Thursday, June 20, 2013


Kudos to Maddee James and for the excellent author's website. The launch of THE LIFE WE BURY is not scheduled for over a year but the work of building a platform marches on. At the top of the list was to create an author's website. After asking around for recommendations, Maddee James at XUNI was the favorite. I came away from the project happy with the result and happy with the service and attention provided by Maddee. Please visit my site and browse around, and don't forget to sign up for my newsletter. I am certain that there will be book giveaways and more associated with the launch of THE LIFE WE BURY.

Friday, May 31, 2013


What is happening at Barnes and Noble? Yesterday, one of Minnesota's favorite authors, William Kent Krueger, blogged on his author Facebook page that he is being prohibited from doing book signings at Barnes and Noble because of the dispute between his publisher, Simon and Schuster, and the book selling giant. Krueger wrote:

"I just learned that I can’t visit any Barnes and Noble store with the release of my upcoming novel "Tamarack County," the thirteenth in the Cork O’Connor series. There’s a spat going on between my publisher, Simon and Schuster, and the bookstore chain. No Simon and Schuster author may visit any Barnes and Noble until further notice."!/williamkentkrueger/posts/609827255703246

News of this problem made it into the PublishersMarketplace post today.  The PM story had a response by Simon and Schuster laying the blame at the feet of Barnes and Noble, stating:

"Throughout this period of difficult negotiations our position has been to make available any and all our books B&N has ordered, and we are more than willing to set up author events. If a Simon & Schuster book is not available at B&N, or an author event cannot be scheduled, that is by their decision alone as part of their negotiating strategy, which we view as counter-productive. We have done nothing to diminish our presence of our books and authors at B&N."

The PM story had no response from Barnes and Noble, so I do not know for certain if they are wearing the black hat in this matter, but ultimately they have the final say as to who can enter their stores for a book signing. The final comment on this story can be found in the post of  Mr. Kent Krueger, which reads:

[T]his business is difficult enough as it is, and I bust my rear end to sell books. Then this kind of chicanery gets thrown into the mix. I have a friend who used to wear a T-shirt at writers’ conferences: Publishing Business—Isn’t that an oxymoron?      Damn straight.



Friday, May 10, 2013


My novel, THE LIFE WE BURY, has found a home!

Seventh Street Books (an imprint of Prometheus Books) has acquired the rights to my book and has scheduled its launch for the fall/winter of 2014. I am looking forward to working with my editor, Dan Mayer, whose reputation precedes him. I want to thank my agent, Amy Cloughley of the Kimberley Cameron Agency, for her hard work, enthusiasm, and faith.

To memorialize and commemorate the occasion, I have copied the announcement from Publisher's Marketplace below.

To learn more about my novel, THE LIFE WE BURY, check out my blog post from January 27.


May 9, 2013
Allen Eskens's THE LIFE WE BURY, about a Minnesota college student on a dangerous quest to discover the truth about a dying convicted murderer, but hamstrung by a dysfunctional mother, sibling guilt, and a haunting childhood memory, to Dan Mayer at Seventh Street, in a nice deal, for publication in fall/winter 2014, by Amy Cloughley at Kimberley Cameron & Associates (World English).

Tuesday, March 12, 2013


As if in slow motion…

The next time those words pop into your head—stop writing. Here are some ways to slow down the pace of a novel without resorting to that tired phrase.

1)     Increase the level of your detail. In the constant balance between plot and scene, the greater the detail of the scene, the slower the pace of the novel.

2)      Go back in time before the current event. Bullet is about to hit the character and he reflects on the misstep that brought him to that point in time.
3)    Go forward beyond the moment. I would one day look back on that moment and remember the prayer I uttered when I heard the gun fire its bullet. I would say…

4)    Uncertainty. I can’t remember if I heard the explosion of the bullet in the gun’s chamber before I felt the heat of the lead in my gut…

5)    Step by step description. The blood drained away from the crease in his knuckle—the pressure of his finger on the trigger reaching that all important point when the hand and mind gave way to the mechanics of the gun…

6)      Questions. Would it hurt? Would I even feel the bullet enter my body? Or would it be like the doctors on all of those old movies say, “he didn’t feel a thing.”

7)      Use Latinate instead of Anglo-Saxon words. Capacious, commodious and erudite expressions slow down pace.

8)      Stop time and reflect. I could not see the bullet on its path, but I knew that my time to die had come. I knew it as surely as I had ever known anything in my life.

9)     Make sentences complicated and diverse in structure.

10)  Word choice. Lazy or tentative words will bring that pace to the reader.

11)  Paragraph length. Longer paragraphs equal slower pace.

12)  Use of comparisons. The similes and metaphors and other analogies tend to slow pace.

13)  Direct action vs. summary. This is somewhat duplicative of #5, but the more description of the action, (and by extension, less summary) the slower the pace.

If you have any other tip to slow down the pace of writing, please leave a comment!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Opening with a foreshadow

I confess that I am a fan of foreshadow in the opening paragraph of a novel. It is an effective way to interject questions into the minds of the readers—and, as we all know, placing a question in the reader’s mind is the key to suspense. My favorite author, Harper Lee begins TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD with an internal discussion as to where her story should begin. She opens her novel with the information that “When he was nearly thirteen my brother Jem got his arm badly broken at the elbow.” Her next paragraph flashes back to a time before the broken arm debating when the story that led to the broken arm began. “When enough years had gone by to enable us to look back on them, we sometimes discussed the events leading to his accident.” What Harper Lee has done is to foreshadow an event—the broken arm—in order to let the reader know that something bad will happen in the novel, make them question how that broken arm occurred. Then, she goes back in time to tell the reader the story of how that bad event came to be.

Another of my favorite authors, Dennis Lehane’s uses this opening technique in LIVE BY NIGHT, opening the novel with: “Some years later, on a tugboat in the Gulf of Mexico, Joe Coughlin’s feet were placed in a tub of cement.” It tells the reader so much, but so little. It makes the reader ask so many questions—most importantly, what did Joe Coughlin do to arrive at this moment. The paragraph goes on to add more questions, ending with this sentence: “And it occurred to him that almost everything of note that had happened in his life—good or bad—had been set in motion the morning he first crossed paths with Emma Gould.” The reader now wants to know, not only how did Joe arrive in the tub of wet cement, but how does this Emma Gould bring him to that moment. 

With a third person narrative that foreshadowed event can be the death of a main character, as in LIVE BY NIGHT, or the famous first line of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF SOLITUDE, which reads: “Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendia was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.” But, in first person narratives, the bad event is likely not going to be the death of the main character, although authors like Alice Sebold have made the death of a main character the opening sentences with great effectiveness. The first two sentences of THE LOVELY BONES are: “My name was Salmon, like the fish: first name Susie. I was fourteen when I was murdered on December 6, 1973.”

My penchant for foreshadowing in the opening paragraph is why I started my own novel, THE LIFE WE BURY, with:

I remember being pestered by a sense of dread as I walked to my car that day—pressed down by a wave of foreboding that swirled around my head and broke against the evening in small ripples. There are people in this world who would call that kind of feeling a premonition, a warning from some internal third eye that can see around the curve of time. I’ve never been one to buy into such things. But, I will confess that there have been times when I think back to that day and wonder to myself: if the fates had truly whispered in my ear, if I had known how that drive would change so many things, would I have taken a safer path, turn left where before I had turned right? Or would I still travel the path that led me to the murderer, Carl Iverson?

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

I just received edit notes from Amy, my agent, and I am reminded of the summer I spent detasselling corn in Iowa. In college, I once had the unenviable job of detasselling corn. The tassel of the corn is that yellow plume sticking out of the top of the corn stalk, and for some reason that I cannot remember (either it offended the farmer or had something to do with cross-pollination) the tassels had to be pulled off the stalk. They used to hire college students (and maybe still do) to walk down the rows of corn and pop those tassels out. You didn't get paid unless you pulled something like 98 percent of all the tassels in your row. I thought this would a simple gig. I conscientiously plucked tassels for an entire hot, Iowa-summer day and then went home to have a beer and await my pay check. Instead I got a call to return and pluck more tassels out of a row of corn that I was certain would have no more tassels. Turns out, there were more tassels--tassels that I swear were not there the day before. I went down the row once again and pulled all the tassels. Confident that I had thoroughly detasselled every stalk, I went home; I waited, and again I got that dreaded call. There were more tassels in my row.

The edits for my manuscript THE LIFE WE BURY remind me of those tassels. Even though I had line edited that work to death, I received edits from my agent where she found errors that I swear weren't there before--missing quote marks, missing commas, and a few run-on sentences. Instead of depressing me (like the tassels did), this makes me happy. My agent has given my work the scrubbing it needed. I cannot tell you how impressed I am. Thanks Amy. Now back to work on those tassels...I mean edits.

Sunday, January 27, 2013


Hello, and welcome... 

I will be using this site to muse about my journey toward publication of my debut novel:


I spent a year writing it, and then jumped into the task of seeking agent representation. I am happy to announce that I have just signed a contract for agent  representation with Amy Cloughley at Kimberley Cameron and Associates Literary Agency. I am elated and am looking forward to working with Amy.

Below is a brief description of my novel, THE LIFE WE BURY. It is difficult to describe a ninety thousand word novel in two paragraphs, so I hope this gives you a taste of the novel and I hope you continue to follow my march toward publication.


a novel by Allen Eskens

What starts out as a college writing assignment leads to…

 “As I went limp, a wave of disgust flashed through my mind, disgust at my naiveté, disgust at not seeing the man’s tight grip on the neck of that whiskey bottle for what it was, disgust that my life would end quietly, unceremoniously, lying face down in frozen grass. I let this old man—this whiskey-soaked, child molester—beat me.”

Joe Talbert left his bi-polar mother and his autistic brother behind in order to run away to college. At school, he gets an assignment to write a story about a person who has lived a long life. Because he has no relative to fit the bill, he goes to a nursing home to find a subject to write about and meets Carl Iverson, a man dying of cancer who has been medically paroled from prison after spending thirty years locked up for a grisly murder. As Joe learns about Carl’s life, especially Carl’s valor as a soldier in Vietnam, Joe has difficulty reconciling the heroism of the soldier with the despicable acts of the convict.

Joe throws himself into unravelling the tapestry of a thirty-year-old murder, but is hamstrung in his efforts by having to deal with his dangerously dysfunctional mother and the guilt of abandoning his autistic brother.

...more to come.