Tag Archives: Jean Marie Ward

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 .

Leave a Comment

Filed under #HoldOnToTheLight

The Other End of the Situation–A #HoldOnToTheLight guest post by Stuart Jaffe


When I was first asked to write this blog post for #HoldOntoTheLight, I agreed without hesitation. Then I tried to write this thing. But it hurt, so I put it away. I tried again, sitting in my office, thinking, staring at the screen. But I couldn’t. Not yet. Put it away, I thought. I’ll get back to it. By the time other authors had started posting, I should have had this done. I read their blogs, saw how open and honest many of them were, but still, I couldn’t.

I finally decided that hey, I’m a writer. I should be able to do this in some form that works for me — like fiction. So I wrote a thousand-word piece about a man and a woman reaching the point where they realized they had a trauma to deal with.

And I shelved it.

See, the problem here isn’t that I’m embarrassed or ashamed or anything of the sort. The problem is that the depression I deal with on a daily basis is not mine. I don’t want to betray a trust. I don’t even know if I have to right to discuss the issues of a depression that isn’t mine.

What I can discuss, however, is what it is like to be on the other end of the situation. I can reach out to the spouses, parents, and friends of those who suffer.

Because we suffer, too.

We are just as caught in a world of silence and sadness. We are the ones making excuses for our loved one’s absence at parties, events, and family gatherings. We are the ones running interference between our loved one and the demands of the world. We take on the tasks and burdens of two. And we hurt when we see the dark place our loved one has gone to, when we reach out to help and nobody reaches back, when day after day turns to year after year and it gets harder to maintain a connection.

It’s like watching an enormous ship — a life — slowly sinking in the ocean. We want to help. We try to help. But we rarely have the ability to jump aboard and patch the holes. Even when it seems like we can succeed, those holes reopen the moment we step away.

We’re stuck watching.

I’ve been fortunate, so far. My loved one is still alive. But for many, that ship sinks. Many watch as depression ends in suicide. And regardless of what outcome we find ourselves in, we feel guilty. Because no matter what, we always think we can do more than watch. No matter how often we try, no matter how often we are rejected, no matter how many slivers of good days we cling to, in the end, we can only stand there, hold out our hands, and hope that our love will raise a hand to reach back. We can watch and wait.

And we do.

That is the thing I want those of you with depression or PTSD or any mental illness to understand. We are there for you. We are holding your hands. We want you back. So much that we’ll suffer for you, too. We don’t give up on you. Ever. So, you shouldn’t either.

Because that’s the way love works.

About the campaign:

#HoldOnToTheLight is a blog campaign encompassing blog posts by fantasy and science fiction authors around the world in an effort to raise awareness around treatment for depression, suicide prevention, domestic violence intervention, PTSD initiatives, bullying prevention and other mental health-related issues. We believe fandom should be supportive, welcoming and inclusive, in the long tradition of fandom taking care of its own. We encourage readers and fans to seek the help they or their loved ones need without shame or embarrassment.

Please consider donating to or volunteering for organizations dedicated to treatment and prevention such as: American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Hope for the Warriors (PTSD), National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Canadian Mental Health Association, MIND (UK), SANE (UK), BeyondBlue (Australia), To Write Love On Her Arms (TWLOHA) and the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.

 To find out more about #HoldOnToTheLight, find a list of participating authors and blog posts, or reach a media contact, go to https://www.HoldOnToTheLight.com and join us on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/WeHoldOnToTheLight

stuart-jaffe-headshot2014About the author:

Stuart Jaffe is the author of the Nathan K fantasy-thrillers, The Max Porter Paranormal-Mysteries, The Malja Chronicles, a post-apocalyptic fantasy series, The Bluesman pulp series, the Gillian Boone novels, FoundersReal Magic and After The Crash as well as the short story collections, 10 Bits of My Brain and 10 More Bits of My Brain. Numerous other short stories have appeared in magazines and anthologies.

Leave a Comment

Filed under #HoldOnToTheLight, Guest Blogger

Kicking the Athena’s Daughters Kickstarter Up a Notch!

kickstarter, anthology, women, science fiction, fantasy,

Help fund the Kickstarter campaign to bring the Athena’s Daughters campaign to life!

Athena’s Daughters is the second Kickstarter anthology I’ve been part of. (The first is the upcoming Clockwork Universe: Steampunk Vs. Aliens by Zombies Need Brains Press.)

Once again, I am amazed by our fantabulous backers! We have passed Stretch Goal #20, which means all backers at $5+ get the audio book of War of the Seasons Part I by Janine Spendlove, plus the amazing print of Athena by Ginger Breo, plus a new anthology story by Jennifer Brozek, plus a new e-story by Tera Fulbright,–we added all those goodies just in the last couple of days, thanks to you!

Each time we make another stretch goal, all backers at the $5+ level get new stuff. The more people who back the Kickstarter, the more loot we all get. Got it? Fund it!

So what’s Stretch Goal #20? A limited edition hardcover of Athena’s Daughters will be published. This won’t be a freebie, but it will be available to order, and the funding at this level makes publication a possibility.

Stretch Goal #21 will mean an additional story will be added to the anthology by Diana Peterfreund.

Goal #22 will fund the creations of a companion anthology, Apollo’s Daughters, featuring female characters written by some of the top male science fiction and fantasy writers! Writers like Michael A. Stackpole, Aaron Alston, Aaron Rosenberg, David Mack and Brian Young, so you know this is going to be good!

And Goal #23 adds a story by Alma Alexander to the anthology!  We are adding new stretch goals and new pledge rewards almost daily! There’s still plenty of good stuff–but you’ve got to fund it to get it!

In addition to the Stretch Goals, there are still some awesome Pledge Rewards waiting to be gobbled up. These exclusive packages have limited quantities, and offer unique bundles of ebooks, print books, art, music and surprises. Support at the FIERCE level and get personalized, signed copies of my books The Sworn, The Dread and Ice Forged, plus other goodies. Support the REGAL level and get a personalized, signed copy of a limited-edition ARC of my book The Blood King. Support at the MENTOR level and get a manuscript review by one of our anthology’s published authors—perfect for your own work or to give as a gift to the writer in your life!

Here’s something else that’s awesome–for every book sold, Athena’s Daughters will contribute to RAINN (Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network), the largest anti-abuse network in the U.S.  You get the whole stretch goal package–books, ebooks, e-stories, artwork, music, and victims of abuse get the help they need to survive. It’s a great way to do good while getting goodies.

You’ve got it fund it to get it! Please become a backer of Athena’s Daughters: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/103879051/athenas-daughters-women-in-science-fiction-and-fan’s  (You’ll also see all the contributing authors, artists, editors and musicians, plus the AWESOME stretch goals, pledge reward levels and add-ons.)

Watch the Athena’s Daughter’s video.

Get to know the Athena’s Daughters awesome authors with our blog hop! Just follow this link to blogging bliss!

Powered by Linky Tools

Click here to enter your link and view this Linky Tools list…

Athena’s Daughters is a Kickstarter anthology featuring short stories by women writers in science fiction, fantasy and steampunk. Introduction by retired astronaut and former space shuttle pilot Pam Melroy. Authors include Mary Robinette Kowal, Gail Z. Martin, Danielle Ackley-McPhail, Jean Marie Ward, Janine Spendlove, Maggie Allen, Conley Lyons, Cleolinda Jones, Cynthia Ward, C.A. Verstraete, Tera Fulbright, Tanya Spackman, EJ Lawrence, Nisi Shawl, Vicki Johnson-Steger, DL Stever , Diana Peterfreund, Jennifer Brozek, Tricia Barr. Art by Tietjen Alverez, Kellie Neier, Betsy Waddell, Ginger Breo.  Edited by Jean Rabe.


Leave a Comment

Filed under Anthology, Books, Fandom, Gail Z. Martin

Freebie Friday by Jean Marie Ward

Jean Marie Ward, our guest blogger this week, is kind enough to share the following free goodies:

Ward Theater (flash fiction slide shows)

“Duzell’s Due” <https://jeanmarieward.com/and-stuff/duzells-due/>

“Green Eyes” <https://jeanmarieward.com/and-stuff/green-eyes>

Short Fiction
“About the Flies” – The Devil’s in your freezer and he’s ready to deal.
< https://samhainpublishing.com/blog/2010/05/28/about-the-flies>

“Clear as Glass” – Rita meets the man of her dreams…over her husband’s dead body.
< https://jeanmarieward.com/and-stuff/clear-as-glass/>

“The Kitty at the Edge of Forever” – Who knew a Star Trek/Tolkien cross-over could be so wrong?
< https://jeanmarieward.com/and-stuff/the-kitty-at-the-edge-of-forever/>


Everyday Haunts: A Real Life Ghost Story
< https://www.readmoreromance.com/sam/freebies/t-z/ward_haunts.pdf>

Leave a Comment

Filed under Freebie Friday, Guest Blogger

Stealth Guest or How to Succeed at Cons with a Cunning Plan

By Jean Marie Ward

(This blog was originally published in the Samhain Publishing Blog, but the subject is always appropriate for writers looking to market their work and connect to fans—and for fans who want to learn a little about what happens “behind the curtain” at their favorite conference.)

The email from RavenCon’s assistant director of programming was polite but not encouraging:

“Right now our guest list is full, but I will put you on our short list if a guest cancels…”

A lot of writers would take that as a hint. In other words: “Stay home, little girl, you’re not big enough/you’re the wrong genre to play in our sandbox.” But I’m evil and wise in the ways of science fiction/fantasy conventions. And I had a cunning plan.

First, I ran the numbers on RavenCon, and they were good:

– Less than two-hour drive from the house—Check.

– Inexpensive membership fee—Check.

– New con with good reports from writer friends—Check.

– Reservation at the con hotel and great roomie—Check.

– Stellar pre-con programming—Check.

The last two were the clinchers. I was especially intrigued by the pre-con programming.

Tee Morris, a fantasy writer who grew up in the Richmond VA area, had arranged two days of writer-based programming at his old high school. He figured more of the students at his alma mater read science fiction and fantasy than would ever be caught dead at a geek fest—er, a con. So the thing to do was to bring the con to them.

Tee is also one of the friends who shared glowing reports of the first RavenCon. Which meant I could probably weasel my way into the pre-con programming and start warping young minds—er, engage in meaningful outreach with readers and writers who will still be buying books long after I fretted my hour upon the writing stage.

It didn’t hurt that my roomie, award-winning author Jana Oliver, had inadvertently signed on for a two-hour seminar on history in science fiction and fantasy. She felt she needed help pulling examples for the program, because she reads more nonfiction and mystery than fantasy. I believe I waited until she issued the invitation to help before volunteering, but it was a near thing. Like I said, I had a plan.

I think the con’s programming director had an inkling of what was up when Tee presented him with the participant list for the pre-con program at Monacan High School. Tee assured him I was cool. After all, I planned to buy a ticket for the con. Tee, bless him, thinks the best of everyone.

Returning to the con hotel, I had the good fortune to run into one of the con volunteers. She provided two important pieces of information: the location of the con operations suite and the fact the registration packets had yet to be stuffed.

Mwahahahaha! My plan was working, and I hadn’t even started yet.

Traveling with Jana to lend an air of legitimacy, I arrived in the con suite with a box of six hundred bookmarks and my most harmless expression. I used to be a master at “pretty and harmless” but now I have to make do with “friendly and harmless”. The programming director still wasn’t buying it, but I fooled everyone else, including the con director. More probably, my bookmarks fooled them. Lots of guests had brought freebies, but very few had brought enough for the estimated six hundred attendees. Having the cunning—er, foresight to bring more bookmarks than I could ever hope to hand out worked in my favor, big time.

Step one in my cunning plan was now complete. My bookmarks would be in the hands of every person who registered for the con. Steps two and three consisted of connecting with the volunteer coordinator and the con bookseller, respectively. Folding the restaurant flyers as they exited the printer, I promised the volunteer coordinator to help monitor some programs as soon as I was sure which ones I planned to attend.

She smiled at the programming director. He grumbled over his schedule. Seems several guests had canceled at the last minute. I practiced looking perky and really, really harmless. Apparently I looked so harmless Jan Howard Finder (a.k.a. wombat, the fan guest of honor) decided I was safe for a chat. Ooooh, more legitimacy! More importantly, he’s a funny, charming guy.

I registered as soon as Tee, Jana and company returned from the Monacan program the next day. Then I headed back to con ops to volunteer. While I was signing on to monitor panels, the volunteer coordinator pointed out the sign-in sheet for open panels. I was in! My plan was a total success.

Not wishing to appear greedy, I only signed on for two: “Creating a FanZine” and “My Lover Is a Vampire…or Maybe a Werewolf”. I wound up with four panels and a signing. I could’ve had more panels. Science fiction and fantasy cons always have drop-outs. They always need guests, and if you demonstrate helpfulness and a lack of diva-ttitude, you’re in. By the time RavenCon was over, I was firmly ensconced in the guest line for the following year (thank you, Mr. Programming Director!) and I’d nailed down an invitation to another Virginia con where they promised to feed me. (Considering I’m a four-star foodie, this could prove to be more than their budget can handle. But I’ll be good. Mostly.)

If you’ve stuck with me this far you may be wondering what relationships this has to Samhain or its other writers. Plenty. Just look at the second panel I signed up for— “My Lover is a Vampire Is a Vampire…or Maybe a Werewolf”. Does that sound like a Samhain-style panel or what? My pick-up two panels were “Shaken, Not Stirred—Sex in Science Fiction and Fantasy Films and TV” and “Vice in Science Fiction and Fantasy”.

Paranormal romance writers could have a field day on any of those panels. Paranormal romance readers would have just as much fun sitting in the audience.

The organizers would love to see Samhain writers and readers there too. Con organizers may not always know it heading into the home stretch of con preparation, but once the show begins they need you.

They need paranormal romance writers on their panels. Urban fantasy/paranormal romance is one of publishing’s great cross-over success stories. Futuristic romance is turning into a gateway into traditional science fiction. Fantasy and science fiction readers want to hear what you have to say, even if they don’t know it yet. It’s a wonderful promotion opportunity–even in the absence of related outreach programming.

If you have to pay the membership, it’s still no big. Membership fees for science fiction and fantasy cons are typically low. The fees for RavenCon were $40 at the door for all three days. Even added to the shared cost of a room, my total con costs came to no more than the registration fees for my favorite RWA conference.

Science fiction and fantasy cons need paranormal romance readers in their audiences. It’s a great opportunity to meet some favorite authors up close and personal — and an even better opportunity to learn about more. I came home with a shopping list, and I know I’m not the only one.

Even the “Con Crud” sinus infection that followed me home turned out to be a plus. After deciding I needed antibiotics after all, my health care professional asked me, “Book signing? What’s your book? You have it with you?”

I couldn’t believe my ears. “You do know it’s a fantasy, right? Comic fantasy—Robert Jordan meets Sex in the City with a little help from Lucille Ball.”

“Yeah. I love that stuff. What’s the title again?”

Science fiction and fantasy cons. Con crud. It’s all good.


Originally published at the Samhain Publishing Blog, April 25, 2007,

You can listen to the audio from when Jean Marie was a guest of Blog Host, Gail Z. Martin’s Ghost in the Machine podcast here:  https://www.audioacrobat.com/play/Wcdj36nk

Leave a Comment

Filed under Guest Blogger