A Year Since My First Book Award

It has been 12 months since I won my first award, the Eric Hoffer Book Award for YA category, and I am still glowing from the rush of seeing my name in print on the awards page.

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I do not subscribe to the solitary writer image. I have facilitated the Berkeley Writers Group for several years, and I am an active member of the California Writer’s Group. I have a cadre of supportive writer friends and feel confident in my trajectory.

The Wycaan Master series is housed with a small publisher, Tourmaline Books, which is always gratifying and who are very supportive. But they acknowledge and encourage me to look for a bigger house.

But there was something very powerful in receiving an award. I have got close before, reaching the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award’s quarterfinal twice. I have spoken a couple of times before packed rooms and have a wonderful relationship with readers through this blog and my @elfwriter twitter feed.

 Games of Berkeley Question from Asif

And yet, to be able to introduce myself as an award-winning author gives instant credibility and I can see this in the reaction of the poor bugger I’ve cornered.

I treasure the reviews I receive on Amazon and the emails and tweets from dedicated readers. I couldn’t help but stare in amazement when I saw a person on the BART (Bay Area train) actually sitting and reading At The Walls Of Galbrieth.

It is important to be recognized to garner the recognition and legitimacy that it gives: for your readers and especially for you the aspiring author.

Sacrificial Flame Cover Hi Res

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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, and Ashbar – Wycaan Master Book 3 – all released by Tourmaline Books. 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+

 

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.

Sword and Gun Control

Epic Fantasy, among many genres, has the ability to whisk us away from reality and send us into a world of noble quests, ancient swords, and magnificent mythical animals. It also has the ability to offer wisdom for the world we live in and I have written about this before.

Airship10But sometimes it is really hard to let go and enter this world – or to return to the one we live in. I needed to write a post for this blog a day or so after the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut, and I couldn’t. What can one possibly write on a blog like this? 

I searched the Internet, found something amusing and pre posted it. It was a cop-out; admittedly perhaps some much-needed comic relief. But I’ve been thinking about this ever since. If epic fantasy is anything more than escapism, then we should have something to say? 

When National Rifle Association VP, Wayne LaPierre, blames violent video games, perhaps to deflect the debate on gun control, we need to ask ourselves whether we as fantasy authors and readers are also glorifying violence. 

The fact we use bows and arrows, axes and swords instead of semi-automatic machine guns doesn’t make it cleaner. I admire (begrudgingly as it is sometimes hard to read) the gruesomeness of George R. R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones series. What he describes in his battle scenes are probably the closest we come to the reality of battle. 

imgres-8But I am stuck with the feeling that if we do not write about the darker side, how can we reach for the lighter? For a rainbow to appear, there needs to be a storm. We do have a responsibility not to glorify or keep the violence clean. I am not sure that I achieve this in At The Walls Of Galbrieth and especially not in the huge battles that take place in The First Decree. I am not sure how to even achieve this without excluding the young adults for whom I primarily write. I do not believe my 14-year-old son and his friends, who devour my books, should read A Game of Thrones because of the violence (and also the way he portrays sex).

How can we keep on moving forward after a tragedy? Does it not maybe become even more important not to give up? I’ll leave the last words to a couple of good friends.

FRODO: “What are we holding onto Sam?”

SAM: “That there’s some good in this world Mr. Frodo, and it’s worth fighting for.”

Frodo and Sam

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Alon Shalev is the author of At The Walls of Galbrieth, Book 1 of The Wyccan Master series, which reached the Quarter Finals of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award 2012, released by Tourmaline Books. The First Decree, the sequel is due out in early 2013. Shalev is also the author of three social justice-themed novels: Unwanted Heroes, The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com and on Twitter (@elfwriter).

Words of Truth – Terry Goodkind

“I like to deliver my philosophy at sword-point.” Terry Goodkind.

I was first introduced to Terry Goodkind, courtesy of Legend of the Seeker – his first two books serialized for TV. A handsome everyday hero, beautiful and oft-evil women, a quest, a sword, magic … need I say more?

imgresFor some inexplicable reason, despite solid ratings, the series lasted only two series. If you feel so moved by the injustice, you can join the Save The Seeker movement and show that there is a following for a third season.

I am in the middle of the second book and incredibly impressed with Terry Goodkind. He provides all the ingredients one would expect from a master of epic fantasy. In particular, his world building is so effortless and clear.

One warning: the books are far more gritty than the TV series. I’m not sure I would want my 14-year-old to read them, but having said that, some of the scenes that I am thinking of, are amazingly written. While I loved Legend of the Seeker, it is in no way a replacement for the books. I do wonder, however, having watched Game of Thrones, whether these gritty scenes could appear in a third series and whether this might propel Seeker to the same ratings as Game of Thrones.

imgres-1I confess to being a fan of authors and so went looking for some interviews with Terry Goodkind. The third and fourth interviews provide a great insight to a very unique man. This is a very cool interview.

But it is the first two interviews that really excited me. Last week I made a suggestion that epic fantasy can be a vehicle for imparting social values. In his ‘Confessor’ interviews, Goodkind articulates a similar perspective – and like his books, he is quite inspirational.

Make yourself a cup of coffee, put your feet up, and have a great weekend.

Elfwriter.

‘Confessor’ interviews:

Words of Truth:

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Alon Shalev is the author oAt The Walls of Galbrieth, Book 1 of The Wyccan Master series, which reached the Quarter Finals of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award 2012, released by Tourmaline Books. The First Decree, the sequel is due out in early 2013. Shalev is also the author of three social justice-themed novels: Unwanted HeroesThe Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com and on Twitter (@elfwriter).

Thank You for a Great Year

This is my last blog post of the year and I am sitting here feeling full of gratitude and pride. It was a year ago that I sat with my family drinking hot chocolate and mochas in a local coffee shop and we each wrote down our goals for the year. 

During the preceding week I had made the decision to spend two years seriously writing an epic fantasy series and building a platform to promote my work. I had written rough drafts of At The Walls Of Galbrieth and The First Decree, and my boys had an expectation that, as in the preceding two summer vacations, I would have a manuscript to read around the campfire in another six months. Now I was ready, for the first time, to lay out a plan.

Twelve months later and I am amazed how everything steadily came together. I feel a bubble of energy and support steadily moving me forward, and I have a lot to be thankful for.

Wycaan Master 1 Just Front CoverAt The Walls Of Galbrieth was published by Tourmaline Books in November. After a professional edit, beautiful cover and excellent formatting, both my boys and I feel immense pride as we hold the book in our hands.

The First Decree is nearing publication. The finished manuscript and equally impressive cover is in the hands of the formatters and hopefully less than two months from publication.

Elfwriter – my fantasy blog has been around for a year and has attracted a steady group of equally passionate and committed group of epic fantasy connoisseurs. I love your comments and the highest compliment is when you send a blog post on to friends.

Almost 20,000 people are following @elfwriter on twitter and the blog. Many retweet or favor a blog post. People often comment with their own experiences or when a post has touched them. I treasure these moments as we build a community together.

I want to thank the Berkeley Writer’s Group who, while most do not read fantasy, nonetheless offered each week advice and guidance. There is so much that can be said about a group who are simply meeting to support each other. I hope I was able to contribute and help them as I received their support.

The First Decree AxeA large part of my success is due to the support of a team of amazing professionals. Monica Buntin is not just an editor, she is a teacher. She will continue to explain some grammatical point until I get it (and that can require quite a bit of patience!). She has the tact and foresight to see flaws in the story and convey them in a way that will push me to correct and tighten.

William Kenney, an accomplished fantasy author in his own right, has designed two masterful book covers. How he takes the jumble of description that I send him and conveys it into a work of art that far exceeds my vision, is beyond me.

Jeny Reulo and the folks at Fast Fingers will not compromise in their commitment to create the perfectly formatted book, whether in e- or tree book format. It is a pleasure to peruse the interior design of my book.

A full circle – and my deepest thanks is to my family who suffer the author who slips into another world, where the quest to free the races of Odessiya often take precedence over the dirty dishes and the laundry whose destiny to be folded and put into drawers often takes longer than training a Wycaan elf!

Finally thank you to all who read my books and blog posts, who retweet and favor, who comment and point out mistakes, who offer guidance and advice, who are part of an extended family, enjoying the ride together.

Looking back over the past year offers a great degree of pride and satisfaction. But the best part is to turn into the wind and see the year that is before us:

* The First Decree will be released in the first third of 2013.

* Ashbar will hopefully be ready in the fall.

* Elfwriter.com will  pass its 100th blog post.

* @elfwriter will advance with 25,000 follower of epic fantasy.

The First Decree-hi resolution

Life is a journey and while we each walk our own paths, our lives are enriched when our we walk together.

To noble quests, elf bows that never miss their mark, a free Odessiya, Wycaan Masters, and most important, to good friendships around the fire, quaffing ale and smoking pipes of healthy pipe weed and telling wonderful stories.

Wishing you a year of health, happiness and friendship. Thank you for being a part of my journey.

Alon Shalev – elfwriter

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Alon Shalev is the author of At The Walls of Galbrieth, Book 1 of The Wyccan Master series, which reached the Quarter Finals of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award 2012, released by Tourmaline Books. The First Decree, the sequel is due out in early 2013. Shalev is also the author of three social justice-themed novels: Unwanted Heroes, The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com and on Twitter (@elfwriter).

Request For Reviewers

With At The Walls Of Galbrieth published, the next important step is to garner reviews.

I would like to find 10 followers of this blog and send them a kindle ebook in return for a commitment from the reader to post a review on the book’s amazon.com page. I understand that, from an ethical perspective you can write at the end of the review – copy provided by author for review – or words to that effect.

If you are willing to do this, please send me an email to anelfwriter at gmail dot com.

Wycaan Master 1 Just Front Cover

Also, if you know of any good forums or book clubs that do epic fantasy reviews, please let me know in the comments. I appreciate your support and all who follow the elfwriter blog.

Alon – elfwriter

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Alon Shalev is the author of At The Walls of Galbrieth, Book 1 of The Wyccan Master series, which reached the Quarter Finals of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award 2012, released by Tourmaline Books. The First Decree, the sequel is due out in early 2013. Shalev is also the author of three social justice-themed novels: Unwanted Heroes, The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com and on Twitter (@elfwriter).

What If Humans Were Real?

What if elves were real? There are those in the south of England who believe that elves exist. I heard this when researching for A Gardener’s Tale.  When a twitter friend shared with me that he had heard of this in the north of England, it made me wonder…

Delyphin rubbed the points of his ears as he waited for Harwin who was always late. He checked his watch. They would have to walk fast to reach the bookstore before the famous author began his reading. 

“Sorry, I’m late,” Harwin said as he jogged up.

They set off, hands in pockets. There was no point in chastising Harwin – it simply didn’t help.

“I‘m looking forward to this,” Harwin said. “I loved ‘Lady of the Earings’. The way that professor describes these mythical humans, I really begin to feel they exist.” 

I nodded, too winded to comment. The professor was a strange chap, lecturing at an elite university on ancient elven languages. They say he even invented an entire human language – as if all humans would speak the same language. Still he was a master of the epic fantasy genre.

We enter the bookstore, which is full and grab the last two seats.

Harwin leans in. “I hear he is planning on sending the humans on a new quest, that their world is threatened by some strange energy – ‘oyl’ – that is expensive, polluting and they go to war over it because there isn’t much.”

“That’s a bit of a stretch,” I say. “His humans are too smart to do that. Besides, they have the sun, the wind, and the waves of the ocean just like us. Why would they use this oyl?”

Harwin smiled. “You look rather irate. You might start believing in these humans too.”

“Don’t be daft, Harwin. That’s the beauty of epic fantasy. You get so into the story that you begin to believe the characters might actually be real. Next thing, you’ll be swearing you saw someone with round ears.”

We both laugh. That would be a sight.  The room hushes. The professor is about to speak. He opens his new book…and the world of the humans becomes real as he reads…

I can almost see their round ears and their oyl.

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Alon Shalev is the author of At The Walls of Galbrieth, Book 1 of The Wyccan Master series, which reached the Quarter Finals of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award 2012, released by Tourmaline Books. The First Decree, the sequel is due out in early 2013. Shalev is also the author of three social justice-themed novels: Unwanted Heroes, The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com and on Twitter (@elfwriter).