Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Jack Ketchum is Gone

Thats a sad thing to me. I read most of Jack's works and loved them. He had a way with a phrase and he could tell a truly terrifying story without ever adding a single supernatural element. I said to many a person that reading THE GIRL NEXT DOOR was like watching a horrifying car wreck in extreme slow motion. You maybe didn't want to see it, but looking away was impossible.

Much as I'll miss Jack, I'll miss Dallas Mayr even more. They were actually one and the same person, but Jack Ketchum was a man who write stories and Dallas was a man who had levels and levels of depth that would likely never be seen where jack Ketchum hung out, which is to say where Dallas hung out when he was signing books at conventions, et. al.

The difference is actually very minor in this case, but when you're "on" and working on a convention floor, there's a level of civility and politeness that goes away when you can relax with your friends. The difference, again, is minor in this case. In all situations, Dallas was gracious and friendly.

he used to hit on my wife constantly. I remember one time at a convention he snuck up behind her, put his arms around her waist, purred unintelligible (from my distance) words in her ear and ground himself against her. he did not do this to actually be a letch, but to make her laugh, which worked brilliantly. Trust me, most guys trying that would have been looking desperately for their testicles four minutes later, and like four hours later, too.

Dallas could pull that sort of thing off, because he was honest and sweet and intelligent and respectful all in his own unique way. He had a well earned reputation as a Casanova, but it was only one facet of a delightfully complex man who was incredibly intelligent, quick to debate on almost any subject, and loved to tell stories as much as he loved to breathe.

By the way, the times when he would sneak up behind my wife and pull stunts like that? They were always out in the open and in front of me.  He had a sense of humor that was as multifaceted as him and tended to only pull stunts like that when he knew they would be well received.

I remember once calling him on his advances. I looked right at him and said, "Hey! Dallas!" When he looked my way I asked, "Have you seen that prick, Jack Ketchum around anywhere? I heard he was hitting on my wife!"

Trust me when I say this: I had Dallas by at least eight inches and a hundred pounds. I also have a booming voice, he looked my way for a moment and did the mental math. For one half of a second, he looked worried, wondering if perhaps he had gone too far with one of his jests, and then he chuckled, smiled, and shot me the finger with a cheerful, "Fuck you, Moore!"

I met Dallas the very first time I went to a professional convention. He was charming and friendly and we had a hell of a time discussing books and movies alike. A few times we even exchanged stories or novels. he gave me THE GIRL NEXT DOOR and RED to read and I gave him UNDER THE OVERTREE and a story of mine called "The Best of Friends." Both Red and my short story are about dog owners and their love of a lost friend. His is a lot darker than mine and involved bloody retribution.

One of my favorite memories involves doing one of my first public readings, a story called "My Brother's Keeper." the story came to me in a storm one night and I got out of bed and wrote it down in one sitting. Then, for reasons I can only qualify as temporary insanity, I read the story the very next day at the HWA annual meeting in New York City. Dallas was one of around three people who actually showed up for my reading. I think at that point I had only two novels in print.

When it was done and I had received my polite applause, Dallas looked at me as I headed fro the door and said, "You, sir, are a sick and twisted fuck." My chest swelled with pride at that. Jack fucking Ketchum said that to me. High praise indeed from one of the principal writers of dark fiction.

Jack Ketchum is dead. Dallas Mayr is dead. I will never hear their laughs again, or see their smiles. I will never pick up Dallas in a massive bear hug and squeeze until he gasps/laughs as the air os forced from his lungs (That one actually stopped a long while ago: later years just saw a warm and sincere hug instead of a bear hug.). I will never have a debate over the moral implications of whatever it was we were discussing. Nor will we trade opinions on the latest horror stories or compare notes on up and coming writers.

But I will always remember that smile and that laugh, and the way his eyes would shine when he was having a good time, and I will always remember his collection of t-shirts that I would have gleefully stolen from him if they would have ever had a chance to fit me.

Jack/Dallas was a wonderful man and kind to damned near everyone he met. He was incredibly smart, strongly opinionated and an absolute delight to be around. he loved me and he loved my wife Bonnie and we loved him right back because, well, because Dallas was just plain good people.

He is missed. He will be missed by me for as long as I draw breath.

If there is an afterlife, I suspect that he and my wife, Bonnie, who left my side back in 2009 will be chatting it up in no time.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Believable dialogue

I wrote this a while back, but feel it bears repeating.

It’s interesting sometimes, hearing what people say when they don’t realize they have an audience. Mind you, it’s almost as interesting when they DO know they have an audience, but for entirely different reasons.
I absolutely love listening to people. I also tend to think it’s part of the job. I write fiction, and as I’ve said before, I think characters are very likely the most important aspect of that. If a plot is a little crazy, if the situations the characters get into are demented or nearly impossible to get out of, that almost comes with the territory, especially when dealing with the fantastic. But if they characters feel false, the rest of the story is likely to fall on its face. And just as likely to break something in the fall, I might add.
Think about it: that truck driver with the drinking problem who barely graduated high school and hasn’t read anything stronger than a copy of the National Enquirer in years? If he starts talking like a valedictorian from the Harvard School of Law without a damned good reason, it’s going to likely knock the reader right out of the story. As I have said before and likely will again, that is one of the biggest sins for me. Make the characters breathe and live and the rest will at least seem a bit easier, both for the writer and the reader.
I have pointed out before and will again a situation I ran across once. I was proofreading another writer’s work and enjoying the story. The action was good, the plot was solid and the characters were interesting enough. But as I was enjoying a tale of two wizards duking it out in a mystical battle, one of the two magic users who is supposed to be engaged in a battle of life and death proportions pauses long enough to say something along the lines of “Ah, I see you’ve decided to cast a Sphere of Doom” or the equivalent there of. Seriously. Have you ever been in a fight? If you’re sparring with someone in a light contact match or you’re teaching someone how to throw a punch, you MIGHT consider pausing to comment on their choice of attacks. In a real life and death situation, it’s not going to happen. It’s just not. The odds are good you aren’t going to be admiring the style of the spell someone is casting if that someone is trying to blow your head off your shoulders. That’s the equivalent of looking at the handgun your enemy is aiming at your face and saying, “Damn, that’s a mighty fine .357 you have there. Good job on keeping it polished. Say, are those hollow points you’re firing at me? Or are those glazer rounds?” Sorry, too busy not getting dead to offer praise.
In his defense the writer in question had never been in a serious fight. We discussed the matter. I believe the writer agreed with me and took out the line. Believability required a change in the dialogue. I have no doubt I’ve made similar errors over time and been schooled on them. It’s easy to get too caught up in what might sound good at the moment. When I’m in doubt, I read the lines out loud to see if they ring true. If they fail, I change them.
That said, let’s consider a few things I’ve heard. Some of which, for the record, might well end up in a book if they haven’t already. One of my personal favorites was second hand:  man I know quite well (and that I know is capable of handling himself in a serious fight) took a look at a complete stranger parking in a handicapped parking spot. The gent who was parking was not handicapped and did not have any reason to use that spot except that it was convenient. When he exited the car the capable fighter looked at him and asked, “Excuse me, are you handicapped?”
The fellow he was speaking to looked around and shook his head.
And the capable fighter smiled and asked, “Would you like to be?” A moment later the man he was speaking to parked his car in an area more appropriate to someone who is physically capable of walking without any difficulties.
Yeah. I totally stole that for a book. I made significant changes, but I stole it.
The thing I love most about conversations is that they can fire your imagination. Not just the words, but the situations that might bring those words around. Words spoken in anger and remembered later have a solid potence to them that can be haunting. I used a line once that I know I’d heard before and it took me a while to remember where I’d heard it. The line came from one of my coworkers who was reciting something he’d heard when he was a kid. He had to translate it from his native tongue but it basically came down to, “You’re going to have a hard time picking up your shattered teeth with your broken fingers.” That’s just vivid. Of course I had to use it. I changed it a bit, because that’s the nature of the beast. We work with what we remember and we take dramatic license.
The dialogue we use (or misuse) ideally reflects the characters we create, at least as much as their physical descriptions and the clothes they wear. And sometimes it takes a while for that dialogue to find a place where it fits.
A snippet I heard earlier tonight while I was out. From near the front registers I heard a man in his mid-thirties say to another man behind the line, “I’d say there’s a decent chance I’m going to jail tonight.” I’d been there long enough to know first that the line was absolutely unrelated to anything they’d been saying before that, and by the tone of his voice I knew he was joking. I took a look out the drive through window and could see well enough to know that he was referring to the woman driving the car at the window. She was most likely no older than eighteen. She could have been a little younger. Oh, before you go getting offended know that he was joking and that it was meant as a compliment. But it was a delightfully subtle way of being improper in a situation where no comments would likely be heard (I’m good at eavesdropping) and without any true vulgarity. Believe me, I’ve heard substantially worse and decidedly less imaginative lines from any number of teenagers both who worked with me and who were unaware that I was paying attention. I feel confident that the line above would have gone over the heads of a lot of teenagers, which was what I found so amusing about the situation.
Will I ever have a reason to use that line in a book? I have no idea. But it’s there and I remember it and right now, if I had a character who was appreciating a woman who was far too young, I might very well steal that line. Why? Because it’s real and it’s got personality. And that’s important in my book. It could easily help define a character without having to describe the very same. One more little step in trying to convince my readers that my words are more than make believe.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

River City Writers courses for the first half if 2018

River City Writers announces its seminars and workshops for the first half of 2018. We hope you'll join us! (Link in the comments)
In this one day, three-hour seminar, the River City Writers team of Christopher Golden and James A. Moore will guide you through the business of publishing, providing you with information every writer should know. Topics include professionalism for writers, the principles of the agent/client relationship, a guide to interacting with and approaching editors (with or without an agent), and how to write an effective cover letter. The instructors will break down the typical components of a publishing contract to prepare participants to understand—and, if necessary—negotiate their own contracts in the future. An invaluable seminar for any writer attempting to navigate the business of 21st century publishing.
**Sunday, February 25th, 2018 – 10am to 1pm
It’s not enough to be a talented storyteller. When working across a broad spectrum of mediums, it is imperative that you be able to sell your story to editors, publishers, producers, directors, and others in the position to help you bring it to life. In this three-hour seminar, the River City Writers team of Christopher Golden and James A. Moore tap into their decades of experience working in fiction, non-fiction, film, TV, comic books, video games, RPGs, and more. What’s the difference between a synopsis, an outline, and a pitch? What are the vital components of each? How and when should each be utilized, and how does the process of crafting each one differ? From elevator pitch to full synopsis, this seminar gives you the foundation you need to truly make your story stand out!
**Sunday, March 25th, 2018 – 10am to 1pm
This two-day program (held on consecutive weekends) will provide theory, constructive advice, and practical experience in writing an effective short story. During the first meeting, the River City Writers team of Christopher Golden and James A. Moore will present a three-hour seminar on the vital components of a great short story, including narrative structure, compelling characters, scene selection, and the process of discovering the right ending. In the week between seminar and workshop, participants will write an original story or a portion thereof (at least 1500 words). During the second meeting, Golden and Moore will conduct a critical workshop, guiding the participants in the rigorous evaluation of the in-progress or completed stories. The perfect program to achieve greater understanding of the short story as a medium, as well as to build confidence in your abilities to write effectively at that length.
**Sunday, April 22nd AND Sunday, April 29th, 2018 – 10am to 1pm
Finding Agents, Publishers, and Readers in Today’s Market. Whether you’re writing a novel for the first time or have many full-length works under your belt, deciding how to proceed can be an even bigger challenge than getting your story down on paper. Should you set your sights on mainstream publishing or focus on small or midsize presses? What are the benefits and drawbacks if you decide to self-publish? How do you begin to network effectively? How do you find an agent? What makes an effective query letter? In this three-hour seminar, the River City Writers team of Christopher Golden and James A. Moore rely on their combined half-century of experience to tackle the big questions.
**Sunday, May 20th, 2018 – 10am to 1pm

Monday, January 15, 2018

The reviews are coming in...

So far, not bad!

"Seriously, what a phenomenal second book! Everything that was so delightfully dark about The Last Sacrifice, James just wraps those thorny vines tighter around the plot. He proceeds to deepen it to a gripping degree throwing in mindbogglingly twisted horror elements."--Sachin Dev, Smorgasbord Fantasia

"I was quite irritated at the end of this book.  Note I said the end of the book, not the ending.  The ending was great.  I was irritated because I was at the end and there was no more book to read.  I wanted to keep reading.  I was irritated that I couldn’t and will have to wait for probably a year before the next book in the series comes out." -- Keith West, Adventures Fantastic

"Moore is clearly a talented story-teller. The action and characters here are throwbacks to Robert E. Howard and Fritz Leiber and the epic-ness of the story is not unlike Tolkien.  It’s all-around excitement."-- Dan, Looking For A Good Read

"And, again, Moore proves he knows how to end a book. I was nervous that this book would end and I'd be disappointed because I didn't have the answers I was looking for. I still don't have the answers, but at the end of Fallen Gods my mood wasn't one of frustration but rather "I am so ready for the next book!" Seriously, the next one is promising to be glorious. If the world is actually going to end, it ain't going down without a fight and I want to read that fight!" -- Rachel Noel, Purple Owl Reviews

I am pleased!  Thanks for the kind words, folks!

Saturday, January 6, 2018


So I have received my contributor copies of BLOODSTAINED WONDERLAND, written by yours truly and Christopher Golden, which is a direct sequel to BLOODSTAINED OZ. I'm goin to give one copy away to someone who has contributed at least $25.00 to the Gofundme for THE TWISTED BOOK OF SHADOWS anthology.

That said, its one copy. There are only 500 copies available at the EARTHLING PUBLICATIONS SITE. If you are interested, I wouldn't wait too long, The first book sold out in 48 hours.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

The Twisted Book of Shadows

Dear friends,
In the spirit of the New Year, and now that the chaos of the holiday season is over, we begin again to march toward our goal. The submission window is the month of February, so we're going to try our damnedest to reach **our fundraising goal** by the end of January, and we need your help!
If you've ever loved a creepy tale of any kind, we'd appreciate your donation AND any effort to spread the word. The Twisted Book of Shadows is our passion project, a true labor of love not just for James A. MooreJohn M. McIlveen and me, but for our entire editorial committee. We're dedicated to creating an anthology market that will pay professional rates and royalties without the need for marquee slots, invitation-only percentages, etc. Every spot on the table of contents will be filled by a story chosen through blind submissions. It's a level playing field for any writer interested in horror stories. Submissions will be reviewed by Jim, John, and myself, as well as the entire Editorial Committee: Linda D AddisonNadia BulkinRachel Autumn Deeringg, Lamar GilesGabino IglesiasBilly MartinKL PereiraLee Thomas, and we actively encourage submissions by diverse voices. Horror stories aren't the province of any one community of people, and we want YOURS, the one only you can write!
I'll shut up now, but not before saying we're just about halfway to our fundraising goal. We need your help to create what we hope will be one for the ages. Please donate what you can, and please SHARE!!