A Birthday Wish

Dear Friends,

Today is my birthday. I guess we still celebrate in our 50’s, right? My birthday didn’t stop me firing up the computer and Keurig at 7.30am and getting in some writing at the quietest part of my day. Guess it’s in my DNA. 

I’m a lucky man. Blessed with a wonderful family, an inspiring job and (healing knee aside) good health. But, if you have a few minutes to to give me a gift, and it’s your time not money I want, here is how you can help me get the publishing contract I am chasing. 

As you know, Inkitt, a publisher, has taken an interest in my latest manuscript – an edgy magical realism novel. They are offering free downloadable copies and I request that you take a minute to click into the website and download a copy today.

Kingfisher: Slave To Honor – Free Novel by Alon Shalev

They have a complex set of algorithms that will help them decide whether to sign me which includes how it takes you to read the novel and they measure what pages you are on. If you get through the book, then a review is critical. Please be honest – I never want someone to write something they don’t believe.

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Thank you for your support. This is a very exciting opportunity for me and a publishing contract would make a mighty fine birthday gift!

The idea of helping struggling artists resonate more these days, so if you still have a bit of time, please help another author realize his/her dreams:

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Thank you, as always for your support,

Alon

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ALON SHALEV
At The Walls Of Galbrieth, Wycaan Master Book 1, 2013 Eric Hoffer Book Award Winner – YA Category.

Learn more about the Wycaan Master series at http://www.alonshalev.com/

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My Birthday Wish

Today is my birthday. I am 21 again (for the 32nd time but who is counting) and I welcome a birthday gift from you:

  1. If you have never bought one of my novels, please consider doing so (links below) and leave a review.
  1. If you have read one or more, please leave a review on Amazon.com and Goodreads, particularly for Books 3 and 5.

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It helps the author:

Book reviews are incredibly important for authors and the promotion of our books. It is deeply refreshing that, even in the age of the always-present screen, people seek the opinion of their friends and peers when it comes to choosing a novel.

No one outside the industry truly understands the bookseller’s algorithms (I wonder whether the booksellers do themselves), but there is a consensus that reviews play a positive role and this leads to more exposure and higher rankings.

These algorithms also influence the important linking between novels. Further down a book’s page, you will see something along the lines of “If you liked this book, you might also be interested in….” It is a huge bump for a rising author to be linked to one of the bestsellers and I have experienced this bump myself.

Reviews have a vital impact in Goodreads (now the largest book club in the world – 25 million readers in 2014) where they help an author get discussed on review sites, blogging groups, and discussion lists. It is also important to note that reviews from Goodreads are often syndicated and this can be a huge step for an author (ask E.L. James who wrote this obscure book 50 Shades of Grey that was reviewed by a group on Goodreads and…)

By the way, when you do write and read reviews on books, please take a few seconds to ‘Like’ the other reviews you agree with. This also gets bundled up in the algorithms.

If you are an author or an aspiring one, leaving reviews helps you improve how you judge a novel helping you avoid some of the many writing pitfalls. It creates goodwill among other authors and can provide legitimacy to their platform.

Writing thoughtful reviews also influence others to do likewise and a snowball effect is not uncommon. By writing a review, you might encourage others to do so.

Book Signing Games of Berkeley

It helps the reader:

In fact over 85% of Amazon kindle users say that they read the reviews before buying a book. A solid list of book reviews help other readers determine if the book is for them.

I saw on a website recently a mime that said Friends don’t let friends read bad books. It was a way to encourage people to leave reviews and help their peers uncover the golden nuggets that are buried among the mass of books being published today.

Often comments left by thoughtful reviewers covers areas not mentioned in the marketing blurb.

The bottom line is that more reviews lead to more exposure, higher book rankings and more sales. Supporting an author earns quality karma for when you pass to the great library in the sky. Helping them on their birthday, even more so!

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By the way, you do not have to prove you have bought the book to leave reviews on Amazon.com and Goodreads. If you checked it out at the library or received it from a friend, you can still participate.

Leaving or liking a review doesn’t cost anything but a few minutes of your time and it makes a huge difference to the reading and writing community. It will make a huge difference to me.

Thank you for all your support along the way. If you weren’t reading my books, I wouldn’t be so motivated to write them.

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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 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+

Rise of the Short Novel

I am a fast writer. I can have a 100k manuscript written in 100 days, but it is, to quote Anne Lamott, ‘a shitty first draft’. I then go through a three-month editing process before seeing to my editor. She then takes two months process with a professional editor, another month or two of rewrites based on her feedback, a final round with the editor, and then a beta reader or two.

A high quality novel takes time. It takes a huge amount of effort and creativity. The process needs to be respected.

The novel now shares the shelf with the novella, the short story and flash fiction. Numerous writers have explained to me the lure and skill in writing any of these shorter forms. There is a need for succinctness in descriptions, plot, and the need to hook the reader immediately. I get it. Not my cup of tea, but I understand that there are other aspects to the craft that appeal to people.

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But there is also the Churn Mill. It is becoming common to meet writers who proudly announce they are writing a novel a month…or week, and that this is an integral part of their business model. The plan is basically to have a long backlist of books: 20, 50, 100… and hope to hook a reader to one book that will infuse them with desire to buy the other 99.

My issue is not with them having a business plan. There is no shame in writing for money. But I am uncomfortable with the way they are treating their readers. It should never be all about the numbers, not if we are considering ourselves artists, and not if ever want to betray our readers.

I wrote about how Terry Brooks appreciates his audience. I saw this week, after Daniel Arenson posted some news on his Facebook page, how he took the trouble to answer his readers’ questions and to thank them. These are authors who, I am sure, know they must bind their readers to them for business reasons, but who genuinely enjoy engaging with the people who invest money and time in their books.

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Terry Brooks

My readers know I love writing full-length novels. The first draft can be up to 120,000 words long and after my editor has worked her magic, the word count hovers just under the 100,00 word mark.

A novel allows the reader to travel to another world, to get to know characters intimately, see how they develop, and build a friendship with them. It allows the reader to escape and live for a while in a fantasy world.

There is something rich and emotionally investing in reading a full-length novel and a series. I can define periods of my life as I traveled through Shannara, Alagaesia, and Middle Earth. They are milestones that illuminate certain times.

I will forever be grateful to Christopher Paolini who wrote his Eragon books at the perfect time for me to share with my sons, a bond we will always have, and that laid the foundation for their companionship through the Wycaan Master series. Whenever we are on the road together and see a beautiful vista, one of us murmurs Alagaesia, and we all nod.

Summer 2015 Reading Book 6

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

Enough said.

Finally, thank you to everyone who participated in the April sale. I appreciate your support and hope you will enjoy the entire series. Please: take a few minutes and leave reviews for the books you read on Amazon or Goodreads. Reviews are critical for the author and I thank you in advance for helping.

Have a good week, everyone.

Alon

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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).

 

 

Respect for Macklemore & Ryan Lewis – But 99 cents!

Now I love Macklemore & Ryan Lewis. They have some serious songs that are brilliantly written and executed. But I also love their hilarious and anti-consumerism song – Thrift Shop: It was 99 cents!

I admit, I am one for a bargain and enjoy visiting the thrift store and discovering anything from woven baskets, to autographed novels, to soccer shirts of my beloved Arsenal.

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My youngest and I scored on this memorable visit to the thrift store.

So the concept of a 99 cents bargain shouldn’t faze me and it doesn’t … except when it comes to my books! At the beginning of every summer, with a new novel on the horizon, the powers that be decide to offer the kindle e-book version of At The Walls of Galbrieth for 99 cents for the next month or so.

I objected: the book is already only $2.99 – less than a coffee at Starbucks (or most coffee shops) and I poured many hours of blood, sweat and tears into its creation. 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.

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In past years, I have portrayed the necessary signals of the soon-to-be famous – acting the cultural prima donna. We are talking about an award-winning novel, I whine.

This year, perhaps with the prospect that the final novel in the Wycaan Master series will be released must have inspired Tourmaline Books beyond past years. They have decided not only to list At The Walls of Galbrieth in Kindle format for 99 cents but the entire series.

For the month of April, all five Wycaan Master novels are available for a venti latte with sugar-free hazelnut syrup and coconut milk! All five are currently priced at 99 cents.

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Book 5 Cover FINAL

Oh well, 99 cents made Macklemore and Ryan Lewis famous! If you have friends who enjoy epic fantasy, this series is good for all ages!

Have a good week, everyone.

Alon

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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,  Ashbar – Wycaan Master Book 3Sacrificial Flame, and the latest: From Ashes They Rose, all released by Tourmaline Books. 

Shalev is also the author of three social justice-themed novels including The Accidental Activist and  Unwanted Heroes. He swears there is a connection. More at http://www.alonshalev.com and on Twitter (@elfwriter). Hang out with Alon on Goodreads.

 

 

Meet Me On Goodreads

This weekend, I finished teaching a class on Goodreads taking material from the excellent book by Michelle Campbell-Scott. If you are an author, check it out, but this article is not directed at authors, but at readers.

Here are 10 reasons I love Goodreads:

  1. Since merging with Amazon, Goodreads has grown its membership to 40 million readers – a nation of people who simply love reading and sharing their thoughts and opinions about books.
  1. Shelves: I love how you can organize the books you have read, are reading and will read, by genre or any system you want. I enjoy checking the books others have read, perusing their reviews, and discovering new authors.

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  1. Groups: You can find groups on almost any book-related topic. People are passionate and the conversations are lively and excellent. It also feels, probably to the credit of the facilitators, that there are very few flamers, obnoxious or rude people. Members can actually disagree with each other without getting bent out of shape or insulting others (is this really the Internet?).
  1. Through the friendships we form, people will also recommend sources when you are looking for help on whatever topic is being discussed. It seems very fraternal.
  1. Giveaways – yes I love the chance to receive an autographed copy of a book and to help that author in return – reviewing and mentioning the experience I had reading their book. It’s cool!

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  1. Following authors: Goodreads provides the opportunity to follow authors, read their newsletters, know when their books are released and, if you are reading a series, understand the best order.
  1. Polls – I’m a sucker for polls. They are quick and offer instant validation (or not). Do you agree? Let’s take a … never mind.
  1. Listopia – This is a great way to discover new authors. If you have read 6-7 books on someone’s list, you are going to check out the other 3-4, no?
  1. Following a series – I use this a lot to check the order, thoughts etc. There are a number of series where the author (or fans) suggest you read in a different order. I appreciated in one case that most fans agreed that the middle third of books were weak, but that it was worth it to continue reading, as the last third could not be missed.

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  1. Because the world is a better place when people read and when they share that passion, it develops into a community … and I become more hopeful for humanity.

So, if you are convinced about Goodreads, please find and friend me here

While I have your attention, Tourmaline Books has decided to reduce the ebook price of Sacrificial Flame to just 99 cents! I have been quoted as saying that this is the book I am most proud of from the craft aspect (the other books got terribly jealous when I said that). It begins a whole new story line, so there is no need to have completed the previous three books. The novel has a 4.9 rating on Amazon from 24 reviews. Well enjoy, I guess. I am not sure how long it will stay at this price – I was surprised myself.

Sacrificial Flame Cover Hi Res

Have a great week,

Elfwriter

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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,  Sacrificial Flame, and the latest: From Ashes They Rose, all released by Tourmaline Books. 

Shalev is also the author of three social justice-themed novels including The Accidental Activist and  Unwanted HeroesHe swears there is a connection. More at http://www.alonshalev.com and on Twitter  (@elfwriter). Hang out with Alon on Goodreads.

Fantasy Novels That Stood Out 2015

I am a voracious reader. At any time, I am reading one book while static (on the bus, in bed) and listening to a second on audio while walking the dog, working out, or commuting.

One of these books will be fantasy or magical realism. The other is usually non-fiction, perhaps a social justice-themed book or a biography. Here are the ten fantasy or magical realism books that stood out for me. To check out what else I read and the reviews I left, please check out my Goodreads page.

Patrick Rothfuss – Name of the Wind, The Wise Man’s Fear.

My stand out reading experience of the year .I loved both these books. Rothfuss has a unique style and voice. I was totally captivated. The third book is very different and I was less enamored.

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Terry Brooks – Dark Legacy of Shannara

I have not read anything from Terry Brooks in a year. He is my role model and fantasy writer hero. But I think there was a reason that I took a break. Still coming back to his work was so enjoyable – like drinking your mother’s chicken soup after being vegetarian for a year (well, you get the point). Biggest problem is a fear I have harbored for a while – I am now up-to-date and have wait until May 26, 2016 – but who’s counting (124 days at the time of writing!).

Robert Jordan – The First Five Wheel of Time books.

This was the big intro for me this year. Robert Jordan is one of the foremost fantasy writers of the past few decades, but I had not read any of his work. I thoroughly hang my head in shame but I really enjoyed the first two novels and totally entered his world and connected to the main characters. Impulsively, I bought the entire audio set off of eBay on sale. I think I am now about six books through and taking a break, but long series’ are difficult to stay with. As with Terry Brooks’ work, I shall return to it soon.

Kevin Hearne – Hammered.

What can I say? This guy is so cool and his books are hilarious. Beware about laughing out loud. I have in each book. Looking forward to reading more.

George R.R. Martin – A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms.

So, I admit it. I give the guy a hard time (not because I am insanely jealous of his talent and fame…oh no! Goodness!), but I have been in serious GoT withdrawal. The TV episodes are good, but the books are a lifestyle. So you can imagine how ecstatic I was to come across this kind of prequel. Kind of because it is a story in its own right that doesn’t, as far as I see, really prepare much for GoT. It takes place a hundred years before and is full of the flavors that make Martin’s writing so special. Well worth it to help tide you over until…

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Lev Grossman – The Magician’s Land

This is the third in the series and as impressive as the first two. I finished this at the beginning of January 2015 and don’t remember much beyond satisfaction and a sense of loss once completed. It is not an easy read, but great tales rarely are.

Hal Emerson – The Prince of Ravens

This is one author you might not have heard of. I picked up the book as a freebie on Amazon’s KDP program and was intrigued by its original world and concept. The protagonist is a troubled young man that we slowly learn to love as he learns to love himself. Great first book by an excellent author.

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Terry Pratchett – A Slip of the Keyboard

This was tough. In truth, I read it as a tribute to the author when he passed away. Discworld was a big part of my life and helped pull me through some of my own darker periods of life. There are some quaint stories and insights into the great man who no longer walks among us. Probably for the hardcore fans more than the casual reader. But for most of us, the world is an emptier place today.

Artist: Paul Kidby

Artist: Paul Kidby

I would like to show my appreciation of Goodreads for the ability to be able to track the books I read and the books that others are reading. I will write more about this in the future, but for now, thank you, Goodreads, for being my virtual bookcase.

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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 Goodreads.

 

I Felt The Earth Move

I felt the earth move and not in the way that we Californians usually associate the word or what the rest of you are thinking – admit it! I had a literary orgasm and I had not just finish reading erotica. I actually had just finished Patrick Rothfuss’ second book – The Wise Man’s Fear.

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After I read his first novel – The Name Of The Wind – I gave it an enthusiastic 5 star review. After I finished the second book, I wrote: This is as close as I have ever come to giving six stars. There were moments when the complexity of the societies that Rothfuss writes left me amazed. As an author I feel he has raised the bar for me in a way I have not felt in years. Truly inspiring.

I really wanted to give the second book six stars but Amareads/Goodzon wouldn’t let me. I have never felt like this before, so completely in awe of a novel.

Rothfuss breaks the rules. The ‘experts’ (those who are and those who think they are) tell us that our novels must plunge straight in, that we must have a fast pace, that we should minimize backstory, and focus on plot, plot, plot!

Despite loving his books, I only now went to his blog to read the announcement about a future movie, television series, video game, and recipe book. Okay, I embellished about the recipe book, but who knows?

Somewhere in the middle of the blog post, Rothfuss wrote the following about why he was skeptical that Hollywood could put his books onto screens:

“Pretty much every fantasy movie created so far has been an action movie, or plot centered, or both. And my books aren’t like that. My books are about the characters. They’re about secrets and mysteries and the hidden turnings of the world.”

At this point, the heavens opened, a bright ray of sunshine beamed down accompanied by harp music. I had an epiphany!

I love my characters. I really do. I worry for them when they face danger, I grieve for their failings and I cry when they die. I have dreamed of meeting them and even imagined I met my protagonist at Starbucks – yes there was an extra shot in the Frappawhatzit.

While I have never been accused of a slow pace or lack of emphasis on plot, most of what the editors cut is character development rather than world-building or plot. I would like to share more of my characters, and discover with the reader their multifaceted personalities.

But this does not work in our fast-paced world with our nano-second attention span. We are apparently listening to our readers and what they want.

Thankfully, Pat Rothfuss (may I call you Pat?) was totally negligent in listening to these naysayers, or he just followed his muse. And he has proved that if a magical realism or fantasy novel is written well and rich in texture, it does not have to be like every other book.

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Before I embark on rewriting the manuscript for the 6th Wycaan Master novel, I am taking a few weeks to enter the corrections and suggestions that my writers group has given me over the last year for a magical realism novel I whipped up one day (or half-year).

I am noticing that my own corrections are adding depth in a way that I have not done before and I think, no I know, I am being influenced by Rothfuss’s two novels. Imitation, they say, is the highest form of flattery. I am not copying his style, but he has left a deep impression on me and I am sure many other authors and writers.

Thank you, Pat. I hope you are as flattered as I am grateful. And thank you to everyone who helped make the launch of From Ashes They Rose a success. I couldn’t do it without you … literally! I am sincerely grateful.

Book 5 Cover FINAL

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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).