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, December 28, 2011
The above photo was taken from Cindy Sue Goertz-Truman's Facebook profile pic. Seemed very appropriate for today.
It also seemed appropriate because at the end of this week, this year, the neighborhood bar and grill where my critique group has met for the last three years is closing. The Pearl Street Grill is being shuttered so the owners can refashion it into what I'm sure they hope will be a more profitable venture--an upscale restaurant situated smack between Sushi Den and India's Pearl. So gone will be the comfortable, atmospheric, friendly place with a great staff and great food. And now comes the bitterest cut of all--having to start all over again to find a spot that will let us sit in a corner for two or three hours, eating, drinking and talking about things not often spoken of in public--how to dispose of a body, how to kill vampires and werewolves, how best to write a sex scene, how many ways the word "fuck" can be used in a sentence. (I think I won that one--if you've seen Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Lisbeth has a t-shirt that reads: Fuck off you fucking fuck.)
So, I guess the moral is, the tide bringeth and the tide taketh away.
RIP Pearl Street Grill
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I didn't get very far in my movie-going quest this week. Only saw two flicks so far, MI, which I give 3 1/2 stars (out of 5). There were some good stunts and plenty of action, but breaking a hole in the window at the top of a 130 floor sky scraper has got to result in something more than a gently hair lifting breeze. Dubai is very impressive, though.
The second is The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo--4 stars and will probably rate higher when I can HEAR the dialogue. Too much background noise and music (except at the beginning when Led Zep's Immigrant Song is played while the credits roll-rock on!) But it was a splendid adaptation. Craig and Mara gave top notch performances.
One of the treats of movie-going for me is always watching previews. This one in particular looks very good:
I may have shared this before, but it's worth a second look.
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So here we are at the end of another year. Time for reflection, for cleaning out the closets, for setting new goals. I don't make resolutions. They become just another weight to haul around. Instead, I take stock. Of what I accomplished this year, of what I didn't and why. And I look at the beginning of every new year as just that...a beginning. A clean slate. A chance to start again and get it right.
That's what I wish for you. A clean slate. A vast horizon of possibilities. New beginnings.
Peace on Earth
No matter what holiday you may be celebrating this season, this has got to put a smile on your face. Creative high schools students give a great rendition of silent monks doing the Halleluia chorus.
Christmas storiesMario here: Nothing says Merry Freakin' Christmas like an office party at Biting-Edge HQ. Admin assistants spiking the eggnog (started at 80 proof). Medical marijuana brownies. Mail clerks copping feels under the mistletoe. Jeanne pulling the fire alarm (ask her for those details).
Usually this season puts me out of sorts. Kinda hard to reconcile Good Will Toward All Men with the relentless Buy! Buy! Buy! of American consumerism. But this year I've set aside my usual cynicism and embraced a mood of good cheer. I'm even singing along with Christmas carols, especially my fave:
You see, I don't have young ones anymore to play Santa Claus to. I know that drill. It's a challenge to ask your kids to play down their expectations without feeling like the Grinch. Sorry kids, it's not that I don't care, it's that your college-educated father is a loser penny-pincher. So like many of you, I became expert in finding the gotta-have presents of the day. In my primo dad days, it was He Man action figures, MicroMachines, Super Mario Kart, and Mortal Kombat.
Earlier, in my youth, our Christmas celebrations were Norman Rockwell with a good dose of Cantiflas. My mom would drag us to the annual Cantada de Navidad at the Spanish Baptist Church. Despite all the Hallelujahs and Away in the Manger's, the high point of the evening was the visit from Santa Claus. He'd give away paper bags filled with ribbon candy, pecans, and an orange. Which was much appreciated after all the sitting around listening to the church chorus. And I liked oranges.
My favorite Christmas tradition was the making (and eating) of tamales and fried bunuelos. My mother and aunts would make dozens of two kinds of tamales: red chile pork and sweet with pecan and raisins. Neither lasted long.
I learned not to peg my Christmas happiness on getting the perfect gift. Sometimes it happened like when I got my first bike and BB gun. Later on I really wanted a minibike--didn't get it despite all the goddamn hints--and an airbrush and compressor...didn't get that either. But I got a lot of sweaters, socks, and model airplanes.
My most memorable Christmas had to be when I was 18 and returned home on holiday break from the Army. My best friend Ron was also on military leave. We spent our ten days of freedom looking up old girl friends, crashing parties, and soaking up as much booze as our livers could stand. I got the biggest monster hangover of my life. But underlying the festivities was the ticking of the clock--until then I was never so aware of the weight of passing time--and the realization that try as we might to hang on to what was--the future was sweeping us away. Here's another favorite song, one that brings back the bittersweet memories of Xmas 1973.
How Many Days Til Xmas? So, how did you spend your Wednesday?
I spent two hours finishing my holiday shopping, five hours wrapping and putting packages together to mail, another two hours at the post office (where I did my bit to support the flagging postal service and I must say, with postal employees--my experience has been if you smile, they do, too), one hour cleaning up the debris in the living room and now it's almost nine and I don't have a thing ready to post.
I don't know if the link is still up, but you can check Lizzie T. Leaf's blog where I was featured yesterday and talked about the holidays and shared my mom's fudge recipe. It's the best.
Speaking of Lizzie, we'll be at Barnes & Noble in Westminster again this Saturday, (9370 Sheridan Blvd. Westminster CO 303-426-7733) 11 - 3PM.
Last duties of the season..finish up the cards. Wrap the packages I don't have to mail. Do some baking. Once that's done, I'll be ready to get back to what I want to be doing--writing! And maybe seeing new movies:
So, I suppose you're all finished with the shopping and wrapping and cards and are sitting back eating bon-bons and laughing at the rest of us. Will I ever NOT be stressed at this time of year?
What are your holiday plans? Traveling? Relaxing? Seeing movies (and if so, which movies are you looking forward to)? Drop by and leave a comment or two...Santa may just surprise you.
posted by Jeanne Stein @ 6:46 PM7 comments
Sunday, December 11, 2011
Adieu, Mr. Postman
We writers have always had a special relationship with the mail. Mine started when I used to accompany my mom to the post office, a big imposing building downtown. The black ballpoint pens were chained to the counter and stamped: Property of U.S. Government. We'd worry about the penalties if the Feds caught you swiping one. The mail clerks (always men in those days) were very official and stern behind their bronze grates.
My first personal interaction with the postal service was in the fifth grade. Quaker Oats had this promotion claiming that their puffed wheat cereal was shot from guns.
If you sent two boxtops you'd get a model cannon. Unfortunately, the bargain with my mom was that I had to eat both boxes of the Quaker cereal, which was not anywhere as good as Super Sugar Crisp. I sent in the boxtops--Allow six weeks for delivery. (Try surviving in today's marketplace with an offer like that.) Those six weeks were the longest of my life. As the delivery day got closer, I'd run home to see if the package arrived. One day, my model of a Napoleon six-pounder was waiting for me on the kitchen counter. The mailman was my hero.
Moving forward to when I participated in the writers' submission ritual. Banging out a query letter on the Underwood, sending the letter and an S.A.S.E. to an agent or editor...and wait. We'd hold vigil around the mailbox and eventually some of those S.A.S.E.'s would find their way back home. It was common knowledge that if an agent or editor was interested in your manuscript, you'd get a special envelope or even better, a phone call, so the returned S.A.S.E. meant no-dice, pal. And when fortune did finally shine, there was your monster of a story packed up in a manuscript box or padded envelope. Revisions and galleys came by mail. As did advance checks. (Yeah!) One day you'd get boxes of your books. All delivered by the man or woman in USPS blue.
For better or worse, the mail carrier was our good friend.
The Internet has claimed many victims. We writers bemoan the loss of many local bookstores. Here in the Denver area we've lost Murder By the Book, High Crimes, Hastings, and of course, Borders, done in by the pitiless onslaught of Amazon. Craigslist has killed off scads of newspapers. And now the World Wide Web has a stranglehold on the Post Office.
Today, it's strictly email queries, which means rejections now come at the speed of light. Deadline time, you submit an electronic copy of the manuscript. Revisions are done in track changes.
According to various press releases, mail volume will drop by half within five years. To prevent bankruptcy, the USPS will close hundreds of outlets and layoff thousands. Postage rates will go up, and worse, mail delivery will slow and become uncertain. The standard delivery for first-class delivery is now next day. Three at most. The Post Office says to expect a week or longer. In other words, why bother mailing anything?
And so the USPS circles the drain.
They should've seen it coming. First UPS ate into their parcel delivery. In their arrogance, the Post Office dismissed the competition, and the man in brown has since replaced the man in blue. Then FedEx came around. People were willing to pay ten times the mail rate for guaranteed overnight delivery. To FedEx became a verb. Email replaced letters. You can pay bills through the Internet. USPS was nicknamed snail mail.
But it doesn't have to be that way. Think of it. For a mere 45 cents, they will deliver your letter anywhere in the U.S. with a certainty of nearly 100%. That's incredible service. Of course they lose money with each letter. What the Post Office needs to do is emphasize their service and raise their rates accordingly. Even at a dollar a letter, that's a deal.
I have another service that may not put the Post Office in the black, but could be a substantial source of revenue. Promote the mailing of liquor. Right now we're treated to that rote question: Does your package contain anything fragile, liquid, flammable, or potentially hazardous? It's a gotcha so they can screw you in case you do mail something that violates their rules. But in fairness, we have the Unabomber and the Anthrax killer to thank for that question.
Why not allow people the opportunity to mail booze? Not cases of hootch but a bottle of wine, liquor, or a six-pack of beer. As long as you declared it and used the appropriate packaging. So adieu to all the fond memories of the mail. Email will never replace the romance of the love letter. Remember pen pals? Somehow, putting pen to paper prompted an eloquence that no software can duplicate. On the flip side, porn no longer arrives via a plain brown wrapper. What special memories does the mail bring for you?
Now I realize this was an amateur video and shot from a distance, but I couldn't help thinking how much better a job I would have done...especially opposite James Marsters.
What's coming up next for Joss? Here's the press release:
Bellwether Pictures proudly announces the completion of principal photography onMUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING, a modern version of Shakespeare’s classic comedy adapted and directed by Joss Whedon (Marvel’s upcoming THE AVENGERS, “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog”). Filmed in just 12 days entirely on location in exotic Santa Monica, the film features a stellar cast of beloved (or soon to be beloved) actors – some of them veterans of Shakespearean theater, some completely new to the form. But all dedicated to the idea that this story bears retelling, that this dialogue is as fresh and intoxicating as any being written, and that the joy of working on a passion project surrounded by dear friends, admired colleagues and an atmosphere of unabashed rapture far outweighs their hilariously miniature paychecks.
MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING is the first feature from Bellwether, a micro-studiocreated by Joss Whedon and Kai Cole for the production of small, independent narratives for all media, embracing a DIY ethos and newer technologies for, in this particular case, a somewhat older story.
Shot in glorious black and white by Jay Hunter (PAPER HEART, “Dollhouse”), the filmstars Amy Acker (CABIN IN THE WOODS, “Alias”) and Alexis Denisof (“How I MetYour Mother”, “Angel”) as Beatrice and Benedick, the world’s least likely lovers headed for their inevitable tumble into love. As Joss Whedon puts it: “The text is to me a deconstruction of the idea of love, which is ironic, since the entire production is a love letter – to the text, to the cast, even to the house it’s shot in.” The supporting cast includes Nathan Fillion (“Castle”, WAITRESS) as Dogberry, Clark Gregg (AVENGERS, IRON MAN) as Leonato, Fran Kranz (CABIN IN THE WOODS, “Dollhouse”) as Claudio and Reed Diamond (“Franklin & Bash”, MONEYBALL) as Don Pedro.
The film was produced by Whedon, line-produced by Nathan Kelly and M. ElizabethHughes, and co-produced by Kai Cole and Danny Kaminsky. The super-impressive castis listed below. Full tech credits (for the extraordinary crew) will be up shortly.
The Players:Amy Acker - BeatriceAlexis Denisof - BenedickNathan Fillion - DogberryClark Gregg - LeonatoReed Diamond - Don PedroFran Kranz - ClaudioSean Maher - Don John
Shot in TWELVE days? I can't wait to see this. I love that Joss uses ensemble casts. I can't help but think that the actors must LOVE doing these spur of the moment movies!!!
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Now, here's one of my favorite contests: Literary Review’s Bad Sex in Fiction Award. This year it goes to David Guterson for his fifth novel, Ed King. Here’s a sample:
"these sorts of gyrations and five-sense choreographies, with variations on Ed's main themes, played out episodically between 10 pm and 10 am, when Diane said, 'Let's shower'"; and "she took him by the wrist and moved the base of his hand into her pubic hair until his middle fingertip settled on the no-man's-land between her 'front parlour' and 'back door' (those were the quaint, prudish terms of her girlhood)".
Check here for samples from the other nominees. These weren't as awesomely bad as some have been in the past.
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I will leave you with this bit of frivolity: The twenty-five funniest auto corrects of Damn You Auto Correct's first year. See them in all their glory here
What about you? Got any auto correct bloopers to share?
Oh, and one other thing. Wednesday, I'll be sharing my mom's famous fudge recipe over at the fifteen days of Christmas on pal's Lizzie T Leaf's blog . It was a tossup as to whether I'd post the fudge recipe or my new favorite-- gingerbread pineapple upside down cake. Maybe if there's interest out there, I'll post that here next week!! What do you say?
Now that we're done with NaNoWriMo for 2011, the next question is: what to do with your literary masterpiece?
Simple answer: Get it published.
Uff! As daunting as writing a book can be, we've all learned that getting published is the next roll of barbed wire to crawl through. There's the ordeal of query letters and rejections, false starts with a bad agent, dashed hopes with a pussy-footing editor and publishing house...and the waiting, the waiting...for months...years maybe for something positive to happen.
Once you've done the run-around with the big New York publishing houses, you might look to a mid-sized press, and then smaller presses. Going for prestige, as it were.
And there's the siren call of self-publishing. At least you have a book in print. If that's all you want, then go for it. But if you want to reach the masses and perhaps make a little money, then self-publication presents huge challenges of its own. One of which is distribution for the mountain of books in your garage. A lot of those trials are spewed in this rant posted to another blog regarding self-publication:
I work as an event coordinator/marketer for an independent bookstore that has been inundated in recent years with self-published authors looking for shelf space and store events for their books. We get – and I am not exaggerating – between 400 and 500 requests a year from self-published authors asking us to stock and promote their book. On a slow week, we get 5-10 requests; on a busy week we’ll get 20.
If you ask most indie bookstore event coordinators about self-published authors, you will probably see some combination of eye-rolling, teeth grinding, or derisive laughter. Self-published authors are the bane of our existence. There are so, SO many would-be self-published authors that would do well to read this piece, and read it thoroughly. And then second-guess their decision to self-publish. But I know they won’t.
Why do I loathe (most) self-published authors? Here’s why. And I’m saying all this so maybe – MAYBE – there’s a self-published author out there who will read this and then understand what they are up against when it comes to marketing their self-published book through their friendly neighborhood indie bookstore.
1. Their books suck. There is no other way to say this. Bad writing, bad grammar, bad spelling, bad plot/character development, bad subject matter, etc. Don’t even get me started on do-it-yourself cover art. The book is bad. It’s bad. That’s why it couldn’t get published by a traditional publisher. But you can’t tell the self-published author of this monstrosity that their book is substandard and unsellable. Because they would act like you’ve just told them their brand-new firstborn child is ugly. Hey, I get it. You put a lot of work into this thing, and you ended up with an ugly baby. But that doesn’t change the baby’s looks, or the book’s ability to sell.
2. 90% of self-published authors are rude, pushy, completely self-absorbed, and relentless. This is my BOOK! It’s my MASTERPIECE. How dare you say it is not worthy of being stocked in your store, unless I pay for consignment?? How dare you, to not jump up and down and beg me to do an event for this book – even though I am not really from around here, I have no friends, and the book has only a very narrow niche appeal since it’s about my past life experience as a 16th century vampire with a skin condition?? Some of them don’t even bother to pitch the book themselves, but hire some poor hapless “freelance literary agent” to do it for them. Then relentlessly prod the “agent” to get them an event. THE BOOK SUCKS. IT’S NOT HAPPENING.
3. Self-published authors show a really appalling level of self-non-awareness. EVERY self-published author thinks they are the next Stephenie Meyer/James Patterson/That Guy on Amazon Who Sold a Million E-Books. EVERY self-published author thinks their memoir about going on a hiking trip to Alaska where nothing particularly dramatic happened is “special” and that “people will love it!” EVERY self-published author thinks they have written the new breakout bestseller, YA sensation, Great American Novel. I hear the same words from the same types of people over and over and over, about how their books are “different.” The books are never different. 50% of them have badly Photoshopped covers and are printed in Comic Sans.
You wrote a book. Congratulations. Let me make this clear. WRITING THE BOOK AND PAYING SOMEONE TO PRINT IT FOR YOU DOES NOT MAKE YOU SPECIAL. If the book is actually good – and in the several thousand requests I’ve processed, I’ve seen three or four that actually were – THAT makes you special. But please, PLEASE stop acting like paying AuthorHouse or Smashwords or any other vanity publisher a few thousand dollars entitles you to anything. It doesn’t. Not the adoration of untold legions of fans. Not the respect and admiration of your local indie bookseller. Not sales from your friends (who 80% of the time, from what I can see, end up with free copies rather than purchased ones). Not attention from local or national media. Self-publishing means that instead of the book manuscript being stuck in a drawer, there’s a 99% chance you’ll end up with boxes of unsold books in your garage. Fewer than 1% of self-published authors sell more than 150 copies of their book. Please think about all this, self-publishing authors, before you give your credit card number to Smashwords.
But the game changer is e-publishing and the growing availability of e-readers. No more stacks of books to buy. No more cranky bookstore managers to pester. While a lot of writers have flung their scribblery poo into cyberspace, e-publishing has given many worthwhile authors a second chance. The loudest screamer in this argument is of course, Joe Konrath.
But closer to home, is Lynda Hilburn's experience of buying back her book, The Vampire Shrink, and repackaging the manuscript as an ebook to restart interest in her work (which became an Amazon bestseller!), and garnered her a new publishing contract and this nifty new cover. You could say that both Konrath and Hilburn had the advantage of a known name.
But that's not always the case. For example, Elle Lothlorien, frustrated in trying to find a home for her thriller, gave up on the traditional route. She instead self-published a romantic comedy, The Frog Prince, on Amazon and made their bestseller list, elbowing aside competitors from traditional publishers. But there are others whose Internet sales can be counted in the teens.
With tens of thousands of choices, how do people chose an ebook? Surprisingly, the decision is not too different from folks buying a traditional paper copy off the shelves.
The Big Five Reasons people buy a book
1) People are familiar with the author. 2) Word-of-mouth recommendations. 3) The cover. 4) The back cover copy (or the description on the website). 5) Reviews and press.
For you as yet unpublished, item 1 you can't do much about. 2 and 5 are iffy. In all three cases, learning the fine art of Blatant Self-Promotion is key. But the cover and back cover copy are yours alone to create, or screw-up.
Remember that adage: Don't judge a book by its cover?
Well, it ain't true. First of all, a good cover catches the eye and that's a huge plus. A cover tells readers what kind of a story to expect. Romantic comedy? Hard-boiled noir? Political thriller? A bad cover, and especially with self-published work, a cover that says Photoshopped will mark your work as amateurish and in need of serious editing. In other words to the reader, pass.
Thoughts or experience with ebooks, both as a writer or reader, are welcome. Until then, keep your head down as you crawl through the barbed wire.