Discover more from Jason Pettus, Editor
New client book release, advice on Christian grammar, and more.
This week: The newly released supernatural crime thriller "Dead Reckoning;" thoughts on the complications that come with the grammar rules behind "Christian texts;" and the usual recommendations.
My latest client’s baby is now out in the world!
I’m extremely happy to say that yet another book I helped work on as an editor now exists out in the world! In this case it’s the supernatural crime thriller Dead Reckoning by Florida author Jacob Moon, his second novel after the more straightforward but still just as clever Furlough (which I also served as an editor on). Here’s what I had to say about it over at the book’s listing at Goodreads.com:
Set like his last book in western Florida, this is a cross-genre story that bleeds back and forth between crime and horror; but what really sets it apart is its racial-justice angle, in that much of the story occurs around a race riot that was supposed to have happened in the fictional small town in the years immediately following World War One, just like what happened in real life across the American South in these same years (most notoriously in Tulsa, Oklahoma). Moon has an assured, witty, veteran writing style, particularly notable since he's only starting his literary career here in middle age, after spending the first 30 years of his adult life initially in the Army and then as a Corrections officer (which is where he came up with the crazy, clever storyline behind Furlough, basically a look from an experienced jail expert at what strange set of circumstances might actually in theory lead to someone being able to accidentally escape from one). He's not trying to be as deliberately funny as his Floridian crime peer Carl Hiaasen, but his books share the latter's penchant for wild but believable plot turns, deep characterization, and for baking the sun-drenched, trash-filled Florida culture into the stories being told. If you liked the movie Candyman or the HBO series Watchmen, then there's a high chance you'll love this too, and those references should give you a good general idea of what you're about to get into without me having to divulge any spoilers (and many intelligent surprises are indeed afoot here, make no mistake).
I encourage you to pick up a copy at Amazon if you have a chance; even better, if you have Kindle Unlimited, both his novels are available completely for free in their entireties through that. He will also be at StokerCon in Denver, Colorado next month, for all of you convention-goers who will be attending. Have some news about your own book? Drop me a line and let me know, and I’ll share it in the next newsletter!
Editing tips: The complications of “Christian grammar”
Many of my more edgy indie-lit clients may not realize it, but a huge proportion of my salary each year comes from Christian authors, writing everything from casual memoirs about their sinful youths to scholarly tomes about Martin Luther and the modern refugee crisis. There are some special grammatical rules to keep in mind when editing self-identified "Christian texts," over and beyond what comes in a secular stylebook being applied to everyone's manuscripts (in my case, the Chicago Manual of Style if working alone, but the Associated Press Stylebook if working with a third party like Gatekeeper Press who prefers it).
The first and perhaps most noticeable thing about Christian texts, for example, is that anything having to do with the central trinity of the Father (God), the Son (Jesus), and the Holy Ghost is capitalized, not just the names themselves but even the pronouns every time He is speaking in one of these forms. Christians do this to pay unusual reverence to the deity at the center of their religion, and therefore continue the capitalization no matter how belabored or strung-out the metaphor or symbol becomes—so God is not only the Father but also the Lord, the Shepherd, the King (I’m sorry, the King of Kings), the Teacher, the Leader, the Holy (I'm sorry, the Holiest of Holies), the Creator and Voice of the Word which is the Law and therefore the Truth, just to name a few. You do not see this in English translations of many other religious texts, such as Islam—Muslims don't particularly feel the need to refer to "the Prophet" with a capital P whenever they refer to Muhammad—but much of that can be chalked up to the fact that it's being translated from a non-Roman alphabet, so capitalization isn't thought of in the same way to begin with.
The main complication with Christian texts, then, is the same main complication with all of Christianity, that there's so many forms and they often do things in such a deliberately different way than each other. There's the oldest and still main form, for example, the Catholics, and they have their own news service which provides an official stylesheet to how they expect all Catholics to capitalize or punctuate all the special terms associated with their religion. (It's this group, for example, that decides that certain rites within the Church be capitalized, such as attending Confession; they have also decided that the Church should be capitalized in the first place, whenever you're talking about the central bureaucracy and set of beliefs that holds together an entire faith, but “church” in lowercase whenever talking about any one specific church building where a neighborhood full of acquaintances might gather on a Sunday morning.)
But then there's the main schism of Christianity, Protestantism, an umbrella of vaguely similar faiths in that all of them proudly claim, "At least we aren’t Catholics!" although the similarities often end there. Some Protestant denominations, for example, think Heaven and Hell should be capitalized as proper nouns when referring to them; others think you're talking more about general concepts with these terms, and thus they should be lowercase. Some people think the Book of Psalms should only be referred to that way when talking about the entire collective book as a whole, but any actual quotation from it should refer to a "Psalm" in the singular, since you're only quoting from one of these psalms at that moment; others think it should always be "Psalms" no matter what, because in all cases you're referring to the book of collective pieces when you make a mention of a verse's origin.
The best way to proceed if you're a Christian author is to first pick a secular stylebook you're comfortable with (if you've never chosen one with me, you've quietly been using the Chicago Manual of Style without your full awareness of that, but I'm happy to work with others), then consult your local preacher, minister or priest to find out what the tradition is with special cases within your particular faith and denomination. If there is no particular tradition within yours, then follow what the secular guide instructs you to do in those situations, especially when it comes to more general subjects like when "biblical" should be expressed as lowercase (A: when being used symbolically, such as a recent rainstorm of “biblical proportions”) and when it should be capitalized (A: when referring specifically to something found inside the bound paper book known as the Christian Bible). No matter what, though, when anyone is quoting a Bible verse for any reason, within any context like even a dark fantasy novel or what have you, it should be expressed as first the name of the book, then the chapter number and verse number(s) separated by a colon and no spaces, followed many times by the version of the Bible the quote comes from, either its full name or a commonly known abbreviation. Thus:
"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." —John 3:16 (King James Version)
As John 3:16 (KJV) tells us, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."
Don't forget one of the Bible's most oft-quoted verses: "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16 [KJV]).
Like other examples of the subject, abbreviations for Bible book names are fine, but should be done consistently in a manuscript; either all of them should be abbreviated, or none of them. If you want to get super-nerdy, any grouping of verses within a citation (such as John 3:16–19) should in a perfect world have an en-dash between the numbers, made on a Windows computer with the keyboard shortcut “Control-Dash” but only the dash button on the numberpad; this is opposed to the larger em-dash (made on Windows with “Control-Alt-Dash”), which you instead use within entire sentences or at the start of quotes; or a simple dash (made on all computers with simply the “Dash” button), which you only use in compound words like “super-nerdy.” Have other questions about Christian grammar, or an entirely different grammatical subject you'd like to see me tackle in a future newsletter? Please let me know!
How Long Ago Is “The Other Day?” and other fascinating ESL questions this week
One of the things I do in my literary life besides professionally edit books is also offer free advice to English as a Second Language students, primarily through the subreddits "What's the Word?" and "English Learning." Some of these questions are fascinating for even native English speakers to ponder for a bit, especially all you writers who belong to this newsletter, so in that spirit here are the most interesting discussions I've participated in there since my last update.
Got your own English question for this newsletter? Please just let me know!
Links, news and recommendations
I finished Missouri Williams’ bleak post-apocalyptic dark fairytale The Doloriad last week. It was fascinating.
I also finished Beth Morgan’s 2021 darkly surreal hipster favorite A Touch of Jen. It was fascinating too.
Finally, I tried taking on Easy Crafts for the Insane, the latest memoir by the creator of the term “adulting.” It was…um, not nearly as good.
I got a new entry up to my personal blog last week, part 2 of my latest “Minecraft roleplaying” campaign.
Oh, and I finally joined “serious photographer social network” 500px, part of my moves this spring to permanently remove myself from social networks that I no longer enjoy, like Instagram and Twitter (but more on this in a future blog entry).
Speaking of which, don’t forget my cold forgotten Mastodon account. If all of us are to finally switch off centralized social networks and into a federated, decentralized system, all of us need to start using them a lot more. Don’t forget to tag me and let me know about things in the “web3 cloud” at @firstname.lastname@example.org.
And finally, don’t forget to check out the latest photographers I’ve discovered over at 500px, including Prague’s Erik Johansson, Tokyo’s Kaitaro Kobayashi, Germany’s Holger Nitschke, Romania’s Bogdan Z., and a lot more. I don’t really have a good way of featuring photographers in my life right now, but have been idly thinking about starting up a new digital literary and photography journal again, distributed as a free PDF just as a way of bringing attention to artists I think worth your time, so please drop me a line at email@example.com if you would theoretically be interested in seeing such a publication exist and contributing to it. Talk with all of you again in another couple of weeks!