Skip to main content

The Writer's Mailbag: Installment #346

About My Mother

Someone mentioned, last week, in a comment on one of my articles, that it was nice to see me talk a bit about my mother. She noted, correctly, that I often write about my father’s influence upon me, but rarely mention my mother.

I truly don’t know why that is. I’m sure there is some psychological reason why my father was a bigger influence on me than my mother, but I don’t know what that would be. It certainly isn’t because I don’t have fond memories of my mother, because I do. She was love personified. She taught me how to love unconditionally. She supported me, without question, during my early problems with alcoholism, long after the death of my father. She easily spent more time with me, when I was a young child, than my father did. She read to me, she hugged me constantly, she nursed my wounds, and she tucked me in at night. She read stories to me, she always told me how proud she was of me, and how much she loved me.

Did she have issues? You bet she did, but I feel safe in saying we all do. She was as good a mother as a boy could hope to have, and I loved her until her death in 2003. She is still with me today.

So there you go!

Let’s do this mail thing.

The Mail Room

The Mail Room

Excerpt Response

From Sha: “Bill, I love the excerpt you posted here. Is this going to be another memoir?”

Sha, the working title of that “future novel” is “A Time and a Place,” and no, it is not a memoir, more like a novel based on fact. It takes place in the early 60’s, a relatively peaceful time when innocence still existed, and it shows that “innocence” dissolve as a series of crimes occur in a Tacoma neighborhood. It’s based on the actual disappearance of a young girl, Ann Marie Burr, in Tacoma back in 1961, and how many believe she was the very first victim of serial killer Ted Bundy.

Anyway, I wrote that introduction two years ago, but I keep getting sidetracked with other projects, and it just continues to sit, waiting for me to bring it back to life.

A very loving family, my mother front left.

A very loving family, my mother front left.


From Denise: “I have a question for you. Do you dedicate each book you publish to a different person/persons? Do you do a dedication for each book? Do you usually tell the person/persons you are dedicating a book to? Is there a rule about how to word dedications? I've been just making it up as I go and hoping I'm doing the right thing.”

Denise, thanks for the question, a first for this series.

I follow no rules regarding dedications. I try to dedicate each book to a different person, but it’s not something I’ve paid a lot of attention to. It’s entirely possible I’ve overlapped with a person or two.

Is there a rule regarding dedications? No, not really. There are suggestions on what to include in a dedication, but nothing carved in stone. It’s a nice way to give kudos to people who were instrumental in your life. Readers may or may not skip over a dedication page, and that’s fine. It really is all about you, the author, and a heartfelt acknowledgement of people who are important to you.

I couldn’t find any rule about it. The dedication can be a simple sentence, or it can be longer than that, explaining why that person, or persons, are important to you. It is entirely up to you, the writer.

Seeking Unique

From Priscilla: “Is it possible to write something truly unique, with so many writers out there writing? Sometimes I think what I write is just a constant regurgitation of stuff which came before me, and I wonder why anyone would want to read it.”

Oh boy!

A misquoted statement of Ralph Waldo Emerson is “build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door.” I think all writers, at one time or another, wishes they could “build a better mousetrap” with their writing. I’ve also heard it said that there are no new themes in literature; there are the seven basic themes of fiction and that’s it, true in 1700 and true today.

If you seek uniqueness, you will not find it in the basic theme of your stories or books; you’ll only find it in the way you write the book. The same is true for fiction and nonfiction. I would venture to guess there are thousands of food writers. There are thousands of DIY writers. There are tens-of-thousands of novelists. Find a new way to build upon the standard themes, and you will have found a way to be unique.

Scroll to Continue

Does that mean you’ll be successful? Will you go viral? Now we’re talking about a combination of luck, talent, and marketing, and that is fodder for another time.

The path to going viral, or being a famous writer, can be a long, rocky path.

The path to going viral, or being a famous writer, can be a long, rocky path.

Connecting Emotions to the Story

From Brandi: “I have read a few of your stories and actually cried reading them. How do you do that? How do you infuse so much emotion into a story?”

This is a great question, Brandi, and thank you for the kind words about my writing. For me, it comes down to three things: word choice, making sure my readers can identify with my characters, and using my past emotional moments to fuel my writing.

Word choice can be something as simple as avoiding cliches but finding a new way to say what you are trying to say. Saying something like “a tear flowed down her cheek” definitely describes sadness, but perhaps there is a better way to say it which makes the reader feel the sadness deeply.

Identify with characters – the more real I can make my characters, the better the chances my readers will identify with them and feel what they are feeling in the novel.

My past – we have all experienced sadness. We have all experienced loss or great elation. What did it feel like when we felt those things? Dig deep on this. Get down into your gut and heart, and describe those emotions. If you do that, your readers will feel them as well.

All of these things take time, take practice, and take a conscious effort to accomplish. The Craft of Writing takes hard work.

To all mothers

Back to Mom

I was a pretty sickly kid. Missed a lot of school early on, so much so that my parents thought about holding me back a grade in school. What I remember most about those early years is my mom always being there, holding my hand, wiping my brow with a cool cloth, feeding me chicken noodle soup, and telling me she loved me and that everything would be all right.

If I could bottle up my mother’s love, I would send it to each and every one of you reading this now, so that you could experience unconditional love.

It was special!

Thanks for stopping by the Mail Room. You can find us here every Monday, rain or shine, opening the mail and discussing the Artistry of Writing. If you have a question, drop it into the comments below, or email it to me at

Have a great week and remember, please, do all things with love.

2021 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”


Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on February 15, 2021:

That is very kind of you, Devika! Thank you very much for the very nice words.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on February 13, 2021:

Bill your questions and answers often stay in my mind for days on and that is what I call great work from an experienced writer.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on February 03, 2021:

She was a live-wire, Sha, that's for sure, especially when she was younger. She knew how to make people happy for sure.

Thank you!

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on February 02, 2021:

Bill, I can see the love in your mother's face. She looks peaceful and happy. I'll bet every room lit up when she entered!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on February 02, 2021:

Sheez, Zulma, you sure want a lot. lol I can't get that group of characters out of my head. I'm already working on the next Shadow book in my head, even though I'm working on a different book. Striker will not be silenced for long.

Thanks for the question. Stay tuned for the answer, and have a fantastic week.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on February 02, 2021:

She was for sure, Linda! She taught me all about unconditional love.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on February 02, 2021:

I agree with you, Flourish. Sometimes I think I received much more than my share of parental love, while others were shortchanged.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on February 02, 2021:

I appreciate that, DW! Thank you sir!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on February 02, 2021:

It really is fascinating how things turn out for us, Heidi. A parent's influence cannot be ignored, even though we may want to from time to time. :) I wish they were still around so I could thank them properly.

Happy Tuesday and Happy February, my friend.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on February 02, 2021:

Alyssa, the groundhog doesn't have much influence on us in Olympia. It's going to rain until June here. That's just the way it is in God's Country. lol

Have a brilliant Tuesday, my friend.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on February 02, 2021:

Thank you Denise! No, my mother meant a great deal to me. In truth, she taught me about love. My dad, he taught me how to be a man and stand up for what I believe in. Both were very instrumental in me becoming who I am.

Blessings always, my friend!


Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on February 02, 2021:

Now that, Marlene, would be a best-selling retail item. I know a few people who would need about ten sprays. lol

Thank you for your kind words. I truly do appreciate them.

Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon from United Kingdom on February 02, 2021:

Hello, Bill.

You spoke of identifying with your characters in order to make them more real and relatable. With regards to your 'Shadow' series, how did you go about creating your characters? Did you know people like them? Are they aspects of your own personality and those of others? Or are they amalgams?

Striker, in particular, is a fascinating character. At first glance, he seems a sociopath. But if you listen to what seem like throwaway lines, you see find he really is quite nuanced. He wasn't born a killer, he was made into one. There are times I feel he would like to leave that all behind and yet seems unable to. Did you know someone like this or is his character bits and pieces of other people you've encountered. I really want to know more of his backstory.

Have a lovely day, Bill, and look after that heel.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on February 01, 2021:

The questions and answers were interesting, as always. I enjoyed learning more about your mother. She sounds like a wonderful influence in your life.

FlourishAnyway from USA on February 01, 2021:

Thank you for sharing more about your mother. I wish you could bottle up and dispense the love and kindness people need. Much love to Audrey and anyone else who didn't get what they needed from their parents.

DW Davis from Eastern NC on February 01, 2021:

Great mailbag this week. I gleaned a lot from your replies to several of the questions.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on February 01, 2021:

Audrey, I love you. It's high time that secret came out of the damned closet, don't you think? And look at how remarkable you are despite your mother's illness....very cool, my friend! Very cool indeed! Sing on, sweet lady!

Heidi Thorne from Chicago Area on February 01, 2021:

First Monday in February and I'm in the Mailbag on Monday? Month is off to a great start.

Re: Seeking Unique. There is nothing new under the sun.

Re: Mom vs. Dad. Even though it sounds like you had two wonderful parents, it's clear that dad was the one for you. Same at my house. Both parents cared for me, though in different ways. But dad was the one for me, even though he was less involved in the day-to-day care. I wasn't a "daddy's girl" or "princess" for sure. Wasn't that kind of relationship. But I appreciated his talent and smarts. Interesting how things work out, right?

Well, gotta get this month in gear. Have a great week!

Alyssa from Ohio on February 01, 2021:

Another terrific mailbag this week!

Your memories and the emotions tied to your mother are beautiful. Sounds like she was a remarkable lady! I feel a similar pull to my grandparents. My grandfather made a significant impact on my life and although my grandmother did too, I often speak more of his influence.

I hope you are having a wonderful week! Will you be tuning in to see what the groundhog has to say tomorrow?

Denise McGill from Fresno CA on February 01, 2021:

I remember you mentioned your mother in your autobiography and it was a very special relationship. I always got the idea that you didn't mention your mother so much not because she didn't mean much but that she meant so very much, it was too personal and special to be shared. It's fathers we don't mention much and the fact that you do makes him all the more special and unique in the father universe. Thanks for answering my question. I appreciate your insights and your research.



Marlene Bertrand from USA on February 01, 2021:

Wouldn't it be nice to be able to bottle up love and dispense it? We could walk around with a spray bottle in our pocket and pull it out to spray people who need it. Some people might need a double dose and so we spray them twice.

But, back to writing, I do agree with Brandi. You write in a way that brings out deep emotions. When I sit down to read one of your novels, I prepare myself to be ready to experience the ride of emotions that are sure to spring up from time to time.

Audrey Hunt from Pahrump NV on February 01, 2021:

Your mother was a nurturing, loving woman. Mine was not. The love and nurturing I so desperately craved came from my two best friends: my piano and my singing voice. There - I've said it. Mama couldn't help it. She was mentally ill, and in those days, her only recourse was to stuff down Codeine and Milltown to cope with her demons.

Wow. I've kept this secret for over 70 years! Now, I feel guilty, but there it is.

The Writer's Mailbag is a treasure trove of knowledge, not only for we writers but for everyone. How blessed we are to be connected to a man (and what a man he is) who willingly and lovingly educates his hub page family.

Thank you, my friend and mentor.



Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on February 01, 2021:

We would be multi-millionaires, Peggy, if we could bottle that and sell it for $9.95 a bottle. :)

Unconditional love..that says it all, my friend.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on February 01, 2021:

Maybe that's the reason, Ann! In so many ways, Dad and I were very much alike..or maybe I molded myself to be like him? I'm not sure, but Mom was definitely instrumental in the way I matured. She is the reason I can show my emotions, and for that I thank her.

Happy February, my friend!


Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on February 01, 2021:

Oh Eric, don't wish for that. Being a normie sounds so damned boring to me. :) I wouldn't want you any other way, buddy.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on February 01, 2021:

You are a lucky man, Bill! Enjoy your mother and in-laws while you can, my friend, and good luck with that storm on the east coast.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on February 01, 2021:

I'm happy to hear that, Rosina! Thank you so much for your kindness.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on February 01, 2021:

That is very kind of you, Gyanendra, and it makes me happy to read your kind words. Thank you very much, my friend.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on February 01, 2021:

Thanks for the question, Mary. I'll have an answer for you next Monday. Until then, have a wonderful week.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on February 01, 2021:

I'm sorry to hear you are tired, Linda. Rest up and take care, my friend.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on February 01, 2021:

Thank you, Ravi, and welcome to HubPages! I appreciate you taking the time to comment.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on February 01, 2021:

Thank you Pamela! HP has made it difficult on us all to comment. I may miss some of yours and not even know it, but the intention and desire are always there.

Happy February to you, Pamela!

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on February 01, 2021:

Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could bottle up our mother's love and share it with the rest of the world! We would be floating in a sea of love! Thanks for sharing a bit about your mother with us. Mine was the epitome of unconditional love.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on February 01, 2021:

Thanks so much, Chitrangada Sharan! I was a lucky child to have two loving parents. I wish everyone could say that.

Happy February to you!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on February 01, 2021:

I'm glad to hear that, John! I like that so many people look forward to the Monday Mailbag. Thank you sir!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on February 01, 2021:

Thank you Dora! It's exhausting, comparing ourselves with others and trying to be like them. I have found it much easier to be myself, for better or for worse. :)

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on February 01, 2021:

Thank you Brenda! A mother's's hard to beat if you've experienced it. For those who have not, I feel terribly sad. Mine helped to mold me into the man I am today.

Best wishes to you this February, my friend.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on February 01, 2021:

We were lucky, Ruby, to have great mothers. I think my whole life is a study in good luck.

Happy February, my friend!

Ann Carr from SW England on February 01, 2021:

I had a Mum like that too, bill. She was quiet and fun at the same time, but unconditional in her treatment of me and love for me. Like you, I tend to reference my father more, maybe because we were more on the same wavelength if you know what I mean, but my Mum was just as important in different ways. Complementary parents, I guess!

This is a great mailbag, as always. I especially love the questions about emotion and how to be unique. Both are difficult to achieve and that, as you say, is why we must continue to strive for perfection!

Have a great week, bill!


Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on February 01, 2021:

I love Mondays. I get my "Best of Bill". I have even read reruns. My mom was awesome. Although not around much in my teens -- which for a rowdy teenager that is a good thing. Heck she emancipated me at 17. What a gift. It was sink or swim, and somehow she knew that is what I needed.

A bit strange how I make folks cry. A bit strange that I carry emotions and definitely strange that I write uniquely. I kind of wish sometimes I was more of a normie.

Bill De Giulio from Massachusetts on February 01, 2021:

It’s wonderful that you have such good memories of your mother, I’m sure she was an amazing woman. I still have my mother with us but have only seen her once since the start of the pandemic, which is unfortunate. Both my in-laws are still alive and in their mid-nineties, amazing. Great mailbag, have a wonderful week.

Rosina S Khan on February 01, 2021:

This was a good mailbag not only because the wonderful questions and answers educated me but also because you shared more about your mother, which I truly enjoyed. Happy Monday to you, Bill.

gyanendra mocktan from Kathmandu,Nepal on February 01, 2021:

Bill, I have no words to describe how wondrous you are in words to tell a story in subtle way.

In fact, I get inspired each time read your article! I get new energy in me. I know I have to got to go long long way.

Thank you.

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on February 01, 2021:

Hi Bill. I love your piece about your Mom. It reminded me of my own Mother who would do the same thing. Thanks, too, for the tip on how to add emotion to your characters. I am trying to understand how you weave a main plot and sub-plots to your novel. Do you plan it beforehand or do they just come toy ou as you write? Maybe you have already answered this before but it escaped me.

Linda Lum from Washington State, USA on February 01, 2021:

Bill, what a sweet way to begin the week. I'm happy for you that you have such fond memories of both of your parents. That's a special gift.

I'm tired, my friend, so will keep this short. Have a good week and thank you for all that you do.

Ravi Rajan from Mumbai on February 01, 2021:

Great article Bill. Very beautifully put and evokes a lot of emotions.

Some good thoughts to ponder on a Monday I must say!!!



Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on February 01, 2021:

I enjoyed reading about your mother also. She sounds very much like mine, and sure we all have issues but the bottom line is she was there for you.

The questions for the mailbag were interesting, as usual. I always look forward to the Monday morning mailbag. For some reason when you write a second article during the week it is never listed in my feed. I have too many doctor appts., but that is why I often can't comment. It is frustrating!

Be assured that I always read your intresting articles, my friend. You do have a wonderful way of getting the emotions into your s books. They are always good.

Thanks for sharing again! Have a great week!

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on February 01, 2021:

Happy Monday Bill!

I loved reading about your mother, and she seems so loving and affectionate to me, like every other mother.

Great questions and answers in this mailbag too, and as always I enjoyed and gained from this wonderful session.

Hope you have a blessed day and a wonderful week.

John Hansen from Gondwana Land on February 01, 2021:

Thanks you for sharing more about your mother as well as answering the other questions, Bill. The mailbag is always a delightful way to begin the week.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on February 01, 2021:

Happy Monday, Bill. I'm getting the hang of finding the mailbag. Concerning uniqueness, every writer has a unique voice, a unique way of saying what so many have said before. Let's just be who we are, and not bother about how we compare with others. I like your answer.

BRENDA ARLEDGE from Washington Court House on February 01, 2021:


The words you write about your Mother's unconditional love is touching. You were fortunate to have a mom who showed so much compassion.

I, too remember those fond moments of my mother & I am blessed to still have her with me to reach out to whenever I want too.

Learning to write by showing not telling does seem to take a bit of practice. I am still practicing.

But it does help the reader to really feel the emotions.

I am certain you will eventually get back to your story about the missing girl in Tacamo. It will probably be one of your best works.

Take care & have a great week.

Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on February 01, 2021:

Bill, I enjoyed reading about your mother. I had a wonderful mother too, yes she had issues too, but she loved and cared for her children. Have a great week!

Related Articles