So I finally upgraded to the new Blogger formats but I can't figure out how to get back my old pretty khaki background (now dark blue) and the pretty purple sidebar (now medium blue). Any hints, tips or suggestions?

I Wish...

Another Friday Funny:
Can I tell my Bishop I consider writing as my “true calling” and therefore should not have to serve in the ward?
Actually, that has happened before. I know of two cases--both authors wrote about increasing spirituality, recovery, parenting, and other gospel topics. Their bishops felt their books were of such help to the members of the Church that they wanted them to write more, without being distracted by other service within the ward. (Other than Visiting and Home Teaching. I don't think you can ever get out of that. Nor would we want to, right?)

But I think I'd wait for your bishop to be inspired and extend that calling to you himself, rather than asking him for it.


Do You Need Professional Editing?

Is it worth it to pay a professional editor before submitting to publishers?
It depends on how clean your skills are.

First, you always, always, always need several content readers to go through your manuscript before you send it in. These should be fellow writers, your critique group and/or others who are well read and who have no emotional investment in protecting your fragile psyche. These readers should do what we call a "content edit" to evaluate your story, characterization, flow, style, plot, etc. to help you find inconsistencies and plot holes. They'll probably also pick up a good portion of your grammar mistakes and typos.

Second, you always, always, always need someone to do a copy/line edit of your manuscript before you send it in. If you're highly skilled in editing yourself, then you can probably get by with a proofreader who has a strong grammar background. This could also be a fellow writer or someone in your critique group.

If however, you know you have difficulties, or you don't know anyone with the appropriate skills who'll read it for free, then yes, hire someone. Make sure they have credentials and experience--a high level of grammar and writing skills; an idea of what is currently selling (as in, they read a lot of popular writing, as well as the classics); and happy, repeat customers who have been published.


Publishing on the Internet, Take Two

I was just thinking about authors' websites and the practice of them posting the first chapter of their books on their sites (or not,) when I remembered the Baen free library. Sci fi publisher Jim Baen has encouraged "his" authors to let him take their out-of-print books(1) and put them up on his website in their entirety for anybody to read. You don't have to pay anything or even sign up. The premise is that this is free advertising. You can read an author's older works for free and decide if you like his or her style before buying something that is current. According to author Eric Flint, this actually works great. I was wondering if this would be a viable option in the LDS market.(2) Because I live far away from any LDS bookstores, I rely on the web to give me the information I need to help me choose the books I buy. Is there anything in the dreaded contracts that would prevent authors from putting an entire, out-of-print book up on their personal websites?(3) Better yet, is there anything stopping a publishing company from making their own free library?(4) Or is there anything stopping them from putting up as many as three chapters from each new book on their website, so that readers outside the range of brick and mortar stores can browse and make better-informed decisions?(5) (I just checked a random Baen book, new for April, and there were seven chapters free for perusal!)

Check it out at http://www.baen.com to see how it works. In my opinion, it really is the next best thing to being there.(6)

I've already discussed this before, here and here. But this practice is becoming more and more common, so I'm revisiting it. Also, there is a difference between a publisher and/or a published author (with their publisher's permission) choosing to post excerpts of out-of-print books on the Internet, and non-published authors publishing works on the internet for critique.

1. If a book is out of print, there is nothing wrong with the publisher and/or author (with their publisher's pemission) posting it in its entirety on the Internet. I think it's a great idea, for the very reasons you listed. As a publisher, I'd also make it available as a POD title, if someone wanted to order it after reading it in electronic format. The only caveat is, make sure you plaster copyrights all over it. Many people assume that if it's on the net, it's public domain and they are free to re-publish and sell or distribute it as they wish. This is not true.

2. Of course it's viable. And again, a great idea. However, it's probably a low priority for many publishers because it won't be a big money-maker and there will be some expense involved in setting it up. (Hmmm, I think I'll bring this up at our next staff meeting.)

3. Depends on the publisher and their contract. If you're an author with an out-of-print book, make sure you get permission from your publisher before doing this. And if they're fine with it, make sure you put links to your in-print titles at the end of each chapter, something along the lines of "If you're enjoying this book, check out the author's other titles at...)

4. No. (See answer #2)

5. No. In fact, that's a very good marketing idea. However, if the publisher has more than just a few titles in print, they'll probably have their authors do it on their own websites, just because of the time and web space involved. Publishers should provide the files for the author to upload to their sites.

6. I agree.


Book with CD?

I have created a soundtrack for my book. Would it be useful to send in a CD of the soundtrack with the book? Should I list the songs and artists at the end of my book as notations for inspiration?

I thought this would make a Funny Friday question. But let's pretend for just a minute that it's serious.

I had to think about this for awhile. I've never had this happen with a submission (which is why it won the Never Heard That One Before question in last month's question contest). I have, on occasion, talked with people who had self-published a book and a CD of original music to go with it. The concept was good, but the marketing created problems.

For a manuscript submission, my answer is: No.

If you're talking about original music that you've created yourself, unless you are a professional musician with a studio, chances are your soundtrack would not be the level of quality that we'd want. If we'd even want a soundtrack with the book. So, no.

If you're talking about songs you've collected that are already in existence and you've put them on a CD intending the reader to listen as they read, to help create the mood--sort of like a movie soundtrack--then again, no. THIS IS AGAINST COPYRIGHT LAWS!!

And no, do not put the list of songs and artists at the end of the book.

Submit your book as a stand-alone product. After it's accepted, you can mention you have a CD (of original music) to go with it. If the publisher is interested, they'll let you know.


Second Dates--How Soon is Too Soon?

If an author has several manuscripts ready for submission, how should they handle that? Should they send in the first one, wait until the contract has been signed, and then submit the second? Should they wait until the first book has come out? Or can they submit the second one sooner than that? Is it all right to submit #2 immediately after getting a rejection for #1?

If the books are part of a series, submit the first one and in your query, briefly mention that this is intended to be a series and book #2 is almost complete.

If the books are unrelated, wait until the contract is signed. Then tell your editor/publisher that you have a second book ready and ask when they would like you to submit it. If you're a first time author, they're going to want to see how the first book sells. If you're an established author, they're going to want you to churn them out quickly--1 to 2 per year, if possible.

Some authors are too prolific for the size of their publisher. When this is the case, you'll want to make sure there is a clause in the contract that if they reject a title, you're free to submit to other publishers at any time.

If book #1 is rejected, no, don't immediately (as in the next day) send #2. If the publisher has given an indication of the reasons for rejection, evaluate book #2 within those guidelines. If their reasons have to do with genre, market, or other things specific to the publisher, you'll need to determine if #2 is a better fit for them. If not, submit elsewhere.

If they've talked about structure, technique, plot, characterization, etc., you'll want to rewrite book #2 to clean it up based upon their suggestions before submitting it.

If they've said, "We love this, but it's not right for us. Send us something else ASAP!" then you can send #2 right away.


Can I Just Rant?

Every once in awhile I get so frustrated I just have to blow off some steam!! And since I can't take it out on the person causing the frustration, you guys get to hear about it.

This is for all authors, especially those writing non-fiction and using quotes:

It is NOT my job to teach you how to quote and do the citations correctly!

It is YOUR job to MAKE SURE you are doing it correctly BEFORE you send me your manuscript!

Here are just a few basics for quoting someone, especially from a published source:

1. You must have permission. I want hard copy, signed forms for my files. (Do not send the permission forms with the submission; I will ask for them upon acceptance.)

2. You must quote correctly--every word, every comma, every italics must be in the right place.

3. If you delete words from the quote, insert ellipses (...).

4. If you add your own words or commentary to the quote, put it in brackets [].

5. If you add italics to the quote, put "italics added" at the end of the citation.

6. Do some research and use one of the standard methods of citation for your quotes. Be consistent. Do every quote the same way.

7. Put citations within parentheses ().

8. Before you submit to me, have someone with experience in editing and in citations go through your mss and make sure your quotes are correct. Have them check each quotation against the original. (You should have photocopies of every quote from its original source and photocopies of the title page AND the copyright page of every book you quoted from. You should have them organized in a way that you can find that original within minutes of my asking to see it.)

9. If a book has been revised, make sure you quote the most current edition.

Everyone makes a mistake occasionally. That is fine. But when I find consistent mishandling of citations and when I spot check quote correctness I find missing or wrong words or punctuation, it's three strikes and you're out. My thought process is that if you can't do the research to learn how to cite correctly and you're not careful enough with the details to make sure your quotes are actually quoted correctly, then there are probably a lot more mistakes in the mss and it will take WAY TOO MUCH of my time to get it print ready.

Okay, I'm done ranting. We'll go back to our regularly scheduled posting tomorrow.


Review Copies

Realistically, how many copies of a book does a publisher give away for possible reviews? Does the author have any say or input in these decisions?

And the definitive answer is: it depends.

It depends on the type of book (fiction vs non-fiction), the genre, the initial buzz and excitement about the book, the budget, how many copies we printed in the first print run, the number of reviewers we have a positive relationship with, the number and size of papers/local magazines in the authors home town, when the book is released (near Christmas or other related holidays or events), how much energy the author is going to put into promoting the book, what kind of mood the marketing department is in, whether it's raining outside,...

The author may or may not have a say in it. We make up our list and if the author wants us to add to it, they have to make a good argument for it. For example, let's say the author lives in Kaysville, UT. We would send review copies to the Salt Lake City papers. If the author wanted us to send a review copy to his/her local Kaysville paper, we'd probably decline, UNLESS a bookstore in Kaysville was going to do a launch party/signing for the author and the paper was agreed to do a timely and positive review in connection with that launch.

Another issue we have with review copies is when authors want us to send them to bloggers. (I'm not talking about online reviewers, such as Jennie Hansen at Meridian. I'm talking about non-professional bloggers.) We only consider this if the blog is targeted to our audience (LDS readers) AND if they get a respectable number of hits per day AND if we get pre-approval/kill vote on the post.

If an author wants to send the book to more reviewers than we're willing to send to, they're always free to do so using their own comp copies.


I Can Die Happy

Miss Snark posted a comment on my blog. I have now fulfilled my life's ambition.

Almost makes me want to reveal my identity so I can brag about it.

Way to Ruin My Day

Miss Snark, the literary agent: Miss Snark is Retiring

(and just when I figured out how to link straight to a particular post)

If You Call a Rose an Onion, It Will Stink

I worked for an LDS publisher who claimed you had seven words or less (preferably less) to grab a reader's attention. The title was one of the key reasons buyers picked up a new book and we spent hours retitling purchased manuscripts.

Now I wonder--how important is a title during the submission process? Does a title ever grab your attention and cause you to lift a manuscript out of the 'slush pile'? How do you feel about those manuscripts which are submitted simply as "Untitled"?
Seven words, huh? That sounds about right. And you're right, a good title piques interest and will get a buyer to take the book off the shelf. I've toyed with the idea of hiring someone solely to generate titles. That would be nice. But in reality, it's a group effort. We often run a list of titles by our readers and employees and see which one appeals to the most people.

As to how important your title is to the submission process--not very. Yes, sometimes an interesting title will invite me to read that mss first, but it's the story and the writing that make the final decision. It's a somewhat different skill set required for creating titles and for writing stories. Kind of like the difference between writing a novel and writing poetry. I never turn down a book based on its title. And I always reserve the right to change the title--it's in my contract.

I have used author's original titles before. Some of them are great. Sometimes I've tweaked them a little, or used them to start the brainstorming process. Sometimes they're really, really bad--but a bad title is better than no title.

I really hate mss submitted as "Untitled." A title brings focus to a story. A story without a title says to me that you don't know enough about your story (bad news) or that you're too lazy or that you're expecting me to do all the work. My experience tells me that Untitled manuscripts are going to need lots of editing in other places as well.

So--brainstorm titles. Test them out on your friends and family. Pick one. Put it on your manuscript and submit. Keep your list of brainstormed titles so that you can offer other suggestions when the publisher asks for them. (Sometimes they will, sometimes they won't.)


LDS Fiction Market

Spring Creek announced it no longer accepts fiction submissions and will only consider nonfiction. Millennial Press also only accepts nonfiction. Statistics seem to favor nonfiction publication over fiction. Do you think the LDS fiction market will continue to grow and new writers still have a chance at publication or do you think the nonfiction market is pushing out the fiction?

Non-fiction sells better than fiction. By a long shot. If you're a small publisher, like Spring Creek and Millennial and several others, you have to make every penny count.

If you publish in the traditional way, you're looking at an investment of $8,000—10,000 per title, or more. If your fiction titles aren't selling fast enough, then your resources get tied up in inventory. If enough of your resources get bogged down in slow moving traffic, then you go out of business. It's not always a question of what we would prefer to publish, it's what we can afford to publish.

Having said that, YES, I think the LDS fiction market will continue to grow. The larger publishers seem committed to producing LDS fiction.

And YES, new writers have every chance in the world. Write a good book. It will get noticed.


LDS Children's Books

What do you think is the outlook for children's writers in the LDS market? Any hope of publishing picture books, early readers, chapter books, or MG novels? Lisa Peck seems to be doing well with the CTR series. Do you think there's room for more series books for kids?

Do publishers shy away from children's books because of the cost production factor or because the market is simply too small?

Do you think there's a way to create more desire for children's books in the LDS market?

I always grimace a little when I read questions like this because there is no easy or good answer. I wish I could say that the LDS children's market was in an upswing but I'm not seeing it.

Yes, publishers have to look at the cost of production vs expected sales levels when considering any book. It is the rare children's book that balances out. They cost a lot to produce. The market is simply too small. The bigger publishers can afford the risk. The smaller ones are going to have to really have their socks blown off to take the chance. Children's books do not sell as well as adult books. Fiction does not sell as well as non-fiction. A fiction children's book has several strikes against it even before the envelope hits the slush pile.

But don't despair. Please don't let the market as it is stop you from writing your children's books. We NEED good, solid, LDS children's books--especially at the middle reader level.

As for series books, if you take a look at DBs online popularity rating of middle readers, you'll notice that there are several LDS series books in the top 100. And as a publisher, I'd much rather take a chance on a children's book that was part of, or could be made into, a series, than a stand-alone.

How do you create a desire for the LDS children's market? Same as for any market. You need a fantastic manuscript, a brave publisher and an enthused marketing department.


FanFic Commentary

Hey, how did it get to be Wednesday already? I promised my comments on the fanfic stories, and then on Monday, I forgot. I'm sorry. It's that same old end of the school year stuff clouding my brain.

First let me say that there was a word limitation on this. It's very difficult to do an entire story in the number of words I gave you. You have to choose between action/dialogue and description/characterization. Both authors assumed that we'd be familiar enough with the settings, mood, characters, and other background stuff, and chose to focus on the action/dialogue. That was a good choice.

Portrait of a Jedi:
You created a complete story. That was good for the purposes of this exercise. If it were the end of a chapter, you would want to follow up with something that would entice the reader to continue on, sort of a mini-cliffhanger. I thought having Obi-Wan feel what the droejan felt was cool. (Gross, but cool.) I would have liked to see just a bit more intensity of emotion--why was the boy important; was Obi-Wan afraid he would fail and was he sad or angry about that; was he afraid he would die, that finally he'd done something so reckless that he was doomed; and maybe some relief when Qui-Gon showed up. The sort of placid, matter-of-fact tone doesn't let us connect with Obi-Wan as a real person.

Final Word: Good start; add more emotion.

I've never seen this show, but I could clearly understand what was going on. That was good. I liked the way you started right in the middle of the action/conflict. Good choice. I liked the salt pellets. There was a lot of dialogue but it worked. I might add a little internal dialogue, so we know how the boy's are interpreting what they're seeing. Are they afraid? Or is this old hat to them? If this were a book, you'd need to add more description (which you left out due to limited word count). Having the old man "crackle" was distracting. Use "said" then you could say something like Sam could hear his bones crackle when he stood, or something like that. I like the ending. It provides the motivation for the boys' conflict and also sets up that there will be future conflict between them.

Final Word: Good job. Makes me want to watch the show.


Quoting Church Leaders

This does not apply to most LDS fiction writers, but non-fiction writers--HEADS UP!

The Church is tightening up their copyright permission policies. Actually, they're not really changing their policies, rather, they're tightening up enforcement of the policies that have been in existence for years. The number of books and other products that are using copyrighted, intellectual property without permission is off the charts. It's been a long time coming, but I personally think it's an appropriate step for the Church to take--even if it makes my job a little harder.

Each project requesting permission to use copyrighted materials will be evaluated on its own terms, but here are a few general tips.

  • Fair use laws apply when quoting commercially published materials (ex: book written by a General Authority). Each publisher will have their own interpretation of fair use, so contact them for permission.
  • You must have permission to quote living General Authorities. This includes articles in the Ensign and Conference talks, as well as quotes from their published books. As Church leaders are often traveling, it may take as long as two months for a response.
  • Deceased General Authorities and other Church leaders may be quoted according to existing copyright laws. (You probably need permission for anything published after 1923.)
  • Guidelines for quoting Church Handbooks are generally included in the handbook itself.
  • Art, music, and other works have specific guidelines and need permission to be used.
  • Scriptures may be used without permission, with the exception of the headings, footnotes, Topical Guide and Bible Dictionary, which are copyrighted.
  • Generally, the Church does not give permission for compilations and quote books to use the words of General Authorities and other Church leaders, although the individual may be willing to do so.
  • Permission must be given in writing. You may submit your requests or ask questions via email at cor-intellectualproperty[at]ldschurch[dot]org. (Sorry, I can’t get the link to work.) Give specifics about your project.
  • As might be imagined, the Church’s permissions department has been swamped with requests, so it may take some time for a response. Some items will get a quick response in a matter of days, but longer projects (like books) may take up to two months to receive a response.

It is your responsibility as the author of the book to get written permission for quotes BEFORE you submit your manuscript to a publisher. If you're having trouble getting those permissions, your publisher may be willing to help you, but be prepared to rewrite if the answer is no.


Too Funny Not to Post

Normally, I do not post on Saturdays. I like to pretend I have a life. But the truth is, I eat, breathe and sleep books and publishing. So, I was surfing today and found this link on Miss Snark's blog. It is dated 5.11.07 and titled Slushpile. (You might be able to go directly to it by clicking here.)

(And before you tell me how to link directly to that post, it doesn't work on Miss Snark's site.)


Six of One...

If you had to choose between a manuscript that had a great story but was poorly written (needed a lot of editing) and a manuscript that was written beautifully but the story was mediocre, which would you choose?

Neither. Because I wouldn't be able to sell either one (as is) and it would be stupid for me to invest the time, energy and thousands of dollars into something that would not be profitable for me.

However, if it was a really good story, I might give them notes and ask them to work on it--but that isn't usually enough to bring it to publishable standards. (See yesterday's post about rewriting.)


Second Chances

Do you ever give potential authors a "second chance" by allowing them to revise a manuscript and resubmit it?

If so, does that happen very often?

Under what circumstances?

Once you receive that revised manuscript, does it have a better chance of being published?


No. I assume that the author is sending me their best work. If their best isn't good enough, it's unlikely they'll be able to revise it enough to make it publishable. Usually, they're better off starting fresh with a new story.

For fiction, if I like the story line and the writing is pretty good, but they have a secondary story line that doesn't work, or maybe the age of the characters is off for the target audience, or something relatively minor. But it has to be pretty good to begin with. I'm more likely to offer a second chance on non-fiction, if the concept is really good.

Yes and no. It has a slightly better chance, in that there was something intriguing about the original submission. If I hadn't liked it, I would have rejected. But after that, it has the same chance as any other submission.


FanFic Contest Submissions

I only got two submissions for this contest. Both are posted below. Since there are only two, let's not vote for a winner. Instead, leave comments about what you liked about the stories, if you felt they captured the feeling of the original story, if you'd like to read more. If it didn't work for you, give specific suggestions on what you'd do differently.

I will post my comments about each one on Monday.

FanFic Contest #2: Supernatural

Dean pushed the door open, shotgun cocked in his hand. He eyed the room. “Sammy, where are you?”

Sam burst through another door. “Did you see anything?”

“No.” Sam lowered the shotgun.

“Salt pellets might not work, you know,” Sam said.

“I keep telling you, it’s a demon. Nothing else.”

“But, the bright light—“

Dean cut him off. “Are you gonna start in again?”

“Why is it so impossible for you to believe that we’re chasing something else this time?”

“Like what?” Dean assumed a defiant stance.

“You know.”

“Give me a break, Sammy. This is like any other job. People keep dying and we’re going to hunt it down and stop it from killing again. End of story.” Dean checked inside a closet.

“How can you be so sure?”

“Because.” Dean turned around to face Sam. “We’ve been hunting these things for years. They’re demons, that’s all. Nothing else.”

The door creaked open.

Dean whirled around, shotgun pointed and ready to fire.

“Don’t shoot.” A withered man crackled as he attempted to raise his hands.

Sam rushed to him. “What are you doing out here?”

“I check on the place now and then.”

Dean reluctantly lowered the shotgun. “Sorry about that.”

“Why are you in my cabin?”

“Oh, us, we’re, uh—“ Sam started.

“Gas inspectors. Someone reported a leak and we came to look things over. The shotgun’s for safety.”

“There hasn’t been gas here for years. I don’t even use it anymore, not since my Edith passed over. It was our special place.”

“We’re sorry to bother you then,” Dean said.

Sam glanced around the room. “It’s getting lighter in here.”

The old man smiled as light spilled into the room.

Dean pulled the shotgun close. He shielded his eyes.

“Edith? Is that you?” The old man reached out. “I’ve been praying for you to come and get me. It’s finally time.”

Sam and Dean stepped back while the light took the form of a young woman.

“It is you. You’re so young and beautiful. Like the day we met.”

Sam grabbed Dean’s shoulder. “Don’t shoot.”

Mesmerized by the powerful light, Dean watched it envelope the old man and whisk him away. In a flash, it was over.

Dean rubbed his eyes. “Why’d you stop me, Sam?”

“I think she was an angel.”

“Oh, come on. That poor dude was taken by a demon and we didn’t do anything to prevent it.”

“No, Dean. I really think she was an angel.”

“I should’ve blown her away.”

Sam moved close to Dean. “I think she was sent here to bring him back.”

“Back where?”

Sam shrugged. “I’m not sure.”

“You believe that?”

“After what we’ve seen, how can we say there aren’t angels?”

“’Cause.” Dean jutted out his chin. “There’s not.”

“Why are you so certain?”

Dean walked to the window. He gazed outside and swallowed hard. “Because, Sam, if there was,” he paused, “why didn’t any of them save Mom?”

FanFic Contest #1: A Portrait of the Jedi as a Reckless Young Teenager

Disclaimer: The characters of Obi-Wan Kenobi and Qui-Gon Jinn, the concept of the Force, and the entire Star Wars universe belongs to George Lucas. I am borrowing them for purposes of entertainment with no intent to profit. The droejan is my own creation.

Reckless! Pressed up against the putrid-smelling belly of the droejan, Obi-Wan Kenobi wondered how he could have been so stupid. He should have listened to the warnings about the droejans luring people into their lairs with mirages – but he hadn't reckoned on seeing a mirage of young Bail Organa. The boy had disappeared, and as the Jedi were negotiating the succession to the Viceroy's throne anyway, they had been asked to investigate. The Force had led them into the mountainous terrain, and when Obi-Wan had seen the boy in the mouth of a cave, he'd simply run ahead, eager to rescue.

The droejan had caught him almost immediately, sweeping him up to its underside with long, strong limbs. Now inside, it laid Obi-Wan on the floor and stroked his face with something thin and bristly. The limb rasped against the skin of his neck, then retreated. Something else plunged directly into his jugular vein, and Obi-Wan screamed as his blood was sucked out of his body.

Abruptly, the droejan stopped and, despite the pain, Obi-Wan felt delighted surprise ripple through his consciousness. Drooling with desire, he determined to take only small, regular sips of this special blood. He could drain the other human, but he'd keep this one as long as he could. Realizing he was sharing the droejan's consciousness, Obi-Wan swallowed in disgust.

Hot acid shot into Obi-Wan’s bloodstream, then the droejan removed its fang. The torment faded to a comforting numbness and he no longer felt the droejan's desire to feed. Its back legs rustled, and then one of its arms lifted his head quickly while the other one slipped something silky over his head and around his neck.

It jumped away, and Obi-Wan sat up and examined his neck. Something foreign covered the wound and when he touched it with his fingertips, the feeling drained out of them. When he tugged on the silky thing, he could feel a thin cord like a leash. Fighting increasing drowsiness, he followed it to a stone column, then recoiled as his foot stepped on something soft and yielding.

Yawning, Obi-Wan knelt down, feeling around. An arm! His hand came in contact with hair, then a face. Just then, the lair was lit by the green glow of Qui-Gon Jinn's lightsaber and Obi-Wan could see who was lying there. He'd found Bail Organa, asleep.

The light went out for a moment, and pain stabbed through Obi-Wan's neck, banishing his sleepiness. It felt as though the droejan had come back, but when he put his hand up, there was nothing there. Below him, Bail whimpered and stirred as well. The agony disappeared abruptly and the drowsiness returned. Trying to stifle another yawn, Obi-Wan watched Qui-Gon remove his lightsaber from the droejan's head.

Kneeling down at Bail's side to check the boy's pulse, Qui-Gon glanced over to his apprentice. Obi-Wan braced himself for a lecture on his recklessness, but his master merely said, "Obi-Wan, I hope you get a padawan just like you."


Legitimate Contests

Do you think we can use [winning the question contest] on our cover letters?

No. Very few of my colleagues even know this blog exists, so they would have no idea what you were talking about. Besides, this is not a legit writing contest.

I know you were joking, but here's what you can use--legitimate contests that offer real prizes of cash or publication, like Writer's Digest contests. Being published in an anthology does not count.

How to tell if the contest is legit? Check Preditors and Editors.


Question Contest Winners!

Okay, here we go.

Almost as Smart as Me question (tie)
What writing books would you recommend? I've heard that some rules of grammar have changed/are changing--how do we keep up? (Rebecca Talley)

What subjects are "off limits" that you would not consider publishing, no matter how well written? (Rebecca Talley)

These are both really smart questions. The answers change from time to time, so it's good to keep asking them.

Obviously Doesn't Have a Clue question
Should I spend a lot of time trying to figure out where best to place chapters or will that all change anyway if my manuscript is accepted? (Rebecca Talley)

Even though Rebecca knows better and intended this question as a joke, the unfortunate reality is I've had people ask me that. Really.

Got to Be Kidding question
Last month I decided to become a best-selling author and ever since then, I've had my eye on a silver Mercedes. Do you think I should buy it when I get my contract or wait and pay cash for it when I get my first royalty check? By the way, I'm planning to have my book written and published within six months. (Rebecca Talley)

Again, Rebecca is joking but some people really believe they can buy a new car with their first royalty check. Not in this market. Not usually in any other market either, although there are the rare exceptions.

Never Heard That One Before question
I have created a soundtrack for my book. Would it be useful to send in a CD of the soundtrack with the book? Should I list the songs and artists at the end of my book as notations for inspiration? (Andi Sherwood)

I honestly have never heard this one before. Answer coming soon.

Made Me Spew My Drink While Laughing question
I'm trying to figure out if it's best to use designer perfume to scent the pages of my manuscript and cover letter or if it's okay to just go with a perfume from Target? (Rebecca Talley)

It was tough picking a winner in this category, but I think this one is it.

My Favorite question
Do you think it's easier to become a brain surgeon than a published author? (Rebecca Talley)

I don't know if this is my favorite because it's such a cool question, or if I like it best because I had so much fun answering it. Either way, it wins.

Are You Sure You're Not a Three-Year-Old? (aka: person who submits the most REAL questions)
Is there anyone here who wonders who is going to win this one? 80% of the questions, serious and tongue-in-cheek, came from Rebecca Talley, who is now my new best friend.

Thanks also to Andi, Melanie, Tristi, Terri, Mindi, Nolan, and a few other anonymous question submitters. I really appreciate your questions and will answer all of them in the coming days.


Personal Issue is NBD

Based on all the kind words of concern, posted here and e-mailed, I have belatedly realized that I probably shouldn't have worded my post quite that way. It's really not a big deal.

Personal Issue = end of school year for my children who all need my personal attention RIGHT THIS VERY MINUTE. I probably get 10 texts/e-mails a day asking me what a word means or how to spell something or if the comma is in the right place or (my personal favorite) will I write their 20 page term paper for them please, and btw, it's due tomorrow. Then there's all the year-end banquets and awards events and dances and cramming for finals (which they've never learned to do by themselves; even the ones at college want me to quiz them over the phone). And one of them has Girls Camp the week after school lets out. So, well, you get the idea.

I had to choose between writing the LDSP posts or being nice to my kids. They won. And they're still winning. I really will get back here soon. And I'll choose my words more carefully next time.