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 “campfire”

The Human Touch

I have just returned from our annual family camping trip: the opportunity to rest, fish, hike with the family, and write 12,000 words of a novel I should never have started… the usual. Being 90 days away from the release of From Ashes They Rose – Wycaan Master Book 5, also meant it was time to honor a now six-year tradition and read the rough first draft of book 6 to my sons in the forest and around the campfire.

Summer 2015 Reading Book 6

Every morning I would drive down the mountain slope where we had pitched our tents and, at the junction, make a choice: turn right to get ice from a machine or left to buy it from a store. Each time, I turned left. On the final day of our trip, my eldest joined me and asked why I chose the longer drive each day.

“I prefer to buy the ice from a human being,” I replied. He made a joke about any consumer options purchasing from an elf – I have him well-trained.

What struck me is that I had not made a conscious choice, but I preferred the brief conversation with the cashier than the dull whirl of the ice machine. There is a certain irony here. I am reading an excellent book about online marketing – Authorpreneur in Pajamas by Geraldine Solon – and marveling at how social we can be on social media.

And yet I choose to turn left appreciating the human touch in the interaction. The Internet is amazing. Truly. But a chilled beer around the grill or campfire with family and good friends is not something that can ever be totally tweeted/snapchatted/instagrammed/etc.

The aforementioned author, Geraldine Solon, while she sung the praises of social media, made it very clear that she loves public signings and meeting her fans in person. I have met Ms. Solon on a number of occasions around the Northern California authors’ circuit. She is so vibrant and eloquent. Each time she has gone out of her way to introduce me to people I don’t know and always a deserved crowd hovers around her author’s table, from where I hear laughter and frivolity. Ms. Solon might be an expert on the topic of social media, but she also loves being with people. I am sure her considerable success is due as much to one as the other.

If Ms. Solon was buying ice while camping, I am sure she would turn left and purchase from a human being. She would probably buy herself an ice cream too ’cause she’s on vacation. And why not?

While I have your attention, From Ashes They Rose, the fifth in the Wycaan Master series, will be released in September 2015. To celebrate, Tourmaline Books have lowered the price of the award-winning, At The Walls of Galbrieth, to a mere 99 cents for the ebook. I’m not sure for how long this will remain so.

Wycaan Master 1 Just Front Cover  Book 5 Cover FINAL

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Alon Shalev is the author of the 2013 Eric Hoffer YA Book Award winner, At The Walls of Galbrieth, and three more novels in the Wycaan Master Series: The First Decree, and Ashbar – Wycaan Master Book 3, and Sacrificial Flame – all released by Tourmaline Books. From Ashes They Rose, the fifth in the series, will be released in September 2015. The story continues.

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+

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Yosemite Campground Hijinx

This past weekend, I once again had the privilege of staying for a few nights in Yosemite National Park, this time returning to Tuolumne Meadows after about a 20-year absence.

The weather didn’t cooperate as well as it could have, but the trip was still really great and well worth the drive. As is typical of the Sierra Nevada in summer, a pattern of afternoon clouds, showers, and sometimes thunderstorms repeated each day, almost like clockwork. If you’re headed that way, go prepared with extra tarps and rope or some other way of constructing a little shelter at your campsite.

The beauty of Tuolumne Meadows is distinct from that found in Yosemite Valley. The valley is more visually striking, spectacular, in fact. Tuolumne Meadows is a little more gentle in its forms, even with its huge, looming rock domes scattered across its forests and meadows. It’s almost as much of a rock-climber’s paradise as is the valley, but it offers much more than the valley for the (maybe casual) hiker that wants to avoid huge gains in elevation.

What I want to write about here, though, are the people.

The people you encounter in national parks are a selective sub-breed – for the most part. They’re friendly, honest, trusting, open, and often educated and intelligent. However, not all of them are always thoughtful or considerate of others.

Campgrounds in national parks and other places are starting to resemble the infield at a NASCAR race just a little bit. Everyone comes for the beauty and atmosphere of the park, but some also come to party. In addition, some people just don’t really think about how loud their voices are or how well they carry in the morning air.

As an example, we were caught between two neighboring campsites, one with nighttime partiers and the other with a group resembling early-morning roosters. As a result, we didn’t get much sleep.

Neither of these groups was made up of “bad” people. I talked to one of the partiers at length. He and most of his group were in their early twenties and visiting from Australia. He was a really nice guy and we had a great chat. My wife pulled me away and I forgot to work into the conversation that “quiet hours” started at 10 p.m.

I didn’t talk to the morning group, but they seemed like really nice people who may have been visiting from somewhere in Latin America (they all spoke Spanish the whole time) and they were incredibly enthusiastic about getting all that they could out of there visit to the park. They ranged in age from something like 5 to 50 and they left their campsite by 7 a.m. each day and returned late at night. They also appeared to be amazingly well organized, but at 6 a.m. they were shouting and laughing loudly and didn’t seem to notice the motionless campsites nearby.

These groups had one thing in common: a lack of consideration for the other campers near them. Is this getting more common, or do I just notice it more? I got more and more annoyed as I wondered if these people ever thought of anyone but themselves.

As I resentfully pulled my pillow over my head, a memory hit me. It was in this very campground, over 20 years ago, that the inconsiderate jerks… were me and my friends. We had arrived late at the camp, started a campfire and were talking and laughing very loudly, well into the night. A nearby camper came over and, somewhat angrily, asked us to pipe down. Of course, we responded to his anger defensively at first, but we knew he was right. We quieted down after having waited 10 minutes so as not to be directly following our “orders,” and we went to sleep.

In the back of my mind, as it is almost every time I criticize anyone, is the thought that I have done the same thing, committed the same offense, been just as inconsiderate, and made a total ass of myself… and maybe even worse than those currently annoying me.

I guess this is part of getting older. I want sleep more than I want to party. I love a good beer or three, but I want to drink them calmly and then I want to stay in bed past 7:30 a.m. if at all possible.

-Tom Rossi

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Tom Rossi is a commentator on politics and social issues. He is a Ph.D. student in International Sustainable Development, concentrating in natural resource and economic policy. Tom greatly enjoys a hearty debate, especially over a hearty pint of Guinness.

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Turn Write At The Next Junction

Family vacations are always special for my little clan. Once a year, we pack up our considerable collection of camping gear and head to the mountains, lakes and redwoods. Without Internet and electricity, we have no choice but to hike, fish, and enjoy beautiful Northern California and Oregon, and each other. This year there were two highlights. We all followed my eldest’s passion for archery and it has hopefully become a family hobby.

Two years ago. I wrote the first Wycaan Master book together with my eldest son. I have blogged about this previously. Last year, I wrote the second book before we went away and each night, we sat around the campfire or snuggled in my tent as I read to them a few chapters at a time.

This year, we followed suit, reading the third book of the series. Everyday I waited with anticipation to read and treasured their responses. As the books have become more intricate, my youngest (now 9 years old) sometimes had a hard time following and peppered me with questions, often later that night when he was supposed to sleep, or the next day in the middle of another activity.

Now I know that family are not supposed to be considered as impartial critics. In truth, they had a lot of constructive criticism and suggestions, most of which I adopted. But I cannot imagine enjoying the level of engagement that they experienced and expressed from anyone else.

Back in the Bay Area and it is time to make major decisions. There is time as I outsource the books for some professional editing, but I am considering alternative options to publish the series.

A fascinating conversation with a representative at a publishing house with a long history of epic fantasy titles has left me wondering how long to walk the traditional path. She told me that they spent considerable time discussing the option of signing me even though they had previously made a business decision to stop publishing in this genre. It just doesn’t make business sense in the current economic climate, she told me. It has nothing to do with the quality of your work.

I feel a degree of frustration as I have been watching other fantasy authors and their respectable and consistent ranking on Amazon.com. Daniel Arenson, who is the author of the Requiem series and others, announced the following at the end of June:

“100,000 books sold. Bloody hell. You bought 100,000 of these silly books about dragons, swords, and spells. You’re nuts. But THANK YOU, readers. It’s been a crazy ride.”

I have no doubt that Mr. Arenson worked extremely hard to get to this significant landmark. He wrote great books and went out and did it by himself.

I congratulate him…and wonder.

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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).

July 15th A Time to Chill Pt. 2 – Failed!

July 15th – Posted a week later…

A hippie café with a mean latte in hand, sipped in the shadow of the snow-capped Mount Shasta. Truly a ‘Garden of Eden’. The boys are swimming in the deep blue lake, the trout are biting, and my partner and I are drinking wine in the evening by the campfire. Vacation – a time to chill, to relax, to reconnect with close ones and nature.

The mistake. I should never have put an Internet option on my cell phone. An email. An interview with a deadline…one that has passed. The sympathetic reporter has sent questions via email since she has not been able to find me.

A rescheduling of tomorrow’s vacation day incorporates a mad dash to a wireless café. Once again I am pounding the keys of my laptop. In truth, the questions are thought-provoking and an hour shoots past as I immerse myself back into the dream – to become a recognized author of transformational fiction.

Whether it is the caffeine coursing through my veins, the deadline, or the dream, I’m not sure, but I suddenly feel pleasantly wired again. I probably wouldn’t have noticed if I hadn’t been so relaxed, fishing pole in hand, watching an osprey compete for food.

The osprey might have the upper hand on the lake, but I feel good fishing for another dream.

Alon
http://www.alonshalev.com/

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