Friday, September 13, 2013

Verbosity's Vengeance

Way back in July/June/Smarch I offered up my handful of editing services to create a book cover for one of those internet friends PSA's from the late 90s warned us all about. This Monday the book finally drops, plummets, or is launched through space. Below is a little Q&A with the author all about his book Verbosity's Vengeance, a superhero novel that spears grammar.

Available at Amazon for $2.99

Q. Tell us the title and genre of your book. And can you give us a brief summary?

The book is "Verbosity's Vengeance: A Grammarian Adventure Novel". It's set firmly in the superhero adventure genre, but it's full of word nerd humor and clever wordplay.

Q. How did you come up with the title of your book?

The story revolves around the Grammarian, a superhero with grammar- and punctuation based powers. He can fling semicolons to bisect an oncoming plasma wave, stun bad guys with a mixed metaphor and block a bullet with a full stop. He's pursuing his arch-enemy Professor Verbosity, trying to figure out his latest scheme and stop it before he can threaten Lexicon City. The book opens with the Grammarian closing in, but having his carefully arranged plan screwed up by the Avant Guardian, a second-rate hero who's more glory hound than protector of the city. The Avant Guardian's interference sets in motion Verbosity's quest for dominance over the city and revenge over the Grammarian. As if that weren't enough, the Grammarian also has to deal with his own attraction to a beautiful college professor with a thing for superhero technology.

Q. Grammar-based superpowers? Where did that come from?

I had a ringside seat for one of the perennial internet squabbles over grammar. As the Follow The Rules Brigade was waging war on the Say It However You Want Squad, I thought how much fun it would be to have someone who could embody grammar itself. The rules of grammar exist to facilitate clear communication. They're not a dusty set of arbitrary orthodoxies at all; they are the tools by which clarity of thought and expression connect the writer and the reader. That's the real power of grammar. Who better to carry that banner than the Grammarian? Even better if he uses it to fight the forces of mindless prolixity embodied by Professor Verbosity?

Q. Which character was hardest to write? What made them a challenge?

In some ways, Professor Verbosity was the hardest. I had to give him a real motive for wanting to take over the city. I mean seriously... who goes to the trouble of building a complex superweapon when AK-47s are cheap and plentiful? What could make him a) raise his sights so far, and b) make him believe he could get away with it? I say that he was the hardest to write, but I'll admit that the solution I came up with was so compelling, it made the entire finale of the book fall neatly and convincingly into place.

Q. What other books are similar to your own?  What makes them alike?

"Verbosity's Vengeance" is firmly in the tradition of the realist superhero, the one who has to repair his armor and balance his nighttime daring-do with his day job. In that sense, there are parallels to Hawkeye/Hawkguy. The wordplay and word nerd humor is right in line with "The Phantom Tollbooth" and the Thursday Next books.

Q. What are you working on now?

I don't want to go into any detail about it, but it's a science fiction novel that is considerably darker than "Verbosity's Vengeance".

Q. Finally, give us a excerpt from "Verbosity's Vengeance".

A gruesome sentence flew toward the Grammarian, blasted from the barrel of Professor Verbosity’s latest weapon, the Concept Cannon. Festooned with a dozen hook-like prepositional phrases, the complex construct spun widely to ensnare the superhero. Anticipating the attack, twin thunderclaps exploded from the Grammarian’s gauntlets as he fired a powerful pulse of parentheses from one hand and a simultaneous shower of semicolons from the other.

The punctuations found their marks, creating nodal points that shattered the sentence into a cloud of fragments. With an electric shriek of memetic energy, the construct collapsed like an accordion. Discrete, unconnected phrases bent and flexed harmlessly around the Grammarian.

“Give up, Professor Verbosity,” he said. “You should know by now that sheer weight of words is no match for the power of punctuation!”

He shifted into a fighting stance and faced his opponent, who had backed to the far side of the room. Professor Verbosity lifted the Concept Cannon and pulled a lever. The barrel swiveled into an angular projection. Blue sparks shone along the length of the weapon as electronic circuits reconfigured themselves.

“Is that so, hero? Let’s see how well you can withstand my Redundancy Ray!”

“You need a new bag of tricks, Verbosity. I’ve already seen that a dozen times. Now, give up!”

The supervillain smiled in response.

“You always try to bluff your way out of difficulty, don’t you, Grammarian? I can’t say I don’t admire the attempt to win with words instead of brute force, but in this case, I’ll use both.” The weapon in his hand was now shaking with barely contained power, long plasma streamers flowing from end to end. “True, my Redundancy Ray is an old favorite, but I haven’t shown it to you since I added the Rephraser Refractor!”

Blue lightning exploded from the weapon. In less than a second, a million microfilaments of memetic concept energy wrapped themselves around the Grammarian. Knocked to the ground by the force of the impact, he had no chance to react before the energy coalesced into a single, coherent sentence. Within the densely convoluted word-construct, the Grammarian was immobilized.

It’s about time he pulled out a real weapon, the hero thought. If I’d had to duck and dodge much longer, he surely would have begun to realize that I was holding back.

Professor Verbosity laughed in triumph, delighted to see his foe struggling in the grip of the memetic energy his weapon was projecting. The Grammarian struggled even more vigorously and threw in a growl of frustration to enhance the effect. For a moment, he thought he might have overplayed the acting, but the hero could see that Verbosity was convinced of his triumph.

Supervillains are suckers for cliché, the Grammarian thought, every one of them.

“You’ll never win, Professor Verbosity!” He spit his archenemy’s name with obvious contempt. Pinned to the floor under the weight and complexity of shimmering word-memes, he fought for breath as his bonds grew ever tighter. Now, his gasping was only partly exaggerated for effect. Although allowing himself to be captured was part of the Grammarian’s plan to trick Verbosity into revealing his latest plot, Lexicon City’s smartest hero feared that that he’d underestimated his foe.

Professor Verbosity laughed. “Ah, my dear Grammarian,” he replied, “I have already won, insofar as the first and most crucial step in winning is to render you utterly and completely helpless. These sentences are not only long and complex enough to entangle you completely while you try to parse out subject and object amid the subtending and supporting prepositional and participial phrases, they are also perfectly correct grammatically, which renders you powerless to break free!”

Under the triumphant gaze of his nemesis, the Grammarian was indeed struggling, completely snared in the thick ropes of words. He tried to find some flaw, some grammatical mistake that he could exploit. With all his super-powered lexicographical might, he scanned and rescanned the sentence, though it was blindingly painful to do so. Being captured was part of the plan; being rendered unconscious was not. He wanted some avenue of recourse if he needed to go to one of his backup plans.

Unfortunately, Verbosity had gone to great lengths this time, figuratively and verbally. If only there were an inconsistent verb tense, a dangling or misplaced modifier, even an intransitive verb used transitively, but there were no grammatical mistakes to latch onto. The Grammarian needed to get to the bottom of his foe’s plot and time was running out more quickly than anticipated.


"Verbosity's Vengeance: A Grammarian Adventure Novel" is on sale at Amazon for $2.99.

Tony Noland is a writer and editor in the suburbs of Philadelphia. His blog is at , and you can find him on Twitter as @TonyNoland, and on Facebook at


Tony Noland said...

It's great to be here - thanks for having me! And thanks for the great cover!

Icy Sedgwick said...

Wonderful interview, and it's a fabulous book!