A Birthday Wish

Dear Friends,

Today is my birthday. I guess we still celebrate in our 50’s, right? My birthday didn’t stop me firing up the computer and Keurig at 7.30am and getting in some writing at the quietest part of my day. Guess it’s in my DNA. 

I’m a lucky man. Blessed with a wonderful family, an inspiring job and (healing knee aside) good health. But, if you have a few minutes to to give me a gift, and it’s your time not money I want, here is how you can help me get the publishing contract I am chasing. 

As you know, Inkitt, a publisher, has taken an interest in my latest manuscript – an edgy magical realism novel. They are offering free downloadable copies and I request that you take a minute to click into the website and download a copy today.

Kingfisher: Slave To Honor – Free Novel by Alon Shalev

They have a complex set of algorithms that will help them decide whether to sign me which includes how it takes you to read the novel and they measure what pages you are on. If you get through the book, then a review is critical. Please be honest – I never want someone to write something they don’t believe.

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Thank you for your support. This is a very exciting opportunity for me and a publishing contract would make a mighty fine birthday gift!

The idea of helping struggling artists resonate more these days, so if you still have a bit of time, please help another author realize his/her dreams:

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Thank you, as always for your support,

Alon

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ALON SHALEV
At The Walls Of Galbrieth, Wycaan Master Book 1, 2013 Eric Hoffer Book Award Winner – YA Category.

Learn more about the Wycaan Master series at http://www.alonshalev.com/

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).

 

A Son’s Journey Begins…

It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.

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Not my usual elfwriter blog post, but…

In a few precious months, my oldest son will graduate high school and leave home. Sure, I could tell you with pride that he will participate in a social justice gap year program prior to going to university, but for the moment, I am just stuck on the idea that he is leaving home. A car advert – father watches son drive very nice car away from the home to… – had me in tears on an airplane.

My son recently read a book that intrigued him and he could not put down. Then he asked if I would buy him a hardcover copy that he could take with him, perhaps share with friends, or reread when he feels the need.

In case you are wondering, the book is called Into the Magic Shop: A Neurosurgeon’s Quest to Discover the Mysteries of the Brain and the Secrets of the Heart by Dr. James Doty, and this got me thinking. All his life I have tried to instill a desire in my son to read. Of course, the more I pushed, the more he rebelled … just like when his darn father was as a kid. But there were times when we bonded over books.

I remember Christopher Paolini’s Inheritance series, as we stood in line at midnight in Borders waiting for the next book, and the delight when the bookseller, seeing him literally falling asleep on his feet as he swayed and leaned against me, snuck the only autographed copy into his hands. He sleepily declared he would stay up all night reading it, before falling asleep in the car and then in his bed, tightly hugging the book.

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My son holding his autographed copy.

Then there were the Harry Potter series, a rite-of-passage for many parents and children. I am thrilled that we were a family during this exciting moment in time.

And, of course, there was his crucial role in the writing of the Wycaan Master series. He was the inspiration that led me to write the series and for six summers he listened and offered sound feedback around the campfire in the ancient redwood forests.

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Writing the 1st novel – a family effort!

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Reading Book 6 in the summer of 2015. End of an era.

But his request is not about the books that were, but the books that are and will be. So I am asking for your help: what are the books that influenced and guided you when you left your parents’ home?

Here are a few from my time at college that I am thinking of including:

  1. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance – Robert Persig.
  2. The Tao of Poo – Benjamin Hoff
  3. Jonathan Livingston Seagull – Richard Bach.
  4. Iron John – Robert Bly.

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I am particularly interested in books for a young man, but am happy to corollate a list that is more specific for young women as well. Please share the books that influenced you when you were that age in the comments below.

Thank you,

An Apprehensive Father.

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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).

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).

 

What’s Behind a Book Title + Cover Revealed

This week, Tourmaline Books announced the title to the sixth Wycaan Master book, perhaps the final one in the series: Calhei No More.

Anyone who has read the previous books in the series knows that calhei means children, specifically elven children (do you need to brush up on your elvish?).

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Update from Publisher – New Book’s Cover

There was considerable back and forth regarding the title. A previous book had an elven word in the title and the publishers were not keen on this as it might be a barrier to people purchasing it. While Ashbar failed to become a New York Times bestseller, I don’t think the title was to blame.

Still, this makes perfect marketing sense, but I always thought that by the time you bought Book 3 or Book 6, you would have read the preceding novels – or in the case of Book 6, read Sacrificial Flame (#4) and From Ashes They Rose (#5), which many adults started at – and know the basic elven words.

Without giving too much away, the title reflects the rise to prominence of the next generation of characters, but there is much more behind what will be brandished across the cover of the book.

When I wrote Book 1, my sons were 11 and 7. For those not acquainted with the story, I wrote At The Walls Of Galbrieth while on a family vacation in an ancient redwood forest in Northern California and read them a few chapters each night around the campfire or snuggled in our tent. For the next five years I had the next manuscript ready for them and they were the first to hear the story … and my first critics.

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Writing the 1st novel – a family effort!

My sons will be 17 and 13 years old respectively when Calhei No More comes out in the fall. They tower over me now and wrestle me with ease, but they still occasionally snuggle even if the three of us would never fit together in that old tent anymore.

Finishing the Wycaan Master series is a watershed for me and I will write about this in the future, but for now it is inextricably linked to my sons growing up and a very personal aspect of our relationship.

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Reading Book 6 in the summer of 2015. End of an era.

My work takes me away from them and I hope they have not grown to resent it. I am passionately driven by the need to fight for a just world and that every person on this planet deserves the same inalienable human rights. When home, I assail them with stories and videos and hope they will not grow to resent the importance of the work I do. I address this a number of times in Calhei No More… you’ll see.

But they will always have the memories of the Wycaan Master series long after they pass into adulthood.

Tourmaline Books have also agreed to set the publication date for October 15, my father’s 92nd birthday. Calhei No More is about our relationship with our children and with our parents. The cycle continues, but the Wycaan Master series will reach its climatic end on October 15.

Happy Birthday to my human Ahdahr. Ninety-two years old. I am convinced there is some elven blood in him … my kids’ll tell you that it would explain a lot!

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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 3,  Sacrificial Flameand 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.

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+

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.