100 Days: The Countdown Begins

Wow! What a week. We are about 100 days from the release of Ashbar – Book 3 of The Wycaan Master series. I received the cover from artist (and suspected magician) William Kenney, whose renditions just get better with each book and a copy of the edited manuscript from my editor, Monica Buntin.

Ashbar front cover

With At The Walls Of Galbrieth receiving 1st place at the 2013 Eric Hoffer Book Awards and The First Decree garnering such great feedback, I am so excited at the prospect of unleashing Ashbar, where so much will be resolved.

I have a month to review the suggestions and changes that Monica has proposed and then off to the 60 day turnover and the binding of the pages!

Stoked!

In July, that most ancient family tradition (ancient = four years, but bear with me): tents, campfire, Redwoods, and reading a first draft of Book 4 to my most critical audience…my sons.

If you have read either or both of At The Walls Of Galbrieth and The Frist Decree, please take a few moments over the weekend and post a short review on Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk. It will be a huge help. If you have already reviewed my books – THANK YOU – maybe review another emerging author when you have a moment.

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Have a great weekend, everyone.

Elfwriter

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Alon Shalev writes social justice-themed novels and YA epic fantasy. He swears there is a connection. His latest books include: Unwanted Heroes and the 2013 Eric Hoffer Book Award for YA – At The Walls Of Galbrieth. Alon tweets at @alonshalevsf and @elfwriter.   For more about the author, check out his website.

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The Gods of Fantasy

Pass a summer evening in a quaint English pub, mid 20th century, perhaps in the old town of Oxford. Caress a pint and listening to a few graying professors discuss semantics, philosophy, and the ancient languages long forgotten outside the sheltered walls of academia. What else can one possibly ask for? 

imgres-1Imagine these tweed-clad, pipe-smoking academics, hatching more than another challenging semester to try the greatest minds of this fair isle. Each is a king in the making or, more accurately, a kingmaker. For they direct more than the destiny of kings and noble houses. They raise kingdoms and conquer lands. They build great dynasties, bring whole species back from the mists of extinction, and set those of noble birth and principle to stand against evil.

Sip your beer, mull over the words, much of which you might not understand. Dwarves, elves, of course: but hobbits? Marsh-wiggles? Listen as the professors strategize great battles, masterfully marshalling unicorns, dragons, giants, minotaurs and proud ents. 

You slowly realize that you sit among the Gods, the creators of Middle Earth and Narnia, who hold court on Tuesdays at midday in a local public house. Perhaps it is The Eagle and Child, or The Lamb and Flag across the street. They read each other’s work and offer critique as writer’s groups have for centuries and continue to do so today.

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I may never have understood much or been accepted into such an elite. They would have torn my work to shreds on grounds of philological shallowness (I had it checked – it’s not contagious), criticized me for imprudently suggesting that a 100,000 word novel can serve as more than merely an introduction.

They would have demanded richer world-building – take twenty pages to describe a forest, I dare you – unyielding heroes, and infallible plots. They would have challenged the age-old legends dressed up in fictional costumes, and raised an eyebrow at some of the language or innuendos.

Most likely, I would never have dared reveal my stories to the old professors of Oxford, to the most famous writing group in history. I would never have been more than a fly on the wall at a meeting of The Inklings, but would have returned week after week to sit at the feet of the Gods and hear their banter.

For here the Gods gave birth to great worlds and left them as a legacy to us and to our children, long after they departed this world. Every Wednesday night, I sit around a table in a coffee shop in Berkeley, sharing work with other aspiring authors and wonder: do the Gods look down upon us from Writers Heaven?

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Do they tut and shake their heads at our adverb addiction, our unwillingness to kill our darlings? Or do they even now move pieces around the literary chessboard. Protect the king! Advance the knights! Who, I wonder, are the pawns?

As we write a new book, a new chapter, do we not imagine the Gods walk among us?  Do they peer over our shoulders at our swanky writing machines, judging every word we write, every world we build? 

The Gods once sat in an old English pub. Now they stand behind us in coffee shops and at kitchen tables, urging us on, watching us walk the path they forged, taking on the quest they started.

For the Gods still walk among us and inside of us. The stories have been told but must be told again in different ways to a different generation. We sign these books in our own names, but humbly acknowledge those who molded us in their image as storytellers.

And now they are the flys on the wall and we who pound the keyboards. Take a moment, draw another pint, and raise your glass:

To the Gods of Fantasy!

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Alon Shalev writes social justice-themed novels and YA epic fantasy. He swears there is a connection. His latest books include: Unwanted Heroes and the 2013 Eric Hoffer Book Award for YA – At The Walls Of Galbrieth. Alon tweets at @alonshalevsf and @elfwriter.   For more about the author, check out his website.

 

Possessed Writers

The scene might be the same in any house mid-week, early evening.

Your partner is rushing to make dinner, still in his/her office clothes. Ten- year-old son is irritable, primarily because he prefers to play wall ball than eat his lunch at um … lunch break. He has even pointed out that the First Lady wants him to exercise more (you just lost my vote in 2020 Ms. Obama! Tell him to eat that sandwich we made him). Older son is drowning in homework and needs help. Unfortunately it is not math where he ends up explaining it to a perplexed calculator-wielding father – it is English and father is the fastest typist in the house.

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From within this maelstrom, hassled wife turns around from steaming cooking pots and sees an unset, messy dinner table, a swivel chair, and a writer’s desk. The writer, sitting in said chair, is distinctly facing the wrong direction, pounding his keyboard with a vengeance.

Suddenly, she can’t help herself. Forgetting the wooden spoon in her hand (writers notice these details especially when the spoon is being flailed in writer’s direction), she towers over the writer, hands on hips:

“You’re writing? Now? Man, you are just possessed!”

When my extremely patient and understanding wife says something like this, it does makes you wonder.

The problem is that after a stressful few months, I had a week off over the Christmas break, and kind angels put up our family in beautiful, snowbound Tahoe, 10,000 feet high in the Sierra Nevada mountain range. Already on crutches from a knee operation, I was never going to cut the crisp, fresh snow on virgin slopes (I don’t even when not on crutches – at best I tumble down a 100 feet nursery slope, make sure there are photos, and then slink off for laced hot chocolate).

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But here, if only for a few days, I couldn’t help myself. The laptop comes on and a few snow-bound scenes of a new book somehow appear.

Possessed? Moi? Five months and 103.000 words later, despite an intense period at work and many other obligations, I type the final period, click the save command, and stare at the epilogue. Rough first draft of Wycaan Master Book 4 is completed.

Written mainly between 7.30-8.30 am and after the boys go to bed on weekdays, and a couple of hours on the weekend, or random pieces written during odd times. Waiting at the dentist, on the mass-transit BART commuting home, in San Francisco, Washington DC, Ventura, St. Louis, San Diego, and at too many airports.

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Possessed? Nah. Possessed would be finishing Book 4 and starting to write scenes of Book 5. Possessed. Out-of-control. Crazy.

I just wrote a few pages, mainly plot threads that I want to develop, characters that need to grow and confront their pasts. There is a bit of world-building with oceans and…

Starting Book Five might just be considered grounds for divorce, need to involve Family and Children Services, or a good psychologist (preferably one who is as much a fan of Tolkien as of Freud). 

Starting Book Five? “Now? Man, you are just possessed!”

Fair point.

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Alon Shalev writes social justice-themed novels and YA epic fantasy. He swears there is a connection. His latest books include: Unwanted Heroes and the 2013 Eric Hoffer Book Award for YA – At The Walls Of Galbrieth. Alon tweets at @alonshalevsf and @elfwriter.   For more about the author, check out his website.

 

Winner! My First Book Award

WINNER!!! Announced today: At The Walls Of Galbrieth won the Young Adult category in the 2013 Eric Hoffer Book Awards!

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Alon Shalev writes social justice-themed novels and YA epic fantasy. He swears there is a connection. His latest books include: Unwanted Heroes and At The Walls Of Galbrieth. Alon tweets at @alonshalevsf and @elfwriter.   For more about the author, check out his website.

 

Craving Recognition

I admit it. I crave hearing that someone has read my books, even more so when they really enjoyed them. I love seeing reviews posted, however critical, because someone cared enough to take the trouble to write something. The first (and only) time I saw someone reading the book on the train, I suspect my feet actually left the ground.

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Nothing, of course, compares to when my sons held their first copies, or when I hear them talking to people with pride about their contribution to the story. A few weeks ago, we sat with dear friends around a campfire, and everyone was invited to share an achievement from the past year. My 10-year-old spoke at length about his pride on our teamwork writing the fantasy series.

At The Walls Of Galbrieth reached the Quarter Finals of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award in 2012, and I remember a powerful feeling of simple validation. Experts in the genre had deemed my books to be credible members of the epic fantasy world. A big confidence booster.

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But this week topped it all. The Eric Hoffer Book Awards committee announced their Grand Prize Awards Finalists, and At The Walls Of Galbrieth is right up there. I am very proud of the achievement.

I know that, ultimately, I write for my sons and myself. I acknowledge that this is a family project that will be treasured, I hope, long after they leave home, and I dream that one day they may tell their own children of their part in the story as they show them the books.

DSCN0193As I near the end of writing Book 4 and book a campsite for the summer vacation, I can’t wait for the opportunity to read a new story to them, snuggled in our tent or round the campfire.

We are three days away from the Eric Hoffer Awards being declared and two months from our family vacation. They both feel a lifetime away. I guess I still need that recognition and validation.

And there is nothing wrong with that. Is there?

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Alon Shalev writes social justice-themed novels and YA epic fantasy. He swears there is a connection. His latest books include: Unwanted Heroes and At The Walls Of Galbrieth. Alon tweets at @alonshalevsf and @elfwriter. For more about the author, check out his website.

The Fellowship of the Book

All our protagonists had them – a fellowship of loyal followers and friends, ready to put their lives on the line, to draw their swords in defense of the hero/ine, and to go off on dangerous missions or to pass on an important message.

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What would we do without them? How would our characters cope bereft of true companionship? I have mentioned in the past the lure of universal values to the conventions of epic fantasy. We long to lose ourselves in some far off land, discover mythical creatures, embark on a noble quest.

Granted, but we also seek values that are part of our everyday aspirations: justice, truth, love, riches … and friendship.

Why am I writing about this? Last week, I somewhat frivolously criticized George R.R. Martin, author of the Game of Thrones series. I learned two things from the experience:

1) Mess with a great epic fantasy author if you want to boost the hits to your blog.

2) Mess with the followers of a great epic fantasy author at your peril.

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My humble offering garnered 4-5 times the amount of hits of an average blog post (not that any of my posts are average, of course) and I received far more comments, many of which were retweeted and favored on twitter, some, I admit, by myself.

To those who accused me, a humble fantasy author, of being insanely jealous: I accept the charge.

To those who say people who criticize Martin’s long tomes suffer a short attention span, I say – next point.

And so it went on. To be fair, there were many who agreed with my pointed digs, and in the name of credibility, still faithfully open the next book in the series. I myself, despite honorable intentions to take a break having just concluded Book 4, read Sacre Bleu, the latest by one of my favorite authors, Christopher Moore, and having finished it, promptly started Book 5 – A Dance of Dragons.

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What is clear is that, in the same way that we want to align ourselves to great fictional characters, we subconsciously swear fealty to their creators: the authors. I encountered fans of Mr. Martin, as loyal as Frodo’s gardener (well maybe not quite). They were ready to defend him to the hilt – even if they privately knew I was right. It is something very special about the people attracted to the genre.

The skeptical among them would probably accuse me again of jealousy: that I crave one day to have Wycaan Master followers as loyal as them. To my accusers I proudly say: Yeah. Darn right!

Have a great weekend,

Elfwriter

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Alon Shalev writes social justice-themed novels and YA epic fantasy. He swears there is a connection. His latest books include: Unwanted Heroes and At The Walls Of Galbrieth. Alon tweets at @alonshalevsf and @elfwriter.