Happy Hobbit Day!

To celebrate Hobbit Day tomorrow (the birthdays of both Bilbo and Frodo), I would like to share a post I wrote two years ago after the first Hobbit movie came out. There is so much depth in the Hobbits’ simple characters, especially in relation to the others around them – wizards, kings, princes, elf lords etc., that it is an amazing tribute to Tolkien how he weaved these unassuming and lovable creatures into our psyches. This was my tribute to the old professor after the movie. 

Happy Hobbit Day!

THERE ARE NO SPOILERS ABOUT THE MOVIE IN THIS POST.

Last week I blogged about my expectation that a new generation were about to embark on an unexpected journey into the world of epic fantasy as they sat and watched the first Hobbit movie.

I mentioned with pride how my teenage son, moving into social independence, chose to see the movie with me rather than his friends. My first fantasy novel (and the three others to a lesser extent), At The Walls Of Galbrieth, was a joint project, and I identify our mutual love for the genre as one more log to grab as he flows down the river of manhood.

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We sat next to each other and whispered and compared experiences. It was everything a father could hope for.

But it was with my youngest son (10 years old) with whom I had an unexpected experience. I wish to thank the movie theatre for failing to fix the armrest between us (why does this never happen on a date?). We were able to push it up and out of the way and for three hours, we cuddled together as we watched the movie.

While my older son leaned over and whispered whenever he wanted to, I could actually feel my youngest son’s reaction by his body language. I was intrigued. I felt when he tensed, when he was amazed, when he was sad, and when he laughed.

Other people - didn't think my fellow movie-goers would appreciate the flash!

Other people – I didn’t think my fellow movie-goers would appreciate the camera flash in the middle of the movie!

As we made our way home after the movie, my youngest enthusiastically told me about how we should incorporate this or that into the fourth Wycaan Master novel. I think the Tolkien Estate might sue if we did what he was suggesting, but for the moment, I just basked in his enthusiasm.

Another epic fantasy lover. I’m not the greatest father, I know. But this evening I felt I had done my job.

Finally a shout out to Stephen Colbert. Depending on your politics, you may or may not enjoy his nightly show. But he is undoubtedly impressive with his ability to be satirical and hold his own with very high-level guests.

But he outdid himself with a week of tribute to The Hobbit. Turns out, Mr. Colbert is a major Tolkien fan. His elfish sounds polished, and his knowledge of The Professor’s work is awesome.

Colbert and Sir Ian McKellen (Gandalf)

Colbert and Sir Ian McKellen (Gandalf)

Check him out on You Tube – he has a different cast member as guest each night.

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Alon Shalev is the author of At The Walls of Galbrieth, Book 1 of The Wyccan Master series, which reached the Quarter Finals of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award 2012, released by Tourmaline Books. The First Decree, the sequel is due out in early 2013. Shalev is also the author of three social justice-themed novels: Unwanted Heroes, The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com and on Twitter (@elfwriter).

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My Secret

Friday night, a Creative Writing Major asked me what was my ‘secret’. I like this question because I can respond that if I tell them, then it is no longer a secret. The truth is, it is not secret, and neither do I have any claim to originality. You will find these ideas in a dozen books and blogs.

What is important here is that they work for me. We are all different and live in different life circumstances. But I have three recommendations that I believe could resonate with others:

1) Write every day – writing is like working out. Go to the gym or wherever you work out every day and teach your body to expect it. Likewise, when you write every day, your brain settles into a groove and the process (like those bench presses) become more natural.

It helps me to set goals. I do this monthly and they are typed up and next to my desk. Keep them real and attainable.

What do you do when you finish your first novel? Begin to write your second. Have a glass of wine first to celebrate, by all means, but then get back into it.

 

Hit the gym and the keyboards every day.

Hit the gym and the keyboards every day.

2) Put yourself out there as a writer – if you don’t take yourself seriously, no one else will. Go to a writer’s group, a lecture circuit, conference, workshops, wherever there are writers. Become a member of the community. Start to think, act and behave like a writer (I’ll leave the details to you). Last night, at my non-profit’s annual fundraiser, I put my trilogy in the silent auction. Though I never hide my ‘other’ life, it was surprising how many students and donors came up to me and said: “I never knew…”

3) Learn the Craft – I know I have mentioned these books before, but I read annually. One is Stephen King’s On Writing, and the other is Sometimes The Magic Works by Terry Brooks. I believe that anyone who wants to write should read the former, and anyone who wants to be a fantasy writer (or a mensch) should read the second.

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There is more to this point than just reading a How-To. Take an author who you admire and learn their work. Read their books first to enjoy a good story, but then read them again to understand their plot arc, character development, world-building, etc. Analyze what they do well and emulate. I do not mean copy. Take their techniques and blend with your imagination.

You might do well to apply this to how they sell their books. But here I would suggest a word of caution. Do not try to learn marketing from an A-list author. Choose someone who is five years ahead of you and follow them. Don’t come to me if you get a restraining order, I mean follow their online platform and certainly, if they are in town for a book reading or writer’s conference, then go.

A man I have my eye on (and I am referring to his success as an up-and-coming fantasy author) is Daniel Arenson, He has just released a new book – Requiem’s Song – congratulations sir. My youngest has just begun the first Requiem having heard my eldest and myself enthuse about it. He has hardly lifted his head from the book all weekend. 

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If my ‘secret’ doesn’t work for you, find someone else’s. I won’t be offended, I promise. While we are on the topic: Authors – What is your secret” Please share in the responses or consider a guest post here.

Have a great week everyone.

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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+