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

Author’s Journal – 11-25-19

Journal Entry #3. The Muse is withholding all inspiration until I write another update.

It was a tough writing weekend. Not that I didn’t know what to write. I knew what I had to write; I just didn’t know which words to pick.

1. I spent time on Saturday and Sunday working on a query submission for a local agent. It requires a pitch, synopsis, and other pertinent info. The challenge is in the distilling of 188,000 words into a couple hundred. It’s a great exercise, tbh. It forces you to hone in on the core idea of your story. But…..it’s damn hard, perfectionist desires aside. I’ve spent my adult life editing, dabbled in the restrictive word count of flash fiction, and write with the “Murder your darlings” philosophy. And still I struggle to rein in the information overload.

It comes down to the old saying, “I didn’t have time to write you a short letter, so I wrote a long one.” Being succinct is tough, and I get why agents push for it.

Prince Super Bowl performance

2. Monday night, I tinkered with the finished manuscript, like a naughty author. Continue reading

Author’s Journal – 11-17-19

Hey, a second entry in a weekend. Doesn’t make it a trend.

Anyway, I worked on three things Sunday.

1. Wrote the first journal post, capturing the work on Nov 15. Happy with it.

2. Started researching literary agents. Since the process will take months, I might as well start while I’m picking at the last nits in the completed manuscript. I found two agents (in researching twenty) that feel like good fits. One isn’t accepting queries; one is.

3. Started writing my query letter. It’s been years since I’ve submitted one. However, since my past inquiries were for children’s picture books, I’m starting from scratch. Not planning to use the old ones for reference. I’m partway through, and taking a break to type up this quick post.

So, it’s 10:30 on a Sunday night as I wrap this up, though I won’t have it post until the morning. I’m not expecting many readers at this point in the evening. Hopefully, this found you during your morning coffee.

Good luck with your writing!

Mike


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© Michael Wallevand, November 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

Another Damned Damsel in Distress

In today’s post, I briefly explore unconscious bias and stereotypes. I could easily write 10,000 words about this (and I’ve also touched on it here, here, and here), but this blog is about the writing process, not the social deficiencies of our culture. So, I’ll share a little insight into my own process in the hopes it might help you recognize something you’d like to change in yours.

The title of this post came to me during my morning commute. I’d been thinking about writing my protagonist, which can be challenging when she is a thirteen-year-old girl and I am not. Of course, neither am I a wizard, dragon, slither-wither, or dreddendow. Nevertheless, it’s still something to consider because, in my experience, thirteen-year-old girls tend to be realer those other things, and therefore, people know more about them. In other words, I didn’t want to set myself up for some lazy, shortcut criticism of my story: Oh, another damned damsel in distress story.

A little more context about me. I’m a Gen-Xer, a small-town white kid whose life was 99%-filled with white people until I went to college. The stories of my childhood similarly lacked diversity: the majority had straight white heroes regularly saving women and/or children. Because clearly, helpless women and children give you the most “hero credit”. Unless perhaps you’re saving this baby pig.

230191-Cute-Baby-Piggy

Sorry, helpless kiddos!

Call them tropes, call them trite, or call them tired, I learned a lot about right and wrong from my childhood tales. I also, unconsciously, learned about strength and weakness. As a writer, I’m learning how to, uh, learn from these examples.

Go through this brief exercise with me. Don’t worry, we’re in a judgment-free zone, and no one will know your answers except you. Continue reading