It's only fair that I offer up some of my own work for the slings and arrows of critique, given how much criticism I have handed out.
Feel free to read through it, if you are interested, and feel free to make any comments, good or bad. Luckily zombies are rather thick-skinned...:)
Of course, the formatting of paragraphs is slightly off, and the italics are missing on the carious flashback scenes, but this will do for the moment.
Feel free to point out any techincal errors in grammar or spelling.
aka Agent Rusty Bones
March 28th, 2007, 10:41 PM
I have just fixed some of the formating errors, and deleted a duplicate section that somehow slipped into the prologue.
Sorry for any confusion.
aka Agent Rusty Bones
April 2nd, 2007, 11:30 PM
I feel bad for you, Rusty, my man. No one's touched this topic yet. I would've gotten to it sooner myself, but a case of the flu didn't leave me in much of a reading mood. Well, I've bounced back, more or less, and just finished reading what you've posted.
By and large, I'm pleased with what you've got here. It was interesting to see how you processed the material from the blog into novel form. Reads like Rusty's memoirs. Not a bad thing.
I didn't go over it with an intensive eye (you'll have to say please for that), but there are a few points I want to cover.
First, and the stickiest, most overarching of the bunch, is the narrative voice. Maybe I'm not giving everyone's favorite zombie hero enough credit, but a lot of the time the narrative reads too much like a writer's writing, losing the voice of the ex-cop turned zombie. Maybe Rusty's more refined than I reckon, but there are a lot of literary flourishes which just don't seem to fit with the narrator as I know him. Admittedly, I don't know him all that well (I still haven't gotten through the NY arc yet), so I welcome correction if I'm misreading the chara. Did Jason Smith ever get a college degree? Did he take many lit classes? Is he a big reader (and I won't buy the claim that he gets certain magazines for the articles :P )? From the impression I get, Rusty hails from a blue-collar background with a level of sophistication to match. However, every now and then, he puts on the fancy pants and I have to wonder. If this is just a slip by the puppetmaster, I understand, but you've got to be careful.
Now for a few story point:
1. Blue Falcon. Smith asked Morgan to wake him up before muster, but he wound up oversleeping. That's not good looking out on the rookie's part. At very least, I'd expect Smith to reserve a momentary curse for him, if not a choice word or two after everyone was dismissed. I mean, when your buddy doesn't follow through, you don't usually let that stuff slide. Today it was waking him up for muster, what might happen tomorrow? At very least, I'd expect something like "I overslept. I should've known better than to count on Morgan to wake me up."
2. Smith's rank. Smith's been a cop a long time. By the sounds of it, he hasn't gotten a promotion in all that time. Maybe he's been busted down for trouble, maybe he's turned down a shot at a higher paygrade (unlikely given how quickly he snapped up Drake's offer). Some departments (such as LAPD and NYPD) have a few different grades within the rank of officer, but I can't tell if that's the case with the Dearnborn PD or not. (By the way, there's no such thing as the "Dearborn Hills Police Department." Intentional?) Anyway, his aparent lack of vertical mobility has me wondering. I'm not saying it's impossible, but it seems odd for someone who's supposed to be such a good cop.
3. Drill Sa'ant! Sergeat Mason is described as "an old Marine Corps drill sergeant." I would like to point out that Devil Dogs who wear the brown round go by "drill instructors" and take some offense at being called "drill sergeants." It's DS for Army and DI for the Corps. Now, this can be written off as an error on the narrator's part, but I thought I should bring it up.
4. The Minivan. It's clear that there's some flux in the chronology, but I have to ask: Did Drake's revelation of Phase 2 of the Project come before or after the big fight with Kate? Structurally, the revelation followed the fight. If that's the chronological order of the events, we have a problem. Smith brings up the new minivan in the fight, but then thinks about how much the wifey's been eyeing that new minivan while thinking about Drake's offer. I'm going to guess, that Smith went into Phase 2 before his marriage hit that nadir, but if not, you've got a continuity error that needs correcting. (You can easily turn it around by having Smith think about the payments on the minivan.)
5. "It's a secret to everybody." You mention that the form Smith has to sign is classified Secret. Given the nature of the Omega Project, I have a hard time believing it'd be classified that low. I mean, I used to work in a Secret container and the stuff was pretty humdrum. It would stand to reason that all documents related to the Project would be rated TS, but that's just my opinion.
Now for some miscellaneous quibbles:
1. Obscure faces. You describe the hoodlums' masks as being intended to obscure their faces. Pantyhose on your head obscures your face. A mask hides it, especially a full-face one.
2. Omega. In describing the Chakra, you mention "the Greek letter for Omega." "Omega" isn't a separate concept, it's the name of the letter. You wouldn't say "the Latin letter for E" or anything like that, would you? "The Greek letter Omega" would be the most accurate phrase.
3. Page 16. For some reason, I noticed three prominent errors on Page 16. Here they are (problem spot in italics):
-"then what have you really lost be participating in this program."
-"If you right, the only fool here is me." (I applaud Drake for his use of Ebonics [or AAVE as we linguists are wont to call it], but it seems a bit OOC. :P )
-"course language" (The coarsest course of all.)
Well, that's what stood out, a tiny fraction of the overall piece. So far, the adaptation process seems to be going well. Keep it up.
April 3rd, 2007, 04:57 AM
If you want me to take a look, can you PM me,then I will send you my email. (ok, I am too lazy to copy and paste 20 pages off the community) Though it won't be right away, will take me awhile. I am away at Eastercon this coming weekend.
April 3rd, 2007, 07:39 AM
First, and the stickiest, most overarching of the bunch, is the narrative voice. Maybe I'm not giving everyone's favorite zombie hero enough credit, but a lot of the time the narrative reads too much like a writer's writing, losing the voice of the ex-cop turned zombie. Maybe Rusty's more refined than I reckon, but there are a lot of literary flourishes which just don't seem to fit with the narrator as I know him. Admittedly, I don't know him all that well (I still haven't gotten through the NY arc yet), so I welcome correction if I'm misreading the chara. Did Jason Smith ever get a college degree? Did he take many lit classes? Is he a big reader (and I won't buy the claim that he gets certain magazines for the articles :P )? From the impression I get, Rusty hails from a blue-collar background with a level of sophistication to match. However, every now and then, he puts on the fancy pants and I have to wonder. If this is just a slip by the puppetmaster, I understand, but you've got to be careful.Seconded, and I won't retread all of the ground that James stomped on.
I like the premise and the execution a great deal. In fact, I'd like to volunteer to be a first-reader when you have the manuscript hammered out.
April 3rd, 2007, 06:45 PM
Hey James, thanks for bumping the thread and commenting. I certainly appreciate the comments and the errors that you found. I'll be going through and correcting those ASAP.
Thanks also to Holbrook and BrianC, I'll certainly be taking you up on the offers--so watch your PM's Holbrook...but don't worry, take your time.
I have been concerned about my own voice slipping through the screen and becoming Rusty's narrative voice, so that is certainly something where I will be taking a close look before I submit the book anywhere for publication. However, I will state that there is a significant development of the character himself.
As James indicated, Officer Jason Smith comes from a very blue collar background, although he has had some college. At the time of his death, the idea of ever reading a book for pleasure, let alone writing one, would not have entered into his sphere of thought.
That blue collar voice and many of the attitudes have remained with him as he became Rusty (especially in the early period of his zombie-dom), but several factors do influence his writing voice that will become obvious only over the course of several books.
First of all is the fact that as a zombie with no biological need to sleep but who is operating in a world where his activities are limited to certain parts of the day (or rather night), he has a LOT of time on his hands. Some small portion of that time is spend online, blogging his story. Other parts of that time are spent travelling in the shamanistic worlds he eventually gains access to. Other portions of that time are spent reading books, websites, and other material that Officer Smith would never have read.
Second, there is a particularly nasty transformative event for Rusty that takes place at the end of the NYC storyline(Boneswulf) (James--spoiler alert) where Rusty allows himself to be 'consumed' by the demon creature known as Ma Grendel in order to defeat her with a particularly nasty blade he is carrying. A higher power of some sort intervenes. I don't want to get to geeky on this part of the story, but let me just say that the end result is that Rusty returns to his body mostly intact, but with a whole slew of wildcard abilities (and lots of whispering voices) and a significant portion of the memories of a creature that had survived for millenium and who existed by consuming other spirits.
Finally, in what would be the third book, Rusty violates another character by using one of his newfound abilities to strip that character of all of their adult memories and knowledge, absorbing the training and teaching of a scientist in the process. In general, these other memories exist within him separately, but there is inevitably some blending of knowledge.
One example of this is that after the incident with Ma Grendel, Rusty finds that understands every language he hears, and can speak them as well. The basis for this is that Ma Grendel had consumed so many other souls over the eons that she 'learned' them all.
Anyway, that's enough for now.
I just wanted to say again, that I appreciate any and all comments, corrections, and criticism!
aka Agent Rusty Bones
April 4th, 2007, 10:41 AM
Since you are such a affluent poster and have helped me out, I figured I would read your story and see what your style was all about. On the whole, very good idea. Execution is good, but somewhat tough for me to follow along with all the timeline jumping (just from my perspective of having no history on the blog, or on your character or story).
I am going to stay away from style points here and instead talk about a major topic in the story. Again it is just an idea for you to mull around and see how you like it.
I think that the part where the FBI guy tells Smith about the program is very contrived. I think you created an impossible scenario for yourself trying to figure out conversation that would go with that situation; therefore I think you should move the entire conversation to post death. What I mean is that the government (from my perspective) rarely "asks" for volunteers for the type of thing while at the same time laying everything on the table for the consumption of the "grunt". Rarely does the grunt have a choice, or knowingly make a choice with all the data in front of them. What I think would/should have happened in your world would have been a small paragraph hidden somewhere in the initial agreement that covers the event of his death. He dies, is brought back and is completely confused; then he gets hit with the speech (I like the idea a lot though, I love how the third reich inclusion is indana jonesque) and at that point doesn't really have a choice. But now, he would have a framework to believe all the necromancy and spiritual component because he is still alive after being shot and killed.
Just a thought, otherwise I think it is very unique and am very interested in reading more of where this story will go.
April 4th, 2007, 08:13 PM
Well, CD, I don't need to speak for Rusty, but Drake isn't your average G-man (technically isn't a G-man at all) and let's just say that Smith (or more importantly, what he becomes) is a little more than your common guinea pig.
Also keep in mind that the Bureau is a civilian agency, not the military. The latter is more apt to "volunteer" you while telling you as little as possible. Also keep in mind that the program is entirely voluntary. Drake has a vested interest in weeding out candidates that aren't likely to pan out. Think on the concept of need to know. I'm sure that the revelation eases the way for the soul-snatching. You tell someone "I'm gonna hit you" and when you do, you might surprise them, but on some level they were expecting it and were therefore better prepared than if it came out of the blue.
And, Rusty, one point I forgot to mention in my earlier post. It's about Hell. The average person doesn't capitalize it at all (same for Heaven for that matter). Now, I'm not opposed to capitalizing Hell the place (or state of being if that's how you roll), but for expressions like "what the hell" and such, you really should keep it lower case. Also, bear in mind that Smith, being the atheist/agnostic he was, didn't believe in Hell and would therefore not be capitalizing it. Yes, I know you can't hear capitalizations, but it's a stylisitc device in the written word and it makes a difference. My two bits on that.
April 5th, 2007, 11:26 AM
Cd--Thanks for your comments, they are certainly appreciated.
On the point of a post-mortem discussion with Rusty by Drake, there are plenty of those later in the book. I do know that the 'conversation' comes off as contrived, but in a sense, it is meant to.
As James has hinted at (he's been reading the blog--which is listed in my profile), Drake has taken great care to find candidates who won't really believe a word he has said about magick, souls, and life after death. He has weeded out any candidates who weren't either super skeptics or die hard atheists (those folks are relatively few in the Law Enforcement ranks). Drake knows that Jason Smith will not believe any of the stuff he is spewing, but he needs Jason's cooperation to prepare his body and soul for the transition to his zombie-dom. By the time Jason is killed, several others have been killed and their transitions all fail. Jason is the first to actually become a zombie.
The confusion on the flashbacks is in part due to the formatting on this site. I lost my italicized blocks in the translation from word processing software to the site, so I had to resort to separating sections with a far less visually satifying ' ***'.
The corny, contrived conversation with Drake is intentional, and as yu progress through the story and get to know who (and what) Drake really is, it is more easily seen as the humorous bit that it is intended to be.
Thanks for reading and commenting! I really do appreciate it!
aka Agent Rusty Bones
April 5th, 2007, 11:40 AM
Thanks for the correction on 'Hell'. Even though I am very non-religious, I use it all of the time in speech. Wasn't sure if it should be capitalized or not. I'll wade through and make those corrections.
A couple of other points...real quick.
Dearborn Hills is a fictional place situated between he real towns of Dearborn and Dearborn Heights in the suburbs of Detroit. I didn't want to use an actual place or department for Jason's former employer. The Detroit area has all sorts of little suburban cities with derivative names from each other.
As to Rusty's upward mobility within the Department--I've left it obscure on purpose. One of the secret conditions of his participation in the Omega Project is that he not have any command responsibilities. He is on the tactical ops team, and does patrol duty as sort of a senior patrolman.
I will work with the opening scene a bit to correct the Drill Instructor error, and to make it clear that Jason doesn't really trust the rookie to wake him for one thing, but also he's not really too worried about walking into formation late. He's personal friends with the chief, and certainly uses his 'elite' status to take liberties that other officers don't or wouldn't take.
Jason's a better cop in his own mind than he was in actuality. He's also pretty much a jerk. I might have to tweak things to establish that a little better.