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!

Sunday, April 28, 2013
  Three Cheers. For Jon, Rudy, and Lit Fest.

Mario here:

What I'm reading: The Quick Red Fox by John D. MacDonald.

Thanks everybody for the outpouring of condolences regarding the passing of our good friend, Cort McMeel. He's already greatly missed and the mystery writing community has lost a valuable champion. Cort introduced me to many other inspiring writers, including Jon Bassoff, the editor at New Pulp Press. Bassoff has a novel of his own forthcoming this fall, Corrosion.

A huge grito to Rudy Ch. Garcia on being named a finalist in the Best Novel--Fantasy/Sci-Fi category of the 2013 International Latino Book Award for his novel, The Closet of Discarded Dreams. We'll raid the petty cash jar to grease the appropriate palms in his favor.


 Lighthouse Writers Workshop presents its eighth annual Lit Fest & Book Fair, June 7-22, 2013. It's your chance to mingle with a fabulous bunch of booze hounds community of writers addicted to novels, poems, short fiction, memoirs, and screenplays. I'm teaching three craft seminars--You Had Me At Hello; The Longest Distance: Putting Your Ideas on the Pages; and Start with the Diamond: The Promise of a Great Novel. Plus I'm on a salon, Yes You Can: Writing in a Subjective World. Check out the catalog. See you there. I'll pour your first glass of wine.

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Thursday, April 25, 2013
  To Mario...with love

Mario's sadness over the death of his friend made me realize nothing I planned to write about today seemed very relevant. Cort McMeel's death touched him deeply. Mario's history had a lot to do with that. But more, Mario likes to play the clown. He's always ready with a joke (usually at my expense). I can take it. Last weekend, the jokester was gone. From the moment he got the news at Horrorfest, Warren Hammond and I saw the light dim.  There are always questions with a suicide, especially when one as exuberant and enthusiastic about life as Cort takes his own life. I could tell from Mario's reaction that with the confusion, there was the specter that maybe he missed something when he saw Cort just a week before.  Maybe there was a sign that he should have seen, a hint he misinterpreted. That's the dreadfulness of suicide. The questions that remain with those left behind.

So all I can do for you, my friend, is be here. Just as you were for Cort.

And to remind you, it's not your fault.

So, go ahead...hit me with your best shot!

Sunday, April 21, 2013
  Cort McMeel RIP--your passing casts a giant shadow
Mario here:

In a week brimming with bad tidings, we were still sucker punched by the news that Cort McMeel took his life.

We all know people who seem to teeter on self-destruction, and if they happen to do themselves in, we're not surprised.

But Cort was a different story.

You couldn't help but notice him. He was loud, boisterous, and earthy--a roman candle of mirth and optimism. Highly educated and exceptionally well-read, he wasn't shy about sharing his opinions, especially when it came to literature and writing. And he was just as gracious and friendly. Already a physically imposing character, his ebullient personality filled a room like exploding fireworks. Yet you never felt diminished by him, in fact we all shined brighter the closer we stood beside him.

 Me and Cort at a Lighthouse gathering.

His reputation truly preceded him as I learned about Cort through his Murdaland anthology months before actually I met him. And when we did meet, he instantly acknowledged that he knew of me through my books and that he had looked forward to the introduction. And he was as effusive with other writers. When he recently became acquainted with our own Jeanne, Cort gushed that he enjoyed her Doc Holliday story.

Above all, Cort loved hard-boiled noir. He'd summon a few of us fellow mystery writers like Benjamin Whitmer and Jon Bassoff to his favorite watering hole, The Thin Man in the Park Hill neighborhood, where we discussed books, teaching, and our writing projects. It was through Cort that I learned about Charles Bukowski, Graham Greene, and Daniel Woodrell. He was eager to receive our comments on his almost completed cage fighter novel, and he was equally excited to read my next work-in-progress. But foremost, Cort cranked the levers of those projects promoting his beloved mystery genre. Having already demonstrated his chops as an editor and publisher with Murdaland, Noir Nation, and Bare Knuckles Press, he was ready to move forward with an ebook publishing venture. He was the force behind Denver's Noir@Bar and saw that venue as the foundation for an ambitious mystery writing program.

 Dan Manzanares (L) and Cort at Lighthouse.

Cort led writing seminars at the Lighthouse Writers Workshop where he was fondly regarded as an exceptional and popular instructor. To appreciate his infectious radiance, check out these photos of the book launch party for his debut novel, Short.

It wasn't as if Cort didn't face challenges. He had recently lost his job as a day trader but assured me that he had enough money set aside and had several writing projects to help with the family cash flow. 

Writer, author, boxer, rugby player, hunter, Cort swung at opportunity with two-fisted bravado. He tackled life with Hemingway-esque drama, and ironically, died the same way.

Demons tormented Cort. Not mischievous imps or the devil's henchmen that we find in urban fantasy, but real demons--those destructive impulses that torment a person to madness.

I knew Cort as a raucous, happy drunk. Even with his reputation as a hard-drinking Irishman, around me he'd cut himself off at two drinks (more or less), claiming that he had to behave. The one time we did plan a late night of boozing, I was done at eleven but Cort still knocked the drinks down, slapping backs and making new friends around the bar. He dismissed my concerns about him getting home safe, and I let it go at that. After all, I wasn't his nanny. The next morning he texted that he had slept the night in his car and then driven straight to work. Two weeks ago at our Mystery Writers meeting, I bought him beers for his dinner. But the truth was, Cort struggled against the bottle. Concerned about the affect his alcoholism was having on his wife and children, Cort tried AA. And quit AA. And continued his lonely battle.

He kept his other demon well hidden. Behind his smiles and good-natured swagger, Cort habored a corrosive bleakness about the futility of life. Despite his accomplishments and plans and people in his corner, he somehow talked himself into believing that he had run out of hope.

Last Friday, Jon and I waited at The Thin Man to plan for the next Noir@Bar. Cort never showed up and I texted him, asking if he was okay. He never answered.

Many years ago, my father committed suicide (as well as other heinous acts), and it took decades for the wounds to heal. So while my grief for Cort is biblical in its pain, I cannot pretend that my anguish is close to what his family suffers.

I can't claim that I knew Cort as well as other writers, especially Les Edgerton. Even so, I deeply admired Cort and will miss him dearly.

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Thursday, April 18, 2013
  Books, books, and more books
This has been an interesting week. Cover went up for Blood Bond:

For the first book my new series, The Fallen Siren Series, Cursed:

(In case you're wondering, S.J.Harper is the pseudonym co-author Samantha Sommersby and I are publishing under)

And I received copies of a new German edition of the first three books in the Anna Strong Chronicles:

Hardcovers-- very nice!!

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Now for book news that's NOT about me... From Shelf Awareness and the Independent:

William Boyd's new authorized James Bond novel, publishing this fall, will be titled SOLO. The author said at the London Book Fair it features Bond on a "self-appointed mission of his own, unannounced and without any authorization," traveling three continents, "with the main focus honing in on Africa." Boyd said, "It's what happens to Bond in Africa that generates his urge to 'go solo' and take matters into his own hands in the USA." In further Bond trivia, a 60th anniversary release of an early version of Ian Fleming's Casino Royale shows  that the spy was originally named "Secretan… James Secretan."

"Secretan...James Secretan." Just doesn't have the same ring, does it?

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 This is for Tamra Monahan...I know she can identify!

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Something new in the local scene:

— “A book shop for wine lovers. A wine bar for book shoppers”— is set to open its doors this month in the arts district of Denver, Colorado, at 4280 Tennyson Street. The store will feature a menu of wine, beer, tea, coffee, hors d’oeuvres, and desserts to be served alongside an inventory of thousands of handpicked titles.

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All this late spring snow has murdered my tulips. They looked like this after the last storm:

That was bad enough...but  now they look like this:

And they were so beautiful!!

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One final word. The three musketeers: Mario, Warren Hammond and I will be appearing at Horrorfest this weekend. Check the schedule  here .

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Sunday, April 14, 2013
  Show me your pile

Mario here:

What I'm reading: Cape Fear by John D. MacDonald.

I speak to a lot of newbeis about writing. Mostly about craft. Some about storytelling. We have discussions about technique versus craft. What I've learned is that there is no one way to tell a story. Some people get hidebound over style and throw ugly conniptions about POV shifts and exposition as if these were the most foul of human trespasses. I've come to appreciate there is a difference between writing and storytelling. Some authors are very good writers yet mediocre storytellers, and as a result, in a novel, they lose their readers. Other authors are fantastic storytellers yet middling writers. Their prose doesn't dazzle. But roll out a good story and readers will overlook a lot.

One drawback to being a writer is that I've had to retrain myself as reader. It was too easy to read a book through my critiquer goggles and get so nit picky that I missed the richness of the story. This doesn't mean I finish every book that I start. If I put a book down, it's seldom because of style but because the story lacks coherence (i.e., a plot).

One bit of advice hasn't changed in my years as a writing instructor. And that is: Read. A lot.
Read bunches in your genre and bunches out of your genre. I'm amazed when I asked a wannbe to list their favorite books and they reply that they're too busy to read. Or they want to pen a (fill-in-the-blank--mystery, thriller, historical) and haven't bothered to read one. Last year I challenged myself to read a book a week and so far, I'm on the money. Here is my TBR pile, in no particular order that the books will be consumed. Four are nonfiction, the rest novels.

If life was truly fair, then local writer Manuel Ramos would be in the end caps at Costco with Michael Connelly and CJ Box. The Denver Post gives Ramos a bit of his due in this chingaton review of Desperado.

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Wednesday, April 10, 2013
  All the news...
Lots of good news from writer pals—Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers’ Cindy Myers  (The View From Here) and Warren Hammond (Kop Killer) are finalists in the 2013 Colorado Book Awards. Now Cindy is a regular at Fair Play and Warren is a critique party so I'm especially thrilled for them both.

On the League front: Jaye Wells (Blue Blooded Vamp) won the RT BookReviewers award for Best Urban Fantasy Novel and Diana Rowland (Even White Trash Zombies Get the Blues) for best Urban Fantasy Protagonist! As a former RT winner myself, I know how exciting this is! I look forward to partying with them next month at RT in Kansas City.

Not too long ago Mario was named on a B&N List of best paranormal fantasy books of the decade. This week Mark Henry's Happy Hour of the Damned was honored as one of the top 20 Zombie novels of the decade. Paul Goat Allen is at it again!

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 A small tribute to Annette Funicello-- she really was an American sweetheart--

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Next Tuesday, April 16th, pal Jackie Kessler debuts the latest in her YA series, the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse: Breath

From AmazonContrary to popular belief, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse aren’t just harbingers of doom—they actually keep life in balance. But what happens when their leader and creator, Death, becomes suicidal?
Before the first living thing drew its first gasping breath, he was there. He has watched humanity for millennia. And he has finally decided that humanity is not worth the price he has paid time and again. When Death himself gives up on life, a teenager named Xander Atwood is the world's only hope. But Xander bears a secret, one that may bring about the end of everything.      

This heart-pounding final installment of the Riders of the Apocalypse series looks at the value of life, the strength of love, and how a small voice can change everything . . . forever.

 If you haven't tried this series, you can start with Breath--the  books don't need to be read in order. Jackie is a wonderful writer and Breath appeals to more than the YA audience. You should give it a try.

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This one stunned me:

Disney Shuts Down LucasArts, Cancels Star Wars 1313 And Star Wars: First Assault

Disney has laid off the staff of LucasArts and cancelled all current projects. Full story  here

Too  bad-- I thought this looked good!

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From last week: Christa, email me at jeanne@jeannestein.com so I can send you your gift card. You were correct with your answer, even though it made me realize there were actually two errors in the timeline--one of which has yet to be mentioned. Makes me appreciate how thorough the copy editors of my books are and how much I need them!

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Sunday, April 07, 2013
  The future is here and it ain't pretty
Mario here:

What I'm reading:

Gil's All Fright Diner, by A. Lee Martinez.

Last week, Jeanne gave in to her inner sparkly vampire and posted the movie trailer to Stephenie Meyer's The Host. So to even out our karma, please visit Rotten Tomatoes to read their opinions about the movie. Among my faves:

"Come back Bella and Edward - all is forgiven." James Croot  flicks.co.nz

"An invasion of the body snatchers is preferable to realizing that the true horror perpetrated here is not on the characters but on the audience."  Connie Ogle Miami Herald

Years ago, the future was chrome and fins, clean energy, and bounty for all. Jobs? Ha! We don't need no stinking jobs. Who cares about money? (When did you ever see anyone on Star Trek ask a buddy to spot him some cash? Just until payday.) Or worry about deductibles?

Now that we're well into the second decade of the 21st Century! it's obvious we're getting the toys and gadgets but little of the promised enlightenment. The dark side of high-tech is definitely ugly. Lately there's been a lot of noise about Google glasses and FaceBook's smart phone, and its obvious that the primary purpose of both gizmos is to collect as much data about you as possible. They'll record where you are, who you're with (through facial recognition), what you're doing, what you're buying, who you're texting/talking to. If you think Google and FaceBook care a whit about your privacy, you're a fool. And those who claim you can opt out of the tracking or data mining are even bigger fools. For example, I joked in an email that I'd been eaten by a giant carp. The next time I opened my Gmail account, they had posted an ad for carp fishing. I can opt out of receiving ads based on my email content, but not out of Google shifting through my (not-so) private correspondence. And FaceBook is notorious for fudging the line when protecting your privacy. Some restaurants have already banned Google glasses, and you know it won't be long before some jerk causes a car crash because he was looking at porn while driving.

Plus we have drones. More and more of them. Getting deadlier. And smaller. Some new ones are the size of large wasps.What does this mean for privacy?

Another unforeseen consequence of high-tech is how it affects the way we're communicating. Cell phone users under the age of twenty-six text more than they talk over the phone. Many of us geezers lament the loss of communication skills. And how will we writers realistically and dramatically portray someone texting? Some have tried by including blocks of text-speak, but it makes for a boring narrative. Maybe we are boring.

The best book I've read that extrapolates the present trends--technologically, culturally, and politically--to their logical frightening developments is Richard K. Morgan's chilling Altered Carbon. It's a future that I'll gratefully never see.

Thankfully, we're not completely there yet. You can celebrate the joys of great traditional prose with Seattle author Jeanne Shortridge, who will be signing Water Love Memory at the LoDo tattered Cover, April 10, and she'll be presenting a workshop on Voice: Tapping into the Distinct at Lighthouse Writers Workshop, Saturday, April 13.

Try as we might, life is not all sunshine and chocolate. Acclaimed science fiction author Iain Banks announced that he has been diagnosed with terminal cancer. Please read Orbit's blog where he bravely discusses the news and his immediate future.

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Thursday, April 04, 2013
First order of business: A Contest!!

For those of you have been nice enough to order and read Cloud City, I'm offering a chance to win a $25.00 Amazon gift card. All you have to do to win is answer a question: There is an error in the story timeline. Do you know what it is? First person who replies below with the right answer is the winner!

If you haven't ordered it yet,  and would like to, here's the  link .

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New trailer for the Host which starts Friday.

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 Something fun- Diagram's winner for the oddest book title of the year: Goblinproofing One's Chicken CoopYes, and we all know how important it is to goblinproof one's chicken coop.

Philip Stone, The Bookseller charts editor and Diagram Prize administrator, said: "People might think the Diagram Prize is just a bit of fun, but it spotlights an undervalued art that can make or break a work of literature. Books such as A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time all owe a sizeable part of their huge successes to their odd monikers."

The full shortlist and their share of the vote:
1) Goblinproofing One's Chicken Coop by Reginald Bakeley (Conari Press) 38%
2) How Tea Cosies Changed the World by Loani Prior (Murdoch Books) 31%
3) God's Doodle: The Life and Times of the Penis by Tom Hickman (Square
Peg) 14%
4) How to Sharpen Pencils by David Rees (Melville House) 13%
5) Was Hitler Ill? by Hans-Joachim Neumann and Henrik Eberle (Polity Press)
6) Lofts of North America: Pigeon Lofts by Jerry Gagne (Foy's Pet Supplies)

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Just returned from a wonderful visit with friends in Vegas and daughter in Havasu. The weather was perfect, sunny, warm; the lake smooth as glass.

Friends Patty and Jay Salam from Vegas
"Family Portrait"

 Jeanette and "Maddie"- who has her own FB Page!

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The Rocky Mountain Fiction Writer's Colorado Gold writing contest is open. Go  here for details. A good opportunity to get your manuscript in front of agents and editors. Deadline is June 1. 

And with that, I bid you all a good day!!


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