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 “dwarfs”

Anytime, Anywhere

A writer’s life divides between three stages: creation (writing the book), editing (making it readable) and promoting (this might be looking for an agent, or social media, or even book signings).

When a writer has a number of books out, or with different publishers, or even in different genres, s/he rarely gets to focus on just one of these stages. Chances are, they are juggling between deadlines, commitments, and the drive to leave everything and do what they love best – write.

I’m in this situation right now, and like many of my colleagues, also have a demanding job and a wonderful family, the latter of which is, I am sensing, is fast becoming a passing opportunity as my sons grow up.

There was a recent article in The Writer Magazine wherein the writer suggested that for many people they needed a sense of ritual: a sacred place to write, certain music, etc. I am not like that. When I am creating the story, I can work anytime anywhere.

This theory was tested this week, as I have been on the road, spending most of my time in an intensive executive coaching program in Washington ‘DC (hence the blog focus on the President this week).

I wrote on an airplane with a disgruntled baby next to me, jet-lagged in a hotel room and sitting in freezing cold coffee shops. I wrote before I went to bed and when I got up. It is a tribute to the engaging workshops that I participated in that I didn’t have the urge to whip out my laptop and disappear into the world of elves, dwarfs and magic.

The ironic part of all this is that I hadn’t planned to start writing until later in the spring. I am working hard on utilizing Author Salon as a platform to market my epic fantasy novels and had expected Unwanted Heroes to come out at some point in the spring/summer.

But when the urges grab you, when the creative juices begin flowing, when the characters call out for resolution to their predicaments, an author can’t help but answer their call.

It’s all part of the wonderful world of writing.

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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).

Why We Read Fantasy

This week I completed the manuscript for my second fantasy novel. What began a year ago as a way to bond with my oldest son took on a whole new perspective. I had previously read Tolkien, Paolini and probably a few others, but I never considered this my genre.

Now, 180,000+ on, I am reading about fantasy writing techniques, devouring books by authors such as Terry Brooks and R.A. Salvatore, and considering getting my ears pointed (okay – but there really are people who do this cosmetic surgery).

Hey Mom, I promised no tatoos!

Whenever I tell people, especially those who know I write political fiction, about my foray into the world of fantasy, I do it in a somewhat apologetic way. Usually, I make sure to tell people that I am doing it for my son, which while true, is only part of it as my enthusiasm grows. 

The question that is on my mind these days is why do intelligent, educated adults enjoy plowing through 90,000 word tomes about elves, dwarfs and dragons? Here are some Wiki answers:

“Some fantasy readers are unhappy with their lives and think that they would be happier in another world. A place where someone who is not so successful in this world might be a hero or king in another world.”

“I like reading fantasy books because they provide me with a beneficial different point of view on world and everything. I like to think about it using the analogy to house that you may live in but you’ll never be able to understand if you don’t ever get outside and look at it from perspective.”

“You can see a lot of tiny details in fantasy books that you may somehow lose in your everyday life just because they aren’t getting enough your attention… Digest them and they’ll make your life more colorful and interesting.
A lot of fantasy is about the world we would like to see, a dream we want to pursue. Where would we be at if we didn’t dream?”
 
“Older readers might enjoy Fantasy because of its imaginative scope, and also because of the uncanny ability fantasy has to show us aspects of our own lives in an otherwise far-fetched format. People can relate to the emotions and experiences of fantasy characters, as well as mirror events in human history, through the blurred mirror of the fantasy world.”

“Fantasy is a place to escape when you no longer want to live in real life. Where you can let your imagination run free and have control over what you see and hear.

Many people like to escape the hustle and bustle of real life and be captured by a story which involves something special, unreal or different – possibly magic. People enjoy being in someone else’s shoes – someone extraordinary, so that we can look at the world through anothers eyes. You can switch off and enjoy letting your imagination run wild.”

Do you read fantasy? If so share what the attraction is for you? If you read it once in a period of your life, why then and not now?  Fascinating stuff.

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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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