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The Writer's Mailbag: Installment 270

Updated on August 19, 2019

Know It All

For those of you new to “The Mailbag,” let me summarize how this works: writers from HP ask me questions about writing, and I do my best to answer them. Questions can be placed in the comment section below, or they can be emailed to me at

Oftentimes I do not know the answer to the question, at which time I will admit that I am not a “know it all,” and then other readers will share their knowledge with all of us.

It’s a nice place to hang if you are a writer. Good people inhabit this place. There is no authoritarian figure, no magistrate, no dictator, and no pompous ass. Just good people trying to help good people.

What say you? Would you like to join us?

This week’s questions . . .

The Mail Room
The Mail Room

Staying Upbeat

From Eric: “You write about pain in your characters but when a single quail dies you must feel it. How do you stay so upbeat? You are a fine wind beneath my wings but how about the wind you need? Not so easy.”

What can I tell you, Eric? I’m a complicated man! LOL

My attitude about life changed back in 2006. I was in a drunken stupor in Anchorage, Alaska, and I wanted to die while at the same time wanting to live. Every ounce of pain in me was being experienced at that moment. Long story short, some friends flew up to Alaska and got me. They put me in a rehab center. They took me by the hand and led me back into the Land of the Living. And since that day, I have tried to remember one very important lesson: don’t sweat the small stuff, and it’s all small stuff. I stay upbeat, Eric, because I changed my outlook and perspective.

The wind I need is love. I finally accepted love, and as long as I have my share of love, I’m a happy camper. I can’t change the world, but I sure as hell can change my world, if that makes any sense, which I’m sure it does. As long as Bev loves me, and former students love me, and writers like you on HP love me, I’ve got it made.

Life According to Bill Holland!

For better or for worse, this is me!
For better or for worse, this is me!

Hiding Behind Our Writing

From Liz: “Interesting comments on guerilla marketing and self-promotion. Do you think that it's possible that writers hide behind their writing as a form of self-expression and therefore self-promotion goes against the grain?”

I can’t speak for other writers but for me, what you said is definitely true to a degree. I don’t think I hide so much as I prefer communication with one degree of separation. If I was completely hiding I wouldn’t share so many personal truths about me in my writing. It’s just that I’m not comfortable in face-to-face communication. Never have been. The internet was invented for people like me.

Self-promotion goes against my grain because I do not like to draw attention to me. Again, that’s been true since my very early years. I like staying in the background. While some people crave fame and fortune, I crave peace, quiet, and anonymity. Fame would destroy me, and the reason I say that can be found in my reply to Eric’s question.

Self-promotion definitely goes against my grain. I write books and articles for others to enjoy, but I will hardly lift a finger to promote those articles and books.

It’s not easy being me! LOL


From Paul: “How’s the memoir coming along? Do you find it difficult to write about yourself?”

Paul, it is the hardest thing I have ever done in writing, but it is also one of the most rewarding things I have done. I don’t know how it will all turn out, but it is a valuable undertaking for me.

I don’t know how one writes a memoir or autobiography. I’m just doing it my way. It is a book of randomness. It is not done in chronological order. I think of something which happened, reflect upon it, and that reminds me of something else which happened twenty years later, and on and on we go.

The beginning and end are easy to write. It’s that middle part that is proving difficult. J But I’m slogging my way through, thank you very much, and when I finish I will look at it and be semi-satisfied with it, as I am with all of my books.

Where it all began for Bill Holland
Where it all began for Bill Holland

First Novel

From Megan: “I’m currently writing my first novel. I’ve always written short stories before, and the length of a novel is proving difficult. How do you keep the action flowing for three-hundred pages? It seems like an impossible task to me.”

Not impossible, Megan, but also not that easy to do.

The action in a novel is driven forward by fuel injection, and the fuel used is some event which can be a driving force for a number of chapters. In a 300 page book, you might have four or five such events spread out evenly throughout the book.

A death . . . a catastrophe . . . a sudden windfall of riches . . . a chance occurrence which will have importance as it plays out . . . these things drive a novel along to its conclusion. What they are in your novel only you can determine, but you definitely need them.

So, What Did You Think

Short one today!

Is this a nice place to hang or what? I think I have the coolest friends in the entire writing community of the world . . . that’s all of you . . . and I thank you for your friendship. Truly, you mean the world to me. You all help me to stay sober daily. You all continue to convince me, daily, that there is good in this world. You all teach me about love, and those are priceless gifts.

So thank you!

2019 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”


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    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      18 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Oh Liz, it really is my pleasure. I love it when writers help other writers. We really are the only ones who understand what we go through to publish anything.

    • Eurofile profile image

      Liz Westwood 

      18 months ago from UK

      Thanks for sharing your upbeat outlook on life. Also your interesting comments on hiding behind the writing and self promotion, which link in well with the memoir writing thoughts. As always your novel writing tips are well appreciated. Thanks for providing such a great advice resource for hub writers.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      18 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Lawrence, thanks for finding the time to visit. I hope those family emergencies have been rectified, buddy.

    • lawrence01 profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 

      18 months ago from Hamilton, New Zealand


      Sorry, it's been so long since I visited, we've had a few family emergencies that kind of had me a bit distracted for a few weeks.

      I agree with you about the memoir, it is one of the hardest things to write.

      People were on at me for years to write about some of my experiences in the Middle East, but the closest I got to it was writing the story 'Coyote' and that took me two years because at times I just had to walk away.

      It is finished now and is up on Amazon under a different title, it's called 'Safe Haven' but now I struggle to Market to book as there are too many personal things in there, AND IT'S NOT EVEN MY STORY!



    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      21 months ago from Olympia, WA

      And I love your comments, Mel...great one about the thrill of writing and I totally agree.

      Thanks my friend!

    • Mr. Happy profile image

      Mr. Happy 

      21 months ago from Toronto, Canada

      I couldn't hide behind writing if my life depended on it: another reason I cannot write fiction. It's not fiction if I'm talking about me but that's who I know best. Thus, generally I'm always in the writing.

      Thank You for the tips on how to keep a novel going. It was just nice to read about it. I'm not writing any novels.

      How was life in Alaska (beside the drinking part)? What work did You do up there? You know, I talked to a teacher who lived in Tuktoyaktuk, Northwest Territories and he mentioned to me how You have to have a strict schedule because of the Polar Nights, which seem to go on forever. He said it can get depressing and that is one reason why some people turn to alcohol and/or drugs. Well, on top of the fact that there are not a ton of things to do up there.

      Anyway, nice chatting with ya! I do wish You had a good weekend and all the best for what is to come!

    • Mel Carriere profile image

      Mel Carriere 

      21 months ago from Snowbound and down in Northern Colorado

      I wish I was like Megan up there. I can´t keep my novels short. The two I have written in the past couple of years both wound up at 120,000 words, though I know the stricture is that you keep it to 100,000 words or less. I can´t help it, it´s part of the architecture of my brain.

      I can´t say I hide behind my writing, but I do know that if nobody else ever read it I would still do it, because it entertains me. Part of the thrill of writing is creating worlds and scenarios that surprise even you. If a writer is not doing that, he or she is not doing it right.

      Keep up the good work. I love this series.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      21 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks for the question, Mary. You just squeezed it in under the posting wire. :) And you are never late, my friend....just fashionably tardy. :)

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      21 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I appreciate that, Devika! Thank you very much.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      21 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Welcome to HP, Maham,and thank you!

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      21 months ago from Olympia, WA

      It is my pleasure, Li-Jen! The Mailbag gives me an opportunity to meet good people like you.

    • Blond Logic profile image

      Mary Wickison 

      21 months ago from Brazil

      Hi Bill,

      I'm a tad late this week.

      Regarding Eric's question about staying upbeat, I'd like to reverse that. If you're low, depressed, or stressed how do write? Especially if what you're writing needs to be positive. Are you able to write yourself out of the pessimistic state.

      Have a great weekend.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      21 months ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      I like the idea of your mailbags it improves our knowledge of many other issues of writing and promotion of books and with endless points for writers, Thank you

    • MahamMushtaq profile image


      21 months ago from PAKISTAN

      Such a good information about mailbag.

    • Li-Jen Hew profile image

      Li-Jen Hew 

      21 months ago

      Hey Bill. Good to have you introduce your Mailbag series to newcomers. It's always nice to be reminded of the purpose once in a while to appreciate it even more. Thank you for sharing YOU answers! :)

    • alancaster149 profile image

      Alan R Lancaster 

      22 months ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire)

      n a sense Bill, I agree with you insofar as on here the reward for writing has reduced - I agreed to allow advertising on my pages and I used to average something like $50 (about £35) a quarter - but for some time now the return has shrunk. Yet I'm still here writing. I also write the odd article for the Double 0 Gauge Journal (equivalent of US HO track gauge and 4mm scale with wagon bodies and everything else). Sometimes we have to make these gestures. I also talk at the annual 1066 event at Battle Abbey near Hastings about the books I've put out. .I get a boost at times when someone says they've bought my books. One man came last year and bought a copy of each on sale and asked for a dedicated autograph in each. These.things... you know.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      22 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Alan, it's good to hear from you. And thank you for your thoughts....backed by your experience. Invaluable information and I thank you for it. I'm afraid I'm just a strange duck. I just don't care about sales. For me the goal is simply to write. If others read it all the better.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      22 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Carry on, Mary! We all keep learning and growing.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      22 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you for your thoughts, Venkatachari M. It's always a pleasure hearing from you.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      22 months ago from Olympia, WA

      My pleasure, Sean! Peace and love always


    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 

      22 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

      It may be a short edition of the Mailbag, but it's a very interesting one. Thank you for sharing the information, Bill.

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 

      22 months ago from Ontario, Canada

      Bill, thank you for your answer on how to keep the action going in a novel. I like those elements and that’s one hurdle you have removed in my growth as a writer.

    • Venkatachari M profile image

      Venkatachari M 

      22 months ago from Hyderabad, India

      This is one more interesting mailbag with some in-depth observations and information.

      Writing is a good shield for hiding and at the same time reveal your personal secrets through the characters.

      Writing a novel is a very difficult task that too when based on some real-life depressive incidents.

    • Sean Dragon profile image

      Ioannis Arvanitis 

      22 months ago from Greece, Almyros

      Thank you for all the help for my book, my brother Bill! Your Love to the world is the best teacher!

      Grateful to know you!


    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      22 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Sha, I love you too, and you are absolutely correct about those friends. 2006 was a watershed year for me, and thank the gods someone cared enough for me to change my life.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      22 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks so much, Shaloo! Wisdom? Me? That is flattering for sure.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      22 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I think, Heidi, your explanation about August is right on...this is the sluggish part of the writing year. Aways has been for me. It all changes in September, so let's enjoy the downtime while it lasts.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      22 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you very much, Liz. I'm actually pretty open in person these days, if asked about anything personal. Secrets are harmful for this man, so I try to bring them out of the closet.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      22 months ago from Olympia, WA

      It is my pleasure, Emese, and I thank you for being a member of our little community.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      22 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I hear those words, MizB! Where does the time go? I swear my to do list is multiplying by itself. Perhaps I've simply slowed down that much. :)

      Rain heading our way...I'm fine with that. :) Enjoy the week, my friend.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      22 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks William...this is a health, addictive of the few in life. :)

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      22 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Dora! You will always be welcomed here, for long stays or quick visits.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      22 months ago from Olympia, WA

      It takes some practice to achieve that, Flourish. It's not as easy as it may sound.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      22 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I did forget Maggie, Pamela, and I thank you for the reminder. My girl certainly deserves that mention.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      22 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Melissa, Happy Tuesday, and welcome back from vacation. Thank you for the kind words about my novel. I'm slogging through two right now. I hope at least one of them will be done by Christmas.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      22 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Ruby, I wonder the same thing. Some have died, obviously, but some just disappeared, went off to other interests,and I do wish they would stay in touch.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      22 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Lori! You speak the truth, my friend, and I thank you for it.

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 

      22 months ago from Central Florida

      Bill, I think this is one of the best mailbags yet, for the simple reason that it sort of swirled back around to its humble beginnings. You were very open about yourself. You always are, but sometimes you approach the questions from the outside looking in.

      Today you were right smack-dab in the middle!

      I love you, my friend!



      P.S. You have some pretty awesome friends who'd fly to Alaska to jerk a knot in your tail and save your butt. I will be forever grateful that they did!

    • swalia profile image

      Shaloo Walia 

      22 months ago from India

      A nice place to hang out for sure! I look forward to your informative mailbags and the pearls of wisdom you share along.


    • heidithorne profile image

      Heidi Thorne 

      22 months ago from Chicago Area

      Happy Mailbag Monday!

      Re: Hiding Behind the Writing. Well, I think there is some truth to that. I think it can allow some writers to slip into their alter egos and be that person. Maybe they should think about self-promotion that way, too. That it's just another version of themselves, a version that likes to get attention.

      Re: Short Stuff. The past few weeks have been unbelievably slow in everything. My social media networks are super quiet. HP is, too. Business is at a crawl. It's just August.

      Re: Upbeat Beat. Thank you for sharing your love of writing, writers, and the world with us. That's why we love you, too.

      Have a great week!

    • Eurofile profile image

      Liz Westwood 

      22 months ago from UK

      You have a knack of answering the question before I ask it. I was just marvelling at your openness in talking about your life and wondering how you squared it with being a little shy, when you explained the one degree of separation that writing gives you. It's great that writing can be used as a medium for sharing personal experiences. I look forward to reading your memoir. As ever there is so much of interest in your mailbag. Your novel writing tips are interesting.

    • Emese Fromm profile image

      Emese Fromm 

      22 months ago from The Desert

      Thank you for another good one, Bill. Yes, it's definitely a great place to hang out (I always think so even when I don't say so). I need to mention, I totally get the "communication with one degree of separation" bit. Have a great week, and thank you for sharing your wisdom, thoughts, and feelings with us today.

    • alancaster149 profile image

      Alan R Lancaster 

      22 months ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire)

      L.O. Bill, LTNS (long time no sense).

      I'd have thought the aim of writing a book - novel, memoir, fact (notice I keep fact separate from memoir, insofar as I think people invent some of their 'realities' and I'm not altogether innocent there) - was to put your side of the picture across to a book-buying market. People = market, see a link? It might've gone against the grain to draw attention to myself once upon a time in the dim, distant past when I was both dim and distant. It was the way I was brought up. Then someone told me: "Don't hide your light under a bushel". Can't remember who that was. Anyway, I became involved in trade union matters when I was drawn into 'the print', i.e., worked in newspaper, book and magazine publishing through my first point of contact, the 'Nottingham Post & Guardian' in Robin Hood country (never met him, Friar Tuck or Little John, although someone called Littlejohn wrote for one of the daily tabloids). I became a chairman at one 'chapel' - like shop floor in the print - and delegate to a large meeting to put a point forward. You address 'the Chair' and all eyes are on you. I started to write articles for publication in model railway and railway associated magazines, published a magazine, the East London LNE (London & North Eastern) Journal when I started my own club, got people to write articles - some very well known in railway circles at the time - and put pieces together myself from material gleaned or contributed, edited other peoples' articles and so on. I graduated to penning a long article for a group of historically inclined, railway-minded people, the North Eastern Railway Association (NERA) about a defunct mineral line on the North Yorkshire Moors. It ran to about eight A4 sized pages with drawings and monochrome period photos.

      Getting into historical fiction was the next step. Writing about an era often misunderstood by modern generations and written in a slightly archaic English, using place names and some terminology in Old English, checking retailers' web sites for sales, talking about the books to complete strangers (nothing compared to speaking in front of a crowded Trades Union Congress - TUC - audience) at Battle Abbey near Hastings in mid-October, selling your books to friends and strangers alike. You become inured to stares of disbelief or admiration. Your name crops up on web sites, you associate with other writers on their level... The world is your oyster, go for it!! Shy? I was... once. I write on here and I write comments on other people's pages like yours, Bill. You have to learn to check your facts (I also learned to speak and write in a direct fashion, as opposed to "one does this, one does that" like Royalty. There's only one form of Royalty I really respect... guess which).

    • MizBejabbers profile image

      Doris James MizBejabbers 

      22 months ago from Beautiful South

      Bill, I really like the way you began this mailbag today. You are right about love. It makes things just right. I enjoy the questions, especially because some are questions I never thought to ask.

      I'm still not up and running on my writing like I thought I would be when I retired. Funny, yesterday my brother said my favorite phrase: I've been so busy since I retired that I wonder how I found time to go to work.

      Rainstorms yesterday, high 90s today. Chickens are complaining. Have a good week, my friend.

    • lifegate profile image

      William Kovacic 

      22 months ago from Pleasant Gap, PA

      More good stuff, Bill. I had to stop by for my Monday fix, and I'm never disappointed. Thank you, my friend!

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      22 months ago from The Caribbean

      It definitely is a nice place to hang out. I'm pressed for time and this is only article I will read today. There is always an answer to a question I would have liked to ask. Today, I find all the answers useful. Thanks to those who asked, and to you for answering.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image


      22 months ago from USA

      I especially liked Megan’s question about keeping the drama alive long enough in a novel.

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      22 months ago from Sunny Florida

      I like your words to Eric. Changing your outlook and reaction to life is not easy. I was reading an old article earlier this morning and it was about changing a bad habit, such as constant worry. It takes at least 30 days to change an ingrained habit, but it took me much longer to change.

      I do not worry, anger easily or live in fear of "what if" anymore, thank goodness. You have obviously changed for the better, and I think love is the thing most important for all of us. By the way, you forgot to mention Maggie in your love circle! Good article again today.

    • mpropp profile image

      Melissa Propp 

      22 months ago from Minnesota

      Happy Monday Bill! I was out on vacation for a week and I didn't access the internet much...and I hardly missed it! :) But since I have to come back to work, at least I had this to mailbag to look forward to!

      I did finally get to read your latest and greatest Shadow book, though. Excellent! And I'm very happy to see that you left it open for future novels. I look forward to it. Have a great and productive week!

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Richert 

      22 months ago from Southern Illinois

      I love reading questions that other writers ask, and I love reading your answers. You are so honest and wise. I wish I had a question. I do wonder where many of the writers have gone. I miss them. Thanks again for all you do and for writing about Maggie....

    • lambservant profile image

      Lori Colbo 

      22 months ago from United States

      Bill, sharing your experience, strength, and hope is by far the greatest thing you can give to the world, and you are blessed to be able to do so through your writing. I just hit ten years this month and I try to share the message at every opportunity. I am happy for your new life.

      Oh, and God bless those friends who loved you so tangibly. My heart is warmed today from your sharing.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      22 months ago from Olympia, WA

      It is my pleasure, Verlie. Intriguing concept for sure. I'm not sure about the wisdom of this approach, but I guess we will find out when it is completed. Have a fabulous week, my friend.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      22 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Linda, and short and sweet you are for sure. My goodness I have a lot of projects to complete. I sure hope I have about ten more good years left in me. :)

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      22 months ago from Olympia, WA

      John, I'm glad you are hanging out with us. You are one of the good guys for sure. Thank you!

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      22 months ago from Olympia, WA

      No, Zulma, I don't write them down. This is the random process I have always used in my writing. Outlines are for wimps! LOL And I'm being completely facetious when I say that. What can I say? This works for me but I do not recommend it to anyone else. I'm sure there's a method to the madness but I doubt I could vocalize it.

    • snakeslane profile image

      Verlie Burroughs 

      22 months ago from Canada

      Morning Bill, I admire your perseverance when it comes to writing, the memoir/autobiography written in random style notes is an intriguing concept. Thank you, and your readers (writers) for keeping the conversation going.

    • Carb Diva profile image

      Linda Lum 

      22 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Bill, as you said "it's all small stuff" so the size of the mailbag doesn't matter. This one was short and sweet (like me) but a bumper crop of information just the same.

      Good luck with your memoir although (I'm being selfish here) I hope it doesn't interfere with the writing of what I think is destined to be your magnum opus--the fiction story based on fact of the serial killer from Tacoma (you know who I mean).

      Have a wonderful week my friend.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 

      22 months ago from Queensland Australia

      Yes, Bill, the mailbag is a great place to hang out....with all the cool kids lol. A shorty this week but a goody.

    • phoenix2327 profile image

      Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon 

      22 months ago from United Kingdom

      Aw shoot, Bill, it's the least we can do. :)

      I find your method of writing your memoir interesting. Do you write these random thoughts down as you're writing or do you keep them on a notepad for later reference? It sounds haphazard but I'm sure there's a method to the madness. lol

      Talk to ya later.

    • billybuc profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Holland 

      22 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Janine...always....thank you! Let's do it again next week,shall we?

    • Janine Huldie profile image

      Janine Huldie 

      22 months ago from New York, New York

      Aw, always a nice place to hang on a Monday morning! And thanks for allowing us to join your here each week. Happy Monday now, my friend :)


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