Dragons But Not Unicorns?

So there I was minding my own business, having merrily written 40,0000 words of a Magical Realism (“low fantasy –a sub-genre of fantasy fiction involving “nonrational happenings that are without causality or rationality because they occur in the rational world where such things are not supposed to occur.” – Brian Stableford – The A to Z of Fantasy Literature – I had to look it up a while ago).

I was quite happy imagining a Game of Thrones type book (I know, very different from the Wycaan Master series) and then one of my characters has to make an innocent quip: “Dragons don’t exist, do they?”

Before I could press save and turn off the laptop, before I could say – well, burn me to a cinder – there he (or she) was flying around, flapping those great wings, swinging that long spiked tail

“There goes my genre shift,” I thought as the next chapter appeared on my screen.

Now I was baptized in the fires of Smaug (actually I’m Jewish but Smaug as a Mohel performing a circumcision is frankly too disturbing), my sons flew in their imagination on the backs of Saphira and Christopher Paolini’s other dragons.

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But there is something about dragons that has kept them alive in our culture that is fascinating. The Chinese have a historic connection that goes back to, well it makes you wonder. In my homeland, Sir George had to slay one to become the patron saint of the Brits, and the dragon is possibly the most common and, dare I say, respected mythical animal in the fantasy genre.

So what is wrong with unicorns, for example? Why have they not become as popular? They can fight, heal, and even create powerful wands (which J.K. Rowlings wizard am I talking about?), but they have not caught our imagination like dragons.

Laying myself at the mercy of Google, I discovered that the dragon myth grew separately in China, Europe, and even the Americas and Australia. The Aussies have a number of animals including the Goanna that lend themselves to the myth. The Nile crocodiles were apparently much bigger than the one we know today and walked in an elevated gait. Whales and dinosaurs also add to the potential creation of the myth.

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But perhaps the most fascinating theory is suggested on the Smithsonian blog. I couldn’t find the author to attribute  – my apologies – but these are his/her words:

In his book An Instinct for Dragons, anthropologist David E. Jones argues that belief in dragons is so widespread among ancient cultures because evolution embedded an innate fear of predators in the human mind. Just as monkeys have been shown to exhibit a fear of snakes and large cats, Jones hypothesizes that the trait of fearing large predators—such as pythons, birds of prey and elephants—has been selected for in hominids. In more recent times, he argues, these universal fears have been frequently combined in folklore and created the myth of the dragon.

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Whatever created it, the myth of the dragon has deepened with the growth in popularity of the genre. Eragon’s relationship with Saphira and the history in the Inheritance Series is far more complex than Tolkien’s Smaug, or those Harry Potter had to deal with. George R.R. Martin skirts around the existence of dragons in his early books. His description of the crypts of Winterfell, and later when Aria is in the bowels of the capital, are almost a reverent tribute to these once majestic beasts.

It is a relationship that has captured the imagination of a generation. My sons, for whom Paolini was so influential, have devoured many books with dragons, without any sign of tiring. For them and others, I found this interesting artistic reflection of the sizes of the various dragons that Paolini creates – Enjoy.

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, and five other Wycaan Master books all released by Tourmaline Books. The link above takes you to the Kindle versions. For all other eReaders, please click here.

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

 

Stuck Between A Forest and a Big Corporation.

Tourmaline Books has agreed to upload the ebook versions of the Wycaan Master series to Smashwords making it available for all tablets and ebook platforms. Up until now, you could only buy the electronic version of the novels through Amazon and read them on a Kindle app.

This decision was made as a concession to me rather than based upon any viable business strategy. Amazon offers a wonderful deal for the publisher and author to go exclusive with them – higher royalties, opportunities for exposure through various marketing campaigns, and, of course, the name of the biggest book store in the world. Varying sources have Amazon dominating over 70% of the book market.

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There is a love/hate relationship between Amazon and the publishing world and there are plenty of articles covering this. Balancing this, as mentioned, Amazon has offered a business model that helps smaller publishers and independent author. One of my fellow writers once said – If you succeed with Amazon then you will think they are great. If you are not succeeding, well, it is nice to have someone to blame.

I have written extensively about my passion for ebooks. It is easier to read for those of us who have acquiesced to reading glasses, easy to carry a library around when traveling, and being instantly able to buy the next book in the series. It also helps those who cannot pay $25 for a hardcover.

But more than this, it is a decision about humanity’s future on this planet. Hopefully, you believe in climate change, but even those who don’t usually acknowledge that we need lots of trees in order to … well breathe.

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I am not dissing the tree book. I collect signed hardcovers of my favorite authors and these books adorn every corner of our house. For a guy who suffers from dust allergies, this is quite a compromise and I love having them there.

Amazon has been nothing but good for me. It has highlighted my books on several occasions, twice leading to a huge surge in sales. However, I am wary of any monopoly. Having lived for two decades respectively in two small countries, I enjoy that there is plenty of competition in the US, that companies are forced to offer high levels of product and customer service, and that the consumer always has a choice.

I do worry that Amazon has considerable power when you are part of the exclusive program, though I do not subscribe to the many stories that circulate. One of my friends, a member of the California Writer’s Club (CWC) and a successful Amazon author, once said that Amazon has rules, and everyone who signs on, agrees to them. In her opinion, those who break the rules and are discovered are the ones who are bitter, as it is difficult to make your case. I’m not sure if this is different from any other business transaction.

Having said all this, I do love Smashwords. Its founder, Mark Coker, is a Bay Area legend and visionary in the book community, and unselfishly offers himself to speak at book clubs, conferences, writers groups, and CWC events. The link above takes you to articles he has written for The Huffington Post).

The technology is simple (for the low tech individual like me I mean, not the engineers who designed it, I’m sure) – the author/publisher submits a ‘clean’ manuscript, which is put through their “meat grinder” which produces ebooks compatible with all the industry ebook platforms. Given that Smashwords is from the Bay Area, I am sure it produces only gluten-free editions!

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Whether the decision to work with Smashwords will make Tourmaline Books more money or not remains to be seen, but I appreciate their flexibility to allow me to continue to expand my ebook market and make an environmental decision that supports diversity within the market. I deeply appreciate they respect my values.

The future is bright for ebooks. It needs to be. As far as we know, Earth is the only planet with literature.

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For those of you interested in my books and read with eReaders other than Kindle, the Wycaan Master series can be downloaded by clicking on the relevant book title:

At The Walls Of Galbrieth – winner of the 2013 Eric Hoffer YA Book Award,

The First Decree

Ashbar – Wycaan Master Book 3

Sacrificial Flame

From Ashes They Rose

Calhei No More.

However you read the Wycaan Master series, I thank you for your readership and fellowship.

Happy 2017,

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. Calhei No More is the final novel in the series and was released in November 2016.

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

Letting Go: The Relationship Between Author and Character

It was always going to feel strange: the excitement of a new novel being launched together with the knowledge that this is the end of the Wycaan Master series. But somehow, it feels even more surreal than I had anticipated.

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My knee accident and operation along with the subsequent rehab was obviously never anticipated, and I thank all of you for your wonderful healing wishes. I am an active, sports-loving man, and have no idea how to sit around and wait for seven pieces of my knee bone (patella) to slowly reconnect. In desperation, my wonderful staff at AJWS bought me a two months’ subscription to Netflix and had to explain to me what binge watching is and why it is especially okay in my situation.

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Still it is hard not to feel guilty if I’m not working hard for those who pay me a salary or if I am not busy writing a next novel, editing the latest manuscript, and in this case, promoting the launch of Calhei No More which is next Tuesday.

Next Tuesday! At The Walls of Galbrieth was written in 2010. Seanchai, Rhoddan, Ilana, Sellia and Shayth have been in my life for six years now. I have laughed with them, cried, feared for their future, and between us, got quite annoyed at some of their decisions.

I watched an episode of Westworld yesterday (cable, not Netflix), in which a character said being a parent is about knowing when to let go. I’m dealing with this as a parent of teenage boys – I would rather they remain young enough to snuggle in our tent in a redwood forest as I read another manuscript to and for them – but now I realize I need to step back as well with the Wycaan Master characters.

Westworld, without giving anything away (and I have barely began to watch), is about artificial intelligence. A theme park has been created and people pay to interact with the very real robots (hosts), but the really fascinating part is the relationships that seem to surface between the team who created, maintain, and upgrade the hosts, and the robots themselves.

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It seems impossible not to get attached to the characters of a book much less a series where you created the character and have helped it evolve and grow. When I killed off a major character early in the series I cried. I didn’t, at the time, think it particularly strange to shed a few tears, but crying each of the 20+ times I edited and rewrote the scene and subsequent consequences borders on the traumatic…for me, the author (many of you made it very clear how you felt too…!).

I believe the relationship between character and creator is sacred in as much as it is unique. Those of you with a more religious perspective might connect this to the Creator and humanity, which brings us to the question: is being an author a vain attempt to play at being a deity? Let’s leave that for another time.

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But I never expected to care and agonise so much for the characters I created throughout the series, and it feels as though I’m failing as a father when Calhei No More launches next week, when I finally let go of my creative offspring and close the last page.

Whatever my feelings, Calhei No More will be released and you can pre-order the e-book here. The page for the paperback will be here, but I’m not sure when it goes live (usually a few days before launch to iron out any issues). Pre-ordering will bring attention on Launch Day and tempt Amazon.com to help promote more – so it is a big help to me.

Thank you again for all your good wishes and for your support of the Wycaan Master series. Do remember, I love hearing feedback and really appreciate any reviews you can write on Amazon for any of the novels.

Until November 15… For better or worse, it all ends on the Plains of Shindellia. See you there.

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. The link above takes you to the Kindle versions. For all other eReaders, please click here.

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

 

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+

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.

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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 Galbrieth, and five other Wycaan Master books all released by Tourmaline Books. The link above takes you to the Kindle versions. For all other eReaders, please click here.

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

 

 

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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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.