Uncategorized

JL Gribble reveals her fantasy movie cast for the Steel Empires series

Book 4 of the Steel Empires urban fantasy series is out TODAY! In a world with vampires, warrior-mages, weredragons, and sarcastic violin players, time travel seems like the obvious next step. To celebrate Steel Time, author JL Gribble is here to share her fantasy movie cast for the main characters in her book.

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 (JL’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 3: Steel Blood

THE CHARACTERS

Toria Connor

While Toria Connor started this series in college, in this book she’s reached her mid-twenties. She’s settled into her life and career as a mercenary warrior-mage. She’s tough, resourceful, and independent. But her life gets turned upside-down, and suddenly she has to hide everything about herself and pretend to be a normal woman in an old-fashioned world. I cast Lauren Cohan as Toria because of both her physical appearance and how her role as Maggie showed how she can be both fierce and sweet.

Victory

As Toria gets older, she now looks more like a sister than a child to her adopted vampire mother. Victory has made the transition from career mercenary to local politician, but she’s never afraid to return to the sword when her daughter needs help with a job. Returning to the past reminds her of a world that used to be, and how she doesn’t necessarily want to return to the person she used to be. Jaimie Alexander is my Victory, because I fell in love with her presentation as the strong and gorgeous Lady Sif in the first Thor movie.

Liamacorin

The elven assistant curator at the Museum of New Continental History goes by Liam in casual company. He is originally tasked with helping Toria acclimate to life in the “future,” but their relationship gets off to a rocky start before sparks start to fly. This nerdy intellectual is much, much older than a human his apparent age would be, but Toria proves herself more than a match for him. I first saw Luke Mitchell in Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and though I didn’t love his character, this photograph of him evokes Liam to a T. Just needs pointier ears.

Jarimis

While Toria is Victory’s adopted human child, Jarimis is Victory’s vampire progeny. Bred and raised to be an assassin, he embraced Victory’s mercenary lifestyle before abandoning it to pursue his true passion of academia. I’ve had Jarimis in my head as a character for at least a decade, but it wasn’t until this book that I started looking at actors to represent him. Luckily, I didn’t have to go far. I’m a huge fan of iZombie, and Rahul Kohli was exactly what I was looking for.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

By day, JL 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 at:
Website
Facebook
Twitter
Instagram
Goodreads

Uncategorized

The Chicken Incident, Ohio, or why raccoons are evil

At 2 AM last night, I woke to the sound of chickens screaming. I’m pretty sure my husband could sleep through an atomic bomb, so of course, he heard nothing. Because I apparently have not seen enough horror movies, I ran outside in my pajamas (no bra) with a flashlight, deserving to be killed by Leatherface.

As I neared our chicken coop, I at first saw nothing out of the ordinary. Then, I got closer. I saw what appeared to be a bloody stump of a chicken leg hanging halfway out the closed door. Yes, the chicken coop was still closed. Yes, half a chicken was sticking out of it. Yes, some fanged monster had tried to drag a large chicken through a tiny hole, and oh, dear God, what is life?

About five seconds later, a pair of glowing eyes crept into my yard. Ah-ha, the culprit: a skinny raccoon. I wasn’t sure how to proceed since wildlife should be scared of humans because we’re awful, but this raccoon just stood there like he wanted to shoot the shit.

How is your night, human?

Oh, fine, Mr. Raccoon. I just sort of wish you wouldn’t do scary stuff like disembowel my chickens at 2 AM.

Noted, human. I shall now depart.

Except he didn’t depart. He stood there staring at me until I made the rash decision to run directly at the raccoon. Well, he didn’t like that, so he left. The chickens continued screaming … Well, one in particular. You guessed it: the one with half a body torn off and hanging from the chicken coop door. Yeah, that guy? He was still alive.

We had now entered Jake territory.

I calmly cleared my throat and went back to the house. By the way, I was barefoot, so not only was I chasing a raccoon barefoot but I was also trying to avoid dog poop in the dark.

I got back to the bedroom and announced, “Jake. Wake up,” in the calmest voice possible, images of silver eyes and bloody stumps just ricocheting around my brain like ping pong balls.

Jake isn’t a good waker-upper. He startled and made a confused noise before I was like, “Dude, the chickens are being murdered.” Whelp, that got his attention.

I don’t know why I joined him outside. The chickens are my husband’s project, and although, yes, I was the earlier hero, they’re his babies. Jake was understandably not pleased at the state of things. I stayed there with him, holding the flashlight, until he tugged the half-eaten still alive chicken out into the open and said something about “sorry, buddy” and … Yeah, I fled inside at that point.

It took forever to fall back to sleep. I’m sore everywhere today and have a dozen times realized I’m staring at walls and not working.

I’m not upset about the chickens, not really. It sucks that we lost four last night to a hungry fanged beast, and I feel bad that my hubby puts so much work into raising these birds—for us—and then, they go and get their dumb asses killed. (Chickens are really dumb; trust me on this.)

Instead of being upset, I’m entertained today because, before I met my husband, I don’t think I’d ever met a chicken outside of a plate and yet, last night I wielded a massive flashlight and chased a monster from my yard. Most days, I write about monsters, but I don’t often stare one down and have an imaginary conversation at 2 AM.

Life is awkward and weird and sometimes horrible, and yeah, we rush around all the time. Days go so fast, and we’re like, “How did I get here?” But, man, sometimes life is just so dang funny with its metaphorical blood and guts hanging out for all to see. It’s a mess. Enjoy the mess. Now, go about your day and try not to hear the sound of screaming chickens.

(If you want to read about The Chicken Incident, Arizona, feel free, but it’s equally as alarming as what you just read. Cheers!)

Uncategorized

Am I a slut?

One of my favorite Sex and the City episodes is “Are We Sluts?” In it, heroine Carrie Bradshaw (and her three crazy friends) come to question their own sexual prowess based on strange bedfellows, a burglary, and an STD. I’m not getting into the details here, because you should really just watch the episode. It’s fabulous. I’m more addressing this question to myself: am I a slut?

Now, I realize that sounds sort of crazy. One, I’m married, so if anything, I’m a monogamous slut—which, in my opinion, is the cornerstone of a strong marriage. I’m more concerned with certain recent developments in my wardrobe. Last night is a good example.

With Jake out of town, I went barhopping with some of his twenty-something coworkers. Before leaving the house, I put on something “comfortable.” For me, “comfortable” was skin-tight Express jeans and a midriff halter-top. While curling my hair and staring at my own thirty-five-year-old reflection, I had the first tiny inkling … Sara, do you dress like a—gulp—slut?

I dress young for my age. I know this. Some days, I wear see-through shirts and six-inch heels to the  freaking grocery store. Ridiculous. Then, last night, I had a ten-minute internal battle with myself before I suddenly, coherently decided I’m not a slut; I’m just happy.

Hear me out. Currently, I’m yoga-obsessed. I don’t eat much meat anymore, and I’ve given up the majority of dairy and gluten. (Do I still drink whiskey and smoke cigarettes? Duh. I’m not a nun.) I recently went to buy the above-mentioned Express jeans, and I chose a size six. The sales boy actually glared at me—a visual “Bitch, please”—before handing me a size two. I can’t freaking believe I now wear a size two.

All my life—no matter my weight—I have felt like an awkward, chubby girl. Don’t roll your eyes; I realize this is all in my head, but my head is a very important part of my body. For months at my yoga studio, for instance, I was nervous to talk to my teachers because I thought I wasn’t worthy. I was the clumsy, thick girl, since for most of my life, that is how I’ve identified in my personal perception.

Now, I’m thirty-five and in the best shape of my life. With the help of exercise, healthy eating, my perfect husband, and maturity, I’m happy and confident in my body—which brings us back to the slut thing.

Do my clothes sometimes cling a little tightly? Do my tits sometimes loom a little large? Do I show my tummy and shake my ass in bars? Well, yeah. Because finally (finally), I’m happy with the way I look and comfortable—chuffed even—with who I am, and I don’t care who sees. My style has changed so much over the years, but I think my clothes are finally me—the me I have always wanted to be.

This isn’t political. I’m not reclaiming the word “slut” and making it into a pride statement. Honestly, this isn’t even about you. This is about me, damn it, comfortable in my skin after thirty-five years of worrying that I look bloated. With thirty-six looming in June, it’s prime time to say I’m not a slut; I’m just me.

Uncategorized

The Unexpected Infatuation: Sexy short story out today!

Obsessed with this gorgeous cover by Rue Volley.

He caught my gaze. “Do you realize how much you watch me?”

I frowned. “Of course I watch you. You’re handling what you call national treasures.”

He blinked his large, dark eyes and continued to work without further comment until he discovered a book he must have considered of particular import, because he shouted with excitement and ran to me. Papers ruffled as he threw a dusty tome on my desk, but instead of recounting its prominence, he leaned so close, I felt his breath on my neck.

He whispered: “You can do more than watch if you like.”


As part of their “Hot Singles” series, Encompass Ink released my erotic short story today! Read all about “The Unexpected Infatuation:”

In Victorian England, middle-aged Thomas Warwick lives a dull, sheltered life with his wife until his uncle dies and leaves him everything—most notably, an astounding library. The young James Reynolds is hired to catalogue the immense collection while on Christmas leave from Cambridge. 

It starts innocently enough with gentle touches and careful smiles. However, it’s not long before James inhabits every waking thought of the conflicted Lord Warwick. Hounded even by lustful dreams, Thomas can’t help but tumble into infatuation. Thankfully, James is only so happy to catch him.


Reviewers have been super sweet to this story!

“Would love to read more about Thomas and James. Romantic and easy to fall for.”

“A quick, sexy read with a bookish ambiance and so much regency goodness. I highly recommend as a pallet cleanser after anything filled with drama.”

“An enjoyable read with sizzle. More James please.”

I hope you have fun with it, too. Buy your copy on Amazon today, and be sure to add it to your Goodreads list!

(Hmm, yes, I’m picturing James Purefoy as Thomas and Timothee Chalamet as the delightful young love interest. Cheers!!)

Uncategorized

Holy s#@! I’m old

A feeling has been brewing for months now … the feeling that I’m old. Not, like, nursing home old or black-socks-with-sandals old but oldish. The feeling only recently intensified thanks to two bits of breaking news:

One: Tom Petty died.
Two: Benedict Cumberbatch is now vegan.
Let me explain.

I love you, Tom!!

The Tom Petty thing is self-evident. As I bemoaned the loss of one of my favorite musicians ever, Jake pointed out that this sort of thing is going to start happening more and more as the artists we grew up with  literally get old and die.

The Cumberbatch explanation takes more time. As you’re probably aware, I adore this man, so I know pretty much everything about the guy, including the fact that he quit smoking a couple years ago, then became a father, and turned forty-one in July. Now, apparently, he’s gone vegan.

I’m not against going vegan, but I feel like Mr. Cumberbatch is desperately trying to stop the clock to extend his career (which I’m obviously fine with because I love him). Still, one of my favorite stories I’ve heard him tell is about the time he and Keira Knightley got drunk on espresso martinis the night before filming Atonement and then had to show up on set, run dialogue, and pretend they didn’t wanna vomit. Now, he’s an adult or something and won’t smoke or eat cheese. WTF?

Smokin’ hot.

As someone who smokes the occasional coffin nail, loves cheese, and can’t listen to “Free Falling” without crying, these two bits of information were terribly upsetting, along with the recent realization that my favorite yoga instructor is TWENTY. She can’t even buy beer.

In my own bid to be one of the cool kids, I downloaded Snapchat after a rollicking weekend with a bunch of twenty-somethings in Charleston, South Carolina. Imagine my horror when some of the photos made my neck look wrinkly. I’ve been obsessively coating my chest with lotion ever since.

Apparently, part of the aging process is denying it’s happening by being healthy and adjusting our diets and being mindful or some such BS.  The diet adjustment conversation happened between Jake and I last week when I complained about heartburn, and he looked at me as if to say, “Well, maybe if you didn’t like whiskey and pizza so much …”

I’m thirty-five years old, and all around me, friends are giving up gluten, suffering through back aches, and quitting smoking. Even I’ve become an avid hot yoga attendee thanks to a stupid injury that, if I were younger, never would have happened.

Don’t look at my neck!

The conclusion I have to make is that, in the grand scheme of age, I’m getting older. Fine, I’m not old, but I am indeed getting older. I have wrinkles and grey hair. I have hangovers that last two whole days. Sometimes, I just want to go to bed at nine PM, okay? Still, I’m not ready to go extreme.

Something I learned on that shenanigan of a trip in Charleston: I can still party like a college kid. I can still laugh ’til my ribs hurt. I still get hit on by children (aka twenty-one-year-olds). Yeah, my neck looks weird in photos on occasion, but maybe age is less about what our bodies are doing and more about our points of view. Maybe if we think young, we will remain young?

I can’t be sure. This is my first experience with aging, so I’m learning as I go. Maybe there will be a day when I give up pizza in exchange for zero heartburn … but today is not that day. Maybe there will be a day when staying out until two AM is just too much … but today is not that day. Maybe there’ll be a day when I can listen to “Free Falling” without sobbing, but mmm, no, today is not that day.

Uncategorized

A sweet story … except for the murder

My love stories don’t tend to be sweet. I’m more into noir weirdos with purple hair (cough, Imogene) than two semi-normal good people. Then, I wrote “Claimed” and was like, “Wow, that was actually adorable … except for that one murder scene.”

Olivia is a super old vampire in Charleston, South Carolina, when someone tries to kill her. To survive, she attacks a young human walking his dog and accidentally becomes linked to Ethan, body and soul. That’s when Ethan’s nightmares start, and Olivia realizes he needs to be with her. Like, forever. Which is a huge problem when Ethan becomes Human Most Wanted for some vengeful bloodsuckers.

“Claimed” is out today in Blood in the Rain 3 from Cwtch Press. The cover is beyond sexy. Here, gaze on its magnificence …

Nom nom nom!!! Now, read an excerpt from “Claimed,” because for once, I wrote a love story about two people who legitimately deserve happiness. (Not that Imogene doesn’t but, well … she is pretty twisted, okay?)


Death came quickly—or would have if not for the human by the palm tree on King Street. He walked a dog that barked at her in fear. Away from the bars of downtown Charleston, they were alone on the sidewalk, alone outside for blocks thanks to the late hour. The human’s voice reached her: gentle murmurings, cautious whispers, and then louder inquiries.

The dog growled and barked some more, and Olivia fell to one knee on the pavement. Her vision dimmed, so she closed her eyes and shook her head back and forth as if that would stop the dead blood from coursing through her veins.

She thought about being at the bar earlier, about seeing Alexander across the room with his own blood-filled glass lifted in salute. Olivia had paid the bartender and left after consuming half a bottle of Age 37, which had apparently been spiked with blood from a dead human.

In other words, someone had tried to murder her.

But then, there he was: the human on the sidewalk with the barking dog. She looked up at his tall silhouette, back lit white by a streetlight. She reached her hand up to him but crumpled into a small undead ball when pain stabbed across her gut. Her lungs contracted and would not expand. She choked on lack of air.

The human’s gentle voice reached her again, but she couldn’t make out the words. She clenched her jaw together to capture a strangled growl when she lost feeling in her legs. Then, his hands were on her shoulders—large, warm hands. The dog continued barking a few feet away, its leash now tied to the base of a palm tree.

Up close, she made sense of his words: “I’m calling an ambulance.”

Before he could call, though, she dragged herself up by the front of his coat. She climbed the front of his crouched body until she could wrap her arms around his neck, and he held her. He told her it was going to be okay.

Olivia’s canines descended, and she bit down hard on the side of his throat. He tried to push her away, but she clung, especially when his blood filled her mouth. It had been a hundred years since she’d tasted fresh human blood, right from the vein. She moaned against his skin as he attempted to scramble back, maybe free the barking dog, but she wasn’t dying anymore. She used her strength to pin the man to the pavement, and the dog barked and barked. The man’s heartbeat slowed.

When she realized what was about to occur, she pulled her teeth from his throat and stared down at him. How old could he be? Twenty? Twenty-one? The only wrinkles on his face were shallow laugh lines around his half-open eyes. He looked at her but didn’t appear to see her because now, he was the one dying.

“No, no, no.” She smacked his cheek. “Oh, my God.” She grabbed for his discarded cell phone, already primed to call 911. She dialed and screamed about a mugging, a stabbing, send help to King Street now.

The man didn’t move beneath her, lips parted for his final breaths.

“Please, come back.”

The dog growled and pulled at its chain.

Olivia rolled up the sleeve of her leather jacket and bit into her own pale flesh, warm with the overabundance of the poor man’s blood. She held her wrist over his lips and let blood tumble drop by desperate drop. Her wound healed almost immediately, so she leaned her head against his chest and listened for the heartbeat that strengthened and strengthened.

She sat up and ran her fingers across his cheeks. “That’s it, come on.”

His eyes opened, irises the color of midnight on the harbor. Brow furrowed, he studied her face as the dog, prevented from protecting its master, whined.

“I’m so sorry.” She fled to the beat of an incoming ambulance.


Read the rest of “Claimed” and eighteen other awesomely sensual vampire stories in Blood in the Rain 3. Click HERE and buy your copy today!! And while you’re shopping, you might as well check out the whole series …

Uncategorized

Author JL Gribble lists her fave urban fantasy authors

(JL Gribble is one of my girl crushes. We met at a book nerd convention and were basically friends in, um, five seconds. Eventually, we had drinks with Severus Snape. No big deal. Her new urban fantasy novel, Steel Blood, came out Wednesday, so I asked her to tell me about her must-read urban fantasy authors … not counting herself, of course. Oh, and all gif choices are mine because I just had to. Take it away, JL!)

When celebrating the new release of an urban fantasy novel with very nontraditional vampires, the best place to go is the online home of other authors with nontraditional vampires! If Celia, Imogene, and Victory walked into a bar together, I imagine Victory would travel the following emotional journey: shock, amusement, confusion, possibly more shock, and then acceptance of her fate (preferably with beer).

Grab your own beer, blood bag, or other drink of choice and join in the party as we celebrate Victory’s newest adventure in Steel Empires Book 3: Steel Blood. Since I write more on the urban fantasy side of the speculative fiction spectrum, Sara asked me to talk about my top 5 favorite and/or most influential urban fantasy authors.

I first fell in love with Mercedes Lackey when I was introduced to her epic fantasy Valdemar books in middle school. Once I ran out of those, I started in on the rest of her novels and found that she also wrote some crazy adventures in “our” world, too. While I enjoyed the books with elves and Guardians, what really piqued my interest was her retelling of Beauty and the Beast set in early 20th century San Francisco. The Fire Rose introduced me to a world of elemental magic that didn’t exist in a medieval allegory. The rest of her Elemental Masters books showed me that urban fantasy doesn’t need the trappings of an immediately identifiable modern society to be successful.

In the His Dark Materials trilogy, which I also discovered while still in school, Philip Pullman solidified my love for alternate universes. As he dragged his characters through epic adventures, I was more than happy to go along for the ride. To this day, I find myself considering what sort of invisible animal companion a person might have, whether for characters in my own books or a person I know in real life, as a metaphor for characterization and personality. For the record, mine is a blue-point Siamese cat. (His name is Alex.)

I have a ton of respect for the modern Young Adult genre and the barriers it is breaking in the speculative fiction world, but I’m kind of glad that it wasn’t as much of a thing when I was younger. Instead, back in high school, authors like Laurell K. Hamilton were on my go-to list for strong female characters kicking supernatural ass and saving the world. Though I no longer follow the Anita Blake series or this author, I’m glad that part of my early urban fantasy education involved a world that mashed together every paranormal creature (and the kitchen sink), letting me know that I shouldn’t be afraid to do the same.

For a while, it seemed like every urban fantasy series involved a strong female character kicking supernatural ass and saving the world. But as in all things, the mold gets more fractured with every use. These days, I thoroughly enjoy authors such as Carrie Vaughn. Even though her Kitty the Werewolf series still embodies some traditional elements of how urban fantasy “should” be done, it quickly did away with the tortured love triangle and presented characters in committed relationships who supported each other through their adventures. This was a refreshing find in a world that seemed Twilight-mad.

These days, the books that immediately get bumped to the top of the to-be-read pile are those by Ilona Andrews. I especially enjoy the Kate Daniels series, with it’s incredibly unique urban fantasy setting, but even the books marketed as paranormal romance still feature well-crafted world-building and dramatic characters, despite the half-naked men on the covers. In homage to this favorite author, the books in my series all start with the word “Steel,” just as the novels in the Kate Daniels series all start with “Magic.” I may have picked up the first book on a whim because the author shares a first name with my mother, but I was immediately sucked in—pun not intended.

I hope this list has helped you revisit some old friends or learn about potential new favorites! In the meantime, I hope you consider checking out the Steel Empires urban fantasy/alternate history series as I celebrate the release of the third book in the series.

ABOUT STEEL BLOOD:

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 STEEL BLOOD NOW!!!

Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Raw Dog Screaming Press

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. Check out her website or find her on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

Uncategorized

I Miss Dead People

15675886773_e2e73492e3_z

I’m tired of missing people. On September 11, 2016, fifteen years after that thing happened, I sit in church. I texted Reverend Chris the night before so I wouldn’t have to say it out loud in front of the congregation, wouldn’t have to ask for prayer requests for my cousin, who died while swimming in the ocean the afternoon prior.

Chris mentions the shocking occurrence for me, but even the pronouncement, coming from my patient pastor, doesn’t bring comfort. I spin the gold and emerald ring on my finger—belonged to my grandmother, years dead—and add Cousin Bob to the list of people I will miss. The list keeps growing, as lists are wont to do.

I have remnants in my home from all my dead people.

From Grandma Schwind, I have a favorite scarf, jewelry, and even her lipstick. (It tastes like strawberries.) From Papa Schwind, I have one of his worn flannel shirts and a bottle of lotion that smells like him. I keep the lotion on the back shelf in a cupboard and never use it, because the one time I did, I kept sobbing and smelling my hands.

There’s very little of Uncle Barney left, except a magnet on my fridge that says, “Jesus would slap the shit out of you,” and a paperweight—oh, and stories. Barney left lots of stories, and sometimes, when I make spaghetti sauce from scratch, I’ll add just the right ratio of oregano to garlic and smell his kitchen.

Grandma Dobie left me antique dolls. Most people think they’re creepy, but I keep them in my office where they watch me like Grandma Dobie used to when she babysat after school. It was her death, in fact, that nudged me toward dying my hair black and cutting my skin in secret, although I doubt she meant to leave me those things.

I’ve removed most traces of my brother, Matt, not because he’s dead but because we haven’t spoken on the phone in months, and the reminders hurt. He’s grown away from me—grown into someone new—with a wife and life of his own in Charleston. I used to call him randomly with funny stories. Last night, I called him crying to tell him Bob was dead. He didn’t answer, because he never answers, but I left a voicemail. I don’t know if he’s happy or sad, healthy or sick. I don’t know much of anything about him anymore.

Cousin Bob was a native New Yorker, married to the beautiful, gregarious Betty Ann. He had one of those Goodfellas accents, yet he was the sweetest, most selfless guy you’d ever meet. When 9/11 happened fifteen years ago, he was so close to the Two Towers that dust rained down on him and he found a torn airline ticket amidst the rubble. I wonder if he kept it, a memento of someone dead on that cursed flight.

In church, I blink away a stupid, pointless tear and try to focus, but I keeping thinking about how I’ve said goodbye to all my dead people in church, sitting in an uncomfortable pew. Church is a place of such life, such light, but also darkness and death. It’s a place for brides, babies, and caskets. Peace and pain.

Despite my panicked voicemail from last night, my brother probably won’t call me back, won’t calm my tears like he did years ago, when we were younger, before everyone started dying. I still have all the dead people’s numbers in my phone, as if I might still call them, as if they might still answer. But then, I’ll see Grandma’s scarf in my closet and remember she’s dead, because if she were alive, I wouldn’t have her favorite scarf. I’ll never delete the phone numbers.

A couple weeks ago, my mom had a tough morning. She kept thinking about her parents. She said, “Sometimes, I wish I could turn back time.” If only to spend one more Christmas at the house on Walnut Street as a family. If only to laugh with my brother—like that time at Ohio University when Matt and I raced each other, sprinting two blocks, to get to the nearest bathroom for fear of a public indecency arrest. If only to hear Bob say, “Fugittaboutit,” still unsure of what that New York expression means but loving it nonetheless.

I’m tiring of missing people, but there’s little to be done about it. “Grief ambushes” sometimes seem omnipresent: the scent of a certain perfume, the sound of a stranger’s laugh, a piece of jewelry you wear over and over as if, in the wearing, the dead still live.

After church, I climb the tallest tree in our backyard with Jake watching. I need to be away from cold Earth; I need to see the sky. Jake tells me not to fall, and I tell him I’ll do my best. As always, I mean it.

Uncategorized

TEAM BLUE New Adult Scavenger Hunt: Guest Nadine Nightingale

BiteSomebody_finalWelcome to the New Adult Scavenger Hunt! This event was inspired as a way to give readers a chance to gain access to exclusive bonus material from their favorite authors … and a chance to win some awesome prizes!

I’m your host, Sara Dobie Bauer, author of forthcoming novel, BITE SOMEBODY, which has been called “the Pretty in Pink of vampire stories; fun, self-consciously retro, and not afraid to be goofy.” (There’s a giveaway on Goodreads right now, so head over and enter!)

At this hunt, you not only get access to exclusive content from each author, you also get a clue for the hunt. Add up the clues, and you can enter for our prize: one lucky winner will receive one book from each author on the hunt in my team! But play fast: this contest (and all the exclusive bonus material) will only be online for 72 hours!

Go to the New Adult Scavenger Hunt page to find out all about the hunt. There are THREE contests going on simultaneously, and you can enter one or all! I am a part of TEAM BLUE, but there are also red and purple teams to follow for a chance to win a whole different set of books!

Team Blue S2016

If you’d like to find out more about the hunt, see links to all the authors participating, and see the full list of prizes up for grabs, go to the New Adult Scavenger Hunt page.

***THE SCAVENGER HUNT***

Directions: Below, at the bottom of this post, you’ll notice I’ve listed my lucky book number. Collect the lucky book numbers of all the authors on Team Blue, and then add them up.

Entry Form: Once you’ve added up all the numbers, make sure you fill out the form here to officially qualify for the grand prize. Only entries that have the correct number will qualify.

Rules: Open internationally, anyone below the age of 18 should have a parent or guardian’s permission to enter. To be eligible for the grand prize, you must submit the completed entry form by Sunday, May 1st, at noon Eastern Time. Entries sent without the correct number or without contact information will not be considered.

***LET THE HUNT BEGIN!***

MEET AUTHOR NADINE NIGHTINGALE

DSCN0920 (1)Nadine Nightingale, aka Dini, is a traveler at heart. She considers the world her home and practically lives out of her suitcases. When she’s not glaring at a blank page or abusing her poor keyboard, she spends her time reading, watching movies (preferably horror), pretends to work out, and hangs out with friends and family.

Poor girl also suffers from a serious Marvel superhero addiction. So, if you run into her at night, wearing black, know she’s secretly dreaming of being the infamous Black Widow.

Her love for writing started in the sixth grade where she annoyed her classmates with a short story featuring Sailor Moon characters, a cemetery, and creepy ghosts. Yes, she’s always been addicted to the dark side. Nadine writes paranormal romance. Her debut novel Karma (the first book in her paranormal romance series Drag.Me.To.Hell.) is published by the Wild Rose Press and will be out in May 2016. Nadine has a BA in Comparative Religions and studied Creative Writing at the University of Oxford.

She would love to hear from you. To contact Nadine directly, please email dinilovesh@gmail.com, or find her on Twitter @dini_caroline.

ABOUT KARMA:

People call me all sorts of names—bad girl, black sheep, and my all-time favorite…Satan’s bride. I could blame the fact I’m a witch for my behavior, but the truth is I’m infuriating, arrogant, and stab-worthy.

Alex Remington is a hunter and everything I’m not—righteous, honest, caring. We used to have a thing, but that was before he learned I’m a witch and tried to kill me.

Eighteen months later, he’s back in my life and we have a deal; I’ll help him save his brother and he’ll disappear from my life for good. But karma can be a real bitch …

Available May 4 from The Wild Rose Press.

Pre-Order Now:
AMAZON US http://amzn.to/1SglH6I
AMAZON UK http://amzn.to/1WfszHt
AMAZON AU http://bit.ly/1qwpQxl
Barnes&Nobles http://bit.ly/1qwC21p
KOBO http://bit.ly/1PWMpje

Karma_w10669_med (1)

BONUS MATERIAL (KARMA EXCPERT)

The clerk is either blind or drunk because there’s no way Mr. Righteous and Responsible is hitting a bar while his brother goes all zombie assassin and a bunch of kids fear for their lives. Right? Wrong.

Bursting through the solid door of The Reckless Heart, I find him next to a brunette bombshell with a half-empty bottle of whiskey in his hand. Son of a bitch! What the hell is he thinking? Judging by the way he pulls the chick toward him, I’d say he isn’t thinking at all. I cuss under my breath, ignore the pulsating pain that torments my foot, and push through the crowd, using elbows when necessary. One thing’s for sure: I’m going to beat the f***ing crap out of him. I mean, I get it. He had a rough day. But what about me? I almost died a couple of hours ago, was treated like a freaking murderer, and to cap it off, I’m stuck in this godforsaken town. So, if anyone has a reason to get drunk and screw around, it would be me.

“Manda,” he says when he spots me, that cocky as hell grin on his stupid face. “So good to see ya, baby.”

“Don’t you f***in’ baby me,” I hiss through gritted teeth. “What the hell are you doin’, Alex?” I look from him to Miss I-love-to-nibble-on-your-ears.

“What’s it look like?”

“Like you’re getting your f***in’ ears pierced by that slut,” I say.

“Hey,” the future porn star shouts. “You can’t let her talk to me like that.”

I make a face unable to disguise the disgust washing over me. That’s the kinda girl he digs when he’s wasted? The sort who has a guy fight her battles for her?

Alex pats her back, but his eyes are on me. “Ah, don’t mind her, honey. Manda is juuust…” His stupid grin intensifies. “Jealoussss.”

I curl my hands into fists. Relax, you can’t kill him here. Too many witnesses. I take a step toward the chick, because the next words are only meant for her. “He’s right,” I whisper. “I am a very, very jealous person.” A psychotic smile on my lips that would send Michael Myers running, I step back.

“Oh my gosh!” Her gaze drifts to my bare feet. “Don’t tell me you dated a freak like her.”

Alex shrugs. “What can I say? I was young and needed sex.”

I’m standing in the middle of a bar without shoes, but that doesn’t give her permission to call me a freak. Done playing nice, I get into the chick’s face. “You look like a smart girl. How about you go and lick someone else’s ear before I show you what a freak I really am?”

Her jaw drops. “You’re crazy.” She faces Alex, eyes clouded with fear. “She’s fricking crazy.”

Alex sips his whiskey and laughs. “Relax, she ain’t gonna hurt you.”

I smile. “Sure ’bout that?”

She grabs her bag from the table, throws her hair over her shoulder, and shakes her head. “Whatever. I’m out.”

Watching her stomp out of the bar, Alex raises a brow. “So.” He takes another sip straight from the bottle. “Since you scared the shit outta my one-night stand, you could at least have the decency to have a drink with me.”

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I already miss the old Alex. Taking a seat next to him, I rest my elbows on my knees. “All right, spill it. What’s the matter with you?”

He waves the question off. “Nothing. I’m just having a lil’ fun. Aren’t you always telling me I should loosen up?”

I might have said something like that, but I hadn’t meant for him to drown his last brain cells in whiskey while the lives of innocent people are at stake. “Look, I know you’re upset, but I think I found Jesse.”

“So?” He gulps down the booze as if it’s water.

So? Jesus f***ing Christ, when did I become the responsible party in our screwed up partnership? Jumping up, I grab his shirt. “Let’s get the hell outta here, Alex. We have a zombie to cure and kids to save.”

Fire ignites in his eyes. “You can stop pretending, Manda.” He puts his hands on my hips and pulls me closer. “You don’t care about Jesse, these kids, or me. And you know what?” He grins. “It’s all right. You don’t have to. God.” He looks me over. “I wish I could be a little more like you. Reckless. Selfish. Careless. Life must be so much easier for you.” It’s a miracle he doesn’t fall from his chair, trembling and all that.

“You’re right, Alex. Life is easier that way, but it’s also lonelier.” I tug at his shirt. “Now, are we done with your self-pity? ’Cause last time I checked, you had a brother to save.”

He rests his forehead against my belly and sighs. “I hate you, Amanda. I hate everything about you, but,” his warm fingers burn through my tank top, “I also miss you.” He looks up. “I miss us.” His aura shows a hundred shades of truth, and my heart jumps a little.

It’s kind of hard not to believe him when he looks at me like I’m the only girl in the world. But he’s in a hopeless place, looking for distraction, and I’m not willing to be that. I draw in a deep breath. “You’re wasted, man.” I try to pull him to his feet, but the son of a bitch is heavy. “C’mon, I’ll take you to my room, and we’ll sober you up.”


Now, don’t forget to enter the contest for a chance to win a copy of KARMA, BITE SOMEBODY, and more!

To enter, you need to know my magic number is 11. 

Add up all the numbers of the authors on TEAM BLUE, and you’ll have the secret code to enter for the grand prize HERE.

***CONTINUE THE HUNT***
 
To keep going on your quest for the hunt, you need to check out the next author, Jennifer Macaire. 
Uncategorized

Thanksgiving Before

family
Mom, Grandma, Susie, Barney, and Dad

I wake up hung-over. The night before, I took my little brother Matt (home from Ohio University for Thanksgiving) out on the town. He didn’t realize the night before Thanksgiving was like a Perrysburg High School reunion, the bars of our small hometown overflowing with alumnus, all there to see each other, reminisce, and get irresponsibly spiffed.

I shower, drink some coffee. Around noon, Matt shows up at my tiny, one bedroom apartment that sits above a railroad tracks. I’ve lived there so long, I don’t even notice the noise disturbance or the way the glasses in my kitchen vibrate like tiny Christmas bells.

We open the first beer of the day: Winter White Ale from Bell’s Brewery up in Kalamazoo, Michigan. For some reason, we decide to watch Reanimator. I sneak a quick cigarette out my back window and scream and laugh when the dead cat comes back to life on my TV screen.

Soon, Mom calls and says she and Dad are heading over to Papa and Grandma’s on Walnut Street. Matt and I open another round of beers and pretend to bemoan family time, although you can tell by the way we both get sort of giddy, jumpy, that we can’t wait to get to Papa and Grandma’s—and not only for the snacks. I wash the smell of smoke from my hands and put on my winter coat.

The Schwind homestead is a big, brick house with lots of windows and towering trees in the front yard. Based on the cars in the crooked driveway (hell on high heels), Aunt Susie is already there and my parents, too. Uncle Barney might stop by for a quick bite, but he’s always so busy with friends and parties all over the Toledo area—a popular guy. We pass a row of plastic pink flamingoes to the side of their drive.

family4
Matt and me

As always, the front door creaks when we walk in. The house is overly warm and smells of turkey and Papa’s cologne. And there he stands! Papa wears a thick corduroy shirt of deep red, khaki pants, and dress shoes. He always looks ready for church. He’s already mixing a pair of gin and tonics in tall glasses, painted tennis rackets on the side. After he gives us both a kiss (shouts, “Sara baby!”), he pulls two more glasses from the cupboard for Matt and me.

The women—Susie, Mom, and Grandma—somehow fit in the kitchen, as well, despite the lack of counter space. Susie has on an apron. My mom and grandma don’t seem concerned with their semi-dressy attire (fancy sweaters) as they sip their own cocktails and flit about from piles of potatoes to casseroles, shouting, “Did you check the turkey?” It won’t be ready for hours, but it seems imperative to constantly open the oven anyway.

Matt and I wander through the thin hallway that leads from the stifling heat of the kitchen, past the living room where in a month we’ll celebrate Christmas, and finally to the TV room, where my dad sits on a small, bedraggled couch with his Canadian beer and a handful of peanuts.

There’s a spread of food on a circular green table: salami wrapped pretzels, Papa’s famous nacho dip, sliced cheese and crackers, and a cornucopia of mixed nuts. I go right for the pretzels and find them a perfect complement to my gin and tonic. The three of us take our respective seats, not once settling down in Papa’s recliner—because he’ll be there soon enough to watch the game.

For the next two hours, I bounce back and forth from the kitchen to the TV room. I don’t cook; it’s never been expected of me, and I don’t mind. I’d rather watch football anyway. I make conversation with my little circle of family. We’re not ostentatious—no over pouring of cousins and spouses for Matt and me, yet to be found.

Uncle Barney does stop by. Despite the cold temperatures, he’s in a Buckeyes t-shirt, sweating. He travels with his own beer cooler and drinks two, three, in the span of about thirty seconds. As my father would say, he’s “cutting the dust.” Barney talks loudly, laughs with further volume, until I find solace in the repetitive nature of sports with my dad, brother, and grandpa.

We feast at 5:30. The turkey is golden brown. Papa carves it, of course; it’s his one defined responsibility—that and consummate bartender. Then, we dig in. By the time I’m done with my first plate, Aunt Susie hasn’t even sat down. She always has to make sure everything is perfect.

Mom and Dad
Mom and Dad

Matt, Dad, and me down three plates before Papa and Grandma have finished one. It’s a Schwind thing, the slow eating. It’s been an ongoing joke since Charlie Brown met Snoopy. My dad heads back to the TV room before everyone is finished, as does my brother. Waiting for Papa to finish dinner is like waiting for a slug to cross the finish line.

By the time we wrap up for the evening walk, the world outside glows in a moonlit shade of navy. We don winter coats, hats, scarves, and gloves. It gets cold so early in Ohio. We take the same path, as always: walk up Walnut Street, turn right on Indiana, and then left on Louisiana into the heart of downtown Perrysburg.

They lit the little Christmas trees up and down the strip that morning after the Thanksgiving parade. Already, shop fronts gleam with white lights and reindeer. We wander all the way to the statue of Commodore Perry. We glance at the muddy Maumee River. We cuddle close to stay warm and begin to celebrate, because the walk makes it official: Christmas time!

When we get back to the house on Walnut Street, the dishes are magically clean. Grandma never goes on our after-dinner walk, so I assume she did them. That or a secret clan of Italian elves she keeps hidden in the basement under the ping-pong table.

We return to the kitchen, decorated with paper turkeys and a fake flower arrangement. Together, we eat pumpkin and banana cream pies and drink coffee spiked with Bailey’s.

Uncle Barney heads home, following a sweaty, wet kiss to my cheek. The rest of the boys retire to the TV room where Papa promptly starts snoring in his reclining chair. Mom and Susie do the last bit of straightening up. The house still smells like turkey. It’s still too warm, which is why we start to doze off until Dad gives Mom the eye that clearly communicates he wants to go home.

Matt goes out to meet friends, and I head to my little apartment on the railroad tracks, rocked to sleep by my faithful trains, tummy full and wallowing in the beauty of tradition, that Thanksgiving many years ago.

family2