Silent Partner Holiday Sale December 9th Through December 14th

My publisher is kind enough to offer a sizable discount to anyone who’s interested in purchasing the digital version of Silent Partner. Pen-L is pricing Silent Partner at 99 cents from December 9th through December 14th. The book will return to its original price art that time.

Quite a bargin. I really appreciate Pen-L’s willingness to broaden my readership by offering this sale even though it cuts into their profits (and mine). I’m just happy to find new readers who are interested in a quirky paranormal mystery, the first book in a series.


Silent Partner's Cover

Silent Partner’s Cover

Imaginary Conversations with Reviewers


I spent a few years teaching literature; one thing that always fascinated me were the critics who frequently saw certain themes, symbols, and elements in fictional works that I’m positive were never intended by their authors. They evaluated these novels and short stories based on what they thought the authors should have written. One priceless example of this type of analysis is Hemingway’s “A Clean Well Lighted Place.” There’s a page of text that doesn’t seem to make sense. Critics came up with all kinds of bizarre interpretations. Hemingway couldn’t answer the question because he already had blown off his head. Finally a scholar discovered that two lines had been copied in the wrong order when the story was first published. Case solved.

I was thinking of this situation as early reviews come pouring in for Silent Partner. I have to say I’m pleased because almost all reviews rate the book four or five stars. There are a few reviewers, though, who had some very strange ideas of their own. If I could meet for drinks with them, I imagine some of the conversation would go as follows

Schatt:   I see you’ve tentatively given the book one star, but there’s no review. What didn’t you like?

Reviewer 1: No. I give all the books on my TBR shelf one star ratings until I read them. I then adjust my rating when I write a review.

Schatt:  Aren’t you concerned that giving a book you haven’t read a one star rating might influence others who will decide not to read it?

Reviewer 1: That’s not my concern. It helps me keep track of the books I intend to read next. Besides, Goodreads is for readers and not for writers, so don’t bother me.

Schatt:  Nice to meet you in person, Reviewer 2. So, I see you gave the book 3.5 stars. I’m not sure I understand what you didn’t like.

Reviewer 2: I liked it a lot  and thought the writing was good. I just didn’t like that you didn’t write a paranormal romance.

Schatt: Did I promise you a paranormal romance? I think the book’s cover describes it as a paranormal mystery.

Reviewer 2: Well, I thought it was supposed to a paranormal romance. I don’t like paranormal police procedure books, so I always give them low grades.

Schatt: When you put down your drink, could you tell me what aspect of the book you didn’t like?

Reviewer 3: I think you’re trying to imitate 50 Shades. Your book is not as sexy.

Schatt: But…the whole point was to add some comic value to Josh and Frankie’s undercover work at the S&M club. There really isn’t anything erotic in the book.”

Reviewer 3: That’s my point! You didn’t make the book erotic enough.

Schatt: But… I wasn’t trying to make it erotic.

The more I read reviews, the more I think of the blind men’s wildly differing descriptions of an elephant based on what part of the animal they felt. All reviews have value, but some reviews remind me of a line from A Farewell to Arms where Lieutenant Henry thinks about how unfair life is:

“You did not know what it was about. You never had time to learn. They threw you in and told you the rules and the first time they caught you off base they killed you.”

Save 15% on Preorders of Silent Partner

Pen-L Publishing has announced it’s offering a 15% discount for preorders of Silent Partner, my new paranormal mystery. Does Josh have a ghost of a chance with his sexy guardian angel? Can a tabloid reporter and a female detective solve a double homicide that leads them toward the seedy S&M club scene where there are no rules? Pen-L offers excellent shipping rates to go along with its discount, so don’t wait until September 1st.

Silent Partner's Cover

Silent Partner’s Cover

Some Authors are Scamming Amazon with Five-Star Reviews

Silent Partner is due out September lst, so I’ve been working very hard over the past few months to line up bloggers for reviews. Authors such as myself have replaced “Buddy, can you spare a dime?” with “Buddy, can you post an honest review in exchange for a free copy of my upcoming book?” The results have been positive with around 30 bloggers signing up to review the book.

Still, I was very discouraged today when I looked at a brand new novel by a first-time novelist and saw that in little more than a month or two, he’d lined up 27 five-star reviews on Amazon. Knowing how much work I’ve put into the process, I was very impressed and decided to read some of the reviews.

First of all, even the best writers don’t garner all five-star reviews. I was stunned to see how uniform the reviews were. Several of the reviews referred to the author by his first name and implied they knew him; okay,  I could understand a couple of friends chipping in with good reviews, but 27?

Then I began to look at other reviews by the reviewers of this author’s first book. I discovered that virtually all of them had never reviewed anything on Amazon before. The handful who had posted reviews, posted them the same day they posted their review of this novel. I assume they did so to make them look more legitimate.

The problem with this obvious padding of positive reviews is that it sets the floor much higher for other authors such as myself when it comes to having our books noticed or purchased. Why look at Stan Schatt’s newest novel with only 4 five-star reviews and a two-star review when I can purchase this other book with 27 identical scores of 5.0? It makes the East German Olympic judges scores for their own country’s athletes look very fair by comparison.

So, since Amazon can’t have a full-time detective agency to police book reviewers, my hope is that customers will begin to recognize when authors are wrapping their novels with  outstanding reviews that don’t necessarily reflect the particular writers’ ability but only their willingness to game the system.

The particular book I’m pointing to is still only at around number 550,000 on Amazon’s best seller list, so apparently not everyone has fallen for the ruse. This particular writer has a new book due out later this year. I’m curious enough to monitor reviewers of the new book and see if the pattern is the same.

Fairy Tales Don’t Come True if You’re Young at Heart

I’ve spent the last few weeks researching bloggers. If you don’t already know, bloggers are absolutely critical when it comes to getting word out about a new book. Their reviews help people decide whether or not to give an author, particularly a new author, a try. It’s kind of like looking for Mister or Ms. Write. The blogger in this case has to meet certain criteria:

Not so backlogged that they are unable to accept new books to review

Willing to consider reviewing a mystery with some adult themes

Not restricted to only reviewing young adult (YA) books.

So many book bloggers are limiting their reading to YA books. I was absolutely amazed to find women (They are the book bloggers with rare exceptions) in their thirties, forties, and fifties who insist on reading only YA books. Oh, some claim they will look at mysteries or science fiction or fantasy, but only within the YA area. Are we all regressing back to our high school days?

My newest book is Silent Partner, a book that Pen-L Publishing will release September first. That means now is the time for me to arrange for reviewers to help launch the book. There are professionals who do this, and I’ll return to that subject in a few minutes. Since the subject matter deals with the real world where unseemly things such as murder happens and where all the human emotions play out including lust, jealousy, murderous rage, etc., it’s not surprising that I had to cross off some potential reviewers who don’t want to read about anything vulgar or unpleasant. I’m okay with that, but they better not read the morning paper.

Some bloggers restrict themselves to YA romances. I’m okay with that too, but did anyone really have a high school experience like those described in such novels? Recently a critic wrote a piece on the limitations of YA fiction. I’m not talking about some of the really good YA novels such as John Green’s books. Take the Hunger Games and all the derivatives coming out now. They all feature a female heroine. They all feature a dystopic world. I could go on and list about ten things they all have in common besides happy endings. Complex problems? A world that is not black and white but contains plenty of gray? No, that’s not what you usually find. People are good or bad. The heroine is in danger but you know she’ll prevail, no matter the overwhelming odds. Love will find a way.

I tried to write a more complex YA novel when I published Egypt Rising. The heroine is not perfect. Still, I wrote it for teenagers and not for adults. If everyone is reading YA books, who is reading our “great” literature besides professors who teach grad classes in modern lit?

So, finding book bloggers who are willing to read mystery/thrillers has not proven to be easy. Even more disconcerting is the fact that some book bloggers are trying to turn their blogging into a profit-making business paid for by authors. One blogger noted that she finds every spelling and grammatical mistake in books she reviews and then comments on them. However, the author can pay upfront to have her edit the manuscript first so that when she reviews it, she won’t find the mistakes. Several bloggers asked for “donations” while a few offered expedited reviews for fees. Some simply indicated that they charged for all reviews but wrote positive ones.

It’s been a revelation as I’ve researched book bloggers. Most of them are doing what they love and putting in long hours on top of their day-to-day activities such as work, caring for the family, etc. I know I would feel pressure if I saw a huge pile of books that I promised to review and I was hounded by authors who demand prompt service. AND good reviews. I’m sure it’s often a thankless business to work hard to write a review and then have an author demand the blogger change it because there are negative aspects to that review.

So, here’s to the book bloggers who are working tirelessly to help others find good books and are doing so without renumeration. If I haven’t already contacted you, it’s likely I will soon. I promise to be patient about when the review appears and to not hound the bloggers over anything in their reviews that I dislike.

Silent Partner ARCs

Any bloggers who write reviews on paranormal mysteries, please contact me for the opportunity to view an ARC of Silent Partner. This paranormal mystery will be released September lat by Pen-L Publishing. I’m very pleased with the care the publisher has taken to produce this book, including some very nice formatting of page numbers (with handcuffs if you can believe it) and chapter headings (a surprise).

Here’s what people will see soon on the Pen-L’s website:

Silent Partner 

by Stan Schatt

Coming September 1st!

      Detective “Frankie” Ryan tracks a sadistic killer while the press attacks her as a feminist vigilante who takes the law into her own hands. The only one who can help her is a tabloid reporter who can’t decide if he’s a psychic who sees ghosts or just someone going insane. As they search for the killer in a sunny seacoast city’s seamy S&M underside, they begin to question everything they know about sexual identity. How can they find the killer before he strikes again when he defies description? Silent Partner is a paranormal mystery, a police procedure novel with a female detective that will remind you of Harry Bosch, a ghost story that suggests what lies beyond death, and a comic look at a tabloid where the truth is whatever sells.

But the Book was Much Better than the Movie!

How many times have you walked out of a movie based on one of your favorite novels and mouthed those words? It’s extremely rare that a movie adaptation of a novel surpasses the book. I probably can count those occasions for me on the fingers of one hand. Of course there’s The Godfather. I’d add Gone with the Wind to that after recently rereading the book. Most of the famous American writers (Hemingway, Faulkner, and Fitzgerald) suffered horribly when it came to translating their novels into movies.

There are a number of reasons why we cherish novels over movie versions. We love to create our own image of the lead character. We also feel a closeness to the character in a novel because often we read that character’s thoughts. We feel we know that character. Nelson DeMille’s John Corey is a character that we follow in several of that writer’s novels. He’s funny, brave, and a guy with a great sense of humor. Still, a movie version would probably fall flat.

I’m reminded of the book versus movie issue because Michael Connelly soon will have a pilot for a TV series featuring his main character, detective Harry Bosch. Connelly fans have been reading about Bosch for over twenty years. During that time the character has aged in real time. Now, he’s within a couple of years of mandatory retirement from the LAPD. The series is slated to focus on two Connelly novels– City of Bones and the Concrete Blond.

No matter how happy Connelly is over the actor chosen to play Harry Bosch, I can’t imagine many Connelly fans watching the show and deciding that the actor was an exact ringer for the image in their heads. It’s a risky proposition for a writer and a potentially disappointing experience for a fan.

I’ve finished a sequel to Silent Partner. The first book will be published this Spring. Since the two main characters appear in both books, I’ve developed my ow mental images for what they should look like. It’s hard to imagine I could find two actors who would match my mental images and even less chance I could find an actress who could match my image of the sexy ghost who appears in both books.

When One Novel is Not Enough

It’s funny how you fall in love with certain characters and hate to see a book end. Then, you find that the character will reappear in a new novel, and you can’t wait to run out and buy it. It’s very popular now, especially for self-published novelists, to write a series of books and publish them simultaneously. One reason is that they can offer a book free to lure readers into wanting to read more about certain characters.

It’s a tricky business. Writers have to write self-contained novels. Nobody wants to read a book that doesn’t have a satisfactory ending. Conversely, no one wants to read a book that starts with the assumption that everyone has read the previous book so that the author doesn’t bother to fill in details or chronology.

I was thinking about this topic recently because I read another of Faye Kellerman’s Peter and Rina Lazarus mysteries. What struck me is that if characters are interesting and they are developed with care, readers really enjoy the sense of familiarity that comes from knowing someone well. It’s almost like greeting an old friend you haven’t seen for a while.

Pen-L Press will publish Silent Partner sometime in 2014. The novel contains two characters that have some depth. I’ve already written about half of the sequel. So, I’ve been grappling with the issue of how much retelling to do in the sequel. No reader wants a writer to stop a story to say something like, “John went through a series of adventures earlier. First this happened and then that happened….”

Of course screenwriters handle this situation sometimes with flashbacks, but that technique can be overused in a novel to the point that readers don’t exactly know where in time they are at any given moment in the book.

Another interesting issue of sequels or even series is that there are a few authors such as Kellerman and Michael Connelly who age their characters in real time. In the case of Connelly’s Harry Bosch, the detective has aged over more than twenty years until he’s facing mandatory retirement in a couple of years.

Of course I might say “from my lips to God’s ears” when it comes to aging Josh and Frankie in sequels to Silent Partner. If there’s reader enough interest for me to write enough follow-up books to age them over ten years or so, I’d be thrilled.

Pen-L Press to Publish My Paranormal Detective Novel, Silent Partner

Sometime in 2014, Pen-L Press will publish my latest novel, Silent Partner. It’s definitely an adult-themed novel. The story concerns the efforts of Detective Francis “Frankie” Ryan to solve a double homicide. While Frankie is as driven as Michael Connelly’s Detective Harry Bosch and probably is fighting as many internal demons, she also has a certain vulnerability. She’s has just gone back on duty after a suspension resulting from shooting a man assaulting his wife. Vilified by the press for being a female vigilante, she finds reporters examining every one of her actions under a microscope.

Frankie finds herself relying more and more on Josh Harrell, a tabloid reporter who discovers he has a psychic gift. Harrell relies more and more on a sexy apparition that he finds very attractive.

Silent Partner draws Ryan and Harrell into the seamy world of underground S&M clubs. One of this novel’s major themes is the complexity of sexual identify and the pain that transgender people suffer. Despite this very sensitive subject, the book is PG-13 with no real violent or graphic sex scenes. It’s a mystery that Ryan solves through all-fashioned detective work with Harrell using his psychic abilities for his own independent investigation.

I’m very excited about this novel and hope you share some of that excitement with me. If you do enjoy it, I’m already half-way through a sequel that once again features Ryan and Harrell.