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The Writer's Mailbag: Installment 163

Updated on August 14, 2017

Halfway Through August

The summer is ending for some of us; for the other half of the world, winter is saying goodbye. And so it goes, the Mail keeps arriving no matter what the month or season, and I find that comforting.

And I find all of you comforting and for that I thank you!

A small bag this week, but no matter; we’ll play the hand we’ve been dealt.

Welcome to the Mail Room
Welcome to the Mail Room | Source

Book Organization

From Ann: “I have fun with the 'Take a word..' series and I just love playing with words. I'm thinking of putting them all together to publish but I don't really know how to go about it. Any suggestions? (for your mailbag?) More to do with getting it published rather than the layout.”

Ann, I’ve always got suggestions. Whether they are any good or not, that is the question.

I love your “take a word” series. As for publishing, I assume you are talking about self-publishing and if so, look no further than CreateSpace. Yes, there are other self-publishing sites, but that’s the one I use exclusively and the reason why is because it is user friendly.

You don’t have to self-publish that way, of course. You can go to some vanity press near you, have them print the book, and then you buy in bulk. I did that for my first book, but you have to have enough money laying around to buy 100 books for the first order . . . a bit pricey!

And then, of course, there are traditional publishers and I say good luck if that’s the way you plan on going. Not “good luck needed” because of your writing abilities, because you are a good writer, but good luck because the odds are so stacked against you, especially for a book you are suggesting which is a bit hard to categorize.

If you are going to use CreateSpace, lay it all out on a Word Doc first. You can adjust the Doc to the size you want the book, and then simply download onto the CreateSpace template when you are ready to publish.

I could go on and on with this; email me for more information/details. I suspect you knew all this already, and your question is about something else entirely, in which case I’m sorry for being dense. At least I’m used to it and comfortable in my denseness. LOL

Encourage a child to read gently
Encourage a child to read gently | Source

Children and Writing

From Brenda: “Bill, I want my child to experience the same joy of writing that I experience. She is currently five years old. What would you suggest I do? As a former teacher you must have some suggestions.”

Well good luck with that, Brenda. It’s been my experience that children will usually like the exact opposite of what their parents want them to like.

Here’s the thing, Brenda, and I know you already know this: what you want for your child is pretty far-removed from what will happen. Not everyone has a passion for writing. Not everyone has a passion for roofing or lawyering or doctoring. All you can do is expose your child to different activities and then she will let you know what she is excited about.

So you start with reading. I firmly believe that a love of writing comes, originally, from a love of reading. Spend time each day reading with your daughter. Show her how much you enjoy a good story. Pass on your love of writing to her. Perhaps, when she sees how much you love the written word, she will at least be curious enough to advance with it.

Or not!

Whatever else you do, do not force her to write. That is a sure-fire way to extinguish any burning desire she might have to write.

Writing a series requires many elements
Writing a series requires many elements | Source

Writing a Mystery Series

From Frank: “I have this mystery series floating around in my brain, but I’m not sure where to start, or how to continue. When writing a series, is there some special way to begin so that there is continuity throughout the series? I know you have a series going currently, and I was wondering if you had some suggestions.”

The first thing I’m going to tell you, Frank, is there are no hard-and-fast rules regarding how to write a series. You’ll hear a lot of suggestions, but those are suggestions based on what has worked best for another writer and not what works best for all writers. Writing is not a one-size-fits-all sort of undertaking, so take my suggestions with a grain of salt.

Yes, continuity is important in a series. The same characters usually appear in each book in the series, so you’ll want those characters to grow throughout the series. With a series planned, you don’t have to spill all about your main characters in the first book; you do, however, have to spill enough to make them interesting and worth re-visiting.

I read a paranormal mystery series a couple years back by a writer named F. Paul Wilson . . .The Repairman Jack Series . . . his handling of that series was remarkable. There must be close to twenty books in that series, and each book builds upon those that came before, all leading towards a grand conclusion. There was foreshadowing throughout all the novels . . . the point I’m making is that his organizational skills were unbelievable. He must have sat down, in the beginning, and concocted the mother of all outlines, encompassing all of those novels, one a stepping stone for the next . . .

So organize, and keep notes while you organize, while you outline, and while you write. It’s a pain in the butt to need a piece of information you included three novels earlier, but not remember what that information was or how to find it in which novel.

Organize!

And last, but not least, make the first book in the series dynamite! It does no good to plan a series if the first book is a dud. Why would anyone read any of the ensuing novels if that first one is a piece of pheasant doo-doo?

U.s. Copyright Office

From Mike: “Hi Bill - Here is a question for another day. What do you think about utilizing the U.S. Copyright office?”

Mike, I’ve never done it and probably never will. Here’s why!

Now admittedly, my knowledge of copyright law is pretty sketchy, but here’s what I know. As of 1989, any book or story written by you is automatically protected under copyright laws. Wonderful, right? But we all know that is a nebulous protection at best. The numbers are too great and the cards are stacked against us. Most of us who write articles have had an article, or ten, stolen by others. Yes, we can file claims, but while we file a claim another five are stolen. Hell, Mike, I could download someone else’s book, self-publish it as my own, and chances are excellent I would never get caught. So despite the legal protection, we really aren’t protected much at all.

The only thing registering with the Copyright Office does is allow us to sue for damages in a court of law, should we have our book stolen, and should the person get caught. If you are lucky enough to have a publisher pick up your book, they will insist that the book be registered with the U.S. Copyright Office for that protection.

The cost? From what I can see, if you do it yourself, you’ll pay $80 for filing fees. A lawyer will do it for you for between $100 and $150.

Bottom line on all of this: good luck with total protection!

THAT’S IT

Not many questions but they were dandies. We might as well shut it down for the week and go do something else. I have some painting to do now that the heat wave has broken, so I best go do it.

Have a great week. Thanks for the questions. Thanks for the following and the friendship. The world is a crazy place right now, but it is a bit less crazy because of your friendship and support. Seriously, thank you. You mean the world to me.

2017 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

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    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 months ago from Olympia, WA

      It's excellent advice, Lawrence, advice I definitely follow.

      Thanks or mentioning that and for being here!

    • lawrence01 profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 2 months ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      Bill

      Just catching up a little here. One piece of advice I read from an author about writing a series was "Before each new book, read the previous" that way you remember where things 'left off' and what each character was doing!

      I think that's good advice.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I love the way you worded that, Dora! Thank you!

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 4 months ago from The Caribbean

      Bill, another set of good answers from you. I agree with your answer to the parent who wants the child to write. The children eventually choose for themselves what they want to love. Let's not miss out on their passion while pushing them to adopt ours.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks, Clive! without the questions, this series stops at one. :)

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Jo, if you like supernatural mysteries/action/adventures, then Repairman Jack is the man for you.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Aww, that's sweet of you, Zulma! Thank you so very much for doing that. You're the best! Enjoy!

    • clivewilliams profile image

      Clive Williams 4 months ago from Nibiru

      Billy Buc, the Author of 163 writers guides. Great work

    • jo miller profile image

      Jo Miller 4 months ago from Tennessee

      You may have had a small bag to work with this week, but the information you provided was great. That mystery series sounds fantastic (20 books?), especially if the first one hooked you.

    • phoenix2327 profile image

      Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon 4 months ago from United Kingdom

      Good questions, Bill, especially the one about copyright law. Since your books through Createspace have ISBN numbers, you should be safe. I ordered you whole collection of Billy the Kid books, btw, and am having fun reliving this series again. This time I get to find out what happened with Mindi and Paula.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Great sharing, Lori, and I would echo what you said in describing my journey. Thank you!

    • lambservant profile image

      Lori Colbo 4 months ago from Pacific Northwest

      Great mailbag. I too have held to the idea that writing begins with a love of reading. From my earliest school days I had an insatiable love of books and children's magazines. I read biographies, Nancy Drew and similar series the most. I can see with great evidence that reading sparked my desire to communicate through the written word. It also greatly expanded my vocabulary.

      Thanks for keeping this series going.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 4 months ago from Houston, Texas

      Good information as always Bill. I am so glad that my parents read to us when we were children and kept reading. There were always books in our home and trips to the library. My mother's favorite magazine was the Reader's Digest which kept her up to date on many subjects.

      The R.K. Rowling video was certainly inspirational.

      If I am ever tempted to write a book I will certainly check out CreateSpace. Thanks for that tip.

      As to reporting content thieves I am no longer bothering with that time consuming exercise. Some of the already written posts that were on HP that I wished to move to my own website I had to check and go through that process. Those that were stolen and eventually removed I felt free to move and others will just remain here on this site. It is a shame that so much content is regularly stolen!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Great point, MizB! Sheez, it almost makes a person afraid to publish anything, doesn't it? :)

      As for the earthquakes, we are known to have some pretty good ones from time to time, but oddly we haven't had a big one in maybe fifteen years. Let's hope the next big one holds off until I'm dead and buried. They can be a little frightening.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Exactly, Larry,and I think that's all any of us can do. There are no guarantees.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Well I'm happy for your mother, Bill, and I'm glad everyone had fun despite our bizarre weather. You could come for the next ten years and never see another week of weather like that.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Linda! I was intimidated at first by CreateSpace, but that was just my general intimidation at learning something new in the tech world...turns out it was easy.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 months ago from Olympia, WA

      It's an interesting question, Bill. I'll have an answer for you in a few days. Thank you si!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Not done, Irish, but I'm making headway each day, trying to whittle down the to-do list.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks for sharing that, Rasma! For me it was the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew...even back then I was into mysteries.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Vekatachari M, thanks for your thoughts on Kindle Direct...it's always good to hear the experiences of others.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I love your description of copyright, Eric, who has the most money and time....seems to be the way of this here world, my friend.

      Hug that son...he's a wonder!

      peace

      bill

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 4 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Very cool mailbag again and again and again -- You win so much you might get tired of winning ;-)

      Around thissy here place the problem with my son reading is that there are so many books he just might get hurt pulling one from the bottom. Imagination cultivation time. Soccer, putting, marbles, chess, baseball, basketball and swim lessons. All great stuff but my boy must have alone time to battle the wizards of, whatever is in that brain of his.

      Copyright is cool. It boils down to who has the most dough and time. In about 1999 I got to be an expert in Federal Court on the issues as the Internet and Dot Coms were exploding. Stealing and cybersquatting, and my favorite term "piracy". (funny for me to comment really as with the sermons, no copyrighting and all ads disabled.)

      Ooops sorry so longwinded.

    • lifegate profile image

      William Kovacic 4 months ago from Pleasant Gap, PA

      Another great week, Bill! Concerning your last question regarding copyright. Occasionally, I come across a website that contains very familiar material (like mine). Is there a way to know if someone steals your material? I just don't have the time to search thousands of websites.

    • Venkatachari M profile image

      Venkatachari M 4 months ago from Hyderabad, India

      Very informative and useful information in this mailbag also. I appreciate both those questions and your fitting, concise answers also.

      You recommended only Createspace here and mostly in other cases also. But, I have published my book (Economics for Beginners) on Kindle Direct Publishing platform, even though no copy was sold till now. And, I want to do another one dealing with Accounting in due course on KDP.

      Your advice regarding children acquiring parents' tastes or careers and tips regarding writing or publishing series are much realistic and reasonable. Thanks for all this great sharing of the knowledge.

    • Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

      Gypsy Rose Lee 4 months ago from Riga, Latvia

      Another informative mailbag. Interesting to read about getting a five year old to like writing. I remember at five I was attempting to read all the picture books with descriptions that I could find. My kindergarten teacher was asking us to write poems on the holidays and suddenly I was in an interesting world. When I was eight I was trying to follow in dad's footsteps and writing short poems in Latvian. So it is all possible just has to be in the child's interests.

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      Suzanne Ridgeway 4 months ago from Dublin, Ireland

      Another interesting mailbag Bill, what a series you have kept going. Hope you got the painting done okay wind picked up here but still sunny and warm and lots to do here!

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 4 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

      You've shared some great advice, as you always do in the Mailbag. CreateSpace is sounding more and more attractive!

    • bdegiulio profile image

      Bill De Giulio 4 months ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Bill. There may have only been 4 questions but they're were all excellent. I have recovered from our trip to the great Pacific Northwest. I must say I have never experienced heat like that out there. And once the smoke blew in from Canada we couldn't see much. Oh we'll, it was a great week anyway. My mother was thrilled to have everyone together for a week, which hasn't happened in a very long time.

    • MizBejabbers profile image

      MizBejabbers 4 months ago

      Hi, Bill, I should have gotten around to reading this mailbag earlier today, but I was too busy researching the "Great Eclipse" that is scheduled to occur next week. What I found so far is that you and I both have one thing in common, a great earthquake. We are both on dangerous faultlines that are overdue to rupture, you're in the Pacific Northwest and I'm in the New Madrid area. Oh, well, we've both heard them hollering wolf before, so I'm sure I'll be reading your mailbag next week. In the meantime, I'd like to add a couple of words to you and Mike.

      Another advantage to having a U.S. copyright is the opposite of the advantage you just named. If you see your little novel becoming the Great American Novel or a big cult hit, it may become the victim of someone who claims you stole it from him. By that time it may be too late to officially copyright it. Note how many times you've seen major lawsuits against known artists claiming that their hit was stolen from the plantiff.

      That works for books, too, and remember my little anectdote about a flash fiction on HP, written by a really good writer with integrity, which mirrored a story that I have in my computer that I wrote in 2007? Since I didn't copyright my story, I'm afraid to publish mine now because I could rightly be accused of stealing hers. Neither of us stole the idea from the other, but since she published first, I probably would lose in court if she challenged mine.

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 4 months ago from Oklahoma

      I've never went to the trouble of copyrighting either. I just try to establish a clear trail to the fact I wrote it first.

      Great Bag!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 months ago from Olympia, WA

      If I didn't know better, Pop, I'd say the copyright office was run by Congress. :)

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      breakfastpop 4 months ago

      I totally agree with your take on copywriting. Most of the time it means nothing.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Hi Denise! Thanks for sharing the information and suggestion regarding Stone Soup. I echo your enthusiasm about them.

      As for the copyrighting, everything you said is true...an the Swedish example is also true and common. Sadly, the numbers are great, and the cards are stacked against us.

      Have a wonderful week

      bill

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 4 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I love that, Mary, and I totally agree with you. Imaginative play is going the way of the dinosaur, and I find that sad.

      Thanks for the interesting question, first time for that one.

      Have a productive week, my friend.

    • Blond Logic profile image

      Mary Wickison 4 months ago from Brazil

      Hi Bill,

      Great questions this week.

      Regarding kids and writing, I think as parents we can help them by encouraging imaginative play. I fear that this is going out the window with technology sucking up time for so many people, kids included.

      I absolutely loved the JK Rowling video you shared. Wonderful advice and very moving.

      I have a question for you, do you think an 'Author's Page' is always necessary in a book?

      Have a wonderful week.

    • PAINTDRIPS profile image

      Denise McGill 4 months ago from Fresno CA

      Hey Bill,

      Some good questions this week. I would like to say to Brenda, one, that you are right and our kids seldom get excited about what we are excited about, but two, if her child is writing little things it may be worth it to submit it to Stone Soup Magazine. Stone Soup is a magazine published for children by children. As a matter of fact if you are older than 13 you are too old to write or illustrate for Stone Soup. And they pay a meager fee to the writers and illustrators. At one time I thought my oldest daughter may get a charge out of illustrating (like I did) so I had her send in some illustration samples to Stone Soup. They wrote her back that they thought she was good and would send her a writer's story as soon as one fit her style. I was ecstatic; she was "meh" about it. Then they sent her a story written by some kid and they suggested two possible illustrations with a deadline for the artwork. She worked away and drew the two pictures and sent them in before the deadline. They published and sent her two copies of the magazine her work appeared in as well as a pay check of $15. Okay that's not huge but for a kid it was incentive and I was dancing a jib about her success. She thought it was okay and enjoyed spending her money but she never wanted me to see that she enjoyed it. And she decided not to pursue art any further. Okay. Still it was a good experience. I would suggest sending writing samples or a little finished story into Stone Soup. You never know.

      Also, about copyright. As I understand it the moment you self-publish you get a URL and a listing with the Library of Congress (or at least you do with CreateSpace). Technically speaking that is equivalent of a copyright. Without paying for a copyright, the Library of Congress now has your dated, published work on file. It is the same with artwork. The moment you create a piece of art it is owned by you and cannot be stolen. But stealing happens all the time as you say, and proving it was yours first is not as hard as catching the person using it without your permission. I had a friend tell a story about some art she had done and posted on Facebook. A year later she and her husband were traveling in Sweden and there on a billboard with advertising was her artwork. She managed to sue for unlawful use but if she hadn't been in Sweden would she even have known that someone was using her work without her permission? It's rough out there. On one hand you want exposure, on the other hand you don't want theft.

      You have a great week.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Linda! I love that you read to your children long after they could read. Bravo for that. I just think it is so important, and it is quality time between parent and child.

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      Bill Holland 4 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Welcome back, Melissa! I hope you had a relaxing time off from work. Now back to it for you, young lady! Enjoy your week and thanks so much for thinking of me.

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      Melissa Propp 4 months ago from Minnesota

      Happy Monday Bill! Fresh back from my week of "staycation" and getting all caught up...I always feel a bit overwhelmed when I come back to work, but at least I can always count on my mailbag to remind me what day it is! The question about how to build a series is one I am always fascinated with...so much forethought! LOL

      Have a great week!

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      Ann Carr 4 months ago from SW England

      Thanks, bill, will do!

      Ann

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      Linda Lum 4 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Bill, a different mailbag again this Monday, and a good one. I agree with you on reading to your children. I did long after they could read on their own. And both of them love to write; one graduated with a minor in creative writing, and the other (the one you have met) fills notebooks with fan fiction from movies and TV series that she enjoys.

      I hope that Ann does publish her series, and CreateSpace would be a great platform. I wonder if her concerns were regarding the actual organization or presentation.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks Ann! Glad I didn't mess that one up. If you have specific questions about CreateSpace, email me...I've been around that block a time or two.

      Wishing, for you, a Moby Dick of a Monday. :)

      bill

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      Ann Carr 4 months ago from SW England

      Thank you, bill. That was exactly what I was talking about so you're spot on. I have looked at CreateSpace because you've mentioned it before but I find the choices of what I want from them confusing. Anyway, I shall persevere and no doubt my slow brain will work its way through the process!

      Thank you for your expertise, bill.

      Oh, and your advice to the question ref children writing was spot on too; they are good at picking up enthusiasm, especially at that age, so chances are it'll work. There's always the idea of starting a verbal story or poem first, just for fun.

      Have a munchy Monday!

      Ann :)

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      Bill Holland 4 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Terrible beyond belief, Mike....make one hell of a movie, though. LOL Thanks again my friend!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 months ago from Olympia, WA

      That's an interesting thought, Mike...thanks for the suggestion!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks for adding that, Heidi! I put it on each of my books. Not sure what good it does, but what can it hurt?

      Have a great week!

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      Heidi Thorne 4 months ago from Chicago Area

      G'morning!

      Re: Copyright Registration. I was concerned about doing this early on. But today? Not so much. But I do encourage all self published authors to put copyright notices on all their work online and in print.

      That's about it. Have a great week ahead!

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      mckbirdbks 4 months ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

      Another thought on copyrights. Since you have a series going, at some point you could bundle say five novels into one file, and copyright the whole thing for one copyright fee.

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      mckbirdbks 4 months ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

      Hello Bill - I am early this week. Great advice for Ann. I would hate trying an outline that covered 20 novels. I think you are right about the copyright. It won't protect you from the small thief, but it may protect you from the big thief. Wouldn't it be terrible to see your novel on the big screen and know they bought the rights for $10.00?

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      Bill Holland 4 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I really am, John, but I qualify that statement because once it starts raining here is doesn't seem to know when to stop. LOL Happy Gardening and thank you!

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      Bill Holland 4 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Bravo to you, Sally! I love what you told them about loneliness. That's beautiful!

      Thank you dear friend and Happy Monday to you.

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      Sally Gulbrandsen 4 months ago from Norfolk

      I taught my own children to love words from an early age. A weekly visit to the local library was always on the calendar. I would occasionally tell them that loneliness was not an option if there were a good book close at hand. A love of writing must be the next logical step! I like to think so anyway. Have a great week Billy.

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      Bill Holland 4 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Kristen! I appreciate it very much.

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      Bill Holland 4 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Janine, as you know, we've had a gorgeous summer,albeit a bit hot. But when it ends around here, it really ends, and we don't see the sun for weeks.

      Happy Monday and thank you!

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      John Hansen 4 months ago from Queensland Australia

      Some different questions this week, Bill, and good ones . Spring is approaching here and the weather has been great so been spending a lot of time gardening. I bet you are looking forward to the cooler days of Fall there.

    • Janine Huldie profile image

      Janine Huldie 4 months ago from New York, New York

      Bill, I am not ready for summer to be over, but then again it really hasn't felt like summer here with the lower temps. Still, I am hanging onto summer for a bit more. That said love that your mailbag finds us every Monday no matter the season, temperature or weather conditions. Happy Monday now :)

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      Kristen Howe 4 months ago from Northeast Ohio

      Bill, great mailbag from you with useful and informative tidbits on the writing and publishing business. Keep up the good work.