Cover Reveal!

No, it’s not for Cobalt, but now that I have your attention, today I’m spotlighting another Xchyler author, Ben Ireland – who is apparently not Irish, but Australian and lives in Texas. Awesome. So Ben’s exciting news is that his second book with the X, Kingdom City: Revolt, is going to release in a couple months, and all of us at the X are freaking out about his new cover today, the best day of the year.

I’m just going to get straight to the candy first (ahaha, candy, Halloween, you see what I did there?) and let y’all geek out a little over the book trailer:

I love the dark, edgy art theme for this series. In case you missed it, here’s the cover spread, including the back cover copy:

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About Ben Ireland:

Ben Ireland 200x240Ben churns out his prose from his home in Southeast Texas, where he lives with his wife and three children, and works in IT. When he isn’t writing, he’s either thinking about writing, or he’s driving his wife insane talking about his novel ideas. His work has appeared in two X-anthologies: “Kissed a Snake” in A Dash of Madness: a Thriller Anthology (July 2013), and “Fairykin” in Moments in Millennia: a Fantasy Anthology(January 2014). His first novel, Kingdom City: Resurrection was published in February 2014.

Find Ben on Facebook, Twitter, and his website Ben Ireland Books.

KCR_200x274Take a look at Xchyler’s other books here. Oooh, can you see why I can’t freaking wait to see what they come up with for Cobalt??

And now I’m off to get into my kids’ candy stashes have a lovely Halloween with my family!

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In Which I Return to the Blogging World With a Book Blog Tour and Author Interview

BEYOND-THE-WAIL-front-webHey everyone, long time no blog. I kind of hit a dry spell for a while there, but Xchyler Publishing is helping me get back into the swing of things with a blog tour for their newest anthology release! Be patient with me, because this is the first ever blog tour I’ve participated in, and as usual I don’t know what I’m doing.

Okay, so I’m not biased at all, but I think Xchyler is pretty much the rock star on Amazon for steampunk, fantasy, and paranormal anthologies. Just in time for October is Beyond the Wail, a collection of ghost stories from some of Xchyler’s most celebrated authors.

What is it about fear and the unknown that pulls so passionately at the human heart? Perhaps we are drawn not to the darkness itself, but to the resolution, the overcoming of what we most deeply dread. After all, the more terrible the struggle, the greater the victory when it comes at last. Presented in this anthology are twelve remarkable stories of the darkness that overshadows us, and the resolution that may be found beyond them. They are stories of fear and oppression, but ultimately stories of hope, stories that will take you BEYOND THE WAIL.

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I have the pleasure of featuring Ginger C. Mann and her story, “The Poltergeist and Aunt Betty.” Aunt Betty is a delightfully, and sometimes a bit confusingly, eccentric widow with wild red hair and a penchant for dramatics, but you soon find out why. After the “bank people” take her house and most of her beloved possessions, she’s forced to move in with her niece and young family. Life soon turns upside down for poor Aunt Betty, but the poltergeist haunting her has a surprise. This story is equal parts haunting, sweet, and funny. Aunt Betty and her family are colorful, likable characters. Ginger flawlessly pulls off the difficult task of character-building in a short story.

Ginger-Mann_200x274An interview with Ginger C. Mann

About Ginger: Ginger C. Mann is a poet, musician, and digital security engineer. If you can’t find her doing those things, look for a woman chasing around her small children with a camera. A Texas artist, she enjoys writing for other Texans. Her song, “River Night,” premiered on October 12, 2013 in North Austin. During that same weekend, her first short story, “China Doll,” began selling on Amazon.com. She is also a key writer, and digital security adviser, for “Think Before You Click,” the Cyber-Safety campaign of legal counsel, Rick Mann. Ginger lives with her family in the Austin, Texas area.

How did you come up with the concept of your story?

There were multiple inspirations for me, but two of them stood out. First of all, I chanced to meet an adorable, brilliant, and quite eccentric woman with a giant head of flaming red hair. She stuck in my mind, and I could not get her out. My character, Betty, is kind of a reaction to her. I barely know the woman I met, but I knew I had to write a story with her image in it.

The character I came up with, I think I like even more than her original. This woman is probably a genius, but so completely “out there” that her gifts blend into the noise of her mental illness. Perhaps the point I’m making is that we dismiss people every day based on reasons that make sense to us, but should we? Just because a person is paranoid doesn’t mean something isn’t out to get her.

The second inspiration came from my own little boy. At the time, he was three years old. He had a habit of waking up in the wee hours of the morning, when he would wander silently into my bedroom suite. He materialized there at around the time that I was getting ready for work in the morning. Most of the time, I kept the lights low, to let my husband sleep. The little boy was patient, and willing to wait until I could give him attention. He would stand still in one spot and wait without moving a muscle. So having said all of that, it was not uncommon for me to stand in front of the dark mirror, begin to dry my hair, and then look down toward the counter to see a pair of eyes staring straight up at my face. It literally made me scream out loud a few times. Low light, sudden moves in the mirror, silent approach . . . yeah, a ghost would pull a stunt just like that.

At some point, I put both of those images together, and made the red-headed woman an eccentric great-aunt. No one ever listens to crazy people, especially not if they are crazy live-in relatives. Is there a better candidate for a haunting than this? Someone whose credibility is faulty to begin with.

Please provide some insight into or a secret or two about your story.

The best clue I can give – without spoilers – is that anybody can see a ghost. At least that is the case in my world. Some people are nuts, some people are sensible, some people are more sensitive; but no one is blind. It’s just a matter of what we choose to see, or not see.

In my world, as in so many other fantasy worlds, the earth is peopled with departed spirits who walk alongside us. What if those departed souls choose to stay for awhile, and share our space with us? Do they still love us? Could it be that they need someone who can help us to love them back? It is a common concept, but what if there were a person who could draw them out and connect them back to the living?

Now, make that person a homeless, red-haired, middle-aged, organ-playing Montessori teacher with a persecution complex and a nasty prescription drug habit. See where I’m going with this?

What was the hardest part of writing your story, and how did you overcome it?

The hardest part was the discussion of the ghost. Paranormal requires death, usually. I don’t like to kill anyone, especially not an innocent, but death is a part of life. It’s just that the way this person left earth was gut wrenching for me, personally. I had some trouble fleshing out that scene, I found I shied away from it. After awhile, I contained myself well enough to finish it, but I don’t think I toned it down. When I read it out loud to my husband, he wept openly.

Again, no spoilers, but there is a good reason that Aunt Betty is tormented by a ghost. At the end, I have to tell that story. It rips me apart even to remember it, but the best thing about inventing a tragedy is that I may also invent a resolution.

I am fond of my resolution.

What is your preferred writing genre?

To be honest, I wish to write science fiction or technical thrillers. I am a software engineer who is fond of space, and I think I have plenty of stories about science in me. However, I find that I am enjoying fantasy and paranormal more than I imagined I would. They require as much imagination, and a little more humanity.

When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

I think I always have been a writer. I turned in a poem to my fourth grade teacher one day, and she put me on a stage for Veteran’s Day and made me read it. I had no idea whether it was any good, I just knew it was fun to make a story that rhymed. Then I wrote a song as a fifth grader. And then, it snowballed on me: before I knew it, my book reports became overnight sensations in my English classes. I have a distinct memory of a group of seventh grade desks, all clustered around in a pile, just so they could face me and listen to me read my story aloud.

I didn’t know what I was doing, I just thought I was having a little fun. My friends would say, “So when does your first book come out?” I used to roll my eyes and go practice my flute, instead. I did not go into complete OCD mode and try to publish by age 13, but the urge to write did not go away. I am compulsive about it, and I found that when I had no other outlet, I would write notes on paper kind of at random. That became a de facto journal, but took the form of a written conversation.

I loved the birth of the Internet, because I could suddenly talk with my fingers rather than my voice. I spent days and nights on listservs, exploring new ideas with other friends who liked to write, rather than voice, their thoughts. One day, I discovered a story in all of those ideas. Typical of my childhood writing, I wrote out two scenes, and then I kept it on a hard drive for fifteen years. It was only by random chance that a new, quite serious writer discovered it one day. He pushed me so hard that I actually finished the thing and submitted it.

And that was three stories ago. Now that I am in the habit again, it’s rather addictive. More stories keep filling my head, and I think I even see a novel in there. Wow.

Given unlimited resources, what would be your ideal writing environment?

I don’t have unlimited resources, but I do have an ideal writing environment. My parents live on about 125 acres of land in East Texas. My dad is a talented environmental scientist and my mother is an equally talented landscaper. The two of them have transformed the place into a parklike setting. Whenever I need to implement a first draft, I take the family there. The kids run around for days, my husband fishes in the lake, and I sit in a little office with a computer, a bottle of water, and a view of paradise.

Of course, the office belongs to my dad, and while I’m in it, he has to work around me. Okay, fine, it’s my ideal, not his.

Where do you actually write?

This almost made me hork up the cold spaghetti I was chewing while answering it. Hmmm . . . I “actually write” where I am sitting now: In the home office, crammed with books, desks, printer supplies, and debris. My view is the front porch. Sometimes, my view is of the front porch and the neighbor’s cat, who will attach herself to my window screen if I keep the blinds open.

Name one entity that you feel supported your writing, outside of family members.

Certainly my friend, a fellow author who I won’t name here. There was one other friend back in the days of listservs, and he pushed me to complete that first story hardest. I almost wish I had done it back then, but considering the plotline, I did not have the emotional strength.

My family cannot be left out of this answer, though. My husband, children, and parents are kingpins in my drive to continue this. My father-in-law, though, has played a more direct role. I discovered that he likes my written voice. In fact, he likes it so well that he recently left me a giant stack of periodicals, with editor addresses circled. Think he’s trying to tell me something?

How does writing impact other parts of your life?

Sadly, writing sucks up a lot of my family’s time. So, I have made it a point to put off the major writing projects until a little later. However, even the writing I do now has gained me a society of friends that I did not expect. Also, I have to admit to a few extra “cool points” in the office. Software developers love scary stories, in particular.

What activities best give your brain a break? How do you unwind?

Professionally, I am three people: 1) Software Engineer 2) Music Director 3) Author. With all of that going on, my brain doesn’t get many breaks. But there is an extra minute on Saturday sometimes. I’m trying to remember what I did with the last one . . . seems like I was sleeping.

I particularly enjoy taking my flute, plus a few other instruments, and jamming with other musicians. I think that counts as true peace for me: anytime I can play, and make music with others. And what comes of that? Songwriting, of course!

What are some of your other published works?

I have written two other short stories in Xchyler Publishing anthologies.

China Doll, in Shades and Shadows, a Paranormal Anthology
Jilted River, in The Toll of Another Bell, a Fantasy Anthology

I have also written songs for local musicians here in the Austin area, and my poem, “The Chase” opens the newly revised novel, A Midsummer Night’s Steampunk. Other than that, I enjoy blogging at http://www.songsofmann.org.

What is your advice to writers?

Which writers? If they have something in the queue, my advice is to find me. I love to meet writers, and sometimes I want to swap notes with them — publically. If their book sweeps me away, I could devote days to exploring it with them, and I want to use all of that to their best advantage. Check my author pages at songsofmann.org, I don’t like to leave stones unturned.

If a writer is new, or if someone wants to write, my advice is to start writing and keep writing. At the risk of sounding like a bumper sticker: don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Your job is to write. Let someone else be the critic later — much later.

What’s up next for you?

Music, blogging, prayer services, blogging, computer programming, blogging, and . . . oh hang on, this: A fantasy tale came to my husband in a dream. A lovely one with two witches and a baby who loses her finger. The baby’s finger is restored by her protector, but at a very high price.

Well, that was the crux of the dream. The rest is up to me to write. Teaser coming on songsofmann.org. Watch for it.

If you had three wishes, what would they be?

More hours in a day
Two more rooms in my house
A magic wand that could heal any hurt

Is there anything else you’d like your readers to know about you?

Follow me on twitter @gingersnotes. Better follow close, or you’ll miss the duck.

Yes, duck. See you online, friends.

Find Ginger on the Interwebs Here:

http://www.songsofmann.org
https://twitter.com/gingersnotes
https://www.facebook.com/authorgingercmann
http://www.goodreads.com/gingersnotes
https://www.pinterest.com/gingercmann/
http://amazon.com/author/gingermann

Check out These Nifty Giveaways and Order the Book Here!

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Amazon

Goodreads

Be sure to check out the rest of the amazing authors in this anthology by following the blog tour schedule:

BEYOND THE WAIL: 12 Grave Stories of Love and Loss

Book Release Blog Tour

Featured Author: Danielle E. Shipley

Danielle E. Shipley

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Are you Afraid of the Dark?

John’s Writing

Featured Author: Alex McGilvery

Alex McGilvery

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Ash Krafton: Emotion Between the Lines

Scott E. Tarbet, Author

Writer’s Law of Motion

Featured Author: T.N. PAYNE

Nicole Payne

Monday, October 12, 2015

Author Sarah Hunter Hyatt

Notes from Author Ginger C. Mann

Featured Author: Ginger C. Mann

Ginger C. Mann

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

L.K. McIntosh

J S Brown

Fairies & Pirates

Featured Author: L.K. McIntosh

L.K. McIntosh

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Rampant Games

Scotty Watty Doodle All The Day

Terra Luft — View From the Crystal Ball

Featured Author: Jay Barnson

Jay Barnson

Thursday, October 15, 2015

A Storyteller’s Journey

Creativity from Chaos

Christine Haggerty

Featured Author: A. F. Stewart

A. F. Stewart

Friday, October 16, 2015

Tales by Julie

Perpetual Chaos of a Wandering Mind

Featured Author: Amanda Banker

Amanda Banker

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Sebastian Bendix

Alex Campbell

Semi Short chic

Featured Author: Julie Barnson

Julie Barnson

Sunday, October 18, 2015

The Ink Caster

The Road to Nowhere

Featured Author: Sebastian Bendix

Sebastian Bendix

Monday, October 19, 2015

The J. Aurel Guay Archive

:DandiFluff…

Featured Author: Tirzah Duncan

Tirzah Duncan

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Alex McGilvery’s World

A.M.Harte

In The Spotlight

Featured Author: F.M. Longo

F.M. Longo

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Ever On Word

The Cult of Me

Cobblestone Scribe

And finally, since I’m a total geek for Xchyler’s book trailers, here’s the one for Beyond the Wail:

Be sure to check in soon — I have more bloggy ideas up my sleeve, as well as upcoming news on Cobalt!

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Arachnophobia 2: Terror at the Library

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He’s probably hunting for bookworms.

I don’t know if you’d call this arachnophobia or something else. I’m at the library so I can work on some procrastination while the kids play on their computers. Suddenly this giant wolf spider appears from beneath the armchair next to me. I don’t freak out or scream – this is a library after all (the same couldn’t be said for my daughter Emily).

I also decide not to stomp on the spider. Even though I’ve been known to drop everything and rip my shirt off screaming if I even think a spider’s on my clothes, I don’t just kill them for no reason. I’ll put them in jars with lids and leave them on the kitchen counter for the kids to discover when they get home. Then I’ll throw them in the backyard.

So this hairy little horrifying thing stops just two feet shy of my sandals and is clearly considering climbing up my leg, and I can’t scoot any farther away without crawling onto the arm of my seat. We’re at a stalemate. I can’t concentrate on my law blogs, because I have to keep one eye on the spider. I consider moving, but I’d have to unplug my laptop from the outlet on the floor and that not only risks getting my hands close to the spider, but I will win this fight, dammit. I’m not that much of a wimp.

I pull out a library receipt and use it to flick the spider away. He’s having none of it. He turns around as if to charge, and I quickly find out that my feet fit quite nicely onto the end table next to my chair.

Losing interest (and probably thinking he’s won), the spider turns around and makes for the nearest table of computers. Still uncomfortably within range in case he’s deciding to wait it out and catch me by surprise again.

Let me just mention that some of the people who sit on the computers at the library are – interesting people – and I’m all too aware that with my feet up off the floor while nervously glancing around every few seconds, I definitely fall into this category.

The spider is currently hiding out under the computer chair nearest me, but I can’t keep an eye on him without leaning over to the side and peering around the chair leg. I realize it looks as if I’m acutely interested in the feet of the man in the next chair over, who looks to be having a lot of fun on Twitter and keeps swearing under his breath.

The productive library session I’d planned is, as usual, not very productive at all. And now I’ve lost sight of the spider. Definitely time to go home.

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About as good as it gets for free

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I didn’t know what else to put here.

Since apparently I can’t have a sleek new skinny body for 2015 (at least not overnight), I settled on the next best thing and gave my blog a makeover and even turned it into a website! It’s not exactly what I have in mind for a final draft, but until I can shell out some money for a really professional banner and background, this is what it’s gonna be.

And it’s not too shabby, IMHO. Although I was ready to hang it all up after a couple hours messing around with WordPress and go back to Blogger, but I finally figured out the basics. I thought I knew how to work with WordPress and all, having posted to blogs with my job, but actually setting one up is a whole new can of crazy.

Anyway, go have a look at my other pages and all, and feel free to offer some constructive feedback. I know it’s nothing special yet, but it’s just the change I think it needed, after a few years with the old blog.

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The Weirdest Book Acceptance Story Ever

This is not a dignified tale. I wish I could say I acted professional and composed after getting my acceptance letter, or that I even had a little celebration dance, or ran outside and bugged the neighbors with a few whoops and hollers, as I’d always imagined it would go down. I certainly didn’t anticipate the explosive reaction that a lifetime of waiting, hoping, praying, and repeated disappointment would elicit in me. And I don’t know if anyone ever shared the long-awaited news of their publishing acceptance with other travelers at a rest stop in the middle of nowhere.

We were driving home at the end of our vacation in the Rocky Mountains a couple weeks ago. I had crappy cell service most of the way through Wyoming, but I got a faint signal while we ate at a rest stop out in the prairies. Just enough for some emails and texts to come in while I sat in the car waiting for Lia and Emily to finish up in the restroom. The first email I saw was the one from the publisher I’d wanted for Cobalt since the beginning: Xchyler Publishing. I would have psyched myself up for the feeling of crushing disappointment I’d grown accustomed to when I was sending out The Moongate, except I saw the email header: Welcome to the X!
I sat uncomprehending for a second, then launched out of the car shrieking. Eva thought there was a bee or something in the car (we had wasp and bee problems at the resort, including one wasp that was NOT happy that I rolled over on it in bed), so Eva ran out right behind me and didn’t realize what was going on until she heard me screaming at my mom through her car window. My poor mom, she was so stressed over the problem of finding a motel for our last night on the road; she caught on but stared at me kind of shocked, until I turned and ran flapping and yelling up the trail toward the restrooms, Eva hot on my heels and screaming even louder.
People stared. I didn’t care.
Emily said she and Lia heard us coming and wondered if we were just on our way to tell them to hurry up because we needed to go, but they didn’t know why we were screaming. I burst into the restroom and found a confused Emily standing near the sinks. The exchange went kind of like this:
Me: *UNINTELLIGIBLE SCREAMING COBALT UNINTELLIGIBLE SCREAMING*
Emily: “Wait. Cobalt got accepted?!”
Me: *SCREAM GIGGLE SHRIEK BOUNCE*
Emily: “OH MY GOSH I COULD JUST KISS YOU!!”
Emily, Eva, and me: *SCREAM TACKLE HUG JUMP UP AND DOWN SCREAM*
Lia (from the stall at the end): “What is happening out there?”
And that’s the story of how I celebrated the acceptance email from my dream publisher with my kids and strangers inside a rest stop bathroom.

Our Vacation: Dying Cars and Frisky Wasps

The story is even more awesome to me considered what we went through at the beginning of the Most Stressful Vacation Ever. I won’t say Vacation From Hell, because it turned out really nice in the end, but boy did it have more than a few glitches.
We caravanned out from Boise with the intention to stay overnight in the mountains in Utah, then continue on to our family reunion at the Winding River Resort in Colorado. Just after making it into the beehive state, my step-dad’s car broke down. After attempting for hours to urge the disabled car out of the wilderness at least (big costly mistake), the girls and I went on ahead and got a room at a scary motel in downtown Ogden. My parents finally got their car towed to a mechanic and they got a room at another (and nicer) place, since ours was now fully booked.
The next day we were supposed to have arrived at the resort, but we spent the day at a public park, many of us in tears, as we tried unsuccessfully ALL DAY to find a rental car to continue the trip. My mom was resigned to staying behind with my step-dad in Ogden while the rest of us drove up to the resort, but we didn’t want to go without her. She’d planned this trip for over five months, and my brother’s girls were so looking forward to seeing their grandma. Meanwhile, my step-dad’s car needed a new engine, and as of this moment is still at the shop in Utah waiting to be repaired. Defeated, we got another hotel room that night and went to bed not knowing what we were going to do, but pretty much certain our vacation was ruined.

The next morning, my mom made a few last calls and found a rental. Once again on the road, we made it to the resort that night. We had a wonderful time with family we don’t get to see very often, and I got some pictures like these:

A wild Lia. Sneaking in for a closer picture might have been dangerous.

The adorable cabin I stayed in with three of the girls
Partyin’ around the campfire
My brother and Lia jamming

Emily and my mom 😉

A rustic writer’s setup (I didn’t get any writing done)

Inspirations for Creepy

I love creepy. The spookier the better. In trying to figure out what to write next, I decided to give the Cobalt world a break and work on something dark and eerie (like Cobalt wasn’t?). I’m still working out the details, and trying to decide between two different story ideas that are taking shape.

Like many people, I’m inspired by other stories, music, and imagery. The following are a few of my favorite spooky inspirations. For some reason, I find myself really looking forward to Halloween now.

Neil Gaiman’s Coraline is just like an old-fashioned ghost story complete with nightmarish illustrations. The movie didn’t disappoint either. Would have scared the crap out of me as a kid.

I just finished reading this one. The Ocean at the End of the Lane had its creepy moments, but was, overall, a beautiful story written by an amazing author.

I read this book as an adult and had nightmares. I can’t see the upcoming movie being as creepy as the stories in this book and its sequels, but maybe we’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Stolen Babies knows how to do creepy when it comes to music and costumes. Heavily influenced by Oingo Boingo and Tim Burton, this band brings graveyards or nightmare carnivals to mind. Grubbery is about a couple of hillbilly cannibals who get a dose of karma when they find out their dinner doesn’t like being dug out of their graves. 🙂

One of my friends on Facebook posted this great link on a gorgeous photo project that brings Grimms’ fairy tales to life, and provides more than enough inspiration for surreal settings and spooky forests.

And then…

Like her sister before her, this creepy 8-year-old left a bunch of scary photos on my phone that she edited herself.

She also touched up this one of her sister, which is creepy in a different way.

Do you have any other spooky or disturbing books, movies, or pictures to add to my list?

Meanwhile, Cobalt is on an editor’s desk awaiting approval or rejection and my fingers are cramping up from weeks of crossing them. Cross some of yours for me too, please!

Steamphone Shenanigans (Steam Powered Giraffe fans will see what I did there)

Just like Lia’s thing is to troll my manuscript, it seems Emily’s thing is to leave all kinds of crazy pictures on my phone. She’ll frequently steal borrow my phone for Snapchat and Instagram, and I never know what I’m going to see when I get it back. The following are a few of my recent favorites:

Oh, and hey guys, look what I did to my new leather phone case! I glued some gears on it and called it steampunk. It’s the closest I’ve come to steampunk in freaking forever.