Dragons But Not Unicorns?

So there I was minding my own business, having merrily written 40,0000 words of a Magical Realism (“low fantasy –a sub-genre of fantasy fiction involving “nonrational happenings that are without causality or rationality because they occur in the rational world where such things are not supposed to occur.” – Brian Stableford – The A to Z of Fantasy Literature – I had to look it up a while ago).

I was quite happy imagining a Game of Thrones type book (I know, very different from the Wycaan Master series) and then one of my characters has to make an innocent quip: “Dragons don’t exist, do they?”

Before I could press save and turn off the laptop, before I could say – well, burn me to a cinder – there he (or she) was flying around, flapping those great wings, swinging that long spiked tail

“There goes my genre shift,” I thought as the next chapter appeared on my screen.

Now I was baptized in the fires of Smaug (actually I’m Jewish but Smaug as a Mohel performing a circumcision is frankly too disturbing), my sons flew in their imagination on the backs of Saphira and Christopher Paolini’s other dragons.

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But there is something about dragons that has kept them alive in our culture that is fascinating. The Chinese have a historic connection that goes back to, well it makes you wonder. In my homeland, Sir George had to slay one to become the patron saint of the Brits, and the dragon is possibly the most common and, dare I say, respected mythical animal in the fantasy genre.

So what is wrong with unicorns, for example? Why have they not become as popular? They can fight, heal, and even create powerful wands (which J.K. Rowlings wizard am I talking about?), but they have not caught our imagination like dragons.

Laying myself at the mercy of Google, I discovered that the dragon myth grew separately in China, Europe, and even the Americas and Australia. The Aussies have a number of animals including the Goanna that lend themselves to the myth. The Nile crocodiles were apparently much bigger than the one we know today and walked in an elevated gait. Whales and dinosaurs also add to the potential creation of the myth.

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But perhaps the most fascinating theory is suggested on the Smithsonian blog. I couldn’t find the author to attribute  – my apologies – but these are his/her words:

In his book An Instinct for Dragons, anthropologist David E. Jones argues that belief in dragons is so widespread among ancient cultures because evolution embedded an innate fear of predators in the human mind. Just as monkeys have been shown to exhibit a fear of snakes and large cats, Jones hypothesizes that the trait of fearing large predators—such as pythons, birds of prey and elephants—has been selected for in hominids. In more recent times, he argues, these universal fears have been frequently combined in folklore and created the myth of the dragon.

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Whatever created it, the myth of the dragon has deepened with the growth in popularity of the genre. Eragon’s relationship with Saphira and the history in the Inheritance Series is far more complex than Tolkien’s Smaug, or those Harry Potter had to deal with. George R.R. Martin skirts around the existence of dragons in his early books. His description of the crypts of Winterfell, and later when Aria is in the bowels of the capital, are almost a reverent tribute to these once majestic beasts.

It is a relationship that has captured the imagination of a generation. My sons, for whom Paolini was so influential, have devoured many books with dragons, without any sign of tiring. For them and others, I found this interesting artistic reflection of the sizes of the various dragons that Paolini creates – Enjoy.

Have a great week.

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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).

 

Rise of the Short Novel

I am a fast writer. I can have a 100k manuscript written in 100 days, but it is, to quote Anne Lamott, ‘a shitty first draft’. I then go through a three-month editing process before seeing to my editor. She then takes two months process with a professional editor, another month or two of rewrites based on her feedback, a final round with the editor, and then a beta reader or two.

A high quality novel takes time. It takes a huge amount of effort and creativity. The process needs to be respected.

The novel now shares the shelf with the novella, the short story and flash fiction. Numerous writers have explained to me the lure and skill in writing any of these shorter forms. There is a need for succinctness in descriptions, plot, and the need to hook the reader immediately. I get it. Not my cup of tea, but I understand that there are other aspects to the craft that appeal to people.

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But there is also the Churn Mill. It is becoming common to meet writers who proudly announce they are writing a novel a month…or week, and that this is an integral part of their business model. The plan is basically to have a long backlist of books: 20, 50, 100… and hope to hook a reader to one book that will infuse them with desire to buy the other 99.

My issue is not with them having a business plan. There is no shame in writing for money. But I am uncomfortable with the way they are treating their readers. It should never be all about the numbers, not if we are considering ourselves artists, and not if ever want to betray our readers.

I wrote about how Terry Brooks appreciates his audience. I saw this week, after Daniel Arenson posted some news on his Facebook page, how he took the trouble to answer his readers’ questions and to thank them. These are authors who, I am sure, know they must bind their readers to them for business reasons, but who genuinely enjoy engaging with the people who invest money and time in their books.

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Terry Brooks

My readers know I love writing full-length novels. The first draft can be up to 120,000 words long and after my editor has worked her magic, the word count hovers just under the 100,00 word mark.

A novel allows the reader to travel to another world, to get to know characters intimately, see how they develop, and build a friendship with them. It allows the reader to escape and live for a while in a fantasy world.

There is something rich and emotionally investing in reading a full-length novel and a series. I can define periods of my life as I traveled through Shannara, Alagaesia, and Middle Earth. They are milestones that illuminate certain times.

I will forever be grateful to Christopher Paolini who wrote his Eragon books at the perfect time for me to share with my sons, a bond we will always have, and that laid the foundation for their companionship through the Wycaan Master series. Whenever we are on the road together and see a beautiful vista, one of us murmurs Alagaesia, and we all nod.

Summer 2015 Reading Book 6

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

Enough said.

Finally, thank you to everyone who participated in the April sale. I appreciate your support and hope you will enjoy the entire series. Please: take a few minutes and leave reviews for the books you read on Amazon or Goodreads. Reviews are critical for the author and I thank you in advance for helping.

Have a good week, everyone.

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 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).

 

 

Sacrificial Flame at 99 Cents … for now!

This week, Tourmaline Books has decided to reduce the ebook price of Sacrificial Flame to just 99 cents! 

I once said that this is the book I am most proud of in the series and the other books got terribly offended. But in many ways it is. I think in terms of pace, plot threads, and the introduction of so many new characters, this book is my best so far.

It begins a whole new story line, so there is no need to have completed the previous three books. The novel has a 4.9 rating on Amazon from 24 reviews. Well enjoy, I guess. I am not sure how long it will stay at this price – I was surprised myself.

Sacrificial Flame Cover Hi Res

Here are five reviews from Verified Purchasers, from Amazon’s higher ranks of reviewers. I know none of these people, but if any of you are reading – thank you for your generous reviews:

Marley – Wonderful, wonderful story! Loved the characters, especially the children. Couldn’t put it down. A must read for anyone who loves epic fantasy. Shalev has it all – great writing, a wonderful world populated by dwarves, elves, humans and some great new races.

Lorax – Shalev has the flair of a great story teller, sometimes rushing head-on, at others, holding back in a disciplined restraint. His pitch-perfect ear for dialogue and polished presentation engage the reader throughout.

S. Cook – Mr. Shalev brings a tremendously exciting story to life with characters that are too good to leave on the page. This was a really surprising find for me and I’m now hooked on this series. The story telling and descriptive writing style make this book a true page-turner, great for someone wanting to lose themselves in a book for a while. This is exactly the type of book I like reading on the train on my way to and from work – Interesting, intricate, fun and intelligent. You have to read Mr. Shalev! You won’t be disappointed!

Alia The Kindle Lover – Alon does it again!! So glad I found this series, it continues to blow me away!! If you’re looking for a true, good fantasy series, you absolutely will find it in Wycaan Master!! Well done!!

Amy -While I will try to keep this review spoiler free, there are three books prior to this so please be prepared to be spoiled on those. The original trilogy took us on the adventure of Seanchai growing into the Wycaan master to face down the evil emperor. We met exciting new races and loved and lost with the protagonists. (Did an author really kill a main character? Could he actually be so realistic about the harsh world of revolution?) Now we have jumped a decade forward as peace has settled across Odessiya and Seanchai has become a father. 

If you do read Sacrificial Flame, please post a review on Amazon and let me know what you think.

Thank you,

Elfwriter

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Alon Shalev is the author of the 2013 Eric Hoffer YA Book Award winner, At The Walls of Galbrieth, The First Decree Ashbar – Wycaan Master Book 3,  Sacrificial Flame, and the latest: From Ashes They Rose, all released by Tourmaline Books. 

Shalev is also the author of three social justice-themed novels including The Accidental Activist and  Unwanted HeroesHe swears there is a connection. More at http://www.alonshalev.com and on Twitter  (@elfwriter). Hang out with Alon on Goodreads.

Meet Me On Goodreads

This weekend, I finished teaching a class on Goodreads taking material from the excellent book by Michelle Campbell-Scott. If you are an author, check it out, but this article is not directed at authors, but at readers.

Here are 10 reasons I love Goodreads:

  1. Since merging with Amazon, Goodreads has grown its membership to 40 million readers – a nation of people who simply love reading and sharing their thoughts and opinions about books.
  1. Shelves: I love how you can organize the books you have read, are reading and will read, by genre or any system you want. I enjoy checking the books others have read, perusing their reviews, and discovering new authors.

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  1. Groups: You can find groups on almost any book-related topic. People are passionate and the conversations are lively and excellent. It also feels, probably to the credit of the facilitators, that there are very few flamers, obnoxious or rude people. Members can actually disagree with each other without getting bent out of shape or insulting others (is this really the Internet?).
  1. Through the friendships we form, people will also recommend sources when you are looking for help on whatever topic is being discussed. It seems very fraternal.
  1. Giveaways – yes I love the chance to receive an autographed copy of a book and to help that author in return – reviewing and mentioning the experience I had reading their book. It’s cool!

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  1. Following authors: Goodreads provides the opportunity to follow authors, read their newsletters, know when their books are released and, if you are reading a series, understand the best order.
  1. Polls – I’m a sucker for polls. They are quick and offer instant validation (or not). Do you agree? Let’s take a … never mind.
  1. Listopia – This is a great way to discover new authors. If you have read 6-7 books on someone’s list, you are going to check out the other 3-4, no?
  1. Following a series – I use this a lot to check the order, thoughts etc. There are a number of series where the author (or fans) suggest you read in a different order. I appreciated in one case that most fans agreed that the middle third of books were weak, but that it was worth it to continue reading, as the last third could not be missed.

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  1. Because the world is a better place when people read and when they share that passion, it develops into a community … and I become more hopeful for humanity.

So, if you are convinced about Goodreads, please find and friend me here

While I have your attention, Tourmaline Books has decided to reduce the ebook price of Sacrificial Flame to just 99 cents! I have been quoted as saying that this is the book I am most proud of from the craft aspect (the other books got terribly jealous when I said that). It begins a whole new story line, so there is no need to have completed the previous three books. The novel has a 4.9 rating on Amazon from 24 reviews. Well enjoy, I guess. I am not sure how long it will stay at this price – I was surprised myself.

Sacrificial Flame Cover Hi Res

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, The First Decree Ashbar – Wycaan Master Book 3,  Sacrificial Flame, and the latest: From Ashes They Rose, all released by Tourmaline Books. 

Shalev is also the author of three social justice-themed novels including The Accidental Activist and  Unwanted HeroesHe swears there is a connection. More at http://www.alonshalev.com and on Twitter  (@elfwriter). Hang out with Alon on Goodreads.

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+

Limited Time Offer To Elfwriter Followers

Dear Friends,

This is a limited offer exclusive to followers of elfwriter.com.

I would like to offer a free kindle copy of At The Walls Of Galbrieth to 10 people who will commit to read and post a review on amazon.com (and anywhere else you hang out).

If you are interested, please send an email to anelfwriter at gmail dot com.

Again, this is only for 10 people who are followers of elfwriter.com. I will take down the blog post after I receive 10 replies – first come, first serve.

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Have a great weekend, everyone.

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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.

 

Did Tolkien Ever Rap?

Okay, I’m sure I’m not alone still in Hobbit land, trying to remain cocooned in Middle Earth magic for twelve months until the next movie ain’t gonna to be easy. But there are some things that will help us on our way. I don’t know who produced this, but I suspect it wasn’t a certain pipe-loving Oxford Professor.

Thank you to those who have contacted me about At The Walls Of Galbrieth. I set myself a goal to have five reviews posted by mid-January.If you read the book, please take a few minutes to post a review at Amazon.com. I really appreciate the help. Clocks ticking…

Have a great weekend,

Elfwriter

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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).