Monday, June 30, 2014


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.


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


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


"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

Sunday, June 8, 2014


Looking for short stories
As a writer, I have tackled projects of various word counts throughout my career thus far.
I was working on Chapter 10 to Alpha, Book 2: Wayward Son; but instead this past week became Short Story Week.

My friendly neighborhood beta/proofreader Nancy Hansen sent me back her opinions on the short story I sent her for review, so naturally I stopped everything to go over it before sending the tale to its prospective publisher.

As I said during my Blog Hop post, I try to make everything I write the best I humanly can, but one of the things I'm still learning about my craft is when to say "The End" to a project, because I came up with several other ideas while editing. A few I actually incorporated into the tale, and some I saved in case I ever get invited to write a sequel.
Back to work!

Between that, The Free Choice E-zine, and what life thought I should be doing in what I laughingly refer to as my "spare" time, afraid I didn't get back to Alpha last week at all.

But, there's always this week!
See you around the Internet!
Lee Houston, Junior
8 June, 2014

Monday, June 2, 2014


(*And a few special guest that will be announced later.**)

Hello Everyone.
There is a movement afoot amongst us independent writers called Blog Hopping, to try and gain some notice by sharing a few thoughts and very active links in hopes of increasing our public exposure.
Nancy Hansen tagged me, Chuck Miller, and Jamie Ramos after she was invited along with Lisa M. Collins, and Bonnie J. Sterling to participate. 
I will be sharing the love shortly, but first: the questions!

01. What am I working on?
Art by Marc Guerrero

In-between short story commitments, I am currently writing Alpha, Book 2: Wayward Son; the next installment within my superhero series published by Pro Se Press.

Book 2 picks up the plot threads from the end of Book 1: Project Alpha, as the title character tries to find his place in the universe after the conclusion of his first mission.

Not sure when the manuscript will actually be completed and turned in, because I'm only about half-way through my plot at the moment. More on that in my answers to Questions # 2 and 4.
Meanwhile, I am starting to branch out some. I will have at least one short story (although there is another in progress) published by Airship 27 before the end of 2014, and I am really looking forward to SINGULARITY: RISE OF THE POST-HUMANS, scheduled for release later this year from New Babel Books! Just look at the author line up for the anthology!

02. How does my work differ from others in its genre?

Honestly? That's for the fans and readers to decide because in the end, it's THEIR opinions that matter most.
I take great care to make sure everything I create is entertaining, enlightening whenever possible, and is the best I can humanly make it, because I'm always more concerned about quality than quantity when I write. 

03. Why do I write what I do?

Author as a young reader
I create to add to the genres I love to read: science fiction, fantasy, superheroes, mysteries, etc.
I grew up with books.
My parents read to me as a child. Being able to read and comprehend what I read was stressed since my first day of school.  
From my first comic book to finishing my first all prose/no pictures novel (Edgar Rice Burroughs' A Princess of Mars), I couldn't imagine myself doing anything else but writing.
I have always believed that you should do what you love and love what you do, and with writing I am fulfilling a lifelong dream.

04. How does your writing process work?

Usually after breakfast, unless I wake up with a good idea. I sit myself down in my comfy chair in front of the computer screen and just start writing. If necessary, I'll go retro with pen and paper if I'm nowhere near my PC or the power goes out, an occupational hazard living in a rural area.

Hugh covers by David L. Russell
I do plot to some extent, but more-so when I'm working on Hugh Monn, Private Detective stories or other mysteries, because I need to know all the clues and the solution to the case beforehand.

Otherwise, I do not like to completely plot out a tale 100% beforehand, because that doesn't leave me open to explore other ideas if they arise while I'm writing.

As the work progresses, my trusted friend Nancy Hansen beta/proofreads everything for me, and I will revise and keep on writing until the project is done. The one thing I have to remember is when to say "THE END" to a story, because I become so enamored with the characters that my reader's instincts take over and I've just got to know what happens next.

(**It's later, now.)

Speaking of which, it's time for me to end my Blog Hop and pass the torch onward to Bobby Nash; Ralph Angelo, Junior; and Sean Taylor.

Hope everyone enjoyed the above and will help out some deserving authors.

Sunday, June 1, 2014


Well, I honestly wish there was more progress to report than there actually is.
The Free Choice E-zine is doing well, and I'm almost finished with Chapter 10 of Alpha, Book 2: Wayward Son.

However, I hit a spot where I had to stop and do some serious research.
Researching research
This raises an interesting question.


While the reader has to grant the author some suspension of disbelief, especially if you're writing superhero or science fiction stories, if they suddenly come across a fact or statement the reader knows is wrong, then that speed bump in the road of an otherwise interesting story is going to interrupt the reader's enjoyment of your work.

This is especially true in "period pieces", tales set in a specific time.

For example, did you know minimum wage was not an official business practice until 1938?
And even then, it was only twenty-five cents an hour!
Before that, employers paid only what they thought a job was worth, and if you think things are bad nowadays...

In any event folks, have a great week and I'll see you around the Internet.
Lee Houston, Junior
1 June, 2014