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 “blogs”

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).

Other Side of the Street

“Oh you can’t write in more than one genre. It’s a recipe for disaster.”

The man was lecturing me at a recent holiday social event. He is himself an author, not famous, but has several detective novels out. Despite my noble attempts to argue with him, his words have haunted me.

Followers of this blog know that I have three social justice-themed novels published and more on the way. I have written a sequel to Unwanted Heroes and have a framework for a third book involving many of the same characters and also based in San Francisco, the city I find so rich in novel fodder!

Heroes Low Res Finished Cover 11.18

But I am also excited to be writing Young Adult Epic Fantasy. Over the past three years I have written three novels – a series – and the first was just published with Tourmaline Books. 

While I see a lot in common between epic fantasy and more activist literature, in terms of imbuing certain values, I have to admit that I often feel embarrassed revealing to someone who knows me through my social justice-themed novels and Left Coast Voices that I also write YA epic fantasy.

Wycaan Master 1 Just Front Cover

I tried to explain to the man that I maintain separate blogs (elfwriter.com) and twitter accounts (@elfwriter) and that my target audiences for both are very separate – actually I am not the only one who enjoys more than one genre – but he would not hear of it.

I am very proud of my social justice-themed novels. When I give talks I begin by stating that I write novels that highlight social injustices with everyday characters who discover they can help create a better world. 

I am passionate about this and it is what has kept me writing not only the four novels I have completed, but also nearly 800 blog posts in just over two years. I know I am not alone. It is why you read this blog and why I have 19,000 twitter followers.

But I love my epic fantasy books as well. It began as a project together with my sons (I would read a new novel to them on each of our annual summer camping trips. Snuggling in my tent or sitting around the campfire have become definitive memories for all of us. Seeing my eldest cradle the first copy of At The Walls Of Galbrieth with such pride was priceless).

DSCN0193But it has become more than just a family project. As I have met more fantasy fans through the social media I mentioned, I have discovered a rich and wonderfully warm group of people. And if some are a bit quirky, well, I love it.

Writing Young Adult affords an opportunity to share values I believe important with a different age group and if I play a small part in helping create the next generation of book readers, then I am also very proud of my work.

And I will continue to write in both genres for as long as I feel inspired to do so.

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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).

 

A Place for Tree Books

My latest novel, Unwanted Heroes, was released in ebook format over Thanksgiving. I was stoked. Readers of this blog know that I am a big fan of the electronic book revolution and my Facebook status lists me in a steady relationship with my kindle. I would, I admit, consider an open relationship but no iPad came down my chimney last month – I really should ask the landlord for a chimney.

When the ebook was released and I alerted the usual suspects, I was surprised at the number of people who responded with: “Let me know when the paperback comes out.” My surprise was because many were people who enthusiastically embrace the tech revolution and could probably download and read a book simultaneously on their phone, tablet, laptop, computer, TV, and by just staring up at the cloud.

Heroes Low Res Finished Cover 11.18

But they choose to hold a ‘real’ book in their hands. They want the feel, the crackle of pages turning (there must be an app for that), the smell of a book (how about an ink-addiction app?). One person told me that, when buying a book by an author that she knows, it doesn’t feel right if she is not holding ‘a real copy’. For authors she doesn’t know personally, she buys ebooks.

Two months ago my family moved house and for a long time there was a great wall of boxes in every room. I realize that the point when I began to feel at home was when I was able to unpack and shelve my books. This was my identity, my stamp on the territory.

On Wednesday, Three Clover Press announced the release of Unwanted Heroes in paperback. So, all you tree book lovers, I would be honored for a place on your bookshelf.

I have also set myself a goal to garner five reviews on Amazon for Unwanted Heroes. If you have read the novel, please consider leaving a review. It is very important to me. Thank you. 

girl-hugging-words1

And just for the record:

Unwanted Heroes brings together an elderly, battle weary Chinese American war vet and an idealistic and somewhat pretentious young Englishmen, who share a love for San Francisco, coffee and wine. They soon discover they share even more when repressed abruptly surface, cementing an unlikely relationship that just might release each from the tragic pasts that bind them.

Set in beautiful San Francisco, this novel is a tribute to the city, its people and those who sacrificed so much to keep it and America free, as seen through the eyes of a young struggling writer from across the Atlantic, who brings more baggage than just his shiny laptop and romantic ideals.

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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).

Books For Writers and Bibliophiles

A colleague recently posted on our LinkedIn forum and asked what books writers read to learn and improve their craft. I would like to offer a few.

On Writing – Stephen King

I have the paperback, but once a year I check the audio book out of the library and listen to Stephen himself read it. Now I understand that he has been criticizing for reading one of his novels (never heard it myself), but since this is so personal, it is very intense. I feel as if he is a teacher.

But beware – he is the tough no-nonsense teacher. He lays out how it should be and brooks no dissent. There is no fluff, and no feel-good. This is a small book but packed with tips and direction.

 A must read – probably annually.

How I Write – Janet Evanovitch

I had never met Stephanie Plum (Janet’s protagonist) before I read this writing book, but she is a good friend now. Janet’s book is geared to e a reference. Much is presented in Q&A form (it is co-written with Ina Yalof) and there are lists and summaries.

I particularly learned a lot about writing a series and character development beyond one book.

Warning -You may find yourself reading a Stephanie Plum novel or twenty. Be prepared to set a summer reading space aside and get ready to laugh.

Bird by Bird – Anne Lamott

It is considered one of the classics. I haven’t read it in years and it doesn’t sit on my shelf to quickly check. But I remember it had a big influence on me and was mentioned in the LinkedIn list as often as any other book.

Sometimes The Magic Works – Terry Brooks

While fantasy writers will get more out of this than those who write in other genres there is a lot of fundamental stuff. However, such topics as creating a whole world are more unique to fantasy and SF.

Whatever you decide – the first chapter is unforgettable. If you have ever been where Terry takes you, you will understand what I mean!

Writing Down to the Bones – Natalie Goldberg

Natalie has written a number of inspirational books on writing (with plenty of practical tips. She writes from the perspective of one deeply in Zen practice. Her latest is about memoir writing.

Finally books mentioned by other writers:

Story – Robert McKee

This Year You Write Your Novel – Walter Mosley

Writing Basics for Beginners by Jeanne Marie Leach

The Weekend Novelist – a Writer’s Digest book

I want to share that I believe it is important to choose a couple of authors and read everything they wrote. This includes their novels, their how-to books, their blogs, interviews etc.

This is important for your own level of craft and how you market your work and present yourself.  We all write as individuals, but we can learn a lot from those whose company we strive to share.

Good Writing,

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).

More Twitter Tips for Authors

A month ago, I shared a few blog posts and articles regarding my attempt to leverage Twitter. Here are some good YouTube videos.

If you have any tips or experiences using Twitter please share with us in the comments.

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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).

Reaching A Proud Landmark

Today, Left Coast Voices broke into the top 500,000 blogs according to the Alexia rankings. That puts us in the top 0.123% of blogs in the world (yeah, I did the math). With a great team of Tom Rossi and Roger Ingalls, more people are reading the blog every day and our future looks bright.

As you might have noticed, the blog is a mix of political commentary, recognition of grassroots activism, and experiences and developments in the writing world. The latter will now be restricted to weekend posts for the near future.

If you have a moment, please share in the comments some feedback regarding the following questions:

1. What do you enjoy about the blog and what is missing?

2. Are you more interested in political commentary/grassroots activism/insights into the writing world?

3. Is there a particular issue/organization/topic that you would like one of us to cover?

One aspect that we feel we are lacking is a woman on the team. Do you know a woman who might be interested in blogging once a week, perhaps focusing on women’s issues, or just highlighting a woman’s perspective? 

So a big Thank You to my publisher, Lloyd Lofthouse, at Three Clover Press, who has been a great source of knowledge and support in every aspect of blogging. A really big THANK YOU to Roger and Tom for their weekly posts, their dedication and enthusiasm. But most of all, the biggest THANK YOU goes to you, our readership, who make our day by reading the post, adding to the comments and proving that honest debate and social activism is the most important component of a thriving democracy.

In a world where so many are fighting at this moment for the right to open debate and democracy, our freedom is something we should all be proud of. This spring, blogging has shown itself to be a powerful tool for freedom. Blogging knows no borders. Hopefully freedom of expression and debate will soon truly be a global value in a brave new world. 

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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).

Transformational Fiction Workshop

I have expounded in previous blog posts what motivates me to write in the political fiction genre and why I love the term Transformational FictionThis coming Sunday, April 10th, between 10am-1pm, I will be teaching a workshop for the California Writers Club entitled: Fiction As A Vehicle For Social Change: Using the Novel for a Better World.

There are many ways today to reach out and influence people. Traditional media has been supplemented by websites, blogs, non-profit promotion, and traditional activism. But most of these options are often no longer than 5-minute sound bites, or an afternoon of flurry.

The novel has long held the ability to create powerful images and characters that stay with the reader long after they read the final page. What if the novel can precipitate a transformational change not just within the story, but in how it impacts the reader? What if the emotional connection between reader and plot, or reader and fictional character, can motivate the reader to fight social injustice?


I am now in the middle of writing my fifth politically focused novel (The Accidental Activist is the third). Each novel features a character who experiences a transformational process, emerging with a stronger consciousness and a desire to help make a difference.

I am interested in your answers to the following questions:

1. What novels have helped make you the person you are?

2. What characters (and from which novels) have stayed with you a long time after you read the last page?

I appreciate your answers. If you are interested in participating in the workshop, or have any questions about it, please contact Barbara Ruffner at:  bdonruff at lmi dot net.


Finally, one last question. Do you think novels can really help change the world we live in? ——————————————————————————————————

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).

 

 

 

The Future of Blogging

There have recently been a few articles suggesting that the blogosphere is in decline. Perhaps it is part of the five-minute attention span that seems to be evolving – been there, done that – a desire to master something, even if only superficially, and then move on.

An article in the New York Times by Verne G. Kopytoff (02/20/11) recently suggested as much citing statistics illustrating that the younger generation is moving on to Twitter and embracing the ever-expanding capability of Facebook.

At a recent meeting of bloggers, one experienced person explained how there are about 250-300 million blogs out there and how we need to strive to break into the top 0.5% of rankings. My first reactions was: Wow! I’m competing with 300 million others for your attention, never mind all the other media platforms that we turn to – websites, Twitter, e-groups, Facebook, etc.

Then I thought about it. Many blogs are set up and then discarded when the writer discovers that only his mother is really interested in what he ate yesterday, or that it is actually hard work to consistently provide content and implant all the links, tags etc. Then again, many blogs were the offshoots for future blogs. Left Coast Voices is my second blog. That means I am responsible for at least 1 of the 300 million blogs out there.

I don’t believe that blogging is the right medium for everyone. Furthermore, I don’t see it competing with Twitter or Facebook as they are so very different in content. Actually, most mediums leverage Facebook to get the word out about whatever else they are doing. There is an automatic thread from this blog that feeds onto my Facebook page.

Blogs are more active than most websites (I know there are exceptions), but I see my website as the place people go to research me and my books. My blog is a daily offering of news, organizations and people who I feel it is important to promote. Occasionally it is about my successes and failures, just so my mother knows what’s going on.

As such, I think blogs are here to stay. I think the shrinking statistics that Mr. Kopytoff offered in his NY Times article only offer so much information. Anyone can create a blog, but only a few will be disciplined/motivated/consistent enough to continue blogging.

And it is okay for someone to discover that Facebook or Twitter offers a better platform for whatever they are trying to achieve. It is legitimate for high-school students to experiment with blogging and then give it up . I salute them for trying.


I believe we are still in the early days of social network platforms. New ideas will emerge and millions will experiment with them. Only a small percentage will continue to exploit and develop them. As long as we don’t put too much credence in statistics, I am fine with this.

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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).

 

Authors Helping Authors

Yesterday I participated in the first marketing meeting for members of the California Writers Club, Berkeley Branch. At the end of the meeting, we all passed around bookmarks, postcards and other such promotional materials. The idea, based upon the Business Network & Referrals (BNI) model, was for each of us to get acquainted with each other’s work, and pass on the literature to someone we think might be interested.

During the meeting, many of us had to fight the urge not to promote our own work or share pitches. It was quite challenging. After all, we were all there because we are highly motivated to promote our books.

I hope we can create a culture within the group of giving time to helping other authors within the group. This sounds obvious, but we never seem to have enough time in the day to promote ourselves, let alone others.

There are, however, a number of ways in which to do this. If every member of the group did one small thing each day to help promote another group member, then we would discover we are each receiving a lot of help.

Authors generally, if they are not on the A-list, need help from others. So let’s try and create a culture of helping each other. Here is a list of 10 ways we can do this.

1. Post a review of someone’s book on Amazon.
2. Buy their book, if not for yourself, then as a gift for a friend’s birthday, or instead of a bottle of wine next time you’re invited for dinner.
3. Mention their website or blog on whatever social networking site you are active.
4. Go to the public library. If their book isn’t there, request it.
5. Mention their book on Goodreads.
6. Again on Amazon – add some helpful tags or add them to your listamania.
7. Spotlight them on your blog.
8. Attend their book readings. Ask questions that make them look good and/or authoritative. Answering questions from someone you know helps the author relax and build confidence.
9. Link your website and their website.
10. Enter their book into a fundraising raffle as a prize.

This list took me less than 10 minutes (and it’s almost midnight – not when I am thinking clearest). If you can think of additional ways, please let me know and I will add them to the list. This is all about win:win. In the middle of a recession, and a ruthless industry that is in involuntary transformation, win:win is something we could all do with.

Good Writing,
Alon

ALON SHALEV’S HOME PAGE

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