Final STEEL BLOOD Wrap-Up

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The lovely tea set my amazing editor made during our mad tea party last weekend. This picture has nothing to do with the post. I just wanted to show off the tea cup.

Now that I’ve finally completed the first draft of book 3, tentatively titled STEEL BLOOD, I wanted to do a bit of a wrap-up on it. These questions were gleefully stolen from fellow writer Breeanna Pierce, and you can check out her final thoughts on her most recent novel here.

Previous posts I’ve made about book 3, which was also my NaNoWriMo novel for 2015, can be found here and here.

On a scale of 1 (worst) to 10 (best), how did the book turn out? Did anything defy your expectations?

I tend to go through stages of love and hate with my books, depending on where they are in the writing and editing process. I also gleefully play favorites, and STEEL MAGIC is currently the most precious thing in my life right now. So STEEL BLOOD is probably sitting at a solid 7. I was worried that my secondary characters would turn out cliched, but I think I managed to give them a decent amount of depth and agency.

Comparative title time: what published books, movies, or TV shows are like your book? (Ex: Inkheart meets X-Men.)

Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet meets Underworld

Do you enjoy working with deadlines and pressure (aka NaNoWriMo)? Or do you prefer to write-as-you’re-inspired?

NaNoWriMo is a great way for me to crank out the majority of my novels. The writing I accomplish during the months surrounding it are a lot more sporadic, especially since I don’t obsess over daily word counts.

How do you go about editing? Give us an insight into your editing process.

Once I have a solid first draft, I send it off to my beta readers. They are great for helping me look at big picture stuff: structure, character, description. After I make their suggested rewrites, I had a long list full of words to search for in the manuscript. Everything from character bobble-headisms (nodded and shook) and facial features (eyebrows) where I can better punch up the narrative, to passive voice (was, were) where things can be made more active, to words specific to my own universe (bloodbond isn’t hyphenated, Master of the City is capitalized). Then I print out the entire thing and go through it with my trusty purple pen. Just the difference of viewing things on paper rather then on a screen can make things pop out that I didn’t see before. Once I’m happy with it, it’s ready to be submitted to my editor for consideration for publication!

What aspect of your story needs the most work?

Right now I’m anticipating punching up some of the atmospheric description, especially as it regards to the palace where a lot of the events take place.

What aspect of your story did you love the most?

The evolving relationship between the two main female characters, Victory and Zhinu, and how it affected Victory’s own development as a character. Zhinu challenges Victory to be more than a simple bodyguard, and Victory realizes that after being the Master of the City of Limani for so long that she is better able to see the bigger picture. This is a boy-meets-girl story, but it’s also a girl-grows-up story. And sometimes the 800-year-old vampire can do just as much growing up as the young princess.

Give us a brief run down on your main characters and how you think they turned out. Do you think they’ll need changes in edits?

Victory and Mikelos are pretty solid, especially since this is my third long-form outing with them (if you include the prequel stories I wrote during undergrad). My characters more analogous to Shakespeare’s tragedy were all great fun to write, and I had a good time giving them their own personalities more based on the world I was setting them in. And based on the supernatural races some of them were! I don’t foresee any drastic changes, thankfully. (As I narrow my eyes at my beta readers and dare them to say otherwise.) (Except totally tell me if they do need changes, please.)

What are your plans for this novel once you finish editing? More edits? Finding beta readers? Querying? Self-publishing? Hiding it in a dark hole forever?

Submitting to the publisher! And then more edits!

Share a favorite snippet!

This is how Victory and Mikelos’ first full day in the palace begins. Mikelos has spent the previous night partying with the British diplomatic contingent, while Victory was busy coordinating the final details of her bodyguard position of the Qin princess. They are both rooming in Lady Zhinu’s suite with her personal handmaids. Zhinu is fluent in both Qin (italics) and Loquella, the common language spoken in the British and Roman Empires and primarily used in Limani, where Victory and Mikelos reside.

I love writing comedic moments, and this is a great introduction to Zhinu’s characterization through the rest of the novel. She is not your typical princess!

“My mother will be joining us for lunch,” Zhinu said. “I felt it better that she meets you sooner rather than later.”

As if on cue, a tap sounded at the entrance of the suite. At a nod from Zhinu, Victory cracked the door and checked the hallway.

“Oh, heavens.” An older woman, who matched the picture on the mantel, shook her head in dismay. “Has it truly come to this? A woman can’t even visit her own daughter without suspicion?”

Victory checked over her shoulder, but Zhinu rolled her eyes and waved her to open the door. This was not out of character, then. She slid open the panel the rest of the way, and Zhinu’s mother swept into the room without invitation.

She embraced Zhinu and kissed her on each cheek before inspecting Victory. “You must be the bodyguard. Not quite what I was expecting.”

Victory suppressed the urge to look down at herself. While she would dress in clothing appropriate to the culture when escorting Zhinu in public, she had no problem donning jeans and a t-shirt if the plan was to remain in the privacy of the suite. “I’m usually not, ma’am.”

“Allow me to present the Lady Jinghua,” Zhinu said. “Mother, this is Moon, Grandfather’s old friend.”

“Yes, I’ve heard many stories about you,” Jinghua said. “I do hope you will not be a poor influence on my daughter. Or that your presence will chase away potential suitors.”

“I will do my best, Lady Jinghua,” Victory said. “My goal is not to interfere with your daughter’s life in any way, only to protect it.” She caught a whiff of meat and spices just before another knock came at the suite’s entrance. That must be lunch. At Zhinu’s nod, she answered the door and stood watch while An and Yi-Ting accepted the platters from the kitchen steward’s rolling cart and moved them into the suite.

It was of course at that moment that chaos ensued.

Most likely summoned by the delicious smells, Mikelos stumbled out of their room, still pulling on a shirt and treating all of the Qin ladies to his muscular stomach.

Lady Jinghua screamed.

Yi-Ting jumped, dropping a platter of dumplings. The ceramic shattered, and steamed chicken buns scattered across the floor.

Mikelos jerked backward and put up his fists, blinking around him with bloodshot eyes as Zhinu’s mother shrieked in Qin about the presence of a man in her daughter’s suite. He blinked a few times, took the better part of valor, and fled back into their room. The door slid closed with a snap.

As the handmaids collected dumplings and the kitchen servant retrieved broken shards of ceramic, Zhinu attempted to placate her mother. By now, Jinghua spoke so fast that Victory had lost the thread of the Qin. She covered her face in her hands for a steadying beat, then approached Jinghua and bowed low. “My apologies, Lady Jinghua. I did not mean for my husband to startle you.” The noblewoman would definitely appreciate the distinction of marriage over Mikelos’ daywalker status.

Jinghua drew herself up in order to look down on Victory’s greater height as best she was able. “Your husband?”

“Yes, Lady.”

“Remember? Mikelos Connor is the musician Cousin Yu announced at dinner last night,” Zhinu said. “It is only appropriate that they lodge here at the palace together, and Victory’s duty is to remain with me.”

Despite Zhinu’s greater ambitions, Victory had to admit that the girl knew her politics. Or at least knew how to play her mother as well as Mikelos played the violin. With every word, the outrage drained out of Jinghua.

An shooed the kitchen servant out of the suite and returned to the cluster of other ladies in the corner. Mikelos poked his head out of their room, probably because the screaming had stopped. “Victory?”

“Come on out,” she said.

When he emerged a second time, she noted that where he had before been dressed in pajama pants and a t-shirt, he had made the wise decision to change into more formal slacks and knit top. Mikelos moved to her side and bowed to Zhinu’s mother. “Honored lady,” he said in his heavily accented Qin.

Jinghua sniffed. “I should have you ejected from the palace for your impertinence.”

Mikelos looked to Zhinu and blinked. With a sigh, the princess said, “She’s mad you’re here, but she can’t actually kick you out since you’re an invited guest of the governor.”

Victory saw the wheels turn for a moment in Mikelos’ head. She was unsurprised when the next words out of his mouth dripped with charm. He had to know that the lady did not speak a word of Loquella, so he made do with posture and tone of voice. Her daywalker didn’t the play the part often, but here was the man who had charmed his way across Europa for two centuries.

“Please assure your mother that my only intentions are to provide the court with entertainment and that my desire to remain by my partner’s side is a failing of my own and not meant to impinge on the honor of her daughter or her daughter’s handmaids.” Mikelos bowed again, staying low.

Zhinu turned to her mother and said, “Mama, he’s married. Calm down.”

“Very well, then.” Jinghua dismissed Mikelos with the toss of one hand and assumed a place at the low table the handmaids had set up in the center of the suite. “I assume he will not be joining us for lunch.”

Even as Mikelos eyed the array of food, Victory heard his stomach rumble with her sensitive ears. Part of her wanted to insist he join them, and she could see the speculative expression on Zhinu’s face that probably indicated the same, but best not to borrow trouble. “She wants you go,” Victory said, keeping a smile on her face.

“Ugh,” Mikelos said. “You have no idea how hungover I am.”

“Oh, I can guess,” Victory said.

What are your writing goals and plans for 2016?

Book 4! Timey-wimey goodness! (I made a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it Stargate reference in STEEL BLOOD, so I have to start figuring out how to do the same for Doctor Who in STEEL TIME…)

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