Nostalgia City Mysteries

By Mark S. Bacon

Category Archives: craft of writing

‘The Marijuana Murders’ by the numbers

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Notable elements in the content and creation of my latest novel, The Marijuana Murders

86,044
Number of words in the book

1980
Year Pac Man was licensed for distribution in the United States

907
Number of cups of tea I drank while writing

900
Depth in feet of the Lavender Pit in Bisbee, Arizona

381
Number of days it took me to write it

374
Number of miles from Nostalgia City to Agua Prieta, Mexico

340
Number of pages

235
Horsepower rating for the 1974 Chevy Monte Carlo with the 454 cu. in. engine (More than 300,000 Monte Carlos were produced by Chevrolet that year.)

205
Top speed (estimated) in miles per hour for a 2018 McLaren 570s

74.5
Height, in inches, of my protagonist Kate Sorensen

67
Number of chapters

33
Number of states in which medical marijuana is available (Medical marijuana is also recognized in the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.)

13
Number of beta readers and critique group members who read it before it went to my publisher

10
Number of states that have legalized recreational marijuana  (It’s also legal in D.C.)

8.2
Amount of estimated annual U.S. retail sales of marijuana, in billions of dollars

6
Number of hours of Ravi Shankar music I listened to while writing certain chapters

 

5
Approximate number of onion rings Lyle eats in a scene with Earl Williams

3
Number of times I use a form of the f-word

A new mystery book—sort of     

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Cops, Crooks & Other Stories in 100 Words was published more than seven years ago—about the time I started this website—and I decided to take another look at the book.  The result of this look is a new edition.  I edited and revised some stories, deleted others and added about a dozen new stories with twist or mystery endings.

Can a 100-word story have a surprise ending? Yes, it’s part of the challenge. As I wrote in the introduction to the previous edition of the book, the challenge to tell a complete story in exactly 100 words is the lure of this genre.

Here is the Amazon link for the ebook:   https://amzn.to/2mIfC0s   It will soon be available at barnesandnoble.com and the other places.

Extremely short, tiny, miniscule bits of fiction have been around for a long time.  Aesop’s fables are a good example. Written in the sixth century BCE, Androcles (and the Lion) contains only 265 words, and The Ant and the Grasshopper uses only 150 words. Ernest Hemingway reputedly wrote a six-word story: “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”

Welcome to flash fiction.  Books and a broad variety of online literary magazines and some print magazines feature these short-shorts. Actually short-shorts is not an appropriate description  as it often refers to short stories of a few pages or more, not a few paragraphs or a few sentences. Flash fiction seems to be the most commonly used name for these snippets of creative writing, although some online magazines refer to micro fiction, nano fiction, sudden fiction, or quick fiction.

As to the best length for flash fiction, there’s little agreement. Even though the 100-word limit is common, a variety of print and online magazines and published anthologies restrict flash fiction stories to 1,000, 2,500, and even 5,000 words. Compared to a 100-word tale, the longer stories could hardly be read in a flash. Wikipedia does little to establish a common length saying, “flash fiction is a fictional work of extreme brevity.”

Journals such as 100 Word Story and 101 Words need no explanation. Some other online publications are looking for what Wikipedia calls twitterature, that is, stories of 280 characters or less. Everyday Fiction sets the limit at 1,000 words but encourages writers who can tell a story in 50.  

Before publishing the first edition of this book I published stories in a variety of online flash fiction literary magazines, including my favorite, 100 Word Story.  Editor Grant Faulkner says the 100-word limit is an arbitrary marker that “forces the writer to question every word.”

It’s a good discipline. A number of years ago a friend of mine told me his writing group was working on an exercise in which they had to tell a story in just 100 words.  I had never heard of flash fiction before and was intrigued.  At first I wrote cop stories, then branched out into the variety of genres represented in the book.  More than half the stories in the new book have to do with detective work, crime, or general law enforcement.  The balance include humor, speculative fiction and a little romance.

Yes, each story contains exactly 100 words.  And you have to know the rules.  Hyphenated words count as one word and titles are not included in the word count. Numerals, even those separated by commas count as one word. The counting function on MS Word seems to have its own rules, so I count by hand as well.

I agree with Faulkner.  This genre makes you question each word.  But now that I’m spending most of my time on novel-length mysteries, I still try to remember the value of each word.

Here’s a sample story from Cops, Crooks & Other Stories in 100 Words:

 On the House

Starting her workday baking before sunrise always made Sophie’s concentration sag by 9 a.m., but looking across the counter at a gun barrel got her immediate attention.

“Gimme the money,” the gunman said.

Sophie glanced over the man’s shoulder, moved toward the cash register—then ducked.

The cop standing behind the robber threw him against the counter, as another officer grabbed the gun.

“You gotta be the dumbest crook I ever met,” said the first cop. “Okay, maybe you didn’t see our car in the lot, but really…”

“Thanks, Kelly,” Sophie said. “From now on, doughnuts are on the house.”

—————–

“…it is rather remarkable that the author is able to introduce a cast of characters, set a stage for them to act upon, and play out a scenario—sometimes involving cops and crooks—in which something unexpected happens, all in exactly 100 words.”
MysteriousReviews.com

Publishing news, free books, reviews and surprises to come on this blog

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Welcome mystery fans.  It seems I took an extended hiatus from writing in this space.  I can explain.

Launching a new book takes time.  So does switching publishers. I was in the middle of the former but am now neck-deep in the latter, or maybe both.

All three Nostalgia City mysteries are available again on Amazon, both e-book and print.  They will soon be available elsewhere, although for the time being the e-book versions of two of the mysteries, numbers 1 and 3, are exclusively with Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited.

Each of the three Nostalgia City mysteries has a new international standard book number (ISBN) used to identify and locate books and identify the publisher.  As a result, some website links, if they’re older than two months, may not connect you to the books.  The easiest way to find them is to go to Amazon and type in the title.  Details and links are also always available on this website.

Articles (posts) in upcoming weeks will be book and movie reviews, observations about readers’ particular interest in authors, offbeat and background information on (my new book) The Marijuana Murders, hints about mystery #4 that I’m working on and a few surprises.

As you may have noticed, Death in Nostalgia City was recently–for two days– on sale for free.  Does that qualify as “on sale?”   I dunno, as one of my characters would say, but thousands of people snapped it up.  If you missed the sale, Death in Nostalgia City will be offered for free again on Amazon.  Stay tuned.

Free book:

Right now you can register to win a print copy of The Marijuana Murders. Kings River Life magazine is giving the book away. To be eligible, simply comment on the reviewer’s article about my book or simply send him an email.  Details here:  https://www.krlnews.com/2019/08/the-marijuana-murders-by-mark-s-bacon.html

Writing a novel is easy.  As you can see, I nailed it on the first draft.

I’ve been meaning to share this picture.  Many authors’ protracted blog explanations about the task of writing to the contrary, I don’t think many readers are interested in how we create a story.  Does it make a story more meaningful if you know, for example, it was written on a Mac, on a yellow pad or an old fashioned typewriter? 

So, I’ll make this brief.  Although I compose and edit on my computer, every so often I need to print out my latest chapters and go over them with a pencil. When a complete manuscript is finished, I redo things.  Several times.  Critique groups, beta readers and an editor all contribute to draft after draft.  Then it’s done.

Actually deciding it’s done is one of the most difficult tasks in writing a novel.  Thus my stack of drafts gets taller.  I usually save the drafts until the book is in print—sort of like a cloud backup, only this paper backup is recycled when the job is done.

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