Tag Archives: author

A Request to All Amazonians!

I’m not sure about the intelligence of Amazon’s suggestion-engine, but it what cool to see the below e-mail this morning (see attached picture). On that note, if you haven’t already, I’d greatly appreciate it if you went to my book on amazon and reviewed it if possible. This will be my only shameless blog-post about the subject, but unfortunately, amazon reviews tend to have strong influence in our modern day publishing world. 

My thanks!

Justin Alcala

http://www.amazon.com/Consumed-Justin-Alcala-ebook/dp/B00NJ5CGM8/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1413381655&sr=8-1&keywords=justin+alcala+Consumed

screenie

The Well of Inspiration

Well of Inspiration

Ah, October, the best month in Chicago by far. Why might you ask? Well, that’s easy. Not only does it bring forth the most beautiful of seasons, autumn, and not only is it the month that my wonderful wife and I were married, but for thirty-one days we prepare ourselves for one of the best holidays in the world, Halloween. Every year, just about the time when the scary decorations are put on store shelves, a certain spark erupts in my belly, waking me from my slumber like some revenant crawling out of its grave. Sugared thoughts of frightening costumes, spooky lawn decorations and haunted attractions stir in my mind as I watch ghost shows, drink Octoberfest brews, and reread the classics such as Poe, Stoker and Shelley.

It’s also a peak time for me as an author. It’s as if my fingers are starved to devour the keyboard in order to spin tales that make blood curdle and spines tingle. Countless monsters are born, and even more victims slain across the pages of my works during this wonderful season. Yet, for as much as I could spend countless hours talking about my relationship with the holiday, babbling about the fire that Halloween lights under my cauldron, the excitement of it all also begs another question, one more so related to writing. What is it that makes writers tick?

Some writers are just always on. For them it’s a gift. They have this endless well of ideas and inspiration that allows them to constantly create at anytime, anywhere. For the rest of us however, creativity takes energy, stimulation and motivation. Even the most prolific writers of all time had habits that helped them create their best works. For T.S. Elliot, not only did he sneak away to a quiet porter’s lodge to write, but he also did so while wearing green ghoulish makeup that made him feel like a cadaver. For Faulkner, he wrote his bet works only after a glass or six of whiskey- the good stuff mind you. And as for H.P. Lovecraft, the man of weird fiction could only pen during the darkest hours of night in order to invent his Cthulhu mythos or legends of the Necronomicon.

So what is it that makes you excited to write? Perhaps it’s being somewhere special or reading a book that encouraged you to write in the first place? Being a writer, be it poetry, journalism, fiction, nonfiction, blogging, can be extremely challenging. What takes most people seconds to read may have cost you hours to write, and in those hours, you probably had to drive yourself to stay motivated. Sometimes it’s easy, but often, we must dig down deep and sip from that inspirational well that keeps us excited to create.

Recently, I read an article that had surefire ways to keep a writer motivated. In the column, there were tricks like creating tight deadlines, removing distractions, and forcing yourself to pen even when you were exhausted. While I agreed with what the author was trying to express, their suggestions sounded more like punishment than inspiration. Writers shouldn’t have to physically or mentally abuse themselves in order to create a great story, poem or blog- it’s quite the opposite.

Ultimately, all that we have to do is remember that writing is different for everyone. Simply know yourself, know what keeps you ticking, and use it to your advantage. Anything else is subjective.

So writers, the next time you are having trouble finishing a story, completing a blog or finding that last line of a poem that would really make your work feel complete, remember what makes you want to write. Go back and read your favorite book, visit that place that makes you feel alive, or in my case, listen to Halloween music in the middle of April. I think that you’ll find it truly works. Because so long as you find what makes you tick and continue to feed it, you’ll also find that you’re often writing your best works.

FUN FOR WRITER’S (Contests and Grants)

NEW VISIONS AWARD

https://www.leeandlow.com/writers-illustrators/new-visions-award

NO ENTRY FEE.

STORIES OF RESILIENCE CONTEST

http://ourstoryproject.herokuapp.com/pages/contest

NO ENTRY FEE

THE FEMINIST WIRE GRANT

http://thefeministwire.com/2014/06/feminist-wires-1st-annual-poetry-contest/

$10 ENTRY FEE.
The winner will receive publication in The Feminist Wire and $200. The 1st runner up will receive publication in The Feminist Wire and $100. Deadline October 1, 2014. Submit up to 3 poems (no more than a total of 5 pages).

A Touching Early Review of Consumed

Direct Link: http://www.codesandwrites.com/2014/09/arc-review-consumed-by-justin-alcala.html?m=1

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Sunday, 14 September 2014

ARC Review: Consumed by Justin Alcala

Author: Justin Alcala
Publication Date: September 11, 2014
Published by: Zharmae Press
I received the e-ARC/Media Kit from the publisher for the blog tour.
 

Goodreads Synopsis:

Sergeant Nathaniel Brannick is trapped in Victorian London during a period of disease, crime, and insatiable vices. One night, Brannick returns from work to find an eerie messenger in his flat who warns him of dark things to come.
When his next case involves a victim who suffered from consumption, he uncovers clues that lead him to believe the messenger’s warning. Despite his incredulity, he can’t help but wonder if the practical man he once was has been altered by an investigation encompassed in the paranormal. That is, until he meets the witch hunters, and everything takes a turn for the worse.

Nath’s Thoughts:

One of the beauties of knowingly reading outside your genre is that you get to experience the story with no expectation/presumption. I had that exact experience when I read ‘Consumed’, walking into the threshold its mesmerizing, terrifying Victorian horror world with little idea of what was going to happen and what I would be subconsciously looking for. It was a pleasant experience overall, something I am grateful for — something I might do again in the future, for a limited set of genres (‘genre’ as in ‘what is actually in this book’, not as in ‘what age group this book is targeted for’).
Consumed was — to me — the story of a broken, lost man’s journey back to a meaningful, purposeful life. Granted, that journey involved a murder mystery to solve, vampire hunters and their targets swarming parts of London, an addiction to opium, and a shady work partner. But putting back together pieces of a broken life is the essence of Nathaniel Brannick’s emotional journey — this was what I saw him doing between the lines of the action. Each event in the book was a wake-up call for him, and with each screw-ups and near-misses he was forced to see what he had been doing to himself and his life.
Of course, this doesn’t mean the action and the twists within the plot weren’t great. Consumed was so quick-paced, and throughout the wild ride, I was on the edge of my seat the whole time trying to guess what would happen next — and most of the time I would guess the wrong thing! Every scene, character, and setting in this book lived and breathed horror. Even in the lightest moments, I could still feel a lingering sense of terror, of a dark shadow lurking in the background. I had a hard time trusting every new character, to the last moment their motivations were explained. And even after the last page, the question of whether Nathan had chosen the right allies still lingered in my head. Who were crazy, and who were not? To what extent did everyone tell Nathan the truth? I must say I was quite delighted to know that a sequel is a possibility. Nathan’s story simply couldn’t end where it did in Consumed!
Character-wise, Consumed has a lineup of interesting, quirky characters. Whilst some of them did fill archetypal roles, they didn’t feel archetypal — talk about Davis, the womanizing/overeating detective partner; the witch-hunter siblings Vasile and Vasilica Ivanescu (the latter delighted me a lot — a fighter female in historical fiction :D); Nathan’s lively, not-quite-the-shrinking-violet-proper-lady late wife Catherine; the cat appropriately called ‘Hades’; a lot of others. And, of course, one just can’t leave out Nathaniel Brannick. A brilliant detective with flaws and heartbreak, a distinct way of speaking (I found his sarcasm endearing), and a honest voice. Nathan’s voice was one of the things I adored about Consumed. It was era-appropriate in terms of grammar and vocabulary choice, but it didn’t feel faked and I didn’t have to strain to read it (as I sometimes had to do some other historical fiction work, as they tried really hard to emulate classics).
Overall, Consumed was an enjoyable haunted-house-roller-coaster ride in a foreign theme park for me. Apart from a few paragraphs of chunky dialogue/exposition towards the conclusion, I liked everything that I read. Whilst this book didn’t shatter my world the way some other books did in the past, I would still recommend it to older teenagers and adults who are keen to read an action-packed, distinct historical horror. I think ‘Consumed’ won’t disappoint.
Rating: 4.0 out of 5
 

No comments:

And with that…I give you Consumed

Consumed Cover 2It has been a pleasure writing this Gothic Horror Novel, and I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did writing it.

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

Review: Grasshopper Jungle

If you ever want to understand the true nature of a teenage boy during a hyper-pubescent time in his life, this is the book for you. Oh, also add the apocalypse into the mix.

For those of you who are thinking about picking up this novel, please do. It’s a coming of age story about a small town Polish lutheran boy named Austin who is uncertain about life, his sexuality, and the future that awaits him. However, in the background, slowly but surely, there is an outbreak that is causing the local town folk to become sick and transform into massive coldblooded mantis-creatures. Together with his girlfriend, Shann, and his best bud, Robby, the group investigates the infestation while also exploring Austin’s internal conflict.

Grasshopper Jungle is not your traditional book. It is a first person account that rarely stays on one subject. The narrator hops back in time, tells short jokes, gives history lessons, and then lets you know his current level of “horny”. The author’s raw and slapstick sense of humor had me laughing throughout the book, and his point of view on historical figures (no one ever shits), adulthood, and growing up was delightfully entertaining. I’d definitely recommend this book to anyone who isn’t intimidated by a book with edgy subjects, as there are a few hot buttons.

All-in-all, this is a great read if your looking for weird and hilarious.

Everyone Has an Opinion

          Whether your blogging fan fiction or working on the next award-winning novel, chances are that if you’re working on a new literary project, you’re also receiving insight from others. It may be a simple suggestion from a loved one or serious recommendations from your editor. Regardless, opinions can make or break someone’s writing. So how do you know what advice is valuable and what advice should respectfully be declined? Some might say it’s a matter of the author’s style, while others would argue that you need to scrutinize your counselor’s merit. Then there are those who say that if you truly want to write your best work, you shouldn’t take anyone’s opinion at all. So, let’s examine.

           Plato once said, “Opinion is the medium between knowledge and ignorance.” The distinction that he was trying to make is that opinion is subject to error while knowledge is not. There’s nothing wrong with taking someone’s opinion into consideration. Just read the dedication part of a book and you’ll find a whole slew of authors thanking their family, friends and editors for their advice. It’s proactive to ask for different viewpoints, especially ones that come from those of whom you have a great amount of respect for. However, one thing that a writer needs to keep in mind is that one person’s advice, as creative or thought provoking as it might be, may not cater to your readers’ demographics. The fact is, although someone might offer a fun suggestion, like your main character switching sides at the last minute of the book without prior foreshadowing, statistically- people prefer clues for surprise resolution.

            It’s the responsibility of the author to determine whether a suggestion matches the writer’s style. If a writer wants to create something new and fascinating, it might not be a terrible idea to get the opinion of someone who thinks outside the box. Dozens of writers have advisors on standby who are constantly helping them develop their works in new and original ways. However, if a writer already has a steady plot for a specific genre, and an outsider’s opinion conflicts with the outcome, it might be in the author’s best interest to make choices that cater to their fans instead of their counselor. Neither technique is wrong. It’s just a matter of methods, standards, and goals.    

            Another question that a writer needs to ask themselves is, “Who exactly is giving me this advice and why is it wise to listen to them about the direction of this piece?” You might find that although someone is extremely intelligent, they may not be qualified to help with a specific area of your work. You might not want to ask a historical non-fiction writer about whether the dragon in your fantasy novel should be able to transform into a human, nor may you want to ask a comic book fan if the nemesis in your plot should be more behaviorally realistic. They may have great insight, but their background can sometimes be conflicting. So make sure that the advice giver is the right person before making any drastic changes. Sometimes, it’s simply a matter of not wanting to turn down their advice. It’s much harder to say no thank you than it actually is to actually identify a bad suggestion, but make no mistake, you’ll eventually have to.  

            Then there are those who think that taking the advice of others can be an error. According to New York Times Best Selling Author, Joseph Finder, “The most successful writers aren’t the most talented. They’re the most stubborn.” If you have a method to your madness, don’t deviate because of a colleague or loved one’s opinion. Let your system be your system until it fails. Suggestions are a great way to get a new perspective or to make decisions about tough choices in your writing. Nevertheless, if you don’t want anyone’s advice, honestly, don’t take it. Keep in mind, I’m not telling you to be an immovable curmudgeon, but some authors are more instinctively in tune with their readers than others, and if you’re one of these lucky individuals, no need to listen to other’s suggestions. 

In the end, writers need to understand that writing is subjective. You’re always going to get conflicting opinions about your subject matter. There’s nothing wrong with that. Often, this can lead to us improving our work. But it’s the duty of the writer to understand which opinions are constructive and which are merely personal preference.  As a rule of thumb, a writer should remember that they’re catering to a broad audience. If there’s an idea that the author is on the fence about, they need to ask themselves, “What would my readers prefer?” On the other hand, if what you’re doing is already working, take those suggestions and throw them right out of the window.

            So, ironically, here I am giving my opinion. For the sake of playing devil’s advocate, I ask you, do you want to take my advice or do you have a better suggestion?

The Truth of It

    Eureka! You’ve just finished your first book and are now thinking, “How do I get published?” After months of blood, sweat, and tears, you go online and begin investigating. Sadly, after researching a slew of websites, not only are you utterly confused, but also feeling as if you’re at step one all over again. Some experts say you should self publish. Others suggest that you find a company to push your book. They warn about shady agents, introductory no-no’s, and coordinating the perfect pitch letter. With so much information out there, who should you trust? Well, its times like these when the only thing to do is go directly to the source. Luckily, I’ve had the privilege of speaking with an experienced author in order to find out how a new writer can best get published.

William J. Wagner is a sports journalist and author of Wrigley Blues. The Herald and Review praised him as, “A veteran sportswriter,” while Sporting News described his acclaimed work as, “A wonderful book.” He has over thirty years of writing experience and has been published in numerous sports journals and magazines. William was kind enough to take the time to answer some frequent questions that upcoming writers typically have. He touched on everything from the publishing market to industry standards.

Firstly, William warns that just like anything, if you’re not passionate about writing, it’s not worth it. Most published authors are never truly compensated for the amount of time and effort that they put into their work, so writing to earn your fortunate tends to only end in disappointment. In fact, with traditional publishing companies scaling back, and an overabundance of new writers flooding the market, the chances of turning your manuscript into a profitable best seller is ever shrinking. However, if you genuinely just love to write, William suggests keeping at it. It may sound cliché, but somewhere out there, people want to read your book.

Next, Wagner suggests striving to sign with a publishing agent before trying to get your book out to readers electronically. While eBooks are the future, the chances of your first manuscript becoming successful in this way are remote. And though some people like to bring up the few thriving independent eBooks such as Fifty Shades of Grey, the majority of readers support established household names over “Indy” writers any day. According to William, the best way to get your manuscript picked up is to hire a literary agent. Literary agents, the good ones at least, can be found online and should never ask for payment up front or editing fees. Those who do, tend to be profit mongers, and want nothing more than to take your money, but not before possibly tarnishing your good name. If you insist on trying to get your manuscript out yourself, William suggests that you at least employ an agent to submit your work to major publishers (who usually refuse to look at a piece without the sponsorship of a literary agent), while promoting your manuscript to smaller publishers within your genre (who generally don’t demand representation).

Finally, William highly urges writers to perfect their pitch letter. Most publishers receive hundreds of manuscripts a day, and only choose to delve further depending on the strength of the pitch letter. Wagner suggests a clean and concise letter that summarizes your story. He also recommends giving examples of popular books that are similar to your work. Most publishers are looking for something they can market. While your manuscript may be looked over a dozen times or so, continue believe in your work. More often than not, if you have a great pitch letter and a well polished story, there’s a publisher out there who will eventually be interested.

William also makes mention that inspiring writers today have far more challenges than writers ever have in years past. With so many more self publishing opportunities, a surplus of competitors, and a manifold of schemes that prey on unsuspecting penmen, it’s no wonder that so many struggling writers throw in the towel before they ever become established authors. High hopes quickly become lowly and deflated. However, if you can follow the delicate process suggested for first time writers, and are both patient and optimistic, your chances of signing that first contract will significantly increase. So, while it may be humbling, new writers need to remember that from small beginnings come great things.

(William J. Wagner’s highly acclaimed book, “Wrigley Blues”)

 

Good Living Leads to Good Writing

I use to romanticize that when a person became an author, some fantastical character similar to Santa Clause came down to the artist’s home, bequeathing them with a gloomy black suit as well as a life supply of whiskey and cigarettes. Now I know this wasn’t spot on, but it helped me make sense of my favorite classical authors like Edgar Allen Poe, Walter de la Mare and Oscar Wilde, who were some of the more melancholy novelists of their time. And yes, while it’s true that not every gothic author was an alcoholic, solitary introvert or ex-convict (Mary Shelly and Robert L. Stevenson to name a few), there does seem to be a slew of these social deviants throughout literature’s timeline.

 

However, as much as one might fantasize about emulating the lifestyle of their favorite unusual authors, may I suggest that you reconsider? Because while it might seem exciting to live in the footsteps of some of the more bizarre penmen, I’m a firm believer that good writing comes from good living. Yes, sometimes, we as writers might feel the need to wallow in self pity, tiptoe along the darkest alleyways or drink until our livers turn green, but it doesn’t necessarily make us more creative. No, being a good writer comes from within. It’s constant practice, well thought ideas and an unwavering spirit. It’s the ability to reside in, cope with and adapt to the modern writing world. To quote the Sage of Monticello, Thomas Jefferson, “nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude.”

I’ve been known to “indulge” in the occasional drink…or ten, and to be honest, sometimes Hemmingway’s philosophy, “write drunk; edit sober”, does help get the words on paper. Then again, I’ve written the majority of my best works while just being content and clear minded. Get me in my favorite chair next to the window with a steaming cup of coffee after eating my wife’s quesadilla casserole and I’m ready to go. Now put my snoozing dog at my feet, add a rainstorm with some Tom Waits gently playing in the background and prepare for a masterpiece.

Almost all of us have that special place or moment. That perfect hiccup in time when nothing seems imperfect about the world. It comes with good living. Work hard, stay healthy, remain kind to those you love and more of these “perfect hiccups” will arise. Because while dyeing your hair black, skipping through graveyards and drinking like a fish might help you get in the mood for whatever project you may be working on, just being happy with yourself will always prove ten times better. Joy isn’t always something just handed out freely. Often, it comes from the person’s own measures.