Thursday, April 26, 2012

Things I never thought I'd say, part one: Dungeons & Dragons

So here's a simple fact of life: I'm a retired gamer. That's right, back in my youth I played a few roleplaying games. Strictly old school, of course. Not on a computer, not online, but sitting around a table with a bunch of friends and getting my geek on. Then for a while I wrote roleplaying game supplements, instead. I looked at that as sharpening my skills for becoming a novelist. Believe me, I thoroughly believe that every writer across the planet should always be looking for ways to sharpen their skills, and yes, that includes the ones I admire and eagerly look forward to reading. If you aren't improving, or at least trying to improve, you lean toward stagnation. I would rather not stagnate.

That said, I have had the misfortune of reading the occasional comic book based on roleplaying games. As a rule, they suck. Same with a lot of the novels that were written and I say that as someone who, yes, wrote a few novels based on roleplaying games. I'm pretty sure mine didn't suck, but on the other hand, I once again have a serious bias and am hardly the right person to judge that. And let's be fair, I haven't actually even attempted to read the stuff I wrote back then. Ever. So, you know, I could be misremembering.

So, used to write comics, used to write roleplaying game supplements...where were we? Oh yes, comics based on roleplaying games suck wind.

There are always exceptions.

A little while back while getting together with some friends of mine for dinner, I met them at my local comic books store. While we were waiting for the rest of the group to gather, one of my buds actually suggested that I should read the Dungeons & Dragons trade hardback edition that had just come out. I scoffed. I seriously thought he was joking. Turned out he wasn't. The book was called Shadowplague (Actually, Dungeons & Dragons: Shadowplague, but I think you can figure that part out yourself.), it was published by IDW Publications and written by John Rogers, illustrated by Andrea Di Vito. IDW I had heard of. Even though I don;t buy nearly as many comics as I used to, IDW manages to get a fair share of my money. In fact, I notice it's the same guys who keep convincing me to buy the IDW stuff. I might have to look into whether or not they're getting kickbacks.

At any rate, I took a chance and bought Shadowplague. It's actually a collection of six issues of the comic book put together in a really nice package that is designed to actually look like one of the old supplements for Dungeons & Dragons. They get points for that, because I'm just exactly enough of a gaming geek to appreciate the efforts involved and the respect offered in that packaging.

Yeah. I read the damned book in one sitting. Then after about a week, I read it a second time, because I enjoyed it that much. I also loved the fact that the back of the book actually has all of the gaming information to incorporate the sittings and critters created for the comic into the game if you happen to be a player. Seriously. And they did it right. Nice production values straight across the board.

Listen, everything I say here is purely opinion. As I've said before (And author Brian Keene and a few others before me) your mileage may vary. That said, the biggest problem I have always had with the older comics based on D&D was that the stories, artwork and production values normally weren't exactly top notch. I believe the phrase I used previously was "they suck." Maybe I'm being harsh. Maybe I'm misremembering. I'm not really willing to take then tome to go back and find any old copies and read them again at this particular moment. I could be wrong. I doubt it though. My opinions on many things change as time goes on, true, but not often for the better when it comes to that sort of thing.

That I read the book in one sitting says a good amount. That I read it again says more. Want to hear the serious praise from me? I bought the sequel when it came out. The second book in the series is called First Encounters (Yeah, yeah, Dungeons & Dragons: First Encounters) and it takes off exactly where the first book ended. And I read it in one sitting and was just as satisfied.

I went out to dinner on Wednesday with the usual gang of misfits. Charles Rutledge, coauthor, scoundrel, anglophile, comic artist, martial arts instructor and friend was there again. He and Jared (Evil man who works at comic store and makes me spend money) pointed out that the third book was now available. This one called Down. (Forget it. I'm not typing all that stuff again. Insert your own Dungeons & Dragons: Down right here.) I was busy yesterday. I was busy reading the damned book from cover to cover. And I liked it as much as the first two.

Sure sign that I am liking a series of books? I read them more than once. I read the first two again, enjoying the visit with now familiar friends. Then I read the third volume, chuckling at the wit of the author (well done humor in a book like that is touchy. You can go over the top and screw it up, or add too little and make a mess. So far Rogers is spot on.) and absolutely enjoying the consistently excellent art style of Di Vito.

Know what? I'm already eagerly waiting for the fourth book in the series. I could buy the comic but I won't. I prefer to read the entire story arc in one greedy siting and then read it again at my leisure.

Do I recommend them? Very highly. You can buy them here:

Or, if you're like me, you can go to your local comic store and support the guys who can recommend to you exactly the books you didn't know you wanted. In my case, it's these guys:

They also carry books. They even carry some of my books. If they are carrying my books you can even ask them to have me sign them when I meet up with the guys once a week for dinner. Know what'll happen? I'll sign them. I'll even personalize them.

Either way, if you want to have a really good time getting your geek on, try the booms I mentioned above. IDW does several other Dungeons & Dragons books, but I haven't read them yet. Mind you, I just might you never know. 

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Changing things up a bit

Now and then you want to do something a little different. Really, I think you HAVE to do something different--especially as a writer--or things just aren't going to go very well.

I am a writer. I hope by now I've made that clear.

As I said before, I write genre fiction. Mostly I write horror and science fiction with an occasional side trip into urban fantasy and a little bit of political thriller. Okay, a very little bit. But the thing is, I really don't sit down and plan to write any particular genre. I just write stories. More often than not, I let the editors and publishers decide what to call it.

Well, part of what makes the difference, I suppose, is the setting. Put that story in the modern day, throw a few monsters in there and you're likely going to be accused of writing horror. Doesn't bother me, I'm still having a good time telling my tales.

This time around, however, I've started something a wee bit different. I've gone full on sword and sorcery fantasy. New world, new races, hopefully new threats and adventures. Hopefully, because no matter how much I read (and people, I read a LOT) there's just no way in heck I'll ever read all of it. That's part of the fun, of course.

Now back in the day when I was a much younger geek, before I started actually writing or even seriously considering a career as a writer, I read a few libraries worth of fantasy. Nowhere near all of it, of course, but a goodly amount. I burned through a lot of books, most of them fairly meaty and a good percentage part of larger series of books. I read a lot of the more classics of the genre, I dabbled with some of the newer stuff, I tore through what these days is called young adult fiction (I really don't know what it was called back when I was growing up, I just know I read the stuff.). I read Tolkien, I burned through C.S. Lewis, I consumed the books of Lloyd Alexander, and Robert E. Howard, I read Karl Edward Wagner, Michael Moorcock, a great deal of Norse mythology and most of the tales of King Arthur, I read "serious" fantasy and the more tongue in cheek stuff. I read a LOT of fantasy.

And then one day I put down a book and realized that I had read roughly seventeen different versions of the exact same story I I had just finished. Here's the basic plot: Great and powerful evil comes back to the Land (The Land inevitably had a name, but it was interchangeable, really) and as the Land is being slowly consumed by the great and powerful Evil that was driven from the Land previously, a young starry eyed lad (often an orphan or merely misplaced at birth) dreams of the glories of being a hero. Said starry eyed youth--along with a band of misfits, sometimes bitter and other times cheerily cynical--eventually happens upon a Sword of Legend (could also be a ring, a spear, a necklace or really just about anything) and through several trials fights on to save the day.

Is that horribly simplified? Of course it is. Is it sarcastic? Probably a little. My point is, a lot of the stories I read started to sound and feel the same. Part of that was the way the market was running. Epic quests were big at the time. Really, I think they almost always are. As I think often happens, I moved away from that particular genre and played with other ones. Eventually I burned through a lot of science fiction and then I decided to start writing and I started with horror. Why? I have absolutely no idea. It just appealed. It still does, actually.

The last time I wrote a fantasy story it was a short story for an anthology called BENDING THE LANDSCAPE (Edited by Nichola Griffith and Stephe Pagel.). The anthology got a lot of notice when it came out, and won a few awards. A couple of reviews even said nice things about my story, "The King's Folly." It's been well over a decade. Probably closer to two.

 But not that long ago I had an idea for a story and it wouldn't leave me alone. That, by the way, is normally what leads to me writing a novel. An idea or even just an image starts in the back of my head and it bounces around in my skull for a while and instead of losing momentum and going away like most of my notions, it keeps bouncing and insisting on getting noticed.

Currently I am one hundred and eleven double-spaced pages into my fantasy novel. The first book in the series (Yes, it's a series) is tentatively called THE SEVEN FORGES. the first sentence of said novel makes very little sense all by itself, so instead of teasing you with the first sentence, I'll go a little crazy and give you the first whole paragraph. It's a short paragraph, but I rather like it.

It goes something like this:

An unfortunate fact about the Pra-Moresh: They tend to run in packs. The damned things are not only large but they are also violent to a fault. The good news for most people is that they are rare. The bad news for Merros Dulver is that they still show up from time to time and just at that moment, they’d decided to make their presence known. 

So far I'm having a blast with it. Now I just have to find a publisher. That's the part that always slows me down. At any rate, I am currently writing an epic fantasy. This should prove...interesting.

Egads! Another Blog!

My name is James A. Moore. I write books. Apparently that entitles me to opinions, many of which I will share with you at this very locations. As the saying goes, "Your mileage may vary."  You may consider this my first official post. Why "Genrefied?" Because most of what I write falls into the category of genre fiction. Most. I tend to believe in writing whatever comes to mind. In the event that you simply cannot get enough of my endless wit (Or sarcasm, depending on how you view these things), you can find out a lot more about me at

and because I'm just playing with this for the first time, here's a cool picture from the latest anthology I'm attached to, a lovely book for kids of all ages (Not really for toddlers) called Zombies Versus Robots: This Means War!

If you decide you cannot live another moment without this book, you can pick it up here or you can go to and get it. I recommend it very, very highly, but I remind you I have a very heavy bias as one of the contributors.

Here's the artwork for my story, a cheerful tale called "The Last Imaginaut," by Fabio Listrani, who, honestly, needs to illustrate a LOT more books than he has already. Seriously, the guy rocks.

More soon,