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The Writer's Mailbag: Installment One-Hundred and Thirty-Two

Updated on January 9, 2017

Baby, It’s Cold Outside

I’m beginning to think I’m sounding like a whiner but hey, I’m entitled. Getting out before first light to get unfrozen water to the critters is wearing thin on my patience. These old bones of mine are getting tired of temps in the teens. How much longer until spring?

But no matter the weather, the mail must be delivered, so here we go!

Welcome to the Mail Room
Welcome to the Mail Room | Source

Goals for 2017

From Melissa: “What are your writing goals for this year?”

Melissa, sorry to disappoint, but I don’t have specific goals. I follow the mantra “write, publish, repeat,” so that’s what I do. I’m a third of the way done with my next “Shadow” novel, and when that’s done I’ll publish it and start in on the next book on my to-do list, and when that’s done I’ll repeat. I should write at least two new novels in 2017, possibly three, and in my spare time I’ll be publishing a series of coloring books, a side-project I’m working on for the Farmers’ Markets we will be doing this spring and summer.

So, if you want to call those goals, there you go. I call them my to-do list.

SELF-PROMOTION ON HP

From Eric: “For Hubpages, is the way you do your shameless ;-) plug for your website all ok with HP Gods and the best way to cross network out of the black hole that can start on a writing platform such as HP?”

Eric, your question is funny on several levels, so in advance of my answer, thanks for the laugh.

So far I have had no problems with HP over my “shameless” plug for my website. I follow a general rule with HP: only plug my website and books if it is related to the article I’m writing for HP. So far that has worked. I’ve plugged the website, I’ve plugged my books, and I’ve plugged other articles, but only on articles related to writing. That’s the key, I think: related to the article I’m posting.

Both hard copy and eBooks
Both hard copy and eBooks | Source

Which Form of Self-publishing?

From Rose: “The books I have published are in both ebook and printed version form. So are you saying you should at least publish the book in printed form? It's okay to self publish right?”

Well Rose of course it’s all right to self-publish. I would never discourage someone from doing so. I always try to be truthful in my appraisal of your chances regarding sales, which I believe are dismal, but I think it’s important that you self-publish.

I also think it’s important that you self-publish in both eBook form and hard copy. Since it doesn’t cost you a penny to do so on sites like CreateSpace and Amazon, I can’t imagine why someone wouldn’t do both. The formatting is so simple even I can do it, so if there is a reason for not publishing in printed form, I don’t know that would be.

HOW MANY CHARACTERS ARE TOO MANY?

From Linda: “Your response to the "he said, she said" dilemma brings another question to mind. How many characters is too many? My (same) friend has no less than 41 named characters, some appearing only once (as I typed the manuscript--yes, it was written in longhand--I kept open a second document to list each character as he/she appeared and note the page number on which they were introduced). Good grief--it's a children's book, not War and Peace. (And when I read W&P I maintained a list of the characters because I couldn't keep the names straight).”

Linda, let me begin my answer by telling you this: I’ve read one Robert Ludlum novel and only one, and the reason for that is because he loves a plethora of characters, so much so that I can’t follow them all or remember them all, and that makes reading a job for me, and I don’t need another job.

I don’t think there is a specific answer to your question. For me, as a general guideline, I try to have no more than ten characters that are integral to the novel. Of course there will be “insignificant” characters who may have one or two lines of dialogue and then disappear, but if you think about it, in real life we meet a lot of people each and every week, so it’s silly to think our characters won’t meet a similar number of people….but….people that are important to the book…I would think ten is a good number to consider,….ten or less.

I’m a pretty simple storyteller. I assume that my readers are like me, that they want to be entertained and not tested, so I try to keep things simple for them. In the book I’m currently working on, “Shadows Fall on Rosarito,” there are nine characters important to the story. I’m halfway done with the first draft and I can see no reason to introduce any others.

In other words, K.I.S.S., and I’m calling myself stupid there and not you.

Great question! Thank you!

How do you measure failure?
How do you measure failure? | Source

What Is Failure?

From Lawrence: “I've got a question, but I'll admit it's a loaded one. ‘What is failure? Isn't it when we 'give up?'”

It seems to me, Lawrence, and this is a fascinating question, that failure depends on your goals. If your goal is to write a book in 2017, and you don’t, then you failed in that goal, right? But that’s just one goal, and in my mind there are other aspects involved there. The mere fact that you attempt to write a book is success to me. Not many people can even write half a book and do it well.

But maybe that’s not your goal. Maybe your goal is to sell one-hundred copies of that book, and you only sell seventy-five. Did you fail? Again, for that specific goal yes, but hey, seventy-five book sales is pretty good, right?

I’ll tell you a secret, my friend. I think I fail with every book I write. It’s never as good as I think it should be. Does that make me a failure?

It’s an interesting question and a very personal question. I’m not sure there is a definitive answer to it.

FINDING A PUBLISHER

From Bryan: “Need some help getting starting in the book publishing business. Any suggestions, advice anyone can provide will be most useful and appreciated. I have a manuscript that reads well, develops an interesting plot (and sub-plot) has a great ending which has the protagonist living happily ever after. In addition, I have children's stories, YA stories and many poems. I am ready to get published, just need the write shooting star!!!”

Bryan, I really wish I could be enthusiastic about the answer I’m about to give, but I don’t have it in me. Finding a publisher, for an unknown writer, is as close to Mission Impossible as you can get. Oh sure, it happens, but when you look at the odds you are facing, I would say you are looking at 99 to 1 and that’s being extremely generous.

There is no fast lane to success in the writing business. You build a platform, continue to build the platform, work at your craft, continue to work at your craft, and keep sending out query letters. It might take 1,000 query letters before you strike gold and get a publishing contract. You may, in fact, never get a publishing contract. All I can do is wish you luck in your endeavors, and that I will do. Good luck!

That’s All We’ve Got This Week

So, instead of babbling on, we’ll stop right here. First, though, some shameless self-promotion. Check out my writing blog, “Artistry with Words,” and if you like mystery/thrillers, I highly recommend my “Shadow” series, available on Amazon. The latest in that series, “Shadows Over A Hangman’s Noose,” will have you on the edge of your seat.

And thank you for joining me for another Mailbag. Let’s make 2017 the best writing year we’ve ever had. Remember, the educated world is counting on us to carry on with our craft, so don’t disappoint them all.

2017 William D. Holland (aka billybuc) #greatestunknownauthor

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

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    • Janine Huldie profile image

      Janine Huldie 3 months ago from New York, New York

      Happy Monday, Bill and by the way I am with you as I am so ready for Spring. We had about 10 inches of snow on Saturday. It is freezing here and now that snow is icy, too. Plus, another bout of pneumonia for my oldest. Therefore, I am really so done with winter and yet too many weeks/months lay ahead. Oh well, I will stop complaining and just wish you a great week ahead instead now!

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 3 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Whahoo! This was a great installment. Me thinks you should not protest so much about the weather. We suffered a 73 degree sunny day yesterday making it very difficult to be inside with chores.

      I am sure that you suffer like most writers a bit of "clay feet" or doubt of the worthiness of your work -- clearly not a debilitating condition but some. What is your little trick to get out of the apprehension hesitation?

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 3 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Complain all you want, Janine. I think I have done so daily for the last month. More crap heading our way tomorrow. What I wouldn't give for one sunny, warm day. :)

      Happy Monday my friend, and thank you!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 3 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Good morning, Eric, and Happy Monday to you. I'll answer your little question next week, if you don't mind. I have a short story to write at this moment, and I have your hub to read as well. Thanks, buddy!

    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 3 months ago from Northeast Ohio

      Bill, happy new year! Great mailbag as always. Good luck with you on Shadow! You're so insightful and knowledgeable with your sage advice.

    • Carb Diva profile image

      Linda Lum 3 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Bill - This was a great mailbag (and not because you answered one of my questions). Amazing how many different topics get tossed in your direction.

      For Lawrence I have a few thoughts about failure -- Failing is falling down, knowing that you made a mistake, and getting back up on your feet and trying again. On the other hand, there is failure. Failure is refusing to acknowledge wrong. Failure is to not learn from mistakes. Failure is falling down and not even trying to get up again. We all fail--until we earn those angel wings we are prone to making mistakes. But none of us have to allow 'failure' into our lives.

      And Eric, I don't want to hear another word about the weather LOL.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 3 months ago from USA

      I liked the Q&A on the number of characters. Authors don't need to tax their readers; we need to remember that we are writing fiction. At some point it starts to come off like a genealogical exercise if one has too many characters. Few people have the time or patience for that.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Kristen, Happy New Year to you and thank you for sharing early 2017 with me.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Great responses, Linda....Lawrence and Eric, pay attention to the lady!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Flourish! It makes me wonder who it is that buys those novels with fifty-seven characters? LOL Maybe I'm just not smart enough to handle them.

    • sallybea profile image

      Sally Gulbrandsen 3 months ago from Norfolk

      Just stopping in to wish you happy Monday Billy. I am still working on that goal, publish that book in 2017, that is when I can figure out whether CreateaSpace is the right platform for one of my ilk!. Think I might drop them a line today:)

    • mpropp profile image

      Melissa Propp 3 months ago from Minnesota

      Happy Monday Bill! I don't have to run hot water out to the animals..but I have to take my kid critter to school every morning in the dark---and it is VERY cold here right now. I'm patiently (or not so patiently) waiting for the warm weather myself! Have a great rest of the week!

    • Venkatachari M profile image

      Venkatachari M 3 months ago from Hyderabad, India

      Ah! Bill! This one is somewhat more interesting a mailbag in recent weeks. Many exciting questions, even though funny, and you answered them very cleverly. I agree with all your answers 100%. (Am I silly?).

      Wish I could sell one or two copies of my "Economics for Beginners" kindle book at Amazon.

      Wish you all the best in this current year.

    • PAINTDRIPS profile image

      Denise McGill 3 months ago from Fresno CA

      Hi Bill,

      Sorry for the frozen weather up your way. We just have water... lots of water. In this dried up valley, we just aren't used to getting enough water so there is flooding everywhere. They just closed Yosemite and expect the Merced River to crest this morning.

      For those who are interested I found an 8 Week free course offered online through Future Learn (.com) called "Start Writing Fiction" starting today. They claim it only takes about 3 hours a week to finish the course work but I've taken some online classes like this and I usually spend at least twice that. Still for anyone interested in what they have to say.. they may want to check it out.

      Thanks again for another thoughtful Monday mailbag. I need to get to my goals for the week... or to do list as the case may be. :)

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Fuller 3 months ago from Southern Illinois

      I'm with you Bill. We have snow and it's in the teens at night, but there's light at the end of the tunnel, it's supposed to be 56 this Thursday. Yea!! Thanks for all you do.....

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Happy Monday, Sally! Best wishes with that goal for 2017. I know you can do it!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 3 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Melissa, you can have that kind of cold, my friend. Been there, done that, and I'm not doing it again. :) Happy Monday to you, and thank you always.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 3 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I wish you could too, Venkatachari M. Perhaps 2017 will be your year for great sales.

      Best wishes to you, and thank you!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 3 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Denise, thanks for sharing that course with us all. Hopefully someone will find that useful.

      Good luck with that water...it's been a tough winter for most of us this year, but spring is fast approaching, right? Right? LOL

      blessings, my friend

      bill

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Ruby, that warm weather can't get here too soon. Crossing my fingers that we will see the Fifties in the near future.

      Have a great week and thank you.

    • Buildreps profile image

      Buildreps 3 months ago from Europe

      Good morning, shameless Bill! Nice name for a cowboy, isn't it? Let's hope Spring will come soon. Thanks for the mail, and I wish you a great week.

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 3 months ago from Oklahoma

      I wish we could shamelessly self promote, lol.

      Great mailbag!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 3 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Good morning Buildreps! Shameless Bill...it does sound cowboy, doesn't it? LOL Spring can't get here soon enough, my friend. More snow for tomorrow.

      Happy Monday and beyond to you, my friend.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Not possible, Larry, but we can always hope. LOL Thanks for always being here. Have a great week!

    • breakfastpop profile image

      breakfastpop 3 months ago

      I am with you billy. It is freezing! I am toying with the idea of moving to Florida, something I said I never wanted to do.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 3 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Desperate measures in desperate times, Pop! I would have to be mighty cold to move to Florida. :)

    • heidithorne profile image

      Heidi Thorne 3 months ago from Chicago Area

      Happy Belated Mailbag Monday!

      Re: Goals and Dreams. I'm also in "write-publish-repeat" mode. When writing is your business, you might have goals. But they're "get it done" goals, as opposed to "dream" goals.

      Re: Goals and Failure. Yes, as writing professionals, we'll have goals that just won't materialize for a variety of reasons. And we keep perfecting what we do and discovering opportunities. So I'll change the "write-publish-repeat" model to "write-publish-reflect-renew-repeat."

      Re: Print... Again. Again, I'll echo your advice to publish both print and eBooks whenever you can. I just saw a Publishers Weekly article (1/9/2017) which reported that sales of print books rose 3.3% in 2016 over 2015. Print is not dead yet.

      Hope your 2017 is going great so far. Cheers!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 3 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Heidi, I can rest comfortably now, knowing you agree with my answers. :) Thanks a bunch for always being here and adding to the discussion with great comments. You are greatly appreciated.

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 3 months ago from SW England

      Apart from your advice and experience in writing, there is another reason why I love reading these mail-bags; it's like sitting down with a group of HP friends and discussing a common interest. I feel cosy, among friends, friends that are all on the same side to boot. How do you do that?

      Have a terrific Tuesday, bill!

      Ann :)

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 3 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I don't know, Ann, but I'm glad you feel comfortable here, so I'll keep doing whatever it is I do and hope you remain.

      Sending you brilliant vibes on this dismal Tuesday in Olympia.

      bill

    • lifegate profile image

      William Kovacic 3 months ago from Pleasant Gap, PA

      Ah, yes! Another shot of the smiling toilet. Love it! Thinking back to Lawrence's question, and I think we're all on the same page, I think we may fail from time to time, but that doesn't make us a failure. Just a thought. ?Thanks for another meaningful mailbag!

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Isaac Weithers 3 months ago from The Caribbean

      Bill, I especially appreciate your insight on the number of characters. I thought I was slow or lazy for being turned off by too many. Even on television, I give up sometimes. Thanks for sharing your opinion.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 3 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

      It's always interesting to read people's questions and your answers, Bill. I hope the weather warms up for both you and me. Like you, I hate the cold temperatures that we've been experiencing!

    • Nadine May profile image

      Nadine May 3 months ago from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

      Hi Billy great information for many writers. Shame about your cold weather. We are heaving heat waves in Cape Town.

      Your post has inspired me. Congratulations on all your published works!

      It's about time that I write a post on Hubpages titled: from the 'Publisher's desk', ha ha.

      All I can add to this post is the following...if a writer has written and published let's say 12 printed books, ( and all 12 are available for the kindle and other ebook reader platforms) then the author must set aside a month for each title to market it, then they have exposed themselves well on the social networks as the author and they will get results. I'm not there yet!

      Being an Author in 2017 is not for everyone.

    • jo miller profile image

      jo miller 3 months ago from Tennessee

      I must admit, self-promotion is the thing about writing I suck at--and that I like least. Writing seems easy in comparison. Maybe you could give us some tips sometime about how you do it.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 3 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Bill! Failure is never an option. :) Someone famous said that and I believe it to be true.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 3 months ago from Olympia, WA

      it's my pleasure, Dora, and you are definitely not slow or lazy. Thank you!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 3 months ago from Olympia, WA

      One more week, Linda, and then we'll see warmer temps. I can hardly wait. :) Thank you!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 3 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Great advice, Nadine. I just wish all indie writers would take it to heart. There is no success unless we make it happen.

      Best wishes for 2017 and beyond, my friend.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 3 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Jo, I grit my teeth and just do it....it's not easy for any of us, my friend.

    • Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

      Gypsy Rose Lee 3 months ago from Riga, Latvia

      Solid with ideas and motivational as always. I am glad that this year the ideas about what to write just seem to naturally come flowing my way. I am eager to see how it will all progress by the time February rolls round. Hope your week is going great.

    • bdegiulio profile image

      Bill De Giulio 3 months ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Bill. Interesting questions this week. The mailbag is off to a great start in 2017. The weather gods are playing with us here also. Yesterday morning it was -1, today it hit 50! Go figure! Have a great week and stay warm.

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 3 months ago from South Africa

      What makes self-publishing on CreateSpace and Amazon so unattractive to non-Americans?

      1. The very expensive postage. Getting a hard copy from the USA to SA is just too expensive.

      2. Readers down here are not yet pro-electronic books. Yet, they read articles and news on the Internet?

      Interesting questions and answers. Thank you, billybuc!

    • Mel Carriere profile image

      Mel Carriere 3 months ago from San Diego California

      I admire your ability to keep your focus, even with frostbitten fingers. Down here, just below the dip in the jet stream, the Arctic blast has petered out to a dry drizzle. Great topics here as usual.

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 3 months ago from Ontario, Canada

      Each time I come to one of these mail bags, my desire to write comes up strongly. The questions and ideas intrigue me and invite me to try out your suggestions. Thanks for the visit to one of my hubs. it is very encouraging.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 3 months ago from Queensland Australia

      Bill, you have every right to complain about the cold, if I can complain about the heat. We are currently suffering a heat wave with a large number being hospitalised due to heat stroke. I have fallen behind with my hub reading but couldn't miss the mailbag. Once again...good Q and A (especially Eric's :) Create Space is a great platform for self-publishing but unfortunately we can't get royalties paid to PayPal or Australian bank accounts...have to be paid by check and there is an $8.00 processing fee...not viable for unknown authors. Cheers, stay warm.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 3 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Rasma! It's been a good week, my friend, and I wish you the same.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 3 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Bill, I think I speak for all of us in saying spring can't get here soon enough. :) Have a great weekend, buddy!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 3 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Martie. I've noticed the same thing about the postage, but it was good that you pointed it out. Thanks a bunch!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 3 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks Mel! I have to work on motivation when the weather is horrendous...it does affect my psychological balance a bit.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 months ago from Olympia, WA

      That is very nice of you to say, Aesta. Thank you very much.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Interesting info, John! No, that is not viable for a struggling writer. Sheez, there seems to be no end to the problems we face as we try to make it with our words.

    • simplehappylife profile image

      SA 3 months ago from United States

      Another great and interesting hub this week :)

      These Writer's Mailbags are my favorite! Thanks for the entertainment and info Bill :)

      Have a Great rest of the week and weekend!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 3 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Aw, thanks SA! I appreciate the kind words. I hope all is well in your little corner of the world. Enjoy the heck out of life this weekend.

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 3 months ago from Central Florida

      Forty one characters in a children's book? Holy Moly! That's way too many for a seasoned reader to keep track of, let alone young uns who are just becoming interested in books. Sounds like a sure-fire way to turn them off on reading all together!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 3 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Sha, I can't imagine writing a mystery with that many characters. I don't know about the readers, but this writer would be unable to keep them all straight. :) I'm with you all the way on this one.

    • phoenix2327 profile image

      Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon 2 months ago from United Kingdom

      I'm with you, Bill. If you need a Who's Who to keep track of the characters, then there are clearly too many. I know from past experience that sometimes a minor character can threaten to take over the story. In that case, maybe it's best to just give him his own story.

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

      Give him his own story or kill him off, Zulma. One or the other. :) Thanks for taking the time to be here....Happy Tuesday to you, my friend.

    • phoenix2327 profile image

      Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon 2 months ago from United Kingdom

      Kill him off?! Wow...that is really dark. I mean if people were killed off simply for talking too much, would any of us be alive?

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 months ago from Olympia, WA

      That's the beauty of fiction, Zulma. I can kill people off and never feel guilt over it. Take that, Catholic Church!!!!!

    • phoenix2327 profile image

      Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon 2 months ago from United Kingdom

      Hee-hee. I totally get that Catholic Church shot.

      Maybe it's just me. I get really attached to my little people. I would feel terrible about killing them off even if it is part of the natural progression of the story. :(

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I'm about to do it in my Shadows series, Zulma, and it already hurts, so I get it.

    • lawrence01 profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 2 months ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      Bill

      Thank you for the answer. I appreciate you taking the time. I sort of see where you're coming from, but I'm beginning to realise I'm a bit too much of an optimist to ever contemplate failing!

      One slogan I saw recently said, "I love failing, it teaches me what I can do better next time!"

      I'll be truthful here, learned so much about what to do (and I did wrong the first time) in self publishing I'd consider it criminal not to do more and use what I learnt to do a better job next time, does that make sense?

      Blessings

      Lawrence

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 months ago from Olympia, WA

      It makes perfect sense, Lawrence, and I totally agree. There's no quit in you, my friend, nor in me.

      blessings to you always

      bill

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