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 “Alon Shalev”

Your Letter Counts!

This post has been inspired by some great news I received about someone imprisoned by his oppressive government. I can’t wait to share the news, but have been asked to wait.

Often you feel powerless when a government arrests a person seeking freedom, democracy, education for women (or even the right to drive). It might be a tribe or people denied clean water or medicine, or any one of a thousand values that we take for granted every day.

We throw up our arms and give in. We get burnt out and buried in the stress of our own lives. But what if we each took 20 minutes a week or a month and wrote a letter to a political prisoner. Would it work?

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When I was a teenager, I lost my political virginity campaigning to free Nelson Mandela and Anatoly Sharansky. I wrote letters, asked people to sign petitions, and went to demonstrations. Neither of these great men are free because of an English teenager’s attempts, but maybe I was a snowflake in the avalanche.

Bu Dongwei thinks so. He believes it worked for him. If nothing else take 2mins 21sec and listen to his story.

And Morgan Freeman agrees.

Amnesty International offers a list of prisoners and there are other organizations like PEN who advocate for writers who are jailed for standing up for freedom of speech in their own countries.

So how about it? Let’s all commit to just one letter a week/month. Put it in your calendar and let’s make a start.  

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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 athttp://www.alonshalev.com and onTwitter (@elfwriter).

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).

Pagan America – Hellaween!

A couple of times a year, I feel compelled to ooze love about my newly adopted motherland (parentland?). I realize that many of the blog posts that I, and my esteemed colleagues at Left Coast Voices, are critical of one thing or another. But there are certain times that everything fits, and you feel the real America. I love the freedom, the liberty and Halloween. 

I know this ancient, spiritual festival is now commercial, sugar and additive prone. I know these are the hazy remnants and perhaps denigration of the customs and culture of a religion systematically destroyed by monotheism. But I love how, for a few hours, everyone throws on a costume, get all excited and friendly, and for a few hours share the sandpit together without squabbling over toys or Obamacare. Oh, and I enjoy the kids celebrating Halloween too!

Perhaps it’s something unique to The People’s Republic of Berkeley, (I have never lived anyway else in the US), but when whole neighborhoods get into the swing together, something very special happens, if only for an evening.

My first novel, A Gardener’s Tale, illustrated the struggle between the Pagan religions and Christianity in rural England. It follows two years in the lives of the villagers and a mysterious stranger who comes into their community. One of the elements felt by the villagers is the breakdown of their community, how they are becoming increasingly estranged from their neighbors.

Through reigniting the Pagan religion that once united them, the protagonist offers an opportunity to reclaim their community. We need this today more than ever. How many of us really know our neighbors and those living across the road? My neighborhood began a community initiative to get to know each other after a woman was attacked by a man who tried to steal her purse. As she screamed for help, there was a spontaneous outpouring of people from their houses. Out of nowhere, that street became a community. But it lasted only a year or so and we returned to our own little connected/unconnected worlds.

We need Halloweens to bind us together rather than crimes. With so much violence and conflict in the world that sees to revolve around religion, perhaps we also need the gentler, older religions. The earth certainly does.

So here’s to candy and spontaneous celebration. Happy Samhain, everyone.

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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. 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 you know you are a Serious Writer

Here is a fun read to welcome in the weekend. From the folks at Writer’s Relief, an agency that helps writers prepare and submit their work, here is something so true, you cannot help but laugh.

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Here are some other telltale signs that you’re a creative writer who is determined to make it:

1. You know what NaNoWriMo means.

2. Your pockets/purse/car caddy are overflowing with scribbled napkins of dialogue.

3. You surreptitiously check out other people’s bookshelves instead of their medicine cabinets.

4. You’ve turned the woman down the street into a hit man’s wife in your head/novel, and now you’re scared to walk past her house.

5. The “t” and “r” on your keyboard are pretty much toast.

6. The people who work at the local bookstore know your name. And you’ve been reprimanded more than once for moving your own books to more prominent locations.

7. You’re frequently spotted staring off into the distance with your lips moving and your eyes slightly crossed…

8. You find a copy of your paranormal erotic romance novel at the nursing home when you visit Grandma.

9. Your work clothes consist of sweatpants and bunny slippers, and your commute is about twenty seconds from coffeepot to computer.

10. Your mail carrier gets nervous when he sees you running toward him each afternoon…in sweatpants and bunny slippers.

11.You’ve been banned from the local coffee spot for stealing pens and eavesdropping on conversations.

12. You find yourself considering copyrighting your emails and Twitter posts.

13. Your family members no longer consider your writing to be a “phase.” Best of all, Aunt Judy has finally stopped asking when you’re going to get a real job.

But when it comes down to it, Stephen King has it right:

Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work. —Stephen King

 Hope you have a relaxing weekend. Thank you to everyone who has made the launch month for Ashbar – Wycaan Master Book 3 such a success. If you have read it (or any of my novels), please take a few minutes over the weekend and leave a review on Amazon.com. Reviews are an important component in Amazon’s ranking. Thank you.

Ashbar front cover

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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).

The Ivy League Class Conundrum

I work on the university campus scene. Whatever your thoughts about the millennials, I love working with them. Seeing a flower blossom, discovering a rare diamond in the rough…you get it. They question, debate, and they are incredibly incisive in their analysis. 

images-4Occasionally the finished product walks into the student center. They are not just a straight-A student, but articulate, active, and charismatic. There is one such student right now who caught my eye with her presence and intelligence.

She had just returned from a national conference and was telling a group that gathered around her how inspired she felt. I caught her, a little while later, alone, with a frown on her face and after a few moments of cajoling she began to talk.

She had met a young man studying at Harvard and they had immediately hit it off. She discovered they were studying the same major, had exactly the same grades, and seemed in many ways to be very similar.

She began to grill him, trying to discover why an Ivy League school would take him and not her. The difference between them soon became apparent. His resume, in her words, was loaded. He had spent every summer in impressive internships, captained or initiated a variety of high school student groups or initiatives. He told her that he had stressed to balance his schoolwork and drive to have grades to reach a school like Harvard, together with all this extra-curriculum activity. She had been very impressed with him.

This young woman is the eldest daughter of a single mother. She had worked every summer since the ninth grade, contributing to the family’s limited financial resources. Her hard-working mother put in extra hours to make ends meet and did not want her high school daughter working during school-time instead of studying. But, as her mother worked long hours, the daughter needed to pick up her siblings, make them dinner, help them with their homework, and generally take care of them. 

images-3She would love to have experienced the internships that her new Harvard friend had done. She would have been proud to participate in the kind of high school activity that he had. But it was just not possible. Circumstances dictated that she took care of her family and she did this with understanding and good grace.

I salute this young woman’s drive to excel through education. I salute her mother, who sacrificed herself for a vision that her children would have an easier life than she did, using education as a vehicle to success.

I just wish Harvard and the Ivy League schools would do the same.

cn_image_0.size.0908-HARVARD

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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).

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).

Rape is a Crime. So is Silence.

Disclaimer: I am writing about a topic I know nothing about. I am a man. I have never forced myself upon a woman, never been forced, and it is a topic that I feel no one is talking about. I live in the progressive San Francisco Bay Area and I am experiencing a wave of shock at the three incidents I have heard about recently.

This is America…California…San Francisco…and it feels like I am living in a primitive or totalitarian society.

All three incidents (as much as I was told) involved women who reached a point where during the attack they went still, played dead, from fear that they could not stand more physical abuse and pain, or maybe for fear of their lives. They tried to mentally detach, to distance themselves from what was being done to them.

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As far as I understand, this desperate survival act, compromised their ability to have the criminals who did this to them brought to justice. The fact that the physical evidence could have been from just having ‘rough (consensual) sex’ means that they are not believed that they were raped, and are often treated as sluts, liars, or unstable.

The fact that the women I spoke with were apprehensive about reporting the crime to the police is a terrible reflection of our police force. Why are they having to report this to a man, in a uniform, who symbolizes ‘power-over’? Do we not have enough women in the police force that it is standard procedure for a woman police officer to interview the (female) victim?

So this is a man’s world. Maybe, but here is California we are blessed with some amazing women in leadership. Where the fuck is Nancy Pelosi, Diane Feinstein, Barbara Boxer, and the other strong women leaders I look up to and admire? In my work, and the activism part of my life, I meet such incredibly strong, empowered women. Why the silence? Where are the men in power who have the responsibility to protect all citizens?

When I first came to California, a gay friend was explaining the fight to crush DOMA here. He said something like: It has to start here. California is a start-up nation, not only in hi-tech, but in social policy. If it can be done anywhere, California must lead the way to change.

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That a person must walk around for the rest of his/her life with this crime eating away inside, constantly in a  state of hyper-vigilance, being a painful reminder every time someone close tries to be intimate with them, is a life sentence.

Bringing the rapist to justice will never erase what they did to the victim, but it might go some way to closure. At least there is not that haunting feeling that the assailant is still walking free.

If we are to suggest that America has any claim to moral and social leadership, if we are to preach freedom to the world, then we must eradicate this criminal act and the damaging silence that surrounds it.  

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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, Ashbar – 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).

What’s In A Name – Obamacare, Shutdown, Blackmail, Extortion.

Tom kind of stole my post with his excellent Whose Shutdown Is It Anyway. Here are two memorable quotes.

“John Boehner, Rush Limbaugh, Fox “News”, and just about every Republican politician out there is trying to pin this shutdown on President Obama. This is due to the fact that Obama stubbornly refuses to accept a Republican-crafted budget that takes away the funding for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which Obama and other Democrats worked for years to make the law of the land.”

“It’s OK to disagree about this. It’s OK to hold the opinion that Obamacare is a bad thing. But don’t shut down the government and then claim it was the other guys’ doing. Though we can continue to debate health care, out here in the world, the law has passed. We supposedly have majority rule in this country, and the majority want serious health-care reform, and the majority made Obamacare the law.“ 

imagesI really want to hear from a coherent, thinking Republican (and there are plenty around to be fair), how s/he can justify shutting down the government to object to a democratically passed law? And how can our representatives have the audacity to deny government workers a salary, but continue to pay themselves? Leading by example? I think not.

But there was one thing that stood out for me and, as I listened to various radio stations, read a couple of articles, it occurred to me, that the President and the Democratic Party have lost the war on language.

Look again at the two exerts above. One talks about the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, while the other mentions Obamacare. One of the biggest mistakes this government made was to use and allow the use of the term Obamacare. I have yet to hear someone offer a coherent opposition to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act without using the term Obamacare, and using it often. 

images-1It makes for a nice legacy and might flatter our leader, but democrats should refuse to use the word. Every time a Republican uses that term, they should stop him/her and ask that the correct term is used. It’s easy. Just ask what Obamacare is.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is not defined as only for democrats. It is an essential tool to offer what is a basic human right: healthcare without personal bankruptcy. 

If we are going to discuss language, how about ditching the Government Shutdown – if this was a union, we would be calling it a strike. So the Republicans have gone on strike. Good luck dealing with labor disputes in the future!

And while we are at it, perhaps there are a few other words we might want to begin using to describe the shutdown: how about blackmail and extortion? Maybe callousness and immunity to suffering?

Not that I’m in favor of inflammatory rhetoric or imagery. Who had the audacity to design this? Thankfully, let it be said, many Republicans have come out against the comparisons of President Obama to Hitler. 

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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 Bk 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).

Against Gun Control?

My colleagues and I at Left Coast Voices have written time after time about gun control in the last couple of years. These are often the most-viewed posts and those that elicit more comments. The comments are often cynical, sarcastic or occasionally abusive.

Whatever your emotions, feelings, beliefs, gun control refuses to leave the stage of public debate. Perhaps if there were not so many massacres or the almost daily murders then the debate and interest might wane. 

Little CrossesBut it isn’t. 

So this is a short post urging those who are against gun control to voice their arguments. It is also an opportunity for NRA members who believe that there should be gun control to stand up.

No comment, written respectively, will be edited or doctored. If you want to write more than a few paragraphs (400-600 words, I will post your article as a guest post.

Our democracy is built upon a foundation of debate and the exchange of ideas. True debate involves people with differing opinion. Many of us on the left are building stereotypes of those who oppose gun control, demonizing people into images and caricatures that delegitimize and deny any validation to their views.

imgres-2More so, it fails to understand their fears and beliefs. Without such understanding, we can never begin a dialogue that will allow for genuine national debate and a change in policy.

A gun in the wrong hands threatens our safety and the safety of our children. The refusal to debate and listen to the other point-of-view is a threat to our democracy and the very fabric of our society.

Let’s makes a start. Who will be first?

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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).

The Magic Never Grows Old

This is actually the eighth time that I am on the cusp of a book being published. This count includes a couple of self-published books that were picked up by Three Clover Press and repackaged with new covers, titles, and an extensive round of edits. A face-lift and open heart surgery never felt so good! But today 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, Ashbar, sequel to The First Decree, and the 2013 Eric Hoffer Book Award YA category, At The Walls Of Galbrieth, will be officially released by Tourmaline Books. Ashbar front cover 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 BrooksGeorge R.R. Martin, J.K Rowling, Terry Goodkind. 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 too compulsive! I have not yet held my review copy – it is on the way, I am promised, though this might have been a desperate ploy to shut me up (can’t blame them) – 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 50,000 words into writing a fantasy novel for adults that I hope will be a series alongside the Wycaan Masters. I believe authors who keep two series running (Terry Brooks is my role model), then both series’ remain fresh. But I have promised to start the editing process for Book 4 (actually started with my writer’s group over the summer) before sending it off to Tourmaline’s wizards) so that they receive it by the end of 2013.

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Where it all began: Writing Book 1 with sons in an ancient Redwood forest.

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 of holding a real copy of your book for the first time being magical – and it never should.

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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).

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