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).

Happy Hobbit Day

Today’s the day!  According to the scholars and the blissfully lost, both Bilbo Baggins and his nephew, Frodo, celebrate their birthdays on this very day. So, we do too!

Turns out, why waste such joy on one day a year? So the powers that be have declared a 7-day holiday: Tolkien Week. For the next seven days, I plan to share one of the ridiculously numerous posts I have written about the Great Master over the years.

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I would apologize to anyone who thinks this is an overload. While you are right, I cannot truly offer contrition since I don’t feel any. Feel free to skip or indulge!

The Professor, with his pipe and tweed, has often been considered a stuffy academic, but there is certainly a soft and humorous side.  Here is a cute story.

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Thank you to everyone who is buying up copies of the first five Wycaan Master books, all currently 99 cents to celebrate the final book which is less than a month away!

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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 other novels all released by Tourmaline Books and currently all ebooks are at 99 cents each to celebrate his latest, the sixth in the series, which will be released on October 15, 2016.

 Find out more about the author at his newly relaunched website: alonshalev.com.

 

 

 

 

I Met My Protagonist At Starbucks

Okay, he wasn’t exactly Seanchai (his ears were predictably round, and he wielded a briefcase and pen, rather than elegant Win Dow swords and a blood-wood bow and magical arrows), and in truth, it wasn’t Starbucks, but a locally-owned independent coffee shop with a lot of attitude.

But in my humble defense, I met a young man who totally encapsulated everything I imagined in Seanchai, my Wycaan Master and protagonist of the same-named series. He had a distinct look about him that suggested you could trust him with your innermost secrets while knowing he possessed the ability to take you down without breaking a sweat.

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When he spoke, his voice was soft but carried authority. He operated as the calm in the storm while others flurried around him, achieving much less and having nowhere near as much responsibility as him.

As others joined us, they tensed their assertiveness, told funny jokes, and claimed great victories. He listened magnanimously, happy to back up any exaggerated story. And though, over exquisitely crafted lattes and frappes, each took center stage, still he remained the fulcrum for all.

I was fascinated. Surely this young man could effortlessly vanquish evil Emperors, emancipate a race, and inspire a society to join together with his unique magic. Failing that, I would settle for eradicating hunger, declaring world peace, and inspiring my soccer team to win the English Premier League.

And this got me thinking. Am I yet to meet Sellia, Ilana, Mhari, Rhoddan or Shayth in the Financial District of San Francisco? The truth is, I realized, I have taken traits from many of my friends and acquaintances. There is one with naturally spiky hair who runs his hand through it like Shayth, especially when agitated, causing it to stand even more erect. I have a friend who is constantly trying to placate others and encourage them to do the right moral thing, often teaching (or preaching – depends who you ask), just as Ilana does, drawing all the time strength from her life-partner. But I don’t think I ever met Seanchai … until Starbucks.

It begs the question: are there also people wandering out there in the non-fantasy world, muggles some might call them, who are the real version of our fantasy characters? I believe that the magic of J.K Rowlings’ Harry Potter series, for example, was that we all knew a Harry, a Hermione, and Draco.

There is a soccer player in my beloved Arsenal, who looks exactly the opposite from Legalos, short and dark-haired, yet shares the impressive trait that his hair remains perfectly coiffured throughout a physically demanding soccer match.

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Have you ever met someone who reminded you of a character from a famous fantasy book or one you have just read? Have you met a Seanchai, Ilana, or Shayth? How about Bilbo Baggins or Frodo, Gandalf or Legalos?

And no, you cannot compare everyone in the Senate to Gollum or Emperor Palpatine. Behave yourself!

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 But here is a fun exercise. Which famous person reminds you of an epic fantasy character? Answers in the comments, please.

While I have already given you homework, I do have another request: If you have read one, two or four of my epic fantasy novels (and it can’t only have been my mother who bought all those books), please take a few minutes and leave an honest review on Amazon. It is really important to me.

Have a great week.

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. 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).

Cinderella The Savage and Saruman The Sweet

A common question that I field at readings is how/why I chose the name of a particular character? I find it surprising because I would never have thought to ask such a question of my favorite authors. Either I considered their names a perfect fit  (and so never thought about it), or the author probably didn’t remain my favorite for long.

But it is a good question. A name, particularly for a protagonist or main character, is a significant part of the experience. If it appears ten times on every page and gets stuck in your throat, it is either a big problem or you need some lozenges on hand.  And if we are talking about a series, then that character is going to be around for some time. 

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R.A.Salvatore, one of my role models and favorite authors, challenges us with his drows.

With the fourth Wycaan Master novel safely ensconced in the hands of my editor, I did what every author without a life or with a compulsive disorder does and began Book 5. My dear friends, Seanchai, Rhoddan and Sellia, have appeared in every book, so we are closing in on a half million words by the time I finish this one. I am trying to restrain myself from discovering how many times each name has appeared.

Having attended a number of events with people who have actually read my novels (they exist!), I discovered that everyone pronounces Seanchai differently. I am particularly proud of his name and love being asked why I chose it. In Celtic culture, a Seanchai was a traditional storyteller and, in my books, the Wycaan magic that our protagonist learns is based upon words and stories.

While providing what I hope is a cool answer, I see in their expressions how it is difficult that people struggle to say or hear. I am, of course, the worst offender. My non-existent Celtic notwithstanding, I have spend a good part of my life in the Middle East, where we sound like we are clearing our throats every time we put a ch together. It can be unsettling at first, because you flinch thinking the person is about to spit on you. but a serious ch is essential to the language and I worked very hard to master it.

More locally, I discovered people use che as in the name of the Cuban revolutionary. At a recent event, two friends decided to help me with a more interactive reading, each taking different parts, and each inevitably pronouncing Seanchai differently. We had a blast, but I wonder how those in the audience who had not read any of the series coped.

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I guess it doesn’t really matter until the movie comes out right? And by that time, pronouncing his name will be the last thing on this elated author’s mind. Slightly more realistically, I would love to produce an audio book since I derive such pleasure from them on my long, daily commute. 

Ironically, I have no idea where the name Rhoddan came from, I really don’t. I was looking for something that suggested stability and loyalty – go figure – but I feel the name fits perfectly. Certainly, the upside is that everyone agrees on how to pronounce his name, so hey, he can stay alive…for now!

The Greeks deserve credit for conveying much about their characters through names. Zeus is truly a name fit for a god and the king of the gods at that. And how would you react if your daughter told you that she was dating a dude named Hades or Loki? Lock her in her room, I’m sure. Thor sounds like a badass, and Aphrodite – well, best I leave that to your own imagination.

Moving to our own gods, and I think the old professor did a pretty good job all round, particularly with his hobbits. Bilbo Baggins is already lovable and you have only seen his business card. Friendly, courteous, and clearly one who drinks tea, eats Second Breakfast, and has a clean handkerchief in his pocketsss along with, of course, a ring of apocalyptic power. Who doesn’t these days?

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Tolkien did so well naming his hobbits – see this awesome list – and he nailed it with Gollum. If a name conveys considerable information, we understand that this is one twisted fella, with a name that just sticks in your throat.

Ilana, since you ask, comes from the Hebrew for tree. I chose this quite deliberately as I was looking for something stable, beautiful, and important to the existence of the characters around her. Alon means oak in Hebrew, so you see I have an affinity with trees, and At The Walls Of Galbrieth was conceived in a beautiful ancient redwood forest.

The names of minor characters is also important as an author spends more limited time extrapolating their characteristics. Since they appear and disappear so often, you want these names to be remembered and to also convey something about the characters. Certainly, when you have over a thousand characters stretching over several hefty tomes, yes I’m talking about you, Mr Martin, this becomes especially challenging.

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There is an advantage when reading ebooks, that you can search back to find references to a character, but this is impossible in an audiobook, and while a glossary of characters is helpful to flick through in most circumstances, it is not recommended while driving and listening to the audio book. App anyone?

What is your favorite name for an epic fantasy character? Which author shines at their selection? And which character does not fit the image you imagined from the name?

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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+