Tuesday, November 29, 2011


Every novel I write begins with a personal catalyst. The Accidental Activist was inspired by a chance meeting with an old friend from my childhood in England, who I met in the desert in the Middle East, and that I wrote about here in the US.

I was a tour guide and the group leader turned out to have attended a youth center I had worked at in London, ten years before. He remembered how passionate I was about grassroots activism.

"I've been working on something you have to see," he said, whipping out his laptop and bringing up a website.

I was enthralled, since in the early '90's, both a laptop and a website was cutting edge! But this guy had something more important to show me. He explained how a multinational corporation (McDonalds) was suing two friends of his for distributing leaflets highlighting many of McDonalds' practices. There was no legal aid for libel (this has changed now because of this case) and so they were defending themselves.

This guy and some friends had built a website to help garner support and information. I was fascinated. At that time, I used the Internet to write emails and get soccer results (I am British). I didn't know then of the potential the Internet had. Few people did, was, I believe, the first interactive advocacy website.

As word spread, they began to receive evidence from the rainforests in South America and trade unionists in Australia.

I was fascinated by the impact of the Internet as a tool for social change. As the case unfolded, a number of amazing incidents that highlight the behavior of multinational corporations kept my attention. I won't mention them here because they are in my book.

I became intrigued by the transformation of a number of individuals impacted by the case. I decided to write a fictional account, not for the sensationalism because almost everything in the book is based upon something that really happened, but because I wanted to highlight the role of the website and the role of an empowered individual.

Most of us can identify with my protagonist, Matt. He is the guy you work with, have a drink with and watch the football games with. But he is also a guy who is personally affronted by the bullying tactics of big business when it challenges a close friend, and he is galvanized into action when he discovers he has the skills to fight back.

I loved writing The Accidental Activist because I was excited by the court case, the potential of the Internet and eventually the trials and tribulations of my characters, who became good friends.

But I have also become enthralled by the idea of Transformational Fiction, where ordinary people are drawn into fighting a social injustice and in doing so experience a life-shifting internal change.

I want my writing to inspire people to stand up for what they believe in. I want it to be an empowering experience. One of my favorite quotes is from Richard Wright: "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."

Using the form of novels enable me to try and inspire, not though political speeches, but identifying with characters who are similar to you and me. 

I have written three other manuscripts and, in each, the protagonist goes through a transformative process. In A Gardener’s Tale, the protagonist helps a young outcast become a meaningful and respected member of the community. In The Accidental Activist, as mentioned, a self absorbed computer programmer takes up the struggle against a multinational corporation who is trying to silence protestors in order to get laid (well kind of), but discovers he can harness his talents to help improve the world.

Unwanted Heroes will be released in January and tells the story of a young man who befriends a mentally disturbed war veteran and uses his talents to help the old man come to terms with his past and rebuild his life.
I never consciously wrote these novels with this common theme until The Accidental Activist was being critiqued. But now I feel very comfortable and inspired to follow this path. And if it can inspire a few readers along the way, I will feel I am doing my part in creating a better world.
Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. More on

Monday, November 28, 2011


If you have ever been a part of an "underdog" kind of group, firmly believing in your cause and desperate to win out over the "establishment," The Accidental Activist will definitely appeal to you.

When a small group of protestors are served with a libel suit in 1990s Great Britain, our protagonist, Matt Fielding, steps forward to help. He has just connected with Suzie, the woman of his dreams, and he becomes involved because of her. As a computer programmer, he has assisted in the cause by creating a website that has become very popular. At this time in history, the Internet was a new source of information and the full extent of its power was unknown.

Facing these charges in Great Britain was uniquely difficult, as the libel laws during those times were not set up to benefit defendants. Taking on this battle was a David vs. Goliath event, and for the next six years of their lives, they fought for this cause.

Over the subsequent pages, I was intrigued by how the characters jockeyed for position in this battle, knowing that they were up against humongous odds.

While much of the legal posturing felt like unfamiliar territory to me, I was still captivated and could not wait to see how it would all play out.

Toward the end, I especially enjoyed this passage that shows us how great the odds were for these characters:

Suzie is explaining some of this to Matt. "But it's different out here on the political streets, Matt. We're in the right but that's not enough. You were blinded by our romance when you joined us and maybe at some point by our cause. But romance and righteousness just isn't going to be enough. We're not going to be able to saddle your horse after the verdict, Matt, and ride off into the sunset."

Poignant scenes like this follow the reader through to the end, where, without inserting spoilers, I can say that I felt the rush of tears (not necessarily sad ones) as the final outcome was rendered.

Five stars!

(On Blog Tour)

Saturday, November 19, 2011


In the past several days, I have been reminded of the blessings of the season.  Not only do I enjoy looking forward to Thanksgiving and Christmas, but I also recall my firstborn child, born on November 17, 1966.  His birth that year also came on a Thursday, and he arrived a few months after my college graduation.

In celebration of his birth, and commemorating many pictorial moments since then, I wrote about him at my Thursday Potpourri post.

I also enjoy recalling my first love of books, instilled in me very early in life.  And my visits to the village library only reinforced that love.

Nowadays, as I blog and review my books on the various sites, I am happy that I can now revisit the bookish thoughts found in these reviews.

I've also been rereading my latest WIP, Interior Designs, and posted an excerpt from the prequel to this book—Embrace the Whirlwind—at my Creative Moments blog.

As for my reading, I recently finished a book I really enjoyed that is on blog tour.  My review for the book will be posted here on November 28, with a guest blog from the author on November 29.  Watch for my review and post of The Accidental Activist, by Alon Shalev.

I'd love to know about some of your bookish thoughts...or the things for which you're grateful.

Thursday, November 3, 2011


Chris and Pamela Cross love the forties era, from the d├ęcor to the music. It doesn't hurt that Chris resembles Humphrey Bogart, and his impersonations of the Bogey Man are part of the draw to their restaurant. When it burns down, though, they must begin again. Nonplussed by the obstacles, however, they soon begin renovating a newly purchased vintage house that will become Bogey Nights.
Unfortunately, shortly after their purchase, a dead body shows up in the basement, compliments of their Labrador retrievers, Sherlock and Watson, and their "sniffing" skills. Soon an investigation is launched, the body is identified as someone once living in the old boarding house, and the time period of the death is the early 1940s.

When relatives of the decedent ask Chris and Pamela to unofficially investigate, the two are off and running, searching out clues and seeking the connections between the residents of the old boarding house.

Will their questions lead to more puzzling events? What does an old woman living in a retirement home have to do with the events from those days? And how will an old joint called Dapper Dan's figure in to the mystery?

Throughout Bogey Nights, I felt as though I were back in that vintage era, full of the colorful music and the ambience of the clubs and night spots. I loved peeking into the lives of the characters, in their youthful incarnations as well as their aging personas. Meanwhile, the present day Chris and Pamela's story, told in Pamela's first-person narrative, showed me a cozy and comfortable couple living an ordinary life, while pursuing extraordinary adventures. They felt real and as if they could be people I would love to hang out with, enjoying tea and cookies. A wonderful cozy read that kept me turning those pages; a five star read.

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Mary Ann in Autumn: A Tales of the City NovelHanna's DaughtersMiss Hildreth Wore BrownElizabethSolomon's OakSolomon's Oak

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