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).

 

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+ 

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).

 

Chicken Soup and Pre Order Details

Thank you to everyone for your good wishes following my update last week – Book 6: What Happened? One of the wonderful consequences of being an author is that you build not only a following of readers, but a community of friends. I know you think it is the painkillers talking, but I do believe what I write … though I do love these painkillers!

 

Calhei No More remains on schedule and I can now share the Pre Order page for the ebook. Traditionally, a final book costs more than the rest of the series, but Tourmaline Books agreed to initially sell Calhei No More for $2.99, same as the others.

 

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While I remain an advocate for ‘Chicken Soup Cures All’, I am willing to conduct an experiment on myself (for the good of science of course), and see if a growing list of pre orders can make a patient heal better. Mrs. Elfwriter would probably allow for a less complaining and more tolerable patient as the goal. She really is an incredible woman and has taken on all the extra work my injury entails with good humor and love. 

 

Finally, I want to share a question I received from a reader in Texas. M asked if one can begin reading Book 4 – Sacrificial Flame – without reading the first trilogy?  The answer is yes. Each book is a stand-alone, but the second trilogy might be a better place to start for the older teenager and those seeking more complex issues and subplots.  Not that an author should ever have a favorite, but if one did, then Sacrificial Flame would be it.

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Thank you again for all your good wishes. I will keep taking the meds, drinking the chicken soup, and checking the pre orders for Calhei No More. I appreciate each and every one of you.

 

Alon

 

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Alon Shalev is the author of the 2013 Eric Hoffer YA Book Award, At The Walls of Galbrieth, (still at 99c) and five 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+ 

 

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+

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.

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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.