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, February 29, 2012
  Haunted...New Book Cover Unveiled

Here it is, folks...the first look at Haunted, the eighth book in the Anna Strong Chronicles. What do you think?

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Okay, facebook pals-- Mario posted a picture of me sleepingat Galaxyfest last weekend. In retaliation, I thought it only fair to include these pics of my roomies in their own bedtime splendor. It's obvious, though, that Mario chose to hide his Star Wars pj's under the covers which is probably what our sartorial challenged Warren Hammond should have done more quickly--hide those green and pink pajama pants. Yikes! What continues to baffle, amaze and astound me, though, is how NO ONE has asked how we came to share a room. But don't ask now. It's too late. My lips are sealed.

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Not much to say about the Oscars except that The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore took one!! I previewed it before but here it is in case you missed it… Best Animated Short Film

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You might be surprised by this one from Flavorwire

Legendary Bad Girls of Literature

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Not sure how I feel about this one--

From Deadline.com

Lucy Liu To Play Watson In CBS’ Modern Sherlock Holmes Pilot ‘Elementary’

The name is Watson, Joan Watson. Lucy Liu is set to play Sherlock Holmes’ sidekick in CBS’ drama pilot Elementary, whose tweaks to Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic include switching Watson’s gender to female. The project, written by Robert Doherty, is set in present day and stars Jonny Lee Miller as eccentric Brit Sherlock Holmes, a former consultant to Scotland Yard whose addiction problems led him to a rehab center in New York City. Just out of rehab, Holmes now lives in Brooklyn with “sober companion” Joan Watson (Liu), a former surgeon who lost her license after a patient died, while consulting for the NYPD. Michael Cuesta is directing the pilot, produced by CBS TV Studios and Timberman/Beverly. Ally McBeal alumna Liu, who had 2 pilots vying for her, is recurring on the current season of the TNT cop drama Southland and will next be seen in the feature Man With The Iron Fists.

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Season 2 of the Game of Thrones starts April 1 -- Here's the new trailer:

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Here's one we always look forward to-- The Oddest Book Title Contest. Choose among these gems:

A Century of Sand Dredging in the Bristol Channel: Volume Two by Peter Gosson 

Cooking with Poo by Saiyuud Diwong 

Estonian Sock Patterns All Around the World by Aino Praakli 

The Great Singapore Penis Panic: And the Future of American Mass Hysteria by Scott D. Mendelson 

Mr. Andoh's Pennine Diary: Memoirs of a Japanese Chicken Sexer in 1935 Hebden Bridge by Stephen Curry and Takayoshi Andoh 

A Taxonomy of Office Chairs by Jonathan Olivares 

The Mushroom in Christian Art by John A. Rush 

I don’t know about you but it would be hard to choose between Cooking with Poo and The Great Singapore Penis Panic…. You can vote here

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Rowling's First Adult Novel Is Coming, From Little, Brown

Little, Brown has world English rights to the first novel for adults by JK Rowling, the company announced Thursday morning. Little Brown UK publisher David Shelley will serve as Rowling's editor and Michael Pietsch will oversee publication in the US. All other details--title, pub date "and further details about the novel will be announced later in the year." But one important element has been settled: While the world waits for Pottermore and the Harry Potter ebooks, Little, Brown promises they will publish "both in print and ebooks."

In response, the Huffington Post came up 10 Potential Titles For Her Upcoming 'Adult' Book. Among them is this one:

The entire tongue-in-cheek list here

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Boingboing always has the best stuff—Dirty words of 1811 from Francis Grose's "Dictionary in the Vulgar Tongue," a compleat look at all the dirty cussin' of the early 1800s.

It's free and available here

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And here's a chance to catch Mario in action yourself:

Class: Vampires & World Building
Instructor: Mario Acevedo
4-week class March 1-31 $40
Please Register by February 28, 2012

Class Description: Vampires & World-Building

Undead bloodsuckers have evolved from monster, to empathetic villain, to
outright revenant hero. No need to explain the fascination with vampires,
just explain the rules. And what are the rules? You decide. Every novel begins
with the suspension of disbelief and it’s up to you to build a compelling
world that fits your story, be it paranormal, fantasy, or historical. What
are the elements of world-building? The physical? People and customs? What
about magic? How much detail is needed? We’ll review vampires and other
supernatural creatures and use exercise prompts to study how to use the
elements of world-building.

Go here for more info or to register.

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That's all for this week, folks...see you next Thursday. Same bat time...Same bat channel

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Tuesday, February 28, 2012
  Write about monsters and the fantastic. Ask me how!
Mario here:

What is it with writing about vampires and the supernatural?

Undead bloodsuckers have evolved from monster, to empathetic villain, to outright revenant hero. No need to explain the fascination with vampires, just explain the rules. And what are the rules? You decide. Every novel begins with the suspension of disbelief and it’s up to you to build a compelling world that fits your story, be it paranormal, fantasy, or historical. What are the elements of world-building? The physical? People and customs? What about magic? How much detail is needed? We’ll review vampires and other supernatural creatures and use exercise prompts to study how to use the elements of world-building.

How can you make that weird world of yours seem super-cool? How do you create a setting that a reader can recognize but isn't riddled in clichés?

Then sign up for my class with WritersOnlineClasses for special insights into Vampires and World-Building, March 1-31, 2012. Fangs up, everybody!

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Sunday, February 26, 2012
  The Thin Gray Line
Mario here:

Growing up, we get lots of advice, all well intended, I'm sure. That advice often becomes a voice nagging at the back of our minds and over time, that mental scold can keep us from doing something it's in our better interests to do.

One of those nags came to me from Captain Kangaroo. One day he had a bug up his early-morning butt about people defacing books. He warned us young readers not to mark our place in a book by dog-earing the page corner, and to instead use a slip of paper. Reasonable advice. To reinforce that idea, at the end of the school year, when we turned in our texts, the teacher would flip through the books to make sure we hadn't defaced the pages.

What that stamped into my mind was that books were special, and I grew up revering books practically as holy objects. I've never thrown a book away, even one that was water-damaged or chewed up by the dog. Those books I passed along to a donation box, knowing full well they would toss them out--but at least there was no blood (ink) on my hands.

Where this not-marking-a-book advice became a liability was when I began to teach writing. Like my fellow scribes, I get excited whenever I discover a well-turned phrase and have decided I needed to share these sparkling gems. There are only so many words in the English language, and I'm amazed when another writer has managed to string them together in fresh ways. At first, I tried to mark the found passages with slips of paper or Post-It notes (stop pestering me, Mr. Kangaroo!), but often found myself lacking said bookmarks. After an agonizing self-debate, I've at last given myself permission to note a choice passage with a pencil mark in the margin. This way I don't slow my reading by much and can simply flip through the book to look for the thin gray lines and rediscover my buried wordy treasures. Yes, in a way, it may be considered vandalism, but it is for the greater literary good.

Here are a few of my favorites passages:

John Krakauer, Into Thin Air

Confronted with this tally, my mind balked and retreated into a weird, almost robotic state of detachment. I felt emotionally anesthetized yet hyperaware, as if I had fled into a bunker deep inside my skull and was peering out at the wreckage around me through a narrow, armored slit.

Steven Hely, How I Became a Famous Novelist

Lucy’s boss, David Borer, an editor at Ortolan, was sitting next to her. Yards away in the semidarkness, you could still see the fear in his face. He was zipping his eyes around the room, as though somebody were about to reveal the secret of publishing and he was afraid of missing it. He was older than we were, fey and beaten. He looked like an elf who’s gone though a bad divorce.

F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsy

He had changed since his New Haven years. Now he was a sturdy, straw haired man of thirty with a rather hard mouth and a supercilious manner. Two shining, arrogant eyes had established dominance over his face and gave him the appearance of always leaning aggressively forward. Not even the effeminate swank of his riding clothes could hide the enormous power of that body--he seemed to fill those glistening boots until he strained the top lacing and you could see a great pack of muscle shifting when his shoulder moved under his thin coat. It was a body capable of enormous leverage--a cruel body.

What passages have made you go mmmm...most delicious phrasing?

Pimpage Alert!

This Wednesday at 7PM, tap into your schizo self and find a way to be at two places at once.

ONE: Julie Kazimer's book launch party for Curses! A F***cked-Up Fairy Tale. The Mercury Cafe. 2199 California, Denver. Much shenanigans planned.

TWO: Denver Diatribe, I'll be on the panel, Killing the Cow Town: Depictions of Denver in Film, Literature, and Music. With Cory Casciato, Ron Doyle, Jared Maher, and cartoonist Kenny Be. Denver Film Center, 2510 E Colfax (next to the Tattered Cover).

If that doesn't work, and in case you missed Kazimer's party, you get a chance for sloppy seconds (yum!) at a signing with Cindi Myers, Saturday, March 3, 3PM, The Broadway Book Mall, 200 S Broadway, Denver.

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Tuesday, February 21, 2012
  Why Write?

My husband has often asked why anyone would want to be an author. Usually the question comes after I’ve had a crisis of some sort—worry about a new release, about a new book, about the next contract. I realize I’ve been lucky—I have seven books published, stories in a dozen anthologies, two more books on the way, a contract for a new series in the works. And yet the insecurities are as real and as overwhelming as they always were. Mario talked about branding on Monday. When I released my first book in 2004 I remember asking my friend Charlaine Harris for marketing tips. She couldn’t help. She never did any marketing. She built her career book by book—two series and 13 books before she hit gold with Sookie Stackhouse and the Southern Vampire series.

Can’t do that anymore. Publishers aren’t willing to wait for you to build an audience. You have to network, have a social presence, put up a website, blog. You have to attend conferences, teach classes, become active in writing organizations. You have to come up with cute swag items and spread them around. Hold contests and give lots of stuff away. You have to be a social animal and everyone who knows me (I mean really knows me) understands that I'm not. I'm scared to death before every signing, panel appearance or talk. I have to play the game, but it's through pain. I marvel at how easy it is for Mario and good pal Margie Lawson.

And in between all of this, you have to come up with the next book idea. You have to find the time to actually write the books.

Publishers want a winner right out of the chute. They’re farming the suddenly fertile field of e-publishing, snapping up novels they originally rejected because the writers now come with built-in audiences. Friends that Mario and I know are e-pubing and having some success at it (see Jeff Shelby), even though they started they way we did, writing for years, querying agents and finally receiving the call. But for one reason or another, their series were dropped, their contracts not renewed. They’re starting over on their own. They’re getting their stories out and reaching readers.

Which is what we as writers want, isn’t it? To reach readers. Which brings me full circle and answers the question I posed at the beginning. Writers write because they want to reach readers. How to do that seems to be the new question. Hold out for that agent and hope to find a traditional house to publish your book? Or go it on your own?

What do you think? As readers, how do you pick from the thousands of ebooks out there? Are you buying more ebooks than print books? Do you look for writers you know? Is pricing a consideration? Writers, are you considering e-pubing on your own? Going both the epub and traditional route? I really am interested in hearing your answers.

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February has been a busy book release month for our League friends.Next book up is Allison Pang's A Sliver of Shadow

Release date: Feb 28


Just when her new life as a TouchStone—a mortal bound to help OtherFolk cross between Faery and human worlds—seems to be settling down, Abby Sinclair is left in charge when the Protectorate, Moira, leaves for the Faery Court. And when the Protectorate’s away . . . let’s just say things spiral out of control when a spell on Abby backfires and the Faery Queen declares the Doors between their worlds officially closed. The results are disastrous for both sides: OtherFolk trapped in the mortal world are beginning to fade, while Faery is on the brink of war with the daemons of Hell. Along with her brooding elven prince Talivar and sexy incubus Brystion, Abby ventures to the CrossRoads in an attempt to override the Queen’s magic. But nothing in this beautiful, dangerous realm will compare to the discoveries she’s making about her past, her destiny, and what she will sacrifice for those she loves.

Read the first chapter on Amazon here

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Quiz: match famous literary authors with their non-literary obsessions:

Martin Amis ........................ Birds
Tom McCarthy .................... Tap Dancing
Henry Miller ........................ Video Games
LevGrossman .......................Drawing
Truman Capote ................... Tintin
Patti Smith ...........................UFO's
Flannery O'Connor ..............Brian Jones
Victor Hugo ..........................Samuel Beckett

How many did you get right? Check answers on Flavorwire here

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All right...looks like Mario, Warren Hammond and I are heading down to Colorado Springs for Galaxyfest on Saturday. Don't have any kind of schedule yet except that we know we're participating in the Literacy signing on Sunday...don't even know the time. Sorry. I know the location, though: Antlers Hilton 4 South Cascade, Colorado Springs. Tele: 719-955-5600
If you're in the area, stop in and say hello.

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Sunday, February 19, 2012
  What do they know?
Mario here:

If you're a writer you get swamped with gotta-do's from every direction. The two big ones are the need for social marketing--blogging, twitter, Facebook, etc.,--and branding.

Every time I hear the word branding, my neck gets tense and I want to ram into something. I don't know of any novelist who said, "Okay world, this is my brand. Now I'm going to write a story using that brand." A lot of writers don't even know exactly what they're writing until midway through the first draft. They might know in broad terms such as: "I'm writing a mystery. With vampires. And zombies. Plus a warlock love interest. Or a mystery thriller with dirty cops." So we writers think of the kind of stories we want to write, not a brand. Press us for a branding angle, it'll probably be: To not suck.

We'd like to say, "My brand is to write international bestsellers that earn so much money I can afford to live like a depraved Roman emperor. And support worthwhile charities." But no one would take us seriously.

It's different for nonfiction. That narrative is built around a platform. "I'm writing about surviving incest. Or the history of coffee. Or how to make a fortune through the Law of Attraction (i.e., the Power of Wishful Thinking.)"

So when publishers or agents ask a novelist, "What's your brand?" to me it means they're grasping at the ether trying to quantify something that you can't quantify: Art.

The truth is, success in publishing is a crap shoot, complicated by what works for one writer doesn't work for another. There's all this talk of social media, branding, building a platform, yada yada. What's missing from the discussion is this crucial element: You gotta write a book people want to read.

There's the argument that with a social media machine in place, a platform built with substantial numbers of followers, branding proclaimed in neon colors, that you'll be a no-fail.

Bullshit. Take for example the two gods of branding: Coca-Cola and the auto industry.

Who knows better about branding than Coca-Cola? Coca-Cola and Coke are two of the world's most recognized brands. With their branding and hype machine in place, anything Coca-Cola does is a sure-fire success, right?

Not so fast. Remember the New Coke? How much money did Coca-Cola pump into that marketing campaign? And what happened? One of the biggest fiascoes in marketing history. Don Draper, where were you?

That was followed a few years later by the OK soft drink. "Everything is going to be okay." Again, Coca-Cola spent millions studying the market and millions more hyping the product (Though it seems no one thought much of the taste--you'd think a no-brainer aspect of a refreshment beverage.) In the end, the OK jet crashed into the ocean. Interestingly, OK was sheperded by the same guy who ran the New Coke marketing campaign.

Let's go poke a stick at the auto industry. There was the Pontiac Aztek. The new Ford Thunderbird. The Lincoln Blackwood. The Chevy SSR. The entire Saturn and Pontiac product lines. All gone poof despite the marketing mojo behind them.

Which gets to my point. Whatever you produce must be something an audience wants. Absent from any lecture to a writer concerning social media, establishing a platform, building a "brand," is the need to write a book people want to read. That's the hard part--the art of story-telling and writing. And for that, there are no rules.

I like to use the example of my writer pal Elle Lothorien. Now she's all over the WWW, most recently noted as one of the top 25 most-successful self-published ebook authors. But in the beginning, she self-published her romantic comedy, The Frog Prince, as an ebook on Amazon. As a newbie, she had zilch for marketing and no clue about book cover "rules." Traditional publishers know full well that a potential reader judges a book by its cover. Look what Frank Frazetta's covers did for Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian. The rule is that romantic comedy must be pink. Pink. Pink and more pink. Lothlorien's was green. But that worked in her favor. When readers searched Amazon for romantic comedies, her little green frog swam to the surface of a sea of pink. But what sold and resold The Frog Prince was the quality of the story.

I have plenty of writer friends who've climbed the bestsellers lists without a massive publicity machine stoking the media. They did the usual: a website, blogs, blog tours, interviews, mailings, conferences, twitter, Facebook--and earned some success. And not one of them claimed to have had a brand.

On the other hand, I have other writer friends who have done the same thing--and written some amazing books--and continue to flounder in obscurity.

Even a great platform and a known brand doesn't guarantee long-term success. Just ask Bristol Palin.

Moving on. There's no doubt about this platform. Fun and fantasy:

Next weekend, the Biting-Edge team will be in Colorado Springs for GalaxyFest 2012. Special guest star: Denise Crosby--you probably remember her as Tasha Yar! Fully functional, we're sure.

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Wednesday, February 15, 2012
  Is it spring yet?
Don't have a lot to report this week. My FB friends already know I got into an accident on Valentine's Day, of all days. Not my fault but my car will be out of commission for awhile. What a drag!

Did see a movie I enjoyed last weekend, though..The Descendants. Clooney at his best.

And apropos to nothing, been watching reruns of The Rifleman (with Chuck Connors) What a sweet show--the relationship between Lucas and his son keeps me coming back for more even though I didn't watch the show when it first aired all those years ago.

What a great face! If you're curious, here's a website to check out. He died in 1992. Wikipedia has a bio here

He played baseball for the Brooklyn Dodgers, among others. Always had those great cheekbones.

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From MTV.com

"Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter" reveals the untold story of honest Abe's nighttime hobby: vampire slaying. The first trailer for the film, starring Benjamin Walker as Abraham Lincoln, has arrived online.

More about the movie here

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For you writers out there:

Poisoned Pen Press Announces the First Annual Discover Mystery Award

This Spring, Poisoned Pen Press will award a $1000 cash prize and publishing contract to the winner of the inaugural Discover Mystery Award

Poisoned Pen Press announces the first annual Discover Mystery Award. A first book contest specifically for unpublished writers trying to break into the mystery genre, the Discover Mystery Award will include a $1000 cash prize, the Discover Mystery title, and a publishing contract from Poisoned Pen Press. The Discover Mystery Award is now open for submissions. Entries must be received by 11:59 PM Pacific on April 30, 2012, and the Discover Mystery Award will be presented on May 31, 2012.

Details here

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So here we are half-way through February. Sick of cold. Sick of snow. As my good pal Betty Harper said on her Valentine, "I'm thinking the perfect gift would be a week in the sun and our toes in the sand. I'm guessing, however, that we might have to settle for chocolate..."

And I'm guessing, we did...

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Sunday, February 12, 2012
  It's about love and romance. More or less.
Mario here:

It's that time for romance...which means?

Depends on a lot of things.

Locally, my pervy artist friends celebrated the month of Eros with the Scorned Lovers Show, featuring the romantic prognostications of the Luv Sultan.

Sunset Magazine often features Romantic getaways, mostly weekend hideouts in artsy locations. Nice places to spend time regardless but they definitely pimp the romantic angle. Which is?

A chance to get sentimental.

Time to build or rekindle emotional attachments.

Okay, you can do with that with a good friend or a relative. But would such an occasion be considered romantic? Of course not. We know that consummating the romance of the romantic getaway is getting down. Doing the nasty. That's why the photo spreads always include pictures of the hotel room's bed.

Why do we gloss over the obvious when it comes to sex? Erectile Dysfunction commercials puzzle me. (as it does Bloomberg magazine) Cialis ads show a man and woman in outdoor bathtubs holding hands. Viagra has a cowboy driving a pickup. That would be okay if the commercial ended with the point of taking ED pills--a quick soft-focus shot of the couple rutting like barnyard animals. Before you go ick, suppose you went on a romantic getaway with your sweetie and your most intimate act was to sit in a tub and hold hands? Or drive around in a pickup. Something to brag about? I think not. Now if you told your friends that you were charged by the hotel for a new bed because you and your honey got out of control, I think you'd get some jealous looks.

What are your ideas about putting the RAWR in romance?

The crazy romantic ideas start early. Check out My Teenage Angst where writers share stories from adolescence about love and desire crashing and burning. The Spring edition is 8PM March 23, 2012 at The Bar on south Broadway.

Though it ain't about romance per se, this will include dirty talk--Next week, Saturday, 7pm February 18, at the Broadway Book Mall, 200 S Broadway, Denver, I moderate a panel of the Denver Area Science Fiction Association, "Salty Language is in Effect: The Outre in Genre Fiction" featuring Jesse Bullington The Enterprise of Death, Jason Heller Taft 2012, and Stephen Graham Jones Zombie Bake-Off.

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Wednesday, February 08, 2012
  Snow, Snow Everywhere...

In case you missed it, we here in Denver were socked by a snowstorm last week. This is my back yard...23" of snow...the chiminea is buried, the birdbath is covered. Took us about eight hours over two days to dig ourselves out to the road. Did I mention how I love winter????

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For you writers out there:

Only days left to enter The Sandy! The contest is sponsored by the Crested Butte Writers and the deadline is Feb 12.

From the website:

Don't miss out on a chance to impress these amazing editor and agent final judges. Especially the editors who only take agented submissions. Experienced writers, this is your chance to slide in the back door!

Low submissions on all categories except C/YA, so not a ton of competition--at least not yet.

Tell your critique partners--spread the word!

2012 Sandy Final Judges:
Romance - Sue Grimshaw, Editor at Large & Category Specialist for Ballantine & Bantam Dell
Mainstream Adult Fiction - Kevan Lyon, Agent at Marsal Lyon Literary Agency
Suspense / Thriller / Mystery - Kat Brzozowski, Assistant Editor at Thomas Dunne Books
Fantasy / Science Fiction - James Frenkel, Editor at Tor / Forge
Children's & YA - Mary Kole, Agent at Andrea Brown Literary Agency

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Two classes you might be interested in-- one taught by my buddy Kat Richardson and the other by yours truly:

Creating Your Urban Fantasy World
Sunday, March 4, 2012
10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Kat Richardson

ClarionWest One Day Workshops

This special-focus workshop will help you learn how to choose, establish, and write a setting (real, alternate, historical, or allegorical) appropriate for Urban Fantasy. You'll learn how to block out and write action that utilizes whatever magic, occult, or paranormal system you're establishing, and how to develop and write characters for Urban Fantasy by integrating their power(s) and skills--or lack of them--with their setting and interactions.

Kat Richardson is the bestselling author of the Greywalker paranormal detective novels. A keen fan of hardboiled fiction, Kat models her stories on the work of iconic detective writers such as Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler, with added dashes of whimsy and horror, and the occasional ferret.

Attendance is limited to 12 students on a first-come, first-served basis.
Cost is a nonrefundable fee of $125. Full-time students are eligible for a $15 rebate at workshop session.

If you live in the Seattle area, check this one out.

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And I'll be teaching my UF class on line sponsored by the Carolina Romance Writers:

The Carolina Romance Writers Chapter of RWA is pleased to announce our April Online Workshop

WORKSHOP: So You Want to Write Urban Fantasy?
INSTRUCTOR: Jeanne Stein
DATE: April 2nd to April 30th, 2012 Regular Workshop
TYPE: Regular, (Month-long) classes, consisting of at least 2 lessons per week for CRW and HCRW members is $15, all others $25

What we’ll cover in this course will apply to not only Urban Fantasy, but to all genres. While some topics are specific to UF, world building, for instance, most pertain to crafting a good a story. I’ll also include lessons on the business of writing, something often neglected but very important. The publishing world is changing daily. You need to be aware of how those changes affect you. So, what is Urban Fantasy? Why has it become the hottest new genre to hit the market in decades? Is it too late to tap in? What elements do you need to write UF? These are some of the questions we’ll be addressing in this course.

Jeanne Stein is the national bestselling author of the Urban Fantasy series, The Anna Strong Vampire Chronicles. Her character, Anna Strong, received a RT Reviewers Choice Award for Best Urban Fantasy Protagonist in 2008 and was nominated again for the 2011 book, Crossroads. Jeanne also has numerous short story credits including most recently the novella, Blood Debt, from the New York Times bestselling anthology, Hexed (2011). Her series has been picked up in three foreign countries and her short stories published in collections here in the US and the UK. The eighth in the Anna Strong series, Haunted, debuts in August. Jeanne lives in Denver, CO where she is active in the writing community, belonging to Romance Writers of America, Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, Sisters in Crime and Horror Writers of America. She has taught at numerous conferences and on-line academies.

Registration Deadline: April 2 Register here

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February 7th was the 200th birthday of Charles Dickens. To see how it's being celebrated in the UK go here

To test your Charles Dickens literary expertise, take this quiz

It's a toughie...at least it was for me!

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So, got big plans for Valentine's Day?

I've been reading this little book called The Secret of Shelter Island - Money and What Matters by Alexander Green. It was recommended to me by my husband who mostly reads nonfiction and while I can see why the title appealed to him (he's the family investor) I was surprised to find what the book was about. It's a series of articles Green wrote about the pursuit of a good life.

Okay, I'm not spiritual. I don't have deep religious feelings. I'm agnostic, at best. I think there needs to be only one guiding principle: love one another. It's the only commandment we need. But in this book Green quotes a "prayer" by the author of Today Matters, John Maxwell that appeals to me. Here it is...you can substitute the goddess or gods or whatever for the Dear Lord...

So far today, I am doing all right. I have not gossiped, lost my temper, been greedy, grumpy, nasty, selfish, or self-indulgent. I have not whined, cursed, or eaten any chocolate (Jeanne: we can forgive him this one though I'd leave it out.)However, I am going to get out of bed in a few minutes, and I will need a lot more help after that. Amen.


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Sunday, February 05, 2012
  The Muse and music
Mario here:

How many of you demand absolute peace and quiet to write? Not me. I need sounds to distract the chattering in my head and let my brain concentrate on dredging words out of the mental sludge. Apparently so did Ernest Hemingway (good company, no?) as he couldn't work surrounded by quiet. He needed white noise to filter his thoughts and release the literary ones on the page. In his Key West home, Hemingway set up his writing desk where he could hear his servants and outside traffic go about the chores of the day.

Everybody has different tastes. A writing friend cranks up the heavy metal. Others like familiar golden-oldies. Me? After a foray into electronic and ambient (a.k.a. wallpaper music), I've gravitated to jazz. All the stations at the top of my list come from public radio, such as Jazz24-KPLU from Oylmpia, WA. Besides a deep playlist, I appreciate the self-deprecating jabs at their genre. (You want me to play a tune? I thought this was jazz. And...wherever jazz is, I is.)

Closer to home, in fact, two blocks away is the local station, KUVO, with some of the coolest voices to DJ their turntables--Erik Troe, Rodney Franks, Doug Crane, plus the syndicated programs Piano Jazz with Marian McPartland, and late night, Jazz with Bob Parlocha.

Then up Interstate 25, there is KUNC, in Greeley-which hooks me with their laid-back vibe, what I remember FM radio was back in the day. A show I discovered through them is Jazz After Hours, hosted by Jim Wilke. The cat oozes mellowness and cool. I enjoy when he announces shows at various venues about the country. The Blue Note. Bohemian Caverns. Snug Harbor. Dazzle. Yoshi's. Makes me feel so cosmopolitan just listening.

I also have Pandora bookmarked. I'm sure you all have built your own stations using their music genome.

Interestingly, at home, the spoken word like talk radio or the news distracts me. But at a coffee shop or diner, I find the random chatter and assorted noises--the gush of the espresso machine, the rattle of china--rather soothing. For that reason I don't write in a library. All that damn silence is so damn loud! If I can fade in and out, like when painting or doing paperwork, I do listen to spoken word. My favorites include iWine radio, hosted by the Wine Fairy, Lynn Kreilow Chamberlain, who interviews vintners, oenophiles, restaurateurs, epicures, and in general, wealthy lushes, for the lowdown on the fermented grape industry. Rich professional drunks--what I aspire to.

If I need a laugh, then there is the NPR program, Wait Wait Don't Tell Me, infamous for their snark and wonky satire of the week's news.

Speaking of things to listen to, try those cool Canadian cats behind the Paul The Book Guy website. Listen to your favorite authors or find new ones on Paul Alves' iTunes podcasts.

And then, the call for help goes out and who comes charging to the rescue? Who else but the League of Reluctant Adults? Fantasy author Patrick Rothfuss asked for donations in support of World Builders and we answered the call. His favorite charity with them is Heifer International, which promotes education, sustainable agriculture, and local industry. They give away sheep and goats. Ba...a...a!

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Wednesday, February 01, 2012
  101 Things To Do With Books (besides reading them)
I loved Mario's last post. He is so talented and such a nice guy. I can't wait for him to land that next contract so we can celebrate the triumph.

You know how I love books. This week I found all sorts of decorator ideas for and about books. Here are a few of them. No, not really 101 but that sounded like a good blog title.

A bookshelf that looks like the books are hanging by a string. They're not. They're actually resting on a small wooden plate. From NYDailyNews .

From Real Simple : 22 Ways to arrange your shelves

Another from Apartment Therapy : Making planters from books (this means defacing books which is hard for me. But you can find waterstained and old books in second hand stores which would work.)

Some simple shelves you can build yourself. Instructions at Real Simple.

Some wallpaper to add that library look when you don't have real books (I know, I know--who could possibly have no real books?) House Beautiful

Most of the above was found on Shelf Awareness for Readers. If you don't yet subscribe, go here and sign up. It's free and fun.

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From Vimeo :

Inspired, in equal measures, by Hurricane Katrina, Buster Keaton, The Wizard of Oz, and a love for books, “Morris Lessmore” is a story of people who devote their lives to books and books who return the favor. Morris Lessmore is a poignant, humorous allegory about the curative powers of story. Using a variety of techniques (miniatures, computer animation, 2D animation) award winning author/ illustrator William Joyce and Co-director Brandon Oldenburg present a new narrative experience that harkens back to silent films and M-G-M Technicolor musicals. “Morris Lessmore” is old fashioned and cutting edge at the same time.

“The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore” is one of five animated short films that will be considered for outstanding film achievements of 2011 in the 84th Academy Awards ®.

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore from Moonbot Studios on Vimeo.

About fifteen minutes but very Harry Potterish and quite fun.

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So, who lives in one of the most literate cities in America? Guess...

1. Washington, D.C. (same as in 2010)

2. Seattle (same as in 2010)

3. Minneapolis (same as in 2010)

4. Atlanta (same as in 2010)

5. Boston (up from No. 12 in 2010)

6. Pittsburgh (down from No. 5 in 2010)

7. Cincinnati (up from No. 11 in 2010)

8. St. Louis (up from No 9.5 in 2010)

9. San Francisco (down from No. 6 in 2010)

10. Denver (down from No. 8 in 2010)

Well, we fell a little but still made the top ten. From USA Today

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Two of our talented Reluctant Adult Leaguers had series books out yesterday:

J.F. Lewis: Burned

Book Description: Void City’s resident bad-ass vampire has a secret to keep, everything to lose, and a plan to win it all. Eric has taken control of the city’s supernatural hierarchy, putting all the deals and contracts that allow Void City to function up for renegotiation. When he installs his insane vampire daughter, Greta, as Void City’s sheriff of the supernatural, bloody mayhem ensues. To further complicate things, the love of Eric’s life is back from the dead, immortally young, at a cost that has put Eric under the thumb of a very powerful demon. The mysterious mouser Talbot, morose mage Magbidion, and all of Eric’s thralls are trying to help him keep things under control….But with early onset Alzheimer’s, vampire hunters, demons, a band of chupacabra, a cursed cousin with a serious grudge, and Rachel as his new “handler”…there’s just not an app for that.

Kelly Meding: Wrong Side of Dead

Book Description: Barely recovered from her extended torture at the hands of mad scientist Walter Thackery, Evy can use a break. What she gets instead is a war, as the battered Triads that keep Dreg City safe find themselves under attack by half-Blood vampires who have somehow retained their reason, making them twice as lethal. Worse, the Halfies are joined by a breed of were-creature long believed extinct—back and more dangerous than ever. Meanwhile, Evy’s attempts at reconciliation with the man she loves take a hit after Wyatt is viciously assaulted—an attack traced to Thackery, who has not given up his quest to exterminate all vampires . . . even if he has to destroy Dreg City to do it. With Wyatt’s time running out, another threat emerges from the shadows and a staggering betrayal shatters the fragile alliance between the Triads, vampires, and shapeshifters, turning Evy’s world upside down forever.

Look for them at a bookstore near you!

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Now this is a development worth following:

Barnes & Noble Won’t Sell Books From Amazon Publishing

“Barnes & Noble has made a decision not to stock Amazon published titles in our store showrooms,” Jaime Carey, the company’s chief merchandising officer, said in a statement. “Our decision is based on Amazon’s continued push for exclusivity with publishers, agents and the authors they represent. These exclusives have prohibited us from offering certain e-books to our customers. Their actions have undermined the industry as a whole and have prevented millions of customers from having access to content. It’s clear to us that Amazon has proven they would not be a good publishing partner to Barnes & Noble as they continue to pull content off the market for their own self interest.”

The rest of the NY Times article here

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Some more Year of the Dragon fun...Dragons in Literature. Take the quiz here

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I know this subject has been done to death in the last few weeks, but this cartoon by Tom Batiuk in the Denver Post seems to sum up the feeling of those who think if it's on the Internet, it's free. I'll be following this story arc with interest. You can follow it, too, here

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It is with deep regret that I inform you that Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow this morning...six more weeks of winter. Oh well...

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