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, November 30, 2011
One big holiday down, how many more to go? 'Tis the season.
Three things before I share some tidbits from my web perusing this week--
First, Mario's blog entry on Monday got an A+ from me. Good job, pal!
Second, our mutual friend and fellow Leaguer , Stacia Kane , is recovering from a horrific couple of months in a UK hospital. It's good to have you back, Stacia. We missed you.
And third, pal Cherie Priest's Boneshaker is headed for the big screen. Details here from Variety. Congratulations, Cherie!!
Anne McCaffrey, author of nearly 100 books, co-author of more than 30 and best known for the Dragonriders of Pern series, died on Monday ( Nov. 21) at her home in Ireland. She was 85.
McCaffrey was the first woman to win a Hugo Award (in 1968) and the first woman to win a Nebula (in 1969). She was the daughter of an army colonel, was born in Cambridge, Mass., and grew up in Montclair, N.J. She was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2006.
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There was an interesting article in yesterday's WSJ about rethinking the book signing. Readings are out. Evidently, readers want to be entertained with power point presentations and stand up routines. What do you think? I do know I've come to realize after eight books that I must have some remarks prepared before each signing--which can be a challenge since I'm basically a pretty dull girl. The good people who come to see me every time deserve my best effort and new material.
So I put the question to you out there: what do you want to see/hear at a signing?
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And another topic near and dear to a writer's heart-- rejection. Flavorwire offers up some of the harshest rejections sent to the likes of Gertrude Stein, Ursula LeGuin, Kurt Vonnegut, Vladimir Nabokov, and my personal favorite—Hunter S .Thompson’s note to his biographer, William McKeen :
McKeen, you shit-eating freak. I warned you not to write that vicious trash about me Now you better get fitted for a black eyepatch in case one of yours gets gouged out by a bushy-haired stranger in a dimly-lit parking lot. How fast can you learn Braille?You are scum.HST
So see, my writer friends,no matter the rejection-- it could be worse!
I get somewhat embarrassed when I'm on panels at fantasy/sci-fi cons, because as I've mentioned before, unlike most of my fellow urban fantasy writers, I didn't read much fantasy, horror, and science fiction during my formative years. Most of the other panelists recite lists of their favorites and I nod, pretending that I'm in the know.
My fiction reading back then was split between the pulps I bought at the used book store and the pot-boiler thrillers my dad brought home. My father would treat himself to a new book and he'd spend the weekend crashed on the couch devouring the latest by Follet, Forsyth, Clavell, Crichton, etc.,
I look back on all the books I've read and can pick off the few that really touched me. Now I have to acknowledge one novel--largely forgotten--that did key into me when I first read it. The Eiger Sanction by Trevanian.
Art professor and collector Dr. Jonathan Hemlock moonlights as an assassin for CII, a supersecret cell within the CIA. His job is carry out sanctions, killings to avenge the murders of friendly spies. A "retired" mountain climber, Hemlock is blackmailed into scaling the treacherous Eiger mountain and sanctioning one of his fellow climbers...unless he's murdered first.
As a young man in my early twenties, chomping at the bit for manly adventure, this book engaged me with its thrills, sophisticated patter and exotic tone. My best friend Ron and I would grab rope and carabiners to climb and rappel the local hills, all the time arguing which of us would make the better Jonathan Hemlock, outfoxing the bad guys and bedding femme fatales. What gave the book its cultured tone were the offhanded references to things it sometimes took years to discover what the author meant. Such as café au lait. That was in the prehistoric days before the Internet and Starbucks. (Back then, coffee was either regular or decaf--or Sanka bleah! ) Even the humongous dictionaries in the libraries were of no help. After weeks of searching, I stumbled upon a reference tocafé au lait and mystery solved.
Laphroaig was another challenge. It was Hemlock's choice of hootch and he asked for it frequently. Even Hemlock's enemies knew he drank Laphroaig. But no one I knew had a clue about Laphroaig. It took me two decades before I learned it was a peaty, single malt scotch. About that time I had moved to Denver from Fresno and my first priority in civilization was to find said beverage. Which I did, and I bought several miniatures to send to Ron for his 40th.
Many years (and bottles of hootch) later, I've come to revisit The Eiger Sanction. Why this book? I didn't even bother to keep a copy and there have been other books that I've continually endorsed.
I was curious to find out if Eiger retained its magic. Right before I was first published, I thumbed through a library copy and thought the style seemed dated. Then recently, I decided to give the book another read to see what had made it a bestselling sensation back in the 70s.
Here at Biting-Edge we do a lot of things, all of them consensual and mostly legal, but what we don't do is review books. We do, however, pass along recommendations for books that we enjoyed. I don't feel comfortable offering public critiques on the works of my fellow writers. Bad karma. You want to read negative press then pop on over to Amazon and get your fill of ignoramuses thinking they're being erudite and clever.
We writers of long fiction get a lot of shall not rules. Thy shall not start a book with the weather. Thy shall not deviate from a single Point-of-View and least of all, ever ever use authorial POV. Thy shall not touch backstory info dumps with a ten foot pole. Thy shall not use big words. And on and on.
Trevanian stomped all over these rules.
The Eiger Sanction, blockbuster commercial megaseller, starts with...the weather. Fitting as to mountain climber Jonathan Hemlock, the capriciousness of the elements could turn a jaunt up the slope from pleasant to miserable to deadly.
Trevanian weaves in and out of third person POVs and even slips into the royal we.
He drops backstory info dumps by the ton, which explain the why behind the story and stoke the drama.
Big words? We're taught that a reader's attention is so fragile that any mental bump will turn into a yawning excuse to toss the book and play with razors. So keep the vocabulary at mid-grade or below. Obtuse or unusual words will kill your story (though that hasn't hurt the career of China Miéville). Trevanian treats us to Laphroaig, scrofulous, abacination, lepidote, morganatic, and more.
Then what works? Everything. Trevanian hews to a clear story question. He is a master at setting. Pacing. Descriptions. Internalisations. All of his characters are motivated and layered. The emotional and physical stakes are sharpened on every page. Every passage of dialog is a tug of war.
Moreover, the book is a harvest of fresh writing.
Jonathan simply opened his eyes, and he was awake. Calm and happy. For the first time in years there was no blurred and viscous interphase between sleeping and waking. He stretched luxuriously, arching his back and extending his limbs until every muscle danced with strain. He felt like shouting, like making a living noise. His leg touched a damp place on the sheet, and he smiled. Jemima was not in bed, but her place was still warm and her pillow was scented lightly with her perfume, and with the perfume of her.
He looked across the up-tilted meadow to the gloomy north face of the Eiger. The unstable warmth of the weightless mountain sunlight was puffed away time and again by wisps of crisp highland air. Touched only once a day and briefly by the sun, the dark concave face hovered malignantly above him, looking as though it had been scooped out of the body of the mountain by some olympian shovel, its brittle gray-black crescent rim cutting into the glittering blue of the sky.
Even after the crack petered out and progress slowed, Jonathan's feeling of indomitability persisted. Each square meter of face was a gameboard of tactics, a combat against the unrelenting, mindless opposition of gravity in which the rock was a Turkish ally, ready to change sides if the going got rough. What was refreshing is that the story lacks the strained earnestness of most modern thrillers--must stop and waterboard al Queda, eco-terrorists, rogue liberals, zombie fascists. Adding to the appeal of the book was the mystery behind the author, Trevanian, the pen name of the secretive writer and film scholar Rodney William Whittaker (1931-2005). As the word processor hadn't been invented yet, I can see Trevanian banging out his many manuscripts on a Selectric. As much as I appreciated Eiger, I can't say the same for all his later works. The Loo Sanction seemed a rushed sequel. Shibumi, his most acclaimed book, I couldn't get into. The Main I did enjoy as a superb mystery and I'll have to reread it.
PS Avoid the movie version starring Clint Eastwood. It's a casserole of 70's cheese.
Hope you find plenty of turkey on your dinner table this Thursday. But you'll find no turkey of any kind this week on the Biting-Edge as we do Mondo pimpage!
To help solve your Christmas shopping dilemma, our ever thoughtful Jeanne invites you to check her out! Along with Melissa Mayhue and Lizzie T. Leaf...
Saturday, November 26, 11AM-3PM Barnes & Noble Westminster 9370 Sheridan Blvd., Westminster, CO
More good news! The anthology, Tied with a Bow, featuring writer pal, Kimberly Frost, made the New York Times Bestseller list.
Back when in my pre-publication days, my sister passed along an ARC of Riding With The Queen by Seattle author Jennie Shortridge, and that book become one of my all-time favorite reads. Now ten years later (!!!) Jennie announces that her fifth book, Love Water Memory, will be published in spring 2013, by Simon & Schuster. That's a long time from now so to hold you over, Jennie offers the prologue.
With a planet of ideas begging for movie adaptation, Hollywood can often be very insular and navel gazing. In this case we have two movie projects on the same story: Snow White. Though I was certain I'd never be interested in any remake of this tale, both of these movies appear dazzling enough to make it to my must-see list. Sadly, in both cases, you must wait until 2012.
First we have a zany colorful retelling, Mirror, Mirror, with Julia Roberts as the evil Queen and Nathan Lane as her buffoonish minion.
Then in June 2012, we have this dark version with Snow White as a Joan of Arc character pitted against the evil Queen (an icy Charlize Theron) in Snow White and the Huntsman. Villainy was never so pretty.
Have a terrible cold so my brain is too fuzzy to be very coherent. You can tell I'm sick because I missed not only critique Tuesday night but dinner with pal Cherie Priest who is in town for a signing. I hate colds.
Anyway, here's the official Hunger Games trailer just released:
And an article from MTV.com with more teasers from the film.
From Shelf Awareness:
BookBrowse.com recently completed its biennial survey of 3,400 readers, including members (20%), newsletter subscribers (60%) and "organic visitors" (20%). Respondents were predominantly female, most over 35 years old and with above average education (75% have a bachelors degree, 40% have a masters or higher). Some highlights from the survey:
Respondents split equally between those who read e-books at least sometimes, and those who rarely or never do. Over two-thirds still read print frequently.
About half of those who read electronically own a Kindle. Tablets are the next most popular, followed by the Nook.
90% buy at least one book each month, with 54% buying 3-plus, 27% buying 6-plus.
Frequency of visits to bookstores online, and libraries both online and in person, remains unchanged versus 2009; but the percentage saying they visit a store in person less than once a month has risen 5% to 24% since 2007.
Talking About Books 67% recommend three or more books each month.
More than 30% write reviews or blog, most for fun, some for a living.
8% are librarians or booksellers (and a further 8% volunteer in the library).
Online book clubs are growing in popularity but in-person book clubs dominate.
Two-thirds of book clubs plan their reading 2-3 months in advance or less.
Overall, book clubs skew towards newer fiction but most read a wide range.
Two-thirds wait for a less expensive format to become available.
85% say they read books by local authors at least occasionally.
Very few book clubs feel they must have a reading guide, but most appreciate them.
65% regularly use social networking sites, ranging from 95% penetration among 18-34 year olds, to 37% for those aged over 75.
Facebook dominates, followed by GoodReads. LibraryThing and Shelfari trail.
Even though two-thirds use social networking, only 25% use it to keep up with websites. E-mail remains the preferred vehicle to stay in touch.
So as writers, what should we take from this? It's a very small sampling but it looks like people are still reading paper books though at least half read e-books at least occasionally. The percentage of those who visit a bookstore in person less than once a month rose to 24%. That does not bode well for brick and mortar stores. People talk about the books they read, recommending them to others or participating in book clubs which often wait to read a book until a less expensive format is made available. 95% of 18-34 year olds regularly use social networking sites. Facebook dominates.
As an aside, Shelf Awareness as well as Publishers Marketplace are two reference tools that are available to every writer. Shelf Awareness does not charge for a daily newsletter and can be joined by going here. Publishers Marketplace has both free and fee-based reports available. Check it out here .
Everybody ready for Thanksgiving? We'll be out gorging ourselves like everyone else next week so no Biting Edge on Thursday. May you and yours have a wonderful holiday. And may you steer clear of the damned cold germ...
posted by Jeanne Stein @ 3:04 PM2 comments
Sunday, November 13, 2011
Pimping the ladies.
They say news comes in threes. And this week, we're happy to share three bits of good great news.
Eins. Riding on the coat tails of last week's blog about Steampunk, I have to mention this forthcoming appearance by the queen of Steampunk, Cherie Priest at the Broadway Book Mall, Wednesday, Nov 16, 7PM.
A Nebula and Hugo Award nominee and dedicated fashionista, Cherie will be signing her newest novel, Ganymede.
Zwei. Superbrain and fellow oenophile, Bonnie Ramthun, just signed a new contract for a...well, let's have her do the honors: I'm very happy to announce that I have a four-book deal with Grosset & Dunlap publishing for my LEGENDS OF CENTERVILLE middle-grade series. My agent, Becca Stumpf of Prospect Agency, did an amazing job in landing the deal. The first novel in the series is scheduled for release in March 2013.
Ever classy and effervescent, Bonnie won't dwell on her tortuous and frustrating sojourn in the writing game. She's weathered enough setbacks to demoralize the faint-hearted and less committed. Let's jump through the hoops. A contract. Years with no contract. Her concept for a TV series Gamers gathered teasers from Tinseltown that ended in bupkis. Then a second big contract for the YA mystery The White Gates. Awards. Then no contract. Now's she back at it. In the ring. Hooking and gouging like the literary champ she is.
Drei. To survive in this writing biz you gotta be, if nothing else, nimble and clever. Long-time mystery writing pal CJ Lyons proves she's all of that and more. For her efforts, she got a major shout-out from USA Today for a three-book deal with Minotaur Books to repackage her bestselling self-published book Blind Faith.
CJ can tell you plenty about the trials and stumbles on her way to, and in the midst of, getting published. After her last contract ended, she decided to cultivate her literary efforts by self-publishing her manuscripts as ebooks. The books did well enough to catch the eye of Minotaur, and seeking to bet on a winning horse, they signed her on. Go CJ!
Why Would Anyone Want to be a Writer?
This has been a strange week in the writing world. First there’s Q. R. Martin and his spy novel, Assassin of Secrets released on November 3. Turns out it was stitched together from John Gardner, Raymond Benson, Charles McCarry and a host of other well known thriller writers. Lifted word for word. Only the name of the protagonist was changed. Spy novelist Jeremy Duns even blurbed the book. His blog with his thoughts here . Now the book’s publisher, Mulholland Books, susposedly pulled it when the plagiarism(s) came to light, but it’s still on Amazon . In fact it’s ranked #151 in books.
And the reviews from Kirkus (starred), Publisher’s Weekly (starred), and several NYT Bestselling authors call it thrilling, smart, and, according to PW, (with an) obvious Ian Fleming influence(that) just adds to the appeal. I’ll say it has an Ian Fleming appeal. Most of it is plagiarized from James Bond novels.
So here is a book earning starred reviews from most of the biggest review sites in the business and it’s a fraud.
Makes you wonder, doesn’t it?
Today on a loop several authors discussed the publishing business and how so many of us are either in between contracts, pitching new series, or waiting to begin contract negotiations. Agents are telling us advances are on a downward trend. That it’s up in the air if contracts will be renewed at all. No one is confident about the future. Words like unsteady and fearful are bandied about.
And yet. There is an alternative now, isn’t there? E-pubbing. It’s no longer something we don’t want to think about or for books not considered good enough for a New York house. Well-established authors are releasing their backlists or putting new work on line.
I’m teaching an online writing class now. I want to be optimistic with my students. I tell them that talent and perseverance win out. That publishing with a New York house is the goal.
Last week, Jeanne posted this nifty trailer of the upcoming Sherlock Holmes' movie, A Game of Shadows.
A definite must-see. What caught me were the period accoutrements--the costumes, the weapons, the gadgets--so very Steampunk. Then I realized it wasn't Steampunk at all, but historical verisimilitude (more or less).
Which got me to thinking. We've gotten so used to seeing the interplay of Victorian fashion with brass and steel as tropes of Steampunk that we've forgotten that was the way it really was back then.
Which got me thinking some more. What would a Steampunk war look like? Then I realized there had been one. It was called The First World War.
Run down the Steampunk checklist:
Women in long dresses and hats with feathers. Handlebar mustaches. Air ships. Fancy-dancy khaki uniforms (notice everyone sported a 'stache--Steampunk metrosexual). Submarines (so very Jules Verne).
Fantastic inventions like the Big Wheel. The Russians actually built a working version (which not surprisingly, got stuck in the mud).
The more practical British decided to flatten the Big Wheel concept into a land battleship (shades of H.G. Wells).
The flying machine. Many young men were caught by the romance of adventure and signed up to serve in The Great War. Ernest Hemingway, for one, and was wounded. F. Scott Fitzgerald was commissioned in the US Army but the war ended before he could go. H. P. Lovecraft tried to enlist but was denied because of his poor physical condition. Considering his pessimistic view of humanity, it's interesting to wonder how much bleaker Lovecraft's assessment of civilization would've been had he served in the trenches. Provided of course, that he survived.
I've often said that I wasn't a fan of zombies or any supernatural monsters. How could they compare with the true horrors of one of the biggest blood baths in history? The same wonders of the Industrial Age that promised prosperity for mankind also delivered slaughter that devoured tens of thousands of men in a day...after day after day for years. The carnage spawned the Lost Generation, artists and writers disgusted with the war and the corruption and stupidity of the governments behind it. You'll find no nostalgia for The Great War in the works of the survivors who penned some of the greatest literature of the Twentieth century such as A Farewell to Arms and All Quiet On The Western Front.
So there was a Steampunk War but it was nowhere as charming and schmaltzy as we'd like to pretend it might have been.
It's Wednesday and this is going to be a bit of a ramble (kind of like Mario's blogs) because I just don't feel like getting organized. So here goes:
First, a bit of pimping for Suzanne Lazear's upcoming release: Innocent Darkness. I'm waiting to get a copy of this new YA Steampunk. Here's the description from Suzanne's website:
Sixteen-year-old Noli Braddock's hoyden ways land her in an abusive reform school far from home. On mid-summer's eve she wishes to be anyplace but that dreadful school. A mysterious man from the Realm of Faerie rescues her and brings her to the Otherworld, only to reveal that she must be sacrificed, otherwise, the entire Otherworld civilization will perish.
Innocent Darkness is set for release in August of 2012. Steampunk fairies--I LOVE it!!
I've been doing a lot of YA reading lately. Just finished Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake and am almost finished with Nightspell by Leah Cypress. Any favorite YA authors you'd like to recommend?
It's snowing today. Good day to write, which is what I've been doing. There are still too many leaves on the trees though, and I'm afraid there will be a lot of broken branches when the sun comes out again.
Anybody doing NaNoWriMo? Started unofficially today but haven't logged in yet.
My editor emailed me to let me know Anna has been nominated for best UF protag (the second time, she won it in 2008) by RT Book Review Magazine. As always, the competition is against not only good writers, but this time, some of my friends!
Urban Fantasy Protagonist
Angel Crawford MY LIFE AS A WHITE TRASH ZOMBIE Diana Rowland Daw (Jul.)
Darian SHAEDES OF GRAY Amanda Bonilla Signet Eclipse (Dec.)
Sabina Kane GREEN-EYED DEMON Jaye Wells Orbit (Mar.)
Kiera Kelly BLOOD SACRIFICE Maria Lima Pocket (Sep.)
MacKayla Lane SHADOWFEVER Karen Marie Moning Delacorte (Jan.)
Max CRIMSON WIND Diana Pharaoh Francis Pocket (Jan.)
Anna Strong CROSSROADS Jeanne C. Stein Ace (Sep.)
Jane True TEMPEST’S LEGACY Nicole Peeler Orbit (Jan.)
I'm glad I don't have to choose. Diana, Jaye, Nicole and I are all League of Reluctant Adults members and therefore partners in crime. Maria Lima is a friend. The only two I don't know personally are Karen and Amanda.
Went to a movie this weekend, Ides of March. I don't think there was a single new idea in the entire movie. All the political cliches were there--backstabbing, the "honorable" politician who turns out not to be, dirty tricks, extortion. I guess the only good thing about the movie is that it sets the stage for the upcoming Presidential election. A reminder of what we're in for.
However, there was a trailer for a movie I can't wait to see: