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The Writer's Mailbag: Installment #324

Am I the Only One?

I was thinking the other day about the importance of music in our lives, and in particular how I can remember exactly what I was doing when a particular song was introduced on the radio, or how a particular song can remind me of a very specific event in my life. Am I the only one who experiences that? I doubt I am, for music really is an integral part of our lives.

I remember driving in the car with my dad when “Eight Days A Week” debuted on the radio. My dad, no fan of rock music, was actually impressed with The Beatles because they harmonized in that song. It was the first time he ever said anything positive about rock n roll, and I remember how happy I was with that fact. And how “Blackbird” will always remind me of singing that song to my son during his bedtime. I would tuck him in, kiss his head, and sing him to sleep, always that song, followed by “Golden Slumbers.”

And then there was “Angel” by Sarah McLachlan, which was played at the funeral of my fiancé in 1997; I’ll never be able to hear that song, for as long as I live, without crying just a bit.

And on and on we go. How about you? Does any particular song have a deep emotional meaning for you?

While you ponder that, let’s see what kind of mail we have today.

The Mail Room

The Mail Room

An Election Question?

From Mr. Happy: “Ohh, before I forget: what do You think of "proportional representation" as opposed to the "first-past-the-post" system of elections?”

Mr. Happy, I had to look up “first-past-the-post” before answering. Turns out it means a plurality system of elections, meaning the candidate who wins the majority of votes wins the election, completely at odds with our Electoral College system in the United States.

I taught Political Science for a number of years and, without a doubt, the hardest topic to teach middle school students, and high school students, was the Electoral College. They simply could not wrap their brains around such a strange system. And I have to admit it is bizarre, and it is confusing to many, but in a strange way I don’t mind it at all, mainly because it’s part of our Constitution, and I’m a big fan of The Constitution.

That’s the only reason, however, that I like it. I like the history of it and the tradition of it. On the other hand, in local elections, and in state elections, we do quite well with the plurality vote. So I can see both sides of the issue.

I know you were looking for a more definitive answer, but I don’t have one. I can see why people hate it, and I can see why people love it. As far as I know, it is uniquely American, and God knows we do some strange stuff in the U.S., so this fits in quite nicely. It would sure simplify things if we went with the plurality system for all elections; and it would have changed the results of several Presidential elections in the 2000’s.

The Mysteries of the Electoral College

The Mysteries of the Electoral College

Reviving Characters

From Greg: “Have you had characters who appeared only briefly in one story and then as you went back and looked at that story you wished you hadn't cut them short? And if that's the case, did you fix it so they could "come back" and you could do another story? Or do you just let them go and say goodbye?”

I had to think on this a bit, Greg.

I have a couple “stand alone” novels which probably cut a few characters a bit short, but I haven’t had any strong desire to do right by them with a follow-up novel. On the other hand, I have five books in my “Shadows” series, and I’ve definitely done what you suggest in those novels. The latest in that series, “Shadows Across The Pond,” delves into one character in particular, Striker, who I believe deserves the limelight much more than in the past. I started that novel determined to put Striker in the glaring light and give him his moment of fame.

That’s the beauty of doing a series. It gives a writer the opportunity to do as you suggest.

Great question, my friend!

Have I short-changed any of my characters?

Have I short-changed any of my characters?

An Excerpt From “shadows Across the Pond”

Since we have no other questions, I’ll wrap this installment of the Mailbag up with an excerpt from my latest Shadows book. I hope you enjoy it.

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Paris was not Striker’s favorite European city, not by a long shot. Parisians always seemed a bit uppity to him, a bit above the fray, as though their collective shit didn’t stink. He knew things about prominent members of the French government which directly contradicted the “no stink” attitude of the locals. Politicians were politicians, whether they saluted the red, white, and blue of the U.S., or the blue, white, and red of France, and ninety-nine percent of them had dirty hands and weren’t worth a bucket of spit, as his old man was fond of saying.

The cobbled streets of the Mouffetard/Jussieu District were filled with locals and tourists as Striker moved north through the Rive Gauche, or Left Bank, of Paris. He could smell the Seine River, three blocks to his left, the grand river of history splitting Paris in two, fouled by decay and pollution, but still loved by all who lived there. He passed sidewalk cafes, small art shops, markets, and street entertainers, noticing all, categorizing all, safe or threat, trusting in an innate ability to sense danger before it arrives, an ability which had led him safely through many deadly encounters.

For the time being, at least, he was safe. To his knowledge his arrival in Paris was unknown to his enemies, including the Shadow Man. How long that would be the case was up for debate. He remembered his sensei telling him that no one was truly invisible, that even the chameleon was seen by other chameleons. He patted the Desert Eagle strapped on his side. He smiled.

Here I am, Shadow! Come and get me!

He did not fear death, and that made him a most dangerous opponent. Fear crippled. Fear took split-seconds of reaction time away from a man, rendering him vulnerable, and Striker would not allow that to happen. There was either an afterlife, or there was nothing, when one died. Neither sounded particularly frightening to Striker, and he often wondered why so many true believers feared dying. It seemed counterproductive and a bit inconsistent to Striker.

Pain, on the other hand, should be, and was, feared by most humans, and that was completely logical to Striker. Pain was crippling. Pain could be incapacitating. Pain could rob a man of his principles, of his honor, and of his manhood. Pain could be used in any investigation. Killing was only an option when no other option was available. Pimps understood that truth. Abusive husbands understood it, as did CIA interrogators. You did not kill the goose who laid the golden eggs, not until every possible egg had been laid. At that point the goose was no longer valuable.

Back to the Music

Well, what song came to mind for you? Share with us in the comments below. Maybe there’s a reflective story in it for you, if you’ve got nothing better to do, of course.

Have a fabulous week! Try to find the time, if you would, please, to treat others with love and compassion along the way. I think, right now, in this time, it is the nicest gift you could give someone.

2020 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”


Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 15, 2020:

Very true, Lawrence! And it's up to us to make it better still.

Lawrence Hebb from Hamilton, New Zealand on October 14, 2020:


I thought it would bring a smile!

It's like Churchill once said, "Democracy is a terrible form of government, but its better than all the rest!"