Crumbs of the Great Craft Masters

I want to give credit to Toby Hewson who gave me this idea: What I learned from the Gods of Fantasy? I have learned from many authors, not just the craft masters, but this post will focus on the select few. 

Terry Pratchett taught me about invention of an old theme. He created a world that was fantastical and yet so familiar. His satirical approach to Discworld was always engrossing and we welcomed familiar themes as they surfaced among the new ideas in each new novel.

George RR Martin taught me about depth of character in supporting roles. There is no excuse for making every single character special or unpredictable. It does not have to happen immediately, but when a character steps from the limelight to center stage, we are enthralled, but not totally surprised. This is a huge task for anyone and Martin does it with a thousand characters. I have mentioned before how much I have learned from him. Okay, I have also taken his name in vain, but I am full of respect for him.

George Martin to kill Tyrion

Stephen King taught me about simplicity of language and being accessible to readers. I am too much of a wimp to appreciate his stories, but On Writing is my writing Bible, and required reading…annually.
J.R.R. Tolkien taught me the opposite. It is possible to write elaboration, flowery, delightful fantasy prose. Can you describe a forest in three pages? Y’betcha and they will even make it into a movie or six. Tolkien also taught me the importance of giving my fantasy world a sense of history and leveraging that throughout the saga.

Terry Brooks taught me about having a well-worked story that had no loose ends or unnecessary scenes so the story flows. Brooks also has built a rich history of his world – Shannara – and a genealogy that excites his many followers. Again, his writing is very balanced between plot (action) and character development. He has the ability to give a strong and distinctive voice to each of his main characters.

Terry Goodkind is edgy without going over-the-top. His stories are simpler, but he adds little traits to make his characters familiar to us and a great job bonding us to them.

R.A. Salvatore taught me to create a rich world and non-stereotypical characters. His first Drizzt book takes place underground and is so impressive. I remember being blown away by it. I have not been disappointed going forward.

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There is much we can learn from these masters of our craft, but the most important one is READ, READ, READ.

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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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Happy New Year – Request For Help

Dear Friends,
 
With the beautiful lights, the presents, the family gatherings and the never-ending food behind us, I want to take a moment and wish you all a happy new year.
 
I am feeling particularly celebratory because I just wrote those magical words at the end of Wycaan Master Book 6 – THE END. It feels great, an end of an era for me, even as I now have two manuscripts to edit myself before sending each to my illustrious editor – probably just spoilt her new year!
 
As I turn my attention to my marketing strategy for 2015, I have a request. It will cost you $2.99 and 5 minutes of your valuable time. I wish to submit Sacrificial Flame, which I think is my strongest novel in the series to a number of high-profile book review and promotion websites. What is holding me back is that I have not focused on getting reviews. I need 20 reviews for the novel to be accepted for certain programs and I have only accrued eight.
 
Could you find time to craft a short review and put on Amazon? Sacrificial Flame can be found here and can be read before Books 1-3 if you have not read them. It transitions into the next generation and anything dependent upon the previous series will be explained.
Thank you for being such great colleagues and supporters. I look forward to another great year ahead as a thriving writer’s community.
 
Happy New Year,
Alon
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ALON SHALEV
At The Walls Of Galbrieth, Wycaan Master Book 1

2013 Eric Hoffer Book Award Winner – YA Category.
 

 

Part 2 – Top Elfwriter Blog Posts 2014 – The Writing Process

I realize I have a few posts written in 2014 more relevant to the writing process that I would like to share. Hope you enjoy. Happy Hols’.

  1. To The Long Suffering Writer’s Spouse – http://wp.me/p1Xaeb-nG
  1. Walking Away From A Fantasy Series – http://wp.me/p1Xaeb-nT

 Sacrificial Flame Cover Hi Res

  1. They Grow Up So Fast – http://wp.me/p1Xaeb-kc
  1. Will My Stories Be My Legacy? http://wp.me/p1Xaeb-n4
  1. I Met My Protagonist At Starbucks – http://wp.me/p1Xaeb-nl

 Shayth 05:15:13

  1. The Addiction of Novel Writing – http://wp.me/p1Xaeb-nz
  1. Last Week I Disappeared – http://wp.me/p1Xaeb-lE
  1. The Pressure To Produce – An Author’s Perspective – http://wp.me/p1Xaeb-kT

 The First Decree-hi resolution

  1. When Authors Reach For Immortality – http://wp.me/p1Xaeb-kq
  1. Finally, as previously mentioned, in honor of Tourmaline Books’ announcement that all Wycaan Master novels are $0.99 for the holiday period –a post from last year:

It Was 99 Cents…Again – http://wp.me/p1Xaeb-lM

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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+

Top 10 Elfwriter Epic Fantasy Blog Posts of 2014 – Part 1

It is that time of the year. Here are 10 of the most popular Elfwriter blog posts from 2014. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed writing them. Happy Hols’.

1. How Fantastical Is Fantasy – http://wp.me/p1Xaeb-lr

2. The (Sappy) Male Hero http://wp.me/p1Xaeb-mI

3. The Empowering Stereotypical Female Protagonist – http://wp.me/p1Xaeb-mX

The First Decree-hi resolution

4. Happy Hobbit Day – http://wp.me/p1Xaeb-aH – relevant with the 3rd movie coming out this month.

 5. Deeper Than A Joke – http://wp.me/p1Xaeb-o2

 6. The Hobbit: End of a Father’s Era http://wp.me/p1Xaeb-oa

 Ashbar front cover

7. Valentine’s Day Epic Fantasy Style – http://wp.me/p1Xaeb-kx

8. All He Had To Say Was Thank You – http://wp.me/p1Xaeb-l3

9. Writing at the Speed of Sound – http://wp.me/p1Xaeb-md

Sacrificial Flame Cover Hi Res

10. Finally, though not technically 2014, it has just happened again. Tourmaline Books has announced that all Wycaan Master novels are $0.99 for the holiday period – this was a post I reblogged this year:

It Was 99 Cents…Again – http://wp.me/p1Xaeb-lM

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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+

The Hobbit: End of a Father’s Era

I admit it. I haven’t felt like this since the end of Harry Potter movie 7.2. I remember sitting in the movie theater watching the credits rolling and hoping for a hint that there was another series on the way. Anything to keep the dream alive.

But the credits ended, the lights came on and I looked at the two boys who had snuggled up to me for eight years as Harry and co. had bespelled us, binding us together in an intense family experience.

I comforted myself. At least there were the Tolkien movies: The Lord of the Rings offered three years of reprise and then, The Hobbit, that thin novella, sprouted into three movies over three years. No problem with me that most of the movie content came from other books – Tolkien purist that I consider myself. A female elf (an elfe in the Wycaan Master series): a warrior at that? Bring her on.

 hobbit-evangeline-lilly

And now, my boys and I, one taller than me and shaving, will walk the lonely steps to the shrine of moving pictures, to pay homage one last time to the Old Professor’ world on screen. But at least we walk together, sit together, crunch popcorn together…

And I know that the lights will come on and, after six Middle Earth movies, we will stretch our limbs (some considerably longer than they were six years ago), and then what?

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Last year I was proud when my then 15-year-old told his friends that he would not join them to see the Hobbit movie – its one he’ll see with his old man. I might not be the best father in the world, far from it I’m sure, but I figure I must have done something right.

Worse yet, in ten days I will complete the first draft of Book 6 in the Wycaan Master series. I remember writing the first novel together, a half decade ago, with two eager boys sitting around a picnic table in a redwood forest. For five more years, I would read a new manuscript to them each summer vacation around the campfire or snuggled in my tent. It ends this year … the Wycaan Master series that is essentially ours …and probably so much more.

This is how it all began - deep in a redwood forest.

There will be more novels, perhaps another trilogy (are you reading this, Tourmaline Books?), but there will be new characters and if I stay true to my sons, then they will be older and darker and all grown up.

Just like my sons – post Harry Potter and post-Tolkien. The end of an era.

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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).

 

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+

 

YA Epic Fantasy Readers and The Ebook Revolution

Last week’s post, Sex and Swords, generated a lot of great comments and a sound discussion. In the post, I wondered whether the author I was comparing myself to was selling more books than me because his audience are adults. Given that both of us sell more ebooks than tree books, am I likely to sell less books because young adults do not have the access to ebook readers that adults enjoy? Wait a moment  I need to tell my sons to get off screens and go play…

I wrote a post on another blog a couple of years ago and have taken material from there for this. There are a number of authors who have become bestsellers riding the ebook revolution. Amanda HockingJ.A. Konrath, and my own marketing guru, John Locke. But none of these fine people write for young adults (10-18 year old) – my primary market for the Wycaan Master series.

teenelectronic_396Laura Hazard Owen recently wrote: “The children’s and young adult e-book market faces special challenges not shared by the adult market, new research shows. And teens are slow to adopt ebooks, in part because they do not see ebooks as a social technology and they think there are too many restrictions on sharing digital titles.”

She reached her conclusion based on two online surveys commissioned by PubTrack Consumer towards the end of last year who surveyed 1,000 teenagers and 1,000 parents of pre-teens. The details of the survey can be found here – Children’s Publishing Goes Digital.   There are some interesting theories and statistics here. Firstly, youngsters are extremely social and want to share their books with friends and e-book technology is perceived as too restrictive. This is changing now and Amazon has been quick to identify this need. I thought that perhaps the teens did not have access to comfortable ebook readers. The majority has cell phones, but I am not including this. 60% of those surveyed receive technology from their parents as the latter upgrade.

images-7Ms. Hazard Owen makes another excellent point It is not just young adults propelling YA books like the Hunger Games trilogy onto ebook bestseller lists:

– 30-44-year-olds constitute 28 % of YA print book sales and 32 % of YA ebook sales.

-18-29-year-olds buy the most YA books, purchasing 31% of YA print sales and 35% of YA ebook sales.

Making a decision to invest in the YA fantasy ebook market doesn’t look as attractive as genres aimed at adults, but this is going to change as more young people receive the necessary devices. Also, the realization that the YA market goes not from 12-18, but 12-44 year olds make for a more encouraging prospect.

images-1A final interesting point is that this age group is more likely to buy a book because of a recommendation on a social network. Perhaps this prompted Amazon to make the investment to purchase Goodreads.

Now, please excuse me, this 49-year-old is going to read The Hunger Games, recommended to me by my 14-year-old son.

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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 the 2013 Eric Hoffer Book Award for YA – At The Walls Of Galbrieth. Alon tweets at @alonshalevsf and @elfwriterFor more about the author, check out his website.