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The Writer's Mailbag: Installment Forty-Six

Updated on May 11, 2015

Happy Monday to You All

Welcome back! It’s Monday and the Mailbag has arrived.

The weather is beautiful here in western Washington. I’m having a bit of difficulty concentrating on my writing of late. The garden keeps calling to me, and home projects are waiting, but despite it all, the Mailbag is something that just can’t be delayed. There are pressing questions to answer, so let’s get to it.

The first question is a dandy and it’s from my dear friend Faith.

Welcome to the Mailbag
Welcome to the Mailbag | Source

DISCLAIMER

From Faith: “TGIF! Actually, I do have a question, which most likely is a simple one for you, and I know it is Friday. I guess I can Google it, but I'd rather hear your take on it. I understand if it is not a question worthy of the Monday Mailbag Series, if not, maybe you can give a quick answer here? A question just popped into my mind, being that I am working on flash fiction and fiction writing at the moment. However, I am a non-fiction writer for the most part. Anyway, to my question: When writing fiction, do you think it takes away from the story to place a disclaimer at the end that the characters depicted in the story are purely fictional and not related to any real person(s) in this life? To me, if it is fiction, then that means it is fiction. However, I know, many writers do take from their life experiences and add that into the character of the fiction character. A lot of times, the writing is so familiar to real life, readers assume the characters are based on real people, when they are not.”

Actually, Faith, I don’t think this has ever been asked, so nice question!

Do I think a disclaimer takes away from the story? I don’t think so at all, no! Do I think It’s necessary for a work of fiction? That question is a bit trickier.

The fact that it is fiction should eliminate the need for a disclaimer and yet I have seen them countless times in novels. The mere fact that accomplished writers have felt the need to have disclaimers tells me that they are concerned with possible lawsuits and thus feel they are necessary. I tend to think that’s a wise attitude. I wish we didn’t have to be concerned with all that legal stuff but we do. A disclaimer takes what, one or two sentences? Might as well include it at the bottom and be safe.

Freelance Assignments

From Brian: “Please consider adding a freelance writer job description capsule to this hub. Does freelance writing include writing feature film scripts or novels 'on spec' in hopes of getting an agent and making a sale to a producer or publisher? Writing short stories in hopes of selling them to magazines? Writing for hire per assignment? Writing and giving lectures? Writing nonfiction books or articles in hopes of publication and sales? Internet self-published content writing for a share of ad revenue? Other? Regarding assignments, what are some examples of possibilities? If you have already written articles on these questions, please cite them.”

Sheez, Brian, why don’t you just ask a difficult question while you’re at it? LOL

This really is a tough one to answer.

Okay, so I went to the Writer’s Digest for a definition of a freelance writer. Here’s what they said:

“A freelance writer is a writer who works for a company or an individual on a contractual, or project basis. There is a project or piece of writing with a set time frame and a clear goal. After the project is complete, the freelancer moves on to the next project. There are many different kinds of freelance writing, such as business writing, marketing writing or web writing. On the other hand, some freelancers focus solely on querying and writing for magazines, anthologies or newspapers, while still others serve non-profits through grant-writing.”

Now, all that seems pretty clear to me, but there are gray areas, and Brian has mentioned some of them. If you write a film script on spec, is that freelancing? By the strict definition no, it is not freelancing. Rather it would fall under the category of author.

I also don’t think writing for sites like HubPages qualifies one as a freelance writer because, according to the definition, there is no contractual agreement with HP.

From my own experience, I have three main customers. Each week they give me a list of articles they need written and I do that within the time frame and receive pay for them. That is strictly freelance writing. I also write articles and try to sell them to magazines. If an article is purchased then that is a freelance gig. Is the attempt to sell it an activity of a freelancer?

See? Confusing any old way you slice it.

Great question, Brian. I wish I had a definitive answer but I don’t. To me, if you are constantly trying to sell your writing on contract, you are a freelance writer. If you are constantly writing books, you are an author. It’s the “writing on spec” part of the question that gets us into murky waters. Hey, just call yourself a freelancer and be done with it, or as my dad used to say, fake it till you make it.

Too many temptations during the summer
Too many temptations during the summer | Source

Nice Weather

From Bree: “The weather is improving and there are so many things to do outside. How do you concentrate on writing when there are so many distractions?”

It appears I’m not the only one with weather issues.

Okay, seriously…..I’m a freelance writer and author, and writing is my job. If I had some office job and I was being paid by the hour, I couldn’t use weather as an excuse. Oh, I might play hooky now and again and call in sick, but a job is a job is a job.

For me, it’s the same thing with my writing. This is my job. I don’t get to take off all summer because of the weather. I treat this labor of love as a job and act accordingly.

Having said that, there are times when we need to feed our soul and just say “to hell with it.” Those are the times we should shut down the computer and go play. Your muse will probably thank you for it.

There is more than one way to say "beautiful"
There is more than one way to say "beautiful" | Source

Pete and Repeat

From Angela: “Bill, is there some rule that tells you how often you can use the same word in an article or a book? I’m not talking about common words, but more like adjectives to describe something….like ‘beautiful’ or ‘lovely.’”

Welcome to one of my pet peeves, Angela. I’ve mentioned this before but it’s worth repeating. I saw a novel by a local author last month; it was in a display in a local grocery store. I like supporting local writers whenever possible, so I thought I would buy her book. I opened to the first page and started reading. She started five sentences in the first three paragraphs with the word “she.” I put the book back on the display and walked away.

Lazy!

Is there a rule? No! Should there be? Oh my God, YES!!!!!

Creative writing is called creative for several reasons, one of which is the creative use of the English language. There is nothing creative about using the same word over and over again. Now, having said that, if you are writing a technical article or non-fiction book, some words must be used often. If you were to write a book about nuclear power, it would be difficult to leave out the word “nuclear” in many situations.

But creative writing should be creative and not lazy.

More Coming Next Week

Through wind, snow, sleet, hail and even sunshine, the Mailbag will be delivered, so I’ll see all of you next week. I’m looking forward to it and I hope you are as well.

Thanks to those who had questions this week. If you have a question just include it in the comment section below. I’ll get to it as soon as possible.

Have a tremendous week of writing. Stay safe, be happy, and always thank the gods that you have been given the ability to write.

2015 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly”

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    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Deb. A new one is coming your way tomorrow. Stay tuned!

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      Deb Hirt 2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Wow, these are all GREAT topics for questions, and as always, I learned my weight in gold.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Au fait, thank you for the visit. It's good to see you again. For sure, a dictionary and thesaurus of some kind, and I, too, hate seeing a number of sentences begin with "I".....just seems like lazy writing to me.

    • Au fait profile image

      C E Clark 2 years ago from North Texas

      Interesting questions and some good advice. Enjoyed the read. One thing that I always hate is starting a lot of sentences with 'I.' Sometimes requires reorganizing the sentence to keep the meaning without starting it with I.

      Generally keep dictionary.com handy when I'm writing for a lot of reasons, but to find synonyms for one thing. Google is good for spelling and grammar when MS Word isn't clear, but I don't like Google for synonyms.

      As Mary said, another great addition!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Sis, consider yourself redeemed! I think Tillie understands. I know I do. :) Have a great Sunday and for God's sake, try to stay out of trouble. Oh hell, where's the fun in that, right? LOL

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Mary, that happens far too often for me. I think there are times HP just shuts down on a mini-vacation, leaving us to shake our heads and question our own sanity. :) Thanks for returning.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      LOL...Chris, I love the two point; especially the last one. Useful and practical at the same time. Thanks, buddy!

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 2 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      Bro.....All of the questions in 46 are great questions and ones I have asked myself many times. Needless to say, because I was asking the question, I couldn't answer it...& I was the only person available...Ah, DUH! Your answers are perfect.....(of course!)

      Let me dazzle you further with my brilliance. I am like hubber # 326 here because I pass by hubs that have the same Title, w/ the exception of a number or other "hint." CLUES, arrows, red flags, marquees.....I NEED these things bro. Everyone knows this about me. Most use a baseball bat to get my attention.

      Poor Tillie....I have been all over the place with reading her series about Elizabeth....I'm so lucky to have patient, sweet, loving friends.

      There. That schmooze should redeem me. Right?..UP+++pinned

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 2 years ago from New York

      So, I used to have a mind but I think I lost it. I came back here just to check and lo and behold my comment was missing. My disclaimer is, this writer is not always responsible for omissions and good intentions. That being said, another great mailbag installment.

      Voted up, useful, awesome, and interesting.

    • cam8510 profile image

      Chris Mills 2 years ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      Bill, another mail bag in the bag......did I use bag too many times there? Anyway, regarding the temptation to run of into the out of doors rather than writing. I often take a project with me. By "with me" I mean backpacking or kayak camping. I take a small notebook and work on a flash fiction or short story while I'm out. I even tell myself the story out loud while hiking. This is useful on two points. First, the story flows more conversationally on paper if I've spoken it during the writing process. Second, talking while you walk scares the bears off. Thanks a lot Bill.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Hi Lawrence! Thanks for the question and for always being here. I'll have an answer for you on Monday. Until then, have a superb weekend.

    • lawrence01 profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 2 years ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      Bill

      Fonally got the time sit, read and digest what's written here. No matter how long it takes me to get to it, I know I'm going to benefit from it.

      I liked what you said about the disclaimer, even fiction mirrors real life and people do strange things, putting a disclaimer in assures folks its just the author's imagination!

      Here's a question for you. I know as a writer we've got the 'bread and butter' work to pay the bills. Once that's done and the mountain of projects you want to do appears in the mist, how do you pick which one to do? I've got a number on the go and flit between them with the result none are getting nearer to completion (it feels like)

      If you don't answer for a while that's ok as I know I'll finish them one day!

      Lawrence

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Glimmer, isn't it funny some of the rules we never seem to forget? I know I have a few that will stay with me until the day I am buried. The nuns did a good job of teaching this boy. :) Thanks again!

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

      Glimmer Twin Fan 2 years ago

      I still go back to my elementary school writing rules and try not to use the same word twice in at least 3 sentences. That has always stuck with me for some reason and it's not as easy as one might think to do. Also, I like the idea of a disclaimer. You never know who is reading and how they may read something.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      LMAO...Eric, I'll be laughing the rest of the day about your disclaimer suggestion. Wouldn't that be great?

      Thanks, buddy!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Frank and I love that...TGIF....true words my friend.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      They can for sure, Flourish. I never leave home without mine. :) Thanks for adding that.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Babby, that's a great question and I thank you for it. Stay tuned for next Monday's Mailbag.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      LOL...Kailey, I love that...no health benefits. For sure, unless we get famous...like that's going to happen!!!! Thanks for being here.

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      Eric Dierker 2 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      I liked reading the definition. It brought to mind the old notion of what we do for a living defining who we are. I guess I will have to stick to "writer" as my eclectic work history does not lend itself well to fitting in. I would like to read a disclaimer that read: "This work of fiction was totally based on this one really crazy guy I know".

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 2 years ago from Shelton

      46 and growing stronger every week.. good answer to Faith's question.. TGIF.. Thank God It's Faith...:) I look and continue to look forward to your mailbags.. rain sleet and snow.. you still deliver!!!!

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 2 years ago from USA

      Creative writers should be creative and not lazy. Good advice. If we are blind to our own word choices, beta readers can help.

    • Babbyii profile image

      Barb Johnson 2 years ago from Alaska's Kenai Peninsula

      A question for you Bill. Subject: Same name authors and writers. How does an author or writer distinguish oneself from the other one or two authors and writers in the literary world with the same name? Full names? Initials? A mixture of both? Change your name legally?

    • social thoughts profile image

      social thoughts 2 years ago from New Jersey

      I like these questions. Faith's and Brian's were my favorites. Faith's made me think of the disclaimer posted at the end of MJ's "Thriller" video. :) You explained freelance work well. Recently, I learned it also means "no health benefits." ;) Seriously, though, this is a helpful article.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Heidi! Great suggestion and information, as always. Like I've said before, I always feel better when you agree with me.

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      Heidi Thorne 2 years ago from Chicago Area

      Re: Disclaimers. I'd suggest including a disclaimer with all books, even fiction or poetry. The type of disclaimer you need depends on the type of work being written. See a media/publishing attorney for advice. It's worth the few hundred bucks to get it right. And since that statement often goes on page with the copyright notice, ISBN number, etc., it's not usually that obtrusive to the rest of the work.

      Have a great week of freelancing fun and frolic!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks for that, Will. I know most, if not all, of my characters are a compilation of people I have met over the years. Rarely, if ever, have I used one particular person for a character. I appreciate you adding that to the discussion.

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      WillStarr 2 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Since all fiction is based on the writer's knowledge of life gleaned from living, all characters are therefore based on a combination of real people, but usually not on just one person. Nevertheless, disclaimers are, as Billy noted, the wiser choice.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Vellur, and I can always count on your reading the Mailbag.

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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      It is very cool, isn't it, Linda? Thank you for always being herre.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks Torrilynn. I appreciate you stopping by.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Oh Faith, your question was easily the best. LOL Keep them coming dear friend and I'll keep answering.

      Hugs and blessings coming your way

    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 2 years ago from Dubai

      Interesting questions and great answers, thank you for sharing. We can definitely count on your mailbag being delivered!

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 2 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      I love the wide variety of questions that you get for your mailbag hubs, Bill. Thanks for another interesting installment.

    • torrilynn profile image

      torrilynn 2 years ago

      Informative hub. thanks. Best of wishes

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 2 years ago from southern USA

      Oh, joy, Bill, my question made it to your Monday Mailbag! Thank you so much for answering my question. I have seen people use it, but then it does make one wonder that it is truly about real persons. Bless you for taking the time to answer my long-winded question : ) ... You're the best!

      You have a lot of great questions in addition to mine haha ... I always learn something when I stop by the Monday Mailbag, dear Bill.

      I appreciate you.

      (((Hugs))) and blessings to you from southern USA

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      It is pretty amazing, Bill, although views are down of late on this series. I think I might hit one year and pull the plug on it. Thanks for following along, my friend. Have a wonderfully productive week.

    • bdegiulio profile image

      Bill De Giulio 2 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Bill. Another great week of questions and answers. I can't believe you're closing in on a one year anniversary for this series. Wow. I think you might be onto something here. Have a great week.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      drbj, as long as I've heard that word, I never gave it the spin you just did. Why am I not surprised? LOL Thanks for the chuckle.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Sandra. Warming weather means projects outside, and I love outside projects. Have a great week.

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 2 years ago from south Florida

      Unique questions, Bill, and fascinating, as always, answers. I would hesitate to use the term, freelance writer, however. Free means working without pay and lance is a sharp-pointed instrument. Not fond of either.

    • Sandra Eastman profile image

      Sandra Joy Eastman 2 years ago from Robbinsdale MN

      Great article as always Bill. Enjoy the insightful ideas And always learn something from reading your pieces. Have a great week and get some sunshine on your face.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks Mary! Interesting point about your friend the vet. I will put a book down, never to return, if I find too many errors.

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      Mary Hyatt 2 years ago from Florida

      An acquaintance of mine just published (self published?) a book about his experiences as a Veterinarian. I could not believe all the errors in grammar he made. His stories were fairly interesting, but his mistakes took away my interest.

      I was glad to see the question from Faith, and your answer to her. One would think if it's fiction, then there would be no need for explanation.

      Thanks for another installment in your series.

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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Pop, I would say you are riding the high life then. :) Thanks as always.

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      breakfastpop 2 years ago

      I have no idea what I am, but I am content.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Manatita! The questions have been great of late and I'm really enjoying this series. I'm glad you are as well.

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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      My pleasure, Brian, and thanks for the question.

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      manatita44 2 years ago from london

      Great, Bill. Another one with wonderful and interesting questions. Faith's was quite nice really. I don't know what she was worried about.

      I am glad that you eventually described yourself as both a Freelance writer and an Author. Cool!

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      Brian Leekley 2 years ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA

      Thanks for clarifying the meaning of "freelance writer".

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks Larry! I'm glad you feel that way about it.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      It really is, Bill. I just call myself a writer and let others define it the way they see fit. :) Thanks for the visit and comment and have a great week.

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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Sally! I love the excitement you share about a simple small trip. What a treasure and I understand completely. I'm going to shut down in about an hour and go work on my outdoor projects...and I won't feel any guilt at all. :) Happy Monday to you.

      bill

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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Happy Monday Melissa! I don't know, to tell you the truth. In my mind, fiction means fiction, but I also know this is a lawsuit-happy society, so why take chances?

      Thanks for visiting on this cloudy 11th day of May. Have a great week.

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      Larry Rankin 2 years ago from Oklahoma

      The Mailbag is always interesting.

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      William Leverne Smith 2 years ago from Hollister, MO

      Always interesting to see the discussions on "freelancing" - fascinating how ambiguous that one little word can be... ;-)

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      Sally Gulbrandsen 2 years ago from Norfolk

      Hi Billy,

      Fascinating questions this week. I relate especially with the question about the good weather. I think we should enjoy the weather and use it to our advantage. I went on a small trip today and I found myself in a place which I found quite by accident. It made me feel excited to be there. My camera is my best friend when it comes to writing and I can't wait to download my photos tonight. I use it to help me document my writing and I know that my next hub will be born only because I decided to enjoy the weather today. I also know that I can save those ideas and keep them for the long cold winter months. I recommend that everyone do the same. Life was not meant to be spent behind a computer screen.

      I particularly enjoyed reading this one today, thank you.

      Sally

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      Melissa Propp 2 years ago from Minnesota

      Happy Monday Bill! I haven't seen too many disclaimers in the fiction books I've read, however, since many of the books include paranormal elements..maybe its just assumed? One never knows!

      Hope you have a great and productive week!

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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Suzie, my Irish beautiful friend, thanks for stopping by. What a gift you give me...a smile on my face...when you visit. It's good to see you reappearing on the internet and becoming more active. Now, about that article you're working on? When will we see it???? :)

      Love to you, dear friend, and a punch on the shoulder to the Mickster. Thanks for your very kind words.

      bill

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      Suzanne Ridgeway 2 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      Hi Bill,

      Gorgeous photos by the way on FB of your babies!

      You really came up trumps with this series, it has such a following and one I think is creative, clever and has gained so much respect. You have shown us here how a writer may use his talent to benefit many. A teacher who passes on his knowledge and makes us think.

      Nice selection of questions today and even as I write this I am checking my sentences for repetition!!

      Many thanks Yoda for more Monday pearls, have a wonderful wacky week!

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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Good morning Buildreps....yep, I think the first week of June you'll see #1000. Thank you! My opinion on not leaving comments? Sometimes time is tight and it is completely understandable. For those who wish to be an active member of this writer's group, I think at least occasionally leaving a comment is crucial.

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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Linda, I know for a fact I would love your daughter. :) What a great gift, and the fact that she appreciated it and enjoyed it speaks volumes. Thanks for sharing that and good morning to you.

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      Buildreps 2 years ago from Europe

      Great to see you're on your way to your thousandth hub, Bill! What an achievement. You'll be there in June I hope? I always read your hubs, though not always give feedback. What is your opinion about reading without leaving a comment?

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      Linda Lum 2 years ago from Washington State, USA

      Bill, good morning to you. Your pet peeve is mine as well. (Did I ever tell you that years ago I gave my daughter a Roget's as a gift, and she loved reading it--just for fun. Graduated with a double major in journalism and creative writing).

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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Ann, I'll never understand lazy writers. Where is the joy in discovering new ways to say something?

      I'm glad you're feeling better. So am I!

      The sunshine left us for a day or two, so I'll enjoy yours in my imagination.

      Thanks as always my adventuresome friend.

      bill

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      Ann Carr 2 years ago from SW England

      How I agree with you about repeated words! It's such fun to find a hundred words to say the same thing, so why use the same one over and over? Do these people have no sense of adventure? Obviously not.

      That's made me feel better!

      Told you I was looking forward to your Monday slot, didn't I?

      Hope it's a good one for you, bill. Sunshine here is holding up. Home tomorrow - yippee!

      Ann

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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      She was self-published, Sha. I don't think a good agent would have allowed it to go to press. Live and learn and hopefully she will learn....or not. :) Thanks my friend and Happy Monday to you.

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      Shauna L Bowling 2 years ago from Central Florida

      Bill, it's so sad that your local author is losing sales due to poor quality or lack of creativity. Do you know if she is self-published? I'd like to think an agent or editor would have suggested re-writes, especially with regard to repetition.

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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Carol, congratulations. Very cool to hold one's own book, as you know. I'm excited for you...and thanks for the question. I'll have an answer for you on Monday.

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      carol stanley 2 years ago from Arizona

      As always so many good questions and so many good answers. A question...do you know the value of leaving a review on Amazon Ebooks?

      Other than the obvious.... I am finally going to get a real live copy of my book...after much ado. Actually after you have uploaded a book on Amazon Ebook and Createspace once it is no longer a mystery...And of course I have my husband to do it all.

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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I love your attitude, Janine. We always have our writing to come back to, and isn't that so very cool?

      Happy Monday, Janine, and thank you!

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      Janine Huldie 2 years ago from New York, New York

      The weather here is totally calling me at times, too to want to play. I am trying my best, but to be honest sometimes like you said we just have to give into it. But still, I am thankful when all is said and done, I have my writing to come back to, as well. Happy Monday, Bill!! ;)