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
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?
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?
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?
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?
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
“Give up, Professor Verbosity,” he said. “You should know by now
that sheer weight of words is no match for the power of punctuation!”
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
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.
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
Supervillains are suckers for cliché, the Grammarian thought, every one of them.
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
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.
... TO BE CONTINUED...
Tony Noland is a writer and editor in the suburbs of Philadelphia. His blog is at http://www.tonynoland.com , and you can find him on Twitter as @TonyNoland https://twitter.com/TonyNoland, and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/TonyNolandAuthorPage.