Tacos & Tecate: Dragon Coast bookstore appearances

Dragon CoastHey, I’m doing a couple of bookstore events for Dragon Coast, the third book in my Daniel Blackland trilogy. Tacos and beer will be supplied at both events, thanks to my kind and generous publisher, Tor Books. And I’ll be sharing the podium with terrific authors Seanan McGuire (Borderlands appearance only), Adam Rakunas (Mysterious Galaxy appearance only), and Fran Wilde (both appearances).  Beer, tacos, books, writers. I honestly don’t know what else I can say to entice you.


Borderlands Books with Seanan McGuire and Fran Wilde
Tuesday, September 15, 6pm
866 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110

Mysterious Galaxy with Adam Rakunas and Fran Wilde
Saturday, September 19, 2pm
5943 Balboa Avenue
San Diego, CA 92111



FREE copies of Dragon Coast

Dragon Coast
Hey, you like to get books before anyone else gets them? You like them even more when they’re free?

Here’s how you can get free advance copies of Dragon Coast, the third book in my Daniel Blackland series:

GoodReads Sweepstakes — Enter to win one of nine Dragon Coast advance reader copies. See link for details.

Tor.com Sweepstakes — Email Tor.com and get one of three copies. See link for details. 

ARC Collection Sweepstakes — Subscribe to the Tor newsletter and get a package of advance reader copies of Dragon Coast, plus books by Brandon Sanderson, Jason Denzel, and Cecelia Holland. See link for details.


Last night I saw Rush at the Fabulous Forum in Los Angeles on the last night of their 40th anniversary tour. It’s entirely possible that it’s the last time they’ll ever take the stage like that and that it was the last time I’ll ever see them play live. And it’s really okay.

Not okay in the sense that they seem tired. Last night’s show was among the best of their performances I’ve ever seen. And I’ve seen a lot of them, starting when I was a teenager and the skull beneath the flesh of my driver’s license photo hadn’t yet fused. These three guys are powerful musicians, and they sounded like they were going out at the top of their game.

The band did a nice bit of theater with their onstage gear. As the show went on, roadies kept stripping down the stage. What started with elaborate steam punk contraptions and oversized clothes driers ended up with a couple of amps sitting on wooden school chairs. It was a nice, physical expression of moving back in time.

So, for almost three hours, I stood in the bombardment of Geddy’s bass and Neil’s drums and Alex’s guitars, smiling joyfully. I thought of all the times I’d heard those songs on the radio, on vinyl, on my boom box or off-brand Walkman.

“In a world where I feel so small, I can’t stop thinking big.” — Caravan, Rush

Last night, as with all the other shows, I got to experience it with some of the most important people in my life. This time it was Lisa, and my friend since childhood, Todd, and Todd’s wife, Lori. Some of my favorite shows were with my friend, Bob, with whom I shed blood for many years in Arizona.

I thought of sitting in some random parking lot in Todd’s Toyota Tercel and being exulted by the tone of Geddy Lee’s Fender Jazz bass. I thought of being depressed on a bench on my college campus, and deciding my time would be better spent listening to Moving Pictures than sitting in some giant, dark lecture hall for two hours of art history. I remember a show on the Roll The Bones tour when they sent thousands of miniature spot lights over the crowd during “Bravado,” literally sharing their light and inspiration with all of us, and I almost wanted to leave the concert so I could sit with my yellow legal pad and write stories.

I get sentimental while I’m making the devil sign with both hands.

Several months ago Kevin J. Anderson invited me to submit to 2113, an anthology of short stories inspired by the music of Rush. Neil Peart had given a nod of approval for the project, so of course I wrote a story. Of course I did. Art executed with care and technical expertise has an enormous capacity to make the audience feel. Rush taught me that, and I don’t know if I’d be a writer without them.

I’m thinking about this Dr. Seuss quote: “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” As Geddy said before leaving the stage, I hope to see them again. If not, thanks for decades of smiles, guys.

When the dust has cleared
And victory denied
A summit too lofty
River a little too wide
If we keep our pride
Though paradise is lost
We will pay the price
But we will not count the cost
— Bravado, Rush

San Diego Comic-Con 2015

Hey. You there. Come see me at San Diego Comic-Con. Here’s where I’ll be:

Tor Books Signing, Thursday, 2pm, Booth #2707
There’ll be 50 copies of California Bones being given away and some copies of Pacific Fire for sale.

Normalizing Publishing – Sunday, 12pm – 1pm, Room 32AB
Shonda Rhimes famously said that she’s not “‘diversifying’ TV, she’s normalizing it: “Making it look like the world looks.” Join Sara Ryan (Bad Houses, Lambda Literary Emerging LGBTQ Writers Retreat instructor), Nilah Magruder (M.F.K., Dwayne McDuffie Award for Diversity recipient), Nicola Yoon(Everything Everything, We Need Diverse Books team member), Cindy Pon (Serpentine, We Need Diverse Books advisory committee, Diversity in YA co-founder), and Greg van Eekhout (California Bones, The Boy at the End of the World) discuss how this normalizing is, and isn’t, happening and what we can all do to promote inclusive storytelling.

My dad, Jozef Louis van Eekhout, 1934-2015

My dad, Jozef Louis van Eekhout, passed away a little less than two hours ago from complications of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. He died in his sleep, more comfortable and calm than he’d been in months, thanks to the gift of medication. He’d struggled with the disease for years, and going as peacefully as he did was more than I’d dared hope for.

A Dutch-Indonesian, he was born on June 10, 1934 in Surabaya, Indonesia. In the dozen years he lived there, he experienced war, revolution, internment camp, the loss of his older brother, Anthonie, and the murder of his father Frederick. From Indonesia he and the rest of his family moved to Holland, where he stayed until following his fiancée, my mother, to Venice, California. He and my mom got married at St. Mark’s in Venice and soon had their two children, my brother and me.

He worked a series of less and less menial jobs until beginning work for General Telephone and Electric, where he stayed for over thirty years.

From 1974 until this January, he lived in Culver City, where was a neighborhood fixture, hanging out at Jerry’s Market, or, when he could no longer walk the two blocks there, sitting in the driveway on the seat of his walker and chatting with passers-by. He loved the dogs best of all. Dogs loved him, too. Dozer certainly did.

He did not travel easily through life and struggled with things small and large more than necessary. A lot of that was the result of the traumas he experienced early in life in Indonesia. But he also had a sense of humor that ranged from sharp to silly. He loved to read. He loved to play cowboy songs on guitar, and I loved to sit on the floor and listen. He had a good singing voice and spent several years singing bass in the St. Mark’s choir. Most of my church-going when I was a kid happened from the choir loft. He couldn’t stand the thought of someone going hungry. He would leave saltine crackers from his salads at Denny’s and Norm’s and Polly’s out on the street in case a homeless person wanted them. Right to the end, he was sharing food with his home healthcare assistants.

He worked long hours to provide for us, racking up as much overtime as he could, often working weekends and holidays. He went to community college for years, ultimately earning his AA from Santa Monica College. Education was important to him, and he borrowed from his retirement fund to help put me through UCLA.

He never made me doubt he loved me. He was a good man. I’m not religious, or even spiritual, but he was. My mom died just a little over three months before him, and he hoped he’d be with her in some kind of afterlife. I hope he got his way.

Vaya con dios, Papa. There’s nothing to worry about. Everything’s okay.

Santa Margarita Intermediate School

I had a nice Skype visit with students from Santa Margarita Intermediate School today. They asked great questions that showed their intelligence and imagination. My thanks to them and to librarian Jenny Todd and IT guy Mark for making it happen. And, gosh, look at these notes. Stuff like this is the best part of being a middle-grade author.

santa_margarita1 santa_margarita2

Octopus Vortex

Lookie, it’s the cover of the German edition of California Bones. Looks gritty! Knochenzauber translates to “bone magic,” if Google is to be trusted. This is the first non-English edition of any of my books, so this is pretty rad.

And here’s this from the Google translation of the book description: “With six years Daniel Black swallowed his first bone fragment, a small piece of octopus vortex.”

Octopus vortex?? Damn, I wish I’d put an octopus vortex in the book. Octopus vortex!!!


A few of my book synopses

Here are the synopses I used to sell three of my books.

A lot of writers will tell you they hate writing synopses. Well, I’m here to tell you that they probably don’t hate it as much as I do. Their hatred is a sad, weak thing compared to my hot and powerful hatred. I hate writing synopses. Why? Because it feels like homework. Because it focuses on the story rather than the telling, and the telling is the fun part. Getting across a sense of your style in a synopsis is a pain in the ass. If I had a thousand asses, it would be a pain in all of them. Nonetheless, I have managed to sell books based on a synopsis, so I thought it might be helpful to post mine as examples.

None of these are intended to show the way to do it, bur rather one way to do it. For another approach, take a look at Harry Connolly’s excellent blog post on the subject.

To put these in some context, the synopses for Kid vs. Squid and California Bones were each preceded by a query letter, sent by my agent to an editor, who then requested a detailed synopsis and a the first few chapters of the book. The Boy at the End of the World was sold as the second book in a two-book contract with Kid vs. Squid, and was designated as to-be-determined. That means that the publisher bought two books from me, but I still had to pitch the idea for the second book so they could decide if that book was the one they wanted to publish. I did write a synopsis for Norse Code, but that was after the fact once the book was already sold based just on sample chapters. My agent thought it would be a good idea to have a synopsis anyway for sales and marketing purposes.

Most of you know this, but just in case, whenever you submit to an agent or editor, always, always, always check their submission guidelines. They may want something entirely different than what you see in my examples.

Also note that the books in their final published forms differ quite a bit from my synopses. Character names and plot threads and plot outcomes changed quite a bit by the time the books were on the shelves. Okay? Okay. I hope this is helpful to you.

Proposal – California Bones

This is my synopsis/proposal for California Bones, the first book in an adult contemporary fantasy trilogy. Some general notes and context here.


The Osteomancer’s Son is a heist story and family saga taking place in an alternate Los Angeles, built not on oil and movies, but on magic. Osteomancy is the art of drawing magic out of bones, and Los Angeles is home to one of the richest sources of osteomantic bones in the world: The La Brea Tar Pits. Skilled practitioners can coax magic from the remains of extinct mammals, such as mammoths, mastodons, saber-toothed cats, American griffins, and the Western wyvern. From this power base, Los Angeles grew into a dominant city-state on the Pacific Rim, ruled by the Hierarch, an ancient, magic-imbued osteomancer.

Daniel Blackland, 25, was born in the late 20th century, a time of political instability and dwindling magic, though osteomancers like Daniel’s father, Sebastian Blackland, still enjoyed high status. Twelve years ago, Sebastian was killed in the Hierarch’s purge. The ostensible purpose of the purge was to eliminate those suspected of being disloyal. But the real reason was that osteomancers absorb magic from the materials they work with, and now facing shortages of “bone,” the Hierarch is bent on recovering and hoarding magic for himself.

After Sebastian is murdered, Daniel’s mother leaves him in the care of her criminal brother, Otis, and defects to Northern California. She takes with her a golem created from Daniel’s own flesh. Daniel is told that the golem was killed during her escape, leading the Hierarch to believe Daniel is dead.


The novel opens with Daniel trying to make money legitimately by working menial jobs. But in the Hierarch’s world, earning a living is getting harder and harder, especially without Otis actively protecting Daniel’s identity. When the opportunity to make a few bucks by stealing some hippogriff hoof shavings presents itself, Daniel takes it. He’s not caught, but he leaves behind clues that will come to haunt him.

Otis tempts Daniel back to more profitable work by offering him a job that only he can accomplish: Break into the Ossuary — the Hierarch’s personal store of bone — and steal his own father’s remains. Daniel refuses.

Upon leaving Otis’s lair, he’s abducted by agents for the Department of Water and Power, run by William Mulholland, an ancient wizard who came to power with the Hierarch. He informs Daniel that he knows about the Ossuary job, and instructs Daniel to go through with it and bring the bones to him. Otherwise, harm will come to his daughter. Now Daniel has no choice.

Daniel visits Cassie’s apartment, where she lives with their daughter Miranda, often babysat by Tía Abril, an old family friend. Daniel warns Cassie about Mulholland and declares his intention to do the job. Attempting to protect them, he uses sphinx powder to lock her, Abril, and Miranda in the apartment. Nothing can get in, nothing can get out. What he doesn’t know is that Abril works for Otis, and after Daniel leaves, she poisons Cassie, breaks Daniel’s osteomantic locks, and brings Miranda to Otis.


Daniel recruits his childhood friends to do the Ossuary job with him. Moth is the muscle, Punch is a lock/safe guy. Their first task is to collect osteomantic traces left in the plumbing of the apartment formerly occupied by the old osteomancer who made the Ossuary’s locks. Accidentally ingesting the traces gives Daniel visions of escaping across the Northern border with his mother. The osteomancer who made the Ossuary’s locks is the same one who helped Sebastian make the golem of Daniel, and being in contact with his magic gives Daniel a retroactive psychic link to the golem. He learns that his mother was a spy for San Francisco, and that she’s partially responsible for his father’s death. And he knows Otis lied to him about the death of the golem.

When Daniel confronts Otis, Otis convinces Daniel to proceed with the Ossuary job anyway by presenting him with his daughter’s finger bone, infused with magic inherited from Daniel. If Daniel doesn’t complete the job, Otis threatens to sell off Miranda one piece at a time.

Meanwhile, Gabriel Tyson, the Hierarch’s great-nephew, is at a family gathering celebrating the anniversary of the Hierarch’s ascension to power. Gabriel is a junior inspector with the Ministry of Osteomancy’s procurement and accounting wing, charged with keeping track of bone supply in the city. Disney, a glamour mage, takes Gabriel aside to complain about the lack of bone available to him. In the midst of complaining, Disney tips him off about the hippogriff theft that Daniel perpetrated. Gabriel decides to investigate. He soon discovers that Daniel is alive and in Los Angeles.

Cassie wakes up to an empty apartment. She goes to Daniel, and they determine the best thing he can do now is finish the job quickly and get Sebastian’s remains, which they’ll then use as leverage to get Miranda back from Otis and get Mulholland off their backs.


The Ossuary heist is underway. Things begin smoothly enough, but the Ossuary proves to be a labyrinth, protected by magic-enhanced guards and osteomantically-spawned creatures: three-headed guard hounds, minotaurs, flying americapithecines. Daniel, Moth, and Punch are soon fleeing deeper into the Ossuary just to stay alive. Daniel fights off a minotaur to give his friends a chance to escape, but they come back for him and are killed. Daniel has now lost the only people other than Cassie who have never betrayed him.

On the outside, Cassie learns that Otis already has customers lined up for Miranda’s bones. He’s not going to return her alive, even if Daniel delivers Sebastian’s remains. Planning to kill Otis, she encounters Gabriel Tyson. Gabriel proposes a deal: Give him Daniel, and he’ll help her get Miranda back. Cassie agrees, giving him the maps to the Ossuary Daniel is using to find his father’s bones.

Heading yet deeper into the Ossuary, Daniel recovers Sebastian’s remains. The Hierarch confronts Daniel, and only by consuming some of Sebastian’s bones to absorb their power does Daniel survive the battle. He runs even farther into the Ossuary and comes upon a chamber of bubbling vats. Contained in the vats are golems, grown from osteomantic samples. In one vat, Daniel finds a gestating golem version of himself. He knows he can gain more power by consuming the golem. But he won’t exploit this version of himself the way his parents exploited him, and the way Otis is exploiting Miranda. Instead, he decides to save his golem.

While Cassie locates Miranda and kills Otis, Daniel fights the Hierarch, using every ounce of skill his father taught him. He loses three fingers and watches in horror as the Hierarch eats them to boost his power. Desperately fleeing, he comes upon another golem: a younger version of the Hierarch, being prepared to give the ancient sorcerer a new body to replace his old, failing one. Daniel eats the golem’s heart, giving him enough power to defeat the Hierarch.

When Daniel leaves the Ossuary, Gabriel is there, waiting for him. But so is Cassie, a knife at Gabriel’s throat. Daniel strikes a deal: They’ll let Gabriel live if he helps them get out of the city. And so, with Cassie, Miranda, and the golem-child, Daniel departs Los Angeles for the questionable safety of Northern California.


Synopsis – The Boy at the End of the World

This is my synopsis for The Boy at the End of the World, a middle-grade science fiction novel. Note that I go out of my way not to call it a science fiction novel, because science fiction is usually called something else in middle-grade. Because … I don’t even know. Capitalism. Some general notes about my synopses and context here.

This is what he knew:
His name was Fisher.
He was fourteen years old.
He was alone.
And that was all.


In a futuristic novel that comments on our current society and culture, the last living boy on Earth must learn to balance survival and self-interest against friendship and self-sacrifice.

Before civilization fell into ruin, scientists built an underground Life Ark in the Appalachian Mountains, a facility where six hundred human specimens lay asleep and protected in hopes that one day they’d be awoken to repopulate the Earth. When the Life Ark is bombed by forces unknown, fourteen-year-old Fisher wakes up in his preservation chamber. He finds nothing but destruction around him, all the other humans crushed by debris. As far as Fisher knows, he’s the only human left alive.

Fisher has no memories preceding having been “born” in his chamber, but his head contains small areas of knowledge: He has language, and he knows his name and age, and he knows how to build a fire.

Pursued by a mechanical man, Fisher runs from the Ark and faces an outside world of desolate ruins and the glowing eyes of nocturnal predators. When he’s attacked by a pack of bipedal rats, the mechanical man saves him. The machine, whom Fisher names Click, is a damaged custodial robot from the Ark who has taken on the task of helping Fisher survive such that he can eventually rebuild the human race. Each member of the preserved human community was supposed to have been born with implanted knowledge and skills, from metalwork, to medicine, to leadership abilities. But Click only had time to program Fisher with a limited profile — a strong survival instinct and specialized fishing skills. Click knows of the existence, but not the exact location, of another Ark on the West Coast, where there may still be surviving humans. Fisher determines to cross the 2600-mile wide continent to find the other Ark.

Making their way down from the mountains, they are joined by a cloned juvenile Columbian mammoth whose herd was annihilated by “gadjits,” intelligent military drones bent on wiping out rival intelligences.

The three companions are hunted by terror birds: giant, carnivorous parrots who, like their ancestors, mimic human speech. And their message is this: “You will die. You will all die.” Barely escaping with their lives, Fisher is left with the mystery of who taught the parrots these threatening words.

Fisher and his friends continue west, until coming to the Mississippi River. They encounter fragments of lost civilization: an airport, a truck stop, a housing development. Beneath the ruins of the St. Louis Arch stand the more intact ruins of the McDonald’s golden arches.

Fisher builds a raft to take him and his companions down the river, a waterway now clogged by the tops of skyscrapers and crumbling freeway overpasses. They survive rapids but go over a waterfall. Almost drowning (or in Click’s case, merely sinking), they drag themselves onshore, only to be captured by a band of evolved river otters. The otter clan doesn’t have spoken language, but they’re clearly intelligent. They march Fisher and his friends to their village, where their leader signals for their execution. But after a gadjit raid, during which Fisher saves the otters, the clan leader decides to let Fisher and his friends go.

Joined by a pod of freshwater whales, the companions fight their way past piranha-like miniature crocodiles and gadjit outposts. Fisher follows tributaries westward. Before leaving him to continue his journey by land, the whales warn that he’s leading Click and the mammoth into even greater dangers, things that the whales know only from myths handed down in song over the generations. They speak of cities of the dead and ghosts. And that’s what Fisher finds in the remains of what was once Chicago, an eerie landscape where the recorded voices of the last humans drone from loudspeakers, telling the sad tale of humankind’s final days, how they fell to environmental degradation and disease and warfare, both a bang and a whimper.

Click goes missing in the night, abducted by tool-using ravens who consider him a shiny object to be taken apart. When Fisher’s rescue attempt goes awry and his survival is put at its greatest jeopardy, Fisher must overcome his implanted instinct. He must learn to put aside the part of him that weighs risk and benefit, and he decides to save Click, even though his own death could mean the definitive end of the human race.

After a daring rescue, Fisher and his friends beat a hasty retreat from the city. Click scolds Fisher for having made the wrong choice in rescuing him, and Fisher is himself still not certain he did the right thing.

On the Great Plains, the party finds great flocks of passenger pigeons, and thundering masses of bison, and a Columbian mammoth herd, the descendants of cloning experiments from long ago. Though reluctant to leave his friend, Fisher hopes the herd will accept his juvenile companion. But they reject him, considering him “other.” Fisher wonders, should he make it to the Western Ark, if he’ll suffer a similar rejection from his fellow humans.

Fisher finds a colony of genetically “uplifted” meerkats, the descendants of the military’s weaponized animals programs, bred for reconnaissance, infiltration, and sabotage. The meerkats’ legends reveal the location of the Western Ark, which contains not only preserved humans, but also a great wealth of other animal specimens, including mammoths and meerkats. A small detachment of meerkats joins Fisher, Click, and the mammoth to complete the journey.

Too late, Fisher learns that the gadjits have been following him west, attacking not to kill him, but to keep him running toward the Western Ark. The Ark’s defenses are keyed to human DNA, so only Fisher can deactivate them. Not realizing he’s making the Ark vulnerable to the gadjits, he arrives at the Ark and brings down the defenses.

The gadjits attack in full force. In a pitched battle, Fisher and his friends defeat the machines, but the Ark is damaged. Fisher has only minutes to awaken the specimens. While Click and the meerkats concentrate on reviving the animals, Fisher finds the humans. The first one he awakens is a girl.


This is what she knew:
Her name was Farmer.
She was fourteen years old.
And she was not alone.