Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Event Photos: INDELIBLE INK and STEEL VICTORY Launches

Friday, June 26th saw the launches of Matt Betts's INDELIBLE INK and J.L. Gribble's STEEL VICTORY at the In Your Write Mind conference book signing. Heidi Ruby Miller, Albert Wendland, and K. Ceres Wright were also on hand to represent Dog Star.






 
  

Raw Dog and Dog Star

Friday, June 26, 2015

INTERVIEW with Matt Betts

Cover Art by Brad Sharp

INDELIBLE INK

It's What's Inside That Counts

Something lurks inside Deena Riordan. She never once questioned her life in the criminal underworld as the star of Mr. Marsh's illegal empire and his youngest assassin. Her ruthless demeanor and dark magical powers have kept her at the top of the heap for years. But one day she pushes the sorcery too far and something snaps. Only then does Deena realize she's always been a puppet of that dark power with no true will of her own.

Now, in order to get out of the crime business for good, she needs to save her sister from Marsh's angry clutches. It won't be easy. She'll have to make her way through friends turned foes, dodge determined federal agents, and stay out of a particularly stubborn fellow hitman's sights. Worst of all, Deena will have to wrestle with the darkness inside to keep it from swallowing her up again.

Matt discusses his new release:


Tell us about your new book!
I’m excited about Indelible Ink. At the core, it’s a story about the Riordan sisters, Deena and Harper. They both work for a crime boss named Marsh, but Deena differs from her sister in that she has a strange power that courses through her. It seems like an advantage in her line of work, until things start to deteriorate and she finds that power turning on her.

Deena decides she wants out of the criminal life, but she can’t leave without her sister. Marsh wants to make sure that doesn’t happen, so he sends all of his criminal associates to stop her.

I enjoyed writing this story and had fun drawing from many of my favorite pop culture influences.


Where did the idea for this story come from? What was the biggest influence for it?

The first two chapters were actually two separate short stories I’d written and I realized that it would be interesting to see the characters come together. The first story, about the protagonist, came from an        idea I had about magic having consequences, you know? A character can’t use their powers as much as they want without expecting to be worn out or torn down from it.

Like most of my work, Indelible Ink was influenced by a lot of different sources. It came from Elmore Leonard’s crime novels, TV shows like Alias, urban fantasy stories, Invasion of the Body Snatchers and other classic science fiction. I pull from a lot of my favorite things to get the end result in my work. You’ll find inspirations from John Woo to Scooby Doo. I honestly didn’t mean for that rhyme.


Tell us about your protagonist. Why are we going to love her?

Deena Riordan is a very conflicted individual. The life she leads is dangerous and most assuredly on the wrong side of the law, but she’s never cared. She finds out early on in the book that many of the things she believes are lies and it causes her to start making some hard decisions about her life. Very quickly, her criminal colleagues try to make those decisions for her. They won’t let her leave the business and they’re willing to go after her family to keep her power under their control.

Did I not mention the dark power that lurks just beneath Deena’s skin? It gives her some amazing abilities, but it also takes things away from her and pushes her. The internal struggle breaks something in Deena as she tries to come to terms with what she is.


Who's your favorite character in this book and why?
I’m always partial to my villains. I like the crime boss, Mr. Marsh quite a bit. His henchmen are pretty fun too, especially Morgan. It’s exciting to see how far I can bend and twist them, and how ugly they can get. You don’t want them to be cartoons or stereotypes, but they need to have their own personalities that make them different than the criminals you’re used to.


What attracted you to science fiction, and how do you approach blending it with other genres?
I’ve always loved science fiction. The first movie I remember seeing in the theater was Star Wars, and it really had an effect on me. I’m sure that movie led me to pursue all the comic books and movies and television that I consumed in the following years. Every work of fiction kind of draws from the question “What If?”, but I think it’s more important in science fiction, really. Asking that question and starting there when I write, is half the fun for me.


What do you want to get across in your writing, if anything?
Whether in movies, books or television, I’ve always loved action and adventure stories. It’s so much fun to get lost in someone else’s world for a while. I feel if readers enjoy their time in the place I’ve created, then I’m happy. In this book, I hit on the themes of family and responsibility.


What are your future writing plans?
I’m working on a sequel to my first book, Odd Men Out. It’s really been fun to write so far. After that, most likely is the follow-up to Indelible Ink. There’s also a secret stealth project that’s in the editing stages right now. It’s been a whole lot of fun to create, so hopefully that works out. After that, I don’t have any definite plans. I have an idea for a military sci-fi novel, and a couple of others, but I really just want to see what I’m in the mood for once I’ve finished those sequels. I’m pretty open.


Leave us with a favorite quote or excerpt.
Deena attempts to change her criminal ways, but it isn’t easy. Here’s a quick excerpt where she mulls that idea over while ‘accidentally’ stealing a car from a fitness instructor named Denise. 


Denise was a bitch, wasn’t she? Deena thought. She reasoned that she could return the car when she was done, if she had to. What was a few hundred or thousand miles more on the odometer anyway, right? It wasn’t like she was killing Denise. That’s what she would have done in the old days. Was there a distinction between her old life of crime and casual use of her Shadow Energy?

Baby steps.

Deena closed the trunk, got in and, rather than flooring it, quietly drove out of the lot and onto the road. She let the exercise lady’s GPS device guide her to the nearest road that paralleled a major highway and took off at a sensible speed. She reached into her bag for the phone to try to keep in touch with her sister and was pleasantly surprised to find a sleeve of crackers and some slices of cheese wrapped up in a paper towel. She was not as excited when she remembered those were stolen as well.

She crunched a cracker and let the crumbs fall all over Denise’s seat and floor.

Baby steps.



Pre-order INDELIBLE INK, and join Matt and other Dog Star authors at the In Your Write Mind book signing on Friday, June 26th at 7:00 PM.

 


Matt Betts was born in Lima, Ohio, some years ago. Lima is just a stone’s throw away from several other towns with excellent throwing stones. During and after college, Matt worked for a number of years in radio as an on-air personality, anchor and reporter. His fiction and poetry have appeared in various magazines, journals and anthologies.


Matt currently lives in Columbus, Ohio, with his wife and sons. He is hard at work on his next book. And watching old science fiction and horror movies. Mostly writing. And maybe reading comic books. Look, he’s writing, OK? Jeez.


Find out more about Matt at his website, www.mattbetts.com. He tweets @Betts_Matt.

Friday, June 19, 2015

INTERVIEW with J.L. Gribble, Part Two

Cover Art by Bradley Sharp

STEEL VICTORY


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.

J.L. Gribble joins us today to talk about writing.


What or who made you want to be a writer?

The “official” answer: My dad is also a writer, with two published military fiction books and a couple of screenplays floating around. One of these days I’m going to finish up the urban fantasy I know he has languishing on a hard drive somewhere. But we’re all friends here, so I’ll let you in on a little secret: When I was 11 years old, I spontaneously invented fanfiction and had fun inserting myself into my favorite television shows. Fast forward 2 years, and I discovered that a whole lot of other people were doing something very similar on the Internet. I continued to dabble in fanfiction for the rest of middle and high school, but I also started working on my own original stories inspired by the amazing worlds already out there. And thus started my descent into speculative fiction.

What is your writing routine like?

Incredibly inconsistent. I already have a day job, and I don’t need or want another. So I set goals for myself, but unless I have an external deadline, I don’t feel guilty if I totally blow them. While STEEL VICTORY was a project 10 years in the making, I proved to myself that I could write a full-length novel within a year in 2014 when I wrote the sequel (a combination of National Novel Writing Month [NaNoWriMo] and smaller word-count goals through the rest of the fall and winter months). I’m on track do that again this year with book 3, with another combination of NaNoWriMo and the surrounding months.

In terms of location, I work best when I’m not around the Internet. This can mean anything from hauling the laptop to my favorite independent coffee shop with no wifi to typing away on my Kindle Fire on the couch in the den during baseball games.

How much research do you do for each book?

One of my biggest pet peeves is coming across long, detailed passages in books where the author basically says “The research I did: Let me show you it!” So I will read books about the area/time period I’m writing in and specifically not take notes in order to get a feel for the world or atmosphere I’m diving into. During the writing itself, I make notes to myself about certain specific things I will need to look up later. For STEEL VICTORY, this involved research into cargo shipping by river and various weaponry. Most visitors to my home office were kind enough not to ask why I had printouts of random river boats and container ships hanging above my desk.

Do you ever get stuck in your writing, and if so, how do you overcome it?

I am definitely a “plotter” rather than a “pantser,” which means I have the general events and conflicts of each scene outlined before I start writing a word of the book itself. On the other hand, I really need to start instituting this policy for short fiction. I get stuck there a lot because I am not as comfortable with the constraints. Usually, I put the project away and do something completely different that doesn’t involve a computer. Depending on the time of day, that can involve going to the gym, reading a book, or just hanging out with my cats. Later, usually while driving or in the shower, everything in my brain untangles and I figure out where I need to go.

Describe your favorite place to write.

I bounced around between my local Starbucks and some other chain-store cafes near my house, but nothing was ever comfortable. Awkward table set ups, too loud, too cold, etc. A little less than 6 months ago, a friend who has lived in the area much longer than me pointed me toward a small independent coffee shop called Bean Hollow in Historic Ellicott City and showed me the best (easiest) parking, which had been my major deterrent from hanging out in “Historic” previously. Its super cliché to be writing in a coffee shop, but I adore it. I’m a supporter of small/local business where possible, and the coffee is amazing. It’s incredibly busy on the weekends and they ask that people not take up tables with work then, but it’s a perfect place to have a sandwich and a latte during weekday evenings after sitting in an office all day.

How do you balance writing with real life?

Two things definitely help: My incredibly inconsistent writing schedule and an even more incredibly patient husband.

Sometimes I do get frustrated if I’m on a writing roll and I have other commitments for the evening that can’t be avoided. However, not being the sort of writer who feels that she “must” hit a certain word count per day/week/month reduces a lot of the constant stress I think I would otherwise be under.

My husband also has his own hobbies, such as sports and video games, that afford me a lot of time to focus on my writing. But one of the awesome things about his hobbies and my writing style is that we can still get “together” time if, for example, he is on the couch playing Destiny with his headphones on to chat with other players and I am right next to him typing away on the laptop with Pandora playing on my own headphones.

(Don’t ask me how writers with kids do it. They are the real heroes.)

Who is your literary hero or heroine?

Sauscony Valdoria, one of the major protagonists in Catherine Asaro’s Skolian Empire series. She is a fierce, intelligent space fighter pilot who also happens to be a wife and mother. Neither of the latter traits in any way diminishes her capacity to be a completely badass warrior. She is easily part of the inspiration for my own protagonists as well as an inspiration in my own life.

If you were stuck on a deserted island with three books, which ones would they be?

I’m totally going to cheat here and give you series instead:
-Catherine Asaro’s Skolian Empire series
-Mercedes Lackey’s Heralds of Valdemar series
-Ilona Andrews’ Kate Daniels series

If you could hang out with one author, living or dead, for an entire day, who would it be and what would you do?

Oscar Wilde. We would enjoy a leisurely brunch and chat about life and writing over mimosas, spend a quiet afternoon writing and bouncing ideas off of each other, and then spend the evening partying like mad. This plan can easily be executed in either his time period or my own!

Do you have any advice for beginning writers?

Your only competition is yourself. At the same time, it’s not really a competition at all. Have faith in yourself and stay true to yourself in both your writing and during forays into the crazy publishing world. Everything is changing so quickly these days, so remember that there are very few hard and fast right or wrong answers. Listen to all the advice you can, but always do what feels right for you.

STEEL VICTORY releases June 26th and is available for pre-order.


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.

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. Find her online (www.jlgribble.com), on Facebook (www.facebook.com/jlgribblewriter), and on Twitter and Instagram (@hannaedits). She is currently working on more tales set in the world of Limani.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

INTERVIEW with J.L. Gribble, Part One

Cover Art by Bradley Sharp

STEEL VICTORY

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.

J.L. Gribble joins us today to talk about her upcoming release, STEEL VICTORY.


Tell us about your new book!

STEEL VICTORY is an urban fantasy/alternate history. There are elements of political thriller, mother-daughter drama, and female coming-of-age story set against the backdrop of a family trying to defend its home against outside invaders. But when the family includes vampires and magic-users; their allies include elves, mercenaries, and werecreatures; and the invaders are the Roman Empire, the excitement is going to be turned up a notch.

Where did the idea for this story come from? What was the biggest influence for it?

I’ve been an avid reader of urban fantasy for a long time, but one thing about it really bothered me: I flat out don’t believe that we could live in a world where magical and mythical creatures live out of sight, unnoticed by the general human population. So I started thinking about what historical influences these communities of creatures would have, such as long-lived vampires on the senate preventing the fall of the Roman Empire, the werewolf clans of Albion uniting to drive out the Romans and form the modern British Empire, and the elves using magic to suppress technological evolution after the horrors of a world war.

But I didn’t want to write a worldwide political epic, so I focused on one tiny corner of the planet. The city of Limani, and nearby Jarimis University, were heavily influenced by my undergrad alma mater in southern Maryland, St. Mary’s College of Maryland. The location, atmosphere, and love of the campus and community that I experienced there translate into how my characters feel about their own home.

Tell us about your protagonists. Why are we going to love them?

There are two major POV characters in this book, the vampire Victory and her adopted human daughter Toria. Both women definitely have things to love about them. Fans of Victory will appreciate her willingness to try the political approach to problems first, despite (or perhaps because of) her mercenary background and long life experience. But that won’t stop her from grabbing her sword when diplomacy fails! Toria, on the other hand, has much more of the hot-headedness of youth on her side, and her fans will be drawn to her stubbornness and determination to do what she thinks is right. And her ability to get back up again when it all goes horribly wrong.

Who's your favorite character in this book and why?

While of course I adore my two leading ladies, I definitely had the most fun writing Syri, a young elf who becomes Toria’s partner-in-crime for a good portion of the book. She’s cranky, she’s cynical, and her voice flows so naturally that every scene with her was a breeze to write. I hope readers get a kick out of her as much as I do!

What attracted you to science fiction, and how do you approach blending it with other genres?

I grew up watching Star Trek (re-runs of both the original series and The Next Generation) with my grandmother, and had a standing date watching Star Trek: Voyager with my mother all through middle school and high school during the original airings. On my own, I was watching more contemporary-era shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The X-Files, and Highlander: The Series and reading sprawling sagas like Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles, Catherine Asaro’s Skolian Empire, and Mercedes Lackey’s Heralds of Valdemar series. I think being really into these incredibly diverse universes that everyone around me lumped into “one” genre really informed my personal approach to speculative fiction, which is to never limit myself to the stereotypes and tropes of one particular genre or subgenre. Which leads me to the next question:

What do you want to get across in your writing, if anything?

Another thing these universes all had in common that must have spoken to me a lot is the idea that a story can focus on a small group of characters, but that their actions can have ripples across worlds. While “monster of the week”-style storytelling can be fun, I find myself really drawn to the more intricate “metaplots” that carry across from one book or episode to the next in a series or show. The phrase “Write what you love” is very important to me, and since I would totally geek out at seeing a bit character in a prequel story show up in a later novel, or vice versa, that’s the sort of thing that has really influenced my development of this series.

What are your future writing plans?

STEEL VICTORY stands alone, but it is intended to be a small episode in a much bigger universe of stories. I’d love to be able to put out a seven-book arc (don’t worry: book 2 is already drafted and book 3 is in the research/outline stage) with lots of short stories filling in the gaps and history (two of those are drafted, three more need to be revised, and another is in the outline stage). So I’m excited to be here for as long as you’ll have me!

Leave us with an exciting excerpt.

Toria stared across the river, trying to ignore the tap dancers in her skull. Everything in her urged her to go south, track the damn Romans, and rescue Kane. Yes, he still lived, but for how long?
She was at the edge of the water, waves lapping at her boots, before she realized what she was doing. “No, Toria.” She didn’t even have a water bottle, much less weaponry. Her magic was strong, but a rescue attempt would be a lot easier with a blade in her hand.
With great reluctance, she pulled herself away from the water’s edge. No, she would have to return to Limani for aid. And painkillers. At least she’d accomplished their mission. The Romans were close to the city, and she had to bring the warning.
Toria distracted herself from her head by gripping the glowing glass even tighter in her hand. The power in the bauble strained, and the light guttered like a candle, then went out. When she attempted to reactivate the spell, sharp pain lanced her between the eyes and she doubled over again.
She hoped dawn came soon. It would be a long, agonizing walk, but daylight at least meant she wouldn’t trip over everything.

Stay tuned for the second part of J.L.'s interview, coming soon. STEEL VICTORY releases June 26th and is available for pre-order.


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.

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. Find her online (www.jlgribble.com), on Facebook (www.facebook.com/jlgribblewriter), and on Twitter and Instagram (@hannaedits). She is currently working on more tales set in the world of Limani.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Dirge Magazine's STEEL VICTORY Cover Reveal and Artist Spotlight on Brad Sharp

Click the link below to see the full cover for J.L. Gribble's STEEL VICTORY and read the article at Dirge's website:


Wednesday, February 4, 2015

WORKSHOP: Science Fiction in Thrillers by Heidi Ruby Miller at Pennwriters 2015


Heidi Ruby Miller is presenting part of her Science Fiction in Thrillers class from Seton Hill's MFA in Writing Popular Fiction program for the 2015 Pennwriters Conference, Building Bridges.

Here is the description:
Where would you shelve a book about scientists cloning dinosaurs for a theme park or a man turning into a chimera or how about the unleashing of a zombie plague? I asked authors and editors for insights into how the industry categorizes thrillers with expansive science fictional elements. If you write these types of stories, where do you think you fit in?


The Pennwriters Conference is in Pittsburgh this year on the weekend of May 15 - 17 at the Pittsburgh Airport Marriott. Keynote speaker is Ridley Pearson. For a full list of workshops, peruse the website.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Tech Tuesday with Matt Betts - Low-Tech Tuesday



Tech Tuesday is a weekly spotlight on the relationship between real life and a writer's imagination. As science fiction is all about looking ahead to the future, we asked our authors here at Dog Star Books to send us to a link to a new technology that influenced their writing, sparked a new idea for a story, or simply caught their attention and got them thinking.

The Author Matt Betts was born and raised in Lima, OH, and went to college in Toledo. He currently lives in Columbus with his wife, Mackenzie, and their two wonderful boys. Matt's short and flash fiction has focused a lot on humor and horror. His work appears in Arkham Tales, Ethereal Tales, the Triangulation: Taking Flight anthology, Bizarro Fiction! The Journal of Experimental Fiction 37, A Thousand Faces and Cinema Spec: Tales of Hollywood and Fantasy. Matt's poetry has been published in numerous venues, and his poem "Godzilla's Better Half" was nominated for a Rhysling Aware, the Science Fiction Poetry Association's highest honor. Matt is the author of Odd Men Out, a story of survival in a post-Civil War America overrun by zombies.

Low-Tech Tuesday
Watch Matt's contribution to Tech Tuesday on YouTube or below:



Find Out More
about Matt Betts at his website, zombiewrangler.blogspot.com/, follow him on Twitter @Betts_Matt, and read Odd Men Out: