Monday, August 29, 2011

Meet Zak Allen

The Taste_cover_nookI’d like to introduce someone who is very (very!) near and dear to me, Zak Allen.

Zak has just epubbed his first novel. Called THE TASTE, it’s a full-length horror/thriller, in the tradition of Stephen King and Dean Koontz.

Take it away, Zak!



Thank you, Alan, for letting me take over your blog today. (It’s a nice blog and all, but you really should work harder to increase its readership. Maybe you should blog more frequently. And being clever would help, too. Just sayin’ )

As you mentioned, I’ve just epubbed a novel, and I’m very proud of it. It’s really a thriller with a horror premise, but it’s not too gory. (Although some people might find it a bit revolting in spots.) It takes place in the hinterlands of West Virginia and it was a lot of fun to write. I hope people think it’s a lot of fun to read, too!

Here’s the “cover flap” description:

After his mother dies, Jake Wheeler returns to his birthplace of Dark Springs, West Virginia, seeking solace among his kin. But his family’s unique comfort food includes some ingredients Jake's not sure he can stomach.

They eat dead people.

Discovering that skeleton in the pantry and adjusting to a new diet turn out to be the least of Jake’s worries. Storm clouds have gathered over Dark Springs, threatening the family’s peaceful existence. Ax-wielding clan patriarch Dallas Pike and his band of renegade followers have decided upon a violent plan to increase the dwindling food supply. Why wait for your next meal to die naturally if you can hunt it down instead?

With the survival of the entire clan at stake, Jake wages war against madman Pike.

He also battles an even more terrifying opponent.


After all, Jake has THE TASTE.




THE TASTE is available for Kindle and NOOK, for only $2.99. Download a free sample today and check it out!



Thanks for coming by the blog today, Zak! And best of luck with THE TASTE! You can follow Zak on Twitter (@ZakAllenBooks) and “like”" his Facebook page. (Nice author “photo,” by the way!)


Saturday, August 27, 2011

We Interrupt This Blog, Part II…

…for a brief update.

In light of today’s hurricane activity, I have decided I am not moving to a Caribbean island or the Outer Banks.

Too soggy.


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

We Interrupt This Blog…

…for a brief update.

In light of yesterday’s seismic activity, I have decided I am not moving to California, or any Pacific Rim country.

Too freaky.


Monday, August 22, 2011

Bookmark Time

I’ve been working on the bookmark for my upcoming release, DEADLY CAMPAIGN.

A peek, front and back:

DC Bookmark FrontDC Bookmark Back


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Your Turn

100_2617A glance at the calendar tells me it’s summer, mid-August to be exact.

A glance at the thermometer confirms it.

Which means it’s vacation time. And one of my favorite things to do on vacation is golf gamble hike eat travel sight-see read!

So I thought I’d throw the blog open today to recommendations. Now, these don’t have to be “beach” reads. They can be any books you’ve read lately that you’re really passionate about. Something that you can be an evangelist for. (To keep this from becoming a Midnight Ink-fest, let’s exclude books written by MInkers.)

I’ll go first.

I read a lot of books, and most of them fall in the pretty-good-to-mediocre range. But every once in a while, I’ll read a gem that I really, really wish I’d written myself. One that I’ll recommend to other readers without even being asked for a recommendation. One I’ll even Tweet about!

One recently-read book that rocked my world was THE LOCK ARTIST by Steve Hamilton. (Of course, it’s not like this was a lucky find. It won an Edgar, for goodness sake!).

Now it’s your turn. What are some outstanding books you’ve read lately?

(This entry is “simul-posted” on InkSpot. Click over to join the fun!)


Friday, August 12, 2011

Snap, Crackle, Pop (or Story, Notes, Snips)

Another “classic” blog post to beat the summer doldrums.

When I write, I work with three basic documents.

The first document is the manuscript itself, my "Story." I begin at page one and I'm off. I usually write in linear scene order, start to finish. If I don't know something, I'll put in a line of XXXXXXX's. If I need to check on something I've written, I'll highlight the section in red or yellow. Sometimes I don't even worry about chapter breaks. I just keep my head down and plow ahead, knowing I'll figure everything out during the revision process.

The second document I use is my roadmap ("Notes"). Even though it's a single "document," it's really a mish-mash that serves several functions (it's just easier for me to do it this way, especially when I know I'm going to end up searching frantically through it five months later looking for that certain vital detail I needed YESTERDAY!).

This Notes file includes:

  • The outline of the novel, scene by scene

  • A list of character names used, sorted by letter of the alphabet, so I don't have too many names beginning with the same letters (too confusing for readers and too confusing for me)

  • A brief character sketch of the major players (anywhere from a sentence or two ("uncoordinated, couldn't hit his mouth with a cheeseburger"), up to a few paragraphs). For more detailed bios, I will sometimes open new files--but I've found I rarely consult them!

  • Other information I want to include somewhere in the manuscript: nicknames, setting descriptions, types of cars, pets, jokes, possible character names, cool phrases I've decided to plagiarize, etc. I put all this miscellaneous stuff here because I know I'll review the entire file during the revision process.

The third document is my "Snips" file. In it go all the words, sentences, paragraphs, scenes, and chapters that I've written, then decided don't fit. I cut them out of my draft and put them here, just in case I change my mind and need them again. When I finish and realize I'm 8,000 words short, this is where I look first to see if there's anything worth salvaging. Hey, I've learned you can't be too careful.


What "document" system do you use when you write?


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Nom de Bad Guy

It’s summer (in case you couldn’t tell from the high temps and humidity), so I thought a blog rerun (or two) might be in order.

darth Darth Vader, Voldemort, Saddam Hussein, Professor Moriarty, Hannibal Lechter. All bad guys. All with great "bad guy" names (and one isn't even fictional!). Without even reading/seeing their story, I’d guess they were bad dudes. Why is that?

I'm no linguistics professor, but I can detect a few underlying "clues." “Darth Vader” sounds like “Dark Invader.” Voldemort and Moriarty have "mort" or "mor" in their names, bringing death immediately to mind. “Hannibal” rhymes with “cannibal.” “Saddam” is close to “sadist.” All negative connotations. (And what about Voldemort and Vader both being called "Lords"? Not negative, but…interesting.)

People develop certain preconceptions about names. If you were terrorized by a bully named Chris Newsome in second grade (just sayin'), then you'd probably have negative feelings toward any other Chris Newsomes you encounter--in real life, or in fiction. (Too bad his name hadn’t been Darth Newsome. Then kids might have instinctively known to avoid him.)

Some of my favorite villain names come from Dean Koontz. I read an article by him (or maybe it was from his great, out-of-print book How To Write Best-Selling Fiction (1981)) where he talked about giving his antagonists "harsh-sounding" names, full of hard consonants (v's, d's, c's, and k's are popular), double letters, and difficult-to-pronounce consonant blends. Check out some of his baddies: Edglar Vess, Vladimir "Corky" Laputa, Bryan Drackman, Preston Maddoc, Vince Nesco, and Thomas Shaddack. Don't these names just ooze badness?

Of course, most of Koontz's books are horror stories and thrillers. Obvious bad guy names don't work as well in mysteries, where the reader isn't supposed to know who the bad guy is until the end. Still, they'd make good red herrings...

Sometimes I think it would be nice to write satire or cartoons or kid's books. Then you can be a little more literal with your villainous  names: Snidely Whiplash, Cruella De Vil, Boris Badenov, Bugs Meany cruella(from Encyclopedia Brown, one of my favs), Dr. No, and Dr. Evil. Those must be fun to make up.

A character's name can have a profound effect on how readers picture him or her. Try portraying a character named Mal Madoff as a philanthropist--it's not going to fly!

What are some of your favorite names of fictional villains?

Writers, how do you name your bad guys?