Our son went somewhere. It’s been so long ago, I’ve forgotten where he went. But the thing of it is, he left us his new Tandy 2000 computer. A big heavy thing with separate computer, keyboard and monitor. It had 640 kilobytes of memory.

I had been loafing for a good while. I was getting tired of it. So, I told Jeanne, my wife, I was going to write a book. No short story or a poem. I was going to start at the top and write a novel.

Jeanne showed me how to turn on the Tandy, get to the word processor, how to save and exit. She turned the computer off and left the room. Ten minutes later I was looking at the beautiful blue screen of Word Perfect. I sat there staring at the little white light blinking in the upper left corner of the screen.

I leaned back and ran all the different kinds of novels through my mind. I was leaning toward writing a science-fiction story since I had always been interested in astronomy. Loved Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers as a kid. But after twenty minutes, I decided to write an ordinary murder mystery.

I kept my plot simple. A woman was missing for six months. All my main characters were in their forties or fifties. The Berlin police chief and his sergeant were searching. The Worcester County sheriff and his chief deputy were also looking. The sergeant wanted to run for sheriff in the next election and the sheriff wanted to run for the Maryland House of Delegates. Whoever found the missing woman would be a shoo-in at the next election.

To make the book appealing to women, I brought in Madame Z, a fake fortune teller retired from Army CID (Criminal Investigation Command), and Martha, the sheriff’s wife.

After one day of writing, I had five hundred words. I was shooting for a hundred thousand words which is a little above average. I did a little arithmetic. I had one half of one percent done in one day. If I could keep up this pace, I would be finished in two hundred days.

The next day, I wrote another five hundred. After only two days, I was one percent finished. It would be a walk in the park.

I kept my character’s names simple. There were Sheriff Abel, Chief Deputy Baker and Mr. Charlie. I named some by colors. Mr. Green, Mr. Black, Miss purple and so-on. I would use “find and replace” later to change names to fit.

I printed whenever I finished five thousand words. It was a nice feeling to see what you had accomplished in print. The printer had a black, red and green ribbon. Later, I would have a green version, a red version and a black version.

I didn’t do an outline so I didn’t know where my story was going. I had fifty thousand words before I knew where the missing woman was located and who was her killer. Once I had my murderer, I could go back and change things and add clues that would eventually point my sleuths in the right direction.

I kept the story local. It was set mostly in Berlin where the crime occurred and in different areas in Worcester County.

An ending that makes sense and explains the crime and motive is hard to do. I muddled through with a shoot-out in a blizzard, a blood hound chase and hostages.

The title was the last item. Madame Z was constantly threatening to talk with Edgar Cayce and find the woman. The sheriff was afraid this was true. So, I titled the novel, Edgar Cayce and the Sheriff.

600 words 1/25/17 is the place to go

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3 Responses to novel

  1. 83n831 says:

    Interesting piece of computer history. I got a PS-2 in the early 90s: it had white letters on a black screen and had no hard drive. There were floppies that you had to put in to get it to start, and every time you saved something, you had to put that floppy in to remind it how to save, then take it out and put another floppy in and repeat as needed. Even so, I wrote lots of academic articles and the first draft of my first two folklore books (Raising the Devil and Lucifer Ascending) on it.

    Good basic advice on writing, too. As Lewis Carroll said, start at the beginning, tell the story to the end, then stop. (Lots of academic writers get hung up with that third tip and write their unreadable dissertations into eternity.) And a small step forward is a step forward, and if you keep stepping, it adds up to a surprisingly long journey.

  2. Carol Ann Ellis says:


    I’d like to read Edgar Cayce and the Sheriff–is it online?


  3. Gerald Pine says:

    You reminded me of Word Perfect. Our first computer had it already installed, and I really liked it. Our next computer, I installed it again from the original discs, but it didn’t work nearly as well. Then we upgraded again, and the new one wouldn’t accept it at all. It had a word processor, but it just wasn’t the same.
    There’ll never be another Word Perfect. Sigh.

    When sleeping women wake, mountains move.
    Chinese proverb

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