Horror Movie Survival Kit

A Nightmare on Elm Street, Hellraiser, The Evil Dead- as a child, horror movies like these use to keep me shivering in my bed all night, fingers locked on the flashlight I kept hidden under my pillow. The stylized 80’s fear-flicks brought a new atmosphere and mindset to the horror scene. No longer was it enough to simply keep a sharpened stake under your bed or make sure that you knew where mom’s silverware was hidden. The creatures had upgraded. Now, you had to think outside the box to stay alive. That’s why, ironically, I’m thinking inside the box for this next blog. What exactly do I mean? Well, just in time for the holidays, I’ve been asked by Man Crates, a new online company that offers the most creative gifts for men in wooden crates, to put together my horror movie survival kit, and I’m basing my anti-monster arsenal on the horror movies I grew up with in order to try to make it until dawn. Firstly, let’s build the scene…

It’s the witching hour in an overly foggy forest. The moonlight cascades down below, coloring the trees and mist in a graveyard shade of blue. A pack of unsuspecting campers huddles around a fire, telling ghost stories while passing around a flask. Off in the distance, a branch cracks, and then another. Though the overly sexy female campers begin to panic, one of the foolishly brave men amongst them, Ed, decides to investigate. Recklessly, Ed goes deep into the forest line until he’s all but swallowed up by the vapors. He can no longer see the Jack O’ Lantern orange from the campfire behind him, though it doesn’t stop him from continuing his search.  All goes quiet. Then suddenly, unbeknownst to Ed, a dark silhouette begins to grow behind him, taking the shape of a hulking fiend with razor claws and eyes like red traffic lights. Fortunately, as the beast closes in, its lower talons inadvertently crunch onto another branch, snapping it in two. Now alerted, Ed spins around and finds that a Lovecraft-like demon made of ethereal shadow is waiting behind him. The monster opens up its shark-like maw, and a spiral of glowing green begins to fizz in its throat, ready to be spat out onto poor Ed. Luckily, Ed has just the thing in his backpack. Hastily, he digs in a side pouch and quickly draws out a…  But what does Ed draw out? A clove of garlic isn’t going to help him with the shadow terror, nor will a regular old revolver. This isn’t your typical Silver Screen antagonist. No, this creature is far more appallingly advanced, and Ed will have to have something really handy on him in order to escape the creature’s clutches. With that being said, here’s what I would prepare in my survival kit if I were in Ed’s place. They’re not necessarily deadly weapons or foolproof repellants, but they are easily attainable and versatile. Firstly, we need a diversion. The greatest ability of every monster is that they seem to always know how to sneak up on their victims, cornering them so that they have no other choice but to scream in fear until their inevitable demise (there must be a free class offered to registered horror creatures). That is, unless you have something handy which can temporarily take the sight from your stalking abomination. Unfortunately, mace isn’t going to do the trick as most creatures like phantoms and demon either lack physical anatomies or are immune to puny concentrated pepper juice. Plus, if you’re as clumsy as me, there’s a good chance you’re going to mace yourself in the process. The answer- take away their perception with the common 4th of July Smoke Bomb. Now, I’m not talking about those wimpy smoke bombs that come in kids’ fun-packs during the holidays. No, full fledge smoke bombs nowadays have vastly improved since the days of sparklers and charcoal snakes, and are relatively cheap to purchase. These bad boys are near baseball size and create a smoky diversion that when used correctly will help save your skin against any monstrosity closing in on you. Simply plan your running path a second ahead of time, light the smoke bomb, drop it, and run. And the best part is that smoke bombs tend to come in packs so even if the beasty gets past the first cloud, you can continue tossing them over your shoulder as you flee.

smoke bomb 2 Next, let’s discuss the hard facts. Chances are you’re not looking to make a stand, but rather hurry to safety. This is not a bar brawl with Biff the college bully you’re in. These are supernatural forces that bend the rules of nature and physics. You want to fight? Goodnight. Plan to run? Survival has begun. With that in mind, let’s talk about a universal tool that will help any fleeing victim escape a horror movie attack. The modern crowbar comes in handy sizes as short as ten inches, made typically of reliable carbon steel. Though it can be used as a weapon, its most valuable asset is its versatility. Is a locked up farmhouse your only chance of surviving the animated scarecrow giving chase? A crowbar will make easy work of a door lock, buying you time to find a phone and call authorities. Did you discover that you’ve locked your keys in the car again just as the loup-garou caught your scent? A crowbar through that car window will do the trick. Plus, the crowbar makes a great crude hammer, extended arm or climbing hook (as well as a pry bar when you’re opening your Man Crate). crowbar Finally, while you might have dodged the monster’s initial ambush and survived the creature’s last pursuit, if your circumstances are in true horror movie fashion, then the beast(s) is still out there, waiting for you to lower your guard. Adrenaline may have helped you through your first encounter, but you’ll soon learn that it comes with consequences, The Crash. Your muscles are fatigued, your senses dulled, and that temporary cabin you’ve decided to take refuge in suddenly feels a bit more cozy. Not so fast. The sun isn’t up yet. It’s time for…An Energy Drink! Yes, the classic marketing beverage that relies on people’s addiction to caffeine is back again to save the day. Chances are, if you try to get some rest, the lurking specter will slip into your nightmares or the machete wielding revenant will pin you to the bed like a prom corsage. You need a boost to keep you going until dawn. Once the sun is up, you can easily navigate your way to the main road in order to get to the police station. And because America is so hooked on Energy Drinks, they now come in ungodly inappropriate sizes to keep you going throughout the midnight hours. energy So remember the next time you’re being hunted by a Golgothan or spirit of a vengeful ex-girlfriend, keep in mind that horror movie survival isn’t about how tough you are, but how clever you are. The brave ones die first. And as a reminder, if you’re looking for a great gift for that special Horror Movie Hero, check out Man Crates on the web, because true survivalists deserve better Christmas gifts than just a tie or cheap cologne.

Print Justin Alcala: Check Out More Blogs, See Future Work & Pick Up My Horror Novel @: www.justinalcala.com https://twitter.com/JustinAlcala Man Crates @: http://www.mancrates.com/?gclid=CKbU_LPZ-sECFc1AMgodSGQAJw small_logo_tinted_1413251026__91038

Horror Hard Copies Available!

I just received my copy. Do you have yours?

Print

Horror lovers, mystery nerds, supernatural geeks, get your copy via the links below.

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

Remember, Remember, The Fifth of November

Revolution, transformation, reform- for some, these words can sound sharp and lethal. But why? Well, for starters, their definition suggests change- perhaps unwanted depending on your circle. The words also insinuate that what you once depended on is no more. Nevertheless, like it or not, change is in the air.

Now I’m not talking about a change in government, religion or anything else so grand. I’m talking about a change in publishing. It’s a reworking of procedure. It’s a change in how manuscripts are published, books are reviewed, and new authors become popular. While classic publishers might tell you that the latest makeover is the beginning of the end, other, more modern thinkers would argue that its just the adjustment that the book world needs.

For years, the publishing world went something like this- a writer labors over a story. They then pitch it to an agent. If an agent agrees to represent them, they propose the manuscript to a publisher. If the agent is talented enough, the publisher agrees to publish it, and depending on the book’s popularity, eventually a newspaper or radio show might review it, helping the book earn additional readers. The cycle repeated itself for decades, and only the strongest survived.

With modern technology, and a little something called the “internet”, things have changed. Authors can now submit their work to certain publishers without representation, or elect to publish it themselves. If a pitched publisher decides they like the manuscript, they contract the work, with an emphasis on sales instead of advances. Bloggers and other readers then write reviews for the work on social media sites and if enough followers and fans enjoy the book, an author can expect a better chance at publishing their next manuscript.

Where once a writer was forced to depend on the system, the ball is now in their court. It’s no longer about crossing your fingers as much as it is effort and determination. If you want to publish a book, you obviously need to still be a great writer (some would argue even more so now), but you can also take hold of the business side if you’d like. And while many classical publishers would argue these new methods have helped destroy the publishing world, the final numbers don’t favor their mentality.

Take for example the latest column in Yahoo News’s The Exchange. According to columnist, Aaron Pressman, while certain publishers and bookstores are on the ropes, the sales of ebooks are at an all time high. Take for example a consumer report that studied electronic book sales throughout the last decade. While ebooks started as a 68 million dollar industry, in 2012, it improved to an all time high of 3 billion dollars- the most that the publishing market has ever seen. In addition, this study is only focusing on published ebooks. It does not include the countless self-published works that consumer reports have difficulty tracking.

Now take in to consideration that in 2012, hard and electronic copies made a combined total of over15 billion dollars. This sales milestone is not only record breaking, but also a forecast in the rising numbers we can expect to see in the future. When added up, you quickly realize that while the procedures for producing books may have changed, the publishing world is by no means at an end. So why the bad blood?

Well, for every action, this also an equal or greater reaction, and the latest practices are no different. Publishers fear the change in publishing procedures gives way to monopolies like Amazon cornering the market. Publishers also fear that they’ll be held prisoner by ebook sales, which eventually may have more demand, but will sell for much cheaper. Most importantly, small publishers, self-publishing, and online book websites take the power out of the publisher’s hands. Major publishers can no longer dictate the rules of what is and isn’t a good book, and what they’d like to push onto the market. It gives a bit more power, perhaps only temporarily, back to the writer and reader.

Now to add the final piece…my half-witted opinion. Paradoxically, though I might sound like I’m siding with the change in atmosphere, I’m not. I’ve always been a firm believer in hybrid solutions, and the recent publishing change is no different. Do I think that the classic method of publishing is outdated? Of course. Do I want the domination of the book market to simply change hands to companies like Amazon on Kobo? Heck no. The truth of it is though, while I’d personally love for mid sized publishers to regain power and start signing authors due to talent and promise, I know that there’s a lot of work in order to get it to that point. In the end, what I’m actually trying to say is that like it or not, the publishing world is changing.

So, this Fifth of November, when some of us celebrate Guy Fawkes Night, a commemoration that celebrates the failed attempt to blow up British Parliament, why not ask yourself if change is really so bad? In the publishing world, it seems to be inevitable. Let’s hope that with a little bit of care and effort, readers and writers alike can take back the publishing world. If we can embrace the change, then we can use it in order to make sure that publication is no longer an activity that one is powerless to control. It can be change that we use to our advantage- a change that we remember.

Review: One Hundred Sideways Miles

I typically don’t do book reviews, but this was a must…

100 Sideways Miles is a creative plot about an epileptic boy’s teenage life as he struggles to find out who he really is in a world that seems to be prewritten. In typical Andrew Smith fashion, the characters are well developed, and as the book progresses, you become lost in the relationship between the main character, Finn, and his best friend Cade. Throughout the story, Finn has to fight through hurdles such as his condition’s seizures, the conflicting, but charming relationship with his father, and his sheltered existence. Now add the fact that he is a teenage boy and must deal with constant sexual impulses, raw emotion and his imminent future, and you get “100 Sideways Miles.”

The storyline is simple and captivating. Finn, the ever-introspective protagonist that can charm you with his raw innocence, is struggling to understand who he really is, especially once he meets Julia. Julia, the Chicago transplant (Woohoo Windy City!), is an enchanting, but mysterious young woman who comes into Finn’s life at a very puzzling time. As the pair’s relationship grows, Finn begins to understand that much like him, Julia is a wounded and confused. Later, once an uncontrollable wedge is placed between Julia and Finn, the boy becomes confused and inconsolable. However, luckily with the help of his hilarious friend Cade, Finn teeters on the edge of breaking out from his shielded life as a boy with epilepsy. Finally, during a road trip, Finn stumbles along a powerful incident that helps him decide what is actually important in this thing we call life.

I enjoyed “100 Sideways Miles” the way I feel generations before me enjoyed Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road.” I have to honestly disagree with anyone who criticizes that this is a book about nothing, as that’s the farthest thing from the truth. The book’s pace, much like a teenage boy’s life, is slow moving, but intense. Every page is packed with young ambition and insight, which was thoroughly refreshing. If you’re looking for a great book to relax over with coffee or a beer (“These are a few of my favorite things”), then this is the book for you. Once gain, well-done Mr. Smith.

A Request to All Amazonians!

I’m not sure about the intelligence of Amazon’s suggestion-engine, but it what cool to see the below e-mail this morning (see attached picture). On that note, if you haven’t already, I’d greatly appreciate it if you went to my book on amazon and reviewed it if possible. This will be my only shameless blog-post about the subject, but unfortunately, amazon reviews tend to have strong influence in our modern day publishing world. 

My thanks!

Justin Alcala

http://www.amazon.com/Consumed-Justin-Alcala-ebook/dp/B00NJ5CGM8/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1413381655&sr=8-1&keywords=justin+alcala+Consumed

screenie

The Well of Inspiration

Well of Inspiration

Ah, October, the best month in Chicago by far. Why might you ask? Well, that’s easy. Not only does it bring forth the most beautiful of seasons, autumn, and not only is it the month that my wonderful wife and I were married, but for thirty-one days we prepare ourselves for one of the best holidays in the world, Halloween. Every year, just about the time when the scary decorations are put on store shelves, a certain spark erupts in my belly, waking me from my slumber like some revenant crawling out of its grave. Sugared thoughts of frightening costumes, spooky lawn decorations and haunted attractions stir in my mind as I watch ghost shows, drink Octoberfest brews, and reread the classics such as Poe, Stoker and Shelley.

It’s also a peak time for me as an author. It’s as if my fingers are starved to devour the keyboard in order to spin tales that make blood curdle and spines tingle. Countless monsters are born, and even more victims slain across the pages of my works during this wonderful season. Yet, for as much as I could spend countless hours talking about my relationship with the holiday, babbling about the fire that Halloween lights under my cauldron, the excitement of it all also begs another question, one more so related to writing. What is it that makes writers tick?

Some writers are just always on. For them it’s a gift. They have this endless well of ideas and inspiration that allows them to constantly create at anytime, anywhere. For the rest of us however, creativity takes energy, stimulation and motivation. Even the most prolific writers of all time had habits that helped them create their best works. For T.S. Elliot, not only did he sneak away to a quiet porter’s lodge to write, but he also did so while wearing green ghoulish makeup that made him feel like a cadaver. For Faulkner, he wrote his bet works only after a glass or six of whiskey- the good stuff mind you. And as for H.P. Lovecraft, the man of weird fiction could only pen during the darkest hours of night in order to invent his Cthulhu mythos or legends of the Necronomicon.

So what is it that makes you excited to write? Perhaps it’s being somewhere special or reading a book that encouraged you to write in the first place? Being a writer, be it poetry, journalism, fiction, nonfiction, blogging, can be extremely challenging. What takes most people seconds to read may have cost you hours to write, and in those hours, you probably had to drive yourself to stay motivated. Sometimes it’s easy, but often, we must dig down deep and sip from that inspirational well that keeps us excited to create.

Recently, I read an article that had surefire ways to keep a writer motivated. In the column, there were tricks like creating tight deadlines, removing distractions, and forcing yourself to pen even when you were exhausted. While I agreed with what the author was trying to express, their suggestions sounded more like punishment than inspiration. Writers shouldn’t have to physically or mentally abuse themselves in order to create a great story, poem or blog- it’s quite the opposite.

Ultimately, all that we have to do is remember that writing is different for everyone. Simply know yourself, know what keeps you ticking, and use it to your advantage. Anything else is subjective.

So writers, the next time you are having trouble finishing a story, completing a blog or finding that last line of a poem that would really make your work feel complete, remember what makes you want to write. Go back and read your favorite book, visit that place that makes you feel alive, or in my case, listen to Halloween music in the middle of April. I think that you’ll find it truly works. Because so long as you find what makes you tick and continue to feed it, you’ll also find that you’re often writing your best works.

FUN FOR WRITER’S (Contests and Grants)

NEW VISIONS AWARD

https://www.leeandlow.com/writers-illustrators/new-visions-award

NO ENTRY FEE.

STORIES OF RESILIENCE CONTEST

http://ourstoryproject.herokuapp.com/pages/contest

NO ENTRY FEE

THE FEMINIST WIRE GRANT

http://thefeministwire.com/2014/06/feminist-wires-1st-annual-poetry-contest/

$10 ENTRY FEE.
The winner will receive publication in The Feminist Wire and $200. The 1st runner up will receive publication in The Feminist Wire and $100. Deadline October 1, 2014. Submit up to 3 poems (no more than a total of 5 pages).

A Touching Early Review of Consumed

Direct Link: http://www.codesandwrites.com/2014/09/arc-review-consumed-by-justin-alcala.html?m=1

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Sunday, 14 September 2014

ARC Review: Consumed by Justin Alcala

Author: Justin Alcala
Publication Date: September 11, 2014
Published by: Zharmae Press
I received the e-ARC/Media Kit from the publisher for the blog tour.
 

Goodreads Synopsis:

Sergeant Nathaniel Brannick is trapped in Victorian London during a period of disease, crime, and insatiable vices. One night, Brannick returns from work to find an eerie messenger in his flat who warns him of dark things to come.
When his next case involves a victim who suffered from consumption, he uncovers clues that lead him to believe the messenger’s warning. Despite his incredulity, he can’t help but wonder if the practical man he once was has been altered by an investigation encompassed in the paranormal. That is, until he meets the witch hunters, and everything takes a turn for the worse.

Nath’s Thoughts:

One of the beauties of knowingly reading outside your genre is that you get to experience the story with no expectation/presumption. I had that exact experience when I read ‘Consumed’, walking into the threshold its mesmerizing, terrifying Victorian horror world with little idea of what was going to happen and what I would be subconsciously looking for. It was a pleasant experience overall, something I am grateful for — something I might do again in the future, for a limited set of genres (‘genre’ as in ‘what is actually in this book’, not as in ‘what age group this book is targeted for’).
Consumed was — to me — the story of a broken, lost man’s journey back to a meaningful, purposeful life. Granted, that journey involved a murder mystery to solve, vampire hunters and their targets swarming parts of London, an addiction to opium, and a shady work partner. But putting back together pieces of a broken life is the essence of Nathaniel Brannick’s emotional journey — this was what I saw him doing between the lines of the action. Each event in the book was a wake-up call for him, and with each screw-ups and near-misses he was forced to see what he had been doing to himself and his life.
Of course, this doesn’t mean the action and the twists within the plot weren’t great. Consumed was so quick-paced, and throughout the wild ride, I was on the edge of my seat the whole time trying to guess what would happen next — and most of the time I would guess the wrong thing! Every scene, character, and setting in this book lived and breathed horror. Even in the lightest moments, I could still feel a lingering sense of terror, of a dark shadow lurking in the background. I had a hard time trusting every new character, to the last moment their motivations were explained. And even after the last page, the question of whether Nathan had chosen the right allies still lingered in my head. Who were crazy, and who were not? To what extent did everyone tell Nathan the truth? I must say I was quite delighted to know that a sequel is a possibility. Nathan’s story simply couldn’t end where it did in Consumed!
Character-wise, Consumed has a lineup of interesting, quirky characters. Whilst some of them did fill archetypal roles, they didn’t feel archetypal — talk about Davis, the womanizing/overeating detective partner; the witch-hunter siblings Vasile and Vasilica Ivanescu (the latter delighted me a lot — a fighter female in historical fiction :D); Nathan’s lively, not-quite-the-shrinking-violet-proper-lady late wife Catherine; the cat appropriately called ‘Hades’; a lot of others. And, of course, one just can’t leave out Nathaniel Brannick. A brilliant detective with flaws and heartbreak, a distinct way of speaking (I found his sarcasm endearing), and a honest voice. Nathan’s voice was one of the things I adored about Consumed. It was era-appropriate in terms of grammar and vocabulary choice, but it didn’t feel faked and I didn’t have to strain to read it (as I sometimes had to do some other historical fiction work, as they tried really hard to emulate classics).
Overall, Consumed was an enjoyable haunted-house-roller-coaster ride in a foreign theme park for me. Apart from a few paragraphs of chunky dialogue/exposition towards the conclusion, I liked everything that I read. Whilst this book didn’t shatter my world the way some other books did in the past, I would still recommend it to older teenagers and adults who are keen to read an action-packed, distinct historical horror. I think ‘Consumed’ won’t disappoint.
Rating: 4.0 out of 5
 

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What Makes a Good Book?

bookWhat makes a good book? Is it well-developed characters or a strong story arc? Is it a specific genre or a certain writing style? Don’t Google the question unless you’re prepared to sort through hundreds of slapdash opinions. Everyone has an answer, and none of them are the same. But perhaps that’s exactly what makes a good book? Maybe it’s not poetic hyperboles, dramatic irony or well-placed flashbacks as much as the author’s ability to connect with the reader as a whole- an ability to take them places through alluring and comprehensive thoughts.

            “The Alchemist”, by Portuguese author Paulo Coelho, is an international best seller that has been published in 56 different languages, with over 65 million copies sold. Its captivating plot is about a shepherd boy who experiences mysterious dreams that take him on a journey to fulfill a greater destiny. The story is simple and charming. The writing style is very humble, so humble that it is one of the most translatable novels of all time, and the characters are basic, but captivating. There is no complex storyline, no unexpected ending or hidden agenda. Yet, according to the AFP and Guinness Book of World Records, The Alchemist is one of the best selling books in history. But why?

            It’s easy to comprehend once you understand the author. Believe it or not, it took Paulo Coelho only two weeks to write the book in 1987, and as he explains it, it’s because the story was already written in his soul.

            “When you really want something to happen,” he explains through an old king in the book, “the whole universe conspires so that your wish comes true.” This core value of the novel is something that all readers can relate to. It’s something that nearly everyone understands and associates with. We all have hopes, dreams and destinies that we chase. Coelho just makes it relatable through a great story.

            So why then do some readers put so much value in cerebral plots or structurally complex stories? Why do they like speculative metaphysics or multiple narrators and storylines? Well, that can be like asking why do people like certain colors or types of food? For some readers, it’s the relationship that they build with the book. Larger, more complicated stories keep readers on their toes, creating a literature-romance that has them constantly thinking about where the story might go next. For others, its not so much a story they’re into, but the addictive characters that they can revisit in books with thousands of pages and multiple sequels (I know that I’m not as worried about what magical creature Harry is chasing in “The Dresden Files “ as much as what will happen to Michael, Murphy, Butters, and the slew of other side characters). Or perhaps, just like anything, some people just want a book that tailors to their lifestyle. Logical thinkers prefer intelligently written books, while dreamers enjoy stories that some might consider a bit unordinary.

Regardless what the reason, more than any other article I’ve read or theory that I can muster, there’s one element that always seems to stand out in every great book. It’s not its complexity, multifaceted worlds or innovative ideas. Then again, its not its straightforwardness or minimalism either. A great book, compared to an average one, knows how to connect with what makes readers human. Well-written settings and descriptions are a perfect compliment to a tale, but they can never take the place of identifiable plots and characters in a story.

According to the NY Times “Best Seller List,” the top three books as of 2014 thus far are “Hopeless” by Colleen Hoover, “All the Light We Can Not See” by Anthony Doerr, and “The Shoemaker’s Wife” by Adriana Trigiani. All three books are titans in their genre, yet none of them are excessively intricate. Instead, they deal with human characters and the challenges they have, whether it’s dealing with the devastation of World War II or multigenerational love. They are, for lack of better words, “human-books.”

So the next time you’re looking for a new paperback to take on your flight, or downloadable story to read during your lunch break, remember that no matter what reviews may say, no matter how many copies are sold, books are reflections of what makes us human. Think about what you’d like to get out of a story before making your selection. After all, it’s what you are as a human that makes you like the great books that you do, not the other way around.

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