Fathers Get A Bad Rap

It’s true … at least in fantasy. Fathers get a bad rap. Luke Skywalker’s father hacked his arm off and tried to turn him to the dark side. I have to admit there are a few times when my kids were not doing homework that I almost reached for my light saber in frustration.

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Frodo didn’t really know his father, Eragon never knew his, and even my own Seanchai, leaves his father in the first chapter of At The Walls of Galbrieth and has to struggle through six books without parental advise, and then…well, let me know when you get to the fourth book, Sacrificial Flame.

Terry Brooks doesn’t offer much father: son/daughter love with his characters and Beowulf’s wouldn’t let his son tell anyone who his father was. Terry Goodkind might have spared Richard Cypher discovering who his father was and how he was conceived. Fathers are absent from the Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time and so on and so forth.

Here’s the mystery: all these books are written by men who, I am pretty sure, have/had sons. I myself would not even have ventured into the world of fantasy if not for a camping trip with my family.

Summer 2015 Reading Book 6

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

Fathers, when they do appear, seem to be burdened by their responsibilities, often traveling to save crown or country, and seem somewhat at a loss how to be a good father. Somehow, this is no longer sounding fantastical. I spend a fair time away from my children, admittedly not slaying dragons or fending off hordes that want to invade my country, but doing work that puts food on the family table, a roof over our heads, and hopefully doing a little good for the world along the way.

Now fantasy is about coming-of-age, about the struggle of young people overcoming challenges as they grow into their full potential. Fair enough. We put our faith in our youth – this is an age old trope – and given how badly we adults have treated this world, each other, and what a mess we have made of society, it is only natural that we channel our optimism into the next generation.

But here on Father’s Day, let’s give credit to the gene pool. These young heroes and heroines must have received the hero gene from someone. No doubt their courageous and wise mothers had something to do with it, but so did we.

So head to the local tavern and raise a mug of mead: to all our fantasy heroes and the fathers who play their part, often against all odds and without an instruction manual (which we don’t read anyhow, being men). And if that spills out from the world of fantasy into the real world, well, so mote it be!

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Happy Father’s Day!  

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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).

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The Changing Pace of Novels

A few weeks ago I wrote a blog post highlighting my favorite novels from 2015. The list included the venerable George R.R. Martin and Patrick Rothfuss. I am currently reading the third Sword of Truth by Terry Goodkind. Followers of this blog will know that I hold Terry Brooks, Christopher Paolini, and Robert Jordan in high regard, and that I am somewhat obsessed with a certain Oxford professor.

What do they share in common? Okay – they are wildly successful and have dedicated hordes of followers – no need to rub it in. But I am referring to their writing styles. All these authors write slow-paced novels with intricate details about characters, their actions and personifications, and the world they exist in. Each writes thick tomes that you need to make a commitment to reading.

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The industry, so the experts expound, believes novels should be fast-paced. They demand that we hit the ground running: “Show me a hook!” we demand in our writer’s group. “You only have 20 pages to grab your reader,” “10 pages,” “5.” Sometimes it is the first paragraph or sentence.

If you look at the reviews of my Wycaan Master series, you will see compliments such as:

– The plot and action keep you turning pages 

– It’s fast paced

– Shalev delivers a well-paced novel

And my favorite:

– Fantasy that moves at a blistering pace

I am proud of these reviews because this was my intention. I wrote the series fast because I believed that is what the industry (which purports to know the readers) demands.

But I am having my doubts. I want to add the layers that the aforementioned wrote and I believe that a large segment of epic fantasy readers crave this too. I want to create a rich world in which the readers lose themselves. I want to offer a deeper insight into the mores of the society and analyze the intricacies and inconsistencies of my characters.

Tolkein spends three pages describing Mirkwood. I probably skimmed over it when I first read The Hobbit, but as I have grown older, I seem to enjoy it, thrive on it even.

Mirkwood

I see how this does not pan out on the screen. I have watched all fifty episodes of Game of Thrones, and am now enthralled with The Shannara Chronicles. But if I were to be critical (perish the thought), I would say they have missed out so much. Of course, this would mean that each GoT season would last a couple of years but hey, you won’t hear any complaints from me!

But back to the world of novels: What do you prefer between the fast-paced, action-packed novels and those that take their time?

Love to hear.

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, and three more novels in the Wycaan Master Series – all released by Tourmaline Books. From Ashes They Rose, is the latest in the series. 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+ 

Deeper than a Joke

There is a joke going round the Internet:

A teenager visits his uncle and is impressed to see the older man’s den is decked out with epic fantasy memorabilia. There are boxed figures of elves and dwarves, swords on walls, a couple of helmets and more. The boy walks along a wall lined with complete book collections of every greatest series.

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He abruptly stops. “Uncle, you have so many books from every famous author, but you are missing books from the biggest of them all?”

His uncle looked up surprised. “Tolkien?” he said. “Of course I have them all.”

“No,” his nephew persisted. “You only have the first Hobbit book. There are three.”

Now to be clear: I love the Peter Jackson movies, every one of them, and can’t wait to go this week to the final Hobbit movie. I have just lovingly brought my eldest son and wife up to date on the fourth series of Game of Thrones, the TV series, even though they both languish in reading Book 1. I am one of the 15,000 who signed the famous petition demanding a third Sword of Truth series from ABC and, just between us, mourn that Christopher Paolini’s Inheritance series never spawned more than one movie.

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Having said this, I do wonder whether we are nurturing a generation who are defining epic fantasy based upon the movie, rather than the book. When we watched the final episode of the fourth Game of Thrones series, something happened that was hinted about throughout the books (please no spoilers in the comments). Yet both my wife and son were perplexed, because the movies/TV series is never going to be able to capture the intricacies and subtleties.

This week, we became a three-eReader family. It was a big decision, but an acceptance of the times. If I want my sons to read books, I need to bring them in a medium they expect – on screens.

My Wycaan Master series, which, I assume, is read mostly by young adults, continues to sell far more ebooks rather than tree books. My eldest is excited to see the Maze Runner movie, having loved reading the books. That is, I feel, how it should be.

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But I also know that a new generation of Tolkien troopers, Goodkind groupies, and Dashner disciples, will grow up basing their experiences on the movies…and I can’t help feeling there is something missing.

Have a great week – enjoy the final Hobbit movie.

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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, and Ashbar – Wycaan Master Book 3 – all released by Tourmaline Books. His latest novel is Sacrificial Flame, the fourth in the series.

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+

 

Words of Truth – Terry Goodkind

“I like to deliver my philosophy at sword-point.” Terry Goodkind.

I was first introduced to Terry Goodkind, courtesy of Legend of the Seeker – his first two books serialized for TV. A handsome everyday hero, beautiful and oft-evil women, a quest, a sword, magic … need I say more?

imgresFor some inexplicable reason, despite solid ratings, the series lasted only two series. If you feel so moved by the injustice, you can join the Save The Seeker movement and show that there is a following for a third season.

I am in the middle of the second book and incredibly impressed with Terry Goodkind. He provides all the ingredients one would expect from a master of epic fantasy. In particular, his world building is so effortless and clear.

One warning: the books are far more gritty than the TV series. I’m not sure I would want my 14-year-old to read them, but having said that, some of the scenes that I am thinking of, are amazingly written. While I loved Legend of the Seeker, it is in no way a replacement for the books. I do wonder, however, having watched Game of Thrones, whether these gritty scenes could appear in a third series and whether this might propel Seeker to the same ratings as Game of Thrones.

imgres-1I confess to being a fan of authors and so went looking for some interviews with Terry Goodkind. The third and fourth interviews provide a great insight to a very unique man. This is a very cool interview.

But it is the first two interviews that really excited me. Last week I made a suggestion that epic fantasy can be a vehicle for imparting social values. In his ‘Confessor’ interviews, Goodkind articulates a similar perspective – and like his books, he is quite inspirational.

Make yourself a cup of coffee, put your feet up, and have a great weekend.

Elfwriter.

‘Confessor’ interviews:

Words of Truth:

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Alon Shalev is the author oAt 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 HeroesThe Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com and on Twitter (@elfwriter).

Top Current Epic Fantasy Novels

Amazon.com sent me list of their best-selling titles (see below). I thought we could springboard on it and see who is reading what. Are you reading any of these novels? What is the best epic fantasy novel that you have read in the last few months?

I am particularly interested in Terry Goodkind. I enjoyed watching Legend of the Seeker on TV, but never got into the Sword of Truth – his first novel. Have you been reading his books? Let me know.

Have a great weekend,

Alon

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He has written two fantasy novels and the first has been entered into the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award in January 2012. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/and on Twitter (@elfwriter).

Alon


A Discovery of Witches: A Novel (All Souls Trilogy) A Discovery of Witches: A Novel (All Souls Trilogy)
by Deborah Harkness
The Wise Man's Fear: The Kingkiller Chronicle: Day Two (Kingkiller Chronicles) The Wise Man’s Fear: The Kingkiller Chronicle: Day Two (Kingkiller Chronicles)
by Patrick Rothfuss
A Game of Thrones: The Graphic Novel: Volume One A Game of Thrones: The Graphic Novel: Volume One
by Daniel Abraham, George R.R. Martin
Charon's Claw: Neverwinter Saga, Book III Charon’s Claw: Neverwinter Saga, Book III
by R.A. Salvatore
Confessor (Sword of Truth) Confessor (Sword of Truth)
by Terry Goodkind
Cry Wolf (Alpha and Omega, Book 1) Cry Wolf (Alpha and Omega, Book 1)
by Patricia Briggs
Guild Wars : Ghosts of Ascalon Guild Wars : Ghosts of Ascalonby Matt Forbeck
The Wheel of Time, Boxed Set II, Books 4-6: The Shadow Rising, The Fires of Heaven, Lord of Chaos The Wheel of Time, Boxed Set II, Books 4-6: The Shadow Rising, The Fires of Heaven, Lord of Chaos
by Robert Jordan

Epic Fantasy’s Hall of Fame

Being new to the wonderful world of fantasy, I am published in political and transformation fiction, I am greatly in debt to Castle Fiction for a list of past and present masters. The comments after the names are mainly from the Castle Fiction, but I would love to hear which you have read and how you felt about them.

Past Major Fantasy Authors:

William Morris I admit that I have never heard of William Morris and understand that this is a hole in my education. I consider Tolkien to be the father of modern-day epic fantasy but apparently this is incorrect. “It all started with the publication in 1892 of the William Morris novel The Well at the World’s End. This is an outstanding piece of Epic Fantasy and it is considered to be the first epic fantasy work of the modern era. The same applies for another Morris novel titled “The Wood Beyond the World.”

Edith Nesbitt A prolific author at the end of the 19th century she created a genre of children’s fantasy literature. It often had normal contemporary children who engaged in magical adventures and discovered magical objects. She set the genre for many contemporary writers including J.K. Rowling. Some of her notable books are Five Children and It and The Story of the Amulet.

J.R.R. Tolkien A master of the craft that created the complete world of Middle Earth which included maps, languages and much more. Most notable works is the Lord of the Rings Series.

Tolkien - Middle Earth Master

Edgar Rice Burroughs Early twentieth century writer that created memorable characters and explored different worlds. His most memorable character is Tarzan. And his most popular series of books include the Barsoom series which takes place on Mars. The Venus series and the Pellucidar series which takes place within the hollow earth.

Robert E. Howard Mid 20th century writer who was a heavy contributor to the pulp fiction magazines. He is generally credited with creating the swords & sorcery genre. His most notable character is Conan.

T.H. White Mid 20th century writer who penned several books in the King Arthur tradition. The most notable of which is The Sword in the Stone which ushered in the modern Arthurian novel. Of note was a posthumous publication of his novel The Book of Merlyn

E.R.R. Eddison Considered to be the father of High Fantasy he wrote several books that influenced authors to come such as Lewis and Tolkien. Of his highly imaginative worlds The Worm Ouroboros is one of the most famous.

C.S. Lewis He was a scholar of medieval literature and mythology penning many works in a variety of genres including fiction, religious fiction and science fiction. His most notable works are the epic fantasy Chronicles of Narnia.


Present Major Authors:

Terry Brooks In the late 70’s Brooks published the novel The Sword of Shannara. It climbed to the top of best seller lists and stood there for years. Heavily drawing on Tolkien this book reintroduced the epic fantasy to the general public. Brooks continued the Shannara series with several more books. He has gone on to pen even more series.

Scene from Sword of Shannara

Terry Goodkind Writer of the Sword of Truth series which began with Wizards First Rule This is a solid series that takes a more serious approach to epic fantasy. The books explore philosophical questions. The series became a TV series – Legend of the Seeker – which lasted for two seasons.

Robert Jordan Is the writer of the enormously successful Wheel of Time series which is currently eleven volumes. He has also written many works based on the Robert E. Howard Conan character.

Stephen Donaldson Creator of The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant series of books which now number seven volumes and is most notable for its use of the anti-hero in which the main character maintains a reluctance to actually take on the mantle of the hero. He has written several other series in the genre.

Marion Zimmer Bradley Editor of the famous sword and sorcery series Bradley is also a prolific writer. Most notable among her writings is the Arthurian Avalon series which begun with The Mists of Avalon.

David Eddings Writer of sword & sorcery and epic fantasy series he is most famous for the Belgariad and the Mallorean series.

Raymond Feist Many of his works are set in the connected worlds of Midkemia and Kelewan. This is called the Riftwar series and the novels range over various geographic locations and span centuries. He began his writing with the first novel in the Riftwar series called Magician: Apprentice. Another series of note is the Krondor series.

Robin Hobb Is the author of several popular trilogies including The Farseer Trilogy, The Liveship Traders Trilogy and The Tawny Man Trilogy

Stephen King Although considered to be the master of horror King has published an enormous body of work in the fantasy genre. He crosses genre at will and breaks all the rules but notable is his Dark Tower Trilogy and The Eyes of the Dragon which is classic fantasy.

L.E. Modesitt Author of several series most notable are The Corean Chronicles
Set on the world of Corus (or Acorus), where strange and dangerous beasts roam and people with magical Talent can commit astonishing feats. Also is The Spellsong Cycle and The Timegod’s World which draws heavily on Norse legend.

George R.R. Martin Most notable for his Song of Ice and Fire series which was begun with A Game of Thrones in 1996.

Tad Williams Writer of several fantasy series the most notable of which Memory, Sorrow, & Thorn which was begun with The Dragonbone Chair

J.K. Rowling Creator of the enormously popular Harry Potter series which began with Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. These books have also been transformed into successful movies.

David Farlane – The Author of the Acclaimed Runelords series. The fifth book has just been published and the first book is being made into a major motion picture.

What are your favorite authors of High or Epic Fantasy? Do you agree with the comments added above?

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He has written two fantasy novels and the first will enter the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award in January 2012. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/and on Twitter (#elfwriter).