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Saturday, November 25, 2017

THE American Grammar Guide: The Chicago Manual of Style, Seventeenth Edition, Released 09.05.2017

For all United States authorswhether you write fiction or nonfiction books, regardless if you plan to self-publish said works or to go the traditional publishing routeyour main go-to guides should be:

  1. For Grammar: The Chicago Manual of Style, Seventeenth Edition (aka 17CMS herein), which released in early September 2017. Per 17CMS 1.1, these grammar rules and their many exceptions apply to books and journals for publication (meaning, both fiction and nonfiction books).
  2. For Spelling (per 17CMS 2.54): Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition (aka Web11). However, note that rules like 17CMS 7.89 may override some preferred Web11 spellings.
Don't believe me? Check with any of the Big Five publishers. Aside from their own in-house style guides (that trump both Web11 and 17CMS on certain issues), you'll find they use the same two reference books that I do, because this pair represents the standard accepted guidelines for US book publishing.

I've been copyediting for almost a decade now, starting out with a well-known NYC publisher for 5.5 years, but now I work exclusively with Indie-publishing authors. So I've gone through three editions of the CMS to date. Here's a photo of my flagged copies of 15CMS and 16CMS. Do your copies look like mine? Ha!

As you can see in the next picture, my 17CMS copy is more pristine and for two reasons. One, I've just had it for not quite three months. Two, I also purchased the 17CMS online version, which should keep my physical reference book a tad neater. We'll see in a year or two.

So all authors should be aware of the basic grammar and spelling rules, checking these two reference books and hiring editors as needed.

On a side note, check out my new website (link in my signature below). I've got the bare bones setup initiated but will add more pages in my spare time.

Hope everyone had a happy and safe and fun Thanksgiving. Got your tree up yet? Mine is, but it's pretty bare at the moment. This year will be another experiment, as I have mischievous pets who like to play with the wooden ornaments and chew on the (fake or real) needles. I may have to remove my tree from my house. I hope not.

Have a great weekend, all.

"If your vocation isn’t a vacation, then quit, leap, change careers."

Denise Barker, Author, Blogger, Copy Editor
Books that Build Character(s)


Tuesday, August 8, 2017

My Revamped More Ergonomic Home Office for Just $70, A Huge Bargain

I should have upgraded my home office ten years ago. Better late than never, right?

And my four purchases this year were under $70.00 total (plus tax and any shipping charges), which really begs the question: why did I wait so long? Especially for such a bargain price for my ongoing health. Anyway, here's some details that may help others to upgrade their home office space.

  1. I was using the worst office chair in the house for my home office (the oldest one too). So I swapped it for the newer one from the kitchen desk area. Remember to adjust the height of the chair (and any related seatback positioning) to give you maximum comfort. Big improvement already but still not enough. See next item.  
  2. If your butt is going numb, despite various trips to the coffeepot and back, or your legs are going numb from not getting up from your desk chair at all for long stretches, then it'll affect the rest of your body too. This was my son's suggestion in lieu of buying a new office chair: buy a memory foam seat cushion instead. Mine is an Everlasting Comfort (on sale for $33 at Amazon; I'm not an affiliate). This may be my best purchase of the whole year. Instant comfort. No more numbness. No more stiff body parts. I feel ten years younger.
  3. I'm using a laptop only. No desktop computer. But the desktop setup is better for my text-heavy copyediting work, with its keyboard placement allowing for my ninety-degree arm position, and yet the bottom edge of the screen itself is at least ten or more inches above said keyboard for better eye alignment. So I bought an external keyboard. My choice was a Verbatim model (currently on sale for $7 at Amazon), an old-fashioned plain-Jane concept with feet at the back to give it a bit of a tilt. Just perfect. You know those two-keyboard organs in some of the huge Catholic churches? My external keyboard + laptop now look like that, with the external keyboard on the pull-out keyboard drawer to my desk and my laptop atop the main desk area, with a little boost going on. Read the next item.
  4. To get my laptop screen up higher to meet my eyesight, I'm using a flat 4" riser (but would prefer a 6"-7" one in theory), a hand-me-down item marked 3M LX500 (for those of you trying to find it online). This one is really great as it has a shorter base so that the extended shelf overhangs, allowing me to pull my laptop, hence my screen, closer to my eyes, especially if I pull my chair closer to my desk, my legs fully within the desk well, the keyboard tray at my stomach. Of course this disallows any office mascot from sitting in your lap. Just so you know ... 
  5. I bought an ergonomic mouse. Mine is an Anker four-button (currently on sale for $20 on Amazon). Prefer it over the traditional mouse.
  6. My final purchase was a wrist rest. Mine's a Belkin jell-filled wave design (now $9 on Amazon). Love it. Again an old-fashioned tool from desktop computer days of years ago. But I like it better than the hard keyboard shelf. I don't have carpal tunnel after decades of typing, and I sure don't want it now. I can't prove use of a wrist rest prevents that, but I can say it makes my typing more comfortable. Maybe I should have bought the accompanying wrist rest for the mouse too. May do that yet.
  7. For those of you who do detailed computer work (be it numbers or letters), I've incorporated a new element into my workday to relieve eyestrain. I'm the grammar police, looking for extra spaces to delete, spaces to add, whether a semicolon should be a colon or a comma or vice versa. In other words, tedious work that strains my eyes. Also, since I do two complete read-throughs of every project I receive, I'm doubling my reading time. So a 50K project means 100K worth of reading for me. Thus I now do my first read-through (1RT) on my computer as usual, with Microsoft Word's Track Changes program. However, for my second read-through (2RT), I send a PDF of said updated Word document to my Kindle. Easier on the eyes without a backlit screen. Saves paper and toner from having to print out a hard copy.
One final note: this takes care of everything but the remaining tension in my shoulders and one middle point along my spine, which just prove I should spend some time doing yoga and/or weight lifting, plus some quick deep-breathing breaks during the day and more restful sleep at night.

I'm a work in progress.

Hope this helps someone else out there too.

"If your vocation isn’t a vacation, then quit, leap, change careers."

Denise Barker, Author, Blogger, Copy Editor
Books that Build Character(s)

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Ten Years Ago Today

Ten years ago today I ended my first long-term career to take a giant bold and blind leap into this, my second career, my dream life.

And I am so very glad I did.

I say "blind" as in my foot wasn't even in the door yet. I had no contacts in this new field. Thankfully my skills transferred over well from my previous career to my newest one, and, by the grace of God, my very first freelance copyediting gig (working for a traditional publishing house) landed me instant credibility.

For that I am eternally grateful, even though now I work directly and exclusively for Indie authors. To these prolific and professional creative individuals, I send out a heartfelt thank-you. You very special people know who you are.

I hate to even think of how today would look like had I not made that defining change.

Taking risks is a scary thing. Plus my road was not smooth. For instance, I took two different day jobs to make ends meet. The first one was early on in my new career and only for nine months, yet the second one lasted two full years but ended almost six years ago.

Looking back over this last decade (the Great Experiment of All Experiments, if you will), I may have worried at times, but I never questioned moving forward to this goal of self-employment, working as both a freelance editor and as an Indie author myself. Granted, I've never been as broke as I've been in my second career. However, I've never been as happy as I've been in my second career.

This year may see me as both happier and richer (in comparison to the other nine years). A milestone worth celebrating in itself.

So, for those of you on the fence for way-too-many years regarding that major career decision, I say, "Go for it!" and "Do you really want to continue on as you have and be there still in ten years?"

Many times in life you should draw lines in the sand.

Sometimes in life you should burn bridges, propelling you forward into the scary unknown where your dreams lay hidden.

It's your decision.

It's your life.

You choose.

"If your vocation isn’t a vacation, then quit, leap, change careers."

Denise Barker, Author, Blogger, Copy Editor
Books that Build Character(s)

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Jerry Jenkins's List of 249 Powerful Verbs to Spice up Your Writing

Check out this free resource here: http://bit.ly/2seJLme


"If your vocation isn’t a vacation, then quit, leap, change careers."

Denise Barker, Author, Blogger, Copy Editor
Books that Build Character(s)

The best inheritance you can leave your kids is an example of how to live a full and meaningful life. Dan Zadra

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Freelance Copy Editor: Why I Do Two Complete Read-Throughs of EVERY Project

I am getting busier and busier. Amen! Which means, I no longer have one-month-out as my normal "extended" deadline to go by when answering individual author queries. No. Now, at this exact moment in time, I'm booked through July 30, 2017, with eight projects, four of which are over 100K WC, and three of which are "priority" projects, namely Amazon Preorders (APs). In fact, one of those >100K WC projects is also an AP.

Double those WC tallies, and you can imagine how many words I digest/dissect in any one given day. But I love it! I basically read for a living. A perfect fit for me.

Plus I have one outlier (~90K WC), a project expected on or about August 30, 2017. I keep a running handwritten tally on a physical calendar topmost on my desk to keep me organized. I also have an Excel spreadsheet for each year's projects, which includes author name, title of book, WC, deadline given, date turned in, hours to complete project (1RT, 2RT, paperwork), fees prepaid, total pages, DS/SS, total chapters (+ Prologue/Epilogue). This helps me estimate my quarterly taxes due to the IRS. It can also give me an idea of how much I'm making an hour (if I'm so inclined to do that extra math calculation).

Still, no matter how busy I get, I remain steadfast about doing two complete read-throughs (RTs) for all my projects, fiction and nonfiction alike.

First and foremost, I have a real heart for the Indie authors (being one myself) and wish to work forever to dispel that horrible myth that our works are less properly edited than trad-pubbed offerings. Wrong. I find a lot of errors in trad-pubbed books I read (and report them to the respective publishing houses for correction before any reprint).

Second, we're human. We are not perfect (including me, no matter how hard I try). And I feel a crush to my soul when I find an error I've missed, even after a 2RT. But, between the author, the developmental editor, any beta readers, the proofreader, and me, I hope we all catch some of the leftover errors remaining in any one book. However, being Indie authors has a distinct advantage of immediately updating the online book offering when any error is found. And Amazon is so fast that it can be handled in one day. Amazing, right?

Third, when I'm doing 2RTs (complete, from beginning to end), on a fiction book, I find the 1RT is for clearing out all the distractions of misspellings, grammar errors, inconsistencies; cutting out "filler words" and "helping verbs" and multiple prepositional phrases in sentences; plus cleaning up confusing lines and adding clarity. Once those are out of the way, in my 2RT, I tend to find plotholes and unanswered storylines. And, for a 2RT of a nonfiction book, I look more to structure and organization and linear approaches to the subject matter, bolding/adding subheadings, etc.

What an Indie Author Can Take Away from This: Two Things to Watch For

As a copy editor, I'm embarrassed to see what I missed the first time around and am thankful to catch them myself the second time around. Here are two that immediately come to mind:

(1)  Most of those are overlooked missing words (expecting to see what isn't there, like a missing "a" or "the"). Which I thought just happened when rereading my own written pages, but this carries over when reading other authors' words too.

(2)  The next thing to watch for are homonyms (think, their, there and they're, and others of that ilk). But with the advent of speech-to-text software (where you dictate to your computer, and it types out your words), I find so many variations on a true homonym (think, honor and on her). Not to mention the fact that I don't always know when an author is using Dragon or other such software programs, so I have no advance warning. Watch out for those words that don't "feel right." That you know are "off," and yet you can't put your finger on the right word. Mark them however you wish and return to them later. You'll figure it out then, I bet.

Next time I'll post about "filler" words and give you a long, long list to watch out for. We all use them. It's just a matter of how much so. And, believe me, cutting these not-needed words from your sentences adds clarity and conciseness. Amazing how trimming your WC can make your book so much easier to follow along without stumbling over a word or a sentence.

And, if you pay by the WC to have your books professionally edited/proofed, you'll be saving money too on third-party fees. You'll also be saving me and other editors a bunch of time as well. For that, I send you my thanks.

Hope y'all have a wonderful Sunday.

"If your vocation isn’t a vacation, then quit, leap, change careers."

Denise Barker, Author, Blogger, Copy Editor
Books that Build Character(s)

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Finance 101 for Freelancers: 9 Tips for Today

First off, I am no financial guru. Yet I've made it through almost nine years of freelancing and still have my not-yet-paid-off home of seventeen years to prove it. Two things helped: (a) I got two day jobs when needed (one working at a pizza place for nine months; another working at a box store for two long years). You'll note both of these are low-level entry positions which allowed me the freedom of working various hours and days (around my freelance projects), plus I gave my two weeks' notice and knew I could be rehired later, if my finances again needed the extra infusion. (b) The other thing is that you may need a roommate, not the freeloading kind but one who can chip in more when you're having a really slow month or three. This can even work with another freelancing roommate, but you've got to be prepared for those really slim times when both of you have no money coming in.

Second, I'm just one freelancer, sharing her thoughts. As I tell my copyediting clientsafter setting forth the applicable grammar/spelling rule(s) so they can make an informed decisiontake what resonates from my edits and suggestions and toss the rest. The same maxim applies here. However, even if you don't (yet) agree with my suggestions offered below, you may hit upon a better rendition for you (even for others; please share!).

Third, despite all the great financial info out there (pay yourself first, set up autosavings, etc.), none of that helps the proverbial starving artist or struggling freelancer. I do not have autodrafts for my bills set up as there are times when I'll have $0.88 in my account for weeks on end. So I have to manually pay my bills. Which, as mentioned before, is working for me. If you are not the most reliable one to take on this manual approach to bill-paying, then hopefully your roommate/partner/spouse is better at it. Let them take the reins on this one.

Fourth, for a freelancer, you have to change your monetary focus on those long-term goals and reset to ponder short-term goals. And it's a sliding scale. If you have money to cover your monthly bare-bones expenses (and you do know what that exact figure is, right?), great. And, just to be clear here, "bare-bones expenses" does not include house taxes (if you pay them separately, if you do not have them added into your monthly mortgage payment) and does not include IRS taxes unless this particular month includes an estimated quarterly tax payment deadline. So just the mortgage/rent payment, utilities, food, car gas (if needed). Now, if you don't have money to cover just this month's bills, don't let that worry you. For now. Do you have enough for today? And by that I mean, food, water, shelter, clothing, even money to pay a bill due tomorrow or the next day. Then consider yourself lucky and blessed.

Fifth, DON'T WORRY. I still do, but maybe this will remind me not to. In the freelance world, tomorrow you could have five prepaid projects coming in within the span of five minutes. Or you could get five prepaid jobs, one a day over the span of the next five consecutive days. The point here is, you don't know what tomorrow will bring. So be happy with what you've got today. Tomorrow may have more pleasant surprises for you. With the freelancing life, you've got to have hope and faith. A lot of each.

Sixth, I know when I have a really great month (exceeding my entire monthly expenses' needs, meaning one-twelfth of the house taxes and one-thirdish of the next estimated tax payment to the IRS), I have the urge to pay a principal-only mortgage payment or to make a double payment on my HVAC loan with its remaining balance edging closer and closer to $1,000. DON'T. My son pointed this out to me, and it is so true. When you make that extra principal-only mortgage payment, it does not negate next month's mortgage payment. And, granted, the principle-only payment is nowhere near the P&I payment due monthly. But it's a start in the right direction if you have that sitting in your account, correct? So resist that urge to pay more than the required payment on ANY bill. Instead set aside that $100 or whatever into a savings account or your hidey-hole at home or for your extremely trustworthy roommate to sequester until those last three months of the year where you have no business to speak of. Which is my particular annual event.

Seventh, in my scenario, (a) I have no credit cards (only debit cards) as I happen to think credit cards are of the devil. They should be outlawed in my opinion. And pushing them on college-age kids is akin to pushing drugs on kindergarteners. Just my opinion here. (b) Plus my twenty-four-year-old car (that I love) is paid off. So think twice about jumping headfirst into your own business, foregoing that steady-paycheck day job if you have credit card debt and a huge car payment and live by yourself, even if your mortgage is paid off. Believe me, your freelancing days will give you plenty of freedom but it may take years before you ever make the money you did in the corporate world. Just saying ...

SIDE NOTE HERE: Some of us are meant to be our own bosses (me, for instance). Others of us are meant to be in the corporate world, working for a boss. As long as you know your rightful place, you should be happy working there. However, be forewarned. If you are more security focused, then you need to stay in that 9-to-5 job with the paychecks coming on the first and the fifteenth of each month, like clockwork, and in the exact same amount each time. Now, if you are more like me, and freedom means more to you than a set amount being deposited into your account twice monthly, then maybe you should try freelancing on the side, as you pay down your debts and pay off your car note (keeping that day job for now), until you can minimize your expenses and truly start off on the right foot to being your own boss. It's a heady feeling.

Eighth, when you're really hurting for money, and you can't seem to get a day job (or your car is dead in the garage and now you must restrict your day-job options to those businesses nearby that you can walk to), do what Marianne Williamson advocates: empty a drawer. I swear it worked for me earlier at the start of this year. Something about nature's law of a vacuum. The universe seeks to fill it.

Ninth, this is one tip from the "normal" financial world that works in the freelancer's world as well. Diversify. Have multiple streams of income. Don't put all your eggs in one basket. That way, hopefully, when one stream dries up (temporarily or permanently), you'll have others to support you in the meantime as you reassess your options.

Okay, that's it for my financial tips for you today. My mind kept nagging me to share this, so, now that I've done so, maybe my brain will turn to something else, like creative ideas for my first-ever fiction series. That would be wonderful.

Are you an experienced freelancer with more operating advice for me, for us? Would love to hear it.

Take care, all.

"If your vocation isn’t a vacation, then quit, leap, change careers."

Denise Barker, Author, Blogger, Copy Editor
Books that Build Character(s)

Monday, April 10, 2017

Don't Toss Those Stale or Hard Cookies

This is one of those tips that just seems so obvious, yet I only figured it out one week ago.

If you're like me and prefer your cookies soft and preferably warm from the oven, then a hard cookie is not so tempting. But don't throw those away. (Unless they were homemade, and salt was used instead of sugar. Feel free to trash those.) Save each kind in its own baggie, and place them all in a one-gallon freezer bag. Use them to make cookie crumble toppings on pies, cakes, fruit crisps. You can also crush them into a flavorful graham-cracker-like crust.

And, if you eat Oreos like I do (taking off one cookie from each sandwich, eating the rest), then you'll have a lot of chocolate wafer cookies to make a great chocolate cookie crust.

Everyone does that, right?


Gotta get back to work but I did want to share this with y'all before I forgot. Have a good Monday!

"If your vocation isn’t a vacation, then quit, leap, change careers."

Denise Barker, Author, Blogger, Copy Editor
Books that Build Character(s)

Monday, January 9, 2017

Six Inspirational Lines to Guide You in 2017

I've been going through one of my several banker's boxes full of paper data.  Yes, I keep paper backups despite the Internet. It must be an author thing. Anyway today's box is labeled Goals, and I've enjoyed reading old resolutions from years past and was also surprised at how much I've accomplished over the years.

But this post is to share some great insights I found.

1. The real definition of "failure" is not being true to yourself and your dreams.

2. The real definition of "wealth" is finding where you belong.

3. The real definition of "fear" is the energy to do your best in a new situation.

4. Stop saying you don't have enough time. You simply need to prioritize your time to meet your biggest goal(s).

5. Stop saying you don't have enough money. You simply need to get creative and work smarter. Ask yourself: What do I have here with me or at home or in the car that could help me with this?

6. Anytime you hit the end of the road, you're lacking an idea, not money, not time, not mentorship. Think outside the box.


I'm sorry that my handwritten notations did not give the source for these gems. My apologies to the creative minds who gave us this wisdom, but we can learn and apply them regardless.

Go forth and embrace failure and find your wealth.

"If your vocation isn’t a vacation, then quit, leap, change careers."

Denise Barker, Author, Blogger, Copy Editor
Books that Build Character(s)