Let’s get kids to love stuff

man dangling noodles into his mouthWe got a text from our neighbor this morning. His daughter loves to cook (she gets it from him) and was enthused that we were enjoying the things she made. They both like to share, and my wife often makes something in return. Here’s what the text said:

Her response to you using her frosting: “Yay! That makes me happy! Let’s make big fat noodles next, everyone likes noodles.”

As you might expect, my response was encouraging, and not just because I really do like big fat noodles. I saw that she loved cooking and I never want her to lose that passion. Simple as that.

As a parent, it’s not that hard to recognize the importance of helping your child find something they like, and then foster a love of that within them. It’s not just about developing a relationship with them, but it’s about helping them find things that bring them joy and might guide them their entire lives. This morning, I was reminded of the important role that adults – not just parents – play here.

As a society, we have so many ways to teach children. Whether with family, community organizations, or simply how we comport ourselves when we’re out in the world. For me, I’m hoping to contribute in a way more meaningful than teaching kids, by example, that trolling gets you ahead in life. Or, that by being a spiteful a-hole, it somehow makes you a better person than the person you disagree with. I’d rather live in a society where we build each other up together, as opposed to standing on the backs of others to accomplish our selfish goals.

And so, the Book of the Lost Royals project keeps this philosophy in mind. The world can be a dark place if we never kindle some light. If I can help kids develop a love of reading, great! If I can get them to write or pursue some other creative passion, even better.

At the very least, we get some big, fat, made-from-scratch noodles. At best, we send someone out into the world who will inject joy and love into it.

Mike

PS: Did you note the use of gender-neutral pronouns? Probably not. See? It’s a painless transition for all of us, and maybe if makes nonbinary kids a little more comfortable in this world while maybe reducing the hate that others are fostering in our kids.


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© Michael Wallevand, December 2019

The book is done

…well, the first one.

Fingertip sketch - greenIt’s been four years – almost to the day – since I sat at my keyboard and began bringing Tildy to life.

Four years since my finger drew this simple sketch on my phone to imagine what it would be like to see a girl with wings.

I had few goals, and some quantitative ones were unmet. I more than doubled my target word count and it’s taken twice as long to complete as I wanted. But these are less relevant to me than my true storytelling desire: to deliver a tale filled with wonder, discovery, and adventure.

And I think I did it. I really do.

So, Tildy Silverleaf and the Starfall Omen is complete. No more tweaking. No more read-throughs. It’s locked (at least until I start working with some literary pros who are willing to help me publish it – but we’ll let 2020 Mike work on that). I’ll try not to lie awake picturing all the typos I’ve missed.

For now, the completion is a nice Christmas present to myself. But even though we’re in the middle of the holiday season, there’s no rest for your friendly neighborhood writer, is there? The next month will be spent researching agents and working on queries.

And turning my focus to Tildy’s lost brother, Samor.

It’s going to be strange not being with her every day, though I’m excited to explore the northern reaches of Empyrelia with him.

Hers is a world of solitude, hidden away in a garden as likely to kill people as feed them. Things we might call magic are commonplace and she doesn’t really think twice about them. She knows she was lost in the wilderness and adopted by a witch with a reputation darker than the shadows beneath the trees of their haunted forest, but she knows nothing of her own past.

Conversely, he lives in a fortress, surrounded by Humans and other peoples of astounding array. He speaks Dragonroar and spars with an Ogre. Despite living at the edge of the lands known as the Frozen Blight, his is a world filled with life and noise. His is a more privileged upbringing, given that his father is the steward trying to keep Empyrelia stable after the fall of the king. He doesn’t know that his father’s sadness and his mother’s spite come from the fact that they are raising him in their dead son’s name. Similar to his sister Tildy, Samor is being raised in secret; however, he is being groomed to recover the crown that was lost when their parents were killed.

The ability to look at a world from two different points of view is one of the primary reasons I made them twins. I wanted to be able to compare and contrast important cultural norms or their reactions to interesting situations, while also showing how similar two people could be despite vastly different upbringings.

More importantly, perhaps, I thought I had another really good story to tell: Samor and the Warlock of Nevermore.

Thanks for joining me on this journey, whether this is your first day here or your fortieth! If you’re enjoying this peek behind the writer’s curtain, hit the subscribe button or follow us on Twitter and Instagram.

And if you’re a fan of Tildy, don’t worry: she will return in the Dungeon of the Dreadwyrm.

Mike


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© Michael Wallevand, December 2019

Only Some Came Back – Writing Exercise

I find it easier to write when I’m speaking from the heart. As the son of a Vietnam veteran, I believe it’s important to acknowledge Veterans’ Day, so I always feel an obligation to say something meaningful.

This year, it started with a simple thought: “some came back”. It came to me while contemplating the difference between today and Memorial Day, but was also inspired by sentiments my father has shared.

As often happens, a simple idea blossomed into something greater, a working piece entitled, “Only Some Came Back”.


Some came back, wondering why they returned so all alone.
Some came back, their bodies hardly whole.
Some came back, prisoners lately freed.
Some came back, with so many healing needs.

Heroes all, whether wounded, captured, tortured, or flesh unscathed.
Heroes all, though they would never, ever think themselves as brave
Or worthy to have lived when so many others fell in foreign lands.
Or worthy to continue in a world that cannot understand.

Backs bent, carrying the weight of comrades lost, of life post-war.
Hearts pierced by steel, by loss, by unfathomable gore.
Minds burdened by nightmares, grief, and shattered innocence.
Souls broken upon the fields of demarked happenstance.

It’s not a day for politics
Or the whims of money’s end.
It’s a day for remembering veterans,
The women and the men.


 

This piece took about 30 minutes to write. While it’s a work-in-progress, I’ll let this one sit for a time. It’s more personal than it might seem, and there are current political things that cut deeper than I care to discuss.

I share it as an example of writing outside my manuscript. Sometimes the work can be a drag, and creating things that bring you joy can help you get past them. And sometimes, it’s cathartic, too.

Mike


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© Michael Wallevand, November 2019

Take Joy In Your Craft #1

I was recently re-familiarizing myself with the music of Velvet Underground, and “Run Run Run” on YouTube led me to “Run Boy Run” by Woodkid. I’d missed the song in 2013, which isn’t surprising since I was no longer in the music business and I don’t hear a lot of French artists on the radio.

From the tolling bell that opened the song, I knew I was going to like it. But after three-and-a-half minutes, I felt like I’d just watched a video of my childhood fantasies.

If there was any other kid, aside from Luke Skywalker, that I’d pretended to be, it was Max from Where The Wild Things Are. And so this video, showing a kid playing fantasy and running with monsters? Heck yeah – I’ve watched it ten times in the last week.

OK, that was mostly an aside, but the video is too fun not to share.

Anyway, my enjoyment led me to a live version of the song, and this brings me to the point of the post. Near the end of the performance in Montreux (7:00), Woodkid invites the audience to take up the intonation of the chorus. When they begin, there’s a wonderful joy that spreads across his face. I don’t believe it has anything to do with satisfying a need for adulation. To me, it’s because he has made a connection with strangers. He has given them something and they have reciprocated in kind.

Thirty seconds later, he transforms that joy into energy. It’s a contagious thing and immediately spreads throughout the audience. It continues until the song ends. However, to the amazement of Woodkid and the performers on stage with him, the audience spontaneously picks up the chorus again (8:45). And that joy returns.

To me, art is two-way communication. A person is giving something and receiving something in return. Perhaps it’s immediate, such as in this video. Very often, it is never known, as was the tragedy of Vincent Van Gogh.

Nevertheless, people are grateful when art touches them, though they might not think of it that way, or even put it into words. They sing along, they cry, they stand transfixed as their eyes drink in the details of something that inspires them.

I believe this amongst the most important exchanges that humans can have, and that makes it one of the most powerful things in the world.

Everyone who creates something has a goal in mind. This is mine.

Mike


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© Michael Wallevand, September 2019

Asking Your Customers Questions

This quick post is approximately 350 words, and I typed it with one hand whilst eating a tasty quesadilla.

Fridays are quesadilla days at the Eagan Thomson Reuters office. I dig ‘em. On Friday, the chef was out of green onions, which was fine. As he was serving up my food a few minutes later, he asked me a question. Would I be interested in sautéed onions or mixed peppers as an alternative ingredient? Some days when he’s out of onions, he’s thinking about other ways to serve his customers. I believe my response was a dignified, “Oooh! Onions!”

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These two crumbs are all that remain. I even ate the to-go box.

He graciously thanked me for my feedback and we both went about our workdays. With that simple question, he found a way to solve a problem, while also improving the service he could provide to customers. For me, I like that he cared enough to ask my opinion, but I also get the satisfaction of influencing the deliciousness of a future meal.

Writers should have a similar mindset. True, much of what we do is for ourselves, and we have the right to be as selfish as we want in our stories. However, we also need to keep a portion of our brains on our readers. Our customers. That is, unless you don’t intend to have anyone read your story, which sounds like zero funs.

Readers have myriad desires when it comes to reading a book. They want to enjoy it. They want new experiences. They want to be surprised, but they also like to figure things out before your protagonist. Perhaps they want their spirits lifted after a long day or feel the melancholy tugs of nostalgia.

You don’t need a person to read an entire chapter or even a passage. It’s terrifying: I know (here and here). But it’s not very scary to ask a friend or family member, “Hey, what do you think if I did ____________ in my story?”

I believe you’ll find yourself pleasantly surprised by the experience. So will your trusted person.

–Mike


Enjoy what you just read? Leave a comment or like the post and we’ll ensure that you see more like this!

© Michael Wallevand, December 2018

Writing Update – 3 Years In

Three years.

December 11, 2015 is more of a ceremonial date because I’m not sure how much writing I did at the start. Did I sit down and type, “Tildy sat up so quickly her head swam” – the first sentence of the first chapter – that first day? I don’t think so. I’m pretty certain I didn’t have her name yet. If memory serves, I started with the prologue, which has a boatload of too much historical context in it.

I recall thinking about a new direction for my story over the Summer of 2015. I started parts of it twenty-five years ago and I still liked much of the world I’d created. However, I needed to inject something into it: something to make it appeal to a broader audience and something to reinvigorate myself as a writer.

I wondered what kind of books the real world needed. It occurred to me that we could use more stories with empowered female characters, and they had to appeal to girls and boys. As simply as that, I was running, sprinting, in a new direction.

The writing came suddenly. One day I wasn’t writing; the next day I was.

superman_typing

Three years later, and more than a thousand hours of effort, I’m coming up on 190,000 words, which is about 100,000 more than I intended. I’ve also removed characters, places, and scenes to cut another 30,000 words. And I’m pretty sure I’ll have a bit more culling to do. Continue reading

That Time I Shared My Writing #2

This post is approximately 400 words and is the follow-up to a piece I wrote about two years ago: That Time I Shared My Writing #1.

nervous kermit

Over the last two years, I’ve shared portions of my book with sixteen ‘trusted readers’. They’ve ranged from family and friends, to coworkers and even one of my wife’s students. Their feedback can be grouped into two categories:

  1. Positive and rewarding (yay!)
  2. Radio silence (meh!)

Continue reading