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!

Thursday, December 30, 2010
  On the road again...

Be back next Thursday. In the meantime, may all your new year's dreams come true....
Sunday, December 26, 2010
  Thanks for nothing, Santa

Mario here,
We're in the festive doldrums (i.e., hangover) between Christmas and New Years.

Before starting the Christmas recap, let's give a shout out to Anthony Garcia, the Artistic Director at El Centro Su Teatro. Anthony was chosen as the Theater Person of the Year by the Denver Post. He got extra points for those glasses.

We give another shout out, this one to Terry Wright, who's published The Beauty Queen, A Justin Graves Series thriller.

So how was your Christmas? While we're supposed to receive every gift with gratitude and warm hearts...still, we can get some crap. From KDVR.com, they offer this roundup of the Worst Christmas Gifts Ever.

Our faves:

A package of ground beef.

A frozen TV dinner.

Any Xmas horror gift stories to share?

See you next year.


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Wednesday, December 22, 2010
  Christmas in San Diego
Short and sweet this week. Happy Holidays. From Anna and Me.

Sunday, December 19, 2010
  Whadda ya want unda the Xmas tree?
Mario here:

We're all one-digit midgets as we get close to Christmas. Hopefully, everyone is done shopping for presents. I am and they're all in the mail (or UPS).

But we need to pause and announce the winner of our drawing for Juliet Blackwell shwag. Thanks to all of you who posted comments during the week.

And the winner is...Debi Murray!
Please send your snail mail address to Juliet at Julietblackwell dot net to collect your prize. Worth gazillions I'm told (in good karma).

Last Friday, the Biting-Edge attended the fantabulous literary smack down between Stephen Graham Jones and Jessie Bullington at the Broadway Book Mall.

Bloody punches were thrown. The audience gasped. Women swooned. Cookies eaten. Books sold. Everyone went home happy.

I've been working my way through Jones' anthology, The Ones That Got Away. Favorite story so far is about a treacherous ship-wrecked werewolf and the porpoises who get revenge. Weird and fascinating.

Years ago, I got a little blah about the whole Holiday spirit thing. But I've tweaked my attitude and enjoy every opportunity for music, mirth, and merriment. Anything to justify appropriate libations and hand waves from pretty carolers.

We've all got a Christmas list and here's mine. Of course, there's the usual: Good will to all, world peace, an end to hunger, yada yada. And also, getting on the NYT bestseller list, phone calls from Steven Spielberg, mega-buck contracts, the unqualified adoration from millions of strangers. You know, the simple things.

But what's Christmas without presents under the tree? Such as:

A Maserati Quattroporte

A Piper Meridian Turboprop

Plus I'll need a destination for that airplane. How about a villa in Tuscany? Something modest.

This is what Jeanne hopes is waiting under her tree.

What's on your list?

So you won't leave this blog empty handed, our special gift to you. From Mr. Christmas Spirit hisself...Weird Al Yankovic.

Happy Holidays!

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Thursday, December 16, 2010

Any one else feel as disorganized as I do? I even lost my favorite pen...well, I didn't actually lose it. I know it's buried under the rubble on my dining room table. Wrapping paper, cards, gifts, lists...Speaking of which, every time I complete one thing, three more appear. I haven't done a lick of writing in a month. Not writing makes me antsy. I'm counting the days to Christmas for a completely different reason than most. Once the holiday is over, I can get back to a regular schedule!!

Speaking of the gift-giving season, one of our league pals, Mark Henry, has a new book out. Now this one isn't for the faint of heart on your list. It's his first Ellora's Cave book which means sex--plenty of it. You can check it out here .

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On to some movie news--

I Am Number Four—although I hate mentioning the J.F. name (so I won’t), this looks pretty good though the themes sound familiar: “I won’t let anyone hurt you"- "I'll love you forever..." etc. etc.

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Trailer for Tron: Legacy

Hits the theaters December 17th in 3D.

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And last but not least, From Shelf Awareness and Deadline.com :Cate Blanchett is returning as Galadriel in The Hobbit, which Peter Jackson directs in February. Jackson has also set Ken Stott (Charlie Wilson's War) to play Dwarf Lord Balin, Sylvester McCoy (Dr. Who) to play the wizard Radagast the Brown, and Swedish actor Mikael Persbrandt (Day and Night) to play shape-shifter Beorn. Ryan Gage (Outlaw) will play Drogo Baggins and Jed Brophy (who appeared in the original The Lord of the Rings) will play the dwarf Nori, and William Kircher will play the dwarf Bifur.

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Two fun articles from Flavorwire :

5 Forgotten Literary Vampires
11:00 am Wednesday Dec 8, 2010 by Chelsea Bauch

Nice article about well—five forgotten literary vampires. How many of the stories have you read?

From Shelf Awareness and Flavorwire :
Literary Smackdown: Chaucer vs. Shakespeare

Who Invented More New Words?

And the word champion is... Flavorwire explored Vivian Cook's All in a Word (Melville House) and was particularly intrigued by the the wordy inventiveness of Chaucer and Shakespeare: "While Cook notes in both instances that the famed writers probably didn’t invent the words listed, as much as make the first recorded use of the language around them, it’s interesting to see who’s responsible for what."

Okay, I'm out for this week. Hope you're all enjoying the season and are better prepared than I seem to be.

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Sunday, December 12, 2010
  She's talking about If Walls Could Talk

Mario here:

We're once again welcoming Juliet Blackwell on the launch of yet another series. Is this woman unstoppable or what? 

I'm cribbing from Blackwell's bio, and here's what we got. She co-wrote with her sister under another pseudonym, Hailey Lind. They wrote the Agatha-nominated Feint of Art, the first installment in their four-book Art Lover's Mystery series. Since then, Blackwell's penned two more novels in her Witchcraft Mystery series, about a witch with a vintage clothing store, Secondhand Spirits, and the national bestseller sequel, A Cast-off Coven.

This week she released the first in her new Haunted Home Renovation Series, If Walls Could Talk, picked by Suspense Magazine for its Best of 2010.

All told, Blackwell published three books this year!

It seems that Juliet Blackwell is everywhere. And considering the architectural flavor of her new series, it's fitting to find a building named after her.

Contest. Comment on this blog for a drawing to win a fabulous Blackwell prize. The contest runs through midnight Saturday, MST, December 18, 2010, and I'll announce the winner next week. 

And now for our interview.

Congratulations on the launch of yet another series, The Haunted Home Renovation Mysteries. This is your seventh book, right? (And that’s not counting your book-length translation of Endangered Cultures by Miguel León-Portilla. You are such a brain.)

Ah yes, that’s me, quite the brain ;-) And yes, If Walls Could Talk is lucky number seven.

1. Why write a ghost story?  Where does your interest in ghosts come from? This story is unique (to me) in that your ghosts are hardly demonic or malevolent. 

I actually live in a house that might just be haunted – lights go on and off, doors open and close, and there are distinct sounds of footsteps overhead many nights.  But interestingly, I’ve never felt menaced by the sensations.  I did some reading and interviewing folks on the subject, and all seem to agree that many ghosts –perhaps most—are more confused and/or curious than actively malevolent. So in the first book of my new series, If Walls Could Talk, I thought I would start out with that sort of entity – especially since the protagonist, Mel Turner, is new to the paranormal world.  In the second book, Dead Bolt, the ghosts are decidedly more sinister. 

I haven’t ever “seen” a ghost, but I do work in a lot of old, historic homes that have been witness to a lot of life (and death).  I believe that we leave energy traces in the places we occupy, which is why some buildings just “feel” better than others.  And I’ve spoken with enough normally rational, macho construction workers that have told me about truly scary ghostly encounters that I keep an open mind, at the very least.

Finally, I’ve loved ghost stories since I was very small, whether around the campfire or in every book I could get my hands on.  I remember sneaking in when my big sisters were watching Dark Shadows—my mother forbid me to see it, for fear it would scare me. The vampire was okay, but I found the ghosts and witches truly captivating.

2. Have you accompanied or used the services of a ghost hunter?  If so, what happened?

I was once invited over to drive ghosts from a bungalow in Berkeley, which was a very interesting procedure.  I do a lot of research for my books, and there are certain processes which are considered fairly standard in the ghost-hunting industry, so we applied those tactics.  While I was there, lighting candles and ringing a bell, there were banging sounds from the front room…they went away when we finished sweeping the house.  We then burned the broom. Whether or not we were dealing with “real” spirits, the homeowners thought we were; after the “cleansing” they felt more in control of their own situation, and more comfortable in their surroundings.

I’ve also accompanied a couple of Mexican-born limpiadores (literally: “cleaners”) from herbal stores called botanicas, while they’ve performed cleansings – sometimes on houses before people move in, and twice in houses thought to be haunted.  Their tradition is based more in folk-Catholicism, mixed in with herbal blends and brews.

Finally, I have a friend who owns those little electronic devices that test for radio waves, like those used by the ghost hunters on TV – they found “greater than normal” activity in many areas of my house, including my bed, of all places.  I’m not sure what I think of that ;-)

3. How much do you believe in the paranormal? Have you ever witnessed something that made you go, hmmmm?

As I mentioned before, I live in an interesting home.  Plus, my mother’s family is from Louisiana and Texas, and I have a theory that the entire South is haunted.  Nothing like sultry nights and Spanish moss, plus a history of violence and strife, to create the right mood for the paranormal.

I have seen odd things in my life, and I do get strange feelings from time to time in old houses.  It makes sense to me that there may be more than what we can see – just as the air is full of invisible radio waves and broadcast signals, why couldn’t there be a whole lot else out there?  Plus, I’ve heard so many stories from people I trust that it’s hard to discount the idea in its entirety. 

But my background is in academia, so while I keep an open mind I approach the subject with skepticism.  Still, like a scientist once told me, the natural world is full of truly strange, unexplainable things. In quantum physics, for example, many of the world’s top scientific brains are finding that ions affect one another in ways we can only begin to imagine, almost as though they were acting on purpose rather than according to know scientific criteria.  It’s pretty interesting, rather paranormal-sounding stuff.  Never thought I’d be interested in physics!

4. In all your stories, you not only weave in a lot of the local culture and history but also make it germane to the plot. Do you work out these details in advance or do they emerge from the writing as you develop the manuscript?

I do a lot of research on the local area while I’m thinking through my plot, in part because I love doing research (sometimes it’s pure procrastination) and in part because the research gives me ideas.  I do like to ground my tales in the real-life city – San Francisco is a truly unique town, and serves as an important character in my books.  On the other hand, a lot of details emerge as I’m writing, as well, and I try to take advantage of the organic development of the story to meld it with actual historical and cultural details.

Some of the most unusual and gruesome storylines are real: recently I was reading about the supposedly haunted Atherton Mansion, which was built by Dominga Atherton.  She lived there with her daughter Gertrude and son-in-law George.  According to contemporary accounts, the two women dominated George and publicly ridiculed him as “the weaker sex”.  George took off to Chile, but died of kidney failure while on board ship.  The sailors put his body into a barrel of rum to preserve it, and shipped it back to S.F.  When it was delivered, the butler discovered his former master on the front stoop, preserved in rum.  Since then the house changed hands numerous times, but it is said to be haunted by Dominga, Gertrude, George, and one later owner who also hoarded cats.

Now I ask you: Who could make this stuff up?

5. Mel Turner is your oldest protagonist at 38 y.o. Unlike Lily Ivory or Annie Kincaid from your other series, she’s a mature, more self-assured woman and one who has already established herself in the Bay Area. Her wish is to untangle herself from her obligations and run away to Paris. Will she ever? Is this a common mid-life crisis for an older woman? (Actually, it sounds like a pretty good idea regardless of gender or how old you are.)

The desire to disappear and have a “do-over” can be pretty strong for a lot of us, especially as we approach our forties and fifties.  But I can only really speak for myself: when I was going through a divorce I had such a strong impulse to run away and start over again, and I used to fantasize about all sorts of destinations (including Paris). In the end, though, I had to stick around and deal with real life…I also had a young child at the time, which made things even harder.  I’m glad I chose to structure my life the way I did, because ultimately I founded a successful art business, 

and now I’m lucky enough to make a living as a writer.  But those ducking-out-on-obligations-and-running-away fantasies are still very real.  Maybe that’s why I’m a writer, so I get to pretend I’m a different person every day!

Usually a couple of martinis help if the impulse gets too strong ;-)

6. Mel focuses on Victorian-era architecture. Any chance she’ll be in a caper involving a haunted Mid-Century home?

Mel’s company, Turner Construction, focuses on restoring historic homes, so a lot of the story is about finding architectural details from that era, etc.  The first book is set in a Beaux Artes home, and the second in a Queen Anne Victorian – both are common styles in San Francisco. But I do think it would be fun in the third book to have Mel working on a mid-century home, especially since, given her historical preferences, she wouldn’t enjoy it all that much. I enjoy writing her grumpy thoughts – I can just imagine what she’d think of an Eichler home!  But she might just develop an appreciation for it, as I always do when I learn more about things.

 7. Will you rekindle the romantic interest between Graham and Mel? Considering that both Vincent and Zack lied to Mel, I don’t see her getting involved with them. Am I wrong? Or do they admit their mistakes, man up, and vindicate themselves?

Aaaah, you know I can’t give away romantic details!  But yes, Graham is a continuing character and though it may take a while, he’s still around.  In Dead Bolt, which I’m writing right now, Mel also meets a very interesting ghost-tour guide. Though my books aren’t romances, I do enjoy bringing in a bit of it for the sake of character development…and to ratchet up the tension.  And in Mel’s case, she’s got to get over being burned by her ex-husband, and what better way to do that than to start meeting interesting men?

8. How did you learn to write fiction? What compelled you to write cozy mysteries? 

I mostly learned by doing.  I know a lot of people get a lot of useful information and skills from taking classes and reading how-to books, but I’m more of a hands-on type.  Whether painting or gardening or repairing houses, I have to wade in and try it, and learn from experience. But one thing I know beyond a doubt: Writers should do whatever it is that helps them to write.  There’s no one process that works for everyone, so if the camaraderie and interaction of workshops and classes gets you to write, then enroll. If sitting watching the clouds waft by helps, than do that.  I know NaNoWriMo works for a lot of people, because it forces them to sit down and come up with words. 

I’ve always loved to read, and one day I just sat down and started writing.  And then I realized what I wrote was garbage, so I looked more closely at the books I liked, and tried to mimic them.  And then I wrote and re-wrote another thousand times or so, and then I wrote another book, and another, and I do think I’m getting better over time ;-)

“Cozy” mysteries, in which there’s no obvious blood and gore or sex on the page, were appealing to me because I wanted to use a lot of humor in my books.  But to tell you the truth, I didn’t even know what a “cozy” was until an agent told me I had written one.  And I’m not even sure the title really applies, since I get letters from devoted cozy readers who are upset that I use profanity and that my characters actually think about, and even participate in, SEX.  I guess I’m sort of cozy with an edge. 

9. What has surprised you most about being a professional writer? What personal attribute best helps you as a writer of fiction?

Biggest surprise: that you have to sell your own books.  I thought I would just write it, and people would buy it and read it.  I blundered into this industry with no real idea about how the publishing business works.  Now, years later, I’m a board member of Mystery Writers of American and Sisters in Crime, and I have many writer friends, so I’ve learned a whole lot.  Hard to believe how naïve I was about this business when I first started, but I guess it has to do with my tendencies to rush into things without proper training, as I mentioned above.

Most useful personal attribute: I have it on good authority that I’m pretty stubborn.  That can be a bad thing, of course, but the ability to translate frustration and anger into determination is a valuable asset in this business.  When you get knocked down (as we all do in publishing) you have to react by become more entrenched, rather than just curling up into a ball in the corner (of course, sometimes you have to huddle in the corner for a day or two before screwing up your courage, but whatever it takes).  But in the end, you simply have to persevere, beyond all reason, if you want to land a contract in the first place, and continue to succeed with future books.

10. You’ve worn many hats in your professional career, such as artist and anthropologist.  Tell us about your experience as a social worker. How does that reflect in your writing?

If Walls Could Talk was especially fun for me to write because I’ve brought in more of my personal experience into the story: I’ve worked on a lot of construction sites and remodels as a faux finisher/muralist, and I bring in just a little anthropology as well. While I’ve brought some of those interests into previous books, you’re right that Walls is the first time I’ve explicitly brought in social work, by making Mel’s friend, Luz, a social work professor. 

As disciplines, social work and anthropology and art (both painting and writing) share a lot in common: Primarily, they all rely upon careful observation of the world and those around us.  In addition, they usually require a good deal of compassion, or the ability to understand others. As a social worker, I got to peek inside so many different lives, most of them made difficult due to poverty, lack of education, or outright abuse. It made me try to see the world through my clients’ eyes, and as a writer that’s exactly the sort of thing we do.    

11. Who are your writing influences? Do you have a writing philosophy that guides your writing style? 

My only guiding philosophy is to try to quiet all the external shouting and just listen to my internal writer’s voice. I try to write my story without thinking about other similar books in the genre, or genre “rules”, or what’s selling, or what’s commercially viable, or what’s most likely to be nominated for an award…I’m not always successful, but I try. 

I have too many influences to name…they tend to be whoever I’m reading and enjoying at the moment.  But just to name a few: Nick Hornby for character voice; Sherman Alexie and Joyce Carol Oates for playing with language; Barbara Kingsolver and Richard Russo and Amy Tan for communities of characters; Walter Mosley and Tony Hillerman for setting as character; and finally, Elizabeth Peters/Barbara Michaels for her adventure-oriented, smart, often academic characters looking into historical mysteries that lead to present-day murder (she was my first real mystery love, way back in high school).

And I can’t forget so many of my contemporary mystery and urban fantasy authors (yourself and Jeanne included), for everything from the use of language to pushing the boundaries of our genres.

12. In between deadlines, what is your favorite way to relax and clear your head? (Besides running away to Paris.)

Given financial restraints, I’ve never actually run away to Paris…but if that huge advance comes through you’ll know where to find me ;-)

In the meantime, I’m bound to more homestyle fun, like painting, gardening, spending time with friends, hiking in the redwood forests, hanging out in bars and restaurants and enjoying everything the Bay Area has to offer, like art exhibits and music and ethnic festivals.  Just the other day I sent off a manuscript and walked the three miles to Oakland’s Chinatown, shopped in their fabulous grocery stores, bought some noodles and char sui bau, ate by Lake Merritt, strolled around the lake, bought fresh produce at the farmer’s market, came home and did the New York Times crossword puzzle, then went out for drinks and dinner with friends in San Francisco.  It’s a little hard to complain.  

Thanks Julie!

A former anthropologist and social worker, Juliet Blackwell has lived in Mexico, Spain, Cuba, Italy, the Philippines, and France. She lives in Oakland, California, where she is a muralist and portrait painter. A two-term president of Northern California Sisters in Crime, she is now a board member of SinC/NorCal and MWA .

                                                    Coming summer 2011--->

You may find more about her books at: 



Happy Fanging!


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Wednesday, December 08, 2010
  All I Want For Christmas...
Is the end of piracy...

Not nearly as much good stuff as last week, but a few items that might tickle your fancy. This one in particular gave me hope. From PRNewswire.

German Court Upholds Fines Against Rapidshare….

Now unless you're a writer and haven't had the pleasure of seeing your books offered for free download a couple thousand times, you may think this is unimportant. But I keep waiting for our government to go after these jerks. Somehow there is an idea out there that closing these sites is an infringement of First Amendment Rights. Since when is stealing a First Amendment right? I'd like to see some of my tax dollars go to upholding the rule of law. Imagine that.

End of speech.

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How about another contest? From Shelf Awareness:

Amazon.com and Penguin Group are sponsoring the fourth annual Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award that will, for the second year in a row, have two categories: general fiction and YA novel. Writers from around the world with unpublished or self-published novels are invited to enter. Both grand prize winners will be published by Penguin and receive $15,000 advances.

Follow the link for rules and an entry form.

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A picture is worth....

From Boing Boing: the glorious, teetering books in the occult section at a Boston bookstore, courtesy of Dan Swenson. Now that's my kind of woowoo firetrap!

Wonder what the Boston Fire Marshal thinks of this????

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From Yahoo!News:

The Internet search leader opened its long-awaited electronic book store Monday, competing against Amazon.com Inc. and further accelerating the shift of book distribution from brick-and-mortar stores to the Web…

Unlike Amazon or Apple Inc., Google Inc.'s entry is giving independent retailers a way to keep up with the times.

Google is allowing merchants to sell its inventory of 3 million electronic books through their own sites and bring in more money as they scramble to adjust to the rising popularity of e-readers such as Amazon's Kindle and computer tablets such as Apple's iPad.

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From the same producers of So You Want to Write a Novel, here’s How to Write A Romance Novel….. These short videos are great!

These videos are put together by an outfit called xtranormal … Maybe I should try this for a video book trailer!!!

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In case you’re interested (and I’m not) here’s Flavorwire’s take on The Best Moments from Jonathan Franzen’s Appearance on Oprah.

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In movie news, The Tempest, based on the play by William Shakespeare, opens this Friday, December 10. Helen Mirren, Felicity Jones, Alfred Molina, Russell Brand, Chris Cooper, Djimon Hounsou and David Strathairn star. The film is directed by Julie Taymor.

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Thanks to one of my Buffybuds for this tidbit:

The First Buffy-loving Queen From Jessica Martin at Sci-Fi Crowsnest :

Catherine Elizabeth Middleton (aka Kate) is getting hitched to Prince William, it was announced this afternoon. Amid all the plans for the wedding next year, one story you can pretty much guarantee not hearing on the BBC is that Kate Middleton was a big Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan as she was growing up when the series was on TV.

Waity Katy, as the red-tops liked to call the ever-patient Kate (who has been waiting eight years for this announcement), used to keep a poster of Prince William in her room when she went to Marlborough College - directly adjacent to one with Sarah Michelle Gellar and Anthony Stewart Head.

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Two more of our League friends have new books out--

The delightful Dakota Cassidy's You Dropped a Blonde on Me.

From Amazon: She was the perfect party-planning, haute-to-the max trophy wife. Now Maxine Cambridge is broke, unemployable and living with her mother and teenage son in a retirement village, with her self-esteem kicked to the curb.

Until her geeky former classmate Campbell Barker returns, all grown-up- and off-the-scale smokin' hot. Campbell refuses to believe Max isn't that smart, funny girl he's crushed on since high school. The more Max tries to show him he's wrong, the more she rediscovers her long-retired mojo. Now, she's ready to throw down some payback on her ex-life and fight for what she deserves...

The amazing Richelle Mead - The epic finale in Richelle Mead's #1 international bestselling Vampire Academy series.

Follow this link for a trailer for this last installment in a phenomenally successful series.

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Okay, sportsfans, one last item. This Saturday Mario, Warren Hammond and I are signing in Colorado Springs at the Borders "Colorado Springs NORTH" store in the Chapel Hills Mall at 1710 Briargate Boulevard, Colorado Springs, CO. This is my first CoSprings signing so if you're in the area, stop by and say hello. We'll be there from 1 - 5 PM. It's part of a Pikes Peak Writers fund raiser.

So, is everyone ready for the BIG day? Cards mailed? Shopping done? Packages shipped? For my Jewish friends, last night was the final night of Hanukah so you can relax now and watch us goyum run around in a panic, desperate to make everything just RIGHT. No wonder so many people hate the holidays. The stress is awful. I, for one, look forward to after Christmas when I get to meet my daughter's boyfriend for the first time. I already like him, though. Anyone who can put that smile in her voice is alright by me....

Sunday, December 05, 2010
  We be Pimping!
Mario here,

We've got a lot of great writers to pimp this week. An amazing bunch of women authors. Sophie Littlefield, Deborah CoontsLori Armstrong, and Caitlin Kittredge.

But first, a word from our sponsor...me.

This Tuesday, my graphic novel, Killing the Cobra: Chinatown Trollop, escapes its cage and is at last, available to the public. 

It's undead mayhem at its best. Fangs, guns, one bloodbath after another, electric harpoons, ball gags! Wow! I'm surprised I haven't been arrested for unleashing so much chaos.

On sale at your local comic book outlet, Barnes & Noble, and Amazon.

I'll be signing Sunday, Dec 12, 3pm, at the Broadway Book Mall. Also signing, authors Warren Hammond, Alastair Mayer, David Boop, Laura Reeve, and Win Scott Eckert.

We return to our regular programming.

One of the bennies of being an author is that I've had the privilege of meeting many talented writers. In fact, considering their accomplishments and praises, I wonder if they consider me their peer!

Two of these authors, Sophie Littlefield and Deborah Coonts, received mentions in last Sunday's New York Times' Notable Crime Books of 2010.

Backstory. Three years ago, I met Sophie Littlefield at the L.A. Times Festival of Books. We were having dinner at a Korean restaurant with a bunch of fellow mystery writers. She was this tall and gracious lady who told me about her first book being shopped around by her agent. Now--and this is an admission of my failing--I don't think I responded with the appropriate level of enthusiasm (my thoughts were elsewhere that night) because I hear a lot of writers talk about their forthcoming books, and unfortunately, a lot of that optimism remains talk. In this case, was I WRONG. Since then, Sophie's debut novel, A Bad Day for Sorry, has garnered a fistful of award nominations, and won an Anthony for Best First Novel.  I've read that book and the sequel, A Bad Day for Pretty, and well, my ego hurts from its comeuppance. 

I think I learned that lesson, so when I met Deborah Coonts, at our MWA chapter summer pot luck in Colorado Springs, I set my ears at maximum gain. As was Sophie Littlefield, Deborah was warm and gracious (though not as tall). Her debut novel Wanna Get Lucky is one of those stories that rolls over you, and you're disappointed when it stops. You want more. It's a smart and snarky dissection of Las Vegas, starting with a woman falling out of a helicopter into the lagoon at the Treasure Island Hotel, a swinger convention, a midwife helping deliver a baby in a porn arcade, the hero's mom runs a bordello, and then things get weird.  

Next up, one of my favorite tough ladies, Lori Armstrong, announces the massmarket release of her book, No Mercy. Besides winning the Shamus for Snow Blind, Lori has garnered tons of blurbs from USA Today, the Wall Street Journal, Publishers Weekly, you name it. Lori's prose is hard-boiled and razor sharp.

Last year I spent a full eight days with Caitlin Kittredge when she, Cherie Priest, Mark Henry, and I embarked on the Paranormal Bender Tour: Seattle to Portland, OR, via Sacramento, Las Vegas, San Diego, Burbank, and San Francisco in a small Kia SUV. I thought we were doing a confined-space study for NASA. First rule of the trip: nothing from Taco Bell. At that time, Caitlin safeguarded the news that she had gotten a wonderful deal for her Lovecraftian steampunk YA series. Well, there is no safeguarding that news anymore. The first book in the series, The Iron Thorn, is out. It will blow you away.

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Wednesday, December 01, 2010
  Something for Everyone...

Because I didn't post on Thanksgiving, I have a s**t-load of news this week. Something for writers, readers, movie lovers, EVERYONE. Before I get started, though, hope you all had a good holiday. Time to catch your breath before the Christmas/Hanukah madness begins. And when you're making those gift lists, remember books and shop your independent book stores. This link will help you find an indie near you. As for me, here in Denver it's the Tattered Cover and in San Diego, Mysterious Galaxy. Both of which just happen to have signed copies of my books if you're looking for stocking stuffers....Just sayin'

End of paid political message. :-)

First up-- some news for the script writers among us... A contest to check out.

Amazon has launched Amazon Studios, inviting filmmakers and screenwriters to submit full-length movies and scripts to compete for monthly and annual Amazon Studios Awards. The company said it will offer a combined $2.7 million during a year's worth of monthly and annual contests for best scripts and movies, and will seek to develop the best projects as commercial feature films under a first-look deal with Warner Bros.

For the 2011 Annual Awards, Amazon Studios will give $100,000 for the best script and $1 million for the best movie submitted by December 31, 2011.

To be eligible for the first monthly awards, test movies and scripts must be uploaded by January 31. Winners of the first monthly awards will be announced near the end of February--$100,000 for the best full-length test movie and $20,000 each for the two best scripts.

The initial Amazon Studios industry panelists are Jack Epps, Jr., screenwriter and chair, writing division of the USC School of Cinematic Arts; Mark Gill, producer and former president of Miramax and Warner Independent Pictures; screenwriter Mike Werb and Michael Taylor, producer and chair, production division of the USC School of Cinematic Arts.

Under the Amazon Studios development agreement, if a filmmaker or screenwriter creates a project with an original script and it is released by Amazon Studios as a theatrical feature film, the submitter will receive a rights payment of $200,000; if the movie earns more than $60 million at the U.S. box office, the original filmmaker or screenwriter will receive a $400,000 bonus. If Warner Bros. chooses not to develop a particular project, Amazon Studios can produce it in cooperation with another studio.

So you want to write a novel...the conversation we writers have all had at one time or another.

And briefly, news that probably isn't anymore- The New York Times will now rank E-Book sales.Now, if they only included all those pirated downloads out there, a lot of us would make that damned list!!!

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Now for some media news.

The Good -

Dr. Who, A Christmas Carol on BBC America Christmas Day

The Bad -

OMFG - Worst Idea Ever? Buffy the Vampire Slayer Is Getting a Reboot—Without Joss Whedon

From EonLine

After years of fans hoping Joss Whedon's incarnation of the Buffy-verse might make it to the big screen, Warner Bros. has just offically announced they're doing a "reboot" version of Buffy, without any apparent involvement by the original creative team for the movie or TV show, including the man considered the end-all be-all Buffy mastermind, Whedon.

And Joss' reaction .

The Weird -

This grisly little video -- an online viral for Blomkamp's next film? Seems like it, right? Check out the video below (courtesy of Slashfilm.)

The Ugly - From Fandango

Christian Bale Says 'The Dark Knight Rises' Is His Final Batman

This isn't exactly surprising news since we figured Christian Bale and some of his Batman co-stars were signed to a three-picture deal from the get-go, which means The Dark Knight Rises will put an end to their commitment to this franchise. But while promoting The Fighter over the weekend, folks wanted to hear it straight from the horse's mouth. When asked whether this would be the final Batman movie for him, Bale responded, "I believe, unless Chris [Nolan] says different, this will be the last time I'm playing Batman," later adding, "Until Chris tells me, I don't believe it, It's gotta be from his mouth, or else I don't really know."

The Just Plain Cute -

Stand clear of the closing doors, please... muggles! Alert subway riders in New York may notice a timely addition to the city's transit system. The Daily News reported that "an enchanted symbol has appeared on a 14th St. Union Square subway sign--one that any Harry Potter fan will recognize as a clever nod to the boy wizard's magical world: a maroon circle emblazoned with the mystical number 9 3/4." The next stop is Hogwarts.

The Much Anticipated -

And here is the third teaser trailer for HBO's upcoming fantasy series Game of Thrones, which is based on the books by George R.R. Martin, and is now filming in Ireland for a 2011 premiere.

Clip Preview

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Trying to decide between the Nook and the Kindle?

Time magazine offered a comparative review of the two devices and concluded they "are different enough that choosing between them isn't a head scratcher. If you want a monochrome E Ink screen, absurdly long battery life and the option of 3G wireless so you don't need to hunt for a wi-fi hotspot, buy a Kindle. If you crave backlight color and a touch interface, don't require 3G and don't mind charging up your gadgets every couple of days, get a Nook Color. I like 'em both--and I don't see either being rendered obsolete by pricier full-strength tablets any time soon."

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And one last thing. MadNorweigan Press sent us the table of contents for the upcoming book, Whedonistas . Here's the complete listing of contents. This has to be a must for any Whedon fan, she says modestly.

A Celebration of the Worlds of Joss Whedon By The Women Who Love Them
Edited by Lynne M. Thomas and Deborah Stanish

Lynne M. Thomas and Deborah Stanish: Introduction

Seanan McGuire: The Girls Next Door: Learning to Live with the Living Dead and Never Even Break a Nail

Nancy Holder: Ramping Up for a Decade with Joss Whedon

Sharon Shinn: Outlaws & Desperadoes

Jane Espenson (Interview)

**Jeanne C. Stein: My (Fantasy) Encounter with Joss Whedon (And What I’ve Learned from the Master)** :-)

Sigrid Ellis: The Ages of Dollhouse: Autobiography through Whedon

Heather Shaw: A Couch Potato’s Guide to Demon Slaying: Turning Strangers into Family, Buffy-Style

Laurel Brown: Smart Is Sexy: An Appreciation of Firefly’s Kaylee

Caroline Symcox: Teething Troubles and Growing Up

NancyKay Shapiro: Transgressing with Spike and Buffy

Priscilla Spenser: Brand New Day: The Evolution of the Doctor Horrible Fandom

Elizabeth Bear: “We’re Here to Save You”

Mariah Huehner: Imperfectly Perfect: Why I Really Love Buffy For Being a Pill Sometimes

Kelly Hale: My European Vacation

Lyda Morehouse/Tate Hallaway: Romancing the Vampire and Other Shiny Bits

Juliet Landau (Interview)

Maria Lima: I Am Joss Whedon’s Bitch

Jackie Kessler: Going Dark

Jaala Robinson: Joss Giveth

Sarah Monette: The Kindness of Monsters

Jody Wurl: Shelve Under Television, Young Adult

Dae Low: The Browncoat Connection

Racheline Maltese: Late to the Party: What Buffy Never Taught Me about Being a Girl

Meredith McGrath: How an Atheist and His Demons Created a Shepherd

Jamie Craig: Older and Far Away

Teresa Jusino: Why Joss Is More Important Than His ‘Verse

Catherynne M. Valente: Let’s Go to Work

Jenn Reese: Something to Sing About

Emma Bull: Malcolm Reynolds, the Myth of the West, and Me

PS From Mario: His sister is trying to raise money for a sports program for kids in the impoverished areas of Austin Texas. You can check it out and vote here--


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