The Mail I Get – Advice Edition

59_bigPeople are always writing me for advice about TV and publishing, not that I have any great wisdom to impart. But that doesn’t stop me from replying anyway.

Hello Mr. Goldberg:
I was referred to you by a friend of your friend XYZ…I am 64 years old and I have a screenplay that desperately needs a place to go, and your name was delivered as the unquestionable favorite.  Please let me know if you might be able to provide me any guidance or wisdom. Should you not be able or interested, (she tries to put away that big pouty lip), your suggestion of someone else would be greatly appreciated.

Unfortunately, I don’t have good news for you. In fact, I have very discouraging news for you. Everybody in L.A. has a screenplay they want to sell. You are one of thousands…and you’re competing with them all, inexperienced and experienced screenwriters alike. I’m neither an agent nor a studio exec, so there’s really nothing I can do for you. I don’t know of any agents who are taking on new clients (they are having a hard enough time selling the scripts written by the experienced clients they already have).
The best advice I can offer is for you to contact the Writers Guild of America to see if they can give you a list of signatory agents who are accepting unsolicited screenplays. The other thing you should be aware of is that ageism is rampant in Hollywood…and if you haven’t already established yourself in the business by 30, you are considered elderly and out-of-touch with popular taste 🙂 I’m 54 and feel ancient when I go into meetings…and despite my extensive credits, it’s still a hard sell for me. I’m just telling you this so you realise that you’re facing a very steep, uphill battle.

I am sure you get a lot of emails and maybe this may not reach you, but here’s hoping. I am an aspiring actress/model and went to a meeting with XYZ at Culver Studios last week. He claims to have been a director/producer for NBC/Universal but the IMDB just doesn’t seem legitimate. He also claims to be married to actress XYZ but there is hardly any information on her either.
He says he wants me to come and work for him and learn the business to become an assistant producer and star in his upcoming movies, but things just aren’t adding up. I called NBC Universal and asked them if his name was on the employee list and was not.  Due to all of the scams and human trafficking which he spoke a lot about, I want to be safe. Do you know how I can navigate safely through this industry and or have any advice for me on how I can obtain legitimate information and backgrounds on producers and directors?

Well, it sounds like you already checked this guy out and learned that something is very fishy. His picture on Imdb also seems amateurish to me… as if by standing beside the studio gate, which anybody can do, he’s trying to confer legitimacy on himself. I’d steer clear of him. Keep in mind, anybody can rent studio space. Just because their office is on a movie studio lot does not mean they are legitimate. In addition to imdb, you can check out producers with the PGA (Producers Guild of America) to see if they are members… or, if they are writer/producers, you can check with the WGA (Writers Guild of America) to see if they are members (or if their companies are guild signatories). You can find out if a director is legit by contacting the DGA (Directors Guild of America) and seeing if he or she is a member. If they are offering you acting jobs, check them out with SAG (Screen Actors Guild) to see if they are signatories or if there are any issues with their company that the union knows about. Lack of produced credits on imDb and non-membership in one of those guilds would raise a big red flag for me.

The Mail I Get – Lame Pitches Edition

Direct-Mail1People are always hitting me up with lame pitches. Here’s one:

Hello sir Lee, how are you ? It’s a pleasure to write you and I’d like to ask you something that my future might be depend on.  I have up to 8 scripts.  I have done the pitch and synopsis of all but unfortunately I don’t have enough resource to do the screenplay of all but I did the most important part of the screenplay of one of them called American DictatorsAmerican Dictators is not a political movie.  It’s a comedy I’m which America will be ruled by dictators for the first time, the first lady has a little daughter and her daughter is so important for her up to spend 80 millions of dollars at her daughter’s birthday but one guy will try to overthrow in order to create a new world order.. .  I’d like to submit to centropolis but they told me to find an established agent.  Sir Lee I’d be very glad if you help me.

I wonder what you mean by “I did the most important part of the screenplay for one of them.” I’m assuming you mean the title page. I’m not clear what help you are looking for from me. Do you want me to complete your screenplay? Find you an agent? Whatever it is, the answer is NO…and that wail you hear is me, running away screaming.

Lee, I see that you are a TV Producer.  Would you have an interest in looking at my novel that  I recently self published on Amazon/Kindle?  It’s XYZ.  It has received excellent reviews from Kirkus Reviews.  Might work for a movie or TV Series?  I await your reply.

That’s not much of a pitch, is it? Why would anyone investigate further based on that lame query? I did, but only so I could ridicule you. The first thing I noticed is that the “excellent reviews from Kirkus Reviews” was actually one review from their paid review service, meaning you bought a positive notice. That screams desperation and, frankly, stupidity. And since you only have two reader reviews, both from “An Amazon Customer,” and your book is ranked in the millions, it tells me that no one has actually bought your book except, perhaps, you or two members of your family (a review that says only: “The best book I have ever read. I couldn’t put it down. I loved it” is a dead giveaway). I didn’t look at the sample because, frankly, there’s only so much punishment I’m willing to inflict upon myself for procrastinating. But I can tell you with absolute certainty that no, it won’t work as a TV series. Unless it’s on a network in hell.

The Mail I Get – It’s About Time Edition

Direct-Mail1It’s been a looonnnggg time since I opened up the mailbag and shared it on the blog. But I’ve been saving some of the best for you (or is it the worst?). Here’s are two recent queries I received:

Would you ever consider working on a graphic novel?  I’m an illustrator that can work on spec.  I  have a couple ideas … Idea B: Anne Frank: Demon Hunter.  It turns out she and Kafka and Hitler all faked their death.  Kafka and Anne’s plans to make a golem and prevent the awakening of the King of Demons and a Norse giant were encoded into her journal, also mystical power boosts for telekinesis and martial arts.  So Hitler races them to the annex to fight over the journal and fights Kafka and Anne there, as the golem fights the norse giant and Demon King.

OMG. How unbelievably awful is that? But what’s really astonishing is that for some reason he thought I would be the right guy for that story. Did somebody steer him my way?

Anne Frank, Kafka and a golem in a kung-fu battle to the death with Hitler? Oh yeah, Lee Goldberg is the guy you want to talk to for that. It’s just his kind of thing.  But you might want to make the golem a talking dolphin instead. That’d really excite him.

I think my brother Tod must have put him up to it. Here’s another query I received.

Dear Professional Amazon Reviewer,

Amazon gave me your details so that I can provide my new book for review.I understand that you may wish to be on the Vine reviewer list. I want to help if you let me. I would welcome an honest review of my free ebook being published today on Amazon. I am aware that, once you are a Vine official reviewer, as Amazon CEO explained to me, you will have access to the top amazing hardware available around for free. I want to help you get there. I have 18 books for review on Amazon but only one every month. So there is plenty of opportunities to offer me a reasonably worded honest potentially powerful clear review on the material I write. This is the way Amazon judges a potential Vine reviewer. My books are non-fiction.

Let’s join forces. The book that I need a review for is based on EFT, tapping techniques, also called emotional freedom technic. In a generic mode, EFT uses acupuncture points also known as acupoints, to release stress, to reduce addiction, to eliminate phobias and in general terms, to rebalance the psychological health of a disturbed individual. If you can rewrite this essence, you are worth the Vine badge.

Pretty sleazy, huh? His books are ranked in the millions, meaning not even his mother ever bought a copy. I wrote back to this guy. Here’s what I said:

You should be ashamed of yourself for misleading people into thinking that writing a review of your books will prove to Amazon that  “they are worth the Vine badge” or will lead them to Vine membership. You clearly have no understanding of how the Vine program works…or you do and just want to mislead people. Writing and posting review of one of your obscure books will have negligible, if any, impact on the likelihood that a reviewer will be selected for the Vine program. But I can understand why you’ve engaged in such desperate measures, given how poorly ranked and badly reviewed your books are…if they are even reviewed at all, which is rare. I have passed your solicitation on to Amazon to alert them to your misleading campaign.

I never heard back from him, of course. I think Tod sent him to me, too.

The Mail I Get – Follow Up Edition

I heard back from that 12-year-old girl who wrote me the other day, asking if she was too young to write & produce her own TV series. I basically told her there was no hurry, and to use the years to come to learn about the business and hone her craft. She replied:

Thank you for all of the advice! I know for right now I my work won’t amount to do squat but when I’m older hopefully it will. My only fear is that between, competitive swimming, Improv, School, making music, trying to become a better artist, Church, mission trips, wanting to spend time with my family, traveling, writing, wanting to be social, and at least relaxing a little I’ll lose the will to do what I want.

Relax, you’re 12. You have plenty of time! And this is the age when you are supposed to be exploring all of those other things. Who knows, you may discover a passion that means more to you than writing for TV, and that’s fine. Your interests and priorities are bound to change as you get older, learn more about the world, and grow as a person. It’s not something to be anxious about but to embrace.

The Mail I Get – Advice Edition, the Sequel

For some reason, people come to me for advice. As if I know anything, which I don’t. But occasionally, I’ll fake it.

I’ve been an avid reader all my life, and have recently been looking at changing my passion into a living by hoping to go into publishing/editing. Unfortunately, I have no idea where to start. College is an obvious beginning, but could you possibly point me in the direction of which majors would be the most useful in this journey? I’d appreciate any and all insight and advice you could provide. Thank you for your time in reading this.

Most editors I know have degrees in literature or communications. An MFA in Creative Writing would be helpful…and would also give you the credentials to teach as well. The bottom line is that you need to have a thorough understanding of fiction… of the craft of writing and the structure of novels…so that you can work with authors. Alternatively, a business degree and/or an MBA would be helpful, too, so you can navigate the corporate/political/business world of a publishing company.

Here’s a request for advice that I got from a 12-year-old girl…

I know that this is totally ridiculous but I want to write a show, and I am twelve years old. I know it’s impossible. It’s just I have had the idea for a show for years now and I tried writing it as a book but I would love to see it on TV instead. I would also like to write my show if anyone ever even thought about  even making it a reality because I don’t want people to twist my years of work into something that’s…not mine. However, like I said I’m twelve years old and this is probably a waste of time but, how would I know, I’m twelve. There are some people out there who have done great things at a younger age. So please just tell me if you think that this dream is complete crap or if I might have a chance.

You are clearly very articulate and sharp for a 12 year-old. But I’ve got to be honest with you, there is virtually no chance of writing a TV series at your age. First off, networks don’t buy ideas. They buy the execution of ideas. There’s nothing revolutionary about, say, BLUE BLOODS. It’s a show about cops in NYC. What CBS bought was the proven talent of the writer/producers involved in BLUE BLOODS, and their ability to deliver a show, on time and on budget and at a certain creative level, every week. Keep in mind, television is a business, like making cars or building houses, and just one season of a TV series is a nearly $100 million enterprise that employs hundreds of people. It’s a major investment, and one unlikely to be entrusted to a child…or dependent upon a child’s creative output (I mean no offense when I call you a child…it’s just a fact of life). Writing a series isn’t just telling stories…it’s writing stories that can be told within a certain shooting schedule, budget, etc. There’s much more to it than may be apparent to you. Also, writing a TV series is a full-time job…one you are in no position to take on at your age. My advice would be to stick your idea in your pocket…to keep writing…and keep an eye on how the busines is run. Because by the time you are an adult, the business will have radically changed…I’m certain of that. And if you’ve sharpened your skills, and kept up on how the business has evolved, you’ll be poised to take advantage of it when you become an adult.

I know that isn’t what you want to hear. But I also I know that advice can work because it worked for me. I know exactly how you feel. I felt I was ready to run a show when I was nine years old. But I also knew it couldn’t happen for me yet. So instead, I started educating myself. I read everything on the business I could get my hands on. I interviewed the top TV producers by phone for articles in my local newspaper (because I did the interviews by phone, and could imitate my father’s deep, TV anchorman voice, they didn’t know I was a teenager). I also started writing a book on unsold TV pilots — every idea rejected by the networks since the dawn of TV. And I never stopped writing fiction. I must have written a dozen unpublished novels.

That work paid off. I put myself through college writing about TV as a freelance writer for major magazines…and, in the process, I learned more about the business than I could ever have picked up in a classroom. My first novel was published when I was still a UCLA student and sold to the movies before I graduated (the movie never got made). And that book on unsold TV pilots that I started writing when I was nine years old was published a few years after I graduated…and was a big bestseller. There is no doubt in my mind that all that work I did as a teenager made me a sucess as an adult.

So what I am telling you is not to give up on your dream…but to recognize you aren’t ready to achieve it yet. Instead, start building towards it.

The Mail I Get – Lame Solicitations Edition

61AtgxJFs0L._UX522_I get swamped with email solicitations asking me to buy services or review products. Some of the solicitations are so awful, it’s amazing to me that they do any business at all. Here’s one I got today from a book-binding company:

Dear Manager, Sorry to bother you. Located in Hanghzhou,China ,Rootis printing is a printing hoouse who specilalized in different kinds of books such as catalog,hardcase,spiral binding,pop-up,board books and packaing products We always keep strict principle of high quanlity,upon the basis of quanlity,we provide the best price for the clients. May I get the chance to introduce our pricing and our products? It will be great hornor to hear from your suggests about our company and our printed products I am sure we can become valuable partners and bring good work to each other. Please let me know your any comments on this matter.  Best regards, Frank

Well, it’s clear from your email, Frank, that you  “keep strict principle of high quanlity.” Your email, and your obvious pride in attention to detail, says it all. The same goes for this other company that reached out to me today for a review:

Hello, Dear Amazon product reviewer

We are the seller selling on

Would you mind to have a test with our product ASIN :B00LL462CE

Our selling link on Amazon is :

We would be great appreciated if you can write a fair product review
for us after you got and using the product.

Kindly please contact me at this email with your shipping address(except PO BOX address) if you are interested in our product.

We will send the product for you as soon as get your confirmation.

Thank you very much for your interesting


unnamed-3So glad you contacted to me with your compelling sales pitch. I can always use a new “Outop Women Harness Body Chain Bikini Chain Crossover Belly Waist Chain.” But I have a question: Is it a chain?

If you missed our first review round for the cat tunnels, here is your chance!
Our company has cat tunnels and designed for cats. Your opinion matters to us and the other customers, so we would appreciate if you can take a few moments to review our product. Please reply with your address, we will send the product over to you via mail.

I did miss your first round. I think it’s great that you’re designing cat tunnels for cats instead of cat tunnels for squirrels or other animals that are not cats. I also think its great that you want to mail me a cat tunnel via mail rather than donkey, or bicycle messenger, since I think that might be difficult.  I don’t have a cat, but I think everyone should have a cat tunnel in case a cat shows up.

The Mail I Get – I Don’t Remember Edition

Some recent mail I received asking me questions I can’t answer because I don’t remember:

I’ve long admired your work on Diagnosis Murder, especially the fifth season. I emailed you about ten years ago asking if you had a floor plan of the beach house from Diagnosis Murder. You said you had one but misplaced it. I’ve taken it upon myself to draw a floor plan myself using footage from the show as well as from satellite images and the movies Lovelines and Malibu Bikini shop to help with the lower level. I’ve also found many photos at three different websites trying to rent or sell the house, but most of those are photos from a significantly renovated version of the house. I’ve tried to keep my floor plan of the house as close to the way it was on the show as possible, though I’ve filled in missing parts with photos of the current version of the house where I could. For the parts left completely unseen, like a few of the bathrooms, I’ve tried to come up with how they might be laid out. If I send you the floor plan I created would you be able to give me feedback?

It’s been over a decade since I shot Diagnosis Murder. I don’t remember anymore exactly how the house was laid out. Sorry!

Hello Lee , I just finished reading Mr. Monk goes to the firehouse. I wonder, where’s the ax (?) that being used to kill Sparky? Seems nobody search for the bloody ax to get finger prints or something.
Hope to hear from you bcause I couldn’t sleep thinking about this.

Sorry, but it has been so many years since I wrote the book, I don’t remember what, if anything, came of the ax or if it even mattered. It’s certainly not worth losing sleep over!

I have not yet read all the Monk books nor seen all the episodes, so I apologize if my question has already been addressed, but I wondered what you thought of something that occurred to me recently, and that is concerning Adrian Monk and the Wedding Ring.Reading how he reacted to Julie’s cast, and his insistence that she have two to be balanced, I suddenly wondered how he coped with wearing a ring on the third finger left hand, and not a matching one the right. I assume that Adrian takes the ring off when he’s completing his obsessive bathroom cleaning routines etc. but I’m sure he still wears it at other times – his love for Trudy is too strong for him to abandon it. He is wearing one on the cover of Mr Monk is Miserable.
So – how does he cope? Does he, in fact, wear an identical ring on the right hand? I’ve not noticed one. Knowing the character as you do, what do you think? If you have an answer I’d love to hear it. If you find it fascinating as I do and decide to write it into your next Monk book, please credit me in the acknowledgements for giving you the idea!

I dealt with the ring issue in one of the books… MR. MONK IS A MESS or MR. MONK GETS EVEN, I believe. But I may be mistaken about which one. The 15 tend to blur together for me.

The Mail I Get – Monk Edition

MrMonkOnTheCouchI still get lots of questions and comments each day about my Monk books… here’s a sampling:

Dear Lee, It was with mixed feelings that I read Mr. Monk’s last adventure.  Happiness at reading more enjoyable Monk escapades, and sadness that there will be no more of them. I did appreciate that one of the lipo-suction patients was Frank Cannon.  ha ha   What a ride.  Barb

Thank you, Barb. The other lipo patient was McCabe, the character William Conrad played on JAKE AND THE FATMAN…but so far, nobody has caught that reference.

It’s a rare to find an author who understands that a unique quirky character is really one of the most important parts of a good book. Love your character and I think the books are really wonderful. So often they are just plot oriented by vanilla unmemorable characters. So congratulations of writing truly fantastic books. Allan

Thank you, Allan. But I can’t take credit for creating that brilliant character. The credit belongs to Andy Breckman. He just let me borrow Monk for the books.

Hello Lee, You end your chapters in a manner that makes it difficult to not keep reading. Please stop doing that. You will thank me later. It might tempt some people into stopping in the middle of a chapter, and that violates the natural order of the universe.

Now that the above is out of the way, let me pass along my delight for both the Monk series and the Fox and O’Hare series – mysteries and absolutely hilarious! After thirteen years of retirement at age 70 it is getting harder to head for the treadmill daily, books the only way to get through it. My wife and I had read all the Janet Evanovich books (also all the Agatha Christie’s and a whole lot in between), so glad to have found The Heist, The Chase, and will read The Job (a Christmas book to each other) after Mr. Monk and the Two Assistants. We have also seen all of the Monk TV episodes, and reading the books and remembering the appearance of the characters is extra fun. Thanks for these two series, and will explore your other books! Leonard

Thank you for your very kind words about my MONK and FOX & O’HARE books… though they are meant to be serious drama. It troubles me that you find them funny.

I just want to let you know that I really enjoy the books you contributed to the Monk series. As someone who has been diagnosed with OCD (whether rightly or wrongly), I have to say that you seem to have done a good job portraying what really goes on in the brain of an OC person (here I should add the caveat that I haven’t actually gotten far in any of your books – they’re too thought provoking to finish in a timely fashion). If in the past I would firmly deny that I had OCD (“My unusual behavior is not symptomatic of any illogical thought processes, thank you very much. It is a combination of *ultra*-logical thinking, and natural responses to my excess anxiety”), now I am not so sure. I find it very easy to identify with your version of Mr. Monk. [..]Without changing the way I view myself and my rationality, I now find it easier to accept the label of OCD.[..]In the future, I intend to use your books as “textbooks” to help other people better understand the true nature of OCD. Sammy

Now that is frightening. You do know I make it all up, right? I have no special understanding of OCD… I just have a rich fantasy life.

The Mail I Get – Question & Answer Edition

I get lots of questions about my books…and occasionally I even have a few answers.

I have read every Monk book that my library owns. They are wonderful! Will you be writing any more ?


Nope, I’ve been done with Monk for a while now. My last Monk book was Mr. Monk Gets Even. I’ve moved on to other projects and am co-writing a new series with Janet Evanovich. Speaking of which…

I’m love the Kate O’Hare and Nicolas Fox books you write along with Janet Evanovich. I seriously read all the books within days as I’m totally hooked by them. This is a surprise as I am one who will only read books if I am forced too.I would like to know of there is another book to the serioes that is being made or will be released soon etc. Thanks again.

I’m so glad that you are enjoying the series. We are in the midst of writing book #4…it should be out this summer or in the fall.THE JOB by Lee Goldberg and Janet Evanovich

I have just finished King City, wow! Your characters in the Kate O’Hare and Nick Fox books with Janet Evanovitch were some of the best I had come across. Tom Wade is even better. Your blurb following the ending says you were hard at work on more Tom Wade books, but that was 2011. I was so disappointed to find none listed. And I guess I’m writing to encourage you to go back to that story and keep going. I liked the book so much in fact that I thought, well maybe I’ll have to write a sequel just to have more to read! A silly idea of course, but it will convince you how much I felt involved with your characters. I will now try The Man with the Iron-On Badge, and then maybe another series. Thank you, Elizabeth

Thank you for your kind words about KING CITY and the Fox & O’Hare series. I intended to jump on the KING CITY sequel right after I finished the book…but the Evanovich project came along and I haven’t had a chance to get back to it. My hope is to write it this year. BTW, “Man with the Iron On Badge” was re-released as WATCH ME DIE a few years ago in both ebook and trade paperback editions.

Dear Mr Goldberg,
Hello, how are you? Don’t want to take up much of your time…I’m a huge fan of the wonderful books you have written for the Monk series! I have a few of them and I was wondering if  you would sign the ones I have and send me the ones I don’t have yet with your autograph. Thanks for keeping Mr Monk and company going!
               -Meg : )

I genuinely appreciate your kind words about my Monk books, and your desire to have my autograph but no, Meg, I won’t sign the books you already have and send you all of the books in the series that you don’t have yet. I don’t give away my books. That’s not how I make my living. I also don’t sell books (not that you asked to buy any) because I am not a bookstore, either.

Lee: I wrote a full length script on semi vampire of genre fiction and fantasy recently and I want to sell it. Are you interested?

Why would I be interested? I’m a screenwriter. I don’t buy scripts, I write them. Besides, what the hell is a “semi vampire of genre fiction and fantasy?”

Hello Lee, I love your work and have read most of your books — Where can I see a list of new books coming out? I like to pre order so I don’t miss the  new ones. Thanks for the many hours of great reading — I can just loose myself in your books. Julie

Thank you so much, Julie! The best place to keep up with my releases is right here on my website. Or join my mailing list, using the form on the right. My latest novel, THE JOB, also co-written with Janet Evanovich, came out in November.

The Mail I Get – Advice Edition

Here are some recent queries I’ve received lately asking for my advice…

A number of readers have suggested my XYZ series of books would be a great springboard for a TV series. I’m not so sure of that, but it has occurred to me that my new release (XYZ) might be a good candidate for a movie, given the characters and setting. […] If you have the time and inclination, any advice about who to contact or where to promote it to producers would be appreciated. If not, best of luck with Brash (not that you need it!).

Unless your book is a NY Times bestseller, with a large following, and huge critical acclaim, your chance of selling it as a movie or TV series is nil. I say this from experience… and having worked on several TV series based on books (Spenser For Hire, Murphy’s Law, Nero Wolfe, Missing, etc) and having adapted many others (Aimee & David Thurlo’s Ella Clah, Mary Higgins Clark’s The Lottery Winners, William Kent Krueger’s Iron Lake, etc) for studios for film and TV that didn’t get made. Those books were all hugely successful. It took 20 years for Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum to become a movie…over a decade for Lee Child’s Reacher books to become a movie…and they are among the biggest selling, most well-known authors on planet earth.

No offense, but your series is obscure, self-published, reviewed by little-known media outlets (The Kindle Book Review, Story Circle Review, etc) and blurbed by authors nobody has ever heard of (XYZ? His highest ranked book is #1,403,740 on Amazon…his worst #12,649,676. Why on earth would you tout his review?).

I don’t say this to hurt you feelings, or to be a jerk, or to kill your dreams, I am just trying to be honest with you about your chances of selling your books as a movie or TV series. Bottom line… you need to be realistic in your expectations. 🙂

Hi Mr. Goldberg,
Some film school student in L.A. just asked me if my XYZ detective series has been optioned yet. I get the general gist of that sort of stuff, but is that something a) to take seriously, given that he’s only tangentially in the biz or b) that would warrant getting an agent? Any quick advice or links to advice,

I don’t see any upside in optioning anything to a film student. What would be the point of that? I wouldn’t take it seriously. There are thousands of film students out there, most of whom will never make it in the business.

If he wants to shoot a student film based on your book, and you like the idea of that, then let him do it without optioning it to him. Just write up a document that says you’re okay with it as long as it’s never used / sold for profit (tickets, DVD sales, etc), not distributed to theaters, not shown on television, and that it’s clear he has no rights whatsoever beyond using it as a non-profit, project as a demonstration of his skills.