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!
A very quick entry today since I'm handing in my rewrite of my next novel, Midnight Brunch
(Simon & Schuster, May 2007).
It's been a good and tough week. My editor at S&S told me that Happy Hour at Casa Dracula
has gone into its second printing, yahoo! However, I was supposed to lead a writing group at Barnes & Noble, but got sick and couldn't go. I was very disappointed because I thought it would be lots of fun.
Luckily, there was enough interest, so the writing group will be rescheduled later in the year.
I will blog something vampiric tomorrow, perhaps about the history of vampires, which is more extensive than you might think.
A Change of Season
Seasons do not gently flow one into the other here in Colorado. It's summer and then overnight, the trees change, the air becomes sharper and snow caps the mountains. I left for San Diego and it was one season, came back and it was another. I just turned on the old heater and humidifier. 67 degrees in the house when one is stationary trying to write is too damned cold.
Anyway, caught the season premiere of Heroes on NBC
. Interesting premise and I'll probably watch it again, though there were so many characters introduced this first episode, it seemed a little disjointed to me. "Ordinary people with extraordinary talents" is the way it's pitched. Not too original, but we'll see what they do with the theme.
Seems the newest innovation in book promotion is the trailer... like for the movies and TV. For a look at a couple, go to Colleen Coble
or Teresa Slack's
websites. If you are interested, one company doing it is Ombience
. Click on author services. No endorsement, for the company or the authors, just some examples from a list I'm on. I have no problem with the concept, and have no idea of the cost, but sometimes it seems we writers have to spend so much time and money on promotion, I wonder if it's worth it.
Still haven't mastered adding a picture to the blog. I marvel at how easy it seems for Marta and Mario. I'm using Firefox now and can add links, but pictures
still evade me. Oh well, maybe soon.
I second Mario's comments about Lynda. She is a dynamo and nice to boot.....
I have many heroes and one of them is four foot eleven. She’s worked as a tour guide in Europe, was a bookkeeper for a reptile pet store, a cop in Wheat Ridge, Colorado, and is a fellow member of the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. Her most impressive achievement is that she’s a prolific writer. I’m talking about Lynda Sandoval
. She’s published sixteen books in nonfiction, romance, chick lit, and young adult. Her protagonists are Latinas trying to get a grip on their crazy world.
Lynda the cop, back when. Yikes!
What I really admire about Lynda is her contagious positive and enthusiastic attitude. One of my favorite stories in her bio is that years ago her book sales were in squid poop territory. By conventional wisdom, her career had the kiss of death. Rather than throw herself a pity-party, Lynda decided to keep writing and marketing herself as if she was a successful writer. Sure enough, Lynda got a great contract for her chick lit book, Unsettling
(an hysterical and poignant tale about female bonding and finding true love).
Lynda works part-time in an emergency call center and spends most of her waking hours volunteering, and writing furiously--churning out an average of four novels a year. And yet, when you meet her, hang on, she’s absolutely kinetic. Cheers.
What Day is it Anyway?
So I forgot it was Friday, my blogging day. I can't think so I'm providing links to interesting stories.Number 22 on Amazon UK's
list: The Institute of Electrical Engineers On Site Guide. My own novel hit #20 on Amazon Canada's bestseller list a week or so back. I'd feel a little more pleased if #19 wasn't a book about Scooby-Doo.
Can you keep a straight face? The conclusion of Belfast's literary festival is a pub reading of fiction by Amanda McKittrick Ros
, often called the worst writer in the world. It's a contest to see who can read the longest without laughing. A sample of Miss Ros' purple prose: "The living sometimes learn the touchy tricks of the traitor, the tardy and the tempted; the dead have evaded the flighty earthy future and form to swell the retinue of retired rights, the righteous school of the invisible and the rebellious roar of the raging nothing."
The Telegraph has a story, "Can Men Write Romantic Novels?"
I'm in the "who cares?' school of thought on this one.
Yet another author cashed in on fabricated tales of a dreadful childhood
. Hey, if the public and critics didn't love stories of horrible lives, writers wouldn't have to make this stuff up.
Director Ronny Yu's next movie is "Blood: the Last Vampire."
The film is about a "young girl who goes undercover to defeat demons," and Yu says he wants to "reinvent the genre." Hey, Mr. Yu, Buffy Summers
called and she wants her plot back.
Post Card from San Diego
I love San Diego. Even now, in September, when the temperature is climbing and the pesky devil wind has blown up. The sky is blue, the water sparkles, and from my perch on a friend’s deck, a cruise ship is passing out of port. I would live here again in a New York (or California) minute.
I say this not only because it’s true, but to drive my good friend Jeff Shelby a little nuts. He’s the only person I know who feels as passionately about SD as I do.
I just learned from my editor that I am being asked to make some revisions on the second Anna Strong book and to have them completed by the middle of October. They are good revisions so I don’t mind. In fact, of the three books, BLOOD DRIVE is the one I liked the least. I think these revisions will make it a much better book. And since the plan is to launch it six months after the first (instead of the usual year), I can understand the need to be fast. It just means when I get home, I have to hit the ground running.
But first, trips to Mission Beach and La Jolla. Visits to a few bookstores. Dinners with good friends and family. This morning I walked from my home away from home into Balboa Park. The secret headquarters for San Diego’s supernatural community is still safely hidden behind its magical veil. I watched people walk back and forth and no one was aware of what lies behind the concrete park bench and innocuous hedge. But I do. And I could swear, I saw Anna and Police Chief Williams slip through the mystical waterfall and disappear before my very eyes.
Of course, I knew where to look……
When you’re a writer, one of the most dreadful experiences you can inflict upon yourself is the author signing at a bookstore. The fantasy--which does come true once in a while--is to get mobbed by fans. However, for most of us ink-stained wretches, the reality is that we’re assigned a couple of hours to sit at a table, and nothing happens. The store announces that they’re pleased to have--insert your name here--author of--insert title here--signing that day. That message is actually code for, “Avoid the person sitting at the table.”
That writer becomes one of the most pathetic creatures in existence. A mangy, starving dog gets more admiration. People avoid eye contact and stay clear of the writer as if he or she had the most contagious cooties imaginable. It’s an exercise in damnable humiliation.
This weekend I signed at two Borders stores with Shari Cuadron
, author “Who Are You People,” and William Haywood Henderson
, author of “Augusta Locke.” At both stores we had a row of tables near the front and our books propped on stands. Here we go.
People who come into bookstores are almost as introverted as writers. If we all stayed in our comfort zones, readers and authors, none of us would meet each other and none of our books would be sold.
I knew the readers wouldn’t come to us so I came to them. I guarded the entrance and greeted everyone who came in. “Hi, welcome to Borders. I’m today’s guest author...” and segued into my spiel. I referred the readers to Shari and William.
We didn’t sell a lot of books, but we did sell. Rather than sit at our tables and lament the situation, we engaged a lot of people and time passed more pleasantly.
If you want to sell your books, you have to get out of your comfort zone. Whether it’s to an agent, an editor, or the individual reader, you’ve got to be ready to look them in the eyes and say, “Hi, I’m so-and-so and this is my book.”
So the producer who made "Medium" is now coming out with another paranormal show about a "young dead woman who must return to Earth and help people before she can 'pass over.'" It's called "Meant to Be."
My response to this is, oh, please. Like the dead have nothing better to do that help the living. If so, the dead are doing a terrible job. Hey, dead girl, ever hear of Darfur
? I suggest you float over there as fast as you can.
Okay, some premises just bug. Those shows with angels
sent to help people, the angels never seem to make it to places without indoor plumbing.
A show I am watching, and one that has an interesting premise, is BBC America's "Life on Mars."
A police detective is hit by a car and wakes up in the 1970s. He thinks he might be in a coma. His experience might be some test that he must pass in order to continue living. He hears eerie hospital noises, like "the machine that goes ping,"
and voices speaking to him from the radio or the television. It's got moments of creepiness and terrific acting. (Unfortunately this show is cut to add commercials, so there are a few gaps in the storytelling.) And while I'm watching, I'm thinking, how are the writers going to pull this off? What are they constructing?
Writing is easy; all you do is stick words on a piece of paper. Plotting is hard, especially when you're setting up a world with a paranormal element. How do you justify the paranormal? Me, I took a biological approach and asked one of my doctor pals to do the hard thinking. I also did a little research into the origins of vampire mythology, which is extensive and quite varied.
I'll probably be talking about plotting when I lead a workshop on writing on September 26, at the El Cerrito Barnes & Noble. It's free, so no one can complain.
Down and Dirty
I'm posting a day ahead because I'm sandwiching this between the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Conference (see Mario's post) and a ten day trip to San Diego. This will be bittersweet trip--it will be the first time I've been home since losing my mom last fall. I'll spend time with my dad and sister and then move to a friend's to take care of "business"-- visiting book stores in the area (including the very best indie in SoCal-- Mysterious Galaxy
-- and taking location shots for my next book. I hear there is a great new coffeeshop in the city with a vampire theme. I'll check that out for sure.
As Mario noted, the conference was great. It's always nice to catch up with friends who have moved away and to meet new friends. One of my favorite "new" friends this year was author Alex Marcoux
. Her panel on the Psychic Detective gave me some great ideas! More about Alex in upcoming blogs. Another favorite of mine is Lynda Hilburn
. We've chatted often at various conferences, and her panel on"Hypnosis for Writers" is one you should try to catch.
One of the "sweet" parts of this trip is that I'm hoping after a month doing conference stuff and completeing my first short story, I'll be able to get back to what I love--writing!Now that I know my laptop is not one of those with the exploding batteries, I can relax and hit that keyboard again in earnest!
See you next week--
Conference and The Thing
I had a busy week. A few days ago, I received my manuscript of X-Rated Bloodsuckers
with the copy edits and I had four days to make the corrections, mail the manuscript back, and meet the deadline. More on that later.
This weekend was the Colorado Gold Conference hosted by the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers
. This conference is where my career as a writer began. In 1996 I won first place in Mainstream Action. Since then I've served as president of RMFW, contest judge, the handout dude, and all-around go-fer. I've met a lot of wonderful people and have had a great time at every conference. 2003 is when I met my agent Scott Hoffman and last year I received a Pen Award for finally getting published!
Fellow critique group member, Jeff Shelby
, was there this year. His second novel, Wicked Break
, just came out. His debut, Killer Swell
, is a finalist in the 2006 Colorado Book Awards for best popular fiction. Both novels have made the bestseller lists of the Los Angeles Times
and the Denver Post
. However, since I know Jeff, I have an obligation to keep his head from getting too big.
My critique group members chided me for referring to my manuscript as The Thing
. It's a labor of love, for sure. Still, the task of polishing my manuscript looms over my head like a boulder. Here's what the manuscript of X-Rated Bloodsuckers
looks like with the comments from the copyeditor, Shelly Perron.
I received the manuscript just as I had finished reading The Great Gatsby
. I haven't read TGG before and if I had, I doubt I would've appreciated it as much as I did now. I had to stop reading a couple of times to reflect on the genius of F.Scott Fitzgerald's writing. This edition included notes by Matthew Bruccoli and an excerpt of the revision letter by Maxwell Perkins, Fitzgerald's editor. As accomplished a writer as Fitzgerald was, the notes illustrated his struggle in writing and polishing this great novel and that only amplified my appreciation of The Great Gatsby
. Here's the wonderful cover for the book, by Francis Cugat.
You all have an assignment. Buy Wicked Break
. If you don't yet have it, add Killer Swell
to your library. And go read The Great Gatsby
Feeling All Author-y
This morning I did a "virtual booksigning" for Kayleighbug Books
in NY. The owner, Nathan Barker, sent me a box of books to sign, and I'm shipping them back today. They'll be available on his website.
So that made me feel all author-y. I also got my time slot for San Francisco's LitQuake
, Sunday, October 8, 1 p.m. at the Koret Auditorium of the Main Library.
I've got to get hustling on some plot tweaks of my second novel, Midnight Brunch
, but on the topic of midnight, I found Midnight Hour
, the blog for paranormal authors Lori Handeland, Linda Winstead Jones, Kathy Love, Stephanie Rowe, and Michelle Rowen. Werewolf fans will enjoy the post by guest blogger Carrie Vaughn
The term "midnight hour" makes me think of a few things. Billy Idol's "Rebel Yell,"
of course. And the first sequence in the scary movie, Twilight Zone
, where the song, "Midnight Special" played. Who knew Dan Ackroyd could be scary?
Ye Gods, It's September
Labor Day has come and gone-- fall is here if not officially by the calendar, then certainly unofficially by tradition. I love fall in Colorado. The air is crisp, the wilting heat passed and my energy level spikes.
All good things.
Book news-- Jeff Shelby
has had his first novel, KILLER SWELL nominated for a 2006 Colorado Book Award
. That's a tremendous honor and we'll all be rooting for him when the awards are presented in October.
On the home front, I got a piece of news that shocked, amazed and delighted me. Those of you who write know how nearly impossible it is to get your book covers changed. Well, my wonderful editor at Berkley, Jessica Wade, went to bat for me and presented my concerns that the cover made my protagonist look evil. The marketing/art department actually took that into consideration and CHANGED the cover!!! Now, Anna doesn't look sweet or docile by any means, but the sneer has been changed to a cold half-smile which to my way of thinking is much preferable! My thanks to Jessica and the folks at Berkley.
This weekend is Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers
Colorado Gold Conference. Now for those of you who think entering writing contests is a waste of time, let me just mention that one of our finalists (the winner in her category, actually, though I can't divulge the name) will be signing a contract with an agent at the conference.
Several have had their full manuscripts requested. All because of the contest. Next year, RMFW will do it again. Something to think about.
Old School Vampires
A common theme in this blog is the evolution of vampires away from the traditional lore. Modern vampires are seen in a more sympathetic light, often as tragic anti-heroes than pure monsters. Of course, vampires remain bloodsucking killers. There’s also an overt erotic theme in today’s undead literature, maybe because the majority of modern vampire authors are women.
We may read a lot about vampires but our images of them are shaped by what we’ve seen on TV, usually the old movies. There’s the famous interpretation of Count Dracula by Bela Logusi.
The first vampire movie I saw starred Christopher Lee, more famous to you kids as Count Dooku in one of the god-awful Star Wars sequels (should’ve named him Count Cuckoo).
Many people panned him in the role as a vampire but I enjoyed George Hamilton in Love at First Bite
More recently we’ve got Wesley Snipes as Blade
, a daywalker vampire fighting the bad vampires, who do a poor showing as undead monsters.
Let’s hear it from you Buffy fans. Who’s your vampire role model?
Judging a Book
It's all in the cover. If you don't like the cover, you're not going to pick up the book. I find myself drawn to the same covers, over and over again. I may not buy the book, but I pick it up and read the blurbs. The publisher has done half the battle there.
For a snarky dissection of book covers, check out Smart Bitches Who Love Trashy Books.
We all have different tastes, though, so word of mouth is important to book sales, too.
I probably would not have picked up Blue Moon
by Lori Handeland
because there's a guy's brawny torso on the cover -- but I'm having a terrific time reading her werewolf story. Her heroine, Jessie McQuade, is a cop in a small town in Wisconsin that's having a wolf problem. Jessie's a cynical, wary loner, smart, but more comfortable in the woods than with other people. I like her a lot.Blue Moon
is a real page-turner, and I'm unhappy that I have to put it down because I have my own writing assignments. The title also evokes the running theme song in the great werewolf movie, "American Werewolf in London."
Weres have their fan base. I've never been one, although I've read a few very good were books. I wish I could remember the name and author of a book about a woman who has to lock herself in her basement with a bag of dog food every full moon. Anybody know that one? Anybody have suggestions for a good werewolf read?