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.