Let me tell you what I love about Parliament House. They go the distance to ensure this book is perfect in every way…including ensuring our villains (or perhaps antiheroes) are fleshed out just right. We are in the late stages of publication for “A Dead End Job.” Still, there’s a long way to go. From a second round of line edits to content reviews, we are working hard to get you this book. So please, preorder today. Every preordered book helps with Amazon marketing tiers, sales strategies and other presale details.
Well, there’s always a silver lining to any adversity, and 2020 was no different. While it’s globally unanimous that 2020 was like skidding down a razor bladed playground slide, there were some benefits. Beyond the zenith of all joys, the birth of my son, Ronan, I could also get a lot of writing projects ready for their 2021 debut. So, strap on your helmet, squeeze into your short shorts, and grease those rollerblades, because we’re skating through 2021 with conviction. Here’s a look at the Justin Alcala schedule for the upcoming year.
- Final edits for “A Dead End Job” were put together by Parliament House Press and myself
- Production Meetings began for the future graphic novel, “Apollyon” with talented producers/creators James Rock and Alex Gomez
- “Taming of the Cthulhu” 1st proof reaches 30,000 words.
- “A Dead End Job” cover artist completes project for acceptance
- “A Dead End Job” cover reveal on February 25th
- “Magic of Motivational Quotes” by Wingless Dreamer publishing is released, featuring a Justin Alcala excerpt
- Cover reveal for the new anthology, “Citizen Survivors: The Red Book” released by BLK DOG Publishing. This historical fiction piece about the world had Nazi Germany been victorious features a short story by Justin Alcala titled “The Entrepreneur”
- Proofreading for the Middle Grade book, “The Last Stop” begins. This young reader horror story follows seventh grader, Morrigan, and her little brother, Asher, as they explore the frightful history of their new town, and the connection with their eerie new bus driver.
- “Taming of the Cthulhu” manuscript should reach the halfway point for creation
- Two new short stories will begin for Halloween distribution
- “Citizen Survivors: The Red Book” hits shelves
- “The Last Stop” will sent off to agents and publishers
- Short Horror Stories “A Horse for Us All” and “Buried in the Rain” hit anthology and literary magazine shelves
- Finishing touches for the first proof of “Taming of the Cthulhu” complete and sent out to editors
- “The Last Stop” proposed to agents and publishers
- “Apollyon” finishes proofreads and illustrators begin early sketches
- Early reviewers get their “looking-balls” on “A Dead End Job”
- Interviews on podcasts, radio stations and literary journals for the premiere of “A Dead End Job”
- Early announcement about “The Last Stop” publication
- Short Horror Story Projects Cut Off for Submission
- We will take part in the “2021 Charity Drive for the Extra Life for Kids” program
- We will start the countdown for “A Dead End Job” with great giveaways, including e-books, t-shirts and other great
- “The Last Stop” continued publication announcements
- “Taming of the Cthulhu” hits submission phase
- “A Dead End Job” preorders completed
- “A Dead End Job” released (Woo hoo!). Parliament House PRess will release physical copies and ebooks starting October 5th, 2021.
- Podcast interviews to continue in promotion of Parliament House Press in conjunction with “A Dead End Job”
- Halloween Short Stories hit publication
- “The Last Stop” begins editorial phase with new publisher
- “Taming of the Cthulhu” early publication announcements
- Justin Alcala short story and novel contest results announced
- Christmas Giveaways for “A Dead End Job” gifted for select readers
- “Apollyon” publication announcement updates
One of my favorite parts of “A Dead End Job” was taking a classically ominous figure like Death and making him into a funny, likable guy. Early readers seem to love it too. Preorder “A Dead End Job” on Amazon today to guarantee your copy. It’s a wild ride through the absurd.
Death needs a vacation. Badly. But there’s a catch: There are certain people who just seem to cheat the system, always falling through the cracks and not ending up dead like they’re supposed to—who’s going to take care of them while he’s out?
The answer is simple. He needs an intern. So, with the help of his I.T. guy, Jumbo, he starts scanning through a list of potential candidates.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that one prospect—Buck Palasinksi, a bankrupt hitman with a roleplaying addiction—could have what it takes. After he’s drilled in the forehead by a bullet while scoping out his next target, he falls right into Death and Jumbo’s laps.
If they shove him back into his body, he’ll have a few weeks to prove that he has what it takes to be Death’s right-hand man…That is, if he can take out Public Enemy Number one, John Dillinger, while he’s got a werewolf sidekick and tries to quit smoking.
Get your FREE Amazon Kindle copy today through Saturday, October 10th. Join Ned, his miniature hellhounds, nerd-minions, and book-witch girlfriend, Chelsea, as they try to save Chicago from the corporate warlock. Hilarious, fun and supernatural adventure just in time for Halloween.
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.
Delighted, ecstatic, thrilled- I can’t say it enough how happy I am to have a short story of mine, “The Dilemma of Old Furnaces,” published in “cIRcle,” a digital library for research, theses and dissertations at the University of British Columbia. Check out this future work and others at the link below.
When Eden, a handicapped boy with a brain that’s as sharp as his insecurities, goes to his offbeat Grandmother Irena’s cottage one frigid winter morning, he begrudgingly thinks back to all the tall tales she once told him about fairies and monsters. However, as revisits her old home, Eden looks back on all the adventures the pair used to enjoy, and wonders if he’s being too hard on his strange but loving Grandmother Irena. Then a dragon tries to eat Grandmother Irena’s cat, and the only one that can stop it is Eden.
Ah, summer, a time when we leave the safety of our cozy homes to brave the great outdoors. We trek near and far to hike, fish and be eaten alive by mosquitos. Then, at night, when our muscles ache, we fill our bellies with hotdogs and marshmallows as we cozy up by the campfire. There’s an anticipation that grows as the moon paints the woods pearl. It’s a readiness so salient, that even the trees inch closer in order to listen. That’s right, it’s time for you to tell a scary campfire tale.
Now that you have everyone’s attention, it’s imperative that you tell the most captivating tale you can muster. It needs to be intoxicating, frightening and use the raw power of your surroundings to horrify listeners’ bone. While some storytellers like to shoot from the hip, a good raconteur knows that a little preparation can help shake your audience to the core. So, before you gather around the fire this summer, let’s go over the fundamentals of what makes the perfect campfire tale. Follow these suggestions and at the end of your eerie story, the audience will be far too reluctant to sleep, but much too terrified to ask for an encore.
So first thing is first, let’s find a medium that matches the landscape. This is dealer’s choice. You can research local lore or make up your own. The most important detail is to find a subject that makes sense for your strongest ally, the wild backdrop. Don’t challenge the listener’s imagination with stretches. If you’re having a backyard outing, you may want to stay away from Bigfoot. If you’re camping in the desert, the ghoul living in an apartment basement may not be as scary as the witch of the barren wasteland. Your real life setting is your best friend, and will build tension before the story even starts.
Next, let’s figure out an ending before we build the framework. Unlike traditional stories, a campfire tale’s success lives and dies with the last five sentences. It needs to be something that causes the listener (or reader) to walk away thinking, “Oh man, I could be next.” The scariest campfire tales make the listener part of your story, a continuance long after the words have left your mouth. So, as a rule of thumb, build this first and never let the conclusion make people feel safe. You want the antagonist to still be lurking, the curse to still exist or the survivors to have lost something dear. This is a scary story, your mission is horror.
Now that we’ve decided that we’ll end with the axe wielding convict still on the loose, we can take it from the top and begin our narrative arc. The opening should draw people in with local color. Listeners will be on the defensive, so let the scenery twist and betray them in order to crack their shells. Each line needs to leave your listeners looking over their shoulder or curling closer together. Some ways to build trust while suffocating your campers’ security includes lines that make them feel as if you, the storyteller, are on their side. Here’s a few examples…
“I read about this before we came here. Feel free to look it up later tonight.”
“I almost didn’t want to tell this story because it’s going to make me scared too, but according to the placard I read when we first entered the park, this place has a dark past.”
See what these lines do? They take a doubter and start breaking down their defenses. If you can add real lore or historic details to the story, all the better. Just don’t let them do any research until they zip up their tent. You can let them play fact checker after the fear has already took hold.
We also need protagonists. It helps if your characters are relatable. Are you chaperoning a girl scout outing? Well, isn’t that funny because the last troupe, Pack 113, came to these woods for their wilderness badge. Try to lean away from characters that are too in depth. You don’t want interest to satellite around the support characters as much as their conflict. As a rule of thumb, give each support character a one or two sentence description of who they are. If you’re narrating, it doesn’t hurt to give people distinct voices, accents or phrases in order to portray them later.
Now that we decided on a backdrop that closely matches your own, built a strong opening, have believable characters and know the ending, it’s time for rising action. Typically, you don’t want the route to be direct. Anticipation and mystery are your mediums. Let the dread leak in a drop at a time. First, the characters hear a few snapping twigs or a coyote yelp. The proof of something frightening or supernatural should slowly gather into the story arc until the weight can’t hold up. Fear of the unknown is the most potent terror there is. That’s when you strike with the climax.
Some of the best climaxes and falling actions are those that leave the audience guessing. It’s a powerful thing to let the listeners come to their own conclusions. After all, no one knows how to scare a person better than themselves. You’re just coloring their imaginations in with creepy details. Fading to black or announcing that no one knows what happened to the victims is ideal. However, if you want to describe the exact details, I’d advise not clinging to the gory as much as the story. Did the last survivors almost make it or did the ghost change the protagonist in a way that’s nearly ineffable? Whatever you decide, be sure that it bridges to the ending you decide on in the beginning. If your last lines aren’t moving, the story may sink. Listeners need to walk away disturbed.
Finally, leave them while they want you to stay. Once you’ve delivered those final lines, don’t indulge the audience with curious questions. They’re trying to reestablish security. Instead, a creepy smirk or telling them you’ll elaborate in the morning should they still be curious will suffice. Try to hand the torch to someone else once you’re done or time it to where it’s time to go to bed. You want your words to reverberate, being told in the back of their minds a hundred more times before they fall asleep.
And there you have it. These suggestions are meant to be tools, invitations to build a terrifying campfire tale. Ultimately, you’re the best measuring tool to deliver a great scare. Remember, even if you mess up a detail or your gathering aren’t convinced, you’ve still done a fantastic job making the backyard bonfire or backpacking trip even better. After all, we make up scary campfire tales in order to remind ourselves of how wondrous nature really can be, from its beauty to its horror.
Have suggestions? I’d love to hear them. Please feel free to share your techniques in order to tell the perfect campfire tale.
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.
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.