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).

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Letting Go: The Relationship Between Author and Character

It was always going to feel strange: the excitement of a new novel being launched together with the knowledge that this is the end of the Wycaan Master series. But somehow, it feels even more surreal than I had anticipated.

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My knee accident and operation along with the subsequent rehab was obviously never anticipated, and I thank all of you for your wonderful healing wishes. I am an active, sports-loving man, and have no idea how to sit around and wait for seven pieces of my knee bone (patella) to slowly reconnect. In desperation, my wonderful staff at AJWS bought me a two months’ subscription to Netflix and had to explain to me what binge watching is and why it is especially okay in my situation.

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Still it is hard not to feel guilty if I’m not working hard for those who pay me a salary or if I am not busy writing a next novel, editing the latest manuscript, and in this case, promoting the launch of Calhei No More which is next Tuesday.

Next Tuesday! At The Walls of Galbrieth was written in 2010. Seanchai, Rhoddan, Ilana, Sellia and Shayth have been in my life for six years now. I have laughed with them, cried, feared for their future, and between us, got quite annoyed at some of their decisions.

I watched an episode of Westworld yesterday (cable, not Netflix), in which a character said being a parent is about knowing when to let go. I’m dealing with this as a parent of teenage boys – I would rather they remain young enough to snuggle in our tent in a redwood forest as I read another manuscript to and for them – but now I realize I need to step back as well with the Wycaan Master characters.

Westworld, without giving anything away (and I have barely began to watch), is about artificial intelligence. A theme park has been created and people pay to interact with the very real robots (hosts), but the really fascinating part is the relationships that seem to surface between the team who created, maintain, and upgrade the hosts, and the robots themselves.

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It seems impossible not to get attached to the characters of a book much less a series where you created the character and have helped it evolve and grow. When I killed off a major character early in the series I cried. I didn’t, at the time, think it particularly strange to shed a few tears, but crying each of the 20+ times I edited and rewrote the scene and subsequent consequences borders on the traumatic…for me, the author (many of you made it very clear how you felt too…!).

I believe the relationship between character and creator is sacred in as much as it is unique. Those of you with a more religious perspective might connect this to the Creator and humanity, which brings us to the question: is being an author a vain attempt to play at being a deity? Let’s leave that for another time.

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But I never expected to care and agonise so much for the characters I created throughout the series, and it feels as though I’m failing as a father when Calhei No More launches next week, when I finally let go of my creative offspring and close the last page.

Whatever my feelings, Calhei No More will be released and you can pre-order the e-book here. The page for the paperback will be here, but I’m not sure when it goes live (usually a few days before launch to iron out any issues). Pre-ordering will bring attention on Launch Day and tempt Amazon.com to help promote more – so it is a big help to me.

Thank you again for all your good wishes and for your support of the Wycaan Master series. Do remember, I love hearing feedback and really appreciate any reviews you can write on Amazon for any of the novels.

Until November 15… For better or worse, it all ends on the Plains of Shindellia. See you there.

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).

 

What’s Behind a Book Title + Cover Revealed

This week, Tourmaline Books announced the title to the sixth Wycaan Master book, perhaps the final one in the series: Calhei No More.

Anyone who has read the previous books in the series knows that calhei means children, specifically elven children (do you need to brush up on your elvish?).

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Update from Publisher – New Book’s Cover

There was considerable back and forth regarding the title. A previous book had an elven word in the title and the publishers were not keen on this as it might be a barrier to people purchasing it. While Ashbar failed to become a New York Times bestseller, I don’t think the title was to blame.

Still, this makes perfect marketing sense, but I always thought that by the time you bought Book 3 or Book 6, you would have read the preceding novels – or in the case of Book 6, read Sacrificial Flame (#4) and From Ashes They Rose (#5), which many adults started at – and know the basic elven words.

Without giving too much away, the title reflects the rise to prominence of the next generation of characters, but there is much more behind what will be brandished across the cover of the book.

When I wrote Book 1, my sons were 11 and 7. For those not acquainted with the story, I wrote At The Walls Of Galbrieth while on a family vacation in an ancient redwood forest in Northern California and read them a few chapters each night around the campfire or snuggled in our tent. For the next five years I had the next manuscript ready for them and they were the first to hear the story … and my first critics.

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Writing the 1st novel – a family effort!

My sons will be 17 and 13 years old respectively when Calhei No More comes out in the fall. They tower over me now and wrestle me with ease, but they still occasionally snuggle even if the three of us would never fit together in that old tent anymore.

Finishing the Wycaan Master series is a watershed for me and I will write about this in the future, but for now it is inextricably linked to my sons growing up and a very personal aspect of our relationship.

Summer 2015 Reading Book 6

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

My work takes me away from them and I hope they have not grown to resent it. I am passionately driven by the need to fight for a just world and that every person on this planet deserves the same inalienable human rights. When home, I assail them with stories and videos and hope they will not grow to resent the importance of the work I do. I address this a number of times in Calhei No More… you’ll see.

But they will always have the memories of the Wycaan Master series long after they pass into adulthood.

Tourmaline Books have also agreed to set the publication date for October 15, my father’s 92nd birthday. Calhei No More is about our relationship with our children and with our parents. The cycle continues, but the Wycaan Master series will reach its climatic end on October 15.

Happy Birthday to my human Ahdahr. Ninety-two years old. I am convinced there is some elven blood in him … my kids’ll tell you that it would explain a lot!

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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,  Ashbar – Wycaan Master Book 3,  Sacrificial Flameand 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 Heroes. He swears there is a connection. More at http://www.alonshalev.com and on Twitter (@elfwriter). Hang out with Alon on Goodreads.

New Book Cover Revealed: Countdown Begins

This week, Tourmaline Books released  the cover for Calhei No More, the sixth and probably final book of the award-winning Wycaan Master series. In addition, they made a surprise announcement. Scroll down to find out what.

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The cover shows Abel, the Mushroom Man, who first appeared in From Ashes They Rose, and became a popular figure. Guess he earned his place on the cover both for his role in the novel and launching a new hobby for the author – almost every dish I’ve cooked since has had common or exotic mushrooms in it.

A big Thank You to our long-suffering cover artist, William J. Kenney. Art is an incredible talent that the unskilled like me view as magic. But William also possesses the talent to take my jumble of verbal images and produce a work of art.

As a way to encourage readers to finish the previous five novels (and the surprising number who began reading from the fourth – Sacrificial Flame), each novel is being offered in ebook form for just 99 cents each. For my past views on such moves, feel free to check here

I can’t say how long this will continue. The launch date for Calhei No More is October 15. If you do take advantage of this offer, please take a moment at the end of each book and leave a review on Amazon. It has a huge influence on rankings.

 Just to showcase William’s talent, here are the other book covers. If you plan to take advantage of the 99 cent sale, please click on their covers.

Ashbar front coverThe First Decree-hi resolutionWycaan Master 1 Just Front Cover
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Thank you for all your support along the way. It is exciting to soon share the climax of the Wycaan Masters. As always, I love to hear from you. Please leave any comments, I do try and respond in a timely fashion.

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.