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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.

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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.