Meet author Mark Bacon

Mark Bacon

Mark Bacon

Mark Bacon’s articles have appeared in the Washington Post, Kansas City Star, Denver Post, USAir Magazine, Trailer Life, Cleveland Plain Dealer, San Antonio Express-News, The Orange County Register, Working Woman, and other publications.  He is a former columnist for BusinessWeek Online and most recently was a regular correspondent for the San Francisco Chronicle where he wrote on travel, outdoors and entertainment.   

          Bacon is a former president of the Orange County Chapter of the International Association of Business Communicators.  He and his wife, Anne, and their golden retriever, Willow, live in Reno, Nevada. 

 Website URL

Facebook URL

Twitter:  @baconauthor

~~~

PJ: How long have you been writing?

Mark: In high school I took journalism and creative writing and I was hooked.

 

PJ: At what point did you reach a place where you felt successful as a writer?

Mark: Hard to say.  It could be when I sold my first freelance article to a men’s magazine when I was 16.  I had part-time writing jobs in advertising and newspapers when I was an undergrad in college, but my first full-time job as a reporter meant I was successful.  I could buy hamburger and I saw my name in print every day.

 

PJ: The general public seems to think authors are relatively wealthy. Without prying too much, has your writing income lived up to expectations?

Mark: Sure.  You don’t get rich writing.

Yes, some people think if you have your name on a book or two, you’re wealthy.  Sometimes I try to explain the realities of the publishing business. Sometimes not.

 

PJ: How long did it take you to get published the first time?

Mark: It was surprisingly–and uncharacteristically–easy.  I was working in the PR department of  a large trade association and part of my job was to do business writing seminars.  I realized that even though I was in business, I still wrote like a journalist, that is, succinctly with a summary at the beginning.

I thought that might be a good slant for a book on business writing.  I wrote to three big NYC publishers and John Wiley & Sons offered me an advance and a contract for Write Like the Pros.

 

PJ: Writing new material, rewriting, submitting new work, waiting, promoting published work…the list is large. How do you manage to divvy up your time to give adequate attention to all needed areas?

Mark: I make lists.  And I get stressed, so I exercise and meditate.

 

PJ: What is the single most exciting thing that’s happened to you as a writer?

Mark: This question invites hyperbole, but one exciting thing happened recently. A friend of mine expressed such unreserved, genuine enthusiasm and glee when I told him I had a publishing contract for my first novel that I was bowled over.  Of course, all of my friends have been supportive, but this guy touched me with his obvious, immediate and unrestrained joyful congratulations.

 

 PJ: What is the single most disappointing thing that happened to you as a writer?

Mark: Not having written a book with another author.  Writing is a lonely business.

The difficulty is, that to write a book you invest a year of more of your time.  To do so, I have to be in love with the book’s topic or idea.  To make a partnership work, the co-author has to be equally invested in the book.  Easier said than done, in my experience.

 

PJ: Is the writing life what you expected when you started out? If not, how is it different?

Mark: It’s perfect.  I get paid to do what I would do anyway.

 

PJ: What’s the most memorable thing (good or bad) that’s happened to you while promoting your work?

Mark: My first book made a midwest best-seller list for a short time and I felt I had my 15 minutes of fame.  Actually that feeling lasted several days.  I still have the note from my editor at John Wiley.

 

PJ: With more books being released each month now than ever before, what do you believe sets your work apart from the others?

Mark: Here are two things:

First, I wrote the type of mystery/suspense book that I like to read: many suspects and mysterious components but nothing confined to a drawing room or country manor.  It incorporates the elements I like in a mystery:

– a variety of interesting suspects,

– a less than James Bond-perfect protagonist,

– plenty of action (some violence but not excessive) to keep the story moving,

– a protracted chase with the protagonists on the run,

– humor, and

– a twisty-turny ending.

Second, this book was written by a baby boomer with a baby boomer as the main detective, and it takes place in a re-creation of an entire small town from the early 1970s.  References to the music, films, fads and social issues of the 1960s and 1970s color the book.

 

PJ: You published mystery short story books before your novel.  What were they about?

Mark: Actually, they were very short stories: flash fiction.  The genre is generally defined by the number of words.   Flash fiction can be a few words long or as many as 1,500.  I decided to write 100-word mystery stories.  Within that limit I like to have a protagonist, a problem and a satisfying—and I hope—surprising ending.   This is a challenge to pull off in exactly 100 words and that’s why I like it.

 

PJ: What would you like to share with writers who haven’t reached the point of publication yet?

Mark: Don’t expect to make your sole living from writing books.  Very few people, including a number of famous names, can survive on royalties.  This is not the usual, don’t-quit-your-day-job advice because if you really love writing above all else, there are many other ways to make money as a scribe.

 

PJ: What do you feel is your most effective tool for promoting your published work?

Mark: Getting people to read the first few chapters.  Then I think they’ll be hooked.  Samples are available on my website (www.baconsmysteries.com),my publisher’s website (www.blackopalbooks.com),  and Amazon, http://www.amazon.com/Death-Nostalgia-City-Mark-Bacon/dp/1626941742/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1412452094&sr=1-1&keywords=death+in+nostalgia+city

 

PJ: What area of book promotion is the most challenging to you?

Mark: Coming up with semi-literate answers to interview questions.

 

PJ: Do you have a local independent bookseller you’d like to mention?

Mark: The Friends of the Washoe (Nevada) County Library Bookstore is hosting a book signing for me Nov. 7 and 8 and I will give a talk and sign books at Browsers Book Store in Carson City, Nev., on Jan. 8

 

PJ: What last thing would you like to share with us that nobody knows about you and your work?DeathNostalgia cover

Mark: It’s not a secret, but even many of my friends don’t know that early in my career I worked for a theme park.  I wrote ads and commercials for Knott’s Berry Farm in southern California.  This experience formed part of the inspiration for Death in Nostalgia City.  If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to wander around an empty theme park at night, after hours, you’ll understand part of my inspiration.

Meet Peggy Hanson

Peggy Hanson

Peggy Hanson

I am an unlikely author to ask about her writing career.  Virtually nothing about my experience fits into the proverbial “box.”  And that question PJ asks about “when did you feel successful as a writer?”  Well, I’m still hoping that moment will come!

The one thing I have in common with all writers is that I have always done it, have always loved it, have always had it as a goal. I’m never happier than when I exercise the discipline to write in a serious way.

And I will admit that when I got down to applying that discipline (built up by being a journalist on deadline) to polishing up and actually publishing my first two novels in the Elizabeth Darcy series, DEADLINE ISTANBUL and DEADLINE YEMEN it felt pretty good.  After all, by that time, I was age 73!

 

The truth is that I have always written, just to write.  I never really focused on publication.  Often, I didn’t even read over or edit my random jottings.  Life has been varied and complicated enough to hold my interest:  teaching English for the Peace Corps in Turkey, returning to the US; having two children; taking them to Turkey and then to Yemen for several years; divorce; news career with Voice of America as an international radio broadcaster; remarriage,

In the village of  Dhra Yemen

In the village of Dhra Yemen

complete with a surprise third child 20 years younger than his oldest sister; living in India and Indonesia with that child, while also working as a foreign correspondent…

 

And that’s where I began to write fiction—living in Indonesia.  Suharto’s dictatorship didn’t allow me to practice journalism there while married to a World Bank economist, so I quit VOA.  It was the first time I’d felt free enough to devote myself to what I’d always wanted to do.  With cook, driver, house cleaners, gardener, guards to keep everything running smoothly and ferry my young son to and from school and activities…the situation was ideal for a writer. I joined a writing group and wrote the first draft of DEADLINE ISTANBUL.  It was a joyous experience to return to Turkey in memory, conjuring up the sights and sounds of 8 years in that amazing country.  Later, when we moved back to India, I wrote the first draft of DEADLINE YEMEN.

 

But let me try to make an organized structure out of this “career,” while answering some of PJ’s actual questions.  (I put quotation marks around career because it feels a little fraudulent to call writing that when my dear husband Jim has been able and willing to support me through the whole process.  I know that has taken much of the “bite” out of trying to get published and trying to sell my books.  I admire and respect beyond measure authors who actually have to make a living doing this!!)

 

From first draft to publication of both the DEADLINE books, several years ensued.  I honestly don’t know why I persevered through rejections and, frankly, a lack of interest on the part of agents and editors in esoteric topics like Turkey and Yemen.  Adding to the problem was my “soft” approach to topics more usually in the realm of thrillers:  terrorism, drug and arms smuggling, assassination, international cast of shady characters.  I mean, really:  Jane Austen, cats, woman with a sense of humor…terrorism?  Really??  Set in places where these things really exist (though I would point out to Americans that we of all people should recognize that terrorism is NOT limited to that arising in Islamic cultures.)

 

So…no niche, no interest, lots going on in my life.  Maybe I would never publish the books.  Would that matter?

 

Peggy reading at MWA University

Peggy reading at MWA University

Well, to me, it mattered.  (My kids wouldn’t even know my computer password, for Pete’s sake!) I kept going to conferences and writing courses (thank you, Noreen Wald!), jotting down stuff in diaries and travelogues, meeting with other writers in various venues, including a long-term writing group that met at my house and had several well-published authors in it.

 

Then, a couple of years ago, at Anne Hillerman writer’s conference in Santa Fe, I met my agent, Liz Trupin-Pulli, who expressed interest in my work.  I took the day-long writing course there from Sandi Ault (full of practical suggestions) and then put nose to the grindstone for a period of four months and rewrote both DEADLINE ISTANBUL and DEADLINE YEMEN for Liz to see.  She accepted me and did a great edit on both books.  I HAD AN AGENT!!!

 

We still had the “niche and unknown countries” problems with big editors.  Fortunately, a member of my book group, Carla Coupe, had begun working for a small press, Wildside Press.  They accepted the books and Liz and I decided that would be a good route for me.  Carla did another edit, and after two more months of nose-to-grindstone, both books came out.  My talented daughter, Anne Welles (of Lunatic Fringe Productions), painted dramatic and impressionistic covers for both ISTANBUL and YEMEN.  She had grown up in those countries, after all, and could get the feel of things as no other artist could have done.  I’m about to get her going on DEADLINE INDONESIA, with palm trees and volcanoes!

 

Since I am writing books in two different series right now (DEADLINE INDONESIA and the first book in the MARY MATTHEWS VICTORIAN MISSIONARY SLEUTH series) I have not had time (or talent, or energy, or aptitude) to sell my books broadly.  That is where PJ Nunn has made all the difference.  Elaine Viets told me to go to her, and what a dynamo she is!  (Both are, really.)  PJ has made me write several guest blogs, has gotten me radio and television interviews all over the country (scheduled but not yet aired), has contacted bookstores and libraries—I cannot keep up with her!  Having PJ means that I can concentrate on doing what I love, writing, and follow her orders about what to do about selling.  It’s going well, I think.

 

My biggest discouragement about writing?  Probably the fact that agents and editors weren’t interested in the topic or the approach.

 

My biggest pleasure derived from the writing?  The fact that friends all over the world, of various nationalities, who either bought the books or were sent the books, are clamoring for the next volume.  That’s what I always wanted to do:  provide some pleasure, comfort, fun, and interest to the lives of other mystery fans.

Evening on the Nile

Evening on the Nile

 

Next month when I spend three weeks in Cairo and Upper Egypt, thanks to my husband’s work, I will be doing what I always do:  jotting notes to send back to family and friends.  This time, because of PJ, I will try to publish those jottings.  It’s a whole new world out there!

 

Istanbul coverDEADLINE ISTANBUL outlines the adventures of Elizabeth Darcy, newspaper reporter, as she seeks answers to the death of her friend, the Istanbul Deadline Yemen cover by Annecorrespondent.  She’s supposed to fill in for him.  But Elizabeth is too nosy for her own good, and soon she is coming up against hidden dangers on every side, from the storied souqs to the enchanting Bosphorus dividing Istanbul.  Some of the men she encounters are attractive.  Are they also dangerous?  And what, pray tell, about the women?  Everyone knows the female is more deadly than the male.  It takes all of Elizabeth’s ingenuity, along with a little help from a cat and a journalist, to survive the outcomes of her investigations.

 

Both DEADLINE ISTANBUL and DEADLINE YEMEN are available from independent booksellers like Edgar Award-winning Mystery Loves Company (Kathy Harig), from Amazon as either paperback or Kindle, and on I-book.

 

 

 

 

Van cat Sultana

 

For those who’ve already read the books, meet the real Sultana, above.

 

 

Peggy and camel friend on recent trip to Egypt

Peggy and camel friend on recent trip to Egypt

Peggy Hanson has lived more than twenty years in Yemen, Turkey, India and Indonesia.  An avid mystery fan, she draws on her background as a Peace Corps volunteer and International Broadcaster for the Voice of America to bring the world to her readers through the mystery medium.  She finds it more fun to write fiction than to stick to facts as she had to as a journalist, though she tries to be as accurate as possible.

 

Peggy has published two mysteries in the Elizabeth Darcy series, DEADLINE ISTANBUL and DEADLINE YEMEN.  Both take the reader into the intricacies of people in those Islamic countries, with which she is very familiar.  She is working on the next in that series, DEADLINE INDONESIA.

 

She is also beginning a new series featuring MARY MATTHEWS, Victorian American Missionary Sleuth in the Balkans.  That series is based on the diaries and letters of Peggy’s great aunt, who was ultimately sent out of Macedonia–possibly for being an American spy.

 

Peggy lives in McLean, Virginia, near Washington, DC, with her husband Jim and two lively cats. http://peggyhansonauthor.com/

Book promotion is WHAT? by PJ Nunn

mosaic-01Whether you call it a mosaic, a jigsaw, or a collage, effective book promotion is not as simple as some like to think. There’s no list of 5 things to do and check off to signify that you’re done. You honestly might never be done. It’s complex, a myriad of details that often are seemingly unrelated. And just the same way an author may have a very structured and organized outline that creates an impression of the book, the final product is so much more than the simple completion of the outline. It’s the nuances and threads that wind and weave and lead from one place to the next until you finally arrive at an often unforeseen destination. When done well, the joy is in the hidden things, the twists of phrases and words that are invisible yet so clear you can almost hear them.

As a grad student, I remember the first time I observed the practice of mirroring in couples therapy. It was fascinating to watch, time and time again, as one person heard things the other never said. Interpretation, insinuation, reflection, assumption. The list can go on. The same thing happens when a reader picks up a book. Readers will hear and see things the author never thought of simply by virtue of the way they piece together the information they’re given. Sometimes it means they assume something before even finishing a sentence. Jumping to conclusions.

The first time I saw the movie The Sixth Sense, I staggered at the ending and immediately wanted to go back and watch again to see if I’d been cheated or if the writing was so good I’d really missed the clues and hints that were obviously there. It was the latter. And one of the few times I’ve ever truly said, “I wish I’d written that.”

You probably think by now I’ve totally digressed and what does this have to do with book promotion really? But I haven’t. I get asked a lot if a client’s press release is ready. Like there’s only one. They’re surprised to learn that I don’t send press releases to most people I contact on behalf of clients.  Bad publicist! No, I have just learned to use the right tools for the job.

Media personalities tend to be very visual. The picture’s worth a thousand words, right? So I don’t send them a press release that’s all text and black and white. I send them a bio with a photo and book info with a cover. It’s not all fancy, but it does what it needs to do – captures the right person’s attention better than a single, typewritten page.

If I’m trying to convince a national television program that my client is the guest of the hour, I don’t send a book and bio page alone. I dress them up in a professional folder and print a copy of the head shot on glossy photo paper (which reminds me, some of you really should ask for new headshots for a holiday gift – just saying). I dress up your promo, include good reviews and blurbs, some of the more significant recent markets that have featured you and your book and generally make you look like you’re really somebody. And then (and you thought I was finished) I put together an idea that sometimes looks like an outline mosaic 02for the show! I get them on the phone and I make the pitch. If they like the pitch (and I do mean IF) then I send them the fancy package.

Book promotion, like a mosaic, may start out small and is usually comprised of tiny, shiny, broken segments of the whole, pieced together in such a way that they create the illusion of a picture of something entirely different. It’s easy to want each action contained in a promotional campaign to be complete in and of itself, and to be able to judge its success or failure accordingly. It just doesn’t work that way anymore than you can attribute the success or attractiveness of a snowman to a single, particular handful of snow. Book promotion is a complex, contrived and ongoing effort that starts as a small, but beautiful piece of art that continues to grow and evolve as you go. Enjoy yourself. It’ll create a better picture.