The Gift of Escape

T’is the season of goodwill, so first, happy holidays and may you and yours enjoy a new year of good health, love and friendship, and the realization of whatever goals you dream of. Thank you for supporting my writing and for your wonderful feedback and encouraging messages. I treasure each and every one of you. 

This eNewsletter started out as a shameless plug to entice you to buy paperback copies of the Wycaan Master series as gifts for your dear ones, especially young adults. If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, I am happy to try and meet, to sign and inscribe a personal message.

But as I wrote it, this message became something quite different.

Asif reading series

2017 has been a tough year for most people, but I want to focus on those who are coming-of-age, It is difficult for any young person to be oblivious to what is happening in this country or abroad. The world is a darker, more violent place, where selfish self-interest seems to cast a depressing shadow over all.

Where can a young person look for inspiration and respite? I am not advocating for them being cocooned and oblivious to those who cry out for help or to ignore the injustices around them. But in a world of 24-hour news on every platform, the millennial and Gen Z are growing up fast…too fast. This is about gender, color and sexual preference. This involves everyone. My sons are white and straight (as far as I know), but their friends transcend these definitions.

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Think back to a time you lost yourself in a book series. Did you ride the dragons with Eragon and Brom? Accompany Frodo and Sam into Mordor? Whatever the novels that come to mind, think back and remember how it consumed you for a precious few weeks or months. Recall the heroes and companions along the way and what they taught you.

When I wrote the Wycaan Master series, I did so with a strong impulse to impart certain values to my sons. I wanted them to value friendship, honor, to be aware of the responsibility and abuse of leadership. I desired that they be aware of inequality and intolerance. I learned early on that lecturing them is the least effective method and I harnessed their love of stories to share what I wanted to convey.

These values are as relevant today as they were back then and they are under assault now with a greater intensity than I could have imagined when we sat under the majestic redwoods in 2011 and first summoned the Wycaan Masters.

DSCN0193 Taking a journey through a book series remains a memorable and powerful experience for people of all ages. It offers the reader an opportunity to step back for a while, to soar to a new land, bond with characters who take on great challenges in the name of the very values we want to believe in. It is a chance to dream, to be by yourself but never alone.

 So, as we enter the season of gift giving, perhaps consider giving a present of an epic fantasy series. Whether it is the Wycaan Master books or others, it will be appreciated long after the holidays lights are extinguished and the Starbucks’ Peppermint Mocha removed from its menu!

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Here is a review on Amazon by someone who calls herself Mother-of-Four:

My almost 12 year old son read this book for his summer book review project (prior to 6th grade). This is his review:

Seanchai, an elf is living in a world in which human rule, dwarves hide in the mountains and elves are slaves. Seanchai is trying to recreate a great alliance between men, elves and dwarves in the land of Odessiya. The emperor does not want Seanchai to recreate the alliance and sends out men to attack Seanchai and his companions. Seanchai takes safe harbor with a woman named Mhari who teaches him the ways of Wycaan’s. Mhari is the last of the Wycaan’s. They are great masters of magic and great storytellers. His friends are captured at the walls of Galbrieth. Seanchai and Mhari go and save them and take down the garrison. In this book, Seanchai successfully recreates part of the alliance. In the next book, he will hopefully bring the dwarves to join the alliance.

At the Walls of Galbrieth teaches you about the good and bad things in life. I think Seanchai is an interesting character, because he always has to choose between his friends and his destiny but no matter what anyone tells him he always chooses his friends. I like this book because each and every one of its characters have their own secrets. I like this book because it fills you with curiosity and you never know what will happen next. This medieval fantasy story is filled with action, suspense, and adventure, it is entertaining and interesting, and it teaches about friendship, and loyalty. I couldn’t put it down.

This is why I write!

Happy Holidays and thank you for your support, 

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 published by Tourmaline Books. The link above takes you to the Kindle versions. For all other eReaders, please click here

Learn more about Alon Shalev and his novels here and download a free copy of his latest novel as a publisher gauges interest – . Help secure a book contract by reading and leaving an honest review.

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How Fantastical is Fantasy?

I mentioned previously that I am reading Sometimes The Magic Works by Terry Brooks. On Page 27 of this little book of great lessons, he writes how, as he struggled with his writing, he began to realize that he could not write the book in this world. “Everything I wrote had to remind readers of what they already knew, yet makes them take a second look at whether or not what they believed was really true.

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I’ve been thinking about this sentence a lot. The difference between epic fantasy and magical realism (think Game of Thrones – George R.R. Martin) is that the former transpires in a totally different world, whereas magical realism takes place in this world, but has elements of the unexplained – magic.

While the Wycaan Master series takes place in Odessiya, a mythical world, I kept it relatively easy to imagine, because I do not want the reader to struggle with my world building. Rather, I want them to focus on the characters and the plot, while still portraying a beautiful world.

Christopher Paolini does a wonderful job describing his land of Alagaesia, in stunning detail. He suggests his success in doing this is based on his love for the wild as he grew up in Montana. But again, his world is very easy to believe. When my family is on a road trip and are confronted by a beautiful vista, we point and declare: Alagaesia!

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I hope I have succeeded in portraying Odessiya as a beautiful land: full of great mountain ranges, deserts, forests, lakes and coast. I thoroughly enjoyed describing the ice worlds in the north and the forest of the Shanrea, but I never strayed from environments you can associate with on trips or the National Geographic channel.

When I sent Seanchai to the Elves of the West, I wanted to describe a rich world of mighty trees. Living in Northern California, I am in constant awe of the redwoods. My fictional bloodwoods are a tribute to these majestic giants and the name is meant to offer just enough to fill the reader with the images of redwoods. I wanted to offer an exotic setting with a connection to something known to the reader with just enough to be different.

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The age of a dozen pages of descriptions that J.R.R. Tolkien got away with no longer survives the red pen of the 21st Century editor. The publishers, facing rising costs of resources are loath to publish thick tomes, and the millennial reader does not have the patience to read several pages describing a small forest. My eldest son admitted to skipping descriptions after he had a clear picture in his mind and I am not completely unsure that I didn’t do this when I read Lord of the Rings back in the previous century.

That being said, the fantasy writer is challenged to offer opportunities for the reader to suspend belief as Brooks suggests. In his own prequels to the Shannara series, he sends us through post-apocalyptic California with humans and mutations. But the mutants are a result of the catastrophe that has all but destroyed the world. It is, tragically, not hard to take that leap of imagination, which again happens when he skillfully weaves in his elves.

Perhaps no one deserves more praise that he who blazed the trail and created a hobbit. There had never been a hobbit before Tolkien and yet it seems so familiar. Even ‘second breakfast’ and the family relations that Bilbo et al gets so worked up about, makes sense.

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The skill of the fantasy author is to create a world that the reader does not have to work hard to imagine and then to create something imaginative that allows us, because we have built trust between writer and reader, to suspend rational belief and embrace.

It is a subtle yet powerful tool that offers a rich layer to the world of epic fantasy. It is why readers flock to Terry Brooks, R.A. Salvatore and Christopher Paolini, and why those of us who walk in their shadows continue to cultivate our craft and build words, races and situations that are believably unbelievable.

Have a great week, everyone.

Elfwriter

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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, 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). Hang out with Alon on Google+

All He Had To Say Was Thank You

There is an urban author’s myth of a now famous author in her undiscovered days – was it Janet Evanovich? – who spoke at a bookstore in a mall with pouring rain outside. She knew the audience would be sparse as the mall was empty, and to cheer herself up, she bought a box of chocolates from the store next door. 

Only four people turned up and she made them sit in a circle and gave them each a chocolate. They were silent as she spoke and read, and asked no questions. At the end three got up and left. The fourth thanked her and the author asked, rather desperately, if she wanted to buy a book. The woman laughed and said that all four were homeless, and just thirsted for a little culture so the bookstore allowed them to attend. The author felt compelled to give her a copy of her book and the rest of the chocolates.

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I recently went to a book reading of an author who is struggling to break through, like me. We had met a few times and I have offered advice at various stages. I dutifully spread the word of his book launch to my social and e-circles, attended the reading, and bought a book.

Not many people turned up and even less felt inclined to buy the book. He was disappointed and the bookstore staff was not too excited either. When I asked him to sign my book, he mumbled a weak thank you and scribbled. I don’t think he ever made eye contact with me, and I felt a profound sense of resentment.

This is reality for all but the 200 or so A-listers. The rest of us may have 50 people in attendance or 5. It is hit-or-miss and this is probably a significant reason why adopting an online marketing strategy makes sense.

To celebrate the first Wycaan Master trilogy and the Eric Hoffer Book Award, I held a celebration in my hometown at the iconic Games of Berkeley at the end of last year. There was a strong attendance, but I put a lot of time into advertising and most of those attending had already bought the books. It was not a good return on investment if I look at it through economic eyes alone.

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But I loved doing it. I loved my friends who came and read parts, I loved the Q&A, especially the questions from the younger members of the audience, and most of all, I loved the conversations and the excitement of my readers – yes, for one afternoon they were all mine!

I sincerely hope that those who attended left happy and committed to my series and me. I especially hope that the young people were inspired to continue reading and, who knows, maybe put millennial quill to parchment. 

I have heard many times that my author-hero, Terry Brooks, is an inspiring author to meet. I hear he shares a conversation with everyone bearing books, and that he is a delight to be with. I can believe that after reading this passage in his book, Sometimes The Magic Works. He says that book signings are not about selling books or advancing your career. He say…oh why not just let him say it:

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Terry Brooks

“It is not in fact about you at all.

Rather, it is about making a connection between readers and books. It is about making readers feel so enthusiastic about books that they cannot wait to come back and buy more – not just copies of your books, but of other authors’ books, as well. It is about generating a feeling of goodwill toward the bookstore and the staff. Mostly, it is about reassuring everyone that they did not waste their time on you. 

How do you accomplish this? …

…Speak to everyone. Make them aware of the fact that you are grateful to be there, anxious to chat, and ready to answer questions if they have any. Never sign a book without looking at and speaking directly to the reader, and then thank them for choosing to take a chance on you.”

I think I have always thanked those who buy my books. To this day, when a stranger tweets me that they just bought one, I feel genuinely touched and honored that they spent their hard-earned money on my books.

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And I thank them.

Maybe one day, someone will develop an app wherein I can put my hand through the screen and shake theirs as I thank them. Perhaps the 2.0 version will allow us to reach through and hug someone.

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The world would become a better place, for authors, readers and all humankind!

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, 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).