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.

Sac Flame 2

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.

Pele w:Eragon

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.

Car Magnet trilogy

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).

 

 

 

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Sacrificial Flame Released!

This weekend sees the release of Sacrificial Flame, the fourth Wycaan Master novel, available in paperback and Kindle. One would think that when your seventh book comes out, the thrill lessens. You never forget your first time, right (I know, but bear with me)! I wonder how Henry VIII felt at his sixth wedding?

Sacrificial Flame Cover Hi Res

I have written in the past about that special moment and it remains one of the most reblogged and retweeted elfwriter blog posts. But it was true when I wrote it and it is just as true now. The thrill of holding the book, and of seeing its’ gradual uploading onto Amazon, is simply palpable.

Sacrificial Flame is different from the novels of the first trilogy. It is darker, more complex, and I realize that I am aiming my novels at my own kids (my most important target audience) and they are growing up. We wrote the first when my eldest was 10 years old. Now he is a teenager who shaves and thinks about his appearance and the interactions around him. He and I talk about politics, drugs, and money (among other lighter topics).

Sac Flame 2

As I write this, I am reading the first draft of Book 5 every night to my sons. It remains the highlight of my summer and I thrive on their reactions, appreciate their feedback, and treasure the ensuing conversations.

Book 5 will take a time-out after this reading, left to ferment like a hopeful wine, and then receive a serious edit in the fall, before leaving for the arms of another. Book 6? Maybe now, but more likely in the winter. Whenever it begins, the first rough draft must be ready for next summer’s rite-of-passage.

In the meantime, I wait anxiously for the verdict on Sacrificial Flame. Please let me know what you think, leaving comments on this blog post, on twitter, or most importantly, an honest review on amazon.

Good reading,

Alon

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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. 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+

A Prime Read!

“Hey Dad. Do we have Amazon Prime?”

“Sure son,” I reply.

“Great. We can get your ebooks for free .” He pauses for a few moments, perhaps pondering his own statement. “Err Dad. Do many people have Amazon Prime?”

“I believe it’s growing in popularity,” I say, invoking my fatherly privilege to all knowledge.

Actually, Morningstar analyst R.J. Hottovy published a report in March 2013 that claimed Amazon Prime membership had more than 10 million at the time of writing. Shame I didn’t have the use of Google during our discussion.

“So for all our hard work, and the fact that At The Walls Of Galbrieth won a fancy award, anyone can now get it for free? That sucks.”

“It’s like a library,” I say, not sure whether I want to convince him or myself. “People can now borrow the ebook and it will help fantasy readers to learn about my writing and the Wycaan Master series.”

“But they get it for free?” He has a certain skeptical frown that develops during adolescence, when teenagers begin to discover their fathers are generally making up fatherhood as we go.

“They do,” I gulp a glass of water. “But this is good for my market penetration.”

Big mistake. Remember: talking to teenager.

“Look son. You know how you are always complaining that you don’t have money to buy books?”

“You mean video games and a Harley, right?”

“Well think how many teenagers won’t have to deal with that problem now. They can borrow my book for a month on Amazon.”

“It’s still free, right?” Major teenage frown now.

“If you have Amazon Prime,” I add.

“Where did you get this idea?”

“From a marketing  book that focused on Amazon.”

“How much did you pay for this smart book, Dad?”

“I didn’t,” I reply. “I borrowed it for free from Amazon Prime.”

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It has taken me a while to understand the concept of Amazon’s Lending Library, but the idea that I can get my book out there quickly is very tempting. If you are an Amazon Prime member, you can indeed now borrow the ebook.

While there is no necessity, if you do so, please leave a review and help me convince my son and his father.

At The Walls Of Galbrieth will be in Amazon’s KDP program until the end of 2013. Enjoy, catch up. Book 3 should be out any day soon.

UPDATE: Ashbar – Wycaan Master Book 3 was released today in paperback. Here is the link. The ebook should be available next week.

Ashbar front cover

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Alon Shalev is the author of the 2013 Eric Hoffer YA Book Award winner, At The Walls of Galbrieth, Wycaan Master Book 1 and the sequel The First Decree, both released by Tourmaline Books. Ashbar – Book 3 is the third in the series, released in October 2013. 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).

Where is the Moral Line in YA Fiction?

Since I wrote Wycaan Master with my (then) 11-year-old son, I assumed that our story fitted the Young Adult genre. It is a coming-of-age novel, so I never gave it much thought. There is no clear sex or profanity, though race is a big issue in the first book.

Since I have become absorbed in the fantasy genre, I have begun to wonder where the line is drawn. As I continue to write the second and third books in the series, intimacy has developed between characters, sometimes direct and at other times implied. There has been plenty of violence and references to overindulgence in alcohol. Colleagues at my writers group have questioned whether I should be including these themes.

As I began to research this, I found a number of excellent sources regarding YA fiction in general. Heather Dunlevy-Scheerer has written an interesting article about the historical development of YA literature.

She lays out several characteristics that she took from someone called Niday (I couldn’t find a clear reference).

(1) a teenage (or young adult) protagonist

(2) first-person perspective

(3) adult characters in the background

(4) a limited number of characters

(5) a compressed time span and familiar setting

(6) current slang

(7) detailed descriptions of appearance and dress

(8) positive resolution

(9) few, if any, subplots

(10) an approximate length of 125 to 250 pages.

From a brief skimming of the Internet, it seems that the common thread in YA fiction is an adolescent, rather than an adult or child, protagonist. However, the subject matter and story lines of leading YA literature are relevant to the challenges of youth, and more edgier novels include themes such as identity, sexuality, science fiction, depression, suicide, drug abuse, alcohol abuse, money issues, race, familial struggles, and bullying.

April Dawn Wells suggests seventeen common traits of young adult novels. These include: “friendship, getting into trouble, interest in the opposite sex, money, divorce, single parents, remarriage, problems with parents, grandparents, younger siblings, concern over grades/school, popularity, puberty, race, death, neighborhood, and job/working.

There are a number of YA novels currently in print that are on the edgier sides, dealing with peer pressure, drugs, gangs, crime, violence, sexuality, incest, oral sex, and female/male rape.

The obvious criticism of these novels is that they encourage destructive or immoral behavior or at least bring them into the adolescent’s mind at too early an age. Countering this is the fact that teens will be better equipped to deal with real-life difficult situations and social issues because they have role models in the protagonists they have followed.

Where is the line drawn in amount and nature of such issues between appropriateness and inappropriateness in young-adult fiction? How can we keep literature as a relevant medium when the exposure of TV, computer games and Internet is almost not monitored and easily accessible? None of these mediums, in my opinion, can offer the depth of thought and emotion that a good book provides.

Now more than ever, YA literature needs to stay relevant. Maybe the adults (including parents of teens like myself) have to accept that we might be more uncomfortable with this than our children.

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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 reached the Quarter Finals of  the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award as of March 2012. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/and on Twitter (@elfwriter).