Category Archives: Books

Why Vampires Will Never Die

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The Monstrous Age, the Gothic Era, The Heroic Period- vampires have had many different roles in culture throughout the ages. They’ve been what scares us, what draws us and what aspires us to be. We fear their power, desire their immortality, and relate with their struggles. Yet, for as many hats as they’ve worn, one thing is for certain. The vampire is here to stay.

Throughout history, monsters have served as a coping mechanism for what terrifies people most. Vampires are no different. For the last millennium, these bloodsuckers have helped justify evil, disease and death. From the Chinese Jiangshi to the Hungarian Izcacus, no matter the culture, records indicate that people have always had a turbulent, but vital relationship with the vampire. But that would all change once pop culture embraced the vampire.

1897- Bram Stoker publishes his novel Dracula, in which an undead Count clashes with a young group of English protagonists. The intriguing story, told through diary entries, ship logs and other epistolary means, is an overnight success. Dracula’s popularity changes the creature. No longer does the vampire simply represent sin and death. Vampires are now linked with contemporary issues, which in the 1890’s included foreign distrust, mental health and sexual repression. While the vampire was still villainous by nature, the seed of transformation had been planted.

Nearly one hundred years later, writers and movie producers use the vampire for different reasons. Mainstream tensions linked to sexual inclination, racial discrimination and harsh corporate enterprise rear their ugly heads. This once again changes the vampire. While still deadly by nature, the vampire develops new symbolic traits related to pressing themes. The creature is now the epitome of seduction, manipulation and exploitation. The origin story also becomes a backbone, giving the creature a tragically unfortunate motive to kill. Audiences begin to sympathize with the monster, abetting in the creation of what we know today.

It’s 2015. Cue the glitter and acoustic guitar. Although the Internet becomes a major social outlet, it also has a way of isolating people worldwide. In addition, recovering economies force millions of college graduates and jobless workers to look elsewhere for employment. Depression in America, Canada and England are on the rise. What this world needs is a hero. Once again, the vampire transforms, changing from gruesome predator to misunderstood do-gooder. Story plots gravitate around a kindhearted mortal transformed by the damned, only to later defy their makers in order to protect the living from the dead.

But why is it that vampires won’t go away? Hundreds of other monsters similar in age and origin like barghests, banshees and genies, had similar early success in cultures. They were outlets in order to explain what people didn’t understand. As the years past however, these monsters slowly faded. So why did vampires outlast their competitors?

Well for starters, one has to look at the key ingredient to a good vampire tale. Vampires were once human. Unlike other monsters, humans can change into vampires. So, while we might fear them, we also fantasize about what it would be like to become one. Immortality, irresistible allure and supernatural powers- traditionally, these are the exchange for condemning one’s soul. Thus, while vampirism may be nightmarish, it also allows us romanticize about what we might do with our dark gifts if given the chance.

Secondly, vampires in all of their petty immortality, also represent what’s wrong with contemporary society. Yes, it’s the social predator’s duty to adapt to the times in order hunt their prey, keeping up to date with fads, culture and current affairs. This makes it easy for storytellers to sculpt vampires into the perfect modern-day metaphors. They’ve gone from plague spreaders during periods of disease to unruly deviants during phases of social reform. They are in essence, the ultimate plot devices.

Finally, and most importantly, vampires represent what we fear about ourselves. They are the monsters inside each of us. We use these creatures to work out our own angst, anxiety and desires. They’re tools in order for us to make sense of who we are. In essence, vampires are a form of introspection.

So there you have it. Our link to vampires is far greater than we ever imagined. They rationalize otherwise uncontrollable events, allow us to fantasize about who we’d like to be, keep us aware of society’s flaws and help us express what we fear most about ourselves. Though their roles may have changed throughout time, their purpose is always essential. And that’s why vampires will never die.

On the tracks

Justin Alcala, Author of “Consumed” and the upcoming “Plenty Dreadful Series”.

Check out Part 1, “The Devil in the Wide City” when it hits shelves October 2015. 

Get your copy of Consumed on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Consumed-Justin/dp/1937365581/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1440553280&sr=8-1&keywords=Consumed+justin+alcala

Check Out “The Devil in the Wide City” on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22433711-the-devil-in-the-wide-city

Zharmae Publishing Presents: “Consumed” and “The Devil in the Wide City”

“Regardless, for that night, and every night thereafter, I’d make sure to fasten each lock, secure each window, and sleep with my revolver nearby. This lad was a harbinger, but for whom, I did not know.”

-Detective Sergeant Nathaniel Brannick

1f1c2-consumed_cover_final

Available at Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Consumed-Justin/dp/1937365581/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1439237542&sr=8-1&keywords=Consumed+Justin+Alcala

Coming in October 2015…

“Believe it or not, most of hell has never actually experienced Earth first hand, and assume that it’s all one big Full House episode. Demons love David Coulier.”

-Ned, Fallen Angel

dev

Check it out on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22433711-the-devil-in-the-wide-city

Zharmae Publishing Presents: “Consumed” and “The Devil in the Wide City”

“Regardless, for that night, and every night thereafter, I’d make sure to fasten each lock, secure each window, and sleep with my revolver nearby. This lad was a harbinger, but for whom, I did not know.”

-Detective Sergeant Nathaniel Brannick

1f1c2-consumed_cover_final

Available at Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Consumed-Justin/dp/1937365581/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1439237542&sr=8-1&keywords=Consumed+Justin+Alcala

Coming in October 2015…

“Believe it or not, most of hell has never actually experienced Earth first hand, and assume that it’s all one big Full House episode. Demons love David Coulier.”

-Ned, Fallen Angel

dev

Check it out on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22433711-the-devil-in-the-wide-city

Pay Attention to Details

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

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

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

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

“Consumed” Giveaway

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

A) Love horror-fantasy

B) Are unwilling to press charges due to nightmares

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

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

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

Give the Internet Another Chance

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

By the Pond

Justin Alcala

Author of Consumed and the upcoming Plenty Dreadful series

http://www.justinalcala.com

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

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

Have You Hugged Your Editor Today?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Justin Alcala

Author of Consumed and The Plenty Dreadful Series

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