Sir Terry Pratchett RIP – a woefully inadequate tribute

Sir Terry Pratchett died this week. I have struggled to find something to write – funny but not irreverent. In the end I wrote this short and rather inadequate tribute to a genius who has given me and so many such pleasure for decades. One of my best friends even found his future wife on a Discworld Convention organizing committee.

Christopher Priest, from the Guardian, describes one of Sir Terry’s characters – Death: “Death has a booming, unamused voice (always in capitals, never in quotation marks), and is the permanent straight man in the comic chaos around him. He goes about his morbid business on a horse called Binky, whose hooves throw up sparks on every street cobble. Death is a skeleton, with eyes like two tiny blue stars set deep within the sockets. He wears a black cloak, carries a scythe and, at the end of a day’s work, loves to murder a curry.”

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I called up DEATH last night. “Did you have to take him so soon? He had more to live, more to write.”

I DO NOT MAKE THE CHOICES he replied, his tone powerful and metallic, even on Skype.

“He was a great man, a wonderful author,” I said. “He gave me years of pleasure.”

THROUGH HIS STORIES?

“Yes,” I said. “He made me laugh. At the end of a long day or week, to curl up on the couch and be able to laugh, was…was magical.”

THESE STORIES ARE IN HIS BOOKS, NO?

“Yes,” I reply, annoyed that he is not relating to my grief. It’s not like DEATH never sees it in his line of work.

THEN THEY ARE STILL WILL YOU AND WILL ALWAYS BE AS LONG AS YOU HAVE TREES AND INTERNETS

“You use the Internet?”

DEATH stared at me and frowned. WHERE I LIVE THERE ARE NOT MANY SERVERS. ONLY ALBERT.

“But the world needs writers like Terry.”

 I REMEMBER WHEN ALL THIS WILL BE AGAIN.” 

“He was a knight,” I said.

Again, DEATH frowned. WHERE I COME FROM THE NIGHT HAS NO STARS.

I smiled. “I bet he was chuffed to see you.”

HE SAID I GAVE HIM QUITE A START.

“Yes? Then you ‘gave him quite a stop.”

HEY. THOSE ARE STILL MY LINES.

I rubbed my chin. “What happens to the characters of a series when the author dies?”

A STORY LIVES AS LONG AS IT IS BEING READ. MAKE SURE YOUR SONS READ DISCWORLD AND THE CHARACTERS REMAIN ALIVE.

“He was a special man.”

THE ONLY ONE TO GIVE ME A REFERENCE.

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I guess this is my way to say Thank You to a maverick genius, who wrote the jokes without caring if people would laugh; who wrote about controversy without preaching; and who taught us to strive for a better life without ever teaching.

Thanks for the laughs, the tears, and the wings that swept a generation up with your imagination. Thanks for being such an undemanding companion for much of my life.

Rest In Peace, Sir Terry Pratchett. 

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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 Decreeand 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+

That Magical Time Of Year – repost

Over the three days of November 17 -19, Amazon.com have decided to promote the 2013 Winner of the Eric Hoffer Book Award for YA – At The Walls Of Galbrieth. The novel will be offered FREE in ebook form.

This is a wonderful opportunity for me and I request that, to support my sales rank and me, you download the book and invites your friends to do the same. Feel free to gift it on (Thanksgiving and Hanukkah, anyone?).

To celebrate this and also the milestone of 100 blog posts on elfwriter.com, I wish to offer 10 of my favorite posts over the next three days. I hope you enjoy and, please, take a moment to download for FREE At The Walls Of Galbrieth and spread the word.

Thank you,

Alon

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Once a year, my family goes away camping in the mountains of Northern California or Oregon. All day we fish, hike, swim, explore and then after dinner sit around the campfire or snuggle up in my tent. This is the fourth year that I then open up a folder and read to my boys the completed first draft of the next book in the Wycaan Master series.

My boys listen, interrupt with question, comments and sometimes criticism. The latter is becoming increasingly sophisticated as they not only spot spelling or grammar errors, but when a character goes out of voice, or the plot is inconsistent.

During the day, while out on another activity, one of them might turn around and offer an idea or feedback. My youngest (10 years old) may well tell me what he guesses might happen next. I have told him that he is not allowed to share anything in an unpublished novel with his friends – many of whom are reading the series. He is to arch an eyebrow (Spock would be proud – if he ever felt emotions) and say Maybe. When he offers his predictions, I turn to him and smile, as evilly as I can muster: Maybe.

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It elevates an already wonderful family vacation into the realms of magical and I feel truly blessed that we are building these communal memories together and hope they will stay with us as my boys grow up and walk their own paths.

Together with this is the excitement building for the book launch of Ashbar – Wycaan Master Book 3. Pages have been added at alonshalev.com and here on the elfwriter blog.

It is turning into an amazing year with The First Decree and Ashbar being published, and, of course winning the 2013 Eric Hoffer Book Award for YA. I am truly gratified that along the way I am making many new friends through twitter and the blog, and even some face-to-face networking (yes – it really happens!).

In this brave new publishing world, an author can only succeed with ‘a little help from his friends’ something Joe Cocker was preaching long before any of us knew that a chat room was a place you could hang out in pajamas or that we would love a tablet that is too large to swallow.

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I appreciate all the retweets, the recommendations and the reviews. My mentor is telling me that I am not accruing enough reviews. Please, if you have read either At The Walls Of Galbrieth or The First Decree, take a few minutes to leave a review. If you are in a Google+ group, a Goodreads group, or on a thread of epic fantasy book aficionados, please make a recommendation to begin the series. I am following a thread on Amazon called Life after Game of Thrones and checking out the authors they suggest.

I really believe that, even in the rich online world, word-of-mouth remains the most effective marketing tool. On Thursday, a friend enthused about this new author he has discovered. I came home, checked him out, and his first book is on my wish list.

To those of you who already advocate for my novels and my path as an author – thank you. My relationship with my boys and the support you give me are what makes my epic fantasy truly magical.

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Alon Shalev is the author of the 2013 Eric Hoffer YA Book Award winner, At The Walls of Galbrieth, offered by Amazon.com  for FREE on November 17-19. The sequel, The First Decree, and Ashbar – Wycaan Master Book 3 are all released by Tourmaline Books. More at http://www.alonshalev.com and on Twitter (@elfwriter). Hang out with Alon on Google+

10 Questions For J.R.R. Tolkien

This blog post was inspired by a Time interview with Sir Ian McKellen, who plays Gandalf, the wizard who… if you are following this blog, you already know. It is a fascinating interview given that  J.R.R Tolkien was Catholic and McKellen is gay.

imgresThe interview is:

Timely: the difference between the making of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings is that Peter Jackson now wears shoes.

Funny:  “No one ever ablutes in Middle Earth.” and…

Poignant: When he visits a public school in England

One of the questions asked of McKellen is what would he ask Tolkien if he could meet him. This got me thinking: I have already shared that I think a lot of Tolkien and Oxford, and The Inklings Club.

So, if you are up there in Writer’s Heaven, quaffing on an ale or puffing your pipe, there is a student down on earth trying to emulate your literary work with a few questions.

1. Did you ever get embarrassed or try to hide your fantasy writing from your academic peers?

2. Did World War 1 provide you with the imaginary and emotional background for Lord of the Rings?

3. Why Hobbits? Who is your favorite character in either The Hobbit or Lord of the Rings?

4. If you were writing either LOTR or The Hobbit today, would you change anything? Different ending?

5. What do you think of the movies?

6. Is Peter Jackson out-of-line to make such radical changes to The Hobbit as including a character who is not from the book?

7. Who is your favorite fantasy author?

8. I know the story of how the first line of The Hobbit came to you (the blank academic paper you were grading), but how did you really come to write a fantasy series?

9. Mac or PC?

10. My critique group has room for one more. Would you consider…

imgres-7The reality is that if I ever found myself in front of the Professor, I would probably stammer and blush, and make a complete fool of myself. So help me out, just in case one day…

What questions would you ask the greatest epic fantasy writer of all time?

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Alon Shalev is the author of the 2013 Eric Hoffer YA Book Award winner, At The Walls of Galbrieth,  the sequel 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 and on Twitter (@elfwriter).

Cute Tolkien Story

I am indebted for the story in this post to the author, Peter Smalley so I want to first give him a shout-out. “Peter A. Smalley was not so much born as he was the object of a suitably ominous origin story.” If you want to know more, click on the link above or check out his latest book – Emerald City Blues

Remember This Guy?

“I’m glad to be with you, Samwise Gamgee, here at the end of all things.” This is friendship!

 So here is the (true) story.

In March 1956, J.R.R. Tolkien was surprised to receive a letter from a man named Sam Gamgee from Tooting, London. Mr. Gamgee, who had not read Lord of the Rings, was surprised to hear that his name had been used in the story. The Professor responded in a letter of his own.

“Dear Mr. Gamgee,

It was very kind of you to write. You can imagine my astonishment when I saw your signature! I can only say, for your comfort, I hope, that the ‘Sam Gamgee’ of my story is a most heroic character, now widely beloved by many readers, even though his origins are rustic. So that perhaps you will not be displeased at the coincidence of the name of this imaginary character of supposedly many centuries ago being the same as yours.”

– The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien: Letter 184

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Being the gentleman he was, Tolkien also sent him a signed copy of all three volumes of the book. This incident did, however, worry the professor who wrote in his journal:

“For some time I lived in fear of receiving a letter signed ‘S. Gollum’. That would have been more difficult to deal with.”

– J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography

Oh well, need to fill the void for the next 1,464 hours (at the time of writing) until the second Hobbit movie!

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Finally, thank you to everyone who bought Ashbar – Wycaan Master Bk. 3, which celebrates its 10th day in publication!

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Alon Shalev is the author of the 2013 Eric Hoffer YA Book Award winner, At The Walls of Galbrieth, Wycaan Master Book 1 and the sequel The First Decree, both released by Tourmaline Books. Ashbar – Book 3 is the third in the series, released in October 2013. 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).

The Journey Just Gets Better

It has been quite a week with the release of Ashbar – Wycaan Master Book 3. I am feeling slightly stunned by the closure of the first trilogy. Like At The Walls Of Galbrieth and The First Decree, Ashbar is a self contained story as well as the third in a series.

Ashbar front cover

There is a lot of closure, though not enough to stop the next trilogy from beginning, and I feel a certain sense of forlorn, perhaps as a parent feels when their children leave the nest.  I know the remedy to this – plunge into writing the next book. As the wise saying goes: “One trilogy closes, another opens.

Thank you to everyone who bought Ashbar over the weekend and enabled it to pick up a credible ranking. Please let me know what you thought of it, once read, and leave a review on Amazon. I am surprised at how important these reviews are in terms of trackable purchasing actions and sales ranks. If you have not yet bought it, please invest the $2.99 this week, to help move it to a higher ranking.

I just want to take a moment and thank the incredible support team behind me.

Monica Buntin is my editor. I send her a jumble of about 100,000 words and she makes sense of them. I once had the audacity to tell her that I was sending a pretty clean manuscript. She had the good manners not to respond to that comment, but that didn’t deter her from cutting about 10% of the book and offering (correct) critique on every page.

Oh well. I learned my lesson. Editors are an eclectic breed and I have written about them before. They need authors or they will have nothing to edit and yet have to, I am sure, tolerate an awful lot of ego. When an author finds a good editor and one who clicks with them, they have a rare asset and would do well to keep them.

William J. Kenny, a fantasy author in his own right, designed the covers for all three of the Wycaan Master books. One day, I would like him to reveal the creative process in depth. For now, I am content to consider it magical. I send him a couple of paragraphs with my ideas and he sends me a crude image. He takes my response and produces such a complete picture. I am really in awe of him. If I could draw anything better than deformed stick people, I would love to give the process a go.

Then there is Jeny Reulo from FastFingers Book Formatting Services,  who designs and formats the interior of the books. Her willingness to make changes and attention to detail is amazing. The interior design of a book, if done well, does not garner any attention, but it is a crucial element in the reader’s experience. The interior designers are often the unsung heroes of the expedition into producing a book.

Finally, a big appreciation for my wife Ariela. I am sure she releases a big sigh of relief on the day that I finish writing a manuscript and probably an even bigger sigh of exasperation when, the following week, I begin writing the next book! My absences, both physical and mental, create a void she needs to fill, and she does it with grace and understanding.

This series began as a fun, family project, deep in a redwood forest. My sons were a part of this strange journey, from the prologue in Chapter 1 of At The Walls Of Galbrieth, to the final climax in Ashbar. Earlier this summer I read them a rough first draft of Book 4, and, four years on, it remains an integral part of what I hope and believe is a powerful journey we will share in our memories forever.

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

Where it all began – deep in a redwood forest.

It really doesn’t get any better than that. Once again, thank you to all who buy, read and review the Wycaan Master series. Your time is precious, the options of good books to read vast, and I am honored that you choose to open and read my books.

Thank you for sharing in the journey of the Wycaan Masters.

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Alon Shalev is the author of the 2013 Eric Hoffer YA Book Award winner, At The Walls of Galbrieth, Wycaan Master Book 1 and the sequel The First Decree, both released by Tourmaline Books. Ashbar – Book 3 is the third in the series, released in October 2013. 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).

That Magical Time of Year – Better Than ‘Real’ Fantasy

Once a year, my family goes away camping in the mountains of Northern California or Oregon. All day we fish, hike, swim, explore and then after dinner sit around the campfire or snuggle up in my tent. This is the fourth year that I then open up a folder and read to my boys the completed first draft of the next book in the Wycaan Master series.

My boys listen, interrupt with question, comments and sometimes criticism. The latter is becoming increasingly sophisticated as they not only spot spelling or grammar errors, but when a character goes out of voice, or the plot is inconsistent.

During the day, while out on another activity, one of them might turn around and offer an idea or feedback. My youngest (10 years old) may well tell me what he guesses might happen next. I have told him that he is not allowed to share anything in an unpublished novel with his friends – many of whom are reading the series. He is to arch an eyebrow (Spock would be proud – if he ever felt emotions) and say Maybe. When he offers his predictions, I turn to him and smile, as evilly as I can muster: Maybe.

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It elevates an already wonderful family vacation into the realms of magical and I feel truly blessed that we are building these communal memories together and hope they will stay with us as my boys grow up and walk their own paths.

Together with this is the excitement building for the book launch of Ashbar – Wycaan Master Book 3. Pages have been added at alonshalev.com and here on the elfwriter blog.

It is turning into an amazing year with The First Decree and Ashbar being published, and, of course winning the 2013 Eric Hoffer Book Award for YA. I am truly gratified that along the way I am making many new friends through twitter and the blog, and even some face-to-face networking (yes – it really happens!).

In this brave new publishing world, an author can only succeed with ‘a little help from his friends’ something Joe Cocker was preaching long before any of us knew that a chat room was a place you could hang out in pajamas or that we would love a tablet that is too large to swallow.

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I appreciate all the retweets, the recommendations and the reviews. My mentor is telling me that I am not accruing enough reviews. Please, if you have read either At The Walls Of Galbrieth or The First Decree, take a few minutes to leave a review. If you are in a Google+ group, a Goodreads group, or on a thread of epic fantasy book aficionados, please make a recommendation to begin the series. I am following a thread on Amazon called Life after Game of Thrones and checking out the authors they suggest.

I really believe that, even in the rich online world, word-of-mouth remains the most effective marketing tool. On Thursday, a friend enthused about this new author he has discovered. I came home, checked him out, and his first book is on my wish list.

To those of you who already advocate for my novels and my path as an author – thank you. My relationship with my boys and the support you give me are what makes my epic fantasy truly magical.

—————————————————————————————————–

Alon Shalev writes social justice-themed novels and YA epic fantasy. He swears there is a connection. His latest books include: Unwanted Heroes and the 2013 Eric Hoffer Book Award for YA – At The Walls Of Galbrieth. Alon tweets at @alonshalevsf and @elfwriter. For more about the author, check out his website.

I Hope It Never Gets Old

This is actually the seventh time that I am on the cusp of a book being published. This count allows for a couple of self-published books that were both picked up by Three Clover Press and repackaged with new covers, titles, and an extensive round of edits. 

But I am as excited as I was the first time, and the second, and the third… You get the point. Sometime in the next two weeks, The First Decree, the sequel to At The Walls Of Galbrieth, will be officially released by Tourmaline Books.

The First Decree-hi resolution

I wonder how it is for the big fish? When those A-list authors have their 20th, 30th, or 40th novel released, are they just as excited? Yes, I’m thinking of you, Terry Brooks, George R.R. Martin, J.K Rowling. Are these authors and others coolly not checking their email every hour for the official notice from their publishers? Do they accidentally type their name into the Amazon.com search engine and browse down the list of books on their author’s name?

I am, of course, way to cool to be checking every hour, myself. In order to be productive at work and give my sons the attention they deserve, I have set reminders for four times a day – I’m awake for eighteen, I figure that’s okay.

I have not yet held my review copy. I remember each time it happened with almost the clarity of holding my newborn sons. The books, I have to admit, were not as slimy or noisy.

I am currently almost 40,000 words into writing the fourth book (yes, I said Book 4). But I have promised myself that once The First Decree is launched, I will stop and begin the process of my own edit for Book 3, before I send it off to editors, cover designers and formatters. 

The process is ongoing. Each magical, landmark moment: finishing writing the last page, sending the book to the editor, seeing the cover for the first time, receiving the review copy… these are all just stages in a journey to build not only a world, but a dynasty – a multi-generational world with a history of its own.

But that never stops these special moments being magical – and it never should.

The First Decree Axe
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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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