Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Archive for the tag “blog”

New Author On The Block

My friend, John Byrne Barry has a novel coming out. John is a political activist and has channeled this passion into fiction. We bonded through a shared aspiration to help inspire people to act through affiliation with characters who fight for social justice. 

Perhaps you can join me at John’s book launch on Sunday at the Mo’Joe cafe in Berkeley – I can attest to the good coffee and healthy Middle Eastern food.   

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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+

A Stunning Tribute to Steve Jobs and his Philosophy

What makes this tribute to Steve Jobs so engaging is that Guy Kawasaki, who worked for him over two periods of time, had just heard the night before that Jobs had passed away. For a guy who meticulously plans his presentations, Kawasaki is almost winging it. 

imagesThere are two kinds of people who frequent this blog: social activists and writers. Everything here is relevant to both. Think on it.

I decided to post this on a Friday because it is over an hour long. There is a visual accompaniment, but this can be listened to as you drive or fold laundry.

If you are on a first or second date, make a good meal, open a fine bottle of wine, light the candles … and save this for another day. But don’t pass it up.

Have a great weekend,

Alon

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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 Book3, 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).

When Blogging Becomes A Way Of Life

Three years ago, when I signed with Three Clover Press to release The Accidental Activist, I made a commitment to reach 1,000 blog posts in three years. This was based upon the belief that the blog creates a live and interactive platform with ever-changing content and feeds the more static website. Left Coast Voices was born.

 “The richest people in the world build networks. Everyone else looks for work.” Robert Kiyosaki

I will get there by the end of the year, but I never expected to be as enthused today as I was when I wrote those first posts. At the time, I wanted to build a platform, to get my name out and direct people to my books. I wrote extensively about multinationals when The Accidental Activist was released – this being my favorite, and about war veterans after the release of Unwanted Heroes.

Heroes Low Res Finished Cover 11.18

At the time, I felt like one of a few who were consistently blogging and it wasn’t long before Lloyd Lofthouse, author and mentor to me, and I were being invited to speak about blogging.

But blogging has come a long way in these past few years and it is difficult to imagine how to get heard above the noise. There are a few who build a loyal following. I wake up every morning, make coffee and faithfully read the daily Arseblog post – which provides me with more than just the latest news of my favorite soccer team. A bloke in Ireland is pounding the keyboards every day. He has a podcast once a week and is now offering a Google Hangout where he brings other Arsenal bloggers on board. And I lap it up…every day without fail.

imagesAs I approach the 1,000th post, I am wondering where I want to take the blog. I love the contributions of Tom Rossi on Tuesdays and Roger Ingalls on Thursdays. Norm Weekes chips in every month or so with a powerful message, and it sometimes has a feeling of community.

So, if you have a minute, please answer the following three questions in the comments below:

1. What do you like about Left Coast Voices?

2. What would you like to see more of?

3. Are a variety of topics a good or frustrating thing?

If you are interested in joining the team and having a weekly post on the blog, please shoot me an email at alshalev at yahoo dot com.

Have a great weekend, everyone. Thank you for being part of this exciting journey.

This post was inspired by the great bloggers at Savvy Writers. Their post includes an excellent visual analysis of who is blogging and why. They also deserve the credit for the Robert Kiyosaki quote (as does Robert, of course for saying it!). Any author would be well-advised to follow their blog for really good social media articles.

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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 First Decree, both released by Tourmaline Books. Ashbar – Book 3 – is due for release 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).

Dragged into the 21st Century

Did you wake up this morning the proud/confused/intimidated owner of something small, electrical, and vaguely rectangular? Did you smile meekly last night while your loved ones looked on with bated breath as you apprehensively ripped open the packaging and did they cheer and clap their hands welcoming you into the technological age?

And did they notice when you reached for that glass of single malt and took a gulp instead of a sip? Thousands of years in the future, archeologists will discover that man had a propensity to collect random items and leave them in their boxes. Often, they will claim to skeptical crowds, these gifts ran off of some obtuse energy source which was, no doubt very rare, since these gadgets seem to be hardly used.

Furthermore, they will note, primitive humans had a propensity to acquire the same gadget with slightly better features despite barely understanding the gadget’s predecessor.

Have another sip of scotch. Oh, I forgot it is the morning after. Well you can always lace your cereal if you do it discreetly.

We are all entering the technological age, whether through brave adventurism, or without choice. You might as well take a deep breath and plunge in. Who knows, you might actually enjoy it.

Such things as cell phones and iPods seem to be accepted by all but a brazen few, even if the desire for the latest phone has nothing to do with actually making a call. The battle, for now, is over the tablet. The world (at least those of us who don’t need to worry about the little things like a roof over our heads, food at our next meal, or what’s in the water supply) is divided into three groups.

1. Embracing the technology. These people don’t just read on their iPad, Kindle or Nook, they embrace it, often with an annoying missionary zest. They don’t take it out of their bag at the coffee shop or on the bus, they brandish it, like a mighty sword from days long past.

They are liable to chastise you, often in a smug, sympathetic way, as you balance your hardcover on your lap. “Oh,” they whine in true Bob Dylan style, “How many trees does a Luddite reader fell…” When dealing with these people, it can be advantageous to note that the hefty hardcover has a distinct advantage over the light, sleek screen – it is far more effective when you take a swing at aforementioned annoying individual.

2. Luddite Conviction. No way! We are already spending too much time on screens. A book is more than just words on paper. You can smell it, feel the page crackle as you move through the novel, feel the weight of the author’s perseverance as you hold his/her masterpiece in your hand… And then the classic, yet oft-doomed line: It will never catch on.

3. Dithering in the Middle. There is some middle ground. I have to admit that I love my Kindle. It is light, convenient, and I get a kick about the environmental aspects. I am also a confirmed Star Trek fan. However, I do also miss the feel and smell of the book. I love the art of a well thought out book cover, and I also love reading while soaking in a hot bath. My bookshelves are an important part of my identity in our house and I hope sets a certain tone with my family.

So, some Advice for The Morning After:

Firstly: Don’t Panic! Take a deep breath and slowly unwrap the gadget and take it out of its box.

Then: Go on your computer and find either the website for the company or go to You Tube. There are some really good, simple, step-by-step videos for people like us. I know, half of my readers are men and we read instruction manuals like we ask people for directions (btw – you might have a GPS navigator on your tablet).

Finally: Have another whisky. It is the holiday season after all. And take note: if you are reading this blog, then you have already embraced the blogosphere: the cutting edge of the Internet. You are already firmly in the 21st century, dude. YOU CAN DO THIS!

Oh, and if you did receive a Kindle, iPad, or whatever, this might be a good first book to read on your gadget (couldn’t resist!).

Happy Hols’

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Alon Shalev is the author of three social justice-themed novels: Unwanted Heroes, The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Jewish Student Center, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com and on Twitter (@alonshalevsf).

Who Are My Target Audience?

I recently asked readers of my elfwriter blog to help me define a target audience, a cornerstone of any book marketing plan. It occurred to me, almost two years after The Accidental Activist was published and a few months before Unwanted Heroes, that I still fumble over what my genre is and to whom I am marketing. Transformational fiction is a good topic when I give talks, and social justice-themed novels is rather a mouthful.

Twitter has offered an interesting insight into this. When looking to grow your following, you check out people who your target audience is following. Given the content of both Left Coast Voices and my social commentary orientated novels, I have looked into the Democratic Party, President Obama and Nancy Peolsi. I have also followed a number of publishing gurus hoping to attract other writers and authors.

I once wrote an elevator pitch about my writing: I write novels that highlight social injustices with everyday characters who discover they can make a better world.

If you read this ‘genre’ of novels, please take a minute and answer the following questions in the comments below:

1. How old are you?

2. Are you male or female?

3. Where do you live?

4. Did you finish High School / Bachelors Degree / Masters Degree?

5. What is your profession?

6. Are you active on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, read and comment on blogs?

7. What do you look for in a novel?

8. Do you read books on an eReader or as a hardcover/paperback? (if both, please assign a ratio).

9. How many books do you read a month?

10. What examples have you read of social justice themed novels? Why do you remember them?

Thank you for taking the time to fill out the survey. Please pass it on to anyone you think might share our interest.

 Alon

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/ and on Twitter (@alonshalevsf).

8 Lessons For Authors From The Hunger Games

SPOILER ALERT: If you haven’t read the book or seen the movie but plan to, you might want to skip today’s blog post.

There have been a number of articles gleaning lessons from the Hunger Games for their preferred audience. Apparently, everyone is getting protective about having the original idea and the others not giving credit to them. So let’s get that behind us: I had the idea for this post after reading David Berkowitz‘s article for a fundraising magazine.  Thank you, David.

For those of you from another planet, “The Hunger Games,” is an amazing high-concept story about a post-apocalyptic society that annually sacrifices twenty-three teenagers as a way of reminding everyone who is in power.

1) Define Your Goals: Set A Few Simple Tasks: It took Katniss (the heroine) a while to decide what she needed to do in order to win (kill the others). Her mentor gave her clear first steps – get away from the Cornucopia, find water and shelter – which in turn gave her confidence and momentum. 

2) Know What You Are Writing: Heroine Katniss is the archer. Her cohort Peeta could pin Hulk Hogan. Figure out what your strengths are and play to them.

3) Know Your Target Audience And Find Them:  Cinna, is a one of the most enjoyable characters in both book and movie. He is Katniss’ and Peeta’s stylist, responsible for ensuring that the crowd sit up and notice them. Together with Haymitch, their district’s adviser, they come up with a strategy to earn not only the support of the people, but also the all-important sponsors (media outlet or publishers for authors). What is important is that they stick to the strategy and maintain a consistent message.

4) Find Your Own Platform, And Get Comfortable With It: Katniss soon learned that the forest was her friend, using the stealth methods she had honed hunting. Likewise, she was both good and familiar with the bow as her weapon.

As authors, we often join every social media and adopt every tactic, essentially not doing much in any category. Choose a platform – blog, Facebook, etc. and consistently work through it. If you decide to go via bookstores, be consistent and follow up with every bookstore before, during and after an event.

5) Be Generous – There Is Something To Karma: Katniss had endured a tough childhood and carried the obvious scars. She was stubborn, a rebel, and uncooperative with her advisor and most everyone else. But she cared about others and this eventually paid off. Three other tributes saved her life because of this.

We are not competing with other authors. People aren’t choosing between their books and ours. Help others, share your experience, be generous with your time. People remember who stood by them and supported them. They will be there for you.

6) The Rules Change: The organizers freely change the rules in the Huger Games to suit their own goals. There is nothing fair or just, they simply want to achieve their own goals. Be ready to change tactics. If you are only selling books out the back of your car (still works for me!), and not on the Internet, you haven’t been paying attention.

7) Choose and Trust a Mentor: Haymitch, the advisor to Katniss and Peeta, was the only other citizen from their district to survive and win the Hunger Games. As a rude, obnoxious recluse who is also an alcoholic, he doesn’t really inspire.  But he made it and knows his stuff. Find a mentor and stick with them.

8) The Odds Are Never In Your Favor: so get over it. There is no guarantees for success.  It is not quite as bad as the Hunger Games where there are no second or third chances. Read a lot. Learn from others’ mistakes, learn from yours, and okay: may the odds be ever in your favor.

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/ and on Twitter (@alonshalevsf).

 

Wanted: A New Publishing Model

The world is changing, and the publishing world perhaps faster than most other businesses. No one seems to be questioning the emergence of the ebook revolution (unlike global warming). It is now accepted that ebooks are providing an appealing purchasing option (and environmental sustainability) that is proving hugely attractive, both to young people (on techno-life support) and older people (who can either change the size of the font or listen to the book read to them).

The ease with which one can now ePublish a book, often without any financial investment whatsoever, has meant that anyone can throw up a book without honing their craft, or having their book suitably edited. Buoyed by the success of a few leading individuals, people are throwing together series’ that will hopefully build a following and declaring themselves authors.

 The problem with this ePublishing is that it is difficult to distinguish between those who have worked hard to create a good novel learning and respecting all the legitimate components and those who have not. Many books are riddled with spelling and grammar errors, plot issues, or flaws in character development. In fact, according to Penny C. Sansevieri (Get Published Now), only 1% of independent books published reach the industry editorial standards.

This model serves no one: not the reader, the serious author, or the fly-by-nighters. The reader, even when paying only $0.99 or $2.99, can feel that their money and time have been wasted. The genuine craftsman/craftswoman can’t get him/herself noticed among the mass of ebooks, and the fly-by-nighters get frustrated because they fail to build a following and rake in the royalties.

It is a lose:lose model when it should be exactly the opposite.

Most of those writers involved are not interested (or not good enough) to be picked up by agents and conventional publishers. The time span (often 18 months in production), the lack of marketing help, and the inevitable withdrawal of books that don’t reach performance level in a few short months, doesn’t make the conventional model any the more appealing. John Locke, in his must-read book, lays it out succinctly.

JOhn Locke

John Locke

We, the authors, need to set our own boundaries and standards, to ensure that readers retain faith in the model and are willing to invest their time and money in a new author.

 One way that this can be achieved is through author coops. Authors can join together within genres, edit each other’s work, and market within their niche as a group. Each coop establishes it’s level of craft and marketing. Perhaps the group tithes a percentage of their earnings towards marketing as a group.

If there is a holy trinity of website, blog and twitter as Locke advocates, how much more effective would this be if five authors were expanding this platform in a coordinated fashion?

It would be a tragedy if the ebook revolution faltered because of lack of quality. The technology is good for all readers (except those who read in the bathtub), for the planet, and may well force the conventional publishing world to change their own way of doing business.

Anyone out there writing political fiction and interested?

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/ and on Twitter (@alonshalevsf).

Political Progress – Roger Ingalls

It’s a new year! Time to start anew…out with the bad and in with the good. Last year, 2011, was bad for many of us and we couldn’t be happier that 2012 is finally here.

I usually blog about politicians and government policies that are stupid or wrong and occasionally explain what I would do if I were king. This typically involves focusing on the negative. Since it is a new year, I resolve to focus on the positive. Instead of pointing out badness, my goal is to highlight goodness for the sake of happiness or bring attention to things that are working well and give my opinion on how we can expand on them.

This is my first post of the year and there is a positive to discuss. It’s no secret that I lean to the political left but yesterday’s Republican Iowa caucus was very interesting. The folks in Iowa stunned me; they made me proud to be an American.

The last time the voting public made me proud was the day a black man, Barack Obama, was elected president. I thought it would never happen in my lifetime; that was truly a great day.

What was so positive about the Iowa caucus? Mitt Romney, a Mormon, won! This may be more amazing than the 2008 presidential election. When was the last time a non-Christian or modified Christian (depending on how the Mormon faith is defined) won a presidential primary or caucus? In today’s fanatically Christian American, this is shocking.

We haven’t hit the primaries in the Bible Belt and once we do, I’m sure Mr. Romney will lose a few. But today I’m proud of the Iowa voters for seeing past religion to make a selection based on other criteria.

It’s a small progressive step.

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Roger Ingalls is well traveled and has seen the good and bad of many foreign governments. He hopes his blogging will encourage readers to think more deeply about the American political system and its impact on US citizens and the international community.

Exciting News! Please Help.

Yesterday I learned that Left Coast Voices has been nominated for CBS San Francisco’s Most Valuable Blog 2011. This is a huge compliment for Tom Rossi, Roger Ingalls and myself and I want to take the opportunity to thank Tom and Roger for their hard work.

PLEASE VOTE for our blog in the awards (you can vote once a day) at http://sanfrancisco.blogger.cbslocal.com/most-valuable-blogger/vote/misc/

My good friend, Kymberlie, also has her blog in the reckoning (at the same link). You can check it out here. She has a landmark birthday on Sunday, so I’ll be voting for her that day. Happy Birthday, Kymberlie.
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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/and on Twitter (#alonshalevsf).

A Summer Change of Pace

Pursuant to intensive negotiations with Mrs Blogs and her deft legal team of Master & Master Blogs, I will not be blogging during my family vacation. There is a certain practical issue in as much as there will be limited wireless connection (or even electricity) in the rugged mountains of Northern California.

beautiful, majestic, a timeless testimony to the power of nature

Last year, the aforementioned legal team blindsided me when I whipped out my laptop in the middle of a beautiful redwood forest. “This is family time,” they complained. “You can’t just switch off and write” (a crime regularly occurring during the rest of the year).

After convening a face-to-face meeting around the picnic table, a compromise was reached: we would write a story together, about elves, dwarfs and noble quests. And so began a new adventure. From political, social activism fiction to the coming-of-age world of fantasy.

Not flattering, but the scene of the crime.

And so the Alliance Trilogy was born. Today, 95,000 words later, the first book is being critiqued by my extremely patient writer’s group (that while diverse, lacks fantasy junkies). Writing with my boys was an amazing trip and we are still learning as we edit and plan the next book (we are 10,000 words into Book 2). I write in intense spurts and this bothers them because I can churn out 8-10,000 words a day when I am in the zone and have a clear day to myself. Eating, sleeping – why?

While we are away on vacation, I want to repost (with updates) a series of blog posts that I wrote a couple of years ago. These are interviews with the characters from The Accidental Activist. I had a lot of fun doing this – there are no spoilers in the interviews, but it is an opportunity to share aspects of these characters on a deeper level. Also, given that the book was written in 1st person from Matt’s perspective, this gives the other characters a chance to share their thoughts. Oh, Point-of-View, I knew I would eventually find a way to wiggle out of your grasp!

I guess this is also an opportunity for me to spend a little more time with some very close friends who never succeeded in escaping the incarceration of The Accidental Activist’s book covers.

Enjoy and please excuse me. I’m going back to my elves…and my family.

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/and on Twitter (#alonshalevsf).

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