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The Writer's Mailbag: Installment 242

Updated on February 4, 2019

Baby, It’s Cold Outside

Welcome back to the Mailbag. Thanks for braving the frigid temps to spend some time with me.

For those of you who do not live in the United States, perhaps you heard it was a bit nippy in the Midwest and Northeast this past week, nippy as in record cold temperatures, zero or below, so cold your breath plume freezes coming out of your mouth.

Meanwhile, where I sit in the city of Olympia in the Pacific Northwest, we are having record warmth this winter. I’m not complaining at all. I spent a year in Alaska back in 2006, and there is no adequate way to describe what minus forty degrees feels like. You have to experience it to truly understand just how brutal it is. So I send my sympathies to those in Minnesota (Melissa, you are stronger than I am), and I declare my undying gratitude that I do not live there.

Let’s all thaw out and find out what the mail has in store for us.

Welcome to the Mail Room!
Welcome to the Mail Room!

Tradition Vs Normal

From Eric: “In the olden days in legal writing for sure around that time of Lincoln practicing certain words were all bold face. It has continued to this day, PLAINTIFF for instance. Now I know that most readers of import of these documents are around 30 years old. (clerks really read all this and judges just read condensed versions). Well there is the rub a thirty year old reads all caps as yelling. My advice to lawyers is to knock it off. What do you think? Tradition v. normal?”

This is actually a very interesting question, Eric. What applied thirty years ago does not apply today regarding communication; having said that, I can still think of situations where all caps works quite well in normal writing.

Does it all come down to interpretation? I will use all caps for emphasis, from time to time, but I can see where some people might think I’m angry when I do that.

Then again, there are similar problems with sarcasm and humor. Quite often I will be joking around and others will take me seriously and get their feelings hurt or be insulted. The intention certainly was not there, but the end result of my humor was disastrous.

Bottom line about tradition vs normal…any communication is susceptible to misunderstanding, don’t you think?

And why, Eric, do legal papers have certain words in all caps? I’ve never understood that.

Conquering the Fear of Publishing

From Lawrence: “I'm at the stage where my latest novel is almost finished in the first draft, and I'm wary of getting any further in case others don't like the story! I know I will finish and publish, but the struggle is there inside, wondering if it really will be 'good enough'.

As for new year resolutions, I've decided that mine, at least in regard to writing will be a simple one, "Build a more coherent marketing side to my writing career" Two novels on Amazon, no marketing at all, yet still a few sales, maybe it's time for me to get serious? My question though is how do you deal with that 'fear for the new baby' that the new novel is?”

This is really a fascinating question, and it really underscores the depths of the insecurities most writers carry around with them. For those of you who do not know Lawrence, and have not read his work, he writes crackling action stories. The dialogue is snappy and crisp, the stories are stripped down with no excess baggage, and he really is a master at pace. To hear him say he has doubts is remarkable because he really is a very good writer.

Who among us does not feel like that at certain times? I know I do. I’m finishing up the fifth in my Shadow series of novels. The first four have been well-received and yet I find myself wondering if this one will live up to my expectations and will entertain my followers.

I’m afraid, Lawrence, this is a malady which has no cure. How do we deal with it?

You publish!

Just do it!
Just do it!

Writing a Series

From Pam: “I know you are writing a series of novels with ‘Shadow” in the titles. What is your best words of advice before tackling something as daunting as a series of novels?”

Well, Pam, truthfully, it wasn’t daunting for me because I didn’t plan on it being a series. My muse is to blame for that. Once I finished the first, “Shadows Kill,” my muse decided another one would, and should, be written.

Which leads me to the words of advice: plan in advance, and keep a timeline/outline nearby so you can always refer back to what has been written . . . and also so you always know where you are headed. If you are like me, your memory can, at times, be unreliable, and when writing a series it is very important to remember what has happened in the past. Keeping some sort of timeline/outline/ planner will help you to avoid the mistakes I made early on.

Coming soon, hopefully!
Coming soon, hopefully!

The Magician’s Shadow

No more questions, so what you get is a sample of my new novel, The Magician’s Shadow, which is in editing at this moment. I hope you enjoy it.

Have a great week, stay warm, and stay safe.

“You had them and you backed off,” Putnam said. “What if they kill again this week while you wait for the perfect scenario?”

“Collateral damage,” Striker said. “We made the call, based on fluid factors, and now we move ahead with the new plan.”

“Pretty damned cavalier of you,” Putnam shot back. “It must be nice to be so emotionally detached from reality, Striker.”

Oh my!

I was listening to the exchange and thinking about a cobra I once saw. Cobras look amazingly calm before they strike. They look, in fact, totally oblivious to any threat around them, placid and remote, until that moment arrives when they shoot forward and strike their perceived threat. That was Striker at the table in The Spar, taking bites of egg, soaking up yoke with his toast, only his eyes giving any indication that he was aware of someone speaking to him . . . and then his left hand shot out, across the table, grabbing Putnam’s hair and yanking him forward, at the same time his right hand pressed the fork tines against Putnam’s throat. Blink and you would have missed it. There was still a piece of egg on the fork as it rested against the throat.

“Is this emotional enough for you, Detective, or would you really like to see me really invested in this exchange?” Striker smiled. There was no warmth in that smile.

Liz put her hand on Striker’s arm.

“Paul, you’ll get blood on my bacon, and that would be unforgiveable. Please release the detective.” Those seated at tables around us had stopped eating. It became alarmingly quiet in a restaurant known for constant chatter. Pam appeared carrying two plates of bacon, smiling, unconcerned by the possibility of bloodshed in her place of business.

“I thought everyone would like some fresh pork, right off the griddle,” she said, choosing to ignore the fork held to throat. “Striker, dig in while it’s hot.”

And he did, releasing Putnam’s hair, pushing some bacon onto his plate, and eating as if nothing had happened. I figured it was time for me to defuse the situation.

2019 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”


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