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 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 bounds 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 of 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 (www.jlgribble.com), on Facebook (www.facebook.com/jlgribblewriter), and on Twitter and Instagram (@hannaedits).

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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.

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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.

steampunk_gal_by_harpyqueen-d5gmd5l

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.

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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

Just Use Said: A Writerly Discussion on Dialogue Tags

There are a lot of articles and blog posts on this subject, but I wanted to open a discussion here.

Before I joined a writer’s critique group, my writing was far from publishable. I had adverbs everywhere, along with a lot of ‘said’ synonyms. The more my work was reviewed, the more I realized I had a lot to learn in the writing department.

Like the use of adverbs, I realized that when I began avoiding said-synonyms, I was forced to strengthen the narrative and clarify the action.

I’m not sure about you and your writing, but when I was using said-synonyms, it was as a means to avoid excessive use of ‘said.’ BUT the glorious thing about changing all those tags back to ‘said’ is that you begin to see all the holes in the narrative, giving you the opportunity to strengthen the prose and clarify tone.

Here’s an example:

“And what about you?” I whimpered.

Or.

A shudder rippled through my chest, spilling tears onto my cheeks. I pulled my sleeve over my knuckles and wiped them away. “And what about you?”

The first one is fine, sure. But the second gives a sense of what’s going on outside of the dialogue. As a reader, I start a book for the concept, but stay for the characters. When you take the time to reveal those subtle character traits, like how they interpret what they’re feeling or how they respond to what they’re feeling, the reader is able to get a clearer picture of the character, leading to a better connection between your writing and the reader.

Substituting action for dialogue tags also provides a more cinematic reading experience. Going back to the example, whimpered describes how it is said, but when you add in the details of the character wiping away the tears with her sleeve, you get to see what the character is doing. Again, this gives the reader more insight into the character, making the reader more sympathetic to the character’s cause/goals.

Of course, these are just my thoughts and preferences as a reader and writer. I believe that writing, like most arts, is incredibly subjective, so if you have additional thoughts, please share them in the comments section below.

 

 

The 7/7/7 Challenge: A Writer Tag

Nicolette Elzie from A Little Bookish, A Little Writerly tagged me in the 7/7/7 Challenge. The incredible featured graphic was also created by her talented self.

She saw this writer’s tag on John’s blog @ Am I Doing This Right, and because she has an addiction to tags, she passed it along. Check out the synopsis and excerpt of her current WIP, Dreamweaver, here. I’ve been lucky enough to read the first few chapters, and I can already tell I’m in for a FANTASTIC adventure. Where I’m at in the MS, the world feels like a cross between Shadow and Bone and Cinder. So if that doesn’t wet your appetite, I don’t know what will!

Please don’t kill me for gushing about your story, Nicolette! ❤

The 7/7/7 Challenge Rules:

  • Go to page 7 of your work-in-progress
  • Scroll down to line #7
  • Share the next 7 lines of your manuscript in a blog post
  • Tag 7 other writers (with blogs) to continue the challenge.

My current WIP, Guarded, is a young adult fantasy that I hope will appeal to fans of City of Bones and Daughter of Smoke & Bone.

Because I don’t want to give away any spoilers, I’m going to give you the pitch instead of the full synopsis.

Three years have passed since Kjersten Taylor killed her parents’ murderers by pulling all the water from their bodies. She hasn’t spoken a word of the incident to her twin sister, Chloe, and has even convinced herself that it was a hallucination, a product of Post-Traumatic Stress.

But when she begins levitating coffee at work, Kjersten can no longer escape the truth: she is one of six Aeons, manipulators of the natural world.

Her ability to control water makes Kjersten a target as the Council tries to round up the Aeons to drop the veil between the magical realm, Tearmann, and the rest of humanity. Before Kjersten can warn her sister, Chloe is taken hostage by the Council’s enemies, and Kjersten must wade into the brewing war and put her own life on the line to get her sister back.


And now the challenge:

I opened my mouth to speak but quickly shut it. I wanted to lash out, to scream about how my parents weren’t here, so their opinions didn’t matter anymore. I wanted to rant about the different things my father could have done to keep us together, to keep us safe. We could have moved around. We could have changed our identities. He could have hired bodyguards. There were so many could-haves, yet my father chose to stay and die.

His choices orphaned Chloe and me. His choices left me alone with this burden.

His choices left me mourning fourteen years of campfires and Tae Kwon Do lessons and water gun fights and Thanksgiving dinners. And mourning him.


I am currently on the last leg of this manuscript, polishing it up for querying early 2016, and I am beyond excited for how it’s turning out (and how it’s been perceived thus far – Nicolette, you are a saint!). I left poor Nicolette on a cliffhanger in the last section I gave her (SORRY!), but I’m just a few short days from having another completed draft. EEK! I can’t wait for the next read-through.

*clappy hands* Okay, I’ll stop rambling… Here are my victims. Sorry if you’ve already been tagged!

Hanna @ J.L. Gribble | Thoughts and Conversations On Writing, Editing, Life, and Cats

Aura @ Into The Imagination Vortex

Cara @ Geek Girl Senshi

Cait @ Paper Fury

Aine @ Writing on a Vintage Typewriter

Jesse @ Books At Dawn

Sarina @ Cookie Break

Of course, you don’t have to participate in the tag. Lord knows I have a long list of tags I have yet to get to. These are only meant to keep conversations going between bloggers, and who wouldn’t want that? Y’all are awesome!

Happy Writing!