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.

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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

Great Marketing Versus Great Writing, There is a Difference

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Have you ever bought a book because the display was beautifully crafted, there was a neat gift that came with your purchase or because it greeted you at the entrance of the bookstore? Have you ever purchased a book online because a search engine recommended it, perhaps a powerful description drew you in or a respected newspaper positively reviewed it? Now, have you ever picked up a lesser-known book by chance, and after reading it wondered why you haven’t heard more about it? If so, than like many readers, you’ve probably succumbed to the lure of business marketing at its finest.

Advertising, marketing, media promotions- believe it or not, every moment of our lives is affected by it. Commercials, online banners and product placement are all around us, covertly influencing your purchasing decisions. The writing world is no different. The best publishers are those who have the most influence over these favoring elements. Many people give into the beautiful cover or trending genre only to find that the pages between the bindings leave something to be desired. It’s how the world has been working for decades and you shouldn’t feel victimized if you were ever drawn into it. However, for book people, there is one service that we can do for readers and writers everywhere, and it is to not forget that there is epic plot, masterfully architected characters and brilliantly designed worlds waiting behind unheralded books as well.

I can still recall as a boy driving with my father in his rusty blue truck, a truck that I’m starting to believe that all eccentric fathers once owned, navigating through the streets of Chicago in order to pick up a new ironworking tool from some unknown manufacturer or the latest in entertainment technology (remember laser disks?). He wasn’t very vocal about it, but I strongly suspected that my dad always supported the under dog (side note: this made getting Nike shoes or the newest bike model a difficult chore). Eventually, as I grew older, I began to understand why he did what he did. You see, somewhere along the way, my father had learned…The Great Secret– the one that makes advertising firms and promotional companies shutter. He’d learned that just because something was popular, didn’t mean it was always the best.

Now before you start to build an image of me as a jaded small time author who is writing this article in hemp clothing with a computer made only from foraged scrap metal, let it be known that I’m neither speaking about myself nor am I a “down with the system” rebel. Personally, I write to write, and understand that I am to the book world what a monkey with symbols is to professional comedians. More importantly than that though, I understand why we go with popular books. It’s the same reason we rely on prevalent companies or products. Often, they’re tried and tested with dependable consumer satisfaction. Readers don’t want to spend twenty dollars and hours of their time reading a book that collapses at the end. They want something worthwhile that they can discuss with friends and family. All that I’m asking is for us to try to remain aware that when we are making book purchases, we aren’t letting publishers and sales teams blur the line between well-written and well-marketed works.

Consider this. In 1965, American writer John Williams wrote a modest novel called Stoner. The book received little praise during William’s life, and was out of print only shortly after its publication. Williams would die never knowing that he had created one of the most prolific and expertly composed novels of all time. That is until July 5th, 2013 when renowned British novelist Ian McEwan appealed to the public on the Today program hosted by Sarah Montague. After McEwan’s petition to readers, Stoner captured the imaginations of people everywhere, going on to become the 2013 novel of the year. Several other quieted authors and books have had similar late recognitions of greatness, from the revival of all of Irène Némirovsky’s works to William Lindsay Gresham’s novel, Nightmare Alley. These books and authors, some of the most excellent literary specimens of the century, were drowned out or forgotten during initial production.

Now consider this. Within the last decade several major publishers including Bantam and Random House have heavily marketed several of their books, using advanced copies and advertisement to push success. The titans of the publishing world forecasted that these novels would be the latest to break book-selling records across the world. Books like The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters by Gordon Dahlquist, Thirteen Moons by Charles Frazier, and Sacred Games by Vikram Chandra not only failed to live up to their expectations, but also were unable to recoup millions of dollars that were invested in promotional advertisement and initial prints.

So, as you can see, not all big name books are brilliant, nor are all unknown authors deserving of their fortune. Most books, be they magnificent or not, are partially a product of circumstances. While it’s true that many top selling books deserve to be celebrated, we must also remember that sometimes it’s not always about great writing as much as it is about great marketing. Once in a while, we need to take a chance with the little guys, who can every so often be just as good as top sellers. Finally, in the spirit of supporting the smaller, but possibly just as well written books, I leave you with the wise words of contemporary Japanese writer, Haruki Murakami. “If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.”

Happy Holiday!

Justin Alcala

http://www.justinalcala.com

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GREAT BOOKS YOU MAY NOT KNOW ABOUT

Noir

Nightmare Alley

By William Lindsay Gresham

http://www.amazon.com/Nightmare-Alley-Review-Books-Classics-ebook/dp/B004FYZJQC/ref=dp_kinw_strp_1

Weird West

Merkabah Rider Tales of a High Planes Drifter

By Edward Erdelac

http://www.amazon.com/Merkabah-Rider-Tales-Planes-Drifter-ebook/dp/B002ZG8FPY/ref=sr_1_10?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1417474353&sr=1-10&keywords=Edward+Erdelac

Classic

Oblomov

By Ivan Goncharov

http://www.amazon.com/Oblomov-Ivan-Aleksandrovich-Goncharov-ebook/dp/B004N62H9O/ref=sr_1_cc_1?s=aps&ie=UTF8&qid=1417474572&sr=1-1-catcorr&keywords=Oblomov%2C+Ivan+Goncharov%2C+1859

GIGI’S PLAYHOUSE

As some of you might know, I am also a volunteer grant writer and program assistant for a wonderful organization called GiGi’s Playhouse, a group that assists communities with Down syndrome. If you can, please donate by using the link below.

http://gigisplayhouse.org/donate-monthly

Day of the Dead Book Signing Goes Horridly Well

The “Days of the Dead” horror convention is officially over and  I can’t say enough about my experience. Besides rubbing                        elbows with werewolves and vampires, I was also able to sign books for readers and partake in some wonderful interviews, costume contests and ghoul bashes. Though I had to limit my visit to the first two days, they were a pair of days I’ll never forget. A special thanks to Aaron Tucker, John Mecha and  the Sanchez Family. Please take a look at the fun interview I did with John Wroblewski on Day 2. 

“Consumed” Book Signing: Day 1

A great first day of book signings. I loved talking books with people, signing copies of “Consumed,” seeing the great horror props, and meeting creepy celebrities like Tony Todd (Candyman) and Doug Bradley (Hellraiser). I can’t wait for day 2!photo 2straight

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

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