Category: Genre

Return to Glory

Here's a little something I did a while back on a prompt from a friend

Return to Glory

by J. Aurel Guay

7597d920I wake from glory. The stale air greets me with an indifference that makes me wonder why I would ever leave the soft warmth of my sheets. The alarm rings again, and I remember why I must leave my refuge. The Dreamscape is gone, now it is time to pay the dues.

I manage to struggle through my routine. A bland breakfast of toast and black coffee are my only comfort. My allotment of water is barely enough to wash the sleep from my eyes, but it will have to be enough. 1 hour down, seventeen to go until I can see her again.

Down on the street I join the silent throng making their way on the same journey. Every face looks the same. Every eye so empty that I cannot bear it, I wonder what would happen if everyone took their plugs out, what would happen to the world.

I place my own plug to my temple.

The soothing effect is immediate, and a sigh escapes my lips as those thoughts fade into an oblivious calm brought by suggestive brainwaves and accompanying music. Amidst the soothing melody that primes my mind for the work ahead, the instructions for the day flow passively from my ear into my brain.

I board the monorail that will take me within a short walk of my post. They have a lot for me to do today, not that I will notice. Time matters little when they feed you a constant stream of consciousness control. I don’t care though, it is all worth it for the red haired beauty that awaits me back in the Dreamscape.

My stop approaches. Sixteen hours until I can be in her sweet virtual embrace. I reach for my briefcase beside me on the floor. The rail lurches suddenly. I feel the hard knock of someone’s head against mine and my plug falls out.

The noise suddenly stops. Disoriented I look around, fellow passengers stand ready to exit, oblivious to me and to one another. Anxiety starts to set in. Without being plugged in I’m not sure what to do. I am missing my instructions, a gaping void is left open where the artificial peace once reigned.

There! My missing plug lies only a foot away on the floor. Reaching for it desperately I collide with a stranger likewise trying to get the device, this time we are both knocked to the floor. Looking up my own dark eyes meet impossibly blue ones, framed in auburn hair. For a moment I forget all about the plug, about the dreamscape, everything. She tucks her stray lock behind her ear and smiles at me. She takes the plug from the monorail floor and hands it too me, then reaches for the second plug I had not seen.

It seems that I should say something; ‘Sorry for bumping you’, ‘I hope your plug is OK.’ Anything. It has been so long since I’ve talked to another living person the words will not come. She smiles again and a burst of energy flows through my chest. Such a feeling as I have only felt in the Dreamscape.

She hesitates a moment, then fits her plug back into her temple. Her eyes still vivid as ever, change subtly to  look through me in a faraway stare. I watch silently as she stands, straightens her grey pencil skirt and exits the monorail without another glance my way.

The chime sounds, I have only seconds before the door closes and I will have missed my stop. My plug is in and I’m exiting the monorail before I know what I am doing. The soothing peacefulness returns and I back to my routine. I am late, if I don’t move quickly they will cut my time in the Dreamscape, my time with Her.
My pace quickens as I move down the packed street. I pass a woman in a grey pencil skit. Her auburn hair and blue eyes seem somehow familiar, but I can’t place it through the thick melody and steady stream of sedating brainwaves. It doesn’t matter. I’ll be at my post soon, then just fifteen and a half more hours until I can return to glory.

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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Be sure and enter the RAFFLECOPTER contest to win some  great prizes from Xchyler Publishing!

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 Continue reading

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’. 

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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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Be sure and enter the RAFFLECOPTER contest to win some  great prizes from Xchyler Publishing!

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 Continue reading

Mechanized Masterpieces 2 – An American Anthology!

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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)

Mechanized Masterpieces 2 page updated!

10612583_464697900339991_7591844242252676265_nThe release date for Mechanized Masterpieces II an American Anthology is fast approaching. My story just passed line editing and is now in the hands of the proof readers!

The official release date is February 28th, but Advance reader copies will be available near the end of January. Let me know if you want to support us by reading and reviewing this great anthology before the release date!

Cover Reveal for Mechanized Masterpieces 2

Coming February 2015

1939845_798760483531107_7442566140266734985_oIn the sequel to Mechanized Masterpieces an Amarican Anthology, the authors of Xchyler Publishing were challenged to add a steampunk flavor to their favorite works in American literature. The result is ten fantastic stories full of cogs, gears, and the love of classic literature. So what can you expect from this anthology? Here is a breakdown of the authors and their inspirations:

Jay Barnson; The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, by Washington Irving
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Scott William Taylor; Jack London
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J. Aurel Guay; A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs
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M. Irish Gardner; Emily Dickinson
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Megan Collins Oliphant; Emily Dickinson
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J. H. Potter; Edgar Allen Poe
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Diane Lee Jortner; The Ransom of Red Chief by O. Henry
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Neve Talbot; Louisa May Alcott  and Charlotte Bronte (Currer Bell)
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M. K. Wiseman; Hans Brinker by Mary Mapes Dodge
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Scott E. Tarbet; 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne and Moby Dick by Herman Melville

Postmortem ~ An Excerpt from Jagerund

Some of you may have read this before,but I want to announce the publishing of  the followup to my short story, ‘The Death of Marcus Wells’ on my own blog. This piece of flash fiction is both the epilogue to my published short story and an excerpt of the novel I am working on titled ‘Jagerund’. Please enjoy!

It was late when Emily tiptoed into the room. Unlike most of the other rooms in the abandoned monastery, this one was well-lit. Several oil lamps surrounded the table on which the corpse laid and pushed back the darkness that seeped from the stone walls.

Marcus’ back was to her, his shaggy light coloured hair hung over his eyes as he bowed his head toward the table. So engrossed in his work was he that didn’t notice her enter. His forceps moved methodically, gently separating the human flesh from the parasite that had infiltrated the now deceased body.

She cleared her throat gently. Read more->

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Manuscript Accepted! Raise the Dirigibles and Bring on the Steam!

10660375_464697890339992_5856595183846179556_nI am simply elated right now! This past night, I got the official word from the ever illustrious and gracious Xchyler Publishing, that I will be published yet AGAIN! This time as an author in an anthology of steampunk stories inspired by great American literature. I am so pleased about this on so very many levels. I’ve been hinting about my story in progress on my facebook page and twitter. At some point in the near future, I will compile all the clues and hints to wet your appetite.

The short story is titled ‘A Princess of Jasoom’ and derives from the novel that inspired it, namely ‘A Princess of Mars’ by Edgar Rice Boroughs. As readers of  A Princess of Mars might recall, Jasoom is the Martian name for Earth, and I thought the inversion of the title fitting for my story based on Earth. I must confess that, while it is one of my best imaginations, as it stands the manuscript is certainly one of my worst executions, owing to the extreme time constraints under which I rushed to complete the project. Yet, in the end it seems to have been worth it. For, the editors of Xchyler must have seen through my basal grammar, and ragged prose, to the potential buried deep beneath.

10628500_464697883673326_5650381832943665180_nMuch work is yet to be done to bring this tale up to even my own standards, much less the high standards of my beloved editors. It was a delight to try to emulate the verbose and vivid writing style of Edgar Rice Boroughs. However, it will be a challenge to refine that style into the limited word count and restrictions on passive voice to which Mr. Boroughs was so given.

So what can you expect from this tale? It is not a retelling of the original story, but a thrilling story of mystery and action set in parallel to the historical work where two characters strive to prevent an evil warlord from conquering Earth by means of an ancient Martian technology. It comes complete with fantastic creatures and inventions that I hope give credit to the creative mind of Mr. Borough’s.

10612583_464697900339991_7591844242252676265_nSteampunk blends into the tale in the import of the many varieties of steam powered automaton that have arisen since John Carter’s second egress from Earth back to Mars. The cogs and boilers of these are the critical element that drive the story and, I hope, will likewise drive the steampunk fans on through its pages.

I can tell you that the heart of the story is a very old idea of mine I had that has taken many forms over the years. It started as an Indian Jones style tale of world traveling adventure and ancient artifacts, progressed to a science fiction tale (that you can read the beginnings of here), and finally evolved into a true steampunk tribute, first aimed at Jules Verne’s ‘Around the World in Eighty Days’, then later finding its better inspiration in the work of Edgar Rice Boroughs.

Be looking for more details in the coming months and be sure to sign up as an Advance Copy Reader in order that you might have the first peak at this wonderful collection of cog and steam driven tales.

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Conversation with Jay Barnson ~ Author Interview

Today’s post is a transcript from a recent conversation with author Mr. Jay Barnson, which occurred during his visit to my little corner of the etherverse.  Barnson is video game designer, up and coming novelist and acquaintance of mine through Xchyler Publishing.

JayPunkHeadshot1J. Aurel: Hello Mr. Barnson, It was so good of you to accept my invitation for an afternoon drink at the ‘Grog-and-Dart’. Pull yourself up a stool.

Barnson: What, they’ve got stools here, too? Man. Classy establishment. So much better than the last place I found myself…

J. Aurel: I understand that you have a new work of fiction. Can you tell us a little about your story?

Barnson: I could tell you, but then I’d have to ki… oh, fiction. Right.

I was actually inspired when I was doing research on what was going to be a totally different story, involving telecommunications in the Victorian era. I had some weird idea for steampunk technology, but the more I dug into the actual technology of the era, the more I realized that what I thought would be science fiction in the 1880s was actually science fact. They really did have pretty amazing technology back then. Trans-Atlantic communication, fax machines, “online” romances, telecommunications fraud…Really, all the stuff that we think are unique to the Internet age… maybe back when it was text-based, at least… existed back then, on a smaller scale.

A few months earlier, I’d read an article about a profoundly autistic teenaged girl. Her therapists believed that she was also intellectually disabled. With a great deal of effort, her family taught her to use the keyboard. After a while, she was able to write messages to explain what she was going through. Even her family, who loved her and knew her best, had completely underestimated her. Here was an intelligent young lady with the same emotions as any other girl her age, fully cognizant of how her brain and body were betraying her. Until she used an alternative form of communication, everyone assumed she was incapable of understanding what she was doing.

Between this, and a little study of Savant Syndrome, I thought about how little we know now in the 21st century about these kinds of disabilities. Back in the 19th century, what chance would even a mildly autistic individual have?

These ideas became the seeds for Dots, Dashes, and Deceit. From the high-tech telegraphy industry came Winnie. She’s a young, small-town telegraph operator who has been displaced by advancing technology. She’s frustrated by her love of technology and hope for adventure, and the expectations of society which considers her perilously close to “old maid” status. Then you have Joshua, a mute savant, dismissed by the town as harmless but hopelessly “dumb,” in both senses of the word. However, nobody recognizes that the supposedly nervous habit he has of tapping with his hand is actually Morse code… and that he’s discovered a deadly plot that he has been unable to communicate.

Add to that an eccentric inventor, mechanical men controlled via Morse code, an alternate history where the East India Company was not nationalized after the Indian Rebellion of 1857, long-distance plots from across the world coordinated via coded telegraph messages, and an airship full of thugs… and you have Dots, Dashes, and Deceit, my short story coming soon in Terra Mechanica: A Steampunk Anthology.

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J. Aurel: Wow that sounds like quite the story! What moved you to become an author?

Barnson: I honestly can’t Continue reading

Writing woes . . .

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I’m picking away at a story that may-or-may-not be ready for Xchyler’s next anthology contest (open now). But, I really have my doubts about it.

I’m already 3K words into the 10-15K word story and just barely finished the intro, which probably means it’ll read slow at the start. I’m also already struggling with a flat and underdeveloped character. . . Sigh, I know it’ll be great once the conflict develops, but I just hope I can pull it together to keep the readers reading till that point!

Here’s a little taste of what spilled onto the page last night:

Brooks acted quickly, and slammed a large glass beaker over the autonomous machine. Now that it was contained he joined Elizabeth in staring at it as it pushed and poked at the sides of its transparent prison.

“It— It’s acting on its own. I’ve never seen a shard do that before,” spoke Miss Paramour breathlessly.

“It’s a miracle,” added Brooks.

A smile emerged at the corner of his partner’s mouth.

“It’s kind of cute, like a little metal octopus.” she said.

“A naughty one,” commented Jim as he watched the thing ram the side of the glass in an attempt to break through, an attempt thwarted by his own firm and on the top of the container.

“Yes, and that’s what we shall call it, ‘Nautilus’—‘Nauty’ for short.

“But you already gave it a name, and it doesn’t much look like a Nautilus.”

“Oh, hush. It didn’t like its other name, and I don’t rightly care what it doesn’t look like. I shall call it Nauty.”