Category Archives: Writing

General articles on writing

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:


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.

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..

Electronic writing tools – a memoir

When I moved from more than a decade as a journalist and public affairs guy for a governor to freelance writing in 1980, I needed an automated writing tool for my work. The typewriter was no longer cutting it. Even the famed IBM Selectric would not meet my requirements.

I bussed it to the downtown Denver Xerox Store and bought a massive mag-card machine for $3,000 – a lot of dough for a start-up freelancer with four kids. It consisted of an electric daisywheel typewriter/printer on steroids connected via an inch-thick cable to a 140-pound console that sat on the floor. Two magnetic  tape cartridge drives recorded every keystroke, correction, and changes I made on used fan-fold computer paper that I fed through the typewriter; copy was hand edited on successive printouts; when the piece was done the machine printed out a final copy.

I have since owned and used many electronic writing tools, including a Kaypro II “portable” (like lugging around a sewing machine), many IBM PCs, a number of laptops, mostly PCs but one Mac, the wonder of the ages-Tandy/Radio Shack’s innovative TRS-80 Model 100 portable computer, a tiny HP Palmtop, a few netbooks (which I liked because of their small size), and, now, a $200 Winbook tablet computer with a wireless mouse and a case with a built in keyboard. I send articles, book drafts, news releases, short stories, scripts, and other stuff to my printer wirelessly or directly to clients or publishers via the internet – about two pounds of gear now in my writer’s toolbag – roughly one per cent the weight of my first electronic writing tool.

Bad writing by George F. Will

cropped-Olivetti-Underwood-studio-441.jpg“Michael Froman received from a Harvard Law School classmate, Barack Obama, a job that validates the axiom that the unlikelihood of any negotiation reaching agreement grows by the square of the number of parties involved. In trade negotiations, even one’s own country is troublesome, as the catfish conundrum illustrates. And the degree of difficulty in achieving a free-trade pact is proportional to the number of Democrats in Congress.”

From the opening paragraph to a column on the Asia-Pacific trade deal in the Washington Post. Will, whose writing is not as bad as it often seems, has won the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary.

Don’t stretch your facts too far

Fabricate-CV-300x200When 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.

1024px-Granola_advertisement,_1893The 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.