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The Writer's Mailbag: Installment #165

Updated on August 28, 2017

I Am Blown Away by . . .

The fact that each week there seems to be a new question or two, ones which have never been asked before . . . I find that remarkable after three years of the Mailbag.

Our record-breaking summer weather continues, on the heels of a record-breaking winter, and where it stops, nobody knows.

You know what’s odd? I don’t remember the last time we had a major earthquake here in Western Washington. That’s kind of like “our thing,” and yet I don’t remember one in the last ten years.

Strange!

But what isn’t strange is the Mailbag this week, so let’s get to it!

Welcome back to the Mail Room!
Welcome back to the Mail Room! | Source

How Not to Offend

From Ann: “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?”

Ann, in today’s time, I don’t think it’s possible to write effectively about controversial issues without offending someone. I don’t see how you can do it. There are too many whackos out there . . . there are too many people with strong beliefs unwilling to listen to the other side . . . there are too many radicals unwilling and/or incapable of compromise . . . so you might as well just go ahead and write and not worry about it.

At one time on HP, all I wrote about were social issues. I did it for at least two years, one political/social commentary article after another . . . but the social landscape I’m looking at today is scary and frustrating to the max, and rather than expose myself to all manner of verbal and written abuse, I just choose to not do it any longer. It’s not worth my loss of serenity, at least not to me. Instead, I cleverly insert my opinions on social issues into my novels and let my protagonist spout off on sensitive issues. That way his butt is chewed out and not mine. LOL

Book Releases and Client Writing

From Eric: “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?”

Two questions for the price of one, Eric. Thank you!

It was interesting doing research on the best times to release a book. I went to several reputable sites to find the answer, and then checked in with a book agent I know, and the consensus answer is that it depends on the genre of the book. Here is what they seem to agree on, based on genre:

  • January – April: Romance, Self-help, Business books, Cookery
  • May – August: Adventure, Fantasy, Travel
  • Sept – Nov: Academic, Horror, Paranormal, Mystery
  • Dec – Jan: Children, Cookery, Illustrated, Quiz, Dictionaries and quirky fun books.

As for freelance customers, it is an up-and-down business just like any other. Mine is a bit more recession-proof because my main customers are real estate companies, one in Los Angeles and one in Fort Worth, Texas, and they are always promoting homes for sale or commercial property for sale, so my business stays pretty constant year-round.

About the only fluctuation I see in my business is when I lose a customer or gain one.

No collaboration at all on this; just the way I like it
No collaboration at all on this; just the way I like it | Source

COLLABORATION

From Mary: “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?”

This is such a cool and unique question, Mary. Thank you! I learned something while researching this question.

If you are going to self-publish on CreateSpace, the book must be listed under one author and one author only, so a collaboration based on the name of the work cannot happen on that platform.

Obviously it can happen if you find a publishing house, or if you use one of the other self-publishing alternatives, but . . . and this is a big but . . . make sure you both agree to a detailed contract regarding royalties.

Now, my opinion: I would just pay the artist a certain amount per picture/drawing and take total credit for the book myself, with probably a mention on the cover that illustrations are by so-and-so. The reason I say that is I don’t like sharing a creative work, and I don’t want to get involved in contracts and the sharing of royalties. Way too complicated for this boy to deal with . . . pay them per picture and be done with it. Of course, paying for the pictures requires some sort of contract saying that the artist is signing over the rights to the artwork, but that’s a minor hoop to jump through.

Dialogue and Time Flow

From Zulma: “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.”

Yes, Zulma, my advice would still apply regarding long, emotionally-charged moments or confessions. Listen, I’m no fan of long-windedness. I get real bored real fast, and I believe most readers do as well. I have no problem with long reflective passages as long as they are divided by fluff…..”. . . he moved to the other side of the room, looked out the window, and continued his plea” . . . or “ . . . he contemplated his previous words, looked for a weakness in his arguments, and turned to Sheila to see her reaction before continuing” . . . or “ . . . the shadows slowly moved across the floor, the wind bending the branches outside the window, swirling his words and scattering them across the courtyard, and he wondered if anyone was even listening to him as he continued . . . “

That sort of thing!

As for your second question yes, I basically tell them outright. It doesn’t have to be much of a statement . . . “by the time the interview was over the sun was setting, so they decided on dinner before proceeding” . . . or I will simply mention the time as a day unfolds. I write mostly mysteries, and I want time to move rapidly in my novels, so I have no problem with stating the exact time of day when my main character does something. He’s a private investigator of sorts, and chronicling time is something a P.I. would do anyway, so I don’t think it’s much of a stretch for me to keep the reader informed about the passage of time.

For those who prefer not to be so obvious you can of course leave clues. “The leaves had changed to reds and yellows by the time Robert returned to Margaret.”

Too much dialogue? Too little?
Too much dialogue? Too little? | Source

More on Dialogue

From Venkatachari M: “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.”

How to bring them into dialogue? Do you mean how do I introduce the dialogue, rather than always saying “he said” or “Shannon spoke quickly?”

If that is, indeed, what you mean, then I try to allow the reader into the scene and let them see the action. “Mary walked across the room, stood in front of Andrew, and noticed the worry lines on his forehead. She touched his arm. “Why are you so concerned?”

What I have done there is orchestrate a scene, just like I’m a director of a movie. I allowed the reader to see Mary walk across that room, and by doing that it is obvious who is speaking once the dialogue begins.

Dialogue is crucial to any book or story, in most cases. I believe it to be one of the main elements of a good story, but it must be used selectively and in balance. Too much dialogue will kill the action of a story, and not enough dialogue will leave the reader confused and missing the human connection.

Writing Tip Sites

From Shannon: “Where are your favorite places to go for writing exercises? I don't mean prompts necessarily, but more along the lines of sites that offer mini lessons and advice. Tricks for character development or plot development, etc.”

Shannon, I subscribe to the “less is better” school of thought. I don’t like to overload my brain with a flood of information, so I made the decision early on to limit the amount of writing lessons and advice that I read. I religiously read the magazine “Writers Digest.” It is my only go-to source for tips and advice. I’m not saying it is the best; I’m just saying it is the one site I enjoy the most.

OUR CUPS OVERFLOW

Big Mailbag this week with new questions . . . it was a blast!

Let’s do it again next week, shall we? As long as I’m kickin’ then the Mailbag will keep arriving at your home every Monday.

And keep your eyes peeled for the release of my new book “Shadows Fall On Rosarito,” due to be published by October 1st.

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

      Thank you Lawrence! I appreciate you stopping by.

    • profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 2 months ago

      Bill

      Really great stuff here, I read the hub a few days ago, and really enjoyed what you said in reply to Zulma's question.

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

      Thank you Dee! Great question. I'll try to have a great answer on Monday. :)

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 4 months ago

      The fluff is what I am having to go back and insert into my writing. Thank you for the tip. Also, people today are so visual. How to you best put that into writing?

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

      Thank you Tamara! I appreciate your kind words.

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      Tamara Moore 4 months ago

      Thank you, Bill. I like the idea of not overloading the brain with too much information. I try to not do this, either. Its always interesting to read your informative answers to all these questions. I am always learning things from your posts!

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

      Thank you Jo! It's been a fun series for me,and I'm so glad others find it useful.

    • jo miller profile image

      Jo Miller 4 months ago from Tennessee

      I find it remarkable too, Bill, that the questions keep coming and that your answers remain helpful. Keep up the good work.

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

      I'm glad you thought so, Alyssa! Thanks for stopping by to comment.

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

      True that, Zulma!

    • Alyssa Nichol profile image

      Alyssa 4 months ago from Ohio

      Another week of great information! Thanks for the tips on dialogue - very helpful!!

    • phoenix2327 profile image

      Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon 4 months ago from United Kingdom

      Times change, Bill. People don't.

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

      Aww, Kailey, it's not really to avoid controversy....I'm tired of the battling. I've been doing this for fifty years, seemingly taking the unpopular view on so many things, constantly defending my position, trying to make people see my point of view,countless nights of not sleeping, the angst, the anger, the tears....I'm just tired of battling. And you know what? I'm not sure any of it has done any good. People are as fucked up today as they were in 1968, and that, my friend, is depressing.

      I appreciate you!

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

      Thank you Larry! It's always nice having you pay a visit.

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

      Thank you Rasma! Hugs coming your way.

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

      MizB, for goodness sake, be safe. That is one nasty storm, my friend. I may never complain about weather here again.

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

      Thank you Mary! I'm way behind on my reading, so sorry this is so late. Enjoy the rest of your week.

    • social thoughts profile image

      social thoughts 4 months ago from New Jersey

      Bill,

      Maybe, I keep forgetting that you used to write on social issues. I remember that you try to avoid it due to controversy. That sounds awesome, either way.

      On that note, I used to worry about offending others with my opinion. Hell, I still do. I would write my true feelings, complete with research, only to delete it later for fear of hurting anyone. Now, I delete less often. What's the point of erasing my known truth? There are countless offensive views without research that we read every day online. I've found plenty of people out there wanting to say what I write, but don't. I like being their voice. While you may have stopped, which is your right, I appreciate your opinion on the inability not to offend. Thank you!

      I'm happy to hear about the new book!

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 4 months ago from Oklahoma

      A lot of great information this week. Thanks:-)

    • Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

      Gypsy Rose Lee 4 months ago from Riga, Latvia

      Thanks for another great and informative mailbag.

    • MizBejabbers profile image

      MizBejabbers 4 months ago

      No earthquakes is good news, huh, Bill? Since fraking began, we've had thousands of mini-quakes in my state while we wait around for another big one in the New Madrid Fault like the one my ancestors went through in 1811. Oh, well.

      I found Zulma's question interesting because she didn't specify how much time lapse: a couple of hours or a decade? I just finished a novel by Ken Follett, who in my opinion, is the master of the time lapse. James Michener is also a good one if the writer has a lot of time to move. Just thought I'd throw that in.

      Well, Harvey is coming our way and the remnants should be here tomorrow or Wednesday. I may not be able to boot up my computer if it's storming too much. Have a good dry rest of the week, my friend.

    • Blond Logic profile image

      Mary Wickison 4 months ago from Brazil

      Thanks for answering my question. I can appreciate the cut and dry approach to having images done and not fussing with a split.

      That is interesting information about the best release times for books. Handy to know for my book cover sales.

      Your mail bags are always full of useful information.

      Have a wonderful week.

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

      Of course you like it, Sis! I would wear that label as a badge of honor. :)

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 4 months ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      You ain't kidding "off Kilter." !! I kinda like that. Don't mind owning it. That could mean a whole lotta things! :)

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

      Lori, if I didn't know better, I'd say you're showing a California snobbishness with regards to earthquakes. LOL The one in the 60's was a dandy. I think I was a sophomore in high school when that one hit. I remember the teacher running from the room, leaving us students to duck and cover alone. LOL

    • lambservant profile image

      Lori Colbo 4 months ago from Pacific Northwest

      Hi again Bill, I meant to respond to your earthquake comment. I've lived half my life in WA and half in SoCal, give or take, and I never considered earthquakes being "our thing" here in WA. Earthquakes are hands down THE thing in CA. I once estimated I've been in about a dozen major earthquakes, two being in WA. I chuckle everytime I hear in the news we in WA have had an earthquake like a 3.5 or 4.6. That to me is like what you'd get from a sneeze.

      I worked for the Gig Harbor Gateway news when the Nisqually earthquake hit in 2001, it shook the newsroom good and I had to hold a hysterical co-worker I my arms. We were immediately dispatched out to the field to get stories. I went to stores and businesses and they would show me their damage which was so insignificant they weren't newsworthy. I had nothing to report. But the rest of the reporters found enough to report on. That was a 6.8. I remember the one in the 60's also.

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

      Just not too much credit, Zulma! :)

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

      LOL...very true, Pop!

    • phoenix2327 profile image

      Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon 4 months ago from United Kingdom

      Very true, Bill. You've got to give the reader some credit for having common sense. lol

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      breakfastpop 4 months ago

      You and I have another thing in common. You use your characters and I use my bugs!

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

      No Tip-toeing Tuesday for you, Ann! Get out there and trip the light fantastic with those friends of yours, and thank you for the question.

      bill

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

      My pleasure, Zulma, and thank you for the questions. It's a fine line we walk with dialogue and expressing the passing of time. We don't want to be too obvious and elementary, but we still have to do it so the reader isn't confused.

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

      For sure, Flourish! I've done a great deal of tongue-biting of late.

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

      Thanks a bunch, Bill! I eagerly await you doing this full-time so I have more travel articles to read. Have a great last week of August, my friend. Still hot here!

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

      LOL....Sis, I'm laughing out loud, by myself, and I fear I'll wake up Bev. Thanks a lot!

      Just one, Sis, just one...a loving, sassy, slightly-off-kilter sister of mine from 3,500 miles away.

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      Ann Carr 4 months ago from SW England

      Thanks, bill, for answering my question. I tend to agree but I still want to say something! If I write what I deem to be something reasonable and it sounds too tame, then I'll give up!

      Good questions this week, with the usual wise answers. Away with various friends around the countryside so will get back to normal in a few days.

      Have a tremendously talented Tuesday, bill!

      Ann :)

    • phoenix2327 profile image

      Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon 4 months ago from United Kingdom

      Thank you, Bill. I get what you mean about fluff and, yes, that is something I could definitely incorporate into the dialogue without it feeling clunky.

      Also, thanks for the advice on time.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 4 months ago from USA

      This was the best mailbag in a long time. I enjoyed the dialogue answer and smiled at the part about the whackos. You can't go tip toeing through life worrying about how others will react. Do your best to respectfully and authentically be yourself, be open, and know when to bite your tongue for safety's sake.

    • bdegiulio profile image

      Bill De Giulio 4 months ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Bill. What a great week for the mailbag. Interesting question on the best time to release a book. Makes sense to me that a travel book would do best released in May to August as families are planning their summer vacations. I would say that these are definitely the best months for traffic to my travel articles. Great job with the answers Bill, have a great week.

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 4 months ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      Hey bro....I was just about to call it a night when I happen to scroll past this installment of your Writer's Classroom (and saw of picture of your Urban Farming Coloring Book.).....

      I have a question: Has any one of your numerous devoted fans/students, ordered an extra coloring book, for the express purpose of lovingly & explicitly coloring every single picture, to then send it to you as a keepsake?

      That sure would be one HELL of a great gesture! :) He or she would be such a clever individual~~Oh, and MODEST, of course....very modest. (Their class average should go up considerably, I think) .... Your Sassy Sis

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

      Shannon, when I first started out, I would read quite a few periodicals about writing, as well as quite a few books on the subject. Now I'm lazy and just stick with the Digest.

      That was a mouthful. I'll have to see if there's a tag line in there somewhere.

      Have a great week and thanks for the question.

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

      Melissa, no way it was thirty years ago. You're barely thirty now. :) Thanks for always being here, Melissa. I appreciate you very much.

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

      I'm glad to hear I provide some consistency, Bill. Thank you and I'll see you next Monday.

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

      Well there you go, Linda. I do remember teaching when that quake happened...so sixteen years...long time for us.

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

      Always something new to know, ChitrangadaSharan, and I thank you for learning alongside us all.

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

      You are very welcome, Venkatachari M. Thank you for the thought-provoking question.

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      shanmarie 4 months ago

      You should promote your mailbags to promote yourself. LOL. That's a mouth full. Thanks for the answer. I agree that Writers Digest is interesting. I just came across an email the other day that had some interesting tips and it got me to wondering about other reputable places for tips and such. So thought I'd ask. I was sure it was probably a previous question, though. Then again, I find lately that the only thing I can be sure of is that I can be sure of nothing! ;)

      Oh, and the best season question and answer is interesting. Seems to correspond with actual seasons as far as subject matter goes. It makes sense, but I had never considered it before.

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      Melissa Propp 4 months ago from Minnesota

      Happy Monday Bill! Glad to hear the new Shadows book will be out Oct. 1st!

      I got a "blast from the past" kind of moment when you mentioned Writers Digest...that was the first and only magazine that I actually subscribed to back in high school (like 30 years ago!). I know you can still see it online, but it used to get me so excited when the mailman delivered it to my door.... :)

      Have a great week!

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      William Kovacic 4 months ago from Pleasant Gap, PA

      I can now set my watch by The Mailbag. So I'm here on a Monday instead of my usual late Tuesday. You're always on time. I appreciate all the questions, and of course, your answers. I've set my alarm for next Monday.

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      Linda Lum 4 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Bill, another great bag; I especially liked the questions/answers about writing dialogue. I hope to put that to use soon.

      As for the last time we had a major earthquake--it was the Nisqually quake in 2001.

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

      Chitrangada Sharan 4 months ago from New Delhi, India

      Interesting questions and answers and there is always something new to know and learn!

      Once again thanks to you for enlightening us!

    • Venkatachari M profile image

      Venkatachari M 4 months ago from Hyderabad, India

      Thanks, Bill, for answering my question very nicely. It's a good example of dialogue creation.

      All the questions in this mailbag also are great ones with your intelligent replies.

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

      Thank you again my friend.

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

      Lori, you enjoyed this so much you mentioned it twice. LOL I'm glad I'm not the only one who does that.

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      Lori Colbo 4 months ago from Pacific Northwest

      Great Q & A. I use a lot of dialogue to "show don't tell." I find it a lot of fun. I want to continue to hone my skills on it so I appreciate questions on it.

      Looking forward to 166.

    • lambservant profile image

      Lori Colbo 4 months ago from Pacific Northwest

      Great Q & A. I use a lot of dialogue to "show don't tell." I find it a lot of fun. I want to continue to hone my skills on it so I appreciate questions on it.

      Looking forward to 166.

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      Bill Holland 4 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Great point, Heidi! Thanks for adding that.

      Another heatwave here....hopefully we can send it your way soon.

      Have a great week, my friend.

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      Bill Holland 4 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you John! You are appreciated always!

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      Heidi Thorne 4 months ago from Chicago Area

      G'morning!

      Re: Book Releases. Interesting seasonality list for books! I've found that there's often a bump in books and editing work in January-February, too.

      One thing also to remember is that this list isn't just for release of books of various topics... it's useful for MARKETING of books those topics and genres, too. Pumping up the promo for existing books during those times would also be recommended.

      Have a wonderful week!

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      John Hansen 4 months ago from Queensland Australia

      Interesting as always and I never fail to learn something new from the Mailbags. Have a great week, Bill.

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

      Very clever indeed, Mike, a technique I've used in the past, although I make no claims of being clever. :) Thanks for that!

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

      Hi Bill, Another way you mark the passage of time is that you tell your reader that such and such place is three hours away. Your characters climb in a car and off they go. When they arrive, we know the time has passed as your characters climb out of the car stiff and stretching. (very clever)

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      Bill Holland 4 months ago from Olympia, WA

      It makes me happy too, Eric! Thanks buddy!

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      Bill Holland 4 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Janine, amazingly we are having another heat wave. Enough is enough! I'm sending this one your way. :)_

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

      Thanks for those comments, Kristen! All true and all helpful.

    • Ericdierker profile image

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

      A wonderful slice of writers life. It makes me happy that your work on the mailbag is so appreciated by so many.

      Have a great week Bill.

    • Janine Huldie profile image

      Janine Huldie 4 months ago from New York, New York

      Love that you had a few new questions here never asked before. As for the weather, been cooler than normal still and just wish for a heat wave before summer officially ends as it really hasn't been all that warm. I happen to like the heat so this cooler summer weather hasn't done it for me. But still enjoyed your Monday mailbag, as always and wishing you a wonderful day ahead now Bill!! :)

    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 4 months ago from Northeast Ohio

      Great mailbag as always, Bill. So useful and informative at the same time. I guess my genre as thriller will fall into the mystery category for September-November. And to answers V's quesition on dialogue, he can use beats before dialogue or after instead of tags. And try not to have any modifers after the tag, too. I might have a question to ask you soon.