Happy Eragon Day!

It’s true! August 26 has been designated Eragon Day. I’m not sure who decides such things, but fourteen years ago, on this very day, Christopher Paolini realized Eragon, the first in an incredibly rich series that would turn a generation onto epic fantasy.

The four-book trilogy (every fan remembers the thrill at some point in the middle of the third book when they realized it wasn’t going to end and another 800 pages of Eragon would have to be written) provided a magically bonding experience for my family, and stands along with Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings in Shalev family history.

My sons and I devoured every book: pouring over every word, listening to the audio versions on vacation, and watching the (only!!!!) movie. And yes, as loyal fans, we loved the movie even if it was not the greatest. Come on Peter Jackson – work your magic here, sir!

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When Paolini released Brisingr, my then 10-year-old son stood defiantly at the front of the line in our local Borders (RIP), falling asleep on his feet literally as the clock approached midnight. I will never forget the lady who was working there, encouraging him to stay awake and hang on. At exactly midnight, she put a copy that she had hidden under the counter into his hands and whispered that he should buy that very copy. It was the only book in the store that Christopher Paolini had personally signed. Five minutes later, my son was fast asleep in the car clutching his autographed copy by his hero who was barely ten years older than him.

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My son holding his autographed copy at the midnight release… a priceless moment!

I wrote a while back that Paolini must be one of the most underrated authors and shared that he disproved a number of important assumptions:

1. The young generation will read 400-page novels if the material is gripping enough.

2. They will read rich descriptions, convoluted plots, and identify with characters that are deep, vulnerable, and profoundly human (or elf or dwarf).

3.  They will thrive on a high level of language.

4. Tolkien might still be king, but he has good company. Paolini is young. His level of craft is only going to improve and that is an exciting prospect.

I have to admit to selfish disappointment when Paolini decided to stop writing after Book 4 and go to college. He had every right to want that rite-of-passage experience and, as a loyal follower, I had no right to resent him that.

I owe Christopher Paolini a lot.

As my sons and I bonded over the Inheritance series, a seed was sown. We sat together to write our own epic fantasy novel. At The Walls Of Galbrieth went on to win the 2013 Eric Hoffer Book Award for YA and was a Grand Prize Finalist. Every summer for the next five years, I read the new manuscript to my sons while we camped under redwood trees that could have graced Alagaesia.

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Writing At The Walls Of Galbrieth – a family effort!

The uncompromising standards that these fierce young editors applied to our work was harvested from the lessons learned from reading the Inheritance Series. Earlier this month, I took my boys (now 18 & 14 and towering over me) on our annual camping trip. I read them the first 150+ pages of Kingfisher: Slave to Honor (minus a few adult scenes) and their edits were sharp and erudite. I am extremely proud of them (I know, I am totally objective!).

Summer 2015 Reading Book 6

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

So Christopher, if by any chance you ever read this: Thank you, as a reader, a fan, and a father. How about Book 5?

While on the topic of Kingfisher: Slave to Honor, you can help me with a publisher (Inkitt) who is interested in the book. Please go to http://bit.ly/2ttpqt9 and download for FREE, this new medieval fantasy novel. The publisher is gauging interest by analyzing how much you read and by your honest review.

Kingfisher Cover

Thank you for your support. Who knows, maybe Peter Jackson will one day make a movie of it because of your help. A boy can dream, no?  

Happy Eragon 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 novels all released by Tourmaline Books. Through August, all ebooks are 99 cents each.

Downloaded your #FREE copy of Kingfisher: Slave to Honor – http://bit.ly/2ttpqt9 – the new magical realism novel by award-winning Alon Shalev? Publisher gauging interest by analytics including how much read and your honest review.

More about the author at alonshalev.com.

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A Gift For The Gifted

Last month, when Amazon featured At The Walls Of Galbrieth, I asked my teenage son to get his friends to download the book and leave a review. He responded that most of them don’t have a kindle or even the app on their phones.

I was surprised and pushed back, but he persisted. When most have finished their homework it is late and they only want to chill, play a video game or read a graphic novel at best. No one has the energy to read.

No one?

Well, he admitted, some do.

Are they the ones who don’t do their homework?

He thought for a moment then decided that these were his friends who are academically the high-achievers. Actually they also participate in crew, debate club, or hold down a part-time job.

We left the conversation there, but the next day he asked if he could download a book to read. It has just come out and is part of a series he was reading in the summer vacation and before. He is excited about its release.

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I am proud that he joined the dots and decided to begin reading again. He spends almost all his waking hours at school or doing homework. I know and appreciate how much energy he invests just to keep up. But he realized that those friends he wishes to emulate are reading.

It is no surprise that teenagers who are reading are flocking to series. They grew up on Harry Potter and a host of other great series. These books offered long months or years of reading, of living in a world they got to know as well as their own, and of meeting characters who turned into good, steady friends. They got sad when they finished the last page of the most current book and counted down to the new release. In an age of instant gratification, waiting a year or two for a new novel is unthinkable!

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My son and I stood at midnight (actually he fell asleep leaning against me) in Borders waiting for the fourth Christopher Paolini book. By the time we returned home, he was too tired to read it, but that did not stop him falling asleep hugging the book.

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My eldest holding his autographed copy at the midnight release… a priceless moment from 2010!

It is fun to see that even now, years after the Harry Potter series began and even ended, how excited everyone gets when J.K. Rowling tweets a thought.

So when you consider what to buy a teenager or pre-teen for the holidays, you could do worse than buy a few books and begin them on a journey to another world that they envisage on their terms (with a little input from a humble author!). And, though this article is not meant as a promotion, well, I’ll leave you with a gif.

Car Magnet trilogy

Happy Holidays,

Alon / 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 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).

 

 

 

Guest Post – Author Lisa Fender

My guest today is author Lisa Fender. She has co-written the fantasy novel, Fable – Book 1 of The Lorn Prophecy with her sister which is, in itself an amazing story. Author, J.E Rogers described Fable “as a wonderful book that combines, fantasy, with young adult romance. Lisa Fender, and Toni Burns, have deftly created a new world, another dimension. This well written fantasy will take its readers on an exhilarating ride to this other dimension. It is another world that young people will easily identify with, and enjoy.”

Lisa exudes a love for everything epic fantasy, so I was not surprised when she chose to write about why she finds it so enthralling.

Lisa and Toni: sisters in creative collusion

Lisa: I have been a fantasy freak for as long as I can remember. Ah, to be taken away to another world where dragons roam and Dryads peek at you from behind (or within) the trees. And, when I am immersed in a fantasy world and I read the last book in the trilogy, quadrilogy, or even twelve-part series, and the story(ies) end…argh! Agony!

I live and breathe fantasy fiction and when I decided it was time for me to write the story dancing around in my head, it had to be in the genre of…epic fantasy, of course! But, the question was: How to make mine different? To achieve this, I looked to my personal passions.

My inherent love for our planet and wildlife, and concern over how our species seems bent on destroying both, gave me my inspiration. This in turn, gave rise to the idea of the Djen.

Djen are my take-off of the Genie. Don’t think of a genie in a bottle, or “I Dream of Jeannie”.  Instead my Djen are a race of beings in a parallel dimension. They have but one purpose: watch over the planet and keep nature in balance. Of course, perfection cannot come without conflict, in the form of a faction who creates turmoil for the Djen and the series’ main character, Stevie Barrett.

Fable Book Cover

I started putting pen to paper back in 2009. After a couple of years—not simply writing, but additionally educating myself in the craft—I asked my sister, Toni, to with help me with revisions. At the time I had hired a writing coach and we discovered that my sister’s experience with journalistic and business-style writing was not the same as creative writing. The two of us began to learn the craft together. 

After a short while, Toni started to offer suggestions and became my sounding board to bounce off ideas. This led to our coming up with scenarios and directions for the book and characters that neither one of us had considered. Together we made the story more intriguing and exciting. She too, fell in love with the characters and the Djen world. I finally decided to ask her to be my co-writer and I haven’t looked back. We are ecstatic about publishing our first book in the series, Fable, and look forward to continuing our partnership.

Writing the series together has truly brought us closer. Sure we fight once in a while, all sisters do, but not about the stories or the way we write together. We have a system and even though some have said to me that I’m giving away my power, I disagree. I love writing together.

Most of the basic story is written by me, and then the two of us go over each line and clean it up. We discuss ideas together and decide which way we want the story to go. We complement each other’s writing strengths and skills. It works well.

Fable, Book 1 of the Lorn Prophecy has been in print since spring of this year, and we have completed a side book/compendium novel: Fated, Book 1 of the Djenrye Chronicles. We are now working on the second book in the Lorn Prophecy series: Lore. In essence, I have gone from being immersed in the fantasy worlds of other writers to creating one of my own!

What books and worlds do you like get lost in?

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I have the complete joy of living in Golden, Colorado with my husband, Rick, and our yellow lab mix, Branch. I love hiking, camping and enjoying the mountains and wildlife which provides so much of my inspiration. I don’t have some fabulous degree or a plethora of literary courses behind me, I am literally the waitress that wanted to write a book.

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Thank you, Alon, for having me as a guest on your blog! It is truly an honor.  I do so share your love for the classic fantasy fictions—J.R.R. Tolkien, George R. R. Martin—as well as J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter – and your finding your inspiration in the world around you.

Want to know more about Lisa and her work? Here are her social media links:

Fable – Book 1 of The Lorn Prophecy 

Fated – Book 1 of The Djenrye Chronicles 

Lisa’s Blog

Fanpage

Twitter

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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, and Ashbar – Wycaan Master Book 3 – 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, on Twitter (@elfwriter) and on Google+.

A Private Letter to George R.R. Martin

Dear Mr. Martin,

Let me begin by saying that I am a big fan. I have just finished Book 4 and, if that isn’t proof enough, I am preparing to read Book 5. I have sung your praises on my humble elfwriter blog and keep your photo under my pillow (I don’t – but I wanted to make sure I still had your attention).

It’s like this, sir. One day I want to be a bestselling epic fantasy author like you. My third book comes out in the fall and I have probably sold as many books as you’ve killed noble characters (actually I might be being a bit optimistic there).

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I spend a lot of time hanging out with other writers: online and (I know this is rare) actually in person. Everyone tells me to “observe the rules,” “don’t break the conventions,” and, my favorite, “Tolkien was one-of-a-kind. You wouldn’t get away with that.”

But you, sir, have broken the rules. You have tippexed (anyone?) over the conventions. One friend suggested that you only get away with it because you are already famous, already have a huge following, and probably don’t care anymore what anyone outside of the Seven Kingdoms thinks.

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So here is my list of 10 things you have done wrong:

1. Your books are too long. I keep getting told that 90K is way beyond the commitment that most readers are willing to invest today. But then why do I enjoy them (and Christopher Paolini, and J.K Rowling, and some unknown ancient language, Oxford professor) and feel a sense of loss when they are finished? 

2. Your books are too slow. People want action, action, action. Instant gratification …debate in 140 characters or less. Have a car chase or blow up a bridge – well, you get my point.

3. Your books are too detailed. You mean I need to think? Concentrate? Invest? I hear you keep flow charts in your office – can we peek? How about a deal with Cliff Notes or an app that you can enter a character, your book and page number and get an update. Dude – I totally expect a commission on the app idea.

4. Your characters are too flawed (especially the good ones). If I’m not seeing Ryan Gosling or Kristen Stewart then it simply won’t do. If I want real people, I would put my book down and hit the pub.

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5. Your characters are too dead. I actually wrote a blog post about this (I Need A Hero), keeping the book and you anonymous so as not to spoil it. Guess what? Everyone knew who I was talking about.

6. You drop some characters for hundreds of pages – are you tempting me to skip pages, sir? Just so as not to spoil this for any readers on Books 1-4, you know what I mean when I connect this to Book 4//5.

7. You miss out key scenes – battles in particular – and subtly let us know they have happened. I know it is incredibly difficult to write battles and only the best can pull it off, but well sir, you are one of the best.

8. You have too many minor characters. I hope you are keeping track of them because, to be honest, I am developing a habit of scratching my head whenever someone resurfaces 1-2,000 pages later.

9. You care more for the old gods and the new than the critics.

10. Your books are too addictive. I can’t stop…

You broke all the rules, sir. Congratulations! Now where is my copy of Book Five?

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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 Galbrieth. Alon tweets at @alonshalevsf and @elfwriter.  

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Epic Fantasy’s Hall of Fame

Being new to the wonderful world of fantasy, I am published in political and transformation fiction, I am greatly in debt to Castle Fiction for a list of past and present masters. The comments after the names are mainly from the Castle Fiction, but I would love to hear which you have read and how you felt about them.

Past Major Fantasy Authors:

William Morris I admit that I have never heard of William Morris and understand that this is a hole in my education. I consider Tolkien to be the father of modern-day epic fantasy but apparently this is incorrect. “It all started with the publication in 1892 of the William Morris novel The Well at the World’s End. This is an outstanding piece of Epic Fantasy and it is considered to be the first epic fantasy work of the modern era. The same applies for another Morris novel titled “The Wood Beyond the World.”

Edith Nesbitt A prolific author at the end of the 19th century she created a genre of children’s fantasy literature. It often had normal contemporary children who engaged in magical adventures and discovered magical objects. She set the genre for many contemporary writers including J.K. Rowling. Some of her notable books are Five Children and It and The Story of the Amulet.

J.R.R. Tolkien A master of the craft that created the complete world of Middle Earth which included maps, languages and much more. Most notable works is the Lord of the Rings Series.

Tolkien - Middle Earth Master

Edgar Rice Burroughs Early twentieth century writer that created memorable characters and explored different worlds. His most memorable character is Tarzan. And his most popular series of books include the Barsoom series which takes place on Mars. The Venus series and the Pellucidar series which takes place within the hollow earth.

Robert E. Howard Mid 20th century writer who was a heavy contributor to the pulp fiction magazines. He is generally credited with creating the swords & sorcery genre. His most notable character is Conan.

T.H. White Mid 20th century writer who penned several books in the King Arthur tradition. The most notable of which is The Sword in the Stone which ushered in the modern Arthurian novel. Of note was a posthumous publication of his novel The Book of Merlyn

E.R.R. Eddison Considered to be the father of High Fantasy he wrote several books that influenced authors to come such as Lewis and Tolkien. Of his highly imaginative worlds The Worm Ouroboros is one of the most famous.

C.S. Lewis He was a scholar of medieval literature and mythology penning many works in a variety of genres including fiction, religious fiction and science fiction. His most notable works are the epic fantasy Chronicles of Narnia.


Present Major Authors:

Terry Brooks In the late 70’s Brooks published the novel The Sword of Shannara. It climbed to the top of best seller lists and stood there for years. Heavily drawing on Tolkien this book reintroduced the epic fantasy to the general public. Brooks continued the Shannara series with several more books. He has gone on to pen even more series.

Scene from Sword of Shannara

Terry Goodkind Writer of the Sword of Truth series which began with Wizards First Rule This is a solid series that takes a more serious approach to epic fantasy. The books explore philosophical questions. The series became a TV series – Legend of the Seeker – which lasted for two seasons.

Robert Jordan Is the writer of the enormously successful Wheel of Time series which is currently eleven volumes. He has also written many works based on the Robert E. Howard Conan character.

Stephen Donaldson Creator of The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant series of books which now number seven volumes and is most notable for its use of the anti-hero in which the main character maintains a reluctance to actually take on the mantle of the hero. He has written several other series in the genre.

Marion Zimmer Bradley Editor of the famous sword and sorcery series Bradley is also a prolific writer. Most notable among her writings is the Arthurian Avalon series which begun with The Mists of Avalon.

David Eddings Writer of sword & sorcery and epic fantasy series he is most famous for the Belgariad and the Mallorean series.

Raymond Feist Many of his works are set in the connected worlds of Midkemia and Kelewan. This is called the Riftwar series and the novels range over various geographic locations and span centuries. He began his writing with the first novel in the Riftwar series called Magician: Apprentice. Another series of note is the Krondor series.

Robin Hobb Is the author of several popular trilogies including The Farseer Trilogy, The Liveship Traders Trilogy and The Tawny Man Trilogy

Stephen King Although considered to be the master of horror King has published an enormous body of work in the fantasy genre. He crosses genre at will and breaks all the rules but notable is his Dark Tower Trilogy and The Eyes of the Dragon which is classic fantasy.

L.E. Modesitt Author of several series most notable are The Corean Chronicles
Set on the world of Corus (or Acorus), where strange and dangerous beasts roam and people with magical Talent can commit astonishing feats. Also is The Spellsong Cycle and The Timegod’s World which draws heavily on Norse legend.

George R.R. Martin Most notable for his Song of Ice and Fire series which was begun with A Game of Thrones in 1996.

Tad Williams Writer of several fantasy series the most notable of which Memory, Sorrow, & Thorn which was begun with The Dragonbone Chair

J.K. Rowling Creator of the enormously popular Harry Potter series which began with Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. These books have also been transformed into successful movies.

David Farlane – The Author of the Acclaimed Runelords series. The fifth book has just been published and the first book is being made into a major motion picture.

What are your favorite authors of High or Epic Fantasy? Do you agree with the comments added above?

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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 will enter the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award in January 2012. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/and on Twitter (#elfwriter).

Fantasy as a Vehicle for Social Justice

I believe passionately that writers of fiction  can ply their craft to help effect positive social change and offer a platform for values and principles. The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale both reflect this and I have a series of books focusing on social issues in the US (all based on San Francisco) beginning with Unwanted Heroes which will be released by Three Clover Press in the spring and highlight the way we treat war veterans and the homeless.

I was delighted when Kaitlyn Cole from Online Universities shared a list that their faculty had put together entitled: 50 Best Novels For Political Junkies.

Kaitlyn wrote: “True story: Some of the best political novels aren’t explicitly about politics. Yes, some of the books on this list deal directly with governments and politicians, with laws and the ways they’re made or abused, and with the peril and promise inherent in every governing body. But some of them use adventure, parable, or satire to subtly explore our political system with a depth that wouldn’t be possible any other way.”

Great point and relevant to those of us who write political fiction. But how about fantasy? Is there room to use our elves and dwarves to promote social injustices or causes? 

Over the last two summers I was blessed with the amazing experience of writing two fantasy novels together with my 11-year-old son. While I have read a few fantasy novels, I had no idea about the “rules” of the genre.

Writing with my son, however, compelled me to include moral issues such as racism, dictatorship and freedom, as well as the values of friendship and freedom. I was writing for my son and there are plenty of swords, quests, elves, dwarves etc., but as I watched him read and listened to his feedback, I waited for his comments about such issues and derived huge satisfaction when he brought up issues.

In setting my goals for an exercise at Author Salon, I wrote:

“I have seen the impact of the Harry Potter series and Christopher Paolini’s Inheritance series on my son and his friends. I want to help shape the landscape of the next generation’s imagination and maybe even the society they strive to create.”

My lack of knowledge regarding fantasy leads me to ask the question: Can fantasy offer a vehicle to discuss political and social injustice? I would love to hear your answers fantasy-fans.

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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 will enter the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award in January 2012. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/and on Twitter (#elfwriter).

The Power of Paolini

Anyone reading this blog is probably very aware that this week Christopher Paolini released the fourth book in the Inheritance Trilogy (sorry Christopher – even though we are all thrilled that there are another 800 pages of Eragon, we all remember the moment somewhere in the third book when we realized it was not going to end there).

The Final One

Our copy of Inheritance will arrive in the next couple of days and my 12-year-old will devour it, before passing it on to me, hopefully in time for the Thanksgiving vacation. It has been a wonderful bonding experience. Whether it is Harry Potter or Eragon (or most likely both) who are responsible for his leap in reading ability and desire is immaterial, I am eternally grateful to Paolini and J.K. Rowling.

My son and I spent endless hours reading the books, listening to the audio version, watching the (only!!!!) movie, and discussing how it will end in Brisingr, the third and not final book of the trilogy, and then Inheritance.

When Paolini released Brisingr, my then 10-year-old stood defiantly at the front of the line in our local Borders, falling asleep on his feet literally as the clock approached midnight. I remember the lady who was working there, encouraging him to stay awake and hang on. At exactly midnight, she put a copy that she had hidden under the counter into his hands and whispered that he should buy that very copy. It was the only book in the store that Christopher Paolini had personally signed.

The autograph & the fan.

Five minutes later, my son was fast asleep in the car clutching his autographed copy by his hero who was barely ten years older than him.

Paolini has proved a number of important points:
1. The young generation will read 400-page novels if the material is gripping enough.
2. They will read rich descriptions, convoluted plots, and identify with characters that are deep, vulnerable, and profoundly human (or elf or dwarf).
3.  They will thrive on a high level of language.
4. Tolkien might still be king, but he has good company. Paolini is young. His level of craft is only going to improve and that is an exciting prospect.

Two years later, my son and I wrote our first 90,000-word fantasy novel. The seeds were sown in the land of Alagaesia, on the wings of dragons, and in the art of an incredibly talented young man.

The Master

As the excitement has grown for my eldest son and I as the release date for Inheritance neared, my youngest son,  who is eight-years-old, has quietly read more than 250 pages of Eragon.  

So Christopher, if by any chance you ever read this: Thank you, as a reader, a fan, and a father.

The Trilogy!

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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 will enter the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award in January 2012. More on Alon Shalev at alonshalev.com and on Twitter (#elfwriter).