Sunday, June 21, 2015

Sometimes I Need to Take my Own Advice

On Saturday, I attended a "Meet The Local Authors Book Fair" at the Castro Valley Library. It was probably my first official public appearance as an author. Yes, I sold some books and no, I am not ready to retire on my laurels. While I won't get rich off my royalties from this affair, the Book Fair was a success on a number of levels. I got out of my comfort zone and met a lot of other writers, readers, and I talked about my book in terms of making it interesting. I also have a key phrase that seems to attract people.

"The series is a detective mystery and adventure circa 1930s."

That single line seemed to interest the most people. One young reader asked if I was alive then. No, I wasn't.

My intention is to look into activities that other libraries in the area are up to and see where I can be of assistance, and, of course, get myself out in front of readers. That is the first piece of advice I need to follow.

I have an event on July 18, it is a book signing. I need to publicize it. Partly I need to do it on the internet, and partly I need to find local media that will share the information. While the Book Shop in Hayward will use its usual contacts, I need to do my own advertising. I need to develop my own set of contacts and get the word out. In doing this, I also discovered that helping small local bookstores get additional business is also good for me.  That is the second piece of advice I need to follow.

While I was at the local book fair, I noticed a number of writers who had a single book. At first I was puzzled, but then I noticed that for them the book was part of their other career. They were using the book fair and their book as an additional means to a secondary goal. It was brilliant, they may or may not write another book, but it didn't matter they were using a public forum to shine a light on who they were. An excellent idea.

But there was a writer who was following that particular process, but I do not believe that was the author's desire. When I returned home I took business cards that I had accumulated and proceeded to add people to my Google Circles. A piece of advice I am following, increase my network. I also googled the various authors to see what they were doing. This one author had achieved a certain amount of recognition, but it seemed to have stalled, and I was curious as to why, and after only a little research I discovered what I believe the problem is. And that leads me to my third piece of advice. Write! The author seemed to have stopped writing.

So my third piece of advice, which I do follow, but I need to do it more, Write. I repeated the advice I was given on a facebook response and I repeat it here. "If you want to sell more books, write more books". I was recently impressed by the upcoming releases of James Patterson, he clearly takes this mantra to heart.

Gene Poschman

Thursday, June 18, 2015

When is an Outline Not an Outline?

When it is a novel. And when is a novel not a novel? When it is an outline.

We were all taught how to outline. You started with roman numerals, and subheadings were capital letters and the next subheading...

Enough already, outlining is about telling a story. For me it is writing fiction, though it used to be about documentation. I need to tell a story, not build a structure. I write a chapter heading, I don't care for chapter numbers, but you do what makes it work for you. Then you tell a story.

Jonas Watcher: The Case of the Jade Dragon.

An Incident at Union Station

Jonas sees a Chinese couple attacked outside the Train. He Grabs hi colt and exits his cabin for the corridor. He meets the conductor in the corridor who reminds him he needs to be back on the train in half an hour. He exits the train. No one to be seen.

Jason searches and finds the couple and three attackers. (Be There)

The last item, "Be There" in parenthesis is  from the "Writers Master Class" from James Paterson. It is a note to me to remind me that I need to bring the reader into Jason's mind, there is going to be a lot of shit going on here and I need to convey it to the reader. That and TBD are shortcuts to me so I can get the damn story told. I'm not writing it yet, I am telling it.   

Jason deals with the attackers (Be There) and escorts the Chinese couple, a father and a daughter back to the train. He is invited to lunch, the father is very interested in Jonas' occupation. The daughter is concerned about the father's interest.

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

Back in his office Jason gets back to business, Betty is not at planned get away because her husband's vacation was canceled due to recent gang activity in San Francisco. (It is the 1930s) . There is a bit of detail information about his PI business to quickly bring the reader up to date and demonstrate Jonas' relationships with his receptionist and her husband.

Jonas gives Betty the afternoon off and catches up on business. Toward the evening two oriental men insist Jonas come with them. He refuses and an altercation occurs (Be There). He binds up the two men and prepares to call the police. There is a knock at the door and he cautiously answers. It is the woman from the day before. Her cousins were supposed to extend an invitation to Jonas for dinner as a thank you and to let her Great Uncle meet him...oops.

All Roads Lead To China Town

Jonas arrives to find he is an early guest to a function for which he is inappropriately attired. A room has been arranged for him, and clothes have been set out for him. While he is preparing to get dressed, a woman opens his door and looks in on him.

This next part is actually a piece of the story that goes here. The outline usually won't carry such segments, but sometimes I have to break the story telling and do a little real writing.

     I had just gotten undressed. I was reaching for a shirt laid out on the bed when the door opened. Xifeng stuck her head in.
     “May I help you?” I ask.
     “I just wanted to see what a dragon looks like,” she said.
     While I wasn't naked, I was in my underwear and I really wasn't interested in putting on a show.
     “How about you wait until I come downstairs. You'll get to see me all decked out.”
     “No,” she replied. “Downstairs you will be dressed as a civilized man among others who are dressed as civilized men. I can wait to see you as you really are.”
     She smiled shyly and quietly closed the door.

Jonas comes downstairs, unarmed in more ways than one and is escorted into a parlor with about forty people, all dressed in formal attire. He recognizes the Uncle and his daughter, the two cousins and the woman who looked in on him. No matter how hard he tries to find out why he is there, the conversations always shift to another subject. A gong sounds, dinner is served.

A Princess, an Emperor, Two Thieves and a Dragon

After dinner the men and women separate, the granddaughter maneuvers Jonas into a smaller room away from the others. At first, Jonas suspects this is for an amorous occasion, but then The Great Uncle enters the room and the granddaughter disappears. The Great Uncle explains why he wished to see Jonas when he heard of the events of the day before. He is the head of a powerful family in China Town, and there has been a feud with one other powerful family for over 200 hundred years. They have agreed to a truce and a solution for peace which include an arranged marriage. Jonas gets the history and some details of why he was sent for. The bride is in St. Louis and must be escorted to San Francisco for the wedding. She needs a bodyguard and a chaperone. They want Jonas to be the bodyguard. The Great Uncle's Granddaughter will be the chaperone. She has been present during the discussion to the objections of other members of the family. (Be There) there is a lot of dynamics and characters that Jonas must meet. This is an overnight meeting and Jonas is a guest in the house. He begins to learn more about the family then they want him to know about. Conflict between Jonas and the Granddaughter. (names really important in this story). TBD

There Might Be Dragons

Later in his room, Jonas is visited by two women, the first is a handmaiden who offers herself to Jonas. He reluctantly refuses and uses all his gentlemanly charm to try and get the girl to leave his room. The granddaughter reappears and she helps Jason get rid of the girl. She gives him more information on the family business and why the marriage must take place. The Great Uncle has slowly been going legit and the other family and his have an odd symbiotic relationship in the underworld. They rely on each other in the illegal part of business and if the great uncle does not stay the current course the other family may go under. He is proposing a way to grow and reinforce the legit end while getting rid of the illegal end. There are factions in both families that do not want this to happen.

Then There are the mean Streets of San Francisco

I am breaking here this should give you a feel how I outline, though it is probably arrogant of me to think you might be interested, but if it helps anyone, then it was worth my putting this in.

When I finish the outline, then I will print it out and use it to write the novel. In the outline I will have characters names, I will have details about characters that will never get into the book but by having them at my fingertips I will be able to tell a better story. I am currently working on chapter building  in the Writers Master Class, and although I have already been able to do this, there have been a number items I have been able to glean from the course and James Patterson that have already improved my writing and my writing process.

There is more to come, the next section is on Writing Suspense, I can hardly wait, unfortunately, it will be a little longer before you get to hear,...  read what I have to write.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

After Enlightenment, More Writing

The course is designed to be followed from front to back, view the video, use the workbook, do the assignments, repeat.  This is not a bad thing. It doesn't work for me, but it is not a bad thing. If you are truly a beginning student, then you should follow the process. Me, I am a pain in the ass.

What is actually great about this course is that I do not have to follow the process. I will view the videos, I will work the workbook, and I will participate in the comments section, and I will follow along with facebook, but I am in the middle of writing a book, and while I need to obey the process for the development of the book, I need to write, and learn and follow the assignments as I need to follow the assignments. I am not skipping the videos, and for the most part I am following the assignments, but I am also outlining my book and working on writing other things.

This process is working for me so I hope the end result will be a book worthy of being a number one seller. Actually I just want to write a really great book. and then repeat.

Gene Poschman

Sunday, June 14, 2015

The Easy Part is Over

The first five lessons of the Writers Master Class by James Patterson are pretty basic, except that you get his insight which is pretty valuable. If you have ever taken a writing class then these will be familiar to you. Rather than list the lessons for you I will simply provide the link to the Master Class

Lessons 6 and 7 are about outlining and James Patterson provides his outline to "Honeymoon". One may argue that if you see one outline, you have seen them all, but one must remember this man has made a lot of money writing, so he may have some material worth studying.

The Outline is fascinating, but more to the point is the outline development. His key mantra here is "tell the story". So here I sit looking at a book I am pretty much familiar with, the one I am writing, not his. I have a sort of outline, but after seeing the one he has for "Honeymoon" I can see that if I take the time to develop a really good outline then the book will be better.

Jonas Watcher
The Case of the Jade Dragon

Outline by Gene Poschman

Chapter 1 - The Tale of a Dragon

Jonas Watcher is returning home from New Orleans by train. He meets an elderly Chinese  gentleman and his daughter. They are later accosted by ruffians and Jonas dispatches them efficiently. The elderly gentleman is impressed and asks Jonas' occupation. He is interested in the fact that Jonas is a private detective. His daughter is concerned in her father's interest.

Chapter 2 - An Impolite Invitation

Jonas is in his office...

"Honeymoon" seems to have over a hundred chapters, so I guess I am just getting started. James Patterson says he can be working an outline for a month or more. I have most of the story in place and I will continue to report on my progress with the class, so there may be some disjointed posts, but I will keep them as logical as possible.

Gene Poschman

Saturday, June 13, 2015

James Patterson Writer's Master Class is not the Famous Writers School

And that is a good thing.

Photo of James Patterson by Rebecca Bortman
There are similarities, and I guess that would be true of any writing class that is worth anything. The good part of the James Patterson class is that you actually feel he is talking to you as a student in the classroom. The assignments I have seen before, but when you apply James Patterson's presentation along with that assignment you realize that it isn't only an assignment, but it is a way for you to actually develop whatever project you are working upon.

The third lesson is about "Raw Ideas". I am not giving anything away here, you can go to the website and see the entire lesson plan. Constructing any raw idea isn't new, but he does provide some additional assistance if you are having a problem coming up with one. Foe me the advantage is that I have the raw idea for my third book, the title is "The Case of the Jade Dragon".

Here is what I wrote:
Jonas Watcher:
The Case of the Jade Dragon

While returning from New Orleans to San Francisco Jonas Watcher rescues an elderly Chinese gentleman and his daughter fro ruffians at a train depot. When Jonas returns to his Office in San Francisco he is accosted by to oriental man who insist that he must come with them if he values his life. Jonas dispatches the two men and enters his office. As he is about to leave later that evening there is a knock at his door. It is the daughter of the Chinese gentleman from the day before. She apologizes for her cousins, they were supposed to extend an invitation to Jonas to come to see her great uncle. They were in need of a private detective and after Jonas dealt with the ruffians and her cousins so effectively, her great uncle wanted to interview him to see if he was the right man for a delicate job.

At the meeting, Jonas learns that two powerful families have arranged for a marriage in order to unite and bring an end to a two-hundred-year-old feud. The bride is in St Louis and is a great niece of the man interviewing him. Her father has agreed to the marriage, but Jonas' host does not know anyone he can trust to bring her to San Francisco who isn't too old to do the job. There is some danger as there are factions that do not want the marriage to take place. Jonas' job is a simple one of being her bodyguard.

As Jonas departs for St Louis he is joined by the granddaughter of his host. She is not a traditional Chinese woman and has been a thorn in her grandfather's side because of her forwardness and independent nature. Although the old gentleman indicated he trusted Jonas he decided to send his granddaughter along as an additional protection for the brides chastity.

When Jonas arrives at St Louis he encounters some of those who do not want the wedding to take place. In addition, he finds that although the bride's father supported the marriage, the bride is somewhat reluctant. Jonas must play hide and seek with assassins, deal with the a different suitor of the bride, and complete his assignment because he has learned that failure might me deadly.


As I listened to the fourth video I picked up some additional ideas for my story. I had intended to include some Chinese mythology, and I also wanted to include conflict between old traditions and modern Chinese life in the 1930s. But my main villain was still in the shadows, but listening to James Patterson, my villain revealed himself to me.  Thank you, James.

Gene Poschman

Friday, June 12, 2015

Is James Patterson's Master Class Worth the Price of Admission?

In my early twenties, I purchased a course in writing from the "Famous Writers School". I could ill afford it at the time, but my wife supported my decision and we paid the money and I received the materials.
Famous Writers?

I did pretty good in the beginning, I received positive feedback and useful critics. Unfortunately, there was an assignment I just couldn't get my head wrapped around and I stalled. I did finish that assignment, but I never finished the course.

I took classes in writing from the local community college and I did well academically. How good I was as an author besides classmates saying "That's great" and the teacher providing me with some amount of praise, was an unknown.

I should note that my wife was positively supportive, but when something didn't work for her in my writing, she was honest and that helped me reevaluate what I was writing.

Life got in the way, and I had a career as a programmer analyst which paid substantially enough that I needed to focus on it. Writing became assignments to write documentation, white papers, an occasional newsletter and training materials. Not a lot of room for a whimsical imagination.

Jonas Watcher
A couple of years ago I went into semi-retirement and with my wife's support I returned to my first love, lying...writing fiction. I have self-published two books and I am official releasing the second book, "Jonas Watcher: The Case of the Bourbon Street Hustler", this June 20th at a "Meet the Authors Fair" at the Castro Valley Library. I am working on the third book, working title "Jonas Watcher: The Case of the Jade Dragon".

While trying to increase my exposure on the internet and in the real world I came across this ad for James Patterson Master Class. While it has shades of the Famous Writers school, I suspect that James Patterson has a little more credibility, and the class is $90.

James Patterson
There are 22 lessons totaling about 3 hours of video. Is James Patterson worth $30 and hour plus the other items listed in the class? At this point, I can't say, but since I am hoping to improve my skills as a novelist, and hoping to discover a way to better market myself, I can think of worse ways to spend $90. I am on Social Security, so I have to budget for  the class. Watch this space, and I will provide a critique for the course.

After a bit of a discussion with my wife, I decided to purchase the James Patterson Teaches Writing class. I watched the introduction and the second lesson, and I am encouraged by what I have seen. There is a workbook, and, of course, a presence on facebook. I haven't quite worked around the whole join and be counted on Facebook, but I have set up an avatar, commented in the introduction, and I am working through the workbook. I am excited to hear what James Paterson has to say. When starting any new adventure one starts out with a euphoria, and I hope to maintain it throughout the course.

Gene Poschman

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Getting Out of My Comfort Zone

Recently on of my smarter moves was to join a local writers group in Hayward. Last Saturday we had Julia Park Tracy as a guest speaker. None of my doing, and she was an excellent guest speaker. She is an author, speaker and the current Poet Laureate for Alameda, Ca.

The second thing I did was sign up to participate in the "Meet the Local Authors" fair at the Castro Valley Library. There will be 38 authors participating on June 20th. It is here that I am officially launching the second book in my mystery detective series Jonas Watcher. The first book was The Running Bag, and the second book is named The Bourbon Street Hustler.

This is the first such fair that I am participating in and I have spent some legwork and time putting up flyers for the fair. I do not know if other libraries are doing this, but it seem like a great idea to me.

And lastly, to date I have a book signing at the Hayward Book Shop on the 18th of July, the same day as the Hayward wine walk. I am hoping for any input in how to make my book signing a success. This is my first book signing. I know there are a lot of mixed feelings about book signings, and I really do not expect to make much money, but if I can connect with readers, That will be enough.