All posts by justinalcala

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.

Checkout my interview on WERE YOU STILL TALKING w/ Joel Albrecht

Checkout my interview on WERE YOU STILL TALKING w/ Joel Albrecht. We talk nerdy, discuss the great author pantheon and ponder whether Antonio Banderas can play any part without being super McSexy.

Apple Podcast:

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/were-you-still-talking/id1460064725?ls=1

Google Play:

https://play.google.com/music/listen?u=0#/ps/Iwk5c5gjjrar4rvtwxu72vpcrye

Spotify:

Radio Public:

Deezer:

https://www.deezer.com/us/show/427982

For Our Heroes

You deserve a free story! Check out my short work, “The Dilemma of Old Furnaces” on Please See Me Magazine’s “Heroes” issue. The online magazine’s mission is to elevate the voices and stories of vulnerable populations, and those who care for them. At the heart of their publication is the cultivation of meaningful patient–provider partnerships in the spirit of wellness. So please, sit back and enjoy. This one is for our medical heroes, the sick but brave patients, and any other readers who just need a retreat into their imagination.

https://pleaseseeme.com

The Dilemma of Old Furnaces

Please See Me Magazine “Heroes”

Need a Scare: Check Out My latest Ghost Story

Who doesn’t love to be scared? Check out my latest short ghost story, “A Lantern Quietly Screams” in the 101 Proof Horror anthology by Czykmate Productions/Haunted MTL. There’s so many talented authors in this book of horror, it’s scary. 

“A Lantern Quietly Screams”

When four history students researching the Underground Railroad can’t find records on the old network near the Blue Ridge Mountains, they put out an ad in the paper. Luckily, an archivist, and descendent of a former slave-gone-guide, agrees to drive up to tell her grandmother’s tale. However, as the group waits along the base of the dark mountain, ghostly lanter lights flicker in the wood line. Will their source arrive before anything happens? Only time will tell.


https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1989225306?pf_rd_r=8C6DPNBRE1QRXN6T59Z2&pf_rd_p=edaba0ee-c2fe-4124-9f5d-b31d6b1bfbee

Need a reliable proofreader or editor for your short. Look no more. Check out Add an Eye editorial services. Their charming, elite staff are the best. I use Add an Eye for all my editorial needs.

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June Updates

Consumed faced off against fifty other BLKDOG Publishing titles to win Next Best in the 2020 Book of the Year Awards, losing by a mere three-percent for first place. It was a lot of fun, and thank you to everyone for the support. 

Check out my appearance on Marsha Cook’s “Michigan Avenue Media” podcast where we talk shop about writing during Covid, genres and my upcoming short story, A Forest Only Whispers.”

Finally, writers, if you’re looking for a talented set of eyes to edit your work, look no further. I’ve used Add an Eye Editorial Services for the last year, and have had four short stories published, plus one award earned, because of it. Add an Eye knows what they’re talking about and can clean up any manuscript, report or document flawlessly. Rates are extremely fair and the staff is the friendliest on the planet.
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I Need You: Help Save Consumed

Hello WordPress Community,

It pains me to ask, but my book “Consumed” is neck-and-neck in the final two for BLKDOG’s Book of the Year award. I hate to beg, but would you be so kind as to take seven seconds to vote CONSUMED as the Winner on yourTwitter account? Every vote matters in this clash of horns! No worries if you can’t. 

Just click the below link, scroll down to the survey section, and vote CONSUMED. Thank you so much.

My Side of the Tracks: A Call For Understanding

Like a lot of you, I have a simple rule with people. If  they anger, baffle or discourage me, I try to spin the table, flip the coin, walk a mile in their shoes. I try to justify actions I might not understand by thinking about the world from their perspective. A fool will say this is foolish and a wise person will say it’s wise. Whatever you want to call it, at this point it’s instinctive. 

So when people took to the streets after the recent string of police murders, it was easy to understand. Now I’m half Mexican, so maybe it’s because I saw the struggles of my father. It’s easy to see the pain when you’ve watched it on the faces of people you love. Yet, everywhere online, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, there seemed to be this static, a genuine confusion amongst people. Not just any people, but specifically White America. Now, before you react, before you think, Here we go again with another lecture, read a little further. This isn’t a speech of criticism. 

See, most of the White America confusion that I saw wasn’t hateful. It’s just that the questions seemed to lack insight from the other side. As G.K. Chesterton once said, “It isn’t that they cannot find the solution. It is that they cannot see the problem.” So I thought I’d reach out to an old friend of mine. A person from another lifetime, when I still lived in Chicago. I wanted to ask him questions for myself, and for others. I wanted to ask what’s it like being black during these unrestful times, and what is it that most of White America is getting wrong. 

Now let me introduce you to Anthony. He’s a proud new dad, a musician at MoneyTeam Music Group, and a man who grew up on the streets. He’s tall, brawny and has a fierce look in his eyes. Some people might not admit that they lock their car door when he passes by. Yet, for the brief time that I knew him, all I’ve ever seen was a smart, kind and open-minded man, a guy vocal about erasing hate and getting everyone on the same page. In his opinion, the problem can’t be solved unless you first understand. You have to see things from his side of the tracks.   

Anthony, thanks for taking the time to talk. Can you tell us who you are and why you may have some insight on current racial issues?

My name is Anthony Alexander Avila. I’m a mixed raced male, Black & Mexican, from Chicago.

I grew up in Englewood one of the more urban areas in the city. I’ve survived for thirty years in that environment, so I think my opinions hold some validity.

Seeing what you have from the African American and Latino community, what’s one thing that White America gets wrong?

I think there’s this sense of criminality associated with black and Latino communities. This is a false. It’s a  narrative derived from film and media. They show urban areas as some war zone. There’s some truth to the violence, but that’s not all there is We have neighborhood clubs and block parties. My uncles host cookouts where everyone is invited regardless of race and class. Everyone can eat and coexist. I wouldn’t be alive if it weren’t for these people. I had neighbors that would watch out for me and my sister when my mom was working. You know the whole It takes a village to raise a child?. That was us. Not everything about the “Hood” is kill or be killed. We are people too. And that’s who you see in the streets. A community of tired people trying to find a voice against the violence we’ve been trudging through since the day we were born. 

If you could reach out to White America and make one thing clear, what would it be? 

Simple. Don’t judge a book by its cover.. Don’t let that fear of the unknown be what continues to run a divide between us as Human beings. We are not some alien race. We are you. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about things you may not understand. As long as you’re humble about it, asking questions is the beginning. It’s what will help you understand why we feel slighted as a race. 

Why do you think White America is now vocal about protests and looting, but they weren’t vocal when George Floyd was originally killed? 

Honestly, I think once a fire burns hot enough no matter where you are you’re going to feel it. It’s scary to see angry ethnicities marching together on the streets where you walk. But it’s this same fire my people and our communities have been smoldering in for years —  the fear, anxiety, confusion. As much as I think social media is a curse to humanity, I’m thankful for it because these atrocities that were normal in black and brown communities and starting to land right in the palms of White America. 

You were able to WATCH Philando Castile be murdered in front of his child while unarmed. You were able to watch Eric Garner cry out, he can’t breathe eleven times while multiple officers restrained him. The entire world watched an officer put his knee in the neck of an unarmed black man for 9 MINUTES! It’s almost inhuman to not want to act or do something. Now, some people are acting out of love and some just don’t want to be burned again, but hopefully these recent events will be the tipping point and we can start moving towards REAL change. 

What’s one thing you’d like African Americans and Latinos to think about? 

Think about your place in the world. Think about the significance of your existence and what it means. Once we understand who we are as individuals then and only then can we come together and make change as a collective whole. Think about our children. Think about the future they will inherit. What are we leaving behind? Let’s fight to change the way history is taught in the school system. Let’s get the people who are confused to understand. The Latin and African American communities have made our nation what it is today. We have to teach our youth that there is no knowledge of self. That’s why so many kids view life as insignificant. They’re told they aren’t as important as others. That’s why they are able to take life so easily. The real change starts with us. 

What do you think it’ll take to make the world right? 

I think if we can look past things like race and wealth and focus more on the things that make us all human, then we will really see how significant ALL lives are. We are all more the same than we are different. We should spend our time trying to be the best human beings we possibly can. I feel like that’s the only way to find true peace, and I thank everyone who decides that today, they’ll be part of that change. 

Anthony, thanks for answering these questions. I know they might sound simple, but sometimes it’s important to remind ourselves that confusion doesn’t mean ignorance and differences don’t mean hate.

No worries. If we can get one person to say, yeah, you know what, this is a problem, then it’s all worth it. Black, latino, white — we are so much more the same than we are different. White America, can you help? Can you look past your fears and see that this gets fixed when we all come together. 

Reading the Reader: A Guide to Figuring Out the Messy Literary Market

Open up any author’s web browser and you’ll find one heck of a history. Everything from how to kill someone with a pool noodle to how many hours would it take to ride a bicycle to Mars might show up. What you’ll also find are a dozen literary pages complete with market research and suggestive trends. That’s because, like it or not, authors do not understand what readers want. They can cater to a preferred group, take shots in the dark or be all lone wolf about it, but the truth stands on its own. Writers are at a loss to global reading habits.

In writers’ defense, not even the experts seem to know. According to Global English Editing’s The Ultimate Guide to Global Reading Habits,publishers and agents seem to be at a loss on how to follow data. For starters, the top three most literate countries, Finland, Norway and Iceland only account for approximately eleven million combined people. Even if every citizen was a reader, they’d only make up around twelve percent of ebook readers alone. Meanwhile, although twenty-six percent of Vietnam’s population don’t identify as regular readers, Asia is by far one of the top continents for book sales. In America, seventy-four percent of people have read a book in the last twelve months, yet twenty-seven percent of American adults haven’t read this year. Confused, yet?

In genres, the leader, Romance/Erotica, makes up 1.44 billion dollars per year, followed by Crime/Mystery at 728.2 million. Religious Inspiration, Science Fiction/Fantasy and Horror finish the top five genres with a combined 1.389 billion dollars. Yet, the global yearly earnings for books is near 20 billion dollars. So, what’s selling that makes up the other eighty percent of books? How does an author find out where their audience is? And why is all of the information so conflicting? 

The truth of the matter is that data is hard to rope up. For literary producers, guessing what audiences want is more alchemy than science. They follow trends rather than raw data. And trends are an ever undulating affair, like waves in an upside-down ocean. Now, before you knock book creators for being hacks that chase people rather than art, know that true artists, the lone wolves that write what they want, only sell on average two-hundred-and-fifty copies within their lifetime. That’s not nearly enough to keep any business flowing. Like it or not, there’s something to be said for understanding what’s in demand. 

So, what does this mean for writers? It means that there’s really no way to understand what a reader wants. Yes, there are trends that authors can try to chase, but they’re fickle and ever changing. Yes, you can look at last year’s sales and try to make predictions for the upcoming quarters, but the numbers are constantly contradicting themselves. No agent, publisher or researcher can guarantee an author will earn enough money to feed their family, let alone become a New York Best Seller. 

The only element the author can control is writing well. Write that perfect piece, and when you’re done, then try to take the best shot at how best to publish your work. Some of the best writers have created perfection, only to realize that their work needs to be placed into a drawer temporarily or adjusted to fit the times. Things like global pandemics, flooded markets and overdone genres all have a way of affecting the success of your latest work. 

So, if you’re writing the next great novel, and are drowning in angst because you don’t know how to sell it, let’s remember these simple steps. First, finish your story. Once you have a strong piece of work, you can decide what’s trending, who might be the best representation to support your work, and anything else that changes how you’ll present it to the world. The future is not ours to see, but having a strong piece of writing is the most vital step in reading your reader. 

Calling all writers! Check out “Add an Eye” editing and proofreading for all of your extremely affordable writing needs.

https://addaneye.com

Looking for cover art? Do you want to nail online or printed advertisements for your book, short story or novel? Look no further. Ana Cruz is the master of creating the perfect book cover, marketing art or any other contracted art you need. This talented artist works at incredibly competitive prices, and contracts all rights to the payer. How do I know? I’ve used her for both “Dim Fairy Tales” and “Consumed 2nd edition.” Get your art on the right page today!

Talk Nerdy to Me

Join me on the Webcomics Podcast where I speak with the host Jamais Jochim about comics, writing and all things dorky. 

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/interview-with-justin-alcala/id1479051116?i=1000472255917

Also, check out “Add an Eye” editing and proofreading for all of your extremely affordable writing needs.

https://addaneye.com

“It Snows Here” Available in the new Power Loss Anthology

The day the lights went out is remembered as Day Zero.

It wasn’t just the lights, it was the phones, the computers and just about everything else that makes modern society what it is.

Power Loss tells the story of eight individuals, by eight different authors, each trying to come to terms with the black out and survive in a world that has changed forever. 

“Power Loss” is a BLK Dog Publishing Anthology with my short story, “It Snows Here.” Check out all of the talented authors April 21st, 2020. 

As I Sit in the Hall: A Call for Honest Writing

As I Sit in the Hall: A Call for Honest Writing

It’s late. In a few hours, we’ll wake up and leave for the hospital. It scares my wife. It scares me too. Our son is due in the morning. 

There’s something about creation and death that keeps a person honest. My wife’s latest pregnancy framed a lot for me about my shortcomings, from my terse patience to my all too often bleak perspective of the world. At this moment though, it’s irrelevant. And yet, for as trivial as every issue in the world feels, a whisper tells me to mend my past to honor the future. It’s time to adjust my approach to everything I thought I once knew, including something that’s bothered me for a while… my writing. 

Writers are a funny sort. We begin our literary pilgrimage replicating our favorite authors. Everything starts as a photocopy. At some point though, writers reach a precipice and have to take a leap of faith. We need to bare our souls. It’s frightening to expose yourself in your works. It’s far safer to cloak yourself in the safety of familiar literary voices. Once you strip away that shield though, that’s when authors create the most brilliant, unadulterated works. 

We’re in the delivery room. There are complications. I’m asked to go in the hall while the anesthesiologist works to dull my wife’s pain. It’s quiet, sterile and bare. I want to be composed, but gravity has left my belly. I’m exposed, and it shows. Staff stare as they walk past, studying me like some car accident on the side of the road. 

I’m a strange guy. I laugh when I should cry. I think the house I grew up in was haunted. My dad died when I was a teenager and I never fully dealt with it. I pretend I’m an elf with my friends on weekends. I prefer Shelley to Austen. I’m sure there’s undiagnosed mental illnesses in my family. I don’t want this to bleed any of this onto the pages. Strange stories don’t get published. Weird people don’t sell books.

Now though, after all of this, I’m not so sure. Who we are, both at our strongest and weakest, aren’t blemishes. They’re merits. These little aspects of our lives transforms a story from good to great. Don’t believe me? I wouldn’t either. If I were reading this article a few days ago, I’d roll my eyes. All it takes though is a quick look on any bookshelf and soon you’re reminded.

Sylvia Plath, best known for The Bell Jar, wrote some of her most beautiful works under the weight of depression after her husband’s affair. She used this horrible event to create masterpieces. The battle ultimately caused her to commit suicide. To this day her poems and manuscripts are considered some of the most admired all over the world. 

Pulitzer Prize winner Colson Whitehead was inspired by a reoccurring dream he had about zombies when he wrote Zone One. The Princeton teacher’s early work was labeled as scholarly and a prominent voice against racism. So when he was compelled to write about undead, Whitehead was naturally reluctant. He ultimately followed his creative passion, and while there were skeptics, it remains one of his best-selling novels.  

The list goes on and on. F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote Tender Is the Night while repairing cars and caring for his schizophrenic wife. These hardships helped thread the creative yarns for much of each story’s conflict. Chuck Palahniuk’s award-winning manuscripts put readers in the front seat of self-destructive protagonists marginalized by society. These books are reflections of Palahniuk’s unearthed struggles with homosexuality and proletarianism. Life, death, joy, sadness — these struggles dance on the pages if writers let them. 

There’s a room of doctors surrounding us. My wife is pale. I see blood all over the resident’s rubber gloves. I clench her hand as she screams. I am holding onto the steering wheel with my teeth.     

I’m not saying that authors have to suffer from some debilitating disease or fight a great social war in order to write at their zenith. You just need to be honest. Trust me, I get it. It’s not easy. Often, it’s what makes us most human, most relatable, that we want to hide most. Try it though. Take your experiences and let them flow through characters, settings and worlds. I guarantee you that if you do, you’ll cultivate your greatest works yet. 

My wife is in tears. So am I. Dr. Titus beckons Mallory to push one last time. She does. The Earth stands still. Ronan Frederick Alcala is born. Doctors work on my wife as we embrace our weeping baby. I am standing with one foot on each of our planet’s poles.

I’m weird. I’m at peace with it. In fact, I kind of like it. Maybe I’ll write a story about a man with a toaster for a tail who’s trapped on a planet without fire. Maybe I’ll create a character with a time bomb in her head that sets off a strain of madness in order to hide a secret that could save the world. Maybe I’ll write an adventure about a man who takes his children on a great adventure to achieve their destiny, but instead fulfills his own.  

Today’s Blog is Sponsored By: Add an Eye Editing Services

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