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.
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.
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.
Cort McMeel RIP--your passing casts a giant shadow
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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,
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.
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
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.
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!
— “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 .
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.
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 Amazon: Contrary 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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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!
The future is here and it ain't pretty
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.
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 Coop. Yes, 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."