Once upon a time, in another life, I was a DJ. Music has always been a huge part of my world; I can’t really work without it. I will listen to almost anything except contemporary country, but my favorite genres (in no particular order) are industrial, goth, dark ambient, neoclassical, trap, house, trance, and video game soundtracks.
I love making soundtracks and playlists for my books. Or, if not for a specific book, then centered around a theme. I did make a playlist for Firebird, which can be applied to most of the trilogy. Here it is:
He was my therapist.
She was my client.
He’s the person I lean on and turn to.
She’s the person who brings me relief when there seems to be none.
He makes me smile and laugh when anxiety and depression consume me.
She helps me breathe when depression is choking me.
I don’t know how to live without him.
I don’t know how to be honest with her.
Are we driving each other mad?
The Steel Empires series is a very different sort of urban fantasy series, with elements of alternate history and epic adventure. The second installment, Steel Magic, will be released in hardcopy and ebook on July 6! Until then, don’t miss out on the beginning of the story while the first book, Steel Victory, is on sale for 99 cents.
Funerals are usually the end of the story, not the beginning.
Newly graduated warrior-mages Toria Connor and Kane Nalamas find themselves the last remaining mages in the city when a mage school teacher mysteriously falls ill and dies. But taking over the school themselves isn’t in the cards. They’re set to become professional mercenaries—if they make it through the next 18 months as journeymen first.
The debate over whether to hunt mutated monsters in the Wasteland or take posh bodyguard jobs is put on hold when a city elder hires them to solve the mystery of the disappearing mages. Toria and Kane’s quest brings them to the British colonial city of New Angouleme, where their initial investigation reveals that the problem is even greater than they feared.
But when a friend is kidnapped, they’ll have to travel to the other side of the globe to save her, save themselves, and save magic itself.
What drives you to write?
It’s a bit cliché to say that you should write what you want to read, but in my case it’s true. I kept reading the same urban fantasy tropes over and over again and wanted to find something different. Now I’ve created a fantasy world with such room to grow that I keep coming up with different adventures for my main characters.
What’s the hardest thing about balancing writing with the rest of your life?
It always seems like my productivity periods are feast or famine. At least, it certainly seems like all of the external opportunities come my way when I’m deep in the depths of finishing a novel or cranking out the edits. At that point, the hardest thing becomes learning when to say no.
Do you have a special writing place? What’s in it? What can’t be in it?
I have an amazing home office that I practically live in for editing and marketing work. But for some reason, it’s really hard for me to actually produce words there. It’s not even an access to the internet thing, because the first thing I do when I get to one of my multitude of local writing spots (coffee shops and cafes) is turn on the WiFi. Perhaps it’s just knowing that I can’t go home until I get my daily word goal finished!
Do you write to music, or do you like silence/white noise/coffee shop? Why?
I have a carefully curated Pandora station that features things from alt rock to instrumental covers of other popular songs to video game themes. Oddly, this is also the same station that I use while running! I can’t do silence, and as a writer, I have a tendency to get distracted by other people’s conversations to gather story fodder.
Be honest—do you love or hate social media? Somewhere in between? Why?
Definitely somewhere in the middle! I accept that some aspects of it are a necessary evil, so it was mostly a matter of finding strategies that I could commit for each platform. So Facebook gets cool pictures and links I stumble across, labeled as “free story idea,” and pictures of grammatical or spelling errors in the wild that I point to as “job security” (in reference to my professional career as an editor). Instagram gets mostly pictures of my adorable cats, because I’m pretty sure pictures of cats is how the internet is powered, and I make a point of throwing whatever book I read next to the nearest cat and posting a picture of that, too. I’m not on Twitter as effectively as I could be, so that mostly gets links to my updated blog and the book/cat picture combos. I think the important thing is that I’ve found what works for me, and I’m trying to stick to it.
Do you have a favorite book? Or author? Or genre? Or is it too hard to pick?
Favorite book: The Last Herald-Mage trilogy by Mercedes Lackey
Favorite author: Catherine Asaro, especially her Skolian Empire space opera series.
Favorite genre: Urban fantasy. Write what you love and all that!
What do you think about MFA programs?
I don’t think that you need one in order to be an effective or accomplished author. I attended Seton Hill University’s Writing Popular Fiction program straight out of undergrad (it was still an MA program back then) because my mother was convinced that I would be a waitress for the rest of my life if I didn’t go to graduate school. Oddly enough, I had never been a waitress before then, either… The program taught me a lot about the craft of writing and how to budget my time and energy while working full-time.
Do you have a favorite conference or convention that you go to? What makes it awesome?
I’ve had the privilege of being a returning panelist at Confluence in Pittsburgh for a few years now. It’s a more literary-themed SF/F convention, but there’s still something for everyone. Though literary-themed, it’s a great mix of both fans and other professionals who are all interested in learning about new books and sharing their favorites. It’s at the end of July, so there’s still time to register if you want join me this year!
Recommend a how-to book, website, or an organization with good writer resources.
My go-to book for the past few months is The Emotion Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi. It has definitely helped me get away from always defaulting to facial expressions to show what my characters are feeling. It’s priced very reasonably considering how much I’ve gotten in return!
What’s the next project?
My goal is always to get the next book in my editor’s hands within a week of the previous being released. Right now I’m finalizing line edits for book 3 in the Steel Empires series. I also have book 4 outlined by scene and am ready to launch into writing!
About the Author
By 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).
Steel Magic pre-order: https://smile.amazon.com/Steel-Magic-J-L-Gribble/dp/1935738852/
Steel Victory sale: https://smile.amazon.com/Steel-Victory-J-L-Gribble/dp/1935738739/
The Emotion Thesaurus: https://smile.amazon.com/Emotion-Thesaurus-Writers-Character-Expression/dp/1475004958/
Love comes in many different forms, at different times, and in many ways. Each new relationship creates their own story as they risk everything and go along for the ride.
Love, Always is the perfect recipe for romance. Sixteen authors have created a collection of stories filled with desire ranging from hot and steamy, to sweet and sentimental. Whether they are what you expect or not, we guarantee a love filled with laughter and passion just for you. The only question that remains is, we can’t control who we fall for…so who will capture your heart?
— SYNOPSIS —
Recovering from years of living the superstar hockey life wasn’t easy, but now Aleksandr Volynsky finally has everything…
He’s married to the love of his life, expecting a daughter, and has a new job as an assistant coach with his old team, the Buffalo Gladiators. His happiness is short lived, however, when a sexual assault allegation surfaces, and Alex is forced to cooperate with an investigation for a crime he didn’t commit.
Stephanie Hartwell is juggling her dream job with marriage and motherhood, but she’s not convinced she’s doing any of it well…
Stephanie’s stress level goes from bad to worse when she’s diagnosed with a serious illness. Battling declining health and the critics who question her commitment to Alex in light of the allegation, she makes a decision that could change their relationship forever.
Alex is afraid he’s about to lose everything—especially when he sees Stephanie’s friend kiss her…
Devastated that his life is spiraling out of control again, Alex turns to his friend, Natasha, a Russian pop star. Convinced that Stephanie and her friend Brandon are having an affair, Alex resumes his self-destructive behavior.
What Alex doesn’t know is Stephanie has been conducting a secret investigation of her own. She learns the truth behind the sexual assault—a truth no one, especially Alex, expects.
With everything now out in the open, can Stephanie and Alex commit to a fresh start for the sake of their daughter, or will the ghosts of their pasts finally tear apart everything they have left?
A great post from Cara McKinnon:
In a previous blog post, I defined romance as follows: Romance as a genre is any story where the relationship between two (or sometimes more) characters is central to the plot and structure. If you…
Essential Magic by Cara McKinnon
The Fay of Skye Book One
A woman driven to excel. A man ashamed of his past. A desire that could lead them to bliss…or peril.
Etta Mae Cook, a mountain witch from Appalachia, arrives in London in 1895. Her goal: to study magic. But she steps off the train and into a dangerous world of politics, decadence, and power. Queen Victoria, the Prince of Wales, and the Fay Clan are waging a silent war. In the balance: the future of spellcraft in the kingdom. Etta’s lineage and magical power make her an asset – or a threat – to all three formidable forces.
Her choices skew when she meets Malcolm Seward, a mage of the Fay Clan. He once held a prominent role in society, but a tragic mistake forced him to flee into obscurity. His attraction to Etta draws him back into the fray, but though she’s drawn to him in return, she didn’t come to England for desire.
Despite her intentions, their passion flares, and Malcolm falls for her. Now, Etta must choose: love, or ambition? Either path could mean the renewal — or the destruction — of British sorcery. If she follows her heart, will she doom their magic?
Mal rounded the corner of the foyer and his first boot-fall struck the marble floor in sync with his mother’s entrance. The synchronicity resonated inside of him, and he almost closed his Sight. Sometimes keeping it open made things seem more symbolic and important. Mages had gone mad, using the Sight too often or too long. But he needed to find out what was, even now, pulling at the edges of his magic.
Mother looked startled to see him. She’d been out when he arrived, but he would have expected Father to tell her he was coming.
“Malcolm.” She extended a hand to him, and he took it, surprised that she hadn’t embraced him. She wasn’t the most ebullient or demonstrative of persons, but she usually put her arms around him and kissed his cheek after a long absence. Her stern expression, and the surface emotions that roiled across her aura, revealed consternation rather than welcome. “You’re home.”
“Hello, Mother,” Mal said, and squeezed her fingers.
“Your father was supposed to have you meet me in Scotland. Now is not a good time for you to be here.” Her words were low, but distinct.
“He said I’m to go with you to Scotland, but he wants me doing the rounds of the Marriage Mart before and after. I’m to find a chit to wed, or else.”
His mother stiffened. Then, over her shoulder, he saw the reason for her reticence. And the reason for the surge of heat, magic, and passion that had nearly crumpled him to the grass.
The woman was not what would be termed an exquisite, or what his grandfather’s generation would have styled ‘a diamond of the first water.’ There was something too primal in her features and her bearing, and her aura shimmered with power. She was a sunset on a mountain peak, or the eerie colors in the sky in the far north of Scotland. She was a vein of gold still glittering inside the rock, her treasure clear but held close, in her own keeping.
She would never belong to anyone but herself, and that made him long for her to share that self with him—in every conceivable way.
His mother noticed the indiscreet admiration, and the way the woman returned his stare. She frowned, and he knew why. Mal was supposed to avoid magical entanglements. But this woman might prove too much temptation for him to resist.
Mal stepped toward the woman and was halted by a hand on his arm. Why was Mother being so formal? He chafed at the delay and waited for the introduction.
Mother’s tone was brittle, the words sharp, clipped, and forced. “Miss Cook, allow me to introduce my son, Lord Cuthbert Seward.” Mal frowned at the use of his hated first name, but returned his features to a genial smile when he bowed to Miss Cook.
“And this is Miss Etta Mae Cook.” She said the name as though the sounds of it were acid, burning her tongue.
Miss Cook curtsied. There was nothing precisely wrong with the curtsey, except that she didn’t look easy doing it. Something about the way she held herself said she wasn’t a woman meant to bow. Her motion caused ripples in the magical currents of the room, and the aroma of rich, fertile earth—like a field plowed and ready for planting—surged in his nostrils. The flavors of honeysuckle and salt cascaded over his tongue.
“I’m pleased to meet you, Miss Cook.” From up close, he could see that her eyes were dark brown, with little flecks of green and gold glittering in the depths. Her magic—so full of potential, so warm and alive—pulled at him, strong and inexorable. Was this what Ian felt like when Viola was near?
He closed his Sight, suddenly desperate not to see her brilliance, not to taste and smell and feel her.
“And I you, Lord Cuthbert.”
Malcolm winced. “My mother introduced me that way because it’s my first name, but everyone uses my middle name, Malcolm.”
“Oh,” she said, and the sound came out flatter, and higher pitched, than her previous vowels. Almost as if another woman had spoken entirely. In the same faster accent, she said, “I didn’t mean to offend, Lord Malcolm.” This was her true voice, and it wrapped around his ears and his brain. A purely physical reaction, but one that woke his magic as though he were a teenage boy again, feeling the first swells of puberty and power.
“You didn’t,” he assured her. He wasn’t offended, but his magic was slipping out of his control. He’d never felt such a sudden and overwhelming urge to merge his magic with another’s. But he couldn’t. Would never do that again. He clamped down on his magical senses even harder than usual, dampening the sensations that were as natural to him as the pressure of air on another person’s skin.
He took refuge in humor. “And there’s no need to Lord me. I don’t care for the courtesy title or the first name. It’s my father’s fault. He read too much Browning.” He smiled at her, and won a small tilt at the corner of her lips in response. Those lips were far too enticing, and made him want to draw her close and discover how well they fit against his. He could fight the magical pull, but what about desire?
She looked away from him, at his mother, and the smile faded.
Mother stood with a frozen expression of polite interest on her face. But beneath the bland exterior, he she seemed ashamed. Or perhaps afraid. He wished Viola was here. With his senses dampened, he couldn’t read Mother’s aura, and he’d never been the best at interpreting those anyway.
Mal returned his attention to Miss Cook. It wasn’t exactly good manners, but he was curious, so he asked, “What brings you to our home, Miss Cook?”
She continued to stare at his mother, so he asked, “Mother, am I missing something?”
“Miss Cook will be our guest for a short time,” she answered. “She is a…distant relative, through my great-grandmother Lilias.”
Malcolm started. Lilias Fay, first Duchess of Fay, was the most prominent member of his mother’s clan—a great seeress and witch who had been instrumental in the war against Napoleon.
“How are you related to Lilias?”
“My great-grandmother was Lilias’ youngest daughter, Marianne.”
“So you’re my…” he paused, counting the generations.
“Some kind of distant cousin.” Her expression was pleasant enough, and her tone indicated an attempt at levity, but the humor was tempered by wariness. “We’re barely related at all. And I wouldn’t impose on your family except…” Her voice trailed off. There was so much pain behind her eyes, but she steadied herself. “Except, my mother died. It was her last wish that I find the rest of the Fay clan to finish my training. I can’t study in America because I’m from the South.”
He’d heard that magic was outlawed in the southern United States after their civil war, and he’d even met a few Americans who’d come to England to train, but no one had ever approached the family directly. Clan Fay’s sort of magic was distinctly out of fashion.
Mal eyed his mother, who still looked like she had stepped in something rank and was trying to pretend the scent was rosewater. “Are you going to train her?”
“I will test her, but I will not make any determinations until after Viola’s babes are born.”
The twins would be born within a fortnight. Since his father had insisted that he go with the rest of the magically-gifted members of the family to the birthing, he and Mother would leave in a day or so to travel to the Highlands.
Magically-gifted family members, Mal realized, now included Etta Mae Cook.
Mal grinned at his mother. If he had to be miserable on this trip, so could she. “Why doesn’t Miss Cook come with us to Scotland?”
Essential Magic is available now at the following retailers:
Amazon | iBooks | Kobo | Nook
There will also be print versions available at Amazon.
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Cara McKinnon writes fantasy romances because her heart pumps equal parts magic and passion. Her love of history caused her to set her books in an alternate Victorian era, with surprisingly few changes from the real world. She lives on the East Coast of the US with her husband, two kids, and an oversized lapdog named Jake.
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The Rack of Destruction
by Norris Raccoon
It’s no secret in this community that the greatest danger to all shifters everywhere is the possibility of humans discovering our existence. For centuries, we have protected this information, guarded our secret and kept the humans in the dark. Now, for the first time in Shifterville history, two humans will be living in our town.
Despite dire predictions and against insurmountable odds, the town is ready for the humans’ arrival next week. Indeed, even our esteemed high school principal, Steve Armadillo, managed to perform miracles this summer. The entire town, high school included, has been human-proofed.
This being the case, we should expect to be able to breathe a sigh of relief. Instead, tensions mount as one teen demonstrates again and again that he is unable to control his unruly rack. Attempts to interview Melvin Moose have failed, as he swiftly ran in the opposite direction anytime he was approached. Other residents of Shifferville have much to say, however.
“He just can’t control that ridiculous rack,” Laney Siamese, a classmate of Melvin’s, complained. “It seems every time I turn around, there’s Melvin, knocking over something or someone. I mean, how hard is it to just stay human, for heaven’s sake?”
“He’s going to be the end of us all,” Cora Jaguar, owner of Shiffer Grocery predicted.
Bets are already being placed around town, with odds of 1,000 to one in favor of Melvin’s antlers revealing our secret. Other possibilities were suggested, including the inclusion of tuna-flavored ice cream at the parlor in town (the Siamese family refused to remove it from the menu, insisting that humans eat tuna as well) and the decision to allow students to continue dressing out in fur in P.E. Of course, these suggestions came from Melvin Moose’s best friend, Paulie Porcupine, and Melvin’s father, Jacob Moose, both of whom appear to be in the minority when it comes to predicting how long our secret will be safe with Melvin’s rack on the loose.
Overall, the opinion of the town is clear: Melvin Moose’s rack will destroy the secret shifters have guarded for centuries. Buckle up, Shifterville, it’s going to be a rocky ride!
Norris Raccoon is a reporter for The Shifferville Times (formerly known as The Daily Shifter).
A.J. Culey was not born a shifter, much to her dismay. Despite her limitations as a human, she enjoys spending time with cats, bunnies and other animals. She hasn’t met a shifter yet, nor has she had any antlers spontaneously appear in any classroom she’s taught in, but she hasn’t given up hope that it might one day happen. In the meantime, she has fun writing about the possibilities.
Teaser by Haley Allison. For a chance to read the rest of the story, sign up for my newsletter here. Starting next month until the end of the year, I’ll be choosing three subscribers at random to win a Kindle copy of the exclusive Love, Always romance anthology, which contains my brand new story “Heroes”!
Official cover reveal next month!