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, May 30, 2012
  One of our own...
After spending last weekend playing, I'm spending this weekend working. But before I embark on four days of immersion in Anna's world, I want to remind everyone that June 5th is a big day for the Pearl Street Critique Group. One of our own, Warren Hammond, is about to launch the newest in the KOP series, Kop Killer.

If you haven't read the first two books in this remarkable series, you still have time to catch up before the third is released. But just barely. And if you're in the Denver area, here's where you can catch Warren and get a signed copy first hand.

June 6 - Tattered Cover, Colfax Avenue, 7:30 PM
              2526 E. Colfax Ave
              Denver CO  80206  303-322-7727

June 10 - Broadway Book Mall, 3:00 PM
                200 S. Broadway
                Denver CO  303-744-Book
                (Also appearing: pal Betsy Dornbusch  signing Archive of Fire and J. Erwine signing A      Problem in Translation)

What did PW say about Kop Killer?
"Hammond holds nothing back; Mozambe is brutal and ruthless as he pursues both a serial killer and his personal objectives. The fast-moving story line is complemented by a complex lead and perfectly lean prose."
—Publisher's Weekly (Starred Review)

Notice that "perfectly lean poise?" The PSCG takes full credit!

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Sunday, May 27, 2012
  A matter of discovery
Mario here:

There's a lot of discussion about promoting your work and how readers find your books.

Mark Coker, over at his Smashwords blog, has posted the results of his survey on Mobilread distilling the argument to one profound question: What is your single most common method of book discovery?

Visit Coker's blog to get a detailed explanation of the pie chart. The number one reason (recommendations from fellow readers at online venues--29%) needs a qualifier as the survey was posted on an internet site, we could say it was a self-selecting audience. Jeanne posted a similar chart back in January, and since it was about brick-and-mortar bookstores, no big surprise that bookstore recommendations registered a big chunk at 30%. That chart didn't mention--as does Coker's--of readers on the watch for work by their favorite authors or the influence of book covers.

All this back-and-forth made me look at my current TBR and ask why those books are on my list:

The paper copy list:

A River Runs Through It, by Norman MacClean-- friend recommendation.
Pimp, by Iceberg Slim-- friend recommendation.
Taken, by Robert Crais-- favorite author.
To Say Nothing of the Dog, by Connie Willis-- friend recommendation.
Blackout, by Connie Willis-- bookstore browsing (and I was looking for something by this author).
Passion, by Lisa Valdez-- bookstore browsing (and I was looking for something by this author).
Consent To Kill, by Vince Flynn-- bookstore browsing (and I was looking for something by this author).
Cry Havoc, by Nigel Allsopp-- bookstore browsing.
Modern Sorcery, by Gary Jonas-- bought at the author's signing.
The Twelve, by James K Burk-- gift from the author.

On my Kindle:

Thread of Hope, by Jeff Shelby-- I was looking for something by this author.
Long Hard Ride, by Lorelei James-- bookstore browsing (and I was looking for something by this author).
Deadly Currents, by Beth Groundwater-- bookstore browsing (and I was looking for something by this author).
The Frog Prince, by Elle Lothlorien-- I was looking for something by this author.

Fourteen books total. Not a huge stack. Crunching the numbers.

50% looking for something by this author (influenced by book description and reviews).
21% friend recommendation.
The rest of the reasons are 7% each.

Hmmm...nothing about the affect of covers. I will say that I've avoided certain books because the covers turned me off, figuring amateurish cover equaled amateurish prose.

How do you choose books for you TBR pile?

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Thursday, May 24, 2012
  Last Chances

Last chance to win a free general pass to RomCon in June. Details here . All you have to do is submit your name in comment form and mention RomCom. The deadline is midnight Sunday, May 27. The pass is valued at $149.00! Shannon Baker was last week's winner.

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The deadline is approaching for the Colorado Gold writing contest as well. If you would like to get your writing in front of an agent or editor, don't miss this chance. Details  here .   Deadline for submitting is midnight June 1.

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I have a question for all you readers out there. But that's later. First I want to explain why I'm asking.

This week I attended a workshop (which was really a two hour infomercial for this person's $175.00 workshop) about e-publishing. She has two very successful romantic comedies out and a third to be released this summer. If you judge by money, she's doing VERY well. Better than most traditionally published authors by far. I should also mention that I haven't read her stuff. She may be the best writer since Nora Roberts in this genre. I don't know. It's not something I generally pick up.

But I digress. Here's what she's done. Her first book came out and by some quirk of fate, she got a plug on some big media outlet and the book took off. When the second book came out, she noticed sales were good but not as good as the first. She also noticed a lot of emails saying in her love triangle, she picked the wrong guy for the heroine to end up with. So, what did she do? She rewrote the book and issued it with an alternate ending. It was a hit.

Now, when Fifty Shades of Grey (which I also haven't read and I'd be interested in comments from those who have) came out and was a HUGE success, she thought. Aha!! Mommy-Porn. I can do that, too. So she rewrote the books AGAIN as erotica. They are to be released this summer.

Okay, here's the question--WTF? Is this something you as a reader want? The same story rewritten to catch each wave? Does it bother you? Or is it just me? I may be way off on this but it seems like a cheat. Because these books are epub'd, she can have them out in 48 hours. I'm just surprised she hasn't issued a version where the characters are vampires or mind-reading waitresses. 

If you think I'm wrong in my take, let me have it. I've been criticized by the best (Mario and I are in the same critique group, remember.) I really want to know what you think.

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One last thing. I had a conversation about inspiration with my doctor (who is also a friend) and I told her about this Nike ad I cut out from a magazine decades ago. I've kept it pinned on a bulletin board ever since. Her reaction was so positive, I decided to share it on FB. Now, in case you're one of the dozen people left on earth who isn't on FB, I'm sharing it with you. If you click on the picture, you can read it easier.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Mario here:

A management-type person once told me there is one personality trait that HR doesn't like in an employee.


Funny you might say as we all like to stand next to someone charming in the hopes that some of that glitter will cling to us.

The problem for HR is that charisma brings its own form of authority that can circumvent the hierarchy. The guy in the corner office might be the boss because the organizational chart says so. He's got his walls plastered with management certificates, proof that he's punched all the tickets that crown him a leader. But there's this other guy who people defer to because being around him, getting his okay, makes you feel good about yourself. His blessing adds sparkle to your work.

What's this got to do with writing?

Plenty. The charisma you bring to the page, through your voice, is what adds authority to your prose. Authority in the sense that you're someone worth paying attention to and that your words will enrich the reader.

Enrich the reader? That's a big meatball. All you want to do is tell a story. That's just it. You have to tell an interesting (i.e., charming, engrossing, compelling) story to keep the reader coming back hour-after-hour, page-after-page.

Don't try to be the boss guy in the corner office, ticking down the list of writing do's and don'ts, convinced you've got all the literary bases covered, when in fact your work is an eye-glazing snoozer.

To succeed as a fiction writer, you gotta project style, character, personality. Charisma...cool.

Cool? Oh God, you say, now I gotta be cool? Me in my ratty sweats, flip-flops, cheap readers, and a bad haircut?

Okay, not you...your work. Your words. Your story.

No guarantee you'll gain any cool points but here's a plug for my class with the Lawson Writer's Academy.
Fang It to Me; Writing Vampires, Fantasy, and the How-to's of World-building.
June 4-29, 2012. For you, my friend, only $30

Wait! There's more!

How about a cemetery's worth of undead charisma for only $2.99? The you're in luck with the Kindle version of Jailbait Zombie, now on sale.

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Wednesday, May 16, 2012
  Nothing to say...
Some weeks I find I have nothing to say. This is such a week. Between working on three projects, reading two manuscripts for critique, and about twenty YA books for the Stokers, time to think about the blog just didn't present itself. But this morning, I took half an hour and scrolled FB--something I don't do very often. So here, in no particular order, were things that caught my eye. Let's see if they hit you the way they did me.

First, a picture of Lynda Hilburn, me, J.L.Bowen and Lizzie T. Leaf at B&N last Saturday.

Then I saw these pictures from the opening of Snow White and the Huntsman...

 Photos by Ben Pruchnie/Getty Images

Do we detect a theme in the dresses?

Next, from Brenda Ball's FB page:

Love it!
And something I can relate to from Kathy Miller:

And last but not least, from Jennifer Armintrout's FB page:

Wow-- if the Avenger Team says it, it must be true!

So, on that note-- happy week all! 

PS - I saw the Avengers last week and it was all I'd hoped it would be. And if you go and don't sit through the credits, shame on you! And you'd better listen because:

PPS - This just in. RomCon is offering a give-away...two general pass admissions for new registrants. If you've been thinking about going, leave a comment and you'll be entered in the drawing. It's two from the Biting Edge so enter early and often. Contest runs two Thursdays. I'll choose one from this week and one from next.

Sunday, May 13, 2012
  Czech this out!
Mario here:

I am now an international author. Here is my one foreign title, the translated version of The Nymphos of Rocky Flats, from the Czech republic:

I'll give their art director the benefit of the doubt and assume that this cover resonates with the Czech public and soon my bank account will runneth over with korunas.

Get Smart!
I'll be teaching on online class with the Margie Lawson Writing Academy, this June 4-29, 2012.

 Fang It to Me: Writing Vampires, Fantasy, and the How-To's of World-Building. The workshop includes examples and materials prepared especially for this class by some of the top writers in fantasy to include: Carrie Vaughn, Kevin Hearne, Warren Hammond, Jaye Wells, Dakota Cassidy, Carol Berg, Diana Rowland, Stephen Graham Jones, and our own Jeanne Stein.

Though there is a danger your head might explode from so much knowledge. 
And for only $30. Sign up here.

If you're jonsing for a dystopian tale of double crosses and murder, Juno is back, in Kop Killer.

You have two opportunities to catch the master of mayhem and future noir, Warren Hammond:
Wednesday, 7:30PM, June 6, the Tattered Cover Colfax.
Sunday, 3PM, June 10, the Broadway Book Mall, 200 S Broadway, Denver, with Betsy Dornbusch (Archive of Fire) and J Ewing (A Problem in Transmission)

And then, more literary fun at the Lighthouse Writers LitFest Salons in the Lighthouse Grotto 

1515 Race Street, Denver, CO 80206 info@lighthousewriters.org

$20.00 members / $30.00 non-members (for adult beverages and snacks). Sure, it ain't free, but the wisdom and entertainment are worth the price: throw in drinks and chow, and it's the best bargain of the summer.

Tuesday, 8PM, June 5, 2012

Writing With A Gun to My Head: Jason Heller, Julie Kazimer, moderated by Mario Acevedo

How do you balance creativity against the relentless push of deadline? What is it like to slave at the word count, only to leave your work-in-progress to address a fresh round of revisions from another manuscript? And then the copy edits from another book fall on top of you. Plus you’re expected to blanket social media with promotions for yet another book. Meanwhile, readers demand that whatever you write can’t be anything less than genius. Come listen to why we crazy writers are willing to put that gun to our head.

Thursday, 8PM, June 7, 2012

Literary vs. Genre Death Match: Nick Arvin, Nic Brown, Robert Greer, and Connie Willis 

The world of fiction tends to divide itself into two camps, literary and genre. But how do you tell one from the other? What are their strengths and weaknesses? And, most importantly, if you locked the two of them in a cage and forced them to fight to the death, which would win? Join us for a freewheeling discussion with some of Colorado’s best literary and genre writers.

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Wednesday, May 09, 2012
  The world of collaborative writing...
I want to thank all of the well wishers who offered congratulations to my writing partner and I, Samantha Sommersby, for the new contract. I've already gotten questions about the process of collaborative writing so I though I'd say a few words about how it worked for us.

Sam lives in San Diego and we've known each other for a long time.  She's written over a dozen paranormal romances for a number of publishers. Two years ago, at Dragon Con, the idea of writing a book together, a book that would combine the aspects of Urban Fantasy and paranormal romance, went from idle speculation to real possibility as we started brain storming ideas. A few months later, when I was in San Diego for Comic Con, we actually sat down and started developing characters. We decided who the protagonist would be (a siren cursed with mortality), partnered with a werewolf (battling demons from the past), against the antagonist (a surgeon who  harvested vampire organs to transplant in humans). That's a simplification, of course, but once we knew who we wanted in the story, we started world building.

Our story is set in contemporary San Diego. Our protag is in the FBI, working in the Missing Persons Bureau.  We pitched the story as Without a Trace meets Angel and by the time we had finished a character list and knew the details of their world, we were ready to write a synopsis. We did it by breaking the story into scenes--first together, then separately. We emailed our versions back and forth until we were satisfied with the story details.

Then we started writing.  Since our synopsis was written scene by scene, Sam would write scenes 1 -4, for example, while I worked on 5 -9. Then we'd switch, critique, edit and send back. We did that back and forth until we had a first draft completed. It only took us about three months to do the first draft but the real work, the editing is still going on. Our writing styles are so similar, that when I brought chapters to my critique group, no one could tell which of us wrote what!

About halfway through the first draft, I put together a proposal and sent it to both my agent and editor at Ace. I included a cover letter, our character list, the synopsis, Sam's publishing credits and the first fifty pages.  The result was the aforementioned contract. The book will be published by Penguin's NAL. Once we've finished the final edit on book one, we'll start the process again for the sequel.

It's turned out to be a painless and rewarding process and hopefully one that produces stories that you will enjoy reading as much as we enjoyed writing them. We'll keep you up to date on pub details.

Two items from RMFW:

May 19, 2012
8:00 am to 4:00
Table Mountain Inn
1310 Washington Ave, Golden, Colorado
(800) 762 9898

Terri Bischoff of Midnight Ink presents It's All About Character. And Story. Join editor Terri Bischoff for an intensive workshop on developing your overall story and character arcs. The morning session will include developing a character arc for one book or over a series. The afternoon session will be all about developing your story, and just like with characters, we will work on an story arc for one book or several in a series.

Go here to register and for more info.

And time is running out to enter the 29th Annual Colorado Gold Writing Contest 2012 which will CLOSE For Submissions on June 1st at 11:59 pm

For unpublished writers of COMMERCIAL novel-length fiction. Here's your chance to get your novel in the hands of an acquiring agent or editor. Submit the first twenty pages of your manuscript and an eight-page synopsis. There are six categories: Romance, Mystery, Mainstream, Action/Thriller, Speculative Fiction, and Young Adult. Two judges from RMFW will evaluate and score each entry. The FIVE highest-scoring submissions above 130 points in each category will make the finals, and then be judged by an agent or editor who is attending the Colorado Gold Conference. One winner will be picked in each category. Winners receive $100.00 and a certificate. The remaining finalists will receive $30.00 and a certificate. Winners will be announced at the Colorado Gold Writers Conference Awards Banquet, September 8, 2012 at the Renaissance Hotel in Denver.

To enter go here  and click on the "Enter the 2012 Contest" link where you'll find rules and entry instructions, the electronic entry form and online payment. It's never been easier to enter the Colorado Gold Writing Contest.

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From the Daily Mail:

An Oxford undergraduate is following in the footsteps of best-selling author JK Rowling - after landing a six-figure book deal with the Harry Potter writer's publisher.

English undergraduate Samantha Shannon, 20, has signed a contract with publishing powerhouse Bloomsbury for the release of her novel, The Bone Season, and two sequels. But she doesn't plan to stop there.

Just like Rowling did with her Harry Potter series, Miss Shannon has mapped out an entire adventure to be spread over seven books.

Full article on the link above. 20 years old!!!This is either the best or worst thing that could happen to her.

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I'll be at the Barnes & Noble Westminster, 9370 Sheridan Blvd from 11 A - 3 PM this Saturday. This time I'll be signing with Lizzie T Leaf, Lynda Hilburn and debut author JL Bowen. Stop by and say hello... or call and I'll be happy to sign a book for you to pick up later. 303-426-7733

Then I'm off to see the Avengers... Has anyone seen it yet? Did you like it? I can't wait!

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Sunday, May 06, 2012
  The key...

Breaking News: from Publishers Lunch

Jeanne Stein and Samantha Sommersby's FALLEN, a paranormal thriller pitched as combining Without a Trace and Angel, in which an age-old siren partnered with a werewolf join up on a mission of redemption for past sins, to Jessica Wade at NAL, in a two-book deal, by Scott Miller at Trident Media Group.

Betsy Dornbusch's epic fantasy EXILE, to Jeremy Lassen at Night Shade Books, in a two-book deal, for publication in early 2013, by Sara Megibow of Nelson Literary Agency (World English).

Mario here:

I speak at several writing conferences and what I've noticed are how many wanna-be writers seem to have the attitude that we published authors are hiding the key to getting published. That this mysterious key will unlock the secrets to getting an agent and editor and securing a coveted deal.

Sadly, there is no key. If one existed, I'd use it to get all my trunk novels on the shelf.

The good news is that those secrets are no secrets at all.

Getting published is a matter of:

The Great Idea.
Timing and Luck.

The Great Idea: Agents, editors, and readers are always looking for a new story. Granted, there are no new stories, only twists of what's been told. But that's your challenge as a writer. For example, how many dinosaur movies have been made? Land of the Lost. The Valley of Gwangi. One Million Years B.C. What was so different from them and Jurassic Park? Plenty of course, but that's the unique twist. What about vampires? There's a big difference between Twilight and Blade.

Execution: So you've got The Great Idea. Thinking about it keeps you up at night. Now it's a matter of telling your story, and telling it well. This is why most of you come to writing conferences and take writing workshops. To hone your craft. To nail your voice. To discover your style. To remain inspired as you slog through the morass of The Second Act. We know how hard it is to hook an agent and get them to ask for your manuscript. We can't disappoint them, and ourselves, by not delivering a Holy Smokes, my eyes are burning, this is an amazing story.

Persistence: Here is where many wanna-be's fall away. Writing a book involves a lot of time and effort. It takes discipline to do more than sit at the keyboard. Forget waiting for the perfect moment of inspiration. Forget waiting for retirement and typing away at the beach. If it's not killing you now that you're not writing, then you're not a writer. Nobody but you gives a shit if you write your story or not. You've got to hack away at the narrative. Day by day. Sentence by sentence. Pile up tens of thousands of words. And you must stoke this persistence even after countless setbacks. Rejections. Getting your chapters mauled in critique. The distractions of day-to-day life: family, paying bills, traffic tickets, jerkoff neighbors.

Connections: There's a myth that writers are antisocial recluses. Some perhaps, but most of my fellow scribes are exceptionally gregarious and outgoing. Bouchercon is called DebaucherCon for a reason. Get us together over booze, and we cluck like happy chickens. Attending cons is an excellent way to meet agents and editors in person and learn that they're not mysterious creatures. Later, when you query, there's a face attached to your letter, and assuming you made a decent impression, that's one more reason for a yes. Also, with the time-suck of social media, you have to balance between being an annoying Me! Me! pain-in-the-ass, spending hours blabbing on about nothing (when you should be writing), or actually creating a worthwhile presence.

Timing and Luck: I've heard plenty of anecdotes that convince me that there are supernatural forces at work in publishing (some good, some evil). An example of good: a writer submits a story about undead midwives, and the receiving agent will recall a conversation with an editor who said her house is looking for something different in urban fantasy, say, undead midwives? Bingo. Now it's a matter of your execution. But as they say, Fortune favors the prepared.

I'm deep in the execution stage of my work-in-progress. At last, I typed THE END to the first draft of my manuscript. Now to connect the Hemingway Bullshit Detector and grind away at the narrative. Here's my recycle box stuffed with revised pages.

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Wednesday, May 02, 2012
  Cautionary Tale
Last weekend was spent with my daughter and her significant other in Lake Havasu. They showed us a great time. However, you know when your little voice says not to do something? Well, my little voice said you should not ride a motorcycle with short pants. Did I listen?

No. See that smile? It didn't last long. Made a rookie mistake getting off which resulted in this:

Second degree burn and this is after three days of treatment...So, boys and girls, listen to your mother when she says always wear your leathers and boots when riding!!!

But the rest of the weekend went smoothly! The Desert Storm Boat Show started on Thursday night with a street party featuring some of the sweetest boats I've ever seen.

 Friday was rhino riding and the aforementioned
motorcycle ride:

Walking along the river walk
Steve Barry, our host and tour guide!

And we watched some of those sweet boats on the lake:

Saturday was prep day for a party. Steve and Jeanette really know how to throw a party...not only was there live music and plenty of food, but we met many of their friends. Havasu is such a friendly place. About forty people showed up to meet and greet and the band (of which Steve is a member) serenaded us well into the night!

Sunday was out on the lake -- can't come to Havasu without spending a day on the lake~

I don't get time away to just relax very often. I want to thank Jeanette and Steve for hosting us! Now, of course, it's back to work. At least I have the Avenger movie to look forward to this weekend...

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