Before I introduce Cyrus Keith, I would like to say I’m in the middle of reading Becoming Nadia, Book One of the Nadia Project, and relishing every word. What Cyrus has in common with Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov and Robert Heinlein, informally known as the “Big Three” of science fiction writers, is his ability to ask the deeper questions of life — such as who or what is God, why are we here, what does it mean to be human, and why is life worth living — while writing one helluva scifi story. He, like the three writers I previously mention, take the art of science fiction writing and catapult it into timeless literature, using the tools of a ‘what if’ future and remarkable talent. I am very proud to belong to the same publishing house as this fine writer. Without further adieu, Mr. Cyrus Keith.
Happy new year, everyone. I just got back from one of those things that make up what we call “life” around the Keith Household.
One question I get quite often is something along the lines of, “How do you find time to write, with everything else going on?” Well, to tell the truth, sometimes I wonder myself. I work full time and serve as a musician on my church worship team. Somewhere in this eclectic mix, I have to be a dad and a husband, and up to last year, I was also an assistant scoutmaster for my younger son’s boy scout troop and children’s’ minister. In between all of that, I managed to write two novels, one of which has been selected as a finalist for Best Thriller at EPICon as well as a Preditors and Editors’ Top Ten Finisher for Best Thriller novel.
The sacrifices a writer’s family make to help him or her achieve a dream that may or may not (most likely not) be fulfilled cannot be understated. My wife and kids gave so much of themselves to let me sit and type in my off times, I can never repay them. I can find time to write largely because of their grace. But sometimes, things just jump up and bite you in the nose, and you find yourself taking an unintended vacation from the word processor.
Take the last week. Our oldest son has a genetic disorder that disfigured his body and required eight spinal surgeries, not to correct his condition, but to just stave off the horrid side effects of his condition. I was supposed to be in rewrites for “Critical Mass,” the last installment of my series The NADIA Project. Life had other plans for me, and one thing that must be held in balance is the priority of family. So in between the surgery waiting room and the recovery room, nights spent in a nearby hotel (we live several hours from the hospital), worrisome hours spent handling post-op nausea and a stressed out wife, Cyrus Keith the Writer took a backseat to Cyrus the husband and dad. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
That’s one great thing about the atmosphere Lea Schizas cultivates at Muse It Up Publishing. I somehow think that if I didn’t take that time off to take care of my family, she would have been disappointed in me as a writer, because if it’s one thing we must do as writers, it’s to keep our priorities straight. I’ve seen so many other writers at our house go through issues from basic stress to major family crises time and again, and without exception, the qualities of our people shine through in where their families are in their order of business.
So anyway, back to the other question: Where do I find time to write? I could try to make vague allegories about jars and stones and sand, but the truth is, sometimes I don’t know. I just know that God gives us enough grace to do what we were born to do, in spite of whatever else comes up in our lives, and when I write, I can feel Him smile at me.
I’d like to show you a sneak peek at my latest work, Critical Mass, coming soon. (Disclaimer: excerpt is unedited):
It had been dark for some time. The rain had moved on, leaving the pavement with a sheen that whispered with every passing car. Scud clouds overhead trailed the thunderstorm like remoras behind their shark. The moon cast its wan light between them, a pitiful challenger to the flickering neon of the street below.
The city’s diurnal population was at home and in bed. That left the nighthawks, those who thrived in the hours between sunset and dawn. They worked, played, lived, and loved in dark hours. And some of them died there.
The crowd at the Tap Tavern began to thin out about one in the morning. By ones and twos, they filtered through the front door and into the street, fanning out to home, to work, or to other purposes known only to them. By two o’clock, only the closing crew remained, a couple of vague shadows moving beyond the frosted glass of the large windows flanking the door.
A small brown coupe sat parked across from the alley mouth in the dark of the early morning. Traffic was lighter now than it was at eight o’clock, but was still busy enough to conceal the lone occupant seated behind the wheel. With stubborn, unhuman will and deadly purpose, the figure waited for the rest of the lights to go out in the tavern. At ten minutes after three, patience was rewarded. The glow behind the picture window extinguished. A side door opened and shut, and a shadow separated from the building and shambled down the alley.
The coupe’s door opened, and a compact, athletic figure emerged into the dimly lit street. The young woman glanced both ways and trotted across, following the figure up the alley. With silent skill enhanced by superhuman agility, she sidestepped cardboard boxes and cats alike. Despite the deeper darkness, she could see as if the way was lit by a full moon. Her hearing, finely tuned on top of her superior talent, picked up every whisper of paper, every scuttle of tiny feet, every rustle of a wing. She didn’t have to see her quarry; she should be able to hear him, as long as he didn’t suspect—
Halfway down, she stopped. Something wasn’t right. She turned her head, tuning, homing—there it was! Someone breathing—
He broke from behind a dumpster and took off at a dead run, scattering rats and garbage across the wet pavement. Even with Jenna’s enhanced reflexes, he had a modest lead before she could take up the pursuit.
Block after block he led, dodging and darting to avoid her grasp. But she wasn’t that eager for a fight. Not yet. She would wear him down a bit first. She changed her breathing to maximize endurance and followed for a while, not catching up but not falling back, either.
He showed some gumption, that was for sure. That, and training. She gave him a little more room to test his evasion technique, and no surprise, he showed her some tricks that she already knew, most likely picked up from the same instructor. She lost view briefly, twice, but picked him up again just as she had the first time, flushing him like quail from a thicket. No human could have picked him up, but Jenna was no human; she was better. The deadly chase went on, block after block. The man breathed in ragged gasps as desperation overtook him. A hand clutched at his side. There was no way he was getting away again.
An angry flash came over her at the thought of the betrayal that put them both in this situation, and Jenna put on a burst of speed. After three years, every suspicion was confirmed. This was the man who’d tried to kill them. Time to play.
Drawing a telescoping baton from her pocket, she caught up to him as he tried to duck down another alley. He spun with a snarl, a hand darting for his pocket. She closed in before he could draw his pistol, and went to work with the baton. Jenna broke his wrist with the first blow, and the second knocked him senseless. Stabbing out with her free hand, she grabbed his shirt and hauled him down, dragging him into the shadows.
He lay panting and whimpering in pain and fear as Jenna brought her face down close to his and hissed, “Let’s talk about Tahiti, Hamet.”
His eyes shot wide, and he began to gibber in a Middle-Eastern tongue. She placed a knee on his broken wrist. His complexion paled and he fell silent, teeth clenched in agony. “In English. I know who you work for.”
“I didn’t know it was you,” he blurted, a grimace pasted on his features. “None of us knew. We just had orders—” He moaned as a spasm gripped his broken arm. She grabbed it and gave it a light twist. She was rewarded with a howl as the man bucked off the pavement.
She shoved him back down, brandishing the baton in his face.
“Orders from who?”
“You know as well as I,” he moaned. “You get orders. You follow them. You don’t ask questions.”
“Is that right?” She snapped the baton down on his hand. A satisfying crunch echoed off the wall, accompanied by a shriek which was cut off by her wadded up bandana.
It got worse before it got better. Jenna didn’t like that part of the job, but two things drove her on: Justice, and vengeance. Jenna had to find out why The Pinnacle wanted one of their own dead, and Anna Spielberg deserved payback. Now, after three years, she was damned well going to get it. Occasional shadows drifted by the end of the alley, but at this hour and in this neighborhood, no one was going to get involved.
Hamet was tougher than she gave him credit for. By the time she got the information she wanted, there wasn’t much left of him. But the answers came. They weren’t what she wanted to hear, but the truth needed to be told. When she finally snapped his neck with a well-placed kick, it felt anti-climatic. The trail she’d followed on her own for the last three years had finally come to its end. And with that end came the realization that Jenna had been trying to avoid for longer than that. Not all was well with her employers.
There were divisions among the Council. Not on the surface, for outwardly they still seemed to operate as united as ever in their cause for world peace. But underneath the placid veneer were machinations and plots. Whispers of sabotage and power plays chased each other through Jenna’s mind as she strode from the alley and back up Seventh Avenue.
Somewhere in the power struggle, someone upline had made a mistake. They issued a kill order on the wrong person, and not just because of who Anna was. Dr. Spielberg had dedicated her life to the purpose of world peace. She saw it happening within just a few more years. It wasn’t even that they tried to wipe out a seven-year-old girl as well. Sofi was as harmless as they come, a sweet, shy little thing with as much deadly potential as a pink frosted cupcake. Their worst mistake was in messing with someone assigned to Jenna Paine’s protection.
As Jenna stalked away from the body, one thing hung in her mind: She would find out who on the Council issued the kill order on Anna. And when she did, they would face the full fury of a woman scorned.
Becoming Nadia and Unalive buy link: http://tinyurl.com/7ccq5wm