Interview With An Elf

This post has been sponsored by Tourmaline Books:  Award-winning epic fantasy ebook, At The Walls Of Galbrieth @ $0.99  only until Sunday – http://wp.me/p1Xaeb-fS  – It Was 99 Cents!

Wycaan Master 1 Just Front Cover

INTERVIEW WITH AN ELF

Interviewer: I would like to introduce Chamerak, an elf who appears in At The Walls Of Galbrieth, the first Wycaan Master novel by Alon Shalev.  Welcome, sir, and thank you for agreeing to the interview.

Chamerak: My pleasure. It is an honor to represent my people to receptive humans,

Interviewer: Receptive? Can you explain?

Chamerak: Once, long before you and I were born, a council that had representation from all the four races ruled the land of Odessiya. Eventually, humans broke from this coalition when they were discovered to have large colonies of slaves mining rich lands beyond our boundaries.

Most of those who were slaves then were dwarves, and the dwarves here insisted they stop. Slavery was not tolerated in Odessiya. There were the rich and the poor, to be sure, but every individual, regardless of race, had inherent rights.

Interviewer: What happened?

Chamerak: As well as large colonies of slaves, these humans had built huge armies too. There was a series of battles, culminating in one great battle. That was our most tragic moment.

The elven leaders had tried to broker between the humans and dwarves, though we were clearly on the side of the latter. Still, we had helped to find a diplomatic solution as we had for centuries since the great council had begun.

We spread our leaders too thinly and when the battles joined, our people were massacred. The humans won a decisive battle, the powers of the Emperor and his cronies were revealed. The dwarves, what were left of them, disappeared deep underground, and my people became a slave nation.

Interviewer: Literally slaves?

Chamerak: Yes. Those in the cities lived under total servitude. Others found refuge living in remoter villages, where they paid for their restricted freedom with crushing taxes that prevented them ever moving above the strain of poverty. Humans often came to have sport ­­– there were those who collected our pointed ears as trophies – or take if they wanted food or worse.

Interviewer: And all humans were like this?

Chamerak: Generally, yes. After a few generations, it became normal for them. They knew little else and were indoctrinated from birth to look down on us as an inferior race. But there were a few who were not like that.

In At The Walls Of Galbrieth, you will meet Uncle. He led a band of elves into the great forests, to live as freeborn and help other elves escape. Not long after I joined his band, we captured some humans. They did not fight us, but neither did they cower. We took them prisoners and a strange dynamic happened.

As we interrogated them, they began to ask us questions. At first, we thought it was a ruse to discover our secrets: where we hid, who our leadership was, and things like this. But they were different and we made a discovery that filled us with hope. Uncle, in his wisdom, was the first to realize this. I must admit: I wanted to execute them on the spot for just having round ears. I was young then and my life had been hard, though no different from those around me,

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Interviewer: What did this Uncle discover?

Chamerak: That not all humans were bad. That in the same way they had stereotyped us as stupid, inferior, lazy, unhygienic, etc., we too had stereotyped them as one type of human: violent, power-hungry, racist, you know.

Interviewer: What happened next?

Chamerak: Uncle invited them to join us. We kept them in a separate camp for a long time. But eventually, as trust grew between us, we became one band. Word spread of our mixed group and others sought us out. Other groups formed, including some who were committed to teaching rather than fighting.

Gradually, the old stories were told and there was an awakening of an older conscious. It is, I believe, what brought the Wycaans back into our histories, and what facilitated the coming of the Wycaan Master.

Interviewer: I have heard a lot of rumors about him. What can you tell me about­–

Chamerak: These are early days and it is better not to reveal too much. Wycaans are not just elves, but can be from any race. They can be male or female. You have made assumptions.

Interviewer: My apologies.

Chamerak: Assumptions are dangerous thoughts. They are what brought us to the racist society we live in. But there is hope.

Interviewer: How?

Chamerak: As long as the stories are being told, the narrative is being formed. It will be challenged and evolve and, hopefully, change for the better. It is the power of the books.

Interviewer: Rather fantastical, no?

Chamerak: Epically so.

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Alon Shalev is the author of the 2013 Eric Hoffer YA Book Award winner, At The Walls of Galbrieth, Wycaan Master Book 1 and The First Decree, both released by Tourmaline Books. Ashbar – Book 3 – is due for release in October 2013. 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).

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Epic Fantasy, Epic Tattoos

I take my tattoos pretty seriously and see them as a rite-of-passage. I have three, each celebrating a landmark event. I got the first when Ms. Elfwriter and I got married and the other two when my sons were each born. I often joke that the reason there will not be a third child is that I can’t afford the tattoo. I actually did plan another tattoo to celebrate the Wycaan Master series, but I haven’t done it yet.

I have often wondered about incorporating my love for body art into my books. I have this association, when it comes to fantasy, of tattoos and the bad guys. If they are essentially used to signify evil, I take issue.

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Having just discovered the Iron Druid series, I have found at least one author who has delved more than a cursory skin deep level (couldn’t resist).

Hearne’s protagonist is a Druid who draws power from the earth … through his tattoo. Hearne describes the tattoo beautifully as it moves from the soles of his feet to cover all the energy points on his body. In Book 1, we even learn something of the significance and the process. Note to Mr. Hearne – we, the readers, would love to learn more of this.

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Credit to another writer – Paul Goat Allen – who wrote a blog post that asked what is your favorite literature image that you can imagine making into a tattoo.

But, as an author of Young Adult fantasy, is it okay to romanticize or elevate the art of tattoos? Certain religions forbid it – I will not be allowed to be buried in a Jewish cemetery since I have defiled my body, which was created in G-d’s image.

Putting aside any desire for my ashes to be thrown from the Golden Gate Bridge (there is probably a law against that as well – but hey, I’ve already apparently pissed off YAWEH) – there are many parents who, I am sure, do not want their children getting a tattoo on the whim of a fictional character.

My own sons, justifiably proud that I bear a tattoo of each of them, have already told me of the various images they plan to emblaze on their bodies. I promised that when they are 18, if they still want them, I will take them to get their first tattoos (to add proportion, I have also promised to buy their first round when they turn 21 – good parenting, I am told, is all about consistency). I do, however, also point out the painful process, which helps to somewhat quell their impatience.

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And yet tattoos do have a rich, spiritual past. If fantasy authors are trying to illustrate such a fantastical bygone age, why should we shirk from a bit of body art? I am trying to imagine a conversation with a concerned parent.

“Look, Mr. Shalev, I really appreciate that you have written several books that my son is enjoying more than endless video games, but really! He now wants a tattoo. Do you have to keep harping on about it? It is so crude.”

“Crude?”

“Yes. All those needles and blood.”

“Have you told your son about this process?”

“Goddess no. He would have nightmares, poor little tyke.”

“Has he told you about the fighting in my books, slaying good and bad guys with swords and bows?”

“Oh yes. He wants to take up archery, the sweetie. At least it will get him out of the house, I say.”

“Great. By the way: what’s his favorite video game?”

“Grand Theft Auto. He just loves his little cars.”

“Do you have a problem with that?”

“Of course not. Burt Reynolds starred in the movie you know. Anyway, it’s only a game.”

True, I think. Only a game. This is literature!

And to end with a question in the vein of Paul Goat Allen’s post: What fantasy image, character, or phrase, could you imagine having tattooed onto your body? Answers in the comments, please.

Thank you! Have a great week.

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Alon Shalev is the author of the 2013 Eric Hoffer YA Book Award winner, At The Walls of Galbrieth, Wycaan Master Book 1 and The First Decree, both released by Tourmaline Books. Ashbar – Book 3 – is due for release in October 2013. 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).

The Growing Power of the Ebook

Left Coast Voices

My teenage son asked me to download the latest book from his favorite author. He was excited having seen an email that Amazon.com were kind enough to send him announcing the new book. My son is a voracious reader and I am extremely happy about that. He has a kindle and he is not afraid to use it.

I glanced and said no. “Why?

My first objection was that the ebook was $10, a price that I consider ridiculous for an ebook. “I’ll pay half,” he responded. That always gets me that he is willing to invest his paltry wealth into a book. He also knows that gets me.

I change track and suggest he orders it from the public library. His eyes roll as I begin a favorite lecture which can be summed up by: I pay for that library (a brilliant institution, by the…

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Another Author Writes For His Sons

Just a short post that reflects a frantic week. I often surf YouTube for author interviews when making dinner or cleaning the kitchen. Often they are enlightening about an author’s writing craft or their personal connection to their work. Sometimes I uncover a gem.

This is a great clip of Neil Gaiman (you need about 20 minutes – so don’t do this at work. People might hear you laugh out loud and worry!). You have to admire him for his charisma, speaking skills, sense of humor, and well, for me that he write a story for his children.

Rock on Neil Gaiman.

I shared a great talk by Terry Brooks on this blog and also Terry Goodkind.

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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.

It was 99 cents!

Every year before going on our annual vacation, my family sit around the kitchen table for some intense negotiating as we decide which songs from the past year will find their place on the 201x family vacation playlist. The songs with the highest consensus are the first. This year’s number one choice was Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’s hilarious and anti-consumerism song – Thrift Shop – it was 99 cents! (the version below is the clean one with lyrics – thank you to Jadey Wadey – if you don’t mind the language, the official video is hilarious).

If I’m honest, I’m one of those people who go into the 99 cents store to buy 2-3 items and spends $15. In my humble defense, I rarely make such a trip.

So the concept of 99 cents shouldn’t faze me. But with Ashbar – Wycaan Master Book 3  due out in one month, the powers that be have decided to offer the kindle ebook version of At The Walls Of Galbrieth for 99 cents for the month of August.

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I objected: the book is already only $2.99 – less than a coffee at Starbucks (or most coffee shops). It took me a year to write and rewrite. I invested in a professional editor, cover artist, and many hours of blood, sweat and tears. 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 and Smashwords.

At some point, eyes were rolled. They might have been relieved that the signals were there that I was on the road to becoming famous – I was acting the cultural prima donna.

I changed tracks: it is an award-winning novel, I whined. The response was brutal: it’s all about the sales.

And I was reminded that writing for my kids in the ancient Northern California Redwoods is one thing, making a living was another.

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And so: for the month of August, At The Walls Of Galbrieth will be available in Kindle form for 99 cents. Oh well, it worked for Macklemore.
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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.