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.

images-6

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.

images-5

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!

images-1imgres.png

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.

imgres-2

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

——————————————————————————————————

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).

Do It For The Trees!

Did you wake up this morning the proud/confused/intimidated owner of something small, electrical, and vaguely rectangular? Did you smile meekly last night while your loved ones looked on with bated breath as you apprehensively ripped open the packaging and did they cheer and clap their hands welcoming you into the technological age? images-3

And did they notice when you reached for that glass of single malt and took a gulp instead of a sip? Thousands of years in the future, archeologists will discover that man had a propensity to collect random items and leave them in their boxes. Often, they will propose theories to skeptical crowds, these gifts ran off of some obtuse energy source which was, no doubt very rare, since these gadgets seem to be hardly used.

Furthermore, they will note, primitive humans had a propensity to acquire the same gadget with slightly better features despite barely understanding the gadget’s predecessor.

images-2

Have another sip of scotch. Oh, I forgot it is the morning after. Well you can always lace your cereal if you do it discreetly.

We are all entering the technological age, whether through brave adventurism, or without choice. You might as well take a deep breath and plunge in. Who knows, you might actually enjoy it.

Such things as cell phones and iPods seem to be accepted by all but a brazen few, even if the desire for the latest phone has nothing to do with actually making a call. The battle, for now, is over the tablet. The world (at least those of us who don’t need to worry about the little things like a roof over our heads, food at our next meal, or what’s in the water supply) is divided into three groups.

1. Embracing the technology. These people don’t just read on their iPad, Kindle or Nook, they embrace it, often with an annoying missionary zest. They don’t take it out of their bag at the coffee shop or on the bus, they brandish it, like a mighty sword from days long past.

They are liable to chastise you, often in a smug, sympathetic way, as you balance your hardcover on your lap. “Oh,” they whine in true Bob Dylan style, “How many trees does a Luddite reader fell…” When dealing with these people, it can be advantageous to note that the hefty hardcover has a distinct advantage over the light, sleek screen – it is far more effective when you take a swing at aforementioned pretentious individual.

2. Luddite Conviction. No way! We are already spending too much time on screens. A book is more than just words on paper. You can smell it, feel the page crackle as you move through the novel, feel the weight of the author’s perseverance as you hold his/her masterpiece in your hand… And then the classic, yet oft-doomed line: It will never catch on.

3. Dithering in the Middle. There is some middle ground. I have to admit that I love my Kindle. It is light, convenient, and I get a kick about the environmental aspects. However, I do also miss the feel and smell of the book. I love the art of a well thought out book cover, and I also love reading while soaking in a hot bath. My bookshelves are an important part of my identity in our house and I hope sets a certain tone with my family.

So, some Advice for The Morning After:

Firstly: Don’t Panic! Take a deep breath, slowly unwrap the gadget and take it out of its box.

images-11

Then: Go on your computer and find either the website for the company or go to You Tube. There are some really good, simple, step-by-step videos for people like us. I know, half of my readers are men and we read instruction manuals like we ask people for directions (by the way – you might have a GPS navigator on your tablet).

Finally: Have another whisky. It is the holiday season after all. And take note: if you are reading this blog, then you have already embraced the blogosphere: the cutting edge of the Internet. You are already firmly in the 21st century, dude. YOU CAN DO THIS!

Ebooks are a revolution: They allow us to carry them around with ease, read them with backlight, pay a reasonable price, and most of all, it’s good for the trees…and our children will need trees if they are to continue reading books, whether ebooks or tree books.

Sac Flame 2

Oh, and if you did receive a Kindle, iPad, or whatever, this might be a good first book to read on your gadget (couldn’t resist!). In fact, how else can you stack up with an award-winning epic fantasy trilogy for just $9….Just saying!

Which might be a good time to share that Tourmaline Books will make the Wycaan Master series available on all digital platforms in the coming month, not just the Kindle. You can download At The Walls Of Galbrieth, here.

Happy Hols’ to you and your family.

elfwriter

——————————————————————————————————

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).

 

 

 

I Bawled My Eyes Out

I did. It’s true. In front of a critical audience, I broke down. To their credit, they smiled indulgently. Not really. Both my sons in fact grinned at my embarrassment as, with the summer closing, I read the last page of the first draft. I have, for five consecutive summers, read the words The End. Now, as I read the closing words of Book 6, it hit me: this really was the end. Each time in the past they would sigh, grumble that it’s over, but know that next summer…

This is how it all began - deep in a redwood forest.

This is how it all began – deep in a redwood forest.

This time, The End was The End. Some character died, others survived, but all moved on. This time I did not weep for my characters (I have many times). I did not weep for my sons (let’s not go there). Truth is, I wept for myself. My boys are six years older than when we started, almost men, and all I can hope for is that one day maybe they will tell their children how their grandfather wrote epic novels for them, one every summer.

As I reached the bottom of the epilogue, I could no longer articulate. So I turned to Ms. Elfwriter and pointed to the last line. She read it with the gravity I felt, with total solemnity.

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

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

Now it is over. I have nothing to consider for six months or so, as I tear Book 6 apart and rewrite, rewrite, rewrite. I imagine around the end of the year or beginning of next, I will send it off to the publishers and…

But there is time to pass. On the same day I read the end of Book 6, I received the proof copies of From Ashes They Rose. Hopefully we are still on schedule for October 1.

We are definitely on schedule for the release of the eBook. As I wrote last week:

…the process of preorder is huge for the author. If many of one’s followers preorder the new release, the purchase will count on the launch day. This means a high sales rank, potential best selling status, and encourages other readers and Amazon itself to take notice.

So please, consider investing $2.99 sometime this month to preorder the ebook version of From Ashes They Rose. Maybe one day you can point out nonchalantly to friends over a deep red Merlot that you helped that best selling author when he was still a struggling writer.

Book 5 Cover FINAL

————————————————————————————————

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 the fifth in the series, will be released October 1, 2015. 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+

A Prime Read!

“Hey Dad. Do we have Amazon Prime?”

“Sure son,” I reply.

“Great. We can get your ebooks for free .” He pauses for a few moments, perhaps pondering his own statement. “Err Dad. Do many people have Amazon Prime?”

“I believe it’s growing in popularity,” I say, invoking my fatherly privilege to all knowledge.

Actually, Morningstar analyst R.J. Hottovy published a report in March 2013 that claimed Amazon Prime membership had more than 10 million at the time of writing. Shame I didn’t have the use of Google during our discussion.

“So for all our hard work, and the fact that At The Walls Of Galbrieth won a fancy award, anyone can now get it for free? That sucks.”

“It’s like a library,” I say, not sure whether I want to convince him or myself. “People can now borrow the ebook and it will help fantasy readers to learn about my writing and the Wycaan Master series.”

“But they get it for free?” He has a certain skeptical frown that develops during adolescence, when teenagers begin to discover their fathers are generally making up fatherhood as we go.

“They do,” I gulp a glass of water. “But this is good for my market penetration.”

Big mistake. Remember: talking to teenager.

“Look son. You know how you are always complaining that you don’t have money to buy books?”

“You mean video games and a Harley, right?”

“Well think how many teenagers won’t have to deal with that problem now. They can borrow my book for a month on Amazon.”

“It’s still free, right?” Major teenage frown now.

“If you have Amazon Prime,” I add.

“Where did you get this idea?”

“From a marketing  book that focused on Amazon.”

“How much did you pay for this smart book, Dad?”

“I didn’t,” I reply. “I borrowed it for free from Amazon Prime.”

 imgres-1

It has taken me a while to understand the concept of Amazon’s Lending Library, but the idea that I can get my book out there quickly is very tempting. If you are an Amazon Prime member, you can indeed now borrow the ebook.

While there is no necessity, if you do so, please leave a review and help me convince my son and his father.

At The Walls Of Galbrieth will be in Amazon’s KDP program until the end of 2013. Enjoy, catch up. Book 3 should be out any day soon.

UPDATE: Ashbar – Wycaan Master Book 3 was released today in paperback. Here is the link. The ebook should be available next week.

Ashbar front cover

——————————————————————————————————

Alon Shalev is the author of the 2013 Eric Hoffer YA Book Award winner, At The Walls of Galbrieth, Wycaan Master Book 1 and the sequel The First Decree, both released by Tourmaline Books. Ashbar – Book 3 is the third in the series, released in October 2013. 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).

Epic Fantasy, Epic Tattoos

I take my tattoos pretty seriously and see them as a rite-of-passage. I have three, each celebrating a landmark event. I got the first when Ms. Elfwriter and I got married and the other two when my sons were each born. I often joke that the reason there will not be a third child is that I can’t afford the tattoo. I actually did plan another tattoo to celebrate the Wycaan Master series, but I haven’t done it yet.

I have often wondered about incorporating my love for body art into my books. I have this association, when it comes to fantasy, of tattoos and the bad guys. If they are essentially used to signify evil, I take issue.

eragon_film_eragon_rescues_arya

Having just discovered the Iron Druid series, I have found at least one author who has delved more than a cursory skin deep level (couldn’t resist).

Hearne’s protagonist is a Druid who draws power from the earth … through his tattoo. Hearne describes the tattoo beautifully as it moves from the soles of his feet to cover all the energy points on his body. In Book 1, we even learn something of the significance and the process. Note to Mr. Hearne – we, the readers, would love to learn more of this.

imgres-1

Credit to another writer – Paul Goat Allen – who wrote a blog post that asked what is your favorite literature image that you can imagine making into a tattoo.

But, as an author of Young Adult fantasy, is it okay to romanticize or elevate the art of tattoos? Certain religions forbid it – I will not be allowed to be buried in a Jewish cemetery since I have defiled my body, which was created in G-d’s image.

Putting aside any desire for my ashes to be thrown from the Golden Gate Bridge (there is probably a law against that as well – but hey, I’ve already apparently pissed off YAWEH) – there are many parents who, I am sure, do not want their children getting a tattoo on the whim of a fictional character.

My own sons, justifiably proud that I bear a tattoo of each of them, have already told me of the various images they plan to emblaze on their bodies. I promised that when they are 18, if they still want them, I will take them to get their first tattoos (to add proportion, I have also promised to buy their first round when they turn 21 – good parenting, I am told, is all about consistency). I do, however, also point out the painful process, which helps to somewhat quell their impatience.

imgres-2

And yet tattoos do have a rich, spiritual past. If fantasy authors are trying to illustrate such a fantastical bygone age, why should we shirk from a bit of body art? I am trying to imagine a conversation with a concerned parent.

“Look, Mr. Shalev, I really appreciate that you have written several books that my son is enjoying more than endless video games, but really! He now wants a tattoo. Do you have to keep harping on about it? It is so crude.”

“Crude?”

“Yes. All those needles and blood.”

“Have you told your son about this process?”

“Goddess no. He would have nightmares, poor little tyke.”

“Has he told you about the fighting in my books, slaying good and bad guys with swords and bows?”

“Oh yes. He wants to take up archery, the sweetie. At least it will get him out of the house, I say.”

“Great. By the way: what’s his favorite video game?”

“Grand Theft Auto. He just loves his little cars.”

“Do you have a problem with that?”

“Of course not. Burt Reynolds starred in the movie you know. Anyway, it’s only a game.”

True, I think. Only a game. This is literature!

And to end with a question in the vein of Paul Goat Allen’s post: What fantasy image, character, or phrase, could you imagine having tattooed onto your body? Answers in the comments, please.

Thank you! Have a great week.

——————————————————————————————————

Alon Shalev is the author of the 2013 Eric Hoffer YA Book Award winner, At The Walls of Galbrieth, Wycaan Master Book 1 and The First Decree, both released by Tourmaline Books. Ashbar – Book 3 – is due for release in October 2013. 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).

It was 99 cents!

Every year before going on our annual vacation, my family sit around the kitchen table for some intense negotiating as we decide which songs from the past year will find their place on the 201x family vacation playlist. The songs with the highest consensus are the first. This year’s number one choice was Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’s hilarious and anti-consumerism song – Thrift Shop – it was 99 cents! (the version below is the clean one with lyrics – thank you to Jadey Wadey – if you don’t mind the language, the official video is hilarious).

If I’m honest, I’m one of those people who go into the 99 cents store to buy 2-3 items and spends $15. In my humble defense, I rarely make such a trip.

So the concept of 99 cents shouldn’t faze me. But with Ashbar – Wycaan Master Book 3  due out in one month, the powers that be have decided to offer the kindle ebook version of At The Walls Of Galbrieth for 99 cents for the month of August.

Ashbar front cover

I objected: the book is already only $2.99 – less than a coffee at Starbucks (or most coffee shops). It took me a year to write and rewrite. I invested in a professional editor, cover artist, and many hours of blood, sweat and tears. 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 and Smashwords.

At some point, eyes were rolled. They might have been relieved that the signals were there that I was on the road to becoming famous – I was acting the cultural prima donna.

I changed tracks: it is an award-winning novel, I whined. The response was brutal: it’s all about the sales.

And I was reminded that writing for my kids in the ancient Northern California Redwoods is one thing, making a living was another.

Fantasy1

And so: for the month of August, At The Walls Of Galbrieth will be available in Kindle form for 99 cents. Oh well, it worked for Macklemore.
—————————————————————————————————–

Alon Shalev writes social justice-themed novels and YA epic fantasy. He swears there is a connection. His latest books include: Unwanted Heroes and the 2013 Eric Hoffer Book Award for YA – At The Walls Of Galbrieth. Alon tweets at @alonshalevsf and @elfwriter.   For more about the author, check out his website.

Guest Post: My Fantastical African Inspiration – Yurika Kotzé

imgres-2 Yurika Kotzé is a fantasy author and wildlife researcher. She loves history and combines the inspiration she gleans from living in Africa with medieval swords and water nymphs – because, well, why not? Her first novel, The Unsheathed Key is now available as an ebook from Barnes&Noble, Kobo and others. Check out her website for info; or to read an excerpt.

 ————————————————————————————————————-     So there we were, sitting next to the fire on our farm, right on the border of Zimbabwe. We were happily nibbling away at our chops and tossing the bones into the fire, when another sound suddenly rose above the rushing waters of the river. A deep sawing noise.

Steady and rhythmic, it grew in volume and started to move around our campfire, just out of sight. If there had been any doubt, the sour feline smell confirmed it: we were being stalked by a leopard.

Nervously, we jumped up and put our backs to each other. My husband, his friend and I formed a little tripod of comfort as we steadily made our way to the car, eyes peeled for movement. The leopard sawed and barked and growled as it circled us, completely focussed on its prey. My hand finally found the car door’s handle, but it was locked. Laughing nervously, my husband fumbled for the keys as our friend loaded the .375 rifle.

At last, I managed to unlock the car with my shaky hands and the three of us piled into the front seat. We hastily shut the door and finally caught a glimpse of the leopard as he made his way back into the bush. We burst out laughing.

I am proudly South African. Moments like these make me fall in love with this beautiful country. Growing up just outside of the Kruger National Park and later living on an elephant farm, I have had my share of encounters.

images-1Being exposed to raw, unbridled Africa changes you. There is an atmosphere here that can only be understood by those who have experienced it.  It’s the perfect place for any fantasy author to become inspired.

South Africa is the birth-place of Tolkien and his Middle Earth, and there is nothing like hiking the Hogsback Mountains and seeing the world through his eyes. It’s also the perfect place to read The Hobbit. Except when your dog comes running out at you out of nowhere while your head is filled with orcs… I have never screamed so loud.

As a writer, I need to draw upon my surroundings, write what I know; and I am spoiled for choice. ‘Upside-down trees’ (baobabs), magnificent animals, folklore, and mighty rivers… I have been stalked, chased and burnt to shreds by the African sun enough for me to have writing material for years to come.

imgres-1I love this continent.

 —————————————————————————————————————-

Yurika Kotzé is the author of The Unsheathed Key. Check out her website for more information or to read an excerpt.

imgres-6