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The Writer's Mailbag: Installment #353


The luck of the draw, really. Think back, a year ago, we just didn’t know, did we? There were rumblings about a virus circulating, no real panic, no heightened concern, certainly not among us normal folk. It all started so slowly, mainly here, about sixty miles from where I write this, one case, a traveler back from China, fast-forward a week and suddenly there was an outbreak in a nursing home, troubling news but still, no panic.

There was a killer among us and we didn’t know.

How little we knew! It could have been any one of us as we blithely went about our lives those first few weeks, that invisible foe, circulating among us, a stealth bomber so very small, picking and choosing as it traveled about, infecting a mother here, ignoring a child there, randomness pure and simple. And we hear the numbers today, over a half-million in the U.S. alone, fallen soldiers in a war they did not choose, and those of us who have survived the scare say silent prayers for the fallen, and silent prayers of thanks that it wasn’t us, feeling bad in that thought but true nonetheless, thank God it wasn’t me, and you, and you, and . . .

Be grateful!

Let’s move on to the mail for the day! Thanks for joining me. I’m very happy you were able to.

The Mail Room

The Mail Room

Poor Quality Self-Publishing

From Brenda: “I have been tossing around the idea of self-publishing, but when I look at a few books that have been done this way...I am disappointed. Sometimes the work doesn't appear correctly on the page. Is there a way to ensure it looks right before you press that button to publish? I don't want my work to look unprofessional.”

Brenda, I don’t know about the few books you have looked at in the past but yes, there is a way to ensure that your self-published book looks right.

I can only speak for Kindle Direct, formerly Createspace, but you actually have two opportunities to view your work before you publish. There is a viewfinder which allows you to look at your work online, and you can also request a sample copy of your paperback be sent to you. In both instances, if you find problems which require editing, you can go back into the program and edit your work until it meets your standards.

I don’t know what the problem was with the books you looked at. I assume this editing option is available for all self-publishing platforms. Maybe the authors were just a tad lazy, or maybe they missed the mistakes when they proofread. I don’t know. All I know is it is possible to correct mistakes before you publish. I have done it many times.

Editing is very possible with self-publishing once you have downloaded your manuscript

Editing is very possible with self-publishing once you have downloaded your manuscript

Two Colons, One Sentence

From Mr. Happy: “I am curious what your opinion is about using a colon twice in a sentence. Here is the sentence I used in my last piece of writing, in which I used two colons: "It is a very sad thing to see: this violent opposition to the change that is inevitably coming because: where are the Sumerians now?" When I re-read and noticed what I did, I immediately wondered if there is some rule against using a colon twice in a sentence. Not that I give a You know what but I was just curious in terms of classical/formal writing. It did feel a little awkward realizing what I did but I don't really wish to undo it either. I am fine with two colons in what sentence in this case. Haha!”

This is actually a fascinating question. Well, fascinating for a grammar nerd, I guess.

There is actually no grammar rule, that I could find, which specifically states you cannot use two colons in one sentence. It’s not done, however, because it just doesn’t “feel right.” It’s one of those unwritten rules that everyone, or almost everyone, follows.

Actually, in your example above, a colon really isn’t called for at all.

Having said all that, if you want to use two colons, and you can use them correctly, I say go for it! It will raise some grammar nerd eyebrows, but so be it!

Short Story Anthology

From Katie: “I know, in the past, you were fond of writing short stories. Seems like you wrote at least one each week. Now you don’t write them but concentrate, instead, on writing novels. Have you given any thought to publishing an anthology of your short stories, for those of us who would love to read them, but don’t want to take the time to scour your 1,500 articles on HP looking for them?”

Katie, it’s really weird you asked this question. I’ve been thinking of doing exactly that.

Scroll to Continue

It occurred to me, a few days ago, that if I were to die, much of my writing would just languish on the HP site and eventually die on the vine, so to speak. Oh, I have all of my short stories saved on my computer, but there is no guarantee anyone will go to the bother of finding them there, and I doubt seriously if any of my family would take the time to publish those stories in book form.

So, I thought it would be nice if I put together an anthology of those stories.

I have no illusions, or delusions, that it would sell well. It would mainly be to make sure my short stories are “immortalized” and will always be in one place should anyone be interested in reading them.

That’s a long way to go for a short answer: YES! I have thought about it and I probably will do it within the next year. It’s a lot easier to do that than writing a novel, and I can do it in my spare time. Yes, look for it by year’s end, Katie, and thanks for caring about my old stuff.

The Days of Innocence

The Days of Innocence

How Lucky We Are

Oh sure, today we walk around with masks, and we social distance, and if we do that we are relatively safe from the virus, but think about last March. It was a crapshoot for most of us those first few weeks. Remember? We did not know! We did not suspect. The experts thought we would be inconvenienced until summertime at the latest and then we’d get back to normal.

534,000 deaths later, we now know just how lucky we were. The silent killer could have chosen any one of us.

That’s it for this week! Thanks to those who had questions. If you have a question for the Mailbag, include it in the comments below, or email it to me at

Be safe, take the precautions, and remember to be understanding and patient with people. We are all suffering from a bit of PTSD, don’t you think? And a touch of empathy would be wonderful right about now.

2021 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”


Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 31, 2021:

Audrey, thank you! Email me if you run into problems or you have questions.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 31, 2021:

MizB, thanks for taking the time to try and find the Mail. I appreciate it. And thank you for the grammar info. My goodness, you know a great deal more than I do. I don't think I paid close attention to the nuns back then. :)

Sunny and 65 today. Heaven in Washington!

Audrey Hunt from Pahrump NV on March 30, 2021:

Where would I be today without the Mailbag? Where would I be, as a writer, without Bill Holland?

The Writer's Mailbag reminds me of one of my favorite television shows, Jeopardy. I grow with questions put before you and your answers. Thanks for including the video. I'm on my way.

Doris James MizBejabbers from Beautiful South on March 30, 2021:

Bill, as an editor, as far as I know there is no rule that one can’t use a second colon in a sentence, but I can’t think of a use for one. In the sentence in question, the second colon is grammatically incorrect because it follows “because” which is a subordinate conjunction. He just disconnected his connector. If he had followed it with a list, he could have gotten away with it. “…because: 1. Blah blah, 2. Blah blah, and 3. Blah blah.” Even then as an editor I probably would remove it if it appeared in an article before me. I agree with you that it would be best to use a comma in the first instance but there should be no punctuation at all after "because." I can think of only an instance or two when one would use a comma after a conjunction, any conjunction, and that is in formal writing. Sorry, I had to get on my soapbox about this one.

I missed this mailbox last week so I came back to read it and comment. I also read your last one, and can't find it on the feed to leave a comment. I just wanted you to know I still wuv you.

It is cold, wet and gloomy today. I hope you are faring better on the coast. Have a good week, my friend.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 29, 2021:

So true, MG! Let's hope the end is in sight, my friend.

MG Singh emge from Singapore on March 26, 2021:

This is a very thoughtful article Bill. Sometimes one feels all that has happened is a dream but then you pinch yourself and realize it's true.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 26, 2021:

Denise, I tend to agree with you, normal is out the window, never to return. How sad is that?

The grammar police must have had a migraine reading that sentence. lol But I have seen much worse.

Blessings always


Denise McGill from Fresno CA on March 24, 2021:

Oh Bill, I don't think normal will ever be normal again. Everything we do, write, and say from now on will be colored by the background hues of surviving a pandemic. The innocence or talking in someone's face or bumping into strangers will not be happening again. Not in our lifetime anyway.

I agree with everyone else saying the sentence with two colons is just not right. There is no flow and continuity. Perhaps the grammar police have reasons for their madness.

Stay safe and try to enjoy the coming Spring.



Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 24, 2021:

Ouch, Heidi, that hurt!!!!! LOL I need someone like you prodding me. Where is it? Damned if I know, but the microphone is all hooked up, so that's a start, right?

Happy Wednesday, my friend!

Heidi Thorne from Chicago Area on March 23, 2021:

Okay, so it's Tuesday. But I'm here.

Re: Double Trouble Colons. In that example sentence, there shouldn't be colons at all. Two colons is too much. Actually, the whole sentence's punctuation needs to be redone.

Re: Short Story Anthology. Go for it! And where's the Mailbag podcast? Okay, I couldn't resist. I know you're busy. :)

Have a great rest of the week!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 23, 2021:

You are very kind, Zulma! Thank you for the encouragement. I hope all is well with you, my friend. Happy Tuesday to you and your family.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 23, 2021:

Thanks Flourish! I agree with you, they aren't necessary, although I see why he thought they might be.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 23, 2021:

I do too, Linda! It sounds like we are finally getting a handle on all of this; let's hope by summertime things will be under control.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 23, 2021:

Thanks so much, Dora! I know the series you are talking about. Now I have to find it. lol

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 23, 2021:

Thank you Alyssa! Commas are my main problem. I use too many of them. I know it but can't seem to stop myself. lol

Sunny today, back to rain tomorrow. Happy Tuesday, Alyssa!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 23, 2021:

Brenda, I don't have any suggestions right now, but I'll do some research on it. Thanks for the question. I'll have some sort of answer by next Monday.

Enjoy your week!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 23, 2021:

Thank you Manatita. Perhaps you and I should have a race to see who will publish a short story collection first. I suspect you might win that race.

Blessings always, my friend!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 23, 2021:

That, Devika, is how most of us feel. What is normal now? What will be normal? It's all very unsettling and upsetting.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 23, 2021:

Careful for sure, Mary! Stay safe, my friend, and thank you for stopping by.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 23, 2021:

That is too funny, Mary, and I would probably do the same thing. I hate grammatical errors like that. For some reason they drive me nuts!!!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 23, 2021:

Thank you Ann! Now I just have to make the time for that project.


Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 23, 2021:

Linda, I can't even imagine binding a book upside down. What in the world???? How do you make a mistake like that and then SELL it to someone???

Best wishes to you and your family, my friend. Enjoy the sunshine today. Tomorrow is supposed to be ugly.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 23, 2021:

I doubt it too, Bill, but it's a nice thought. I'm glad to hear you got your first shot. We are due for our 2nd in another week. Let's hope for better days ahead, my friend.

Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon from United Kingdom on March 23, 2021:

Hi Bill.

Awesome news that you're going to put all your short stories in one book. Really looking forward to adding that to my collection.

Have a great day.

FlourishAnyway from USA on March 22, 2021:

I’d restructure that sentence so as to avoid using two colons. They actually weren’t necessary anyway. That’s another cup of tea. I’ll stay in my lane.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on March 22, 2021:

Thanks for sharing your experience with self publishing, Bill. The information in your article is useful, as always.

Those of us who haven’t been infected by the coronavirus are lucky, as you say, but the situation isn’t over yet. I hope the problem is solved soon.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on March 22, 2021:

I second the motion requesting your book of short stories. You did a series of political satire, I think, in which the main character was a young girl. I'd love to read those again. Thanks for considering.

Alyssa from Ohio on March 22, 2021:

Gratitude is everything! Whenever I start to feel out of sorts, I try to reign myself in with thoughts of those who have had it a heck of a lot worse. It's a humbling practice for sure. I appreciate the grammar notes. Colons aren't my issue, though. For me it's commas and exclamation points. haha!

Anyway, I hope you are enjoying some spring sunshine up there in Washington. Have an amazing week!

BRENDA ARLEDGE from Washington Court House on March 22, 2021:

Thanks Bill,

I appreciate you addressing my concerns about self publishing.

The one's I have read are actually on Kindle, so my best guess is that the writer was a bit lazy.

There would be giant spaces between lines in a poem or it would be totally disorganized on the page.

Enough that I stop reading their work each time.

I'm glad to hear that you will publish an anthology of your short stories.

That will be exciting to know your words will live on....instead of lost on a computer in cyberspace.

I am having a problem placing my source for pictures in the correct area on hubpages.

I mostly use my mobile phone right maybe I need a different browser.

I use chrome mostly and it will not let me copy & paste into the source area.

I input everything by hand which is time consuming. I could just simply list Pixabay, but I want to give credit where it is due.

Any suggestions?

Have a great week.

manatita44 from london on March 22, 2021:

Hi Bill.

Mr Happy's sentence does not flow well and flow is critical to good writing. I would keep the first colon and put a full stop after 'coming.' I would remove 'because' completely and start a new sentence to continue.

I have forgotten what else I was going to say. That is a current problem we all face by having to move away from the article. Peace.

Oh yes! I would definitely do the short stories! I have considered this myself.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on March 22, 2021:

Hi Bill I don't know what is next for us. Vaccines are out for the hope of a normal way of life. I don't know what is normal anymore. Thank you for an interesting write up.

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on March 22, 2021:

Am happy you are going to put together your short stories. I love reading short stories. The pandemic is still not over. In fact, here in Toronto, it is now in the third wave. Thankfully, I got my first dose last Friday. Still, we need to be careful.

Mary Wickison from USA on March 22, 2021:

I wonder how history will view this past year. I hope governments will learn lessons about the need for better preparedness and cooperation on a global scale.

Regarding the double colon, I wonder if it will affect the reader's attention. I was once stopped dead in my tracks when I came across a double apostrophe in a book. It annoyed me so much, I got out of bed and went on the internet to see if it was grammatically correct. I didn't want to lose sleep over it. LOL

Ann Carr from SW England on March 22, 2021:

I also meant to say that you should publish an anthology of your stories, definitely! I know quite a few people who prefer short stories as they can read a whole one when there isn't much time, or on the train, etc. Looking forward to seeing that.


Linda Lum from Washington State, USA on March 22, 2021:

Bill, I would love a compilation of your short stories (the Oregon trail series was wonderful.) What a year it has been; thankful that we are still here. Mr. Carb and I have both received our shots and our older daughter received her 1st of 2 last Saturday.

As for self-publishing, I have a dear friend who used a service (not Kindle) and they bound the book on the wrong side so all the pages were upside down and backwards!

Bill De Giulio from Massachusetts on March 22, 2021:

Hi Bill. It has been a long and uncertain year. Thankfully the vaccines are here and hopefully within the next few months everyone who wants it will have the opportunity to get it. We just got our first shot last week so we are on our way. Hopefully we learn something from this to prevent a reoccurrence in the future, but I doubt it.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 22, 2021:

Thank you Pamela! Yes, I do think I will publish the short stories in the next year. Not with the intention of selling a bunch of them, but just to keep them all in one place for posterity.

Stay safe and have a wonderful week.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 22, 2021:

Misbah, greetings, and I'm happy to hear you are healthy and safe. Hopefully the vaccines will protect all of us soon, and we can return to some sort of normalcy.

Blessings to you always, my friend!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 22, 2021:

Mr. Happy, as I mentioned in the email, it's not that you can't use the colons; it's that they aren't necessary on that particular sentence.

And if you are confused, join the rest of us. The English language is troublesome at best.

Have a great week, and stay safe!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 22, 2021:

Thank you, Ann, and Happy Monday to you!

Rioting continues here, sporadically. There is just too much anger and fear here. When it will dissipate is anyone's question. I hope people will settle down soon because life just doesn't seem safe right now. I find myself longing for the old days, and it's not good for an old man to live so much in his head. lol

Have a wonderfully safe week, my friend.


Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 22, 2021:

Thank you Peggy! I'm happy you and I can talk of these things and be healthy while we talk. I will hug my wife and dogs, and you stay safe, my friend.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 22, 2021:

Thanks John! I'm so happy that none of my friends or extended family has been taken down by this virus. Just a couple more months and most of us will be vaccinated, and won't that be a wonderful thing?

Stay safe, my friend!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 22, 2021:

I think we are all very grateful, Rosina! Stay safe and have a wonderful week.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 22, 2021:

Happy Monday, Chitrangada Sharan!

Thank you for your thoughts, and Happy Spring to you. By the way, I love your name. It is melodic, like singing song when you say it.

Have a happy week, my friend, and stay safe.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on March 22, 2021:

This is another very interesting mailbag, Bill. I am so glad the vaccines are out there protecting people. I know I feel more confident now.

I think publishing you short stories is a good idea, and it is great that Kindle publishing works so well. Have a wonderful week!

Misbah Sheikh from — This Existence Is Only an Illusion on March 22, 2021:

Happy Monday, Sir

I am grateful to God, we all are safe

I pray, May God Protect everyone of us

I feel very sorry for the ones who lost their lives, and for their families as well

May God gives all of us enough strength to cop with this invisible enemy. Ameen!

Great, helpful and informative questions and answers as always

I like about two colons in one sentence, it’s truly fascinating


Mr. Happy from Toronto, Canada on March 22, 2021:

I didn't know You wrote short stories. Are all those fiction?

And thanks for your take on the colon. I was curious as I had not really seen two colons being used. Now, the part about how they are used we still need discussion (maybe lol).

About the publishing mistakes part, I have seen editing mistakes from some major book publishers so, when I saw one on a featured article on one of these Hub-pages related sites the other day, I was not surprised. Editing doesn't often get the attention needed because "attention" is often hard to come by.

Alrighty, have a fun week ahead - all the best!

Ann Carr from SW England on March 22, 2021:

Great questions and great answers! The publishing one, and video, helped me, so thanks for that.

Also, I agree that the sentence doesn't need a colon at all, or even a semi-colon. I use semi-colons a lot and should probably cut down but basically they're for a linked thought or explanation that doesn't quite lend itself to a separate sentence. That's my take on it anyway. To my mind, the example sentence could simply have a comma instead of the first colon.

I'm eternally thankful that I'm still here, along with my family and my friends. It's still scary, even with vaccines and a slowing of the rate (in some places) but many people seem to think that they're now safe! Der - no! Keep your distance! Last night we had terrible riots in Bristol (escalating from a peaceful demonstration) because those who like to stir up trouble were present. Police vans were torched, with policemen still in them! None of those people should have been there in the first place - or at least they should have been distancing themselves - but to turn into that means there were some really evil people around. It saddens me so much. I'm not in Bristol but it's close enough.

On a lighter note, it is Spring time, it is sunny and there is hope in the air.

I wish you and everyone a peaceful week and that we all keep safe and well.


Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on March 22, 2021:

This virus is ruthless and eventually disrupted most of the world. It is hard to believe that we have now survived (those of us still here) a year of it. We still have a way to go before we can declare victory. Happy Monday to you! Take care, and stay well. Hug your wife and pet those furbabies.

John Hansen from Australia (Gondwana Land) on March 22, 2021:

What a year the last one has been, Bill. Now the vaccines are rolling out hopefully by this time next year life will be almost back to normal and we aren’t all constantly worried about contracting COVID.

Interesting questions, and glad you are thinking of publishing a book of your short stories. Take care.

Rosina S Khan on March 22, 2021:

Great happy mailbag! And yes, the silent killer could take any of us. Glad and grateful we are still surviving and thriving. Happy Monday to you, Bill.

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on March 22, 2021:

Hello Bill. Happy Monday.

I was having the same thoughts today, as expressed in your introductory paragraph. Almost one year has passed—so many people have been adversely affected. But, we are still keeping hope and faith. This too shall paas.

I am sure, Spring is showing signs, in your part of the World.

Good questions and helpful answers, as always.

Thank you and wish you a happy week.

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