Thank You for a Great Year

This is my last blog post of the year and I am sitting here feeling full of gratitude and pride. It was a year ago that I sat with my family drinking hot chocolate and mochas in a local coffee shop and we each wrote down our goals for the year. 

During the preceding week I had made the decision to spend two years seriously writing an epic fantasy series and building a platform to promote my work. I had written rough drafts of At The Walls Of Galbrieth and The First Decree, and my boys had an expectation that, as in the preceding two summer vacations, I would have a manuscript to read around the campfire in another six months. Now I was ready, for the first time, to lay out a plan.

Twelve months later and I am amazed how everything steadily came together. I feel a bubble of energy and support steadily moving me forward, and I have a lot to be thankful for.

Wycaan Master 1 Just Front CoverAt The Walls Of Galbrieth was published by Tourmaline Books in November. After a professional edit, beautiful cover and excellent formatting, both my boys and I feel immense pride as we hold the book in our hands.

The First Decree is nearing publication. The finished manuscript and equally impressive cover is in the hands of the formatters and hopefully less than two months from publication.

Elfwriter – my fantasy blog has been around for a year and has attracted a steady group of equally passionate and committed group of epic fantasy connoisseurs. I love your comments and the highest compliment is when you send a blog post on to friends.

Almost 20,000 people are following @elfwriter on twitter and the blog. Many retweet or favor a blog post. People often comment with their own experiences or when a post has touched them. I treasure these moments as we build a community together.

I want to thank the Berkeley Writer’s Group who, while most do not read fantasy, nonetheless offered each week advice and guidance. There is so much that can be said about a group who are simply meeting to support each other. I hope I was able to contribute and help them as I received their support.

The First Decree AxeA large part of my success is due to the support of a team of amazing professionals. Monica Buntin is not just an editor, she is a teacher. She will continue to explain some grammatical point until I get it (and that can require quite a bit of patience!). She has the tact and foresight to see flaws in the story and convey them in a way that will push me to correct and tighten.

William Kenney, an accomplished fantasy author in his own right, has designed two masterful book covers. How he takes the jumble of description that I send him and conveys it into a work of art that far exceeds my vision, is beyond me.

Jeny Reulo and the folks at Fast Fingers will not compromise in their commitment to create the perfectly formatted book, whether in e- or tree book format. It is a pleasure to peruse the interior design of my book.

A full circle – and my deepest thanks is to my family who suffer the author who slips into another world, where the quest to free the races of Odessiya often take precedence over the dirty dishes and the laundry whose destiny to be folded and put into drawers often takes longer than training a Wycaan elf!

Finally thank you to all who read my books and blog posts, who retweet and favor, who comment and point out mistakes, who offer guidance and advice, who are part of an extended family, enjoying the ride together.

Looking back over the past year offers a great degree of pride and satisfaction. But the best part is to turn into the wind and see the year that is before us:

* The First Decree will be released in the first third of 2013.

* Ashbar will hopefully be ready in the fall.

* Elfwriter.com will  pass its 100th blog post.

* @elfwriter will advance with 25,000 follower of epic fantasy.

The First Decree-hi resolution

Life is a journey and while we each walk our own paths, our lives are enriched when our we walk together.

To noble quests, elf bows that never miss their mark, a free Odessiya, Wycaan Masters, and most important, to good friendships around the fire, quaffing ale and smoking pipes of healthy pipe weed and telling wonderful stories.

Wishing you a year of health, happiness and friendship. Thank you for being a part of my journey.

Alon Shalev – elfwriter

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Alon Shalev is the author of At The Walls of Galbrieth, Book 1 of The Wyccan Master series, which reached the Quarter Finals of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award 2012, released by Tourmaline Books. The First Decree, the sequel is due out in early 2013. Shalev is also the author of three social justice-themed novels: Unwanted Heroes, The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com and on Twitter (@elfwriter).

Where is the Moral Line in YA Fiction?

Since I wrote Wycaan Master with my (then) 11-year-old son, I assumed that our story fitted the Young Adult genre. It is a coming-of-age novel, so I never gave it much thought. There is no clear sex or profanity, though race is a big issue in the first book.

Since I have become absorbed in the fantasy genre, I have begun to wonder where the line is drawn. As I continue to write the second and third books in the series, intimacy has developed between characters, sometimes direct and at other times implied. There has been plenty of violence and references to overindulgence in alcohol. Colleagues at my writers group have questioned whether I should be including these themes.

As I began to research this, I found a number of excellent sources regarding YA fiction in general. Heather Dunlevy-Scheerer has written an interesting article about the historical development of YA literature.

She lays out several characteristics that she took from someone called Niday (I couldn’t find a clear reference).

(1) a teenage (or young adult) protagonist

(2) first-person perspective

(3) adult characters in the background

(4) a limited number of characters

(5) a compressed time span and familiar setting

(6) current slang

(7) detailed descriptions of appearance and dress

(8) positive resolution

(9) few, if any, subplots

(10) an approximate length of 125 to 250 pages.

From a brief skimming of the Internet, it seems that the common thread in YA fiction is an adolescent, rather than an adult or child, protagonist. However, the subject matter and story lines of leading YA literature are relevant to the challenges of youth, and more edgier novels include themes such as identity, sexuality, science fiction, depression, suicide, drug abuse, alcohol abuse, money issues, race, familial struggles, and bullying.

April Dawn Wells suggests seventeen common traits of young adult novels. These include: “friendship, getting into trouble, interest in the opposite sex, money, divorce, single parents, remarriage, problems with parents, grandparents, younger siblings, concern over grades/school, popularity, puberty, race, death, neighborhood, and job/working.

There are a number of YA novels currently in print that are on the edgier sides, dealing with peer pressure, drugs, gangs, crime, violence, sexuality, incest, oral sex, and female/male rape.

The obvious criticism of these novels is that they encourage destructive or immoral behavior or at least bring them into the adolescent’s mind at too early an age. Countering this is the fact that teens will be better equipped to deal with real-life difficult situations and social issues because they have role models in the protagonists they have followed.

Where is the line drawn in amount and nature of such issues between appropriateness and inappropriateness in young-adult fiction? How can we keep literature as a relevant medium when the exposure of TV, computer games and Internet is almost not monitored and easily accessible? None of these mediums, in my opinion, can offer the depth of thought and emotion that a good book provides.

Now more than ever, YA literature needs to stay relevant. Maybe the adults (including parents of teens like myself) have to accept that we might be more uncomfortable with this than our children.

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He has written two fantasy novels and the first reached the Quarter Finals of  the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award as of March 2012. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/and on Twitter (@elfwriter).