Guest Post – Steel Blood by J. L. Gribble

One of the most difficult aspects of writing in the speculative fiction genre is constantly reinventing the wheel. The wheel shape itself doesn’t change, because you can only alter things so much before labels like “vampire,” “werewolf,” or “elf” become unrecognizable. But you still have to change the material and spoke design in order to stand out from the crowd and put your own spin on things.

Okay, time to back slowly away from this abused metaphor.

So, how are my supernatural characters unique in the Steel Empires series? Let’s take a look at the three predominant races featured in the newest novel, Steel Blood.

My vampires fit the mold in that they’re essentially immortal creatures who drink blood to sustain themselves and can’t be out in direct sunlight. They are apex predators who have evolved to be humanity’s greatest hunter. But rather than slathering monsters, for the most part my vampires are part of a civilized society that would much prefer a cold beer to the hot blood of an unwilling victim.

Other than making their personalities a more important facet of their character than their vampirism, I developed two significant differences to make my vampires stand out from the norm. The first is that while my vampires will show up on film, other people can’t see their mirrored reflections in person. This element is tied to the fact that the only way to meet a vampire’s eyes is if you are equally or more “powerful” than the vampire (power being a nebulous metric tied to age and strength of personality). I have a lot of fun playing with the eye contact element in emotional conversations between my vampire main character and her adopted human daughter.

One thing werewolves pretty much have to be able to do is transform into wolves. The ones in my books definitely have this covered. It’s not a pretty or painless process, and clothes generally don’t survive the transition, but my werewolves retain their complete mental faculties during all parts of the process and during their time in wolf form.

It’s never been explicitly stated in my series, but the change to wolf form is not linked to the phases of the moon in my world. Instead, the mammalian werecreature ability is a dominant genetic trait that always breeds true as long as one of the parents is a werecreature. One of these days, I’ll have a werecreature main character to explore all of this more in-depth!

In contrast to the mammalian werecreatures, I’ve broken with fantasy tradition a bit and introduced weredragons to my world. They follow the same general principles as the werewolves, with a few notable exceptions. For one, the weredragon gene is a recessive trait, which means that family planning takes on a whole new meaning to maintain the viability of the species. In addition, while females can carry traits that indicate they have the weredragon genes, only male weredragons have the ability to change their shape.

And just to keep things interesting, I decided that they get to keep their clothes when they shapeshift. If I can have magic in my world, on top of everything else, I reserve the right to do fun things with it!

I hope you take the time to meet the vampire Victory, the werewolves Ben and Rob, and the weredragons Zhinu, Tan, and Yu in Steel Blood and find out what makes them interesting characters aside from their supernatural species.

About the book:
As 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.

Buy links:
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From the publisher:

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 (, on Facebook (, and on Twitter and Instagram (@hannaedits).

Published by Jennifer Loring

Jennifer Loring’s short fiction has appeared in the anthologies Tales from the Lake vols. 1 and 4, Nightscript IV, Dim Shores Presents Volume 2, and the Bram Stoker Award-nominated Not All Monsters and Arterial Bloom, among many others. She holds an MFA in Writing Popular Fiction with a concentration in horror fiction and is currently working toward a PhD in Interdisciplinary Studies - Humanities & Culture, focusing on queer possibility in fairy tales. Jenn lives in Philadelphia, PA, where she and her husband are owned by a turtle and two basset hounds.

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