Tuesday, August 25, 2015


As I was studying and honing my skill as a writer, I sought to come up with road markers to push my abilities and give me the confidence to take the next step. One of these markers was my Jack-and-Jill exercise.
The Jack-and-Jill exercise grew out of the fact that I write mysteries and thrillers. Mysteries and thrillers tend to rely heavily upon plot. I would sometimes read a mystery that, I felt, relied too much on plot and left out other elements of literary style. This may be a matter of taste because I gravitate toward literary mysteries like those of Tom Franklin and Dennis Lehane. So in my own work, I tried to come up with an assignment that would remind me of the importance of these other elements—even in a plot driven genre. What I came up with was my Jack-and-Jill exercise.

Basically, the Jack-and-Jill exercise is to take a nursery rhyme (like Jack and Jill) and rewrite it into a short story of some length relying on skills other than plot. Because the plot is already laid out and well known before the exercise begins, it forces me to focus on those other elements of story such as description, dialogue, pacing and character. To me, it feels like I’m working out those literary muscles that tend to atrophy when I focus too much on plot.

This exercise often comes to my thoughts as I write my novels. When I come to a place where I’m stepping from one plot point to another and I find myself struggling to write that transition, I take a step back and remember my Jack-and-Jill exercise. I change my focus away from plot and try to make the transition stand on its own merit. Over the course of writing three novels, I’ve found this exercise useful.

Monday, August 3, 2015

NEXT STEP . . . HOLLYWOOD (hopefully).

After months of knowing that this was in the works, I can finally announce that 
THE LIFE WE BURY had been optioned for development as an independent feature film! 

 Here's the official announcement: 

 Allen Eskens' debut thriller THE LIFE WE BURY, winner of the Rosebud Award for Best First Mystery, has been named a finalist for five additional awards including the prestigious Edgar Award for Best First Novel and ThrillerFest Best First Novel. It was chosen by Suspense Magazine and MysteryPeople as one of the best books of 2014, and called a "masterful debut" in a starred review by Publisher's Weekly. 

THE LIFE WE BURY is now under option to Mary Jane Skalski and Damon Lane of Next Wednesday to be developed as a feature film.

Currently producing WILSON for Fox Searchlight, Skalski's credits include the award-winning 
THE STATION AGENT (she won both the John Cassavetes and Independent Spirit Producer Award), the Oscar nominated THE VISITOR, WIN WIN, and MYSTERIOUS SKIN. Lane, who has been a manager at Zero Gravity Management as well as head of Development and Acquisitions at Capitol Films, has worked in film sales, finance and production for over 15 years. He has produced LOCKED IN and ANOMALY with Noel Clarke. He is currently packaging CHURCHILL with Studio Canal and Sierra/Affinity. THE LIFE WE BURY was published by Seventh Street Books and the option deal was handled by Mary Alice Kier and Anna Cottle of Cine/Lit Representation on behalf of Amy Cloughley of Kimberley Cameron & Associates.

Monday, July 6, 2015

My Surprising Journey to Becoming an Author

Since the release of my debut novel The Life We Bury, I’ve been so happily astonished at its warm reception. I’ve received many moving, heartfelt messages from readers who have enjoyed and been affected by the book. And it has continued to steadily find new readers everywhere—it’s been in the top 100 at Amazon in Canada for the past 100 days, for example, and starting today, The Life We Bury will be sold on the “Emerging Authors” shelves of Target stores! As exciting as it is to see your book on the shelves at Barnes & Noble and independent bookstores, seeing it in a big box mass retailer like Target is a bit surreal.

All of this has inspired me to reflect on the path I’ve taken to this point, and I made a short video to share with readers the surprising journey I’ve taken to get here. This video goes out to the wonderful readers who have written and asked me about my personal story, as well as to new and potential readers who want to learn more about the man behind the book.

Friday, June 12, 2015


I went to my very first Book Expo America and it was a blast. For those who have never been there (like me three weeks ago) it's the largest trade show of book publishers and buyers and others in the country. My publisher flew me out there to sign advanced reading copies of my soon-to-be-released novel The Guise of Another.

When I got there, they had stacks of my new book lined up along the wall -- six hundred of them. It all seemed a bit daunting. But I sat down and pulled out my pen and to my surprise, had a steady stream of readers coming by. I met so many amazing people, all excited about reading (except for the one or two who wanted a signed ARC to put on Ebay).

 I also stayed for Bookcon, which was after BEA. I was utterly impressed with all of the young people collecting books. I had some very nice conversations with aspiring writers and I hope that my words encouraged them to follow that dream -- and not wait until they turn fifty like some of us. 

On a different note, I want to thank Maddee James and her team at XUNI for the revamped web page. I'm looking forward to filling it with content.   http://alleneskens.com/

And finally, I have to thank Maria from Good Choice Reading for the exceptional review of The Life We Bury that she posted today. 6 out of 5 stars is one hell of a compliment. 

If you've read and liked The Life We Bury, please like my author page:https://www.facebook.com/pages/Allen-Eskens-author/162795953749215

Saturday, April 4, 2015

I'm back...

Okay, so it's been a while since I blogged about my novel-writing adventure, but I have a good excuse. I was kidnapped by a band of roving Norwegians and forced to learn the accordion. They took me on a circuit, visiting every KOA Campground in the country where I was forced to perform for my meals. I finally escaped and made it back to Minnesota to discover that my novel, The Life We Bury is doing very well. 

After the launch, I got some wonderful reviews from big names like Publisher's Weekly, Booklist, and Kirkus and from a bunch of terrific bloggers from all over the world. At the end of the year, The Life We Bury was chosen by MysteryPeople and Suspense Magazine as one of the Best Debut Novels of 2014. I figured I'd reached a peak and finished the year quite happy with The Life We Bury.

Then January came. 

First, I received a nomination for the Rosebud Award, for Best First Mystery Novel. This award is given out by attendees at the Left Coast Crime Conference in Portland, OR. Then The Life We Bury was nominated for a Minnesota Book Award for Best Genre Novel. And when I thought things couldn't get better, I was nominated for the Edgar Allen Poe Award for Best Debut Novel. This is often called the Academy Award for mystery writers. I can't believe my good fortune.

So, feeling both excited and humbled, I flew to Portland. To my great surprise and honor, The Life We Bury won the Rosebud award. On that same day, I learned that my novel was named a finalist for the Barry Award, for Best Paperback Original novel. That Award will be presented at the Bouchercon Writer's Conference in the fall. 

And last week, The Life We Bury was named a finalist for the Thriller Award for Best First Novel. In sum, it has been a crazy and wonderful few months. 

I've taken time to blog tonight because I'm feeling a sense of calm right now. I just sent my revisions in for my second novel. The title has been changed from the original working title to The Guise Of Another. I'm happy with how the novel turned out, but we'll see once it comes out on October 6, 2015.

I'll try to be better with writing here as things develop.