Book Review: Levant Mirage

Levant MirageA few months back Oliver shot me an email. I had given his previous book, Marsh Islandan honest and fair review. He asked if I would be interested in giving his new book a read, and possibly reviewing it for him. At the time, I had given up reviewing books, but since I had reviewed his book once, I thought why not. I replied that I would be interested and sent me a copy of his newest novel, Levant Mirage.

The book follows Adam Michaels, a Major in the Army, who after an incident on the battlefield sees his once promising career derailed as punishment. It’s not until an attempted kidnapping that his career is mysteriously rehabilitated, he’s promoted to Lieutenant Colonel, then summarily retired and sent on an undercover assignment, all stemming from a Ph.D. dissertation he worked on some ten years prior. His question is why?

He is thrust into a world of intrigue, of betrayals and half-truths, a world where he forced to survive by his skill, and blind luck. His life is put at risk, not knowing what’s truly at stake since those in the know refuse to tell him the whole story. He finds colleagues murdered, sees one assassinated in front of him. He soon uncovers the horrible truth, of a terrorist plot to use his technology to bring about the end of civilization as we know it.

Michaels is in a race to save America and mankind from a catastrophe of apocalyptic proportions. He turns to his grandfather, a titan of industry, and familial friends to assist him, not knowing who else to trust. The normal rules of government and diplomacy no longer apply, so he enlists his former commander, a new representative in Congress to circumvent normal procedures. With annihilation closing, he puts everything on the line as he puts his last ditch effort to save humanity, battling traitors and saboteurs unknown, risking everything, including his life.

But will it be enough?

At first, I’ll admit, I had a hard time following what the story was about. Military and political intrigue, to be sure, but so what? Sure, there was a love interest thrown in to complicate the issue, but it would become clear what the story was about.

Levant Mirage is a story of its time. Oliver F. Chase wrote a timely novel of religious and political upheaval, of groups that would pervert the name of God in order to usher in their vision of the apocalypse and the world. There’s also the element of how the political game is played, a government that doesn’t trust itself, of various agencies holding on to secrets that threaten America’s survival, incapable of doing anything else but follow an obsolete protocol, to its own detriment.

At its center is the protagonist, whose research has been hijacked in order to create a world-ending weapon, and therefore is the only man who can save the world. As such, he becomes a target of terrorist groups and governments seek to destroy the west, especially Christianity and the democratic powers.

It’s a scenario that’s all too real given our time in history. There’s no lack of men and women who become radicalized and take up the anti-democracy mantel to betray their fellow countrymen. It’s a story that’s all too often on the evening news as of late.

While the book is a work of fiction, there’s enough truth that it is in a way a warning, that our freedom and our lives hang precariously in the balance. With this in mind, I absolutely recommend this book to all my readers. It’s gripping, chilling in its delivery, and leaves the reader on the edge of their seats, needing to know what comes next, and how the world could possibly survive.

I mean, from what I read, I’m sure I’d be dead, but I won’t hold it against the author. I just hope it remains a work of fiction.


 

List of Book Reviews
Next review –  Illusion
Previous Review – Ready Player One

Slowly forward

If this was NaNo, I’d be losing. I’m currently at 13,195 words, and though I could be further along, I’m not. I haven’t set an arbitrary nightly word goal to meet. I’m just writing as much as I feel like writing for at least an hour, and I’m not even making that. I may have to go back to a word goal.  At least I would be making some progress.

I have made some headway however. I’m on chapter 3 and well on my way to creating my two main characters. They haven’t met yet, and that’ll have to wait a couple more chapters, but their paths are aligning slowly. Soon they will meet.

But what when they meet? I’ve been working this story for years, coming at it from one angle and then another. I fixed the issue with Giada, the idea of her being a high priced prostitute just didn’t work for the character. I still needed her to rub elbows with the rich and powerful, but a prostitute was clearly the wrong choice, a decision made in revenge towards someone who hurt me. I’m over that now!

I feel like I’m working a puzzle, trying to piece together a narrative that fits with what I already know about them, and that fits what’s already been written, while discarding that which makes a lie out of my characters. It’s a frustrating exercise, but it’s one that I admit I’m enjoying.

 

Starting fresh

I hate being a writer sometimes. It’s not that I hate writing, but the discipline required can be a total drag. I think that’s why most people fail at writing, or really at life for that matter. The ones that are successful have to be tenacious. Pursuing a dream doesn’t guarantee success, but giving up certainly guarantees failure. How many of us stop without realizing they’ve given up? How many times have I done that?

I’ve fallen into that trap as of late. It’s discouraging when you feel that you’re not making progress. Part of my problem is that I’m unwilling to let go of my work. Letting go means allowing myself to fail and that’s a problem sometimes. It’s scary to put myself out there for others to judge and criticize. Let’s face it, some people are assholes just to be assholes. Maybe they’re unhappy with themselves and deal with it by tearing others down. Who knows?

Looking at my blog stats, I’ve noticed a downward trend in page views stemming from my own lack of posting. I felt I didn’t have anything new to say, that I was repeating the same empty promises, sounding like a broken record about what I wanted to do and where I was going. Even my book reviews flatlined, breaking promises to read and review a few. I’m rectifying that now, but getting started is going to be troublesome. I’ve lost my mojo.

We’re already twenty days into 2016, and though the time of resolutions has come and gone, maybe it isn’t to late to set some goals for the year. My first is I’m going to post twice a week at the very least. Second, I’m going to write at least an hour a day. I need to reestablish my habit. Third, I’m going to publish a short story twice a month. I’m also going to push myself out of my comfort zone and dabble with other genres. That’ll be an interesting writing exercise!

Lastly, I’m going to write and finish Giada’s novel and start begin reworking Son of the Father. I want to tell Bishop Mendoza’s story, and I have for years. He isn’t a one off story but rather a series, beginning with Giada. I want to discover the road he took and see the reason why he isn’t some one-dimensional religious leader. He’s a real person with real issues and a history that wouldn’t recommend him for anything other than a life in prison.

But he grew up, changed his life, and found a calling out of a depraved life. He dedicated himself and has been a model priest, but the ghosts of his past begin to haunt him, giving ammunition to those who don’t like him. It’s the kind of story I like to read. I find church intrigue to be intriguing.

My writing, I’m discovering, is a journey of my own choosing. Were I to be honest, I would have to say I want my writing to be the engine that propels me out into the world. I’m not an adventurer, but I would like to be able to travel the world, see new places, especially those of historical value. I want to live in Rome, visit England and Germany, hell even see the other states of this great country. I want to have that freedom to explore which in turn will give weight to what I write.

Maybe it’s a pipe dream, but it’s not one that I’m willing to give up on. If anything, writing allows me a way out of the tedium of everyday living. I can explore without  having to leave the comfort of my home. I can do that with reading, but as the writer, I can dictate the flow of events. I like that. I just have to make myself do that.

Some of my favorite reads

Morris West

Shoes of the Fisherman
Clowns of God
Lazurus
Emienince

Greg Tobin

Conclave
Council

David Osborn

The Last Pope

Post NaNo: I’m ready to start on my real novel

NaNo-2015-Winner-Badge-Large-SquareHere it is, the day after, and I took a day off from work. It wasn’t the result of NaNoWriMo but rather pushing myself at work the past couple of weeks. I had hoped to last until my scheduled days off, which would have been Thursday and Friday, but when I woke up, I knew I had to rest or else I really would go down for the count.

So I slept in until about noon. When I did manage to get out of bed, I didn’t do much but shower and get dressed. Feeling hungry, I headed into town to buy myself a salad. Another consequence of working to much lately has been eating poorly, and I just needed some vegetables. I’m not sure if a salad really counts, but it was still better than the fast food crap I’ve been shoving into my mouth.

I relaxed and didn’t think about writing. For the past month, I wrote a story that never really gelled. My characters were uncooperative, and the story never took off. The suspense I hoped to create between my two main characters never really formed, and there was never any action between the antagonist and the protagonists. I quickly fell out of love for the story, but I pushed through to the end, happy that it’s finally over.

But as I rested today, an itch to revisit another NaNo came to me. Last year I started writing the story of Giada, a minor character in my first NaNo, The Son of the Father. That too didn’t go the way I planned, and in fact it’s the second attempt to write the story, but I never gave up on it. I simply put it on hold, until now.

I opened both attempts to write the story, and though they are vastly different stories, I think I can use the best of them to create a third, and final version. Or at least that’s my hope. Giada, as I originally envisioned her, was an escort for the rich and powerful, a high-priced prostitute and a former porn starlet. I created her as an act of revenge towards a former flame who I felt betrayed me.

But now, years after the fact, I think that’s been my main problem with Giada. She isn’t some immoral, promiscuous slut. She’s a woman who’s been hurt by the men in her life, namely an emotionally unavailable father, and lovers who saw her as a prize to be coveted rather than a person deserving of respect. Though she lives a very free existence, she’s not some shallow bimbo. Giada is an earnest and sincere woman.

I fell in love with the character in spite of myself. Out of all of the characters I have created, she’s the one I like the most. She’s exuberant and just has a joy for life that I find endearing and contagious. She refuses to be kept down despite all the crap that’s gone her way.

That’s why I’ve had so much trouble writing her story. She deserves a good tale. I know she’s a fictional person, but she is real in my mind’s eye. She lives and breaths as a figment of my imagination, far more than some of the others I have created. She’s a complete woman, with both good and bad in her.

Giada will be the next project I write. I wonder how I’ll do it, to reconcile my the different versions of her, but I suspect most of what I have will be thrown out. Well actually, I’ll probably recycle most of it. It may not fit into her narrative, but it’s too good to let go.

While I may not have found any pleasure in this year’s NaNoWriMo, it may have rekindled my desire to write. Only time will tell if I go through with publishing anything, but for now at least I had fun with the exercise.

Less than two weeks to go

NaNo-2015-Participant-Badge-Large-SquareThe launch of NaNoWriMo 2015 is less than two weeks away and I can’t wait for it to start. Thirty days of insanity, at least that’s what I experience, but it’s not something I plan on passing up. I enjoy the feverish pace with which I write, a pace I really should get into the practice of doing on a daily basis. There’s a joy to be found in giving yourself permission to just let go and create without allowing the inner editor – or the voice of doubt – hold you back.

I’m joining the Lubbock NaNoWriMo Region once again, since they seem to be the most active, but I’m trying to find a group in Amarillo as well. Since I work in Amarillo, that region would make sense and would be the most convenient for me. Their Facebook page only has 15 members and the forum on the NaNoWriMo website isn’t very active, but I’m trying to get something started. I guess we’ll see how that turns out.

Regardless, I’m ready to get started on this project. I have an idea, a working title, and a vague sense of what I want to say. It’s the story of two ex-lovers who are forced back into each other’s lives, one who is self-centered and clueless, and the other who still harbors a lot of resentment over how the break-up took place, even after more than twenty years.

I like the story, I’m excited to write it, and all I’m looking for is a group of writers who share my enthusiasm. Anyone who knows me knows that I don’t get excited about much. I’m excited about this. I’m even considering planning out the story, at least loosely, so that I can have an idea of where I’m going.