Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The Case of the Running Bag - The Creation of Jonas Watcher

The Continental Op was a collection of short stories by Dashiell Hammett which defined the tough-guy private detective for generations to come. Want to write detective adventure stories this is a must read. Take the characters out and place them in another genre and you can create some credible and fascinating stories. Remember to use the as a template, don't plagiarize.

On the Dock By the Bay

I was reading a short story that involved a faithless husband and I found myself asking "What if?". The idea for a story was born and I played with it in my imagination for about a month.

I had the beginning of a novel, but I had yet to develop my private detective. I needed to come up with a way to introduce my hero and make it unique and interesting. Having my main character start out as a derelict wasn't a new idea, and I need to put him into peril immediately. I had to give his introduction something unique and interesting. Then I remembered an article I had read a long time ago.

Discrete Inquiries

A Running Bag
I had already set my time period fo the 1930's. I am a big fan of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett. The article I had read had dealt with men who didn't return home after the "Great War" in Europe. The US had maintained a presence in Europe under the guise of the Provost Marshall. The men who didn't return home always had the possibility of being found out. A number of these men were in Europe legally, and a number of them were in Europe illegally. The latter group kept a "bag" that contained clothing, money, and other essentials one might need to make a quick get away. The common term became "a running bag". I now had my title, and a way to move my character forward through the story. "The Case of the Running Bag" seemed to be appropriate. Jonas spent the early part of the novel trying to extricate himself from the situation he found himself caught up in.

An Uninvited Guest

A Man in the Shadows
Everything I have been discussing has been written down in note and outline form.It is at this point that I start to create chapter titles and put down events that take place in a chapter. I am not writing yet, just sketching brief comments that might not even be full sentences yet. Occasionally a line that I like may come to me, and I will put it in quotes letting myself know at a later date that this might be a line in the book. I would start creating Chapter Titles at this point. As I created a title I would try to make such that it had more than one meaning. It might refer to an incident in the chapter, but it would also have a second meaning indicating some kind of irony, or make reference to another work of literature. I make no deliberate reference to it in the novel, but the chapter title might have a touch of foreshadowing.

Paranoia Doesn't Mean You're Wrong

Why is She Pointing That Gun at Me?
As I developed the chapters, they integrate into my outline. A chapter heading followed by a brief description of the action in the chapter. Now as it happens, I am an old fart, but not that old, I was born after the second world war, so the thirties is not a time that I have first-hand knowledge of except for what I have read in books and seen in movies. I like an element of realism in my novels and I like the genre very much. Hollywood had created an element of glamor for the period and I like to include in my story telling. This means I need to do a bit of research. I live in the San Francisco Bay area, but circa 1930, San Francisco was a very different city. To begin with at the beginning of the decade, there was no Bay Bridge or Golden Gate Bridge. Traveling from San Francisco to the east bay was a very different process. Research reveals fascinating information about the area and events. This research also helps in driving where my story will go and can affect what happens next.

After Enlightenment, You Keep Working

A Writer and  his Muse
As I do research I include comments in my outline of things that might be pertinent to the story. The potential downside in doing research is that it in itself can become so interesting that I get taken off course. I find that when that happens I have to get back to the outline and force myself to get back on track. Research will also bring in a new story idea and I have to decide in I want to include it or set it aside for another novel. A new story idea was born and I wasn't even looking for it. When an idea didn't fit in my current novel I took the time to make a note. Later if the idea appeared to have legs, I would give it a working title, and a folder of its own. Then I got back to work on "The Case of the Running Bag". During this process, I had created four additional titles.

What It's Like To Play The Palace

The Palace?
I ended up with eighteen chapter titles, some of which I have used here . While researching about San Francisco, I discovered the Palace Hotel. It will be used in a number of my novels so I did as much research as I could. There is an element of reality and fantasy in my creation and replication of The Palace. I also did a lot of image searching of the hotel. While my palace might not be a true replication of the original I hoped to include the glamor and ambiance where the famous and infamous might mingle.

Once I had my outline in place, I started telling my story. Getting it down on paper. Then I ran it through a grammar and spell checker. Then I started rewriting it. My focus at this time was totally on just this novel. It had to be to do it justice. When I was done, it went back to the grammar and spell checker and then my proofreaders. I have three who read for story, editing, and proofing. Then it comes back to me and I go over it one more time. Then one last pass by grammar and spell checker. Then it goes to CreateSpace for publishing.

My ideas came from a collection of short stories, historical articles about the period, and general research. Some ideas just happened into my imagination appearing out of the ether. Sometimes that is jut how it happens. 

Never Upset An Armed Receptionist

As for the next article in the series, "The Case of the Bourbon Street Hustler - I get to Play with History"

The Case of the Bourbon Street Hustler

Monday, May 16, 2016

Where do I Get my Ideas for Stories?

The Three Novels of the Jonas Watcher Series
I have now written three novels in the Jonas Watcher series. I have three more I am trying to organize as to which one I will choose next. There are another three or four on the back burner. Initially, I get an idea and I let my imagination run with it. After awhile I will bring it into focus and I will create a working title. I put that on my computer and then I will add notes and comments until it begins to flesh itself out, and then I will begin my outline.

My outline doesn't follow any format, no numbers, no indentation, no structure except that I create chapter titles, (working titles) for thought organization. I have had as many as three going at one time in this mode, though new ideas pop up all the time. While I am in the outlining mode, usually one story will find itself in the forefront of my imagination and that will be the next novel in the series.

Gene Poschman
I have been to a number of conferences and invariably someone asks a writer, "Where do your ideas come from?" or something of that nature. It wasn't until I was asked that question when I realized there is no short answer. There are a number of common replies that will satisfy an audience, and as far as they go they are true. But in fact, the question does not have a simple quick answer, at least not for me. Every book or story has its own genesis and while some stories may share whatever mental parentage that occurs with my imagination there is always an element of uniqueness within their birth.

So how do I answer the question that reveals the intricate elements of parentage? Tell each novel's story of origin. As for my quick answer, there are stories all around us, you just have to be open to allowing them access to your imagination.

The next title in this series is "The Case of the Running Bag - The Creation of Jonas Watcher".

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

The Next Book

Want to Make the Gods Laugh, Tell Them You Have a Plan

I have been working on the Jonas Watcher Series for about two years,
I am starting my third year. When I thing about books, I usually start with an idea. Next, I develop a title. It helps to give me direction as to where I want the story to go. The title may change a bit, but it is usually pretty close to the original title. "The Case of the Jade Dragon" was born from a scene from an old "Have Gun, Will Travel" episode. Maybe on day I will tell which one, though those who are familiar with the series may be able to figure it out.

As I work on novels, ideas and title come to me for new ones and I will put them down. I will also do some outlining. That way I don't lose the story. I have completed three novels in the series and I have six in some form of development. I have been settling down to tackle the next novel in the cycle when I realized that the cycle may be wrong. I decided to get some feedback. So I am including some titles here along with a thumbnail of the story and some artwork that may be related to the stories. Then I would feedback. Providing readers what they are interested in seems to me to be a good thing to do. So If you will respond to the email address or leave a comment at the end of the post I would be grateful.

The three titles that are in the running are; "The Case of the Looking Glass Mirror", "The Case of the Mischevious Pirate", and "The Case of the Laveau Curse".

The Case of the Looking Glass Mirror
Possible Artwork for the cover of
 "The Case of the Looking Glass Mirror"

The name has always been on a list I created. I realize that looking glass and mirror are the same thing, but there is a touch of whimsy in putting the two together in a title. "Through the Looking Glass: And What Alice Found There" was the inspiration for the novel. In a way, I am using the general pattern of the book as an outline for "The Case of the Looking Glass Mirror". Ironically this book will be the most like a who done it, with a touch of whimsy and a collection of what I hope will be curious and interesting characters.

The story starts out with Lieutenant Sanders contacting Jonas to take over the investigation of a stolen rare copy of "Through the Looking Glass". The owner has become intolerable, expecting the police to make the theft of his book a major police priority. Sanders has convinced the owner that a private detective would meet his needs, and that Jonas would keep the police informed and have access to police resources as needed. The man is wealthy and he is willing to pay for a man to handle his case exclusively.

It all starts out simple enough but when Sanders takes Jonas to meet the owner, they walk into a double homicide. Sanders insists, Jonas focus on the book theft while the police will deal with the homicides. Jonas is in agreement. The only problem is as Jonas tracks down the book, more bodies keep showing up. In the style of Lewis Carrols book, Jonas takes a journey into the bizarre, only it isn't a dream.

The Case of the Mischevious Pirate

Possible cover art for
The Case of the Mischievous Pirate
Everyone wants to write about pirates. The stories out of the Caribean in the 17th and 18th centuries have created some of the most flamboyant, colorful and dangerous characters in history and literature. Based upon a little-known fact I have created a story that deals with modern day pirates, a search for buried treasure, and an adventure that takes Jonas to the islands in search of a sunken ship that has two treasures. Smuggling, island politics, and the mysterious world of island mythology leave Jonas confused as to who the good guys are. If there are any.

It all ties back to Billie Whitehall's family. Georgette, his mother, has partnered with some colorful characters to raise a sunken ship near one of the Carribean islands. Jonas promises to tag along to see that Georgette's interests are protected. When he is almost killed he calls for reinforcements in the guise of Mr. Smith. Mr.Smith apparently know more about Carribean history and sunken treasure and the two must outwit two competitors in order to stay alive.

The Case of the Laveau Curse

Possible cover art for
The Case of the Laveau Curse
This book is indirectly related to "The Case of the Bourbon Street Hustler". The stories are not related, but it does have many of the same characters who were introduced in New Orleans from the earlier book. While I touched on the mythology connected to New Orleans and the Bayou, it was all back story and I never really developed it. In "The Case of the Laveau Curse I will interweave, Voodoo, vampires, and werewolves while keeping my story and feet in the real world. There is alway an element of truth in all myths and when Jonas returns to New Orleans it is because Georgette, Billie Whitehall's mother, has been kidnapped. It is tied to old family feuds, but it also ties into the underworld around New Orleans where fear is a major weapon and reason is not always the best defense.

New OrleansCulture has always been steeped with a touch of the darker side of nature, but not always for the purpose of evil but for the need for poetic justice. In this book' Jonas must deal with the practitioners from the dark side but must enlist their help to save Georgette and even himself. He finds out the truth of Voodoo and the source of some of the other myths that continue to haunt New Orleans. He even finds that there are no answers for some questions.

Your Help Please

As you can see there are three fascinating stories to be told, but I need help. I am leaning in the direction of one of the stories, but I want to know what readers would like to read. You can respond to this post directly, or if you prefer you can contact me at grposchman@gmail.com. I look forward to hearing from you.

Gene Poschman