Need Your Help and Opinion

The image below is a possible cover for my new e-book to be published on Amazon. Original title was Head on a Grave, thus the cemetery setting. It is a murder mystery set in 1928 with more than one murder. I would like to know your thoughts about the cover. Because of the brightness, is it wrong for a mystery? Or should there be something more sinister? I like the idea of the not so perfect lettering, but that is only one opinion. So if you like it or not I would appreciate your thoughts. Thanks.


Yearly Writing Goal 1,200,000 words!! Who can do this?

There is no way I could write 1,200,000 words a year, but according to Wikipedia, the author of the best selling Perry Mason mystery novels, Erle Stanley Gardner, 1889-1970, in his early days writing for pulp magazines had a goal of just that, 1,200,000 words a year.


Lets do some math. Feel free to double check as math is not my strong suit. Let us start with 360 writing days, taking off for Thanksgiving, Christmas, Mother’s Day, and two flex days. Dividing words by days I get 3,333 words per day. Assuming a 10-hour day that is 333 words per hour. I wonder if he kept a running total at his desk. Did he fall behind and do an extra few hours each day to catch up. There is no way he could do that today with Social Media and the Internet to distract him. Oh what a cut cat video!

Okay I can see 333 words an hour, but doing so ten hours a day, 360 days a year is obsessive compulsive; in other words, just plain nuts.

On the other hand, when Gardner started writing pulp fiction stories he would get three cents a word. If he wrote 1,200,000 words that comes out $36,000 a year which in those days was big money.

Now keep in mind Gardner wrote 82 Perry Mason novels as well as a series about a private detective agency Cool and Lam, another series about District Attorney Doug Selby, and used pseudonyms like AA Fair, Carleton Kendrake, Charles J Kenny, and  Charles M Green. He also wrote at least 205 short stories mostly for pulp fiction magazines, and in his spare time wrote non-fiction travel books.

According to Goodreads Gardner has 344 books listed. Were they counting reissues? I did not count them, and have no plans to do so as that would take up time needed to meet my writing goals; just short of 1,000,000 words. That’s for the next 10 years, fifteen if I take off holidays, Mondays and cat videos. If he did indeed write 344 books as well as short stories then perhaps he did reach his stated goal of 1,200,000.

I had hoped that reading about Gardner’s words goal I would get inspired to write more, to get me a kick in the pants. But the more I think of those ten hour days, I am already tired. I need a nap.

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Mystery of The Agony Column, Charlie Chan, and a free book

Earl Derr Biggers was known for his six  Charlie Chan mysteries and the movies made from them. But before he created the famous detective he wrote other mysteries. One of which “The Agony Column” is a mystery within a mystery. I bring this book up because it is worth examining for writers as well as readers. You may find the book a great read, or you can argue the novel is too cute, too clever for it’s own good. It is a public domain novel you can download to your reading app for nothing on Amazon. You can tap for the free book and judge for yourself.

It was written in 1916 and the story takes place in 1914 just before England enters World War I. Here is the set up. The title is derived from a column in a London newspaper. It is one where people can exchange messages with anonymity. An man is seated at a restaurant table when a lovely woman and her father enter, sit down and begin talking. The man, infatuated with the lovely young American learns she loves reading the Agony Column. So he places an ad that references where she had lunch. She answers saying she loves mystery and romance and if he can continue to keep her interested she will meet him.

We learn in his second letter that the man above his apartment has been murdered and over the course of his letters a great mystery with many twists and turns ensue as the young man is helping in the investigation, not something he expected to have happen and indeed he becomes a suspect as well, and for good reason. Is he innocent or will he confess in his last letter? Would it not be a great twist to have the narrator be the killer? In each letter he professes his admiration and love for her, but is unsure of his future because of the murder investigation. 

It is a clever structure to have the mystery told by the narrator through letters. Not something I have run across before. The mystery of what happened draws the reader in and because of the time 1914 with war about to break out in Europe it seems a likely spy is in the midst of the murder and one who may be with the British government. But  there is also good reason to believe someone else is the killer, including the letter writer.

But as with any great mystery there is a twist and that I can not share, but the twist is where the reader, and perhaps a writer might think it was a twist that should not have been made. I will understand if some don’t like the ending, I get it. But from a writers standpoint I see something else at work. The narrator is the writer, the woman is his audience, and Biggers is the author and we are his audience. Even in a wonderful mystery, Biggers is having fun, holding up a mirror to the construct and artifice of writing, poking and prodding his audience to the end when he says “Got Ya!”

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