Well, it looks like we did it again…

We wrote another book! Yep, you read that right. Eve and I have just finished another book…and no, it’s not about relationships.

This book is called Black Iron, and it’s a novel. No, not a poly novel. A novel set in 1855 in a world where the Protestant Reformation never happened, the British Empire doesn’t exist, the Colonies are still Colonies, and the British don’t drink tea.

But there’s still a war in Afghanistan. It turns out that there are some things you can change, when you’re building a new history, and some things you…well, can’t.

Oh, and it’s a comedy. Think Terry Pratchett or Douglas Adams, if they’d grown up on a steady diet of George RR Martin. (Yes, people die. This is the new normal for fiction. Get used to it.)

Here’s an excerpt to give you a taste:

Priorities, Thaddeus thought. Gold was nice. Life was better. Time to do what he did best.

He turned and bolted, feeling a swish of air as the dagger passed through the space he had just vacated. A moment later he was through the door and in the warren of tiny, confusing alleys that together made up the dock district of Old New London.

The sun was nearly gone. Sensible people were heading home, and people of Thaddeus’ sort were not yet out. Thaddeus chose a direction at random and plunged off as fast as he could, weaving through the crowd of laborers and merchants of the petty sort. Behind him, the door to the tiny shack, really little more than a pile of planks coaxed by a trick of the carpenter’s artifice into believing it was a storeroom, banged open.

Run now. Think later.

The dock district was a tangle of lanes and alleys, some of them little more than crevices between rows of warehouses. It hadn’t been built so much as thrown up. The engine of commerce was constantly arranging and rearranging the architecture, and many of the pathways seemed more like accidents of urban geography than anything intended to conduct traffic.

Thaddeus saw an opening between two buildings on his left, completely deserted. He darted through it and flattened himself against the wall. His pursuer flashed by the opening, a blurred shape in the failing light. Thaddeus exhaled slowly. That should buy him a few moments.

He crept carefully down the alley, cursing his shoes. The hard soles, so practical for walking down broad, well-paved streets, slapped on the rough cobblestone. Even a blind rat could follow him, Thaddeus thought.

The passageway opened up into a wider space, with alleys heading off in all directions. A young girl, perhaps in her tenth year, looked up at Thaddeus with an expression of suspicion. She was dressed entirely in rags.

“D’you have a shilling, mister?”

Thaddeus paused for a moment, panting. “No. I don’t have a shilling. I should have a lot of shillings, but I don’t. Listen, there’s a bad man chasing me. Which way should I go?”

She looked Thaddeus up and down appraisingly. “That’s a rum qab y’ got.”


“I ken your qab.” She held out her hand. “Give it t’me.”

Thaddeus looked around wildly. He could hear feet pounding down the alley toward him. He took off his top-hat and handed it to the girl. “Which way do I go?”

She examined the hat with a critical air. Thaddeus felt his hands curl into fists.

“There,” she said, pointing. “That way.”

“Thank you, little girl. Don’t tell the bad man where I am, okay?”

She nodded.

Thaddeus ran down the alley she had pointed to as though all the legions of Hell were behind him. Not that there was much difference between that and one person hell-bent on murder behind him. Past a certain point, it stopped mattering how many people were trying to kill you.

The alley extended barely twenty yards before it ended in a rough brick wall. Thaddeus stopped. The girl had sent him down a dead end. Refuse-dumps lined both sides.

Behind him, he heard a voice, glutinous and sibilant. “Little girl, have you seen a man run this way?”

“Maybe,” she said. “D’you have a shilling?”

“Oh, yes. I have a shilling for you,” came that slithery voice.

There was a pause. Then, “He’s that way. Down Ambush Alley.”

Thaddeus felt his heart freeze in his chest. “Oh, you impudent little urchin,” he thought to himself. He flattened himself against the wall, as far in the corner as he could get. The refuse-dumps were almost empty and offered little cover. He crouched in the deepest part of the shadow, holding his breath.

A shadow loomed in the far end of the alley, a man-shaped hole in the fading light. He was nearly silent. It was easy, when you have the proper footwear. The knife gleamed in his hand.

Thaddeus held himself still. The shape glided closer. He willed himself to melt into the shadow.

Another step closer. Another. The man was cautious, wary of cornered prey. Closer.

Thaddeus exploded out at him. The man reacted almost instantly, the dagger thrusting up and out.

Fortunately, there is a world of difference between “almost instantly” and “instantly.”

They crashed into each other. The dagger flashed and gleamed. Thaddeus brought his foot up. The hard metal tip collided hard with a particularly sensitive portion of the man’s body.

The man fell, eerily silent. The dagger skittered across the cobblestones. Thaddeus leapt past him, heading back the way he had come.

The child was still standing where she had been. Thaddeus’ top-hat sat on her head, nearly covering her eyes. She looked solemnly at him. “D’you have a shilling now?” she asked.

We’ve launched a Web site where you can sign up for pre-order information. Check it out!

Never do this: How self-published erotica authors harm their sales

A while ago, I wrote about a new project I’ve launched, an uncensored erotica search tool for Amazon. Briefly, a couple years back Amazon started removing listings for some self-published erotica from the search results on their Web site, especially for non-traditional erotica that deals with subjects like BDSM. I discovered they do not, however, censor search results made using their API, so I built a tool that uses the Amazon API to do searches.

The site I built also keeps a database of Amazon erotica, all neatly arranged by category, so that visitors can either search Amazon directly or browse erotica by category.

That’s when I discovered a problem.

A lot of books listed in the database, probably about 15% of them, go to 404 pages on Amazon when you try to follow the link.

“Huh,” I thought, “that’s weird.” The books are still there, but the links don’t work.

I looked further and discovered the ASIN—the Amazon Standard Identification Number that Amazon assigns to all Kindle books—had changed in the links that were broken. An Amazon link goes to a specific ASIN, so if a book’s ASIN changes, the old link breaks and the book lives at a new link on Amazon.

Needless to say, this is bad. If you are an author and your book’s ASIN changes, every link that anyone has ever posted to your book on Amazon breaks.

This happened to Thorntree Press books when we moved to a new distributor. Our new distributor removed all the old listings for our books from Amazon and re-listed them, causing them to live at new ASINs and breaking the old links.

I looked closer at one of the broken links and discovered something interesting. The book was still on Amazon, but with a new listing date. The new listing date was after the date the book had been added to Red Lit Search:

If you have self-published a book on Amazon and you wish to make changes to the book, you can upload a new file in your KDP Dashboard and you will not change your ASIN.

It is very important to make changes to your self-published book this way.

It seems that a lot of self-published authors will make changes to their books by deleting the old listing and re-creating a new listing with the changed file. Do not do this. You will break every existing link to your book, which will hurt your sales.

Instead, you can use the KDP Dashboard to edit your book and upload a new content file without breaking existing links. To do this:

1. Log on to your KDP Select Dashboard.

2. Find your book. There is a button labeled “…” to the right of your book’s listing. Click it and choose Edit Details from the popup menu. It looks like this:

3. In the book’s Details page, scroll down to the Upload Your Book File section. Click the Browse button and upload the new contents for your book.

Your ASIN is how the world locates your book. On Amazon’s site, your book’s listing is attached to the ASIN. If your ASIN changes, this will break any links to your book; and if your book is self-published erotica, there is a chance that it will not turn up in searches on Amazon’s Web site, now or in the future. That means that links to your book are the only way people will find it.

If you self-publish on Amazon, it is very important to do everything in your power to keep your book’s ASIN from changing. I can not stress this enough! Do not make changes to your book by de-listing and re-listing it. This will make your book harder to find.

Unwrapping a new project: an uncensored Amazon erotica search tool!

I am a self-published erotica writer. I write BDSM fiction, including the novel Nineteen Weeks, a story I’m very proud of.

A couple of years ago, I discovered that the number of books I was selling suddenly fell off a cliff. I did some research and found that the same thing was happening to a lot of erotica writers, especially self-published writers. Amazon’s Search function on their Web site was filtering out a lot of erotica, particularly erotica with themes of non-traditional relationships like BDSM.

However, I discovered something interesting a few months back: The Amazon search API, a set of programmer’s tools that allows Web programmers to search Amazon’s book titles, doesn’t filter search results. You can log on to Amazon and do a search for a particular book and see no results, but if you write a Web site that uses Amazon’s API and do a search, ta-da, there it is!

I’m sure you can see where this is going.

On and off for the past few months, I have been working on building a new Web site, called Red Lit Search. This site has a database of erotic books in Amazon’s catalog–so far only about eighteen hundred or so, but the list is growing–and also allows you to do uncensored searches of Amazon. My hope is to grow it into a portal for erotic books; if it succeeds, I plan to add new sections with things like articles, interviews with erotica writers, and all kinds of fun stuff like that.

So check it out! Spread the word! Kick the tires, test the software, and let me know what you think!

[ Visit Red Lit Search, the erotica search engine ]

Get it while it’s hot! Watch the magic happen before your very eyes!

A couple of months ago, I was in the car on my way back from having dinner with Eve, her husband, and her mum. Without warning, while I was sitting in the car, the first chapter of a fantasy novel detached itself from the firmament and fell into my head.

Think Terry Pratchett meets Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, but set in a Victorian London that never happened (partly because Queen Victoria herself never happened).

When Eve went to bed, I stayed up writing it. I roped Eve into helping to develop the world it’s set in, only a little against her will, and it’s taking shape into something big and weird and fun.

As I write the first draft of each chapter, I’m putting them up on a sooper sekrit page that’s only available to people who back me on Patreon.

I’m putting the first chapter here on my blog to give you a taste of what to expect. If you want more, you will have to pledge at least $1 on Patreon, or possibly wait until the book gets published, assuming it gets published.

It was the rain that woke him. At least he hoped it was rain. In his experience, when you found yourself lying on the street with the feel of something wet falling on your face, you couldn’t always assume it was rain. There was a multiplicity of possibilities, nearly all of them far less pleasant than rain.

His head hurt. So did his shoulder, though not as much. And his back, that hurt too. The throbbing in his knee, he could probably ignore for now, though it might present a bit of a problem when it came time to stand. With a bit of luck, he wouldn’t need to run, though that, too, was something you couldn’t take for granted. Something in his pocket was poking most unpleasantly into his thigh, but he didn’t quite feel up to moving his leg just yet.

First things first. Where was he?

Reluctantly, and with great effort, he opened his eyes. Grey. Okay, that seemed right. Buildings towering above him, drab brick faces daubed with soot. Above them, a tangle of electrical wires, strung in hodgepodge fashion from building to building. Above that, zeppelins, a lot of them, floating in a flat gray sky. And rain, an endless drizzle of it. It pattered on the rough cobblestone around him, pooled in the cracks between the stones, formed larger rivulets that sought to find their way to the Thames, that enormous body of what was in theory water, or had once been water, or had water as one of the less odiferous components of it. Some of the tiny streams paused on their journey to join the sluggish mud-colored river of maybe-water just long enough to make him miserable. Cold wet fingers seeped into his cuffs, sent icy fingers of wet misery down along his back, and trickled from his collar to rejoin the rest of the water making its indirect way toward the lowest point of the city.

New Old London, then. The wires were a dead giveaway. That was mildly surprising. He was used to waking up across the river, in Old New London.

It hadn’t always been called New Old London. Once, it had simply been London. It sprawled out helter-skelter until it ran into the banks of the Thames, where it had paused its growth for a bit, building its strength until it had reached some critical mass and sprouted bridges across the river like brick and metal tendrils. Once those tendrils touched down on the opposite bank, the city resumed its growth with vigor.

For a while, the bit of London on the far side was called New London, which made the older bits Old London. Then, about the time the reigning monarch Her Most Excellent Majesty Queen Margaret the Merciful, granted that name in a fit of excessive artistic license, was graduating from wetting herself to standing upright, her father, the late Royal Majesty King John the Proud, had decided Old London was a bit fusty and by royal decree had ordered much of it razed and rebuilt.

A handful of people objected to his bold—some said “audacious”—approach to civil engineering, questioning both the cost and the small but nevertheless still important matter of what to do with all the people so displaced, but a handful of beheadings soon sorted that out. It turns out that a man can accomplish quite a lot when he commands both the nation’s treasury and the headsman’s axe.

So Old London became New Old London, which meant that New London, more or less by default, was now Old New London, and there you had it.

He moved his arm, the one pressed quite uncomfortably against the curbstone. His father had always said that any day you woke up looking down at the gutter instead of up at the gutter was a good day. This was not shaping up to be a good day.

His father. That’s right, he’d had one of those, once.

A clue, then. He probably wasn’t an orphan or a golem. Orphans didn’t have memories of their fathers, he didn’t think—or did they? Maybe he would ask the next one he caught trying to pick his pocket. And golems—well, everyone said golems didn’t have thoughts at all. They were frightfully expensive, and as beasts of burden only moderately effective, but they’d been all the rage since that doctor with the German name had started making them a couple of years back. All the trendiest aristocrats employed one or two for manual tasks like carrying heavy loads or in some of the messier parts of home security. He found them creepy, with their weird (and often mismatched) dead eyes and their occasional bursts of unprovoked violence.

I think, therefore, I am not a golem. That seemed a safe bet.

He still wasn’t quite sure who he was, or what he was doing beyond lying face-up in a gutter in New Old London, but he didn’t feel an undue sense of urgency about that. At the moment, he seemed not to be bleeding from anywhere, and nobody was chasing him, so might as well take advantage of this unexpected luxury. He could work out who he was at leisure.

He looked down the length of his body. Both legs seemed present and accounted for, and in more or less the correct shape. Nothing obviously broken…but what were those ridiculous things on his feet? The shoes were gaudy, made of a patchwork of different kinds of leather that was the latest style among the fashionistas, with bright red clasps and pointed metal tips. They were, he felt, certainly not the sorts of things he would wear under ordinary, or indeed even extraordinary, circumstances. They seemed quite impractical for either running or creeping, two things he had a vague sense that he probably did rather a lot of.

The thing in his pocket poked into him with greater urgency. Time to do something about that.

He closed his eyes, summoning his strength, then, with a titanic effort, rolled over onto his side. That should sort it out. He paused, breathing heavily from the exertion. This new position squashed his hand rather unfortunately beneath him, so it wouldn’t be long before he had to move again. Baby steps.

A loud clattering sound from down the alley. He blinked again. A huge machine stomped past him, all black iron and copper. Smoke poured from its chimney. A clanker. Two-legged, this one, vaguely human-shaped—a newer model, then. Its driver, high up in his cage, didn’t even spare him a glance. It continued down the alley, dragging a cart piled high with freshly-fired bricks.

Alley. Another clue.

New Old London was arranged in a grid, the late and much-lamented monarch being of a mind more than a little obsessed with perfect geometry. It was said he could not eat unless every table-setting was properly arrayed, all the plats precisely centered in front of each chair, the service perfectly parallel, the chairs exactly the same distance from their neighbors. There were rumors of an unfortunate noble who had moved his plate from its appointed place before His Royal Highness had been seated, and consequently lost his title, or perhaps his head.

New Old London was arranged in two grids, to be more precise. You would, if you were to look down on it from one of the many zeppelins crowding the leaden sky above, see an alternating pattern of streets and alleys. The streets were broad and level, with wide sidewalks fronting tidy storefronts well-lit by gas lamps or, in the more fashionable districts, electric arc-lamps. The alleys were narrower, and more pockmarked, without sidewalks or lighting. The rows of buildings faced the streets, with the alleys running behind them.

Street, alley, street, alley: two different grids, slightly offset from each other. The people who mattered—aristocrats, merchants, skilled tradesmen; people with money, all—used the streets. Those without money used the alleys. Two different classes of people flowing along two different grids, living in two different cities, in a manner of speaking. It all made sense to somebody. Somebody in the former class, most likely. It seemed that wherever you went, the rich were willing to travel extraordinary distances to look at poor people, but went to equally extravagant lengths to avoid looking at the poor people closer at hand.

He felt at home in alleys.

His hand throbbed. Time to do something about that, then. Summoning his strength, he rose to his knees, then, with another Herculean effort, to his feet.

This must be what the heroes of Greek stories felt like, after they’d just skinned a hydra or defeated a twelve-headed lion or whatever it was they did.

There was a tangle of black silk cloth and bamboo struts on the ground where he’d just been lying, looking wet and broken. Strange, that.

He leaned against a wooden refuse-dump, trying to catch his breath. Its side was caved in, its contents spilling across the ground near the black silk whatever-it-was. By some stroke of fortune, the refuse that spilled around him was mostly vegetative. There were far less savory refuse-dumps around the city, like those behind the laboratories of people engaged in the business of golem-making.

He looked up. The rain gutter that clung to the red tiled roof of the building next to him was broken, two ends sending forlorn little cascades of water down into the street. A wide swath of tikes had been smashed and scattered, forming a path that led from the broken gutter to a large circle of pulverized clay about three-quarters of the way up the roof.

Ah. So that explained the various aches and pains, then. From the looks of things, he’d hit the roof pretty hard, then skidded down and over the edge into the refuse-dump, taking a bit of the gutter with him, and from there, landed in the gutter.

At least it explained the “how,” if not the “why.”

No, he thought, it didn’t even explain the “how.” It seemed that he had fallen onto the roof, and from there into the gutter by way of a large pile of moldy produce, but where precisely had he fallen onto the roof from?

And more to the point, why was he wearing this ridiculous getup? A sodden black jacket with tails—tails, for the love of all that was holy!—clung limply to him. A couple of feet down the alley was what had once been a top-hat, and was still trying against all odds to be a top-hat. He had a vague sense that it belonged to him, though he did not know for the life of him why he would own such a thing. He was still a bit hazy on who he was, exactly, but he was quite certain he was not the sort of chap who habitually engaged in the wearing of top-hats.

Nor in the habit of falling from the sky into a refuse-dump, either, he had to admit to himself, so perhaps he shouldn’t be too hasty in the matter of the top-hat.

A party. He had been to a party. In a top-hat and the ridiculously impractical shoes he was wearing, shoes he was certain he would never wear absent compelling need of the most dire sort.

He frowned, adding up what he knew. A party, a top-hat, shoes, a long fall onto a roof, a sudden slide into a rubbish-bin, and the wreckage of some silk and bamboo contraption that he knew, with abrupt clarity, had once been a kite.

A zeppelin. The party had been on a zeppelin. And he had left the party with some alacrity. Planned, evidently, to do so. From the look of things, he’d made arrangements in advance to depart over the side of the airship, rather than waiting for it to land to make a more traditional exit.

Damn, he thought, it sure would be nice if he could remember who he was.

The pokey thing in his pocket intruded into his consciousness again. The pants he was wearing were just as ridiculous as the shoes. Like much of what the upper class wore, they had been designed to show off the fact that their owner had no need to do something as profane as work, and therefore need not carry around anything larger than a pocket watch. The pockets, therefore, were vestigial, barely more than slits with a small pouch sewn inside. Whatever it was in his pocket was much larger than the pocket was intended to accommodate.

And it had sharp edges, or so it seemed. He would, he supposed ruefully, probably have quite a large bruise to show for it.

He stuck a hand in his pocket and drew it out.

Memory poured into him like wine into a wineglass.

He, Thaddeus Mudstone Alexander Pinkerton, ne’er-do-well and ruffian of the most despicable sort, had just robbed, though only by the skin of his teeth and at, evidence suggested, great personal peril, Her Most Excellent Majesty Queen Margaret the Merciful.

He picked up the battered top-hat, set it atop his head at a rakish angle, and walked, or rather limped, down the alley, whistling.

Perhaps this would be a good day after all.