Tag Archives: October

The Crowned Maiden: A Christmas Fairytale

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.

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Changes

People argue that we don’t change, but let’s face it, we do. We change in the small ways- what we choose to eat, our fashion sense, what we read. We change in the big ways- our approach to resolving problems, faith and how we perceive the world. It’s a never ending cycle. And, while our loud and stubborn habits tend to steal the spotlight, there are dozens of small and wonderful changes that happen to us daily.

The same can be said for writing. Countless authors’ styles, subjects and inspirations have leapt around like jackrabbits. Iain (M.) Banks moved from mainstream fiction to science fiction and back again. Ian Fleming transitioned from spy novels to classic children’s picture books. Some authors’ changes have even revolutionized literature. Hemingway modernized today’s approach to book description by emphasizing direct, unadorned prose while William Faulkner shook the Earth by transitioning classic suggestive introspection into a stream-of-consciousness approach that we see today.

There’s nothing wrong with changing your approach to writing. Novice writers tend to lean on lengthy descriptions, repeating adjectives and a heavy dose of those wicked adverbs. They confuse grammar and sentence structure, and are addicted to the all enticing commas when they don’t belong. It’s a rite of passage that takes numerous wags of the finger from a proofreader or editor to understand. One that when amended, can draw new insight on what your writing potential is.

But it’s not just genres, grammar and inspiration that we can change when writing. It’s our perspective as well. When I was young I called myself an aspiring writer. When I was published, I became an author. Now, after ten years of experience, I see myself as a story enthusiast. Our outlook and relationship with the writing world is what makes us who we are.

George Bernard Shaw once said, “Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” This year, keep in mind that whether it seems like it or not, you are constantly in a state of change. You’ve worked very hard to get where you are, be it that first published poem, completed manuscript or contracted novel. You’re doing yourself a disservice by not keeping your author-mind open and your literary-heart honest.  After all, it should be your writing aspirations that reflect your choices, not your fears.

“The Devil in the Wide City” Hits Amazon

“The Devil in the Wide City” is now available in both ebook and paperback. Get your copy today.

https://www.amazon.com/Devil-Wide-City-Justin-Alcala-ebook/dp/B01E1R504I/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1465854233&sr=8-1&keywords=The+Devil+in+the+Wide+City

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. 

Book Excerpt 

“It was one hell of a day, and that’s saying a lot where I’m from. It began as cliché as one might expect when living in the nine circles of Satan’s abyss. My girlfriend dumped me, my dogs ran away from home, and work gave me the pink slip. Things were looking dismal. If only I knew then that by this time tomorrow I’d be back on Earth, I might not have been so whiny.”

Justin Alcala, Author of “Consumed” and “The Devil in the Wide City”

On the tracks

 

Win an Ebook Copy of”The Devil in the Wide City”

Hello readers,

Below is a bona fide link to the Zharmae Publishing Press Giveaway, “The Devil in the Wide City.” Supplies are limited, so click now. You’ll be the envy of WordPress if you’re the lucky ebook winner, Act now, and as an added bonus, I’ll also pray for your immediate career success in a remote Shaolin Temple that I’m currently training at.

“The Devil in the Wide City” Ebook Giveaway

And remember, “The Devil in the Wide City” officially hits shelves May 26th, 2016.

Sincerely,

Justin Alcala

Author of “Consumed” and “The Plenty Dreadful” Series. 

The Devil in the Wide City Zharmae Cover

Happy Halloween to Fans!

I want to wish fans of “Consumed” and “The Devil in the Wide City” a Happy Halloween! Thanks for joining my blog and take it easy on the blood tonight.

Consumed DEV

Justin Alcala

Author of “Consumed” and the 1st installment of the upcoming Plenty Dreadful Series, “The Devil in the Wide City”

http://www.justinalcala.com

Hashtag no filter and all that jazz

Why Zombies Will Never Stop Coming

Originally posted on Blog-Z @ Zharmae.com

First vampires, now this: Justin Alcala joins us to look at why we love zombies. Could it get any better?

Take it away, Justin!

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Welcome to Part 2 of my Halloween blog, where we’ve been dissecting everyone’s favorite ghouls and ghosts. In Part 1, we talked about vampires and their relationship with our history. In Part 2, we’re unearthing a different eerie nemesis—one that just refuses to go away. Yes, it’s time to dig up old skeletons and investigate Why Zombies Will Never Stop Coming.

When I was a boy, my mom introduced me to George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, and my world changed. The entire movie, from Johnny’s “They’re coming to get you, Barbara” speech to the undead’s attack on the quiet little farmhouse, terrified the hell out of me. To this day I have no idea why my mom showed me that movie at such a young age (although it’s probably why I am the horror nerd I am today). Regardless, from that night, and many years after, I’d suffer through the same reoccurring nightmare. Shambling zombies were at my door, ready to eat me alive if I didn’t escape. Little did I know that my zombie problem wouldn’t go away anytime soon. Yes, it seems that every few years, an entire slew of zombie movies and books spread through the media, giving life to the dead once more. 

So, why do zombies keep clawing their way out from the grave? Just when you think the horror fad has come and gone, a new wave of novels, television series and movies surface. In their very short time, zombies have gone from dormant sub-genre to commercial monstrosity. But why? Does society secretly like blood and guts or is it just that we feel as if we’re on the edge of the apocalypse already? Well, I think it’s time that we bite into the matter.

zombie-945622_1920First, let’s look the current affairs of the day. It’s no secret that conflicts in the Middle East, Ebola in Africa, and other global catastrophes have stirred up people’s anxieties. With record-breaking travel nowadays, it’s easy to imagine these issues landing at your doorstep. Zombies embody our contemporary concerns. Globally, millions of people are fearful that one day they’ll wake up to an incurable epidemic in their neighborhood or an unwinnable war on the streets. What better analogy than a zombie infestation to help construe our angst? Zombies spread their contagion quickly and are unbeatable in great numbers. They’re the perfect metaphor.

Another reason why we love to fantasize about the undead is because of what they mean to us subliminally. Ever feel like you’re overwhelmed with problems at work? Do you constantly feel like you’re fighting a battle that you just can’t win at home? Well my friend, sounds like you’re describing a great zombie plot. Zombies are the ultimate depiction of our ordinary struggles. They’re vicious, unrelenting, and put us on edge at every turn.

Yet another reason why zombies have surged in popularity comes from increased coverage of vague present-day issues. Problems such as global warming and financial meltdowns can sometimes be hard to imagine. Zombies are a perfect way to put these matters into perspective.

Concerned Daydreamer: “Hey dude, isn’t it creepy to think that the icecaps may completely melt in fifteen years?”

Closed-minded Bro: “Honestly, I can’t even really imagine it.”

It’s hard to decapitate melting ice. Shooting a recession in the head isn’t easy. But an ominous undead infestation, now that’s something conceivable.

Finally, while it may be hard to believe, death itself is a perfect reason why zombies have become so popular. It’s unavoidable. We see death every day on the television, hear it on the radio, and read about it online. We sit back and wonder, “When do I go?” Sometimes it comes in the form of a distant relative, other times it’s someone very close, but death is always lurking. The zombie is the embodiment of this. It’s not prejudiced or picky. It will destroy whatever is in front of it, brutally and without mercy.

And those are the facts. Zombies will never stop coming. Why? Because they’re metaphors for global tension. They depict daily life. They help us understand subliminal issues and they’re a constant reminder that none of us are getting out of this alive. We love zombies because they help us make sense of our own existence. In essence, we are zombies. Now…who wants brains?


To learn more about Justin and his works, be sure to check out these websites:

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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

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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

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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.