Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Brat Pack, Jennifer Beals, and The Ultimate 80's

I thought I would take the opportunity today to share a sample of my book, “The Ultimate 80’s” in a blog post. I absolutely had a great time writing this book! What a fun decade and I’m glad I grew up during that time. I think most young guys enjoyed it mostly because of Jennifer Beals. Have you seen her lately? Wow, she is still a mega babe and it was fun mentioning her in the book as being influential during the 80’s.

The Brat Pack was also incredibly popular, as well. Below is a sample from the book, part of a section specific to them.

The Brat Pack

I had to put a specific section in here to highlight this group of young actors that defined our decade on the big screen. The Brat Pack came together in movie after movie, often appearing together, to make our teen years in the 80’s pretty damn fun. If you are a true Child of the 80’s I bet you can name every member. If not, then here you go: Emilio Estevez, Anthony Michael Hall, Judd Nelson, Molly Ringwald, Ally Sheedy, Andrew McCarthy, Demi Moore, and Rob Lowe. There you go…that is probably the same list our favorite actors during that decade.

It’s public knowledge that the group hated the nickname, but who cares. We loved it, and made them all rich by making most of their movies huge hits and the actors themselves A-lister’s. Most of us remember the Brat Pack mostly from the two iconic movies that defined a generation for us, The Breakfast Club and St. Elmo’s Fire. If you are a Child of the 80’s then you absolutely have to own these movies or you are likely a dirty commie. Seriously.

The term “Brat Pack” came about by a 1985 story appearing in New York magazine referring to the cast members of St. Elmo’s Fire. At the time they were all in their mid-twenties and most of them at the peak of their careers.

It is likely that the Brat Pack films influenced the way teenagers in the 80’s viewed the world including on issues such as friendship, fashion, love, sex and music. Aside from a few of the music artists of the decade, they were probably the most influential group of pop icons on the young culture.

Outside of St. Elmo’s Fire and the Breakfast Club, there is no official list of Brat Pack films. So let’s make this a first for all readers. This list of films will include films that have at least two members of the core Brat Pack listed above. There are many other actors that are considered “close contributors” to the core Brat Pack. There are some movies that have only one Brat Pack member and a close contributor. So let’s make sure to separate the two concepts here.

Trivia: Many consider Red Dawn to be a Brat Pack movie despite the fact that it has no members of the core group, but stars a ton of close contributors to the group. No cigar! This is not a Brat Pack movie no matter how bad some critics want to claim it to be.


I hope you liked the sample and hope you stop by Amazon to get your copy and get a few laughs from the book. The link to view it at Amazon is below. Thanks!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Legends and Landmarks: How the Horror Series Began

How the “Legend” Began

Recently I have spent some time online trying to promote my two latest books, “The Ultimate 80’s” and the short story compilation “Dark Nights.” As you may know, I am an independent author. I do not have an agent or a publishing company with a marketing budget. Instead, to try to inform readers about my books I post bulletins on Facebook and other social media and hope others share the links with their friends. Obviously this is slow and time consuming process.

So in this update to the Ritter Files I wanted to go back and revisit my first experience into becoming a writer and share with you how I developed my writing style and came up with the idea for the Legends and Landmarks horror series. Writing those four books was a huge learning experience with a lot of ups and downs. Despite the obstacles this project was incredibly rewarding personally and I’m proud of the journey it provided into becoming a writer as well as telling a great story.

In 2000 I moved to Cincinnati for a job with a nationally known brokerage firm, but mostly because I’m a Reds fan. Before moving I had about four months between jobs. Idle time is absolutely maddening to me. At the time I had considered the idea of writing a book hopefully sometime before I die. So I figured that while sitting around waiting to hear back from potential employers why not start writing a book now. Hell, we only live once, so I sat down on front of my old bulky computer and began to write about a pretty spooky story that had been bouncing around in my head. Unfortunately that story went nowhere. After 20 or 30 pages I ran out of room to write, so to speak. I couldn’t figure out what was next. I had no structure to the writing process and gave up on that story. Hopefully that story won’t be lost forever, but my lack of a plan to write that book was the same as planning to fail.

Once I got settled in Cincinnati a friend of mine took me on a tour of the area. Along the way we drove through an enormous and beautiful cemetery, Spring Grove Cemetery. As breathtaking and peaceful as the place was, I couldn’t help but wonder what it would be like to be stuck in a horror movie about the place as something ancient and evil still lurked there. But what would lurk there and why? As I let my imagination dwell on these questions I took notes on the possible answers. And soon I came up with the answers and the characters for the movie playing in my head. Only this time I had a plan to write the book and a loose structure to keep me on track. I wrote a one page summary about what each chapter would be about. That summary gave me enough artistic flexibility to tell a story and develop strong characters as well. I sat down one Friday night after work in the Fall of 2000 and began to try writing again. Legends and Landmarks, Volume I: The Night Walker was born.

The book description on Amazon for each book is below.

The Night WalkerEric and Todd, two crime reporters for the city news, discover an age old legend of evil as they work on a book about legends. As they come to find out, some legends are true. This one may kill them. While researching the history of Pleasant Hills' most famous attraction, one of the oldest cemeteries in the country, the duo discover a horrific legend that ripped the founding settlers apart. Living among them in Pleasant Hills is a hidden evil centuries old. It will stop at nothing to satisfy its lust for blood and fear. Eric and Todd find themselves fighting for their lives in what can only be described as a living nightmare.

Freedom’s PathEric Young and Todd Montgomery continue their horrific journey into the unknown as they uncover a legend of purgatory and shame surrounding the small all-American town of Fuson, Missouri. Freedom's Path, the second installment of the Legends and Landmarks series, explores the ghosts of the past as Fuson's shameful history of slave abandonment comes alive after a body washes up on the banks of the Black River. Eric fights with all he has to hold on to his humanity and sense of right and wrong after his near death brush with pure evil at the hands of Slade, the infamous Night Walker that rattled the security and psyche of the citizens of Cincinnati. Todd finds himself in an epic struggle of survival while Eric finds himself in a battle for his very soul. Legends and Landmarks, Volume II: Freedom's Path sets the wheels in motion for a terrifying journey that leads our characters to New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Volume III of the series, titled Demon Wind.

Demon WindThe "Legends" series continues in this third installment of the four-part series. Eric Young finds himself in the tattered city of New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Following the chilling call from the shadows, Eric descends into the dark underbelly of the ravaged streets as something dark in his own soul is raging inside of him for control. His best friend, Todd, follows his tracks into the darkness to confront the evil that has plagued them. Slade resurfaces in this tale of horror and destruction and brings with him the rage that only Hell can create.

Devil’s CaveIn this final installment of the "Legends" series, Eric and Todd find themselves in Roanoke, Virginia facing a showdown with the demons that have stalked them. However, as they approach their twisted enemies they find that Slade and Corey aren't the only diabolical forces conspiring against them.

What makes me most proud of the series is the journey I took as a writer. When I finished The Night Walker I was so excited to rush through the self-publishing process and see the book available online. What I had on my hands was one heck of a good story. What I also had was a piss-poor edited book. So a couple of nice readers bought the book and met me through social media and were kind enough to tell me they loved the book but wanted to know who the hell my lousy editor was. Oops!

I was big time embarrassed. Actually, I felt incredibly unprofessional for putting out a book with so many mistakes. But a few readers decided to edit for me and I have since updated the book a bit more to my liking. I learned the lesson of patience from that experience and can say that I grew as a writer during that series. I also managed to put a few twists in the series that the readers didn’t see coming.

I’m sure there are still a few spelling mistakes here and there, but I decided that my editing of that material had to come to an end. I’ve become somewhat of a stickler with my writing that I had to learn that not everything needs a rewrite. Even things I wrote last week…if I were to read it now I’d find some reason to rethink good material. Now, I feel it is important to leave the series alone because it is a great story. Also, it is already a part of me as an author and shows the reader, if they pay attention to style and detail, that there is a clear growth path for every writer. And even YOU, the one sitting there reading my blog, if you are considering writing a book. If my work and story can help others in their writing journey then that is great.

In reality I have probably lost money self publishing that series. So in hopes of maybe breaking even I hope Kindle users like the series. It is available at Amazon if you are looking for something fun to read. This series will always have a place in my heart for the journey and for those that bought a copy and loved the story as much as I do. So check it out and let me know what you think.



Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Was Penn State Punished Enough?

Did The Punishment Fit The Crime?

That’s the big question since the NCAA came down with its punishment on Penn State University following the investigation about the scandal and cover-up of the sexual molestation of over 40 children over the years. By now the details of this terrible story can be found on most news sites so I will not rehash the details here. I wanted to share some overall thoughts on the issue and point out why this punishment will never fit the crime.

Regardless of the amount of the fine against Penn State, the loss of scholarships, and banned from post-season play for the next four years, is that really enough to repair the lives, scarred memories, and broken psyches of the young boys who were raped by a monster that used the football program and activities to feed his sickness? No it is not. You can’t fix those lives that are broken. One can only hope they have moved on as best as they can.

No one wins with this decision. A lot of good athletes who work hard and live honorable lives will be punished for something they did not do, nor even about until we all learned of it. Many students and families will have to disrupt their lives and education as they change schools. Even the non-athletes at Penn State lose. Imagine four years of hard work and you graduate. You know that every interviewer for their first job will see Penn State on the resume and the first thing they will think about is how kids were molested and how a so-called man of integrity enabled a monster and did nothing about it. How embarrassing.

What Paterno let happen was evil. His name is forever soiled. I am not sure if the public will ever see him as anything but the enabler of a dirty old man. Just to protect a football program?

I love football. However, suddenly football didn’t seem to matter. My guess is that a lot of people turned a blind eye over the years. If Penn State never recovers so be it. I hope their student athletes all transfer today. Their university betrayed them and their costly investment to go there. In fact, if I were a student I would want my money back.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Doesn't Feel Like an Economic Recovery

2012 College Graduates: Welcome to the Great Recession
After nearly fourteen years working in the field of investing, and sprinkling a bit of experience in banking, economic theory, and small business development, I can say that one of the things that brings me some long term satisfaction is knowing that I helped a lot of folks that left college and started their first job understand more about the importance of having a 401K or an IRA and saving for later in life. It makes me happy to know that those that I have helped college graduates over the years think about the bigger picture, about long term financial goals, and the short term things they can do now to achieve their dreams and goals.

I remember about four years ago, when I worked at another firm, that a client had I had worked with years ago had called up the company and had actually tracked me down to the specific department I was working in dealing with mostly high net worth clients. He had called to simply say “thank you.” I had forgotten working with him because it had been so long. I left work that day knowing that I had made an impact on a young man and his wife a few years before and advised them on how to save for college for their little girl. Well, that little girl grew up and got accepted into several colleges and chose one of the more costly ones in Ohio. Teaching them the value of a bit of sacrifice and discipline at the time meant that they family didn’t have a huge financial burden when that young lady went away to college.

That conversation only reaffirmed my reason for working in this business. It is about helping others to achieve things and learn the value of vision, goals and discipline. I thought of that family recently as I went through the usual economic reports on economic growth and unemployment. Today’s college graduates face a daunting economic challenge. They are facing what will likely be the highest unemployment rate in history for college graduates.

This years’ graduating class has an underemployment rate of nearly 20% according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. There are 20.1 applicants for every job opening. There were about 1.7 million college graduates hitting the labor force this year, on top of all those with experience that are still out of work. I hate to stick with the same issue that I’ve harped on all year in these commentaries, but what the heck, I’m going to do it anyway. Debt is going to dictate the employment picture for the foreseeable future.

Before writing this I did some digging around on the Internet to find some information on what college graduates are facing this year. I found even more staggering data about graduates in 2010 who are still living at home with mom and dad because they can’t find a job. Take a moment to imagine what these kids are going through. All their lives they are spoon fed that they have to go to college to find a good job that pays well so they can save and buy a house with a two car garage and start a family of their own. They go through four years and come out with a diploma in a field they want to work in only to find that they are waiting months for a job and have over $100,000 is student loan debt, another $5,000 in credit card debt, the collection calls are coming in and they have to wonder why they started their adult lives behind the eight ball.

If I were a high school student today I’d be wondering why in the hell I would go to college if the result was to come out with a pile of debt and no significant prospects for a job in my chosen field. One thing that is lacking in education today, be it at the college or high school level, is the ability to be a free thinker with motivation.

Monday, July 2, 2012

The Life of an Independent Writer

My Story: The Life of an Independent Writer

I remember a few years ago when I finished writing my first novel, Legends and Landmarks, Volume I: The Night Walker I was excited to have actually finished writing a book and had an overwhelming sense of accomplishment. It was over 300 pages of a story that I was actually happy with. Not a bad job at all for my first try at writing a novel.

So I felt great about the accomplishment and began to send query letters to agents in hopes of finding traditional representation. After about forty or so rejection letters (I mailed over 100. 50-60 agents didn’t even bother to respond.) I decided there had to be another way to get the attention of a good agent. I was no Stephen King or Dean Koontz, but I have read my fair share of books that made me wonder how the hell that writer found an agent. I was reading some updates on the website for one of my favorite mystery and suspense writers back in early 2002. I decided to click on the contact button and ask the guy what advice he gives to writers with my dilemma. Certainly there had to be a lot of writer’s in similar situations. I won’t disclose who the well known author is, but his less than friendly reply was to find an agent, piss off, and stop bothering him with dumb questions.

At that point I decided never to pose a question to any published author again. I really enjoyed his books but I haven’t spent a dime on his work since. I told myself then that if I were ever a successful and well known writer I would never talk to anyone that way, especially someone seeking a little advice. Kind of hard to sell a book if you treat your readers like jerks.

I really wanted my work to be read so I decided to self-publish through Lulu.com. I do not recommend anyone use that company, however. After a ton of rejection letters I self published The Night Walker with a corny generic stock book cover and smiled with anticipation when I saw it available on Amazon and other online book sellers. I was excited to soon see myself on the best seller lists!! The only problem was that I barely sold enough paperback books to cover the costs of self-publishing.

One lesson I learned from my first novel was that I had a great imagination but I was a piss poor editor. Thankfully I was contacted by a few readers that really enjoyed the story but wanted to know what was up with the bad editing. A few great folks agreed to help me edit my other works for free simply because they liked my work. I was flattered and humbled. They found me on social networking sites and I am glad to say I made some new friends from that experience.

Since then I have self-published seven books, most available only for e-reader devices. I publish these days on Amazon because I have a reasonable assumption that they report sales correctly to me. I cannot assume that with the previous company I used for print books for very specific reasons. Besides, as much as I love holding a book in my hand it’s nice to save a few trees as well.

I am often asked by new writers if self-publishing is worth all the hassle. My answer is simple: Yes, if you want people to read your work. Don’t expect to get rich and make sure you have a day job. I still receive rejection letters to this day, mostly because an agent seldom bothers to promote Indie Writers. It does happen, but so does winning the lottery. If I waited for an agent and a legit book deal then I would have been writing for over a decade without the pleasure of a reader enjoying one story.

Being an Indie Writer does have its pitfalls. For starters I know little about marketing and have no budget for it even if I did. So any kind of success has to be by word of mouth. Patience is a requirement and I have very little of it. Also, you are at the mercy of the publisher you choose and hope they don’t rip you off. Once you decide to publish, traditional agents seldom even return an email.

On the flip side, being an Indie Writer means that you work at your pace and don’t have to be held hostage by corporate red tape. Your success as a writer, financially as well as your personal successes, depends on you instead of an agent and publisher that may not have you high on their list of priorities.

I don’t sell a lot of books mostly because not many people have heard of me. I hope that changes over time because I would love to focus on writing full time. However, I still get that giddy feeling whenever I sell a book. That makes all the work and worry worth it. If you know an Indie Writer I suggest you pay him/her a nice compliment on their efforts once in a while. It’s a lot easier to get frustrated and quit on a dream than it is to keep struggling. Your kind words or few bucks spent could make all the difference to a great writer that may have a big future ahead.

If you would like to check out my work then go to Amazon.com and search my name, John Schweingrouber or copy and paste the link below. Thanks for stopping by The Ritter Files.