Soul Trade: Excerpt, Reviews and Giveaway

Today, Soul Trade, the fifth Black London book, is out in the wild. I’m especially proud of this volume of the series, as it serves as the tipping point in the story, when things for Pete and Jack start to get really bad, really fast. Book 6, Dark Days, is coming out in April and marks the end of this story arc, so Soul Trade, as the penultimate volume, as a lot riding on it.

And not to be biased, but I think I pulled it off! There are zombies, creepy villages, monsters straight out of Purgatory, some familiar faces and some new threats. It was a ton of fun to write, so I hope you guys have a great time reading it.

Here’s the back cover copy:

The crow-mage Jack Winter returns —to crash a secret gathering of ghost hunters, soul stealers, and other uninvited guests, both dead and alive…


It all begins with an invitation.  Five pale figures surround Pete in the cemetery to “cordially” invite her to a gathering of the Prometheus Club. Pete’s never heard of them, but Jack has—and he’s not thrilled about it. Especially the part that says, “Attend or die.” The Prometheans wouldn’t come to London unless something big’s about to go down. So Pete and Jack decide to play it safe and make nice with the club—even if that means facing down an army of demons in the process.  But now that they’ve joined the group, they’re about to discover that membership comes at a cost…and has apocalyptic consequences.

Heroes & Heartbreakers has a 2-chapter excerpt posted (requires registration.)

I’ll put just a snippet here to whet your appetite. This excerpt contains minor spoilers for the first four Black London novels.

 Pete Caldecott sat on a tombstone, watching fog curl soft fingers against the graveyard earth and waiting for Mickey Martin’s ghost to appear.


Mickey Martin hadn’t always been a ghost, and be­fore a hail of constable’s bullets had snuffed out his life in the winter of 1844, he’d managed to slit the throats of thirteen women.


Murderers weren’t supposed to be buried on conse­crated ground, but with a bribe to the right vicar, Mickey Martin’s admirers made sure he got a proper burial. Even razor-wielding serial killers had their fans.


Mickey Martin professed to be a man of God, ridding the earth of wickedness, and in the poverty-stricken world of Victorian London, a bloke who went about slashing prostitutes and charwomen was looked on not as a monster, but as an avenging angel, cleaning the mud-choked streets of the East End of their filth.


Pete wasn’t usually the one who sat in chilly grave­yards, waiting for the dead. Usually, that was Jack’s job. But Jack, the one who could see the dead with his second sight, the one who had all the talent when it came to disposing of the unnatural that crawled under cover of night in London, wanted nothing to do with the Mickey Martin business. Or, if Pete was honest, with much of anything lately.


She could have put her foot down, demanded that Jack be the one to take this on, but that would bring on a row, and she’d had her fill of those for this lifetime and possibly the next. Sitting alone in a graveyard at nearly midnight didn’t bother her overmuch. It wasn’t like she’d be getting any sleep at home, between Lily’s er­ratic schedule and Jack’s ever-present foul mood.


Still, she wished she could chuck it in and go home, sit down in front of the telly with Lily and Jack, and pre­tend just for the span of a program or two that they were a regular sort of family. The sort where Mum and Dad occasionally got along, and neither of them had any special connection to the ghosts and magic that wound around the city as surely as the river and the rail lines.


Jack had said this job wasn’t worth their time when it had come in, but he said that about every routine exor­cism. They weren’t flashy, but they usually paid, the victims too terrified to even consider stiffing the person who had made the big bad ghost go poof. And some­thing had to put food on Pete and Jack’s table, to pay for Lily’s nappies and the expenses involved with living in London, which were considerable. If that was boring, shopworn exorcisms, so be it.


It wasn’t as if this particular ghost job had come from a disreputable source. PC Brandi Wolcott was a member of Pete’s old squad when she’d been on the Met, smart and hardworking, ambitious and driven. And now terri­fied, after a routine call had turned into a brush with Mickey Martin.


Pete had a reputation with such matters, whether she liked it or not. Everyone at her old squad in Camden knew she’d quit to go chase spooks and vapors. Or at least those were the rumors. The truth was a little more complicated. But trying to explain to coppers like PC Wolcott that if they just cared to look, from the corner of their eye, a part of London would reveal itself—a part made of magic and shadows, harboring creatures like Mickey Martin and far, far worse—would end with leather straps and lithium, and that wouldn’t help any­one.

Here’s a few more Soul Trade-related goodies:

As always, you can find Soul Trade pretty much anywhere book-like objects are sold, as well as online via Powells, Amazon, B&N, IndieBound or Book Depository, for international readers. Soul Trade (and the rest of the Black London series) are also available as e-books for most mainstream e-readers.

That about covers it! See you for more shameless self-promotion next time I have a book out.

The Great 10k-a-Day Experiment

I know a lot of my readers are also writers, and so I wanted to post about my attempts to use Rachel Aaron’s 10k-A-Day System to finish the first draft of Dark Days, the 6th Black London novel.

First, I need to back up a little bit and set the stage: I was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (Primarily Inattentive) back in May. What that long string of large words means, in a nutshell, is that I’ve gone almost 28 years of life with untreated ADD (which, yes, is a real disorder and no, you don’t have to be diagnosed as a kid.) I’ve been on medication since then, and while on the one hand I can now focus on a manuscript for longer than ten minutes without getting a splitting headache and the compulsive need to go check the internet, I also realized my diagnosis came with a lot of fallout. The realization that I’d spent years thinking that, basically, I was just lazy and distracted and that I’ve been beating up on myself since probably my senior year of high school for being a screw-up when it was really this other thing was pretty jarring.

This isn’t to excuse or whine about my chronic lateness with manuscripts (though if any of my editors want to give me a retroactive pass, that’d be nice…). It’s all to explain how I ended up with only 30,000 words written of a manuscript that needed to be 70, and 10 days until a delivery date that had already been pushed three times.

At that point, I thought Hey, the worst that happens is I don’t write anything, and I’m already doing that.

I read Ms. Aaron’s blog post a couple of times, and figured out what would and wouldn’t work for me. She says to keep distractions to a minimum, including the internet and TV, which I chose not to cut off. Instead, I set a per-hour word goal that would let me write a large amount each day, and if I finished early, I got to mess around until the next hour ticked over.

What I found hugely helpful in her system was to write out detailed notes on what you plan to write each day. I’m a kind of hybrid plotter/pantser in my most natural state, in that I write rough outlines of beats, major plot points or scenes and generally know how the book starts and ends, but there are great gooey swaths of nebulousness in between. These frequently lead to moments where I feel like I’m trapped in the quicksand pit out of The Neverending Story, flailing around with nothing to show for it.


Yeah, like that.

I charted my progress, like Ms. Aaron suggests, using fields for starting/ending wordcount and words written. I also added fields for the time I started and ended, and notes on what I was doing (listening to music, watching TV) and how I was feeling that day to see if I could correlate between taking meds at different times and productivity. My goal was to beat my best day ever writing, which is 8,600 words. I figured getting to the actual 10k per day mark wouldn’t happen for me, and I was right.

Over about two weeks, here’s how it went:

Day 1: 4049 words. This was the day I made a bunch of notes on the rest of the book and not only figured out a gnarly plot issue in the last third but smoothed out a bunch of transitions in the middle. Felt pretty smug, which lasted approximately until:

Day 2: 4203 words. I remember this day being absolutely vile in a number of non-writing related ways. Even though I upped my count I didn’t feel like I accomplished anything.

Day 3: 4729 words. Even though these counts look like a lot, they’re still just bare minimum to meet my deadline. I went back to an old habit of mine: writing at night. I napped and then stayed up until about 3:30 am finishing these words. It was hard getting started but once I got going things flowed pretty well, and I even managed to write some while my roommate and I were hanging out after supper with our laptops.

Day 4: 6116 words. I’d started to notice that taking my meds and eating real food before I attempted to write helped a lot. Who knew that brains need nutrition to work right? I was super distracted today, according to my notes, but I still managed to knock out an impressive day by any standards.

Day 5: 3357 words. Annnd…crash. My notes indicate that I had a ton of time-sensitive Life Stuff going on today, and I remember that I had to do some chore that involved lifting a bunch of heavy objects and that by the time I could write, I was exhausted. By now I’m routinely staying up until 3 or 4 am and sleeping way, way in, a habit I thought I’d successfully broken. I have mixed feelings about what I’m having to do to keep up this schedule, but the deadline isn’t moving any more.

Day 6: 3084 words. I had to get up really early for an appointment, which turned out to be on a different day. Whomp-whomp. I’m so tired by now that even trying to write after I drag myself home sends me into a snarling panic. I decide rather than berate myself for being a useless word-slacker, I’m just going to try again later, when I’ve recovered.

Day 7: 2920 words. This day got eaten by errands. Generally, after a week, I like that this system really makes you get in there and write, and I like the ease of knowing what comes next so I don’t have to break my rhythm. If I wasn’t approaching Fight Club-esque sleep deprivation, I’d probably actually be thrilled with my progress.

Day 8: 617 words. I woke up at 5:30 am with a bat flying around my room, so between me freaking out, the bat freaking out, me shooing it out a window and then staying up to make sure it didn’t find its way back in (they come in through the attic and sometimes make their way down our hollow walls into the living spaces) I was not a happy camper. I’m fairly sure I wrote for less than 30 minutes today before I said a mental “Fuck it” and went to bed.

Day 9: No writing. I can tell I’m close to burnout, which leads to a complete, paralyzing inability to write anything, never mind a book that’s due in like, three days. I decide a mental health day is probably needed, and since the Aaron system doesn’t tout that “write every day OR ELSE” bullshit, off I go.

Day 10: 8352 words. My note from the start of the day’s session says, “Definitely courting burnout. Calculated I wrote an average of 5,000 words a day for the last 9 days. Not sure if this is sustainable.” (Remember that, I’ll come back to it in a second.) By the end of the day, I’d finished the damn book. And not half-assed it, either–written a real ending, reached my mandated 70k wordcount, and turned the thing in to my editor.


I think Rachel Aaron has some great ideas about productivity, namely that the thing standing in your way is usually a lack of preparedness or a belief that writing is some sort of terrifying, insurmountable activity and to start is impossible. I think her system is great for two things: Starting, or just diving in and writing a manuscript or Finishing, racing along on some kind of Oh-Shit deadline that must be met.

Do I think it’s sustainable over an entire novel draft? For me, no. If I’d added another 10 days of this to write the half of the MS I’d already drafted, I would have gone insane. Writing that many words per day pushed me back into some bad, unhealthy habits I’d worked hard to break, but on the flip side it also did away with a lot of the guilt and shame narratives that I slip into when I feel like I’m failing at a complex task like writing a book. Obviously, I could write a lot in a day–I could look back at my progress and see that. So if I slipped up, there had to be other factors. Some I could mitigate (like distractions) and some I couldn’t, like bats flying into my room at 5 in the morning. I gained much more of a “crap happens, dust yourself off and try again tomorrow” attitude toward not making my wordcount.

Sadly, I don’t think the system is going to work for me as a regular thing. It would be awesome to knock out a book in 10 days, but I don’t think the tolls on my creative drive are worth it in the long run. I burnt myself out badly once before, to the point where looking back I probably should have checked myself in at the psych ward rather than spent a week locked in my office without showering, sobbing uncontrollably as I did the math over and over again and realized there was no way to turn the book in on time, even if it wasn’t good. (Which it wasn’t. Trying to write fiction in the middle of a breakdown doesn’t usually result in glowing prose.) So now, I’m very conscious of when I’m pushing myself too hard, and only do it for a short time, in emergencies.

What the system did help me with was being more prepared, to stave off block or going off-track with my plot. I also really like the idea of tracking my progress, both because I’m a little bit OCD and because it’s really nice to look back after your deadline insanity has worn off and think “You know? I kind of kicked ass at this project.”

I’d definitely recommend this system for writers who are just starting out and need a kick in the ass, and for pros who have gotten themselves into an OSDS (an Oh-Shit Deadline Situation.) It happens to all of us at one point or another, but this might help you deal with it more gracefully than I did (the first time. Seriously, stop and take a shower.)

Overall, I think the experiment definitely helped more than it hurt. It helped me finish a draft, it helped me realize that I am really crappy to myself when I think I’m failing, and it helped me get over that. It didn’t help me sleep more, but hey, I didn’t get into this book-writing biz to sleep. This was the first large-scale project I’d done since before my ADD diagnosis, and working with the Aaron system helped me feel a bit more like I was handling things and a bit less like I was having one long Annie Adderall moment.

Want some more info from other writers who’ve tried the system? Sure you do!

Holly Black

Beth Revis

E. Lockhart

Stephanie Kuehnert

If anyone else tries this and posts about it, I’d be really interested in hearing how it goes for you.














Wow, I’m a bad blogger. I blame a lot of things–twitter, a giant kitchen renovation that’s eaten my entire house and therefore life, some stuff I might talk about here later but maybe not, since it’s personal, but looking at my poor half-done neglected web site makes me feel all guilty, so my goal for June is to at least whip all the basic stuff into shape. Maybe even upload a photo that was taken in the last five years!


One of the things going on that I wasn’t privy to talk about until yesterday was that my agent and I parted ways back in April. There’s no drama there…we just, to use an old cliche, grew apart. We both agreed it was for the best, and I spent the rest of the month hunting new representation (which makes it sound like I was wandering the streets of New York with a dart gun and a radio collar.)

After a lot of phone calls and pro-and-con lists, I’m thrilled to announce that I’m now repped by Barry Goldblatt, of Barry Goldblatt Literary.

Barry’s a terrific agent, and I’m working on a couple of really exciting new projects for him. Can’t say much more than that, so I’m going to quit while I’m ahead and go back to my celebratory dance party.

Lemon out!

Pretty Things

Hi everyone! Sporadic blogging continues, but for good reasons: 1) I’m finishing up line edits to the third and final Iron Codex novel and 2) I’m working on two brand new Book 1′s of both an adult and YA series. No sales yet, but I hope that’ll change very soon, and I can share some details with all of you lovely people.

In lieu of any news (because let’s face it, doing nothing but edit for 6 hours a day since I got back from the cruise is boring to everyone but me), I bring you some shiny, pretty things.

Viviane Hebel of HebelDesign has made some absolutely gorgeous jewelry inspired by the Iron Codex books, which is about the coolest thing ever!

Here are the two designs:


This one is based on the secret gears that control Aoife’s family home, Graystone, and all of its clockwork apparatus. In real life (Viviane was kind enough to send me a sample!) it’s beautiful, shiny, and heavy–really perfect if you have a steampunk event or costume you’re trying to accessorize.









  This one is based on Aoife’s compass from The Nightmare Garden, and it is absolutely gorgeous. In real life it’s perfect for everyday wear (I wear mine all the time!) and it glimmers and gleams and I love it.










Viviane donates portions of her proceeds to reading charities, and she also features jewelry inspired by (among others) the Mortal Instruments and Curse Workers series. If you’re interested in Iron Codex shinies of your very own, you can find them right here:


Iron Codex jewelry!



Welcome to my secret lair on Skullcrusher Mountain

I always disliked the phrase “a vacation from my vacation” (a phrase almost as saccharine and idiotic as “a case of the Mondays”.)

But after spending a week and a half on the JCCC2 boat, which Wil Wheaton’s lovely wife Anne described as “Nerd camp for adults, on a boat” (More info on the JoCo Cruise here–it really was spectacular in a strange and very nerdy way) I needed the week to regroup. Thus, I have a link dump of epic proportions for all of you, and not really very much content, for which I heartily apologize.

Here, have a clip of Paul & Storm singing a song they wrote to George R.R. Martin (the crappy phone audio is to blame for the pitchiness–trust me, I was there and they killed the song live):

So that is a small sample of things that happen on such a nerdy sort of cruise. That was also not the only song directed at a pop culture icon named George I heard over the course of the week.

And now I am back on land, land which has finally stopped moving around thanks to my inner ear, and I can’t say much else than… [ :: insert floppy sound effect here :: ] …which brings us up to this week.

I can say that I’m hard at work on a brand new young adult series, and as soon as I have clearance to tell you more I will be so happy.

And right now, (literally the second I hit post) I’m working again on rewrites for Soul Trade, making it suck at least 99.9997% less.

And now…here are some links.

One further reminder, if the sidebar hasn’t told you already: I’m going to be at two events in San Francisco and Berkeley in the coming weeks. Look to the sidebar! It will tell you all!

I’ve also confirmed a new event in Alexadria, VA at Hooray for Books! on March 24th, where I’ll be sharing the spotlight with Jessica Spotswood, debut author of Born Wicked, and my good friend Tiffany Trent, who’s novel The Unnaturalists is fantastic, awesome, imaginative and amazing. You should definitely blow off whatever you had planned for that day and come hang out with us instead. We’ll have cake.*

*Said cake may be a lie.

My Nightmare Valentine

Today’s the day! The Nightmare Garden is officially on shelves, along with the paperback of The Iron Thorn, for double the steampunk fun, Lovecraftian monsters, and sexy Dean Harrison goodness!

I can’t tell you what a huge deal it is to have this book out in the world. This was the hardest book I ever wrote–there were times when I was sure I’d never finish, at least not in any form I’d be okay with, but at some point I turned the corner and the result is that I am incredibly, ridiculously proud of The Nightmare Garden and I can’t wait for all of you to read it!

I’m not going to make a long list of how, where, when and why you should buy the book–you’re smart people, lovely readers, and I trust you can figure that out for yourselves. I’ll just say that purchasing the book in its first week of release helps the author out immensely in terms of sales. But hey, you don’t get paid til March? The Yakuza blew up your car? Your cat got into a fight with a chupacabra? No worries! I’m just happy to have readers. Get it from your lovely local library, get it as a Nook, Kindle, what have you (just don’t download it illegally, pleasekthankyou!) and I am a happy, happy author.

And here’s how to get a copy delivered to you without even leaving the spot where you are at this very moment! (Unless you’re also being attacked by chupacabras. Then you should get out of there. Order the book later–I understand.)

The Nightmare Garden

The Iron Thorn (paperback edition)

Annnnnnnnnnnnd the book trailer contest is still going on! Here it is once more in case you’re on the fence about buying the books. This trailer will kick you right off the fence and into next week. It is that awesome.

One last thing, just in case your face hasn’t already melted off from the pure weapons-grade awesome of today (or from eating too many Dove chocolate hearts): I have a couple of awesome interviews going on right now!

And now, I must get back to work, because there is no rest for the wicked, especially not on Nightmare Valentine’s!


Nightmare Garden: Here, There and Everywhere

So yes, this has pretty much become the Nightmare Garden/Iron Codex 24-Hour Fun Channel, and for those of you who don’t come here for the book stuff, I apologize. But my release date is only four short days away, and it’s pretty crazy up in here, so I’m going to post a whole slew of Nightmare Garden stuff and hopefully there will be something for everyone!


The Iron Thorn is embroiled in its first round of combat in the 2011 YA Book Genre Battle!

Iron Thorn is holding its own against Bite Club, Rachel Caine’s Morganville Vampires opus, but we’re lagging a little, and much as I adore Rachel and her books, this cannot stand. We must crush the vampires, with steampunk fabulousity. You can vote for The Iron Thorn here or click the big old graphic. The battle only lasts until midnight, so every vote counts!

Other equally amazing stuff!

Remember my wonderful book trailer? Sure you do. It’s this one, with all the atmospheric lighting and smooching scenes:

I said that if I got 100 reblogs or 500 Youtube views I’d post an entirely new scene from Dean’s point of view, set circa Nightmare Garden. Well, last I checked we were at 304 views, and really, guys, don’t you want a brand new piece of writing set in the Iron Codex world? I know I can’t wait to share it with you!

Third verse, different from the first!

I’m doing a number of guest blogs in the next couple of weeks, a mini-blog tour if you will, and here’s a rough schedule of places you can find me talking about books, pie, and why Batman should trade out the Batmobile for a unicorn.

And more the next week, including a guest post for the Romantic Times blog!

I’ll post direct info the day of all of these, and once this release date and my strict revision deadline for Black London 5 has passed, we’ll be back to our regularly scheduled broadcast.

Over and out for now!


Nightmare Garden book trailer debut!

It’s here! With just one week until the release of The Nightmare Garden, the trailer is finally here!

Here’s the deal: this trailer is amazing. Vania of VLC Productions worked her butt off with casting, costumes, her photos and her kick-ass editing. I want everyone to see this trailer!

So! If we surpass 500 Youtube views OR 100 re-blogs/linksbacks, I will post an entirely new “deleted scene” from Nightmare Garden, from the POV of everyone’s favorite underground guide, Dean Harrison. Yes, a scene from the book (and I’m not talking about one of the scenes where they’re wandering around the woods ifyouknowwhatimeanandithinkyoudo) from Dean’s own snarky point of view.

How are you not posting this trailer on your own blog right this very second?

I do not know. But to recap: Click through or re-post the trailer on your own blog, and leave a link in the comments so I’ll know! (And hey, tell your readers why they should be excited for The Nightmare Garden/Iron Thorn dual release day!) Get brand-new exciting Dean snippet!

So easy.

And really, guys, this trailer is great. I can’t wait for you all to see it.

Without further ado…

All we want to do is eat your brains

I’m very happy to finally be able to announce that I have a short story in this:

21st Century Dead is a follow-up to Christopher Golden’s excellent The New Dead anthology, and when he asked me to submit a story, I was on it like a fast zombie on a fat guy with a broken leg. The TOC is still under wraps as far as I know, but you can read the list of contributors at Chris’s site. I’m in some awesome company…and if you’re dying (har) to get a peek at my story, I’ll be reading it at my Borderlands signing March 17th.

21st Century Dead is available for pre-order wherever awesome books are sold. Yanno, in case you want to have it in your bunker for the inevitable undead apocalypse.

One other small bit of publishing news…let’s just say I’m eagerly awaiting responses from a Variety of People on a Fun New Project. And waiting…waiting…waiting…  Okay, it’s only been two days but IT FEELS LIKE FOREVER. I haven’t been in the position of waiting for Good News since, oh, 2008…so this is a weird little flashback for me to my days as a newbie author. I am trying to be calm, and by calm, I mean eating a lot of candy, refreshing my email obsessively, and fidgeting every time my phone buzzes.

Now that I’ve been super vague and cryptic, I must get back to revisions. Ta!

More Bay, More Ways

I’m super excited to announce that I’ll be appearing at Borderlands Books in San Francisco on March 17th, in addition to my Not Your Mother’s Book Club event in Berkeley on March 14th!

Bay Area, I am all over you.

I don’t have a ton of details firmed up yet, including whether this is a solo event or whether I’ll have a hapless victim fellow author signing with me! If you’re an SFF type living in the Bay Area and you’re interested in getting your sign on, drop me a line.

For the record, the Book Club event is strictly YA, and I’ll be promoting The Nightmare Garden (though I’ll sign anything you care to bring/buy at Books Inc.) while the Borderlands event will be more “adult”, ie I’ll sign whatever you like, do my trademarked super-awkward Q&A and may say naughty words. AND! I’ll be reading a brand new short story that won’t be on shelves in anthology form until July 2012.

So to recap: Berkeley. Borderlands. Battlestar Galactica.

Hope to see you there!