I can’t believe we’re only ten days away from the release of CITY OF GHOSTS, the third Downside book and the last one releasing this summer; it’ll probably be a year or so before the fourth one comes out, but of course we’ll see. The last month or two has absolutely flown by for me. I think I’ve been busier than I’ve ever been in my life, but it’s been absolutely amazing too, and I can’t thank each and every one of you enough.
Anyway, in anticipation of that release, I’m posting the playlist for CITY OF GHOSTS, and a new excerpt!
1. MURDER CITY NIGHTS–Radio Birdman
2. BORN TO LOSE–Johnny Thunders
3. ONE TRACK MIND–Johnny Thunders
4. I LOVE LIVIN’ IN THE CITY–Fear
6. BORN WITH A TAIL–Supersuckers
7. SEARCH AND DESTROY–Blanks 77
8. GODDAMN BOTTLE–The Lazy Cowgirls
9. GO MOTHERFUCKER GO–Nashville Pussy
*This song was actually cut from the book at the last minute, when I’d already set up the playlist. Also, the list should include BLANK GENERATION by Richard Hell, which would go in between the two Thunders songs and Fear.
You can purchase the list through iTunes here, if you’re so inclined. Remember, I don’t get anything when you buy the lists; the bands do, which is great. I just set them up in case people are interested, and would like to hear/have the songs mentioned in the books.
And here’s a new excerpt! As always, this is from the pre-copyedited version of the manuscript, so may differ slightly from the final version. If you haven’t read UNHOLY GHOSTS or especially if you haven’t finished UNHOLY MAGIC, this will be spoilery, so read at your own risk! Also, if you haven’t yet dowloaded the three-chapter sample of the book and would like to, you can do so on the CITY OF GHOSTS page here on the site.
So, this is from Chapter Eight.
Once inside the car he thrust the file into her hands and shot the car off the curb in a maelstrom of squealing rubber. She looked at him sharply, her back tensing in anticipation of an argument.
She’d fucked him over hardcore. She’d betrayed him and she’d lied to him, and she knew as far as he was concerned she’d led him on and used him as well, had consorted with people who wanted to see him dead and given them information to help them make him so. Most of all she’d hurt him. And if the pain in her chest was anything close to what he’d felt she was more than willing to admit he deserved to get his own back. Was willing to do more than admit it; was willing to take it, in the hopes he’d eventually decide she’d been punished enough and they could maybe move on.
But at that moment they were on their way to interview the man—Ratchet—who’d found the body parts in the vacant lot. She needed her wits about her, not to be waiting for the next verbal barb or dirty look. He could slash at her with knife-sharp words later; maybe if he did it enough her blood would finally flow clean.
Somehow she doubted it ever would.
But he didn’t speak at all. He’d flipped on his sunglasses so she couldn’t see his eyes, but the set of his heavy jaw and lowering brow, the tension in his arms and the way his lips pressed together…
“Are you okay? I mean,” she added quickly, “do you feel okay. That guy back there, I don’t know about you but he made me feel kind of twitchy. He had some power and I felt it. So I just wondered if maybe you did too.”
“Ain’t no witch.”
“Yeah, I know, but you look like— He was creepy and I just wondered if you’d felt it too, is all.”
When he didn’t respond, she tried again. “That sigil in your chest, have you been feeling—”
“I’d really want to help—”
“Said I’m right, dig?”
She bit her lip and turned to the file. Thanks to his sneaky thief act the night before she hadn’t even had a chance to look through it, only to skim it before trotting outside like a good little doggie to wait for Lauren.
And she hadn’t missed much. At least she hoped she hadn’t; but no, they wouldn’t have stolen anything. Copied it, sure, she had no doubt. But not stolen.
Sun glinted off the heavy chain around Terrible’s right wrist and stung her eyes, and for once she had her sunglasses. She was digging around for them when he pulled the car up in front of an empty-eyed building with dead weeds poking out of the ground floor windows, its walls dark with remembered flames. A squat.
She grabbed her notebook and pen, secured the edges of the file with a rubber band and stuffed it into the depths of her bag.
He didn’t ask if she was okay, but opened his trunk while she climbed out of the car and stood on the patch of crumbled cement that had once been a small parking lot. Ahead of her dried blood crusted the street; she could still see the tire tracks he’d left when he peeled away the night before.
The pig carcasses were gone, of course. And now that she thought about it—yes, the air carried the faint fragrance of roasting pork. She couldn’t imagine the glee that little bit of magic must have left in the hearts and stomachs of the neighborhood, most of whom had probably never seen that much meat in their lives. Didn’t want to imagine if any of those lives had been lost in the battle over who got to eat it, either. None of her concern.
She tried to shrug off the heavy stares she knew the two of them were getting and headed for the empty doorway when she heard the trunk slam shut.
The entire bottom floor was choked with weeds as high as her chest, long spiky stalks of ivory-colored grass gone to seed, spindly bushes. A thin trail had been worn through them into a darker space in the corner. The stairs. Terrible slid in front of her without touching her and pushed his way along the path; the dead plants tried in vain to grab his arms as he passed.
Soft sounds drifted down the stairs when they hit the bottom. Chess paused, took a deep breath. Something rang in the building; so faint it was more of an implication than an actual fact, but there nonetheless. Magic. The slow, deep slither of magic, inching up her legs and along her arms, curling into her stomach.
Not just average magic, either. Almost everyone did some; there was an entire successful industry in spellbooks and items designed for the average person who had little or no skill or natural ability. Most of them didn’t really work. They relied more on the practitioner’s belief that it would be effective than any actual results.
She was familiar enough with how those spells and charms felt. She’d encountered enough of them in the homes of her subjects; dream safes designed to ward away nightmares, or charm bags for wealth or safety, or occasionally sex spells planted in bedrooms. Those tended to be the most effective—and thus the most irritating for Chess, who did not like sex magic—simply because sex was the most accessible type of energy for most people. Any idiot could get turned on.
But this didn’t have the blunt edge of amateur magic, not at all. Too subtle; too well-hidden.
She didn’t realize she was staring at the landing above them until Terrible’s low voice broke her reverie. “Any wrong?”
“Feels like magic in here,” she said, echoing his quiet tone.
“Some do, aye? Them with them luck spells or aught.”
“Not like this, though. Spells like that—spells done by people who really aren’t talented—they don’t feel…finished, if you know what I mean. They’re not well-formed, they’re just like little blobs of weak energy. This isn’t—” She stopped, suddenly aware that they were having a conversation. A normal conversation.
One that wouldn’t last if she even considered pointing that out. Oops. “This isn’t like that. Whoever’s been casting in here knows what they’re doing. And they’ve tried to hide it. The magic, I mean. They’re trying to hide what they’re doing.”
“All Bump’s here, dig. Them to keep the eye out. Ain’t should be doin up that shit here.”
“All of them? They’re all Bump’s people?”
He shrugged. “What they ought, aye.”
“I guess we should go see, huh?”
Another small shrug, like he couldn’t really be bothered to complete the movement, and he preceded her up the cement staircase. The floor had once been covered in linoleum; curled edges of it remained like bookends where the stairs joined the walls.
The smell hit her nose at the same moment her feet hit the landing. Terrible stopped short; she would have run right into him if she hadn’t done the same. He turned to her, and in that moment she wasn’t thinking about what she’d done or what he’d done or what she wished they could do. She was thinking about the scent of death and how it raised the hairs on her arms, and she was thinking things had just gotten a fuck of a lot worse. For everyone.