Author Archives:

You can write that novel – Part I

I began writing professionally in 1969.

Since that time I have covered governors and presidents and written thousands of articles as a journalist, helped a state launch its energy conservation office back in the Seventies, written tons of video scripts for various public and private clients, pioneered the interactive touch screen video industry, and won a bunch of awards for writing, video producing, and what not. And knocked off a few mystery novels and short stories.

So what, you may ask, were the most exciting words I ever wrote?

“The End”

Water: A Vic Bengston Investigation - BOOK COVERThey came at the conclusion of draft one of my first completed novel, WATER: A Vic Bengston Investigation.

Seven drafts later and the mystery novel was published.

But wrapping that first draft was the really exciting part.

Those two words, THE END, said, hey, I do can do this. Then I corrected myself and said, hey, you did it!

Well, you can do it too.

I had thought about writing novels my entire writing life. Why did it take until I hit my Sixties until it actually happened?

We writers tend to talk ourselves out of things instead of into things. I do not know enough about plot. I cannot fully develop a character. Is my dialog stilted? I do not know what to write about. How can I beat Michenor, Vonnegut, or fill in the blank? No one will like this. My writing is not all that good.

We have all sorts of reasons for not writing that novel, even though we want to write one.

So listen to one voice, yours, and one desire, I want to write a novel.

The great fantasy and science fiction writer Ray Bradbury shared his adventure to New York when he was young and holding a sheaf full of short stories he had written — short stories about Mars. He tried to sell them individually and did not have much luck. Then an editor suggested he put them together, edit them a bit, and BAM!

He had a novel, The Martian Chronicles.

Ray Bradbury wrote one of his best novels, and he did not even realize it.


Because he wrote it in chunks, in this case, short stories.

One thing that deterred me from writing novels earlier in my career was the sheer size of the finished product. I kept looking at finished books in my library and just kept letting their finished lengths psyche me out.

Dumb. Writing is putting one word down at a time. Novels are no different.

Here is what I have pasted onto my computer screen in my office, “A Novel is 200 words. Every day. For one year.”

Next, we will look at chinking down the project in You can write that novel — Part II.

Author Richard J. Schneider is completing his third mystery novel in the popular series. His latest book is VOTE: A Vic Bengston Investigation.


Water is the lifeblood of the West

Water is tWATERWEB72DPIhe lifeblood of the West, especially in light of climate change. Below is an interesting story developed by public radio journalists.

Mystery Fans: For a fictional look at murder over Colorado water rights, take a look at WATER: A Vic Bengston Investigation. Click on the book cover to learn more.


From Colorado Public Radio:

Disappearing Colorado River water.

Photo: CPR

Business as usual on the Colorado River may be about to come to a screeching halt.
One of the worst recorded droughts in human history has stretched water supplies thin across the far-reaching river basin, which serves 40 million people. Nowhere is this more obvious than Lake Mead, which straddles the border of Arizona and Nevada. The water level in the country’s largest manmade reservoir has been plummeting; it’s now only 37 percent full. READ MORE…



VOTE: A Vic Bengston Investigation
By Richard J Schneider

Available in paperback and eBook on Amazon

Imagine a Universal Vote System where any eligible voter can register and vote on any device from anywhere on Earth (or in space)? David Riley did, and it got him murdered. Vic Bengston, a baby boomer who returns to his first love of journalism, investigates. Locations: Colorado and Key West. Five Stars on Amazon.

What Readers Say About VOTE:

“Wow! Dick Schneider has done it again – only bigger and better. Again he starts out with a mysterious murder – then proceeds to solve it, all while educating us on democratic voting and code breaking. A lot of work and thought went into this book. Excellent job.” —Amazon Reader

“Really enjoyed the second book in the series, as I did the first. Vic Bengston is a fully developed character revealed in parts to fit in with the story development. The subject matter of the crime are very timely as the election nears. The dialogue is sharp and witty like a good private eye novel, which this resembles except Vic has his own independent point of view of everything that is happening. The background in how a newspaper actually works in today’s world is interesting and informative.” —Amazon Reader

“VOTE has my vote! Intricate, well-developed plots with the engaging Vic Bengston – favorite rebel Pulitzer-Prize journalist turned detective turned soul-searcher turned tech-savvy encryption seeker – as the author explores timely issues of privacy, power and politics – who has the right to information? Well-drawn characters through Vic’s eyes – he’s a guy to be comfortable with, be quiet with and to trust; he’s oh-so-human! Twists and turns – evil and good – apathy and obsession – death and near-death and … risk; all the elements for a can’t-put-it-down mystery.” —Jude/Amazon

“Schneider has produced another fun read with a captivating story. An expert on Denver, the newspaper business, and ham radio … descriptions of scenes and events are clear and accurate.” —Ronald Kienzl/Amazon

“Loved the second book in the Vic Bengston series! Kept me reading – hard to put it down. Since I live in Colorado, the references of local places was very cool!!” —Huntress/Amazon

Fast Food Wifi

What is it with Burger King? This chain went from having the best wifi to the worst. In its heyday, BK wifi users could get right on the Interweb® and work during their lunch breaks, now limited by greedy money grubbing employers. At the time, chief rival, McDonald’s, had a logon system that required seven — yes count them, seven — clicks to make it to the information super highway. But at this writing — Halloween 2016 — Mickey D’s has zoomed to the top of the heap with a one click logon, while BK has descended into fast food wifi hell.

Burger King (that’s the outfit with the still creepy stalker “king” mascot) has run through several AT&T (the world’s largest crappy company) wifi systems. BK/AT&T used to force users through thirty seconds of ad “experiences” before they made it to the web. Combined with glacially slow speed, after about five minutes, customers simply wolfed down their food, packed up, and headed to the nearest McDonald’s for coffee and managing their emails.

Then BK-AT&T switched to a quick survey in advance of their ad “experience.” The questions were pretty stupid (like, do you own a cat?), but one was key: how old are you? Just click “13” and the BK-AT&T web robot apologizes because there are no ads for 13 yearolds. Yippee! Onto the still glacially slow Interweb®. But at least there was service for a reasonable length of time.

Now, the BK-AT&T cabal, apparently bent on pissing off as many of their customers as possible, kicks them off the web after fifteen minutes. Then they have to go through the I am 13 logon process all over. This time limitation often interrupts users in the midst of their lunch hour break — sorry, lunch half hour break: cut off in the middle of an article, eighty sixed halfway through their emails, blasted before they can complete that online purchase.

So, try to get a cheap meal (and sometimes FREE coffee!) while knocking out 500 words on a novel while researching online conveniently. Well, knocking out the words does not require the Interweb®, but jumping onto the web to research something, especially when writing a short article, sure does.

This is a mobile world, and providing instore wifi service is no longer a luxury or perk. It is a cost of doing business. And that cost is not very high. It is not as though BK needs to turn over table space. Their stores are empty most of the time.

Richard J. Schneider writes the popular Vic Bengston Investigation series of mystery novels. His latest books are VOTE and WATER. He works in coffee shops and fast food joints. INFO:



Hobbies clear your mind. While you are absorbed in your interest, the brain flushes the worries of everyday life. You get to have fun AND hush those mental voices yelling at you all day long. Hobbies are also known to restore sanity. My hobby is Amateur Radio.

As it happens, I have a friend who owns an Amateur Radio products company. I go in from time to time to build electronic devices for him. In return I get a little cash or credits to buy Amateur Radio transceiver kits that he also sells. It also enhances my electronics construction skills. The electronics building takes me from the 2-D world of computer screens, eye strain, and writing books to the 3-D world of making things with my hands, a refreshing transition.

The small units are code practice oscillators. Attach a telegraph key, insert a battery, and the device helps you learn Morse code. While Morse no longer is an official radio communications mode it is used extensively by Amateur Radio operators and the military. If you are a fan of the BBC mystery series, Inspector Morse, listen to the first stanza of the theme music. It spells out his name in the ubiquitous code: M (dah) O (dah dah dah) R (dit dah dit) S (dit dit dit) E (dit).

Morse Code Practice Oscillators

The other unit is a pre-amplifer that is placed between an antenna and a shortwave receiver or transceiver. It amplifies weak signals so you can hear them better. This unit works well for both Amateur Radio operators and for short wave listeners (another fun hobby). See more at

Short Wave Pre Amplifier

My fictional alter ego, Vic Bengston, also is an Amateur Radio operator. While the mystery novels I write do not focus on Amateur Radio, the hobby creeps into each book. Even fictional characters need hobbies. But there will be one Vic Bengston Investigation that involves radio. See more at


Cherry Creek State Park Scenes Winter 2015

One of my ongoing “models” for photography relaxation is nearby Cherry Creek State Park. The day after Thanksgiving 2015, the Colorado state parks system opened up the parks for free, offering up an alternative to Black Friday. What an ugly, ugly name for a shopping day; see my #BoycottBlackFriday hashtag on Twitter. It was chilly, about 18 degrees. I had a digital camera with me – my Fuji compact SLR – and an analog camera — a $3 plastic Vivitar box camera grabbed from the bin at the local thrift store. I got there late in the day, so I raced the sunlight, but found a few things to shoot. These were my two favorites, a chilly landscape and a falcon (I think a prairie falcon, similar to a peregrine) perched high in a tree and searching for food.

Cherry Creek State Park

A chilly landscape just after Thanksgiving.

Winter Falcon Colorado

A falcon, probably a prairie falcon, searches the winter landscape in Colorado’s Cherry Creek State Park for food. Nov. 2015

The Trump Simple Declarative Sentence Tour

Donald Trump is making a mockery of the American political system. His effort is revealing. Trump is doing a terrific job of using a basic English form—the simple declarative sentence—to highlight what most of us already know: our professional politician class is mostly talk and no action.

In its most fundamental form, the simple declarative sentence contains a subject and a predicate. For those of you who slept through English class, the subject is the thing that is doing something or just plain old being something. It could be an object, an idea, a place, or a person. The predicate is the part of the sentence that has a verb in it and which states something about the subject.

Here are a few examples of simple declarative sentences:

I leave for New Hampshire Tomorrow.
Breakfast is at nine a.m.
Please fuel up my jet.
It is a great day for a rally.

Pretty simple. There is no doubt about each message.

Here are Donald Trump direct quotes reported by the Washington Post on August 22, 2015. They are from his University of Alabama football stadium rally the day before.

“We have politicians that don’t have a clue.”
“They’re all talk, no action.”
“What’s happening to this country is disgraceful.”
“We’re running on fumes.”
“There’s nothing here.”
“We’re not going to have a country left.”
“We need to have our borders.”
“We need to make great deals.”
“We’re going to build a wall.”
“Has this been crazy?”
“Man! I mean, it’s been wild.”
“I’d like to have the election tomorrow.”
“I don’t want to wait.”
“We are going to have a wild time in Alabama tonight!”
“Finally, the silent majority is back!”
“These hats are hot as a pistol.”

Simple sentences. Single ideas per sentence. Powerful.

In contrast, the article quotes a critical comment from a professional politician, former Alabama congressman Jack Edwards, who gave us this:

“My plea to my conservatives is, ‘Don’t get so far out in right field that we can’t talk to anyone but ourselves.’ ”

Huh? Double negative? Mixed Metaphors? To understand what this politician said, you would need to get a chalk board (and some chalk) to diagram that convoluted sentence. And since we do not diagram sentences anymore in English class, well, what former Congressman Edwards uttered was essentially meaningless.

In the meantime, the Trump Simple Declarative Sentence Tour marches on with this imperative, but simple declarative sentence motto:

“Make America Great Again.”

Richard J. Schneider is the creator of the Vic Bengston Investigation series of mystery novels.

San Andreas, the film, a synopsis in 48 cliché ridden scenes

cracked-brown-egg11Beautiful young girl in SUV gets knocked off a California mountain road by falling rock caused by a small tremor; she plunges down a cliff but miraculously gets hung up on a rock; hero flies in on rescue chopper, drops down on a cable, and when the winch on the chopper is about to burn out, plucks her from the front seat as it plunges into the chasm.

Cal Tech researchers whoop it up over recording a bunch of mini-tremors with changes in the magnetic field beforehand, which might prove their earthquake prediction theory; the researchers run to Nevada to check it out at Hoover Dam.

Back in California the hero walks into his modest home, talking to his daughter on the phone planning a road trip to San Francisco to go to school; he opens the mail and finds the divorce papers from his estranged wife.

Back in Nevada, the researchers are giddy over more tremors, then a bigger one hits and takes out Hoover Dam; the young researcher saves a little girl but gets taken out; the older researcher, a star with billing, makes it off the dam.

Back in California, the hero shows up at his soon-to-be-ex-wife’s palatial estate, owned by the new boyfriend, to tell daughter he cannot go on the trip because he has to go rescue people; but hero meets the new boyfriend who offers to fly daughter up to San Francisco on his plane, a private jet.

Back in LA, a bigger earthquake starts where the soon-to-be-ex-wife is having lunch with her rich new boyfriend’s former wife; daughter (who found a new boyfriend and his kid brother in an office waiting room) running for her life in San Francisco when it hits there; she gets trapped in a town car with the new boyfriend.

Up in San Francisco, the soon-to-be-ex-wife’s rich new boyfriend runs away “to get help” and gets taken out by falling stuff.

The “HOLLYWOOD” sign falls down.

While hero is in the air in his rescue chopper he sees LA completely fall apart.

Hero flies into the rubble (all of LA remember) and there is his wanting-a-divorce-wife standing on top of one big pile; he rescues her; his line, “Are you hurt?”

While hero and want-to-be-divorced-wife in hero’s rescue chopper, daughter calls dad (hero) from San Francisco on her cell phone; hero’s line, “Are you hurt?”; daughter says she is trapped in a collapsed parking garage; cellphone goes out and hero observes that the cellphone service went out; hero tells his wife it will be a long time before rescuers get to parking garages; hero’s line, “We’re going to get our daughter”; looks like the soon-to-be-ex-wife’s new boyfriend and his former wife were wiped out or at least lost in the chaos.

Back at Cal Tech, the head researcher with star billing says more quakes are coming; then he gets bunch of Cal Tech geeks to hack into all media outlets to warn everyone.

In San Francisco, hero’s daughter, her new boyfriend (met an hour earlier) and his kid brother get out of garage and walk around.

Hero and wife are in rescue chopper but they crash in Bakersfield (blue collar) where everyone is looting and shooting each other; hero hotwires a van; hero and wife drive off until they hit a gaping chasm, the San Andreas Fault.

Hero and wife meet old couple; old guy happens to have a small plane not far away; hero gives old guy the van keys and old man gives him the plane.

Daughter, her boyfriend and his kid brother decide to go to knob hill, the highest point, to get a cellphone signal to call dad (hero).

Hero and wife, now in the plane the old guy gave them, have a quiet moment while the planet is tearing itself apart beneath them; they work out their differences; they lost another daughter in some prior incident where the hero (a rescuer) could not save her; marriage apparently broke up over this; wife who did want a divorce but changed her mind when the new rich boyfriend ran away in the earthquake tells hero he couldn’t save their (other) daughter; they seemed to have worked it out as half of California was falling into the Pacific, but hero now must save his remaining daughter, because he is, after all, a rescue guy.

Hero and wife arrive in San Francisco by plane but there is nowhere to land, so they jump out of the plane with a tandem parachute and land in AT&T park; Coors, VISA, Safeway, and Yahoo ads in background; they land on the infield; hero’s line, “It’s been a while since I got you to second base.”

Cal Tech researcher still warning everyone; media telling everyone to run away.

Daughter, her new boyfriend and his kid brother still walking around; the kid is reading a book aloud; another quake hits San Francisco; lots of stuff falls down; dramatic music.

Hero and his wife are now running around the AT&T stadium neighborhood in San Francisco; bridges collapse; baseball lights fall down; people scream; hero’s line, “Get out of the street!”

The AT&T ballpark quake subsides; hero’s line, “Is anybody hurt?” (He is, after all, a rescue guy.)

Hero and wife score a boat to go by water to avoid all the devastation on land.

Daughter tends to her new boyfriend’s injuries; his kid brother is still okay.

At Cal Tech, the older researcher with the star billing is with his students; their computer says bigger tremors are coming.

Hero and wife are on boat; water recedes; hero says it’s a tsunami; they scram out of there by boat.

Daughter and her new boyfriend and his kid btother now hopping through San Francisco.

Finally, the warning sirens go off, a little late.

Boats are speeding out of San Francisco Bay way too fast because they are not real but CGI cartoons; mayhem on the water; hero and wife’s boat just clears a huge cargo ship prop but the big boat dumps all its cargo containers all around them, then flips and takes out the Golden Gate Bridge.

Cruise ship comes careening and tumbling into San Francisco; well, we’re used to those cruise ship disasters by now; no big deal.

Tsunami floods what’s left of San Francisco; wrecks more buildings; but daughter, her new boyfriend of a few hours and his kid brother make it through.

Hero and wife race through the debris laden water way too fast because the scene is not real but a CGI cartoon; they see the crumbled San Francisco; hero’s wife’s line, “Oh my god.”

Hero and wife boat their way into the crushed city, again way too fast because, well you know why; hero and wife actually are filming (actually video-ing)  all this in an empty set in front of a green screen.

Daughter and her new boyfriend and his kid brother see hero and his wife, now thinking the divorce might not have been such a good idea, drive by on the boat; they scream for hero and wife and pound on the only remaining intact glass window in San Francisco but hero and his wife cannot hear them; daughter and the new boyfriend kiss; kid brother’s line, “Mom’s going to love her.”

Hero says to wife they are going to need some gas; not sure where there are any remaining gas stations; wife spots little lights on boat console; daughter, her new boyfriend and his kid brother are shining a green laser from their window; hero’s wife’s line, “Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god!”

The building collapses; daughter, her new boyfriend and the kid brother survive and start moving up the building floors because it is sinking, rather than breaking apart like all the other buildings.

Hero kisses wife and dives in the debris laden water; hero’s line, “I’m bringing her back, promise.”

Inside the building, daughter, her new boyfriend and his kid brother swim around; they have a flashlight; hero swims underwater into the building then pops up beside daughter.

Daughter’s new boyfriend and his kid brother running around upstairs on a dry floor; construction cranes start falling on building; water rushes in.

Hero and daughter down in the waterlogged floors; as they go under, daughter’s lines, “I love you dad”; then she drowns; dramatic music; hero drags drowned daughter around underwater; he still has a working flashlight.

Hero and drowned daughter pop to the surface; hero does CPR on daughter (he’s a rescue guy, remember); building starts collapsing again; hero’s line, “We gotta get outta here; break a window!”

Wife, in the boat outside of building, sees them, says, “Oh my…”, then rams the inflatable boat through the only unbroken window in all of San Francisco; music dramatic, but now hopeful.

Everyone is on the boat racing away from building; hero’s wife, who definitely has shelved the divorce plans, drives; hero keeps up with the CPR on daughter; building falling down towards them but they outrun it, thanks to CGI cartoon animation.

Hero gives up on daughter; wife cries; everyone cries; hero does more CPR; daughter coughs up water; she made it; rising, hopeful, dramatic music; all is quiet.

Back at Cal Tech, the older researcher with star billing is listening to the media reports about how everyone is pulling together; dramatically, the researcher removes his glasses.

Outside, what‘s left of San Francisco’s populace is picking up the pieces and hugging.

Hero and wife together; daughter, her new boyfriend (of a few hours) and his kid brother all together holding each other in the setting sun; hero’s line,” Thank you”; daughter’s new boyfriend’s line, “You’re welcome.”; wife’s line, “So, what now?”; they look up and two rescue choppers fly over; the American flag unfurls on the remains of  the Golden Gate Bridge; hero’s line, “Now we rebuild”; afterall, he is a rescue guy.

Camera pulls up and up and up to satellite image perspective; credits.

Richard J. Schneider writes mystery novels. His latest is WATER: A Vic Bengston Investigation.

Journalists and impartiality


In light of ABC anchor George Stephanopoulos’ stupidity in giving $75,000 to the Clinton Foundation, Let me tell you a story.

My late father-in-law, Judge William Gleason, was a prominent lawyer in the northern Illinois GOP stronghold of McHenry County. He was prominent in service organizations, the church, and other community endeavors, including Republican politics. When he was appointed a Magistrate, the entry level for judges (often called County Judges elsewhere), he terminated all memberships in the Elks and other organizations, stopped appearing in public places with a drink in his hand (e.g., the local country club), and ceased all community activities that, in any way, could be construed as partisan.

A college student at the time, I asked him why he did this and he said it was necessary to convey both the impression of impartiality as well as actually implementing impartiality as a judge in his community. When he passed away, he was a District Court Judge, which, in Illinois, is a partisan elected position; he hated the politics of it and the campaigning, but to remain a judge he had to go through it. His decisions remained impartial.

Journalists should adopt a similar standard. That would mean the following:

  • No voter registration with any political party.
  • Consider not voting at all.
  • No donations of any kind to anybody or anything.
  • No advising any political candidate, party or organization for any reason.
  • Be completely honest about your resume.
  • Pay for your own coffee and booze.

Former journalist Richard J. Schneider writes the Vic Bengston mystery novel series from Colorado.

Books available at Amazon & Select Indie Bookstores

My mystery eBooks are now available at Amazon as Kindle Elektrik Books. The Vic Bengston Investigation novels  are available in trade paperback from Amazon, my website, and select Colorado independent bookstores, including the Tattered Cover.

These include WATER: A Vic Bengston Investigation, VOTE: A Vic Bengston Investigation, and Who Killed Porkchop? A Key West Mystery (a novella).

They are also available as eBooks from public libraries.

The next book in the Bengston series – FRACK: A Vic Bengston Investigation – will be published in late 2016.

I am available about any time for book club presentations, art club presentations (yes, I have a writing and art talk) and other groups in person, by phone, or via Skype.

You can contact me via email at RICHARDJSCHNEIDER@COMCAST.NET.

Good reading..