Archive by Author

I Am Ashamed

8 May

So there I was, at the Farmers’ Market last week, setting up my tent, and the market manager walked by.  I asked her who was playing music for the market that day, and she told me some homeless guy who plays the cello.  She had met him downtown and invited him to play for us.

My first reaction was OH MY GOD!  What in the hell is she thinking????

I am ashamed of myself!

The guy showed up fifteen minutes early, lugging his backpack, which must have weighed seventy-five pounds at least, all his worldly possessions in it, and carrying a cello in his free hand.  I went over, introduced myself, and showed him where to set up.

Fifteen minutes later he began playing music from the angels.

For two hours he played classical music, and to say he played beautifully would be a disservice to him.  It was the first time in over a year at that market that I saw people stop what they were doing and just  listen to the music, and after each song he received heartfelt applause.

I am ashamed of myself!

I made an assumption, and I admit that to you all.  I assumed since he was homeless he couldn’t possibly be any good, and that assumption made a complete ass out of me.

I’m not sure what the hell I was thinking.  I’ve written countless articles about the plight of the homeless, how that social ill affects people in all walks of life, but at that one moment, in that one situation, I tossed aside all of my righteousness and embarrassed myself.

Mea culpa!

I am a writer.  I consider it my job to reflect real life, to tell stories which cause reflection, and to be as honest as I possibly can be.  And that’s what I’m doing now, at this moment, to all of you.

Telling it like it is!

TEASER

I have a name for you: Dollie Mae Priest!  I’ll explain the significance of that woman next week…anyone care to guess beforehand?

No talent there . . . or is there?

Bill

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

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Nowhere Man

1 May

Randomness . . .

I talked to a guy at last weeks’ farmers market who served in Vietnam.  We talked for a good five minutes.  It was fascinating, hearing about the war from a soldier who was there, rather than from some talking head news person who is regurgitating old articles.

He was fine talking about our government, the waste of it all, and the one thing every soldier had in common with all other soldiers, the all-consuming desire to stay alive, but his eyes clouded over when he talked about the fire fights, the brutality of it all, and the killing, and he became deeply saddened when he talked about the distrust for a young child who walked into camp, sadness because they couldn’t trust the child, did not know if she was armed and meant them harm, or just lost.

That shit is real!  That is the human connection that great stories have. As writers, we need to listen to those stories, absorb them, and never let their humanness escape us when we are writing.

 

I was reading a post on Facebook from a young single mother of two.  She was talking about the struggle and the feelings of inadequacy, the worries that she was not doing a good job of parenting, not providing all the things her daughters needed. It was a heartbreaking post, and it was more poignant because she is a former student of mine.

That shit is real!

 

I spend a lot of time observing people.  I always have.  The difference now, as opposed to when I was younger, is I engage with those people now. I want to know more.  I want to hear their stories.  The more engaged I become, the more they are willing to open up, and selfishly I gain from each story because I am a storyteller, and I want my stories to be authentic.  Their stories help me, and similar stories will help you.  I’m not just talking about fiction writers.  Non-fiction writers can benefit as well.  We need that human connection in our writing.  Otherwise we might as well just write for Wikipedia.

 

I cry much more now than I once did.  Ask my wife if this is true. I cry watching television shows.  It bothered me at first, but now I embrace it.  It means I’m becoming more connected with what is real in life.  It means I am becoming more human. It means I have gained empathy, and I am fine with that.  At the risk of sounding like a love child from the 60’s, we need more love in this world. We need to make more connections and not fewer.  What was that line from that old song by Pink Floyd . . . two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl, year after year,” or something like that . . . that perfectly describes so many people, lonely, agitated, confused, desperately in need of human contact but unsure, unaware, unwilling,  or unknowing in how to make it happen.

“Nowhere Man, please listen, you don’t know what you’re missing . . . “

Random thoughts . . .

Bill

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

I Won’t Do That

24 Apr

I knew a guy once, this is going back maybe ten years ago, maybe fifteen . . . anyway, he had a band, and he would use email to let us all know when his band was playing.  I’m not talking about an occasional email; I’m talking about three or four emails each week giving us all date and time and location.

All well and good, I guess, although a bit overboard, but I would have persisted through that onslaught except for the fact that he never talked about anything else, and he certainly never gave a rat’s butt about those of us who had to read his damned emails.  Not once do I remember him asking how I was doing, or how my family was . . . it was just the same message hammered home day in and day out.

I never did go listen to his band. There was no way in hell I was going to support him when he hadn’t taken the time to treat me like a friend he cared about.

I try to remember that now when I’m in writing/marketing mode.  There is more to life than my writing career.  There are far more important things in the world than some new book I’ve written, or some new article I’ve penned.

The audience for my writing is composed of real people. They have lives. They do not need me to beat them over the head with advertising, day in and day out.  They are people I actually care about, and I refuse to dip so low as to become nothing more than a poor facsimile of a cheap commercial.  You all know I’m a writer.  I don’t need to continually announce that to the world.  Read my books, don’t read my books, it really makes no difference to me.

What is important to me are relationships, and I refuse to jeopardize those relationships in order to sell one copy of my work. I just won’t do it.

The Gospel According To Bill

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

Scrunched for Time and Rolling in Clover

17 Apr

I knew this week was coming, but I’m no more prepared for it today as I was three months ago.

This is the week our farmers market begins.  Every Wednesday, from now until the end of September, will be spent manning a booth at that market, which means I am one day short for my freelance writing load.

Which means consolidating five days of writing into four.

Which means this boy is going to be scrambling for the next five months.

And the thing is, I love it all!

I love working the Market; I love writing; and I love summer.

It’s all good in my world!

During the summer of 1967, my buddy Frank and I needed some part-time work. We heard the Longshoreman’s office down on the docks hired temporary workers each morning for odd jobs around the waterfront, so one morning in early June we went down there at five a.m. and signed up for temp work.  As luck would have it we were called on to work on a ship at Dock B, a big old cargo ship . . . our job was to shovel coal into the ship’s furnace.

It was ninety degrees that day, but in the furnace room it had to be one-thirty or hotter, and by lunchtime Frank and I had reached our physical limit.  We both grabbed our lunch sacks, walked down the gangplank, and never looked back.  That job, and shoveling pig poop at a pig farm, are the two worst jobs I have had in my fifty years of working.

I mention that because having my schedule disrupted, to work at a job I love doing, is not a disruption at all.  It is pure joy!

I have never been so lucky, or felt so blessed.

I am a writer and how cool is that?

I am a part-time chicken farmer and how cool is that?

My life is pretty great!

What’s the worst job you ever had?

Bill

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

The Long and Winding Road

10 Apr

Writer’s come in many shapes and sizes.

I’ve lived in Alaska, Vermont, Oregon, and Washington.

I’m a recovering alcoholic!

I’ve been divorced, I am currently married, and I am a father.

My parents are both dead . . . most of my adopted family is dead.

I have degrees in Marketing, Economics, and Education.

I’m left-handed but fairly ambidextrous because the nuns didn’t believe in anyone being left-handed in the 1950’s.  It was just too much of a bother for them.

I’ve owned four businesses.

I was homeless for a couple weeks back in 1989.  Didn’t enjoy it at all, but I had it coming.

I taught school for almost twenty years.  I’ve been a warehouseman, a salesman, a data processor, and a tutor.  I’ve cleaned pig stalls and shoveled coal into the blast furnace of ships.  I worked in a bowling alley and a lumber yard.  I’ve been a truck driver. I’ve worked for fifty years and probably forgot several professions.

I am a Liberal 90% of the time, but more than willing to listen to the Dark Side if they are not insulting or condescending LOL…all in jest!

I treat people with respect, as I was raised to do, but I have a low tolerance for deceit.

I do not suffer fools for long.

I have empathy for the lowest of low.  I relate better to the sinners of the world.  I am painfully shy, but can schmooze with practically anyone, because I genuinely care about their story.

I have zero tolerance for rudeness, and a low-patience threshold for boring, mundane conversations.

I will always stand up for the underdogs.

I love The Beatles and baseball.

I do not trust corporations at all.

I do not trust politicians at all.

I am rapidly approaching 70 years of age and I have no fear of death.

I won the DNA lottery and am ridiculously healthy.

And all of that leads me to today, a writer, a publisher of I don’t know how many novels and novellas.

All of that leads me to today, an urban farmer, the raiser of chickens, and a man who is still fascinated with life and all it has to offer.

The long and winding road of Bill Holland.

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

 

From Yesterday to Today

3 Apr

I’m adopted!

Some of you know that already, but for those who didn’t, I was adopted at nine months after being in nine foster homes. Evidently I wasn’t cute enough while at those first nine homes, and evidently I turned on the charm for my adoptive parents on Try Number Ten.

It was pretty obvious that I was adopted as I grew up.  I didn’t look like anyone else in the family.  I didn’t act like anyone else in the family. I was a painfully shy kid who, even at family functions, would be over in the corner reading a book or just sitting quietly listening to everyone else talk.  It’s just always been that way for me.  It still is. I’m fine with it.  I used to feel weird about it, when I was younger, but now I just figure that’s the way it is, I’m happy with who I am, and that’s just the real of it.

Anyway, growing up, I observed.  I listened to conversations. I heard stories.  I made note of different speech patterns.  I paid close attention to nature. I saw the nuances in life.  I turned philosophical often, delving for answers to questions. Why was I turned over to an adoption agency? Why does one person act like an ass while another acts like a saint?  Why are girls so friggin’ weird and mysterious?

We didn’t have much money. We were never poor but we sure weren’t swimming in extra cash, either.  Many a day was spent inventing games using only my imagination.  Many a day was spent roaming the neighborhood or exploring on my bike.  Everything was fascinating and mysterious.  I wanted to learn, just not from the nuns at school.

Of course I couldn’t see the big picture. I had no way of knowing that it was all to prepare me for today and my life as a writer.  None of us have that kind of vision into the future and perhaps it is well that we don’t.

I wouldn’t change any of it.  I love my life.  I love that people pay me money for doing something I am passionate about.  I’m thrilled that the shy little kid in the corner found happiness in being himself.  I find that beyond cool!

Bill

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

When Second-Best Is Good Enough

27 Mar

League championship game, 1960, Tacoma Little League Babe Ruth . . .

My team, the Pythias Giants (I’m being dead serious) against the League powerhouse Cheney Lumberjacks.  I was pitching for Pythias and Don Carlson for Cheney.

I pitched a hell of a game.  Gave up a run in the 5th inning and another in the 7th, both on broken bat hits, dying quails we used to call them, those agonizing little floaters that just make it to the outfield, out of reach of an infielder’s glove.  Cheney managed a grand total of three hits off of me.  I struck out twelve, my nasty knuckleball dancing like a ballerina.

We lost 2-0!

Don Carlson no-hit us!

I was totally dejected riding home with my dad who, to his credit, allowed me to wallow in self-pity for a full ten minutes before he had had enough.

“Bill,” he said.  “There is always going to be someone better than you.  That’s a fact of life there is no escaping.  So that leaves you two choices, or so it seems to me.  You  can either work your butt off to get better, knowing you’ll never be the best but still able to play the game you love, or you can take that glove of yours down to Goodwill and let some underprivileged kid use it.  Let me know now, though, before we get home, so I can swing you by Goodwill if that’s your decision.”

Those words are still with me fifty-eight years later, and they apply to so many of my pursuits in life. I am never going to be the best writer, but I can become a pretty damned good writer.  The best husband?  Father?  Friend?

Where’s that old glove of mine?  I need to practice some more.

Bill

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

A Random Trip Through My Mind

20 Mar

I just looked up at the sky.

Great revelation, right?

I saw the ocean.

I saw the baby blanket for my nephew when he was five days old.

I saw the haunting eyes of my long-deceased father.

I saw Spanky and Our Gang . . . don’t ask!

I saw Sunday drives with my Mom and Dad.

It’s the same for you, right?

That’s how a writer’s mind works.  We tend to see things and connect those things to real, or imagined, events, people, and places.  Color becomes memories, or emotions, or whatever . . . they are not merely colors.

A SLIGHT SWITCH OF GEARS

I was watching a documentary the other day about teaching creativity in schools.

Can you really teach creativity?  I guess so, but I have to tell you my heart isn’t fully behind that guess.  I’m not completely convinced that creativity can be taught, at least not the type of creativity it takes to paint or write or sculpt or play something that is exquisitely beautiful.

But then maybe I’m just full of it, which is entirely possible.

This is a random blog this week.  It’s going where my mind leads it.

“Pick up your damned tools, Bill, when you are done working with them.”  Those words were spoken by my father after he had tripped over a hammer I left on the garage floor.  Those words do not do justice to the emotion behind his comment.  LOL  My dad had a temper and he was not afraid or hesitant to unleash it if he tripped over a hammer.

Funny thing is, those words are still with me today.  It’s one reason why I’m so anal when it comes to putting things away after I use them, which I do and have been doing since that day back in 1964, and those words are the reason why I’m so organized during my work day and in handling so many different tasks during the week.

Words like that are great fodder for writers, as are events, as are emotions spawned because of certain events or words spoken.

Randomness!  I warned you earlier.

MORE RANDOMNESS

I cry every single time I watch an episode of “This Is Us,” and I cry while watching “The Voice.”  I’m a sucker for human interest stories, and I’m a sucker for dramas which show the humanness we all share.  I guess you could say I’m an Empath, although I hate labels like that.  I do, however, feel deeply things that other people are feeling.  I see a young girl on television telling me that singing means everything to her, that it is her way of remembering her mother, who died when the girl was eight, and man, that kind of stuff is a gold mine for a creative writer.  I know what she feels.  Losing my father when I was nineteen is still one of the defining moments in my life, so yes, when she cries I cry.

And eventually she will make it into one of my novels, or short stories, if not her then a character like her, or the spirit of what she said…the humanness of it all!

Time to end this randomness!

Thank you!

Bill

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

 

 

Memory Lane and Writing Ideas

13 Mar

I was trying to explain to a young friend the other day what a party line was; she had no clue what I was talking about when I told her my earliest memory of a telephone was picking it up and listening to the neighbors have a conversation. She thought that was the strangest thing she had ever heard and, looking back, I guess it was pretty strange indeed.

Same neighborhood, everyone knew everyone’s name, they all looked out for each other’s kids . . . I remember having the flu one time, I must have been six or seven, and neighbors stopping by with comic books they had bought for me . . . can you imagine that happening in a neighborhood now?  Heck, I remember our family doctor making house calls after his office hours were over.  Old Doc Larkin, good man, kind man, cared deeply about his patients, pulling up to our house in his Chevy, carrying his black medical bag, just stopping by to make sure little Billy was okay.

Random memories . . . black and white television, rabbit ears, aluminum foil on those ears for better reception . . . but before that the big radios in a cabinet, listening to serials, the whole family gathered around the radio, laughing at Jack Benny . . . yes, I’m that old!

My grandparents had a recorder with a microphone . . . we would all sing songs and it would record on a 78 phonograph . . . great fun!

Trick or Treating with friends, carrying pillow cases, walking for miles, two, three pillow cases of candy.

Riding our bikes all over Tacoma, Washington, no parental warnings other than get our butts back home before dark.

I never knew anyone who owned a gun.  My friends, their fathers, all vets of World War 2, but no guns in any house; no need for them, really, left the windows open at night, doors unlocked, middle of a city of 120,000 people, no fear at all.  That all changed in 1960 when a little girl by the name of Ann Marie Burr disappeared one night . . . evil had visited our neighborhood.  She was never found, snatched from her bedroom, chubby cheeks and a warm smile.

The point of all this:  writers never lack for something to write about.  Plumb the depths of your memory.  Allow your muse to ransack your brain for writing ideas. They are all there waiting for you, the ghosts of the past, friendly like Caspar and malicious like a screaming banshee.

Bill

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

Powerful and Meaningful

6 Mar

 

Words!

They can be so damned powerful, or they can just be a collection of letters unique only in their mundane nature.

Let me share the lyrics from a song titled “Ghosts” by the late, great songwriter Dan Fogelberg.

“Ghosts”
Sometimes, in the night I feel it
Near as my next breath
and yet, untouchable
Silently the past comes stealing
Like the taste of some forbidden sweet

Along the walls; in shadowed rafters
Moving like a thought through haunted atmospheres
Muted cries and echoed laughter
Banished dreams that never sank in sleep

Lost in love and found in reason
Questions that the mind can find no answers for
Ghostly eyes conspire treason
As they gather just outside the door…

Every ghost that calls upon us
Brings another measure in the mystery
Death is there
To keep us honest
And constantly remind us we are free

Down the ancient corridors
And through the gates of time
Run the ghosts of days
That we left behind

 

Unbelievable!  I have listened to that song now for thirty-five years and I still get goose-bumps when I hear it because of those powerful words.  The same is true of some books I’ve read.  No matter how many times I read them, they still manage to fill me with awe.

Words!

How many speeches have you heard in your lifetime? I would venture to guess I’ve heard hundreds, if not one thousand, but there are only five, six, maybe seven I actually remember, and I remember those because of their unique words, their special phrasing, and yes, the way they deliver a particular message.

Words!

I know I risk sounding corny, but I believe writers have a responsibility to deliver a message, or deliver a story, or deliver a poem, in the most powerful way possible.

There is more than enough mundane in this world.

There is more than enough half-assed boring in this world.

What we need more of is meaningful and powerful.

Just a random thought from an old man.

Bill

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”