Monday, November 28, 2011

Did You Write? Nov. 28, 2011

Did You Write? Nov. 28, 2011

It is that time of the week. What has been going on in your life? what about your writing?
We just passed through The Thanksgiving Holidays here in the States. For some people, holidays mean staying home and writing. For others it means more tasks on the plate and less writing. Which is it for you? The answer will also tell you how you are likely to bo doing over the Christmas Holidays coming up.
Oh, that reminds me. the end of the year is but a month away. Think about how you have done this year in your writing. Have you met or exceeded your goals or are you way behind and writing heavy the rest of the year is not going to help?
The hope of posting here whether you write or not, is to use implied pier pressure, or shame, to get yourself to write regularly, to develop it into a habit and get some real work done. This is especially important to those of us who will somehow go months without writing a word.

AS to what is writing, If you have to ask, the answer is yes, it is writing. New writing, editing even if it is the work of others, critiquing, poetry, blogging, article writing, technical writing, writing assignments, synopsis and query letters, world and character development, all are writing. E-mails and board posts might also be writing if they are wordy and pertain to writing or story.

As for me, Yes I have been writing. Not as much as I wanted. For me, the Holidays and subsequent recovery cut down my writing time. Also, things have gotten busy at work and I am getting full weeks for once. The pay looks great but the hours are cramped for writing. There is a limit that things can be squeezed in. In the next few weeks, I have to squeeze in even more into the ever shrinking hours I have.
I am editing my Sprit of Vengeance story. The previous editing pass was a section by section re-write, where I corrected and changed entire sections and added more. Now I am doing a heavy edits, cleaning up sentences and fixing loose or incomplete passages. If I can get some spare time, I might be able to finish this soon. 'As it is, I have added 650 words this week and a whole page. The next paragraph I add will kick it to the next page.

On the home front, I am working on my Christmas ornaments. The last two weeks, I came up with my four designs. I need twelve of each. that is 48 total pieces. I have ten of one design. I have six of a couple other designs, and I only have three of a fourth design. I have this next weekend to get them done.
I am starting to plan the Christmas cards I need to paint. I would like to get them started early so I can get them done with plenty of time to think about other things. The past couple years, I was painting them on Christmas Eve, to be given out that night. I want to avoid that pressure. I usually need to paint twenty four of them in total, usually two different designs as I really can only paint twelve at a time and the second time I figure out how to do it better.
when I first starting making my cards, I was going to use stamps, and then realized it would be easier to paint them. I get more pleasure and compliments over making my cards than anything I could pick out and buy. Many people keep them as art pieces. It is work but I do like the results when done.
I learned something new about machining this weekend. I made another step to being closer to make a tool I need for my metal working lathe. I also tested a tool I made and had a partial failure. Luckily, I can easily fix the problem and continue to use my creation.

As to the question of the week, I can honestly say



LOST CHILDREN ANTHOLOGY now in Paperback too!

Right now, with the holidays upon us, most of us are thinking of gift giving and how to help our fellow human beings here on Starship Earth. Well, here's one way you can do both, and feel very good about it too. The Lost Children Anthology—of which I am proud to be a part of—is now available both in printed format as well as E-book. So now folks, you have even more choices. Won't you do something that makes us all feel good, and buy a copy or copies for yourself and/or as a gift, and give a present that can be opened again and again? Remember, all profits from this one go to the charities mentioned. Come take a look, and do something good for the world this holiday season.


Sunday, November 27, 2011

Week 620 Woodworking

Year 11, Week 46, Day One (of four) (week 620) (January 17, 2000 was my first carving day.) 11-24-11 Thursday

I have no idea what the temperature was, but know it was in the high 70s. Even amounts of blue sky and brisk moving puffs, some thickening in the later afternoon, nice light breeze where we were, quite comfortable. This weather report is brought to you by the City Of Fort Lauderdale Department of Tourism.

It was thanksgiving day and I have a four day weekend off from work. We gathered at my brother's house for the holiday dinner and that was where my projects were done.

I arrived early, unloaded food and drink I had, then unloaded my carving stuff and dragged them to the back yard. After getting set up and comfortable, I got to work.

My project was to carve on as many ornament blanks as I could do comfortably in the day. I finished up a cornucopia I had half done last weekend. I mainly had to finish carving the fruit on it. I touched up a couple other pieces. I then carved a couple more cornucopia. I do love the way they are coming out.
I carved a polar bear and a couple seals also. It was pretty good production.

Dinner was excellent. My mom usually does the turkey but she was out for several weeks and came home early this week and did not have time to even think about cooking a turkey. My sister in law did an excellent job. while I did not over eat, I did eat far more than I should have. I also, like a little kid, knocked two drinks over, one into my plate, while passing food around. Other than that, this was an excellent holiday dinner.

My brother was doing metalworking. Several years ago, he built a power hacksaw. It uses belts and pulleys to slow down the action, and the saw is moved by an arm just like a steam engine.
He had disassembled it and replaced the bearings and a few shafts shown heavy wear and he swapped them around. After he had it operating again, he saw there was some flexing and decided to fix that. I helped him bend some thick plate on a hydraulic press he had built from plans and he then welded the piece in place. that made a big difference in the straight, clean, precise cutting one can get. Before the repair, he had to hold the blade guide in place as it could wander half an inch in either way. By his corrections and replacements, he could almost just set the blade down without guidance.
His power hacksaw uses regular hacksaw blades and the blades will last for thousands of strokes. The main reason most hacksaws are replaced when cutting by hand is that they get twisted. With this power hacksaw, the strokes are exactly straight and true and the blades have to replaced because the teeth get dull.
A great thing about this hacksaw is that you turn it on and get it cutting, and one can walk away and let it cut. It is nearly silent. It might take a couple hours but it will calmly cut through three inch stainless steel rod with no problems. A cut off saw or Saws-all require you to hang onto the machine and it takes a long time and makes a whole lot of nose that can irritate neighbors.

Power hacksaw, the actual hacksaw is on the arm on the left. It works sort of like a steam engine where a lever moves the arm back and forth

My brother then needed to make a lathe dog. I did not fully understand how one is used so the process of making it was interesting.
He used two lengths of square stock and cut them at different lengths using the power hacksaw. He then drilled two holes in the short bar, and two holes in the long bar to match those of the short bar. He then drilled a third hole in the long bar at ninety degrees to the other holes. He then cut lengths of threaded rod to span the shaft he needed to turn. He then cut a shorter length of threaded rod. He needed several nuts for the rods.
He found the approximate center of the big rod he needed to turn and mounted it between points in the head of the lathe and in the tail stock. He had mounted a face plate that had slots and holes, and the center was open so you could run a piece straight through the head. We found a wobble in point in the center of the face plate and my brother found there was gunk in there and had to clean it out. The point then went in deeper so he had to re-setup everything.
The lone hole had a rod in it that fit into one of the slots in the face plate. With the bars really tight on the rod, and the threaded stuck into the slot, the rod was held on center and turned nicely for machining.
We made just a few passes on the rod when we ran out of time. I would never fully understood how that lathe dog worked until I had seen it in use. I have something like that for my little lathe and now see possible uses for it.

the lathe dog my brother made. the work held between two points, and the lathe dog that is clamped to the work uses the post to actually turn the work around the two centers.

I had some fun watching and helping with metal working, and I made some Christmas ornaments from blanks I made last week. My main project for tomorrow is Christmas ornaments. I need to spend time and carve a bunch more of them.

I will see what I do tomorrow.

Year 11, Week 46, Day Two (of four) (week 620) (January 17, 2000 was my first carving day.) 11-25-11 Friday

72 degrees in the morning, 79 late in the afternoon. good moving clouds filled the sky, with a quarter of the sky made up of blue sky. The sun did not show all that much during the day. A nice breeze kept things cool. This weather report is brought to you by the City of Pompano Beach and the City of Lake Worth Departments of Tourism.

I set up in the morning. The beast of the backyard was nowhere to be seen Scarface was around and he got some petting but was gone before I was ready to feed him. The beast showed up in the afternoon and got a lot of attention, but not as much as he wanted.

I settled down and finished a seal carving I started yesterday and then carved a couple more ornaments.
My main project was to figure out how to do palm trees. My method of using the lathe to rough out the blank was not working. The force of the tail stock ramming into the wood to keep it in place, was causing the wood to break when it got thin. Whitewood is not a strong wood when not worked straight.
I turned to the bandsaw. My idea was to cut the curves of the trunk with the bandsaw. that was not a problem. For the fronds, I cut angles slits into the top of the tree. I would then carve the different layers differently so the fronds would hang in different places.
while Whitewood is a good carving wood, it does break easily compared to basswood. As I was carving, separating the fronds, the wood would break, changing my design with each cut.
One thing I wanted to do was to cut slits to separate the fronds top to bottom. I realized I would have to stand the piece up at the bandsaw blade and that was not going to work as I would have to cut the base too. I realize I could hook blade so it is next to the trunk and cut up to catch the bottom of the bottom fronds. I might try that later.
The layered fronds, even with the breakage I had, makes the carving look more like palm trees. Paint will help too. I should rib the trunks. Not heavily but it will look like some varieties of palm trees.

My dad died five years ago this week. It both seems like not long ago, and also a very long time ago. It is also the anniversary of when my mom met my dad. Her family pulled their trailer into a trailer park and my dad helped them back up. I think that was like 61 years ago. I learned that my grandfather, my dad's father, also died on thanksgiving weekend.
Mom and I decided to go to the national cemetery in Lake Worth where he was buried. It is kind of a long drive and we wondered if the cemetery was open because of the holiday. We started to go to the wrong gate and it was closed, then saw a car coming out the other gate so we knew it was open.
We located the grave immediately now that we know the number and about where it is. They have just about doubled the number of graves in the site since we were last there.
For those who do not know, this is a national cemetery on the level of Arlington Cemetery. There are a couple hundred of these around the country and this is the newest national cemetery site.
We visit dad's grave three or four times a year. Mom was thinking of going and I decided to ask her if she wanted to go since other days would not be as good.

Me standing at my dad's grave stone. I have lost visible weight!
Mom kneeling behind the grave stone. time is bringing out the color of the marble. when it was first put in, it was white.

When we got back, I returned to carving on my trees. At one point today, I tossed the three trees I had in process in the garbage and cut up another eight foot stick of two by two into twelve inch lengths to make more blanks, but then retrieved them and worked on them more.

Friday's production

For tomorrow, I will do some yard sailing if they are available, and then will work on more ornaments. I want as many as I can ready to be painted at one time. I will paint them in batches so I don't have to change colors as often. My cornucopia uses a large number of colors and it is a pain to clean the brush after dabbing a splotch on and then change colors. Doing several at the same time will save time and paint.
Since I won the bring back prize last week at the turning club meeting, I need to make something to give to the next winner. I have a piece of wood in mind and a design in mind.
I will see what I actually do tomorrow.

Year 11, Week 46, Day Three (of four) (week 620) (January 17, 2000 was my first carving day.) 11-26-11 Saturday
74 degrees early morning, 80 in the afternoon. In the early morning, the clouds were really sad and a few cried over us. By the time I got outside, the sad clouds had just about left and happy clouds came running in and continued to race by in silent thundering herd. There was sun quite a bit of the day. This weather report is brought to you by the city of Pompano Beach Department of Tourism.

A little bit of early wetness, Mom needing rest from her trip, and I needing to get to work prevented us from yard sailing.

After petting and feeding the beast of the back yard, I got my stuff out. I was not planning on working with the little lathe, but I had gone to Harbor Freight last night and picked up a belt and a cutting bit. I wanted to see if the belt fit or was a waste of money.
The lathe has a pulley on the motor with several steps, then there is an idler pulley with several steps, and then there is the drive pulley with several steps. The drive pulley is the largest while the idler pulley is the smallest. One can run the belt directly from the motor to the drive pulley, or can run a separate belt to the idler pulley from the motor and the drive pulley. One can get a wide range of speeds with the different combinations.
The new belt does well running on the drive pulley to either of the two pulleys. It is too long to go from the motor to the idler. It does fit nicely though.
I forgot to check to see if the belt fits to the screw drive. The screw drive moves the cutting tool down the bed so you don't have to sit and twist a crank.

New belt and cutting bits. The things with the orange are wrenches to change the bits around.

I decided to test out the lathe dog on my little lathe. Working with my brother on Thanksgiving showed me how it was used. I mounted a piece of Black Walnut in the lathe, held between points with the lathe dog holding it. I machined it at one end, then flipped it around and machined it then, and flipped it a third time to finish it up. On the third time, I kept hearing a ticking sound. Then the wood broke and the lathe dog hit my glasses. It was not hard enough to do any damage to the glasses. I checked the diameter with my knitting needle / crochet hook guide and saw that the center part was a bit thick. A bit of hand sanding brought it to where it would pass through the measuring hole nicely.

Lathe dog and face plate, then installed with a piece of wood to be rounded. the tang of the lathe dog fits into the slot of the face plate to actually turn the piece. The piece itself is really only held between two points- centers. This is a highly accurate way to work with something centered.

The results of turning on center. the upper piece is stock I started with and the lower one is the result. when I make that into a crochet hook, it will be a D hook, which is very small.

I dug out my big lathe. I have to make a BRING BACK prize for the next turning club meeting. I decided to turn an artistic piece. I decided to try a piece that I saw demonstrated which was conical in design, but had scalloped edges. I started making mine and made several mistakes. One was that it was not conical. Another was that I had the piece way too long. Then I had a catch and it came off the lathe. I could have finished it but decided to try it again with a bigger piece of wood.
I cut off a section of a piece I had turned round and decided to use the drive I had made a few weeks ago out of aluminum. I mounted them in the lathe and started turning. At one point, I got a catch and the piece came off the lathe When I was about to put the wood back in place, I saw that the ends of the screws were bent over. I then found that the head of one screw was also bent over. That had caught on the chuck itself. That was a lot of force.
I went to using the drive spur to finish adding the tenon to the wood, then turned it around. I was working nicely then suddenly a piece of the wood came off. I stopped, found the piece of wood. Luckily, it fell down onto the lathe bed instead of going flying across the yard. I clamped the wood in the vice and glued it. I do not know if it is save-able. I might end up cutting the top off the piece . I will see.

In back is the stock material the work in front of it came from. To the right is the broken chunk and a piece I tried first and realized it was not working. Bad design.

This shows some of the damage to the drive spur I made. The screw head was bent by the chuck when it started coming out. The tips of the outer screws were bent over from the force. I ended up cutting the screw points off and then backing the screws out with a pair of pliers. I have to point some new screws for this.

I have a lot of wood in the lathe cart. They add weight to the lathe so it does not bounce as much when out of balance. I found a piece of Sea Grape and decided to turn it. I cut a piece off right at the center shrinkage cracks. It was not anything close to being square.
One surface was cut with a chain saw and was rough. I decided to save that surface. I marked the centers, making adjustments to the shape of the wood and mounted it with the rough side to the drive head. The other side was flatter and I worked that side creating a raised rim for it to set on so the rest of the piece is off the table.
I turned the piece around using the same holes and started hollowing it. The top was at a strong angle so I had to cut down carefully before I got even close to be below the low rim.
The post that my tail stock was holding the piece with broke a couple times. I flattened it, made sure I had the center and then continued to hollow.
I got it down to where I wanted it. The post broke again. Old sea grape tends to be brittle. I was deep enough to call it done.
I used a strip sander attachment on an angle grinder to clean up the posts and remove some tool marks. I still have some sanding to do to remove the marks from the strip sander, but I decided it is close to being finished.

Sea Grape rustic bowl. Needs some more sanding but is basically done. If I made it again, I would do the top flat and make legs for the underside.

After lunch, I carved on a couple ornaments to finish up a day. I laid out the ornaments I have worked on and found several that needed to be finished. they were stopped and set aside, forgetting to complete them.

Saturday's production. I glued the missing piece of wood back onto the piece to the left. The piece to the right was my first attempt. I have a seal, a cornucopia and a polar bear. In back is the sea grape rustic bowl

Tomorrow, My main project is to work on ornaments. I need to finish several that were not completed, and then carve some other blanks I have. I also need to make more palm trees and see if I have them figured out now.
I will bring out the little lathe, not so much for me to work on it, but more to show my brother some things I did.

I will see what I actually do tomorrow.

Year 11, Week 46, Day Four (of four) (week 620) (January 17, 2000 was my first carving day.) 11-27-11 Sunday
82 degrees, nice breeze, high and low puffs, mostly sunny. Excellent day to work or do nothing. This weather report is brought to you by the City of Pompano Beach Department of Tourism.

The beast of the back yard wanted attention and company. Since I was mostly carving, he was able to lay against my feet for long periods of time.

I carved first on some pieces that needed touching up or were not finished. A couple seals, but mostly palm trees. About late morning, I dragged out the dremmel and used that to help with the palm tree fronds. They kept breaking when carved with a knife. The knife did set the pattern on how they were going to be shaped, and then the grinding wheel on the dremmel removed the wood with less breakage than the knife was doing. I also used the dremmel on the surface of the base around the trunk as there were band saw cuts showing. I used the sanding disk to fix the bottom and sides of the base.
I have some snowmen that I accidentally turned round. I wanted to make them with the feet sticking out. I carved one of them with arms and a face. With these, I decided to leave them as they are so I cleaned up the top of the hat and the base and will paint them as they are.

Total ornament production this year. There are ten palm trees. Two more and that series is done. I only have four bears so I have a whole lot more of them to do. the others are doing well.

After talking with my brother, I took out that piece of aluminum that I want to make into a cross slide for my machine lathe. I took the bandsaw to it, roughly squaring up the sides. they will have to be machined more. My brother read that time with the saw saves a lot more time on the machining.
My brother measured the piece and says that if I am careful, I have enough metal in thickness for the part I am making. Only the tool holder part really needs to be that big. The rest of it can be smaller for the most part.
What I might do is make a piece of wood the size of my block and make the part I am after as practice so I have exactly what I am after. A time ago, I made a version of what I wanted to make, machining it out of wood. Wood does have problems when machining, but it is a quick and easy way to test out designs. Also, if I make my piece out of wood, my brother could sand-cast the parts so the machining would be limited. It is also excellent way to practice for the real project.

I cut aluminum block, my brother and nephew smelted for me earlier, on the band saw to get it closer to being square. I can think more about design now.

My brother was making a new tool for his lathe. it was a boring bar It is to smooth out the inside of pieces, getting them to the final dimension. The design is something I could use on my lathe. He did run into a problem. He has some cutting bits with interchangeable cutting tips. He also has extra screws. He thought he got the right tap for the screws but he found it to be wrong. He will come up with something else. His boring bar was simply a rod with a machined end that holds the bits at the right angle. I can easily make that for my lathe. The fact that I can make my own cutting bits helps.

For next weekend. I need to stop by the antique shop. Unless something happens so I can leave early from work, It looks like I will have to go Saturday. That will cut down on my woodworking. Again, my main project is to work on ornaments. I don't have near enough polar bears. Had I noticed that, and had I noticed I have ten palm trees, I would have at least carved the last two polar bear blanks I have made.
Between now and next weekend, I have to paint, sign, and varnish the ornaments I already have done. The palm trees will then get beads for ornaments and another coat of varnish to protect the glue holding the beads in place.

I will see what I actually do next weekend.

Monday, November 21, 2011


There's no doubt about it, our Lee is a man of many talents. Here on In My "Spare" Time, he's been more than a bit absent lately, but for very good reasons. Lee's a busy writer and editor these days, and he hasn't had a lot of time to spare. He has a book out right now, and another one in the works, and about as many irons in the fire as any man can manage. 

Getting Lee to talk about himself is like trying to nail Jello to the wall. So, Your's Truly decided to sit down with the incredibly humble Mr. Houston, and talk to him about some of those writing and editing projects that are keeping him so busy he doesn't have time to post here. The interview below is the result of that conversation.

Come on in, sit down, and meet the man behind HUGH MONN Private Detective as well as various other projects.

Q: Lee, why don’t you start here by introducing yourself to our audience, talking a little about who you are as a person, and telling people what you write?

I started out life in Galveston, Texas and have migrated inland over the years to find myself now in New England. I’m old enough to know who the Beatles are, but young enough not to remember them first run.

I honorably graduated high school, attended some junior college, and earned my masters degree from the University of Life’s Hard Knocks.

Whatever I have learned about life over all that time I apply to my writing, but I like to think I’m still learning, because I certainly haven’t stopped living.

Besides my first book: Hugh Monn, Private Detective being recently published by Pro Se Press, I have done several short stories and articles both for PSP and in my capacity as Editor-In-Chief of The Free Choice E-zine (

My genres seem to be among the more adventurous: Detective Mystery, Superhero, Science Fiction, and Pulp.

Q: How did you get into writing Lee, and how long have you been writing?

I’ve been writing ever since I figured out what a writer is and does, so that would put it back around the fourth grade. But reading has been a part of my life as far back as I can remember. My folks read bedtime and other stories to me when I was young and by elementary school, I discovered Comic Books. The first ‘real’ book (no interior illustrations) I read solo was Edgar Rice Burroughs’ A Princess of Mars in the fifth grade. It’s a very rare day when you will not find me with reading material in my hands at some point.

Q: As an avid reader, what kinds of books interest you?

A lot. Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Detective Mysteries. Some regular and non-fiction, depending upon the subject matter; the occasional Western, Pulp, and of course Comic Books. I haunt places wherever new or used books can be found whenever the opportunity presents itself, and unfortunately buy a lot faster than I actually have the time to read.

Q: Writers are inquisitive and creative people who often have other pastimes that might have some impact on their craft. Do you have any hobbies, interests, sidelines, or collections outside of literature that you’d like to tell us about? How do they play into your writing?

I love music, although the only instrument I can play is the stereo. But songwriting is an interesting genre because the best songwriters can tell a whole story within three to five minutes on average. I also collect baseball cards and assemble plastic models in what I laughingly call my “spare” time.

How all that has influenced my writing is that I try to have my stories as concise, detailed, and as organized as possible. Regardless of how many words it takes to tell a story, they have to be the RIGHT words, or else you’re wasting the reader’s time and risk ruining their enjoyment of your tale.

Q: Can you tell us briefly about some of the things you have in print? What is the basic concept of each storyline?

Pro Se Press has just published my first book: Hugh Monn, Private Detective. I took all the classic tenets of the detective genre and put them in a science fiction setting. Hugh is still a war veteran who is trying to earn an honest living independent of anyone else as honorably as he can, but now he does so on another planet in the far flung future in the days after Universal War 1.

I’ve also had several short stories published within the company’s previous magazines: Fantasy and Fear, Masked Gun Mystery (where Hugh got his start), and Peculiar Adventures. Another series, Wylde World, started within the pages of PA and is a project I hope to continue when the opportunity presents itself.

Q: Is there anything else in the works but not in print yet that you can talk about?

I just finished the first draft of an original superhero novel. Alpha. The title character starts off life as a lowly primitive on one world and is chosen by a scientist from another world to become a much needed champion. But there’s a lot more involved in the plot because the second half of the book takes place either in outer space or on the scientist’s home world. I’ve done a lot of research for it and the overall series, with Alpha planned out through at least the fifth book.

After I complete the second draft, for I always want to submit the best work I humanly can, then I will be starting on Hugh Monn’s next book.

There are other ideas, concepts, and projects that I hope to pursue over the course of the next year or two as well, but unfortunately I cannot discuss those in further detail at this time.

Q: We’ve all heard about writer’s block; those times when the words just won’t come forth without a fight. Do you have problems with that? If so, how do you get around it?

Unfortunately, yes. It’s like I’m at the keyboard writing up a storm and then suddenly I’m going “What now?” As to how to deal with it, a couple of rounds of Mahjongg on the PC don’t hurt.

But seriously, the best advice I can give is to just find something else to do for a bit while still staying creatively active. Proof read what you’ve already done. Do research for a project. Think about whatever it is you’ll be working on after you finish the current project.

Worse case scenario, just take a short break, like pausing for lunch. Then come back to it later refreshed and raring to go.

Q: A lot of writers seem to struggle with getting into a working groove. Often that involves a mindset and some set of personal rituals. Any interesting habits or quirky little things you need to do in order to mentally prepare yourself for a writing session?

Well, sometimes I wake up in either the middle of the night or for the day with an idea or sequence that I just have to jot down before I lose it. Between the dreams and my thoughts in general, I ‘hear’ everything like an old time radio drama. All the characters, their tone of voice, their mood, emotional state, etc. It’s always a race to transcribe everything.

Otherwise I usually don’t start until after breakfast, and like having music playing low in the background to keep me company and set the tone for that writing session, depending upon what I’m working on at the moment.

Q: Do you have any particular style or format that you prefer to write in?

Not really. I’m comfortable with both first and third person, depending upon the project. Like a lot of detective stories, Hugh Monn is definitely first person while Alpha is in third. There’s trade offs to both. With first person, you can do more personal stuff with your lead/title character since you’re telling the whole story from their perspective while in third person, you can do more foreshadowing and scenes not involving your lead to make the tale larger in scope because you’re not limited to just one point of view.

I would love to get more involved in comic books than just as a reader, but unfortunately that has yet to work out. I keep winding up at startup companies that never seem to get past the “Wouldn’t it be nice if…?” stage and never publish anything before they fold.

Q: Is there any part of writing you aren't comfortable with or even dread?

I need to stretch myself and write more period pieces.

My fear is that no matter how much research I do, I’ll get some minute detail wrong and ruin the story for a reader who knows that era better than I do.

The closest I have come to writing a period piece is the short story “Y-239”, which appeared in the first issue of Pro Se’s Peculiar Adventures. I won’t give away the ending for anyone who hasn’t read it yet, but it does give the story a nice twist.

Q: How has being a published author affected you? What, if anything, changed in your life when you first saw your byline on a story or your name on a novel cover?

I have heard author Derrick Ferguson compare the sensation to witnessing the birth of your first child and cannot think of a better analogy myself. To see something you have created out amongst the public…

A short story within an overall publication is one thing, but since Hugh Monn, Private Detective is my first BOOK, when I first saw the jpeg for David Russell’s painted cover, that was a totally unbelievable, mind blowing experience. I kept expecting to wake up any second and discover it was all just a dream. So if I am sleeping, please honor the “Do Not Disturb” sign.

As for what has changed, I have actually started signing autographs and been to conventions as an honored guest instead of just another fan.

I went to the inaugural Pulp Ark convention in 2011 and plan to attend PA 2 in 2012. And if anyone else would like to invite me to anything…

Q: Writing these days—at least for the small independent publications or for the burgeoning self-publishing field—seems to involve a lot of business savvy and self-promotion. Any tips on how to market what you write if you’re working outside the mainstream publishing world?

In the past, I have always been too modest for my own good and preferred to let my work speak for itself. In today’s market, you not only have to toot your own horn, but be able to play every instrument in the orchestra as well.

I’m learning to speak up for myself more and at least let people know when something I wrote is available.

The new technology has allowed the development of the “Print on Demand” sales approach, allowing publishers to keep their overhead and operating costs down, so thankfully that gives budding young writers more chances to have their submissions considered, for the Big Publishers have gotten to the point where they have to be more cautious in taking a chance on a new author before they’ve had a chance to prove themselves. But in this Catch 22 situation, how do you prove yourself without getting published?

The Internet plays a big part of any advertising campaign nowadays, so blog whenever and wherever you can, but always be polite!

Yet also remember this: you are trying to not only build a professional reputation, but relations with your potential readership as well. No matter how much you hype something, it still has to be the best you can do or else you will lose readers fast, regardless of how good the next book might be.

Q: Today’s amazing technology makes a lot of interesting things available to writers. Do you enjoy writing in this age of electronics or do you prefer a more traditional approach to the craft? If you do use today’s technology, in what way does that affect your writing?

I love my PC and there are a lot of good programs and online sites for writers to use. Cutting and pasting in Microsoft Word saves me a lot of rewriting at times when I want to change passages around to see if they will work better in a different arrangement, although I will be the first to admit that it’s also very easy to get distracted by the Internet.

But you also have to remember that no matter how good they are, these are still just tools. No matter how good your PC’s writing program may be, don’t trust the spell check function completely on spelling and grammar, for it does not allow for creative and poetic license. I once tried writing a story with a character named Kat, and spell check kept changing it to Cat.

I started my writing career with just pen and paper and various reference books. From there I worked my way up to a manual typewriter before acquiring my first computer.

I honestly feel that a writer should be able to write no matter what the circumstances. After all, what if you need to work on your current project in the middle of a power outage or if you’re nowhere near your PC when an idea hits?

And I keep all my old reference books because websites are updated all the time, so you run the risk of information getting lost. Doing so certainly helps when you are writing something about either a specific place or time.

Q: Lee, you have also worked as an editor as well as a writer. Can you tell us about some of that work? Generally what an editor does and the different kinds of editing you’ve done?

I feel the editor has the final responsibility to make sure whatever is being published is the best it can be, but basically it comes down to what you are editing.

As Editor-In-Chief of The Free Choice E-zine, I have the final say and responsibility on everything that gets posted. I try to explain every decision to the staff when questioned so they understand where I’m coming from at any given moment.

If I’m just proofreading something, I make a note of all my changes and send the story back to the writer as suggestions. I do that a lot with my friend and writing buddy Nancy Hansen. We trade material back and forth all the time because a fresh perspective usually results in one of us catching a mistake the other might have made on what we’re working on, and thus that always makes the final manuscript better.

I recently co-edited Raye Knight: Spellbound, a comic book miniseries for its writer-creator Victoria Pagac, which is still available from Indy Planet. Comic books are a result of many creative people pooling their talents, so you have to review everything from the first page of the script to the last panel of the finished art.

And when it comes to proofreading my own material, I’m an even worse nitpicking perfectionist.

Q: How do those two components of the publishing field—writing and editing—differ? Where are they similar?

In every case, you not only have to think about how the material looks at the moment, but what the finished product will look like to the readers.

As a writer, it is always at least the SECOND draft of any manuscript that I’m turning in for consideration. But at some point you have to consider the work “done” and submit it. Otherwise you’ll still be working on your very first story when you’re ninety!

Yet while the editor does have the final say, you have to remember that it’s not a dictatorship. You cannot make change just for the sake of doing so. Any altering of the work has to be done with the objective of making the story better.

Q: What kind of things have you learned from editing that you didn’t know as a writer, and vice versa?

Different publishers have different rules. Most refer to them as Standard and Practices. Yet what may be acceptable to one may not be approved by another.

I tried submitting a modern day private eye story once with no luck whatsoever. One publisher told me it was acceptable for the hero to carry a gun, but he should never actually use it while another wanted to know why there were no deaths despite the fact that the private eye got caught in the middle of a shootout in the same story.

That’s why I gave Hugh Monn a Nuke 653 Rechargeable. The most he does with it is stun people.

I feel that writers should be able to tell any moment of a story without getting too graphic. If there’s been a murder, you don’t need to see all the blood and guts to convey that fact. If there’s a romance, you don’t have to convey all the intimate details of a private moment.

After all, your book might initially get sold to its intended audience, but you have no idea what will happen to that copy afterwards, which is why I personally prefer to stay within the PG to PG-13 spectrum of story telling. There are too many tales of “concerned parental groups” out there as it is.

Q: I’m sure we have other aspiring authors out there. What advice would you give them?

First off, save everything. An idea that might not be good now could be a gem tomorrow. That private eye story I mentioned earlier is now part of the first Hugh Monn book.

But above all: DON’T GIVE UP! Unfortunately, that is a lot easier said than done.
If I bothered to save them all, I could wallpaper my whole office with all the rejection slips I received over the years and know how depressing it can be to think you have turned in your best possible work, only to have someone you never met in person reject it without a second thought.

Q: Where can potential readers find your work?

Hugh Monn, Private Detective is available through either Amazon by title search or through Create Space via the following link:

Alpha will be out in 2012, and all the magazines are still available from Pro Se Press at

Q: Any parting thoughts or words of wisdom you’d like to share with us?

Keep reading and learning, no matter what your age. Hang on to your hopes and aspirations, for our dreams are what makes us who we are. Yesterday’s curious child could be tomorrow’s astronaut, writer, or world leader.

Thank you for your time Lee!

My pleasure! Thanks for talking with me.

11-21-11 Did You Write?

11-21-11 Did You Write?

It is that time of the week, where you suddenly realized the week was shorter than you planned. You look at your files containing your work in progress and wonder if you met your goals for the week. your goals could be several thousand words, or your goals could be opening just the work to have a look.
The idea of this note is to tell about what is going on in your life, and also about what is going on in your writing. The idea of writing about your life is to develop the habit of reporting in. When you don't have any writing to mention, hopefully the shame of not writing will set in and one will actually work to open the work during the next week.

How much writing is not important. What is writing is quite varied. All new writing is writing. Editing, even if it is on the work of others, is writing. Critiquing is a form of writing and counts. Blogging, writing assignments, technical writing, article writing, poetry, world and character development are writing. Bulletin board posts and E-mails can be writing if they are very wordy and pertain to writing or stories can be writing. Essentially, if you have to ask if it is writing, the answer is yes.

As for me, I am editing through my SPIRIT OF VENGEANCE story. I am not trying to add words, but improve what I have. The word count will likely inch up, but that is not my goal. I figure it is long enough.
I have made several passes on the first twenty odd pages, I am fixing and correcting the story this time, rather than rewriting it as I did before. each time I read through the piece, I find passages that could be said better. Hopefully, it is becoming a better story. There are scenes that need more added to them to make them complete. My middle fight scenes are really bad and need to be reworked. In those fights, my character is supposed to just rough up the thugs and they do something that really ticks her off and she loses it, killing them. That description is not what I have right now. I have her fighting to the death and they tick her off and she goes berserk and pummels them. I will correct the fight scenes when I get to them, even re-writing them completely if needed. Even without trying, I added 484 words this week.

On the story idea front. It looked like I was going to fall behind this weekend but somehow stayed caught up with the date.
My compost pile is down to 31 story ideas. This is essentially the top of the really old ideas. I would have had to dig into them tonight except I came up with one just a while ago. I had used up all the newer ideas this past week. I did come up with a couple, but not enough to keep from skimming the top.
Likely a good third of the compost pile ideas are good, but deserve more work to write than they would get as a story idea. Once written they are gone, done.

Outside of writing, Each year since 2003, I have made a set of four different ornaments every year. A few years I made more, and a couple years, I made less than the set of four.
Week before last, I started re-making some ornaments from previous years that needed to be made. Last week, I came up with my first two ideas for this year, palm trees and seals. I stopped at a store and saw a figurine of a polar bear and decided not to buy it as something to go by. a couple days later I decided I would make them. they would be easy to make. I then came up with my fourth ornament Saturday Morning as I was gong to work. I made one, including the paint, just to see how hard it would be and how it would look. My cornucopia ornaments is my favorite this year. I like the results and they are fun to carve.
Now all I have to do is to make a dozen of each ornament to have a complete set, and try to get them all done before the end of the month.... The worse part is that I've been thinking about what ornament to make since like June and had no ideas until now. It was the same for last year. I offer them for sale to friends at different places, and then gift a bunch to friends and family at Christmas. The money pays for tools and materials in my woodworking hobby, at least that is the intent.
I will make some of each imminently so I have some to show and then work at making the rest as time and demand dictates. I have a bunch of "blanks" from previous years that still have to be carved. One uses the band saw to remove the excess wood from the block to make the blank, and then carve the rest of it to the final shape and details.

As to the question of the week,



Sunday, November 20, 2011

Week 819 woodworking

Year 11, Week 45, Day One (week 619) (January 17, 2000 was my first carving day.) 11-19-11 Saturday

80 degrees when I got out back at around nine, 84 degrees as a high. Strong breezes to move and hide saw dust to be found days later when blown back into view. tall puffs racing across the sky from the ocean, dropping Liquid Sunshine in places farther south, but the weather where I was, was excellent all day long.


The turning club meeting was Thursday. We had an excellent turnout, though the number of people displaying to the Instant Gallery was not as extensive as other years. It was excellent anyway.
The demonstration was of making a bird house ornament. The only hard part for me would be making the roof and body fit nicely. He likes a friction fit. It is not necessary, but it makes for better gluing.

I displayed the ornaments I made last weekend, and had some of my other ornaments on display elsewhere in the room to show how turning can be used for ornaments, even if it is just making a blank for carving.

old ornaments shown to show what can be done with wood turning as a start

finished ornaments made recently The uncarved block in back shows what the trees started as.

I also displayed the drive spur I made. two people said they have them, one won it at a show and another had purchased it. I explained about how my brother melted it and I machined it based on the one I had seen in the advertizement.

I won the BRING BACK prize. This is a prize where the winner this month, has to bring back a piece for the next winner to take home. It had been a while since I had won one. I received a tool handle the guy made. It was a thick metal pipe with a padded cover. One end has a reduced fitting inside and set screws. When one inserts a tool which is a rod some form of cutting bit in the end, the set screws lock it in place.
This tool handle is really heavy. When in use, one is not really carrying the tool. One end with the cutting bit in it, is on the tool rest. The other end is against your body. The mass of the handle reduces vibration when cutting into the wood.

Me receiving the bring back prize from the man who made it.

The tool handle. The bare end has set screws to hold the actual tool in place.

I looked at myself in the mirror last night and realized I did not look like I pictured myself to be. I then realized that my face used to be round and now the sides are flat, my head is rectangular. Now if I can flatten my tummy, I would really be doing well...

I was also given a glass etching kit. I looked at it this morning when I took pictures. It has two cans of air, a sprayer and a bottle of etching medium. I don't know if there is air in the cans, but there are ways of making it useable. I would just need a project.

glass etching kit



I went yard sailing!!! I hit several yard sales and got a number of things very cheap.

I picked up a pair of clamp on high chairs. They clamp onto the table leaving the floor space open. The yard sale was a fund raiser for a children's program. the man said that the children of the woman who donated it were now big enough to sit in a regular chair.

clamp on high chairs. One set up to show how it works and the other shows how it is made

I picked up a MATCHBOX carry truck and a fishing lure box. the fishing lure box will be used for my paints at home. it is the right size.

The planar tackle box has a lower area that should hold most if not all my tubes of paint I use at home. The truck folds open if desired.

I picked up a couple blankets. She suggested that they be used for padding things when moving them. Once they go through the wash, I will put them to use. We are getting close to our cold period.

A pair of small but soft blankets. needs washing.

I found a pair of craft books. One has the project and the other has the patterns.

Craft books, one has the project and the other has the plans.

I found a folding easel for working on site. One fitting is missing but otherwise is a good one. The guy said he was selling it because he got something better.

The easel set up for painting on site. It folds up into the box for easy transportation. It is high quality. Only one part is missing, a brass hook, and I can make that with little problem.

I also got a folding sports chair for children. It is child size and folds up nicely. I have a couple adult versions in my truck. I sat on it and it held me well.

folding children's sport chair and a small camo bag


After petting the cat, taking pictures and petting the cat again, I finally started woodworking. Last week, I came up with seals and palm trees as my Christmas ornaments. The palm trees need work. I had several people say it was a mushroom. I added far too many beads on top to hide the fronds.

Wednesday, I had seen a figurine of a polar bear in a popular position I have seen pictures of them, laying flat and straight with their legs under it. I gave it some thought and decided to try making a couple. One needs to test a design before committing to it.
My first two by two by four inch wood for the bear was simply set off center to a flat side and spun, turned into almost a cone with a round big end. I had left a part where the rear legs to be with some flats. I then realized I did not quite do it right.
I stood the second piece of two by two, four inches long, upright in the band saw and sliced off one corner. I did this after I had marked the center of the piece. I then mounted it in the lathe according to my center mark and essentially made one end a cone, and the other end a ball, with a high point left kind of square with the corners knocked off. this gave a little better result.
I then carved them, forming the head. I kept lopping off the ears on both of them. When both carvings were done, I painted them so there was less question as to what they were. I did sand the bottom so the wood shows and will take a good signature.

Finished polar bears.

Early this morning, I got another idea. I should make a cornucopia. I had to see if it would even work. I took a two by two by four inch piece and marked my centers. I centered the piece and turned one end fairly round. Not exactly but close. I then put the tail stock near one corner, and the drive center near the opposite corner on the other end. I then turned the tail stock end to nearly a cone.
This design gives me a rough curve I need for the cornucopia. I then carved the piece. I had done some carving work and realized that some fruit should stick out on the bottom. I put the piece in the bandsaw. Only the bottom was flat, so what I did was hold the bottom against a piece of wood and cut the top of the spilled fruit and then cut the surface back to provide the spilled fruit some room to be spilled.
I carved what amounts to a bunch of different sized balls in the surface. My wedge shaped knife made it somewhat easy.
After I had the thing carved enough, I painted the different balls different colors to represent varieties of fruits and vegetables. It is instantly recognizable for what it is. I do like this.

First finished Cornucopia. Just needs varnish and a signature.

The design of the palm tree needs a lot of work. I think the top needs to be a whole lot thicker, and maybe to some layered circles underneath. I can then carve fronds at different elevations. I will play with that tomorrow.

I carved one of the blanks I made Sunday based on what I learned seals are supposed to look like. I made a small mistake in the carving but one can tell what it is. I have another blank to carve. I like this new design a lot more. Maybe some year, I will make Whales or Dolphin.

seal blanks

carved seal

The day's results.

Tomorrow, I have to prepare for the Thanksgiving Weekend. I will have a four day holiday and will be carving ornaments like crazy. I will make blanks for the various ornaments. The cornucopia might be easier to do on the band saw. I will give it a try. Otherwise I will do it on the lathe. The bears are a lathe project. Of course I could do it on the band saw but it is hard to make it centered the way it is supposed to be. The seals are a band saw project.
The Palm trees will need a bit more work. I think I need the fronds to be nearly a third of the tree. I will undercut them near the trunk as much as possible. This will require two turning centers. One is to put the curve into the center of the trunk. the other is to center up the trunk when it gets to the ends.
Now I might do things like place the wood on an angle to make the top and base angled to the trunk. there are many options to do. Of course, there will be loads of carving to make it into a tree.
I need ten bears, ten trees, eleven cornucopia, eleven seals (I gave one away today). Plus I have a number of blanks for older carving designs I need to work on.

I will make a whole bunch of blanks and get my carving basket together to take with me when I go to my brother's house next week.

I will see what I actually do tomorrow.

Year 11, Week 45, Day Two (week 619) (January 17, 2000 was my first carving day.) 11-20-11 Sunday

78 degrees at eight, 83 degrees at two. Fast moving big puffs of clouds properly spaced to give you shade when you needed it and sun when you wanted it, a really brisk breeze early morning that died down in the afternoon. There was weather to the south of us, but none around us. I would call it the perfect conditions to work. This weather report is brought to you by the City Of Pompano Beach Department of Tourism.

After petting the cat, I grabbed a whole bunch of four inch two by twos and set up at the band saw. I first made some blanks for the cornucopia. I decided that the band saw would be easier than the lathe, and would not require THAT much more carving to make it work. I later carved a couple and it was just as easy as the turned one to carve, and far easier to make than on the lathe. It is much like the seals I carve.
I finished carving one and have the fruit on another to carve. I like these. They are far more enjoyable to carve than others I have made.

The stages of carving the Cornucopia, from blank to finished piece

I turned a few polar bear blanks. These are easy to make and does not take too much time to carve if I can avoid lopping off the ears several times like on the first ones I made.

I was trying to make palm trees. I did get one made, but I had two break, splitting down the length since the angled trunk causes the grain to run on an angle through it, not strong. They got tossed. It dawned on me after I left Mom's house that I realized that I would be better off to make the palm trees on the band saw. The lathe tail stock applies force through the wood and when the grain of the wood gets too thin, it can break with turning force is applied.

I touched up a cat blank I had started and for some reason stopped on making it. that should be enough cats for now.
I also made a couple more seal blanks.

In making blanks, I was mainly out to make sure I had at least six of each to work with. I can always adjust the design in later ones if I think of a correction to make. the seals is one where I can see I can do them better.

All the blanks I need to carve Some might not be carved this year.

Thursday is Thanksgiving. I will go to my brother's house. I have my carving basket and all my carving blanks with me now. I can go directly to his house from home. I will sit and carve out back until it is time to either eat or work metal.
I will likely go up to Mom's house Friday, Saturday and Sunday. I will carve there too. I hope to have most of the blanks carved this weekend. I will have one more weekend to get all these ornaments done before I take them to work to display and, if things really go good, possibly sell.

I will see what I actually do next weekend.