Tag Archives: 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.

Why?

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.

 

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: RichardJSchneider.com.

 

GET A HOBBY

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 http://www.morseexpress.com/.

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 www.richardjschneider.com.

 

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..

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.