GHOSTS OF THE PAST
4 Days Ago
Have you ever opened up some of your long forgotten poems, short stories or novels? Painful right? The document is probably littered with vague pronoun references, unnecessary shifts in tense and fused sentences. Even worse, there are sections of the story that don’t contribute to the plot, insignificant characters and mawkishly sentimental underlying messages.
If you’re like me, the first thing you do is plant your face in your hands (a.k.a. the “Face-palm”) and try not to cry. Afterwards, you stare at the Delete button, tempted to obliterate all proof that this story or poem was once yours. Finally, after waging a war with your conscience, you decide to live and let live, leaving the document alone, but lamenting about how terrible your writing once was.
But wait, that’s not fair. Your old work shouldn’t be some dark secret that needs to be hidden from the world. It should be a testimony of what you’ve accomplished. Not only did the “old you” put a lot of effort into that story, but the work is a reminder of who you as a writer once inspired to be. It’s a roadmap of your writing life.
Sometimes, we as writers are very hard on ourselves. We have to be because we’re constantly pursuing perfection. However, we forget that we didn’t just learn how to write overnight. There wasn’t some magical gift bestowed upon us by a divine being. No, we had to start somewhere and work at it, and those old documents are a symbol of that.
For me, once the shock wears off of how bad my writing once was, I realize how beautiful these works really are. Because behind the jungle of grammatical errors and turbulent plot hooks is a vision I once had. I see Justin Alcala, the writer who wanted to give readers a little scare with his horror stories. I see Justin Alcala, the yarn spinner who wanted to give a fresh perspective on legends and folklore. I see Justin Alcala, the young man who wanted to make people happy by telling great stories.
All too often, we authors get swept away by the power that comes with having your works published. I know I get a real kick out of talking to my publisher about cover art or sending new ideas to my editor. It’s fun to put your work onto bookshelves. But we can’t forget about the fundamentals. We need to remind ourselves why we started writing in the first place, and those old tales are just the thing. So the next time your dusting off an old manuscript, remember what those pages really mean. The words may tell a bad story, but the history of its creation is its own sort of autobiography.
Short Side Note: One of my favorite short creations is definitely “A Forest Only Whispers.” I wanted to step out of my comfort zone by writing about characters who weren’t over-the-top heroes. So, I decided to focus on an all female characters story with a sprinkle of grounded supernatural events. The results are fantastic and I hope you enjoy. Check out the dark fiction tale on Amazon and Amazon Prime.
“A shy, brainy witch celebrates Mabon with her coven, hoping to forget a lost lover, but a forest visitor comes forth, offering a chance at redemption for a price.
The romantic witchcraft story, A Forest Only Whispers, is about Melissa, a contemporary witch who lives with her mother and Nanny in a charming New England village.
Years ago, her high school boyfriend, Rían, disappeared in the nearby woods, and since then, Melissa has never been the same. Now a college student, she spends time with her family, the O’Phelans, her coven sisters, and best friend, Hellwise.
The story starts with a simplistic family tradition–baking Nine Maidens Pie–during the Autumn Equinox. The reader learns Melissa is sneaking off to join her sisters in praise. As the plot continues, she joins her modern-day coven and goes into the legendary Limingdover Woods, where Rían disappeared.”
GRIM AND GILDED DARK LITERARY E-MAGAZINE PRESENTS THEIR HALLOWEEN EDITION, FEATURING JUSTIN ALCALA, FREE W/ DONATIONS ACCEPTED. Grim & Gilded believes that the very act of art itself is magic – to lay words upon the page is to weave a spell into the fabric of the universe, a manifestation of an idea from nothing more than the spirit and the bones. We aim to protect this magic and to promote its emergence into the collective being by publishing and uplifting both new and established writers. By carving out a small, precise space for these words to land, G&G hopes to engage the reader in such a way that they are impacted – and indeed changed – by the incantation upon the page.
“THE LAST ROOM” by Justin Alcala
For three years, the American Civil War spread hell across the countryside. Keelan, an upbeat Irish entrepreneur obsessed with his trade, detours the bloody roads near Richmond, optimistic to find new clients for his family’s textile factory. But the Charlotte Storm of 1864 injures Keelan, and he begs for shelter at the first farmhouse he can find. Abigail, the owner of the home, will take the weary soul in, but there’s evidence that not all is right in her tiny southern cottage. Abigail offers Keelan the only available room, a small attic space to rest, but he learns who lived there before. Abigail’s mysterious son who joined the Union army, once slept in the very bed Keelan now tries to recover in, and Keelan learns the young man wants his bedroom back.
I love college. Each day, your future unfolds before you, possibilities limitless. Luckily, I have the privilege of going back, in a way, by being part of another amazing future writer’s thesis. Check out the latest interview I did for an amazing grad student, whose works are bound to be in the New York Times soon.
How did you get your start in writing?
Every author gets struck by lightning. Sometimes, experiences inspire them to write a novel, or a book awakens ideas for a fictional world like none have seen before. It’s a point of no return when you capture that ethereal voice living in your mind’s wilds and force it on an intramundane stage. You need courage in order to take that first step, and for me, torpidity inspired my fervor.
My parents were blue collar artists who raised my sister and me in a one-hundred-year-old house in an industrial part of Chicago. I read Halloween books and comics throughout my middle childhood, which roused my own editions of horror pamphlets and graphic novels. In my early adolescence, that muse came alive in written roleplaying adventures I shared with friends. Then, at eighteen, it all flipped upside-down when my father died.
My hero, and artistic cheerleader, left before I knew what to do with my shaken soda bottle of imagination. For five years I wandered in a gray world, choosing a practical major and stable corporate career while writing on the side as a hobby. Until I met a young actress who was all the things I remembered about myself. She was a fantastic performer with a thirst for art, story, and most importantly, the future. I was a love-sick swain for her, and with her encouragement, I dusted off my stories and took that first bold step forward. I changed my college major, learned about how the literary world operates, and unleashed a wildfire of manuscripts and short stories. Fifteen years later, and I’ve worked with over thirty publishers to create five award-winning novels, twenty novellas, short stories, and columns. Oh, and that young actress? She married me, then took the next courageous steps to follower her own new dream. She’s a board certified pediatrician now.
What was your motivation behind wanting to write?
There is an elephantine steel door hidden in the recesses of my brain. Only I know how to reach it. As I stumble through the day-to-day, experiencing fascinating people, places, and stories, I kidnap them at pencil point, forcing them into my mental depository. Then, when my mind wanders as it often does, I enter the safe place and gather them up for stories I’d like to hear. I put them on paper, hoping that the hidden treasures who influenced me will be as entertaining for readers as they were for me. And when it is; when readers claim my work was a great story, it inspires me to take the key to the steel door where I use life’s magnificence to tell more yarns.
Which authors inspire you the most when it comes to your style of writing?
The funny things about a writing style is that artists of other mediums have just as much say as authors. The pantheon of afflatus comprises classics like Mary Shelley, Edgar Allan Poe, Bram Stoker, besides contemporary writers like Andrew Smith, Erin Morgenstern, Neil Gaiman, Maggie Stiefvater, Christopher Moore, and Jim Butcher. However, there’s other artists, musicians and filmmakers, who have just as much influence over my work as my book gods. Tom Waits, Florence Welch, Andrew Bird, Tim Burton, Ava Marie DuVernay, and Jim Henson saturate my style with the fantastic art they’ve created through the decades.
What is your main goal when it comes to your stories? Do you want to solely entertain, educate, or something else?
The goal is all the above, and yet none of the above. You build plots hoping they’ll be just as entertaining for the reader as they are you, with educative facts and life lessons filled between. When I’ve typed The End, and I sent the story out to through the publishing world, I don’t tell people what I want them to get out of the pages. It’s no longer my tale. It’s the reader’s story. What a reader gets out of the work, whether it’s heartbreak or basic andragogy, is their choice, and to me, that’s one of the most beautiful things about books. What I’ve read in my past, and what stays with me, may not have been the author’s intent, but it’s very real, and very important to my life.
Who is your general target audience with your stories? Why did you choose your target audience as opposed to another one?
I’ve said it years ago, and the sentiment still endures. Book elitists and academic reviewers are a fantastic type of reader, but I inspire to write about the wonderful critical thinkers living common lives. They’re who I yearn to connect with. I daydream about an ironworker perched on their lunchbox flipping through one of my novels, a teacher reading one of my short stories during coffee break, or a mortician with a copy of A Dead End Job in their lower desk drawer. Why? Because that’s who I think am. I’m an ordinary guy, who’s also a mental escape artist, leaping from reality in order to weave curious tales from the world before me. We’re out there, everywhere, from line cook to librarian, spicing up the everyday with our thoughts.
📚READERSHIP SALE: 💀 Limited Time Discount on Amazon and B&N. Publisher’s Weekly Review: “Alcala (Consumed) takes readers on a humorous romp through modern-day Chicago’s realm of the undead when workaholic Death hires a hitman to sub for him while he takes a vacation. Wounded army vet Buchanan Palasinski, abused as a child and mourning the death of his girlfriend, is desperate enough to kill people for money. But when his latest mark takes him out instead, Buck comes face-to-face with Death and Death’s IT guy, Jumbo. Jumbo’s elaborate computer program handles routine deaths, but Death needs someone to hunt down those who try to cheat their fate while he’s away. After Buck successfully dispatches singer Zombie Pete, who steals souls through his guitar, with Death’s powerful scythe—which transforms into a sniper rifle in Buck’s hands—Buck’s next target is famed gangster John Dillinger, who supposedly died in 1934 but lingers as a vampire. Buck recognizes Dillinger as the mark who killed him, but when he confronts Dillinger, he’s in for a shocking discovery. Alcala cultivates Chicago’s dark underbelly, revealing an abundance of obstacles and adversaries, among them a warlock, a doppelgänger, and Frankenstein’s Monster. Readers will merrily breeze through this twisty tale, cheering for droll Buck to rise above the danger. This proves a rewarding adventure for fans of urban paranormal.”
If you’re reading this, chances are you’re a big fan of written word. Blessed are the readers. It also means you likely know what’s going in Ukraine. It’s ugly. It’s wrong. It likely stirs difficult emotions. We all work through the jarring daily reports in our own ways, but early studies show that most people feel a form of helplessness. But what if I told you that the reader is one of the most important champions in this war? That’s right, you the reader can make a compelling difference in this attack on Ukraine.
The first casualty of war is truth is a quote credited to Senator Hiram Waren Johnson in 1917 (nerd fact: There are different forms of this quote since the ancient Greeks). The quote’s essence is simple, without a community’s support, wars cannot be fought and won. Facts are sacrificed in order to garner advocacy for conflict. No where is this more true than Russia’s complete media shut down to outsiders in order to feed propaganda without an opposing view. Russian citizens are fed disinformation so its leadership can continue their antiquated crusade to conquer land and people.
But wait, aren’t we all being fed subjective information? Yes.
Here’s the difference, experienced readers who aren’t trapped in Russia’s information blockade are blessed with a divine talent to separate authenticity from agitprop. They’ve spent decades reading novels, columns, blogs and other forms of written word, and have mastered a writer’s motivation. A veteran reader can point out when a writer is penning earnest details and when they are manipulating specifics. A trained reader goes over multiple reports on the same subject matter from opposing viewpoints and then piece together the bottom line— be it political opposition or adverse countries. But, there’s one step that these marvelous readers like you forget to do in order to consummate their efforts for truth, and that’s to share it.
Participating in refined data sharing, that which only states the facts, creates a global chronicle to assist other readers sift through conflicting views. Be it on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, etc., this powerful step by experienced readers who’ve sifted through columns and posts aids others troubled by contradictory viewpoints decipher truth from fiction. The communication should have a simple mission, to fend off personal opinions and communicate accurate notes, materials, and testimony. If we as readers can help cleanse disinformation from truth, it will clump together factual narrative for the grander audience. So please, if you can’t donate, set the facts straight. You the reader are one of the most powerful sources of helping truth surface.