Sunspot could be a local best seller

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A sunspot is a cool area of the sun—a place that stands out because of its contrast to the fiery orb—that eventually warms and blends back into the larger body. It is also the title of the first book written by Speonk resident Frederick Musser.

Mr. Musser, a recently retired 23-year veteran of the Southampton Town Police Department, said he chose the name “Sunspot” for his book to reflect his novel’s protagonist, Mike Connors. The hero is a man set apart from the rest of society through circumstances out of his control, but who eventually finds a way to blend back into the life he once had.

The book opens with Mr. Connors wandering around the desert in a state of amnesia. He doesn’t know who, or where, he is, but he soon finds out that he is wanted by some unsavory characters and the FBI. His journey of self-discovery leads him to the Excalibur Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, where his past begins to come back to him on the casino floor when he witnesses the kidnapping of his wife.

Former police sergeant and first-time published author Mr. Musser said he came up with the idea for “Sunspot” through a combination of his years on the police force and his avid interest in mystery and adventure novels. He counts James Patterson and John Grisham, both masters of suspenseful drama, among his favorite authors.

“I like to read books with strong characters who overcome adversity and learn from their experiences,” Mr. Musser said recently. “And I thought I had an idea for an interesting story with strong family values, so I just started writing.”

It took Mr. Musser about three years from the time he started thinking about writing his book until he finished the last sentence. But he said it was mostly during an intense six- to eight-month period that he wrote the majority of the novel.

Though Mr. Musser has been to the Excalibur Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, he didn’t need to travel far to research other locations, such as the desert in which his hero finds himself wandering. Scouting the lay of the land was as easy as typing in “Google Earth” from his “fortress of solitude,” a second-floor office/spare room in the Speonk home he shares with his wife, Teresa.

Even finding a publisher for his manuscript took just a few keystrokes, according to Mr. Musser. He reported that the third one he contacted, PublishAmerica, Inc. in Frederick, Maryland, agreed to print his book shortly after it was received in December 2007. He also submitted his manuscript to Simon and Schuster, Inc. and Brown Books Publishing Group.

“The whole process was just surreal to me,” Mr. Musser said in March. “I sent it in to them in December … and I got the first copy just a few days ago.”

The book, which retails for $16.95, is available online at www.publishamerica.com as well as at barnesandnoble.com and borders.com. Mr. Musser said he is also trying to market the book himself by gauging the interest of local booksellers like Eastport Books and Brew in Eastport and The Open Book in Westhampton Beach.

Eastport Books and Brew owner Bridgette Kennedy said that though she hasn’t read “Sunspot” yet, the genre selected by Mr. Musser is “right on the money” and that the author’s local roots might also gain him entry into her store.

“Mystery is definitely a big seller,” she said. “I’m definitely interested to see the book.”

Shawn Street, a spokesman for PublishAmerica, said that his company chose Mr. Musser’s book based on the ex-policeman’s storytelling ability and the authenticity he brought to police investigative techniques.

“With his background as a police officer for over 23 years, Musser was able to give readers an insight to the world of law enforcement that many authors of this genre lack,” Mr. Street wrote in a recent e-mail. “He has a great deal of talent as a writer.”

Mr. Street’s advice to first-time authors is to study the books of established writers.

“Not just the stories they write, but how they write. Sentence structure, depth of character, etc.,” he advised.

Mr. Musser is currently working on a sequel to “Sunspot” and even has plans for a third, unrelated book once Mike Connors completes his journey.

“I’d like to do a romance novel with cops and nurses … something like that later,” he said.

Next up on his reading list is “Sam’s Letters to Jennifer” by James Patterson. Not surprisingly, that novel is a love story.

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