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.