Nostalgia City Mysteries

Mark S. Bacon

Tag Archives: book previews

Great moments in the history of anxiety


“Fear rots the faculties.”
–Cornell Woolrich, “Deadline at Dawn”

 In a few days, my publisher will release my novel, Death in Nostalgia City. Not my first book but my first novel. A debut mystery is the industry term and it’s appropriate as I feel not unlike a tense debutant taking tentative steps onto a stage, hoping for the approbation of her society.

Writing in general is nervous work. Novelist Shirley Hazzard said, “The state that you need to write in is the state that others are paying large sums to get rid of.” But at least, with any luck, an anxious mystery writer can transfer that feeling, so necessary to the genre, onto paper.Anxious author 3 tiny  6151

I’ve experienced several levels of anxiety during the creation of my book. (See photo.) In this case, it was the production stages and the promotional planning, rather than the writing, that seem to have challenged my sangfroid.

Although I’ve had my writing critiqued and edited thousands of times–dedicated writers crave editing–my publisher’s multiple editing process was a bit unnerving, confusing. Then there’s the two biggest tasks that await a writer whose manuscript has been sufficiently vetted: approving a cover design and obtaining blurbs.

In this case, the cover design was the easy part, though not a short process. Ultimately designer Jacci Wilson created just the right cover.  It conveys the fact (a) that this is a mystery novel–although any title with the word “death” in it is likely a crime story–and (b) that the setting for the crimes is the desert near old Route 66. The cover also shows a hint of a town and an amusement park in the distance. That’s where the story’s headed.Final Cover front +++

The second of the two required tasks is to obtain blurbs. For the uninitiated, a blurb is a flattering quote about a book, preferably from an authority or well-known person, which is plastered on the cover. You’ve seen them.

These days, one or two blurbs seems not sufficient to establish a writer’s credibility. Many books have one or more pages of quotes attesting to the author’s talent, the incredibly involving content of the book and the necessity for readers to cease all productive activities in their lives until they’ve finished the tome.

One of the first places I went looking for a blurb was the Boston Globe. As a large part of my book takes place in Boston, I contacted a respected Globe feature writer offering her my manuscript for review. Turns out, reporter Beth Teitell has written books too, and was wise to my ploy. “You’re on a blurb quest,” she said.

Indeed. Fortunately, I managed to receive good blurb comments not only from other mystery writers, but from people in specialized fields–such as oldies music, theme parks and 60s/70s culture and trivia–that are part of the subject matter of my book.

With those two tasks behind me, I’ll be dividing my time between promoting the book and trying to write Nostalgia City volume II. Either of these tasks can easily be a full-time job. Pass the tranquilizers.

Post script.   My book was supposed to be available for advance orders on Amazon, a couple of weeks prior to its release. Today, in addition to noticing that the thumbnail of my book cover looks cloudy on Amazon (ditto for B&N), I also saw that the print version of the book is available for sale earlier than I expected. Also, the Kindle and print versions are not linked.  I’m told that after the Oct. 4 release date the listings will be combined.

Amazon and my publisher will sort things out. In the meantime,  read the first four chapters of the book here, on my website.  My reluctant investigators Lyle and Kate have some exciting surprises for you.


I’m often asked if I have advice for people just starting out to be writers. My advice: Some less stressful jobs might be worth exploring, like crab fishing in the arctic, testing experimental aircraft or painting radio towers.

Preview my book, but buy it anyway

My Kindle died.  It was just two years old.  If you lose a paperback you’re reading, you can buy a new one.  Lose a well-used Kindle and it’s like losing a library.

I know, all my books with my highlighting and extensive annotations are safe in the cloud somewhere–I hope–and I can retrieve them on my computer via Kindle software.  But I don’t want to sit at my desk to read a book; that’s why I bought a Kindle.

My Kindle was a second-generation model, now called a Kindle Keyboard.   It died when I abandoned it temporarily to read a printed book, what a friend calls a tree book.  It seemed to be frozen, so I charged it for hours but to no avail.  I discovered a simple procedure that can sometimes resuscitate a frozen Kindle.  You slide the on button and hold it in position for 20 seconds.   That didn’t work either.Kindle bare type Es  3368

Naturally, after two years the warranty was as dead as my Kindle.  When I reported the death to Amazon they offered me a couple of new models (that carry advertising) at a modest price reduction.  I will just buy a new advertising-free one.  The Paperwhite model offers a lighted screen and a purported two-month battery life.  But it doesn’t have any buttons.  Touch the side of the screen and the pages turn.  Touch it at the top and you get a menu.  Often I accidentally turned pages on my Kindle that had dedicated buttons.  Will eliminating buttons make it easier?

Actually, I don’t mind having to buy a new one.  Considering the hours of pleasure I had reading dozens of books on my old one, an e-reader is a pretty good deal.  The biggest cost comes from the books themselves.  Recently I read a column by someone who compared e-readers to Gillette razors.  For many decades, the company’s strategy was to price the razors low to sell as many as possible.  The profits came from the sale of blades.   The same marketing strategy probably applies to inkjet printers.

E-readers are marvelous machines, but many have limitations.   Wonderfully convenient for reading novels and biographies,  they are ill suited for reading how-to books or any book that relies heavily on charts, tables, graphs or illustrations.   When I bought a new single lens reflex camera, I purchased a manual for it on my Kindle.  The book’s many charts, illustrations and sample photos were muddy and indecipherable.   I wound up buying the book in paperback.  Newer generations of color e-books and tablets have come close to solving this problem.

The other limitation lies in the awkwardness of flipping back to end notes or a glossary.   I read Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals on my Kindle, even though I had a paper-bound edition.  At 944 pages, Rivals is not nearly as portable as an e-reader, but trying to access the author’s notes (all 754 of them) as you read invites Valium-level stress.   I was glad to have the printed book.

One reason I’m eager to get a  new Kindle–and possibly one of its greatest advantages– is book previews.  (Nook also offers previews.)  Positive reviews, recommendations from friends and a familiar author’s name are still no guarantee that you’ll enjoy a book.  A preview lets you get comfortable with a story as the author tries to hook you with the first chapters  Even reading a synopsis is not as useful to me as reading a sample.  An author’s style, point of view, and treatment of a subject are all important.

With more indy books competing with the big publishing houses today, competition is keen.  Book acquisition editors and consumers both look for a story that grabs them early on.  I’m guessing that the prevalence of e-book previews is further spurring writers and editors to look for beginnings that grab you by the lapels and impel you to keep turning pages.

I’m a heavy user of previews.  Sometimes my Kindle home page will have a half-dozen or more preview titles.   I can fill an evening reading free previews.   And I can be a tough sell.  I once downloaded a preview of a promising suspense novel.  The story began with protagonist frantically trying to evade someone following his car.  The hero finally raced across a bridge, crashed through a barrier and plunged into a swiftly flowing river.   The car began to sink.  I can’t tell you what happened next; I didn’t’ get hooked.

When I’m the author rather than the reader, the situation can become a bigger problem.   Packing some powerful samples at the beginning of a book of flash fiction should be enough to hook a reader into becoming a buyer.  That was my theory.   In practice it didn’t work out that way.

The Kindle preview of Cops, Crooks & Other Stories covers about 10 per cent of the book.  The preview lets you read the copyright page, the lengthy table of contents (there are 101 stories to list) and my introduction.  End of preview.  No sample stories.

So, please preview my book, but buy it anyway.

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