Free on Amazon – An Author’s Perspective

Today is the 2nd of 3 days that At The Walls Of Galbrieth is being offered for FREE on Amazon.com. I usually get quite grumpy when my books are put on sale, but this time feels different.

Perhaps it is the proximity to Thanksgiving. It is only the second time I am celebrating this festival as an America citizen. But I think the overriding reason is that it has now been five years since I sat with my sons at a picnic table in the heart of the Northern California redwoods, laptop unleashed. Together, my boys, the ancient trees and I summoned the Wycaan Masters, and set out on an epic journey that took us to an ancient, faraway world and brought us closer together.

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Each year since, the family has gone camping and I have faithfully read the next manuscript of what will culminate early 2016 with the sixth book  (it is really two trilogies and I have seen many readers begin with Book 4).

I think it was only after At The Walls Of Galbrieth won the 2013 Eric Hoffer Book Award for YA, and was a Grand Prize finalist that I began to understand this was something greater than a family hobby. I admit that, as someone who works for a Human Rights organization, I miss the genre I wrote in with The Accidental Activist and Unwanted Heroes.

But I love the freedom that epic fantasy offers me, the depth with which I connect to my characters, and the ability to share my values and beliefs through these novels. They are truly a coming-of-age journey for the characters, the readers, and for me.

Thank you for being a part of the journey. If you have already read the series, please consider downloading and gifting At The Walls Of Galbrieth and help spread the word. In addition, please take a few minutes and leave reviews for any or all of the Wycaan Master novels.

This FREE sale will last until midnight tomorrow. Click here to download. A strong showing today and tomorrow will help my sales rank and move the whole series along.

Thank you for your help and 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 four more novels in the Wycaan Master Series – all released by Tourmaline Books. From Ashes They Rose the fifth in the series, was released on October 1, 2015. 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+

 

 

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Celebrating Five Years – FREE for 3 Days

In a galaxy far far away… okay, in the Redwoods of Northern California, five years ago, a father sat with his two sons and wrote the beginning of an epic fantasy novel.

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Writing the 1st novel – a family effort!

It was only meant to be a pleasant vacation activity, a refreshing break from the social-justice themed novels that the author had thus far produced. There was a fourth in rough draft awaiting attention. It would remain collecting dust in the computer’s filing system.

At The Walls Of Galbrieth went on to win the 2013 Eric Hoffer Book Award for YA, and was a Grand Prize finalist. It provided the foundation for five more novels that together created a deep and memorable world for two generations of friends and companions.

For the author, the series created an opportunity to create a family ritual as in each of the following years, the next raw manuscript was read around the campfire or snuggled in a tent. It created an appreciative following of epic fantasy fans and readers with whom it has been fun to meet at readings, and communicate with on the elfwriter blog, and the twittersphere.

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

To celebrate five wonderful years, Tourmaline Books is offering At The Walls Of Galbrieth FREE for three days. For those yet to embark on Seanchai’s journey through Odessiya, it is an opportunity to read over Thanksgiving. For those who have read it, please feel free to gift to someone who will appreciate it.

Tourmaline Books is proud to have partnered with Alon Shalev these past five years and to help him bring his vision to fruition. We deeply thank all of you who have bought the Wycaan Master series.

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Please download At The Walls Of Galbrieth and help spread the word. Three days only!

 

 

 

 

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+

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+

Finding Mythical Places Everywhere

A while ago, I wrote a post about meeting elves in coffee shops. The point was that…well you can read the point for yourself, but there is more along these lines.

I grew up in England with real castles, stately homes, wattle and daub cottages, and signs of a more ancient, Pagan culture everywhere. I was not writing fantasy back then but imagine I would find a lot of inspiration there. Two weeks sitting in a castle in Wales writing – is that a business expense?

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My eldest at Conway Castle, Wales, several years ago. He sat there for hours, transfixed in a world of his own.

But we actually don’t have to travel too far. I attended a conference in the heart of Washington ‘DC Chinatown. I stepped outside the meeting room on the 7th floor  for some fresh air and stared at this:

Ruins by Hillel SIC

Today, I was at the Ferry Building in San Francisco and noticed Old Glory flying at half-mast in respect of the victims of the Boston Marathon attack. The sky was a rich blue and the flag and tower looked glorious. I could imagine Seanchai and friends arriving on a boat (do you pay the toll riding over the Bay Bridge on horseback? Do three horses and riders make a posse or qualify for the casual car pool?).

Interestingly, I crossed the Embarcadero between the Ferry Building and Bay Bridge and saw a restaurant with gargoyles and (what looked to me) a sign that could have been written in Medieval lettering. It could have been a tavern or pub for thirsty travelers before they put five Peet’s Coffee and nine Starbucks in the mile-square Financial District.

My point is that writing fantasy is as much a state of mind. When I am actually writing a story (as opposed to editing or marketing), which is about 4-5 months of the year, I notice these things as though they are only around for this time of the year.

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Picnic at our local park. Younger son discovered this tunnel. We sat in here and discussed how to use it in the book I was writing at the time.

It is why I see elves in coffee shops and get invited underground by hospitable dwarves. It enriches the already beautiful vistas, forests and rivers of Northern California where I explore. It is what makes my kids and I respond when we see a beautiful natural scene by exclaiming: Alagaesia! (You can blame Christopher Paolini for this. I hope he’s touched).

It is why Terry Brooks claims that ‘Sometimes The Magic Works.

Have a mystical weekend.

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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.  

I’ve Never Been In A Dwarf’s Cavern

I must confess: I’ve written almost 300,000 words of epic fantasy (three books) and never seen a dwarf’s cavern, an elf’s tree city, or a troll’s rock cairn. Now this might lose me credibility with readers, but after being complimented for my world-building by an editor at an established publishing house, I was asked from where I derive my inspiration for world-building from a fellow writer who is struggling with this important aspect.

My non-fantasy novels, The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale, were both situated in my native England, and my upcoming novel, Unwanted Heroes, is based here in San Francisco. I’m not sure if I chose these surroundings as much as absorbed what is around me into my stories. It is, I guess, what allows me to see elves in coffee shops.

I think the process is the same for me when I build my fantasy worlds. I am blessed to live surrounded by the natural beauty of California and its surrounding states, it is important to not only admire the majesty of the area but see it through the eyes of your protagonists. Three examples come to mind.

I have shared how my journey into the world of fantasy was prompted by my eldest son (then 11-years-old) complaining that I shouldn’t be writing while on vacation. I challenged him to write something with me and make it a family activity (the desperate games we play…) and there under the watchful eyes of the redwoods, we began our journey. 

It was easy to see our young heroes seeing these noble trees and the vines that hang in the forest where we were camping. They were ambushed as they passed a rock enclave, almost hidden by moss, that was a five minute bike ride from our tents.

On Monday, I will travel to an annual professional conference in St. Louis, where we have met for the past two years as well. To give us a break from the intensity of the conference, the organizers arranged a trip to a children’s museum. The incredibly creative designers had thought to fill their vast basement with caves and caverns.

While my colleagues snuck off to a nearby bar, I walked through these caverns imagining what it was like to live as a dwarf underground. I’m not sure what my biggest mistake was: missing out on a social mixer or admitting to my colleagues why I had declined their offer.

Finally, this year we traveled to Crater Lake in Oregon. Jutting out from the deep blue waters is an island called Magicians Island.  The audio visual told us that the name came because it reminded the explorer of a wizard’s hat. I sat on the ridge overlooking the island, saw the steep grey rocks, the windswept trees, and the ospreys flying overhead.

Book 4 has a base from which to begin…

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He has written three epic fantasy novels and the first reached the Quarter Finals of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award as of March 2012. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/ and on Twitter (@elfwriter).

Turn Write At The Next Junction

Family vacations are always special for my little clan. Once a year, we pack up our considerable collection of camping gear and head to the mountains, lakes and redwoods. Without Internet and electricity, we have no choice but to hike, fish, and enjoy beautiful Northern California and Oregon, and each other. This year there were two highlights. We all followed my eldest’s passion for archery and it has hopefully become a family hobby.

Two years ago. I wrote the first Wycaan Master book together with my eldest son. I have blogged about this previously. Last year, I wrote the second book before we went away and each night, we sat around the campfire or snuggled in my tent as I read to them a few chapters at a time.

This year, we followed suit, reading the third book of the series. Everyday I waited with anticipation to read and treasured their responses. As the books have become more intricate, my youngest (now 9 years old) sometimes had a hard time following and peppered me with questions, often later that night when he was supposed to sleep, or the next day in the middle of another activity.

Now I know that family are not supposed to be considered as impartial critics. In truth, they had a lot of constructive criticism and suggestions, most of which I adopted. But I cannot imagine enjoying the level of engagement that they experienced and expressed from anyone else.

Back in the Bay Area and it is time to make major decisions. There is time as I outsource the books for some professional editing, but I am considering alternative options to publish the series.

A fascinating conversation with a representative at a publishing house with a long history of epic fantasy titles has left me wondering how long to walk the traditional path. She told me that they spent considerable time discussing the option of signing me even though they had previously made a business decision to stop publishing in this genre. It just doesn’t make business sense in the current economic climate, she told me. It has nothing to do with the quality of your work.

I feel a degree of frustration as I have been watching other fantasy authors and their respectable and consistent ranking on Amazon.com. Daniel Arenson, who is the author of the Requiem series and others, announced the following at the end of June:

“100,000 books sold. Bloody hell. You bought 100,000 of these silly books about dragons, swords, and spells. You’re nuts. But THANK YOU, readers. It’s been a crazy ride.”

I have no doubt that Mr. Arenson worked extremely hard to get to this significant landmark. He wrote great books and went out and did it by himself.

I congratulate him…and wonder.

 

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He has written three epic fantasy novels and the first reached the Quarter Finals of  the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award as of March 2012. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/ and on Twitter (@elfwriter).