To The Long Suffering Writer’s Spouse

I was rather surprised at the well of support for Mrs. Elfwriter in reaction to my recent blog post – The Addiction of Novel Writers. I would have thought that most of my loyal readers and followers would be, well, loyal. I assumed that those who follow the Wycaan Master series would appreciate the committed and fast output of the possessed writer, and that the writers who follow this blog would identify with me (the writer!).

However, this is not the case. It appears that the vast majority of followers are women and the gender bond transcends any of the above expectations. Ironically, this post was viewed over the aforementioned spouse’s birthday, so here in the interest of clarity is my appreciation of the long- suffering Writer’s Spouse.

My own spouse first objected to being referred to as Mrs. Elfwriter. This summer, she proudly received her Psy.D. She should be duly addressed as Dr. Elfwriter!

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I have yet to meet anyone who admits when they married their author-spouse, they truly understood what they were taking on. This suggests a number of options. Either they didn’t know that their beloved was a writer, thought they would not remain a writer (an author is a writer who never gave up), or were simply blinded by love.

Let me declare myself a romantic and vouch for the last. Truth is, none of us see it coming. I am consistently shocked at how consumed I become in the story, how concerned with the characters, how…

I digress. This is about the spouse, not the author.

Not only do they not sign on for this, but they often find themselves on the frontiers of our idiosyncrasies, that is having to explain our strange behaviors to everyone else. After driving 10 hours to our in-laws and being utterly exhausted, I would hug my relatives and then disappear to occupy my dear mother-in-law’s study that she generously relinquished to me during our stay. Why couldn’t I wait until the next day and relax? I had just spent 10 hours on the road thinking of new scenes and characters. My wife somehow explains this to her parents, though I doubt she would do so well with the California Highway Patrol, if I whipped out my laptop to make notes while driving! “What if I name a character after you, Officer?

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So how can we repay our loyal partners? Sometimes, we have to just stand up and say Thank You.  I hope I got it right in the dedication I wrote in Sacrificial Flame – Wycaan Master Book 4. I meant every word.

 

DEDICATION

The storyteller’s path can be lonely for those who become consumed, who stand with one foot in another world, who hold responsibility for characters and their destiny.

But the path is just as demanding for those who support the storyteller’s journey, those who walk side-by-side with the writer even when he is called to another world, those who are left behind in this world, those who ensure that reality continues.

They make the excuses for the writer when he is late, bridge the gap when he is distant, bring balance when another world consumes.

To Ariela, my life partner and soul mate, who gives me the freedom to soar above the land of Odessiya

and who acts as my lodestar, my compass that always leads me home.

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Have a great week and happy belated birthday, Dr. 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. 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+

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The Addiction of Novel Writing

I annoyed Mrs. Elfwriter this past Labor Day weekend. You see, I had promised not to do it, to exercise some self-control, to be a team player, a family man. She ended up exasperated, calling me ‘possessed,’ which I will accept as a compliment though I suspect this was not her intention.

You see, I was ahead of my goals. Sacrificial Flame was released in July, the sequel (we will call it Book 5) is written in what Anne Lamott delightfully called the “shitty first draft” and has successfully passed first inspection from my severest critics – my sons in our annual family ritual.

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Our annual family camping trip, where for five years I have read the latest Wycaan Master manuscript to my boys.

Book 5 has been put aside for a couple of months to allow some fermentation before undergoing initial homemade perusal as prep for the open heart surgery in the hands of my fearless editor, and I had promised a break from writing – no new book or editing crusade for the rest of the summer. With a new, exciting job, boys starting school, and an untrained four-legged addition to our family, there is plenty happening in the Elfwriter Household.

So it was probably not the smartest move when, full wine glass by my side, my new man’s best friend curled up at my feet, the warm Californian evening breeze ruffling … You get the picture.

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In my humble defense, I planned only to make a few notes, to list a couple of loose ends that need to be addressed in Book 6, jot down a character I am excited to introduce. It is the 25k words that poured out that led my usually understanding good lady to call me ‘possessed’.

A couple of weeks ago, a fellow writer complained that, having just ridden the adrenaline rush of finishing a book and taking it throughout the publishing process, she was emotionally exhausted and couldn’t face her trusty keyboard, even though she had an idea simmering for her next book.

I returned to my seat — we were about to begin our critique group — and jotted down the following words on a scrap of paper I found last night:

“I live for the exhilaration of the unfolding story.

I seek the adrenaline rush of the unanticipated plot twist.

I crave the company of my characters.”

Possessed? Me? Guilty as charged! But it’s a life sentence I can endure.

Good Writing,

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. 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+

The Empowering Stereotypical Female Protagonist

 Two weeks ago, I wrote a blog post about the sappy male hero, the protagonist who is can be brave without being too macho and who is in touch with his values and feelings. The post generated considerable discussion and debate, and since I am in the appreciating mood, thank you for your feedback.

But it also got me thinking about my female protagonists. With well over 70% of readers apparently girls and women, it would seem daft to ignore them. In truth, my inspiration for strong female characters comes from less altruistic motives. I am blessed to have been surrounded with strong women all my life, none more so than Mrs. Elfwriter, who continues after two decades together, to amaze me with her strength, vision and principles. I have come through a tough summer and she has been my rock throughout.

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Yesterday, a dear friend told me that it would have been his and his deceased wife’s 25th wedding anniversary, had she not succumbed to cancer a few years ago. My mind reeled back to her struggle, to the elegance with which she continued, right up to the end, to be a source of strength and inspiration, to her family and friends.

These thoughts are relevant to my female protagonists because I realize that I am creating similar (albeit female) stereotypes of common heroes and heroines. Ilana, Sellia, Mhari, Pyre and Mharina are all brave warriors. Fearsome with bow or sword, they might seek to solve a conflict without resorting to violence (as Seanchai did, to be fair), but nonetheless are not females you would want to pick a bar fight with (not that you are that kind of person, of course).

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When I began this post, a couple of days ago, I had hoped to pat myself on the back for my strong female characters. In Sacrificial Flame there is almost an absence of strong males (unless they are evil antagonists). In Book 5 (sorry for the tease) there emerged two males who are not warrior-types. As I begin writing Book 6, I realize that I have not given them much space in my initial plan. I will address this. Likewise, I have not given thought to the non-warrior, strong female protagonist.

Do any strong female protagonists who are not warrior-type come to mind from your reading of epic fantasy? Is it even compelling to have female who is not beautiful, thin, brave, and wicked with sword or bow? Would love to hear.

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Have a great week. Read something epic!

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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).

Last Week I Disappeared

It wasn’t my fault, any storyteller will understand. The problem is the 99% of the population (the readers and, in particular, those who have to live with the writer) when s/he becomes possessed.

You see there was a great battle, insurmountable odds, a powerful foe – not my fault that it happened on a weekend.

My emerging protagonist faced a terrible choice, needed to test her principles and ­– yes, I know it is a big religious festival, one of the most important days of the year for our family.

How would he cope with her death? How would he face the future without her and how would that change him? – Ah, grandparents, an aunt and cousin. Did you just arrive? Three hours ago…oops.

Writing the 1st novel - a family effort!

“Hey Dad – this is a FAMILY vacation!”

Usually the wife understands and can ground herself with a self-indulgent, if thoroughly deserving roll of the eyes. The kids think it is perfectly normal, or blatantly funny neither of which stops them from making fun of me.

I once sat engrossed at my desk (my back is to the front door), turned around and there were five kids, only one was mine, standing staring at me. The play date was at our house and five parents had dropped their kids off safe in the knowledge that a responsible parent was watching over them…yes, my wife was in the house. However, I think I learned how an exotic animal in the zoo feels, the children gawking and pointing. I’m surprised no one offered to feed me a peanut…probably worried about allergies.

At height of a battle, I once wrote five thousand words in one day. Apparently, I managed to snap at each member of my family who had the audacity to disturb me by asking for such trivial things as food, help with homework, to drive a child to a play date I had previously agreed to do. 

The scary part is that I have absolutely no knowledge of those interactions. Why would I? I was in the middle of a battle and you can’t just step out to make scrambled eggs. Imagine Eragon in the middle of a great fight needing a time out to dragonpool a group of offspring to soccer practice. I guess now we know why so few fantasy heroes have kids…and why so many parents write about fantasy heroes!

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What preceded the carpool?

Apparently, I don’t even have to be writing to disappear. It happens on road trips (I wish to thank the other driver’s consideration in avoiding me, by the way – I am not sure this can happen in the city). It happens on a coffee date with Mrs. Elfwriter and inevitably on a hike into the redwoods.

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Before I began writing At The Walls Of Galbrieth and the Wycaan Master series, I wrote a Pagan novel (A Gardener’s Tale) and two social justice-themed books (The Accidental Activist and Unwanted Heroes). While I became thoroughly invested in all my characters and the challenges they faced, I don’t recall that I disappeared. Still, I’m not sure how much I do remember when this sort of thing happens.

Still, I am relieved to know that I am not alone. Terry Brooks admits he is not all hereDad’s gone away again…although he admits that most of those close to him think he is weird.

I do suspect this is easier to explain when you are an A-list author like Terry Brooks. I think he is most likely to be fondly considered eccentric. For the rest of us, unfortunately, we are the ones people think are truly weird.

It’s a good thing that we are totally unaware when they stare and snigger. It’s a good thing we disappear…

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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).