and friends create, but man, it is amazing when they exceed our expectations. One of the best compliments I’ve received went something like this: “I forgot that I knew the writer and just got pulled into the work.” That’s exactly how I felt with this album. Ryan and Pony know their stuff, and Moshi Moshi is a polished, professional, and – more importantly – enjoyable album.

I hope my appreciation of the passion in someone’s work will inspire you. Whether you listen to these tracks, buy the album, or simply read this post and share it, you’re helping contribute to the art of the world. If you’re an artist yourself, you can probably expect someone to do the same for you.

Good luck with your art, whatever your medium may be!

–Mike


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© Michael Wallevand, January 2021

Project Three Begins

Waitaminute, buster. Didn’t you just tell us you were starting Project Two a year ago? Didn’t your first book take four years to write?! Is this one of those flighty writer things, where you get distracted by a new project?

There’s more to it than that, which I’ll get to in a moment. Project Two has continued to move over the course of the last year, though 2020 was rather disruptive to my writing schedule and I haven’t made the progress I wanted. I’m still discovering the characters and I’m not as invested in them as I need to be, especially when compared to Tildy and co., with whom I spent four years. Admittedly, we’re still in early draft territory and there’s lots to uncover.

Here’s why I’m not worried that this will become an abandoned project that I’ll find in a dusty hard drive ten years from now. The Lost Royals series is a tale of two siblings. Project One is the completed Tildy Silverleaf and the Starfall Omen. Project Two follows her brother Samor on a similar but separate path a continent away. Project Three returns to Tildy.

That’s a lot of words to say, “Mike is writing two separate books series concurrently with a conjoined ending. It’s probably a stupidly ambitious endeavor fraught with complexity and peril.” Way to sell it, buddy!

Anyway….the intent is to allow Readers to choose how they want to experience the series. They could only read Tildy’s storyline, read Samor’s, or to go back and forth between them. As such, I don’t need to know everything that happens in Project Two before beginning number Three.

Back to the original question about this shift in focus being a ‘flighty writer thing’, yeah, there’s a bit of that. A lot of us are distracted by shiny new projects, which results in piles of unfinished manuscripts. I have a few of those myself.

It means I’m hedging my bets a little. You see, despite being a fledgling author, I do understand that stupidly ambitious endeavors projects that break norms, such as alternating books from character to character, are rare and harder to sell to agents, publishers, and readers (e.g. if JK Rowling had decided to write a book about Harry, then Hermione, and back to Harry). Novelty in a novel can be good…to a point. It’s quite possible my series won’t find life in the order I’ve envisioned. So three years ago, I started the outline for Tildy’s second book, and I’ve been adding bits as I worked on the other projects.

Yes, there are two paths you can go by, but in the long run
There’s still time to change the road you’re on.

STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN – LED ZEPPELIN

Today, rather than struggling through my few precious writing hours, I decided to tap into Tildy’s energy to see where it might take me. I’m pleased to share the first-draft opening to Tildy Silverleaf and the Dungeon of the Dreadwyrm.

Chapter One – Winter in Dappledown

Tildy Silverleaf leaned on her elbows at her bedroom window, watching the golden leaves fall. The Garden of Dappledown usually glowed like an emerald treasure well into Nordt, the first month of Winter. However, Autumn had barely started when the verdant hollow had begun to fade into yellows and oranges and reds.

It worried her adoptive mother, a woman once known as the Night Witch of the Black Garden. She’d said she had expected it because something had begun to impact the garden’s growth two Springs before. That didn’t mean she could explain it, and for a person of magicks and wonder and mystery, the witch couldn’t rest with such an unanswered question upon her lips. She’d spent long hours contemplating the surrounding trees of the Forest of Eddlweld, finding nothing in the answers of falling leaves.

Tildy counted eleven remaining leaves on the nearest tree. One shuddered and began its gentle descent. She unfurled her silver wings from beneath a hidden flap in her dress and they beat in slow rhythm to match the leaf’s fall.

She sighed. She wasn’t bored – far from it! She’d recently acquired twelve new books, which she’d managed to scatter throughout the witch’s cottage in various states of attention. But she was rather lonely. Her mother had been gone some weeks, which wasn’t unusual, even if she had been departing more regularly since their return from Southershard the previous Spring. Their friend Fietha had also not brought supplies for more than a month, which meant Tildy was responsible for stocking the pantry and stormcloset with the provisions they couldn’t grow in Dappledown.

While those two people had been her entire world for nearly fourteen years, it was a third person whose company she desired. Marklin Barrowfell had accompanied her for most of her adventure to Southershard, the infamous last of the four Shard fortresses that guarded the lands of Empyrelia. They’d developed a close, wonderful friendship that had survived the sorcerous Lady Amaranth, the misunderstood Baron Stoneward who’d been transformed into the monstrous Sarsenith, and perhaps the greatest threat: Tildy’s eavesdropping on a private confession he was making to her mother about his depression.

Whatever romantic twitterpation they might have had to begin, it had transformed into something deeper: that of comrades-in-arms who have faced deadly perils and become as close as siblings, if not closer.

Even though Marklin lived about a fortnight’s walk from Dappledown, they’d seen each other regularly through the Spring and early Summer, usually meeting at a picnic spot halfway in between their homes. Sometimes they would recount their adventure, but more often than not, they’d just chat like old friends about anything and everything. Cross-legged in the shade of aspens green, she’d re-tell stories and histories from books she’d read, while he’d share news about the rebuilding of his village Grey’therton. And the warm breezes of the grasslands would listen to them.

She also chided him mercilessly for being unable to introduce her to his famous uncle and namesake, Ser Amarcus Barrowfell, a former member of the Sentinels Grand. He was a central character in one of her favorite books and she’d grown up daydreaming about his valiant deeds. He’d risen in her estimation after she learned he’d sought Marklin to adopt him after the death of his parents, though she still didn’t understand why he couldn’t visit the Garden of Dappledown during one of his sheriff’s treks. It certainly wasn’t for fear of the haunted Forest of Eddlweld that surrounded her home.

In Azjuul, the second month of Summer, Marklin had told her he would be accompanying his uncle on a journey west, but no, there wouldn’t be time for a visit. He also apologized in advance for missing her birthday on Midden Day, but promised a special gift upon his return in early Autumn.

She hadn’t heard from him since.

The Equinox was approaching – the midpoint of Autumn – and still there was no word. Tildy sighed again. She missed her friend and she was worried.

In the garden below, she heard a bustle in the southern hedgerow that could only be her mother returning. Not wanting to wait another minute for news, she squeezed through the open window and fluttered down into the garden on gossamer wings.

I’m pleased with this draft. It came effortlessly, which is a joy to experience. I loved returning to Tildy and her mother, the notorious Night Witch. In 700 words, I’ve revisited four characters, each with some backstory. It’s also got some world-building, character development, and a nice Led Zeppelin reference (same song, different lyric), which may or may not stay.

However, this is mostly exposition, and while it provides some essential highlights from the previous book, it’s a slow start. I’d like to get Readers invested immediately in some action. The mystery of Marklin’s absence helps, albeit still at a slow pace (BTW, that was a tough section to write – it’s the only section that I rewrote, and this represents the fourth version). Despite the pacing, most of the details are pretty tight. Each memory is a couple sentences, and the excerpt is only about a page and a half in Word. I’ve begun far worse. I made asked Trusted Reader #1 (my wife, a lit teacher and voracious wolf-reader) to give it a look and it’s not as exposition-y as I feared.

Where do I go from here? I’ll probably flesh out a couple chapters with Tildy, shifting my focus between Projects Two and Three. However, I don’t recommend this approach. It works for me because I’ve already been doing it in this series for five years: leaping from book to book to book, sometimes touching six books in a writing session. I share it as an example of how I continue to write, even when inspiration isn’t at hand. I encourage you to find your own methods to exercise your writing brain!

Good luck with your writing!

–Mike


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© Michael Wallevand, December 2020

Year Five

December 10, 2020 marks the five-year anniversary of this writing project, so I thought I’d take a few minutes to recount a year in a writer’s life. There’s probably a joke to make about celebrating the “wood” anniversary for a book, but I don’t have much in the creative tank tonight.

For many of us, 2020 friggin’ sucked. We’re living through trauma, and so many things made us sad, stressed, or depressed. I write because I want to bring joy to other people, and it was damn hard to summon that joy to the page this year. My emotions ran the gamut, from grief to anger to fear to outrage.

  • We lost some key figures from my childhood (David Prowse, Eddie Van Halen, Alex Trebek, Sean Connery) and my adulthood (RBG, Chadwick Boseman, Ian Holm)
  • Pandemic….well, everything, including anti-maskers who I just don’t understand
  • I started working from home (for what will end up being more than a year)
  • Watched my city, Minneapolis, descend into chaos after the murder of George Floyd
  • We had my wife’s teaching role and my younger son’s special education turned upside down by the pandemic
  • We watched two people younger than us succumb to cancer
  • My wife was in a car accident that sent her to the ER and totaled our older son’s car
  • And for crying out loud, so many Presidential shenanigans

Some of these inspired writing (Whatcha writing during isolation?, Privilege in a time of chaos and injustice, Squeezing in writing time), which is good because I really struggled to work on my novels in the first half of the year. I can’t recall whether I’ve had this much trouble writing before.

But any day I can write one word is a good day, and there were plenty of days that exceeded that. I did make some good progress. During the research for this post, I discovered that I accomplished more than I suspected. Here’s a few highlights:

  • Get Project Two moving, which is Samor’s first story. Including some passages that already existed, it’s up over 60,000 words.
  • Did a ton more…dot-connecting, seed-planting – I don’t know what to call it – work across books to create consistency and connectedness-ness. Ness.
  • Killed the series of posts that tested a journaling format. I’ve never been able to keep a journal going.
  • Queried literary agents (I’m 0-5-2*)
  • Stopped querying agents. I think we all need life to get a bit closer to normal again.
  • Started testing a progress tracker to publicly display which projects I’m working on.
  • Tried reviving a humorous series of posts about typos. Meh.
  • Planted a bug in a friend’s ear for a writing project, should he ever want to pick up the pen again.
  • I explored a new piece of creative fiction: Oh, You Just Sat Down and Wrote?

* I had one agent inform me she no longer repped fantasy and the other resigned in a mass exodus of agents and writers from an agency. So, these were not NOs, and I’m counting them as ties. I believe ties go to the writer, right?

As much as 2020 felt like it was regularly punching me in the gut, it’s nice to reflect on some good things. Even better, I like saying, “I’m working on my second novel.”

I hope you’re able to find some joy in your writing, too. I’m ready to start 2021 now.

–Mike


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© Michael Wallevand, December 2020

Writing Is Weird

It’s a Friday afternoon, and I’ve had the day off from work. Ahem, a day off from the office job. It’s allowed me to put in some writing work. I knocked out just over 2,000 words today, interspersed with some family responsibilities. As satisfying as the day has been, that’s not my purpose for this post.

I’ll just say it aloud: Writing is weird. It really is. You sit, you think, you write out thoughts. Some day, not today, they make sense. Hopefully, to others besides yourself.

I planned to write something of a scene today, and as I consider the labyrinthine journey I took as I worked, I’m surprised – and pleased – with the results. For those of you interested in the writing process, I whipped up a quick post to shed some light on my own methods and madness. Be advised, Dear Reader, this will be a strange walk through one writer’s mind and his storytelling process. Consider yourself well-warned.

* * * * *

In my second novel, my protagonist has been raised without any knowledge of his past life. Like his sister Tildy in the first book, the world thinks Samor dead. But as the children of a Queen and King, their worlds are filled with paintings, books, people, and other references that provide insight into their family and their early lives. The children do not realize this, but assuming I do a proper job, the Reader will.

As I was getting ready for the day, I started debating what I might write about. My mind followed Samor’s book journey and decided I would have him discover the painting of his parents. Tildy does a similar thing in her book, and neither of them recognize the experience for what it is: the first time either of them have beheld their parents – or the infant images of themselves.

Parallel scenes like this are one of the reasons I wanted to tell their stories in separate books. It also allows a fair amount of compare and contrast, which is a handy way to derive inspiration: Oh, Tildy handled the experience this way? How would her brother handle it differently? And what are their shared reactions?

OK, so I’ve set a goal, a destination, for my scene. How do I get there? (For spoiler-y reasons that I won’t explain here, the portraits have been hidden. The why isn’t important to the scene.) I now needed a beginning and a middle.

Earlier in the book, I’ve established that a character close to Samor – his primary teacher – has seen the paintings before. Their artistry moved him profoundly. If you’re like me, and you experience such a thing, you want other people to share in it. And so does this teacher. He thinks, perhaps over-optimistically so, that this would be a welcome present for Samor’s birthday. Yeah, yeah, I know. But I also recognize that gifts are often as much about the person giving them as the recipient.

Anyway, the teacher is vaguely aware of this, too, and knows he must make another connection for his young charge. He’s a teacher, so this will be a learning experience. His true purpose for showing Samor the portraits of the Queen and King has suddenly become to help the boy understand the weight of his responsibility. He is the heir of the Steward. When his father dies, he will be entrusted with the future of the kingdom.

Well, how does this teacher know where the hidden paintings are, I asked myself. To which I responded: Someone with secret knowledge, of course, has confided in an untrustworthy friend of the teacher. Whether the details of this are more salacious….well, we’ll see.

Alright, I’ve got the destination, some of the motivation, but I need to set the scene rolling. Portraiture often hangs in a gallery, which – POOF! – this fortress suddenly has. I won’t bore the Reader with fifty descriptions of other rulers and dignitaries as they pass through the gallery, but I need to convey that this fortress does have a rich history. (It occurs to me as I write this post that it’s a perfect set-up for the teacher’s plan of showing Samor his place in the world! Ah, serendipity.)

Our two characters travel the gallery and pass the important people. They come to a spot where two portraits have been removed – the King’s and Queen’s. The teacher has made the journey to this spot instructional and he has created a segue to his true purpose.

So far, that’s a lot of stuff about the teacher’s motivation. But what about our hero, who might be forgiven for not enjoying this particular aspect of his birthday. I mean, come on, we’ve got a long journey with a humdrum destination. But wait, what if this is exactly something Samor needs? He’s an overprotected child who cannot leave the castle. He’s also living a life of privilege where things go his way. These are the motivations that lead him to run away in the book, which sets up the primary story. Et voila! We now have a way to convey this need, and perhaps, this allows us to strengthen his desire to the point where he will feel compelled to go!

Therefore, this trip to the room – no, secret room – no, secret hidden room with a magic lock – NO, secret hidden room with a magic lock at the heart of a spiral pathway beneath a fortress of ice – must be a trek that scratches Samor’s need for adventure. Samor enjoys this, despite himself, and the teacher accidentally spurs him toward running away.

Whoops. Best laid plans and all that.

Wrapped within this instruction by the teacher, and all the way to the portraits in the secret room, is some helpful exposition and backstory. Every book needs some of this. Sometimes it’s well disguised; other times, it’s simply a chapter that should be entitled “How the bad guy did it”. So, I’m grateful for what appears to be an unobtrusive way to handle it.

So, where were we? Gallery, strange journey to secret destination to a door with a magic lock. The more impressive the security, the more valuable the treasure, right? BTW, this suddenly became a similar lock to one that will play an important role near the climax of the book (forcing the author to jump to later chapters to create this connection).

In a way that I will rewrite to make it less deus ex machina-y, the teacher happens to have a special key. In fact, it’s the key he’s used to unlock every door on their journey (the author writes, going back to those scenes to ensure congruence). The door is open! Now Samor must cross the threshold into a darker place, much like his journey into adulthood, the teacher explains.

Using a wisdom and words that convey to the Reader that this teacher cares deeply for Samor’s learning (as most teachers do), the teacher helps Samor understand the importance of what he is seeing, even if neither of them knows that Samor is the lost prince that everyone thinks dead. Sweet Moses, that was a gross sentence, but such is the chaos that first drafts invoke!

But…this teacher is pretty damn smart. He’s a collector of information. He connects seemingly unrelated dots. As he and Samor are looking at the infant with the sugar-blonde hair, who would be Samor’s age if he had lived…the teacher is nearly knocked over by the idea that Samor is the lost prince. Now, it will take him a lot of time to confirm this, and we’ve got a few books to do that, but the first crack has appeared in the wall that guards Samor’s true identity.

I swear, sometimes the way this stuff comes together, it’s like my fingers are being guided by someone who wants to use me to tell a story.

After they depart and this heavy scene ends, the teacher gives Samor a second present. In hindsight, this puzzle box might be too much for now. It could reveal something special or drive Samor toward something, but I’ve got a few other scenes of birthday presents. While Samor lives a privileged life, I can’t bore the Reader with scene after scene of marvelous presents.

* * * * *

It’s a first draft, of course, but it’s gotten the job done. As I mentioned in the introduction, I wanted to take you on a winding journey, give you a peek behind the curtains. Much like a stage production, there’s a lot of messy backstage stuff you never see: nails and braces, stitches in costumes, and so on. Similarly in this post, I’ve got italics, parentheticals, and asides; odd sentence structure; and it rambles at times. It’s a messy style and one I would not typically keep, but it’s reflective of the way my mind works when I’m moving full speed. This is what editors are for.

You might have also noticed that the pieces above were not recounted in linear fashion. I slipped forward and backwards through the scene, making changes to better set up the climax. A few things were planned. Many were not. Problems were solved as I went. New ones were created – gifts to my future self, and not unwelcome ones.

Most importantly, I accomplished some things. There’s some context, some history. Some new famous people to possibly explore later. A magic key for an unbreakable lock. Foreshadowing and other setups for future storylines. We explore another dimension for a character, the teacher whose description started as “inspired by Severus Snape, but not as tragic”. We start to understand what motivates Samor, or how others inspire him to change. All in all, not a bad bit of work for a few hours’ time. And for that, I am always grateful. I wish you similar luck with your writing.

–Mike


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© Michael Wallevand, November 2020

Oh, You Just Sat Down and Wrote?

It’s 7:30 on a Sunday night. Beside me sits a glass of whisky and ice. I’ve poisoned it, some might say, with Coca-Cola. And that’s fine for this ending to a long day because I’m desirous of the effects, if not so much the taste.

Much of these first three paragraphs was written, and re-written in the car this evening, while listening to Neil Gaiman’s The View From The Cheap Seats (It’s one of three books I’m currently enjoying. The softcover Brimstone by Preston & Child sits beside the whisky glass and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone awaits my ears when I get to bed, whenever that might be.).

The Gaiman writing is good, as he usually is, but I think there’s more than that pleasure contained in this particular work. It also contains some unspoken encouragement for writers, and I wonder if other people realize that when they read it.

I’ve hardly been writing since the pandemic was declared in March. The Gaiman book, and another huge relief that occurred this week, have served to remove some of the weight that’s been crushing me. Today, some pent up energy was released.

I’ve already mentioned that I began writing this post ahead of time, and that’s much like the new story I sat down to type this morning. Similarly, it formed in my head before I knew I was going to do any writing. As I showered today, two distinct lines popped into my head, as though I had discovered a thing that existed or was remembering something whispered to me in my sleep.

The first was a title: The Time Travel Tinkerer.

The second was the opening: Putter was a tinkerer, a time traveler, and a bastard. At least, that’s how people would have viewed him, if they’d known what he’d done. Or would do, depending on their places in time.

Neither was going to win me a literary award, though perhaps I’d get points for alliteration. I write about things that intrigue me, inspire me, or burn in my mind like an ember that refuses to die. And that’s what I had today.

In the next hour, I wrote two thousand words, practically without stopping. It was pure writing, though I wouldn’t call it stream-of-consciousness because there was order to it, as though I were dictating a story someone had once told me.

There were few of my usual shortcuts in the work (line breaks that represented details to fill later; bullets that marked the beats; or ideas demarcated with parentheses). Those are the devices I employ when I fear I’ll forget a detail when I can’t type quickly enough.

It reminded me of the times I’d taken a piece of my novel that I knew well and just re-typed it from memory: unnecessary details are eroded and the writing is just, well, tighter, for lack of a better word.

I stopped just before the ending because I think I need to dwell on it a bit. The story is high-concept, both filled with science-y stuff, yet devoid of the specific detail that some might desire in science fiction. The story’s goal isn’t to convince you that time travel could be real; I just need you to follow Putter into his conveyance and enjoy the ride.

As I feverishly described this writing hour to my wife, she humored me. I suspect her encouragement was more about my return to writing than the story itself (a high-concept sci-fi piece isn’t her style), and that was all I needed today. As is often the case with these snippets of story idea, I don’t know whether I will finish it. I’d like to, but I have other priorities in my writing and in my life. I predict this will be little more than a short story, perhaps something I’d submit to a sci-fi magazine or website. But we’ll see.

Until then, Putter will hang in the void, staring down at the continuum of time, wondering whether he should try to fix the mess he created or satisfy his scientific curiosity for what happens next.

I hope you are able to find something equally inspiring in the coming weeks. This year of 2020 is going to end with a number of high notes, I think. Good luck!

–Mike


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© Michael Wallevand, November 2020

Here’s that encouragement you need

I’ve got a friend who’s been fighting depression, the kind of battle that needs all the encouragement we can muster. You can imagine my disappointment and anger when he posted that some people had sh** on his creative project, which was one of his outlets for dealing with his affliction.

I’m tired of reading awful comments that go unchallenged, so I’m going to stand up for others when I can. The creative process is hard enough without people trolling for the sake of trolling. Here’s what I wrote for him, which I’m sharing in the hope it helps others, too.

I’m going to take one sentence to call out people who would sh** on a person’s creative project: Do something better with your life and look at this person as an example of someone who is succeeding at that.

Now, on to more important things. I’ve spent years trying to create worthwhile content for people, and I know it’s hard to set aside a project. But take heart: all the creatives we love have unfinished projects, whether they’re musicians, writers, or painters.

I’m encouraging you to keep that creative door open a crack. Then walk away and take a break. Don’t look at it. Don’t try to force it open. Don’t dwell on it. Just let the door remain ajar. You’ll likely find that when you’re waiting for coffee, playing with a kid, or waiting for sleep’s embrace, that a light will shine through that narrow opening. That light is an idea. It could be a title, snippets of lyric, or simply a feeling you want to convey. Capture whatever it is. Even if it sucks. Then capture the next one. Occasionally, pull out that growing list and read through it. Maybe something will spark; often nothing will. When you’re ready, and it will probably be sooner than you think, you’ll realize you have something that forces you to pull that door handle to let a little more light into the room. Let me give you two personal examples:

1. I started my list in high school, well, a couple lists actually. One would eventually be named ‘Titles Without Stories’, which is exactly what it sounds like: catchy or intriguing names that might spark to life someday. Sixteen years later, I pitched ‘The Demon and Mrs. Chang’ to Marvel Comics. I received a very nice boilerplate rejection letter in response.

2. I’ve spent four years writing a novel, capturing ideas like I described above. Now, I’m pitching to agents and working on a follow-up. I’m currently 0-3-1 with agents, btw.

Will either of these make me money or see life in print? Dunno, but that’s not the point of this comment. As your friend wisely said, it’s a learning process. Every project teaches you something about your craft. Each one makes you better: artistically, spiritually, and mentally. And that’s what is really important.

Ars gratia artis

There’s enough darkness in the world that we shouldn’t be eager to snuff a struggling light. As a society, we have given too much power to trolls, and I want to take it back.

–Mike


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© Michael Wallevand, June 2020

Prince Playlist 4U

Prince Funko Pops

I recently took comfort as I recalled how Minnesotans came together a few years ago after the death of Prince. I spent days listening to stories, happy and sad, of how his music touched them. I shared one or two of my own. It occurs to me that in uncertain times there often are no words, but there is always music.

If there were a playlist I’d like Prince to play for us, it would look something like this: a mix of his hits, his messages, and his thoughts on getting us through this thing called life.

Uptown
Raspberry Beret
17 Days
Starfish and Coffee
Sign ‘O’ the Times
Calhoun Square
Alphabet St.
Christopher Tracy’s Parade
We March
Money Don’t Matter Tonight
Beautiful, Loved and Blessed
The Breakdown
Take Me With U
7
When You Were Mine
Little Red Corvette
Love…Thy Will Be Done
It’s Gonna Be A Beautiful Night
Purple Rain

Take care of UR loved ones.

–Mike

Click for more Prince


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© Michael Wallevand, June 2020