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!

Summer 2015 Reading Book 6

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.

 

 

 

 

Fathers Get A Bad Rap

It’s true … at least in fantasy. Fathers get a bad rap. Luke Skywalker’s father hewed his arm off and tried to turn him to the dark side. I have to admit there are a few times when my kids were not doing homework that I almost reached for my light saber in frustration.

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Frodo didn’t really know his father, Eragon never knew his, and even my own Seanchai, leaves his father in the first chapter of At The Walls of Galbrieth and has to struggle through six books without parental advise, and then…well, let me know when you get to Sacrificial Flame.

Terry Brooks doesn’t offer much father: son/daughter love with his characters and Beowulf’s wouldn’t let his son tell anyone who his father was. Terry Goodkind might have spared Richard Cypher discovering who his father was and how he was conceived. Fathers are absent from the Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time and so on and so forth.

Here’s the mystery: all these books are written by men who, I am pretty sure, have/had sons. I myself would not even have ventured into the world of fantasy if not for a camping trip with my family.

Summer 2015 Reading Book 6

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

Fathers, when they do appear, seem to be burdened by their responsibilities, often traveling to save crown or country, and seem somewhat at a loss how to be a good father. Somehow, this is no longer sounding fantastical. I spend a fair time away from my children, admittedly not slaying dragons or fending off hordes that want to invade my country, but doing work that puts food on the family table, a roof over our heads, and hopefully doing a little good for the world along the way.

Now fantasy is about coming-of-age, about the struggle of young people overcoming challenges as they grow into their full potential. Fair enough. We put our faith in our youth – this is an age old trope – and given how badly we adults have treated this world, each other, and what a mess we have made of society, it is only natural that we channel our optimism into the next generation.

But here on Father’s Day, let’s give credit to the gene pool. These young heroes and heroines must have received the hero gene from someone. No doubt their courageous and wise mothers had something to do with it, but so did we.

So head to the local tavern and raise a mug of mead: to all our fantasy heroes and the fathers who play their part, often against all odds and without an instruction manual (which we don’t read anyhow, being men). And if that spills out from the world of fantasy into the real world, well, so mote it be!

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Happy Father’s Day!  

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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 Birthday My Favorite Professor

Dear Professor,

Happy Birthday, sir.

You probably don’t remember me since I never took a class with you while you lived. Neither have I sat in the lecture auditorium at Oxford, nor a tutorial in your office.

But I consider myself a student of yours nonetheless. I have read most of your books (got a bit lost on the more obscure ones to be honest) several times, watched the movies (though I’m not sure you  would give academic credit for that), and read numerous books about you and your work.

 

When I write, I see you as someone to emulate, someone who has set the standard. It is not just you of course, please don’t get ahead of yourself; there is Terry Brooks,  Robert Jordan, and some new kids on the block: Christopher Paolini, George R.R. Martin, and Patrick Rothfuss – you would approve of the former, and latter, I am sure.

But as much as I admire them, when faced with an issue writing one of my books, I pause and try and imagine what a certain old Oxford professor would advise me to do.

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But while your books are legendary, your world-building stunning, and your ability to create languages are simply mind-boggling, what amazes me is that you had it in you in the first place: an academic, a somewhat upper-crust Englishman, a traditionalist, a Christian, and a war veteran. Was it the latter? Was what you witnessed on the battlefields of Europe in the First World War the seeds for LOTR? Was this the only way you could find to express the struggle of good .v. evil? 

What happened that fine summer day as you marked term papers? Were you bored? Looking forward to a vacation? Had a pint too many of Eastfarthing at lunch? When you stared at that blank sheet of paper a student had accidentally inserted, what made you scribble: In a hole in the ground there lives a hobbit…

Whatever possessed you, sir, changed the world of epic fantasy forever. Perhaps you should have heeded the advice you gave dear Frodo: “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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I hope you are sitting in a pub up there in heaven, surrounded by wonderful friends – elves, dwarves, hobbits, and even a few humans, most likely friends from The Inklings.  and raising a glass to celebrate his 123rd birthday.

This student thanks you for everything you gave him as a reader and taught him as an author. A very happy twelvety-first birthday, sir! And to celebrate, here is a rendition of Happy Birthday in elvish, the language you created, one word at a time. Thank you to Petri Tikka for this rendition!

Happy Birthday Professor – Oronnad meren allen! 

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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+

 

Would James Bond Have Destroyed The Ring?

It’s a fascinating question. Well maybe not. I suspect 007 would have been more interested in nibbling Tauriel’s ears and held coiffured competitions with Legalos, but it opens the door to examine the hero in epic fantasy.

The James Bond stereotype – macho, sexy, deadly, fearless – does exist in epic fantasy, but more often than not, plays a supporting role. Consider Aragorn to Frodo, for example. What fascinates me here is that Frodo and his Uncle Bilbo opened the door to the imperfect, oft vulnerable and fearful hero.

And we love them.

Now my mother had a huge crush on James Bond, from Sean Connery onwards, and my father would certainly never fault her good taste, but at some point a new type of hero emerged.
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Why?

The Wycaan Master, Seanchai, began his journey as a simple, frightened village elf, bewildered and lost as he was forced to flee his village. In truth, many other characters pour scorn on him for his ineptitude, indecision, and lack of machismo.

We bind ourselves to him because Seanchai, and Frodo, and Christopher Paolini’s Eragon, all share something in common with us. They are continually faced with adversary, pressure, and a need to confront their fears.

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Most of us dream of being a James Bond, oozing confidence, sexuality, and infallibility, but somehow it appears more unreachable than a fleeing elf, a scared hobbit, or a bewildered dragonrider.

I suppose we might question our grasp on reality when we figure we have more chance defeating the evil all-powerful Sauron or Emperor, than seducing the sexy sidekick, fellow spy, or riding a dragon. But it is not what they do, but how they deal with it. This is where we connect to them and therefore where we root for them.

As I write this blog post, my beloved Golden State Warriors have just done battle with Lebron James for the NBA title. Lebron is touted by many as the hero, despite his incredible lack of humility – we don’t need you to remind us you are the best player on the planet, Lebron. The Warriors, led by a rather humble Step Curry, won because they are a team in a team sport. Sure, Curry is the Most Valuable Player in the league, but he continually credits his teammates, his coach, and shows his love for his family. Curry is my Seanchai, not that I would cast Lebron necessarily as the evil Emperor … unless the Cavs would have won, of course.

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Would James Bond have put the One Ring on his finger and admired how well it complimented his fine, perfectly lithe fingers? Would he have removed it – he did have a thing for gadgets! How about Lebron James? We need heroes. We love our martinis shaken but not stirred, but we still appreciate a good pint of stout at the village tavern, surrounded by our friends. It is what keeps us honest and what keeps epic fantasy relevant.

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We all need a hero.

Finally, thank you to everyone who sent good wishes with the announcement of From Ashes They Rose. I am very excited and will share more details as I receive them. It still feels so special and I hope it always will. And yes, to the gentleman in Texas, you can begin with Sacrificial Flame, but…

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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, Ashbar – Wycaan Master Book 3, and Sacrificial Flame, all released by Tourmaline Books. From Ashes They Rose will be released in September 2015. 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).

A Middle Earth Thanksgiving

During the later days of Middle Earth …

King Aragorn was fascinated. One of his emissaries had just returned from a land far, far away, where they celebrated a festival which commemorated a group arriving to a new world and being welcomed by the indigenous people who offered them food and grain. To show their gratitude, the explorers promptly conquered the indigenous people, crowded them into reservations, and reciprocated their generosity by giving them all kinds of diseases for which the indigenous people  had no immune response, along with almost sole rights to gambling establishment.

Who couldn’t resist making a holiday out of this? King Aragorn marshaled his army…of caterers and executive assistants.

Two weeks later, the king entered his great hall and a smile crossed his face. His beautiful wife, Arwen, sat at one end of the table, with three handsome longhaired, blond elves with narrow, distinct features, and jeweled headbands, sitting erect and aloof to her right (family was a big part of this festival, Aragorn had been told), and three thick-shouldered dwarves to her left. The dwarves were already drinking, though the food had not been touched. He would forgive them their transgression. It was Thanksgiving after all.

Next to his end of the table sat four, diminutive hobbits, small creatures who, Aragorn knew, had big hearts. Just seeing them made him…well, thankful. Hey, he was really getting the hang of this festival!

On the other side sat Gandalf, his huge mane of hair as white as his flowing robes, his long-stemmed pipe in his mouth, though recent city ordinances meant he could no longer smoke indoors. Aragorn frowned. Gandalf had asked to bring a friend, but really, Gollum?

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All rose when they saw the King of Middle Earth enter and he magnanimously beckoned them to sit.

“My friends,” he began and then as he glanced at Gollum, he forgot his next words. “My friends…um…thank you for joining me. Welcome to the first ever Thanksgiving dinner in Middle Earth.”

A huge cheer went up from the hired, union card-carrying and adoring crowd, packed into the corner and given generous barrels of beer and non-alcoholic refined sugar (for the designated cart drivers) – another discovery from the land of Thanksgiving.

“I have taken the liberty of adapting the traditions to suit us. For example, they eat a bird that has so been tampered with, it is no longer able to fly. I decided to genetically modify a dragon, which is both an excellent source of lean protein, and a low imprint and sustainable dish, since it can heat itself.”

“Cooked?” Gollum said. “Yuck!”

“Is there a gluten-free option?” Elrond asked, sending just the right message of disdain at the idea of meat.

“Avocado,” Queen Arwen snapped, wondering why you were expected to invite relatives to this new festival.

“I use that on my skin,” Legolas said, “as you can all see.” As one, they all glared at him.

The king knew he had to move on. “Thank you to Samwise for providing us with this beautifully colored corn. Such a decorative centerpiece.”

“Oops,” said a dwarf, his mouth full.

“Bloody dwarves,” a voice said and intended only for pointed ears.

“Excuse me?” An axe was quickly brandished.

images-2“Splendid idea,” King Aragorn said quickly. “Perhaps you would do me the great honor and carve the dragon?”

The axe came down hard and everyone spend the next ten minutes, wiping the fat and grease from their hair, beards, and fine garments.

At least, this festival will please the dry cleaners, the queen thought.

Legolas leaned forward. “You might not have noticed but the dragon was already dead.”

Gimli slammed his tankard down, sloshing beer onto the silk tablecloth. He leaned forward brandishing a yam. “Perhaps we should check if this is soft enough to eat. We could stick it up your tight–”

“Gimli!” Gandalf shouted and the table rattled with fear. “Sit down!”

“I am sitting down!” Gimli shot back.

“Oh. Of course. Sorry.”

“I believe,” the king said, “that those who made up this festival, would go round the table and share what each of us are thankful for. I will start. I am thankful for being a king and having everyone do everything I say.”

He glanced over at the hired cheerers, who raised their glasses and cheered.

“Don’t they love me,” Aragorn mumbled to himself. He then turned to the hobbits. “Who will go next?”

Samwise raised his glass. “I be thankful that me old gaffer has a beautiful garden full of blooming roses. Oh an’ I’m thankful for me beautiful Rosie of course.”

“I am thankful for my stunning good looks, my modesty,” Legolas offered, “and the hair gel that keeps me so manicured even during the battle of Helms Deep. By the way, I did kill twice as many orcs as you, Gimli.”

“How about you, Gimli?” the king asked quickly as the dwarf glared across the table.

“Gold,” Gimli said, “and more gold,”

And off the dwarves went with their favorite song: “Gold, Gold, Gold.” But they soon got confused with the lyrics.

“What about you, Gandalf?”

“I’m thankful for Peter Jackson, who managed to make as many movies out of the thin Hobbit novel as he did from three thick tomes of Lord of the Rings. Very considerate of him.”

“Gold. Gold. Gold.

“Arwen, dear?”

“I’m just happy that I have the opportunity to host such events. Tell me dear, how many of these Thanksgivings are there each year?”

“Just one, my Evening Star.”

“Thank goodness,” she mumbled into her napkin.

Aragorn felt a tug on his sleeve. “Yes Gollum?”

“Whatssss issss Gollum thankful for, you asssssk?”

“Yes, yes, I do. Please go on.”

“Thessse,” he said brandishing a long tube, wrapped in shiny red paper. “Itsss called a cracker. Pull with me pleasssse.”

Aragorn indulged him and they both tugged. There was a pop and a flash. Then a single shimmering gold piece flew into the air and Gollum deftly caught it.

“Look. A sssuprise,” Gollum said. “A ring. My precciou­–“

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He put it on and promptly disappeared.

“Oh bugger,” said Frodo.

“Well,” Aragorn said, signaling his aide to call up the entire army. “Let’s partake of this Thanksgiving feast before we march on Mount Doom. By the way, the next festival we will celebrate is the birth of a pacifist, who stood by his principles, got betrayed by his friends, and crucified by his rulers. They made so many wars in his name, I hear. I’m sure it will be a lot of fun. Tuck in everyone.”

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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 DecreeAshbar – Wycaan Master Book 3, and Sacrificial Flame (Wycaan Master Book 4) 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).

Happy Hobbit Day!

To celebrate Hobbit Day tomorrow (the birthdays of both Bilbo and Frodo), I would like to share a post I wrote two years ago after the first Hobbit movie came out. There is so much depth in the Hobbits’ simple characters, especially in relation to the others around them – wizards, kings, princes, elf lords etc., that it is an amazing tribute to Tolkien how he weaved these unassuming and lovable creatures into our psyches. This was my tribute to the old professor after the movie. 

Happy Hobbit Day!

THERE ARE NO SPOILERS ABOUT THE MOVIE IN THIS POST.

Last week I blogged about my expectation that a new generation were about to embark on an unexpected journey into the world of epic fantasy as they sat and watched the first Hobbit movie.

I mentioned with pride how my teenage son, moving into social independence, chose to see the movie with me rather than his friends. My first fantasy novel (and the three others to a lesser extent), At The Walls Of Galbrieth, was a joint project, and I identify our mutual love for the genre as one more log to grab as he flows down the river of manhood.

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We sat next to each other and whispered and compared experiences. It was everything a father could hope for.

But it was with my youngest son (10 years old) with whom I had an unexpected experience. I wish to thank the movie theatre for failing to fix the armrest between us (why does this never happen on a date?). We were able to push it up and out of the way and for three hours, we cuddled together as we watched the movie.

While my older son leaned over and whispered whenever he wanted to, I could actually feel my youngest son’s reaction by his body language. I was intrigued. I felt when he tensed, when he was amazed, when he was sad, and when he laughed.

Other people - didn't think my fellow movie-goers would appreciate the flash!

Other people – I didn’t think my fellow movie-goers would appreciate the camera flash in the middle of the movie!

As we made our way home after the movie, my youngest enthusiastically told me about how we should incorporate this or that into the fourth Wycaan Master novel. I think the Tolkien Estate might sue if we did what he was suggesting, but for the moment, I just basked in his enthusiasm.

Another epic fantasy lover. I’m not the greatest father, I know. But this evening I felt I had done my job.

Finally a shout out to Stephen Colbert. Depending on your politics, you may or may not enjoy his nightly show. But he is undoubtedly impressive with his ability to be satirical and hold his own with very high-level guests.

But he outdid himself with a week of tribute to The Hobbit. Turns out, Mr. Colbert is a major Tolkien fan. His elfish sounds polished, and his knowledge of The Professor’s work is awesome.

Colbert and Sir Ian McKellen (Gandalf)

Colbert and Sir Ian McKellen (Gandalf)

Check him out on You Tube – he has a different cast member as guest each night.

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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).