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, March 28, 2012
New Writing Class
Hi folks-- a little commercial interlude before we begin today's program. I'm going to be teaching an online class in writing Urban Fantasy for The Carolina Romance Writers Chapter of RWA beginning April 2. If it sounds like something you might be interested in, here's the info.
WORKSHOP DESCRIPTION: 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.
COST: For CRW and HCRW members $15, all others $25
I love spring. The grass is turning green, the trees are starting to bud, the flowers are poking their little heads up. Means we should get a snow storm any minute to squash them flat. Anyway, here's a look at my yard.
And it's like bunny heaven in our yard, too. Yesterday I counted five--FIVE!!! Of course I couldn't persuade them to pose together for a pic but here are two.
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Okay, so it's a slow news week. I've been busy with copy edits for Haunted, finishing the first draft for Fallen (the new series), writing a part of screenplay for a class, working on the ninth Anna book (no working title yet) and updating my lessons for the CRW class I mentioned above. So I really have been busy. About the only newsworthy item that I came across was this:
Tattered Cover Book Store is in negotiations to open multiple outlets at Denver International Airport, CBS4 reported. "Yes, we're hoping to," owner Joyce Meskis confirmed. "It's in the hands of the city at this point." She told CBS4 that tentative plans call for the bookseller to partner with Hudson News, taking over and rebranding airport sites as Tattered Cover outlets. Hudson News would continue to be involved in the operation of the bookstores. "We would be working together with them, but the names would be Tattered Cover," Meskis added. She also called the DIA plan a "win-win" move: "They (DIA) want to show travelers the connection to Denver and we would hope to have more exposure."
I'm hoping this means I might see more of my books at the airport. I seem to find them in every city but my own!!
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Oh, there is one more thing. Today, Thursday, is the book launch for Aaron Ritchey's The Never Prayer-- It will be held here:
Hanson’s Grill and Tavern 1301 S. Pearl St Denver, Colorado 80210 7pm until they kick us out, baby!
If you know Aaron, you know it will be a kick. If you don't, you need to meet this talented new YA author now. Hope to see you there!
Team Mickey Mouse screws the pooch
Mario here and I'm crying in my beer.
I had the pleasure of escorting mystery writer Hilary Davidson last Friday during her visit to Denver for a signing at the Tattered Cover Bookstore on Colfax. A former travel writer, Davidson geeked out with her laptop when talking about touring Machu Piccho, the setting for her latest mystery, The Next One to Fall. She won both the Anthony and Crimespree Awards for Best First Novel for The Damage Done. I've just started that book and it's the kind of juicy meaty read I haven't enjoyed in along time.
And now, our feature presentation.
The movie John Carter tanked, and I'm heartbroken. The movie was a hundred years in the making and a big-budget adaptation of the grand daddy of all epic science-fiction fantasy adventures...and it became the biggest turkey ever hatched by Hollywood.
So what happened?
To begin, John Carter wasn't a bad movie, in fact, it was a pretty good flick and not deserving the scorn heaped on it. The problem was poor marketing.
It's a sad case of schadenfreude. Us writers are always getting hammered with Promotions! Marketing! Branding! Building a platform! and it's enlightening (and in this case, also disheartening) to see the big pros stumble into disaster.
Years ago, Disney presented a workshop at the University of Denver on branding and marketing. After all, who knows better than the Magic Kingdom about pushing product and plucking dollars out of customers' hands? So it was amusing and ironic, that Disney--with $250 million at stake--crashed this movie straight into the iceberg and claimed they didn't see it coming. Worse, Disney said it spent another $100 million on promotion, meaning they crashed at ramming speed.
For director Andrew Stanton, this movie was a dream project as he was eager to see one of his favorite stories finally brought to the big screen. But the problem was that Stanton was too close to the material. In his mind, John Carter was as well known a hero as Batman (Huh?). Stanton fought back against promotions at ComicCon, the Mecca of geekdom, arguing the project didn't need the publicity.
And then there's the title of the film, John Carter. Originally it was John Carter of Mars, but Disney nixed the of Mars, claiming they didn't want to turn off the teenage girl audience with their delicate sensibilities. (The same audience who is no doubt cheering the bloodletting in The Hunger Games.) With no fancy marketing degree, Edgar Rice Burroughs knew better than to title any of his books, simply John Carter. He rightly figured the public would go, Who the hell is John Carter? So he gave his first three books, the source material of the movie, awesome titles like: A Princess of Mars, The Gods of Mars, The Warlord of Mars.
Which those geniuses at Disney ignored.
Didn't help much that the most visible pre-launch press was this knifing by The New Yorker.
Then there was the trailer. I was excited to see the video as it faithfully depicted the creatures and landscape I have so long wanted to see in film. But my kids were ho-hum. John Carter (again, who?) fighting monsters in an arena. They've seen this before. Luke Skywalker against the rancor. Maximus versus tigers in Gladiator. What the trailer lacked was the spectacle of the Martian world and the romantic spark between John Carter and the princess (the hottie) Dejah Thoris. This fan trailer is closer to the mark of what should've been presented.
Now for a hundred million smackers, I would expect plugs for the movie to become as ubiquitous as credit card spam. But no. Other than occasional links for the trailer, there wasn't much. The movie posters were dismally bland. Disney should sic goons to shake down the marketing execs and get their money back. This last year I attended several sci-fi/fantasy cons and never once saw any John Carter swag.
Disney needed to cultivate the John Carter message beyond the small circle of ardent fans (like me) and they had the resources, but not the brains, to do so much cool promotion. A major push at ComicCon with full-size props of the tharks and thoats.
A model of a Barsoomian flyer hanging from the ceiling.
Buff actors dressed as the characters. Since the movie was set in the late 1880's, the Victorian period, the stage design drew upon an elaborate Art Nouveau aesthetic that would've played well with the Steampunk community. Disney could've dispatched teams to all manner of cons to whip up excitement.
Imagine the killer buzz had they let Steampunkers take photos on this flyer prop? It's bronze for Christ's sake!
Actress Lynn Carter (Dejah Thoris) had an exceptionally toned, beautiful body, and she should've been pimped to Maxim, Esquire, etc., and the fitness magazines. So even the experts fall hard. In this case, it was a great story that suffered.
There’s book art — many beautiful examples of which are cropping up every day — and then there’s extreme book art. The exhilarating work of Madrid-based artist Alicia Martín clearly falls into the latter category. In her dramatic Biografias series, thousands of books explode out the windows of three buildings, evoking such forces of nature as waterfalls and tornadoes. To us, these massive sculptures symbolize the boundary-busting, life-changing power of literature — but we don’t want to over-think them, either, because they’re also just breathtaking to behold. Check out a selection of images from Biografias (including one that reveals what these structures look like from the inside) after the jump, and then visit Martín's gallery’s website to see more of her book-obsessed work.
To celebrate Women's History Month: Top 10 Female Science Fiction Characters from Sciencefiction.com
Check it out. I know Mario and I agree with who tops this list...what about you? Any not mentioned?
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I didn't go with the group on Friday to see John Carter, but the unanimous decision from the Pearl Street Writers Group seemed to be two thumbs up. Have you seen it? Are you an ERB fan? Or like me, just read his Tarzan books? I think Mario is planning to post a review on Monday.
Don't know if I've shared this before-- I'll be co-writing a new series with San Diego author and pal, Samantha Sommersby. We pitched it as: Without a Trace meets Angel—our “Angel” being an age-old Siren turned FBI Agent who is cursed by mortality and partnered with an alpha werewolf who’s fighting demons of his own. In search of redemption for past sins, they use the powers of seduction and strength, along with their knowledge of the supernatural to rescue damsels, bring big bads to justice, and capture one another's hearts.
We’ve already completed the first draft of book one, Fallen, and as soon as we get a publication date, we’ll let you all know!! It’s a different type of book for me. Not quite so kick-ass, a little more romantic.
Some pimpage before we continue with the programming:
This Thursday, March 22, 7:30PM, at the Tattered Cover LoDo, writer pal and fellow Lighthouse instructor, Nick Arvin, signs his newest book, The Reconstructionist, already an Amazon Best Books picks. Arvin's previous novel, the acclaimed Articles of War, was, among other awards, chosen as One of the Best Books of the Year by Esquire magazine and was the 2007 One Book, One Denver selection. Check out this review in the Denver Post.
Then there's me. Monday, March 26, 6:30-8:30PM, I'll be teaching a free introductory class, Speculative Writing: the Good, the Bad, and the Weird, at the Caste Rock Public Library. The next classes in the series will be Wednesday nights at the Douglas County Library. For info and to enroll, check out The Writing School.
And now... Put the movie John Carter on your must-see list. I went to the theater with a good amount of trepidation as it's based on a story I'm familiar with. I started reading the John Carter of Mars books when I was in junior high and back then thought, these would make awesome movies. So my expectations were high and the film did not disappoint. The screenplay was an amalgam of the plots of the first three books in the series by Edgar Rice Burroughs (A Princess of Mars, The Gods of Mars, The Warlord of Mars--there were ten in all) and smoothed a lot of the rougher edges. One plot device in the books that required a rather huge suspension of disbelief was how John Carter made it to Mars (or as the Martians call their home planet--Barsoom) in the first place. The movie solved that with a neat trick that was easier to accept (involving of course super-magical science).
Dejah Thoris, the Princess of Mars, was played by the veteran actor Lynn Carter, whose résumé includes Portia in the 2004 movie, The Merchant of Venice, and occasional appearances in True Blood. Dejah Thoris was supposed to be most beautiful woman who ever lived, on Earth or Barsoom, and I'm thinking, yeah right. Well, in this movie, she was...smokin' hot. Brainy. Athletic. Heroic. Plus great legs and cleavage.
Reluctantly, I saw the movie in 3D, a format I don't like. The previous two movies I've seen in 3D, Avatar and one of the Transformers monstrosities, were awful and the dizzying special effects only made the experience worse. This time, the 3D effects were thankfully tame and the movie was good enough not to need them.
There were some aspects in the movie that differed from what I had imagined, specifically the thoats (Barsoomian eight-legged mounts, which were always depicted in art as more horse-like) and the airships (I loved the ship controls, so very Steampunk). But the sets were magnificent with a beautiful Art Nouveau aesthetic and I'm sure the art directors each busted a nut over the research and concepts.
The story line had plenty of twists and a compelling plot. The driver of the story was Dejah Thoris, who has to convince John Carter to help her stop the evil god-like Matai Shang and his minions. John Carter finally agrees, but not to save Barsoom, but because he's in love with Dejah Thoris. (John Carter may be an interplanetary hero but he's also a man.) And John Carter in turn, has to convince the green Tharks to ally themselves with Dejah's cause. And when the story seems all wrapped up, the screenwriters throw in another great twist. And then, another.
If you have any idea of the challenges of acting, even in this age of CGI, check out this behind-the-scenes video of Lynn Carter interacting with Willem Dafoe (Tars Tarkas). Imagine trying to get into the spirit of saving your people from annihilation when walking on dry wall stilts! An interesting detail was that Dafoe's movie rival was played by Thomas Haden Church (of Sideways fame), who also wore stilts. Plus there's a cameo by Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad).
The main shortcoming of the movie was that we've been here before--a space opera with an intrepid hero on a foreign planet with bizarre creatures and fantastic technology--which is not a fault of the story, which is a hundred years old. In fact, Edgar Rice Burroughs' series was the inspiration for generations of writers and it's just that those other stories (Star Wars, Avatar, etc.,) made it to the screen first. Walt Disney wanted to make A Princess of Mars his first movie but he relented (that distinction went to Snow White) because he felt the movie technology of the time wouldn't do the story justice. Since then, there have been a few attempts, including this forgettable dreck starting Traci Lords (well, she tried).
From Shelf Awareness: March 12 was the 55th anniversary of the appearance of The Cat in the Hat, which instantly made Dr. Seuss into the beloved children's book author that many of us have had the joy of discovering as children--and then again as adults, for the children in our lives. Happily it's one of those sterling children's books that can be read aloud again and again by an adult to a child--the tale of fun, mischief, near-catastrophe and magic continues to delight even after 20 or 50 or 100 or more readings. That itself is cause for celebration.
So for children--and adults--everywhere: happy birthday, Dr. Seuss! --John Mutter
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Something fun for us girls:
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Sign of the times: After 244 Years, Encyclopaedia Britannica Stops the Presses
“It's a rite of passage in this new era," said Jorge Cauz, president of Encyclopaedia Britannica. "Some people will feel sad about it and nostalgic about it. But we have a better tool now. The website is continuously updated, it's much more expansive and it has multimedia.”
Wow, having a set of encyclopedias used to be a part of every household's library. Now it's having a computer to access Google. I must admit it is a lot easier to type in a question than heft a big, heavy tome but my sister still has the set from our childhood and I'm glad, antiquated though it is.
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What's Joss Whedon been up to? An interview conducted at the SXSW conference last weekend. I'd never heard of this con before, but I'll check it out for next year.
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Last weekend was a Fairplay Writers Retreat. My camera batteries ran out before I could capture everyone but here are a few pics. Every writer should have a place like the Hand Hotel. Mike Stone, the manager, is a gourmet cook. His staff is warm and welcoming. There are no TVs or telephones in the rooms. There is WiFi, a necessity it seems nowadays. And to be surrounded with other writers, all engrossed in creating their art, creates an energy that is palpable.
View of the valley approaching Fairplay Susan Smith & I at breakfast - Cutthroat Cafe
Our welcoming committee!! The Hand Hotel Downtown Fairplay
Last week I posted a video of Prometheus, the prequel to the Alien franchise. In that trailer, it's 2023, on the eve of the alien encounter. Meaning a deep space mission is in the offing.
Not to be a spoil-sport, but that's only 11 years in the future and we're nowhere close to building a spacecraft capable of practical interplanetary travel. In fact, we're not even going to Mars. For missions beyond our solar system, we'll need a technological leap similar to the discovery of fire. You know, like the bending of gravity and time. Which only happens around here at Happy Hour and afterwards, we've yet to get farther than the street corner. Not to mention the risks if you spend too much time in space.
In an earlier post I had discussed how we're in the 21st century, the Future! What happened to our spaceships, anti-gravity boots, and clean fusion energy? This is how we were supposed to dress when tomorrow got here:
The best we seem to have is an iPhone, which really, had Mr. Spock have seen one, I doubt he would've said, "Interesting." I think his reaction would've been, "Holy shit, that freakin' rocks. Where can I get one?"
Here's another look at the future from the British TV Show UFO. At 45 seconds, check out the mesh uniforms; the men were looking exceptionally stylish.
Blatant Self Promotion! It's about The Good, the Bad, and the Weird. I'm teaching a class on Speculative Fiction with The Writing School. The first class is free! March 26. The four week bookend workshop (One live class, two online classes, & a final live class) starts April 11. For details, go here --> The Writing School. It's a great way to channel those voices in your head.
Short But Sweet Today, On My Way to Fairplay!!!
Hey, that rhymes! Anyway, came across a couple of articles that were fun so I thought I'd share. I would say that I'm planning to keep a kind of photo journal of this weekend but every time I plan to do that, the camera gets forgotten or left behind. So pretend I didn't say anything. Warren Hammond, Terry Wright and Tamra Monahan of the infamous Pearl Street Writers Group (of which I am a member) are all convening for a weekend of writing along with Carol Berg, Cindi Myers, Lynde Iozzo and perhaps one or two more.
Let the fun (and the work) begin...
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In the meantime, from Winning Edits...future of books in three words!! Click on the link to read who contributed to this clever bit.
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Have I mentioned how I love Flavorwire lists?? Here’s the Ten Best Fictional Book Stores in Pop Culture… Did they miss any? Can you name the bookstore above without looking?
Have fun this weekend..I know I will. On one of these retreats I wrote 20,000 words. I mean it. We work!!
PS Happy Birthday to Elizabeth...Anna's partner in Crime (and the heroine) in the story Elizabeth and Anna's Big Adventure (A Girl's Guide to Guns and Monsters)
Last week at GalaxyFest, I was on a panel discussing writing horror and what scared us. I offered my definition of horror, which is based on what Tom Monteleone had once said at a Bram Stoker Award's dinner. "Horror is meant to creep you out. Give you the chills. Raise the hair on the back of your neck."
The other panelists recited what scared them. Such as the inevitable zombie outbreak. Or vampires--not that they believed in undead bloodsuckers, just the idea of such monsters.
When it was my turn, I said that supernatural creatures didn't scare me because I don't put stock in any of them. Revenants. Or werewolves. Demons. Dragons.
What does terrify me belongs firmly in the ordinary world. For example, not having the scratch to pay the rent. I've never seen a zombie but I have seen an eviction or two. Down the street, a neighbor was evicted. A deputy sheriff taped the obligatory notice on the door. A few days later, the deputies returned and supervised the ransacking of the home. All the belongings were piled on the front lawn and sidewalk. Though a lot of homeless pass by, no one ever picked through the piles of discards, as if the stuff was jinxed. The most poignant articles left behind were the photo albums, a visual record of better times and misplaced hope, now abandoned to ruin.
Kids. If you have children--and even after they've grown--there's that twitch of worry when they're out and the phone rings at 2AM.
Our friend, the A-Bomb. What frightened me most as a kid was the specter of nuclear war. Freddie Krueger. Dracula. The Wolfman. Movie monsters. Bah! But my dad brought home Civil Defense pamphlets advising what to do in case of atomic attack. That was our own government saying: "Get ready to get radiated and obliterated." When the local CD alarms went off--for nothing it turned out--I felt terror jerking through me.
The Horrific. Last year, I was listening to Jazz 24, from KPLU Olympia, WA, when the Emergency Broadcast alert was sent, warning of a tsunami in the northern Pacific. Since I live in Denver, I thought little of it. The next day I learned it was The Tsumani, which had demolished Tohuko, Japan. We've seen videos of the turgid waters crashing over the seawall and rampaging the coast worse than Godzilla. I read where Jin Sato, the mayor of Minamisanriku, and his fellow city workers climbed an antenna atop their office building to escape the tsunami. The water surged higher and higher, inundating the more unfortunate. The ordeal lasted all night. I can imagine Sato hanging on, his co-workers crying out as the swirling black waters smothered and tore them away one by one. Sato couldn't do anything but helplessly watch and hope for his own survival.
Is there something from Speculative Fiction that scares me? You bet.
Aliens. I really want to believe that we humans are not alone in this universe. I hope that before I die, we will make extraterrestrial contact and that it will be a good thing.
But it might not be. That's why I enjoyed the Alien and Aliens movies so much. And to amplify the horror, we learn that the real villains in those encounters are the corporate minions from Weyland Industries, who conceal warnings of the alien threat when they sacrifice the crews of the Nostromo and the Sulaco, and the inhabitants of LV-426, to capture the exotic and dangerous specimens.
We've seen government and corporate malfeasance run amok. The convenient finger-pointing during the aftermath of the Horizon oil platform fire. The Bhopal India disaster. So I'm willing to buy into an arrogant corporate honcho more interested in profit than decency.
Which brings me to Prometheus--the Alien prequel.
Here we have the tycoon Peter Weyland, the man who will unwittingly pit human greed and hubris against the cunning of remorseless monsters from another planet.