Grinding It Out

In over fifteen years of writing, I have rarely not ‘felt like writing.” Usually, I am frustrated that with a full-time job, family etc., that I don’t have enough time. I have expounded on this blog before about writing every day and I mean it. My absolute non-medical opinion is that there is a creative muscle somewhere in our bodies and, like the biceps and six-pack, it needs to nurtured…every day. Actually, when I went online for images to add to the blog, I see I am not alone in this thought.

Fortunately, I look on writing more favorably than the gym. I subscribe to the tweet they show all the time on the 24 Hour Fitness screens: “I really regret that work out…” said no one, everBut I often need to drag myself to the gym, usually by chastising myself that I am wasting the membership I am paying for.

Not so with my writing. I write in hour-long slots, just before work, just after work and before chasing the bus, after the dinner is cleared away and kids settled. I attack it with a vengeance, stopping reading an article about my soccer team or politics, because it’s 8am and the clock starts ticking.

So today (Sunday) took me by surprise. I rose from a good night’s sleep and drove to a Peets coffee shop where my son was working, and over a turmeric latte settled in to write. But I really didn’t feel inspired. I thought of checking soccer reports, basketball playoff reports, even discover more factual conjecture on the Muller Report. Yeah, I felt that resistant.

The strange part is that I am over midway through writing my latest novel. I know where the characters and I are going, and there are no problems that I can see (I’m not sure the characters are as confident). I cannot explain why I was felt so resistant, but I drank my coffee and ground it out.

Even an old Englishman from my hometown who was a friend of Alfred Peet couldn’t knock me off my stride (though you are about to become a character in my latest novel, Nigel. That’ll teach you to distract me!).

I have not read what I wrote. I think it was about two-thirds of a chapter. I have a feeling it is bad, even by Anne Lamott’s shitty first draft standards. It will likely be heavily edited, rewritten, or ripped up (if I ever bother to print it).

But it was important that I sat down and wrote. It feels like when you ease up once on a run or set of exercises, it just becomes too easy to do it again.

I wrote today…and I will write tomorrow. There is no room for doubt.

Good Writing,

Alon Shalev

ps – in case you haven’t seen, my website URL has changed to http://www.alon-shalev.com. Find out why here

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Alon Shalev is the author of the 2013 Eric Hoffer YA Book Award winner, At The Walls Of Galbrieth (ebook currently at 99c) and five other Wycaan Master books all released by Tourmaline Books and available in KU. Sign up for more information about Alon Shalev at his author website.

 

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In Defense of a Name

It seems, in the 21st Century, there are important things a person should be able to count on: single-origin shade-grown, fair-trade coffee, for one. Your iPhone not becoming obsolete before you finish paying it off – there’s another. And then, your website and domain name remain yours.

It is of the latter, I write. I thought my website safe with Yahoo Small Business, but alas, they sold out to a Chinese company. It wasn’t the website itself that worried me, I redesigned it and found a home on Wix. But the domain name remained and every year I must have paid it for everything worked, until this month.

But, as with so many things that we pay with autopay, my credit card expired, only the merchant did not think to let me know the payment would stop. Before I knew, alonshalev.com was in someone else’s possession. I do not know who for they are not using it.

And so, I have adopted a hyphen, a dash, a simple line that separated first name from family. It’s the easiest way. I can use a Sharpie on the magnets that adorn my cars. So, alon-shalev.com it is. But somehow it feels someone has a part of my identity, like they stole a family photo album.

It seems there are some things in the 21st Century that a person should count on.

Good Writing,

Alon Shalev, now at http://www.alon-shalev.com

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Alon Shalev is the author of the 2013 Eric Hoffer YA Book Award winner, At The Walls Of Galbrieth (ebook currently at 99c) and five other Wycaan Master books all released by Tourmaline Books. Sign up for more information about Alon Shalev at his author website.

Paperback Rising?

It has been almost three weeks since the second edition of At The Walls Of Galbrieth was released. Thank you to all who purchased the book, all who will read it, and those who have already read it and sent me such lovely, warm notes.

Galbrieth cover.5th.anniversary

What has been interesting is that I am selling, for the first time (as far as I know), more paperbacks than e-books. Given the competitive way in which bookstore place novels, it is extremely difficult for authors not on the A-list to find shelf space, even with the most tenacious publishers backing them.

I market my book towards the e-book crowd. The financial investment in taking a chance with a new author is so much smaller than a tree book and, between you and me, I am rather fond of trees.

However, there is a problem with this strategy when it comes to the Young Adult market. To purchase an e-book, one needs a credit card, and the young adult does not spread the plastic (as a father I should add, Thank the Holy Auditor). S/he needs to ask permission to buy a book and while most parents I know are happy to buy it, there are several steps involved that could sideline the request – making dinner, walking the dog, homework – you know, life.

The other issue with trying to sell e-books to a Young Adult market is that not all parents approve of their children having more screen time. Hands up if you told your kid to get off their phone and, with a roll of the eyes, they hold the screen in front of you to show they are reading a book or article, or worst of all, doing homework?

 

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So, I am wondering whether I should change strategy. Time is limited (this blog used to be weekly) and I am a considerably happier and more congenial chap when writing or editing my next novel.

I have given up on the bookstore appearances (thank you Independent Bookstores for offering this wonderful service to the community) or book fairs. The ROI is negligible and again it is a time issue.

What are you doing? Are you writing for a young adult audience and having a similar experience? Are you a parent who encourages their children to read e-books? I would love to hear in the comments below.

Anyway, thank you again to all who support my work and the travails of Seanchai and the Wycaan Masters.

Good reading,

Alon  

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Alon Shalev is the author of the 2013 Eric Hoffer YA Book Award winner, At The Walls Of Galbrieth, and five other Wycaan Master books all released by Tourmaline Books. Sign up for more information about Alon Shalev at his author website.

 

 

Celebrating the 5th Anniversary of the Eric Hoffer YA Book Award

Next month, Tourmaline Books will release a 2nd edition of At The Walls Of Galbrieth, to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the award and I am so excited. I was allowed to make a few edits (yes, I corrected that mistaken identity that annoyed so many of you!) and received a wonderful new cover from the amazingly talented William Kenney.

Galbrieth cover.5th.anniversary

Let me know what you think of the new cover. I appreciate all your feedback and support.

Thank you for following the Wycaan Masters.

Alon Shalev

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Alon Shalev is the author of the 2013 Eric Hoffer YA Book Award winner, At The Walls Of Galbrieth, and five other Wycaan Master books all released by Tourmaline Books. More about Alon Shalev can be found on his author website.

 

 

 

The Open Road – When Inspiration Hits

Anyone who has written a trilogy knows it is considerably harder to finish the final book than to conclude a one-off novel. This is simply because one needs to tie up all loose ends from three novels. I have done this twice, at the end of the first Wycaan Master trilogy and then at the end of the second.

When my mother passed away last year and then when I visited my father earlier this month, I found myself with plenty of time on the plane and in the UK to write. This luxury is something I have never experienced as I usually weave my writing time around an intense job and a desire to be an active father and husband. On each trip I wrote almost 50,000 words in 14 days, much of it at the aptly named apartment where my Dad lives.

Kingfisher Court, Bournemouth

This month, as the plane wheels touched ground, I concluded a big scene that left me two-thirds of the way through the final Kingfisher novel, a medieval fantasy trilogy I have worked on since finishing the Wycaan Master series. What lay before me was the build up to a climactic ending that necessitates bringing multiple characters together from different parts of the land, enabling them to finish their subplots, and get to the scene of the climax.

And I had no idea how I was going to do this.

But I have faith in the process. Knowing I would not have concentrated writing time until the summer, I decided to put it on the back burner and return to editing and finding an agent for Book 1.

Then I drove from San Francisco to Portland (about 10 hours) through beautiful scenery of mountains, rivers, and forests, listening to soccer podcasts and enjoying Mrs. Elfwriter’s company.

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Deep in an Oregon forest, she put on a playlist that included many symphonic rock songs I write to (Nightwish, Epica, Within Temptation, Tarja). Abruptly a musical track of bagpipes, The Gael by Dougie MacLean performed by Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, filled the car (one of Mrs. Elfwriter’s choices, I might add) and the entire final scene entered my mind with incredible clarity.

Now here’s the problem: we were driving on the Interstate 5, in the middle of nowhere with a 6pm deadline to be in Portland. How could I get this down on paper? I was literally squirming with excitement as I drove.

I couldn’t dictate to Mrs. Elfwriter, it would spoil the possibility that she might one day read the books. Whipping out my iPad while driving…well we won’t go there. I had once downloaded an app (Quick Voice?) but had no idea how to use it and this didn’t solve having said passenger.

What resolved the problem was one of Oregon’s wonderful rest stops, often situated in a forest or overlooking a vista. Best part (okay, 2nd best part since knowing the conclusion to your novel and trilogy tops everything) is that the final two hours of the drive passed unnoticed, fatigue totally forgotten.
Last scene from Kf3 driving from Portland 1Have you ever had an experience where you have an intense creative experience at such an inopportune moment? Wanna share?

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Alon Shalev is the author of the 2013 Eric Hoffer YA Book Award winner, At The Walls of Galbrieth, and five other Wycaan Master books all released by Tourmaline Books.

More ahttp://www.alonshalev.com and on Twitter (@elfwriter).

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Write to Market

I belong to a wonderfully supportive writer’s group where, over the years, we have struck a balance between supporting each other and offering constructive criticism to help each other improve our craft and our manuscripts. It is a multi-genre group, primarily fiction, but with poets and non-fiction.

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This week, John Putnam, one of our most successful authors, who has written several historical Western novels about the Gold Rush, explained how having taken our prior comments into account, is keeping a specific action scene. He had given it some thought and decided that it aligns with his target audience. None of us generally read Western novels and I admire how he has stuck to his guns (probably Colt 45’s or a trusty Winchester!) and, while considering our advice, has stayed focused on what his readers want and expect.

At the same meeting, a wonderful colleague mentioned how she thought some of my female characters in Kingfisher: Slave to Honor were too dark for her taste. It is a fair point and I am wondering about balancing her feedback with the fact that this manuscript is meant for a Grimdark / adult Medieval Fantasy audience (think Joe Abercrombie, Brent Weeks, George R.R. Martin). 

The concept of Write-to-Market is to know who your target audience – your readers – are and what they expect. Your mother might not like it even though she still claims you’re the greatest author ever, but then she does not buy other novels in your genre.

I listen to many podcasts, read marketing books and articles, hopefully by successful authors as I try to fathom my way through the ever-changing tools available to market the Wycaan Master series. A commonality among these authors is the need to write for those who read your books. It sounds simple, but I’ve lost count of writers who have assured me that everyone would love their novel – and I ran a writer’s marketing group for years for the California Writers Club and spoken to various forums on the topic.

It is incumbent to understand who are reading your genre, where they hang out, and what they want. How do we find that out? Here are a couple of ideas:

  1. Goodreads – the Facebook of bibliophiles has groups dedicated to genres. Hang out there and don’t just sell your books, ask good questions to mine for data you really want.
  2. Follow Successful Authors – choose 3-5 authors who are several rungs ahead of you and follow them. Check out their website, subscribe to their newsletters, follow them on twitter and, read their books (buy them – they rely on royalties just like you).
  3. Kindle Boards – I feel a bit hypocritical here because I only go there when I want an answer to something. But I am always so impressed by the enthusiasm and honesty of those who hang out there.
  4. Survey – solicit your contact list for advice. I did this years ago when The First Decree was published and learned a lot about who was reading my novel and how popular the Young Adult epic fantasy is with adults.

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I hope this blog post has inspired you to focus on your target audience and take the time to research before you invest time and money in certain marketing tactics. It has helped me. I am planning a survey of Grimdark / adult Medieval Fantasy readers. If you’re a member of the tribe, I hope you’ll participate.

Good Writing,

Alon / elfwriter 

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Alon Shalev is the author of the 2013 Eric Hoffer YA Book Award winner, At The Walls of Galbrieth, and five other Wycaan Master books all released by Tourmaline Books.

More on the author can be found at his website and you can sign up for his quarterly eNewsletter here.

Author Interview – Winterview!

Thank you to my colleague, author K. J Harrowick for taking the time to interview and post this. Good luck with the Winterview series and for making our winter a little less cold and dark. 

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Perhaps there is no better time to stay home and warm, snuggling with a good book. Hang in there, everyone: Summer is Coming. 

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Alon Shalev is the author of the 2013 Eric Hoffer YA Book Award winner, At The Walls of Galbrieth, and five other Wycaan Master books all released by Tourmaline Books.

More at http://www.alonshalev.com and on Twitter (@elfwriter).

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