Rhonda Mason: Happy Release Day!

Cover Art by Dave Palumbo
Cover Art by Dave Palumbo

This year has been chock full of friends publishing books, and I am absolutely THRILLED for them. So far, Jen Brooks released her YA Debut, In a Word Just Right, and then J.L. Gribble released her debut Urban Fantasy/Alternate History novel, Steel Victory. Today brings the Science Fiction Romance debut from Rhonda Mason: The Empress Game.

Unlike Brooks and Gribble, I didn’t beta-read Mason’s novel, so when I read my Kindle copy, it’ll be for the first time. But I’m confident it’s going to rock my world, because like Brooks, Rhonda Mason is a writer from Seton Hill’s Writing Popular Fiction Program who graduated my first term there. She was one of the very first thesis readings I attended, and to this day I still remember the AWESOME first line of that novel. No, I won’t quote it here, and no, The Empress Game is not that novel. However, it bears many similarities: a kick-ass heroine, lots of fighting, and edge-of-your-seat writing, if the small sample I gobbled up is any indication.

Believe me,  I’m looking forward to reading this book.

Happy Release Day, Rhonda!

One seat on the intergalactic Sakien Empire’s supreme ruling body, the Council of Seven, remains unfilled, that of the Empress Apparent. The seat isn’t won by votes or marriage, it’s won in a tournament of ritualized combat in the ancient tradition. Now that tournament–the Empress Game–has been called, and the females of the empire will stop at nothing to secure political domination for their homeworlds. Kayla Reinumon, a supreme fighter, is called by a mysterious stranger to battle it out in the arena.

The battle for political power isn’t contained by the tournament’s ring, however. The empire’s elite gather to forge, strengthen or betray alliances in a political dance that will shape the fate of the empire for a generation. With the empire wracked by a rising nanovirus plague and stretched thin by an ill-advised planet-wide occupation in enemy territory, everything rests on the woman who rises to the top.

Rhonda-Mason-Crop-188x300Rhonda Mason divides her time between writing, editing, bulldogs and beaching. Her writing spans the gamut of speculative fiction, from space opera to epic fantasy to urban paranormal and back again. The only thing limiting her energy for fantastical worlds is the space-time continuum.

When not creating worlds she edits for a living, and follows her marine biologist husband to the nearest beach. In between preserving sea grass and deterring invasive species, she snorkels every chance she gets. Her rescue bulldog, Grace, is her baby and faithful companion. Grace follow her everywhere, as long as she’s within distance of a couch Grace can sleep on. Rhonda is a graduate of the Writing Popular Fiction masters program at Seton Hill University, and recommends it to all genre writers interested in furthering their craft at the graduate level.

You can find Rhonda at www.RhondaMason.com.


J.L. Gribble: Happy Belated Release Day!

Steel Victory
Cover Art by Brad Sharp

I feel like a bit of a shit. On June 26th, my good friend and fellow Seton Hill graduate J.L. Gribble published her debut novel, Steel Victory, and it completely slipped my mind. I can give you lots of excuses: the release date was on a Friday instead of the usual Tuesday; the month of June slipped by so fast I suffered whiplash, etc., etc. But let’s forget excuses and promote Gribble’s debut venture!

Steel Victory is special, because it’s not just Gribble’s debut novel — it’s also the novel she wrote for her Master’s thesis at Seton Hill’s Writing Popular Fiction Program. She was a term ahead of me, and we became fast friends. I had the honor of beta-reading the thesis before she turned it in, and that was…. a LONG time ago. So long that I can’t wait to see just how different the published version of Steel Victory will be, and that’s a compliment, because I vividly remember many scenes from the thesis draft! Steel Victory is now waiting patiently on my Kindle, so patiently that I’m debating about putting aside the current book I’m reading just so I can dive into Gribble’s world all over again: an urban fantasy set in a world where the Roman Empire never fell, and magic bleeds off the pages.

I can’t offer enough congrats, especially since I’m so late in doing so. Fortunately, Steel Victory is doing just fine without me, thanks to an awesome launch party at Seton Hill’s In Your Write Mind Workshop!

Steel Victory is the first book in the Steel Empire series, which is currently projected to be seven books. SEVEN BOOKS, people! Even I don’t know what’s ahead, and I can’t wait! It’s gonna be an awesome road, and I wish J.L. Gribble all the best as she embarks on it.

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.

gribble-photo-colorBy 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.

Previously, 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, and Steel Victory was her thesis novel for the program. This is her debut novel.

She lives in Ellicott City, Maryland, with her husband and three vocal Siamese cats. You can find her online (www.jlgribble.com) and on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. She is currently working on more tales set in the world of Limani.

Jen Brooks: Happy Release Day!

Cover art by Nick Yarger

When you’re first starting out, you meet other writers. You read each other’s work. You learn from one another. You struggle in the trenches together and encourage each other. You push each other to be the best writers you know you can be, and then you give each other firm kicks in the ass and tell them to START SUBMITTING ALREADY.

I met Jen Brooks my first term at Seton Hill’s Writing Popular Fiction Program. She was finishing her last term, and her thesis reading is something I remember to this day. That we not only crossed paths but became friends is a defining moment in my writing career, because I’m not sure where I’d be today without her encouragement and insightful critique into my work. I am a better writer because of her, and one day, when I do get published, there will be a handful of people I owe everything to, and Jen Brooks is one of those people.

So it is with absolute and great joy that I announce the release of Jen’s debut novel, In A World Just Right. I’d read it back in the day, before it found a home, and I can’t wait to see how it’s grown and changed since then.

Happy Release Day, Jen! May this be the first in a long career!

Jonathan Aubrey doesn’t have to change the real world to have what he wants.

After an infamous airline disaster killed his family and scarred his face, Jonathan awoke with a magnificent power: he could create worlds at will.

He started by shooting aliens in Jonathan-is-a-hero, then learning sexy moves in Jonathan’s-smokin’-hot-dance-club. Eventually, his loneliness drove him to create Kylie-Simms-is-my-girlfriend, a world that gave him everything the real world didn’t—friends, passing grades, and the girl of his dreams.

But when Jonathan confuses his worlds and tries to kiss the real Kylie Simms, everything unravels. The real Kylie not only notices Jonathan, but begins obsessing over him, and fantasy Kylie struggles to love Jonathan as she was created to do—with disastrous consequences. As his worlds collide, Jonathan must confront the truth of his power and figure out where he actually belongs before he loses both Kylies forever.

Jen-Brooks-casual-cropped-236x300Jennifer Brooks was born and raised in the suburbs of Boston, Massachusetts. After high school she matriculated at Dartmouth College to become a research scientist, but by the end of her sophomore year she felt a calling to the teaching profession. After graduation and fourteen years of teaching high school English, she answered a second calling to write full time while raising her new son. Her journey began with two theses (Prosorinos and Wishstone) for an MA and later an MFA in writing popular fiction at Seton Hill University.

A competitive hurdler and jumper in high school and college, she coached thirty-one seasons of cross-country and track and field, which is why runners show up so frequently in her stories. Jen has also had a lifelong relationship with books – as a youngster checking out a dozen at a time from the library, and as an adult buying books to build her own personal library. She has always been attracted to the science fiction and fantasy genres and claims Star Wars is the single greatest fiction influence in her life. She also enjoys British literature and says Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse is her favorite book of all time, which is why lighthouses also make appearances in her stories.

Running, hiking, traveling, and gardening are Jen’s favorite activities when she’s not writing. She lives with her husband and son on the North Shore of Massachusetts where she writes from her office overlooking their little backyard pond.

Building Your Own Ballot: No Slates Required!

I don’t want to talk about 2015 Hugos. The ballot has been revealed, I’ve bought my supporting membership, and how I vote is going to be between me, myself, and I.

No, instead, I want to address any and all current and future WorldCon members (any and all) and offer a non-slate suggestion for next year. And yes, I recognize there’s already an SP4 movement, and I won’t be surprised if there are counter-slates, but I’d like to counter anything and everything involving slates with a different idea, so if you’re planning on nominating for WorldCon in 2016 (MidAmeriCon II), this post is for you.

Seriously. It’s for YOU.

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I Don’t Read as Quickly As I Used To

Once upon a time, when I was but a humble book blogger, I could tear through books like a knife through butter. At the height of my blog, it was nothing to post anywhere from 2-4 book reviews per week, nothing to read 100+ books per year. I miss those days, sometimes, when my free time was spent absorbed in fictional worlds, admiring the craft that made those worlds and the people who populated them so vivid and real.

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