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The Writer's Mailbag: Installment 164

Updated on August 21, 2017

Influx of New Questions

I don’t know what it is, but lately we’ve been getting questions never-before asked on the Mailbag. That’s good news for all of us, as repetition makes us all weary and bored.

September is almost here, and that means, for me, more writing time. My urban farming chores and daily duties will be drastically cut by the end of September, and then I can concentrate on publishing some new books, and that always excites me.

On a completely unrelated matter . . .

There is a lot of hate in the world right now. You’ve probably noticed. Lots of frustration in reaction to that hate . . . what can you do . . . what can I do?

We are writers! We can do a great deal. We chronicle the reactions and feelings of our generation. We open up Pandora’s Box and we do not back away in horror or fear.

We are writers!

We write!

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

Virily.com

From Rasma: “Now a bit off topic. Just heard from an online friend and since I am very interested I wanted to know what you think. They started posting on Virily.com and apparently they pay over there for original content. If I knew that this was a good site to join I would and perhaps this could be an outlet for some of my dad's stories. I still post on NIUME but of course it is just for my love of writing now. Please let me know.”

Rasma, I’ve never heard of Virily, so I went off to look for myself.

It looks like quite a few other content sites. They pay, you say? Hopefully they have found the winning formula whereby they can pay writers a decent stipend and still stay in business. If not, they will go the way of NIUME and the payments will stop. I wish I knew more, but I don’t. I suspect this is just one of many sites with great intentions, and we’ll just have to wait and see whether they flame out or not.

As for your dad’s stories, my suggestion, and you can take this with a grain of salt, is to publish the book of his stories/poems, and not waste time on sites like Virily. As you can probably tell by now, I don’t have much confidence in these content sites.

Best wishes! And may I offer my sincere condolences for your very personal loss.

AUTHOR’S PAGE

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

Mary, I don’t think an author’s page is necessary, but I do think it’s a damned good idea. Honestly, I can’t think of a single reason not to have one in a book you publish. A self-published book is, by its very nature, part self-promotion. Most writers don’t get rich from self-published books, but they are part of the overall writer’s platform and as such should be heavily self-promoted. By all means include an author’s page.

A fantasy?  Adventure?  I'm still not sure.
A fantasy? Adventure? I'm still not sure. | Source

More on Copyright

From Bill: “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.”

Bill, very familiar material like verbatim, or just a similar storyline? I think that’s the big question. There are very few truly unique and one-of-a-kind storylines, and most stories center around a handful of central themes, so it is pretty common to find stories which are “similar’ to ones you write.

I yield to Stephanie Morrow, college professor and somewhat of an expert on plagiarism:

“Although proving plagiarism isn't always easy, there are electronic sources that can help combat plagiarism. Search engines on the Internet can be used to discover and fight plagiarism by allowing authors and professors the ability to search suspicious phrases or passages. There is also anti-plagiarism software available, such as Wcopyfind and EduTie.com, as well as on-line prevention services like Turnitin or iThenticate.”

Stephanie also mentions that proving plagiarism is not easy, and that is the truth one must always realize. The internet has opened the jail cells, so to speak, and made it quite easy for less-than-reputable people to take our ideas and words and claim them to be your own.

Bottom line: was your work stolen? It will take some work to find out and then prove it. And plagiarists are counting on the fact that you don’t have the time to check thousands of websites. J

Some are mysteries, some are thrillers, and some in-between
Some are mysteries, some are thrillers, and some in-between | Source

Choosing a Genre

From Paige: “I was downloading my book on CreateSpace recently, and I reached the point where they asked me under which genre my book belonged. I was stumped. I’m not sure if it is an action, a thriller, or a mystery. It is actually part of all three. What should I do?”

Paige, this is actually a pretty common problem for writers, and the three genres you named often overlap and cause confusion. It is quite possible that your book is a little of all three. My paranormal thrillers are often a little of all three.

A mystery specifically has to do with the solving of a crime. Thrillers primarily elicit feelings of suspense. Action novels are centered around an almost non-stop flow of events which almost always go at breakneck speed.

As mentioned earlier, there can be some serious overlap depending on the book. My best answer to you: choose the one which you think most closely represents your book. What were you trying to achieve when writing your book? What was the central theme of the book? In the end, I’m not sure the choice of a genre is a game-breaker, and you aren’t going to kill sales by picking one over another. Write a good book, a high-quality book, and people aren’t going to care which genre you choose.

Stilted Writing

From Pam: “Bill, could you read this and tell me why you think it’s boring?”

Pam included a chapter of her latest book, which you obviously cannot see. For the information of all, I wouldn’t use the word “boring” to describe it, but I would say it was stilted and in dire need of resuscitation. (By the way, Pam said I could include this in the Mailbag)

The problem with the passage Pam sent me was pretty obvious: the dialogue rambled on and on and on without a break in it. I know why it happens. The writer gets all wrapped up in the fictional conversation, and the voices can be heard in her head, and she’s just typing like crazy to get it all down . . . but . . . it ends up reading like “he said, she said, he said, she said, blah, blah, and more blah.

Long conversations need breaks. You can insert a break by describing how one of the people feels during the conversation….how they react internally to words said to them….you can describe background noise going on during the conversation….you can insert a disruption of some sort…but for the love of God please insert something. Long dialogues can kill a story faster than an editor in a bad mood.

NO MORE FOR THIS WEEK

Great questions but few in number, so we’ll stop right here and let you fine people go do something else with your valuable time. Thanks so much for spending some of that time with me. Remember, if you have a question for the Mailbag, you can either include it in the comment section below, or shoot me an email at holland1145@yahoo.com.

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 7 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      Privately funded, Flourish! I don't rely on the government to deliver this mail. LOL Thank you!

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 7 weeks ago from USA

      The dialog question was superb and of course your answe! The post office may not be in healthy shape, but business is booming with your mailbag.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 7 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      You are very welcome, Jo! Thank you!

    • jo miller profile image

      Jo Miller 7 weeks ago from Tennessee

      Another helpful article. Thanks, Bill.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 7 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      And I learn from the comments, Linda, so everyone wins. :) Thank you!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 7 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      Larry, I wouldn't know what to do with my Mondays if not for the Mailbag. Thanks for always being here.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 7 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      Blossom, write what moves you and never look back. :) That advice is for free!

      bill

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 7 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      Audrey, you can bet on it. No rush working on it...we still have miles to go, my friend.

      love,

      bill

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 7 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      And please you do, Zulma! :)

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 7 weeks ago from British Columbia, Canada

      There's always new information for me to discover in the Mailbag. Thanks, Bill.

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 8 weeks ago from Oklahoma

      Glad to see business as usual at the Mallbag:-)

    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 8 weeks ago from Victoria, Australia

      Oh, what a helpful article, I love it. I have that problem with genre, too; some of my books could be in several at once. I also don't stick to writing in one particular genre, as some writers do. They're probably more successful, but for me, as the writer, variety is more interesting.

      Get mailbag!

    • vocalcoach profile image

      Audrey Hunt 8 weeks ago from Nashville Tn.

      Hi Bill

      I always benefit from reading the mailbag. Today I've learned that my book may also include an author's page. As my editor I suspect you will be including this in future assignments. Yes?

      May I take this time to thank you for your patience and expertise as you help me spread my wings and fly.

      Love

      Audrey

    • phoenix2327 profile image

      Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon 8 weeks ago from United Kingdom

      I aim to please. :D

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 8 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      Another new question, Venkatachari M, never before asked, and a good one for sure. Thank you...answer on Monday.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 8 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      Zulma, you not only asked a question never before asked, you asked two of them. Well done my creative friend. I've got a few suggestions to toss at ya on Monday. In the meantime, enjoy the rest of your week, and thank you!

    • Venkatachari M profile image

      Venkatachari M 8 weeks ago from Hyderabad, India

      One more interesting mailbag with good questions and worthy answers. I have never tried this dialogue-style of writing. I would like to do it. Can you give some tips on how to bring the characters into dialogues? How to create scenes for dialogue in any story telling form? You may do it in the next mailbag.

    • phoenix2327 profile image

      Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon 8 weeks ago from United Kingdom

      I so glad Pam asked this question. I often like a court reporter writing down everything the characters say. My son has commented that it sometimes reads more like a screenplay in need of a director to guide the emotional delivery and impact of the dialogue. I'll use your tips in future and see if that gets me a better review. lol

      Now, what about times when a character has a lot that needs to be said. Perhaps in the case of a confession or an emotionally-charged moment? Would your advice still apply?

      On a different note, how do you make time flow? How do you let your readers know that a certain amount of time has passed? Do you tell them outright or do you leave clues? I have problems with this.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 8 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks for the question, Mary! Is this a book you are writing? Well, no matter, I'll toss out my opinion on Monday. Have a care-free Tuesday!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 8 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks Bill, and Happy Tuesday to you as well. I'm glad you found something useful in the mail this week.

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      Mary Wickison 8 weeks ago from Brazil

      Hi Bill,

      Thanks for answering my question.

      The question about picking a genre is an interesting one and you're right, it can be difficult to know which category to choose as they overlap.

      I'd like to ask another question, if I may. Although you may not be able to answer it, maybe your readers will. It is about collaboration between an artist and author.

      Can this arrangement work on a 50-50 basis or in your opinion would it be better just to pay the artist and be done with it?

      Have a wonderful week.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 8 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      Great questions, Eric! I'm looking forward to answering those two. The change of seasons definitely, for me, alters my productivity.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 8 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Alyssa! I appreciate you!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 8 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      I am looking forward to the end of September, Mike. I have to give you some business for a cover soon.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 8 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Bill! I don't know how anyone gets any writing done AND keep on top of the plagiarism! I know I don't have that much free time.

      Have a productive, safe, and happy week!

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      William Kovacic 8 weeks ago from Pleasant Gap, PA

      As always, Bill, more good stuff to jumpstart my Monday - oops! I mean Tuesday. Thanks for taking my question, and I enjoyed the videos, as well. Thank you for also taking on Pam's dialogue question. I tend to have the same problem.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 8 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      Well thank God, MizB, you didn't bay at the moon. That might have been cause for concern. LOL Take care my friend.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 8 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      Manatita, I send love and empathy your way, my friend. Thank you....the eclipse has come and gone and all is well.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 8 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      Buildreps, good to see you my friend. Thank you and take care!

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      Eric Dierker 8 weeks ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Bill I think this time, late summer is always interesting around here. You can hear the echoes in the empty hallways. So speaking of such, like the release of movies do book releases have best times of year?

      And likewise, does your freelance client writing slow down?

      I know I know about dog days of summer and that it just relates to a constellation but it sure is sluggish for me.

    • Alyssa Nichol profile image

      Alyssa 8 weeks ago from Ohio

      Another good installment. Thanks for the information! Have a great week!

    • mckbirdbks profile image

      mckbirdbks 8 weeks ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

      Hi Bill - I see the copyright question, is a question that keeps on giving. The question about genre is much tougher. I look at those list to see if anything I write fits well, then just guess. Good to hear that you will get to devote some time to writing at the end of September.

    • bdegiulio profile image

      Bill De Giulio 8 weeks ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Bill. The questions may have been few but they were very interesting and new. You are correct about stolen content, the time it takes to investigate and then do something about it means most of the time I just let it go. This is as you said, just what they are counting on. Great job, have a wonderful week.

    • MizBejabbers profile image

      MizBejabbers 8 weeks ago

      These are some goodies this week, Bill. I got tickled at Bill's question, albeit a serious one. I could tell when an HP article of mine was stolen along with my personal photos that I published with it. LOL I'm sure he didn't mean that, but as the phrase goes, "you can't copyright an idea, but you can copyright your version of it." Hope you enjoyed the eclipse in your neck of the woods. I enjoyed it, but it wasn't so spectacular as to inspire me to write about it. Just another day standing sweating in the sun, but at least I wasn't baying at the moon.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 8 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks John! I'm just along for the ride with everyone else, but I appreciate you checking in.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 8 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      It is my pleasure, Dora! Thank you and have a superb week!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 8 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      Glad to hear it, Pop! I always enjoy your visits.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 8 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      You are very welcome, Ann!

      bill

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      John Hansen 8 weeks ago from Queensland Australia

      As you said Bill, totally new questions this week, even though there weren't many. I found them all very interesting. Good job.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Isaac Weithers 8 weeks ago from The Caribbean

      Thanks to you Bill, and to your readers for the new information shared in the mailbag. Off to check Virily!

    • breakfastpop profile image

      breakfastpop 8 weeks ago

      I always enjoy the mailbag and I thank you for that.

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      Ann Carr 8 weeks ago from SW England

      Thank you, bill!

      Ann :)

    • manatita44 profile image

      manatita44 8 weeks ago from london

      Thanks Bill.

      You've probably figured out that I'm taking a break from here as best I can. I wanted to return to do a prose piece on Love and hope, which I mention because your opening piece reminds me of it. We need so much Love and empathy at this time! At all times, yes, but perhaps even more so now.

      Yes, the frustration and hate is immense. We can do so much to inspire the downtrodden; those who fear or feel lost. Concern, Love ... doing unto others as we would like for ourselves ...

      Great questions and excellent response. Why the sadness in Rasma's life? Has she lost someone?

      I like your take on Beverley and your books. Just brilliant!!

      So long my brother. We are doing our best to send out healing vibes. Let us continue ... let us continue. Praise be!!

      P.S. I note the advice to you about the eclipse. Be very, very careful. I wouldn't look, even with those special glasses.

    • Buildreps profile image

      Buildreps 8 weeks ago from Europe

      Very interesting read this week, Bill. Thanks for the coverage. I hope you're enjoying the eclipse!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 8 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      Oh Ann, you didn't put me on the spot. It's an interesting question and I'll gladly tackle it. It is a very difficult time to write controversial articles...or articles about controversial topics. No one seems to be willing to listen to anything other than their viewpoint. Very strange and very ominous.

      Thanks for the question. See you next week!

      from the Path of Totality, have a miraculously-mind-motivating Monday!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 8 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks Denise! We didn't have the special glasses, but we did go out and stand out in it...kind of eerie, actually....totally quiet!

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      Bill Holland 8 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks so much, Kristen! As one thriller writer to another, you are appreciated.

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      Denise McGill 8 weeks ago from Fresno CA

      Hey Bill, Go out and see the eclipse. They don't happen all that often around here so it's a cool thing to see. I remember the first one I saw on the school yard as a 4th grader. Perhaps I should write it into a story... Thanks for another great mailbag.

      Blessings,

      Denise

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      Ann Carr 8 weeks ago from SW England

      Yet another great mailbag! The genre question is interesting and very apt; I often wonder what to choose for the topic of my hubs as they often overlap. If I haven't had many visits, then I change the topic and it often works. Sadly, you can't do that with a book though.

      Thanks for the nudge in your intro, bill. We do need to write in order to do something about this situation which is worsening throughout the world. Trouble is, anything remotely akin to the political is regarded as fair game for those who want to make horrible remarks, severely criticise or worse. I suppose they reflect the problem.

      I am, however, going to try to pen something which I've been mulling over lately. In an effort to make it effective, I run the risk of not making an impact. However, there's no harm in trying!

      Now there's a question! How do you remain effective on sensitive points without offending? No matter how hard one tries it's still possible to offend someone because some just want an excuse to be offended! What do you think?

      Sorry if I've put you on the spot; you don't have to include it in the mailbag if you don't want to!

      We have a melodiously mind-soothing Monday here, full of sunshine at last. Have a good one, bill!

      Ann :)

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      Bill Holland 8 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      Lori, enjoy that waterfront and the eclipse. It is perfectly sunny here so there won't be any obstruction for those watching the eclipse. Thanks and have a great day.

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      Lori Colbo 8 weeks ago from Pacific Northwest

      Great installment. Dialogue can be quite challenging but I love the challenge and enjoy writing it. I'm on the Gig Harbor waterfront housesitting. It's Misty and the sun is amazing.

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      Kristen Howe 8 weeks ago from Northeast Ohio

      Great mailbag as always, Bill. Very intutitive to talk about various subject matters. I tend to write thrillers and romantic suspense for my fiction niches. Nice book collection in the photos too.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 8 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      Darkness begins in an hour here, Heidi, and then we can all get back to normal again. Thanks for the professional input on those two items...obviously I agree with you. :) Happy Monday, Heidi!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 8 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you, Linda, for the kind words and the suggestion about Jody Picoult. I'll be checking her out...I assume it's a "her." :) Happy Eclipse Day, my friend.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 8 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      Melissa, we'll be at 94% darkness so yes, we'll "see it"....in an hour it starts. I'll be glad when it's over so I don't have to hear about it for another 28 years. LOL Happy Monday my friend,and thank you!

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      Melissa Propp 8 weeks ago from Minnesota

      Happy Monday Bill! Great mailbag to read on this "historical" Monday! I don't know if you will be able to see the eclipse or not (MN doesn't get much of a view, plus might be cloudy) but I'm sure I can watch it on tv...lol

      Have a great rest of the week!

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      Heidi Thorne 8 weeks ago from Chicago Area

      Good Eclipse Morning!

      Re: Author's Page. For heaven's sake, writers, include it! Doesn't have to be your entire life story. Just what make you relatable and interesting. Most of the manuscripts I get to review do not include an author's page. What's even funnier is that many of these authors say they're writing a nonfiction book to build their authority and business' sales. So... how do they expect readers to connect without author info included? Marketing, marketing, marketing!

      Re: Genre Choosing. This is tough, but essential, for both fiction and nonfiction. What I suggest authors do is go to Amazon and find some similar books to yours (yes, there are other books like yours out there). See how the author and/or Amazon has categorized them in the Product Details section. If you want to be in the good company of these works and competing authors, then that's a genre or category to choose.

      Since we won't be in total darkness here in Chicago with the eclipse, I'll just keep on working. Have a terrific week!

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      Linda Lum 8 weeks ago from Washington State, USA

      Bill, it doesn't seem that this mailbag will expire any time soon, and for that I am thankful. I look forward to Mondays just because of you! Great question and response about Virily. I had not heard of it, but like you I assume it will fizzle out and go the way of Niume (too bad).

      Dialogue in a novel--Jody Picoult does a good job with this part of writing. Your friend Pam should take a look at some of her books.

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      Bill Holland 8 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Janine! Enjoy that summer weather. Fall is in the air, especially in the evenings....won't be long now and we'll be digging out the fleece. :)

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      Janine Huldie 8 weeks ago from New York, New York

      Glad to see more varied questions, too for you today. Nice day here so far and finally have had more summer like weather the past week or so. So that is something. But still can't believe September, Fall and Back to School is right around the corner now. Happy Monday to you now, Bill!! :)