Monday, December 29, 2014

2014 Year in Review

So how was your 2014? Mine was excellent. I not only met my future wife but also managed to not get hit by a falling piano.

I'm very pleased with my writing accomplishments, too. 2014 has been my most profitable year since 2010--$300 whole dollars in royalties! Yes, we're slugging it out in the rear, but I do better with each book. This year I did the Wolf series under the name Dean Breckenridge, which have run their course and we shan't be seeing Mr. Wolf again, but maybe Dean will come back with something or other.I started a new spy series, and sales of the Steve Dane series have improved.

We had our challenges, and still do. My ebooks never seem to be "good enough" and I'm always finding issues despite hiring professional help but I think we're on the way to finally nailing down the outstanding problems.

What's most encouraging for me is that I finally figured out a formula for producing a 60-to-80,000 word manuscript, which, finally, after too many years, frankly, gets me away from struggling just to reach 50,000 words.

And while some are already looking at me as if I've kicked a baby, in 2015 I'm going to write a new book with plans to sell it traditionally. That's right, I'm gong to try the hybrid method while still self-publishing and try to leverage one to promote the other. If it doesn't work, no harm done--I can run the new book myself. But this experiment in indie publishing has made me a better writer than when I started out, and I want to try the old way. I may regret it, I may not, but it has to be done.

I know, I know, I've broken the indie code or some such crap. Self-publishers really have a cult mentality, I have no time for that, and I've never been much of a joiner, so maybe that's my motivation. We can dig up Freud and see what he thinks; meanwhile, I have work to do.

Happy new year!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

THE EXECUTIONER is Back!


I have made my love for Don Pendleton's Executioner series well known over the years. Without Pendleton, Fleming, and Ludlum, there probably wouldn't be a Brian Drake (well, um....there would be, but I wouldn't be a writer, hahaha; I'd be making serious money as a used car salesman).

With the news breaking last week that the current publishers of the Executioner series, Gold Eagle, will cancel the series on December of 2015 and close its doors as part of the Harlequin sale to NewsCorp, we can report that on Dec. 16th of this year, you will be able to get your Bolan fix from the original creator himself. All 38 Pendleton books are back in electronic format thanks to Don's widow Linda and Open Road Media; we also can share that efforts are moving forward on a Bolan movie, which is very exciting as well.

I asked Linda if she would sit for an interview and she was gracious enough to answer some questions:

Brian Drake: Other action series from the '70s and '80s (and westerns, too) have been re-released as
ebooks over the last few years. What took the Executioner so long to follow?

Linda Pendleton: Brian, thank you for the opportunity to do this Blog interview. I am always happy to talk or write about my late husband, Don Pendleton and his books.  For several years, especially over the last four years, I had given a lot of thought to bringing the original Executioner Series out as ebooks.  I first planned to do them myself, knowing it would be a lot of work and time.  I even designed a cover along with my cover designer, Judy Bullard, who has done my book covers for more than a decade.  Then along came Open Road Media who wanted to publish the complete series all at once. They had been interested in doing the ebooks for some time.  Therefore, it was easy for me to say yes to their offer, and the family agreed.  

BD: The covers are terrific and really bring attention to the books. Who designed them?

LP: I'm glad you like the covers, Brian.  We have had a good response to the design.  Open Road Media decided they did not want to use my cover design and the editor had me discuss with Open Road cover designer, Mauricio Diaz, what I hoped for in regards to a Brand Identity.  I also supplied Mauricio with city locations for each novel, which he used for the backgrounds.  I'm delighted with his cover design and I believe they are branded well and are exactly what I was looking for.

BD: Will the new collection include The Executioner's War Book?

LP: The Executioner's War Book is part of our licensing agreement with Open Road Media but I don't believe they are planning to publish it at this point. 

BD; Back in the '80s, Don wrote a terrific introduction to an anniversary reprint of War Against the Mafia. Is that included with the first book?

LP: No, this is Don's original edition with the theme quotations that were missing in some later War Against the Mafia editions.

BD: Will we see paperback versions? Perhaps an omnibus of the first three books?

LP: I would love to have print books at some point.  We hope a publisher will come along with a good deal for print books. Time will tell.

BD: With social media and the internet (such as the Mack Bolan page on Facebook and the MackBolan.Com website), are you seeing a stronger level on interest in Bolan than before, or does it match the days when you depended on snail mail for reader feedback?

LP: I think social media has given fans and the authors a nice opportunity to express and share their interest in the series.  I've had the donpendleton.com website online for nearly 15 years now, and recently added a new website,   executionerseries.com, that presently has additional information on the movie deal and the ebooks.  Over the years with Don's website, I've received lots of fan emails and guestbook postings, but not the amount of snail mail that Don received in the early 1970s and into the early 1980s.  The interest has always been there, and now we're 45 years and 3 or 4 generations into it.  I don't believe the Gold Eagle books have had the international exposure that the original books have had. The originals have been published worldwide in more than 30 foreign languages.

BD: Don once said, and I'm paraphrasing here, that the main theme of the Bolan books was that something important is happening on earth, and we need to participate in our own way. The values associated with Bolan, the moral attitudes, the need for courage under pressure, and the general pro-living message, are needed now more than ever, but how do such values find a place in a society that is increasingly nihilistic and seemingly adverse to such things?

LP: Don Pendleton considered his Executioner books to be a study in the metaphysics of violence (the reasons for it) and the books have a subtle metaphysical theme to them.  I've often said that I believe the popularity of Mack Bolan has to do with the essence of a true hero that Don created in Bolan.  That essence appeals to both men and women, young and old.     

Don said this:  "The violence in the Executioner books is merely stage-dressing for dramatizing the commitment and dedication Bolan has to his ideals and the lengths to which he will go to honor them. We can learn this message of love and commitment and carry it into our own lives without the violence and bloodshed, and of course it is this wish that fuels the writing. I do not want my readers to pick up a gun and follow Bolan's example; I want them to be stirred by his commitment and to find ways to meet the same challenges without resort to violent means."

In his nonfiction book for writers, The Metaphysics of the Novel, Don wrote:  "I do believe that I live in a universe of uncommon magic. Everything I have ever written is framed about that central assumption. Life, to me, is a beautiful adventure and a meaningful experience. I am not sure as to exactly what is going on here but that mystery only adds beauty to the game, and it is the mystery of life that fuels my novels. Every book becomes a search, a quest."

Social media, and the news media, may be one reason we at times feel overwhelmed by what seems to be happening in our society, with the increase of violence and disrespect for life, and the seemingly loss of values.  That sadly becomes a focus, rather than the goodness of people and the positive acts of kindness and heroism that occur every day.  Values are still present.  

BD: I'm a little skeptical about Bradley Cooper playing Bolan in the film project that has been announced, but I've been wrong about casting choices before. What can you tell us about the film option and how it came about after so many years?

LP: This film franchise option by screenwriter/producer, Shane Salerno was a GO from the first day he contacted us!  Of course, it took some time to handle the legal details, but it was right from the beginning.  Other offers in the past have not been that way, for one reason or another.  First off, Shane Salerno was himself an Executioner fan as a kid, and it has been his dream for years to bring Bolan to film. He's been a successful Hollywood screenwriter for years and has done excellent work.  We had the deal for a while and right after Salerno announced it publicly in August 2014, Bradley Cooper and director, Todd Phillips, jumped on it with Warner Bros. We're pleased to have a top quality actor lined up to play Bolan. Cooper and Phillips will be producing along with Salerno's production company, The Story Factory.  As readers, we've probably all had our own vision of Mack Bolan in our minds, and even helped by the great cover art of artist Gil Cohen, but a good actor can make us forget our "mind" image.  By the way, Gil Cohen's cover art has always been my favorite, and obviously very popular with fans.  

BD:  We hear from the current crop of Bolan writers that Gold Eagle is closing down as of December, 2015, thanks to the Harlequin sale to NewsCorp, and 2015 will be the last year for Bolan under the Harlequin/Gold Eagle banner. It seems big business has done to Bolan what the mafia and countless terrorists never could. Some have talked about how the series might continue, but now that the originals are available, do we really need a continuing and modern interpretation of Mack?

LP: Apparently, Harlequin is closing the Gold Eagle imprint but we have not been notified of that.  Big business is big business and I have to say I'm not surprised that Harper Collins found it best to shut down Gold Eagle and do their own publishing program the way they choose.  That normally happens when businesses are sold.  Of course, it would be nice if Harper Collins decides to publish more of the Executioner series, especially with the upcoming film.  I would like to see the original series in print and new Bolan books every few months.  There is no reason that Bolan could not continue, as other series of past days have.  The Executioner is a classic, and Mack Bolan still has a place in action/adventure literature.  After all, Don Pendleton is the "father of the action/adventure genre," and his Mack Bolan character should continue as a part of that genre.

BD: Is there anything else you would like to add?

LP: More than once Don said about the Executioner novels, "My biggest job throughout writing the series was to keep faith with Bolan–that what he's doing is right.  I wanted an enemy beyond redemption–an enemy that all civilized procedures had failed to put down.  The Mafia was ready-made.  They embodied all the evils of mankind."  

I hope the Bolan fans and new readers enjoy the original 37 ebooks of The Executioner Series and Mack Bolan's war against the mafia.  We're excited to have the ebooks available this month.  Mack Bolan not only lives large, but also lives on!

Thank you, Brian.  

Linda Pendleton,

www.lindapendleton.com

@waragainstmafia

@mackbolanfilm

BD: Thank you, Linda. It's very exciting to see this happen, both the original books and the film, and I hope a new generation of Bolan fans will find as much inspiration and entertainment in the series as I have.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Titles Done Be Importante

With all due respect to Tom Clancy and all that he accomplished, I can't help but feel underwhelmed by the titles he chose for his last novels, and the title of the new one, continued by another author, which you can now pre-order and use as a doorstop when you're done because the goddamn thing is almost 700 pages, is so....odd....you have to wonder who came up with it.

What happened to the poetry and the thematic elements of his old titles? THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER and THE CARDINAL OF THE KREMLIN, and even pithy titles like WITHOUT REMORSE and the never-equaled RED STORM RISING that were intriguing and eye-catching, have been replaced with LOCKED ON and DEAD OR ALIVE and THREAT VECTOR that leave you thinking,
WTF does that mean???

None of those titles inspire any interest. They frankly sound like they were selected by monkeys taking a break from writing Shakespeare. They are titles that would fit an Executioner novel, and, frankly, be more of a fit there, albeit just as bad. There's no Clancy magic in them.

Maybe it doesn't matter anymore because Clancy is dead, apparently assassinated by Obama's Secret Police because he knew too much (I read that on the Internet!), and the publisher knows Clancy's name will sell more copies than the title will. The downside is they just slap a few apparently unrelated words on the cover and head off to the pub.

The newest is the worst. FULL FORCE AND EFFECT. What they did here, you see, was take four words out of the middle of a sentence. The manuscript sat without a title for months and then the editor read a line that said, "Ryan and his team planned to hit the enemy with full force and effect, from which none would escape." The editor spit out his coffee, not even realizing the line made no sense....would the enemy not escape or would Ryan and his team not escape or would both the enemy and Ryan's team be killed? Who cares! He shouted, "That's it! My degree from American University has paid for itself again!" and had the cover made up.

Big 5 publishing at it's finest, folks.

I hope the content between the covers is better. Of course, it's written by Mark Greaney, and he can't be any worse than Clancy was. But at almost 700 pages....I have my doubts. I'll read every word, though.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

BITE HARDER + An Interview with Anonymous-9

If you're looking for a crackin' good read, look for further than BITE HARDER by Anonymous-9. It's the sequel to her widely-acclaimed HARD BITE, which you also should have read, and in this case the sequel is quite good. It picks up right where the original left off, and we reunite with old friends and old enemies in a very exciting fashion, and we even get a tease for what HARD BITE 3 will be about, should A-9 ever get around to writing it.

The stories follow a paraplegic vigilante, who does the hunting, and his helper monkey, Sid, who does the killing. Imagine a psychotic Nero Wolfe & Archie Goodwin combo. Of course, Sid doesn't talk, but, like Archie, has a way with the ladies.

I asked A-9 a few questions about the new book and here they are:

1) HARD BITE ended with a certain sense of finality. Did you have a sequel in mind from the beginning?

A-9: Not at all. I only decided to do a sequel when Allan Guthrie from Blasted Heath sent me an email and said, "We're really interested in doing a series." So I sat down and figured out how to spool out the yarn.

2) You have at least two dream sequences in BITE HARDER. Do you attach significance to dreams? If so, what do you think dreams can tell us? Or was that just a convenient plot device?

A-9: I see that as two separate issues. Personally, I think dreams are our subconscious talking to us and trying to send a signal. When I write a dream sequence for a book it's always a plot device to telegraph information in a different and surreal way.

3) You've been busy with other projects, too. Can you tell us a little about CRASHING THROUGH MIRRORS and JUST SO YOU KNOW I'M NOT DEAD?

A-9: CRASHING THROUGH MIRRORS is my latest and it's a noir novelette set in music-industry L.A. True to my nature, it's action-packed, can be read in about an hour, and delves into a sensitive and verboten subject. I'm gratified that readers really like the characters and are calling for a novel. No matter what I write people say they want it to be longer. Which is a lot better than closing it up because it's boring, I guess.

JUST SO YOU KNOW I'M NOT DEAD is a collection of three short stories that I issued as an e-book to tell readers that I was still alive and kicking. It's a writing "sampler" and I frequently give it away for free. But even at full price (which Amazon makes me charge) it's only 99 cents.

4) What's next from Anonymous-9?

A-9: DREAMING DEEP is one of the stories in the JUST SO YOU KNOW I'M NOT DEAD collection. It was originally published in a HORRORFACTORY anthology and is a tribute to H.P. Lovecraft who is widely accepted as one of the grandfathers of modern American horror. I pitched DREAMING DEEP as a novelette to Andrew Byers of Uncanny Books, who was looking for just the right project. Uncanny runs along the fantasy, sci-fi, horror lines. The fact that the story already had a track record and great reviews was a factor in the sale. The project was contracted and I had an advance check nine days after my pitch.

5) If there was one question you'd like to be asked in an interview, what would it be, and what's your answer?

A-9: Here's a first class ticket to Las Vegas. Can we finish this interview over cigarettes and a Polynesian Piledriver at Frankie's Tiki Room?

BD: Hahaha, thanks, but I'm a cigar guy. Cigarettes will kill you. I'll bring some Montecristos for you to try.

You can buy CRASHING THROUGH MIRRORS here.

You can buy BITE HARDER here.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Back in the USSR

I'm developing the plot for The Rogue Gentleman #3 and focusing on the return of the USSR, which, as I compile sources, seems to be what Putin is pushing for, and he's made no secret of saying so. He's made pacts already with three former Soviet satellites as well as the Chinese, all of which consolidates territory and resources under one umbrella.

My story deals with Putin stealing high-tech weapons to move forward even further, but what started as speculation has turned into a definite possibility. It's a little scary. We've thought for so long that the Cold War was over; the commies were gone; let's everybody party and try a little socialism here in the U.S., and now we may end up back in the bad old days all over again.

October 2017 is the anniversary of the Bolshevik revolution. I'm wondering if that's when Pooty-Poot will make some kind of grand gesture restoring the old system, and, based on where the U.S. is right now, I'm wondering how impotent we will be to stand in the way.

Either way, it's going to be a crackin' book.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Scott Steletto is Now Available!

Here's the blurb for my new spy story, The Termination Protocol:

All CIA agent Scott Steletto had to do was bring captured terrorist Brendan Miller to the U.S. He even had extra security to make sure nothing went wrong.

But something does go wrong. Another terrorist group, seeing Miller's value to the CIA, snatches him in a blinding fast raid that leaves four agents dead and Steletto wounded.

The New World Revolutionary Front demands a ransom, and if the CIA doesn't pay, they're going to shoot Miller and ruin any chance the Americans have of extracting information valuable to the War on Terror.

The NWRF doesn't count on Miller having a few tricks up his sleeve, or Steletto's relentless determination to complete his mission. And when Miller gets away and the two team-up to fight their common enemy, the NWRF faces the wrath of two men who are deadlier together than they are separately.

Check it out!


Monday, July 21, 2014

Hangman#1 by Jack Badelaire -- Great Beach Read

If you're looking for a quick, entertaining read for anytime, and like high-octane thrills and shoot-em-up action, look no further than Jack Badelaire's latest, Hangman#1: San Francisco Slaughter.

Here he serves up another adventure in the Lynch Saga (if I may call it that) featuring, this time, Jamie Lynch, whom you might remember from a bit part in Jack's other book, Killer Instincts. This time he gets his own adventure, fresh from Vietnam and bored with beach life, so he makes a call and gets a job as a trouble shooter for a high-tech firm in San Francisco.

Set in the 1970s, Jack captures the time and place fairly well for somebody who didn't live there. I should know--I do live there, and did so in the years following he setting of the book but not much had changed. I recognized many landmarks and descriptions that really brought the place to life as much as my fuzzy recollection allowed. That was a nice touch.

Jaime works with another merc/soldier/lone gunman named Richard (there's a mystery about him) as the pair race to discover the location of a missing engineer who knows way too much; along the way they tangle with gangsters and the usual assortment of no goodniks. A few twists and turns and you have an excellent action story that doesn't demand much brain work on your part. That's a good thing. It's perfect for the beach or your back patio after work, a cold one or cigar in one hand and this ebook in the other. (That's how I enjoyed it, by the way.) It's also available in paperback.

Jack writes in a crisp style that reminds me of Jack Higgins' early work, and that's a good thing, too. I'm not a guy who likes to read a lot of words, especially the useless words writers often throw in for color. That crispness really let the story shine and it moves along at a quick pace. Nothing boring here, but how will Jamie and Friends come back for more? They part ways at the end of this story, so I guess we'll have to be surprised when book two comes out and we pick up where this left off. I think I know what Jack has in mind and I'm eager to see if I'm right.

Give Hangman #1: San Francisco Slaughter a look. I think you'll like it.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Free Book for Reviews

Hi, everybody--

I'd like to give you a free book in exchange for a review, good or bad. So, if you'd like to read either The Rogue Gentleman or its sequel, Mine to Avenge, please email me at briandrake88 at yahoo dot com and I will send you a copy for your Kindle. I don't have it available in other formats right now, since I did the KDP exclusive thing, which I'm still not totally sold on, but I can get you a PDF. Thanks!



Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The Rogue Gentleman Returns!

I have just released The Rogue Gentleman: Mine to Avenge, the sequel to The Rogue Gentleman which has (reportedly) thrilled readers very much. Thanks for looking!



A desperate SOS from an old friend sends Steve Dane to the rescue only to find that he's too late. Tom Wexler is dead and the stolen Iraqi antiquities he and others were trying to recover are gone again.

With Nina Talikova by his side, Dane is determined to find out who killed his friend and restore a nation's history. But the game board is not in his favor, and when the checkmate comes Dane discovers that his ememies were once allies who know every move he'll make.

In a winner-take-all contest against the toughest odds the Rogue Gentleman has ever faced, Dane goes on the offensive, not knowing if it will be good enough to save anything--the treasures, Nina, or his own life.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Challenge Accepted!

It's all Jack Badelaire's fault.

Back in December, my fellow indie scribe posted this challenge on his blog, where he expressed his idea that, if a writer puts his rear end in a chair and types steadily, said writer could produce a significant body of work in 2014.

Being a masochist, as I've communicated elsewhere on my humble page, immediately began to develop the necessary strategery so I could take this on and see if I could meet Jack's goal of four stories by January 2015.

That lead me to:

1) outline two more Wolf stories to go along with the five already out.

2) create a new spy series and outline four episodes projected at 50,000 words each.

The outlines are all done; in fact, the first of the spy series is finished, and it only took two months. Fifty thousand words in two months. Wow. Butt in chair = produced pages. Soon it goes to my editor.

One down, five projects to go. Eight months. Two months per book and I'm done before Christmas and the spy books alone will ring it at 200,000 words total. That's a heck of a lot of words. The two Wolf stories will add, probably, another 30,000, respectively.

I'm insane.

Challenge accepted, Jack! And well underway. . . .

Saturday, April 5, 2014

How I Met Your Mother--Thoughts on the Finale

I know I'm almost a week late on this, but I have to admit it has taken me this long to process the end of How I Met Your Mother, and not just for my own thoughts on the conclusion. There have been a variety of reactions, a lot of them negative. Some of the opposing comments have merit, but what we are seeing here is a rejection of old Hollywood stereotypes while the audience very much wanted to hold to those stereotypes.

The adventures of Ted Mosby and his friends were always entertaining, very funny, and poignant. It was hard for me not to identify with Ted, who had the worse luck when it came to ladies, and only wanted to settle down and make something of his life. As his friends settled and moved on, he was left in the cold, and, boy, I've been there. A lot of us have been there. That's what made the show so good. We could see ourselves in those characters.

(SPOILERS BELOW)

The object of the show appeared to be Ted's romantic quest. The writers spent nine years showing us, through Ted's narration, how he met his children's mother, and we all expected "the meeting" to mark the end of the show. It did, and it didn't. In the end we find that the mother has passed away, and the point of the story is, basically, Ted asking his kids if it's OK for him to start dating again.

This is not the ending we expected.

But it's the ending the show deserved.

All throughout the show we've had hints that Ted would end up with Robin, whom he actively chased through the years, but ultimately (wait for it!) lost to his friend Barney, when Robin and Barney finally married. There have also been clues that the mother was dead and Ted was, for some reason, relating the story to his kids long after the fact. The internet was full of conspiracy theories describing that scenario. Not everybody believed them.

But then Robin and Barney divorced. That's not the ending we were expecting. But it's the ending their story deserved.

So, as time went on, Ted was alone and raising his kids, and Robin was alone and working her fancy TV job, and, eventually, they reconnected and, we assume, lived happily ever after.

Ultimately it's a sad story. Ted spends a long time looking for his wife, only to lose her. That's not a Hollywood fairytale ending. I think most of the audience was expecting the fairytale. Hollywood has trained us to expect that.

But Bays and Thomas, the show's creators, put a twist on that fairytale and upended decades of Hollywood trite.

The mother wasn't supposed to die, and Ted wasn't supposed to end up with Robin. That's how many think the show should have ended.

Reality throws a monkey wrench into that, however. In real life, people change; couples divorce; spouses die; and people carry on. Widows and widowers debate over whether or not it's OK to date again, and sometimes they're encouraged to "get back out there" by their children.

That's not the ending we wanted, but it's the ending the show deserved. If there has been a reason I've needed a week to process that ending, it was because it really made me think, as all great art should make one think. Life doesn't turn out the way we want or plan; nobody has a fairytale life. Generally we all have a "good enough" life, because we're always chasing a carrot. We think that when we get that carrot, we'll be happy; what ends up happening is that we find another carrot to chase, because nothing really makes us happy.

We can talk all day about how Bays and Thomas cheated the audience (many have written about that), but they'd planned the ending a long time ago, and planted clues along the way. This should not be a surprise to anybody who has paid attention.

It's the upending of the Hollywood fairytale that most people object to, I think, and it's about time we got away from that. I'm not saying break away from it entirely, because without hope people give up, and maybe fairytales provide a sense of hope not found elsewhere. Such ideas, though, create expectations that reality cannot live up to. A more balanced view is required.

While I hate to see the show end, and I would have rather it ended a different way, it was the right ending and the right message. There is no "one love of your life." There may be many. There may be none. But life goes on and you never stop looking. That, essentially, is the message of How I Met Your Mother.

Friday, April 4, 2014

INDIE SCENE: Jochem Vandersteen

Jochem Vandersteen writes very good private eye and noir fiction and is doing everything he can to get those books to a wider audience; to help a brother out, I thought we'd have a chat about what makes him tick.
 
You can check out his latest, The Death Business, on Amazon.
 
1) What is it about the private eye genre that you like? Is there something specific about that subject matter that fires your imagination more than others?
 
I like the fact you can often follow one man/woman during his investigation and life making you one with the story. I also like the fact the story doesn't get bogged down by too much procedural stuff. I like the idea of one man standing alone against crime. And I like the wisecracks so popular within the genre!
 
2) Have readers been enthusiastic about your work? How have they shared that?
 
I used to get some emails from time to time in the past from people digging my work. Now, a lot of positive comments can be found on Facebook and Goodreads which is awesome. They are the reason I write way more than the money.
 
3) What do you do to promote Noah Milano stories as well as your other work?
 
I use Facebook, some free promotions via Amazon, some interviews... But mainly I just hope people spread the word.
 
4) Tell us about one or two favorite authors who make you write better. 
 
Robert B Parker taught me how to write a fast-moving story with as little words as possible. Dennis Lehane taught me how to bring a special emotional edge to them.
 
5) What story-telling gaffes and cliches that you see other writers make do you try to avoid? 
 
I really hate over-describing stuff that will not interest the readers. I also dislike people who try to make their book 500 pages while the story could have been told in a 100. That's why I mostly write novellas.
 
6) If there is one question you'd like to be asked about your work that nobody has ever brought up, what would it be? 
 
Why do you love writing novellas instead of novels? And the answer can be found by looking at question number 5 ;-)

7) What's next for you?

Next up is a novella featuring Vance Custer, my new series character. He's a true crime writer who will investigate your case as long as he gets the book- and movie rights. It is a little less hardboiled than my Noah Milano series but still has some action and mystery as people expect from me.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Post-writing Panic

Now that I have finished the newest book, the first in a spy series under (probably) the Dean Breckenridge moniker, it is time to panic over the content of the next one, as I have no ideas right now.

Here's the part where I thrash around and decide that I can't plot my way out of a paper bag...

...think about plots I can steal from other sources and change....

....and wish I had become a dentist.

Yet in a week or so I'll have more ideas than I know what to do with.

I hope.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Interview with Mark Allen

Author Mark Allen and I have gotten to know each other through Facebook and we both have an interest in old men's adventure books. Since he is coming on strong with books of his own, not just in action/adventure but other genres, too, I thought you'd like to get a glimpse into what makes him tick and what he has in store for the future.

Brian Drake: What is it about the action genre that you like? Is there something specific about that subject matter that fires your imagination more than others?

Mark Allen: There is something visceral and primal in the action-adventure genre; violence channeled toward the causes of justice and vengeance and payback and the punishment of evil. Some people call these books “fairy tales for men,” and while that’s typically said in a derogatory fashion, there is some truth to it … though honestly, based on feedback for The Assassin’s Prayer, there are plenty of women who enjoy the genre as well, despite it often being labeled as a male-centric category.

BD: Of course, you have branched out with books like “Suck A Bus” and action/fantasy like “Resurrection Bullets” … have readers been as enthusiastic about those stories as they have The Assassin’s Prayer?

MA: While action remains my primary genre, I do dabble in horror, as evidenced by short stories like “Suck A Bus” and “Mudslingers.” I even took a stab at straight-up romance (“The Sweetheart Buck”) that was surprisingly well received. I published all my short fiction prior to releasing The Assassin’s Prayer and while reader response to the shorties was good, it pales in comparison to how well The Assassin’s Prayer has been received.

BD: What did you do to promote The Assassin’s Prayer to the point you’re selling, as you’ve mentioned elsewhere, 50 copies in one day?


MA: Honestly, I have no idea! I mean, sure, I know what I did, but it’s nothing that thousands of other indie authors aren’t doing as well, and traditional self-publishing wisdom would tell you that what I’m doing is not enough to generate these kinds of sales figures. My marketing routine is simple: I post at least once a day on my Facebook Page, send out at least one Tweet per day, interact on a few action-adventure Facebook Groups, network with other action authors, and post a blog entry at least 2-4 times a month. That’s it. No blog tours. No paid promotions. No website reviews. My wife and I joke that when it comes time to publish the next book, I won’t know how to replicate this success because I really don’t know what I did. I just wrote the best action-thriller I could, marketed it as best I knew how, and somehow it seems to have found an audience.

BD: Tell us about one or two favorite authors who make you write better.

MA: My favorite author is Stephen Hunter. That man can spin a guy-with-a-gun yarn better than anyone, but truthfully, I make no attempt to emulate his style. Early in my writing career—and by early I mean the formative, pre-publication years—it was Eric Van Lustbader who most directly impacted my writing. I remember reading The Ninja and being struck by how seamlessly Lustbader merged violent combat with rich, descriptive, poetic prose. Nobody had blended beauty and brutality so expertly and I began trying … well, not to mimic, but to juxtapose a similar lushness of language with the violence of the action genre. More recently, the rapid pacing and muscular prose of Lee Child and Vince Flynn have influenced me to write a bit leaner and strike a balance between poetry and rawness.

BD: What storytelling gaffes and clich├ęs that you see other writers make do you try to avoid?

MA: Subpar characterization and rigid adherence to formula. I read a lot of action novels and far too often writers fail to create characters that readers give a crap about. An emotionless cipher gunning down cardboard terrorists just doesn't cut it. Granted, this is the action genre and the pace needs to be brisk, but too many writers spend six paragraphs describing a weapon in explicit, porn-like detail, but barely give you a sentence or two about the hero. One of my goals with The Assassin’s Prayer was to write a novel that featured all the hard-hitting action one expects—nay, demands—from the genre, but with a greater depth of emotion. I wanted you to get all the bullets and blood you could handle, but I wanted the bullets and blood to matter.

BD: If there is one question you’d like to be asked about your work that nobody has ever brought up, what would it be?

MA: The question I would most like to be asked is, “Would you accept this $1 million check in exchange for the rights to your book?” Hasn’t happened yet, but hey, dream big or go home, right?

BD: Tell us what’s next for you.

MA: I am currently working on my next novel. While not a direct sequel to The Assassin’s Prayer, it does take place in the same shadowy world of crime lords and assassins and a character or two from The Assassin’s Prayer may have cameos. While I don’t want to give too much of the plot away at this early stage, it features a virginal hit-man, a disgraced hooker, a defrocked priest turned CIA handler, an assassin named Jesus, a corrupt US Senator, and an absolutely ruthless villain. It’s everything you love about The Assassin’s Prayer—raw emotion and bloody action—ramped  up to the next level. No firm release date yet, but Summer/Fall is the target.

Brian Says: Give Mark's books a try. I've featured The Assassin's Prayer, The Killing Question, and Resurrection Bullets--they're all winners, but I have to admit a fondness for Resurrection Bullets, which is "inspired" by James O'Barr's THE CROW. I have a personal connection to the film made from O'Barr's comic, so it caught my attention right away, and it's a home run.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Writing Habits of a Sado-Masochist

I'm working on a new book for the Dean Breckenridge series, and I've gone back to an old habit I picked up ages ago: writing the manuscript by hand.

Armed with a pen and a 180-page spiral notebook, I have been diligently scribbling and following my outline for the last month, and I'm about halfway through the notebook. I'll need another to finish the story. My calculations say that, when typed, that 180 page notebook will equal 50 pages. This book, like my other Breckenridge titles, won't be very long.

But why would I make myself do twice the work? Right, I'm going to finish the ms. in the notebook and then take another month to retype it. While I'll be making some changes along the way, I've added a step to the process that seems to take up more time rather than saving time.

Who cares. The nice thing about writing in a notebook is that I don't have to lug the lap top all over the house, or anywhere else. I can write on the bus, in the park, on a plane, in jail, wherever I have a place to sit.

Does that make me a glutton for punishment? I suppose.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Interview with Dean Breckenridge

Dean Breckenridge has written, if I may say so myself, some very swift-moving action stories that feature a character called Wolf. He's an outlaw that is sort of a halfway house between the cops and the crooks; if you can find him, and need a square deal, he'll assist, and make the bad guys go away--usually with a .45 bullet to the skull. I caught up with Dean recently for a few questions.

Brian Drake: It's nice to sit and finally talk to you. We've been passing in the hallway for months now but this is the first chance we've had to talk.

Dean Breckenridge: I don't speak to the help.

BD: Well...I'm not exactly "the help", per se. Where do you get your story ideas?

DB: You're asking me that? Who asks that anymore? I'm calling my agent.

BD: You seem to know a lot about criminals.

DB: I read Mack Bolan books growing up. What did you read, Nancy Drew?

BD: I preferred the Hardy Boys, actually.

DB: You would, pansy.

BD: Now wait a minute...I don't understand the hostility here. This is supposed to be a friendly chat.

DB: I don't need this. Have you seen my sales lately?

BD: I see them every day, actually. Congratulations. You're doing very well.

DB: Would you say I'm doing better than you? THE ROGUE GENTLEMAN--what a joke. Nobody wants him. You suck.

BD: Actually, no I don't. I'm you. You're me. If people are buying your books, they're actually buying my books, so truthfully I don't suck at all.

DB: My head hurts.

BD: So where do you get your ideas, dummy?

DB: Newspapers.

BD: What's a newspaper?

DB: You know, the stuff birds poo on. 

BD: I don't have a bird.

DB: Yes you do.

BD: I'm pretty sure I don't. 

DB: You have a bird. Why else would I have newspapers here?

BD: There are no birds in my house. 

DB: Are you sure you're in the right house?

BD: Let's get back on track. Where did Wolf, your current series character, come from?

DB: He's Batman without the tights. Do you like Batman?

BD: I was always more of a Superman guy.

DB: Pansy.

BD: Are you always going to write about Wolf?

DB: I guess. But I'm also going to write about other guys, too. I got a spy series I'm working on that has lots of sex and violence. Or is that violence and sex? Or is the violence happening during the sex? 

BD: I don't know.

DB: Well, crap, I thought you knew this stuff.

BD: And I thought you told me you were going to concentrate more on urban action stories and let me do the spy stories.

DB: That was before I started outselling you.

BD: You don't outsell me.

DB: Shall we look at the numbers again, smarty pants?

BD: You sell more because you have more books out. I only have a few and none of them are part of a series yet. Once I get more Rogue Gentleman books out I'll sell better, too.

DB: If that helps you sleep at night. Look, are we done here? I got drinking to do.

BD: We haven't had a drink since July 12th of 1996.

DB: Maybe you haven't. I need a drink to tolerate your lousy questions.

BD: You know what, you're such a punk that I'm not going to link your books to this interview.

DB: Whatever.

BD: Hey, if it weren't for me, you wouldn't exist.

DB: If it weren't for me, you would't be driving a Corvette.

BD: My day job pays for the Corvette.

DB: And my money pays for the repair bills. $2000 in repairs for January alone. Are you nuts? If you want to piss away your money, give it to AIDS babies in Africa. Do you feel good that babies in Africa are dying so you can have a Corvette? And by the way, it's an old Corvette. Why don't get you a new one?

BD: You're just a sour puss, aren't you?

DB: I'm not sour at all.

BD: I've had enough of you. From now on, you stay on your side of the room and I'll stay on mind.

DB: Fine with me. My side is bigger than yours.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Indie Scene: Eric Czuleger's IMMORTAL L.A.

I don't read fantasy stories at all; I have no interest whatsoever in the genre, but I had to read Immortal LA because the son of a dear friend wrote it. How's that for full disclosure? Anyway it's a good book, and I have to agree with one Amazon review that says it's like a mash-up of Neil Gaiman and Douglass Adams. Can't get a better recommendation than that.

I invited Eric to do an interview. I think you'll like his personality; I think you'll like his book, too.

1) Tell us about your new book.

Immortal L.A. is about vampires, and angels, and dead kids who skateboard and psychic self-help gurus and Freemasons and sea monsters. It's an urban fantasy about the gateway to hell (the San Andreas fault) and how the history of Los Angeles has been dictated by a battle between God and Satan.

2) What inspired the story idea?

Buy it at Amazon today!
I wrote the first story "The Vampire Andy," while I was living in Albania. I wrote it for a horror podcast called Pseudopod. At the same time I found myself researching a lot about the history of Los Angeles. I was terrified to return after living abroad for so long. So, I started looking for something to love about the city. I was surprised how much I didn't know about where I'm from, and also how much there was to appreciate.

The Pseudopod episode came out, I thought that was neat, and I went on my merry way. Then my mom and brother heard the episode. They ambushed me in the kitchen and said I should write a whole book. The wouldn't let me leave the kitchen until I said I would give it a try. They're usually right about things like this. So now it's a book. 

3) Have you always wanted to write a fantasy story, or did this one beg for attention? Will we see more of this kind of book from you?

You know, I never thought I would write fantasy. But I don't like being bored when I read and I really hate being bored when I write. I learned something great from an erotica writer at a reading series I was invited to once. The difference between porn and erotica is what you're talking about. Porn is sex for the sake of sex. Erotica is sex for the sake of discussion.  It can be a discussion of power, ethics, religion, purity--anything, really. A good story can be told in any style. Genre is the gun. The story is the bullet. I would rather have a magical gun forged by Satan and blessed by the Knights Templar, than a regular one.

I want to tell a cool story that people want to read to the end of. I would rather write about a zombie massacre or an angel's impression of Taco Bell than a couple of twenty-somethings wondering where they went wrong. Isn't it always more fun to exist in a world that is supernatural? 

My next books will be tending more towards magical realism and sci-fi- so yeah, more of the same. 

4) You spent a few years in the Peace Corps. working in Albania. How did that influence your writing?

I got to go on a pilgrimage to the top of the second highest mountain in Albania, I worked with some of the smartest students I've ever met, I illegally crossed the border of Kosovo and Serbia by hitchhiking on a Coca-Cola truck, I watched the kids outside of my apartment grow up, I got an elbow to the face and ended up with a bloody nose on New Years in a bar in Romania,  I got lost in a rain forest, and danced (very poorly) with fire dancers in Thailand. I don't really know how the Peace Corps has influenced my writing, but a whole lot of stuff happened in my life. I don't think it matters how it happens, but I think it's good for your writing when a whole lot of stuff happens in your life. 

5) Immortal LA is not your first trip to the rodeo. Some past work has you up for the O'Neill award this year, you've been featured as an emerging artist at the Disney Center's Redcat Theatre, and you run and write for LiveTheatreBlog which raises money for your Albanian Village. How do you manage juggle all of this activity?

Honestly most of my days are filled up working with special needs kids and teaching performing arts. I find that I'm generally uncomfortable if I'm not writing something. Nothing makes me stare into the void quite like not having a project to work on. I told my friends I would take a month off after the book was done because it was making me crazy. That lasted a weekend.

As far as Live Theatre Blog--our final show went to help fund the Mobile Library that I worked on in Albania (not a village exactly). We're now transitioning into working on shows about American subcultures. SPOILER ALERT: For research me and my team went out to Area 51 and to an Alien Abductee conference. "Our Crowded Skies", my new play, will be about the UFO subculture in America. So far research has been really fun. I apply for the O'Neil every year along with a bunch of other festivals. I've been super lucky to be short listed by them a couple of times. 

6) What's next for you?

What's next is I've got to finish my next novel, "Farnoosh," which is about a woman who escapes the Iranian Revolution. She has a Jinn (a genie) and it is the story of the three wishes that she makes in her between when she is twelve and living in Tehran and when she is living in West Los Angeles in her fifties.

I'm working on a sci-fi novella called "SkyCube" which I've been wanting to do for awhile. It's about the near future where we will all be followed around by hovering cubes that meet our every need and watch us constantly. I'll be honest, this one comes from a long running inside joke with my buddy Dave and my own discomfort with technology.

My play, "L.A. Lights Fire," which is loosely connected to "Immortal L.A." will also be available soon in audio.

At some point I am planning on having a social life too.

Here is the link to buy Immortal L.A.

This is a link to donate to the Tropoja Mobile Library! Give anything you can, it goes to support a book mobile that serves the most isolated villages in Albania. 

This is a link to a full story from Immortal L.A. This is the story that started everything.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Justified Sins Reprise

You may be a wee bit upset with me for this but there's a reason I'm doing it--"it" being re-releasing a book once written under my own name but now recycled as a Dean Breckenridge tale.

Back in 2010 when I joined the self-publishing revolution, my second entry was a book called "Justified Sins" featuring a vigilante hero named Pierce. Pierce worked outside the law, but had connections in the DA's office to smooth over all the mayhem he caused. Pierce was an orphan, his parents killed in a home invasion robbery, and after a successful career in the military Pierce returned to his home city to visit vengeance on baddies everywhere.

Problem is, the story was never supposed to be about a vigilante, certainly not one who was an orphan, and he was never meant to spend his first adventure protecting his foster sister from the Mafia. But those elements were added to the story at the suggestion of those who thought it would make the book more "commercial" and give it "broader appeal". As a rookie, I figured they were right. What happened was, I added those things, and then hated the book. I hated the book so much that I could not look at it on its own merits, nor could I acknowledge the positive comments the book received. Some readers asked for a sequel, but the thought of revisiting the characters made my stomach hurt. Ultimately I pulled the book from Amazon. I couldn't stand to see it on my list.

Pierce was supposed to be a shadowy figure, enigmatic. He would have police contacts, but also criminal contacts, and work both ends against each other when necessary. He'd pursue his own crime-busting activities but also be for hire if one could find him. But he was ruined because I followed suggestions that stole away my original vision.

I could have done a reboot. I probably could have done a lot of things, but I shelved the book instead.

When I began writing the Wolf stories under the Breckenridge name, it was basically a rewrite of Pierce--done right, this time. With a little more experience, a little more confidence, and a little more skill, I decided to hell with the advisors. I'm doing the book my way. Thus, "Justified Sins" has been rewritten and retooled as I originally intended. The Director's Cut, if you will. What's the lesson? Follow your gut. Ignore advice--unless it's painfully obvious that you need such advice. My instincts were correct. The enigmatic mystery hero is something audiences will respond to. The initial pack of Wolf stories proves this. They actually sell better than the books under my real name. I think I'm a little pissed about that.

What I'm doing is a bit unorthodox, I understand, but even if you don't buy the new version, I have to do this for my own sanity. I think it's a good book that deserves to be seen; now that I've brought it back to where it originally started, I can be proud of it again.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Typing like a Madman

My lack of updates can be attributed to an extended time behind the keyboard actually trying to get some work done. The Rogue Gentleman #2: Mine to Avenge is done, and I think it's a really fun book. I'm also blazing away on the next four adventures in the Wolf series, which I write under the name Dean Breckenridge. I've been surprised by the reception the Breckenridge stories have received; he's selling more than I am! I should be pissed, but since it's no secret than Drake and Breckenridge are the same, I'm able to steer readers to the books under my name too.

Anyway more to come eventually. Meanwhile, enjoy a look at the next set of covers for the Breckenridge stories.