In Awe of George R.R. Martin & his Peer

I wrote this post last month but realized that, with the entire GoT community enthralled with Season 8 on HBO, it might not be a great time to exalt a book by the creator. Neither is it the first time I have written about Martin, either in awe or frustration.

I had not read what the book was about when I started to listen to the audio version of Fire and Blood. My initial reaction was that this was a bust, a clumsy attempt to get GoT fanatics to spend more money.

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This book is fictional history and presented exactly as one would expect when reading about the Roman Empire or the kings and queens of England. It is one person narrating about events, sprinkled with the occasional legend or rumor. But there is no dialogue and a very different angle on character development than what one expects in a novel.

And yet I was intrigued. I listened through the long and intricate history, getting excited when the origins of such things as how the Iron Throne and even King’s Landing came about. When I began to see a link forming between what was being read (and absolute kudos to the incredible narration by Simon Vance) and what I know is coming in ASOIAS, my excitement rose. I listened twice to the chapter about Bravos.

When I sat to write this post, my goal was to exult the world-building vision of George R.R. Martin. Who could possibly get away writing fiction without dialogue? Who would dare try? I came up with only a single comparable and the epiphany shocked me.

There is only one other author who could possibly have pulled this off, a certain Oxford professor for whom an incredible movie was just released and largely ignored (I think – did you watch it?).

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I have always considered Tolkien to be a one-off, an author such as we have never seen in terms of such comprehensive world building, and will never see again. Now, despite my frustration with Mr. Martin for allowing the TV series to get ahead of the books, and the general pace of his production (go ahead George – kill off my favorite character!), I bestow upon him the right to stand alongside The Professor in the pantheon of my legendary authors.

George Martin to kill Tyrion

I know this is a strange referral, but an anonymous reviewer on the Amazon page wrote exactly what I want to articulate. He or she refers to themselves as DM and their review is the first of 897 entitled The History Tolkien Longed To Publish (DM – if you read this, please reach out – I would love to properly attribute your excellent review).

Essentially, when he wrote The Silmarillion saga, Tolkien was attempting to provide us with the depth of the world he had built, something only hinted about in The Hobbit or LOTR. Whether he achieved this or not, I will leave to the Tolkien scholars to debate.

All I know is, as I reflect on the world I created in the Wycaan Master series, and now the Kingfisher Saga, I follow in the footsteps of giants … two giants who continue to motivate me to raise my own level of what we authors call The Craft.

Finally, in response to the Starbucks scandal (see 1st image) below, I loved this response (2nd image) of how the coffee order was likely made. Hopefully, I leave you with a laugh, and use as an excuse to boast that my eldest son is now officially a barista at Peet’s and, in my totally unbiased opinion as a proud father, rocking it!

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Good Writing,

Alon Shalev / 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 published by Tourmaline Books.

More at http://www.alon-shalev.com and on Twitter (@elfwriter).

Galbrieth cover.5th.anniversary

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Grinding It Out

In over fifteen years of writing, I have rarely not ‘felt like writing.” Usually, I am frustrated that with a full-time job, family etc., that I don’t have enough time. I have expounded on this blog before about writing every day and I mean it. My absolute non-medical opinion is that there is a creative muscle somewhere in our bodies and, like the biceps and six-pack, it needs to nurtured…every day. Actually, when I went online for images to add to the blog, I see I am not alone in this thought.

Fortunately, I look on writing more favorably than the gym. I subscribe to the tweet they show all the time on the 24 Hour Fitness screens: “I really regret that work out…” said no one, everBut I often need to drag myself to the gym, usually by chastising myself that I am wasting the membership I am paying for.

Not so with my writing. I write in hour-long slots, just before work, just after work and before chasing the bus, after the dinner is cleared away and kids settled. I attack it with a vengeance, stopping reading an article about my soccer team or politics, because it’s 8am and the clock starts ticking.

So today (Sunday) took me by surprise. I rose from a good night’s sleep and drove to a Peets coffee shop where my son was working, and over a turmeric latte settled in to write. But I really didn’t feel inspired. I thought of checking soccer reports, basketball playoff reports, even discover more factual conjecture on the Muller Report. Yeah, I felt that resistant.

The strange part is that I am over midway through writing my latest novel. I know where the characters and I are going, and there are no problems that I can see (I’m not sure the characters are as confident). I cannot explain why I was felt so resistant, but I drank my coffee and ground it out.

Even an old Englishman from my hometown who was a friend of Alfred Peet couldn’t knock me off my stride (though you are about to become a character in my latest novel, Nigel. That’ll teach you to distract me!).

I have not read what I wrote. I think it was about two-thirds of a chapter. I have a feeling it is bad, even by Anne Lamott’s shitty first draft standards. It will likely be heavily edited, rewritten, or ripped up (if I ever bother to print it).

But it was important that I sat down and wrote. It feels like when you ease up once on a run or set of exercises, it just becomes too easy to do it again.

I wrote today…and I will write tomorrow. There is no room for doubt.

Good Writing,

Alon Shalev

ps – in case you haven’t seen, my website URL has changed to http://www.alon-shalev.com. Find out why here

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Alon Shalev is the author of the 2013 Eric Hoffer YA Book Award winner, At The Walls Of Galbrieth (ebook currently at 99c) and five other Wycaan Master books all released by Tourmaline Books and available in KU. Sign up for more information about Alon Shalev at his author website.

 

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?

Meditation

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.

Tunnel

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.