Skip to main content

The Writer's Mailbag: Installment #377

A Race Against Time

I’m running a race against time and, as you might suspect, there is no way to win that particular contest.

I have this narrow window I’m working with. In late September I’ll have my hip replacement and that, of course, means six weeks afterwards of very little in the way of chores and projects. This leaves me with about three weeks to finish all of the chores and projects I want completed before the Fall and Winter rains begin.

So each day is a scramble.

Mind you, if those chores and projects are not finished before the rains, nothing horrible happens. I just have this notion stuck in my head that these things need to be done now rather than later. It’s a mind game I’m playing with myself, pure and simple.

Any of you ever play mind games with yourself? Probably not, right? I’m probably the only one, right?

Let’s do this mail thing.

The Mail Room

The Mail Room

Hating One of My Characters

From Ravi: “One question Bill, you have been a master in weaving brilliant characters, did you ever genuinely hate any character created by you?”

What a fascinating question, Ravi! I can’t say I have hated any of my characters, but there was one who represented a group of people I despise. I had a Russian woman who ran a sex-trafficking business in one of my Shadow novels, and she is as close to being a character I hated as any I’ve written. I just can’t stomach the thought of sex-trafficking rings in this country, and it sickens me that it is a billion-dollar business. The depravity, and the fact that people get rich from that depravity, well, that’s it for me. If I were a billionaire, and I could donate to my favorite cause, that would be the cause . . . end sex-trafficking and the sexual exploitation of woman.

And don’t even get me started about the “average” citizens who pay money to have sex with children. They should be neutered, end of discussion.

Protecting Our Kids

From Denise: “I have another question for you. This may be a hard one. My husband and I were watching an old episode of Family Affair (do remember that show) where Buffy and Jody have nightmares because Mr French read them some Fairy Tales about trolls, witches, and ogres. Well, I remember hearing those stories as a child and I don't remember having nightmares about them. I had more nightmares about the realities of life (fire and burglars). Do you think fairy tales are dumbed down too much today? I do change the ending of some to keep the more gruesome parts hidden. Is that wrong? Do our young people today have less fortitude than kids used to? Should fairy tales be banned? As someone who does illustrations for fairy tales, I always wonder if they are still relevant.”

Oh my goodness, Denise, you have no idea what you just stirred up. I’m afraid I might upset some people with my opinions on this matter, but so be it.

I’ll start with a story.

I went and saw a movie called “The Tingler,” with some friends, this being back in 1959, me being ten, almost eleven. Scary damned movie, let me tell you, and I remember having nightmares that night after the movie. I woke up the next morning and told my Mom and Dad about the nightmares. My Dad, ever the pragmatist and Mr. No-Nonsense, told me to stop going to horror movies if they bothered me, end of story. He didn’t order me to do so; he simply said that if Step One led to Step Two, it might be a good idea to eliminate Step One in the future. And he added that if I continued to go to those movies, and I had more nightmares, he didn’t want to hear about them. LOL

My summers were a never-ending procession of bandages when I was growing up. Cuts and scrapes, that’s just the way we moved through those early years. We would come home, get patched up, and head back out to play some more. My parents never told me to stop playing so rough. They just said “be careful” and left it at that, and thank the gods they did. They allowed me to investigate life, have fun with life, and not hold back because I was too afraid of the outcomes.

Common sense was highly-valued in our household.

That’s a long-winded way of saying yes, I think we have slowly progressed to the point where children are a bit coddled and over-protected in this country. Listen, I’m not a child psychiatrist. I know nothing about the psyche of a young child, so anything I say is simply my opinion. But if parents protect their children from every possible negative outcome, how are the children ever going to handle adversity when they grow up and their parents are not around? It seems to me and, again, this is just my opinion, that parents can over-protect a child, and that excessive protection actually does more harm than good.

But what the hell do I know? I’m just a bear of very-little brain.

Scroll to Continue
How can we protect our kids from everything?

How can we protect our kids from everything?

Quit While You Are on Top

From Mr. Happy: “I find that often-times, artists have one great piece of work and the rest just never seem to make it to that level of excellence. It's like when You have a great movie and then, someone decides to ruin it by making a sequel. What do You think about the one great piece of work followed by mediocrity as a generalizing rule lol (I'm over-simplifying things here)?”

I can’t believe you asked this question, Mr. Happy. I was actually thinking about this last week.

I was listening to “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen, and I was wondering if Mr. Cohen had any idea, when he recorded that song, it would be his high-point as an artist? Did he sit there, in the recording studio, and think “Damn, I’ll never again write something this good again?” or did he even think about it? Or did he think he still had many more “masterpieces” in him?

I don’t have the answer to that question. I’ve written nine novels, six novellas, two non-fiction books, and over two-thousand articles, and I honestly don’t know if my best work is behind me, or if it will be the next thing I write. I don’t know if other writers feel like that. I’ll be interested in what others say in the comments.

I have heard that Harper Lee knew, after finishing “To Kill A Mockingbird,” that she had just completed the best work she would ever do, and that is one reason why she never continued her career for years afterwards. I wish James Patterson would make the same decision. LOL Mr. Patterson should have stopped about ten years ago.

What? Me worry? Not likely!

What? Me worry? Not likely!

The Surgery

I’m not worried about the upcoming surgery. No fear at all. What’s bothering me about it is the six weeks of relative inactivity. Oh, there will be walks and exercises to do, but for the most part, my “active” days will be severely curtailed for six weeks, and just the thought of that kind of inactivity has me in a tither.

Love that word . . . tither! Great word!

Anyway, I suspect I’ll be streaming a lot of movies during that time, and maybe I’ll read a novel or ten while I’m at it.

Have a great week ahead, and thanks for taking the time to visit with me today. If you have a question for the Mailbag, include it in the comments below, or email it to me at Or if you just want to chat, I would love to hear from you.

2021 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”


Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 13, 2021:

Lora, I'm so sorry I'm slow in answering your wonderful comment. Your question is an excellent one, and I do have some suggestions. I promise to make this my #1 question next Monday. Thanks so much. It's an important question for English teachers.

I hope this finds you well, my friend. Happy Monday and Happy September to you!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 13, 2021:

Thank you for your kind support, Maria. I'm sure it will go fine if I don't go stir crazy. :)

Lora Hollings on September 12, 2021:

Hi Bill,

I totally agree with you about the writer having a responsibility to his readers in writing a satisfactory ending for his books and in the twists and turns of the plot in previous chapters.

That's very interesting about what you said about Harper Lee. It would be hard to do another masterpiece such as that or even come close to it.

Since you were an educator and are a very fine writer, do you have suggestions on how English teachers of both elementary and high school students can make writing themes or essays exciting and something that children look forward to instead of just a task that they have to do to get a required credit? I can remember one topic that I think was used by almost every teacher endeavoring to teach writing skills that I ever had was “What I Did on My Summer Vacation.” How I remember the almost unanimous chorus of negative responses from students as soon as they heard what the subject was that they would be writing about! How do you go about making creative writing not only challenging but something that students really enjoy?

Maria Logan Montgomery from Coastal Alabama, UsA on September 11, 2021:

Don't be too concerned about the recovery/rehab time. I've been there with ankle surgery a few years ago. Take care of yourself, and take the time to rest, write, read, and reflect. It will pass more quickly than you may imagine. Best wishes for a speedy recovery. Hang in there.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 09, 2021:

Good choice, Miebakagh! Titin is a good one.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 09, 2021:

It's amazing, isn't it, MizB, that someone could think they could write a sequel to someone else's masterpiece? What kind of hubris does that take?

The Roadrunner! Not once did I try to run off a cliff like the Roadrunner. Not once! I must have been an extremely smart child. lol

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 09, 2021:

I hope you're right, Manatita. Three weeks sounds much better than six. As for the poetry book, get busy choosing, my friend. Time is tickin' as my mom was fond of saying.

Thanks, always, my 70-year old friend.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 09, 2021:

Sha, thanks for the information about disappearing comments. That's very helpful, and I'll include it in next week's Mailbag so others can see it. As for The Hand, that was one scary-assed movie.

Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on September 08, 2021:

I like to read these cartons like wise. Titin ir a favorite of mine. Thanks.

Doris James MizBejabbers from Beautiful South on September 08, 2021:

My goodness, Bill, you had some thinking people asking questions today. I really agreed with your answer about kids and cartoons. I so enjoyed cartoons when I was a kid, and I still enjoy the old ones. As a child, I was able to separate reality from fantasy. It appears that some of today's children do not have that ability. I loved Donald Duck, Mickey Mouse and Goofy. I was in journalism school before I learned the shocking fact that Donald Duck was banned in some countries because he set a "bad example" for children. NO, I do not think we should stop cartoons. It isn't necessary for every story to have a moral. Sometimes entertainment can be the only motive.

Add Margaret Mitchell to the authors who never wrote a sequel to her masterpiece, Gone with the Wind. It is a shame that a ditzy author came along who thought she could do it. One problem that I noticed immediately to the sequel is that she wrote in a different voice (Of course she did!). How utterly arrogant of her to think she could equal the voice of Margaret Mitchell!

Well, late again this week. Better late than never, but I couldn't miss your mailbag this week.

manatita44 from london on September 08, 2021:

I think you said 6 weeks, Bill. You'll be fine before six weeks. Just remember to exercise. You'll be ready to write in three weeks or less. Rehab is the key and of course some morphine initially, not for long.

I feel worse than you about this children thing. You're braver than me! A bit sickening, but Karma lurks in the shadows for these privileged people. So, so sad!

My masterpiece is My Guru, Sri Chinmoy: Life and Teachings. I have another on the teachings of Jesus the Christ, but nothing will compare with that first book. It is a Manual for Spiritual Living.

I want to write a poetry book like that and I know I can. I just need to start, query when. Ha-ha. Would be fun choosing 150 from 1600 poems.

The age thing? I'm slowing down too, at three years younger than you. I think if we both prioritize, we'll be fine, but yes, you are more like Linda L, than me. Ha-ha. Peace!

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on September 08, 2021:

I don't remember having nightmares over fairy tales, but I can tell you I don't like scary movies. The bloody, gory ones. Can't do any of the Halloween movies. The Hand scared the crap out of me when I was young. Slept with a light on for years afterwards! Paranormal I can handle. Horror, no way. Your dad gave you very sage advice with that regard.

One thing I wanted to mention about disappearing comments: I notice when I'm in my feed, and someone has commented on one of my articles, a number will show in the little area to the left of "comments", to the right of my profile pic. Click on that and you'll see all the comments that have been made. Go into each one and approve (or delete, if so deemed) them. I've had to do this despite the fact that I don't have my comments set up to be approved before going live.

Good luck with your surgery, Bill. I know the down time will drive you nuts, but you'll figure out what to do with your time!

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

I will do that, MG, and thanks to you and Lord Krishna for the added support.

MG Singh emge from Singapore on September 07, 2021:

Bill, it's a wonderful write-up. As far as your surgery is concerned I am so glad you are not scared;that is the way it should be and I am going to ask Lord Krishna to be on your side when the surgery takes place and you're going to be fine. I'm sure of it. Keep us posted whatever happens.

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

Thank you very much, Rasma! I'm sure it will go smoothly and I'll be back terrorizing the neighborhood in short order.

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

Thank you, Vidya, for sharing about your niece. My goodness, 25? That's so young! I'm so happy to hear she is fine now. Thanks for sharing that. Be well, my friend.

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

Thank you Linda! I appreciate that very much.

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

I'm glad to hear that, Denise. I think you'll be fine if you are true to the original fairytales. I hope so. But who can tell in today's PC world?

Blessings always

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

Thank you Bill, and I hope you had a good holiday as well. I'm afraid I did go out and do some things in the yard, but nothing too strenuous.

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

Thank you Brenda! Best wishes for your upcoming surgery. I hope it goes smoothly and you have a short recovery period. My best to you!

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

Thank you Peggy! I'm counting on the hip surgery being better than the nightmares of knee surgery. Thank God I don't have that problem. The rehab would kill me, I'm afraid. :) Thanks for being here.

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

Oh, Alyssa, I can go further....James Patterson is a hack! How's that for succinct? lol I hope you have a fantastic week ahead, my friend.

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

Sorry, Heidi, I did do some work on Labor Day. What can I say? I'm hopeless, I'm afraid, and task-driven. It's the way I will always rock n roll, my friend.

I hope you had a good holiday. Happy Tuesday to you!

Gypsy Rose Lee from Daytona Beach, Florida on September 07, 2021:

Another great mailbag, I wish you all the best on the surgery and I know all will be fine because I will put up in my prayers, After that look at it as a lovely, long vacation and do all that you love best, Enjoy the movies and the books.

VIDYA D SAGAR on September 06, 2021:

A very interesting mailbag Bill. Engaging questions and great answers. Your dad's response made me smile. It was about the same in our childhood. We had to fend for ourselves most of the time and learned from experience. I believe, common sense is what gets us through in life. The list valuable but underrated quality in people. But then those times were safer and simpler. Children today have to deal with much more stuff these days. Best of luck for your surgery Bill. I am sure you will be fine. My niece had hip replacement surgery done on both sides, when she was just 25. Had some congenital issue. She was out and about in a month. She's fine now. Take full rest and he back fresh and rejuvenated. Take care and have a great week ahead my friend.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on September 06, 2021:

I hope the surgery and the recovery are very successful, Bill. Best wishes.

Denise McGill from Fresno CA on September 06, 2021:

I tend to agree with you about the dumbing down of America's literary work and safety in general. I rode in the back of a pickup truck and was never thrown from the truck but I did observe the caution not to go near the tailgate. I rode a bike without a helmet but I was careful not to ride out in front of traffic. I remember an ongoing nightmare about my bedroom burning around me but it didn't stop me from being fascinated with fire. I even had a candle in my room. I agree with you about the over-protectiveness these days and wonder what our grandchildren will be able to handle in the future. Your answer has given me permission to continue with my fairytale alphabet books. Thanks.



Bill De Giulio from Massachusetts on September 06, 2021:

Hi Bill. Best of luck with the surgery, I’m sure it will go well and you’ll be back to doing chores in no time. I do think kids today are coddled compared to when we were kids. It they aren’t exposed to adversity as a child how the heck can they handle it as an adult? Hope you had a labor-less Labor Day, but my guess is probably not.

BRENDA ARLEDGE from Washington Court House on September 06, 2021:


I do the same whenever I'm facing surgery or the like.

I'm headed for surgery to remove an impacted Wisdom tooth & one beside it, plus Wisdom tooth on the other side.

I'm not looking forward to this one at all...but I've got certain things to finish up before I do.

As for nightmares...i used to get them after watching chiller theater when I was a child.

There after, if that was on tv...I was sent on to bed.

I wish you the best with your Hip Surgery & I'm glad to hear you're not worried about it.

Just think of all that relaxing you'll get to do.

Maybe even breakfast in bed.

Take care.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on September 06, 2021:

Your mailbag is always so interesting to read. Children were not as coddled as they seem to be today when we were growing up. A trophy or award ribbon went to the winner...not everyone who competed for that prize. Lots of Mercurochrome, band aids, and kisses for younger ones were the cures for cuts and scrapes in those days. And there were plenty cuts and scrapes!

On my own, I figured out avoiding scary movies. The movie Psycho cured me from ever wanting to watch another purposely scary movie! Your dad gave you some very practical advice.

Best wishes with your upcoming surgery! Hip replacements are much easier to recover from than knee surgeries. You will do well. Just don't kill yourself ahead of time with massive projects. I know you won't take that kind of advice. Ha! Still shoveling dirt?

Alyssa from Ohio on September 06, 2021:

Hahahaha! I about spit out my coffee when I read your sassy comment about James Patterson. :) I'm with you on playing mind games and setting deadlines for myself. Sometimes I work myself into a frenzy with my ambition. I have no doubt you'll get everything on your to-do list done. Have a wonderful week Bill!

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

No worries, Misbah, and I don't stress myself over things like this. It is what it is. I've been very blessed over the years with my health. This is a minor hiccup compared to what many people must live through.

Blessings to you always, my friend.

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

Thank you Greg! No worries about the surgery. I'm sure it will go fine and I'll be running marathons quickly afterwards. Oh, wait, I don't run marathons. Well, we don't want that to happen, do we? LOL Have a great week, buddy!

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

Thank you Chitrangada Sharan! All is well here, and I hope this finds you happy and healthy. Happy September to you.

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

I think I'm lucky, John! A hip replacement is much better than a knee replacement. The recovery is much easier, or so I am told. Let's hope that's true.

Thanks my friend, and Happy Monday to you.

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

Thank you Rosina! One thing I can say, with certainty, is I was not overprotected as a child. LOL

Happy Monday to you! I'm sure everything will proceed exactly as it is meant to succeed. No worries.

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

Mr. Happy, thanks for trying. Maybe it will show up later today. In the meantime, good luck with that bathroom reno. I do not envy you at all.

Be well!

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

Thank you Dora! I'm sure it will go fine, but I appreciate your kind words of support. Happy Monday to you, my friend. I hope you are safe this hurricane season.

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

Linda, at one time, Bev and I considered moving. Just the thought of packing had us in cold sweats. We are working on one room right now, to rent out, and that has become a major undertaking. I can't imagine an entire house, which is funny, because back in the day, I did it twelve times.

Liver and onions? Gag me with a spoon!

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

Thank you Pamela! I'm sure the surgery will go fine. I've been spoiled over the years with my bionic body. It's now time for me to pay my dues. :) Happy Monday to you!

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

Thank you Miebakagh! I appreciate your concern.

Heidi Thorne from Chicago Area on September 06, 2021:

Happy Mailbag Monday and Labor Day!

Re: Protecting Our Kids (and Others). This is quite an issue, and one that authors of children's books must wrestle with. The problem is that we just don't know what might trigger someone with what we write. We would have to have insight into every single reader's experience.

However, I do think it's wise, as authors, to be cognizant of the intended audience for our work. Note that I said intended audience. If a kid watches an R-rated movie, well, that's not who the work is intended for. Parents and teachers need to help guide children as to what's appropriate for their age. Authors need to consult with editors and teachers who work with children in the intended age group audience to make sure their work is appropriate.

That being said, fairy tales are pretty gruesome at times. The witch threatening to eat children as in Hansel & Gretel? Okay, that's way inappropriate.

Re: Quit While You're Ahead. I was just thinking about this issue as I am in the process of unpublishing some of my books. You're going to have winners and losers throughout your author career. So just keep writing!

Hey, don't overdo it with the chores this Labor Day. It's supposed to be a labor-less day. Plus, you don't want more post-surgery recovery time because you overdid it. It will all get done. And if there aren't major consequences if something doesn't get done, oh well. Take care!

Misbah Sheikh from — This Existence Is Only an Illusion on September 06, 2021:

Happy Monday, Mr. Bill. Excellent questions, and I always enjoy reading your answers. Sir, Best of luck with your pre-surgery planning and projects. I know you can do it. Don't worry and please don't stress yourself. Take everything very lightly.

You are always in my prayers and thoughts. I wish you all the best for your upcoming surgery.

Thank you for this wonderful mailbag.

Have a great week ahead. Keep smiling and take good care of yourself.

Sending Blessings to you and your family.

greg cain from Moscow, Idaho, USA on September 06, 2021:

Bill - the other side of that surgery and recovery will be worth all that comes in the near term. Or so I’ve been told, anyway, by friends and relatives who’ve tried to convince me to get my own knee(s) done. Speedy recovery, friend.

I’m still personally working toward “good” every single day in my own writing. And it always seems to be just somewhere past my current reach.

I really love and agree with your assessment about kids and fairy tales and all that. I was in Germany a couple years ago and they had Christmas displays depicting kids’ fairy tales at the Christmas Market. The nature of these things was true to the original stories written long ago: not ideal and sometimes violent endings for some of the young children and other characters. These were fascinating displays and I loved everyone of them, but also laughed with my wife because I knew they would not be received or tolerated here in the US of A. Der Wolf ist Tot, Der Wolf ist Tot, fa la la la la la!

Anyway, Bill, sound and sage wisdom once again this week. Thanks for another fine edition.

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on September 06, 2021:

Happy Monday Bill!

I liked reading the interesting questions and your interesting answers to them.

I wish you all the best for your upcoming surgery.

I appreciate your eagerness to finish your works in time. My thoughts are the same.

Thank you for sharing another wonderful mailbag. Have a wonderful week ahead.

John Hansen from Gondwana Land on September 06, 2021:

It is good to get in early and catch another Mailbag, Bill.

It seems knee replacements are going around at the moment. Our good friend Chris Mills has just had one done and is now recovering. One of my knees is acting up a bit but I am just making do and blaming it on the cold weather. Let’s hope it starts to improve as it warms. Anyway, all the best with your surgery, Bill, it should give you a lot more time to read and write in that six weeks.

Rosina S Khan on September 06, 2021:

Very interesting mailbag, as always. I think parents of today are really overprotective of their children. They should allow more freedom to them and let them experience and learn.

I think it is a good idea to quit while you are on top.

Hope your surgery goes well and hope you recover fast. In the meantime don't worry so much about work and projects. Go at your usual pace and you will make it.

Happy Monday to you, Bill. Hope everything goes well with you according to plan.

Mr. Happy from Toronto, Canada on September 06, 2021:

I already commented but I guess Hub-pages fumbled with my comment and I can;t re-write all that over again (it was long LOL). So, now I will just say thank You for your writing and for tackling that question. I am in the middle of bathroom reno so, not much time on my end. Sort of like You too, haha!!

Best of luck with that up-coming surgery and I wish You a speedy recovery when that comes around. Cheers!

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on September 06, 2021:

These are great questions, and I always love to read your personal views on issues of life. All the best with your pre-surgery chores. Please don't overdo. Love and Blessings!

Linda Lum from Washington State, USA on September 06, 2021:

Bill, you and I are on the same track this month--you have the surgery pending and I have a move to coordinate. Packing and purging 40 years of living together with a deadline looming on the horizon. I'm with you!

Really interesting questions this week. Yes, in some ways it seems a generation of sheltered snowflakes is being created. But if they are on social media that's another whole level of pain and fear you and I never had to deal with. We had bomb shelters and aid raids every Tuesday at 2pm, but they have mass shootings and homeless camps on the edge of the playground {{sigh}}

About creating a character you hated--I write recipes, I don't create characters. But no one will ever make me go down the dark forbidden path of writing about beets or liver and onions.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on September 06, 2021:

Happy Labor Day Bill! I understand wanting to get those chores done before surgery as I am that same mentality. You will probably succeed.

This is another interesting mailbag with an interesting mix of questions. I agree that children are often coddled, as a sport means everyone gets a trophy, etc., etc. I had a lot of responsibility at a young age, and I think that was good for me.

I enjoyed all the questions and of course, your answers.

I believe your surgery will go very well. Have a good week!

Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on September 06, 2021:

Bill, take care after the surgery. I wish you speedy recovery. And thanks for another interesting Monday's Mail Bag.

Related Articles