The Thirty Minute Blogger

Exploring Books and the Writer's Life, Faith and Works, Culture and Pop Culture, Space Science and Science Fiction, Technology and Nostalgia, Parenting and Childhood, Health: Physical and Emotional ... All Under the Iron Hands of the Clock and That 30 Minute Deadline

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Writing a Children's Book: Part I - The Idea

This is yet another occasional series dealing with the writing process that was involved in creating my children's book, Michael and the New Baby. (At left is an early concept for the front and back covers)

The first step in the process is generating an idea worth exploring at length. This needs to be an idea you are interested enough in to pursue to quite a while as the book writing process is slow. If it is not a topic you are passionate about, you'll lose interest long before it's complete and set it aside. For me, I had a six year old son who was worried about becoming an older brother and how much that would change his life. He was wondering if there would be enough love to go around. He had seen all sorts of silly cartoons in which siblings do not get along well at all ... a staple of children's humor and children's TV, but terrible examples putting all sorts of negative ideas into the heads of impressionable children who are about to go through a life changing event. My idea was to write an adventurous story that my six year old would enjoy and that would also include all sorts of reassurances he needed to face becoming a big brother with confidence and a positive attitude. This was an idea I was passionate about as I saw how deeply my son was worried about the birth of our second child and his younger sibling.

I had most of the background research already done for me. I was witnessing directly all the concerns that my child was facing and I knew what my readership would like as I lived with him every day. From there the challenge was to develop a story line that would encompass all those issues and allow the main character to deal with them and overcome them one by one without being preachy. That's how it all started.
Let me know what you want to know as this series moves forward. I'm happy to help as much as I can.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Nostalgia: Jonny Quest Takes Baby Boomers Back

The summer of 2009 started by hearkening back to TV shows from the Boomers' collective past: Land of the Lost, X Men, Transformers, G.I. Joe, and Star Trek. If you want to steep yourself further in nostalgia this year, pick up the Hanna-Barbera Golden Collection: Jonny Quest: The Complete First Season DVD set. Now, that title is a little misleading. The complete first season (1964-65) was J.Q.'s only season until more recent attempts to restart the TV series (which met with little success). Setting that aside, and setting aside adulthood for a while, this 4 disc DVD set will plunge you right back into childhood, taking you back to the very first (or so Hanna-Barbera states) animated action adventure series. Relive such episodes as "Mystery of the Lizard Men," "The Robot Spy," and "The Invisible Monster."

Set aside the concerns of the modern world and relive the peculiar stereotyping of an earlier age, especially among Dr. Quest's many nemeses: the imperious nasal German, the inscrutable Asian, the sneaky Egyptian ... the list goes on, more than one of whom will intone sinisterly "Sooo, Dr. Quest..." followed by one threat or another. Puzzle again over why all scientists have their own personal islands filled with hapless natives who will be terrorized when some experiment goes wrong until the Quests, Race, and Jonny's adopted brother from India Hadji arrive to save the day. Jonny and Hadji ... accompanied by their four footed sidekick Bandit--who plays the fool and keeps the tension within reasonable limits for little kids ... always manage to bamboozle the evil adults and, with an assist from their muscle bound agent friend and protector Race and the brainy Dr. Quest, thwart the villains' plots and save the day.

For those who like extras, extras have been drummed up, including material on the animators, trivia, a video handbook of heroes, villains, and locations, a vintage TV commercial, and trailers for the series that appeared on all three major networks ... back in the day when three were all there was. Of course there are no commentaries by the stars and director to accompany the episodes. Nobody had thought up such things back in the 1960s. Then again, if rumors prove true, the 2010 Jonny Quest movie probably will have these things ... but will the nostalgia remain?

Personally, as a kid, I enjoyed the fact the adults looked like animated G.I. Joes (the original 12" variety, not their tiny descendants about whom the 2009 movie was made). So, take a look, and be reminded that back in the day the guy with the biggest laser won and the evil villain's stooges always screamed "Aaaaiiiieee" when they met their doom.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

How to Use Evolution When Having "The Talk" With Your Kids

This is a parent to parent talk. Kids please leave the room!

I've said it before: It pays to be widely read. As a trained archaeologist, I am steeped in the theory of evolution. When it came time to have the sex talk with my kids, I was ready. My wife let me handle this and here's how it went. No discussion of mechanics was necessary as the school had taken care of that ... and for that I am truly grateful. Evolution tells us that our bodies have remained roughly the same for the past million years. All the big changes have occurred upstairs, in the braincase. The thoroughly modern upper brain, the rational mind, is a Johnny Come Lately type from the last 35,000 years or so. Once I'd explained this and before their eyes could glaze over, I told them the following. "Your body has been around for a million years in this form, and it has gotten really good convincing you to have babies. Your lower brain, also a million years old, strongly believes that there are saber toothed tigers out there waiting to eat you and so you must have babies as soon as possible. Together your lower brain and body will give you powerful urges and try to trick you into having babies before you are eaten. It is only your upper brain, that newcomer to the game, that knows you are not going to be eaten. You must use your upper brain to control your lower brain and body and tell them you don't need to have sex now, you don't need to make babies yet, you aren't going to be eaten, so just cool it." I also added for effect, "However, if you are tempted, there is a sort of saber toothed tiger out there today. It's called AIDS and it's just as deadly."

It pays to be widely read. It helps you get through the darndest situations.

Say, that's article 24, the magic number according to one blogging guru. Twenty-four articles in two months and the search engines will take serious notice and the readers will start flooding in. We shall see!

Put Story Back in Ghost Stories Part 3: You Tell Me

In Part 3 I was going to finish my argument with a ghost story based on the Addison facts of the matter, throwing in imagination to fill in the scant facts of the case, as any storyteller worth her or his salt would do. It began ...

Sitting in the metal folding chair in the darkened work trailer among the litter of shovels and wheelbarrows, Jack wondered again what he was doing with his life. Nighttime security guard was not what he had planned on. Rodeo star was what he’d hoped for, but rodeos were seasonal work and he wasn’t as good in the saddle as he’d imagined. He switched off his flashlight and put aside his
book. The kerosene heater hissed fitfully beside him, throwing off too little
warmth in the face of the arctic front that had moved down from Canada in a rush
as the sun had set. ...

Then it hit me. Climb down off the soap box and give others a shot.

You need to know this: the site was on top of a largely leveled hill facing the Potomac River. Facing the river, the infamous Capital Beltway was off to the right. Most of the trees had been cleared from the central area where multiple excavations were underway. The graveyard (six stone showing and a knarled Osage Orange tree decorating one corner) was a bit downslope and to your left, below the level of the manor house foundation. The back of the foundation faced the river and the area beyond the house on the river side was leveled as a formal front lawn. One of the security guards had broken the front window of the trailer one night swatting at a bee with the butt of his pistol.

The photos in the last blog and this one are of the manor house foundation (now long gone as the property is developed). The cemetery remains however on what is now a hilltop (yes they lowered the ground level significantly) with a fence around it to avoid the graveyard from becoming an "attractive nuisance."

There you have it. I challenge you to come up with an intriguing, chilling ghost tale based on these facts rather than a dry investigation piece or a short recitation of the facts. Send your stories to my gmail box: and leave me a comment here so I know you are participating. I'll post the top three stories later.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Put Story Back in Ghost Stories, Part 2

In Part 2, I’m providing you with “just the facts ma’am,” the stripped down basics of a haunting I sincerely doubt anyone has recounted … at least not publically … before.

In January, in the early 1980s it was bitterly cold, and a contract archaeology crew was conducting winter excavations at the Addison Plantation Site [a.k.a. Oxon Hill Manor 18PR175] in Prince Georges County, Maryland. It was the site of a large plantation that had been owned by John Addison’s family and one other wealthy family from 1680 to 1895. Excavations were being conducted to gather all the data possible from the site prior to the construction of what was to be the site of Port America and is now the National Harbor instead. The archaeologists hired a security force to guard the site at night as it was located close to the town of Oxon Hill, Maryland, just across the Potomac River from Alexandria, Virginia, and uninvited guests were likely to hurt themselves in the dark as there were several deep excavation pits, including the manor house cellar and a well shaft. There was a work trailer with a small kerosene heater in it where tools were stored, site maps were kept, and the security team spent much of their nights when not on rounds. One morning when we arrived, no guard was on site. We quickly learned that two guards on two different shifts had quit abruptly. Each claimed on the form they left behind to have seen ghosts. The first guard claimed he smelled the scent of lilacs and saw a woman in old fashioned dress coming from the direction of the family cemetery located downhill from the front of the manor house itself. Determining this was a ghost, he quit and fled the site. The second guard claimed to have seen a man dressed in outdated military uniform and carrying a sword, also walking near the cemetery. This second guard promptly quit. Both noted the encounter before leaving and were never seen again.

Alright, those are the bare facts. One wonders if the kerosene heater might not be leaky and that headlights from cars crossing the Woodrow Wilson Bridge not far away and raking across the site in the dark didn’t create an otherworldly impression. Or perhaps it was just too darned cold, the cemetery close by provided inspiration, and they both decided together to claim ghostly encounters and head off together for warmer climes. But those are details one might work out in the story. What you have above might appear in a field investigation. Not a lot of life to it, is there?

In Part 3, I’ll make a ghost story out of it. Then, I’ll challenge anyone out there who reads this.

Hubble Service Mission 4 a Success!

Congratulations to the Space Shuttle crew of Hubble Service Mission 4. After their hard work, ingenuity, and improvisation, the Hubble Space Telescope is better than ever and ready to look more deeply into the early universe, allowing us all to discover more about the early formation of galaxies, along with other mysteries of the universe. Today, the new and improved Hubble was set free, ready for use. It was a bittersweet moment as no human will ever make direct contact with this beautiful machine again. Bon voyage Hubble. Again congratulations to the crew and the NASA team on the ground. Great work. We look forward to the new discoveries. God speed getting home.
Follow up note: the crew and the shuttle came home just fine, even if they did have to land at Edwards instead of at the Cape.

Photo courtesy of STScI.

Put Story Back in Ghost Stories, Part 1

We are driven by story. Everyone around the world with an active mind will gladly set aside time to hear a good story. The phrase "good story" is key here. There has been an insidious trend in recent years, given the spate of reality TV shows that have turned the haunted house into a scientific case study, to turn the good old fashioned ghost story into a dry scientific journal article. In the process, ghosts have been reduced from skeletal armies, vengeful jilted brides, and headless horsemen to sad little balls of light or erratic mumblings captured on tape. In the desire to prove the supernatural natural and the thing that goes bump in the night measurable, we've taken away its ability to scare and entertain. Spine tingling campfire tales are now the stuff of dissertations and ivory tower conferences. Where's the fun in that? Do you really think Ebenezer Scrooge would have changed his ways (or that the reader would believe he could be convinced to do so) by orbs, EVP mutterings, and fluctuations in electronic fields? I think not.

Lloyd Alexander wrote in his article "The Grammar of Story" (in the book Celebrating Children's Books, p. 4 -- see I managed to stick somewhat to the theme of this blog after all), "Storytellers, in realism or fantasy, create illusions, not clinical studies. The test of the latter is how accurately they convey specific facts. The test of illusion is how thoroughly it convinces us of its reality; how strongly it resonates in our emotions; how deeply it moves us to new feelings and new insights. Such illusions may be the truest things we know. 'Art,' says Picasso, 'is a lie that lets us see the truth'."

Truth be told, many ghost stories were most likely generated for practical purposes. Grave robbers of the nineteenth century who were stealing fresh bodies for medical schools spun tales of haunted highways (here comes that headless horseman) and bridges to keep people safely indoors at night while they carted off Aunt Tillie. I imagine haunted house stories may have been generated, at least in some cases, to keep the local kids away from the abandoned building down the street. Of course, truth be told is dull too.

So please, writers of the supernatural, if you must conduct ghost investigations and write about them in books, go the extra mile. Before detailing the account of your case study and laying out the evidence, tell the good ghost stories first. After all, it was the spooky tale of the weeping, moaning, pot throwing, dematerializing specter that drew you to that site in the first place. Give all us readers and lovers of good story a break. Tell the good tale. It isn't hard. It's in the blood. Just let if flow!

In Part 2 I'll take you through the facts of an actual haunting. In Part 3 I'll turn the dry bones into story and ask you to do me one better. See you then!

Sloggin' Thru Blogging: Be Brief!

Continuing my quest to find the best ways to reach out to others throughout the sprawling blogosphere, I came across this useful tidbit while talking with a more experienced blogger with a loyal following. This individual told me that it is best to be brief on a blog post. Be brief and provide a space between each paragraph.

This blogger admitted that something strange happens to him when reading posts. He freely admits he'll happily spend an hour pouring over a single issue of the New Yorker, reveling in long and complex articles. However, when looking to blogs something happens to the brain. The appearance of a post that might be long and complex drives him away. The medium seems to dictate brevity. He also suggests long posts be divided into separate parts to keep each part short enough to lure readers in. This works well with the 24 posts in two months edict discovered previously.

Will it work? Did you read this?

Monday, May 18, 2009

How to Organize Your Research Material to Write Faster as a Freelancer, Part Two

In Part One we discussed creating your outline and organizing your notes. Here we'll bring the two together into a document that allows any freelancer to write faster.

Switch to the other file, the outline file. Create your complete outline based on your notes and the survey you have just made. A detailed outline will serve you better here than a scant outline. The outline should contain your bolded subject headings from the individual notes in the order that will make sense within the structure of your article.

Once the article outline is complete, open a third word document. If you are using Microsoft Word, you can now import both the outline and the notes directly into this third Word document.
Now, the final organizing of your notes is simplicity itself. Cut and paste each note, complete with its parenthetical citation into the appropriate section of the outline. For easy of reading, I individually bold all of the outline headings, subheadings, etc. and increase them to size 16 type to quickly differentiate the outline from the notes.

Now is the point where you can thank me. Once the notes are all up in the outline and organized, you'll discover that what is left over is your bibliography. All the citations are now present and accounted for. All you have to do is select them all and hit Sort. The computer does the rest. However, take a close look at the results. If you have a number of authors with similar names it has been my experience that Microsoft Word is terrific at alphabetizing to about the fifth letter. After that, things tend to fall apart a bit, so you may have to check to make sure all your bibliographic citations are actually in perfect order. Nice trick, eh?

The rest is simplicity itself. I suggest you save this file as a second document titled perhaps Draft 1. This way you lose nothing as you work. You still have your full outline, your complete notes, and your notes in final order. If you mess up as you write, you can always refer back to the saved files and recover the missing data. Begin with the Introduction and work your way through one outline heading or subheading at a time. Incorporate the parenthetical citations you have already created into the text as needed (they are already written so you don't have to search around wondering where you got the fact you now wish to use which saves you a great deal of time and may save your reputation ... never guess where you obtained a fact ... authors and editors will find out). You can delete the notes as you go, or if you are exceedingly careful, you can cut and paste them to the end of the paper where you can scan them for a final check before you finish. This organization is rewarding as you see the progress you are making as you work your way down through the organized notes and transform the detailed outline into a detailed and well organized final paper your editor (or your professor if you are a student) will be pleased to accept. Provided you have done all the inital set up work as described, the writing will go smoothly and quickly.

Good luck with your next assignment.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Fiction Facts

Did you know that the Dr. Seuss classic Green Eggs and Ham was written as a challenge from the good doctor's editor to create a book weighing in at under 50 different words in the entire text?

Did you know that the personal fortune of the Queen of England is diminutive compared to that of fiction powerhouse and author of the insanely popular Harry Potter book series J.K. Rowling?

Did you know that if Michael and the New Baby sold on eBay as quickly as Barbie doll's I'd be a millionaire? Over 100 Barbies an hour are sold through eBay ... or were before the economy tanked!

You should know that these peculiar facts and many others are available in the book That's a Fact Jack!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

How to Organize Your Research Material to Write Faster as a Freelancer Part One

The proposal letter we discussed before has netted you an assignment and you have given yourself a tight deadline that has your editor interested. Now you need to be able to pull together you research material quickly and organize it efficiently so that you may indeed write quickly and acknowledge all your sources to avoid a plagerism charge. What do you do?

In this case, the computer is your best friend. Back in the late 1970s and early 1980s, I wrote all my college papers with a portable typewriter. Never again! The method that follows requires a computer to work. This method is also perfect for students working on long and complex term papers or dissertations.

Here's how you do it. Create two files first. One is for your article outline (yes, you'll need an outline, just like in English class, it's unavoidable) and the other for your notes. You will take your notes first and then create your outline. Sounds backwards doesn't it? However, you won't know all the cogent details to plug into your assignment until you've seen what sort of research materials you can dig up. After all, an outline that reads "Introduction" "Body" "Conclusion" really isn't any help anyway.

When taking notes, begin by putting together the complete bibliographic citation before you take the first note from any given source. You'll thank me for this later. With each note you take from a specific source, begin that note with the material you'll need for a parenthetical citation at the beginning of each note (Author's last name, date of publication, page number). Then in bold, write in the topic of that note, i.e. history, material culture, construction, ... Whatever the main topic of that note is, put it up front following that citation and bold it. This will help you organize your material and create your outline later. Take your notes as you always do. When I'm in a hurry, since I type very quickly after 18+ years practice, I tend to take down the material virtually verbatim at this stage. Repeat this process throughout your notetaking with each source you intend to use.

Once your notes are complete, survey the results. Check out all those bolded topics and determine the structure of the outline of your article at this time. You'll be able to quickly see which areas of research have the most material and which are very poorly represented. You may decide at this stage that the poorly represented material should be dropped from the article.
In Part Two, we'll discuss using the outline to organize your notes and write quickly.

Sloggin' thru Blogging: Increasing Traffic ... So They Tell Me

Here we are with the next installment in this occasional series. I've been searching for wisdom lately, seeking the arcane knowledge that will draw more traffic to this blog in support of my children's book Michael and the New Baby. For other new bloggers out there seeking and not finding instant gratification, here's a few things I've learned.

  • Add images to your posts, short movies if you can. A little flash livens the place up.

  • Post solid articles with actual material of interest to draw attention to yourself and never do what spammers do and just fill a blog with random words designed to attract search engines. This tactic is soon discovered and your blog is shot down forthwith.

  • Find an amenable blogger who has lots of traffic and writes on topics like yours and get said blogger to write a guest blog or two on your site.

  • To do that you have to do this: spend time searching for blogs that interest you and provide intelligent comments on their articles with links back to your blog. This leads to those better known bloggers who might write on your page. Of course this also requires time, of which I have little while working full time and attending seminary part time. But enough of that, you're not reading this to listen to me snivel.

  • Submit your blogs to various directories that "ping" a variety of search services all at once such as Ping0matic or Pingoat. Join Technorati or BlogExplosion. Sign up for My MSN, My Yahoo, Google Pages, etc. If it's free and will draw attention to your blog, sign up for it.

  • Create articles for one of any number of free services online that may draw attention back to your blog if you're clever enough to point people in that direction.

  • Social nets such as Facebook may score you an occasional hit but don't expect much. Your friends already know you too well.

  • Finally: and the one that seems to make the most sense to me at this moment is try to add a lot go strong content in a couple of months. The expert I read stated 24 blog entries in 2 months was the magic number it takes to get search engines to really take notice of your site. For now, given my time limitations, that's the one I'm hanging my hat on. I'll see what happens at the end of May when I reach the magic number.

Check in periodically and see how it all works out. Tell your friends. And again, if you know of a digital "brick man" let me know.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Helping Your Child Cope With the Day

When dealing with a stressed child, under the age of twelve, it pays to adjust their focus at bedtime. According to the Dictionary of Pastoral Care and Counseling, "...the most important dimension of working with normal children is to be concrete. The younger the child, the less capable he or she is of having abstract thought. ... to communicate and help children, [you] must leave the world of the intellect and get into the concrete world of things and experiences. For children, words are secondary to experience." (Hunter, Rodney J., General Editor. Dictionary of Pastoral Care and Counseling. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2005, 143)

My wife and I stumbled upon a method to employ this useful information years ago.

Due to our circumstances, our son was attending daycare. As time went by, while he enjoyed the experience and had about as many friends there as one might have on Facebook, the morning leave taking was stressing him out. We found that after reading his bedtime stories, it paid to have a little ritual that focused on the positive aspects of the upcoming day. It began and ended the same way. To begin my wife or I would intone, "In the morning, ..." and at the end we finished with "... but first you have to get some sleep, because if you don't you'll be a grouch in the morning, and grouches don't have any fun." In between was a simple listing of all the fun things our son would do in the upcoming day. Most importantly, from our son's perspective, was the listing of one of us coming to pick him up from daycare. It was a solid, concrete reassurance in practical terms the we loved him and would be there for him. What were some of these other fun things? That was simplicity itself, getting up, having breakfast, seeing all his friends during the day, anything that was positive. It was a long list.

Repeating this daily ritual relieved a lot of stress for our child and was one concrete way of saying "I love you" every night before bedtime. So, if your child is suffering anxiety from some challenge faced in life, come up with a concrete ritual of your own that provides a calming influence at bedtime or take ours. We hope it helps.

Our daughter did not have to go to day care, but she found this concrete bedtime ritual equally reassuring. I'll bet both of them could take you through a basic version of the "In the morning ..." litany.

God bless you all and thanks for stopping by.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Alien Abductions and Slavering Monsters, the Single Source Theory

I believe most alien abduction stories and fictional monsters and ghouls, including my own improbably named Stinky Roos, originate from a single source heretofore unidentified. I stumbled upon this discovery years ago, along about two in the morning, stubbing my toes in the dark while taking a warm bottle of milk to a crying tot.

It all goes back to infanthood, you see. There you are, a helpless baby, awake in the wee hours and crying out for help. And what happens next is the single source for all the above mentioned terrors. You cry out in the night and into your room comes this shambling nightmare of a creature. It’s hair is wild, its eyes – heavily shadowed and lidded – stare right through you, and it walks with a lurching gate, arms held out stiff before it. You start to wonder to yourself if crying out in the night had been such a good idea after all. This creature of nightmares is, of course, a pitiable sleep deprived parent or grandparent roused from the depths of dreamland.

Take the alien abduction incidents. The victim can’t move, is lifted from the bed, and transported to a table where unspeakable things are done, and then the victim is returned to bed confused and revolted by it all. Does that or does that not describe a nighttime diaper change or temperature taking session for an infant? It all begins to become clear now.

As for monsters, think how many stumble around stiff legged, arms outstretched and searching. How many of these creatures moan in the night. Some can’t seem to get their heads together and keep mumbling about brains. They are often presented with hair disheveled and wild eyed, insensible creatures of the night. Do these images not describe the aforementioned sleep deprived caregivers?

So there you have it. No Invader Zim or Gort and Klatuu required; no evil zombies, mummies, or even Stinky Roos necessary. When it comes down to it, every last one of them can be related back to the real things that go bump in the night … half-awake parents responding to the call of the wild infant in the watches of the night. How we must be burned into all those tiny infant subconscious minds, given all the stories of unnatural events and terrifying creatures that have been spawned over the centuries. So there you have it. Arlen Specter gave us the single bullet theory and now I’ve given you the single source theory.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Working With an Editor: Advice to New Freelance Writers

An Editor's Insider Advice Gives Writers an Edge!
Okay, in the last article in this occasional series, we explored how to write an effective article proposal letter. Here we leap to the point where the freelance writer has gotten a book manuscript accepted by a publisher ... like I did with Michael and the New Baby! Here's how to survive that working relationship.

Over the last seventeen years as a writer (and editor), I’ve learned a few things about working with an editor. What follows are a few helpful suggestions that will make the professional working relation between the writer and editor go a little more smoothly. Most authors think of editors this way—the old joke goes:
A husband and wife both write for a living. Every night at the dinner table they discuss their projects and the editorial process with each other. The couple has two small children. Neither parent realized how much their children were listening to these work related conversations until one day, the older daughter, angry at her younger brother, wheeled on him and furiously spat, “You, you, you … EDITOR!”

Yep, that pretty much sums up the popular view of the field.

However, if you’re a first time author facing working with an editor or a hopeful would-be author who hopes to, have no fear. The editor does not carry a card reading “Evil Editor’s Union.” Nor is the editor you grade school English teacher. So take a deep breath, try to relax, and let’s go over a few key points to working with the editor.

First you need to know that editors work for publishing houses. They work with you, but (unless they are private, freelance editors) the publishing house pays their bills. So, if your editor tells you a thing cannot be done that you’d like to see done after you have used all your persuasive charms (politely please), realize this is not an act of malice on the editor’s part … rather what you are asking for most likely goes against publishing house policy. It’s possible what you are asking for violates copyright law or is grossly expensive.
Second, the editor, like you, wants to see your book do well. A profitable book for you, the author, is a profitable book for the editor and the publisher. Everybody wins. So, when the editor recommends changes to your manuscript, consider them carefully, set your ego aside, and make the changes. Rarely you’ll run into a case where a change would impact upon the accuracy of a statement. If that is the case, bring this to the editor’s attention. It is possible the sentence needs to be reworded as the present wording has led to a misinterpretation by the editor. If the editor misses a typo or some other error, do bring that up at the appropriate stage. Everybody’s human and every brain will take certain misspellings and correct them automatically, which is why so many instances of "from" appearing in final manuscripts as "form" occur. Then again, don’t bring such a mistake to the editor’s attention when it is too late to do anything about it. Instead remind yourself only God can be perfect and that all books have typos somewhere in them. It’s one of those little things in life designed to keep up humble.

Now that we have those out of the way, the thing you most need to consider is that you want to build a professional working relationship with your editor that your editor would like to have with you again. In other words, don’t just work for the completion of this book project, but build bridges toward future projects. While there is no guarantee you next book project will be accepted by the same publisher, you can rest assured that it will not be if you make an enemy of your editor now. If word gets back that you are difficult to work with and your books take longer to edit than others of the same sort, you won’t be working with that publisher again.

You begin to make a positive impression by carefully following any guidelines for publication that your editor/publisher sends your way. You may not see the percentage in formatting things their way, but rest assured, if you do so, you will be making the editor’s life easier. Certain formatting procedures make computerized editing and layout processes work more smoothly.

Turn in your manuscript on time. Return the edited copy of your manuscript (the galley pages) by deadline with your input in place as well. Make sure to answer all the questions and make necessary adjustments to each item on the galleys. Do this and your editor will be very happy with you, as you are not messing with the editorial schedule. You make the editor’s life go smoothly and the editor will want to work with you again.
Avoid raising editorial hackles by steering clear of the following pitfalls:

  • a. If you have employed an outside editor to check your initial manuscript for accuracy before turning it in to the publishing house, do not return the edited galley pages to that editor. Your editor at the publishing house is a professional and will not appreciate the second guessing that will come from this outside editor. In fact, returning to this outside editor will almost always generate unnecessary changes as in most cases the two editors will be using different style manuals. You’d be surprised how many differences there are in formatting, comma use, etc. in different manuals aimed at different fields. Trust me on this one, even if that outside editor is your spouse, don’t go there.
  • b. Don’t tell your editor, “I had my friends look over the edited galleys or the layout and THEY think we should change such and such.” This is not the way to make friends and influence editors. The editor will interpret this as “I think we should change such and such and my friends are backing me up.” Friends always back you up, even when you’re wrong. This is especially unwise if you are trying to convince an editor that something should be changed that the editor has already told you can’t be changed. Refer back to the first point above.

That’s enough for now. More to come if people prove to be interested. In the end, remember, the editor wants what you want … a wonderful book that many, many people will want to enjoy for years to come. Work with the editor as the editor’s job is to help make your book better. The editor will help give your writing an extra polish and will make sure you avoid committing errors that could damage book sales, or worse, get you sued.

Best of luck to you in finding and working with an editor on your book project!

If you like what you read here, you can support this blog (don't let me go it alone here): You can order a copy of the children's book Michael and the New Baby directly from Old Line Publishing at:

Keeping the Old iBook Working in Recessionary Times

I have to admit, when I buy something I hang on to it. I keep using a product purchased until it just can’t be used any longer. Some may see this as penurious (or cheap if you’re blunt about it), but I just never got the hang of rampant consumerism. I just can’t ditch a product because a newer model with more bells and whistles has come out.

In this economic recession, you might find it pays to hang on to what you have a bit longer than you might otherwise, just like me. This includes laptop computers. Given my tendency, I’ve been using the clamshell iBook laptop for many years. Right now, it is getting me through all my seminary courses. My hope is that this old friend and I will complete the journey through seminary together. However, the other day, it looked like those hopes would be dashed. The “yo yo” power cord began to deteriorate after about eight years of use (imagine that!). It was sparking and losing its connection. I was afraid my old friend and I would have to part ways.

In a desperate Internet search I ran across Powerbook Medic ( This site provides replacement parts for aging Macs, including my iBook. They help you identify your computer by type (it turns out my clamshell iBook is the easiest of all to identify for obvious reasons), find the component you need to replace, and make the ordering process simple and safe. They were also good to their word and had the needed power cord to me in under a week. This component works perfectly and my hopes are restored. My old friend and I may well see this sojourn through seminary through together after all.
As a personal aside, if you keep an item in working condition long enough, those around you start to view that item with nostalgia. I have to say, when I was without the iBook for a week, my fellow seminarians and professors all expressed concern. They’d all taken note of my aging iBook and missed it when it was absent. That was unexpected! Sometimes it pays to be penurious.