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).

 

A Son’s Journey Begins…

It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.

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Not my usual elfwriter blog post, but…

In a few precious months, my oldest son will graduate high school and leave home. Sure, I could tell you with pride that he will participate in a social justice gap year program prior to going to university, but for the moment, I am just stuck on the idea that he is leaving home. A car advert – father watches son drive very nice car away from the home to… – had me in tears on an airplane.

My son recently read a book that intrigued him and he could not put down. Then he asked if I would buy him a hardcover copy that he could take with him, perhaps share with friends, or reread when he feels the need.

In case you are wondering, the book is called Into the Magic Shop: A Neurosurgeon’s Quest to Discover the Mysteries of the Brain and the Secrets of the Heart by Dr. James Doty, and this got me thinking. All his life I have tried to instill a desire in my son to read. Of course, the more I pushed, the more he rebelled … just like when his darn father was as a kid. But there were times when we bonded over books.

I remember Christopher Paolini’s Inheritance series, as we stood in line at midnight in Borders waiting for the next book, and the delight when the bookseller, seeing him literally falling asleep on his feet as he swayed and leaned against me, snuck the only autographed copy into his hands. He sleepily declared he would stay up all night reading it, before falling asleep in the car and then in his bed, tightly hugging the book.

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My son holding his autographed copy.

Then there were the Harry Potter series, a rite-of-passage for many parents and children. I am thrilled that we were a family during this exciting moment in time.

And, of course, there was his crucial role in the writing of the Wycaan Master series. He was the inspiration that led me to write the series and for six summers he listened and offered sound feedback around the campfire in the ancient redwood forests.

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Writing the 1st novel – a family effort!

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

But his request is not about the books that were, but the books that are and will be. So I am asking for your help: what are the books that influenced and guided you when you left your parents’ home?

Here are a few from my time at college that I am thinking of including:

  1. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance – Robert Persig.
  2. The Tao of Poo – Benjamin Hoff
  3. Jonathan Livingston Seagull – Richard Bach.
  4. Iron John – Robert Bly.

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I am particularly interested in books for a young man, but am happy to corollate a list that is more specific for young women as well. Please share the books that influenced you when you were that age in the comments below.

Thank you,

An Apprehensive Father.

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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).

Doing It For The Kids

Since the US elections, living in the People’s Republic of Berkeley and working for a Human Rights organization, life feels very intense. Conversations are heavy and the TV follows Rachel Maddow and her colleagues. This is not lost on my teenager kids and their friends.

It has been a tough political coming-of-age as my sons avidly watched the primaries, election and inauguration, seeing the emergence of a political entity that is the opposite of the values we have shared with them. They have friends who are people of color, female, and LGBT.

I told a friend that I am considering leaving the epic fantasy world and returning to social justice-themed novels such as The Accidental Activist and Unwanted Heroes, which I wrote a decade ago. One is about the abuse perpetrated by multinational corporations and the other about war veterans and their struggle. I have another completed draft that is gathering dust about gay rights. Her response surprised me.

She said that young people deserve the escape route that my books offer, that I sending powerful messages about the value of friendship, the abuse and responsibility of leadership, and about racism and tolerance.

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I am driven to share my values and beliefs with my children and their friends. Working with millennials for almost a decade, I felt privileged to have the opportunity to be a role model and challenge students to questions their values and those around them. For years after Hurricane Katrina, I took students to New Orleans, not just to help rebuild, but to bear witness to the stories of those who were racially discriminated against.

But my children, and many young readers of the Wycaan Master series, deserve an opportunity to grow up and enjoy their childhood, teenage and college years. I am not suggesting they should be oblivious to, or shielded from, what is happening. But they need outlets to balance this.

Opening a book, getting invested in a series, can be memorable and powerful experience. It offers readers of all ages, a chance to soar to a different land, to make friends and cheer on characters who take risks and face great challenges, a chance to dream.

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It is not just the children and young adults. I should not feel bad that I spend a portion of my time watching sport and reading fiction myself. We all need to become involved and aware – this is the greatest lesson from this election cycle and an imperative going forward – but we all need to seek balance in our lives.

So, as you look at your schedule for the coming week, why not reserve time for a hot bath, a glass of wine, and a good novel?

Alon @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 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).

Today’s the Day! Calhei No More – Released!

It all started six years ago in 2010, a whim to engage my sons on a camping trip in an ancient redwood forest.

At The Walls of Galbrieth won the 2013 Eric Hoffer YA Book Award and a rollercoaster journey was set into motion.

It ends today with the launch of Calhei No More, available in paperback and e-book.

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Thank you for joining me on this epic adventure. Please leave reviews on Amazon and keep in touch – you can leave comments here on the elfwriter blog and on twitter @elfwriter, and I always respond on my email is anelfwriter@gmail.com.

It has been fun and sometimes tortuous – characters have a habit of not doing what they are supposed to. Writing has entered my DNA and there are various projects in the pipeline, so please keep following the blog or sign up for my newsletter (4-5/yr) here.

A big thank you to Tourmaline Books for keeping the faith, to my editor Monica Buntin, cover artist William J. Kenney, and the folks at The Fast Fingers who set the internal book matter. We’ve been together a long time and I have only reached this wonderful stage with your help and partnership.

Thank you to everyone for your readership and fellowship, your feedback and enthusiasm, and your willingness to join the Wycaan Masters to create a better world for themselves and their people. Hoping we can do the same for each other – perhaps there is not such a gap between fantasy and reality – and maybe there never should be.

Alon

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Alon Shalev is the author of the 2013 Eric Hoffer YA Book Award, At The Walls of Galbrieth, and five more novels in the Wycaan Master Series – all released by Tourmaline Books. Calhei No More, the final book in the series will be released November 15, 2016. It will all end on the Plains of Shindellia.

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+ 

Book 6: What Happened?

Dear Friends,

 

The release date, October 15, came and went, and Calhei No More, the final book in the Wycaan Master series, was not released. Ten days earlier I suffered an accident, shattering my knee into seven pieces and destroying the tendons. Tourmaline Books made the decision to postpone the book launch for a month.

 

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I apologize that the communication was not clear and that many readers were left searching for a non-existent book on the 15th. It was my Dad’s 92nd birthday and I was looking forward to the double celebration. Neither happened, and I have been so out of it taking strong painkillers while desperately trying to feel excited and inspired through the pain. I am writing this post sitting on my couch with my leg strapped and elevated.

 

Calhei No More is on schedule to be released on November 15 and the pre-order should be up in the next few days. I hope to have more energy nearer the time to promote it. In the meantime, you can help in one of two simple ways:

 

1.  At The Walls Of Galbrieth is still priced as an ebook at 99 cents. Perhaps you could send the ebook as a gift to a few people you think might enjoy it and introduce them to the series.

 

2.  From Ashes They Rose is the book that precedes the final book. Please take a moment and leave a review. This is not something I took care of last year because I finished From Ashes They Rose and went straight into writing Calhei No More. Reviews would be really helpful right now.

 

In an earlier interview, I noted that Sacrificial Flame (Book 4) and From Ashes They Rose  (Book 5) are, in my opinion, the best of the series. Together with Calhei No More, this trilogy is more adult, digs deeper into areas and characters, and has a set of more complicated plots and subplots. I am very proud of it and hope you feel the same way. 

 

Sacrificial Flame Cover Hi Res       Book 5 Cover FINAL

 

Thank you for your support and being so patient.

 

Alon

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Alon Shalev is the author of the 2013 Eric Hoffer YA Book Award, At The Walls of Galbrieth, and four more novels in the Wycaan Master Series – all released by Tourmaline Books. Calhei No More, the final book will be released November 2016 in the series. It will all end on the Plains of Shindellia.

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+

A Gift For The Gifted

Last month, when Amazon featured At The Walls Of Galbrieth, I asked my teenage son to get his friends to download the book and leave a review. He responded that most of them don’t have a kindle or even the app on their phones.

I was surprised and pushed back, but he persisted. When most have finished their homework it is late and they only want to chill, play a video game or read a graphic novel at best. No one has the energy to read.

No one?

Well, he admitted, some do.

Are they the ones who don’t do their homework?

He thought for a moment then decided that these were his friends who are academically the high-achievers. Actually they also participate in crew, debate club, or hold down a part-time job.

We left the conversation there, but the next day he asked if he could download a book to read. It has just come out and is part of a series he was reading in the summer vacation and before. He is excited about its release.

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I am proud that he joined the dots and decided to begin reading again. He spends almost all his waking hours at school or doing homework. I know and appreciate how much energy he invests just to keep up. But he realized that those friends he wishes to emulate are reading.

It is no surprise that teenagers who are reading are flocking to series. They grew up on Harry Potter and a host of other great series. These books offered long months or years of reading, of living in a world they got to know as well as their own, and of meeting characters who turned into good, steady friends. They got sad when they finished the last page of the most current book and counted down to the new release. In an age of instant gratification, waiting a year or two for a new novel is unthinkable!

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My son and I stood at midnight (actually he fell asleep leaning against me) in Borders waiting for the fourth Christopher Paolini book. By the time we returned home, he was too tired to read it, but that did not stop him falling asleep hugging the book.

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My eldest holding his autographed copy at the midnight release… a priceless moment from 2010!

It is fun to see that even now, years after the Harry Potter series began and even ended, how excited everyone gets when J.K. Rowling tweets a thought.

So when you consider what to buy a teenager or pre-teen for the holidays, you could do worse than buy a few books and begin them on a journey to another world that they envisage on their terms (with a little input from a humble author!). And, though this article is not meant as a promotion, well, I’ll leave you with a gif.

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Happy Holidays,

Alon / 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 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).

 

 

 

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!