Welcome to Biting-Edge, a blog shared by authors and vampire experts, Mario Acevedo and Jeanne Stein. We’ll cover urban fantasy, vampires, pop culture, and all things Joss Whedon. Unlike other fantasy blogs, we don’t insist on body cavity searches (unless you ask politely). Snarkiness is most welcome...though we won't promise not to bite back!
The Whole Bloody Mess
I recently saw the musical "Lestat" in pre-Broadway previews. Don't ask me why someone said, "Morose vampires singing and dancing in period costumes? I love it!" Elton John did the muzak and his old writing partner, Bernie Taupin, did the lyrics. In true Elton John fashion, there were lots of ridiculous wigs. The story was basically: Blonde guy fights wolves. Blonde guy gets bitten by vamp and then he makes a few vamp companions, including a really annoying little girl. Two and a half hours and a couple of hundred years later and he's still totally bummed by his un-life.
The best part of the show were these Egyptian vamp gods and goddesses. Because, you see, it's all so meaningful and deep and significant being a bloodsucking creature of the night. I kept waiting for them to sing "The Circle of Death." Or maybe "Tiny Vampire" or "Don't Let the Sun Rise Up on Me."
The show is being "retooled" which I think means, "We're trying to fix this pot o' mess."
If you need a vamp fix, check out the cult movie, "Near Dark," directed by Katherine Bigelow. It's a western and a horror movie about a naive young guy who gets caught up with a crew of Civil War era vampires driving an RV and running wild in Texas.
The Day Job
I have a day job--well, sort of.
I "write" an industry newsletter for a beer importer. I put "write" in quotations because I actually peruse news sources and find stuff of interest and condense it into snippets. A kind of headline journal. I find funny stuff: the horse in FL who thinks he's human and fetches beer out of a refrigerator (no mention if the beer is for the horse or his owners.) Weird stuff: the Noweigan woman who turned on her tap to wash dishes and beer came out (somehow lines got crossed with a pub downstairs). Bizarre stuff: Belgians who want to give schoolchildren light ale instead of pop because it's healthier. And sometimes scary stuff: an al-Qaeda plot to poison beer at UK soccer games. Mostly, though, it's stories of the industry giants gobbling up small breweries and targeting third world countries to capture emerging markets.
Business as usual.
But I get paid. For writing.
Pretty amazing, when you think about it. The statistics regarding writers who actually make a living at it are too depressing to repeat. Anyway, most of my fellow writers are already familiar with the sad facts. I guess that's why it was such a thrill to attend a book fair like the one last weekend in Sierra Vista, AZ. High Desert Crimes Book Fair is an annual event co-sponsored by local chapters of Friends of the Library and Sisters in Crime. It featured about fifty writers of mixed genres and allowed us to meet and greet the best people in the world-- book lovers!! The fact that someone actually takes the time to stop and chat and thank you for doing what you love and what they get enjoynent from--reading--is an experience beyond measure.
Another wonderful thing happened last week. Mario's first signing. This man is a class act and if you find that he's coming to a book store near you, make it a point to get there. Mario is funny, charming, warm and a good writer to boot.
And he's getting paid to write. Still has a day job, but I predict that will soon change. Read his book and I think you'll agree!
My night of terror
I was never a fan of vampire or horror stories. Undead bloodsuckers, zombies, werewolves, what were they compared to the cruel machinations of humans? As a boy I was ho-hum about "scary" movies. What put the fear of God into me was nuclear war. My dad was in the National Guard and he brought home pamphlets about what to do in case of nuclear attack. Now this was real. Had I received warnings from the Department of Defense about zombies and vampires, I might have feared them. But this was the US Government telling me to be afraid of atomic war...and I was.
One disturbing public service announcement depicted stick figures rousted from their home by the shriek of a siren. The use of abstract stick figures was supposed to depersonalize the threat but to me, the effect was opposite. We citizens were anonymous future casualties of nuclear Armageddon. For years, the sudden flash in the corner of my eye could be the detonation of an H-bomb. As I rode my Western Flyer bike, I remained cognizant of every ditch, culvert, and thick wall to use as shelter from the certain atomic blast.
What scared me most was the Civil Defense siren--in particular the wavering tone which meant immediate attack: fifteen minutes until global holocaust. That undulating shriek was a jolt of terror stabbing through my ears and running down my spine to my sphincter. I could see the ICBMs leaping from their silos and arcing into the stratosphere. What cheery images for a ten-year old kid.
One night, it happened. The siren awoke me. It was the feared undulating tone exactly as I had memorized it. I wasn't dreaming. The siren's wail echoed throughout my neighborhood. Global annihilation was imminent.
I was too paralyzed with terror to leave my bed. I couldn't do anything but cringe in fear and sob. Why, dear God, were we going to die?
After minutes of tear-soaked misery the siren stopped. I expected the alarm to continue until the first blast shattered my bedroom window. But nothing. No explosion. No panicked mobs in the streets. Nada.
The city of Las Cruces, in their usual small-town idiocy, built a siren on top of the fire station. Every time they dispatched a truck, they'd sound the siren. If the firemen had to work at night, why not wake up the entire town? So my tears of grief were shed for nothing. I had survived nuclear annihilation and I was disappointed.
The horror! The Horror! Christopher Moore's New Novel
My big thrill this week was meeting one of my favorite authors, Christopher Moore, whose new book, A DIRTY JOB, was released this week. I distinctly remember the first time I picked up one of his books -- it had a glossy black cover with scarlet lettering that said BLOODSUCKING FIENDS. This hilarious story about vampires and grocery clerks gave equal shift to humor and horror. I was one happy reader and I've been buying his books ever since. If you love the humor of Vonnegut and Adams, you'll love Moore, too.
Moore didn't start out trying to be a funny writer. He just is
a funny guy, and it was inevitable that his humor came out in his fiction. He said that what he learned from horror was suspense and making every page important. Now, I've shied away from reading straight horror because I get too scared. I know, silly, but that's the way it is. Still, I'm going to pick up books by a few writers who influenced him, including Richard Matheson, and try to study the structure of the suspense.
Maybe if I'm focusing on the structure of horror books, I won't be wondering what that strange knocking sound is coming from the basement. Don't go down in the basement! Hey, I'm from California and we don't got no stinkin' basements. Marta
The Week That Was
Like Mario, this was one of those weeks when the words didn't flow. My fault, probably. Sometimes I think this is natures way to get the house cleaned and the bookcases dusted. But the truth is, Mario's signing tomorrow reminds me how scary it is to contemplate what will happen when Berkley actually publishes my books and I'm forced to put up or shut up. Now I have the luxury of not having to take responsibility for the success of my books. After all, I'm with a very small house with zero marketing budget and a limited review list. Any sales I've made have come about because of supportive friends and family who make it a point to push my book at any opportunity. I know when I start playing with the big boys, it's going to be different. I've seen how hard Mario and our good friend, Jeff Shelby, have worked. I'm going to have to mount that letter writing campaign and seriously hit the conference trail. I'm going to have to get out to bookstores, contact the local media, make friends with all the librarians within a fifty mile radius (make that 100 mile radius). I heard someone remark at a conference that writers are introverts who run around for three days at such events pretending they're not. In my case, it's definitely true. I'll sit in the audience at Mario's signing tomorrow night and be happy for him and excited and at the same time, torn between anxiety and fear. Will I ever be in that place? Will I ever be invited to sign at Denver's premier bookstore, The Tattered Cover? What will I do if I am? Will I choke? Will I babble like an idiot?
God, I hope I have the chance to find out.
My muse is AWOL, as usual
"Can I read your book?"
I've had a few people ask me this. Of course they can read my book. And equally important, they can buy a copy. Make that, lots of copies.
I guess people ask that question because they have this notion that we writers are geniuses. How else can we spin worlds out of nothing? We must fall into a trance and channel the muse, who uses us as a medium to transform the sublime into literature. To read our work is to then be privy to creative majesty.
My answer to that: Ha!
Kurt Vonnegut didn't call his fellow writers "ink-stained wretches" for nothing. Forget this crap about the muse. Who else but a crazy wretch would sit for hours at a keyboard and pound away? There is nothing magical about what we do. Our work is the product of writing and rewriting and rerewriting. We inflict brain-damage on ourselves to find the perfect words yet the two most often used keys are "delete" and "backspace."
And in the end, when the story has been ground up and worked over like tripe sausage, it is us, the writers who owe you the reader. Because of our books, you have decided to get into a little more credit card debt. And on behalf of all the hacks in the world, I thank you.
Things That Go Bump in the Nightmare
Marta, here, the last of our trio of writers on this blog. I first found out about Mario on La Bloga, a blog with links to Latino writers, and Mario "introduced" me to Jeanne. Some day I hope to get to Boulder and really meet them.
When I first sent my novel, HAPPY HOUR AT CASA DRACULA, around, it got declined by someone who said he already had a similar project. And I was like, yeah, sure, there's another comic Latino vampire novelist out there. Then I found out that Mario had a three-book deal for wacky Latino vampire novels. Whoda thunk?
So, if you're a writer and you get this excuse from an agent or publisher, you might want to believe it, even if you've written a poignant tale of a Latvian ice-fisherman who finds love and solace with a brain-eating alien bowling champion.
My exciting news for this week is that I completed and handed in my manuscript for my second novel, BARBECUE AT MOTEL DE LOS MONTRUOS, to my editor, Maggie Crawford at Simon & Schuster. It's basically demon lovers/tequila sunrises/tabloid scandals. The story features a chupacabra, a goat-killing flying monkey of Latino lore, because there are so few books about goat-killing flying monkeys and because chupacabra is a fun word to say. The other day on the Sci-Fi channel, there was a movie called "Chupacabra!" but the creature 1) didn't have wings, 2) wasn't killing goats, the preferred victim, and 3) was onboard a ship. How clueless was that? On the up side, it was fabulously badly acted.
I just got an email notice that my copy of Mario's book is being shipped. Congratulations again, Mario, and I'm happy for your success so long as you stay away from chupacabras, which are my turf.
I suppose I should start by introducing myself. My name is Jeanne and I'm a writer. I have the honor of being in Mario Acevedo's critique group and the even bigger honor of being his friend. I should note right up front, though, that while Mario and Marta (who I have yet to meet) write really funny stuff, I take my vampires seriously. In other words, I'll be the straight woman in this group.
For my first post, I want to congratulate Mario on the release of Nymphos. Last night we toasted with champagne and pizza, I expect in the very near future we'll be toasting his success in a fancy restaurant with even better champagne. Since he'll be buying, French, I think.
Welcome to my words
Ask a mountain climber what he's going to do after climbing a mountain and he'll say, "Climb the next one." I always thought that a glib, disingenuous answer until I started writing novels. Now it's finish one book and start the next one.
My debut novel comes out this month. It's not the first I've written--I have six manuscripts tucked into a box--but it was the first one good enough to make a publisher think my story was worth money.
For over a year, the pub date has approached in the distance and now it looms close, like an iceberg I'm about to crash into. Since January I've focused on promoting myself and making the world aware of my little book. I want to think that my first novel will be hailed like the coming of a promised messiah or a new ring tone. Everyone will stop, pony up the $13.95 retail, and not take a breath until they've devoured my story. Nine months from now health departments will note a dip in the national birthrate, all because people will have stayed up late reading my book instead of making babies. Planet Earth will quit rotating, the tides will stop, the stars will not twinkle, nothing will happen until everyone on the globe has read and praised my book.
With such less than modest goals, I am getting antsy about the book launch. I do BSP--Blatant Self Promotion--at every opportunity. No segue can be too obtuse nor too crass for me not to exploit. "How tragic that a bus rolled over your mother. While you're at the hospital, you'll have to read something. By the way, I have a book coming out." An Amway Double Diamond is a retiring wallflower compared to my shameless hustle.
So take a deep breath and hold it. March 14, 2006. The release date of my debut novel. Buy it. Read it. Then exhale. And from me, thanks.
Congratulations to Mario, whose first novel, THE NYMPHOS OF ROCKY FLATS, was released today!