Some of you may know that I run my own editing business, Dot and Dash LLC. Over at the Dot and Dash blog, I write about writing tips and industry news. I recently wrote about sensitivity reading. What is sensitivity reading, you may ask? It’s a relatively new form of manuscript evaluation that checks whether characters are portrayed with authenticity and ensures books avoid harmful stereotypes and problematic language that don’t serve a purpose in the plot. If you want to learn more about what it is, what it’s not (spoiler alert: it’s not the PC police), and whether you should hire one for your project, head on over to this link: sensitivity reading post.
Many people use “penultimate” to mean “more than ultimate,” but the word actually has a very narrow (and different) definition. Here’s what Merriam-Webster says:
So in a list, “penultimate” would refer to the next-to-last item. On a train ride, it would mean the next-to-last stop.
And in this photo of fantastic chickens, the chicken on the left would be the “penultimate chicken.”
What Does “Ultimate” Mean?
“Ultimate,” however, has multiple meanings.
One is “final.”
Example: Harry’s “ultimate” destination is Mars.
Another is “eventual.”
Example: Harry’s “ultimate” goal is universal domination.
It also means “fundamental.”
Example: Harry’s “ultimate” nature is pure evil.
Now you know, and you can correct your friends much to their chagrin (just like I do)!
Erin Servais is a book editor who can help your book be the ultimate. Contact her today about your publishing goals: www.dotanddashllc.com.
Every seven years, The University of Chicago Press releases a new edition of The Chicago Manual of Style. As it says on the cover, it is the essential guide for writers, editors, and publishers. When I edit a client’s book, this manual is my bible. It’s how I decide where and how to place every period, ellipsis point, italicized letter, hyphen, and en dash. My copy of the new edition came in the mail last night. I have feelings about this.
This is the third edition during my career. The fifteenth edition I only had for a few years, but the sixteenth and I were together for the full seven. That’s almost one-fifth of my lifetime. When it came out, I had only recently met the man who became my husband, and I was still in my twenties (cough). I was a different person with a different life. Now that I’ve gotten to hold the new edition and flip through its pages, I realize how worn the sixteenth had become. The binding is loose. The pages are dog-eared. The dustcover is faded. But the aging was earned. I haven’t kept exact count, but it has helped me copy edit and proofread hundreds books—even a couple of best sellers.
So I thought it fitting to take some time today to memorialize my copy of sixteenth edition of The Chicago Manual of Style. My copy, in many ways, became like a family bible. My mother and grandmother would stick odds and ends in their bibles–usually papers from funeral and wedding ceremonies—bits that represented important moments in the lives of their loved ones. Mine’s not quite like that, but I do use a piece of the edging of my baby blanket as a bookmark.
And I found a flower I had pressed from my mother’s garden in Ohio, plucked during one of my trips home when I had planned a visit but I also, inconveniently, had a deadline.
The sixteenth edition was also my external brain, holding all of the detailed information I wasn’t able to remember. And I see how I would use anything I had handy to underline and highlight so I could find the answer more easily next time.
Sometimes I actually had a highlighter.
But other times it was a humble pen I used.
Apologies to all of the librarians out there (including my mom), but there were times necessity called for me to bend the corners of a page, in hopes the next time I could flip right to that section without consulting the index.
When the seventeenth came in the mail, I was surprised how emotional I was about it. The sixteenth and I had a good ride. (And the highlighting! Oh that beautiful neon ink…how I will miss you.) But I understand our time has come to an end, and I know one day, when it is properly highlighted, the seventeenth will be as good to me, as helpful, and as referential as the sixteenth was.
When the eighteenth edition comes out. I will be forty years old. I imagine my life will be different, just as it was different when the sixteenth was released. What I hope will be the same, though, is that I will be editing books that I love and helping authors reach their dreams—and inserting every missing serial comma along the way.
I’m excited to celebrate the launch of Becky Flade’s steamy new thriller, Before the Fall. I had the opportunity to work with Becky through Dot and Dash, my editing services company, and got the inside look as she was preparing for the release.
Becky has published several books in romance genres. In this Q & A, she talks about her new book and her experiences with the writing life.
Where does Before the Fall lay in the Covert Passions series? Can you give us a synopsis of the series thus far?
Before the Fall is the third book in a (planned) series of five featuring the missions and lovers of CIA clandestine agent, Paige Fleming.
Goddess of the Hunt introduces us to Paige. Called back early from a vacation she’d been forced to take, Paige must recover secret US military information from a terrorist cell in Dublin, Ireland. Her contact and partner on this mission is Eoin Fitzpatrick, an MI6 officer deeply embedded within the group.
In The Czech Deception, a dangerous Russian mobster has contracted a hit on one of Paige’s assets, Gregor Kovic. She has to convince her former lover to defect if he wants protection from the United States. Only the situation is more complicated than she’s initially aware: Grey refuses to leave without his latest paramour—the mistress of the gangster who wants him dead.
Before the Fall opens with Paige on suspension following disciplinary review for her actions in Dublin and in Prague. Her immediate supervisor uses the suspension to put Paige on a hunt for a traitor within the United States information community.
What was your inspiration for Paige Fleming, your main character?
I have a huge crush on Daniel Craig and I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE James Bond. After seeing Casino Royale in the theater, I began daydreaming about a female version of Daniel Craig—just as deadly, just as sexual, just as complex. And Paige was born. Note: Her last name is a nod to Bond author Ian Fleming.
Which do you find the hardest to write, the first or the last line of your books? Why?
Oh the first, definitely. I go through dozens of revisions on the first paragraph just trying to find the perfect first sentence. The one that will compel the reader to need to know more. “It was a dark and stormy night” falls somewhat short of expectations. Haha.
How long have you been writing?
Pretty much forever. Well, technically, since I was six. I wrote my first book in kindergarten. It was a nail biter by 1982 standards: my best friend and I got lost in the big city. My mother (and biggest fan) has it pressed between the pages of her family Bible.
What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned in your writing journey?
Criticism is more than necessary. I can’t see sometimes the forest for the trees and have such an emotional connection to the story I wrote I can’t chop down the trees that are blocking the view . . . and I’m beating this analogy to death aren’t I? Having a professional set of objective eyes review, trim, and polish makes every story better.
Do have your next book planned?
I’ve already a start on book 4 in the Covert Passions series and created a sketchy outline of book 5, the last in this series, as well as a skeleton for a spin-off series featuring a private military company introduced in Covert Passions book 4.
As for my mainstream romances, I’ve got a release coming soon, another book still in rough draft, and I just signed a contract on yet another with Tirgearr Publishing. It’s going to be a busy year.
You can purchase Before the Fall and the first two books of her Covert Passions series on Amazon.
Erin Servais is a freelance book editor with Dot and Dash LLC. She is too much of a scaredy cat to make it in the spy business, but she is happy to read books about it.
Is, with just its two lovely letters, seems to confuse many people as they go about capitalizing chapter titles, article titles, subtitles, and so forth.
Should is be capitalized in titles? Let’s find out.
(Okay, if you’re looking for the quick answer, it’s: yes, you should capitalize is in titles. If you want to discover why it should be capitalized, read on. You can also find a full review of how to write titles here.)
First, let’s review which words get capitalized in titles (according to The Chicago Manual of Style).
- First and last words
Is (like pillage, splatter, and giggle) is a verb. So, even though it’s a teeny tiny verb, it still gets the full capitalization treatment.
Let’s check out this example:
The Cat Is in the Box
The verb in this title is is, so it gets capitalized.
The Cat Is in the Box, and He Looks Confused
Is and Looks are both verbs in this title. They both get capitalized.
And, when in doubt, you can always cheat. There is a handy dandy online tool named Capitalize My Title that will do the work for you. Simply type in the words of your title, and—voilà—it formats it for you in whichever style you wish.
Erin Servais is a freelance book editor and cat fancier. To learn more about her services, visit www.dotanddashllc.com.