Pay Attention to Details

Are you pitching your manuscript? If so, then you already know that there are dozens of different guidelines. Some publishers/agents require the first fifteen pages of your book while others ask for a detailed synopsis.  Regardless of demands, if there’s one thing that I highly recommend to all you poets, journalists or novelists out there, it’s follow the guidelines flawlessly. Doing so instantly gives your work the consideration it deserves.

Six years ago, I pitched my first manuscript. Agentless, I went fishing on dozens of publisher’s site, sending my full work to be reviewed. The only problem was, I ignored each and every publisher’s guidelines. After the first three rejection letters, I asked myself, “What am I doing wrong?” Luckily, a friend of mine, and well established writer, was kind enough to guide me in the right direction. He gently popped my bubble by reminding me that every part of a submission is an assessment. You wouldn’t go into an interview and ignore the employer’s questions would you? So why do it with your submission?

Sure enough, once I got with the program, I received four letters of interest. My book wasn’t any better or worse than any other, but I followed direction. I’ve read editor and agent blogs that moan about queries all the time. While I admit they can be tough on writers, it’s still good to err on the side of caution. If you gamble on guidelines, you’re not just risking your manuscript, you’re risking future submissions.

John Wooden once said, “It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.” If you’re uncertain about query requests, there are hundreds of online aids that can help. Just make sure that you’re  meticulousness in your submission. It’s all about paying attention to detail, a creative pitch and a great story. Do that, and the rest will fall into place.

“Consumed” Giveaway

Have a Goodreads account? Then stay tuned for the “Consumed” giveaway starting on July 3rd. Five lucky winners will get a paperback copy sent to their homes so long as they…

A) Love horror-fantasy

B) Are unwilling to press charges due to nightmares

C) Be into vampires, and willing to donate blood.

More to come at the link below come July 3rd.

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7862799.Justin_Alcala

Travel…It’s Worth It

Several things happen to someone who writes and travels. Firstly, the stress of deadlines, editing and marketing strategies has a way of evaporating like spilled lemonade on a summer sidewalk. Next, new faces and landscapes give birth to a plethora of unrestrained story ideas. Finally, the world is put into perspective- not just the literary world, but life in general. So in light of this, I’m calling out to all my writing companions and asking them to do whatever it takes in order to plan what I had put off for so long…traveling.

When I began writing Consumed, I took advantage of an opportunity to research the Transylvania region. I’d already conducted countless hours of legwork in the States, but nothing prepared me for the insight I’d gain when I finally arrived in Romania. Elements like culture and atmosphere are something that just can’t be described in books or guides. It’s a “boots on the ground” sort of experience. So it goes without saying that when I recently traveled to Ireland for my current project, Dim Fairy Tales (the second installment in the Plenty Dreadful series), the same held true.

The people of Ireland are welcoming, but not overwhelming. The history of the Emerald Isle is far richer than what’s expressed in social studies classes, and perhaps most importantly, stories in Ireland are cherished by its people beyond anything else. Just go to any coffee shop, lounge or pub and listen to the colorful array of accounts and tall tales. It’s  a type of specialized oratory and written folklore that you can’t find anywhere.

But this is not a story about my travels. No, this is a story about your travels. If you’re a writer, I beg you, explore. I know it’s easier said than done, but I beseech you to do what ever you can in order to journey to new towns, countries and continents. Save those pennies and cut those coupons because travel can help inspire, broaden horizons and give piece of mind.

Johann Wolfgang Goethe was one of the most talented German writers of the 18th and 19th century. His early writings were considered entertaining, but short of groundbreaking. It wasn’t until 1786, when he traveled through the Italian Peninsula that Goethe would find his voice. Not just his voice mind you, but according to his journals, his philosophical outlook on life. So much so that in 1816, his published work, “Italian Journey” took center stage in the literary world. None of it would have been possible without travel.

So writers, I implore you, please find a way to travel. Is it expensive? Often, yes. Do you have the time? Probably not. But, will it help in your writing? I’ll guarantee it.

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(My hike on Diamond Hill in Ireland. Epicness at its lamest.)

Give the Internet Another Chance

A long time ago in a dark age called the 90’s, an evil group of sorcerers unleashed an abominable creation known as the Internet. This foul blight allowed common mortals to use computers in order to communicate, gaining access to a wealth of information, and perhaps most frightening…read books online. Though a brave covenant of warriors known as the “Book Traditionalists” attempted to free humans of this wretched curse, the power of the Internet proved to be too strong. Bereaved by their loss, the Book Traditionalists went into hiding, but not before vowing to fight the Internet by any means necessary.

Sounds intense right? No matter what side of the fence you’re on, the fact of the matter is that the Internet has given the book world a serious facelift. Yes, the Internet is here to stay, and resistance is futile. Nowadays, eBooks, reader blogs and social media are all an intricate part of the literary universe. People have access to their favorite series with the tap of a smartpad or click of a mouse. Not to mention, fans can now instantly connect with other readers on websites in order to discuss plot, character development and anything else that their hearts desire.

But what about the golden age before the Internet? What about the days when folks could flip the pages of a paperback novel or visit the majestic confines of a bookstore without issue? Well, technically none of that has gone away. While Book Traditionalists might argue that the Internet has destroyed the book world, the truth is that the web has merely enhanced it. Books are now accessible at anytime, from practically anywhere. Bored at the airport? Download an eBook. Want to learn more about an author? Visit their webpage. There’s no limit to what the Internet can do for readers who want to get more out of books.

I grew up in the 80’s and 90’s, a time before the Internet was popular. I can still recall the anticipation I felt when Dad drove my sister and I to the library. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the latest horror or adventure novel. So, much like many people of my generation, I found myself slightly heartbroken when witnessing the side effects of the Internet on the writing world. Libraries shrank, bookstores closed, and swapping your favorite paperback with friends became extinct. But when I finally sat back and looked at the big picture, it was clear that out of the facets I’d missed from the good old days, there was also a dozen new components that I absolutely couldn’t live without.

I’m fanatic about researching locations, events and people that I’ve recently read about. It’s one of my favorite things to do with books. My wife enjoys reaching out to other readers and discussing the material via fan sites, blogs and Twitter. I know writers who like posting fan fiction, and artists who like sketching character concepts on sites like Deviantart. From downloadable book-soundtracks to online fantasy maps, there’s something for every reader online in order to heighten their reading experience.

George Bernard Shaw one said, “Progress is impossible without change.” People tend to generally dislike change. It’s in our nature. But if we’re going to blame the Internet for corrupting the classical way books were once enjoyed, then we’re missing the big picture. The Internet has helped the literary world explode into a new generation. The web isn’t destroying books, it’s giving them new life.

 

By the Pond

Justin Alcala

Author of Consumed and the upcoming Plenty Dreadful series

http://www.justinalcala.com

English Language and Usage, “Should the Words ‘Internet’ and ‘Web’ be Capitalized?”

http://english.stackexchange.com/questions/644/should-the-words-internet-and-web-be-capitalized

Have You Hugged Your Editor Today?

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Congratulations! You’ve just contracted your novel and now it’s time to prepare for the big debut. At first it’s all very exciting. You get your own editor, marketing manager and updates on your book cover. But then one day, just as you’ve reached the pinnacle of your high, an email rolls in with both your revised manuscript and a list of improvements. Improvements! What do you mean? This story is flawless…right? Well, think again.

Editing, believe it or not, is what makes or breaks a book. Check out any great author’s dedication page, and you’ll usually see a grateful tip of the cap to their editor. But before you get it mixed up, let it be known that an editor does more than just corrects spelling and fixes spacing. Editors are a key component in ensuring that the story plot makes sense and that it’s flowing to the reader’s liking. Think of them as the directors of your great movie. It’s the difference between a box office hit and a flop.

If you’re a first time author, it can be tough hearing suggestions from your editor. You’ve put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into your work, and now some total stranger is going to rip it all apart and tell you what doesn’t work for them. How dare they? Obviously, your manuscript is wonderful without edits or it wouldn’t have been contracted. Well, yes and no. What authors need to remember is that editors are not requesting changes to your baby in order to wound you. They’re doing it to better the details you’ve perhaps overlooked during the creation period.

I’m spoiled. Anyone who has been following my writing career probably has heard that my wife is my strongest critic. The woman goes through a book every two days and knows bad writing when she sees it. It’s her weekly purchases that puts the children of authors through college. Yet, with all of the productive criticism that I’ve received from her, even I was shocked the first time I received an editor’s review. It was hard to swallow why someone would disagree with ideas that I had ripped from my soul- ideas that I had been brave enough and bold enough to share. Understand that this is a bad mindset to have.

What I eventually learned was that editors are the last line of defense between your story and the book market. It’s their job to help you keep face while making sure the publisher profits from your book by perfecting the story. They spruce up your work so that it’s presentable to a broad audience. Are their suggestions sometimes painful to deal with? Obviously. But should we be upset with editors for their professional opinion? Not at all.

Patricia Fuller once said, “Writing without revising is the literary equivalent of waltzing gaily out of the house in your underwear.” Authors, we are not perfect. We make mistakes. We occasionally overlook the rules of grammar. We sometimes choose the wrong paths for our characters and plots. Let’s not forget that publishers chose our stories for a reason. They have serious potential. All editors are trying to do is make sure that your work is not going to waste. Together, with a great author and superb editor, one can move mountains. Authors, let’s work with them.

A special thanks to some of my best editors including Mallory Alcala, Sara Jodon, Danielle Romero and Alissa Holly.

Justin Alcala

Author of Consumed and The Plenty Dreadful Series

Hashtag no filter and all that jazz

The Latest Author Photos Are In!

The latest round of author photos are in! These shots were created for marketing purposes, and intended to mirror the upcoming manuscript about a half fairy in the modern world. Do you see any sprites or redcaps in the background?

Hashtag no filter and all that jazz On the tracks Poseidon and Justin By the Pond Drink Sewer Thoughts Drinking on the sewer A drink for the road

A Glimpse Into the Future

Plenty Dreadful Promotional Poster

Write what you know; write what you love– chances are that if you’re a poet, blogger or novelist, you’ve heard this all too often. That’s not to say that it isn’t true. In fact, just look at your favorite author’s latest titles and I’m sure you’ll note a repeating theme. It’s what works for them, and to be honest, I’m no different. After Consumed hit shelves, it was time for me to decide what I wanted to write about next. It was obvious that if I wanted to really enjoy myself through the creation process, the book(s) would have to be playful, supernatural and dripping in weirdness. Cue The Plenty Dreadful series.

The Plenty Dreadful collection didn’t initially start off as a series as much as a single story. It began with the absurdist fictional piece, The Devil in the Wide City, but quickly grew into something that was out of my control. I felt like an arsonist with a leaky gas can. Once the world I’d been creating lit up, ideas spilled all over, and I quickly realized that things were out of my control. Concepts like supernatural factions, magical principles and legendary characters came to life all on their own, giving birth to an amalgamation of demons, fairy folk and undead that I couldn’t peel myself away from. I had fallen in love with the setting, and halfway through writing The Devil in the Wide City, I decided that there needed to be more books. So began the series.

Book one, The Devil in the Wide City, takes place in the perfect place for an Urban Fiction piece, Chicago. The metropolis’s history, blend of folklore and massive cityscape makes for the perfect home for a fallen angel who just can’t get things right. The city had all of the requirements I was looking for, including a hilarious detail that can be discerned from the title alone- Chicago’s weight problem. But Ned, the lonely devil, couldn’t just exist by himself. Soon, there was a need to create witches, fairies and undead. This gave birth to the second novel in the series (currently in the editing phase), putting a new twist on fairy lore, society and rules within the modern era, while blending a plot with the existing world introduced in book one. Finally, with both a bumbling devil and a new-age fairy in the works, there was need for a third musketeer. This was a great chance to bring in an antihero I’d been brewing up for sometime- Death’s personal hitman.

Now, with a trio of unusual central characters at my disposal, there was only one thing left to do- give them conflict. Readers following the series will enjoy a rising conflict that initially rears its ugly head in The Devil in the Wide City. This engagement will clearly take center stage in book two, when our ill guided fairy friend finds himself trapped in a scheme that he can’t seem to dig his way out of. Circumstances will only worsen in book three when Death takes his first vacation in centuries, and by book four, the reality of what is at hand will force all three leading heroes to reluctantly join forces in order to put a stop to their enemies in what will become the final novel.

Readers can look forward to plenty of strange plot devices through the books from Cthulhu monsters with sex toy appendages to Jon Dillinger the bloodthirsty vampire. There’ll be transvestite elves and bear breasted trolls. Main characters will burn down cities, befriend museum exhibits and fall for women with a thing for witchcraft. There’ll be historical celebrities, corporate warlocks and gallons of nerdy references. It’s good fun for the entire family.

So stay tuned if you are a fan of oddities, eccentricity and bizarreness. Book one of the series, The Devil in the Wide City, is due October 2015, while book two is scheduled for late 2016. And remember Consumed is available on bookshelves through Amazon or Barnes & Noble. Finally, for those of you who’ve sent kindly emails, rated my work on Amazon/B&N, and/or follow me on Goodreads, WordPress and Twitter, thank you. I love connecting with readers, like myself, who understand that books aren’t just for reading. They’re for connecting.

Print

Justin Alcala

Author of Consumed, The Devil in the Wide City and The Plenty Dreadful Series 

Zharmae Publishing Press

When Bad is Good

When Bad is Good

​Ernest Hemingway put it best once when he said, “It’s none of their business that you have to learn to write. Let them think you were born that way.” I often stumble onto author websites and find myself awed by their unique beginnings. Some struggled while trying to pay the rent while others devoted themselves to studying at major universities. Some began writing in order to bleed their souls while others simply chased their dreams. In fact, the more I read up on writers’ backgrounds, the more I learned there was only one real factor that every writer had in common- ironically, they all sucked at one point.

Yes, believe it or not, some of your favorite authors were awful writers starting off. Louis L’Amour received two-hundred rejections for his works, Margaret Miller was told that her stories would never sell, and according to Simon Kernick, “Every last publisher in England rejected my first two books.” That’s right, almost every author stunk. Their writing just wasn’t good enough. So then, naturally it begs the question, how did they turn it all around?

While the answer might be considered a bit cliché, it doesn’t make it any less true. It seems that every author I’ve researched always did the same thing right. No matter how difficult writing became for them, no matter how difficult their circumstances, every one of them refused to quit. Yes, it’s true, elbow grease and stamina are the foundation for good writing. If you doubt me, I dare you to research three of your favorite authors, and I guarantee that at least one of them will have a point in their career where their struggles were only overcome by endurance, fortitude and grit. That’s because while they were learning to grin and bear it, they were also constantly learning ways to better their trade.

It’s no question that the literary world has its own customs and protocols. It’s no secret that some of the best writers were also some of the busiest readers. There’s no doubt that some of the most stylized writers of all times started off simplistic and boring. But in the end, there’s only one difference between a washed up writer and a successful one. The good ones learned patience and determination.

Are you struggling to write? Do you think that you don’t have what it takes to be a columnist, journalist, or author? Have people told you that your writing leaves something to be desired? Well guess what? Your not the first one nor will you be the last. What matters is that you gather the courage to continue blogging, penning poetry or writing that next great novel.

People often sacrifice happiness in order to avoid embarrassment. No one wants to be the fool with their head in the clouds. But unlike being a nuclear physicist or professional athlete, much of what makes authors great has little to do with natural talent. So long as a writer immerses themselves in their own creativity, much of the rest is simply  hard work, applying oneself, and stamina. In the words of Richard Bach, “A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.”

Justin Alcala Blog to Return Shortly

Hello all my fellow bloggers, readers and writers! With my latest novel, “The Devil in the Wide City,” in it’s editing phase, a third novel in the works, and plenty of other-bookly activities being had, I am very late with my January post. My apologies. However, please feel free to reach out to me with any questions, comments, etc. until then. My hope is to connect with all of you wonderful WordPress members shortly to discuss more books, writing techniques and publisher’s secrets soon.

Warm Regards,

Justin Alcala

Review Request for Readers

Hello readers,
Whether you loved it or hated it, all reviews for “Consumed” on Amazon and B&N are greatly appreciated. Thanks ahead of time for any review you can provide.

Your weirdest of the weird author,

Justin Alcala

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Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/Consumed-Justin-Alcala-ebook/dp/B00NJ5CGM8/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=undefined&sr=8-1&keywords=Consumed+Justin+Alcala

Amazon Hardback: http://www.amazon.com/Consumed-Justin/dp/1937365581/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1415553566&sr=8-2&keywords=Consumed+Justin+Alcala

Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/consumed-justin-a/1120694383?ean=9781937365585

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