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Monday, May 30, 2016

Promo Post - Steel Victory (Steel Empires #1) by J.L. Gribble

Title: Steel Victory
(Steel Empires #1)
Author: J.L. Gribble
Publication Date: July 2nd, 2015
Category/Genre: Urban Fantasy/Alternate History

One hundred years ago, the vampire Victory retired from a centuries-long mercenary career. She settled in Limani, the independent city-state acting as a neutral zone between the British and Roman colonies on the New Continent.

Twenty years ago, Victory adopted a human baby girl, who soon showed signs of magical ability.

Today, Victory is a city councilwoman, balancing the human and supernatural populations within Limani. Her daughter Toria is a warrior-mage, balancing life as an apprentice mercenary with college chemistry courses.

Tomorrow, the Roman Empire invades.


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Victory kept to the shadows when she neared the rear of the barge. If only mythology and legend were reality, and she actually had some form of psychic connection with her sire. Instead, hearing heartbeats warned her of anyone approaching, her one main advantage.

Speaking of which—the dull roar of blood echoing through a heart’s chambers alerted her before she heard the gentle rhythm of the crewmember’s footsteps. She kept between two containers in the last row, sinking to her heels. Her right hand found its way to the hilt of her sword.

A shaggy-faced man in no apparent uniform wandered through the space between the cabin bulkhead and cargo. Making a split-second decision when he passed by, Victory lunged from the shadows and grabbed the back of his coat, then hauled him between the containers.

She pushed him up against the sturdy metal, bracing her forearm across his throat. “Don’t scream. Don’t make any noise.” She dug her arm into his neck, not enough to cut off air or circulation, but enough to show she meant business.

He didn’t even try to open his mouth, and his eyes shone with fear. The man nodded his head a little.

“Good,” Victory said. “I have no intention of hurting you if you tell me what I need to know. I’m not a pirate, and I only desire one thing on this boat, something that does not belong to the Empire. Understand?”

“Yes’m.” Just a whisper, but the reek of too many days on the boat with not enough toothpaste washed over her. “You’re here for the vampire, then?”

“Smart man.” Victory released him a tad, but stayed tense, ready to restrain him if needed. “You know what will happen if this boat continues to Calverton with him on it?”

“He’ll die,” he said. “Cap’n knows this, but made us lock him up anyway. Said we couldn’t afford trouble. But Asaron don’t deserve that. He’s been a good passenger, playing cards with the crew and the like.”

“Well, I’m here to relieve your captain of his problem,” Victory said, “and I don’t want to give you any trouble either. So you can either take me to him, or tell me where he is.”

“I’ll tell you, and then you better do something with me,” he said. “So I can tell Cap I resisted.”

“Fair enough,” Victory said. He asked for it. It was obvious Asaron had made quite the impression, which surprised her not in the slightest.

The man gestured toward the back of the boat, from the direction he’d come. “Follow the side all the way to the back, then take the first door you come to. Asaron’s locked in the second cabin.” He paused, looking apologetic. “I don’t have a key, and I don’t know who’s keeping it.”

“Thank you very much, but that won’t be an issue.” Victory released the man, taking a step back. “Asaron and I are in your debt.” He looked up, meeting her eyes for the single second she needed. “Sleep.”

The crewman dropped like a stone.

1. Your debut novel has vampires, the Roman Empire, and mages. How did you come up with such a genre blend?

I’ve been reading urban fantasy stories for a long, long time, and while I still read plenty of novels and stories that fall into this category, I found myself getting a bit tired of the constant stream of worlds where the paranormal exists, but only a few (special) people know about it. This can still certainly be done to good effect, but I wanted to go in a different direction. So I started thinking about a world where all of these paranormal elements exist, and EVERYONE knows about them. They haven’t hidden themselves away for whatever reason. How would they affect the course of history?

So I started with the vampires. The classic view of elegant, sexual creatures fits right in with the historical image of the excessiveness of the Roman Empire at the height of its power. But what if the Roman senate and noble houses were populated by creatures that are functionally immortal?

And what if the clans in Albion that united to expel the Romans from the British Isle were werewolf clans?

And what if the mages—Okay, I really just like writing about magic.

2. Did you ever doubt yourself or your book when you began submitting it? How did you deal with that pressure?

Steel Victory was originally my thesis novel for the creative writing graduate problem at Seton Hill University. When I pitched the idea of an urban fantasy novel that focused on family and adventure rather than the more typical paranormal romance that was currently selling like crazy, my mentor leaned across the table and said to me, “Well, you know. Vampire sex sells.”

He was 100 percent right. This was the height of the Twilight craze. After graduation, I was rejected by more than a dozen agents and editors (both through query letters and in-person pitches), usually with some variation of “We don’t know how to market this.” Read as: Where’s the romance?

Of course I doubted myself. I doubted myself so much that I put the book away for five years and instead focused on my professional career and resolving health issues that kept cropping up. (I also played a lot of World of Warcraft.) I caught a lot of flak from other writers about that, who insisted that I should be writing other things (or add sex and romance to my book), but I needed to do what was right for me at the time. And eventually the publishing market shifted, as it constantly does.

So I pulled out the book, brushed it off (edited the hell out of it and cut 15,000 words), and tried again.

3. What are some of the dynamics you had to balance to get this story right?

There is a lot going on in Steel Victory. Even after I cut 15,000 words for the final incarnation of the book, there’s still a lot going on. During graduate school, I was honored to have one of the very first versions of my synopsis reviewed by an agent for a workshop. Her initial reaction was that this book must be 200,000 to 300,000 thousand words and that the plot takes place over years. (It’s not. It’s just below 90,000 words and it takes over about a week and a half.)

In that short amount of physical space and narrative time, there is threat of an outside invasion, internal political divisiveness, and family drama. It was definitely a delicate act to balance all of these issues, not let one overshadow the others, and make sure all the plot threads intertwined.

And on top of that, when one of your characters is a vampire, you have to pay really close attention when switching scenes around to make sure that day and night aren’t bleeding into each other! (This involved colorful timelines made from Post-It notes spread across the walls of my home office.)

4. You're a professional medical editor. Did that help or bog down your creativity when writing the novel? (Sounds like such a serious line of work!)

It’s relatively serious but also incredibly rewarding to contribute even a small part to the academic field advancing medical research. It also helps that it’s completely different from creative writing, so it’s not that much of a hardship to come home from a long day of working at a computer and promptly sit down at another computer. Much of my work is very mentally intensive, but another part is simply inputting hardcopy edits into a computer file. That’s when my mind tends to wander, and I’ve come up with a good number of story ideas or plot bunnies during my day job. (That’s where the Post-It notes come in handy again.) (At this point I think the Post-It note company should be paying me for all this free advertising.)
Another way that my day job helps my creative writing is that it adds a level of realism to my work. I know enough about traumatic brain injuries now that I get twitchy when people in other works of fiction (both on page and screen) get knocked out and then pop up again as if nothing is wrong. Removing this trope from my own work led me to develop some of the uniqueness of the vampires in my world. I also know enough about posttraumatic stress disorder to know that further down the line in my series, a least a few of my characters are going to fall hard after all the drama they’ve been through.

5. You must let us know what you're up to next.

Steel Victory stands alone but is also the first book in the Steel Empires series! Book 2, Steel Magic, will be released in July 2016. Meanwhile, book 3 (tentatively named Steel Blood) is in revision and I’m reading to start drafting book 4 this summer. I am also working on a collection of prequel short stories set in the same universe.

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).

Title: Steel Magic

Check the cover reveal post to learn more

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