Monday, September 16, 2013

The (Super)Power of Language: Tony Noland's "Verbosity's Vengeance"

Tony Noland was one of the first people I really connected with on Twitter. I wish now I could remember exactly how we ended up finding one another, but it certainly had something to do with our mutual love of limericks, our penchant for puns, our fascination with flash fiction, and our general, unabashed logophilia.

Since then, he has been one of my greatest supporters as a writer. He has offered me feedback and encouragement, has helped me connect with a wider audience, and has even retweeted some of my most groan-inducing puns. In short, he's been a good friend.

Inasmuch as one can be good friends with someoneone has never met. At least not in person. (Such is the wonder and joy of social media.)

Today, Tony is releasing his newest novel, Verbosity's Vengeance. I got the opportunity to read an earlier version and provide some feedback some time ago, and — knowing how good it was then and that it has only improved since — I wholeheartedly endorse it. With this novel, adult grammar geeks, word nerds, language lovers, and even the odd Grammar Nazi finally get a superhero just for them.

But here, let'a have Tony tell you about it himself:


I love the power of language. A well-turned phrase, a word that is just right, a clear and cogent expression of an idea . . . these are the things that make my little heart go pitter-pat.

At the same time, one of my least favorite things is sloppy writing. I actually don't object to bad writing nearly so much as bad writing mechanics. Hackneyed clich├ęs, predictable plots and bad dialogue may truly represent the writer's talent level, or meet the expectations of the writer's audience. However, when someone uses inconsistent verb tenses or pronouns with uncertain antecedents, I'm yanked out of the story. That interferes with the purpose of the writing.

The rules of grammar, spelling, and punctuation exist to support the clarity and consistency of the written word. They are foundational to effective communication; without them, you have incoherent confusion.

This doesn't mean you always have to follow those rules. Far from it! Serious art can happen when you break the rules, but it has to be done with clear understanding and deliberate intent. These rules are powerful things, not to be trifled with lightly.

The dour, dusty scold who snarls on the internet at every misplaced apostrophe and every split infinitive is missing the point. Grammar isn't about adherence to inherited wisdom solely for the sake of orthodox purity. It's about communication, connection, communion. Grammatical speech doesn't restrict you; it makes your ideas shine. There's a joy in linguistic expertise that is unknown to those who can't tell a well-constructed sentence from a poorly-constructed one.

All of which brings me to the central idea behind my new book: Words have power, but their power is magnified when they are given clear expression. Grammar and punctuation amplify the strength of ideas.

What if that power weren't metaphorical or conceptual, but actual?

Verbosity's Vengeance is about the Grammarian, a superhero whose powers are all based on grammar and punctuation. Although the concept is tongue-in-cheek and there's plenty of word nerd humor throughout the book, the Grammarian is a real superhero facing real problems as he hunts down his arch-nemesis, Professor Verbosity. The Grammarian has to find out what Verbosity's big plan is and stop him before it can threaten Lexicon City.

His job isn't made any easier by the interference from a grandstanding, second-rate superhero named the Avant Guardian, or by the distraction of an intriguing (and attractive) scientist with a strong interest in superheroes and their technology. It's Batman meets WordGirl meets Thursday Next.

The Grammarian is no blue-pencil prescriptivist, waving a copy of Strunk & White like immutable holy writ. Nor is he an out-and-out descriptivist, eschewing established patterns in order to embrace the formless NOW. He lives and breathes the power of grammar and punctuation, using them in all their flexibility to stop crime and protect the innocent.

It's a fun, exciting book. I hope you like it!

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 call Landless, which is its own bit of wordplay,  and you can find him on Twitter as @TonyNoland and on Facebook at Tony Noland's Author Page. Verbosity's Vengeance isn't his first publication; check out his GoodReads author page to see what else he's been up to.