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In the Dark Hours of the Night–a #HoldOnToTheLight guest post by Charles E. Gannon


Hold On To The Light is probably advice that all of us c/should live by. But for those whose lives have been harrowed by one or more mental/emotional/behavioral challenges, this phrase achieves the status—and significance—of a mantra. Because in the dark hours of the night, when sleep does not come to draw its blackout curtain across the notional gargoyle-presences spawned by those challenges, the afflicted have only one recourse: determination and raw guts, anchored to the light of a seemingly distant hope, seen at the end of a long tunnel of isolation.

We all have some experience with that outlook. There is no broken heart, no worrisome diagnosis, or pending medical test, that has not cost us a night’s sleep, somewhere along the timeline of our existence. But I dedicate what I have included below to those who daily awaken to the knowledge that they are once again rising into a state of siege: that the adversary cannot be surgically removed or excised, and that their battle is endless, for that foe is always ready to pounce upon any loss of resolve, any sideways stumble, any weakness.

I have seen numerous family members grapple with many such conditions. And if the bestiary of those adversaries is diverse—depression, anxiety, addiction, PTSD, any of the conditions now linked under the unified genera “autism spectrum”, more—these variform demons all evince this dark commonality: that those whom they haunt must live with a weight that they cannot shed. Rather, their victims can only carry the burden with as much determination, strength, and grace as human nature allows.

This excerpt from the forthcoming web-serialized novel The Gathering Storm (with Eric Flint, Kevin J. Anderson, and Marko Kloos), is my brief, awkward attempt to honor all their ongoing struggles in the form of one veteran’s battle with PTSD and addiction.

*     *     *

Opium. Reflex turned Conrad von Harrer’s head toward his battered wooden night table. Resting on the stained top, a cracked and yellowed meerschaum imp adorned the Hungarian-made bowl he had purchased for his opium pipe. His two eyes locked on the imp’s one. If only he could outstare it, then he could reject it. But the meerschaum imp was like the opium; the more one tried to defy it, the more one realized that there was nothing to defy except oneself. It was a game, the type a child plays when trying to trick its own reflection in a mirror.

A honey-thick torpor overcame von Harrer while his gaze was still fixed on the pipe. Time passed and the difference between seconds and minutes—or hours—became indistinct, meaningless. He watched as the imp’s face lost its yellowish glaze, gradually deepened to amber as the sun moved from the center of the sky toward the horizon. The one laughing eye still glared upward: puckish, sardonic, leering. A leer like those worn by the fire-bleached skulls outside Mafeking, Kimberley, and in the ruins of Johannesburg: leers which evoked no mirth, only desolation.

When Conrad’s eyes once again showed him the world of the present, he saw that the last light was fading, giving way to darkness. The orange sun had grown larger and murkier, diffusing itself across the light-smeared horizon. On his first approach to Al Qahira, von Harrer had tarried to sit on the sands at Giza and watch the sunset glaze the pyramids: fading triangles that sat squat and timeless on the horizon. His mind’s eye could still make out the cowl of the sphinx, the faint light limning its supine contours. It was an enigmatic posture, a recline that did not suggest rest but, rather, endless watching. A pitiless gaze which had seen the death of many an age, perhaps many a species. It was easy to believe that such blank eyes had always looked out on barrenness, knew nothing else, could augur nothing else.

Von Harrer let his own gaze slip from the window and back into the room, rolling like a lazy ball from one empty corner to another. His eyes touched the spaces that had once been occupied by his possessions: a lamp with crystal pendants, a little mahogany liquor cabinet, a roll-top desk, and a dresser. Faint shadows on the floor marked their old territories, darker where the boards had been spared the bleaching stare of the sun.

All gone now. All gone to the same place. He turned his eyes back to the meerschaum pipe-bowl. All gone there.

Cravings jumped up at the thought, the sight, of the pipe. The meerschaum eyes laughed, invited: just once more.

He turned away, looked at the bare wall on the opposite side of  his bed. He could still feel that mocking leer boring into his back, the dull ivory eyes promising: you’ll almost forget.

You’ll almost forget the clusters of dart-shaped steel rods that screamed down from nearly twenty miles above Johannesburg, glowing with heat when they impacted, the ground vomiting upward in waves, shot through with flame—right before the blast knocked everything flat.

You’ll almost forget the airships hovering out of rifle range, dropping bomb after bomb, only leaving to get more from Rhodes’ secret arsenals of death, hidden safe behind the British lines.

You’ll almost forget the endless litter of civilian dead on the retreat back through what was left of Johannesburg, particularly the children, their little bodies blown apart by the concussive forces, their little heads—blonde, brown, and black—rolled up against walls or into ditches like those of decapitated dolls.

You’ll almost forget the defeat, the camps, the dysentery, the hunger, the vengeful African guards and, finally, the stumbling silhouettes of the internees who were evicted due to disease or frailty. Within the first one hundred yards, each one unfailingly attracted a loping cluster of cape dogs or jackals, whose patience was invariably rewarded by a taste of human flesh.

But opium’s promise of forgetfulness was a lie. The memories never evaporated; they were simply disordered. Even when his head was filled to the point of nausea with the musk-sweet fumes, visions of the past always trespassed upon the present. But instead of complete scenes of the so-called Greater Boer Insurrection, they came as splintered flashes of carnage, each image frozen onto a shard of the shattering mirror that was his mind, his memories.

*     *     *

For those interested, The Gathering Storm is set in 1903, but in a world where a single alteration of physics—that the Michaelson-Morley experiment at Carnegie Mellon did in fact detect the expected existence of aether—began changing history in the 1880s. The aether-assisted air-craft and even space-craft changed history in this universe where alternate physics has created a Dark Edwardian downturning. Characters as diverse as Churchill, Tesla, Wells, Roosevelt, Rhodes move among the shadows of a past tinctured by both streampunk and hard sf sensibilities.

I hope you’ll keep an eye out for it, starting in 2017.    ——Chuck Gannon

cegannonprofilepicAbout the author: Dr. Charles E. Gannon is a Distinguished Professor of English at St. Bonaventure University, where he was the Director of Graduate English until he became a full-time author in 2007. A Fulbright Senior Specialist in American Literature and Culture from 2004 to 2009, his most recent non-fiction book is “Rumors of War and Infernal Machines: Technomilitary Agenda Setting in American and British Speculative Fiction.” Now in second edition, it won the 2006 American Library Association Award for Outstanding Book, and was the topic of discussion when he was interviewed by NPR (Morning Edition).

Among various media appearances, his most recent was as an expert commentator on The Discovery Channel’s second installment of its premier series “Curiosity”.  Along with 45 other SF writers (such as David Brin, Ben Bova, Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle, and Bruce Sterling), he is a member of SIGMA, the “SF think-tank” which has advised various intelligence and defense agencies since the start of the millenium (including the Pentagon, Air Force, NATO, DARPA, Army, the Department of Homeland Security, and several agencies which may not be disclosed). For more information on SIGMA and its work, go to www.sigmaforum.org .

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Join the Shadow Alliance (and Other Cool Stuff)


Join the Shadow Alliance–it’s the most fun you can have without a secret decoder ring!

The Shadow Alliance is my street team. Plenty of contests, prizes, exclusive sneak peek excerpts and updates on what I’m working on next, and other secret members-only cool stuff you have to join to discover! And, oh yeah, Alliance members help to spread the word about my books. Did I mention members-only get-togethers at select cons and cookies? Join now, have fun, help get the word out! Sign up here

Next up–Holiday giveaway!  Win books and gift cards! Authors include me, Faith Hunter, David B. Coe, John Hartness, Stuart Jaffe, Laura Anne Gilman, Darynda Jones, Christina Henry, Jennifer Estep and Mindy Mymudes. Easy to enter, and the more you enter, the more chances to win! Happy Holidays giveaway

You can find the book giveaway links here where you can enter

To win the gift card, go to one of these participating blogs and comment!

Slippery Words  November 24th, 2015 I Smell Sheep  November 25th, 2015 Literal Addiction  November 27th, 2015 Cherry Mischievous November 29th, 2015 Drey’s Library November 30th, 2015 Tome Tender December 1st, 2015 London’s Scribbles December 2nd, 2015 Fantasy Fun Reads  December 3rd, 2015 Rabid Reads December 10, 2015

Shopping for the holidays? Books are the best presents! Vendetta, the new Deadly Curiosities novel, is available for pre-order now and comes out in stores December 29! Other new books this year include War of Shadows in my Ascendant Kingdoms Saga series and Iron & Blood, for the Steampunk lover on your list!


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Filed under Books, Gail Z. Martin

Q&A with Natalie Silk

1. What is the title of your newest book or short story?  What’s it about?  Where can readers find it?

The title is Stars’ Fire, science fiction for young adults.

Dahliea Gherac, a twelve year old girl, is the sheltered daughter of a politically powerful father. She is also from a very wealthy and prominent family. Yet, Dahliea is treated as an oddity by the dominant society, is hounded by the media, and is bullied by her peers because her mother is a blonde-haired, fair-skinned woman from Earth. Dahliea so desperately wants to be accepted by her schoolmates and wishes that she is like every other S’Renen.

Even though this is a science fiction novel, anyone who understands what it’s like to be bullied, excluded, or different may also find Stars’ Fire appealing.

Readers can find Stars’ Fire at Dark Oak Press (www.darkoakpress.com), Amazon, or Barnes and Noble. Readers can find me on: Facebook (Natalie Silk, Author), my blog (NatalieSilk.blogspot.com), and Twitter (NatalieSilkSF).

2. How did you choose to become a writer?

I always wanted to be a writer since I was a little girl.  I would spend hours in my room making up stories.  I started to really write when my sister gave me a journal for my thirteenth birthday.

3. What inspired your new book or story?

When I was twelve or thirteen, I had a dream about five men in monk robes standing in a circle.  I could only see their chins under their hoods.  One of the monks turned to me and he said, “You’re not ready.”  I wrote down the dream.  I had another dream where I was   standing on the side of a mountain overlooking beautiful trees and a huge monolith.  I wrote this dream down also.  Those two dreams became the foundation for Stars’ Fire.

4. What do you read for fun?

I love reading reference and spiritual books; just about anything that stretches my knowledge.

5. What advice would you give to an aspiring writer?

Don’t give up your dreams, ever.  Don’t listen to anyone who tells you ‘never.’  Believe in yourself and believe that your dreams will come true someday.

Bonus: Listen to Natalie read from Stars’ Fire: https://ghostinthemachinepodcast.com/?p=398

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Pluggin’ Away

Sometimes I wonder why I continue writing.

It’s not based on the fact that I want to make money because I’ve gotten past that dream.

Although it is still something I wish to obtain. Quitting my day job of working in the insurance industry would be great because-let’s face it-insurance isn’t all the exciting and I’ve been doing it now for ten years. Regarding writing it’s nice to have the royalties come in and help out paying bills. My sales are fair and hitting a bestseller list would be wonderful, but I’m doing what I can so I muddle along.

I’ve been writing now for sixteen years and eight of those are professionally. I have over seventy books out-novels to novellas and I think that’s a pretty good stack under my belt. I’ve had some wonderful experiences with publishing companies and I’ve had some not so wonderful. All authors have a few war stories. I’ve met some great people and some that make me go hmm…and I’ve made some lifelong friends from it.

There are times I wake up and glance at the computer and groan because it feels like a chore to write.  And others all I want to do is write. Those are the good days. Characters chattering away in my head making me think I’m crazy, but all writers have to argue with the voices in their heads at times to make sense of the noise and sort out the plots. Story lines twist and turn in my brain until I work them out on paper. But the thrilling thing about writing all these years is the stories that come out and appear after all the hard work.  I never assumed that I would have amassed this amount of work. My goal, at least for now, is to get to one hundred published books and then so where I go from there.  But I’m also trying to move from the romance genre and move back into the horror genre where I first started writing or at least mashing it up more.

So I guess the real reason I keep writing is to stay sane and see where the worlds in my head lead. Someday I’m sure I’ll get burnt out completely, but for now I keep on pluggin’

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Filed under Books, Crymsyn Hart

The Next Big Thing

Last week Gail Z. Martin (https://disquietingvisions.com/2012/12/11/big/) tagged me on her blog, as part of a chain of authors (or creative people) recommendations called THE NEXT BIG THING. Today it’s my turn to reciprocate. I’m going to answer questions about my new project Awakening the Wolf .

What is the working title of your next book?

The working title of my newest book is called Awakening the Wolf: A Two-Natured Novel and currently I’m writing the sequel to it called Awakening the Lion.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

The idea for the book came from a dream where the shape shifter characters were able to turn into two different animals instead of just one.

What genre does your book fall under?

My book falls under the Romance genre with a little bit of erotic and shape shifters.

If you found yourself in an elevator with a movie director you admire and had the chance to pitch your book to them, what would you say?

I would tell the movie director that  no movie has ever been done about characters that can turn into two different animals. And there is a great love story to boot? It’s a cross between Twilight and Underworld except without the vampires.

Every writer dreams of their book being turned in a movie or a TV show like Game of Thrones. If this happened to your work, which actors would you choose to play your characters?

If Awakening the Wolf was turned into a movie, I would see Illiana, the heroine, being played by Scarlett Johansson. Belik, the main raven shifter, would be played by Orlando Bloom, and Christopher, main wolf shifter, would be played by Alex Pettyfer.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Once the characters started talking to me, they were the one to inspired me to write the book. I loved the story line and could not stop it.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

It took me a month to write the first draft of the manuscript.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Hmm…I can’t think of any specific books that I can compare it too.

When will your book be available?

This book will be available some time in the spring of 2013.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Well, if the readers enjoy a good love story with plenty of character development and a moving storyline, then this book is for them.

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Filed under Books, Crymsyn Hart, Uncategorized

Two or More Names


Crymsyn Hart

Writing can be hard and it can be fun depending on how are characters are doing that day. If they are in a bad mood, then good luck trying to woo them. Sometimes, the characters break into multi-personalities and make life interesting.

Besides the characters, even the authors can have a bad day or we can split into other personalities as well. It seems that is what is happening to me lately. Other authors write under different names for various reasons. Some is to protect their personal identity. Others do it because they write in different genres and it would clash with another identity. That is where I’m at.

I don’t write under my own  name because of the industry I work in. Besides that I write erotic romance novels and also horror. Erotic Romance and Horror don’t really mix so I’ve had to come up with another name for the horror genre as it is more explicit. So we will see where it goes.

I never thought I would want to write under another name because I could not think in another personality. However, that has been happening lately. It’s hard to have another voice inside my head. Some people think I’m crazy. Maybe I am. *Evil Laugh*

But now I have two personalities that will be inundating the market. I can only hope that I won’t have another personality spring forth. Others do, and that is awesome. I just wonder if I’ll be able to juggle three.

We shall see.


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Filed under Books, Crymsyn Hart

Introspection on sharing myself with the world…


Crymsyn Hart

So I wanted to take a second to talk about Blogging, well my blogging to be specific.

I admit that I’m not the best blogger to keep up every week with a post. I do try. Although the posts come on the day they are due. My day job hits me at odd hours, since I work from home. There is the family stuff we all have to deal with and there are also the spoiled brats, namely my two dogs-Morrigaine, Black Lab and Cadence, Black Lab/Border Collie mix. She’s the crazy one that loves to run full throttle from outside, through the house, and take a flying leap over the arm of my couch and slide it across my floor. Yeah, she’s a cute little devil.

You would think I would blog about my thoughts on the books I read, but my reactions normally stack up to meh it was okay or yeah, I really liked it. How interesting is that?

My day job consists of working in the insurance industry and that will put you to sleep in five minutes once I start talking about it. That leaves talking about my characters or writing in general. I guess there are movies and a few ghost stories I could throw in once and a while, but hey I consider my life to be boring. Maybe others don’t.

I’ll try to be more entertaining unless you catch me on an off day and well then I can’t promise you anything.

So the motto from now on is:

Viva the Blog!


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After the Con


Crymsyn Hart

This past weekend I attended ConCarolina’s with my fellow bloggers, Tina McSwain, Gain Z. Martin, and J.F. Lewis. It was nice to see them and say hello since that doesn’t happen much. As much fun as I had hanging out with all the other authors and meeting such wonderful fans and new ones, I am still recovering. Who would think three days of talking would be tiring, but it is. Although it is exhausting, it also invigorated me to get back to writing.  I guess my muses got over eating their pot brownies and were tired of parting with the Kilingons and singing karaoke.

Once they recovered, they were at me like bears on honey and all they wanted to do was tell me their stories. Trying to slow them down these past couple of days has been rough, but I am managing. At the end of the month I’ll be at FandomFest in Louisville, KY and I’ll be doing the same and meeting new people. That is the glory of the conventions getting to meet wonderful people and hanging out with other who are of like minds and sometimes like muses.

Of course my muses are trying to tell me stories of what they did while I was at ConCarolinas, but I keep telling them, what happens at the Con stays at the Con.

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Filed under Books, Conventions, Crymsyn Hart

Which Comes First, the Author or the Muse?


Crymsyn Hart

Today I have spent most of the day stuffing goody bags with candies and other fun things for this upcoming weekend. I’ll be attending ConCarolinas to hang out with all the other awesome guests and some of my fellow blog members.

While stuffing the bags, plot badgers started rooting around in my brain and a new story bloomed. I hate it when that happens. I think my muses have been eating too many of those pot brownies that I’m not supposed to know about. My muses claim they get together and discuss plot ideas and are relieved when I finally start writing something. I don’t see how they are relieved. I finish writing a book and my brain goes on lock down for at least a week and I can’t even think about sitting at a keyboard. Although my muses end up banging at the bars and want out. So I think my muse’s perspective on things is a little skewed.

She claims they attend workshops to inform me on how to write better, but it’s really me doing all the leg work and researching to make sure I have the details correct if I’m writing on a subject I don’t know.  She thinks she can hide all the drunken parties with the werewolves and gnomes that live inside my mind. Well, she’s wrong. I know all about them. They can’t hide anything from me. *Evil Laugh*

So makes me ponder a question.

Which comes first, the author or the muse?

What do you think?


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Filed under Conventions, Crymsyn Hart

Shiny & Polished….now what do I do?


Crymsyn Hart

So you’ve put the finishing polish on the manuscript and it’s all bright, shiny, and ready to be shipped off…somewhere. But where do you go and what do you do with it? Well, there are several options these days unlike fifteen years ago when I first started searching around for places to go.

You can self-publish. You can send your work to an agent, or you can go directly to a publisher or an e-publisher. If you choose the agent, publisher or e-publisher route, make sure you read the submission requirements for that particular place you are sending it to. Everyone is different.

Some agents say to just email them a synopsis and not to mail anything. Or if you do mail them something make sure you include a Self Addressed Stamped Envelope so you can get a reply back.  Or others will let you know that they are not taking any unsolicited manuscripts.

The same with the publishers. Only very few will actually accept any manuscripts. This is talking major publishing houses. Now if you are looking at e-publishers, make sure to also look at their  submission’s page because they too have a specific format they want, whether it is a synopsis and the first three chapters of your book, or just the synopsis.

Then there is the self-publishing route which many authors I know are taking these days, but please make sure you have edited your book or have some edited for you. That is the most important thing.

No matter which road you choose, there is always the anticipation and the butterflies in the stomach of the waiting for when you hear back. But the good thing about that is, while you’re waiting, you can be writing another book.

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Filed under Books, Crymsyn Hart