Is The Grass Always Greener?

Between you and me, I’ve always been jealous and somewhat in awe of a dear friend who has a book contract with a major publisher and is a terrific writer. I never resented her achievements because I knew she worked hard to achieve her success, garnering attention through winning writing contests, traveling far and wide to speaker engagements, and generally being the lovely collaborative person that any publisher or agent would love to work with.

Games of Berkeley Question from Asif

So I was a bit shocked when I met up with her for coffee the other day and she told me how frustrated she was with the route she had taken. I have heard many doom-and-gloom writers who are disdainful of the conventional publishing route, but to be honest, I always thought they were bitter because their books hadn’t sold as much as they had dreamed, or they were frustrated at having their considerable talents spurned by agents or publishers.

Hearing about her feeling of inertia and entrapment (my words, not hers) made me appreciate the support and belief that my small-press publishers, (Three Clover Press for the Social Justice novels, and Tourmaline Books for the epic fantasy) despite their limited resources.

But I would be lying if, when I see the beautiful hardcover books of Terry Brooks or R.A Salvatore adorning the shelves of a bookstore, I do not dream of seeing my novels displayed next to theirs, or wonder which actor Peter Jackson will cast to play Seanchai or Ilana.

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 I am currently editing a magical realism manuscript with my writers’ group and have been wondering whether to try and find an agent or offer it to one of the small-presses that already support me. Every time I watch an episode of Game of Thrones or Legend of the Seeker, I decide that I will go that route.

But yesterday’s conversation had me reevaluating. I am not entirely free to initiate a particular marketing strategy and should check in with my publishers. But I always receive their blessings and usually some wise words that help me improve my idea. Most importantly perhaps, when I call, someone answers the phone. They know who I am and personally care about my writing career, not just their bottom line.

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How have you chosen such paths in your writing or career decisions? Would love to hear.

And yes, even though I have been saying for the past month and a half that it is only two weeks until the release of Sacrificial Flame, Wycaan Master Book 4…I wish to leave you with the breaking news… Only two wee– Okay. I have no idea, but I’m holding out for July. When it happens, I will let you (and the whole world) know! Promise!

 

Sacrificial Flame Cover Hi Res

Good Writing.

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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. 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+

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The Great Author Gold Rush

Last week, Amazon announced the dates for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards 2014 (ABNA). This was the signal, across the country, that sent thousands of writers, novelists, and dreamers, scurrying into our offices, corners, coffee shops, and wherever else people of our ilk perch to write their novels.

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Ten thousand will be allowed to enter a novel, an excerpt and a pitch, click on submit, and then lean back to spend three months dreaming of future fame and glory. It is the writer’s lottery ticket and the adrenaline is flowing.

Part of the magic around this competition is that it is the ultimate democratizing of publishing. All who enter receive equal access to the judges, the fans, and the agents who hover on the periphery. No more ambushing agents in expensive Writer Conference bathrooms (yes it happens), no more trips to the post office with unsolicited manuscripts, no more trying to convince a friend who knows someone who knows…

Click on the button and let cyber-nature take its course. If your manuscript is intriguing, your pitch compelling, and your craft sound, you stand as good a chance as the other 9,999 entries. Personally, I prepared my acceptance speech, good for ABNA, Nobel, the Oscars or Oprah!

imagesAnd then there is ABNA Anonymous (not its real name – see Createspace website), a glorious plethora of online forums wherein the hopeful gather to ask questions, hypothesize, vent frustrations, and enjoy a communal glass of wine without needing to drive home.

I have entered two novels that both reached the Quarter Finals, the last 250 contestants.  Whilst the semi finals proved elusive, Unwanted Heroes was picked up by Three Clover Press, and At The Walls Of Galbrieth went on to win the 2013 Eric Hoffer Book Award for YA.

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A good friend, Francine Howard, also reached the Quarter Finals with Pages of a Tennessee Journal and went on to become an Amazon Encore author, signed up by Amazon’s own publishing house. The link also has a lovely interview with Francine further down the page.

So here’s to another successful year for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award and all those who bravely enter. Reaching the final destination would be nice, but the journey is a great ride. Enjoy it!

Now, if you will excuse me, I have a pitch to polish!

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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. 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+

I Hope It Never Gets Old

This is actually the seventh time that I am on the cusp of a book being published. This count allows for a couple of self-published books that were both picked up by Three Clover Press and repackaged with new covers, titles, and an extensive round of edits. 

But I am as excited as I was the first time, and the second, and the third… You get the point. Sometime in the next two weeks, The First Decree, the sequel to At The Walls Of Galbrieth, will be officially released by Tourmaline Books.

The First Decree-hi resolution

I wonder how it is for the big fish? When those A-list authors have their 20th, 30th, or 40th novel released, are they just as excited? Yes, I’m thinking of you, Terry Brooks, George R.R. Martin, J.K Rowling. Are these authors and others coolly not checking their email every hour for the official notice from their publishers? Do they accidentally type their name into the Amazon.com search engine and browse down the list of books on their author’s name?

I am, of course, way to cool to be checking every hour, myself. In order to be productive at work and give my sons the attention they deserve, I have set reminders for four times a day – I’m awake for eighteen, I figure that’s okay.

I have not yet held my review copy. I remember each time it happened with almost the clarity of holding my newborn sons. The books, I have to admit, were not as slimy or noisy.

I am currently almost 40,000 words into writing the fourth book (yes, I said Book 4). But I have promised myself that once The First Decree is launched, I will stop and begin the process of my own edit for Book 3, before I send it off to editors, cover designers and formatters. 

The process is ongoing. Each magical, landmark moment: finishing writing the last page, sending the book to the editor, seeing the cover for the first time, receiving the review copy… these are all just stages in a journey to build not only a world, but a dynasty – a multi-generational world with a history of its own.

But that never stops these special moments being magical – and it never should.

The First Decree Axe
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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.  

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Fantasy as a Vehicle for Social Justice

I believe passionately that writers of fiction  can ply their craft to help effect positive social change and offer a platform for values and principles. The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale both reflect this and I have a series of books focusing on social issues in the US (all based on San Francisco) beginning with Unwanted Heroes which will be released by Three Clover Press in the spring and highlight the way we treat war veterans and the homeless.

I was delighted when Kaitlyn Cole from Online Universities shared a list that their faculty had put together entitled: 50 Best Novels For Political Junkies.

Kaitlyn wrote: “True story: Some of the best political novels aren’t explicitly about politics. Yes, some of the books on this list deal directly with governments and politicians, with laws and the ways they’re made or abused, and with the peril and promise inherent in every governing body. But some of them use adventure, parable, or satire to subtly explore our political system with a depth that wouldn’t be possible any other way.”

Great point and relevant to those of us who write political fiction. But how about fantasy? Is there room to use our elves and dwarves to promote social injustices or causes? 

Over the last two summers I was blessed with the amazing experience of writing two fantasy novels together with my 11-year-old son. While I have read a few fantasy novels, I had no idea about the “rules” of the genre.

Writing with my son, however, compelled me to include moral issues such as racism, dictatorship and freedom, as well as the values of friendship and freedom. I was writing for my son and there are plenty of swords, quests, elves, dwarves etc., but as I watched him read and listened to his feedback, I waited for his comments about such issues and derived huge satisfaction when he brought up issues.

In setting my goals for an exercise at Author Salon, I wrote:

“I have seen the impact of the Harry Potter series and Christopher Paolini’s Inheritance series on my son and his friends. I want to help shape the landscape of the next generation’s imagination and maybe even the society they strive to create.”

My lack of knowledge regarding fantasy leads me to ask the question: Can fantasy offer a vehicle to discuss political and social injustice? I would love to hear your answers fantasy-fans.

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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).

Earth Magic – A Gardener’s Tale

It is with great excitement that A Gardener’s Tale, my first novel written over 10 years ago, has been picked up by Three Clover Press. It received a professional edit and new cover, and is leaner if not meaner, but certainly tighter and lighter (sorry, I enjoyed that).

My publisher generously commissioned Claudia McKinney, who designed Amanda Hocking’s book covers, to design a new cover. I love it! Befitting the new e-book economics, A Gardener’s Tale is on sale for $2.99.

A Gardener’s Tale – new cover

While this is not a fantasy novel, there is a profound theme running through of the power of the earth. Here is the pitch:

The garden has seen it all – the cruel events of a thousand years of the struggle between the Pagan religions and Christianity in rural England. A Gardener’s Tale follows two years in the lives of a village and the stranger who comes into their community. As the villagers fear for the breakdown of their community, they discover an ancient path that brings them together.

A Gardener’s Tale  tells of an English aristocratic family now tragically dispersed and of a village community falling apart. Birth, love, death and rebirth remain its never-ending cycle, which includes the magic of nature, the purity of love and the power of true friendship in the hands of a gardener who can harness them all.

I am very proud to have received the following critique from Vivianne Crowley, a Pagan High Priestess, who was recognized as one of the leaders of the Wicca movement in Britain. Vivianne actually grew up near the New Forest in England where this story takes place.

A beautiful and elegiac evocation of a timeless Britain and of a man of the ancient ways of the earth who brings peace and healing where the flames of persecution once burned.

Thank you to Lloyd Lofthouse at Three Clover Press for his patient support, to Claudia for an amazing book cover, and Zorica Gojkovic for her hard work editing this edition.

Let me know what you think of the cover and the book. I love receiving feedback.

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/ and on Twitter (#alonshalevsf).