Steel Time Excerpt


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I had the very great privilege of reading Steel Time by J.L. Gribble in the beta stages, and I am so excited to share this excerpt with all of you! In a world with vampires, warrior-mages, weredragons, and sarcastic violin players, time travel seems like the obvious next step.


Steel Time Jacket.inddYou’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

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


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

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


The drive began in silence, but Toria didn’t miss the glances Liam made, as if he wanted to say something but didn’t know how. As if he’d had a better idea of how to handle her when she was an intriguing artifact to be studied, but now that she blended into his normal surroundings, he was more inclined to treat her like a boring human woman.

Well, that wouldn’t do. Toria might be in over her head, but she was never, ever boring. “Thank you for the delicious lunch today. And for orchestrating the appointment with Granny Tia. I’m not sure how I would have handled this on my own.”

“Lunch was my treat. You’re very welcome.” Liam maneuvered the large vehicle around a slower car. “So, you’re a governess?”

Ah, the next round of interrogation. “Something like that.”

“Is that something you were interested in continuing?”

Toria twisted herself to face him. Behind them, Hugh stared out the window as if the passing scenery was the most interesting thing in the world. “It’s an option I’d considered. I’m trained in a variety of things, so there has to be something I’m qualified to do here.”

“I hope you’re aware that it’s not necessary.” This time, Liam gripped the steering wheel with both hands, and tension strained his shoulders under his tailored sport coat.

“What the hell else am I supposed to do with my time?”

Liam flinched at her language, but didn’t respond until after he’d shifted gears and pulled into Hugh’s quieter neighborhood. “First of all, it might be a good idea to give you some lessons on the particulars of the future. You have some history to catch up on, and it might help you blend in better.”

“I see.” Toria tilted her head forward, as if eyeing him over the rims of the sunglasses she’d left behind in the future. “Teach me how to be a proper lady, is that it?” When the length of Liam’s silence made it obvious he had no immediate response, she gave an unladylike snort just to see him flinch again. “Okay, fine. Civilization lessons it is. When do we start?”

Liam slid the car to a smooth halt before Hugh’s house. “Will it suit you if we meet for lunch again tomorrow?” His fingers tapped the gear stick, and he avoided her gaze.

“I’m sure I’ll manage to fit it into my busy schedule.” Without waiting for a response, Toria exited the car and stormed toward Hugh’s front door. The door was locked, of course, so she threw herself into a rocking chair while Hugh exchanged his farewells.

Instead of unlocking the door, Hugh set the package of Toria’s clothing in front of it and settled into the other rocker. He lifted one arm in a wave, and Liam pulled away from the curb. When the car disappeared around the block, Hugh turned to Toria. “Gonna tell me what that was about?”

She tucked one foot under herself and pushed the rocker with the toes of her other. “I can’t imagine that Liam expects me to fritter away the rest of my life as a woman of leisure, even after he trains me to be a proper woman by Nacostina’s standards.”

Hugh matched her pace with his own rocking chair, lacing his fingers together across his stomach. “You have to remember that nothing like this ever happened during my time at the museum, and I started a good decade before Liam moved here from Europa, along with the head curator. But I know the annual budget includes funds for such incidents. I bet the compounded interest is…extensive, at this point. So, yes, you could be a woman of leisure for quite a while.”

The streetlights flickered on one by one, and down the street, an unseen mother called her children for dinner. “That doesn’t sit well with me.”

“And that right there is another reason I like you.”

Hugh seemed content to enjoy the warm evening air while Toria brooded. How much to tell him? Even though he agreed with her side of this odd moral dilemma, some context would not go amiss. But how much could she explain about her past in the context of the history she was creating for herself? What could she say without compromising the secret she must protect?

She could begin small, then gauge the rest from Hugh’s reactions. “I’ve never been a woman of leisure, though you could say I come from an upperclass background.” A quick glance to Hugh, who dipped his chin once in encouragement. “I have a college degree. More than one, if you consider I graduated in multiple specialties. I’m also a master-level mage, a status I obtained before college. And I have master-level status in the Mercenary Guild.” She held her breath. If he asked for details, her cover might fall apart. Her life story was colorful enough even without throwing in the warrior-mage thing. Or the adopted-by-a-vampire thing.

Hugh’s expression was more thoughtful than confused. “That does explain the muscles.”

His response startled a laugh out of Toria. “Like I said, the sword’s not just for show.”

“Can I ask why you won’t share all of this with Liam?”

“I don’t know.” Some of the tension bled out of her skin at Hugh’s calm responses. “I guess I don’t think he could handle it? He has such strong expectations and ideas about what he thinks is right.”

“Sounds like an elf to me.” Hugh shrugged one shoulder.

Toria curled her lips in a smirk. “Sounds like a man to me.”


Gribble photo color

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 at:




Changing History for Memories of Magic

Changing History Blog Header

My entire series is set in an alternate world where magic is real, but the changes I made to accommodate that magic have only played a minimal part up to this point in the books. In Memories of Magic, alternate history has a starring role.

In this book, my main characters are both historians. Olivia is an archaeologist, preferring the hands-on and strictly scientific aspects of discovering the past. Savit is an anthropologist, looking beyond the facts of what was found where and when it was used, to the cultures and people that created the artifacts.

I’ll post another blog closer to the book’s release about the history of anthropology, and where Savit fits in the evolution of the subject, but within the context of Memories, Olivia and Savit are at odds over the scientific rigor of anthropology. Olivia calls it “informed fiction” and Savit thinks of it as giving a narrative to her data.

But now Olivia is actually seeing the story–having visions of the past. And of course, Etta wants to make use of that gift to find out more about the spell draining English magic.

I’ve chosen 1688 as the origin of the drain, and Olivia and Savit quickly learn that it is ancient magic, known as the Aegis Spell. The reason for it to be cast in 1688 is an event known as the Glorious Revolution.

In the real world, the Glorious Revolution came about because James II opposed many of the things that his Parliament wanted. With some exceptions, he wanted more religious tolerance and more power in the hands of the monarch. But the big issue that would eventually see him overthrown was his conversion to Catholicism and the birth of a Catholic male heir.

In my world, the politics are similar, but on magical lines (with their attendant deities) rather than religious. James II is for the Magisterium and chooses his Sorcerer accordingly. His daughters adhere to the Academe, but a son would not. So his eldest daughter Mary and his nephew William arrive from the Netherlands to seize power.

In the real world, there are some mild skirmishes, and James first flees, throwing the Great Seal of the Realm into the Thames. He is then captured by William’s forces. Eventually they allow him to escape to the Continent, and despite an attempt to regain the throne afterward, William and Mary had relatively few problems taking over. That is why it’s called the Glorious Revolution.

In my world, the events follow the same course, but the Great Seal is a magical artifact of kingship and not just a mundane seal. After its loss, William and Mary resort to a different magical recourse to legitimize their rule: the Aegis Spell.

The spell is still in place in 1897. But instead of taking English magic and channeling it through the monarch and then back into the land and people, the spell has been diverted elsewhere. Finding out where and when the change happened will take all of Olivia and Savit’s skills as researchers, and Olivia’s newfound talent of seeing into the past to discover secrets never committed to paper.

The problem? Olivia’s visions are dangerous, and none of the Fays can teach her how to control them. And while Savit has the knowledge needed to help her, his attraction to her gets in the way of his own magic.

Memories of Magic is coming soon!

A History of Irish Republicanism: Part Two, The World of the Fay of Skye


In order to explain how things are the same, but different in my world, I need to go a bit farther back in time than the 19th century.

What difference does magic make in Irish history? In some respects, very little. This is a world where magic is everywhere, in everything. Not everyone has enough magical ability to cast spells, but those who do are relatively prevalent and come from every race, culture, and ethnicity. So just because the native Gaels (and the later Norse settlers in the port cities on the west coast) had magic, that would not be a huge deterrent against an invading force who also had it.

And that’s what happened during the Norman Invasion in the 12th century. In the real world, the invaders were better organized, built castles, and had the backing (money and supplies) of the Catholic church. In my world, shared magic brought the Gaelic clans under High King Ruaidrí Ua Conchobair (anglicized as Rory O’Connor) together in a more tightly-knit society than the somewhat antagonistic and shifting relationship the Irish kingdoms had in reality. So they were also better able to hold and maintain the lines between Gael and English.

There is no Catholic church in my world, but there is a magic-governing body called the Magisterium that promotes a particular way of using magic and relationship to the magical world, eschewing all other ways as less worthy. Their patron god is an all-father type, militaristic and jealous of his followers’ praise. He is not an exact equivalent with the Old Testament God, but he’s pretty close. Opposed to the Magisterium is the Academe, who follow a more relaxed view of magic. Their patron god and goddess are more compassionate and empathetic, but still strong-willed and not easily cowed. But the Gaels and Norse followed neither of those paths. Instead, they followed their own gods (roughly equivalent to our real-world Celtic and Norse mythology), and their own ways of doing magic. So there is a similar element of the Magisterium wishing to gain a strong foothold in Ireland in my world’s Norman Invasion.

Which they did, just as the Roman Catholic church did. In fact, in my world, the Magisterium leaders were the true “winners” in the conflict over the invasion. They converted many of the Gaels away from their gods and goddesses and naturalistic ways of doing magic, and established hundreds of magic schools, building Conclaves (great buildings, similar to cathedrals, for casting magic) over the most powerful leylines and restricting access to those who swore fealty to the Magisterium and their god.

Then came the Tudor Conquest in the 16th century, and everything changed again. The fragile peace between the now-primarily Magisterium-following Gaels and the English degraded as the English claimed not just the southeast but the whole country, imposing their language, magical practices, and law on everyone. Even the “Old English” who had been in the country for several hundred years were often against the Tudors, who—despite a brief period following the Magisterium under Mary I—were primarily in favor of the Academe.

The Irish rose up against the “New English,” but eventually they were overwhelmed by settlers, laws restricting their ability to keep arms, and policies that surrendered clan land to the Crown, which was then re-granted with English titles. The Gunpowder Plot of 1605 (“Remember, remember, the 5th of November”) was, in my world, a mix of magic and explosives, and although it failed, it had lasting repercussions for anyone who followed the Magisterium in Britain and Ireland. They could no longer vote or hold public office, though those in power retained their lands.

In the mid-17th century, the Irish, both Gael and Old English, rose up against the New English with the support of the Spanish and the Magisterium. This, along with several other factors including the Stuart monarchy’s refusal to follow the Academe, caused the Civil War, Cromwell’s rule, and later the reinstatement of the monarchy and finally the Glorious Revolution in 1688 that brought Danish William and Mary to the throne of England.

**That’s an important point in history that will be a big deal in the next book, so don’t forget it!**

But for Ireland, it meant that almost all of those who were Gaelic, Norse, or English from the original Norman Invasion, were supplanted by new lords and settlers from England, Scotland, and Wales.

Unrest continued throughout the 18th century, with land acts, oppression, heavy taxation, and high rents forcing many to immigrate to the colonies. Then the potato blight caused the country to implode. Masses of Irish left for America and Australia and elsewhere, and millions starved and died.

This is the point at which I began yesterday’s blog, although I felt like I needed to jump back quite a bit farther today.

Just as in the real world, a revolt was staged in the 1840s that failed, and its leaders also escaped and formed the Irish Republicans. This is a change from the Irish Republican Brotherhood, because in my world, women, especially witches, are often as powerful or more powerful than men. So the Irish Republicans accept both men and women into their ranks, and some of their leaders are witches.

But they follow a similar cell-organizational structure, with an “Alpha” leading each circle. Under him or her are several Betas, and under the Betas are anywhere from a half-dozen to a dozen Gammas.

Ronan McCarrick starts as a Beta under his mentor, Donn, who is an Alpha already when they meet in 1884. This is soon after the dynamiting/magic attacks in London, promulgated almost entirely by the Fenians from America. The entire organization is at risk because of a new police force out of Scotland Yard commissioned entirely to track them down. So they turn to even more clandestine practices and secrecy. Ronan runs cons, a ring of thieves and pickpockets, and helps spy on the English in Dublin. He helps find blackmail material and enforces retribution on those who refuse to help the Cause—sometimes lethally.

By 1896, the Irish Republicans are beginning to fracture. Some want Home Rule, and some are staunchly nationalistic. Some want a violent uprising. Some want a peaceful negotiation. Ronan hasn’t been in the thick of things for a while. He has been an Alpha of his own cell for several years, and primarily works in shipping and smuggling, raising funds and ferrying goods for the Cause. When A Theft of Magic begins, he has accepted a lucrative courier commission from the Duchess of Fay to retrieve several objects secretly from her Clan Seat on the Isle of Skye.

He thinks it will be easy money, barely a wave in the calm sea of his life.

So he isn’t prepared when he steps into Sorcha Fay’s trap, not for the magic, or the woman. What happens next will make him question everything about his life, and everything he wants for the future.

To find out what happens when Ronan meets Sorcha, get your copy of A Theft of Magic from any of these fine retailers:


Amazon | Kobo | Nook  | All Romance eBooksiBooks

Trade Paperback

CreateSpace | Amazon  (Barnes and Noble coming soon)

And if you haven’t started the series yet, Essential Magic is on sale until the end of this month (October 2016) for $0.99 on Amazon!

A History of Irish Republicanism: Part One, The Real World


It’s release day for A Theft of Magic! The hero, Ronan McCarrick, is an Irish Republican, so I’m going to share a little about the real history of Irish Republicanism in the 19th century.

Most of what I’m about to be write can be summed up as this: Over the course of almost four hundred years (seven hundred if you count the Anglo-Normans forcing the native Gaelic-speakers from the southeast/east), the English slowly and systematically removed Irish rights, land, and cultural identity. At the turn of the 19th century, they removed Irish sovereignty and self-governance completely by dissolving the Irish Parliament. This was accomplished by means of bribery, coercion, and promises which were later reneged upon.

So it’s no surprise that there is also a long history of unrest and rebellion in Ireland against the English. In this post, I’m going to focus primarily on the Irish Republican Brotherhood, the fictional version of which is what Ronan belongs to.

The Irish Republican Brotherhood was born from the ashes of the Young Ireland movement, who rose up in 1848-1849 in response to the Great Famine. Not only did the British Government generally ignore any requests for relief while millions were starving and dying, but they also required that the Irish continue exporting goods—often under duress. This caused massive unrest and anger, which resulted in violence and uprising.

The rebellion failed because the people were weak and starving, and they did not have the resources to succeed against the well-trained army. Several of the leaders of the rebellion escaped and fled to Paris, where they learned about secret societies and revolution. They developed a system of cells (called circles) with a single leader, several junior officers, and more soldiers. In theory, few people should ever know much about the others above them in the cell except whomever they reported to. They should also not know who was in other cells. That way, members would be protected against retaliation.

On 17 March 1858, the Irish Republican Brotherhood was officially born. They attempted risings in the 1860s, and—with the assistance of the American branch, the Fenians—a dynamite campaign in the 1880s. But most of their efforts were stymied, due to loyalist informants, mismanagement, and the fact that many of their supporters were across the Atlantic in America. Although the cell system was wonderful in theory, in practice, secrecy was not well-maintained. In 1883, a special branch of police were formed for the sole purpose of keeping an eye on the IRB.

A Theft of Magic takes place in 1896. There was a change in British government in 1895 over the issue of Irish Home Rule, but at that time in the real world, the IRB had lost some of its steam. In fact, in 1896, several Fenians who had long been imprisoned were released because of a shift in public opinion and a supposed lack of danger from the organization. If Home Rule had passed, things might look very different in our world today.

But it didn’t pass, and the next generation of IRB members were staunchly against it, feeling that it would actually strengthen the ties to England. Instead, they fought for a free and democratic republic of Ireland, and championed their own language, folklore, and culture. These tides are beginning to change at the point where my story begins.

In tomorrow’s post, I’ll talk about what’s different between the real history and my alternate universe, and what role Ronan McCarrick and his crew have in the IRB as it exists in the world of the Fay of Skye. Stay tuned!

To get your copy of A Theft of Magic, visit any of these fine retailers:


Amazon | Kobo | Nook  | All Romance eBooksiBooks

Trade Paperback

CreateSpace | Amazon  (Barnes and Noble coming soon)

And if you haven’t started the series yet, Essential Magic is on sale until the end of this month (October 2016) for $0.99 on Amazon!

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