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The Writer's Mailbag: Installment #368

The Heat Is Gone for Now

Yes, it was hot in Western Washington. How hot? Forty degrees above normal hot. Areas around us hit 118 degrees F. In Olympia, where I live, it was 110F. Yes, I know, that is the norm in states like Texas and Arizona, and they are often fond of telling us that, but that’s really not the point. It’s like comparing apples and oranges. The only way for a Texan to understand is if, one day in the future, they had temps forty degrees above their normal, say 140F. Then they might come to grips with how difficult it was for residents of this area.

Toss in the fact that approximately 2/3s of our residents don’t have air-conditioning because, well, we never need it, and you begin to understand why more than 100 people died from the heat.

It was tough for many. We were lucky, my wife and I. A friend of ours loaned us the use of a spare air-conditioner he had, so we had no problems. We just hunkered down for three days, in air-conditioned comfort, until the worst of the heat passed on. But many were not so lucky, and I truly do feel for them.

Is this the new norm? Was that a precursor to more summers of hotter weather? I’ll let someone in the need for a debate discuss climate change and global warming. Me, I’m convinced!

Time for the mail!

The Mail Room

The Mail Room


From Liz: “Do you think comments about magazines could also apply to newspapers? I used to appreciate picking up free newspapers on hotel stays. Pre-COVID, the availability of print newspapers in hotels was declining. Now, due to COVID, they have gone. I don't see the newspapers returning anytime soon, if at all.”

Liz, I hate to say this, but I think newspapers are experiencing their death rattle, and the end is eminent, and I hate to say that because I love sitting down and thumbing through the newspaper. It’s a fond memory from long ago, nostalgic in nature, and I really hate to see them disappear.

But they are disappearing, and it really just seems like a matter of time before they go the way of the dinosaur. I have a couple friends who are beat reporters for newspapers, and they are updating their resumes and looking for other work elsewhere. They see the proverbial writing on the wall.

The extent of my activity during the heatwave

The extent of my activity during the heatwave


From Pamela: “I have a question: do you use an outline for your books?”

I don’t, Pamela, but I should. It would make my life much easier when I’m working on a novel. Much easier!

But I don’t!

The problem for me is that I’m an instinctual writer. I follow my muse, but I never know where my muse is going to take me. I truly have no idea where the book is going to when I start. I start with an opening chapter, and then I wait for the muse to take me on the journey. If that all sounds mystical, well, so be it. The last novel I wrote, I didn’t know what the ending would be until I was halfway through the book.

I don’t recommend my approach to everyone. It’s a bit of chaos, you know? For a writer who loves structure and planning, my approach would be unnerving. But it works for me, and that’s the message I want everyone to take from this discussion. Do what works for you. Take the approach you are most comfortable with. You are unique. There is no other writer out there who is like you. So do what you have to do to be comfortable in your own writing skin.

My apologies to Sister Mary Catherine, who taught me outlining in the 5th Grade. Sister, I hated outlines then and I hate them still today.

More on Newspapers

From Mr. Happy: “There was a report from Al-jazeera about "robot journalists", about a week ago. I cannot find the same report but what do You think about robot journalism?

“Here is a short link:

“I do not read newspapers but I am subscribed to a local newspaper that gets delivered weekly. Why would I subscribe to a newspaper if I do not read the newspaper? Because I want to support investigative journalism. Only local newspapers still do investigative journalism and I want to keep that alive as much as possible. What do You think?”

For those not aware of robot journalism, I found this on ONA Ethics online:

Scroll to Continue

Although automated processes have been used in newsrooms for decades, modern-day automated journalism usually involves the use of computer algorithms to transform raw data into news stories that look like stories a human might have written.

Typical uses of robot journalism include transforming financial data into stories about stock market movements or company earnings, or using raw statistics from a football game to create a story about the match. As technology develops, robot journalism is likely to move into increasingly challenging areas.

What do I think of it? I hate it! I know it’s illogical to hate an automated system, but some animalistic impulse in my brain just isn’t ready to accept my news written by a computer.

I’ve heard all of the arguments for it, and I don’t give a hoot about any of them. Good to you for supporting your local news. It may be an act similar to spitting on a three-alarm fire, but I still applaud you for doing it. I do the same thing. I spend money on inflated prices for a newspaper simply because they are a part of our past I’m not ready to discard yet, and I think society needs good journalists doing important and unbiased reporting.

By the way, there is more and more of this on YouTube and on television. Instead of paying an announcer to do the voice over, a computer is doing it. I hate that as well and I turn it off immediately.

Yes, I’m old and yes, I’m stubbornly holding on to the old ways as long as possible.

Resurrecting Tobias

From Brenda: “My mother loved your book and style of writing. Not sure if any of your other books would interest her, but I might give it a try. She wanted to know if any of the book was portrayed from real life.”

Thank you, Brenda, and thanks to your mother for reading “Resurrecting Tobias.” I happen to love that book and I happen to be very proud of it.

How much of it is real life? I would estimate maybe 50% is fiction and 50% of it is based on my life. Have you seen the movie “Mr. Holland’s Opus?” Welcome to “Resurrecting Tobias,” my opus, probably my best work as a novelist.

I’m glad she liked it. That brought a smile to my face, so thank you!

No outlines to be found

No outlines to be found

The Heat Again

I really do hope we don’t experience that kind of extreme again, but I suspect we will. The climate where we live is changing. That’s not some political battle cry designed to annoy people. I’m not trying to sell global warming to anyone, or shout down those who believe in the importance of fossil fuels. I’m simply saying our climate has drastically changed in the Pacific Northwest during my lifetime. You can do with that what you want, but it’s a fact which cannot be denied.

I hope this finds you all well. Stay safe out there. COVID has not disappeared and, if you are not vaccinated, best wishes to you. And to our friend Misbah, who is recovering from COVID, get well soon.

If you have a question for the Mailbag, include it in the comment below, or email it to me at Remember, the only way the Mailbag continues is if you ask questions. Otherwise, it will just go the way of the daily newspaper.

2021 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”


Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on July 11, 2021:

Nithya, thank you! It is amazing to me there are still people who do not believe global warming is real, but it takes all kinds to make up this world of ours. Thank you for your thoughts.

Nithya Venkat from Dubai on July 09, 2021:

An interesting mailbag, Bill. I still hope to go back to the newspaper and a hot cup of morning coffee after the pandemic. Not having an outline for a story can lead to exciting twists and turns in the story. I love that approach. Robotic journalism is something new to me, and I hope it does not become mainstream. So happy you had air conditioning to keep you all cool during the summer heat. Global warming is a reality taking over our planet; it is happening even though some people want to turn a blind eye.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on July 08, 2021:

Bill, we have to get you retired, so you can enjoy the spare time and do more traveling. I hope that time comes soon for you, my friend.

Happy July to you and yours!

Bill De Giulio from Massachusetts on July 07, 2021:

As a kid my parents house did not have AC and we suffered during heat waves. Seems like today I could not live without it. Our last visit to Washington in 2017 was in the 90’s almost every day and there was smoke from fires in Canada, not how I remember it in the 90s.

I do miss reading the Sunday paper, now I open my iPad and read the news. Have a nice week, Bill.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on July 07, 2021:

Denise, some of my best memories are listening to the radio as a teen. I felt like I knew the DJ's personally, loved their shows, loved the information they presented. Computers have their use, but in that case, I think it's a shame what happened to the radio industry.

Thanks for sharing and blessings always


Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on July 07, 2021:

MG, I can't imagine living in Singapore without AC. That would be unbearable, from what I know of Singapore weather. Be well, my friend.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on July 07, 2021:

Thank you Devika! My goodness, this climate of ours, it is certainly volatile, isn't it? I hope this finds you well and happy.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on July 07, 2021:

Vidya, I can't think of a better way to start a day than a cup of tea and a newspaper. And I've never read an ebook in this lifetime. :) Thank you my friend!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on July 07, 2021:

Thanks for the question, Manatita! Frustrations? How much time do you have for my answer? lol More on Monday, my friend.

Denise McGill from Fresno CA on July 07, 2021:

I enjoyed the discussion on newspapers and journalism. It reminded me of the demise of radio. Well, the radio will go on but the human DJ has heard his death knell. My husband was working as a DJ announcer when I met him in the 80s. He has one of those smooth "could melt butter" voices. Because he liked my voice so much he had me voicing some public service announcements and the introductions for the children's Saturday programming, ("Good morning, kids. It's time for Adventures in Odyssey") so I know some of the workings of the radio station. Back then you recorded your voice on large reels and a timer would click them on at the right time so you could be home having dinner while playing your voice on the air. Around the late 80s and early 90s things started to be computerized. Not just the timer but also the voice recordings. I couldn't see how a computer could record voices but it did a good job, maybe even better than magnetic tape. Eventually, these computers meant that there was no need for a programmer or announcer. When my husband stopped working there they should have taken his voice out of the rotation, but even today, 25 years later, I can tune into that station and hear my husband's voice announce the time or the call letters. Sure, we could sue the station but why bother. I'd rather hear his voice than some computerized thing they may replace him with. Today, there is no one at that station but the computer and occasionally the engineer who maintains the machinery. Like journalism, radio announcers are going the way of the dinosaur and it's sad.



MG Singh emge from Singapore on July 06, 2021:

Bill, just read your weekly post. Interesting as usual Good an AC helps, here in Singapore you need an AC the year-round as there is no winter, that has its plus and minus. Its good to learn your pen is 'active'

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on July 06, 2021:

Hi Bill Everything in life has changed us. Climate change has shown us unusual weather in many places. Recently there was a Tornado in Czechoslovakia, heatwave in Croatia and the many earthquakes we have had in surrounding regions. I haven't held news paper in years. Your mailbag is most interesting and I look forward to reading your work

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on July 06, 2021:

Thank you Rozlin! I appreciate it.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on July 06, 2021:

It's not fun, Flourish, not having AC, but before the last couple of years, it really hasn't been necessary here. I think that has changed and will continue to get worse here. Time to make an investment.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on July 06, 2021:

You have me laughing, Brenda. I'm not much for planning or lists or any of that, for the same reason. I just want to do it. If I make a mistake, I'll correct it later, but right now, I just want the job completed. lol

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on July 06, 2021:

I understood it, Mr. Happy!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on July 06, 2021:

Mr. Happy, I think for sure we will invest in some AC this winter, once the prices drop, so we will be ready for next summer. I suspect we have not seen the end of record temperatures in this area. It is now the new norm, I'm afraid.

I hope you enjoyed your break, Good luck with that unpacking.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on July 06, 2021:

Misbah, I am so happy to hear you are feeling better. Don't rush that recovery of yours. Take it easy and heal properly. You have a lifetime ahead of you, my friend, and I want you around for many, many years.

Blessings always

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on July 06, 2021:

Mary, I just heard on the news last night, 700 have died in British Columbia. My goodness, that is so many! So sad!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on July 06, 2021:

Thank you EK! I had to laugh. Not many people write to me and begin by telling me I am old. lol

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on July 06, 2021:

Dora, when will it ever end, eh? I'm sorry to hear about the lockdown. Hopefully things will return to normal for you soon. Thank you always!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on July 06, 2021:

Happy Tuesday, Alyssa! I hope this finds you well.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on July 06, 2021:

I'm with you all the way, Mary. Only one change I would make to your statement: you are not old. You are rocking middle age. :)

Happy Tuesday to you!

Rozlin from UAE on July 06, 2021:

I enjoyed reading your mailbag, Mr. Bill. Thanks for sharing this wonderful mailbag.

VIDYA D SAGAR on July 06, 2021:

Another interesting mailbag Bill. The videos are information and useful. I was not aware of Robotic journalism. Thank God we still get newspapers here. We still get to read some excellent articles by very good writers in the newspapers and there are quite a few of my favorites and I never miss reading them. My day begins with the newspaper in one hand and a cup of tea in the other. And I still prefer reading an actual book than an eBook. Thanks for sharing.

manatita44 from london on July 06, 2021:

My empathies! Dealing with the heat is no joke for many!

I love listening to Stephen King. You obviously do as well. An Amazing writer! Here's my question: How do you feel when nature intervenes, and, instead of writing, you just have to 'take it easy.' Any frustrations?

FlourishAnyway from USA on July 06, 2021:

I cannot imagine life without AC. Whew! When I was a kid in SC, my father was too cheap to turn on the AC because our house was so large so we suffered through the brutal summer heat. It was always really hard to sleep.

BRENDA ARLEDGE from Washington Court House on July 05, 2021:


Wonderful mailbag.

It sounds like it might be time to invest in a couple of air conditioners, so you'll be ready the next time.

I'm glad someone had one for you to use.

I'm sitting here today with the heat in the 90's wishing I had put my second air conditioner in the window, but having one is better than none.

It's just hard to get that cool air through the rest of the house.

In any case, I think we are getting your heatwave.

I will look through your other books. Mom does like other kinds, maybe I can let her read the intro and see if she sees anything else that interest her.

I'm not so great with outlines either.

It's kinda like those people who draw out a plan to do anything..they have to have it all written down step by step..even measurements before starting the task at hand.

By the time their done with that planning, I can be done with the task.

Everything from moving furniture to building something.

Take care & stay cool.

Mr. Happy from Toronto, Canada on July 05, 2021:

lol meant to say "we're now living in the future" ...

Mr. Happy from Toronto, Canada on July 05, 2021:

"It may be an act similar to spitting on a three-alarm fire" - Haha!! That was gold! I'm a keep doin' it anyway. Who knows what will happen when everything is changing so fast these days.

Regarding the weather, it's all crazy. It's been extremely hot here and lots of thunderstorms. I just came back from camping and at one point I felt like I was having my own Woodstock, in terms of sliding in the mud lol As I was approaching the city from the North, I could see a yellowish dome surrounding it: smog/heat/humidity. Yuck. I'm going back to the forest soon. The city isn't nice these days. If You do not have air conditioning on, it unlivable.

Better invest in A/C over there too. I know in British Columbia (above You), people also do not have A/C for the most part because it wasn't usually needed but we're not living in the past anymore. We're not living in the future.

Anyway, I'm gonna go and finish unpacking. I was on a break lol


Misbah Sheikh from — This Existence Is Only an Illusion on July 05, 2021:

Happy Monday, Mr. Bill. I love the way you made a comparison between apple and orange. LOL! I smiled when you said that. It's 81°F here but still we can't sleep without putting on an AC. I can understand how it feels when the temperature is 110°F. The weather here is very annoying with no rain. I like all the questions and your responses to them. I especially like Pamela's question. My Thank you to you as always for sharing wisdom. But this mailbag is even more special to me because I saw my name in there. Thank you for remembering me and caring so much. Sir, I am really grateful. I am doing very well now. Love and prayers of my family and friends are my shield and the virus didn't affect me as hard as it could have. Thank you for being so kind and for remembering me in your thoughts and prayers.

God Bless you and your family. Amen!

Sending lots of Blessings your way

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on July 05, 2021:

People are dying in Canada because of the heatwave. Yes, good for us who have refuge in air-conditioned places. I hope this will not be a constant. I won't like robot journalism either. I have to check this out before making that pronouncement.

EK Jadoon from Abbottabad Pakistan on July 05, 2021:

You are old and it's said that "old is gold". I always love to read mailbag. I feel sorry for the people who suffered in this heat wave. Thanks for sharing and stay safe and healthy...

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on July 05, 2021:

Bill, my country is on 24-hour lock down with no clue as to when it will lift. I am using my shut-in status to finish up a project I've been working on, and the end is in insight. All this to say, that I appreciate all the writing advice you give right now. Thanks, Buddy.

Alyssa from Ohio on July 05, 2021:

Happy Monday Bill! I'm glad to hear the weather is cooling down for you :)

Mary Wickison from USA on July 05, 2021:

Hi Bill,

I didn't know that AI was being used for journalism. That explains a lot.

I'm not too fond of those automated voices and click off when I hear them.

I think the rapid rate of technological change is difficult for many of us, older adults, to accept. I, for one, want an easy life without unnecessary fluff.

Have a great week.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on July 05, 2021:

Thank you Peggy! Yes, the fire season has already started up there. It's going to be a long season for those brave men and women who fight the blazes.

I will never understand reading a newspaper online but then, let's face it, I'm old and stuck in my old ways.

Toby says thank you, Peggy! We appreciate your kind words.

Have a great week and yes, Bev is on the mend.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on July 05, 2021:

You are very kind about Tobias, John. Thank you very much. As for the weather, sheez, I don't know how anyone can deny the change happening but then I never understood how Trump got elected, so there you go.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on July 05, 2021:

Thank you Vanita! It's always nice to hear from you. I hope this finds you well and healthy. Please, have a fabulous week ahead.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on July 05, 2021:

Thank you Chitrangada Sharan! It's always nice to hear from you. The heat in India would kill me, my friend. I love that you still read the morning newspaper. What a lovely habit that is.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on July 05, 2021:

It is fun, isn't it, Mel? I love the uncertainty of just winging a book. I love to see which direction I'll go while I'm writing.

Hell just may be knocking on the door. Who would have ever thought we could have temps in the one-teens? It was 100 on the mountain pass at 5000 feet. Unbelievable in the worst possible way.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on July 05, 2021:

Thank you very much, Pamela. I, too, once read the daily newspaper and I, too, just stopped. I wonder why I did that? Sigh! Don't even get me started on climate change and the harm we are all doing to this planet. Hopefully there is still time to change things for the better.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on July 05, 2021:

Happy Monday, Rosina, and thank you for taking the time to comment. Have a wonderful week!

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on July 05, 2021:

That is so sad that 100 people died because of the heatwave up there. We lost a few more when our electric grid failed during the freezing temps this last winter. The fire season this year is bound to be a doozy, unfortunately.

We still subscribe to a daily newspaper. My husband enjoys keeping up with the news that way. I occasionally read sections of it but do not have the time to pore over it as he does. There is something nice about holding something in your hand and turning the pages. I feel the same about holding books in my hand. Speaking of books, your Resurrecting Tobias is still one of my favorites!

Enjoy your week! I hope Bev is feeling better.

John Hansen from Gondwana Land on July 05, 2021:

Bill, the way the climate around the world has been over the last month it must be hard for anyone to deny climate change. We have had snow where it hasn’t snowed in 100 years .. Canada and the USA have had record temperatures up to 40 degrees above normal, Parts of India have had very little rain this Monsoon season etc etc.

Resurrecting Tobias is one of the most prized books on my bookshelves. Good mailbag. Have a great week.

Vanita Thakkar on July 05, 2021:

Great write, Bill and a great read for me.

Troublesome weather - good that the heat wave is gone. Weather changes are indeed occurring .... real concerns.

Good suggestions and motivation on writing. And happy to see great reviews on your novel. I realised I read a novel quite a long time ago, how many years, I am wondering ....

I agree with you on computerised journalism - I also think the human involvement in it should not get replaced by robots.

Thanks for such a wonderful article. Wish you a great day and week ahead.

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on July 05, 2021:

Hello Bill!

Another interesting mailbag, with your helpful tips, to the questions by fellow writers.

Glad to know that the weather is getting better, at your place. We have to use air conditioners, during the summer season, in this part of the world.

Reading the newspaper, with our morning tea, is still a habit, and perhaps will remain.

Thank you for sharing another interesting mailbag. I enjoyed the videos.

Wish you a good week ahead.

Mel Carriere from Snowbound and down in Northern Colorado on July 05, 2021:

Really glad you beat the heat. If Puget Sound can soar to 110, that means hell is knocking on our door. No use blaming anybody, we're all responsible to some degree for turning our lovely planet into Venus.

Well, but let's enjoy it while we can. I agree with you about hating outlines. Life is unpredictable, and if art imitates life, than why should a story be predictable? Some authors use outlining to great effect, but it seems like, for most, slavish adherence to an outline would certainly reflect in the end result. Besides, it's just plain fun to get an idea in your head while writing that takes you in another direction. I'm all about having fun in this game.

I am relieved that you didn't melt or wilt up there, so we can keep chillin' to the mailbag.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on July 05, 2021:

I appreciate you answering my question, Bill. I don't use an outline for articles, but my medical articles are written in similar fashion each time.

For decades I read the newspaper with my morning coffee, but about 3 years ago I just stopped. I think newspapers are going by the wayside. The computer has a wealth of information, and there is also the local news. Life has changed.

I'm glad the horrid heat is gone. I'm sure it was very difficult for many people, and climates have changed over the decades. Cutting down the rain forest is harmful, and we could have a whole list of things causing this change.

I enjoyed the mailbag, Bill, as always. I enjoyed your book as well.

Rosina S Khan on July 05, 2021:

Interesting mailbag. Newspapers getting extinct and robot journalism becoming alive is quite strange and odd. I don't support this idea either. I am glad you could borrow a spare air conditioner from a friend and enjoy good times in the peak heat times. Happy Monday, Bill, and a great start to the week.

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