Fathers Get A Bad Rap

It’s true … at least in fantasy. Fathers get a bad rap. Luke Skywalker’s father hewed his arm off and tried to turn him to the dark side. I have to admit there are a few times when my kids were not doing homework that I almost reached for my light saber in frustration.

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Frodo didn’t really know his father, Eragon never knew his, and even my own Seanchai, leaves his father in the first chapter of At The Walls of Galbrieth and has to struggle through six books without parental advise, and then…well, let me know when you get to Sacrificial Flame.

Terry Brooks doesn’t offer much father: son/daughter love with his characters and Beowulf’s wouldn’t let his son tell anyone who his father was. Terry Goodkind might have spared Richard Cypher discovering who his father was and how he was conceived. Fathers are absent from the Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time and so on and so forth.

Here’s the mystery: all these books are written by men who, I am pretty sure, have/had sons. I myself would not even have ventured into the world of fantasy if not for a camping trip with my family.

Summer 2015 Reading Book 6

Reading Book 6 in the summer of 2015. End of an era.

Fathers, when they do appear, seem to be burdened by their responsibilities, often traveling to save crown or country, and seem somewhat at a loss how to be a good father. Somehow, this is no longer sounding fantastical. I spend a fair time away from my children, admittedly not slaying dragons or fending off hordes that want to invade my country, but doing work that puts food on the family table, a roof over our heads, and hopefully doing a little good for the world along the way.

Now fantasy is about coming-of-age, about the struggle of young people overcoming challenges as they grow into their full potential. Fair enough. We put our faith in our youth – this is an age old trope – and given how badly we adults have treated this world, each other, and what a mess we have made of society, it is only natural that we channel our optimism into the next generation.

But here on Father’s Day, let’s give credit to the gene pool. These young heroes and heroines must have received the hero gene from someone. No doubt their courageous and wise mothers had something to do with it, but so did we.

So head to the local tavern and raise a mug of mead: to all our fantasy heroes and the fathers who play their part, often against all odds and without an instruction manual (which we don’t read anyhow, being men). And if that spills out from the world of fantasy into the real world, well, so mote it be!

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Happy Father’s Day!  

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Alon Shalev is the author of the 2013 Eric Hoffer YA Book Award winner, At The Walls of Galbrieth, The First Decree Ashbar – Wycaan Master Book 3 Sacrificial Flame, and the latest: From Ashes They Rose, all released by Tourmaline Books. 

Shalev is also the author of three social justice-themed novels including The Accidental Activist and Unwanted Heroes. He swears there is a connection. More at http://www.alonshalev.com and on Twitter (@elfwriter). Hang out with Alon on Goodreads.

 

My Birthday Wish

Today is my birthday. I am 21 again (for the 32nd time but who is counting) and I welcome a birthday gift from you:

  1. If you have never bought one of my novels, please consider doing so (links below) and leave a review.
  1. If you have read one or more, please leave a review on Amazon.com and Goodreads, particularly for Books 3 and 5.

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It helps the author:

Book reviews are incredibly important for authors and the promotion of our books. It is deeply refreshing that, even in the age of the always-present screen, people seek the opinion of their friends and peers when it comes to choosing a novel.

No one outside the industry truly understands the bookseller’s algorithms (I wonder whether the booksellers do themselves), but there is a consensus that reviews play a positive role and this leads to more exposure and higher rankings.

These algorithms also influence the important linking between novels. Further down a book’s page, you will see something along the lines of “If you liked this book, you might also be interested in….” It is a huge bump for a rising author to be linked to one of the bestsellers and I have experienced this bump myself.

Reviews have a vital impact in Goodreads (now the largest book club in the world – 25 million readers in 2014) where they help an author get discussed on review sites, blogging groups, and discussion lists. It is also important to note that reviews from Goodreads are often syndicated and this can be a huge step for an author (ask E.L. James who wrote this obscure book 50 Shades of Grey that was reviewed by a group on Goodreads and…)

By the way, when you do write and read reviews on books, please take a few seconds to ‘Like’ the other reviews you agree with. This also gets bundled up in the algorithms.

If you are an author or an aspiring one, leaving reviews helps you improve how you judge a novel helping you avoid some of the many writing pitfalls. It creates goodwill among other authors and can provide legitimacy to their platform.

Writing thoughtful reviews also influence others to do likewise and a snowball effect is not uncommon. By writing a review, you might encourage others to do so.

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It helps the reader:

In fact over 85% of Amazon kindle users say that they read the reviews before buying a book. A solid list of book reviews help other readers determine if the book is for them.

I saw on a website recently a mime that said Friends don’t let friends read bad books. It was a way to encourage people to leave reviews and help their peers uncover the golden nuggets that are buried among the mass of books being published today.

Often comments left by thoughtful reviewers covers areas not mentioned in the marketing blurb.

The bottom line is that more reviews lead to more exposure, higher book rankings and more sales. Supporting an author earns quality karma for when you pass to the great library in the sky. Helping them on their birthday, even more so!

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By the way, you do not have to prove you have bought the book to leave reviews on Amazon.com and Goodreads. If you checked it out at the library or received it from a friend, you can still participate.

Leaving or liking a review doesn’t cost anything but a few minutes of your time and it makes a huge difference to the reading and writing community. It will make a huge difference to me.

Thank you for all your support along the way. If you weren’t reading my books, I wouldn’t be so motivated to write them.

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Alon Shalev is the author of the 2013 Eric Hoffer YA Book Award winner, At The Walls of Galbrieth, and four more novels in the Wycaan Master Series – all released by Tourmaline Books. From Ashes They Rose, is the latest in the series. The story continues.

Shalev is also the author of three social justice-themed novels including Unwanted Heroes. He swears there is a connection. More at http://www.alonshalev.com and on Twitter (@elfwriter). Hang out with Alon on Google+

What’s in a Name

This week, Tourmaline Books announced the title to the sixth Wycaan Master book, perhaps the final one in the series: Calhei No More.

Anyone who has read the previous books in the series knows that calhei means children, specifically elven children (do you need to brush up on your elvish?).

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There was considerable back and forth regarding the title. A previous book had an elven word in the title and the publishers were not keen on this as it might be a barrier to people purchasing it. While Ashbar failed to become a New York Times bestseller, I don’t think the title was to blame.

Still, this makes perfect marketing sense, but I always thought that by the time you bought Book 3 or Book 6, you would have read the preceding novels – or in the case of Book 6, read Sacrificial Flame (#4) and From Ashes They Rose (#5), which many adults started at – and know the basic elven words.

Without giving too much away, the title reflects the rise to prominence of the next generation of characters, but there is much more behind what will be brandished across the cover of the book.

When I wrote Book 1, my sons were 11 and 7. For those not acquainted with the story, I wrote At The Walls Of Galbrieth while on a family vacation in an ancient redwood forest in Northern California and read them a few chapters each night around the campfire or snuggled in our tent. For the next five years I had the next manuscript ready for them and they were the first to hear the story … and my first critics.

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Writing the 1st novel – a family effort!

My sons will be 17 and 13 years old respectively when Calhei No More comes out in the fall. They tower over me now and wrestle me with ease, but they still occasionally snuggle even if the three of us would never fit together in that old tent anymore.

Finishing the Wycaan Master series is a watershed for me and I will write about this in the future, but for now it is inextricably linked to my sons growing up and a very personal aspect of our relationship.

Summer 2015 Reading Book 6

Reading Book 6 in the summer of 2015. End of an era.

My work takes me away from them and I hope they have not grown to resent it. I am passionately driven by the need to fight for a just world and that every person on this planet deserves the same inalienable human rights. When home, I assail them with stories and videos and hope they will not grow to resent the importance of the work I do. I address this a number of times in Calhei No More… you’ll see.

But they will always have the memories of the Wycaan Master series long after they pass into adulthood.

Tourmaline Books have also agreed to set the publication date for October 15, my father’s 92nd birthday. Calhei No More is about our relationship with our children and with our parents. The cycle continues, but the Wycaan Master series will reach its climatic end on October 15.

Happy Birthday to my human Ahdahr. Ninety-two years old. I am convinced there is some elven blood in him … my kids’ll tell you that it would explain a lot!

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Alon Shalev is the author of the 2013 Eric Hoffer YA Book Award winner, At The Walls of GalbriethThe First Decree,  Ashbar – Wycaan Master Book 3,  Sacrificial Flameand the latest: From Ashes They Rose, all released by Tourmaline Books. 

Shalev is also the author of three social justice-themed novels including The Accidental Activist and Unwanted Heroes. He swears there is a connection. More at http://www.alonshalev.com and on Twitter (@elfwriter). Hang out with Alon on Goodreads.

Rise of the Short Novel

I am a fast writer. I can have a 100k manuscript written in 100 days, but it is, to quote Anne Lamott, ‘a shitty first draft’. I then go through a three-month editing process before seeing to my editor. She then takes two months process with a professional editor, another month or two of rewrites based on her feedback, a final round with the editor, and then a beta reader or two.

A high quality novel takes time. It takes a huge amount of effort and creativity. The process needs to be respected.

The novel now shares the shelf with the novella, the short story and flash fiction. Numerous writers have explained to me the lure and skill in writing any of these shorter forms. There is a need for succinctness in descriptions, plot, and the need to hook the reader immediately. I get it. Not my cup of tea, but I understand that there are other aspects to the craft that appeal to people.

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But there is also the Churn Mill. It is becoming common to meet writers who proudly announce they are writing a novel a month…or week, and that this is an integral part of their business model. The plan is basically to have a long backlist of books: 20, 50, 100… and hope to hook a reader to one book that will infuse them with desire to buy the other 99.

My issue is not with them having a business plan. There is no shame in writing for money. But I am uncomfortable with the way they are treating their readers. It should never be all about the numbers, not if we are considering ourselves artists, and not if ever want to betray our readers.

I wrote about how Terry Brooks appreciates his audience. I saw this week, after Daniel Arenson posted some news on his Facebook page, how he took the trouble to answer his readers’ questions and to thank them. These are authors who, I am sure, know they must bind their readers to them for business reasons, but who genuinely enjoy engaging with the people who invest money and time in their books.

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Terry Brooks

My readers know I love writing full-length novels. The first draft can be up to 120,000 words long and after my editor has worked her magic, the word count hovers just under the 100,00 word mark.

A novel allows the reader to travel to another world, to get to know characters intimately, see how they develop, and build a friendship with them. It allows the reader to escape and live for a while in a fantasy world.

There is something rich and emotionally investing in reading a full-length novel and a series. I can define periods of my life as I traveled through Shannara, Alagaesia, and Middle Earth. They are milestones that illuminate certain times.

I will forever be grateful to Christopher Paolini who wrote his Eragon books at the perfect time for me to share with my sons, a bond we will always have, and that laid the foundation for their companionship through the Wycaan Master series. Whenever we are on the road together and see a beautiful vista, one of us murmurs Alagaesia, and we all nod.

Summer 2015 Reading Book 6

Reading Book 6 in the summer of 2015. End of an era.

Enough said.

Finally, thank you to everyone who participated in the April sale. I appreciate your support and hope you will enjoy the entire series. Please: take a few minutes and leave reviews for the books you read on Amazon or Goodreads. Reviews are critical for the author and I thank you in advance for helping.

Have a good week, everyone.

Alon

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Alon Shalev is the author of the 2013 Eric Hoffer YA Book Award winner, At The Walls of GalbriethThe First DecreeAshbar – Wycaan Master Book 3, Sacrificial Flame, and the latest: From Ashes They Rose, all released by Tourmaline Books. 

Shalev is also the author of three social justice-themed novels including The Accidental Activist and Unwanted Heroes. He swears there is a connection. More at http://www.alonshalev.com (currently being updated) and on Twitter (@elfwriter). Hang out with Alon on Goodreads.

Respect for Macklemore & Ryan Lewis – But 99 cents!

Now I love Macklemore & Ryan Lewis. They have some serious songs that are brilliantly written and executed. But I also love their hilarious and anti-consumerism song – Thrift Shop: It was 99 cents!

I admit, I am one for a bargain and enjoy visiting the thrift store and discovering anything from woven baskets, to autographed novels, to soccer shirts of my beloved Arsenal.

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My youngest and I scored on this memorable visit to the thrift store.

So the concept of a 99 cents bargain shouldn’t faze me and it doesn’t … except when it comes to my books! At the beginning of every summer, with a new novel on the horizon, the powers that be decide to offer the kindle e-book version of At The Walls of Galbrieth for 99 cents for the next month or so.

I objected: the book is already only $2.99 – less than a coffee at Starbucks (or most coffee shops) and I poured many hours of blood, sweat and tears into its creation. I gave birth to it, sat up all night with it when it got a fever, and saw it take its first steps on Amazon.com.

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In past years, I have portrayed the necessary signals of the soon-to-be famous – acting the cultural prima donna. We are talking about an award-winning novel, I whine.

This year, perhaps with the prospect that the final novel in the Wycaan Master series will be released must have inspired Tourmaline Books beyond past years. They have decided not only to list At The Walls of Galbrieth in Kindle format for 99 cents but the entire series.

For the month of April, all five Wycaan Master novels are available for a venti latte with sugar-free hazelnut syrup and coconut milk! All five are currently priced at 99 cents.

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Book 5 Cover FINAL

Oh well, 99 cents made Macklemore and Ryan Lewis famous! If you have friends who enjoy epic fantasy, this series is good for all ages!

Have a good week, everyone.

Alon

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Alon Shalev is the author of the 2013 Eric Hoffer YA Book Award winner, At The Walls of GalbriethThe First Decree,  Ashbar – Wycaan Master Book 3Sacrificial Flame, and the latest: From Ashes They Rose, all released by Tourmaline Books. 

Shalev is also the author of three social justice-themed novels including The Accidental Activist and  Unwanted Heroes. He swears there is a connection. More at http://www.alonshalev.com and on Twitter (@elfwriter). Hang out with Alon on Goodreads.

 

 

Sacrificial Flame at 99 Cents … for now!

This week, Tourmaline Books has decided to reduce the ebook price of Sacrificial Flame to just 99 cents! 

I once said that this is the book I am most proud of in the series and the other books got terribly offended. But in many ways it is. I think in terms of pace, plot threads, and the introduction of so many new characters, this book is my best so far.

It begins a whole new story line, so there is no need to have completed the previous three books. The novel has a 4.9 rating on Amazon from 24 reviews. Well enjoy, I guess. I am not sure how long it will stay at this price – I was surprised myself.

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Here are five reviews from Verified Purchasers, from Amazon’s higher ranks of reviewers. I know none of these people, but if any of you are reading – thank you for your generous reviews:

Marley – Wonderful, wonderful story! Loved the characters, especially the children. Couldn’t put it down. A must read for anyone who loves epic fantasy. Shalev has it all – great writing, a wonderful world populated by dwarves, elves, humans and some great new races.

Lorax – Shalev has the flair of a great story teller, sometimes rushing head-on, at others, holding back in a disciplined restraint. His pitch-perfect ear for dialogue and polished presentation engage the reader throughout.

S. Cook – Mr. Shalev brings a tremendously exciting story to life with characters that are too good to leave on the page. This was a really surprising find for me and I’m now hooked on this series. The story telling and descriptive writing style make this book a true page-turner, great for someone wanting to lose themselves in a book for a while. This is exactly the type of book I like reading on the train on my way to and from work – Interesting, intricate, fun and intelligent. You have to read Mr. Shalev! You won’t be disappointed!

Alia The Kindle Lover – Alon does it again!! So glad I found this series, it continues to blow me away!! If you’re looking for a true, good fantasy series, you absolutely will find it in Wycaan Master!! Well done!!

Amy -While I will try to keep this review spoiler free, there are three books prior to this so please be prepared to be spoiled on those. The original trilogy took us on the adventure of Seanchai growing into the Wycaan master to face down the evil emperor. We met exciting new races and loved and lost with the protagonists. (Did an author really kill a main character? Could he actually be so realistic about the harsh world of revolution?) Now we have jumped a decade forward as peace has settled across Odessiya and Seanchai has become a father. 

If you do read Sacrificial Flame, please post a review on Amazon and let me know what you think.

Thank you,

Elfwriter

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Alon Shalev is the author of the 2013 Eric Hoffer YA Book Award winner, At The Walls of Galbrieth, The First Decree Ashbar – Wycaan Master Book 3,  Sacrificial Flame, and the latest: From Ashes They Rose, all released by Tourmaline Books. 

Shalev is also the author of three social justice-themed novels including The Accidental Activist and  Unwanted HeroesHe swears there is a connection. More at http://www.alonshalev.com and on Twitter  (@elfwriter). Hang out with Alon on Goodreads.

Meet Me On Goodreads

This weekend, I finished teaching a class on Goodreads taking material from the excellent book by Michelle Campbell-Scott. If you are an author, check it out, but this article is not directed at authors, but at readers.

Here are 10 reasons I love Goodreads:

  1. Since merging with Amazon, Goodreads has grown its membership to 40 million readers – a nation of people who simply love reading and sharing their thoughts and opinions about books.
  1. Shelves: I love how you can organize the books you have read, are reading and will read, by genre or any system you want. I enjoy checking the books others have read, perusing their reviews, and discovering new authors.

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  1. Groups: You can find groups on almost any book-related topic. People are passionate and the conversations are lively and excellent. It also feels, probably to the credit of the facilitators, that there are very few flamers, obnoxious or rude people. Members can actually disagree with each other without getting bent out of shape or insulting others (is this really the Internet?).
  1. Through the friendships we form, people will also recommend sources when you are looking for help on whatever topic is being discussed. It seems very fraternal.
  1. Giveaways – yes I love the chance to receive an autographed copy of a book and to help that author in return – reviewing and mentioning the experience I had reading their book. It’s cool!

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  1. Following authors: Goodreads provides the opportunity to follow authors, read their newsletters, know when their books are released and, if you are reading a series, understand the best order.
  1. Polls – I’m a sucker for polls. They are quick and offer instant validation (or not). Do you agree? Let’s take a … never mind.
  1. Listopia – This is a great way to discover new authors. If you have read 6-7 books on someone’s list, you are going to check out the other 3-4, no?
  1. Following a series – I use this a lot to check the order, thoughts etc. There are a number of series where the author (or fans) suggest you read in a different order. I appreciated in one case that most fans agreed that the middle third of books were weak, but that it was worth it to continue reading, as the last third could not be missed.

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  1. Because the world is a better place when people read and when they share that passion, it develops into a community … and I become more hopeful for humanity.

So, if you are convinced about Goodreads, please find and friend me here

While I have your attention, Tourmaline Books has decided to reduce the ebook price of Sacrificial Flame to just 99 cents! I have been quoted as saying that this is the book I am most proud of from the craft aspect (the other books got terribly jealous when I said that). It begins a whole new story line, so there is no need to have completed the previous three books. The novel has a 4.9 rating on Amazon from 24 reviews. Well enjoy, I guess. I am not sure how long it will stay at this price – I was surprised myself.

Sacrificial Flame Cover Hi Res

Have a great week,

Elfwriter

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Alon Shalev is the author of the 2013 Eric Hoffer YA Book Award winner, At The Walls of Galbrieth, The First Decree Ashbar – Wycaan Master Book 3,  Sacrificial Flame, and the latest: From Ashes They Rose, all released by Tourmaline Books. 

Shalev is also the author of three social justice-themed novels including The Accidental Activist and  Unwanted HeroesHe swears there is a connection. More at http://www.alonshalev.com and on Twitter  (@elfwriter). Hang out with Alon on Goodreads.