Blondes, Books and Bourbon – A WDB Anthology, by R. M. Ridley


I had the great pleasure of being a co-author in the anthology in which Johnathan Alvey made his first public appearance. Now, the amazing Mr. R. M. Ridley has started us on the dark road that will follow Alvey through the White Dragon Black series of novels. Ridley’s latest work, Blondes, Books and Bourbon, brings us back to the short story format in a collection of stories from within the White Dragon Black universe and staring your favorite embittered, brooding detective, Johnathan Alvey.


I’ll be honest, the level of dark paranormal and surprisingly detailed real-world mysticism in the WDB series is on the edge of what my sensitive self can handle. But then again, so are some of the things that I write myself… It is really Ridley’s talented writer that keeps me coming back for more. What I really love about Ridley’s writing, is that it’s not all about the magic and the occult. At it’s heart WDB is really about the life and struggle of Alvey, trying to make a difference, while struggling with the figurative inner demons that threaten to slowly strangle him (though there are also plenty of not-so figurative demons with the same goal).

Blondes, Books and Bourbon is an excellent example of this Ridley’s character driven writing. While Alvey is constantly faced with supernatural doings his most impressive solutions are those where he engages his Sherlock quality wit and some slight of hand to win the day. Still, there is plenty of opportunity for magic and supernatural action through out that will keep you in awe of Ridley’s world building and knowledge of ancient mystic practices.



Tomorrow Wendell (Book 1, 2014)

Blondes, Books, and Bourbon (March, 2015)

Bindings and Spines (Book 2, 2015)

Ridley’s work has appeared in two Xchyler anthologies: “The Case for Custody” in Shades and Shadows: a Paranormal Anthology, and “Charon’s Obol” in Legends and Lore: An Anthology of Mythic Proportions.

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Enjoy this great discussion with R.M. Ridley:

  1. Please share how you came up with the concept for your short stories? Which of the stories was the easiest to write and which was the most difficult?

All of my writing comes from my Muse, I can’t construct a story myself. From my perspective, I don’t create my tales – I just record them. Now doesn’t that make me sound crazy? But it’s true – the majority of the stories I write, are idea’s that come to me as snippets of conversations, or little scenes that play out in my head as images. My challenge is to turn those into words that capture what I ‘see’.

In many ways, ‘The Ties that Bind’ was the hardest story to write, as I wanted a thread that connected it to the next novel, ’Bindings & Spines’ and yet allowed the story to stand all its own. That made for a challenge that I truly enjoyed.

The easiest one to write was probably, ‘Sins of the Father’. Being the first story written in that world, I had no restrictions, no rules, and no history. I didn’t have to keep anything straight, remember details, or worry about contradicting myself. Of course, when I wrote it, I had no idea that it would spawn so many other short stories, and novels.

  1. Please name some of your other published works:

Tomorrow Wendell – first White Dragon Black novel

Horror Library, Volume Three – ‘Blink the Blood Away’

Tales of the Talisman Magazine, Volume 1 Issue 4 – ‘Pigeon Pete’

Mental Wellness: Real Stories From Survivors – ‘Ceaseless Cycles’

Legends and Lore: An Anthology of Mythic Proportions – ‘Charon’s Obol’

  1. What is your preferred writing genre?

I’m a paranormal / urban fantasy author mainly, but I cut my teeth with horror, and that will always have a dark spot in my heart. I’m sure my mind will churn out some further grisly morsels yet.

  1. And preferred reading genre?

When it comes to reading, I’ll take just about any sort of spec-fic, as long as it’s well written. Sci-fi, horror, fantasy, alt-history – give me a well told story, and I’m yours for the duration.

  1. What are your top 3 favorite books?

Ignoring how awful question that is to ask of any book lover, these are three I certainly always come back to, both physically, and in my mind:
‘The Dark is Rising’ by Susan Cooper was my favourite book as a child, and it still ranks in the top three.
‘Snow Crash’ by Neal Stephenson was an amazing journey meshing cyber-punk, ancient myth, and philosophy and thus must have a place here.

‘Someplace to be Flying’ by Charles de Lint, in many ways is one of my favourites of his works. There is a darkness to it that really appealed to me and it stepped away from some of the better known characters and giving a fresh view into an odd world.

  1. Do you have any particular writing habits?

You mean good ones? I try to get my writing done at the beginning of the day. After enough coffee to find words, I sit down and write what my Muse deigns to share with me. That way, no matter what else the day throws at me, I have got the important part completed.

  1. Do you have a playlist that you created while writing your story?

Yes, definitely. It grows and shrinks every so often, as songs no longer seem pertinent to the world, or I find new meaning in songs that inspire me. I also have subsets for the different moods Jonathan goes through and, of course, one for fight scenes.

  1. Panster or plotter?

Panster – Absolutely Panster! If I even try to plan a chapter ahead, the entire train of thought comes to a painful screeching halt and I’m left, chin in hand, staring at a black page, listening to the sheep Baa.

  1. Advice for writers?

I think there are two things that I would recommend, one is easy and the other sounds hard, but is actually just a change of mindset. First advice is a standard – Just Write. Get it down, and don’t look back until you’ve told the story. The second thing is – Learn to Love Edits. It sounds impossible, but editing is just writing from a different angle. It is the same process, same creativity, same weaving of words but you are doing it from outside the box instead of inside.

  1. What’s up next for you?

Any moment now, my editor, McKenna Gardner, who worked wonders with my first novel, ‘Tomorrow Wendell’ and acts of magic to get, ‘Blondes, Books & Bourbon’ together, is going to show up with a red pen, and a cattle prod.  This will be my cue that she intends to help me get the second White Dragon Black novel, ‘Bindings & Spines’, ready for publishing. Everyone should take a minute and thank McKenna for making these works exist, by the way.

  1. Please provide some insight, a secret or two about each of the stories.

Interview’ was actually written for a blog that was promoting the first White Dragon Black novel, Tomorrow Wendell’. They asked for a character interview and that really gave me pause. I tried to wrap my head around what sort of circumstance would find Jonathan Alvey giving an interview and realized there was only one.

The Play’s the Thing’ is the second story written in the WDB world. It was a fun tale to write, and I did so quickly, but it opened up a deeper understanding of both Jonathan, and his world, for me. It was also the story that made me realize I would be seeing a lot more of that character in my future.

The Cost of Custody’ was written as a submission for Xchyler Publishing’s open call for their next anthology. It was the first time I had submitted anything involving Jonathan, and I was actually quite surprized when it was accepted into ‘Shades and Shadows: A Paranormal Anthology’. This was the first time the public was exposed to the character who had taken over all my writing time… clearly it was only the beginning.

Sins of the Father’ is the story that started it all. At the time, it was quite a digression from my usual style. I thought it a one off, a cute tale that stretched my writing ability and nothing more. However, once it had been written and edited, I found the writing department of my mind had been cleared of everything but a brooding figure with his feet up on a battered desk.

Legerdelivre’ was written long ago, and then about a year after, my Muse showed me a different possible ending to the story. I enjoyed it in my head but never put it into words. When we were editing that story for ‘Blondes, Books, & Bourbon’, I told my editor, McKenna, about the alternate ending and asked if she’d like me to write it up. She suggested I should write it and another, if I could. It wasn’t that the original ending was bad, but the idea of managing to get a better one, was tempting. I went to work on it immediately, and not only wrote out the one I’d carried in my mind for quite some time, but a third ending as well. The version that is in this anthology is actually the best parts of all three ending fused into one. It wasn’t the easiest to pull off smoothly, but I couldn’t be happier with the way it turned out.

Do As I Say, Not As I Did’ holds a special place in my heart because it a story that shows that Jonathan can intentionally be, when he really wants to, a bit of a jerk. That, to me, is simply entertaining. Hmm, maybe this says something about me I should admit in an interview.

As I said, my stories come from my Muse, but sometimes I can say, ‘Hey, can we work with…’ and she’ll give me a story, there are two of those in this anthology. For the first, I wanted a story that was centered on Jonathan and his problems with keeping a secretary. That was it. That was what I asked for. After a day of musing (where do you think the term comes from?) what I got, was the story, ‘What a Nightmare’. The second was ‘The Ties that Bind’ and it came about because I wanted a short story that tied into the next novel ‘Bindings & Spines’. I wanted to create a tale that stood alone but, when read in conjuncture with the novel, enriched the understanding of the what, and why, of Jonathan trying to go ‘clean’ from magic.

 Character Casting:

BBBWho would you cast for your main characters and why? Pictures would be great.

When I first started writing Jonathan I had an idea of him, his looks and manners, but no real face I could say ‘Like him’, that changed when I watched an episode of ‘Sanctuary’. There was a guest actor, who I knew well from watching SG-1 but who looked much different as this character. When I saw Michael Shanks, as he appeared in this role, I suddenly had a face for Jonathan.

Author Favorite Things:

 – Quote – “Don’t you smile at me like that … that’s not even a real smile! It’s just a bunch of teeth playing with my mind!”
- TV show – Doctor Who. I mean ALL Doctor Who; not just the new, not just the old. Doctor Who.
- Comic book character – Death from Neil Gaiman’s ‘Sandman’
- Movie – Casablanca. Is there any other possible answer?
- Candy bar – Big Turk. I mean, how can you say ‘No’ to Turkish delight and chocolate?
- Junk food – White Chocolate. No, wait, ice cream. No, Gin. No, gummy bears. Coffee?
- Place you visited – I haven’t traveled much, or very far. The trip to Wales, my mothers country of birth, was taken when I was young but even so it floats in my dreams always.
- Restaurant – The mom and pop diner, in the small town where I live. They have big inexpensive breakfast served all day, and burgers that just hit the spot every time.
- Island – Roke. There are, I’m sure, many wonderful ones out there but I take Roke as my choice.


Okay. So I leapt. Now what?


An author friend of mine is taking the leap. This is one you want to keep an eye on people!

Originally posted on Alyson Grauer:

My name is Aly Grauer, and two days ago, I quit my day job.

Gosh, that sounds crazy. Completely insane. In fact, I’m sitting here at my desk at home, on a very uncomfortable stool-chair (my apartment is too small for a decent desk chair) listening to the clock tick and my stomach rumble. I’m thinking about how I’m going to cover bills when my small savings cushion runs out. I’m wondering how I can get more people to buy my book. I’m worried about my parents. My dad is finally coming home from the hospital today and my mom has surgery scheduled on Monday. I’m thinking about my brother and his wife and their baby, and how amazing and strange and miraculous life is, even with all the twists and turns and sudden drops and stops. I’m wondering how many people will think it’s selfish of me to…

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MMAA Blog Tour; Spotlight on J. R. Potter

James PotterToday I would like to spotlight one of my fellow authors in ‘Mechanized Masterpieces 2, an American Anthology'; J. R. Potter and his short story ‘Rise of the House of Usher’ based on Poe’s classic work ‘Fall of the House of Usher’. 

A lover of graphic novels and the occult fiction of the late great John Bellairs, James gravitated towards the paranormal world from an early age. Watching the first episode of The X-Files with his older brother was a transformative experience, as well as an education in great storytelling and myth-making.

Since “growing up,” James has devoted his time to finding his voice through writing, publishing short fiction in The Portland Review, and winning two international short story competitions for science fiction and horror. When he’s not writing, he tours with his incredible wife Amy as “The Crooked Angels,” an Americana duo specializing in rocking your socks off.

Potter is currently collaborating with artist Klaus “Plaid Klaus” Shmidheiser in the graphic novel series “Glimmer Society.”

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1. Please share how you came up with the concept for your story?
To be honest, I’ve really benefitted from Xchyler’s writing prompts and challenges. There. I said it! I’m naturally driven to come up with my own plots and ideas, but sometimes it’s nice to have the the little external prompt to force me to produce a project in a deadline. That last part is crucial. Whether self-imposed or an external deadline, a deadline is crucial. It’s the buzzer saying put down the hot potato. After I published my first story with Xchyler in Terra Mechanica, I was hungry to start building my “brand,” or at least my small corner of the writing world, which I’m still working at. I’m not the best read when it comes to American Literature, but I’m not the worst. I started writing a project earlier this year involving a young Edgar Allan Poe and his band of detective misfits, The Cellar Rats. When the opportunity came up for a steampunking of AmericanLit, I think my natural instinct was Poe. He was such a visionary. Even reading that line “such a visionary,” sounds like an afterthought, like the advertisement on the bus of his genius that just went smoking down the road. Researching his work a little more in depth since, I’ve read in the collection The Best 19th Century Mystery Stories that the reading population around Poe’s time was basically zilch. How can you become a phenomenon when the medium you are working in is unintelligible to the mainstream? I’m honored in my small way to pay homage to a very brilliant, maligned soul who, like many artists, wouldn’t receive his due until much, much later.
2. Please name some of your other published works?
In the Xchyler stable, I’ve published “Dr. Pax’s Great Unsinkable Bird” in the anthology Terra Mechanica, as well as “Tower Gods” in The Toll of Another Bell. I’ve won The Portland Review’s Flash Fiction contest, as well as Short Story HQ.Com‘s Flash Fiction contest in the genre of Horror. I’m currently working on, um…well…like seven new projects! Dios Mio!
3. What is your preferred writing genre?
I love this question because it makes me really critique what is at the heart of what I take my voice to be. I would say Young Adult, or Middle Grade, but those terms don’t really mean anything these days, right? Stephen Colbert just made the assertion that “A YA book is just a book people actually read today,” and I think there’s some truth to that. To risk cheeziness, and I am definitely in my heart of hearts a cheezeball, I would say, “Whatever sounds the drum of Youth in the most quietest of places.” There’s an unbridled energy inherent in young people, a fearlessness which is only balanced by a considerable timidity. It’s the quintessential existential time when the question: Who am I living for? is first asked. Incidently, Who Are We Living For is the title of an album by the band Dispatch, the first band I ever opened up for as a fifteen year-old musician. They sell out Madison Square Garden now. Beautiful buggers!

4. And preferred reading genre?
Same. However, as my wife has observed: “You only read history text books and comics.”

5. What are your top 3 favorite books?
Great question…and hard. Too hard. I would say that James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man had the most profound effect on me as a teenager, although since I’ve come to see the protagonist Stephan Daedalus as this cold, calculated individual that I cannot relate much to anymore, although his expression “I will learn to fly by those nets” (the nets of country and religion, etc.) is still a halcyon cry to my Soul. A Man for All Seasons, the great play by Robert Bolt also had a profound effect on me – Sir Thomas More’s struggle for freedom of spirit and conscience. If I can be a total egoist, I’d say maybe my upcoming novel for Xchyler may be my favorite third book. But you’ll have to read it to find out why…
6. Do you have any particular writing habits?
Not particularly, but I love mornings. I write music – with whiskey! – at nights. Morning is coffee and keyboard. Night time is whiskey and guitars.

7. Do you have a playlist that you created while writing your story?
As much as I love music, I don’t really use it for inspiration for writing. I see writing and music as separate worlds – creatively – for me. However, they are part of the same coin. I really dig the graphic novel Alabaster: Wolves. Check it out. It’s the first piece of literature (yes, I consider graphic novels literature, and I can give you twenty reasons why) where there is a small subscript at the bottom of the page that says: “Written to this album by The Decembrists; or, colored to [this album.” Very cool and the publisher, Dark Horse, didn’t have to include that, but they did. And I respect them more for that.

8. Panster or plotter?
I rarely wear pants and I’m actually plotting the success of Mechanized Masterpieces 2 at this very moment. So you tell me.

9. Advice for writers?
Love it or leave it.
10. What’s up next for you?
How long do you have? There’s so much. I’m just starting up the first leg of the mountain. I just pray for time and health and lots of years to keep climbing.
11. Character Casting: Who would you cast for your main characters and why?
There are too many characters here in my mind to cast. But I will just say that my main protagonist in my upcoming novel for Xchyler, Pneumatica, would be the raddest chick to set foot on film. I’m confident that the novel would be so much fun as a film. I hope to see it reach that point someday.
12. Author Favorite Things:
– Quote
So many lines from The English Patient. Something about “there are bodies we swim up like rivers of wisdom.” Amen.

- TV show
Forced into a corner, I’ll say it’s X-Files.
– Comic book character
Run-off between Batman, Wolverine, and Hellboy. I know, right? A real winner picker, huh?

- Movie
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Really, it’s Cool Hand Luke. But for “this blew my mind and started me down a path to exploring history” I would say the former.
– Book
Any of those mentioned above. But I would also add Margaret Weis & Tracy Hickman’sDragonlance series. It’s D&D and the characters are rad. It’s not Shakespeare. But it’s as fun now, twenty-five years later reading it.
- Candy bar
Cadbury’s Fruit & Nut along with Scotch got me through a serious hiking trip in Scotland in my younger years. To that, I am eternally indebted.
- Junk food
I have a major guilty pleasure for Frito’s Scoops.
- Place you visited
Greece. Hands down. Whoa.

- Restaurant
Anywhere the people make you feel like they want you there.
- Island
That small island in Connecticut where that childhood friend and I washed ashore during a mini squall – or maybe we didn’t know how to sail. That place. The island where we were kings for a day!



‘Rise of the House of Usher’ scared the pants off of me. Through a series of letters Potter unveils the dark deeds done in the house of Edgar Allan Poe’s imagination. It really drove me to investigate the source from which Potter’s story  was inspired. In contrast to my other spotlight, this is one of the darker moments of the anthology, a kind of darkness that can only come with steam, cogs, and automata of a maddening quest for life eternal. Read in a well lit room…



MMAA Blog Tour; Spotlight on D. Lee Jortner

Today I would like to spotlight one of my fellow authors in ‘Mechanized Masterpieces 2, an American Anthology'; D. Lee Jortner and her short story ‘Payoff for Aire-Pirate Pete’. 


D. Lee Jortner – “I grew up in the West and love and miss the mountains here in the midwest, so I was happy to place my story out where the sky is big and the mountains reach past the clouds.”

DL Jortner

Playing with imaginary friends and writing and directing plays in the neighbor’s garage filled D. Lee Jortner’s childhood. Today she lets her imagination flow onto her keyboard as she writes mystery, fantasy and steampunk stories and novels. “Payoff for Air-Pirate Pete” is her first short story for Xchyler Publishing. She also enjoys her marketing role with the company and teaching English composition at Ivy Tech Community College in Valparaiso, Indiana. When not writing or working, Jortner is usually busy with her husband, children or grandchildren.

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I caught up with Miss Jortner to talk about her writing:

Please share how you came up with the concept for your story? 

I always loved O.Henry.  I remember my Dad reading me his stories when I was a child. My favorite was The Ransom of Red Chief.

Please name some of your other published works?

My one short work available on Amazon is Chimmeken Crossing the Delaware, An American Historical Fantasy

What is your preferred writing genre?

Genre doesn’t matter to me, but it has to ring true.

And preferred reading genre?

I love historical fiction, of all types.

Do you have any particular writing habits?

I stay up very very late writing when my muse hits me, then try to sleep, and look at it in the morning.  Often it is so full of error, I can’t stand myself, but I usually find some nuggets I can use.

Do you have a playlist that you created while writing your story?

Total quiet.  And if I put on music, I could not tell you what is was, I am in the zone and I hear nor see anything else.

Panster or plotter?

Panster for sure.

Advice for writers?

Get lots of eyes to look at your work, and then keep the parts you love, in spite of the advice.

What’s up next for you?

I want to take Effie and Clayton on another adventure.

Character Casting: Who would you cast for your main characters and why? 

Effie: Mishi Barton

Cayton: Johnny Depp  (or a younger version?)

Author Favorite Things: 

– Quote: “Never supress a generous thought” Camilla Kimball

– Movie: Stand by Me

– Candy bar: Almond Joy

– Junk food: Not a fan.. Give me a nice fresh fruit smoothie any day.

– Place you visited: Banff Alberta Canada

– Restaurant:  The White House

– Island: Dominican Republic


I am of course biased, since I am a co-author in this anthology with Miss Jortner, but I think this story is just great. Jortner gives a wonderful tribute to the classic tale of ‘The Ransom of Red Chief’and fills it with the cogs steam and dirigibles that are part and parcel of steampunk. Her characters are memorable and full of personality. This is one of the more lighthearted tales of the anthology, a cheerful ray of sunshine that brightens up the whole work. I am thrilled to be included alongside Miss Jortner and this great tale of daring dirigibles and abduction gone awry.


Conversation with Ginger Mann; Author Interview


Today’s post is a transcript from a recent conversation with author Miss Ginger Mann, which occurred during her visit to my little corner of the etherverse.  Mann is an up and coming novelist and acquaintance of mine through Xchyler Publishing.

Ginger Mann_200x274Aurel: Hello Ms Mann, It was so good of you to accept my invitation for an interview.

 Mann: Thank you for having me. It’s a pleasure to talk to you today.

 Aurel: As I understand it, you have a new work of fiction just released. What can you tell us about it?

 Mann: Yes, I have had a new work released. It’s a story called “Jilted River.”  Here’s a look at it:

A river siren lives in an Appalachian forest. She lurks at the bottom of a sinkhole, where a mountain collapsed more than a hundred years ago. Her magical voice haunts the underground river there, where she sings through the waters. She sits like a spider, luring and trapping unlucky wanderers forever. She is beautiful, she is magical, and she is deadly.

Or, at least, that’s what the locals say.

Near Berkley Springs, West Virginia, the old women on the mountain pass the tale all around, “Don’t go into the Hollows, especially not after dark.” The story of the Jilted River siren is locally famous, and people come from all over the eastern United States just to see the haunted forest in the Jilted River Hollows. It is one of the crowning features of the local state park. The bald mountain face above it is thick with birdsong, and the view of the waterfall is breathtaking. However, the dense trees and steep rocks have prompted park officials to close the woods to hikers. Out of curiosity, though, hikers still sneak around the authorities, and wander into the forest. Rangers here are used to helping people out of the Hollows, and they have always come out alive. But now, calls for help are on the rise, and some missing people have been missing for days.

A teenage girl, Trystan, arrives at the Hollows with her widowed forest ranger father, and her twin brother. Two hikers are lost, and the family is there to help. She remembers the Jilted River siren, but she tells herself that it’s just a story. Then, the rescue mission ends badly: one hiker disappears, and two men, including Trystan’s father, vanish on the search. Terrified, Trystan must solve a dark mystery and bring everyone home, before it is too late.

Aurel: Very intriguing! Tell me, how is it that you found yourself working with our common partner Xchyler Publishing?

 Mann: Well, for me it started way before Xchyler ever became a publishing house. You know how writers can run into each other? Years ago, I ran into Scott Tarbet, who is now a prolific Xchyler author. He posted to the same listserv as I did, and when we met, we got along immediately. We started helping each other out on little professional projects, partnering on a few of them, even. His ideas were and are always good ones, and he would always involve me when he could. Well, in 2013, he told me about some projects he was working on with Xchyler Publishing, and before I knew it, I finished and submitted my first story to “The X”. I was pleasantly shocked when they chose to publish “China Doll” in their Paranormal Anthology, Shades and Shadows last year. That’s where you and I met, J.



Aurel: How could I forget, it was an honor to be in the same anthology. Tell me Ms Mann, do you have any other published works?

Mann: Continuing on from the previous answer, I published my first short story, “China Doll,” in the Xchyler anthology, Shades and Shadows back in 2013. It was officially released on Halloween Day. Before that, though, I have written both creative and academic pieces. In the tech sector, I write procedures and blogs on the topics of internet security. Outside of tech writing, I have written and published songs and poems for years.

A fun fact: One of my most recently published works is the school song for Cedar Ridge High School in Round Rock, Texas. I’ve got several poems in anthologies by the National Library of Poetry, as well as a few in publications by the Southeast Texas Writers’ League. I even open another wonderful fantasy work published by Xchyler: A Midsummer Night’s Steampunk, by my friend and fellow author, Scott E. Tarbet, starts with my poem, “The Chase”.

Aurel: What moved you to become an author?

Mann: Written words have always come easily to me. I am comfortable expressing myself this way; even more so than with spoken language. I am driven to express ideas, opinions, and even dreams in written form. It clarifies my thoughts better than anything else I do.

The motivation is external, as well: my family continues to ask, and even to push, for me to write stories and articles for them to read. It delights me to make them happy, so I am inspired to work harder on my craft for them. My oldest son is even trying to follow in my footsteps, and write his own short story now.

I put a lot of stock in the opinions of my family and friends, and in the ways that they choose to value me. I am learning that when someone asks for me to do something again, it probably means I have a talent worth sharing. I think it’s important to develop talents like that, and for me, writing is one of them.

 Aurel: It sounds like you are very well supported  by your family. So, can you tell us about some of your most favorite authors?

Mann: In science fiction and fantasy, no one has ever replaced Orson Scott Card or Dan Simmons in my mind. They lay the groundwork for almost every innovative idea I have, and challenge me in the creation of new worlds and “otherness.” Orson Scott Card teaches me about humanity while he is simultaneously describing a thing that pushes my understanding of astrophysics. Above all, I love the tenderness with which he handles his characters, and the dimension of each person in his stories. Dan Simmons, on the other hand, teaches me how to take all of those characters, created with tenderness and compassion, and then ruthlessly cut them into ribbons. Then, he demonstrates how to disappear the whole story into the next temporal dimension. These two men are opposite ends of imaginative genius, and I wouldn’t have one in my library without the other.

In humor and satire, I still love the late authors, Kurt Vonnegut and Douglas Adams. A lot of my turns of phrase, and my sense of irony, come directly from them, when I am trying the same kind of craft. I do not read much history, that’s a shortfall of mine, but I do read philosophy and theology. In theology, I am constantly re-reading the works of C. S. Lewis. I enjoy his simple, human treatment of God, and his clear logical arguments. But extending forward from there, my favorite new author of non-fiction has only written one book to date. He is a monk, known as Brother Emmanuel of Taizé. His book, Love, Imperfectly Known, transformed my view of love forever, and it is certainly influencing the stories that I tell right now.

Aurel: What is it that inspires your writing

Mann: Depends on the type of writing. For me, songs and poems usually come when I’ve been provoked. I will become overwhelmed by something good, bad, ugly, or beautiful that leaves me flat on my face. There is no way for me to get past it without writing it on a page somewhere. More than half the time, there’s no way to get past it without singing it. That’s how my verse happens, or at least it’s the first step.

Stories, though, are a little gentler with me. I find that an initial story idea can come up from almost anywhere. After that, it becomes kind of a parlor game for me to try to take the concept to conclusion. That game can involve just as many people as I want, too. For example, the idea for Jilted River came from my husband, Sean. He said, “Ginger, what if Hansel and Gretel were the ones left behind, and a witch really wanted to kidnap their father?” Six months later, Jilted River is in a fantasy anthology. It’s been a crazy, fun ride.

 Aurel: Do you have any words of wisdom for the burgeoning authors reading this interview?

 Mann: First, look for things that interest you and start reading them. Read as much as you can on as many topics as you can, and do not stop.

Then, whatever your ideas are, start writing them. They don’t have to be good, and they certainly don’t have to be worthy of publication. Keep a journal, keep a blog, review books, talk about your shopping trip or maybe your car. It doesn’t matter. Work on writing made-up scenes in different “voices”, or whatever suits you. Just start writing today, and never stop.

If you start getting comfortable with your writing, then it’s time to find someone who will read your work. Put something out there, and ask for reviews. Listen to what people have to say, even and especially if it makes you want to strangle them. Take a walk, let off steam, and then take and use the criticism you get back. A rule of thumb here: If one person has a problem with your story or your post, then it might be their own personal hang-up. If multiple people offer you the same criticism, it’s a valid point you should take with you.

But the most important thing you can ever do is write. Write, keep writing, and don’t ever stop.

Aurel: Splendid advice. Now, what is next for you?

Mann: Well, since I am a child of multiple artistic worlds, right now I have some songwriting and arranging to do. I have recently authored one song about Divine-Human love that will premiere in February in a small church in Georgetown. I am sincerely looking forward to that. But afterward, I am looking forward to the next Xchyler anthology submission. I have some great ideas in my head for future paranormal and fantasy stories.

Aurel: Naturally, naturally. Last question: if you had the choice between a Dalek demolition derby, Thanator racing, or a one-on-one Quidditch match, which would you choose?

Seriously? All right, I do love the Dr. Who worlds. You almost got me there. But for me, it’s still hard to beat joy riding on a giant eagle, who grabs me while I’m waiting to die at the mouth of a fiery volcano.

Or, if I can’t get that, then a good Bluegrass jam session.

There, that’s my answer and I’m sticking to it.

Ginger Mann can be found at the following locations:


Twitter: @gingersnotes




Her new short story “Jilted River” can be found in The Toll of Another Bell, available in ­­­­Kindle and softcover from these fine vendors:





Advance Reader Copies Available!

10420258_324792761059568_7973102711082533492_nMechanized Masterpieces 2 will be steam upon the world February the 28th of 2015. That’s next month. What if I told you I could put an electronic copy of this amalgamation of cogs gears and American Literature into your hands TODAY. Yes indeed, the Advance Reader Copies of this anthology are winging their way across the internet as you read this and one could be yours.

But… There is a catch. In exchange for early receipt of this collection of short stories, the authors ask, beg, and implore you to provide feedback of the most honest and brutal kind on the commonly known locales, such as Amazon and Goodreads. We are so confident in the quality of our combined efforts, that we have no fear of asking your most honest reviews.

Willing souls can contact me by Twittermaphone via @Losthawken.


Mechanized Masterpieces 2 – An American Anthology!


Ride into the Wild West with ten steampunked expansions of classic American tales:

10628500_464697883673326_5650381832943665180_nA Princess of Jasoom: An intrepid young researcher reaches for the stars from the Arizona desert, and finds love where she least expects it. – J. Aurel Guay

A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs

Winged Hope: The widow of a brilliant inventor fights insurmountable odds to see her husband’s dreams realized and save the life of her daughter. – Megan Collins Oliphant

“Hope” is the thing with feathers by Emily Dickinson

The Van Tassel Legacy: A stranger arrives in Sleepy Hollow to unearth old conspiracies and bring the Van Brunts to justice. – Jay Barnson

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, by Washington Irving

Invested Charm: A mysterious woman doles out justice in Boston society, but who will catch her first: organized crime or the law? – M. Irish Gardner

‘A Charm invests a face…’ by Emily Dickinson

Payoff for Air Pirate Pete: A pair of train-robbing outlaws bite off more than they can chew when they kidnap the son of a railroad bigwig. – Diane Lee Jortner

The Ransom of Red Chief by O. Henry

10612583_464697900339991_7591844242252676265_nRise of the House of Usher: A mad scientist gains power over life and death at the cost of his family’s sanity, if not their very lives. – J. H. Potter
The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allen Poe

The Silver Scams: A fast-talking confidence man ensnares all of Holland in his scheme to eliminate dikes forever . . . for a price. – M. K. Wiseman
Hans Brinker by Mary Mapes Dodge

Nautilus Redux: Captain Nemo’s crew stumble upon an island castaway who claims to be Captain Ahab of the Pequod. Only Moby Dick knows the truth. – Scott E. Tarbet
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne and Moby Dick by Herman Melville

Mr. Thornton: Hounded by tragedy and betrayal, a gifted young blacksmith wanders from The Ohio to The Yukon searching for honor, loyalty, and justice. – Scott William Taylor; Call of the Wild, by Jack London

West End: A heartbroken Theodore Laurence follows the siren song of steam to Jamaica, where love and law collide with explosive results. – Neve Talbot

Louisa May Alcott  and Charlotte Bronte (Currer Bell)

10628308_464697887006659_1096093619983796145_n(All image rights belong to their respective owners)