Sunday, July 20, 2014

PROGRESS REPORT: WEEK ENDING JULY 19, 2014

YES! There HAS been progress this past week!

I got about half way through writing my last (known) short story commitment for 2014 when I just couldn't stand it any more, and went back to work on ALPHA, BOOK 2: WAYWARD SON.

At this point, Chapters 1 and 2 are repaired; and I think they are much better now than they were before.
Working on Chapter 3 now. Not sure how much of the previous incarnation is salvageable, but we'll see how it goes.

As for my original problem...
Technically, I haven't replaced the two supporting cast members I "fired".
Then again, I may not do so at all.
Perhaps the problem was that I had too big of a supporting cast?
Not sure, but we shall see how it goes.
Still following the same plot, so the first half of the book will be pretty much as originally planned/written, just with two less characters, since the supporting cast didn't really come into prominence until then.
But how will that second half turn out?
Can't answer that question until I get there.

Meanwhile, The Free Choice E-zine just celebrated its 1300th post!

Better get back to work now.
See you around the Internet.
Lee Houston, Junior
20 July, 2014

Sunday, July 13, 2014

PROGRESS REPORT: WEEK ENDING JULY 12, 2014

After having hit a serious snag on ALPHA, BOOK 2: WAYWARD SON last week, I decided to make this past week Short Story Week, although things didn't quite work out on that front the way I wanted them too either.

I started out working on my last short story commitment for 2014, when I
received the galley proofs for an upcoming anthology containing a story I wrote.

Just as I finished going over that material and was preparing to send my list of corrections to be addressed back to the publisher, I received the edited manuscript I wrote of another short story that asked for some revisions.

I am working on those revisions now, and will probably go back and finish that short story afterwards, despite the fact that technically it isn't due until the end of October.
Better early than late!

If you're wondering what all that means for a certain superhero, it means that Alpha is on the proverbial back burner, at least for the moment.

Art by Marc Guerrero
I do apologize to everyone who was hoping to read the sequel to PROJECT ALPHA by now. After I finished and submitted the manuscript for what became  HUGH MONN, PRIVATE DETECTIVE: CATCH A RISING STAR, I intentionally spent the rest of 2013 working on short stories, trying to start getting my name out amongst a wider audience. In the process, work on ALPHA, BOOK 2 was sporadic at best until earlier this year.

But as I have already established in this blog, writers are only human beings, no matter how great our prose are.

When ALPHA 2 is finished, I do intend to immediately start work on whatever will become HUGH MONN, BOOK 3.

In any event, The Free Choice E-zine is doing well and I do have some ideas how to fix ALPHA, BOOK 2; but I've got to finish the short stories first, so I better get back to work.

See you around the Internet.
Lee Houston, Junior
13 July, 2014

Sunday, July 6, 2014

PROGRESS REPORT: WEEK ENDING JULY 5, 2014

First and foremost, let us agree on one established fact.

Writers are human too.

We are not infalliable, and at times make mistakes just like anyone else on planet Earth.
The above is a segue to announce that for better or worse, I have hit a snag on ALPHA, BOOK 2: WAYWARD SON.

The basic premise of the book is still valid.
After the conclusion of Book 1: PROJECT ALPHA, the fledgling superhero searches for his place in the universe, and maybe somewhere he can call home.
Unwanted equipment
It is in the details of trying to develop a supporting cast for the title character that life decided to throw a monkey wrench into the works.

One character was taking so long to set up, that he was on the verge of stealing the spotlight away from our hero.
The other I might as well have named "Mary Sue". This person was not a reflection of me, for I know the origin of the name, but considering how smart-aleky and perfect they were becoming...

Not mechanically inclined
So, going back over
everything and eliminating their material, depending upon the final outcome when I finish reformatting the remainder, has set me back to somewhere between Chapters 6 and 7.

The Free Choice E-zine is doing well, and my remaining short story commitment for 2014 technically isn't due until October, but maybe I'll work on that for a bit as a sort of "break" while I try to create a couple of new people for Alpha to interact with to replace the ones I "fired".

In any event, I need to get back to work, so I'll see you around the Internet.
Lee Houston, Junior
6 July, 2014

Monday, June 30, 2014

BACK STORY: "CATCH A RISING STAR" (HUGH MONN, PRIVATE DETECTIVE: BOOK 2)

Cover art by David L. Russell
Greetings everybody. It's been a while since I had a chance to reveal what went on behind the scenes to create a particular project, so today let's look at my last novel: HUGH MONN, PRIVATE DETECTIVE: CATCH A RISING STAR.

Now the first book in the series about a human private detective working on another planet in the distant future was a collection of all the short stories featuring the title character I wrote for Pro Se Press' Masked Gun Mystery magazine. Only the first 2 out of 8 were published before that and the other titles of the time were folded into Pro Se Presents.

With CATCH A RISING STAR, I intentionally set out to write longer stories, for I could only do between 10-15,000 word tales for the magazine, with several actually coming in under the minimum. When I started work on this project, CATCH was just to be the opening story of an anthology that probably would have been called Femme Fatales. Granted, I have no idea what the other case(s) in that volume would have been, for CATCH grew from being a simple story in an anthology to a novella to a full length adventure while writing it, for I just kept coming up with too much good stuff that I couldn't leave out. In fact, a subplot featuring Hugh and Ca D'r capturing a jewel thief at the Galveza Hotel had to be dropped because the novel was getting too long!

As I've stated before, this is part of the reason why I prefer working in an "open plot" format. While mysteries require a little more thought and detail into the suspects and whodunit, I just outline the main sequence of action and events to keep my options open in case a good idea comes along while writing, and boy did they on this one!

Me and Felix Silla, on the right, circa 2012
I seriously delved into Big Louie's past, laid the ground work for some major events in Hugh Monn's future (if you've figured out the clues between this and the first book), and even got to honor someone I met at the 2012 Pulp Ark convention and had a swell time with, actor Felix Silla; the man who originated the role of Cousin Itt on The Addams Family, was Twiki on Buck Rogers in the 1980s, and so much more.

Besides dedicating CATCH to him, the fact that he "portrayed" human Salexi Lilf of Stellar Studios and not some alien is because Felix said his favorite role was Litvak in The Black Bird, a 1975 movie starring George Segal, because it didn't require a major costume.
Hidden gems

Of course Felix was far from the only Easter Egg in the novel, for I'm not the first writer to base something fictitious upon something real. I couldn't resist "casting" actor/folk singer Burl Ives as Augustus Dubois of the Southern Galaxy Dubois', based upon his portrayal of Big Daddy in Tennessee Williams' Cat On A Hot Tin Roof.
And I've made no secret of basing Hugh's island nation of Galveston 2 upon my memories of growing up in Galveston, Texas (USA).

In the case of bot designations, I used number sequences that had some significance, like all the Crime Scene Investigative unit numbers were based upon the specific prime time hours of a certain television franchise, and Lawbot 714 (as mentioned before) is in honor of the late Jack Webb of Dragnet, while unit 744 is Pete Malloy's badge number on Adam-12.

Now, I only use Easter Eggs if they add to and not distract from the story. Case in point: during events at The Comet Club, Hugh ordered a "Scintillate with Asteroids", which is basically a non-alcoholic drink with ice. Yet both major words of that beverage are astronomy terms, a fact that doesn't hinder the moment.

Another aspect of science fiction that many have commented upon over the years is that you can cloak social issues of the day in the trappings of the genre. During the writing of CATCH, there were a lot of incidents involving weapons and innocent civilians being harmed or killed, which was reflected in moments like the chapter at The Comet Club.

I hope you enjoyed this brief look behind the scenes, and of course Hugh and all my creative endeavors are available from Amazon in both print and e-formats, with the first HUGH MONN, PRIVATE DETECTIVE book also available in audio, read by Pete Milan.

PROGRESS REPORT: WEEK ENDING JUNE 28, 2014

As we close out June of 2014, The Free Choice E-zine almost broke 4000+ page views again thanks to its loyal readership.

Meanwhile, my worked has stopped on Chapter 11 of ALPHA, BOOK 2: WAYWARD SON for the moment because I have gotten Chapters 7, 8, and 9 back from my friendly beta/proof reader Nancy Hansen. I held off on sending her Chapter 10 until I saw what she thought of the last three, and it's a good thing I did, for I have already made some major changes to Chapter 8, which affect everything past that. Once I finish reviewing everything she sent me and go over Chapter 10 again, then I will send the latter to Nancy for her opinions.

So, as promised last week, let's have a brief discussion about proofreading.

Now, no one is perfect. I know that's hard to believe, but it's the truth. We're all human and make mistakes.
As such, nothing we write is perfect on the very first draft. That's why not only do many writers look over their material a lot on their own, even authors who are published on a regular basis have someone read over their work whenever possible before its submitted to the publisher. 

This person is called either a beta or proof reader.

They look for mistakes, as well as give their opinion of the material.
As friends and writing buddies, I read all of Nancy's work for her, and she returns the favor for me whenever possible. This way, between the two of us, we can hopefully eliminate any errors toward making our work the best it possibly can be.
Most writers turn to family member(s) or friend(s) for this task. Notice the plural (s), for there are writers who use more than one beta/proof reader during the course of creating, especially on novels.

Of course you must remember that no matter how many times you have reviewed the work yourself before submitting it, once your manuscript has been submitted, the publisher is going to have their own editorial staff look over your writing too.

So the more mistakes you've eliminated, the better you've made your manuscript before submitting it.

Got to get back to work now, so I'll see you around the Internet.
Lee Houston, Junior
30 June, 2014

Sunday, June 22, 2014

PROGRESS REPORT: WEEK ENDING JUNE 21, 2014

Well folks. I have finished Chapter 10 and moved on to Chapter 11 of ALPHA, BOOK 2: WAYWARD SON.

Overall manuscript is at about 32,000 words, and while I'm about half way through my plot, I cannot tell you for sure how many chapters there will be when the novel is finished.
This is because when I plot, what I do is write down the main events within a project I want to cover. Like "Event A" begets "Event B", which leads to "Event C", causing "Event D" to occur, resulting in "Event F", etc.

Although I prefer to be more detailed in some instances, like when working out HUGH MONN, PRIVATE DETECTIVE mysteries; as I've said before, I like my plots to be flexible so I can be open to other ideas if they occur while I'm writing.

We've all had instances in life where something didn't go how we wanted and alternate solutions were needed.

Same with writing.
After all, they don't call it "Plan B" for nothing.

Meanwhile, my friendly beta/proofreader Nancy Hansen's busy schedule has cleared to the point where she can finally go over Book 2/Chapters 7, 8, and 9.

I plan to reread Chapter 10 before letting her look at it.
Of course it just dawned on me that I've never discussed the merits of having a beta/proofreader, but that's something that will have to wait for a future post.

Have a great week and I'll see you around the Internet.
Lee Houston, Junior
22 June, 2014

Sunday, June 15, 2014

PROGRESS REPORT: WEEK ENDING JUNE 14, 2014

"By any other name...?"
As we celebrate the 50th post on my writing blog...

Work continues on Chapter 10 of ALPHA, BOOK 2: WAYWARD SON; but I got stuck trying to come up with an appropriate name for a character who is pivotal to the second half of the novel.

I wanted something genuine sounding to represent a certain ethnic group, but I did not want something cliche or stereotypical either.

I feel that names within stories, at least for all the major lead and supporting characters are important. You want the proper name to represent at least an aspect, if not the whole character.
"John Smith" or Hugh Monn?

Could you imagine a private detective on another planet in the far flung future being named "John Smith" instead of Hugh Monn, a play on the word Human.
It just doesn't sound right. But a human would stand out amongst all the alien races in such a science fiction setting.

What if ALPHA was BETA, or some other letter?
Just wouldn't have the same impact on being a superhero, would it?

In any event, I did finally decide on a name for the character after auditioning and considering a lot of possibilities.
Hope to have Chapter 10 finished and working on Chapter 11 by next week's progress report.

Meanwhile, The Free Choice E-zine is doing well, and there is currently only one short story commitment left on my 2014 agenda at this time that still needs to be honored. Hope to have that finished before the end of the summer, well ahead of its late October deadline.

Take care, and see you around the Internet.
Lee Houston, Junior
15 June, 2014