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!

Wednesday, August 30, 2006
  Dead Like Me

First, a confession. I don't have a clue what a blog is supposed to be. I guess there are as many interpretations as there are blogs. I know the original reason for this blog was promotion. Something that I'm not good at it. Networking, mixing at parties, working the fact that I'm a writer with a book coming out into every conversation will never come easy for me. So, this morning while I was spreading bark under a tree (a spring task that I'm just now getting around to) I tried to come up with a subject for today's entry. Something that would include my book or what I'm planning next or how nervous I am that ARC's are now out there and I'm waiting for the reviews (or lack of.)

All I could think about was a TV show I saw last night. Now this is going to be introspective and probably dull, so you can stop reading right here and I won't hold it against you.

I know very little about the show. I haven't googled it so I don't even know the names of the actors. I don't care about those details. It's a show that I guess was originally aired in 2003 or 2004 and may have been only a one season show. But I've caught reruns on Tuesday nights on the SCIFI channel, right before EUREKA. It's called DEAD LIKE ME. The premise is that for some people, death translates into becoming a reaper. One who gathers souls of the newly departed and points them on their way to whatever is next. The protagonist is an eighteen-year-old girl. She was killed in a freak accident and finds herself member of a group of reapers under the leadership of an older man who hands out their daily assignments (or souls to gather) each morning at a coffee shop. They have to lead normal lives in every other respect. They don't look like they did in life so they can't be recognized, and they have to hold down jobs and pay rent and do laundry and all the other day to day tasks we mortals contend with. But they aren't mortal and they have no idea why they are doing what they are doing or when they will be allowed to move on.

Okay, a lengthy lead into what I want to say about the show. Every damned week I come away from DEAD LIKE ME with a nagging melancholy that's hard to shake. The theme last night was the last thoughts of people as they died. Almost every one was a regret--someone they wished they had treated better, something they didn't do, an opportunity they were too scared or too weak to take advantage of. Okay, okay, I know this is FICTION--a television show. But it reminded me that it's the same for the living. Often when we lose someone close to us, especially if it is unexpected, we find ourselves dwelling on what we should have said or wished we had done. I've done it. I also know that at those times, we make all sorts of promises to ourselves that we will change our lives, not be so timid, never let an opportunity pass to show someone that we care.

And then in a few weeks, the feeling fades. We become absorbed/obsessed with everyday stuff. We carry on exactly as before. Sometimes I wish I could bottle that feeling of regret and lost opportunities so that every once in awhile I could uncork that bottle and take a whiff. Remind myself that life is a gift too soon gone. Would it change the way I live? I like to think so. But realistically, I'd get caught up again in deadlines and house work and gardening and all I'd be feeling is pressure and stress.

Then Tuesday comes along and I'll watch DEAD LIKE ME and thank the writers of that show for making me feel, if even for a little while, the way life is supposed to be.
Sunday, August 27, 2006
  Sneak peek
Hey kids,

Eos, the SciFi Fantasy imprint of HarperCollins, is putting out the Eos Reader with an excerpt of my second book, X-Rated Bloodsuckers.

I've got great company in this Eos Reader: Ray Bradbury, Neil Gaiman, Terry Pratchett, Chris Moore, and Kim Harrison. Sign up for the Eos newsletter (click on the Eos reader link on the left) before 11/1/06 and enter to win either an Ipod shuffle or one of 5 Eos libraries.

Also check out the great Eos blog at www.outofthiseos.com.

Short post this week as I was helping my son run a garage sale at the lab. My undead volunteers stood me up so I had to dump all the extra cadavers on my own.
Friday, August 25, 2006
  Talking Vamp Books with Author Susan Squires

Susan Squires was kind enough to take some time from her busy writing schedule to talk to the Biting Edge. This talented and prolific writer doesn't confine herself to one genre, and her novels have ranged from historical paranormals to sci-fi thrillers to romances. Her last novel, The Burning, is part of an historical vampire series which includes The Hunger and The Companion.

Susan's running in fast company these days, and her novella, "The Gift", will be in the Love at First Bite anthology, along with writers Sherrilyn Kenyon, L.A. Banks, and Ronda Thompson. If you're up for some fast-paced, edgy, gritty, smart, and sensual vamp action, you'll definitely want to check out Susan's books.

Biting-Edge: How and when did you first get published?

Susan: The second book I wrote finally got published, after a long journey. I got an agent for it through the San Diego Writer's conference, and I thought a sale was not far behind. But it was a gritty Viking romance, with magic and religion and a male rape before page 50. It was not an easy sell, and was turned down by seven publishing houses. My agent gave me that dreaded call--"I love it, but I don't know how to sell it."

I didn't want to give up on it though, so I joined the Romance Writers of America and entered it in chapter sponsored contests. It started winning, and was bought by an editor who read it in the final round of the Orange County Chapter Orange Rose contest. Dorchester bought it, the vampire one I had in the drawer, and Body Electric, which I was just finishing, along with two future books. I think they are the only print house that would have taken a chance on me. They were a good place to cut my teeth and figure out if I could produce a book on demand, under contract. I did five books and a novella for them and I loved my editor there.

Biting-Edge: Who is your favorite character, series, or single book?

Susan: I never like this question, as it's always so hard to choose. I don't think there's a hero I've written that I wasn't in love with, or a heroine I wished I was. I like Vic in Body Electric because she's probably my most flawed heroine, I guess. I love all my vampire men. Right now I'm in love with Callan Kilkenny because I just finished his story and turned it in. He'll be in One with the Night.

If you are talking about another author's characters, my favorite has to be Stephanie Plum right now, but I've been in love with Jack Aubrey in Patrick O'Brian's Master and Commander series for a while, enough to read all 20 books twice.

Biting-Edge: What book do you wish you had written?

Susan: I'd like to have written any of James Lee Burke's Dave Robichaux mysteries. He's a wonderful writer.

Biting-Edge: What book do you still want to write?

Susan: I'll keep that a secret, because I'm going to write it right after I finish my vampire series for St. Martin's.

Biting-Edge: What do you wish you had known or had done differently when you were first starting out?

Susan: I almost got an agent for my very first book and she was a really good agent. She liked the book a lot but wanted me to cut it. (Gee, you think? It was 275,000 words!) I didn't know how to do that, so I didn't, and wasted some years before selling, I think. When the agent is serious enough to talk to you on the phone about cutting it, cut it and resubmit.

Biting-Edge: Any secrets or sneak previews you would like to share with our readers?

Susan: I have a story in an anthology called Love at First Bite coming out in October. I'm very lucky to be in a collection with Sherrilyn Kenyon, L.A. Banks and Ronda Thompson.

And then next up is One with the Night, coming in April next year where I get to do Scottish vampires and Loch Ness. It was loads of fun, and readers have been clamoring for Kilkenny's story after he appeared in The Burning.
Wednesday, August 23, 2006
  Dog Days of Summer....

Weird stuff going on in Colorado. This guy John Karr coming forward to say he killed JonBonet even though there seems to be no record of his being in Boulder--ever. What is his story? A simple nut job? Or a convoluted way to get himself back to the states in style? Nothing surprises me anymore.

School already started here. Coming from San Diego where that didn’t happen until after Labor Day, seeing school busses in the neighborhood just doesn’t feel right. It’s August, for god sake, still summer!

And bad news for all Stargate fans. After ten years, the show has been cancelled. Ten years is a long run for any show but I have many friends who are bitterly disappointed.

Some nice news on a personal front. I've had a short story accepted in an Anthology entitled MANY BLOODY RETURNS edited by Charlaine Harris, Toni L. P. Kelner, and Martin H. Greenberg. It will be published by Ace Books, but I don't have a pub date yet. Sometime next year. The theme is vampires and birthdays-- It was my first attempt at a short story so to have such illustrious authors like those three want to include it in their anthology is pretty exciting.

I’m ready to start something new. Now the challenge is to decide what—do I want to tackle a stand alone? Begin the fourth Anna Strong? Just sit back and rest my brain awhile?

Actually, that last sounds pretty good…. It is still summer, after all.
Sunday, August 20, 2006
  Morning People
I write about vampires, the infamous creatures of the night, so it’s ironic that I’m a morning person. (In my stories, what gives vampires the ultimate willies is the light of dawn. Morning rays fry them like bacon.)

My early morning drive to the day job cuts east for several blocks on Colfax Avenue through central Denver. At that time of day, the city has a special rhythm, especially along Colfax which is a street with plenty of character. There’s an urban poetry to the moment.

The neon shimmers above coffee shops which promise hot meals and a respite before the day starts in earnest. Young people keen on getting a head start whiz by on scooters. Working stiffs wait slack-faced for the bus, the first stop on their daily treadmill. Winos stagger along the sidewalk like zombies looking for a place to hide. Unemployed men line up at the labor center. And sometimes you’ll see a couple of lovers holding hands and smiling at the opportunities before them.

Some people dread an early morning wake up. To them, getting up anytime before eight might as well be the middle of the night. But to me, an early morning wake up means the day brings adventure. (Never mind that I work in a cube and adventure means a trip to the vending machine.) Getting ready while it’s still dark out reminds me of going fishing, long drives on vacation, and helicopter flights across country. Add the smell of diesel exhaust and I’m eight years old again and at the Greyhound bus station waiting for departure to Chihuahua.

You don’t get up early because you’ve got nothing better to do. That’s why the sleepy-heads among you lounge in bed until mid-morning.

I’m curious to hear what the night-owls have to say. Comments from the undead are especially welcome.
Friday, August 18, 2006
  Put a Stake in Him, He's Done

Big wahoo, I turned in my manuscript for my second novel, Midnight Brunch at Casa Dracula, to my editor this week.

Meanwhile, Happy Hour at Casa Dracula got terrific reviews in the Orlando Sentinel and in Book Fetish.

If you want to know some interesting facts about those nutty folk people who were digging up bodies, finding evidence of a vampiric nature, and staking the bodies, check out the essay by Paul Barber, the author of Vampires, Burial, and Death. See, that's what happened when people didn't have television to keep them occupied at night. They said to one another, "I'm bored. What do you wanna do?" "I don't know. What do you wanna do?" "Maybe we should go did up Pete Plogojowitz and see if he's really dead." "Cool."

Library Journal calls Berber's book, "a stimulating, authoritative discourse on the relationship between the historical concepts of vampires in folklore and fiction across the ages and throughout the world."

On a totally unrelated point, I love the hokey cover of this book, which reminds me of the scary books I read as a kid.

I found a cool website, the Ultimate Vamplist, a fairly exhaustive list of vampire books. Mario cleverly came up with a last name that puts him at the top of the list.
Wednesday, August 16, 2006

We don't have enough to worry about, what with terrorist attacks on airliners, nuclear threats from the Mid-East, bad sales numbers, now we have to worry about our laptops spontaneously combusting! Seems some Dell batteries have done just that. Dell is, of course, taking the offensive by offering replacement batteries at no charge. It seems the most danger is from replacement batteries, counterfeits or older batteries. To see if your laptop is in danger of immolating, check the Consumer Product Safety Commission website or Dell directly.

To add insult to injury, MAC's may also be at risk!

Some good news for Marta. She got a mention in yesterday's (Aug 15) issue of Shelf Awareness Happy Hour at Casa Dracula is the August paperback pick of the month by Booksense and the American Booksellers Association. That is a very big deal and worthy of hearty congratulations.

Okay, Mario talked about super powers...I think I'd just like to have a vampire's metabolism. You never see any fat vamps, now do you? Must be the liquid protein diet!
Sunday, August 13, 2006
What Would Felix Do?

Felix Gomez is a vampire private detective and the protagonist of my novels. People have asked if he is my alter ego and he’s not. Felix is taller, younger looking, and has more hair. Plus, even without using his undead psychic powers, he has much better luck with the ladies.

More and more I wonder what would it be like to have his supernatural powers. In my novels I emphasize that it’s not all roses and chocolate, or in vampire parlance, fragrant debutante necks and Type A-positive.

The undead part and drinking of blood are kinda icky. But I could get jazzed up having the power of vampire hypnosis. Imagine going to the bank and saying, “Hey, let’s renegotiate my mortgage. Say somewhere between zero and zero percent interest.”

I’d zap my way onto the payroll of dozens of corporations to “work” as special resort consultant and exercise my sensitive palate as I search for the poshest digs the board of directors should visit. (Somebody does this job, why not me?)

The power of levitation would be handy. I’d use it to do bar tricks and win bets. Maybe I’d enter the Olympics. Imagine being the first diver to shoot back out of the water and land again on the spring board? How many points would that be worth? How about winning gold in the pole vault without using a pole?

Notice I mention nothing about bettering the human condition, cuz it’s all about me, baby.

What would you do with superpowers?
Friday, August 11, 2006
  Getting the Word Out

I'm on the home stretch with the manuscript for my second novel and I'm flashing back to all-nighters in college. The first time I stayed up all night, I churned out a paper on William Carlos Williams. When you're 18, this seems preferable to planning your time and working sensibly to your deadline. I wanted to be a poet in those days. Yeah, I'm laughing, too.

If you feel that you really need to mix poetry and vampires, you should check this out.

No news may be good news is not something that applies to books. Luckily I got some nice PR this week. Lynn Carey wrote a kind piece in the Contra Costa Times, and Nancy Marmolejo has a podcast interview on her site, Release Your Inner Loca. Hey, you don't have to tell me that. I'm all about the loca thing.

The Public Radio Exchange also mentions Happy Hour at Casa Dracula as one of the BookSense Picks at the beginning of an hour show, The Spoken Word, featuring interviews with Oback Barama, John Updike, and Marie Arana.

Mario's book and mine got listed as summer reading on Aprovecho, the Mexican Kitchen's website. Great food and drink suggestions for hot summer days. Pass the margaritas, baby.

Borders is also putting my book on their 3-for-2 table, buy two and get one free. Very cool.
Wednesday, August 09, 2006
  The Writing Life
I do like weeks like this. I finished a short story, got the galley for my book from the publisher, received an invitation to be on the vampire panel at next year’s RT, and attended a CSI workshop at Regis University. I’m sitting second chair to Susan Smith’s first in RMFW's writing contest and we’re tallying up scores to determine the finalists. I made reservations for a trip to San Diego in September where I’ll chat with bookstore owners and managers and take location shots.

In other words, it was a writer’s week. Busy, productive, fulfilling.

And the best part, our writer’s group is reconvening after a short summer hiatus. I miss the group. I miss the excitement of presenting new material and reading that of my friends’. It’s a weekly deadline. A challenge to forge ahead in whatever project I have on tap.

It’s a signal that summer is almost over.

Okay, that may be stretching it a bit. But I don’t do heat well. I can’t wait for autumn and crisp air and orange sunsets even if they aren’t over the water. There are new programs to get hooked on (Smith and Shark sound especially promising.) And old ones to look forward to (Veronica Mars and Smallville, with or without James Marsters.)

And best of all, I’ll start a new book. The cycle of a writer’s life. You gotta love it.
Sunday, August 06, 2006
...write the darndest things.

But first.

A salute to those chroniclers of all things Chicano at La Bloga--Manuel Ramos, Rudy Garcia, and Daniel Ramos-- for their continued support of Marta Acosta’s and my books.

And second, big congratulations to Shari Caudron for the great interview on NPR Sunday Weekend Edition. Shari is a fellow author from the Lighthouse Writers Workshop. She was interviewed for her newest book Who Are You People? where she discusses the growing trend for Americans to search for new communities that seem a little outside society’s boundaries.

Learn about Barbie collectors, Mayberry fans, and Furries.

And now, back to our regular programming.

This week at the Lighthouse Writers Workshop I taught a mystery-writing class to middle and high school kids. The class broke into age groups and I took the 11-13 year olds, ten girls and one boy. We started an exercise where we examined a photo with crime-scene tape in front of a house. We were given a list of clues. Peanut butter on a doorknob. A black glove. Barking dogs in the middle of the night. A footprint.

Expecting a mystery from Encyclopedia Brown--something to do with stolen marbles, a broken vase, etc.,--this is the scenario the kids surprised me with. A rich 45 y.o. dad had been stabbed to death by the jealous boyfriend of the dad’s 28 y.o. ex-wife. “Blood everywhere,” one of the girls said. “I want him cut open. It has to be a real tragedy.” Plus, the 18 y.o. daughter (from a previous marriage) was stealing money from the dad, which was a red herring detail (as was the peanut butter on the doorknob). The footprint was from a size ten and a half high-heel shoe which the boyfriend wore because he was a cross-dresser. The boyfriend dumped the clothes and the knife in a dumpster and washed up. (These kids were familiar with CSI.) But for some reason the boyfriend kept the high-heels (The girls insisted that he really liked these shoes.) and the police found carpet fibers and blood on the soles. Mystery solved. Case closed.

A gruesome murder. Lies. Cross dressing. Embezzlement from a loved one. “This was fun,” another of my girl students said. “I like writing mysteries.”
Friday, August 04, 2006
  Vampires & Other Bloodsuckers

The marvelous Nancy Marmolejo interviewed me this week for her Inner Loca show and the podcast is up. Check it out.

I've been missing "Buffy" a lot lately. My fandom of vamps is split between tv series and books, and Joss Whedon's brilliant series set a high standard. I loved the terrific ensemble acting, the fantastical plots, the irreverance, the lyrical dialog, and the inventiveness and fun of this show.

Fox has two supernatural series for the fall. One is called "Amy After Dark," about an attorney who is also a VAMPIRE. You mean, there are attorneys who aren't bloodsuckers? Get outa here! The other is about a cop who is actually hundreds of years old. Man, he'll be slow on those foot-chases.

The manuscript for my second novel is due in eleven days. Yes, I am freaking out.
Tuesday, August 01, 2006
  Big Guns
Okay, this is going to sound like a second grader’s excuse for not turning in homework but I swear it’s the truth. Lightening struck a tree next door and fried my computer. Honest to God. I had to take it to the Apple store and they admitted it to critical care and I should have it back in about a week. Luckily, I’d finished my book and backed it up on a thumb drive. The tech who looked at it said he didn’t think I’d lose many files, but you never can tell.

So. Still no Firefox I’m working on my laptop today and since I really don’t have too much to talk about, this will probably be a short submission.

And speaking of submissions, I have been invited to contribute a short story to an anthology edited by Charlaine Harris, Toni L. P. Kelner and Martin Greenberg. This will be my first attempt at short story writing and I may bomb. I think in terms of novel length and I’m not sure I can do it, but I like the theme—vampires and birthdays, so I’ll give it a go. Any ideas out there you’d like to share?

Mario talked about weapons in his last blog. And that got me thinking about a movie I saw this weekend—Miami Vice. I really liked it. Of course, I like big guns and blowing things up and steamy sex scenes. It was directed by Michael Mann, another favorite of mine. He makes Florida look attractive and anyone who has ever spent anytime there knows it’s pretty much not!

Speaking of Michael Mann, he made the very best Hannibal Lector movie of all, the 1986 release, MANHUNTER. It starred a very young William Peterson as Will Graham and Brian Cox as Hannibal Lector in an adaptation of Thomas Harris’ RED DRAGON. Much better than the later version. In fact, I think Anthony Hopkins based his interpretation of the Hannibal Lector role on Brian Cox’s. Just the right amount of creepy genius. And Tom Noonan, the Tooth Fairy, is the freakiest villain you never hope to meet. So if you haven’t seen it, and you like the psychological thriller stuff, you’ll like this one.

Is anyone watching King's Nightmares and Dreamscapes? If you are, care to explain last week's episodes? I didn't get either one! Did the writer get kidnapped by the crazy guy in the painting and now has to ride the highway with him forever? Did the con's wife get away with the treasure? Will he ever get out to enjoy it with her? EEEEK! I like tidier wrap ups.

Okay, I suppose that’s enough rambling for one day. I should have my MAC back next week and maybe even Firefox up and running. I’d better not promise, though. The last time I did that, I drew the wrath of the gods…

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