Saturday, January 25, 2014

The Dream.

My father died in February, 1985, after a nine-year fight with a cancer that was supposed to be "easily treatable" and "no big thing" when the doctors found it in the fall of 1976.

It was probably the hardest blow I ever had in my life. This was the man who taught me what it was to be a dad and a man in this world. He never said, "here's how you do it." He just did. Frank was a gentleman among gentlemen, respected and honored in our town.

Unlike his children.

We grew up in the wrong end of La Porte, Indiana, an industrial town that fell on hard times during the Carter Administration, like so many other factory towns across the country. We lived on Pulaski Street across from one of the local bars, and there wasn't a week that went by without one of us getting into a fight, skipping school, getting drunk or high or both. I think all that trouble just came part and parcel with the strong personalities we all had inherited. Dad did his best, but there was just too many of us, and there were too many outside influences working against us.

1985 was my last year of active duty with the Air Force. My oldest brother was still in the Army at the time we got the calls from home. My squadron commander and First Sergeant found me in the barracks day room watching TV, and had me packed and on a plane in another hour. Allen had a critical job with the Army, and was unable to get home for another two weeks. During that time, Dad hung on in the hospital, waiting for us all to get together one last time. Even unconscious and on dilaudid, he was more stubborn than any freak in a black hooded robe.

After the funeral, I returned to duty with a huge black hole in my life where Dad used to be. My last connection with the concept of "home" was gone. My brothers and sisters all had their own families to worry about. From here on out, I was on my own.

It was six months later when I had the dream. I know that dreams can reflect what is in the heart, but dreams can also be sent.

I found myself in my grandfather's house, where we had moved after my parents split up. Standing in an empty kitchen, I heard the sounds of someone in the basement woodshop. The whir of an electric motor vibrated throughout the house.

Descending the basement stairs, I turned right. My father stood at the lathe, turning a piece of wood. The chisel sent chips flying over Dad's shoulder as he worked his way down the length of maple, rounding the board to begin a table leg.

My heart beat heavier as I spoke my thoughts. "Dad? You're not supposed to be here."

He stopped long enough to check his contour gauge against the wood. "Yes, son. It's okay. I got permission."

I had to fight the words out. A fresh wave of grief washed over me. "Why did you have to die?"

He stopped and put the chisel down. He didn't look straight at me, not at first. He spoke softly, not sad, but wistful. "It was my time. You have to understand that."

The lump in my throat made my voice thick. I silently cursed the fog of tears that kept me from seeing him clearly. I wanted to run to him, throw my arms around him and never let go. But I knew, inside, that I couldn't. Some unspoken command from an undeniable authority held me in place. "I miss you, Dad."

"I miss you, too. But I want you to know something." Now he looked at me, and his eyes held the same love he'd always shown me, even when we'd done something he wasn't proud of. But one thing we all knew, no doubt: Dad loved us. He continued. "I'm happy where I am. And I'm supposed to tell you that we'll all be together again."

He picked up his chisel again, the favorite round-nosed one that he made himself, and went back to work on the table leg. It was time to go back upstairs.

I woke still feeling everything, remembering every word of the dream. My heart still hammered. My pillow was damp from tears. But until that moment, I didn't think I would ever be okay again. Now I knew. I knew that things were going to be all right.

Because my father told me they would.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

I Want To Thank The Academy...

Good day, fellow castaways. Before I get started on this week's post, we have some business to conclude.

From  last week's comments, a winner has been selected to receive a free eBook of their choice from my (now multiple) award-winning series The NADIA Project.

Jill Denney, come forward and collect your prize! (sorry, should have had you all leave an email address in your comment to make it easier to collect!) Send me an email at cyrus DOT keith AT yahoo DOT com, and I will send you your eBook.

Thanks one and all for your comments. Sorry for the headache, Rob, but I like blue way too much (though my actual favorite color is red).

Now, the next item of interest is this:

*Insert girlie squeal* Two of my books have won Top Ten honors in the Annual Preditors and Editors' Reader's Poll! Yes, my novel Critical Mass took 4th place in the Best Thriller Novel category,

and my novella Lies and Paine took 4th place in the All Other Short Stories category.

Thank you to everyone who logged in and voted for me.
I'm deeply honored.

Last week, I regaled you with an excerpt from Lies and Paine.  I think it fitting that this week, you all get a sample from Critical Mass.

The blurb:

 Jenna Paine is a super spy, genetically enhanced to be more than human.

Nadia Velasquez is a living weapon of mass destruction.

When the secret organization who built them both decides they are no longer useful, two enemies are thrown together for the only purposes they could have in common: survival and revenge.

 There's only one way out of The Pinnacle, and that's on a coroner's slab. Jenna lives through a treacherous attack vowing to exact her vengeance on the people who trained her to be the most deadly agent on the planet.


 Wounded and on the run, she turns to the man who's sworn to make her face charges for her involvement in The Pinnacle's nefarious schemes.

 After years spent hiding from The Pinnacle, Nadia runs into the one thing she never counted on: Shelf life. As her body breaks down, she realizes it's only a matter of the short time she has left to redeem her existence and give her daughter a chance to live free.

 In the final showdown, the two transhumans join forces against a common enemy, and The Pinnacle come to know the deadly significance of…

Critical Mass


A flip of a switch at the end of the hall lit up doors on the left and on the right. At the far end of the tunnel, another staircase went up. Jon entered the first room on the right and turned on the light. A small counter and fridge greeted him. On the counter sat a coffee maker. He started a pot and walked back out into the common room.

Eleven people taunted him from candid photos tacked on the corkboard. Next to each was a printout. Jon put a finger on each photo as he named them out loud, a ritual he engaged in every time he came down: “John Bowman. Armando Lopez. Bruce Wilkes. Vladimir Kuznetzov. Bernadetta Caglioni. Noor Ah’halaami. Sirdar Karina Hattangadi.” Four other photos were pegged to the board in a separate group. “Jenna Paine. Walter Brady. Alan Whitfield. Mark Boyle.” Whitfield’s and Boyle’s pictures had thick borders drawn in red marker.

Footsteps on the stairs interrupted his thoughts. Bunny came around the corner and joined Jon at the board. Today’s T-shirt said BYTE ME. When he spoke, his Brooklyn accent came through strong, showing how many late hours he’d put in on this data. “Whaddaya think, Jonny?”

Jon waved at the top group of photos. “I think we’re up to our elbows in alligators. These people have more power and influence than most kings do. Are you positive these are the ones who built Nadia?”

 “They’re the ones who put in the order. I’d stake my life on it. They’re all tied into the Global Unification Alliance. They dump tons of cash into it, on the order of billions a year, but they refuse to take a bow for all their little Boy Scout good deeds for the day. They’re clients of Twin Oaks Spa, and none of them ever go there without at least two others.”

The skinny little man touched a fingertip on the note beside each picture as he recapped. “Wilkes owns more ships than most third world navies. There ain’t a thing comin’ across the Atlantic that he don’t approve. Lopez moves oil and cattle  all over Mexico and beyond, and for some reason all the drug cartels leave him be.”

“Maybe he’s moving more than cattle and oil.”

Bunny scowled deeper. “Or maybe they’re all afraid of him, Jonny. Ever figure that?” He went on with his litany. “Kuznetzov started in electronics engineering and got into arms dealing about twenty years ago. Rumor is the Russian mob is his little lap dog. Caglioni owns Aeritalia Airlines and Itamax Clothing. Miss Noor Don’t-Even-Ask-Me-How-To-Pronounce-It is a secret majority holder of Vandalore Industries, and a half-dozen other major conglomerates. She farts dollar bills, Jonny. In secret, of course. And our friend the Sirdar swings a bigger stick in OPEC than anyone wants to admit. She’s a sly one, that.”

Bunny sat in one of the chairs and spun it so he faced Jon. “Bowman we know. Dude owns the news. He paid Nadia’s hospital costs from the time she came alive ’til Twin Oaks released her. So he knows about her, and he was the one who sent her to Iran to ‘interview’ President Javad.”

Jon interjected, “That implicates him in the murder of President Bello in Nigeria, because another NADIA was used in that assassination. We have the video to prove it.”

“But to bring him down, Jonny, we have to bring Nadia forward, show the world that she’s an artificial person. So unless you wanna give her up, you gotta catch him some other way.”

“We need one more person on our side, to get through his mask.” Jon fingered the photo of Jenna again. “If we can turn her, she may help.”

Bunny shook his head. “That’s like reasoning with a rattlesnake. You met her twice, and you’re lucky to be alive.”

“Exactly. She doesn’t want to kill me for some reason. I think I could talk with her, if I could just find her.”

 “If you’re an example of what she does to people she likes, I’d hate to see what happens to people she don’t like.”

“You’ve seen it, Bunny. Mark Boyle, the man who took the girls hostage. She popped his head with one shot. I wouldn’t be so sure she didn’t do Whitfield, too.”

“Still think she had somethin’ to do with that breakout in Vegas?”

Jon nodded. “The Air Force thought they had Nadia. Three dead Air Commandos and a crashed police car later, and suddenly they have nothing. Jenna and Nadia have similar builds, and they had the same hair color and style then. I think that’s too much of a coincidence, don’t you?”

Bunny pushed his glasses up on his nose with a nervous finger. “You sure you wanna get within ten miles of that?”

“We have to start somewhere, Bunny. I can’t touch the big wheels yet. The OSI wants solid proof before they can call out the dogs. Jenna could be just what the doctor ordered.” Jon went into the kitchenette and filled two cups as the conversation continued.

“So you want I should change my search to her?”

“We’ve hit nothing but dead ends on the others. We sure couldn’t lose.”

“What would the Doc say?”

“I’ll make it right with Donna. She’s the team leader, but I’m still the chief investigator.”

 “Okay, buddy, it’s your neck. Myself, I wouldn’t feel safe on the same land mass as that woman.”

Handing one cup to Bunny, Jon took a sip from his, swishing the brew around in his mouth before answering. “I didn’t say I’d feel safe, Bunny. But she’s our best chance.”

“Suggestion—if we can’t find her, there’s one sure way to get hold of her.”

“Do I even want to ask?”
"We get her attention and let her find us.”
A vague sense of dread rose in Jon’s chest as he sighed and rubbed his neck. “Yeah, I was afraid you’d say something like that.”

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Look! A Facelift with a Giveaway!

Okay, now read carefully: If ya wanna win a FREE COPY of one of my books, do the following:

  1. Read the blog post.
  2. Go to the bottom of the blog post and leave a comment.
  3. I will select my winner from the people who leave a comment.

Now, that's done. Onward!

This week to commemorate the facelift on Distant Shores, I want to give away a copy of one of my eBooks (winner's choice).

I'd like to give you all a quick tour of the blog first.

  1. I wanted to make the blog easier to read, and the white-on-black color scheme wasn't cutting muster (yes, it's muster, not mustard, LOL). So I changed the color scheme to something hopefully a little lighter on the eyes. Let me know what you think, and if you have suggestions to improve, I'm wide open.
  2. Notice the Google Translate gadget at the right. That's right, I have picked up some followers from non-English-speaking countries, and I want to expand into those areas. So I checked this out, and I think it does a fair job of translating from what I know of the languages I tested. Pretty cool, huh?
  3. I fixed the gadgets and widgets on the side to make everything fit just a little bit better. I think it gives the whole thing a little more professional look, don't you think? By the way, if you've seen something you like here on the Shores, feel free to follow me via email. You won't get SPAMMED, I promise.
  4. I added the rest of my books to the footer on the page. I'll get the sizes and shapes fixed, I promise. We're a work in progress.
I hope the new look fits, and like I said, if you have any suggestions on how to make it better, let me know. We're going to keep on setting off the occasional Blog-Bomb, and we will continue to destroy stereotypes as we expand the Civility Movement. I can't promise I won't say anything that will set you off, but I want everyone to think, as well as offer tools for making our world a little easier place to get along in.

Now, for the fun part: What follows is an excerpt from my latest book Lies and Paine. You can buy it by clicking on the link on my BOOKS page.


Jenna Paine doesn’t know how “special” she really is. Raised by her scientist mother and a Japanese tutor named Mama-San, her special abilities go unnoticed in the hustle and bustle of her schoolwork and training. However, other eyes are watching as well, from behind a veil of secrets. And they have plans for someone with precisely Jenna’s talents.

In college, she meets a group of people who introduce her to a new vision for world peace, and a way to realize it.

But when the cost for peace is measured in blood, can Jenna get out before it’s too late?

 When Jenna woke again, it was dark. The security light in the parking lot sprayed stripes through the blinds and across the floor. All was quiet, save for the swish of loose cotton scrubs as the night nurse made her rounds in the hall. As her steps faded off, another sound captured Jenna’s attention: a soft breath from nearby. She shifted her head to home in and her gaze caught on a shadowed figure sitting in the chair in the darkest corner of the room. She sniffed the air, confused.

No one she knew. Not Steven…! As the other options beat against each other in her mind, Jenna's body stiffened in alarm.

She lay tense and waited, hoping the man in the room didn’t notice she was awake. He just sat in the chair watching her. His breathing remained slow and steady, and no scent of fear or alarm reached Jenna’s nostrils. He was either a non-threat or insane. So the move was hers to make.

Jenna took stock of her body. The lingering soreness would limit her only a little. If he intended harm to her, this man would find no helpless victim. He might not mean her ill, but then again, he had no business in her room in the dark. “What do you want?” she growled.

The voice was smooth and comfortable, a rich baritone. “I wanted to see you firsthand.”

“Who are you?”

“A sponsor.”

What the hell does that mean? “Sponsor me during the day. Now get out.”

He shifted in the chair. “I’ve waited too long. I think I’d like to stay for a while.”

Jenna reached for her call button. No distant chime answered her push. The light above her headboard stayed blank. She threw the cord and handle down and shot to her feet. “You can leave on your feet or on a slab, buster—”

“I know what you want, Miss Paine.”

“And what might that be?”

The man reached deliberately into his jacket and drew out a dark, blocky object. He raised it above his head as he rose to his feet in slow motion. “This wrong you have suffered. You want that to never happen again. You’ve learned a hard lesson, Miss Paine. But the issue is not closed. Leonardo Cabrizzi is still out there, and he wants you dead. There’s only one way to make sure he never comes after you again.” He stepped forward. His hand reached out from the shadows and into the wedge of light from the window. Clutched in his grip was a 9mm Beretta equipped with a silencer. With care he laid it on her nightstand and backed away.

“We can protect you up to a point. But only you can make it stop.” He reached back into his jacket and brought out a small envelope, which he laid next to the pistol. “Make it stop. Good luck, and goodbye.”

Jenna waited until he left before turning on her light. Inside the envelope she found an address scrawled on a piece of paper and a candid photograph of a slim, proper man with a long, aquiline nose and sharp features. She stared at it for a long time, memorizing every wrinkle, every corner of that hawkish face. He glared at something off the camera, like an angry crocodile about to lunge.

She closed her eyes, and the pain flooded back into her memory. Again, she felt the frigid splash that woke her in that basement, heard those men laughing and cheering each other on. The taste of blood, the smell of her own fear. Make it stop.

Opening her eyes she snatched the pistol from her nightstand and racked the action. Anger collided with anticipation. She was stupid once. It damned well wasn’t going to happen again.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Book Review: Tower of Sarah

Good day, Castaways.

Light the campfire, grab your flashlights and hold them under your chins It's that time.

Yes, this week, I'm doing my first... Book Review! (insert duh-duh-du-u-u-u-uh! music here)

I will say I don't normally read horror, though I do have quite some respect for H.P. Lovecraft and Stephen King. The two works I do have in my library are King's

The Eyes of the Dragon

and William Cornwell's

The Bone Lord.

I highly recommend them both.

Add to them another one.

Ben Eden was a fellow EPIC winner I met at EPICon 2012. Like I said, I don't normally read horror, but I do make exceptions, and I'm glad I made this one.

Sarah Bridges finds herself in a rather odd place, with no idea how she got there. She just opens her eyes one morning and there she is, on the roof of a massive tower in the middle of... somewhere.

Hundreds of miles away from the place Sarah once called home, Eddie Conroy is trying to put his life back together after the horrible accident that killed his young wife and left their son alive, but... changed.

What they have in common and how they come to cross paths is one of those stories so full of spoilers I hesitate to say anything more for fear of giving something away.

I love stories with twists, and Ben Eden certainly threw a fair share into this book of evil, good, and the persistence of a father who'll go anywhere to get his only son back from the clutches of a force worse than death.

I can guarantee you won't see the twist truck coming. It'll hit you full force and carry you down the highway a good couple miles. Ben knows how to weave a story that will keep you guessing, even after you see the evil present itself, and that tower? Well, that's another surprise that jumps up and bites you right in the nose.

Overall, a nicely balanced ride that makes for a highly pleasurable read.

Let's see, we need to have some equivalent to a star rating, don't we? Well, because I love to be different I'll have to come up with something unique. Until then, I'll give Tower of Sarah  four out of five... somethings.

Get it here: