The short story, “The Lantern Quiety Screams” by Justin Alcala is due to be published by Castabout Art and Literature just in time for Halloween. Stay tuned so you can get your copy.
(Quick Read: 4 minutes)
There once was a bard and king that decided to trade places. The bard wanted a royal audience to help make him the most celebrated artist in the kingdom. The king yearned for freedom, and dreamed of strolling freely through the plebeian lands. So the pair traded cap and crown, lute and scepter, then went on their way. It took less than twenty-four hours, followed by three magical texts and two Uber carriages to return everything to normal. Both the king and bard decided that this was the dumbest idea ever, and agreed to never talk about it again.
Whether your’e a painter, performer or poet, chances are that if you’re trying to make a living off of your art, you’re struggling to find balance. You’re probably trying to find balance in the time spent on building your royal audience. You’re likely trying to find balance in creating new works. Most importantly, you’re most certainly trying to find balance in the inner recesses of your conscience, struggling to decide whether or not your betraying your craft for profit.
In the art community, you talk to, well…artists. I’ve spoken to photographers, woodworkers and writers. Their thoughts on balance are always the same. Sometimes, I feel more like a sales person than an (insert craft here). I’m a total sellout. So why do creative minds feel like sellouts? Often, it’s because modest Indy Artists don’t have well-heeled sponsors to handle the business end while they focus on their trade. So, they end up becoming the marketer, salesperson and visionary. Needless to say, that’s a tall order that makes most artists to feel icky. So what do they do? They follow their principles and stick to creating, hoping their work will speak for itself. Authors Neil Gaiman and Daniel Handler joked about the idea during a Q&A recently.
Gaiman laughed, “Don Marquis once said that having poetry published was like throwing flower petals over the Grand Canyon and waiting for the boom.”
Handler added, “I’ve heard it (writing) was like wetting yourself in dark pants – you get a feeling, but no one notices.”
While it’s in jest, the sentiment is clear. If you’re a budding artist, it’s time to get to work, and being a businessperson is just part of it. You can’t afford to draw lines in the sand. The catch to not selling out is drawing soft borders. Set goals and decide how often you’re going to market weekly. Make time for creating new projects, and understand the first hurdle is often the worst. I’ve added a list of links at the bottom that might help you the process, from reasons why you aren’t selling art to techniques that’ll help you deal with the stress of being an artist.
No one wants to be a sellout. We’d all like a royal court to instantly give us patrons. We don’t want to be salespeople. We want to be artists. The truth of it is though, that if you’re doing it right, you’ll likely need to be a little of both. It’s the best shot of living happily ever after.
Oh the magic of books. What would life be without them? More importantly, where would we be without their authors? We take for granted all of the dreamed up stories on our bookshelves and iPads. We forget about all of the work, love and struggles that goes into each word.
Today on the Justin Alcala blog, I’m excited to interview Solstice Publishing author, Henry Anderson. Henry Anderson is a former news reporter who has written for national UK newspapers. He spent time as a farmhand in Australia before working in publishing and journalism. His current novels, “Cape Misfortune” and “The Mouth” are fantastic tales available on amazon. But before you pick them up, let’s learn a little bit about the man behind the stories. Let’s learn about the talented Henry Anderson.
Thanks for joining us Henry. I wanted to start out by asking about the great journeys you’ve taken to get where you are. What literary pilgrimages have you gone on?
I suppose in the old days pilgrimages involved seeing sacred relics like a piece of a saint’s finger. It made things seem much more real. Similarly an artefact like a book or the page of a handwritten manuscript makes the writer seem less remote. Seeing Shakespeare’s birthplace was amazing. I was lucky enough to study at the same college at Oxford University as Oscar Wilde. I visited his grave in Paris. We used to wear green carnations in his honour on exam days.
What are common traps for aspiring writers?
Take a step back and think about whether other people will find your writing relevant or important!
What is your writing Kryptonite?
Self-doubt is the enemy of most art. On a bad day the words look terrible.
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
You have the ability to get something published. Stop procrastinating and get on with it.
What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
I wrote a play once and stood at the back of the audience on the nights it was performed. It was incredible to watch people being so involved with the story.
What do you owe the real people upon whom you base your characters?
Nothing, unless you are writing autobiography. I suppose if you admire someone you might try and do justice to them. If you feel someone has mistreated you there is always the villain.
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
I have a screenplay, several short stories and two unfinished novels kicking about. I hope to return to them one day.
What did you edit out of this book?”
Anything that didn’t advance the story. I find if I stray off the path, description or dialogue loses meaning or relevance.
Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?
I suffer from a chronic illness called myalgic encephalomyelitis. There are a few hidden references to that. They don’t make any difference to the story but they add a bit of depth for me. I suppose the trick is not to be too self-indulgent.
What was your hardest scene to write?
There is a scene in the book where the characters are travelling astrally, out of the body, over the Pacific. That was difficult. It was the first part of the story that was out-and-out fantasy. There is a devil sitting on my shoulder that is scornful about straying from realism. It’s now one of my favourite scenes.
Henry, what advice do you have for unpublished writers?
The Internet has changed the literary landscape. There is less stigma about self-publishing now. I haven’t self-published yet but would do so in the future rather than hang on to a manuscript for years. You have to roll with the punches and move on.
Henry, thanks so much for joining us on the blog. You can learn more about Henry on his website. All links are provided below. And please be sure to pick up Henry’s latest novel, “Cape Misfortune” available on amazon.
“Welcome to beautiful Cape Misfortune. Come for the rugged coastline and unspoiled beaches. Stay for the quaint customs and friendly welcome.”
Just don’t ask about the people who are going missing.
It’s official, @Solsticepublish and I will be teaming up to bring “The Devil in the Wide City” back to the pages. Editors are already busy proof reading so that Ned can prowl the streets of Chicago once more. I am beyond excited. #newbooks#readerslife
When Ned, a fallen angel who’s as suave as he is brainy, accidentally starts the Great Chicago Fire during an assignment, he all but gives up on ever visiting Earth again- that is until his replacement goes missing, and Ned gets a chance at redemption.
When Cecil Gibbs’s mind shatters during the American Civil War, he becomes a battlefield horror. The man slips through the shadows, carving the wounded like art as the war’s first serial killer. However, once word of Cecil’s atrocities hits the ears of Union command, they send in a Pinkerton by the name of Oliver Lamb to investigate. Through his perilous tracking of Cecil, Oliver learns that Cecil might not be alone. Witnesses have glimpsed a shadowy figure dancing along Cecil’s side, whispering instructions to the broken surgeon as he continues his onslaught.
“It Dances Now” is a short horror story contracted by Crimson Street Magazine. It hit shelves in late summer of 2019.
Hello from my underground bunker!
Here’s an update on the upcoming novel. Dim Fairy Tales is currently in the “Queue” for edits with AllThingsThatMatterPress. Time tables depend on demands, but typically take a few months. The book is on schedule to be released by late 2019 (DEC).
Once upon a time when princesses sought out fortunes and cranky old women turned out to be witches, a grandmother told her family a fairy tale by the fire. The story, which started like hello and ended in goodbye, warned listeners of roadside dangers. It taught morals and life lessons. Most importantly, for the oppressed peasant class of centuries old, these orations offered escapism from a harsh world of civil unrest, injustice and tyranny. They were part of an early culture, blending magic with current affairs in order to understand the world.
While the fairy tale never truly went away, stories thinned as a rapidly modernized world disavowed its past. Many fairy tale curators sweetened narrations, removed grisly details and commercialized mythical characters. Entertainment conglomerates targeted children only in fairy tale cartoons and storybooks. Before long, fairy tales were institutionalized as colorful toddler stories, deprived of their original complexion. The fairy tale had fallen from grace.
Cue the Twenty-First Century. As people pack on top of each other in metropolitan eras, tensions rise. Political divides stretch across the globe. Debates of inequality infringe upon laws and regulations. The rich rule over the working and impoverished. Contemporary escapism within the literary community is needed, and for many, a blend of magic in their everyday lives is just what the doctor ordered. The only catch, the fairy tale needs a facelift. The answer, a sub-genre of books known as Urban Fantasy.
Many readers have heard of Urban fantasy, narratives that amalgamate the magic from legends of old with modernized landscapes. But it takes a special bookworm to draw back the curtain and see how urban fantasy epitomizes everyday complications with mystical protagonists and eerie plots. Popular authors like Jim Butcher and Maggie Stiefvater borrow magic and lore to expose real problems and solutions for readers to interpret. It’s a resurgence of the classic fairy tale.
So it goes without saying that if urban fantasy is the heir to the fairy tale, then supporting the genre is vital for the literary community. Urban fantasy stretches the imagination to provide escapism, admonition and exploration into the present. It packages unbelievable ideas, laces them in the whimsical, and gifts the reader with real life advice. Like its siblings, urban fiction and speculative fiction, urban fantasy engages through the wondrously relatable. Yet, for as vital as the genre is, urban fantasy is at risk of losing its place in the literary world.
According to bookstr.com, the top three genres are as follows, Romance/Erotica, Crime/Mystery and Religious/Inspirational books. Science Fiction & Fantasy tie for fourth place in the book markets. Urban fantasy is a tiny sliver in that deadlock. In addition, writingcooperative.com notes that of the most popular fiction niches, fantasy fiction books only capture a low thirteen percent of the fictional market behind titans like children’s fiction and modern literary fiction. With low market penetration, lesser known urban fantasy authors are finding it challenging to get new titles out for readers to enjoy.
Additionally, urban fantasy is often clumped together with other genres like dystopian fiction and classic fantasy. This makes it harder for readers looking for enchanting lore blended into contemporary ideas to find legitimate urban fantasy. The clustering also dilutes the borders that define urban fantasy’s nature. Many book retailers flood murky urban fantasy sections with everything from Grimdark fiction to medieval graphic novels. Yes, urban fantasy may have squeaked into the market, but it needs nourishment in order to stay around for decades to come.
So what can be done to help the modern fairy tale make its presence better known in the literary market? Well, it’s simple. For starters, urban fantasy needs demand. Purchasing popular series like Patricia Briggs’s Mercy Thompson and Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid books is a great way to keep the genre alive. Next, support the lesser known urban fantasy authors like Borrowed Souls by Chelsea Mueller and Dragon’s Gift by Linsey Hall. Finally, get the word out. Blogs, book clubs and book chats focused on urban fantasy help propagate publisher’s marketing and submissions targets. It’s that easy.
Long ago, fairy tales taught lessons in an otherwise confusing world with a little help from magic. Now, urban fantasy books help do the same in the literary world. The genre has grown, but needs the literary community’s help in order to thrive. If we don’t, it could lead to a very dark ending. If we do, then we might just live happily ever after. And so, the dreamer awakes, the shadow goes by, when I tell you a tale, the tale is a lie. But listen to me fair maid and proud youth, though the tale is a lie, what it tells is the truth.
The truth can be tough, especially in writing. Authors aspire to tell a tale. They gather the courage to put it on paper. They present it to friends and family, receiving a roborant surge of encouragement that emboldens them to pitch query letters.Then finally, a publishing contract is signed and the editing begins.
The editor, donned in all black complete with cape and eyepatch, sits down to look over the manuscript. The boots they tuck under their desk are worn from crushing dreams. They open up the writer’s story, ready to pounce. On cue, their sharp and evil eye spots an unnecessary comma, the use of then instead of than, and the misspelling of the word, accommodate. The editor clicks their Track Changes option, and the onslaught begins.
Weeks later, the writer receives their manuscript back, marked with enough blood red font to illustrate the Battle of the Bulge graphic novel. Each comment causes the writer to scoff, shout and tremble. Before long, the writer has reworked their story so much that they’re huddled under a blanket in the corner, frozen on page fifty’s complete rewrite of the narrative’s abrupt pace change.
But occasionally, editors don’t just rip apart a manuscript for the sake of their malevolent thirst for pain. Instead, they’re trying to improve the writer’s work. The editor, in their tenure, has learned how a book’s composition works, and asks for mutual trust when developing the manuscript. It’s through constructive criticism, tough questions and needed changes that a writer’s work truly becomes the story it deserves. The strongest steel is forged by the fires of hell.
Letting your writer’s guard down can be tough when it comes to the editing faze. Most self-deprecation authors have already put themselves through the gauntlet. They’ve trudged through drafts and shades of their story for months. By the time editing is abound, some people are emotionally drained. Just remember though that your first draft is not your final result.
I hear a lot of stories about mean editors. There’s a difference between disrespect and critical thinking. If your editor is flashing shade, it might be time to reach out to your publisher. Before you do though, know this. The chances of a writer being oversensitive about their work are far greater than the possibility that the editor enjoys collecting the sentimental skulls of writers for their mantle. Try to accept the fact that you might be going through a phase of denial. Then and only then, can you and your editor merge your talents to truly create something wonderful.
Umm…this is awesome. AllThingsThatMatterPress has officially contracted Dim Fairy Tales for publication. This will be my third novel, and second within the Plenty Dreadful Universe. I’m very proud to partner with AllThingsThatMatterPress, who has brought the world great books for over ten years. More to come!
Long ago, during the dreaming dawn of history, there lived a young maiden within the hollow of the Harvest Woods. Born on a day when the sun and moon rose as one, it was said that she was destined for greatness, if only she could survive her early hardships. For the girl’s mother passed shortly after giving birth, and soon after, her father was lost to war. Alone amongst the trees and stags, the girl grew up unaided, pitied by the villagers whose fate was far too meager to offer charity. There, within a cottage made of stone and thatch she cared for herself, surviving through the seasons with little more than resolve.
Yet the maiden never despised her circumstances. Because for her, everything she thought she’d needed was bequeathed to her by the Harvest Woods. It fed her when she hungered, bathed her when she was filthy, and hummed her to sleep under the twinkle of the stars. It gave her friendship in the wildlife, family in the trees, and wisdom in seasons. How she adorned her forest, and in return, the forest adored her.
Soon though, the young maiden came to understand that although the woods were very dear to her, they could not always offer what she required. For curatives, tools and proper clothing, she was forced to travel to the markets where she traded the forest’s bounty in exchange for the necessities she so desperately needed. And though her fire licked hair and grass colored eyes drew the heads of the young boys, the maiden always returned home to her true love, the forest.
But time has a way of changing what doesn’t wish to do so. Soon the young maiden grew to be even more beautiful, and although she only desired the woods for the rest of her days, rumors in the village whispered that she would make a fine wife for anyone cunning enough to tame her. So, it was no surprise that once summer began, all the young villagers trudged through the woodlands in search of their bride. Day after day they arrived with offerings of coin, cattle and jewelry, and day after day the maiden declined.
“I owe my hand to the autumn harvest that feeds me,” she’d reply, “and the harboring oaks that keep me safe.”
But the will of men is strong, and their yearnings even stronger. Soon affluent suitors from faraway lands received the maiden’s reputation as a challenge, and came crooning with great promises. They offered feasts fit for kings, castles built for armies, and riches suited for cities. Yet no matter how musical the musician or noble the nobleman, her answer always remained the same. With a gracious smile she’d reply-
“I owe my hand to the autumn harvest that feeds me, and the harboring oaks that keep me safe.”
Then one snowy autumn night, on a week that had three Sundays, fate stepped in. The young maiden had just snuggled into her blanket by the hearth when a wrapping came at her cottage door. It was near the witching hour, and the young maiden answered with warranted trepidation. To her surprise, waiting at her entrance was not some monstrous monster, nor another suitor in silks or admiral in armors. Instead stood a stranger like she’d never seen before. He was tall and regal, stitched together by arcadian beauty. His hair flowed like wheat and his skin colored like honey. He wore a cloak weaved from the fall brush and a tunic of blood red. The stranger bowed when his eyes met the maiden.
“Good evening my Lady,” he greeted.
“Apologies young Sir,” replied the maiden as she clung to her cottage’s door, “but I’m afraid that I’ll be hearing no more offers this evening.”
The young man lingered, a simple smile spread across his sharp face. The maiden had seen such persistence before. It would not be long now before the stranger proposed his dowry. She gave a short curtsy and then wished a good night. But as she thrust her arm to secure the cottage door, a fierce breeze whistled from the forest, disputing her intentions.
“My lady,” said the stranger over the dying wind, “I apologize for my daftness, but allow me to make amends. I am in search of my bride and have finally come to claim you. I adore you and wish to be yours forever.” But to this, the maiden only answered as she had done so many times before.
“Your words are sweet like plum wine and promising like the morning sun, but I must insist that you go. For I owe my hand to the autumn harvest that feeds me, and the harboring oaks that keep me safe. My loyalty is in the flowers and grass I walk on. I love that only for the rest of my days.”
Contrary to the maiden’s anticipation, the stranger did not grow crestfallen. Instead, he beamed with delight, placing his hand over his heart. With a bold step forward he moved to one knee, digging into his cloak and removing a crown made of branches. The young maiden watched as the bachelor offered a diadem of wood and vine. As the young maiden studied the offering, her own heart began to flutter. Gazing into the young man’s eyes, she felt her very soul stirring and drawing open. For the feeling she had was the same she felt when she stroked a doe or drank from the brook.
Reaching her arms out, she removed the wood crown from the young man’s hands and placed it over her fiery head of hair. The stranger arose, striding backwards into the trees. As he did, his boots rooted into the frosted soils and his cloak faded into leaves. And as the winds took him up and the earth brought him down, with a whisper and tender smile he bid her farewell.
“And I will always love you,” he confessed.
So it went, her and her love together. He fed her when she hungered, bathed her when she was filthy, and hummed her to sleep under the twinkle of the stars. He gave her friendship in the wildlife, family in the trees, and wisdom in seasons. How she adorned her husband, and in return, he adored her.