Friday, March 20, 2015

Mystery readers: how much violence, blood & sex do you want?

So tell me, mystery readers, does everyone want blood and gore, gunplay, sex, and multiple slayings, and serial car chases and crashes in EVERY mystery novel? Or, is that what constitutes a thriller? My personal preference these days, James Bond being a prime exception, is fewer of these devices rather than more. I am thinking here or John le CarrĂ©’s books, Robert B. Parker’s Jess Stone series, or Stuart Woods’ Stone Barrington novels. Sure, there is some violence and danger but not throughout the stories.

I am working with a character who is an aging investigative reporter. He is not inclined to be in non-stop physical danger. In fact, as he unravels mysteries (murders), he does it as a reporter would, and reporters plod through hunches, documents, and interviews to get to the story. My challenge is to make each story element intriguing enough to keep the reader turning pages. I also try to impart a little bit of information about the underlying theme, not too much though. There are elements of danger in each story, but strategically placed – not every other chapter.

I know many readers like the adrenaline charged story elements, but a number of readers I have spoken to say they get tired of it. I get tired of it too. So I write stories I would like to read – not necessarily the “write to your market” approach heaped on you at most writers conferences and let-me-tell-you-how-to-write-your-bestseller websites. I think if there is anything I want to do with future books is make them shorter. They seem to be ending up around 90,000-95,000 words. My first draft goals are always 75,000.

As a mystery reader, what are your thoughts on this issue? I would really like to know. Email me any old time you see this posting.

rjschneid47@gmail.com or richardjschneider@comcast.net



Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Amazon Kindle Exclusivity to End

MYSTERY FANS:

EBooks of my mysteries will soon be available on ALL popular eBook sites and in ALL eBook formats, sometime in March 2015.

The experiment with Amazon Kindle Select, making my work available only as a Kindle eBook, is over.

HOWEVER, THE TITLES WILL BE AVAILABLE ON KINDLE, JUST NOT EXCLUSIVELY.

They will be available on Kindle, Nook, Kobo, Apple, Diesel, Smashwords, and everywhere that Smashwords distributes to.

MYSTERY TITLES CURRENTLY AVAILABLE ON KINDLE:


WATER
A Vic Bengston Investigation

A powerful political figure is found dead in Denver’s South Platte River, the source of vital water sought by farmers, land developers and politicians. Vic Bengston, a baby boomer returning to the newspaper world after 25 years in the public relations business is sent to cover the story. After day one, he’s yanked from the assignment to let the “pros” take over. That doesn't stop Vic, a relentless investigative reporter. Bucking his new bosses and the cops, Vic chases down leads on his own, taking him to the heights of Colorado political power, into the life and death struggle over water in farm country and, finally to a deadly confrontation with the killer. BUY IT.

What Readers Say: “Terrific! ... A great read ... Hooked from the first page ... Impossible to put down ... Thoroughly enjoyed it ... Compelling ... Sets your mind in a tizzy trying to figure out who did it!” BUY THE PAPERBACK. 


WHO KILLED PORKCHOP?
A Key West Mystery

JAMES O'SHEA KELLY was not happy…His knee ached. The coffee stunk. He wanted a beer. His best pal was down in the ER shot full of holes. The mayor of Denver was under guard out at the air base. And he had lost the best butcher in Key West. All because of that darn pig…  BUY IT.







Wednesday, February 4, 2015

WATER Amazon Kindle Countdown Deal!

WATER: A Vic Bengston Investigation (4.5 Stars)
KDP Select Kindle Countdown
START: Feb. 6 at 8:00 a.m. PST
END: Feb. 13 at 12:00 a.m. PST
[1 day earlier in the UK]

BIG SAVINGS! $1.99 THE FIRST 53 HRS! (Reg. price $4.99)

PRICE JUMPS TO $2.99 Feb. 8 - 1:00 p.m. PST and $3.99 Feb 10 - 6:00 p.m. PST.

http://www.amazon.com/WATER-Bengston-Investigation-Investigations-Book-ebook/dp/B0074AOMKS

A POWERFUL POLITICAL FIGURE...dead in Denver’s South Platte River, the source of vital water sought by farmers, land developers and politicians.

BABY BOOMER VIC BENGSTON...returning to the newspaper world after 25 years in the PR business – is sent to cover the story.

After day one, he’s yanked from the assignment…to let the “pros” take over.

But that doesn’t stop Vic, once a relentless investigative reporter. Bucking his new bosses and the cops, Vic chases down leads on his own, taking him to the heights of Colorado political power, into the life and death struggle over water in farm country and, finally…

…to a deadly confrontation with the killer.

READER COMMENTS...

Terrific! Schneider's portraits of a narcissistic legislator, a corrupt water lawyer and desperate farmers all ring true in this contemporary saga of Colorado water wars … Hooked from the first page … Filled with solid twists and turns … Full of surprises … A fast read … Impossible to put down … Compelling and interesting water issues behind the mystery … Grabs your attention immediately.

GREAT CHANCE TO INTRODUCE YOURSELF TO VIC BENGSTON. THE NEXT BOOK - VOTE: A Vic Bengston Investigation - IS DUE OUT SOON!

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Don't stretch your nonfiction facts to the breaking point

When writing non-fiction, it serves the writer well to stick to facts, and even to a reasonable interpretation of facts. Otherwise, your cred as the author of a piece can—and should—fall under suspicion.

A ran across a piece the other day by a nutrition expert that exemplifies this in spades. I stopped reading after the first paragraph because of its absurd assumption about foods that had been in widespread use for millennia.

Here is the opening paragraph of the article titled, "What Are Sprouted Grains?"

“There are a number of healthy foods that were once considered fringe fare, relegated to the realm of health-food stores and to the diets of people who preferred tie-dye to neckties. Yogurt, granola, hummus, and goji berries are all examples of ‘alternative’ foods that debuted on the margins but have since gone mainstream. And to this list, it appears we may soon add sprouted grains.”

The author block identified the writer as “a NYC-based registered dietitian whose clinical practice specializes in digestive disorders, Celiac Disease, and food intolerances” and with a bunch of letters after her name --. MS, RD, CDN. I have no reason to question the writer’s credentials, only the shaping of the lead paragraph.

It was the lead that set off the alarm bells, because it was wrong from the get-go. Take the first sentence, and the use of the term, “fringe fare” only found in health food stores frequented by people wearing "tie-dye" clothing. Anyone been in a Whole Foods lately? Mostly Brooke Brothers, Polo inside and BMW, Mercedes, Volvo, and Prius outside. From the start, the reader gets a biased and incorrect impression about the subject of the piece.

Now look at the second sentence, and the assertion that “Yogurt, granola, hummus, and goji berries are all examples of "alternative" foods that debuted on the margins but have since gone mainstream.”

There is a hint of truth here, but so feint that it continues to mislead the reader into thinking that these foods fell off the turnip truck last week. Maybe the writer (or her editor, who I suspect is the real culprit) is implying that these foods just recently became popular. That is still a bit of a stretch.

Three of the foods – yogurt, hummus, and goji berries (wolfberry) – are ancient, dating back thousands of years. Yogurt and hummus, for example, are documented to have been in use 8,000 and 7,000 years ago, respectively. Wolfberries? Only a few thousand years back in China.

The babies of the group, Granula and Granola, are – or were – registered trademarks dating back into the late 1800s in the U.S. The food, based on whole grains that have been baked until crisp, was developed at a New York health clinic just before the tune of the century – the 20th that is – in 1893. Cereal giant Kellogg even took a crack at it. Its unbaked cousin, muesli, turned up a only few decades later.

Yogurt, - a food that dates back 8,000 years. In the last 2 centuries has been a staple for many cultures – hardly fringe or yuppie. And that Dannon yogurt with the fruit on the bottom – the stuff popular with the latte crowd? Recent? Trendy? Introduced in 1947 – the year I was borne

Hummus, ground up chickpeas as the base with added ingredients, dates back to ancient Egypt. Recipes were published about the time movable type printing was invented. No doubt there were hand-written versions circulated before that. And maybe a few chiseled into stone somewhere.

The goji berry is a relatively new name for the ancient wolfberry, the consumption of which dates back thousands of years in China.  No doubt, the new name was a marketing gimmick to push recent health claims. Who would eat a “wolf” berry? This one food of the four cited in the article’s lead that might be classified as a recent health food fad, but it is hardly “fringe.” And people with neckties buy this stuff.

It took me about 10 minutes to pull quick research on these foods to confirm what my nose told me when I read the article’s first paragraph. I stopped there since the author, in my mind, lost credibility.

If it was an editor who wrote the lead, I can understand the problem. It was like the headlines written by the copy desk back when I was committing daily journalism. Sometimes they said the exact opposite of what the story said.

The point is this: in your non-fiction writing it is fair to stretch the lead paragraph as far as possible. But it should not snap away from the truth. This story's lead, left the clear impression that these foods were “fringe” and “alternative.” Reality tells us they have been consumed by million of people for thousands of years.

No, I did not read the rest of the story. And, yes, I like mixed metaphors and cliches. They are fun.

Good writing.


Novelist Richard J. Schneider is an award-winning former reporter, video scriptwriter and producer, and communications consult. He is the creator of the Vic Bengston Investigation mystery series.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

EBOOKS

MYSTERY FANS:

EBooks of my mysteries are available exclusively on Kindle at Amazon. That means Amazon Prime members can borrow them for FREE. THE AMAZON KDP-SELECT DEAL ENDS AT THE END OF FEBRUARY WHEN ALL TITLES WILL BE AVAILABLE WORLDWIDE ON ALL EBOOK PLATFORMS.

Why did I do the Amazon deal? Good question. I do not like exclusivity. However, Amazon outsells, outmarkets, and outdistributes ALL OTHER EBOOK OUTLETS combined 7 to 1 in my case. Some authors experience 10:1 sales ratios.

I want my readers to enjoy my work AND I would like to write more. Writing mysteries is too much fun to return to working for the man, so I am going to experiment with Amazon’s exclusive eBook arrangement for the next year. Keep an eye out for specials.

HOWEVER, AMAZON EXCLUSIVITY IS SIMPLY NOT THE WAY I WANT TO GO ANYMORE. IT WAS A BIT OF A MARKETING EXPERIMENT.



None of my titles have Digital Rights Management (DRM) – so they can be converted into Epub or other formats for non-kindle platforms with a free software program called Calibre.

They can be read on any kindle device, as well as on any computer, smart phone, or tablet with free kindle reader software apps. Plus, they can be converted to easy reading on your Nook, Kobo, Sony or other eReader with Calibre. BUT AROUND MARCH 1, 2015, THEY WILL BE AVAILABLE AGAIN IN KINDLE, NOOK, KOBO, AND ALL OTHER POPULAR FORMATS.

MYSTERY TITLES CURRENTLY AVAILABLE ON KINDLE:


WATER
A Vic Bengston Investigation

A powerful political figure is found dead in Denver’s South Platte River, the source of vital water sought by farmers, land developers and politicians. Vic Bengston, a baby boomer returning to the newspaper world after 25 years in the public relations business is sent to cover the story. After day one, he’s yanked from the assignment to let the “pros” take over. That doesn't stop Vic, a relentless investigative reporter. Bucking his new bosses and the cops, Vic chases down leads on his own, taking him to the heights of Colorado political power, into the life and death struggle over water in farm country and, finally to a deadly confrontation with the killer. BUY IT.

What Readers Say: “Terrific! ... A great read ... Hooked from the first page ... Impossible to put down ... Thoroughly enjoyed it ... Compelling ... Sets your mind in a tizzy trying to figure out who did it!” BUY THE PAPERBACK. 


WHO KILLED PORKCHOP?
A Key West Mystery

JAMES O'SHEA KELLY was not happy…His knee ached. The coffee stunk. He wanted a beer. His best pal was down in the ER shot full of holes. The mayor of Denver was under guard out at the air base. And he had lost the best butcher in Key West. All because of that darn pig…  BUY IT.






Friday, September 5, 2014

The Flying Saucer (1950) - a review

This movie is far better than some of the reviews on IMDB indicate. One reviewer rightly said that good films like The Thing or The Man from Planet X were made at the same time, but the comparison is faulty. The Flying Saucer was a one-off by Mikel Conrad who starred in it, wrote the storyline, directed and produced; it seems to be his only writer-director-producer credit.

TMFPX was extremely low budget but used far superior actors. And Thing was a Howard Hawks production with a top-notch cast and crew; many of the scenes, judging by dialogue and action alone, seemed to have been directed by Hawks even though he is not credited.  Compare The Flying Saucer to the many other low budget sci-fi flicks of the early fifties and it holds up a little better.

Except for interiors, the entire film was shot on location in Alaska – so you get a great look at the 1949 Alaska environment around Juneau, Spring Lake, and Taku Glacier. And a number of boats, docks, cabins, and float planes from that era. The story is that the cinematographer was, in fact, shooting a doc on Alaska, when his Hollywood chums called to see if he could wrap in the sci-fi story.

I found the storyline interesting – a scientist builds a saucer (From alien plans? This question is left to the viewer’s imagination) that both the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. want to get a hold of. The indie film is reputed to be the first movie portrayals of UFOs. The saucer was a good MacGuffin. Acting was stiff at times, but this was a pro-sumer production. Still, it was worth watching. [You can find the film on YouTube for free.]

From time to time I will post about old movies – mostly black & white, westerns, noir, spy, and sci-fi. I fall asleep to them, but eventually get through to the end after a couple of nights. I watch so many I figure I had better start writing about them. As a mystery novelist, I have learned a lot from these overlooked flicks, especially how to set up conflict quickly in a story and creating the nuances of ongoing characters (like Bob Steele, Buster Crabbe, Al St. John, George “Gabby” Hayes, the Duke, and Charles King). And I have found some interesting plot ideas. --RJS

Monday, June 30, 2014

Hobby Lobby case a boon to fiction writers?

The U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the Hobby Lobby / Conestoga Wood Products cases is a real eye-opener for the politically obsessed. But for writers it certainly can provide interesting fodder for speculative fiction plots.

Now, corporations, which exist on paper only and clearly have no souls, nevertheless, have religious rights under our constitution, thanks to the recent court ruling. The decision held that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) requirement for insurance coverage of certain contraceptives violated the companies’ religious freedom rights. 


This particular decision, written and supported by five men only, dealt with Christian beliefs. Will we be seeing similar lawsuits and rulings concerning closely held companies (their stock is not publicly traded) owned by majorities of Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Mormons, Scientologists, or YOUR RELIGION HERE? 


Among other things, corporations have been given rights by this court to essentially spend whatever they want to influence our elections. They already have a stranglehold on local, state, and national legislators through lobbying efforts (also a part of the First Amendment). They essentially control our defense establishment. 


They have controlled our economy for some time, even wrecked it a few times – 1929 and 2007 come to mind, but there are tons more if you care to do the research. For-profit corporations took over our health care during the past several decades, which led to passage of the ACA. Try to get dental care without a financial statement and $50,000 of home equity for a Second Mortgage. 


Citizens THINK they are pushing for such things as renewable energy and decent food production, even climate change strategies, but corporate giants control the bulk of those areas. Also, the Roberts court is systematically weakening workers’ rights to organize. These trends point to ever increasing corporate control over our lives, taxes, homes, families, health, and general well-being.


See that dark corner back in your junk closet in the basement? That is what you have control over, and this is in doubt if you are forced to rent instead of buy. 



Charlie Chaplin in "Modern Times"
Speculative fiction is based on current trends extended into the future or near future. Post apocalypse stories, books, games, and movies have flooded the market in recent years. Corporate power is a common theme in many stories and has been for a very long time. Go to YouTube and watch Charlie Chaplin’s “Modern Times” or read Kurt Vonnegut’s “Player Piano”.

As the Supreme Court continues its march to fundamentally change our society here in America, writers should examine these trends and get them into our fiction.