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The Writer's Mailbag: Installment #329

Morning Has Broken

It’s foggy this morning.

I love the fog!

I’m always reminded of the lyrics from “Late Lament” by the Moody Blues, even though these lyrics are referencing the nighttime:

“Cold-hearted orb that rules the night
Removes the colours from our sight.
Red is grey and yellow white,
But we decide which is right
And which is an illusion.”

Doesn’t that conjure up visions of a neighborhood blanketed in gray?

Anyway, I love the fog, and I love this season, Fall, the calm before the oncoming storms of Winter, both capitalized, in this instance, to give them the importance they deserve. There is a sense of anticipation about Fall. There is a sense of running willy-nilly, trying to accomplish last-minute tasks before the weather turns sour, and isn’t that an interesting phrase to describe the weather, “turns sour,” as if it were something to eat before such and such a date, shelf-life they call it, which really isn’t an accurate description at all, now is it?

See how my mind just takes off? It’s exhausting, at times, but also very exciting, just like Fall, just like the fog.

We have questions! Shall we see what’s on the collective mind of my followers?

The Mail Room

The Mail Room

Descriptive Words Website

From Linda: “I also find myself struggling to come up with descriptive words. Is there a website that can help? Not a thesaurus but say you want words that describe one of the 5 senses. Floral aromas or baking aromas.”

I admit it, Linda, I doubted, for a brief moment, the power of Google. I didn’t think there was a chance such a website existed, but it took me all of ten seconds to type it in and come up with this website of descriptive words. But wait! There are more than just that one. Here’s another one of power words which pack a punch for descriptions.

There are even apps for writers which will help you with descriptive words. One I found, which looks quite interesting and helpful, is found by following this link.

And there are more, but I’ll let you do the Google search for yourself because, well, I have a question from Eric coming up, and you know how demanding Eric can be.

Try describing this photo.

Try describing this photo.

Writing Environment

From Eric: “Now please tell me about that chair in your photo that looks like a machine for torture. Do you really park you scrawny but on that thing for hours a day? Of course that is the lead in to asking about a writing environment. Many self-appointed gurus tell us all the tricks, but what works for you because I want to be like Mike.”

Eric, rest-assured, I lasted about two days on that chair, and then went out and got a swivel job, padded, adjustable, all very nice for my expanding butt.

Writing environment? It changes for each of us, does it not? But you asked me, about me, so here you go.

I write in a spare bedroom in our house. At one time I wrote out in what is now the garden shed. That gave me total privacy for the three or four hours that I wrote, but now we have two dogs, and they refuse to give me privacy if I’m out in the shed.

That’s it for the physical space – desk, chair, laptop, printer, dying plants – and I’m surrounded by the books I’ve written, for reference, and by an old-fashioned dictionary and thesaurus.

And pictures of Bev in frames, of course!

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I’ve got the dogs pretty well-trained to leave me alone now while I’m writing, so it’s all good being in the main house. I can even write with music on in the background, as long as it’s on low, and I only mention that because for years I needed things as quiet as possible.

Not terribly exciting but there you have it!

Emotion in the Latin Languages

From Mary: “This mailbag is interesting because today I've been thinking of the ways different languages express themselves. When I listen to a speech in Portuguese, (and I would assume it's the same in other Latin languages), they are full of emotion. Compared to my writing which sounds like an instruction manual. Is this something you've noticed with translated books you've read?”

This is really a fascinating topic, Mary. I just wish I had a fascinating answer.

I just spent the better part of a half-hour researching linguistics with your specific question as a guide, and I could not find a consensus opinion on this, not even among the professionals.

I’m in no way a linguistic expert, but it seems to me part of the problem with English is that it is such a hodgepodge of different languages. Still, any language can sound melodic, or angry, with an inflection of the voice. I think “amore” is a beautiful, melodic word, but I can make “amore” sound hateful if I give it a certain inflection, or simply raise my voice and give emphasis on the second syllable.

Hopefully someone in the comments will have a better answer for you. To answer your question, though, I would say that yes, it is something I have noticed and am aware of from my readings and studies over the year, but I don’t have the specific reason why it is true.

Anyone else want to weigh in on this? Ann? MizB?

Switching Genres

From Michael: “I was wondering if you find it difficult when you switch genres? I wrote a mystery last year, and now I’m trying to write a romance novel, and I’m finding it very difficult to make the switch.”

It’s not just you, Michael. I think switching genres is very difficult. I’ve done it three times when writing novels, and I’ve stumbled on many occasions. I find it difficult in writing articles as well. During most days I write content articles for businesses. I then switch to writing articles for my enjoyment, or novels, and I literally have to take fifteen minutes off, read a few articles in the genre I’m about to switch to, before I begin writing. In other words, I have to reprogram my brain to think in the new genre.

The good news is it becomes easier to do with practice. The bad news – it’s never completely easy to do, at least not for me.

Switching genres can be difficult

Switching genres can be difficult

The Fog Has Lifted

And with that lifting, the sun is now shining brightly on Olympia, Washington, on this second day of October, 2020. It is a morning filled with promise, despite the turmoil of the world around us. We are one month from an election in this country, and it’s going to be a wild ride for the next thirty-one days. Hold on tight, my friends!

If you have questions for the Mailbag, leave them in the comment section, or send them to me in an email to I’ll make sure your question is included in the next installment of this series.

I will leave you with some lyrics from a song I’m listening to at this moment, “The Beggar’s Game,” by Dan Fogelberg. Enjoy!

“She took me in on a winter's night
The air was brittle and the moon was bright
My heart was heavy but her touch was light
Deep in the dance we wandered, deep in my heart she fell

The candles glistened and the water gleamed
She drew a bath and the windows steamed
She looked like every woman ever dreamed
In the heart of a lonely man, in the heart of a lonely man

She took my blindness and she led me through
As night retreated and the daylight grew
And with the first rays of the sun I knew
Love had another captive, love had another fool”

2020 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”


Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 12, 2020:

Thank you Li-Jen! I want every writer to succeed, and if I can play a small part in that success, I'm a happy man. Blessings and good heath to you, always!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 11, 2020:

I hope they do come in handy one day, Brenda. I saved them too. :)

Happy Sunday!

BRENDA ARLEDGE from Washington Court House on October 11, 2020:


I went back & saved those sites you mentioned for descriptive words.

They might come in handy one day.

Have a great day.

Li-Jen Hew on October 11, 2020:

Hi Bill, you are energetic in your writing and you bring confidence to those who have asked you questions. You inspire us to keep our energy levels high to help out, especially when times are rough. It's adventurous of you to switch to different genres and your method of reprogramming your brain is a good idea.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 08, 2020:

Lori, I live with those lyrics constantly floating through my brain. Me and my oldies are one and the same.

Lori Colbo from United States on October 07, 2020:

Great topics. I had to laugh at Erics observation. I love that you are a lyric guy as I am as well. And anyone who quotes the Moody Blues is a friend of mine. Loved the Fogleberg ones too.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 07, 2020:

Good suggestion, Shannon! Thanks for mentioning that. I think we're all confused about the date and day....2020 has really upset the apple cart, my friend.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 07, 2020:

Heidi, you're just in time. I'm just getting around to commenting on the comments, so welcome! We're both late. lol

Mixing genres in the same novel? No thank you! I would be a head case when finished, and I'm already crazy enough, thank you very much.

Happy Wednesday! Don't do anything I wouldn't do.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 07, 2020:

It is my pleasure, Rajan! We all help each other here in the Mail Room.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 07, 2020:

Thanks for stopping by, Brenda. They are called the Romance language. I've always loved that designation.

Blessings to you always!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 07, 2020:

MizB, I can always count on your for a meaningful comment. Thank you for that.

The sun is shining, it will be seventy today, but Fall weather arrives on Friday, and that will transition non-stop into Winter weather, and six months will pass without us being able to tell one month from the next. lol

Happy Wednesday, my friend!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 07, 2020:

Peggy, I think your governor needs to be ushered out of office as soon as possible. I'm glad to hear you already voted. The sooner the better for all concerned so we can vote this idiot out of office and let him slink back into the shadows.

Shannon Henry from Texas on October 07, 2020:

Man, my alarm must be busted. I keep missing your Monday mailbags until Tuesday. Oh, wait. This is now Wednesday. Pardon me, I have 2020 brain.

Regarding the first question about the descriptive website, there are several writers groups on Facebook that I've found useful. I rarely post in them myself, but I find it interesting to answer questions others ask. They often ask questions like "how would you describe the smell of fresh-baked apple pie?" They also ask opinions about things like book covers, names of places or characters, sentence structure and grammar. Of course, some groups are friendlier than others. But overall, they are useful resources if you don't mind gathering collective opinions from the broad writing community. And if you don't mind constructive criticism.

Heidi Thorne from Chicago Area on October 07, 2020:

Happy Mailbag Wednesday! Oh well.

Re: Writing Environment. Your office sounds like mine. Computer, swivel chair, stack of my books for reference, my old dictionary and thesaurus that I'm emotionally attached to, a desk clock that I look at even though the time is always displayed on my computer. Nothing amazing or "creative." Or I'm at a coffee shop (if they have outside seating or social distanced indoor seats) with my iPad.

I have to laugh at those writers on Instagram that post pics of their idyllic writing scenes. A lovely coffee cup with a latte in it that hasn't been drunk yet. Or a cup of tea with the tag of some fancy schmancy tea bag hanging on the side. A vase (or is that "vahse") with some beautiful fresh cut flowers. A pet who never slobbers on their work area and is perfectly posed. The sunshine is oh so softly coming in the window. And they're writing in a paper journal. What? A true Instagram versus Reality situation.

Anyway, this gave me a chuckle.

Re: Switching Genres. The only thing worse than switching genres is when authors try to mix genres in the same work. I've been toying with a blog post about that for a while. Stay tuned.

Anyway, hope your week is going well. Will be back in the Mailbag next Monday maybe. ;)

Rajan Singh Jolly from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on October 07, 2020:

The fog here is about a couple of months away. Winter is just starting to settle in. You have lifted the fog on a lot of interesting topics. Glad to learn there are quite a few websites for descriptive words. Will check out the ones linked. Thanks for sharing, my friend.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 07, 2020:

Pamela, I'm grateful I have followers who expect the Mailbag to appear on Monday so they can look for it. Otherwise I would have had zero views today. :) Thank you!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 07, 2020:

It does for me, Dora! I do know writers who can write in chaos, but I'm definitely not one of them.

Blessings always, my friend!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 07, 2020:

Thanks Sha! I appreciate you finding out what the hell is going on.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 07, 2020:

Thanks for stopping by, Ruby! I believe Sha has the answer from HP below. I appreciate you taking the time to find this, and I hope you are doing well.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on October 07, 2020:

Of course, I appreciate all the questions and answers, but I find the "Writing Environment" section most interesting. Having a regular writing spot makes a big positive difference.

BRENDA ARLEDGE from Washington Court House on October 06, 2020:

The fog is notifications here either.

To mary..not sure about the other languages, but I honestly feel they have so much more passion than we do.

Maybe it's just the way their words sound.

Interesting though.

Thanks for sharing your mailbag with us. Always interesting.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on October 06, 2020:

Bill, may I interject?

Ruby, I asked Samantha in a forum about the recent, undesirable changes to HP niche sites if she was aware that we haven't been getting email notifications since Saturday. She said they're aware and hope to have it corrected sometime this week. This glitch has come up in the past, before the Maven up-front format was adopted for the HP niche sites, but it's never lasted this long. It would lead one to believe they're related in some way.

Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on October 06, 2020:

I am not getting any notifications from HP either. I imagine it's some kind of glitch?

Doris James MizBejabbers from Beautiful South on October 06, 2020:

Bill, I don’t mind fog if I don’t have to drive in it. Just saw Pamela’s comment, and I’m not getting any notifications either. Had to hunt you down today.

Perhaps Latin languages are called “romance languages because they are so melodic. I’m not a linguist, but a so-called linguistic expert I worked with says that English is Germanic-based, and I can’t think of a less melodic language than German. I haven’t found anything to refute Germanic, I just know it isn’t Latin based. Even our own accents in the USA can make a word sound romantic or harsh.

Funny that I would have the perfect example: In my novel I hope to finish before I pass on, I have a scene where a young lady, an octoroon slave girl (just arrived from French New Orleans) called “Reenie” tells her new owner’s daughter that her real name is Irene. The daughter tells Reenie that she pronounces it so beautifully, “Eah wen a” with a trill. Here we say it so flat, “Eye reen,” she says.

Lovely day here, sunshine in the 70s. Couldn’t ask for better. Have a great week, my friend.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on October 06, 2020:

I am not getting any emails about any published hubs. I hope they fix it soon.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on October 06, 2020:

I wondered if you had skipped publishing a piece yesterday, because I had no notice of it. In reading the comments, it is obvious that HP had some type of glitch with sending out notices.

Enjoy your fall weather. While we still have days in the 80s, at least the nights are cooling off. It was in the 50s this morning. Hooray!

We got our ballots in the mail yesterday and we filled them out and mailed them today. We are hoping for a landslide election this year! At least we can track our ballots online. That is some comfort given what our Texas governor did in just having one official dropoff place for each county. Harris County is the size of Rhode Island! Do you think he had voter suppression in mind?

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 06, 2020:

We Latins have to stick together, Mr. Happy! Actually I think I'm more Germanic than Latin, but a guy can dream, right?

Love the thick fog. It provides mystery to an otherwise normal day. There is something very primal to fog that I love.

A good week unfolding, my friend, and thanks for being a part of it. Take care!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 06, 2020:

Thanks for tracking me down, Sha! It's nice to be wanted. :)

I don't know how you guys do it in Florida. I wouldn't last a week in that kind of humidity. Truthfully! Why visit if I can't go outside and walk around. :)

Fall is here in all its glory. Lovely afternoons, cool morning and evenings. Perfect for getting chores done outside.

Have a great week yourself, my friend.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 06, 2020:

I know what you are saying, Mary. Just for fun, sometimes, I will ask Google a bizarre question, and there is always an answer. It's really weird to think that someone else in the world thought of the same bizarre question.

Stay well and safe, my friend.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 06, 2020:

Thanks Devika! I'm happy you enjoyed it.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 06, 2020:

Linda, I'm not a Buddhist monk. I don't like discomfort. LOL I switched chairs very quickly and now I kick back and relax in this one at every opportunity.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 06, 2020:

Thanks for stopping by, Nithya, and I'm glad you liked the websites. Have a great week in Dubai!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 06, 2020:

Thanks Bill! Enjoy that Massachusetts color display. I always miss Vermont when October arrives. We have fall colors, but nothing like New England.

Happy Tuesday my friend.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 06, 2020:

Alyssa, you? Liking Halloween? I never would have guessed! LOL

Lana Del Rey? Never heard of her, but I'll put her on now and see how I like her. Thanks for the suggestion. Have yourself a wonderful October day.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 06, 2020:

Thank you Pamela. The weather is absolutely perfect here, at least for me. Cool mornings, pleasant afternoon, cool evenings. I can get a lot done in weather like this. :)

Happy Tuesday, my friend.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 06, 2020:

Mary, things will get better in our country as soon as we elect a new President and get rid of the imposter we currently have in D.C. Changes coming soon, I suspect.

I'm happy you liked the lyrics. I wish I could write like that. :)

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 06, 2020:

No, Chitranagada Sharan, it didn't take me long to realize that wooden chair was not good for my back, but at that point the Mailbag was a fixture, and I didn't want to change the picture. :)

More good weather this week, and then the rains will arrive here. Sigh!

Have a fabulous week of good health, my friend.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 06, 2020:

And I love your examples, Denise! You have a Creative's mind, and that is always a joy to witness. Thanks for your thoughts, which I agree with, by the way.

Have a wonderful week ahead, my friend, and blessings always.


Mr. Happy from Toronto, Canada on October 06, 2020:

"When I listen to a speech in Portuguese, (and I would assume it's the same in other Latin languages), they are full of emotion." - It's because we (those of Latin heritage) are generally full of passion and we show it.

When one looks at the Scandinavian societies, those of Germanic heritage, or even the Japanese for example, they do not show emotions as much. They are more cold, as we (Latins) would say. We gesticulate a lot (showing emotions) and that is characteristic to Latin people. It depends on culture/behavior as well, not just language. Our emotions simply extend into our languages: Italian, Romanian, Portuguese, French and Spanish.

That's my two cents on that anyway.

"I have to reprogram my brain to think in the new genre." - I do not find that particularly difficult. It's like cooking pasta one day and cooking rice the next day. Or, the change between running and walking: it's a simple change. I myself only change from story telling to formal essays but I love writing in both genres. Essays in their own have many different categories as well. So, adaptation has to always be the go to.

I like fog too. It just has a magical feel and look to it. I live very close to Lake Ontario so, I get fog quite often. The thick kinda fog too, that You need a big knife to cut through lol : )

Cheers! You have yourself a great week ahead!

P.S. And yes, that chair looks so uncomfortable. It could be like a punishment for misbehaving: go sit on "the chair"! lol

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on October 06, 2020:

I hope HP gets this lack of notifications things figured out soon. I'm sure there are many new articles I'm missing. I'm only here now because I tracked you down! Muuwwwaaahhhaaa.

I love Linda's question and will bookmark the site to Power Words. I actually used to follow Jon Morrow when I was freelancing. He's a blogger who has actually made a fortune through his craft. Those are few and far between.

We're finally seeing Fall weather here, too. It's nice to not be enveloped in humidity. The cooler days and nights with a kiss of a breeze are just what the doctor ordered.

Have a great week, Bill!

Mary Wickison from USA on October 06, 2020:

I'm so glad someone mentioned not receiving an email message from HP, I too wondered what happened. I always like to stay in the loop.

I completely understand what Denise is saying, some things just don't translate as intended.

I am always amazed at what I can find on Google. I once needed a 'macho name' for a product. I found a page for Alpha male names. The answers are there if we ask the right questions.

Hope your week is going great!

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on October 06, 2020:

Bill Informative and so well-written and you inform us in detail and with great interest.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on October 05, 2020:

I'm glad you shared information about your chair. The one that you've described sounds much more comfortable than the one in your photo! Thanks for once again sharing some interesting questions and answers.

Nithya Venkat from Dubai on October 05, 2020:

Interesting question and answers. Thank you for sharing the websites. Describing can become challenging when you can't find the right words to express, the websites will be of great help. Once the writing bug bites you I guess you can write anywhere.

Bill De Giulio from Massachusetts on October 05, 2020:

Nice Mailbag, Bill. Fall is my favorite season also and the foliage is close to peak at the moment. Seems a few weeks early but perhaps the lack of rain here is the cause.

I think a comfortable writing environment is important and especially a comfy chair. Glad you found one. Have a great week.

Alyssa from Ohio on October 05, 2020:

Another fantastic mailbag my friend! It's been foggy here, too. I love how it makes the landscape look spooky and haunted. (You know Halloween is my favorite! haha!) I'm looking forward to a few days of 70 degree weather myself. I'm already tired of the cold and it hasn't actually been "cold" yet. It's going to be a long winter for my bones I think.

Isn't Google amazing? I use it often when I want ideas for different words.

I'm glad you got yourself a cushy chair. Being comfortable is important! I also always have music on when I write. When I need to be creative, I put on Lana Del Rey. She always inspires me. For my typical writing, I have a mix of genres.

I'm getting ready to wind down and battle my son in Mario Kart. Wish me luck! Have a wonderful week!

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on October 05, 2020:

Another great mail bag, Bill, even though I got no emails about new Hubs today. I really liked Linda's question as I think it is possible to make my writing more interesting, even if most articles are about medical issues.

I am glad to know you sit in a decent chair for writing. The one in the photo reminds me of one I had that was not comfortable at all. I am glad you are enjoying the weather. Have a great week, Bill.

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on October 05, 2020:

I'm also happy that Fall is here. There are no bugs, so it is time to enjoy the outdoors. We will have our Canadian thanksgiving this weekend and enjoy the change of colours. Well, I hope things will get better for you and your country soon.

I miss speaking in my dialect as a child with friends I grew up with, and we have expressions and words that are more descriptive of what we want to express.

By the way, I love the lyrics of the song you included here.

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on October 05, 2020:

Hello Bill!

Interesting questions and answers and I enjoyed going through.

Regarding the question by Eric—I always thought that you sit on that chair to write. The writer’s place is so well displayed in your picture.

Good weather has so much influence on our thoughts, is clearly shown in your opening and closing paragraphs.

Thank you for sharing and have a great week.

Denise McGill from Fresno CA on October 05, 2020:

I find that pure translations are not possible from one language to another. But every language has phrases and cliches that are unique to that culture and are flowery but just don't translate well. In Spain, if you should say "Dar una torta," which literally means “to give a cake.” It doesn't mean that you are being generous, it means o slap someone like a clown would hit someone with a pie in the face. Now how can you translate that? You can't. But I think we have some flowery phrases that don't translate well too. You just have to understand the culture. I particularly love literary references. Like finding a "secret garden" which brings all sorts of visions, or falling down a rabbit hole (Alice) or opening a wardrobe to a winter day (Narnia). You can see I like children's book references.

I love these mailbags. It opens my mind to different possibilities.



Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 05, 2020:

Thanks, Linda, and you are most welcome. This Mailbag wouldn't last long without questions, so thanks for adding to our longevity.

Have a superb week, my friend.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 05, 2020:

You guys need a break, Eric, so that's my wish for you today. As for the fog between your ears, I'm afraid I won't be much help, other than to commiserate with you from personal experience.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 05, 2020:

The sun is shining as I type this, Rosina, so my smile is broad. Happy Monday to you!

Linda Lum from Washington State, USA on October 05, 2020:

Bill, thank you for answering my question. You're helping not only me, but the readers who have to put up with my nonsensical writing. I too enjoy the fog--it seems to muffle the noise of the world, much like that first blanket of snow. I hope you have a wonderful week.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on October 05, 2020:

I wish that fog was down here. Oh well there is enough fog between my ears to suffice.

Fascinating mailbag. That concept of changing genres is really helpful.

Rosina S Khan on October 05, 2020:

Good Mailbag, Bill. Glad to see you in a singing mood now that the fog has lifted. Happy Monday to you.

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