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The Writer's Mailbag: Installment 197

Updated on April 9, 2018

Great Things in Small Packages

Not much in the way of questions this week, but what we do have packs a lot of punch.

Let’s play word association….packs a lot of punch….Ali….Islam….1960’s….inclusion….fear….anger….justice….pain….always necessary…..lessons learned…..the way of this country.

Wasn’t that fun? I do that every once in awhile as a writing exercise, or to just knock loose an idea or two for future articles. Turn your subconscious loose and see where it takes you. It will often lead you to a story or article which is demanding to be told.

Let’s do this!

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

Expand a Short Story

From William: “Wow, Bill. I'm impressed. Cherry blossoms! The ground is covered with three inches of snow here in PA. What's up with that? Snow and cherry blossoms aside, you've given us another great mailbag. Maybe a question for next week - have you ever written a short story and wanted to develop it further. maybe into a novel? If so, how did that work out for you? I have several short stories that I'd like to take further, but they seem to be stuck as short stories, nothing more. Any thoughts?”

My first thought, William, is that they might be speaking to you. If they are stuck in short form, maybe that’s where they believe they belong.

To answer your first question yes, quite often. My first novel, The 12/59 Shuttle From Yesterday to Today, was simply a writing exercise. I was going to write a short story and be done with it. 80,000 words followed.

My second novel, Resurrecting Tobias, began as a short story. Bev then suggested I incorporate some of my social articles into the story. 110,000 words later that story was finished.

My “Shadows” series of paranormal thrillers started out as a short story. I now have four novels in the series.

And so it goes! Not one of those was intended to be a novel, but my muse had other ideas, and I’m sure glad she did.

On the other end of the novel spectrum, some stories simply come to an end in short story form. You’ll know what to do if you listen to your muse.

What path do you take?
What path do you take? | Source

Published Book, Now What?

From Rasma: “Thank you for another mailbag. Now that I have finally come forth with my first self-published book of poems what are some other things I can do to be sure to get the word out? I have a FB page for the book, I have it on Amazon and an author's page and an author's page on Goodreads. I have also done the usual round of social networks and my own poetry blog and on sites on which I write that have nodded their go-ahead for making my announcement. I didn't appear to do it right for HP so I deleted what I wrote here. Is there anything I have missed for my book so far Poetic Thoughts Fly?”

Rasma, first of all, congratulations on publishing that book.

You’ve done quite a bit. One thing I didn’t see on your list of activities were personal appearances, readings, meet n greets, book signings. Now it could be, since you are in a foreign country, those sorts of things are not possible…it could be you have no desire to do public gigs…but that is an omission from your list.

Pick up a copy of “Guerilla Marketing.” Perhaps it will help you to think outside the box when marketing. I found it very helpful for me.

In my opinion, and that means you can discount what I’m about to say by quite a bit (lol), the two greatest marketing tools we writers have are our work and ourselves. Marketing a self-published book takes time . . . lots of time. And a book of poetry??? Add lots of time to the lots of time! Another book I believe in is “Writer, Publish, Repeat.” Settle in for the long run and prepare for success to arrive very, very slowly, one positive review at a time.

The best marketing you can do is to continue to write and publish.
The best marketing you can do is to continue to write and publish. | Source

Sequels/Series

From LeLonni: “I know you have a series of mysteries; I was wondering how one decides whether to do a stand-alone novel or develop it into a series? Is there something you look for specifically which helps you to decide?”

It’s a great question, LeLonni, but I don’t really have a great answer for you. LOL It goes that way sometimes in the Mail Room.

The decision to do a series or a sequel, for me, is a gut feeling. As trite as it may sound, I let me muse make that decision. When I finished my first novel, The 12/59 Shuttle From Yesterday To Today, I fully intended for there to be a sequel once I really got into the novel. That’s why I ended it the way I did with this passage:

“We are not depressed. We never underestimate the power that a small group of determined people can have. I now see the whole board and I now understand that love can alter reality. Sheila took me on another future vision and we saw Astarte give birth to her first child, twenty years in the future.

Our grandchild’s name will be......Hope!”

I haven’t written it yet, but the foundation was laid seven years ago. On my second novel, “Resurrecting Tobias,” I had no desire to follow-up with a sequel and I still don’t. On my third novel, “Shadows Kill,” I had so much fun killing people as an avenger, I just knew there would be a series. Perhaps that should concern me, right?

So that’s how it goes with me. No rhyme or reason behind it. My muse is in complete control of those decisions.

And so It Goes

That’s all I’ve got for you this week. The temperatures are rising and the critters are calling me. If you want an insight into who I am as a human being, and not just a writer, you can read all about it on my blog posting tomorrow . . . follow this link to the blog.

Catch ya on the flip side!

2018 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

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    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      4 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I have not used it, Lawrence, so my opinion on it is rather useless...but let me include it in the Mailbag and perhaps someone else will comment on it.

    • lawrence01 profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 

      4 months ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      Bill

      I just watched the video from JK Rowling, thank you for including it, it's absolute gold!!!

      Interesting what you say about 'series'

      The two novels I've written started as totally separate short stories, it was only after the first one was in novella form I thought of changing a few things and making them into a series!

      I'm writing number three now, and there's probably one or two more to follow, though they may have a different thread connecting them (the 'thread' is the 'mole' inside MI6)

      These points were really great here.

      Regarding Marketing, I'd agree with you, and I'm slowly galvanising myself into doing that, one other thing I'm looking at is Amazon Marketing Services, actually, maybe that's a question for you, Have you used it? or something similar?

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      4 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Shaloo! Poetry is a tough sell in the marketing of literature...and yes, it is sad.

    • swalia profile image

      Shaloo Walia 

      4 months ago from India

      It's really sad that poetry seems to have much less takers these days. I liked the marketing advice you gave and I am definitely going to check out the book you mentioned. Thanks!

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      5 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I read the first one, Jo, and then never another...maybe I'll start in as well.

    • jo miller profile image

      Jo Miller 

      5 months ago from Tennessee

      Wonderful advice as usual, Bill, but what I really loved about this article was the lovely picture of the driveway (I want to live down that driveway), and the video of J.K. Rowling. I've never read the Harry Potter books, but this video made me want to start reading them. My daughters will both be very happy. They've been encouraging me to read them for years.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      5 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Be well, Rasma, and safe journey...and an early Welcome Home!

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      5 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Separation anxiety, Rodric, and it is real for sure. Take a deep breath!

    • Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

      Gypsy Rose Lee 

      5 months ago from Riga, Latvia

      Thank you for your response. Yes, right not I cannot do anything publically. I am in the process of finding a buyer for my house and all my furnishings as in the summer I am returning to my homeland the US. Wishing you and Bev and the whole barnyard a very happy and sunny weekend.

    • Rodric29 profile image

      Rodric Anthony Johnson 

      5 months ago from Peoria, Arizona

      I am about to do it Bill. I am going to email the file to him today. I feel like I am letting one of my kids go off to college or something!

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      5 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Rodric, I'll touch on this in the next Mailbag, but for now let me just tell you it is perfectly normal not wanting to give your work to a stranger....take a deep breath..all is fine!

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      5 months ago from Olympia, WA

      You are very welcome, Devika! Thank you!

    • Rodric29 profile image

      Rodric Anthony Johnson 

      5 months ago from Peoria, Arizona

      Now that I have found a potentially repeat editor for my books, I can work on my other books. I have a list of books that I need to write, but they refuse to come out right now. I have written down their tittles and put description of characters. They tell they are not ready to be written! Is that weird? My books are stopping me from writing them!

      I am having trouble giving my book to the editor that I met last week. It is my baby and I have not done it before with a stranger. We were introduced through a mutual acquaintance. Bill, your encouragement through your old and new articles and books are making me move forward. Could, however, my apprehension to go with my book editing have something to do with the Editor? He is a good guy and all. I just don't know him. I am so not wanting to let his eyes on my baby to change it up! I must have some serious control issues. I await your wisdom.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      5 months ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      You have created a useful series of mailbags and I am sure this has been a successful challenge. Writers tips all the way and with great lessons. Thank you for that.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      5 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Eurofile! I appreciate you stopping by.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      5 months ago from Olympia, WA

      That's lovely of you to say that, Mary. Thank you very much and Happy Wednesday to you.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      5 months ago from Olympia, WA

      MizB, the chickens are on our son's farm...LOL...no way am I crazy enough to have them here where we live. No, I had not heard about chicken poop and roses....good tip!

    • Eurofile profile image

      Liz Westwood 

      5 months ago from UK

      This is a really useful and interesting article for all aspiring writers out there.

    • Blond Logic profile image

      Mary Wickison 

      5 months ago from Brazil

      Wow Bill, just a few more mailbags to go until you hit 200, what an achievement. You've helped so many people, who may have thrown in the towel.

      Great questions again this week and thoughtful answers.

      Have a wonderful week.

    • MizBejabbers profile image

      Doris James-MizBejabbers 

      5 months ago

      Seventy-five chickens on one-eighth of an acre (if I remember correctly)!?That must be a record. Did you know that chicken litter is the best fertilizer for roses? That's what they use in the beautiful rose gardens at our state capitol.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      5 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Aww thanks, Alyssa! Have fun!

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      5 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Great information, Manatita. I had forgotten to mention podcasts as a way to promote, and videos. Thanks for covering my butt on that one, and thanks for the interesting question. Peace always!

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      5 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Well, Bill, that question is a first, and it is a fascinating one. I'll take a whack at it on Monday and spend the next few days thinking about it. Thank you!

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      5 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Heidi, thanks as always for the voice of experience. Authors need to learn that valuable lesson...patience...it will pay dividends in the long run as long as you keep working.

      Baseball and snow....weird, weird weather so far, for sure...here's hoping you see forty degrees soon. :)

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      5 months ago from Olympia, WA

      MizB, I'm laughing...we do become attached to the critters, don't we? I love going out to the farm; there are about 75 chickens who are very happy to see me each day. To them I am the most important person on earth, and I like that feeling. lol

    • Alyssa Nichol profile image

      Alyssa 

      5 months ago from Ohio

      I love your writing exercise! I think I will give it a try. Great advice this week! Thank you, Bill!!

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      5 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you William! I agree about Rasma....great perseverance on her part.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      5 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks Bill! It's been a brutal winter for you guys. I'm hoping you see a break soon.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      5 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Linda! The animals keep me busy for sure, but it is a labor of love.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      5 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Flourish! My mind does that all the time...can't shut it off some days.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      5 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks a bunch, Frank! It's been a lot of fun doing this series.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      5 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Melissa! I hope you finally see some warm weather. You guys have paid your dues of late.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      5 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Sally! I think we can all agree that a little more warmth would be welcomed!

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      5 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks Clive! I shall do that.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      5 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Kristen :)

    • Nadine May profile image

      Nadine May 

      5 months ago from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

      So glad to have spotted your latest installment Bill. Wow 197. I have always loved reading your mailbag installment articles but missed many. I must thank you for your encouragement when I joined Hubpages 4 years ago. My times with Hubpages are slowly coming to an end, more so now that I have to finish two novels and been rewriting and editing them, which has taken most of my time.

      The changes at Hubpages is probably a good thing for many writers, but it has not been an easy transition for me, so I will gradually remove most of my articles and the chapters of the Self-Employed Housewife and publish it as an ebook first without adding more chapters on Hubpages. Lots of success with your Novels.

    • manatita44 profile image

      manatita44 

      5 months ago from london

      Reading your intro, I was reminded that being a teacher is a very swell thing. Lots of fun too. I'm doing Seminars at a Hotel here in Nairobi, Kenya. Awe-inspiring! Enough about me.

      There are people who would do the job for Rasma, but it will set her back about $500.00 and she would need to be careful anyway. One of the fairly recent things on the market is the video thing. You are allowed to talk about and promote your book and show copies at the same time.

      Find someone who can do this for a small fee. Ashish Dagda may help but he is a very busy man. There is a Nepalese man here whose name I forgot, but there are lots of savvy people here. Let her mention it at the top of one of her poems.

      Bill, are you ok with re-arranging time for family matters, amidst all this pile of diligent work? (my question) for next week. Excellent as always!

    • DrBill-WmL-Smith profile image

      William Leverne Smith 

      5 months ago from Hollister, MO

      The questions and answers in today’s mailbag really stimulate my concerns about my own situation. Exactly as you intend them to do, I suppose. My question:

      I have created an eight generation family saga, created a community from the wilderness, in great detail from 1833, that is still active in modern times. There are now four novels, two novellas, a short story collection and a couple of hundred of Hubpages stories collected into nearly a dozen ebooks about the characters and community. My muse keeps telling me that these somehow need to be reconstituted into an even more coherent set of stories in some sort of new format to reintroduce to a whole new set of readers out there. Current readership I can best estimate in the several hundreds. Is that wacky and unrealistic, or should I just let go of this family saga idea? I cannot do that, of course. Thanks for your thoughts!

    • lifegate profile image

      William Kovacic 

      5 months ago from Pleasant Gap, PA

      Another great mailbag, Bill. Thanks for taking my question. I appreciate the answer. And I'd like to say congratulations to Rasma for a job well done, if you don't mind!

    • bdegiulio profile image

      Bill De Giulio 

      5 months ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Bill. Great advice as usual. There is hope that we may finally get some spring like weather later this week. It’s been a long winter. Have a great week and good luck with the critters.

    • heidithorne profile image

      Heidi Thorne 

      5 months ago from Chicago Area

      Happy Mailbag Monday!

      Re: Too Short? Even for nonfiction, I've run into the "should I expand this?" question. It depends. I let my intuition decide on this one. If it feels like I've answered the questions a reader might have, I'm done and may just leave it as a short, narrow topic eBook.

      Re: What's Next After Self Publishing? I'm guessing the question was prompted by some frustration the author is feeling, the "I've done everything I should have. Now where are the darn sales?" feeling.

      The problem I observe with many authors is that they think the publishing part is the end game. However, self publishing a book is just the beginning of a long, never ending promotional journey that will last as long as the book is for sale.

      Sounds like the author has laid some good promotional groundwork. Now it's the patience game. This is not one that many authors play well.

      It's Cubs' baseball opening day and it was snowing this morning. So instead of "Play ball!," the umpires were probably yelling "Snow ball!"

      Have a great week!

    • MizBejabbers profile image

      Doris James-MizBejabbers 

      5 months ago

      Short but sweet, a fine mailbag this week my friend. I'm just the opposite when it comes to books and novels. I realized that a chapter of my book just didn't fit, so I converted it into a short story. Then I realized the short story didn't have enough details, so I'm converting it into a series. I'm also considering holding on to it and making it into a play. Don't our great minds work in mysterious ways!

      We've had a horrible cold spell here, sleet, record freezing temps, and all our little hydroponics have had to be brought in the house this week. Our one little chicken, left from the flock killed by a possum and who is now our spoiled little darling, got bronchitis and had to spend two days in the pet cage in the house. She's ok now and back in the greenhouse where she belongs. Now there's a story, muse is working. Hope you are warm and happy, friend Bill.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 

      5 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

      You've shared some great advice, as you always do, Bill. I like the word association game! Good luck with all your animals this spring.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 

      5 months ago from USA

      I loved the word association. I’m sure there is an interesting way to incorporate that in writing.

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 

      5 months ago from Shelton

      I like the expand a short story question and how you handled the reply...we too had snow and cherry blossoms.. what a wacky season.. back to your mail bag 197 closing in on two centuries and truth be told.. I wasn't let down yet... awesome

    • mpropp profile image

      Melissa Propp 

      5 months ago from Minnesota

      Happy Monday Bill! Thanks as always for sharing your insights. I always appreciating hearing things from your perspective. Hope you have a great and productive week!\

    • sallybea profile image

      Sally Gulbrandsen 

      5 months ago from Norfolk

      I enjoyed the word association game. Definitely food for thought!

      After a long winter, it seems that spring has sprung. The daffodils and bluebells are spectacular this year. We still need a little more warmth to caress theirs and my head. Have a wonderful week Billy.

    • clivewilliams profile image

      Clive Williams 

      5 months ago from Jamaica

      Great work Bill. Keep writing man.

    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 

      5 months ago from Northeast Ohio

      Bill, always welcome my friend.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      5 months ago from Olympia, WA

      My pleasure, Nikki!

    • nikkikhan10 profile image

      Nikki Khan 

      5 months ago from London

      Thanks Bill I’d wait for next Monday :)

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      5 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I hope it does too, Linda! So much to do, so little time...let's get to it, my friend!

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      5 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you, Nikki, for the kind words and the question. I will have an answer for you next week.

      Blessings to you and your family

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      5 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I appreciate you, Ann....

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      5 months ago from Olympia, WA

      All great points, Kristen...thank you for sharing them. I just knew one of my followers would have some great ideas, and you came through.

    • Carb Diva profile image

      Linda Lum 

      5 months ago from Washington State, USA

      A good start to what I hope will be a better week. Michelle Obama once said "I am as happy as my saddest child." There too goes my heart. When they are little the hurts can be mended with a bandage and a kiss. Not so when they are grown.

      Thank you for another interesting mailbag. The Muses are stirring in many of us. I hope mine returns soon.

    • nikkikhan10 profile image

      Nikki Khan 

      5 months ago from London

      Very interesting and informative mailbag Bill for new book writers, I’m planning to publish one with my short story as I love to write it and I have this feeling that I can write more and more on this paranormal story, so let’s see how it goes.

      I’ve a question how many chapters are best for first book consisting of how many words?

      Please give your wonderful advice on this,

      Bless you and your wife Bill.

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 

      5 months ago from SW England

      Quiet empathy is just what I need, bill. Huge hug gratefully felt. You are a good, kind friend and much appreciated.

    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 

      5 months ago from Northeast Ohio

      Great mailbag Bill. For Rasma, she should have a blog or a public domain and tweet it via Tweet to get the word out. That's what a lot of well-known publishers do to get the word out, when it's book release day. If and when it happens to me, I would do the same to spread the word. And I agree with your ideas. Maybe she could have her local newspaper interview her. As for series vs stand-alone, for me, I end a story with closure for stand-alones in last chapters and epilogues (a majority of my novels are), and have a cliffhanger for series (like my trilogy). And once again, I agree with you. Depending on what genre the author is, it depends if there's more you want to tell in continuation or not.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      5 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Janine, I saw that documentary on RFK a couple weeks ago...great documentary and it sure brought back memories.

      And now on to today's business. Have a great Monday my friend and I'll see you tomorrow!

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      5 months ago from Olympia, WA

      A first-time question, Eric, and a good one. Thanks for making me think on this one....see you soon,and thanks brother!

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      5 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Ann, I'm sending a huge hug as a friend.....I have nothing more to give....but I feel for you, and sometimes that is all we can give....quiet empathy.

      bill

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      5 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Mary, I would be nothing as a writer if it were not for my muse. I've learned to quiet down and open my mind...she comes when I least expect her.

    • Janine Huldie profile image

      Janine Huldie 

      5 months ago from New York, New York

      I love the way you introduced today's mailbag. Most likely, because I just watched a special last night about the 1960s and Kennedy (specifically Robert Kennedy). So, my brain was not only following, but on some level right there with you. That said, you know I not only enjoy your Monday writing insight here, but also your blogs on Tuesday where I also get more insight to you as more than just a writer. Thanks Bill for always just being you! Happy Monday now :)

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      5 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      A fine day and a great time to be alive. Always something or 3 to learn here.

      The book I was thinking of would be a compilation of two pagers. What would you do differently if that was a concept that you would take on. I mean different than what you have taught us to do for a novel. Though it is not poetry is that the kind of way to go?

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 

      5 months ago from SW England

      Great as always and answers that are really useful for me too - novels, series, etc - especially regarding the muse. It's responsible for so many things. My recent poems started out in a totally different vein but each one was changed by my muse as I went along, so much so that I found myself arguing with her!

      Bit of a maudlin Monday for me as I found out that a good friend died at the weekend. Death and life go on.

      Hope your Monday is everything but maudlin, bill.

      Ann

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 

      5 months ago from Ontario, Canada

      There is something you are saying here other than answering the questions. Listening to your subconscious and as you call it, your Muse. I believe in this but I need to listen. I am reinforced by your own experience of listening to this even in the development or not of your novel or series. Thanks for the recommendations.

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