Brothers of the Knife set to release in January 2019!

Ridiculously pleased to announce that my grimdark-yet-madcap fantasy novel, Brothers of the Knife, is due for release from Omnium Gatherum in January 2019. Brothers of the Knife is the first book in the Children of Bane series, and tells the story of Akmenos, a humble cook plunged into a world of murder, deception and terrible food puns.

Akmenos only ever wanted to bake a perfect soufflé, but the murder of an elvish prince at his banquet table sweeps him into a spiral of intrigue, deception and betrayal which is bigger than even his biggest casserole dish.

Caught in a desperate struggle between warring nations and shadowy organisations, Akmenos must stay one step ahead of the sinister figures intent on hunting him down ‒ his own brothers among them ‒ while he tries to clear his name, unmask the true killer, and find a decent cup of tea.

Stumbling from one misadventure to another across continents and planes as the world and his family crumble around him, Akmenos will need to be stronger than he ever thought he could be ‒ stronger even than the blue cheese down the bottom of the larder that should’ve been thrown out months ago.

Pre-orders will be available soon, in the meantime you can go ahead and mark it up as “To Read” over at Goodreads!

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/42114804-brothers-of-the-knife

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Teeth of the Wolf: Cover Reveal!

Teeth of the Wolf, the second book in the Path of Ra series after Hounds of the Underworld, is due for release from Raw Dog Screaming Press on October 4th, 2018. Daniele Sera has produced another amazing cover, which we’re really please to see gracing the front of this book:

Scientific consultant Penny Yee has barely drawn breath before Detective Inspector Tanner assigns her another suspicious death, with Matiu tagging along for the ride. That’s fine as long as he stays outside the crime scene tape, but when one of Matiu’s former cronies turns up dead, Penny wonders if her brother might be more than just an innocent bystander. While she’s figuring that out, the entire universe conspires against her, with a cadaver going AWOL, her DNA sequencer spitting the dummy, and the rent due any day. Even the weather has it in for her. But that’s not the worst of it; Penny’s parents have practically announced her nuptials to Craig Tong!

Still spitting the taste of sand from his mouth, Matiu’s back on the case with Penny, and wouldn’t you know it, his big sister is in over her head again, not that she has a clue. There’s a storm brewing dark through the heat-haze on the horizon, and Makere isn’t the only one of Matiu’s friends from another life dogging his steps. Is this all because of what Mārama was trying to tell him earlier? About his heritage?

Meanwhile, Cerberus is only making things worse by losing his rag every time they cross paths with the elusive killer. Can the dog taste the hot sour reek of something trying to push through the veil and run its tongue and teeth across this world? What’s calling them? What has changed? Matiu should probably check that out, if only his probation officer would quit calling…

“The story is brimming with energy and suspense as readers learn more about the sometimes contentious relationship between Penny and Matiu, as well as the mythological lore behind the demons that haunt New Zealand. Fans of the first book will enjoy this new chapter, and new readers will appreciate Murray and Rabarts’s inventive, fantastical spin on crime drama.” (Publishers Weekly)

Teeth of the Wolf is exactly what I like to see in a novel. It kicks the crap out of the expected and rushes in with twists, turns and gory surprises. Grim suspense with just the right dash of humor to balance out an exciting read. Horror, crime-noir and near future sci-fi twisted into a delightful combination. Add to that the fact that Penny and Matiu are delightfully unique main characters and you have a winning combination.” – James A. Moore, coauthor of the Griffin & Price series (With Charles R. Rutledge), author of the Seven Forges series

Preorder Teeth of the Wolf here.

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Steel Time by JL Gribble

This week, book 4 of the Steel Empires urban fantasy/alternate series is released! In a world with vampires, warrior-mages, weredragons, and sarcastic violin players, time travel seems like the obvious next step. Read on for more information about Steel Time, by J.L. Gribble

ABOUT THE BOOK

You’re never too young or too old to experience a paradigm shift.

Toria Connor is 25 when tripping over an artifact in the ruins of Nacostina thrusts her a century into the past, before the city is destroyed during the Last War. Now, she finds herself alone. Adrift in a time where she must hide everything important to her, from her mercenary career to her true magical ability.

Victory is over eight centuries old when she follows her adopted daughter. She has seen empires rise and fall, but never anything like this. She must survive alone in a city inhospitable to vampires, dodging friends and foes from her past alike.

Both of them know the clock is ticking down to the moment when the city is wiped off the map. Now, they’re in a race against time. To find each other. To escape the past. And to save the future.

Currently available from:

Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Direct from publisher
Carpe Librum (the author’s local indie bookseller)
Or support your own local independent bookstore by requesting a copy today!

ABOUT THE SERIES

It is possible to read Steel Time as a stand-alone book, but don’t miss out on Toria and Victory’s previous adventures!

Book 1: Steel Victory
Book 2: Steel Magic
Book 2: Steel Blood

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.

JL Gribble

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 at:

Website
Facebook
Twitter
Instagram
Goodreads

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StokerCon 2018 – Providence, RI, USA

Arriving at the Biltmore

I know it’s a bit late, because life, but at last here it is, my report on StokerCon 2018, in Providence, Rhode Island, USA.

Sometime in the middle of 2017, I was nudged and prodded and cajoled by my ever-supportive and ever-hardworking collaborator, Lee Murray, to seriously consider investing in the trek to StokerCon, the annual convention of the Horror Writers Association, to meet and greet with those whom she described as “our tribe”. Specifically other writers of horror, dark fiction and gritty action, predominantly living and working in the USA, for whom the trip might be a question of whether to drive or take a domestic flight. For us, coming from New Zealand, the prospect involves multiple flights, including the 12-hour Pacific leg, time off work to transit, time away from the family, and a raft of other excuses that make it easy to justify deciding against committing to such extravagance. StokerCon had been held in LA in 2017, and Las Vegas the year before that, both a lot closer than this year, when it was held about as far back east as you can get before falling off America altogether: Providence, Rhode Island. Stomping ground of Cthulhu mythos creator H.P. Lovecraft.

I couldn’t afford all these things, I told Lee. The flights, the accommodation, the time off, the airport food. But Dan, she says, you can’t afford not to. There are people who need to meet you. So I did what I often do in these situations, when it seems the problems I face are too big to overcome: I changed my mindset. I decided I was going, and I would make the challenges go away in order to achieve the desired goal. Each challenge simply a part of the project to manage in order to hit the deliverable. Which reminded me that the day job fills far too much of my headspace, which is part of the reason I need to make it to things like StokerCon.

I applied for a travel grant, from a fund administered by the Publishers Association of New Zealand together with New Zealand’s arts funding body, Creative New Zealand, expecting that as a fringe author writing at the dark end of the speculative spectrum it wouldn’t be likely to cut the mustard. But, in a surprise twist, CNZ/PANZ approved the application and provided some funds towards my travel costs, which made life that much easier. Absolutely brilliant to see our professional and creative bodies taking an interest and supporting dark fiction in this country. Huge thanks to both for helping make this trip happen.

0Anyway, long story short, planning done, the day arrives when I board a plane for the first of four flights to Providence, RI. After what was a thankfully uneventful 34-hour trip I arrived in Providence, only to find out that the AirBNB accommodation I had arranged for the duration of my stay had cancelled but not bothered to tell me. Panic stations set to Mild. Within an hour I had found an alternative, which turned out to be closer to town and a much better option in the end. So that worked out for the best. Panic stations set back to Standby, I bussed from the airport into the city and arrived at the iconic Biltmore Hotel.

Dinner with RDSP, Linda Addison, and the Murrays

Meeting up with Lee and husband Dave, who had also arrived the previous day, we set out to familiarise ourselves with the surrounds, take some tourist snaps, eat the local food and drink the local beer, buy presents for the kids, and strategise how between us we would try to cover the whole convention. A heady task, given the oodles of panels, workshops, readings, presentations and discussions that would take place over the course of the four days of the convention. We were never going to do it, but we’d give it a damn good shot.

That evening was the first in what would be a series of highlights, namely meeting up with Jennifer Barnes and John Edward Lawson, our publishers at Raw Dog Screaming Press who picked up Hounds of the Underworld and the forthcoming second book in the Path of Ra series, Teeth of the Wolf. Lovely people and great conversations had over dinner. Also met the lovely Linda Addison, poet extraordinaire and recipient of this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award from the HWA.

Later on, we walked through the frosty winter night to the train station to meet Alan Baxter, fellow author of dark fiction who had made his way to join us from Sydney, Australia, bumping the Antipodean numbers up from two to three. Together, we had now tripled the number of Kiwis and Aussies to have attended any StokerCon in the past.

With Alan Baxter at Swan Point Cemetery

The next day, the con was underway. We slipped in a little more sightseeing while the weather held, including a tour of the Capitol Building and a pilgrimage to the family plot where H.P. Lovecraft is buried, and there we left a penny for Cthulhu on Howard’s grave. Turns out we timed it well because the weather was closing in, a brutal storm was on its way and by the following day the cemetery would be closed due to fallen trees. Back at the Biltmore, people were flooding in, introductions were being made, hands were being shaken and smiles were lighting up in recognition.

Putting so many faces to names, and names to faces, and connecting in the flesh with people who mostly, for me, had been Facebook profiles or whose writing I’d enjoyed. It would be the start of what would largely define StokerCon for me, that clicking together of pieces. “Oh, that’s you!”

Reading from Hounds of the Underworld with Lee Murray

Lee and I had a reading that evening, in which we worked through a couple of chapters of Hounds of the Underworld to a small but rapt audience, those who had not packed out the Jack Ketchum Memorial. Tough act to be up against but let me tell you, we did one hell of a top-notch reading.

Grabbed a taxi back to my AirBNB somewhere well after midnight, jetlag working in my favour for the late nights. Driver recognises my accent, wants to know if I’m from Auckland. No, Wellington, and we chat about New Zealand and horror writing on the cold drive home.

Friday, and it was all about panels and presentations, the first of which was a live session of the Call of Cthulhu RPG, in which mysteriously a massive storm assails the Biltmore Hotel in 1936, while outside a massive storm really was assailing the Biltmore Hotel, and in fact all of the north-east United States. We didn’t plan it that way, honestly.

That afternoon, I hosted a panel titled Beyond the Borders – Writing Outside the USA, on which I had the pleasure of moderating none other than British horror legend Ramsey Campbell, down under compatriots Alan Baxter and Lee Murray, and Chris Marrs from Canada. Great to hear the different perspectives on how we as outsiders to the US market break into it. Do we imitate and try to sneak in? Or do we write our own worlds, and write them truthfully and with conviction, and stand out from the crowd? How do we tread that thin line between the familiar and the inaccessible?

Steeple St Bridge, Providence, RI

I was also a panelist on a discussion about growing one’s readership, and in that I managed to get in mentions of other NZ writers and many of my favourite authors from the podcasting scene, as well as dropping a little promo for Te Kōrero Ahi Kā, the recently-released anthology of NZ speculative fiction which happens to include quite a bit of dark fiction too. Meanwhile, outside the storm was raging, water was spilling in the front door and through the ceiling of the hotel bar, as it cranked itself up to a howl. The restaurant was swamped with guests as no-one wanted to dare venturing out for a meal. There was lots of talk deep into the night as the wind and snow snarled about the rain-slick streets, the beer cold and the conversations fascinating.

After schmoozing about in the post-film festival festivities, it’s once again after midnight and I’m hopping in a taxi for the five-minute drive up the hill. Driver recognises my accent. Says, “Hey, my brother drove you home last night!” Loves the All Blacks, he tells me. Loves that thing they do before a game, what’s it called? So here I find myself, in a taxi in Providence, Rhode Island in the middle of the night, doing a haka for the driver as best I can while sitting in the back seat. Things I never thought I’d be doing, but there you have it.

The next day was Saturday, and it started early with a meeting with Jennifer from Raw Dog, at which we pitched and got the go-ahead on the third book in the Path of Ra series. Other opportunities were also discussed over coffee and breakfast, but of those I shall speak nothing further. Very secret squirrel. And we’re into more panels, more networking, more soaking up all the positive energy and good information. Another highlight was meeting Angel Leigh McCoy, who was the first editor to ever accept a story of mine for publication, and to be able to thank her for being a critical gear in the machine that set me down this path. I sat on another panel, about Crossing Genres, and managed to sneak in more mentions of NZ and Aussie authors I really like, and before I even knew it the day had turned to night and dinner was being eaten at the bar and the time had come for the Bram Stoker Awards.

Post-Awards laughs with Thersa Matsura

Jeff Strand was the star of the hour, em-ceeing his tenth and final Bram Stoker Awards ceremony, and it was great to see the community turning out to celebrate and support the achievements of others. This was followed by the photos (I managed to get myself in a few helping carry Greg Chapman’s award for services out of the banquet hall, on account of coming from vaguely that part of the world), and then the drinking and the milling and the talking and the… Well, you know how that bit goes. Late in the night, yet again, stories being told, quiet deals being made. This is the part of the con when the real work gets done, after hours and over the rims of beer bottles and whiskey glasses. Another night when my taxi ride up the hill was somewhere well after midnight.

Sunday, things moved a bit slower, as the con starts to wind up. The goodbyes, the final handshakes, the acquisition of books as people try to lighten their homeward luggage, the late leavers who hang out and cruise the local bookstores and have a last dinner together. The rush to scribble down notes and remember everything that’s happened, plan all the things that must be done going forward.

Post-Con Airport Coffee with Danny Rhodes

And then the homeward leg. Airports. Eating a Johnny Rocket burger while chatting with UK writer Danny Rhodes in Providence Airport. Philadelphia, LA, and the black glass of the Pacific cast in shadow beneath the wings. Home.

Then, somehow, I lost about four months, between writing these notes and getting around to putting them up here for everyone to read. To be honest, I’ve had a lot to get done, mostly off the back of StokerCon. Two book deals signed, and consequently deadlines to hit. Things to plan, things to complete, things to deliver. Life and work and family filling all the spaces in between the writing. Decisions to be made, including: StokerCon, Grand Rapids, Michigan, May 2019. Will I make it? Will I be there? Will you?

 

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Review: Into the Sounds by Lee Murray

7fb545_b3c01a58a5a2417586f7556466fb3bf1~mv2Continuing the story of Taine McKenna and Jules Asher which started with Into the Mist (winner of the Sir Julius Vogel Award for Best Novel, 2016), Lee Murray leaves the mist-shrouded Ureweras behind and drops us into one of New Zealand’s most remote and deceptively beautiful regions: Fiordland. Taking leave from the NZDF, McKenna accompanies Asher and a crew of scientists and hunters into the Fiordland Sounds on a Department of Conservation deer-culling mission. What should be a straightforward job rapidly slides into chaos as the team stumble across a high-tech poaching operation, a lost tribe, and larger, darker things lurking beneath the icy waters of the Sounds.

Into the Sounds is a worthy follow-up to Into the Mist, a non-stop adventure which threads together many overlapping aspects of New Zealand’s sometimes ugly history, with a solid dose of credible science fiction, and a critical touch of magic to hold it all together. New Zealand’s grand, sweeping landscapes take on an almost mystical quality as Murray takes us deeper into a part of the country often imagined but rarely explored.

While the bodycount starts racking up in the opening scene and doesn’t slow down, the full cast of characters are well-developed, and we feel for each of them as one disaster after another claims its victims, heroes and villains and strangers alike. The pacing is superb, the writing is clean and uncluttered, and I think this book makes an excellent addition to the series, and to the monster-hunter genre in general.

Readers who are new to the series can pick up Sounds and enjoy it without having read Mist. A third book, Into the Ashes, is slated for release next year from Severed Press, and I’m already looking forward to that.

Disclosure: Lee Murray and I are frequent collaborators, and I was offered a copy of Into the Sounds to read for review purposes. This review is my honest opinion of what is a fantastic, exciting read, and I highly recommend this series to fans of science fiction and monster fiction alike.

 

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May Update on All The Things

SJV Winner EmblemI thought when I did my last blog post that I had a lot to cover in one go, and I also thought I’d do well to do more frequent posts here to save myself being in this situation again, but here I am. Another bullet point post of all the happenings in my writerly life since February.

  • Hounds of the Underworld won the Sir Julius Vogel Award for Best Novel 2017 at this year’s Nat Con held in Auckland!! So grateful to everyone who nominated and voted, and especially to my co-writer Lee Murray for being such a powerful force to work with.
  • StokerCon. Wow. What a trip, what an experience. I’ve written a report on it, but have yet to get it out there. Because of All The Things that are also going on. A lot of opportunities came out of StokerCon, including:
  • Raw Dog Screaming Press have picked up the third book in the Path of Ra series, of which Hounds of the Underworld is the first, with the second book, Teeth of the Wolf, due out in September. Lee and I have things in place for Book 3 and are looking forward to writing it.
  • static1.squarespace.comUS independent press Omnium Gatherum have accepted the first two books in my dark-fantasy-yet-madcap series, Children of Bane. The first book, Brothers of the Knife, is currently going through edits and is due for release in September. Book 2, Sons of the Curse, will be out early next year. The series is planned out to 5 books in total, so I have a lot of word count targets in my future!
  • My alternate personality as a podcast narrator continues to burble away, with the production of Joseph Ashley-Smith’s dour, bloody tale Our Last Meal just released on Tales to Terrify, and a further podcast due to drop very soon at Beneath Ceaseless Skies for fellow kiwi spec-fic writer AJ Fitzwater.
  • My short story Riptide, after a long and painful birth, will be appearing in Suspended in Dusk II, due out from Grey Matter Press on July 10th.
  • Another short story of mine, The Silence at the Edge of the Sea, will be published in Cthulu Land of the Long White Cloud from IFWG Publishing in Australia before the end of the year.

And there are things going on the background which I can’t mention,because they’re simply so very exciting that it would possibly break the internet to do so. And that wouldn’t be very fair.

So here’s that list of guest posts and interviews I promised you last time:

With Alan Baxter

With Angela Slatter

With Lee Murray

With Jenni Sands

With Joseph Ashley-Smith at AHWA

 

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So Much News…

Wow, where on earth has the past half a year gone? I’ve thinking for a while “It’s been a couple of months since I updated my blog” but in fact it was July last year I last posted! Where have I been?

So, how about I just bullet point what’s been going on in the world of Dan Rabarts, dark fiction author, then?

  • Lee Murray and I finished writing Teeth of the Wolf, Book 2 in the Path of Ra series, and have run that through a bevy of beta readers and fired it off to the publisher, who is suitably impressed and excited. That’s a relief;
  • Hounds of the Underworld made it as far as the long list of the Bram Stoker Award nominations for Superior Achievement in a Novel, which was thrilling, and even though it didn’t squeeze onto the shortlist I still get little chills to think we were there on a list of excellent books which included Stephen King himself, if only for a little while;
  • Hounds has also made it onto the shortlist of the Sir Julius Vogel Awards for Best Novel, so fingers crossed on that front too;
  • In less than a week, I’ll be boarding a plane and making the long haul to Providence, Rhode Island, USA, for StokerCon, the annual convention of the Horror Writers Association. It’s going to be a blast. I’m going to be on a bunch of panels, doing a reading from Hounds with Lee Murray, and looking forward to making a whole lot of new connections. Nervous but super excited;

logo_CNZ

  • The trip to Providence is being kindly propped up by the International Promotional Fund for Literature, a grant adminstered by Creative New Zealand and the Publishers Association of New Zealand. Big thanks to CNZ and PANZ for supporting my venture into promoting both my own work and New Zealand dark fiction into the American market;
  • My Shadows Awards trophy for Tipuna Tapu arrived, thanks to the Australasian Horror Writers Association, and has spent the last month or so at my desk at work freaking out my colleagues, before coming home last night for a very special photoshoot, and it’s first time meeting its brother;

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  • I’ve done a bunch of guest blog posts and interviews over the past few months, and I’ll do another post to collect links to all of those together after this one;

So what’s next? Survive StokerCon. In fact, survive travelling through the strange dystopic landscape of the USA. Survive without the family for a week. Plot out the third Path of Ra book. Finish edits on a different novel and get it into the right hands, in the hopes it might find a home. Survive the day job. Keep hurling those ropes at the sun. Cos that’s how we roll.

 

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Hounds of the Underworld

Hounds-of-the-Underworld-smallLee Murray and I are stoked to announce the release of our first collaborative novel, ‘Hounds of the Underworld’, Book 1 in the Path of Ra series, from Raw Dog Screaming Press. Here’s a little bit about the book, which you can order now from Amazon:

“…a wild and gruesome treat, packed with mystery, action, and dark humor. Horror fans will devour it!” —Jeff Strand, author of Wolf Hunt

On the verge of losing her laboratory, her savings, and all respect for herself, Pandora (Penny) Yee lands her first contract as scientific consult to the police department. And with seventeen murder cases on the go, the surly inspector is happy to leave her to it. Only she’s going to need to get around, and that means her slightly unhinged adopted brother, Matiu, will be doing the driving. But something about the case spooks Matiu, something other than the lack of a body in the congealing pool of blood in the locked room or that odd little bowl.

Matiu doesn’t like anything about this case, from the voices that screamed at him when he touched that bowl, to the way his hateful imaginary friend Makere has come back to torment him, to the fact that the victim seems to be tied up with a man from Matiu’s past, a man who takes pleasure in watching dogs tear each other to pieces for profit and entertainment.

“A dark tech-noir so near to our future,it could be tomorrow, hard-boiled and hair-raising! One of the best speculative fiction novels ever written.”
—Paul Mannering, Engines of Empathy

Hounds of the Underworld blends mystery, near-future noir and horror. Set in New Zealand, it’s the product of a collaboration by two Kiwi authors, one with Chinese heritage and the other Māori. This debut book in The Path of Ra series offers compelling new voices and an exotic perspective on the detective drama.

“Filled with an incredible unity of voice and magnificent world building, Hounds of the Underworld was impossible to put down. I was hooked on the first page.” —Jake Bible, Bram Stoker Award-nominated novelist and author of Z-Burbia, Mega, and Salvage Merc One

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Guest Interview: Victory of Limani

Steel-Blood-Jacket.inddEngaged to protect the Princess Zhinu from subversive elements operating within the Qin Empire, mercenary Victory is accompanying the British trade delegation on the ship Xianfeng. Currently, Victory is the vampire Master of the City of Limani, a neutral city-state between the British and Roman colonies, where she helps maintain order between the human and supernatural populations. The delegation is heading for the Qin colony city of Jiang Yi Yue. En route, we were able to secure a rare interview with her while she kept to quarters during the daylight hours.

 

Master Victory, which of your roles would you say makes you feel most alive? Mercenary, mediator, or mother?

 

Alive is an interesting word choice there, isn’t it? I spent the majority of my life as a mercenary, fell into the mediator role when I retired and accepted the mantle of Limani’s Master of the City, and became a mother to a child in need. Through circumstance rather than premediated choice, but I have no regrets there. Certainly, all of those roles have moments that can elicit extreme emotion. But life isn’t just the exciting or dangerous bits. Life is what happens in between. So, I think I’d have to go with hanging out with my family, sharing some drinks and laughs, as the time when I feel most alive. My roles are part of that because they are what led me to this point in my life, to have those experiences.

 

Since you brought up the subject of family: For those of us who might be unfamiliar, can you tell us something about the relationship between a vampire and her daywalker?

 

I’d be happy to, since I know the vampires of the Qin priesthood do not traditionally take on daywalkers—at least not the last time I was in the Empire. I’ve heard daywalkers referred to as “human servants,” but I hate that term. While the daywalker gets the benefit of longer life and the vampire gets the benefit of a daytime guardian, which was much more important in ages past, it’s not a one-way street. A daywalker has to be a partner, because the trust goes both ways. And while my partnership with Mikelos has grown out of love, it’s a relationship that needs care and feeding like any other, whether romantic or otherwise.

 

As someone who’s had numerous life partners in her 800-year life span, what, in your opinion, is more important to a successful relationship, love or trust?

 

Mikelos is the only daywalker I’ve ever had, but I’ve had mercenary partners, business partners, and romantic partners. Like with Mikelos, love can be part of all of those relationships, but trust is what makes it work. The only time I’ve been married, it fell apart because the trust was never fulfilled on either side, and what love might have been there faded as part of that.

 

Nature or nurture? Which is more likely to bear out?

 

I think that very much depends on the person. I never raised my daughter Toria to be a mercenary, but she decided to follow in the family footsteps regardless. All I did was offer her the opportunity to succeed at whatever she chose in life. On the other hand, a vampire progeny I once had was raised in his human life to be an assassin. I thought I’d turn him into the perfect mercenary partner, but he gave it all up to pursue a life in academia.

 

That said, what qualities, if any, does your daughter Toria show that you recognise from your young self?

 

Because of the circumstances that led me to becoming a vampire, I actually have no memories of my human life or childhood. That being said, there have been plenty of occasions when I’ve wanted to throw up my hands at my daughter’s hot-headedness only to have my vampire sire make snarky comments about payback being a bitch. Apparently the arrogance of youth is not limited to humans alone.

 

Just earlier, on deck, we chatted briefly with your daywalker Mikelos Connor, who assures us you have no flaws whatsoever, although as your partner perhaps he’s somewhat biased! Apart from obvious your affection for you partner and your children, what do you consider to be your greatest weaknesses?

 

The price of functional immortality is learning how to change with the times. But no matter how willing you are to make that change, it still beats against years, decades, even centuries of habit. While I did retire from active mercenary work, this current contract being a rare exception, I certainly fell into the previous roles we spoke of kicking and screaming. I was perhaps the last person in Limani, at the time, to realize that I’d been acting as the Master of the City for years before formally accepting the title.

 

It’s former Governor Zhuanxu Xian, a weredragn and your former lover, who has summoned his Lady Moon to Jiang Yi Yue, ostensibly to protect the heir to his bloodline from an outside terrorist faction. How do you imagine it will feel to see your former lover again after almost 200 years?

 

It doesn’t surprise me that journalists would be able to dig up that particular bit of scandal. Victory spends some time looking out the cabin porthole. I’m sorry, this is a difficult topic for me. Even though I just said that I don’t change easily, people do change over time. Perhaps if our love affair had been able to take a more natural course, I’d feel differently. But what we had was a long time ago, and we both had other responsibilities, just as we do now. Seeing him will be nice, but I know the man I loved is long gone, just as the woman he loved is no longer who he might see in his memory.

 

What are your initial impressions of the other members of the British expedition, who you’ve met during the course of this sea voyage: the seasoned diplomat Lord Benjamin Reynolds, the young Earl Robert Wallace, and the earl’s friend, Sir Guy Olivier? And what are your thoughts on the weredragon, Tan?

 

I haven’t had much interaction with the British since they closed their borders to vampires a few decades ago, though I regularly interact with the werewolves of Limani. Dinner with Reynolds and the two young men our first night of the voyage was eye-opening, but not in a bad way. More of a “The more things change, they more they stay the same” way. Since then, I’ve had some lovely conversations with Lord Reynolds over drinks, and Earl Wallace and his traveling companion invited me to fence with them the other night. Didn’t seem to mind in the slightest that they were vastly outmatched, which speaks volumes in itself.

 

Tan was assigned to be Mikelos’ escort on this voyage, and he has done an excellent job making sure that we’re comfortable and have everything we need. He’s also a musician, and has been teaching Mikelos to play a Qin instrument, possibly for the sake of everyone’s ears onboard. I hope we will continue to see more of him once we reach Jiang Yi Yue.

 

In your view, what are the chances of a trade accord between the Qin and British? I mean, there was that whole business of the Last War, wasn’t there?

 

I think the time is long past for such an attempt to be made, though I understand that these sorts of things take a new generation of leaders to pursue. The war was a tragedy—wars always are, despite they were how I made my living for a long time—and I hope that a beneficial economic arrangement can be made on all sides. And now you’re hearing my political side coming out! On a personal note, I suppose you can say I have a vested interest in wanting a trade accord to work out, because it might mean more access to Qin goods in Limani. There are definitely some varieties of tea I miss.

 

The Princess Zhuanxu Zhinu, a daughter of Governor Xian’s weredragon bloodline and distantly related to the Emperor, is expected to marry into one of the four mainland dragon families. This practice seems rather strict, almost barbaric, in this modern era. What do you make of the tradition?

 

It all boils down to genetics, doesn’t it? I’m sure it seems outrageous to you that not one, but two werewolves were sent on this diplomatic mission, but that’s because the wolves have a much easier time breeding true. I bet you didn’t know that there are female werewolves, did you? Victory waits politely until my assistant’s gasp of shock passes. You might think it’s out-dated, but if Lady Zhinu has been identified as a carrier for the weredragon traits, she’ll need to marry carefully in order to assure the continuation of her family line. There’s a cost to the privilege of nobility, after all.

 

Courtly manners or political etiquette: which do you deem trickier?

 

Neither, please. But if I had to choose, definitely political etiquette. At least in politics you can occasionally say what you really mean.

 

Blood: fresh or chilled?

 

That sounds a bit like asking someone how they take their steak when they’re ordering, doesn’t it? I appreciate the offer, but I assure you that my dietary needs are being seen to on this voyage. When Victory smiles this time, she displays a set of sharp fangs.

 

[Jumps up and backs away quickly]. Um, it seems that last question might had been a tad impertinent. My sincere apologies, Master Victory. If you’ll excuse us, perhaps it’s best if we retire to our quarters for the rest of the voyage. We wish you the very best for your latest contract, your partner’s success at the concert, and the diplomatic mission. [Flees the cabin].

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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:

Amazon: http://amzn.to/2pPShZH
Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/steel-blood-jl-gribble/1126268372
From the publisher: http://rawdogscreaming.com/books/steel-blood/

 

Gribble photo colorAbout 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).

 

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Cons, Awards & Interviews

IMG_2210Queens Birthday Weekend 2017 saw me and the family making a road trip to Taupo, so I could attend LexiCon, New Zealand’s SFF Natcon which I had had a part in bringing about. Despite some fairly heavy personal goings-on, I managed to have a fun, productive time at the Con, helping keep things ticking over, catching up with old friends, making new ones, too many good people to even try and start naming here for fear of forgetting someone, and all that good stuff.

Sunday night also saw the SJV Awards, and I’m stoked to have jointly won another pointy trophy for Best Collected Work for At The Edge. Our humble little antho also took the SJVs for Best Professional Artwork for the cover art, and Best Short Story, for AJ Fitzwater’s stunning apocalyptic tale of disintegrating identity, Splintr. My partner in darkness, Lee Murray, also took away the Best Novel category for her sphenodon-horror Into the Mist, as well as recognition for all her hard work in the form of the SJV for Services to Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror. Congrats Lee, AJ, and all the other winners, including Octavia Cade who won the SJV for Best Novella which I was also in the running for. Couldn’t hope to lose to a nicer person.

IMG_2272Hot on the heels of what felt like a sweep of the Awards, the AHWA’s Greg Chapman hunted us down for an interview, which we were more than willing to provide. Because we do like getting ourselves some interview-type attention, us writers. You can read that over on the AHWA site.

But that’s not all my weekend was about. Over the month leading up to this, my paternal grandmother had been in a state of serious decline in her health, and we had been making the trek from Wellington to Hamilton to spend some time with her for the previous weekends, as well as slipping in some time during and after LexiCon. We drove home on Tuesday, and got word on Wednesday morning that she had passed away in the night. After a weekend of amazing positivity and inspiration, I was already on a good wave for making positive changes and getting things done, and while the passing of a loved one always has the potential to break one’s spirit, my Nana shuffling off her coil has served to remind me that life is short, utterly finite. This on the back of my mother recently having medical issues which saw me travelling to Australia to spend time with her and support her, and a growing sense over the past twelve months or more that I’ve been slightly overwhelmed by life, work and everything. Driving back and forth up and down our beautiful country, shimmering in its autumn glory, also gave me lots of time to actually sit and talk with my better half, something we don’t seem to get much opportunity to do in this frantic world we live in.

And it all comes crashing down home, how we only have so much time on this earth with the ones we love, and how we should always be striving for the things that make us want to be alive; the things that make us glow with passion. I haven’t been doing that a lot over the past couple of years, despite what it looks like. Many things have been getting me down and it sometimes takes a kick in the guts to get me to admit to that. So I’ll be making a few changes in the coming months. Without being financially irresponsible, I’ll be turning my attention to applying even more of my “spare time” (yes, I say that with a sad little cough and a laugh that verges on tears) to writing projects with a sound business model behind them. A determination to keep driving this thing I’ve got going on with words on the page and whip it until I can stand on its back like some demented beastmaster, thrashing sentences to do my bidding.

So yeah, some things will be changing. Because change is thrilling, and beats the snot out of slowly suffocating on the blood of your own paralysis.

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