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 “Christopher Moore”

Christopher Moore – As Left Coast As They Get

When Christopher Moore offers a book signing in San Francisco, people flock to hear and meet him. When he launched his last novel, Fool, more than 300 hundred people lined up around the perimeter of Books Inc eager to have him sign copies of their books or to exchange a word. I had gone hoping for a little chat…some chance!

But Moore didn’t become a cult hero in San Francisco because of his parody of Shakespeare (Fool) or even the book that launched him, the irreverent and hilarious tale at the first 30 years of Jesus’ life (Lamb). What has enabled Moore to gain such status here are his three books about vampires in San Francisco.

The Man – as funny in person as on the page.

Please don’t bother if you want to be terrified, or if you seek Stephanie Meyer romance. Christopher Moore wrote the book (excuse the pun)  on how to create characters, bind them to a city, and have people begging for more. This is why I chose to write about him during California Writer’s Week and on Saturday for my “Writer’s Corner.”

At the book launch that I just mentioned, the questions were not about either his latest book or Lamb, it was all about the books that bound him to our city, and why we claim Christopher Moore as one of our authors, even though he lives in SoCal.

A Dirty Job, Bloodsucking Fiends – A Love Story, and (after he released Fool) Bite Me, all contain three vital ingredients: a vivid city, engaging characters, and that extra ingredient – in Moore’s case, his wicked sense of humor.

With such a combination, Christopher Moore came up from Santa Barbara and conquered the heart of our fair city. He deserves his place in my California’ Writer’s Week.

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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).

California Writer’s Week

Eight years ago, a Joint Legislative Resolution  was passed in Sacramento to recognize California Writer’s Week which begins today. The authors of note include a fine list that we can all be proud of.

Gertrude Atherton (1857-1948) Mary Austin (1868-1934)
Raymond Barrio (1921-1996) Delilah L. Beasley (1872-1934)
Raymond Chandler (1888-1959) Ina Coolbrith (1841-1928)
Dashiell Hammett (1894-1961) Bret Harte (1836-1902)
Jack London (1876-1916) Joaquin Miller (1837-1913)
William Saroyan (1908-1981) John Steinbeck (1902-1968)
George Sterling (1869-1926) Mark Twain (1835-1910)

But I can’t help feeling that this reinforces the old adage that the only way for an author to be successful is to be a dead author. So I want to spotlight several authors who are alive today and crafting their magic in the Golden State.

My list includes (with no significance to order) Christopher Moore, Kemble Scott, Adam Mansbach, Deborah Majors,  Matt Stewart, Seth Harwood, Tanya Egan Gibson, John Putnam and… I’m sure there are many more.

I realize as I am writing that most of them actually share something in common – they write about San Francisco, or at least Northern California. I guess this is important to me. My next three books will be based here because San Francisco is a magical city that I have fallen in love with, so I guess this makes sense, even though I haven’t connected the two in creating this list.

It's in Black & White.

Therefore, I want to share a few of my favorite local authors with you over the next week, all of whom are alive and can be met at numerous author events that they participate in. Meeting inspiring authors remains a thrill for many of us and perhaps this is a flaw of the newly consecrated California Writer’s Week, that it highlights authors from the past.

So it is slightly ironic that California Writers Week follows Litquake, a San Francisco smorgasbord of literature-related events, apparently based on the premise from USA Today, that San Francisco has the highest per capita consumption of both alcohol and books.

Whatever the reason, it is a great event. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to curl up with a good book and a bottle of wine. How I love San Francisco! Who is your favorite Bay Area author?

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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).

 

Would You Pay To Meet An Author?

The average amount of books sold at a book signing is eight! When you take into account the luminaries such as Stephen King, John Grisham, J.K. Rowlings et al, then there are some very sad and frustrated bookstore staff and authors. When Christopher Moore launched his novel Fool in the heart of San Francisco, people lined up around the store and outside waiting for him to sign a copy of this or any other of his hilarious novels. There were a few hundred easily. It was a good night for Books Inc.

But many stores are getting tired of the publicity, room preparation, staff time etc. all for a handful of people. According to the New York Times, some independent bookstores have decided to charge admission (often a gift card that can be redeemed for the author’s or another book). Julie Bosman and Matt Richtel highlighted this in a recent article after the Boulder Book Store in Colorado announced in April that it planned to charge $5 a person to attend store events. In the same month, local Menlo Park bookstore, Kepler’s Books, began to charge a $10 gift card as admission for two people. if the customer bought the book at the store prior to entering the event, the fee was waived.

Alon Shalev speaking in a Barnes & Noble

One of the few advantages that the brick-and-mortar bookstores have over their online competitors is the ability to bring authors and readers face-to-face. 

Here are some reactions from the field (taken from the aforementioned NYT article):

“There’s no one right now who’s not considering it,” said Sarah McNally, the owner of McNally Jackson Books in the SoHo neighborhood of Manhattan. “The entire independent bookstore model is based on selling books, but that model is changing because so many book sales are going online.”

Is there still magic in meeting an author?

“We don’t like to have events where people can’t come for free,” Anne Holman, the general manager of The King’s English Bookshop, an independent store in Salt Lake City, said. “But we also can’t host big free events that cost us a lot money and everyone is buying books everywhere else.”

Bookstore owners say they are doing so because too many people regularly come to events having already bought a book online or planning to do so later. Consumers now see the bookstore merely as another library — a place to browse, do informal research and pick up staff recommendations.

“They type titles into their iPhones and go home,” said Nancy Salmon, the floor manager at Kepler’s. “We know what they’re doing, and it has tested my patience.”

Heather Gain, the marketing manager of the Harvard Book Store in Cambridge, Mass., said “We’re a business. We’re not just an Amazon showroom.”

Ouch!

Ann Patchett was interviewed while on her three-week book tour for her new book, “State of Wonder.” She was appearing at  such an event at Kepler’s. She understood the bookstores’ problem, but worried that this wold exclude those who can’t pay for a hardcover book such as  students or the elderly. “I wouldn’t want the people who have no idea who I am and have nothing else to do on a Wednesday night shut out,” she said. “Those are your readers.”

Alon Shalev speaking in Oakland

Publishers aren’t happy either since they often pay for the author to travel to the bookstore. If the bookstore is charging entrance, shouldn’t it at that point pay the author or publisher for the appearance?

Customers seem willing to pay when they know the author (and are probably going to buy his/her book) and some are willing to pay to support the independent bookstores.

“You get a real sense of community …” one said. “You get an intellectual community that gathers around books, and that can only happen at a bookstore.”

Others however have questioned this: “Who would the money go to? Not to the author?” he asked. “That’s terrible.”

What do you think? Are the independent bookstores just cutting off one of the only advantages they hold over the online stores? But if most of us do move over to Ebooks, will that spell the end of our local independent bookstores? And then, what else are we missing out on?

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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).

Synopsis – request feedback

These are exciting times. As mentioned in my last blog, I will submit my new manuscript to the first of two contests over the weekend. I would appreciate any feedback to the synopsis which I have pasted below. Feel free to critique in the comments below or by email to alshalev at bigfoot dotcom.

It is also exciting to see that people are picking up Oilspill dotcom in its e-book format from both Smashwords and Scribd. The world of e-book is accelerating and I am so happy to be part of this wave. If you have read the book, please post a review on these sites and also Goodreads if you hang out there.

To all who follow my blog and my progress as an author – Happy New Year – I appreciate all your support and encouragement.
Alon
http://www.alonshalev.com/

Unwanted Heroes (80,000 words)

Unwanted Heroes (80,000 words)

Good coffee, vintage wine and the magic of San Francisco bring together an elderly, battle weary Chinese American war vet and an idealistic and pretentious young Englishman. But when repressed memories suddenly surface, they discover a more dangerous commonality where the key to release for each of them lies in an unlikely partnership.

Will Taylor finds employment as a barista at The Daily Grind in the Financial District of San Francisco and is inspired to write his breakout novel. Walking the streets of Kerouac and Ginsberg, Taylor discovers a beautiful city and cutting edge culture alongside the harsh underbelly of American society.

When his boss suddenly disappears, Will unravels an injustice he must try and help rectify before he loses his friends, his sanity and love. He needs all the help he can find and all the allies he can muster. A homeless professor, precariously balanced between intellectual pinnacles and mental abyss, offers advice and contacts. Taylor’s Goth girlfriend initiates him into the West Coast counter culture, while her Nob Hill father digs up his own military nightmares to help another haunted soldier in desperate straits.

The unique culture of San Francisco lends itself to the comical aspects of the novel, offset in a rollercoaster of emotions where comic follows tragic. When Will meets his Goth girlfriend’s parents for dinner at their home on Nob Hill, the only conversation piece he can offer is teaching them to toast in twelve languages. In the ensuing abrupt scene change, he is frantically searching a military graveyard at night, looking for his boss who has suddenly disappeared without his medication.

Unwanted Heroes confronts the issue of homelessness and, in particular, American war veterans who could never readjust into society. This novel is a tribute to a beautiful, unique and quirky city and its people, and yet highlights those who sacrificed so much to keep it and America free.

As such, Unwanted Heroes fits into a genre of novels written by authors who want to effect change in the world. Erin Brockovich, The Rainmaker, A Civil Action and The Appeal, are comparable works in this respect. In addition, the humorous scenes reflect the influence of Christopher Buckley and Christopher Moore.

But above all, Unwanted Heroes is a story of injustice, friendship and romance, as seen through the eyes of a struggling young writer from across the Atlantic, who brings more baggage than just his shiny laptop and romantic ideals.

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