Crumbs of the Great Craft Masters

I want to give credit to Toby Hewson who gave me this idea: What I learned from the Gods of Fantasy? I have learned from many authors, not just the craft masters, but this post will focus on the select few. 

Terry Pratchett taught me about invention of an old theme. He created a world that was fantastical and yet so familiar. His satirical approach to Discworld was always engrossing and we welcomed familiar themes as they surfaced among the new ideas in each new novel.

George RR Martin taught me about depth of character in supporting roles. There is no excuse for making every single character special or unpredictable. It does not have to happen immediately, but when a character steps from the limelight to center stage, we are enthralled, but not totally surprised. This is a huge task for anyone and Martin does it with a thousand characters. I have mentioned before how much I have learned from him. Okay, I have also taken his name in vain, but I am full of respect for him.

George Martin to kill Tyrion

Stephen King taught me about simplicity of language and being accessible to readers. I am too much of a wimp to appreciate his stories, but On Writing is my writing Bible, and required reading…annually.
J.R.R. Tolkien taught me the opposite. It is possible to write elaboration, flowery, delightful fantasy prose. Can you describe a forest in three pages? Y’betcha and they will even make it into a movie or six. Tolkien also taught me the importance of giving my fantasy world a sense of history and leveraging that throughout the saga.

Terry Brooks taught me about having a well-worked story that had no loose ends or unnecessary scenes so the story flows. Brooks also has built a rich history of his world – Shannara – and a genealogy that excites his many followers. Again, his writing is very balanced between plot (action) and character development. He has the ability to give a strong and distinctive voice to each of his main characters.

Terry Goodkind is edgy without going over-the-top. His stories are simpler, but he adds little traits to make his characters familiar to us and a great job bonding us to them.

R.A. Salvatore taught me to create a rich world and non-stereotypical characters. His first Drizzt book takes place underground and is so impressive. I remember being blown away by it. I have not been disappointed going forward.

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There is much we can learn from these masters of our craft, but the most important one is READ, READ, READ.

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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).

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Happy New Year – Request For Help

Dear Friends,
 
With the beautiful lights, the presents, the family gatherings and the never-ending food behind us, I want to take a moment and wish you all a happy new year.
 
I am feeling particularly celebratory because I just wrote those magical words at the end of Wycaan Master Book 6 – THE END. It feels great, an end of an era for me, even as I now have two manuscripts to edit myself before sending each to my illustrious editor – probably just spoilt her new year!
 
As I turn my attention to my marketing strategy for 2015, I have a request. It will cost you $2.99 and 5 minutes of your valuable time. I wish to submit Sacrificial Flame, which I think is my strongest novel in the series to a number of high-profile book review and promotion websites. What is holding me back is that I have not focused on getting reviews. I need 20 reviews for the novel to be accepted for certain programs and I have only accrued eight.
 
Could you find time to craft a short review and put on Amazon? Sacrificial Flame can be found here and can be read before Books 1-3 if you have not read them. It transitions into the next generation and anything dependent upon the previous series will be explained.
Thank you for being such great colleagues and supporters. I look forward to another great year ahead as a thriving writer’s community.
 
Happy New Year,
Alon
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ALON SHALEV
At The Walls Of Galbrieth, Wycaan Master Book 1

2013 Eric Hoffer Book Award Winner – YA Category.
 

 

Part 2 – Top Elfwriter Blog Posts 2014 – The Writing Process

I realize I have a few posts written in 2014 more relevant to the writing process that I would like to share. Hope you enjoy. Happy Hols’.

  1. To The Long Suffering Writer’s Spouse – http://wp.me/p1Xaeb-nG
  1. Walking Away From A Fantasy Series – http://wp.me/p1Xaeb-nT

 Sacrificial Flame Cover Hi Res

  1. They Grow Up So Fast – http://wp.me/p1Xaeb-kc
  1. Will My Stories Be My Legacy? http://wp.me/p1Xaeb-n4
  1. I Met My Protagonist At Starbucks – http://wp.me/p1Xaeb-nl

 Shayth 05:15:13

  1. The Addiction of Novel Writing – http://wp.me/p1Xaeb-nz
  1. Last Week I Disappeared – http://wp.me/p1Xaeb-lE
  1. The Pressure To Produce – An Author’s Perspective – http://wp.me/p1Xaeb-kT

 The First Decree-hi resolution

  1. When Authors Reach For Immortality – http://wp.me/p1Xaeb-kq
  1. Finally, as previously mentioned, in honor of Tourmaline Books’ announcement that all Wycaan Master novels are $0.99 for the holiday period –a post from last year:

It Was 99 Cents…Again – http://wp.me/p1Xaeb-lM

photo (17)

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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, and Ashbar – Wycaan Master Book 3 – all released by Tourmaline Books. His latest novel is Sacrificial Flame, the fourth in the series.

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+

Top 10 Elfwriter Epic Fantasy Blog Posts of 2014 – Part 1

It is that time of the year. Here are 10 of the most popular Elfwriter blog posts from 2014. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed writing them. Happy Hols’.

1. How Fantastical Is Fantasy – http://wp.me/p1Xaeb-lr

2. The (Sappy) Male Hero http://wp.me/p1Xaeb-mI

3. The Empowering Stereotypical Female Protagonist – http://wp.me/p1Xaeb-mX

The First Decree-hi resolution

4. Happy Hobbit Day – http://wp.me/p1Xaeb-aH – relevant with the 3rd movie coming out this month.

 5. Deeper Than A Joke – http://wp.me/p1Xaeb-o2

 6. The Hobbit: End of a Father’s Era http://wp.me/p1Xaeb-oa

 Ashbar front cover

7. Valentine’s Day Epic Fantasy Style – http://wp.me/p1Xaeb-kx

8. All He Had To Say Was Thank You – http://wp.me/p1Xaeb-l3

9. Writing at the Speed of Sound – http://wp.me/p1Xaeb-md

Sacrificial Flame Cover Hi Res

10. Finally, though not technically 2014, it has just happened again. Tourmaline Books has announced that all Wycaan Master novels are $0.99 for the holiday period – this was a post I reblogged this year:

It Was 99 Cents…Again – http://wp.me/p1Xaeb-lM

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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, and Ashbar – Wycaan Master Book 3 – all released by Tourmaline Books. His latest novel is Sacrificial Flame, the fourth in the series.

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+

The Hobbit: End of a Father’s Era

I admit it. I haven’t felt like this since the end of Harry Potter movie 7.2. I remember sitting in the movie theater watching the credits rolling and hoping for a hint that there was another series on the way. Anything to keep the dream alive.

But the credits ended, the lights came on and I looked at the two boys who had snuggled up to me for eight years as Harry and co. had bespelled us, binding us together in an intense family experience.

I comforted myself. At least there were the Tolkien movies: The Lord of the Rings offered three years of reprise and then, The Hobbit, that thin novella, sprouted into three movies over three years. No problem with me that most of the movie content came from other books – Tolkien purist that I consider myself. A female elf (an elfe in the Wycaan Master series): a warrior at that? Bring her on.

 hobbit-evangeline-lilly

And now, my boys and I, one taller than me and shaving, will walk the lonely steps to the shrine of moving pictures, to pay homage one last time to the Old Professor’ world on screen. But at least we walk together, sit together, crunch popcorn together…

And I know that the lights will come on and, after six Middle Earth movies, we will stretch our limbs (some considerably longer than they were six years ago), and then what?

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Last year I was proud when my then 15-year-old told his friends that he would not join them to see the Hobbit movie – its one he’ll see with his old man. I might not be the best father in the world, far from it I’m sure, but I figure I must have done something right.

Worse yet, in ten days I will complete the first draft of Book 6 in the Wycaan Master series. I remember writing the first novel together, a half decade ago, with two eager boys sitting around a picnic table in a redwood forest. For five more years, I would read a new manuscript to them each summer vacation around the campfire or snuggled in my tent. It ends this year … the Wycaan Master series that is essentially ours …and probably so much more.

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

There will be more novels, perhaps another trilogy (are you reading this, Tourmaline Books?), but there will be new characters and if I stay true to my sons, then they will be older and darker and all grown up.

Just like my sons – post Harry Potter and post-Tolkien. The end of an era.

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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).

 

Big Boobs and Book Covers: A Critique of Fantasy Art

When I began soliciting artists interesting in creating the covers for At The Walls Of Galbrieth and The First Decree, I asked the artists for a rendering of Mhari, an elfe (politically correct term for female elf in Odessiya) who would become the first teacher of my protagonist, Seanchai.

I explained that she was old but vibrant, tough but wise, and I waited for the examples. Every one of the four artists produced sexy, buxom female warriors. I realize that sex sells ­– I considered moving to T-Mobile because of the woman in the advert not her motorbike, helicopter or the beautiful color purple (okay I am partial to motorbikes and purple, but lets stay on topic…) ­­– but these are YA books.

Wycaan Master 1 Just Front Cover

Apparently, the use of beautiful women on covers of YA Fantasy and Sci Fi are nothing new. This article follows the noble battle by author, Jim Hines.

Hines produced a series of great photos in which he poses in similar positions to scantily-clad women on book covers. Mr. Hines wasn’t against showing some skin himself.

_65356744_scifi“The way women are portrayed is just so ridiculous, so often, you just stop seeing it,” Hines says. “I think posing has made people see it again – you see how ridiculous it is when a 38-year-old fantasy writer is doing it.”

Hines began posting his poses at the beginning of 2012 and they quickly became the most visited. This gave him the idea to create a series to raise money for research to help fight Aicardi Syndrome, a genetic disorder, and he has raised over $15,000 to date.

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The issue of depicting women in fantasy art in a sexual way is nothing new and, in fact, quite rampant in role playing games like D&D. Tracey Hurley, co-founder of Prismatic Art Collection, has commented: “Women are so often portrayed assuming that a stereotypical hetero male is going to be the person looking at the cover, … Male characters [are] powerful and strong, and women’s sexuality will be emphasised. And why is that a problem? It’s constraining for both men and women.”

I find this really depressing. I guess I expected something different from a genre free of stereotypical constraints because it creates its own reality. This is all the more disappointing when dealing with Young Adult literature because of the target audience. I wonder whether a scantily-dressed, thin, and cleavage-heavy woman might also be a turn-off for young women, conscious of their own body-type. Add to this that most of the women portrayed are white and I am left wondering if this explains why less teenage women read fantasy. I also think it explains the success of The Hunger Games, though the promo photos for the movie also follow the concept.

imgresIt is not enough to just thrust a sword in her hand or dress her in a chain mail bikini to project strong images of women, nor is the cover of the book enough to reinforce strong, positive female values.

While my protagonist is a male, I made sure to add strong female characters, who are indispensable to his quest. I believe I showed them as more than equal warriors, each with her own special character. I needed prodding with this, I admit, and even changed Seanchai’s teacher from a man to a woman. Interestingly, it opened up a number of exciting avenues.

Authors are powerful influencers in the community, and even more so when writing for a Young Adult market. But power comes with responsibility and we have a role to play in shaping the next generation of thinkers, leaders, and innovators.

Even though many of us write about different worlds and kingdoms, let’s help make this world a better place.

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Alon Shalev writes social justice-themed novels and YA epic fantasy. He swears there is a connection. His latest books include: Unwanted Heroes and At The Walls Of GalbriethThe First Decree is due out in March 2013.