Tag Archives: witch

A Glimpse Into the Future

Plenty Dreadful Promotional Poster

Write what you know; write what you love– chances are that if you’re a poet, blogger or novelist, you’ve heard this all too often. That’s not to say that it isn’t true. In fact, just look at your favorite author’s latest titles and I’m sure you’ll note a repeating theme. It’s what works for them, and to be honest, I’m no different. After Consumed hit shelves, it was time for me to decide what I wanted to write about next. It was obvious that if I wanted to really enjoy myself through the creation process, the book(s) would have to be playful, supernatural and dripping in weirdness. Cue The Plenty Dreadful series.

The Plenty Dreadful collection didn’t initially start off as a series as much as a single story. It began with the absurdist fictional piece, The Devil in the Wide City, but quickly grew into something that was out of my control. I felt like an arsonist with a leaky gas can. Once the world I’d been creating lit up, ideas spilled all over, and I quickly realized that things were out of my control. Concepts like supernatural factions, magical principles and legendary characters came to life all on their own, giving birth to an amalgamation of demons, fairy folk and undead that I couldn’t peel myself away from. I had fallen in love with the setting, and halfway through writing The Devil in the Wide City, I decided that there needed to be more books. So began the series.

Book one, The Devil in the Wide City, takes place in the perfect place for an Urban Fiction piece, Chicago. The metropolis’s history, blend of folklore and massive cityscape makes for the perfect home for a fallen angel who just can’t get things right. The city had all of the requirements I was looking for, including a hilarious detail that can be discerned from the title alone- Chicago’s weight problem. But Ned, the lonely devil, couldn’t just exist by himself. Soon, there was a need to create witches, fairies and undead. This gave birth to the second novel in the series (currently in the editing phase), putting a new twist on fairy lore, society and rules within the modern era, while blending a plot with the existing world introduced in book one. Finally, with both a bumbling devil and a new-age fairy in the works, there was need for a third musketeer. This was a great chance to bring in an antihero I’d been brewing up for sometime- Death’s personal hitman.

Now, with a trio of unusual central characters at my disposal, there was only one thing left to do- give them conflict. Readers following the series will enjoy a rising conflict that initially rears its ugly head in The Devil in the Wide City. This engagement will clearly take center stage in book two, when our ill guided fairy friend finds himself trapped in a scheme that he can’t seem to dig his way out of. Circumstances will only worsen in book three when Death takes his first vacation in centuries, and by book four, the reality of what is at hand will force all three leading heroes to reluctantly join forces in order to put a stop to their enemies in what will become the final novel.

Readers can look forward to plenty of strange plot devices through the books from Cthulhu monsters with sex toy appendages to Jon Dillinger the bloodthirsty vampire. There’ll be transvestite elves and bear breasted trolls. Main characters will burn down cities, befriend museum exhibits and fall for women with a thing for witchcraft. There’ll be historical celebrities, corporate warlocks and gallons of nerdy references. It’s good fun for the entire family.

So stay tuned if you are a fan of oddities, eccentricity and bizarreness. Book one of the series, The Devil in the Wide City, is due October 2015, while book two is scheduled for late 2016. And remember Consumed is available on bookshelves through Amazon or Barnes & Noble. Finally, for those of you who’ve sent kindly emails, rated my work on Amazon/B&N, and/or follow me on Goodreads, WordPress and Twitter, thank you. I love connecting with readers, like myself, who understand that books aren’t just for reading. They’re for connecting.

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Justin Alcala

Author of Consumed, The Devil in the Wide City and The Plenty Dreadful Series 

Zharmae Publishing Press

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When Bad is Good

When Bad is Good

​Ernest Hemingway put it best once when he said, “It’s none of their business that you have to learn to write. Let them think you were born that way.” I often stumble onto author websites and find myself awed by their unique beginnings. Some struggled while trying to pay the rent while others devoted themselves to studying at major universities. Some began writing in order to bleed their souls while others simply chased their dreams. In fact, the more I read up on writers’ backgrounds, the more I learned there was only one real factor that every writer had in common- ironically, they all sucked at one point.

Yes, believe it or not, some of your favorite authors were awful writers starting off. Louis L’Amour received two-hundred rejections for his works, Margaret Miller was told that her stories would never sell, and according to Simon Kernick, “Every last publisher in England rejected my first two books.” That’s right, almost every author stunk. Their writing just wasn’t good enough. So then, naturally it begs the question, how did they turn it all around?

While the answer might be considered a bit cliché, it doesn’t make it any less true. It seems that every author I’ve researched always did the same thing right. No matter how difficult writing became for them, no matter how difficult their circumstances, every one of them refused to quit. Yes, it’s true, elbow grease and stamina are the foundation for good writing. If you doubt me, I dare you to research three of your favorite authors, and I guarantee that at least one of them will have a point in their career where their struggles were only overcome by endurance, fortitude and grit. That’s because while they were learning to grin and bear it, they were also constantly learning ways to better their trade.

It’s no question that the literary world has its own customs and protocols. It’s no secret that some of the best writers were also some of the busiest readers. There’s no doubt that some of the most stylized writers of all times started off simplistic and boring. But in the end, there’s only one difference between a washed up writer and a successful one. The good ones learned patience and determination.

Are you struggling to write? Do you think that you don’t have what it takes to be a columnist, journalist, or author? Have people told you that your writing leaves something to be desired? Well guess what? Your not the first one nor will you be the last. What matters is that you gather the courage to continue blogging, penning poetry or writing that next great novel.

People often sacrifice happiness in order to avoid embarrassment. No one wants to be the fool with their head in the clouds. But unlike being a nuclear physicist or professional athlete, much of what makes authors great has little to do with natural talent. So long as a writer immerses themselves in their own creativity, much of the rest is simply  hard work, applying oneself, and stamina. In the words of Richard Bach, “A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.”

Great Marketing Versus Great Writing, There is a Difference

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Have you ever bought a book because the display was beautifully crafted, there was a neat gift that came with your purchase or because it greeted you at the entrance of the bookstore? Have you ever purchased a book online because a search engine recommended it, perhaps a powerful description drew you in or a respected newspaper positively reviewed it? Now, have you ever picked up a lesser-known book by chance, and after reading it wondered why you haven’t heard more about it? If so, than like many readers, you’ve probably succumbed to the lure of business marketing at its finest.

Advertising, marketing, media promotions- believe it or not, every moment of our lives is affected by it. Commercials, online banners and product placement are all around us, covertly influencing your purchasing decisions. The writing world is no different. The best publishers are those who have the most influence over these favoring elements. Many people give into the beautiful cover or trending genre only to find that the pages between the bindings leave something to be desired. It’s how the world has been working for decades and you shouldn’t feel victimized if you were ever drawn into it. However, for book people, there is one service that we can do for readers and writers everywhere, and it is to not forget that there is epic plot, masterfully architected characters and brilliantly designed worlds waiting behind unheralded books as well.

I can still recall as a boy driving with my father in his rusty blue truck, a truck that I’m starting to believe that all eccentric fathers once owned, navigating through the streets of Chicago in order to pick up a new ironworking tool from some unknown manufacturer or the latest in entertainment technology (remember laser disks?). He wasn’t very vocal about it, but I strongly suspected that my dad always supported the under dog (side note: this made getting Nike shoes or the newest bike model a difficult chore). Eventually, as I grew older, I began to understand why he did what he did. You see, somewhere along the way, my father had learned…The Great Secret– the one that makes advertising firms and promotional companies shutter. He’d learned that just because something was popular, didn’t mean it was always the best.

Now before you start to build an image of me as a jaded small time author who is writing this article in hemp clothing with a computer made only from foraged scrap metal, let it be known that I’m neither speaking about myself nor am I a “down with the system” rebel. Personally, I write to write, and understand that I am to the book world what a monkey with symbols is to professional comedians. More importantly than that though, I understand why we go with popular books. It’s the same reason we rely on prevalent companies or products. Often, they’re tried and tested with dependable consumer satisfaction. Readers don’t want to spend twenty dollars and hours of their time reading a book that collapses at the end. They want something worthwhile that they can discuss with friends and family. All that I’m asking is for us to try to remain aware that when we are making book purchases, we aren’t letting publishers and sales teams blur the line between well-written and well-marketed works.

Consider this. In 1965, American writer John Williams wrote a modest novel called Stoner. The book received little praise during William’s life, and was out of print only shortly after its publication. Williams would die never knowing that he had created one of the most prolific and expertly composed novels of all time. That is until July 5th, 2013 when renowned British novelist Ian McEwan appealed to the public on the Today program hosted by Sarah Montague. After McEwan’s petition to readers, Stoner captured the imaginations of people everywhere, going on to become the 2013 novel of the year. Several other quieted authors and books have had similar late recognitions of greatness, from the revival of all of Irène Némirovsky’s works to William Lindsay Gresham’s novel, Nightmare Alley. These books and authors, some of the most excellent literary specimens of the century, were drowned out or forgotten during initial production.

Now consider this. Within the last decade several major publishers including Bantam and Random House have heavily marketed several of their books, using advanced copies and advertisement to push success. The titans of the publishing world forecasted that these novels would be the latest to break book-selling records across the world. Books like The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters by Gordon Dahlquist, Thirteen Moons by Charles Frazier, and Sacred Games by Vikram Chandra not only failed to live up to their expectations, but also were unable to recoup millions of dollars that were invested in promotional advertisement and initial prints.

So, as you can see, not all big name books are brilliant, nor are all unknown authors deserving of their fortune. Most books, be they magnificent or not, are partially a product of circumstances. While it’s true that many top selling books deserve to be celebrated, we must also remember that sometimes it’s not always about great writing as much as it is about great marketing. Once in a while, we need to take a chance with the little guys, who can every so often be just as good as top sellers. Finally, in the spirit of supporting the smaller, but possibly just as well written books, I leave you with the wise words of contemporary Japanese writer, Haruki Murakami. “If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.”

Happy Holiday!

Justin Alcala

http://www.justinalcala.com

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GREAT BOOKS YOU MAY NOT KNOW ABOUT

Noir

Nightmare Alley

By William Lindsay Gresham

http://www.amazon.com/Nightmare-Alley-Review-Books-Classics-ebook/dp/B004FYZJQC/ref=dp_kinw_strp_1

Weird West

Merkabah Rider Tales of a High Planes Drifter

By Edward Erdelac

http://www.amazon.com/Merkabah-Rider-Tales-Planes-Drifter-ebook/dp/B002ZG8FPY/ref=sr_1_10?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1417474353&sr=1-10&keywords=Edward+Erdelac

Classic

Oblomov

By Ivan Goncharov

http://www.amazon.com/Oblomov-Ivan-Aleksandrovich-Goncharov-ebook/dp/B004N62H9O/ref=sr_1_cc_1?s=aps&ie=UTF8&qid=1417474572&sr=1-1-catcorr&keywords=Oblomov%2C+Ivan+Goncharov%2C+1859

GIGI’S PLAYHOUSE

As some of you might know, I am also a volunteer grant writer and program assistant for a wonderful organization called GiGi’s Playhouse, a group that assists communities with Down syndrome. If you can, please donate by using the link below.

http://gigisplayhouse.org/donate-monthly

Day of the Dead Book Signing Goes Horridly Well

The “Days of the Dead” horror convention is officially over and  I can’t say enough about my experience. Besides rubbing                        elbows with werewolves and vampires, I was also able to sign books for readers and partake in some wonderful interviews, costume contests and ghoul bashes. Though I had to limit my visit to the first two days, they were a pair of days I’ll never forget. A special thanks to Aaron Tucker, John Mecha and  the Sanchez Family. Please take a look at the fun interview I did with John Wroblewski on Day 2. 

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

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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).

The Strigoaica

Deep in the darkest woods of Munţii Retezat lives a creature known only as Strigoaica. Refused by hell, she makes her home in the rock beneath a gnarled oak tree, the skins of children her only decor.  She neither lives nor rests, but is cursed between. And though no one knows who she once was or what she is, it’s certain that she’ll always be. A black cloud on the horizon, she is ever enduring. 

She has bone colored flesh with a mane of decrepit sable. Her eyes are coal, her teeth are gnarled and her fingers are sharp as talons. She has a crooked back and withered breasts concealed in a rotten gown of fawn. Her arms are long, her snout is bent and her wormlike tongue is a mawkish plum.It is said to lay eyes upon her is to welcome death, though few rarely ever get to see her. Instead it is her song they hear or her stench they breathe which warns them of her coming. She can hum a melody that starts like gentle rain but ends like a storm, louder and more maddening than anything thought natural.  Her sickly aroma is that of the grave, a bouquet of rot and turned soil. A perfume so foul that it thickens the air, suffocating those nearby.

No one knows why she haunts the veil hidden behind Munţii Retezat. Some say she seeks vengeance for the child she lost while others claim she is Lucifer’s discarded first wife. Still a few insist that she is the hag-witch of the mountains, created by the cliffs as a warden.What is certain is that she hungers to torture men, quiet women and feast upon children. It is a desire that can never be quenched, ever constant in her mind.

So wayfarer, if you’re ever traveling through the roads of the old world and come across Munţii Reteza do not make camp. No, continue on your journey until the hairs on your neck and lump in your throat withdraw. For lurking in the night, hidden in the shadows cast by the moon are greedy eyes, curled claws and a hungry maw. She can neither live nor die, but is always waiting for a fool to venture too near to her gnarled oak tree.

Author Notes

While traveling to research my latest novel, I came across some frightening folklore in Transylvania, Romania. This folklore helped inspire my rendering of the Strigoaica.

© Justin Alcala. All rights reservedImage