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The Writer's Mailbag: Installment 253

Updated on April 22, 2019

Many Moons Ago

Well, not that long, actually, since I taught school . . . I think I retired in 2011, maybe 2012 . . . anyway, when I was a teacher, I had a tendency to teach by the Socratic Method . . . answer questions with questions, basically, spurring the kids on to find their own answers with me helping them to navigate towards the answer. It was an effective method for me. I’m not sure the students always enjoyed it, but such is life.

I only mention that because the Mailbag is the exact opposite. I just come out and give you the answers to your questions, or at least I give you my opinion regarding your questions. I’m afraid the Socratic Method wouldn’t work a damn in this case.

Such is life. As long as we are all learning, it’s all good.

Shall we begin!

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

Shadow Availability

From Zulma: “Hey, Bill. Hope you're having a good day. Me, not so much. I tried to order your latest 'Shadow' and couldn't. Seems it's only available on, not So bummed out. Could you let us know when it will be available? I'd really appreciate it. Thanks.”

This one has me confused, Zulma. I just went to my Kindle Direct account and it says it is on sale in the UK. Maybe there was a delay of a few days between publication in the U.S and availability in the UK. Let me know if you can’t find it and I’ll delve deeper into the problem . . .and thank you for trying and being so loyal to the series.

And for those of you asking about the ebook version of “The Magician’s Shadow,” I wish I had a date for you, but I don’t. I have a programming problem with the upload, for whatever reason, and so far I haven’t devoted the time it would take to fix that problem. All I can tell you is I’m working on it slowly.

Planning the Ending

From Liz: “Once again, thanks for your interesting and helpful input, Bill. How much of a role does planning play in the ending of a book? I used to think that the end or conclusion drew all the strands of a plot together.”

God, Liz, all my warts are going to be revealed if people keep asking me questions about writing novels. Truth is I do very little planning regarding plot and the ending of a book. I’m just not a traditional type of writer.

I start with an idea. I take that idea and write an opening chapter. By the time I finish the opening chapter the storyline basically comes to me. If not I just wait. It sits in my subconscious and eventually works out. I know, I know, it’s a bizarre way to write a novel, but it’s my way and it’s worked, now, for seven novels, so what can I tell you other than hooray for me.

As for the ending that, too, comes to me about midway through the writing of the book. I think, by that time, it is only natural that the ending will tie together all strands of the book. That is always the goal but again, I do it instinctively without too much conscious thought.

Oddly, or not so, only my first novel provided any challenge regarding an ending. I didn’t have a clue how I was going to end that novel until I was almost done with it. One night about ten o’clock I called up Bev and shouted “I know how I’m going to end it,” and that was that.

Sigh! I am so weird!

My words of advice for you: do as the pros suggest and not how I do. My path is a frightening one and it may only work for me.

My childhood home is the source of many memories
My childhood home is the source of many memories

Personal Experience Percentage

Again From Liz: “How much would you say writing is based on personal experience and observation? How much depends on research?”

Gosh, Liz, in my case, I would say it depends on the novel. In my novel “Resurrecting Tobias,” over 75% of it was based on personal experience. With the Shadow series, maybe 50%, maybe less. And with “The 12/59 Shuttle,” I might say between 50% and 75%. It’s hard to say, for sure, because six of my seven novels are paranormal in nature, and I’ve never had a paranormal experience, but almost all of the locations in the novels are locations I’ve visited or lived in, and other experiences in the novels are experiences I’ve had, so, well, there you go.

And the new novel I just started, “A Time and Place,” is probably 90% if not more.

I don’t know about other writers. I really don’t. What I do seems natural to do, but maybe to other novel writers it is not.

Again, it works for me, so there you go!

Does Evil Exist?

From Phillip: “Your Shadow series is based upon the existence of Evil . . . an actual entity which is Evil, and not just an evil person. Is this something you personally believe in, or is that just your active imagination?”

Phillip, I can say this about Evil: I don’t deny the possibility, just like I don’t deny the possibility of a God existing. What I do find interesting is the number of Christians who have told me they don’t believe in an Evil existing. Oddly, it seems to me that the Devil is mentioned in the Bible, and who is the Devil other than the personification of Evil? I think people have a hard time accepting the possibility of an actual Evil walking among us because that is way too frightening to consider. It’s easier to discuss evil in the abstract, like “Ted Bundy did evil things,” and not that Ted Bundy may have been the Devil in disguise.

This is all just conjecture on my part. I have no clue; none of us do; but I think it’s a fascinating topic, and my books reflect my fascination with it.

Thanks for the question. It gave me one more opportunity to hawk my new book, “The Magician’s Shadow.”

Is there Evil out there?
Is there Evil out there?

A Suggestion From Zulma

Zulma also asked me if I’ve ever thought of writing my memoirs as a way of passing down my legacy to my family.

The answer is no, I haven’t. I’ve put so much of my life into my novels that I guess I figure it’s all there for all to see, but Zulma was having none of that excuse.

Truth is, I think I’ve gone almost my entire life convinced that I’m just not that special and not terribly interesting. Certainly no more so than any other person walking this planet, so why would I bother writing memoirs which would only serve to help people fall asleep at night?

And Zulma was having none of that as well.

So I will say this: I will consider it, if for no other reason than I respect Zulma and find her to be an intelligent and insightful human being. Oddly, I have always thought people to be fascinating, and I’ve always believed there is a great story in every human being . . .but evidently not in me.

What can I tell ya? I’m a complicated man!

Wrap It Up

Way too much talk about me in this issue. I would apologize but then I’m not the one asking the questions. I just go where you point me.

Have a great week, my friends! As long as we are all learning, it’s all good!

2019 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”


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