Thanks to the Pirates of the Caribbean movie franchise, pirates have taken on a certain connotation in the American imagination, that of a somewhat goofy, not-too-bright fellow who makes us laugh and always gets the girl. Even reading about piracy in history books has dulled our senses. We know about Black Beard, Captain Kidd, and Calico Jack. But thanks to the hundreds of years that separate us from them, we forget how brutal such men could be when they waylaid unfortunate ships for their treasure.

Piracy abounds today. According to maps I found, three hotspots exist: the southern Caribbean, Southeast Asia, and off the eastern coast of Africa. Operation Peacemaker focuses on the eastern coast of Africa. These attacks bear more resemblance to the attacks a few hundred years ago than to the image projected by Pirates of Caribbean.  And they can be brutal.  Check out the video clip from an actual attack that happened only two weeks ago.

These are brutal and have been numerous off the Somali coast over the past several years. Here’s some examples.

  • In 2008, the MY Ponant, a French yacht, was hijacked. The owner paid the ransom, and eventually, the pirates were captured on land.
  • In May 2009, pirates hijacked the MV Ariana, a cargo ship. They released it after the owners paid the ransom but not before the pirates brutalized one of the crew members during the seven months they were held.
  • In April 2010, Somali pirates had the gall to attack the USS Nicholas, a US Navy frigate, off the Seychelles. The frigate sunk the pirate boat and mother ship, but the incident underscores how bold the Somali pirates became during this era.
  • In February 2011, pirates hijacked the S/V Quest, an American yacht, despite the nearby presence of US Navy vessels. All onboard were killed before the Navy arrived.
  • The most well-known hijacking occurred with the MV Maersk Alabama in April 2009. The crew retook the ship, but only after the pirates almost absconded with Captain Phillips.

These are a few of the hundreds of attacks that occurred during the ten-year period between 2006 and 2016. Sure, thousands of ships passed off the coast of Africa during this time, but for those unfortunate ones who were hijacked, their reality suddenly became terrifying and sometimes brutal. Only recently, pirate attacks have begun occurring once more.

I set Operation Peacemaker off the coast of Somalia as a way to remind those of us who live comfortable, secure lives that piracy does exist. It also provides a good backdrop for a plot, not only one to save Tori Walters and the rest of the Peacemaker but one to emphasize how dangerous certain places of the world remain.

I have not received any compensation for writing this post.  The work mentioned in this post is of my own writing.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR Part 255:
Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

 

 

Blogger’s Note:  Today, you’ll hear from Doctor Tori Walters, a plastic surgeon onboard the South African ship Peacemaker, as she tells you a little bit about herself.

I’ve never had one of these interviews before where you say I’m to play a role in Operation Peacemaker.  Well, if you say so.  Honestly, I think my life isn’t that exciting.  I’m a plastic surgeon onboard the Peacemaker, and we just finished up a stint in Southeast Asia and South Asia.  That was really hard.  Lots of need out there. Too much, honestly.

You got that picture I e-mailed to you?  That was taken when I was finishing up my fellowship in Chicago.  So you see that I’ve got brown hair and gray eyes.  And that smile tells it all.  I do love my work.  I enjoy seeing the way that, once I’ve reconstructed someone’s face (where I’ve spent most of my time learning), they seem to blossom.  One thing that the smile doesn’t portray is how sometimes I get so doggone tired.  Training to be a surgeon is one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done, maybe the most difficult.  But the rewards are incredible.  Not the money but the blossoming thing I just mentioned.

Being on the Peacemaker has been an incredible experience.  One of the things we did when we first started out together as a crew was for everyone to talk about the impact of Jesus on our lives.  So everyone, from Captain Jameson all the way down to Raul, one of our cooks, stood up and did so.  No two are alike.  I was careful in mine.  Though I was honest, I left out one important fact about myself.

You see, I’m the daughter of a billionaire.  Yep.  That’s right.  Not millionaire.  Billionaire.  I don’t like making that a known fact about myself because I don’t want to be judged, and I certainly don’t want people to think that my life is easy.  But most of all, I don’t want that to define me.  Matter of fact, there’s only three people onboard who know about my status.  Okay, four.  The three ladies who are my best friends here and also Captain Jameson.  The rest either don’t care or are cognizant enough not to pry.

So tomorrow, we begin the final leg to home.  We set sail from Mumbai in the morning, and we hope to be in Cape Town in three days with a brief stop in Mombasa to take care of a repair that Captain Jameson says we’ll need by the time we reach Africa.  The problem is, our route takes us near the eastern coast of Africa.  Nattie, one of my friends, calls it pirate country.  Captain Jameson has already scheduled drills for us once we hit open water.  It makes me nervous, but the probability of something happening to us is pretty low.  At least I hope it is.  We’ll see.

I have not received any compensation for writing this post.  The work mentioned in this post is of my own writing.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR Part 255:
Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

Close up portrait of a serious older man staring

Blogger’s Note:  Today, you’ll hear from Victor Chavez, one of the lead characters in Operation Peacemaker.  He first made his appearance in Operation Shadow Box, and now he tells you what’s happened since then. 

So I’m supposed to discuss what’s happened since Operation Shadow Box?  Boy, that’s a bit of an assignment.  Sorry for the sarcasm.  It’s just that so many things have occurred since then that I could go on and on.

First things first.  When Operation Shadow Box ended, it was October 2014.  Deb and I had endured a forced separation with her living in North Carolina and me here at Last Chance Ranch in Arizona.  She surprised me by coming to visit.  And then?  I took a risk.  I relocated to North Carolina for six months.  Right before Christmas, I proposed, and we married in April.  So here we are, having just arrived at Last Chance Ranch a few days ago.

Problem is, I thought that bringing Deb and the kids here would chase away the remnants of the memories I have from when Makmoud ambushed us at the ranch.  Not so.  If anything, the memories from our ordeal have resurfaced.  I mean, it changed everything in our lives.  It destroyed Shadow Box’s unity, big time.  Fi and Skylar left, and on her way out the door, Fi called me an… well, let’s just say it wasn’t nice.  And then in December, Shelly and Diana left to head to Phoenix.  Shelly needed a better job, and Diana needed sunlight, which is few and far between here in Flagstaff during the winter.

The ambush also destroyed my source of income because the president disbanded us last July.  I’ve made do with working part time as a sheriff’s deputy.  I’ve also struggled to start a new security business called Sentry Securities.  It’s been a slow start, a really slow start.  Still, even though I’m a young believer, I’ve seen the way that God has provided for me already.  When I was in North Carolina, He provided just the right amount of funds for me to live.  Now, with four kids and a wife, I’m a bit more nervous.  But God’s is good.  I’ll have to keep trusting.

Deb and the kids?  Boy, blessed doesn’t even begin to describe how I feel.  Two years ago, I never imagined I’d be where I am.  I mean, back then, I grieved Rachel so terribly.  She’d been my life, my true love, the one I’d planned to build a life with, maybe even have a family.  And she died with one gunshot.  Sure, Makmoud led the kidnap team that fatal night, but he’s not the one who took Rachel’s life.  If I ever find that person who did it, they’d better hope they can get away—and fast, because, even though I follow Jesus now, it wouldn’t take too much time for me to want to exact revenge.  And the scary thing?  I’d probably do it.

I have not received any compensation for writing this post.  The work mentioned in this post is of my own writing.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR Part 255:
Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Blogger’s Note:  Over the next few posts, you’ll hear more from the characters in Operation Peacemaker as well as other additional information. In today’s post, meet Suleiman al-Ibrahim, the leading man in the novel.

Victor told me a little bit about what you call a blog post. Or what I call an interview. Why do you want to write about me? Oh? To give people more an idea of what I look like? Who I am? What I look like is easy. Take a look at the picture. Having a backpack slung over my shoulder indicates my primary occupation these days. I am a student who is working to obtain his GED. Hopefully, I will finish within the next couple of years. I am also a waiter to earn some income. But what I did with the Shadow Box team, and what I love to do, is to shoot and observe. I can remain still for hours on end if need be.

But back to my looks. I am not very tall. Translating from centimeters into inches, I am about five feet, five inches, which makes me the shortest man on the team. But I am still taller than Sana, which I like. I have eyes that are a mixture of gray and brown. I have somewhat fair skin, something I inherited from my mother. Still, I also look like my half-brothers. You see, my half-brothers are Jibril and Makmoud Hidari. Yes, you heard right. The very ones who nearly destroyed the Shadow Box team the year before.

I betrayed Makmoud three years ago in one of the worst ways possible. I do not like to discuss it. Why? It brings back a life I wish to leave behind. Not even Sana, with whom I’m close, knows what happened at the compound in Venezuela that led to my betrayal of my half-brother. I wish to keep it that way.

So sorry. What does Sana like to say? I veered off course. It is to be expected. My half-brothers terrify me. It has taken many months after the incident last year for me to relax at least a little bit and to stop looking over my shoulder for them. Back to Makmoud. I know he will not forgive me for what I did to him so long ago, so I live in fear of his finding me.

Honestly, all I want is peace in my life. I want to enjoy being with Sana. Also, Victor has brought his new family to Last Chance Ranch. Perhaps I can find that peace now that they have returned. And the upswing? Sana has invited me to go rock climbing with her. Butch says I have a crush on her and that I should do something about it. Perhaps I will when we climb The Mushroom together.

I have not received any compensation for writing this post. The work mentioned in this post is of my own writing. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR Part 255:
Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

The king. A valued piece in a chess game yet seemingly weak. After all, the king always seems to be on the run in the beginning and middle of the chess game with the other pieces attempting to keep it safe by blocking, attacking, and capturing opposing pieces. And the ultimate goal? Putting the opponent’s king in checkmate. Only until the end game does it seem like the king begins emerging. It cannot be captured or exchanged, which can make it take on an almost infinite quality.

As I delve into the last post of this series, I want to make a couple of statements. First off, I do believe in God. More than that, I believe I am saved through Christ and am a child of the King. Second, I understand that some of you who may read this post don’t ascribe to this belief. That’s okay. But I wanted to let you know where I come from for the rest of this post.

As writers, when we improve the quality of our writing to the point where we produce an actual novel (yea!), it’s easy to say that we’ve made it, especially if said novel generates sales, which means more money in our pockets. At that point, we can find it easy to think that all of that imagination, talent, and perseverance came from some deep well inside of us. We want to take all of the credit and shove God into a corner.

Thing is, we have to start asking questions. Where does my talent come from? How did I get such a vivid imagination? When I feel like giving up, what keeps me going? And, most of all, why do I write? Hopefully, the answer to the last question isn’t purely to make money.

Here’s what I would say to each of these questions.

Where does my talent come from? I firmly believe that as created beings of God regardless of whether or not we trust Christ as our Savior, we receive the gift of writing talent from Him. He desires us to use that talent to glorify Him, either overtly or subtly.

How did I get such a vivid imagination? As a created being of God, He made every bit of me, and that includes my imagination. He gifted me as a writer, and I believe that a vivid imagination is one of the biggest tools I have in my writing war chest. I think the same goes for all of us, for without a vivid imagination, we cannot write.

When I feel like giving up, what keeps me going? Again, God has given me a spirit of perseverance. I can honestly say that over the past several years as I’ve written, there have been times when I honestly wanted to chuck the whole thing I call writing. Yes, there have been times when I seriously considered that. I mean, wouldn’t my life have been easier? But something always pulls me back toward writing.

Why do I write? For anyone, no matter what belief system, a good answer might be, “I can’t not write.” Essentially, we are driven to write. Speaking for myself, this is a huge driver. More than that, though, I know that I am exercising the talents that God gave me to glorify Him. That adds passion and depth to my writing and keeps me going.

Like the king in the beginning and middle of a chess game, you may feel like you as a writer are weak and that your work isn’t worth much. I promise that your drive to write isn’t a fluke. It’s real, and you can run from it only to a certain point. Rather, focus on the king in the latter stages of a chess game. His power emerges. The talent, perseverance, and imagination? Those gifts are given to you. Rather than tuck them under your pillow, be bold. Step out and use them. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

This post does not mention any products. Therefore, I am not receiving any compensation for writing this post. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR Part 255:
Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.