Moving Forward Without Apology

Wow. It’s been a while, huh? 

As much as I want to apologize for my absence, I’m not going to. I’ve spent most of my life apologizing: for sneezing, for laughing too loud, for walking through a door ahead of someone, or even for the sound of my footsteps. 

This instinct isn’t uncommon, especially for women, but I’m realizing the internal implications of saying sorry means that I did something wrong. How is sneezing wrong? It’s a normal bodily function. Much like self-care has needed to become a normal practice for me, which is why I’m not going to apologize for my lack of posts. 

And though I do intend for this to still be a writing blog, it’s first and foremost mine, and apparently, self-discovery is as much a part of my writing journey as is learning how to avoid passive voice. 

In the time I’ve spent away from my blog, here are some of the more prominent pieces of my journey:

  1. I’m not writing YA anymore. My writing voice and the stories I’m drawn to just aren’t quite YA, and that’s okay.
  2. I love weightlifting. Picking weightlifting back up has probably been one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself. It’s an investment that has an almost immediate payoff in regards to strength gains. 
  3. I’m finally feeling like myself again. And this has a little to do with me reclaiming my body with #2, but mostly, I’ve stopped demonizing my mental health. The Sioux Falls VA has done an awesome job at finding a medication combination that works really well for me and their therapy has helped give me tools to reclaim my joy. 
  4. Finding community. None of the above would be possible without a support system. The friends I’ve found through writing and theatre have given me a place to stand and build self-worth on. 

All of this to say, the blog will be changing a little. Don’t worry, I’ll still rant about writerly things, but I also want to celebrate the things that make writing possible for me. 

Thanks for sticking with me!
– Bree


Happy Book Birthday to J.L. Gribble!

Guys, I am SO EXCITED to help launch the third book in the Steel Empires series, STEEL BLOOD. I had the privilege of getting to know the author J.L. Gribble during the 2014 NaNoWriMo when she was finishing up the draft of the second book in this amazing fantasy series. Since then, the first book in the series, STEEL VICTORY, has received some glorious praise from Publishers Weekly:

“The innovative combination of genres is appealing, and Gribble’s multiple story lines—invasion, anti-creature bias, and intercity politics—mesh very well together….This is a solid first effort that sets the stage for more installments in an intriguing world with complex characters.” – Publishers Weekly, May 2015

Book 2, STEEL MAGIC, also received a few nods:

“Gribble brings the newest generation to the forefront with an adventure reminiscent of Tamora Pierce’s Alanna series.” – Library Journal, June 2016

Along with the delightful blend of the paranormal, apocalyptic, and alternative history genres, the characters in this series have such profound bonds with each other that it’s hard not to fall in love with each and every one of them. From Victory, the centuries-old vampire who just wants to enjoy her retirement from being a mercenary, to Kane, the warrior-mage who would do anything for those he cares about, these are characters whose stories you want to know. Hell, I didn’t even mention my personal favorite, Mikelos, the daywalker with a quick wit that certainly causes most of his trouble.

But without further ado, here’s STEEL BLOOD…

Steel-Blood-Jacket.inddAs her children begin lives of their own, Victory struggles with the loneliness of an empty nest. Just when the city of Limani could not seem smaller, an old friend requests that she come out of retirement for one final mercenary contract—to bodyguard his granddaughter, a princess of the Qin Empire.

For the first time in a century, the Qin and British Empires are reopening diplomatic relations. Alongside the British delegation, Victory and her daywalker Mikelos arrive in the Qin colony city of Jiang Yi Yue. As the Qin weredragons and British werewolves take careful steps toward a lasting peace between their people, a connection between the Qin princess and a British nobleman throw everyone’s plans in disarray.

Meanwhile, a third faction stalks the city under the cover of darkness.

This is not a typical romance. It’s a good thing Victory is not a typical vampire.

STEEL BLOOD is available online through the publisher, Amazon, and Barnes & Nobles.

If you haven’t picked up this series yet, you can find STEEL VICTORY, here. ENJOY! Did you not see the weredragons?! 

Gribble photo colorBy day, J. L. Gribble is a professional medical editor. By night, she does freelance fiction editing in all genres, along with reading, playing video games, and occasionally even writing. She is currently working on the Steel Empires series for Dog Star Books, the science-fiction/adventure imprint of Raw Dog Screaming Press. Previously, she was an editor for the Far Worlds anthology.

Gribble studied English at St. Mary’s College of Maryland. She received her Master’s degree in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University in Greensburg, Pennsylvania, where her debut novel Steel Victory was her thesis for the program.

She lives in Ellicott City, Maryland, with her husband and three vocal Siamese cats. Find her online (, on Facebook (, and on Twitter and Instagram (@hannaedits).

Loving your story through rejection


Hi all. So I’ve been querying for quite some time, and safe to say, it is not going well. I had one spark of optimism during PitMad when my dream agent liked my pitch… yeah, that didn’t go anywhere.

But I’m not going to lie, querying has been this long roller coaster of dread, doubt and despair. Yay, alliteration.

As the rejections keep piling up, it gets harder and harder to stay motivated to keep chasing this dream, or to even think that I’m even worth achieving the dream. Cue tears. So I’m trying desperately to keep writing, keep pushing forward, and most importantly, keep loving my stories.

Because here’s the thing: If you don’t love your stories, who else will? GUARDED (the book I’m querying) means the world to me. Writing that story made me feel like my PTSD had a purpose, like there was a reason I went through that trauma. The MC Kjersten took on my MH struggles and was able to learn how to cope with them to create meaningful relationships with people, something I can only dream of one day being able to accomplish.

Somewhere along the lines, I’d forgotten these things because the rejections convinced me that the story was worthless, which in a roundabout way, meant that my trauma was meaningless, which of course lead down a deep, dark rabbit hole of awful. Woo!

Luckily, I have a brilliant friend who entertains my rants regarding what the industry deems “sellable.” Because that’s legitimately what publishing comes down to. You could do everything right. You could go to the conferences, take the webinars, take part in critique groups, enlist beta readers, and revise, revise, revise. But at the end of it, if whomever you’re querying doesn’t believe your story is sellable, it’s a rejection. Plain and effin simple.

That’s not a reflection on your writing or your story. And as difficult as it is to accept that – because believe me, I know that struggle – you can’t let those rejections tarnish your love for that story or how important that story is to you.

Wishing you the best,

Beautiful People – March 2017 Edition

Every month, the incredible Paper Fury and Further Up and Further In host the BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE meme. It’s a meme consisting of ten questions geared toward helping writers dive further into their manuscripts and their characters.

I went back and forth on what project to use for this month’s Beautiful People Meme, especially given that next month is Camp NaNo. Do I keep going with the project I’m querying? Or play with the shiny new idea that is in a completely different universe to GUARDED (the querying MS) and the rest of the books in that series?

As much as I love the Aeons, I need to shelve that universe for a tidbit to let my mind switch over to a new/different fantasy universe. So let me introduce Teagan and McKenna, the MC’s for the shiny new idea.

No. 1 – What’s their favourite book/movie/play/etc.?
If Teagan and McKenna were in our world, they’d probably watch the TV show Supernatural religiously. They’d both be Dean girls, but both would secretly prefer Sam.

Supernatural funny face.gif

I mean, how could you not love those faces?

No. 2 – Is there anything they regret doing?
Ummm. Honestly, these two aren’t really “regretful” types. Teagan thinks regrets are a waste of time. The only time McKenna has regrets is when she doesn’t do something.

No. 3 – If they were sick or wounded, who would take care of them and how?
If McKenna gets sick or wounded, she has three people who come to her aid: Teagan, their caretaker Gareth, and her friend Raum. For Teagan, it’s McKenna and Gareth. Physical wounds are easy enough to deal with (yay magic). But if they don’t expel enough of their magical energy, their bodies will seize up on them. If they don’t stay physical throughout the episode, there could be long-lasting damage. So Raum is more than happy to slap the girls around a bit if it will keep them from letting their latent magic eat away at their nervous system… because violence is always the answer, kids. (KIDDING!)

No. 4 – Is there an object they can’t bear to part with and why?Teagan's comb
For Teagan, it’s her mother’s hair comb. It’s bronze and has decorative spikes. The hair comb was passed down from high priestess to high priestess. Teagan was on the fast track to inherit it before the temple was destroyed.

McKenna earlingFor McKenna, it’s her acolyte earring. When an acolyte begins honing their magic, they’re gifted an earring signaling their growth. McKenna had been so young when the temple was destroyed, so the earring is her only tangible memory of those days.

No. 5 – What are 5 ways to win their heart (or friendship)?
Teagan: Integrity, Intelligence, Stealth, Snark, Selflessness.
McKenna: Whimsy, Humor, Snark, Adrenaline, anything related to flying.

No. 6 – Describe a typical outfit for them from top to bottom.


Picture curtesy of HarpyQueen on Deviantart

The aesthetic of this fantasy world is very steampunk in nature, so the fashion is multilayered and complex and every piece of garment would have a purpose.

Shoes: Laced riding boots. They’re durable, fairly comfortable, and way more easy to move around in than the healed shoes worn by the upper class.

Tights: The girls (and most of their class) wear leggings instead of the thin tights the women of the upper class do. Leggings offer more coverage and warmth when their skirts are pulled up for easier movement.

Skirts: If the girls are wearing skirts, they usually have a ribbon sewn into the inside that they can pull up and knot so the front of the skirt is hiked up out of the way of their movement. The only time the skirt is actually down completely is when they have to deal with the upper class. Having such a short skirt is much frowned upon for the richer part of the population.

Shirts: Usually something linen with billowy sleeves. Often cream in color from lack of dyes. Sometimes the girls will embroider the lapel or the cuffs… if they’re bored.

Corsets: This is where the girls usually get creative. Most of their corsets are constructed with leather, but each has unique metal detailing depending on what they’re planning that day. McKenna likes the one with the retractable mini-grappling hook attached to the back. Sure, it’s a bitch to put on, what with the harness straps you have to step through before you even start lacing the corset, but it’s super useful. Teagan usually goes for the corsets she’s detailed with metal loops to which she can tie different items, ie. tools, herb pouches, coin purses.

Jackets: Sometimes leather, sometimes cloth, but always dark in color. Dark coats tend to let the girls disappear a tad easier than the brightly colored ones of the upper class.

Accessories: Teagan has a monocle, a fact that I’m kinda in love with. It’s enchanted to act as a kind of security footage feed. She and McKenna run multiple ‘businesses’ and the monocle lets Teagan know where she needs to be and when. Each of the girls also have a cuff bracelet that measures how much excess magical energy they need to burn off.

McKenna loves bowler hats. She wears one most days. Unlike everything else, they have no use other than to sate McKenna’s love for them.

No. 7 – What’s their favorite type of weather?
Because the city is often smothered by smog, both girls ache for clear, sunshiny weather.

Supernatural on a tandem bike.gif

No. 8 – What’s the worst fight they’ve ever been in?
I have a feeling I’m about to find out with the drafting process. I already know these two are going to rip the plot out of my hands, so I honestly don’t know what previous or future fights are going to come down the hatch for these two. I do know that when the temple of the old religion was dismantled, the girls had a hell of a time finding ‘normalcy’ after that, but as for how violent that ordeal actually was, I’m not 100% sure.

No. 9 – What names or nicknames have they been called throughout their life?
I’m a sucker for shortening names. McKenna often gets called ‘Mic’ by her closest friends and ‘closer friends.’ Teagan doesn’t really have a nickname. She does often get called ‘Minerva’ by some of their village elderly, at least the ones who were devout patrons of the temple. Minerva was the temple’s high priestess and Teagan’s mother. The older Teagan gets, the more she resembles Minerva.

No. 10 – What makes their heart feel alive?
Teagan lives for the days she gets to escape the floating city to the forest beyond the city’s shadow. The air is clean, the colors are vibrant, and there isn’t an Upper (person from the upper class) in sight.

Meanwhile, McKenna lives for the moments right after she escapes trouble. Her blood is pumping, her chest heaving, and her falling adrenaline makes her practically gleeful because she was able to get away with whatever flavor of mischief she chose that day.

Supernatural Batman.gif

If McKenna knew this reference, she’d use it… after every incident of mischief… Every. Single. One.

So those are the MC’s for my next project. I’m excited to jump into their world and play with this duo’s dynamic. Between the different character development, world building, and plotting I’ve been jotting down, it promises to be a wild ride. Steampunk, magic, and trouble. Could it get any better?

My Query Letter Will Be The Death Of Me

CLASSIFIEDS AD: Writer to sell soul for ability to write effective query letter

I wish I was kidding. Truly. But Dear Lord, am I a failure at writing summaries. I can’t tell you how many articles I’ve read, webinars I’ve taken, critiques I’ve gotten, seminars I’ve attended in the past couple years, but no matter how hard I try, I can’t for the life of me succinctly and effectively put my characters’ story into a 250-word query letter.

Every time I rewrite the thing, I get two responses: 1) This is great! 2) This is confusing and needs a total rework.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. “Bree, this industry is subjective. You’re not going to please everyone.”

Right. Subjectivity. This makes up for about 10%. In my mind anyway. Maybe I’m not giving subjectivity enough credit, but when your inbox is filled with rejections (8 as of last week), you kinda have to take a step back and take a good hard look at your novel’s cover letter, especially when those 8 rejections came directly from the query, no partial/full requests.

Like I said above, I’ve rewritten that damned query letter multiple times, vetted it with critique-ers and forums. Every round just gets more confusing and my confidence has pretty much tanked as a result. I know this story isn’t unique. Rejection is a part of life when you decide to pursue this career path, but damn, am I tired.

I love my story. I want an agent/editor who loves it as much as I do. So I’m totally willing to wait for “the one.” But I’m at that point where I feel like my inability to sell my ideas effectively are destroying my chances of finding “the one.”

I’ve heard the argument, “Well why don’t you just self-publish?” And though I completely respect the writers who do take that leap to self-pub, that’s not something I want for my writing-journey. I don’t just want to BE published, I want to BE WORTHY of publishing. I want an agent and editor who is going to push me to be better than I can be on my own, to push me to make my stories greater than I can on my own. I recognize that I have a limited amount of knowledge/ability to objectively judge my own work and crave that expert who’s going to take a red pen and DESTROY my writing [so I can make it better].

And that’s why I will continue to revise that evil query letter and continue submitting. If you’re trudging through the query trenches, I hope that you’ll do the same.

Good luck and best wishes in your writing/publishing journeys, Friends. I’d love to hear your stories down below!

– B