Monday, June 9, 2014


Heh heh heh.

First a moment of amusement. I have now had two separate people do video reviews of SMILE NO MORE, my cheerily dark novel of an insane dead clown, and both times I've watched the reviewers do their best to go through the review without looking too squeamish. I am properly amused. I am also flattered. You can find the latest review HERE.

And onto this week's subject matter.

We're discussing THAT person. Maybe we aren't officially but we are now. Why? Because THAT person (author, artist, actor, whatever) is real, and is an amazingly annoying individual.

Let's define THAT person, shall we?

First, THAT person firmly believes that the world might very well revolve around his/her abilities. When entering the room, that person almost always looks upon the gathered masses with the smile of a benevolent dictator or, less often, merely continues on as if the masses did not exist. They are, frankly, beneath contempt.

Second, THAT person, is often first in the room, the better to snark on the other people on the panel before they show up. You might think I'm kidding, but I've watched it happen. Went to a panel a couple of my friends were on and two others showed up first. The two ladies felt the need to "whip it out" as it were and measure against each other. In this case they opened their over sized book bags and pulled out copies of each of their books, reciting the numbers in print, etc. Seriously I was rather taken aback. I haven't seen that sort of display of machismo over book sales ever before, and never from ladies. They might never have done that in front of other writers, but as I was just that guy waiting for the panel to start and I was the only guy in the room, I was not significant enough to matter.

When they were suitably impressed with each other, they started talking about the panel. Good points for them there as they decided they should be prepared for the panel one vampires in history. They were apparently chosen for this panel because they had written historical vampire romances. Nothing wrong with that, I'm all for it, but I need to clarify that the panel was meant to be a discussion of vampiric lore and legends from around the world from an historical perspective.

Most everyone in the Word Whores would probably agree with me on the follow, and should feel free to state firmly if they disagree: Research is often required when writing fiction. Want to write a horror novel? Know the basics. Want to write about the Wild West? Learn a bit. Want to discuss the finer points of siege engine manufacture? Might not be a bad idea to Google that bad boy.

Yeah. Amazingly, both of the ladies calmed down when the rest of the panel showed up. One of the gents who was on the panels as Jonathan Maberry. He's actually written a few very detailed non-fiction books on the subject of vampiric lore and legends in addition to editing the V-Wars anthologies. He rather knows his stuff. Another was Christopher Golden, who researched the bejeezus out of vampires before starting his five-or-six volume series on them. There were two others on the panel as well, but I believe they were no-shows, so it was just the four of them.

Both of the gents set to the discussion like piranha set to the idea of a large bucket of fresh entrails. They were, to be kind, enthusiastic. And the two ladies who'd been talking smack about every author they could think of listened to roughly two minutes of discussion and they stared out into the audience and at each other like a couple of kindergartners tossed into an NFL skirmish line instead of their usual recess on the playground.

I felt bad for them. Both of the gentlemen on the panel did their best to engage them, but every single time they did, the ladies just shook their heads meekly.

Here's my point(s).

The ladies came prepared to brag on themselves. They did not come to discuss the history of vampires in legends and lore from around the world. They came for the sole purpose of talking about how amazing they were and, judging by the books they readily whipped out to show each other, they might well have come to shill a few copies. I'm okay with that. I mean it. At most conventions of any size (and this was a large one) I normally point out that my books can likely be found in the dealers room. I don't have to lug books, the dealers get to make a profit. It's a win-win.

The gentlemen came prepared to discuss the subject and they warmed up to it immediately, answering questions from the audience with enthusiasm and doing their absolute best to include all participants, panelists and audience members alike.

That panel is a perfect example of why you don't come unprepared to a panel. The odds are good it won't always go that poorly for the unprepared but this wasn't a panel on how to write a novel or how to incorporate real life events into your make believe story. This was effectively a collegiate debate on the finer aspects of vampirism from around the world: the similarities, the differences and the origins of the species in myth and legend. In other words, they came armed with rubber knives to a bazooka match.

It was a perfect storm: two THAT guys on a panel with two pros.

Now that my anecdote is done, let's move on to the rest of my points.

The guys both had copies of their latest works. They showed them exactly once, when they were introduced. "My name is X, I write Y (insert book cover here) and I've also written Z." Quick introduction and done. They settled in quick and they engaged the audience and met on the proverbial field of battle as equals. They did their very best to make sure that every panelist had time on the panel, regardless of how many times the other panelist held up their hands in surrender They did not bully, but they made the opportunities available.

In other words, they were professionals about it.

The very first panel I was ever on was one I had to moderate. No one in that audience was there to see me. They were there to see the other four people on that panel, all of whom were leagues ahead of me in being known. I watched them and I learned from them. I asked their advice before we started and listened when Joe Lansdale (one of those guys they were definitely there to see) suggested that I let the panelists introduce themselves. That last part has tried to backfire a couple of times when THAT guy was on the panel, but I nipped the introduction when I saw the audience starting to go to sleep (not really, I gave exactly one minute and then said we needed to move on, which as, frankly, a mercy as THAT guy loves to talk about himself.).

Panels are organic. Each one is the sum of the parts. They good and the bad alike The moderator is there to make sure that the collaboration doesn't become bogged down on what is, inevitably a minor detail.

Now then, one more and I'll call it a day. The night job summons me.

That OTHER guy.

You know him/her. Normally she/he sits three rows back, dead center or in the first row to the far end. I don;t understand why, but that's usually been my experience. That OTHER guy knows all and sees all and has read all. By virtue of being a very knowledgeable fan, that OTHER guy firmly believes he/she should be ON the panel and possibly be the moderator. As that has not been the case and has not happened, it's only fair that that OTHER guy ask all the questions and lead each of those questions with a declarative statement worthy of a doctoral thesis.

"Well, in my OWN writing--I'm not published but I have several novels in progress and two short stories being considered--I find that the best way to approach world building is to start with a detailed character sketch of each person. I also like to have post it notes on those sketches. The notes discuss height, hair color, sexual preferences, the type of food they eat, what they like and don't like and their proficiencies and flaws.  After I've finished with those I build a paper mache globe  of the world and mark out the areas where the story will take place. In a serrate file I like to note the imports/exports of each country, the population, the technological levels, the sorts of magic used, the known guilds, the hidden guilds, the banks of importance and the royal lineages.

"In my FIRST volume of THE GHOSTS OF ANDOR'S PHANTOMS, I felt it was important to also include a detailed chart of the high tides and low tides. What's that? What's my question? (Pause to roll eyes and adjust pants--standing is mandatory when asking a question, right?--) Do you think Hollywood does a fair job of representing George R.R. Martin's characters in Game of Thrones?"

That OTHER guy. He's just as much of a time sink as THAT guy and must be handled. Listen, a panel is an hour long. I kid and I joke and I pick, but the fact of the matter is EVERYONE should get a chance to interact, not just that OTHER guy. I know that for a lot of people the conventions are a rare chance to meet with and engage with other writers (successful or not is irrelevant, folks) and I want that for them the same way that I want that for me. But ultimate THAT guy and that OTHER guy are really the same beast: They want it all and they want it now. They are human, but sometimes they get a little too enthusiastic.

Now, because I can, and because no one has stopped me yet, another book cover. This one is for SMILE NO MORE, the book reviewed in the link at the top of this essay See? I quick plug after introducing myself. I forgot to introduce myself? I'm Jim. I write books under the name James A. Moore.


  1. Good post! I was going to write about the audience member who wants to be ON the panel...,maybe I'll still amplify on that a bit :-) Research, yes, no matter what you write, always something to research!

  2. Unless you make it up. The beauty of fantasy. :-) (But yes, even then it should be anchored in research.)

  3. Here's the thing: i LOVE writing fantasy because there's less research, but man, by the time I've finished the second book in the Seven Forges series, I'm basically up to around five pages of names for people and locations. :) What you lack in research you make up for in world building.

    1. Gah - tell me! Almost done with book 3 of Twelve Kingdoms and having to look up EVERYTHING. #killmenow

    2. I thought that was the fun part? Yeah, you don't wanna see my Persephone lists. Or the 27 pages of lore, places, people, maps, calendars and miscellaneous details for my W.I.P.

      Am I nuts???


  4. oh, yeah...that OTHER guy. Has anyone been followed by the same OTHER guy? He comes to all YOUR panels. That would be a nightmare I think.
    That is a kick ass piece of art!!!

  5. I tried to respond earlier, but my iPhone was being rude. Jeffe: Yeah, lexicon. Trust me on this. Sharon: I have been in that situation! He was at every freaking panel and by the end of it I made sure everyone got to ask questions before him, because, seriously, he was a mess. Had I let him go first the panel would have ended in chaos. The art, by the way, is by Alan M. Clark, who kind of rocks. :)

  6. You would laugh at a book reviewer *trying* to review your work. Some awesomeness is just difficult to review!