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The Writer's Mailbag: Installment 285

Updated on December 2, 2019

Frost on the Rotting Pumpkins

It’s downright cold this morning, twenty-two as I type this, and the woodstove is doing a fine job of heating our humble abode.

Of course, cold is relative. When I was in Akaichak, Alaska, it reached forty below zero, so anything warmer than that is WARM if you get my drift. Still, cold mornings like this are beautiful. The frost on the lawns and bushes and tree limbs, with the sun sparkling upon it, well, it’s just one of those free shows that Mother Nature gives us as a gift. All we have to do is be receptive to it all.

In Alaska you could actually see ice crystals floating in the air when it reached forty below. They called them “moon dogs” for whatever reason, and they were fascinating to see. Not so fascinating to breathe, I might add, but beautiful nonetheless.

There’s no reason for any of this rambling about the temperature. It’s just a writer’s mind on overdrive.

Shall we see what mail awaits us? The bag feels light this week, so it shouldn’t take long.

The Mail Room
The Mail Room

Professional Consistency on HP

From Eric: “What say you about professional consistency on HP. Tough deal with my sermons and Boy teacher stuff ---- years. I feel guilty when I am in the middle of a climb in the desert and miss it”

Eric, I have to admit, I’m not quite certain where you are going with this question. Do you mean being consistent with our postings? I do think it is important to post on a regular basis. I think it helps in establishing an audience and maintaining that audience. But if you aren’t concerned with “traffic,” I’m not sure consistency is terribly important.

First and foremost, I think writing should be enjoyable for the writer, and writing should be done when the writer feels like writing. There was a time, not that long ago, when I would feel guilty if I didn’t post an article each day on HP. Those days are long gone now. I have other interests and things I feel need my time, so two articles each week is about all I can commit to and feel good about . . . and I’m pretty sure all of you can relate to that. I never started writing out of a sense of responsibility. I started because my love for writing needed an outlet. Hopefully that never changes for me..

Publishing Dilemma

From Venkatachari M: “Do you mention that one can publish an e-book on Amazon and the paperback of the same book with another publisher without removing the e-book?”

This is a tricky one, Venkatachari M, a matter of publishing rights which can be pretty confusing. In fact, I’m not totally sure if what I’m about to tell you is correct. Thankfully, one of my online friends, Heidi, is a publishing and marketing guru, and I have no doubt she will weigh in on this question in the comment section, so check back in a day or two and look for her answer.

It is my belief that if you agree to Amazon’s exclusivity rights, you must publish your book only through Amazon. If you do not sign those rights away then you can publish an ebook through Amazon and a hard copy with another publisher.

Heidi, it is now time for you to weigh in with the actual facts, and thank you in advance.

Who owns the publishing rights?
Who owns the publishing rights?

Shadow Man

From Bryce: “I know you are currently working on your memoirs, but when can we expect the next ‘Shadow” novel?”

Bryce, it’s nice to know someone is actually anxiously awaiting my next novel. Thanks for that ego-boost. We all need one from time to time.

I should finish my memoir by January. Then it will be time for “Shadows Across the Pond,” which I’ve actually already started. I should be able to finish it by the summer of 2020, Good Lord willin’ and the creek don’t rise,” as my dad used to say.

Here’s an excerpt from that new novel:

“There’s no I.D. on her, Baker. Just the note, which is why I called you.”

Detective Dawn Robie was standing in a field of knee-high scrub grass, about ten yards from the Deschutes River and three miles from downtown Olympia. We had worked together eight months earlier on the Houdini murders a.k.a. The Shadow Killings. She had earned my respect. I’m not sure how she felt about me.

We were looking down on a woman. She was naked. No way of knowing her age. The critters of the nearby forest had gotten to her first. There was coyote scat five feet away. The note had been stuffed in her private parts. “England swings like a pendulum do, Baker,” was the note in its entirety.

A gentle breeze from the North ruffled the grasses. It was warming up fast that morning, heading for a promised eighty degrees, about normal for early July in our parts. Robie’s long, auburn hair was in a bun, as was her norm. Her wire-rim glasses had slid down a bit on her nose, and small beads of perspiration dotted her forehead. She was probably one-twenty soaking wet, looking more like a librarian than a homicide dick, but librarians don’t have Glocks strapped to their hips, nor do they have case closure rates above ninety percent like the lady standing next to me.

“Note mean anything to you, Baker?”

“You mean other than the fact the murderer has poor taste in music?” I asked. “Roger Miller if I’m not mistaken, Nineteen-sixty-five, and I’m getting tired of this shit. If I had to guess, I’d say the Shadow Man is back at work. Bitron died last month, so this isn’t totally unexpected.”

Bitron, as in Anthony Bitron, the main Houdini in a group of magicians/killers, a man we finally neutralized and rendered harmless. His recent death meant that The Shadow Man would now free himself from the host body (Bitron) and find another body to use in an ongoing game of Cat n Mouse with yours truly.

It’s a bit complicated.

Robie stared at me. She knew just enough of the Shadow story to give me the benefit of the doubt.

“What’s with the England reference?” she asked.

“Remember? Bitron told us there were eleven other Shadow hunters around the globe, and my buddy Striker found evidence of similar Shadow activity in London, Lisbon, Paris, and eight other cities. I think the note is what highly-trained investigators call a clue. I do believe our newest Shadow Man, here in Olympia, is also telling us we are wanted in London.”

This is probably as good a time as any to explain to you how all this works.

I evidently come from a long line of Shadow killers. My old man was one, my grandfather was one, and back it goes, a family tree of men, and women, whose purpose was, and is, to fight an eternal battle against The Shadow Man. Believe me, I know how ridiculous this all sounds. The rules of this game are a bit nebulous, and I’m really still learning as I go (since my dad died before he could explain it all to me), but evidently the Shadow Man cannot kill me. I can die from natural causes, or get run over by a truck, but I cannot die at the hand of the Shadow Man, and I really can’t kill him. I can kill his host body, but once I’ve done that he just finds another host body and the game continues.

As I understand it, the sole purpose of the Shadow Man is to cause misery. He thrives on pain, feeds from it, washes in it, absolves himself in it, and he finds the greatest joy in killing friends and loved ones of mine. He can’t touch me, my wife Liz, or my friends Lyle and Striker, but everyone else is fair game.

Oh, and he can’t touch my baby girl Amber, six-weeks old and the heir-apparent to this bizarre struggle.

That should be enough information to get you up to speed.

The next in the series due out in May, 2020
The next in the series due out in May, 2020

Anything Else?

It’s a small bag of mail this week, so we might as well put a wrap on this one and move on. Thanks for the questions. Stay warm this week (you people in Florida, you know most of us hate you, right?). I will catch you all down the road of life.

2019 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”


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