What It Is (posts below left; rate sheet, client list, other stuff below right)

My name is Bob Land. I am a full-time freelance editor and proofreader, and occasional indexer. This blog is my website.

You'll find my rate sheet and client list here, as well as musings on the life of a freelancer; editing, proofreading, and indexing concerns and issues; my ongoing battles with books and production; and the occasional personal revelation.

Feel free to contact me directly with additional questions: landondemand@gmail.com.

Thanks for visiting. Leave me a comment. Come back often.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Author Contact, Codes, Thanksgiving

Some presses put me directly in touch with authors. I speak of dreading that experience, but the exchanges are often pleasant and rewarding.

Most of the time, a press's managing editor sends me a job, and I edit and return it to the managing editor. No mess, no fuss. I also can say certain things to the managing editor about a book that would be more difficult to say to an author.

[Sometimes, though, I wonder if presses don't always know when there's such a problem with the manuscript, and they want the anonymous copyeditor to blame when they bring the hammer down on the author.]

When I'm put in touch with the author, I can't hide behind the anonymity that copyediting usually provides. Thankfully I've never had the paths cross of Author Contact and Rancid Book. I recently had one back to back with the other, and I started thinking how fortunate that the author I was dealing with had written a very nice book and wasn't trying to pass off a bunch of financial and demographic research done in 2004 in the present tense as if it were still relevant.

But I digress. Imagine that.

In a recent project I copyedited, the press had coded the book before it came to me. Thus, the material below in angle brackets appeared before most blocks of copy. The material following the second bracket is what the code stands for:

<2HT>Second half title
<BMH>Back matter head
<BML>Back matter list
<BMT>Back matter text
<BQ>Block quote
<CN>Chapter number
<COT>Chapter opening text
<CPT>Chapter part title
<CT>Chapter title
<ESIGN>End of <SIGN>
<FMH>Front matter head
<HT>Half title
<L>List, unnumbered
<LH>List head
<LTR>Letter opening
<LTRT>Letter text
<NH>Notes head
<NL>Numbered list
<NLH>Numbered list head
<PN>Part number
<PST>Part subtitle
<PT>Part title
<SB>Strong break
<SIGN>Used for newspaper article titles, etc.
<T>Regular text
<T1>First paragraph of text
<TFL>Text flush left
<TOCBM>Table of contents back matter
<TOCCN>Table of contents chapter number
<TOCCT>Table of contents chapter title
<TOCFM>Table of contents front matter
<TOCPN>Table of contents part number
<TOCPST>Table of contents part subtitle
<TOCPT>Table of contents part title
<TP>Title page

NOTE: Ethnographic sections, which should be typographically distinct from regular text, are indicated by an “E” preceding individual code elements (e.g., <ETFL> for ethnographic text flush left, etc.).

This manuscript has more elements than most, but a list half this size isn't uncommon for most books. Part of what I do -- when the press doesn't do it first -- is put similar codes in the manuscript myself, thus telling the designer how to lay out the book. Put as simply as my brain can understand it, the designer can set up a certain style for chapter heads, search all text coded <CH>, apply style to code, and voila. Of course, there's a whole lot that goes on after that and before that, and nothing is quite that simple, but that's what the codes are for.

For this reason, authors, the look of a manuscript ultimately doesn't matter. 

Theoretically you could send a manuscript to a typesetter in 4-point Ridiculous, superscripted, and as long as these codes are in place, the designer should be able to work jes' fine.

The obverse (?) is also true. No matter how much you try to fancy up your manuscript, there's a point of diminishing returns for everyone down the line -- and you, too. A properly coded manuscript needs no formatting other than bold and italics and a few other things that import into design software. Boxes and shading and all that goes away, and a designer needs to re-create it. 

That's why an author should never put boxes and shading and auto-lists and all that other unnecessary noise in a manuscript in the first place.

Not that this author did. Well, actually I don't know, because the press obviously intervened on the manuscript before I saw it. But when I compiled my answers to some of the author's concerns, I noted that many of them dealt with how the manuscript looked, and the codes -- which, after all, are significant to me (duh, like knowing proofreading marks and reading subway maps -- aren't these universal survival skills?) -- weren't much help to the author.

My email to the very nice author follows, and please note that this was not my initial correspondence with the author. We'd already established a rapport and worked some things out between us, with some give and take on both sides. This email was sent essentially after my work was complete.

Hi. Just responding to some of your queries, so you don’t worry about this stuff.

1. The columns of contributions not lining up -- actually, they are, in theory. There’s a tab space between each number on each line, but just not a tab in the ruler, so the spacing is all different in appearance. Once the designer imports that text, the tabs will be there, and everything will line up pretty.

2. <LH>Oyster Dressing.

You’d wondered about this not being bold. The designer determines all those specs at typesetting time. The LH indicates it’s a head. I’m sure it’ll all make sense on the page.

3. You should be reborn a human being so that you will have a good life.” [Q: Shouldn’t there be end quote marks here (or somewhere) to close the instruction?]

No, because the text preceding it is set as a prose extract.

4. [Q: Can we put a blank line between the ends of all the poetry sections and the next paragraphs?  It bothers me that it all looks so crowded.]

Again, that’s a design thing that will be resolved at typesetting. There’s typically space around extracts and lists in most books. Don’t worry about how the manuscript looks. The designer goes by the codes, not the spacing on the page.

5. <CT>Silk Stories [Endnote 1 is here after “Silk Stories,” not at the end of COT]
No can do. Note markers after chapter titles, heads, etc., are verboten. Needs to go after the first next logical block of running text, usually the first sentence -- as done here.

6. Need to keep “nowhere” lowercase in “middle of nowhere”: From Merriam-Webster’s 11th Collegiate: middle of nowhere : an extremely remote and isolated place  *ran out of gas in the middle of nowhere. 

If we wanted to uppercase the term, really it would be Middle of Nowhere, Montana, but we shouldn’t do that either.

Hope that helps.


Happy Thanksgiving, folks. Hope it was a good one. We forsook the home event, and three of us -- myself, my wife, our younger son -- drove to Weaverville, NC, to a nice little restaurant and had a delightful meal and walked around a little afterward. Back home, nothing but another night at home. Nice change of pace. No preparation, no clean-up, and 90 minutes or so of quiet conversation that might be better than we'd get at home, with all the jumping up and down around the table that would be going on. My younger son's the type whom sometimes you don't know what's going on until you ask, and some of the time you don't even know what to ask, so the occasional direct answers and questions we get out of him in such situations are always helpful. His older brother has gone through parts of his life when we seemed to hear most of the goings-on in his head. That has never, ever been the case with our younger issue. I guess there's benefits to both. And it comes and goes. Once our younger son gets on a roll, it's nice to find out what's happening in his life.

I'll probably fry a turkey at Christmas, but I think we just made it a family tradition to get the hell out of town and go eat somewhere else on Thanksgiving. I guess it's our Central Appalachian version of Thanksgiving in Chinatown, which we've also done. With Asheville and environs 75 minutes of a beautiful drive down the road, that's not a problem.

View from 19/23, Tennessee/North Carolina

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Why It's Always Better to Query

Alrighty, put on your copyediting or proofreading hats. What do you notice about the following sentence?

At the funeral home, I wrapped up all the ashes from the burned part of the family money gift [tshuab ntawv vam sab].

Careful readers will note that the "v" in "vam" is not italicized. [Be honest. Did you see it?]

Most cases, one might simply think it's an error and italicize it, right? I queried, and received this pretty fascinating answer from the author:

"Nonitalicized if spoken aloud; italicized if thought. Stet."

I hope Hmong copyeditors get paid the big bucks.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Haiku Monday Winner: Southeast

After announcing the theme of "southeast," I remembered an I-don’t-think-entirely-apocryphal story from Atlanta back in the 1970s. Chickory may be familiar with this incident. It happened soon enough before I arrived in Atlanta that I don’t think it emerged out of whole cloth. Fleur may know it, too.

In a long-demolished shopping center known as Broadview Plaza near Piedmont and Lindbergh and Buford Highway was an intimate concert venue known as the great southeast music hall. They served buckets of beer -- about the equivalent of four and a half cans — and a glass. And you sat on the floor, as they had padded backstops you could lean up or pass out against. I saw a few very good concerts there. I think.

Back in the mid-70s, before he broke through on Saturday Night Live and elsewhere, Steve Martin did a show at the Great Southeast Music Hall. So few people showed up that he did only a quick set . . . and then took the audience bowling at the lanes nearby. Talk about a brush with fame.

Times have changed. Broadview Plaza is long, long gone. Atlanta has been torn down and rebuilt three times since Sherman finished his own mode of urban renewal. Steve Martin is now very self-consciously high culture.

Times have changed in Southeast Asia, too. With the CIA in the news lately, I wonder what’s going on in the parts of the world we don’t hear about so much anymore. As with any relationship gone south(east), in our national collective mind — and in the national subconscious — do we ever really walk away? In other generation or two, will we be back for another round? The words “Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos” mean little if anything to my children, who are not uninformed yutes. Will those names mean something again to their children?

Consider this little ditty, from 1974 (I hope the author/compiler, who previously checked in on the blog, doesn’t mind): “I took the rock [from Laos] to Lausch Test Labs in Seattle. They assayed this material, and it assayed out at 1.1 ounces of gold per ton. Oh my, that’s a high gold content! More than double anything in Alaska or the rest of the U.S.! Also there was 0.58 ounces of silver, and the rest was iron. When I got that assay report I called Bethlehem Steel and I talked to their exploration department. I said, ‘Would you guys be interested in something like this?’ They said, ‘My God! Where is it?’ I said, ‘I’m sorry but you won’t be able to get to it at this time. Not for at least a quarter of a century.’” Bethlehem Steel might still be waiting. Maybe not. We don’t know.

But your neighbor might. And that’s OK. I wish I had a marketable skill to lead me to a life of intrigue.

Where was I?

Fishy: Nice pieces evoking Florida beach culture. We lived at the beach in FL for two years -- although not a spring break destination. What I used to love in those years was going inland to I-95 to eat at the Waffle House during Bike Week. Great clientele. And Waffle House would issue special Waffle House Bike Week uniforms.

I like “Tops down flirty girls,” on a number of levels. I remember one year when I was still not yet old enough to drive legally (it might even have been right after I fell asleep at the wheel) and Dad Czar rented me a Camaro convertible for use for a week in Miami; I think it was to keep me out of his hair. So, sure, I had a Camaro convertible when I was 16 years old for a week in Miami. Unfortunately it was still me behind the wheel. No get lucky. Wouldn’t even know how to try.

Serendipity one (Alaska): Interesting story. You live a life with which I am unfamiliar. I also have tried to make the point that in these grand disasters that happen in life, not every person who dies is necessarily a saint or didn’t have it coming — although maybe they didn’t go in exactly the way someone imagined.

Moi: That’s just hilarious, as was the video. I must admit that I still get the occasional “pin”/“pen” thing wrong with the czarina. Dad czar says my vowels are all wrong since moving down here. “Rurnt”!

Becca: Great entries. Florida is an odd amalgam — if I might stretch your second one there, too. As a two-year Florida resident, I remember the excitement of receiving in the mail our first fall there an offer for a Florida residents’ pass to all the Disney properties — something like unlimited usage for three months for $99/person. At the time, we had a nine- and a six-year-old. I’m not sure we ever would have gone to Disney otherwise. And there is nothing like an ocean. As Mark Twain said upon his first view of the Atlantic, “It appears to be a success.”

Serendipity two (sunset over your shoulder): Sublime and witty. I see those colors often around here. Quite nicely done.

BlazngScarlet: A lot of past and present Floridians checking in. My heart doesn’t really yearn for anywhere, but there are certain state borders I cross over and think, “Back home.” Two are in the Southeast. I don’t see myself returning north in this lifetime, but I think at this point I’d feel out of place. On the ’Bama thing . . . the czarina grew up in Alabama, and her whole family went there. I need to be careful. Although she’ll pull for Georgia, her alma mater, over Alabama. And I think at this point she’d pull for Virginia over either of them.

Karl: Ever the man who can make as much sense in seventeen syllables as anybody, and with a lilting rhythm, yet.

Chickory: I need a lifeline. I know the Mason-Dixon line, and I know the gnat line. What’s above the gnat line and it’s not so important that it’s below the Mason-Dixon line? What am I missing? Arrggh! Thankfully, for me, we have syllable issues that add to the mystery. But I’m sitting here messing with Venn diagrams.

This week’s winner grabbed me right off, and while I might discount eating up five syllables with one’s own name, when one’s own name captures the moment and the haiku as it does here, I’m not one to quibble.

And you need the visual and the story:


A southeast sunset?
Serendipity reflects;
surprise from behind!

It was a delightful surprise for me, too — with an interesting and multifaceted twist to the theme, and a timeless look at a theme that's ever in flux. The win goes to Serendipity. Thanks, all, for another grand time.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Haiku Monday, 11/12/2012

In some fit of Savannah-induced euphoria or election-induced despair, Fishy gave the local liberal the nod for a Castro-inspired haiku in a week that also included a national election that, well, didn't break the way many folks around here hoped.

Personally, I was insulted to see a vote total at one point in the night for my home state that included Virgil Goode's numbers, but not Gary Johnson's. I went to the secretary of state's website, and Johnson was pulling more than twice as many votes at that time as Goode. So what's the takeaway here?

Don't forget, folks, I spent much of my adult life voting Libertarian. This year, I realized that the vote I made for the Libertarian ticket in 1980 included one of the Koch brothers as vice president. Yowza.

Savannah and youth and change have something to do with this week's theme.

Sunrise at Isle of Hope, Savannah
I'm working on a large and rather interesting volume about the CIA's secret war in Laos from the late 50s/early 60s to the mid-70s, the evacuation of the Hmong, Hmong funeral rituals . . . all told through the life and death story of a smokejumper who was over there for many years, and died and was buried in his early 40s under mysterious circumstances.

It's 170,000 words of mostly oral history and reprints, and that's a nice few days on the farm for a copyeditor. Not a lot to do.

Interestingly, I was familiar with the Laotian cast of characters from this little ditty (no, you don't have to watch it):

The book I'm editing is part of a series on Southeast Asian history and U.S. involvement in it during the post-World War II era -- from Texas Tech University Press. If you're interested in military history and U.S. history in the 1960s and 1970s, the books are well worthwhile. And no, folks, it's not a bunch of anti-U.S. claptrap. Not at all. Texas Tech is devoted to Vietnam and Southeast Asian studies.

Believe it or not, Laos has something to do with this week's theme. Texas, thankfully not. Ginsberg? Nothing much I'm aware of, except for his appearance at University of Alabama in Huntsville in 1977 -- a tape of which was the first recording I heard of the song above.

(It was part of the same speakers' series in which I met Dr. Hunter S. Thompson, a native of Louisville, KY, the next year.)

Back in the days even before I was old enough to start voting Libertarian, I spent a lot of time traveling up and down I-95. Dad Czar and I, like good New York Jews, would drive dutifully down to Miami Beach in the middle of every December (1967-1976), and then in 1977 I began my regular New York-Atlanta-New York drives for three years, continuing them off and on for many years after that.

I always knew I was firmly back in the Southeast when I'd emerged from the Baltimore/Washington nonsense, and made it through the perpetually under construction freeway through downtown Richmond, to break onto traffic-less highway and inhale deeply the smell of the RJ Reynolds tobacco plant -- a strange and surprising and welcoming odor when you're driving 65 miles an hour in the middle of the night.

We're back where we started. Savannah to Richmond. My Montgomery, AL, native wife and my two sons born in Atlanta would be proud.

This week's Haiku Monday theme is southeast.

That might be Asia, or the United States (my adopted home, whether the locals like it or not), or for those of you of a more directional bent, something the compass kicks off. For those of you who enjoy American football, there's always the SEC. You don't have to worry about my having favorites in that conference; I dislike them all, some more than others.

And it doesn't have to be southeast geographically; whatever you can take away from the word is fair game.

Visuals: Smoke 'em if you got 'em. Links: Yeah. Music: If it's good. Just haiku? Delightful.

Limit two entries, please. I'm strict on syllables but little else (although I will say this: punctuate purposefully). Other than that, post entries in the comments below. Deadline is midnight PST on Monday.

Have fun, folks. Thanks, Fishy.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Haiku Monday: New Yorker Covers

The host is the inestimable Fishy at her pond, and the theme -- with a wonderful accompanying write-up -- is New Yorker covers.

Smoldering island's
Ashen past; dreams wintering,

Seasons go and stop—
In the black strip ’tween Mom’s grin
And child’s pigtailed angst

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Storm Update: It's All about Me

I mean, you can get news and worldwide significance elsewhere, right?

Sandy plows fiercely through czar's childhood: Staten Island, where I grew up, and Breezy Point, on the same spit of land where I worked for two summers.

Not, of course, that I think of Sandy as divine judgment, but lyrics of a certain song came to mind when I heard of the events at Breezy Point. And I want to emphasize that I don't think anyone deserved what happened here. They're just lyrics, and I can't really stop the linkages -- not that I have to report them here, either.

I wish I could find the John Miller version of "Where Shall I Be" online, but it's impossible to find any John Miller on youtube from the mid-1970s, or much at all. If you like blues, gospel, American songbook, high-quality finger-picking guitar, and a voice kinda in the range of Alan Wilson from Canned Heat, find John Miller music. (I've got all the albums, and one day I'll digitize them. Of all the albums I have, those are close to the top of the list. And Fahey.)

[I throw it open for discussion: What's the one song you wish you had a digital version of but, as far as you know, has never been digitized? The first song I digitize is Cool It Reba, "Money Fall out the Sky."]

Lyrics of "Where Shall I Be" (trad., arr. John Miller; not the song in the video below):

Where shall I be when the first trumpet sounds
Where shall I be when it sounds so loud
Sounds so loud it'll wake up the dead
Where shall I be when it sounds?

I'll be trying on my robe when the first trumpet sounds
Trying on my robe when it sounds so loud
Sounds so loud it'll wake up the dead
Where shall I be when it sounds?

God gave Noah the rainbow sign
Won't be water but the fire next time

Sounds so loud it'll wake up the dead
Where shall I be when it sounds?

Plenty of interesting versions of "Where Shall I Be" on the youtube, but none I found included the lyric highlighted above.

I heard from my brother, a Staten Island resident who thankfully lives about 400 feet above sea level. He has made it through so far with only a crushed and totaled car, 37 hours without power or hot water, and a live-in 85-year-old recently immigrated Russian mother-in-law whose cognac supply was almost exhausted. Lucky indeed.

Staten Island lost 19 people of the 94 dead from Sandy so far, and was also disproportionately the most affected locale by the events of September 11, 2001, in terms of loss of life.

Horrible events, and I'm very sad to see my hometown take another devastating hit.

[More from my brother: just received another message. His wife and mother-in-law went yesterday to be with some folks they know who were understandably upset at seeing corpses washing ashore. My brother also did some exploring last night. Said that there were 300 vehicles lined up for gas at midnight near our family's old car dealership . . . at a station that wouldn't open for another seven hours.]

In the meantime . . .