Announcing an Announcement!

Hold your metaphorical hats tight on your allegorical heads, gentle readers, for today I am full

I saw a bunch of you mouthing a very different word from 'news,' and I find that hurtful, but even so my spirits remain undampened, and I'll tell you why.

First of all, the new Markhat title is now available for pre-order at Amazon and Samhain! Barnes & Noble doesn't have pre-order turned on yet, but Samhain offers a Nook version (as well as Kindle, pdf, and every other format imaginable) of the book. So you don't have to wait for B&N, if you'd rather not.

I'm really excited about Brown River Queen.
Sorry, I get this rash when I'm happy. 

There's the right image! The book's cover, because I never get tired of looking at it.

Fans of the series will see the return of all the old familiar faces. Mama Hog will supply her usual homespun charms. Buttercup the banshee is always underfoot. Darla, who finally made a cover (she's been waiting patiently for her spot beside Markhat) is there, and she's reading over my shoulder to make sure I mention that at no point does she require rescuing. Quite the opposite, in fact, but you'll need to read the book to find out what I'm talking about.

I've tried to bring some new influences into the Markhat series. There's always been a touch of steampunk about Markhat's world, where magic and heavy industry rub shoulders in unexpected ways. The Banshee's Walk was set in a private artist's retreat. Hold the Dark explored Rannit's churches. The Broken Bell saw the introduction of gunpowder, cannon, and the outbreak of civil war.

I set Brown River Queen on a lavish gambling steamboat right out of the Mississippi River post US Civil War. There are gamblers and ne'er-do-wells. Plots and subterfuges. Vampires and worse. Intrigue and Blues singers. It was a blast to write, and I think you guys are in for a treat when it goes on sale March 26.

To those of you who've already pre-ordered, my thanks! Few things are more gratifying that seeing one's book show an Amazon ranking before it actually goes on sale. That's rare good fun. I may well have cackled maniacally. No, I'm sure of it.

Next, I've been nominated as a Finalist for the 2013 Darrell Award! The winners will be announced at the annual awards banquet, which takes place at the always-amazing MidSouthCon. 

I'm looking forward to the Con this year, because  -- well, look at the Guest List. Cherie Priest, Steve Jackson, John Picacio, Ross Lockhart? I know these names, and others! And being nominated for a Darrell Award is a genuine honor.

 It's going to be a blast.

That's my blaster, not a blast, but you get the idea.

Since it's a long time until March 26, I'm posting a brief excerpt from BROWN RIVER QUEEN below, to whet your appetite. There aren't any spoilers, so read without fear.


A meaty fist struck my door. “Open for the Watch!” shouted my new friend Captain Holder. “Open or we’ll break it down.”

Evis stubbed out his cigar and folded back into the shadows. I rose and unlocked my door, then opened it wide before stepping back out of yanking distance.

Captain Holder marched in, hand on his sword hilt, face beet red around eyes already going teary from the cigar smoke.

“What brings you here, Captain?” Carelessly, I puffed smoke directly into his face. “Care for a Lowland Sweet?”

That’s when Captain Holder, an officer of the law and a high-ranking Watchman, dared lay hands on me—a law-abiding citizen who did nothing but exhibit a generous nature concerning his excellent tobacco.

Evis moved, a silent shadow leaving brief wakes in the smoke.

Slam went my door, plunging my office in shadows.

Snick went the Captain’s Watch-issue shortsword as it was snatched from its scabbard.

Thunk went the blade as Evis buried the tip of it in my desk before returning to his seat and once again wrapping himself in silk and shadow.

The Captain gaped, his sword hand closing on air. “I have half a dozen men right outside.”

“Only half a dozen?” I sniffed and looked down my nose. “I’d have thought a desperate criminal such as myself would have demanded a full dozen, at least.”

He wasn’t listening. Instead, he backed toward my door, his eyes on Evis, and then he yanked it open and bellowed through it.

“Your men were called to attend pressing matters elsewhere, Captain Holder,” said Evis from the dark.
“Close the door. You are in no danger. But we do need to have a chat.”

I would have bet even money on the Captain bolting. But after a moment of staring out into the empty street, he straightened, uttered a single brief curse word, turned to face us, and closed the door.

“You’ve had a bad morning, Captain,” I said. I strolled around my desk and pointed to the empty client’s chair. “But it doesn’t need to get any worse. Have a seat. Let’s talk this out like gentlemen.”

He glared but yanked the chair back and sat.

“You dumped a bucket of shit on a Watchman,” he said, his voice still rough with rage. “I know all about you, Markhat. You’ve been running roughshod over the Watch for years. I’m here to tell you you’ve gone too far this time. I’m charging you with assault on an officer of the law.”

I raised an eyebrow. “Charging me? With assault? Good thing my legal counsel is present, then. Captain Holder, meet Mr. Evis Prestley, of House Avalante. I believe you’ve heard the name.”

“I know it.”

I leaned back and laced my fingers together behind my head. “Assault, you say? Mr. Prestley. Have I, to your knowledge, assaulted any Watchmen recently?”

“Why no, Mr. Markhat, I don’t believe you have.”

The good Captain repeated his curse word. “You dumped a bucket of shit on my man outside. I can’t hang you for that but I can damned well throw you in the Old Ruth for a week or three.” He made as if to rise.
Evis appeared by my side, his dead-pale face just touched by the sun.

“And you can prove my client was involved, can you Captain?”

“It was him. You know it and I know it.”

Evis shook his head and made tsk-tsk noises. “At what time did this alleged assault by excrement occur, Captain? As you have noted the complainant is a Watchman, I assume he was able to provide such details in his official report?”

“Ten of noon,” growled the Captain, his beefy right hand clutching his Watch-issue handcuffs. “You’re wasting your time. He’s coming with me.”

“Ten of noon,” said Evis. “Well. I can produce no fewer than two dozen prominent citizens of Rannit who will gladly swear they were dining with Mr. Markhat at the Brickworks between eleven and half-past one, Captain Holder. Remind me of the names, Mr. Markhat.”

“Certainly. Tavis Green, of the Tavis Greens, was there. We enjoyed a bottle of Fitch together. Oh, and Markum Sate, and Corliss Poole, and that nephew of the Regent’s chief of staff, Malcom Slater.” I trailed off and watched a vein in Holder’s forehead bulge and pulse.

“You spoke of a waste of time, Captain. Indeed, that is what incarcerating my client will yield you. Time and trouble. I assure you, Avalante will take an immediate and active interest in the matter.”

“Might as well put the bracelets away,” I said. “Maybe one day I’ll slip up and you can clap them on me. But that isn’t today, Captain, and you know it.”

Ten breaths. That’s what it took for Holder to work out the truth behind my words. But work it out he did, and the cuffs went back in his pocket.

“I won’t forget this,” he said after a time. “Nobody dumps chamber-pots on my Watch officers. Nobody.”

I shrugged. “Good for you. Now then. Being completely unaware you had a man watching my door, I find myself suddenly compelled to ask why you’d do such a thing. So. Why?”

“Because a woman is dead and you killed her, that’s why.”

Evis waggled a taloned finger at the Captain’s nose. “My client acted in self-defense during an unprovoked attack by a deranged stranger,” he said. “Even the Watch concurs.”

“I think your client knows exactly who the dead woman was and why she ended up cut in half by a beer-wagon.”

“If I knew who she was, Captain, I’d tell you. Why wouldn’t I?”

“Because, as usual, you’re mixed up in something,” said the Captain. “Think you’re above the law, don’t you, Markhat?”

“We don’t see enough law in this part of town to think ourselves above it.” I put my hands on my desk and leaned close. The Captain needed a bath. “Look. I’m not lying. I don’t know who she was or why she came at me. There wasn’t time to ask. But why do you care? The dead wagons haul bodies out of alleys every morning. Nobody asks. What makes this woman so special the Watch is pestering me about her?”

“You’re telling me you don’t know her.”

“I’m telling you I don’t.”

“What happens if I stand up and try to walk out of here, Markhat? You going to turn your vampire loose on me?”

I stood. “Beat it,” I said. “Get out and stay out until you calm down enough to talk sense. Try and snag me again and you can explain yourself to the Corpsemaster. That clear enough for you?”

“Corpsemaster is dead.”

“Maybe. Maybe not. Why don’t you piss me off again and we’ll see?”

He stood. Evis watched but didn’t move.

“We’re not done here.”

“I beg to differ. Get out.”

He did, slamming my door behind him.

Evis glided back into the shadows, chuckling.

“Markhat. Did you really arrange for a Watchman to be bathed in excrement?”

“The Arwheats don’t much care for the Watch. I almost had to force their pay upon them.”

Evis shook his head. “They’ll not forget that. Not for a long time.”

“Good.” I put my hands back behind my head. “Something about that dead woman has the Watch nervous.”

“Indeed. Have you learned anything new about her?”

“Nothing. I was heading to the hotels downtown today to see if anyone fitting her description skipped a bill. Maybe she left something in her room with her name on it, along with a note detailing her dastardly plans.”

Evis nodded. “Still. A bucket of shit?” He shook his head. “As your attorney, I must admonish you against future use of night soil as a deterrent for loiterers.”

“As you say, counselor.”

Evis chuckled and produced fresh cigars.

End of Excerpt

The rest will have to wait until March 26.