In light of recent posts, I started to really look at tone. As when it comes to writing. Of all the points of writing, I think tone has to be one of the hardest to master. How I may write something, may be misconstrued by the reader. That then lead me to a question. Can informal writing–like blog posts and forums–help strengthen your tone when writing prose?
What got me thinking about this was my conversations with my critic and then how I worded a–now deleted–section of my review.
For my critic, I tried to show him areas of his writing that came off as antagonistic or arrogant. His claim was that he wasn’t being either and just stating facts. Which I can see that it may have been his intention. But the tone with which it was written didn’t read that way. I mentioned to him that it is something I struggle within my own writing, to be clear as possible and watch for those areas that may come off as attacking.
Then, in my review, I stepped all over that struggle and then beat it with a hammer. After being published, I re-read that section of my review and caught just how accusatory and derogatory it sounded. But when I initially wrote it, those feelings were far from my mind.
What causes this? That disconnect?
The first thing that pops into my head is word choice. I really think that is the bulk of it. We have to be diligent about knowing what connotations each word can have. What can be said in person can’t always be transcribed to the written word.
Here is a great example:
Wow, that is stupid.
There are so many different ways we can take that. Which is why I’m thankful for dialogue tags and verbs. They are a huge help in clarifying dialogue. But how can we get that same kind of clarity in a blog post or informal online discussion? Should we all start writing descriptive text around our “dialogue?” That could be kind of fun. Have an entire AIM chat with dialogue tags and descriptive sentences. It would be like role-playing. But with far fewer dice rolls.
Though, I think that is why I am often tempted to use emoticons when typing on the internet. I see them as determinatives in hieroglyphs. A little visual marker to indicate the tone in which the sentence should be read. Which for me, tends to be a lot of smiley faces. Because I am an even keeled person.
But the writer in me is loath to use them in places like a blog post. Even on places like Reddit I am hesitant to use them. Possibly because emoticons are a crutch. If I can’t get my tone across through my words, then I should really rethink how I structured my sentence. And I really hope it is paying off in my formal writing.
Still though, the idea of writing everything as if it’s a novel does sound fun, right? Write.
Jeffrey reread his post and nodded with approval. Yep, he thought, another post that will be viewed by my mother and twelve others.
I’ve had a corgdial exchange with the author of Blood and Bullets James R. Tuck. He was very understanding that I may not have enjoyed the novel, but he took issue–and rightfully so–with my insinuation that he stole or plagiarized any work from another source for his novel. I won’t bother going into detail about what it was, as I’ve also taken the step to remove that section of my review.
But I do want to take this opportunity to extend a sincere apology to him and whatever damage my words may have caused. I did not meet my original intentions with the review and after rereading my words, I see that I did overstep my meaning.
And as a fellow writer pointed out, sometimes we come up with ideas that other writers and creators have also seen. In my own work, I’ve got very big similarities to Harry Potter that I’ve been having to strike down and rethink. And instead of giving James the full benefit of the doubt. I made a gross error and overstepped my words.
This is a small literary world. An even smaller one when dealing with Fantasy and SciFi themes. I can only hope that James R. Tuck will not hold this against me in the future. Whatever damage I may have caused him, I will gladly pull onto myself.
I would also like to request that anyone who may have tweeted and emailed my original review, to send this apology along with the corrected review.
— Jeffrey N. Baker
On Friday I finished the book Blood and Bullets by James R. Tuck. I’d like start this review by mentioning that James is a local author for me. One of my writing group members, Matthew Quinn, is personally familiar with him. Before picking up the book I had emailed James with some questions about his experience with being published traditionally. He was incredibly gracious with his information and quick to followup with my emails.
According to James, from the point of writing the book to the time of publication was 14 months. Which 2 of those months were for the writing process. As like most of us, he collected many rejection letters over those months until finally being picked up by Kensington Books. Which is an incredible turn around. I’ve mentioned Brandon Sanderson a lot around here. It took him 8 years before his first book, Elantris, was published by Tor.
So I’d like to say congratulations to James on his three book deal.
First, the hook.
He lives to kill monsters. He keeps his city safe. And his silver hollow-points and back-from-the-dead abilities help him take out any kind of supernatural threat. But now an immortal evil has this bad-ass bounty hunter dead in its sights. . .
Ever since a monster murdered his family, Deacon Chalk hunts any creature that preys on the innocent. So when a pretty vampire girl “hires” him to eliminate a fellow slayer, Deacon goes to warn him–and barely escapes a vampire ambush. Now he’s got a way-inexperienced newbie hunter to protect and everything from bloodsuckers to cursed immortals on his trail. There’s also a malevolent force controlling the living and the undead, hellbent on turning Deacon’s greatest loss into the one weapon that could destroy him. . .
Told in first person POV, Deacon Chalk is suffering from what I’m calling, “The Punisher Syndrome.” He lost his family due to a monster attack and now has vowed to exterminate them all. He has guns and lots of them. And a fully decked out safe-house ready to stave off even the most dangerous foe.
What I enjoyed:
The Nosferatu. Granted, they weren’t actually in this book. But the characters have a conversation about one nesting in the Atlanta Zoo. He describes them as big, hairy, bat-like creatures that just live to feed. A lot of vampire lore shows Nosferatu as being the most monstrous of the vampire types, but I enjoyed just how far he took it. It is my understanding that he wrote a short story about this encounter called, That Thing At the Zoo.
I was also drawn to the side character, Larson. A kid who is trying to hunt down vampires but has no clue what kind of world he’s getting into. He has the book smarts, but not the practical experience. He is like the main character from Kick-Ass. He has an idea of what he’s trying to do, but just needs that right momentum and a bit of time to come into his own.
Unfortunatley we don’t get much time with the character as the book is told from Deacon Chalk’s point of view.
What I didn’t enjoy:
Two major points here.
First, is that I feel as if the book had a lot of padding to get the word count up. Throughout the book were several passages that reiterated the same concepts within just a paragraph of each other. Deacon spends a page and half telling us about his car. What seemed like the end of that thought he writes, “I drive it because I love it.” Then we get another paragraph more on the car and it ends with, “And I love it.”
Yes, we gathered that from the first time you said it. Maybe this is a minor quibble. But those things really stick out to me.
Second is the fact that the character Deacon Chalk is a Mary Sue (follow the link there if you’re not sure what that is.) I was constantly taken out of the story because of how much of a wish-fulfillment it was. Matthew mentioned to me that James does not shy away from the fact that Deacon is based on himself. And it shows.
Deacon has no real flaw. He is a bad-ass at everything he does. Everything he has is the best and he knows the best for everyone. I don’t mind an author basing a character on himself. But give me the dirty with the good. I want a fully rounded character.
It came down to the point that I could begin to predict the outcome of situations. The first ocurrance, and for my example, happens on page 69. Deacon and Larson are going to a drive-thru sushi place. They pull up to the speaker and then–
Leaning on the door, I spoke into the round speaker. “Hello, Katsumi, how are you and your honorable father tonight?”
In that moment I knew Deacon wouldn’t have to pay for his meal. I was tipped off from the fact that he knew the person by name and their father well. Two pages later and we get this–
I had helped [her father] get her back, and ever since then they never let me pay for sushi.
Heaped on top of that was the fact that Larson had never had sushi before and said he didn’t want any because he didn’t like raw fish. Deacon pressured him to try it. Again, I knew that Larson would discover that he actually did like it. And it happened just like that. Why? Because the main character gave him the food. And the main character knows the best for everyone.
I think James missed a great character and opportunity in Larson. For reasons stated above. He had a real struggle and the potential for growth in the story. In fact, he did have growth. But we really didn’t have a chance to examine it and get into his head to see it. And that was a disappointment to me.
Blood and Bullets is something I’ll liken to an 80’s action movie. Lots of violence, guns, sex appeal, and all around bad-assery. With very little substance. And hey, many readers are looking for just that. Which is exactly what they’ll get from this book. I’ve got a friend that would probably really enjoy it.
As for me, I need more from the characters in the story. Something deeper to hold onto.
In the end, I have to remember that this is Jame’s first book. His freshman effort. He’s got two more books coming out and will have many more after that, I’m sure. He’s going to grow a lot and I’m always excited to hear when someone is able to get a book deal. We should never forget that finishing a novel is one of the hardest things a person can do. And James did it.
His second book, Blood and Silver, is slated for August 2012. It looks like Lycanthropes are on the order for this one. So, again, if you’re looking for more bullets and bad-assery, pick it up!
Oh how we often forget our first children. See, for those that are fairly new, SLIP DRIVE is my second story I’ve put up on Amazon. This entire endeavor started with me uploading HIROKO’S TALE. It is a sweet love story written in the style of an old Fairy Tale or Fable. It first appeared in the anthology FABLES FOR JAPAN back in August.
Well, after the release of SLIP DRIVE, I kind of let it fall to the wayside. I’ve been putting a lot of my energy behind getting SLIP DRIVE’s name out there. Possibly because SLIP DRIVE is longer and I felt had a wider appeal.
So how is HIROKO’S TALE doing on the Amazon market? It has moved 416 units with 9 of those being purchased sales (I’m just looking at US markets for now). The second question then becomes, how does that compare to SLIP DRIVE? Moved 350 units; 12 purchases and 1 borrow.
A very stark difference there. SLIP DRIVE has a few more reviews which I think supports my idea on how important they are. But in all fairness, I haven’t pushed HIROKO like I’ve pushed SLIP DRIVE. Mostly because it is not really indicative of my overall style and genre. And it was my first attempt at this crazy experiment.
However, I do have future plans for my little darling love story. Once it is done with the KDP Select program I intend to offer it for free on my website. Then, I’ll attach it to two more Japanese themed Fairy Tales that I’ve written for FABLES FOR JAPAN Volume 3. Both of those will need to be converted from sequential art scripts into prose. Which will be nice, because one of them — FIFTY TO ONE — will have room to be fleshed out. In its original form I had to cut it down from 24 comic pages to 4. I was sad to see a lot of the story cut. But what was left will make for a very powerful 4 page comic.
All of this will be coming once FABLES FOR JAPAN Volume 3 has been out for a while. So I don’t expect this three story anthology to be out until sometime this winter. But I’m excited for it because of how different it is from most of the things I write.
Other Future Projects
I’ve got a lot of irons in the fire right now. I’m doing some rewrites my next short story, THE AFTERLIFE HYPOTHESIS. It will appear in my forth coming SciFi anthology ALTERVERSE. Along with that I’m plugging away at my YA novel. My local critique group just read over chapters 5 and 6 and so far I’ve been getting very good reactions. It is exciting to see how pumped a few of them are when they get those next pages. Knowing that I’m on the right track puts a fire in my step.
And there is nothing wrong with a fire in your step, right? Write.