Hey 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.
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.
An 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:
Check out These Nifty Giveaways and Order the Book Here!
Be sure to check out the rest of the amazing authors in this anthology by following the blog tour schedule:
Book Release Blog Tour
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!