NVDT Random – Jim kicks Bill – A Book Review

The Ballad of Mrs. Malony – C.S. Boyack

I recently read an Indie from cover to cover. Something I haven’t done in ages. What’s more, I gave it five stars on Amazon. Not because an Indie author made it all the way through but for how he made it through. That’s right. The author STFU and let the story talk.

One of the few blogs I subscribe to is Roberta Writes. Truth? I shy away from her most of the time because of her professional relationship with someone I consider (personal opinion only) one of the major frauds in the Indie publishing biz. But Robbie is everywhere, all the time. I mean like a rash. She’s promoting and interviewing and being interviewed by other Indies. A real hustler in the Indie domain. I think the majority of those things are circle jerks, but she “had on the show” this Boyack guy and his Hat books. I didn’t read the entire interview or review, only enough to get that a hat was a main character.


How the hell did I sign off on a Cat in the Hat style hat that assists an ingenue Danger Barbie in vampire hunting?

I opened the book and wasn’t offered a choice. Chew on that for a minute. First point in author’s favor. No bullshit. No sales pitch. No (listen carefully) authorial ‘splaining nonsense. No in-depth history of vampires. No super queen of the night how bad ass Danger Barbie is descriptions. This book is an exercise in STFU and let the story roll. We find out all about the hat and the DB, whose name is Lizzie, by listening and following them around doing their thing(s). How righteous is that for an Indie?

Pros – Consistent voice. Very few useless tags. Sensible dialogue. You know, the kind that sounds like people only it’s moving the story forward or solving the usual Indie author problem of POV and head time with dialog. Not bunny chasing, ‘splainin’ and author insertion.

Cons – the author’s language only kicked me off the page maybe three times, and all three involved to “sit upon”. Completely out of tone. Like he had an English Teacher moment.

Suggestion – Lizzie, who plays upright bass (with the Hat’s help) in a cover band always “keys” her damn mic before talking. I was 42% of the way through when I learned she was wireless, and a little later headset wireless. “Keying” a mic is ancient broadcast, CB/short wave, and Pilot terminology. I did the pro audio industry for a living, so even something as generic as switched would sit better in the mix.

The book weighs in at 33.4k word count. Not long. Like a Laura Levine. Even some shorter Leonard. I would quibble with the slow spot on their stake-out (hey, a pun!) in the middle as a missed opportunity for some sudden monster in the car window moments, but hey, that’s me.

I don’t read vampire books, or horror or fantasy. But I read this. To me Mrs. Malony was a good, old fashioned character driven caper romp. Even in the minor slow spot the author never veered off course into author land and to me that’s five-star territory. Anyone who wants to see a modern version of how it’s done as applicable short form technique should pick this up.

I’ll read the next one to find out if the Hat gets his fog machine.

Published by

Phil Huston


30 thoughts on “NVDT Random – Jim kicks Bill – A Book Review”

  1. Read the first few pages of Boyack’s story. Snappy. Clever having a silent character who can say whatever. Like if the Sorting Hat got piss-drunk and started talking trash about all the sex and lies it had seen at Hogwarts.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thankfully I’ve forgotten most of my Hogwarts. I think I read the first two when my daughter was in junior high. I tried the next one, couldn’t. Or maybe it was the second.
      The hat can go out loud. I picked up the first one for the backstory dump. Which is more used car salesman on the Hat’s part and no gazing in the mirror or at an old photo nonsense. It’s out in the open between the Hat and the girl. And there’s no history of witches or narrative gook. Boyack took “I bet you don’t skip the parts with dialog” seriously. He still needs to watch some English teacher moments but hell, that could be signature of some kind.


  2. Ok, so I’m on another site reading amateur work, and I understand now how a publisher/editor/beta reader would throw out an entire manuscript if they see idiot shit in the first paragraph or two. The. Whole. Manuscript.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yep. That’s why real editors who will do an eval. Send them the first 20 pages, and page 200. If you don’t have that many they’ll say pick one pretty well into it. Then they decide if they’ll take it, and pick a rate if they do. IF they do. I have an interesting story about that.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. It’s an early event in the return to writing that made me not quit and become a hard core overly retentive self-editor. I sent a manuscript to Beth at The Editors Blog It’s a great resource and she is a proven editor with a track record and pedigree. After my experience with Alatorre I went looking for the real deal and Beth is one of them. Not a hack, not here’s my Bachelors in English from Arizona State and I want to help you make your novel a winner. She won’t even talk without a first 20 page and page 125 or greater submission. I couldn’t get Scrivener to pinch out that much (my inexperience) so I rendered The Hot Girl 1 in its entirety to a DOCX file and sent it with apologies. Here ya go, get what you need. Well, I didn’t hear from her for about a month or more. Maybe 6 weeks. I sent an “Anybody home?” email. She got back to me, said sorry it had taken so long. She read the whole thing, did sample edits on a couple of chapters, offered me her lowest rate but the damn thing was over 90k at that time and I remember pro editing coming out to over $1,300. Somehow, I want to make it closer to 2k. But that’s what the real deal charges. I learned 2 things. What I wrote rough was entertaining enough to go cover to cover. Because those people can see a book in the sludge. The other thing I learned was study my ass off and find out what all the shit she fixed in the first couple of chapters was about. Learn what editors look for. Then I sent it to Jac after we did the collab. She’s a minimalist and slashed and burned. There are things I didn’t agree with from both, but never ignore a critique. In some cases, I was swayed their way, like kill the emotion tells and stop reiterations. I swear to God one of these days I’m going publish even a shit story that reads like I paid somebody 2 grand.

          Liked by 2 people

          1. …I’m almost tempted to share what Jac had to say about some of my posts before you arrived. You think quite highly of her. (Hard to believe an editor would charge 90K blind…meaning no guarantee of publishing but gimme you 90K anyway. Wow.)

            Liked by 1 person

            1. No no, that was 90k word count. Editing that would have run me one to two grand for something I should be able to do myself. Same with formatting, etc. why spend $3k to publish something that might sell 4 copies. Jac sees the imagination and unless you ask her specifically for critique she leaves it alone.

              Liked by 1 person

            2. Loved Jac and her blog. Thought she was a guy until you informed me.
              Thanks for setting me straight on the cost of editing.
              What happened to your collaborative novel? On the back burner?


            3. I went in, looked at the last rev of the product and lot of what I’d thought was un-done is done. I need to print it to see the rough spots and re-fix some of Jac’s dialogue. I emailed her, she emails me back a month later, back and forth that way. I’m going to wrap it as a novel, she can have the script. She seems pretty enamored with screenplays her of late. We’ll see.

              Liked by 1 person

    1. He got the 5 for execution. It’s not literature or topical or full of human interest but it is well executed entertainment. An execution template that could be applied across content “genres”. More character, less author. It wouldn’t do well in work steeped in motivation or character psychology or even driving an agenda. If there was head time in this book I missed it, that’s how character interactive it was. The key for me was how I wasn’t offered the opportunity to disbelieve. If you hear from Richard Dee tell him this and Laura Levine is how to sell his ditzy detective series.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Still digesting Leonard and understanding that you don’t need proper English to write Dialog. If your character says “Fock him” and that’s how it sounds you simply write “Fock him.” English Teacher moments are out. And keep your characters “in character” as they say in theatre.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. How what gets publisher dollars and what gets chucked is the cesspool business model. Nepotism, sensationalism, the checkbook holder’s agenda. Nowhere is that last one more obvious than Amazon’s streaming content development. The trouble with Indie publishing as a reader is finding that occasional diamond in a sea of shit.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re right, this hat goes everywhere with the ability to be a cowboy hat, a fedora, a ski cap… and spot a vampire at a hundred yards without all the cliche nonsense and danger Barbie waits tables, works for a landscaper and plays bass in a cover band, none of which is beat to death. I like the doorknob writing assignment.

      Liked by 2 people

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