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!

Sunday, May 31, 2009
  Those bad girls
Mario here:

As a follow up to our recent contest, we noticed that while many women were depicted as heros, there were few female villains. So here at the Biting-Edge world headquarters, we squished our brains together and poured through our extensive pop culture files.

Interestingly, the first female villains that came to mind are from Disney.

Queen Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty.

Cruella DeVille from One Hundred and One Dalmations.


Ursula from The Little Mermaid.

In traditional movies we have:

My favorite, Theresa Russell as the icy serial killer in Black Widow.

The Borg Queen from the Star Trek movie, First Contact. Played with menacing creepiness by Alice Krige.

Glenn Close as the thoroughly psycho Alex Forrest in Fatal Attraction.

And the champion female villain?

Margaret Hamilton as the infamous Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz.

Chime in if we missed your favorite.

If you want to read about a thoroughly demented female villain (and stalwart female heros), check out my review of Nancy Taylor Rosenberg's latest thriller, The Cheater, here at The Big Thrill.

I had mentioned the anthology I'm in, Hit List: The Best of Latino Mystery was out. Well, it made the Denver Post bestseller list. Hurray!

The fabulous Lighthouse Writers Workshop is in the starting blocks for their annual Lit Fest.
I'm teaching a couple of classes, Rhetorical Devices: Not Just For Poets, and What Was the Question?
During the fest there will be lots of workshops, salons, and parties--words, wine, and music.

As part of the pre-Lit Fest activities, I attended their salon, The Draft: An Occasional reading Show. Two of the readers were poet Wendy Fryke

and novelist-in-training, Mia McKenzie

Thursday, May 28, 2009
  Romans du coeur - part one
First point of business—public apology to Gina. We had a coffee date yesterday and I got the day wrong. Hopefully, we’ll be able to do it again. I am so sorry.

Then, for all who have prize packages or other goodies coming, watch the mail. They are winging their way across America as we speak.

Topic this week: Favorite books. I followed with interest those of you who posted on Monday. Unfortunately, just got my galleys for Retribution and since they got lost in the mail and I received them on the 27th (yesterday) which is the date the letter says they are due back, I will not go into detail why these are my favorite. But since this was my idea, you at least get the list.

Here’s my short list (in no particular order):

Bram Stoker’s Dracula

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes (every one of them) Along with pastiches from Aubrey to Hardwick to Walsh—I love the character

August Derleth’s Solar Pons series (if you are a SH fan, you’ll know what these are.)

Ian Fleming’s James Bond (and to a lesser extent John Gardner’s and Raymond Benson’s extension of the series. Sebastian Faulk has added only one book one so far, so I’m reserving judgment.) Reason? Same as with SH above—can’t get enough of the character.

Robert B. Parker’s Spenser series (master of dialogue)

Ira Levin’s Rosemary’s Baby

Laurie R. King’s Mary Russell series (Some SH fans will breathe anathema – but I don’t think she reflects badly on Holmes’ character—no sappy love struck puppy here)

Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake series (especially the earlier ones)

Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse and Lily Bard “Shakespeare” series(s) (as different as it is possible to be)

Mario Puzo’s The Godfather.

Okay—this is my list off the top of my head. I have not included many of my contemporaries—perhaps that will be a part two.

Will be back next week with more Whedon news. I tried once again to load a music video that I thought my Buffybuds would enjoy, but as usual, can’t get the friggin’ thing to load. So if you’re interested in seeing a VERY young Alex Denisof in a George Harrison (!) music video—go here.

And here's the video!

Sunday, May 24, 2009
  It's in the story
Mario here,

We'll be chatting about novels so chime in.

Last week I attended two literary events. First, a reading and signing by Lily Burana.

She's getting lots of press for her newest book, I Love a Man in Uniform: A Memoir of Love, War, and Other Battles. (C-SPAN recorded her appearance.)

Burana is an former punk rocker/stripper who fell in love with an army officer and married him. The book is a witty, incisive look at life as a military wife. You wanted to hate Burana because she was so beautiful, eloquent, and smart but her charm and warmth won us all over. Damn her!

While I was at Burana's signing, fellow mystery writers Wick Downing (left) and Manuel Ramos each won a Colorado Authors League Top Hand Award (Downing for his YA novel, The Trials of Katie Hope. Ramos for his short story, The 405 Is Locked Up.)

The photo is from the signing Ramos and I hosted for the release of the anthology, Hit List: The Best of Latino Mystery.

Now, for the Main Event: Discuss your favorite novels.

I'll list mine in the order of first publication date.

The War of the Worlds, H. G. Wells (1898). Martian war machines! Heat rays! Mass panic! One of the first great science fiction stories and still one of the best.

Brave New World, Aldous Huxley (1932). I had to read this in high school. I couldn't believe the story was written in 1931 as it seemed so far ahead of its time. I'm convinced our government is run by alpha-minuses at best.

1984, George Orwell (1949). Originally a high school reading assignment. The book haunted me for years. "Take Julia! Take Julia!" Doublespeak. If anything, I wish the title would've been Big Brother because now that 1984 has come and gone, people might assume that the messages are no longer relevant. I'd thought about this book so much that when my oldest son asked for help in his homework, I had pages of notes ready.

The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, Carson McCullers (1940). Another mandatory high school read. So different than what I usually read at the time (lots of sci-fi and action thrillers) yet a story that drew me in and didn't let go. The first book to make me appreciate the craft of writing.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Bettie Smith (1943). I got interested in this book because of an old Warner Brothers cartoon. A dog saw a sign in a bookstore and ran off to Brooklyn, to pee I guess. I wondered what the fuss was about and checked out the book. No dog peeing as it's a captivating coming of age story of a girl in NY.

A Clockwork Orange, Anthony Burgess (1962). Amazing in-your-face, spare narrative. My best friend in high school and I got so into this book as the story appealed to our adolescent sense of anarchy. We even made costumes from the movie (very pre-fantasy con).

Crossing to Safety, Wallace Stegner (1987). One of my favorite reads of all time. Magical prose. What all writers should aspire to. I've bought many copies of this book only to give them away.

Dead Until Dark, Charliane Harris (2001). I frequently tell people that although I write vampire novels, I didn't like to read the genre until I got this book. Charlaine reinvented urban fantasy. The copies available today echo the True Blood TV show but I prefer the quirky original cover.

Altered Carbon, Richard K Morgan (2002). This book is such an over-the-top high-concept sci-fi winner that there's almost no point in trying to write anything else in the genre. Downright chilling.

Gone For Good, Harlan Coben (2002). A mesmerizing psychological thriller. Another of my all-time favorite reads. The prose is so good that it almost makes me cringe to dare call myself a writer.

Riding With The Queen, Jennie Shortridge (2003). Another book that I've bought many copies to give away. It's a very different story than what I usually read. The family black sheep musician returns to Denver to settle down and life keeps getting in the way. I discovered this novel when my sister sent an ARC. Sadly, I circulated it among my friends and never got it back.

The Lincoln Lawyer, Michael Connelly (2005). I'm not fond of legal thrillers but I got run over by this story. A pedal-to-the-metal masterpiece.

Succubus Blues, Richelle Mead (2007). I got the manuscript for this story in the hope of asking me for a blurb. (A blurb from me? Like that will sell any copies.) Well, this succubus worked her mo-jo on me. Richelle's other books has gone on to it the NYT best seller list but you never forget your first.

The Watchman, Robert Crais (2007). Crais is el numero uno mystery writer for me. I sink my chops into all of his books. I can't pick a favorite but I have to name one, so here you are.

There is life beyond the pages of a book, like Denver Roller Dolls chaos!

One of the lady bruisers from last Saturday's bout.

The cell phone doesn't take great action shots but you get a feel for the mayhem.

Thursday, May 21, 2009
  We have winners...
WOW—we had so many great entries, I’m glad this was random. It would have been impossible to choose based on content. So after numbering the entries, throwing them in a hat for each category (and believe me that wasn’t easy considering some of you lumped heros and villains together) and allowing for multiple entries (here’s a case where more was definitely better) our winners are:

Winner VILLAIN: Brooke Reviews who chose Freddy Krueger. If I'm not even safe in my dreams, where am I safe?!

Brooke email Mario at MarioAcevedo dot com with your snail-mail address

Winner HERO: AtticusRex whose winning entry (from many submitted) included:

1. Chuck Yeager
2. T.E. Lawrence
3. Theodore (Teddy) Roosevelt
4. Charles Lindberg
5. Audie Murphy

Whilst you also mentioned Sigorney Weaver's Alien character what about Linda Hamilton from the Terminator movies? Or TV's Zena Warrior Princess or Buffy? Or heck even two lasses from Thelma and Louise... heroines for their generation.

Atticus email Jeanne at JeanneStein dot com with your snail-mail address

The prize assortments contain all sorts of stuff we picked up at Romantic Times. Hope you have fun with the goodies. And props to Mario who amended his article about heroes to include an equal number of females. It only took gentle persuasion on my part...

We here at Biting edge love contests so it won’t be long until we’ve come up with some other way to get you talking.

Thanks again.

Speaking of chances to win, there’s still time to bid on our gift basket at Brenda Novak’s auction to Benefit Diabetes Research. The bidding is up to $155.00 for a great assortment of books from 7 Denver authors. You have a week left.

News that’s probably not:

If you’re a Whedon fan, you already know that Fox has renewed Dollhouse. From a WhedonInfo article:

In a stunning move, sources say Fox has renewed Joss Whedon’s “Dollhouse” for next fall…

The low-rated series was last seen given up for dead by the media in a field somewhere.

But the show’s DVR numbers are huge (averaging a 40% bump), online streaming is strong. It’s a sci-fi show, which tend to bring in strong ancillary revenue such as DVD sales for sister-company studio 20th TV. And it’s said that Fox execs rather like the series, especially the latter half of the season. Besides, a show airing in the fall on Fox is a bit like running in midseason on most networks — it’s not the network’s strongest part of the year and maybe ... maybe ...

And about the DVD set available July 28: along with the 12 episodes aired this season, the "Dollhouse" DVD will include the original unaired pilot "Echo" in addition to the never-before-seen standalone episode "Epitaph One."

Loved the Dollhouse Season Finale.

And if you are a Nathan Fillion/Castle fan: ABC has renewed it for a second season. What I want to know, though, is what happened to the poker games with all those big time authors that were supposed to be included in the episodes? I can only remember one.

Want to be a real life sleuth? Over at Lee Lofland’s Graveyard Shift, he’s posted an “Identify the Evidence and Help Us Solve a Real Crime.” In 1990, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston was robbed of half a billion dollars worth of art, including paintings by Rembrandt and Manet. The art has never been found. Neither have the two men who pulled off one of the greatest heists in art history.

Here is the clue:

Any idea what those keys fit? If you do, go to the link, submit your idea, and you might just collect part of the FIVE MILLION DOLLAR reward being offered.

This seems to be contest central this week. Several months ago, I posted the Amazon and Penguin Groups call for entries in this year’s Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. Here are the finalists:

Ian Gibson, Victoria, B.C., for Stuff of Legends, "a comic fantasy about heroism and celebrity, where a 15-year-old boy's fondest wish is granted and he is teamed with his idol, warrior hero Jordan the Red, to defeat villains, monsters and demonic armies."

James King, Wilton, Conn., for Bill Warrington's Last Chance. "In the novel, Bill Warrington tries to reestablish ties with his estranged children after he is diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. After several attempts at a reunion fail, he decides to kidnap his 15-year-old granddaughter, April, so that his children will be forced to talk to each other--and to him--as they attempt to 'rescue' April."

Brandi Lynn Ryder, Napa, Calif., for In Malice, Quite Close. "The novel opens in 1979 San Francisco, where an unlikely relationship forms between 15-year-old Karen, who longs to escape her abusive father, and wealthy art collector Tristan Mourault. Tristan gains Karen's trust and she soon adopts a new identity as his daughter, sending the two on an extraordinary odyssey that spans 15 years and two coasts."

Through this Thursday, May 21, the public can read excerpts of the books as well as critiques by a panel of publishing professionals and then vote for their favorites on amazon.com/abna. The panelists were authors Sue Grafton and Sue Monk Kidd, literary agent Barney Karpfinger and Penguin Press editor-in-chief Eamon Dolan.

The Grand Prize winner, who receives a publishing contract from Penguin and a $25,000 advance, will be announced in New York on Wednesday, May 27.

From Shelf Awareness: Publishing stats that may or may not be of interest--

Traditional book production in the U.S. declined 3.2% in 2008, but the on-demand category showed dramatic growth at "462% above levels seen as recently as 2006," according to Bowker, which compiled the statistics from its Books in Print database.

Bowker projected that U.S. title output decreased to 275,232 new titles and editions in 2008 from 284,370 in 2007, based on preliminary figures from U.S. publishers. 

Phenomenal growth in the on-demand books sector was reflected in Bowker's projections that 285,394 on-demand books were produced last year, a 132% increase over 2007's 123,276 titles and 462% above 2006 levels.

Bowker reported that the top five categories for U.S. book production in 2008 were fiction (47,541 new titles), juvenile (29,438), sociology/economics (24,423), religion (16,847) and science (13,555).

Fun stuff: Horror Blips did a best bloodsucker movie poll—hop on over and see if you agree with the picks. Them make your own here for the scariest, sexiest and funniest vamp movies.

Something sweet to close with. Friend Charlaine Harris made the NYT—not only with her #1 spot on the best seller list for Dead and Gone, but with this article. She mentioned on a loop that the author of the article, Motoko Rich, actually flew down to spend the afternoon with her at her home in Arkansas. There’s a really nice pic of Charlaine at her writing desk. Check it out.

So, what’s going on in your world? Looking forward to summer? Trips planned? What?
Sunday, May 17, 2009
  Hero worship
Mario here:

We got a bunch of great candidates for our villains. Now it's time for our heroes contest. Simply post a comment with your hero's name. Remember, we've got prizes to include a Devil Duck. Winners announced Thursday, May 21.

Let's start with a favorite of Jeanne's--Bond, James Bond.

Bookended here by hunks Daniel Craig and Sean Connery.

High on my heroes list is Hawkeye (played by colonial heart throb Daniel Day-Lewis), from Last of the Mohicans.

I'll throw another rock from the Trekkie faithful against the Star Wars geeks. Kirk and Spock could totally kick any Jedi Knight's or stormtrooper's butt.

Indiana Jones. Nuff said (though Bond could kick his ass).

How can we ignore Superman and Batman, rendered here by ace artist Alex Ross.

Steve McQueen in Bullit.

Harry Potter.

One from the golden age of television: The Lone Ranger.

Even slackers need a hero, as in the Dude from The Big Lebowski.

You can vote for a real life hero. Jesse Owens comes to mind.

What about the women!

Well, that brings us to one of the supreme ass-kickers as all time, Ripley from the Alien franchise.


I've been taking a lot of crap, and deservedly so, for not including more women heroes.

So from the screen:

True life women heroes.
Amelia Earhart, aviation pioneer.

Another aviation pioneer, author Beryl Markham.
Eileen Collins, the first female shuttle pilot and mission commander.
Babe Dickerson, one of the greatest athletes of all time.

Clara Barton, founder of the American Red Cross.

From Publishers Lunch:

(Fellow Leaguer) Cherie Priest's BLOODSHOT, the first novel in the Cheshire Red Reports, about a neurotic vampire/thief and her wealthy client who was blinded by a secret military project and hires her to steal back his records, to Anne Groell at Bantam Dell, in a two-book deal, by Jennifer Jackson at the Donald Maass Literary Agency.


This Thursday, May 21, I'm reading and signing with Manuel Ramos at the book launch of the anthology, Hit List: the Best of Latino Mystery. 7:30PM, Tattered Cover on Colfax, here in Denver.

Lighthouse Lit Fest.

I'm teaching a couple of classes during the totally awesome Lit Fest.

Rhetorical Devices: Not Just for Poets.
June 11, 2009. 5-7:30PM

What was the Question? How to keep your story on track.
June 18, 2009. 2-4:30PM
Thursday, May 14, 2009
  Now for the Good Guys--
Lots of good entries for the villain contest, now here’s your second chance to win a bunch of goodies by naming your favorite hero—rules are the same—add a comment here or on Monday and we’ll put all the entries in a hat and draw our two winners next Thursday.

I saw the new Star Trek over the weekend. I have mixed feelings. I think the casting was brilliant and the young actors really did their homework. Voice inflections, physical characteristics, the eyebrow thing—all worked.

Somehow, sadly, for me the story lacked—I can’t even put it into words—something. Drama. Suspense. I never felt the crew was in danger. Maybe because the villain wasn’t on screen that much. And the timeline confused me. I kept wondering why if they had traveled back in time (or was it ahead?) both planets couldn’t have been saved. Somebody help me.

I loved the glimpses into the early lives of young Spock and Kirk and the rest. And I hope they’ll do a sequel because I’m a Trekkie at heart.

Talking about movies, I’m not sure how I feel about this but here’s an early look at a new Sherlock Holmes movie. Have you heard about this:

From USA Today:

"We are trying to make a fun adventure movie," (Producer Lionel Wigram )says. "My favorites are the Bond films. Raiders of the Lost Ark. I want to make a movie like that."

Familiarity does breed box office. "The word of the day is 'branding,' " says Hollywood mogul Joel Silver, another of the film's producers and a force behind the Die Hard and Matrix series. "We are always looking for branded ideas. Audiences are interested in seeing something they know."

But with a difference, too. This Holmes is as brainy as ever but is a bruiser as well. Bare-fisted boxing, sword fighting and a mastery of martial arts have been added to his arsenal of weapons.


And a second look here.

Okay, my thoughts…Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law as Holmes and Watson?

The first problem for me is that Law is taller than Downey—that’s wrong. And Downey doesn’t have the angular edges to his face that Holmes had. I’ll probably be sparking a war here, but Basil Rathbone was the cinema Holmes for me. Until Jeremy Brett made the PBS series. I had the pleasure of meeting Brett when I lived in Southern California. I belonged to our own Baker St Irregular group called The Grimpen Admirers. We had dinners and dressed in vintage clothing and talked the Canon for hours. Brett was in Los Angeles for some function or another and our group met with him. It wasn’t long after his wife died and I’ll never forget his sad countenance. Still, he was warm and welcoming and I have a wonderful picture taken with him. Someday I’ll have to get it scanned so I can share it.

Anyway, in a wave of nostalgia, I started looking for some pics to share. I have Whedon stuff and a couple of other items but I think I’ll save them for next week. Let’s end with this.

First a well known Sidney Paget Drawing.

Next a couple of Rathbone images:

Jeremy Brett:

Downey & Law:

How do you feel about Sherlock Holmes? Ever read Doyle’s stories? Why do you think they still resonate with readers? Any thoughts on the new casting? Tell me.

Images above are from the Sherlock Holmes shop and the website of Sheryl Franklin.

And don't forget to enter the contest.... you can guess who my pick would be.

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